Book Review: NOFX – Hepatitis Bathtub & Other Stories

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From back of tub: Melvin, El Hefe, Smelly and Fat Mike

NOFX – Hepatitis Bathtub & Other Stories (goodreads)
Paperback: 368 pages
Publisher: Da Capo Press (April 12 2016)
Amazon.ca | Amazon.com

In April 2016 when this book first came out in Canada I knew the name NOFX, but I knew nothing about them. I didn’t even know who was who on the book cover. NOFX were in the same realm as Rancid, Bad Religion and Misfits, bands lots of people talk about so I know OF them, but I couldn’t name any of their songs*. I trusted the people tweeting about it, who said it was, to use just a few words: amazing, crude, disturbing, disgusting, eye-opening and wonderfully vile. Those are things I like in my books! So I put it on hold at the local library** and thought OK, I’ll learn about them this way. I also turned to Spotify to see what this over 30 year old band was all about musically. Spotify has a fantastic playlist out called “This is NOFX,” I highly recommend it.

Word of advice: Some bands should not be listened to chronologically. Sometimes you should start with the really popular songs and then work backwards. They are usually popular for a reason. I didn’t like their super early stuff at first.

Before I get into the meat of the review I will tell you two things upfront:
1. The book is all those things mentioned previously and then some.
2. I returned the library copy and now I own both the book and the audiobook (and most of their albums…) That should tell you right away that I enjoyed it.

While the book on its own in either print or e-book is great, hearing the stories told by the guys in their own voices is way, way better. Fat Mike, Hefe, Smelly and Melvin read their own parts with Tommy Chong & Jello Biafra guesting for former band members Dave & Steve. With the audiobook, not only do you get the story, you get little jokes “Dave’s not here, man” from Tommy Chong and giggles from the guys (mostly Fat Mike) while reading it.

(An except of the audiobook)

The book is divided into chapters with each band member telling their own story to the reader separately, and sometimes with asides to the rest of the band. They were all extensively interviewed (15+ hours according to interviews) by Jeff Alulis (you may remember his credit from NOFX: Backstage Passport) who then wove the stories together. Some of the stories they recount have never been told to their bandmates before, they learned about them through this book. This isn’t a book of “Ha ha, we trashed a hotel room,” we’re talking serious shit that happened to them and those around them like addiction, assault, suicide, murder, etc. Smelly dominates the book with his story of drugs, from addiction to later recovery as well as Melvin opens up about being molested when he was a child.

Parts of the book are so out there it’s hard to believe, especially when it comes to the nature of the L.A. punk scene back then: full of violence, death and police riots. As someone naturally afraid of being stabbed or beaten up for no reason, I kept thinking: who the hell who would go these places (or let their KIDS go to these places) knowing what may go down?! I’m nervous going to certain clubs now and I’m almost thirty and they HAVE security, these clubs did not. Numerous times in the book you will wonder, as they do too, how in the hell they’re all still alive as they recount knowing people who have died from overdosing, gangs, or just by being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The book isn’t all doom and gloom though. Sure, there’s a lot of dark stuff in it, but it’s well-written and there are really funny parts. It’s heartfelt and ultimately it’s about friendship with a chosen family. There’s lots of hope in it and perseverance to keep making music even when they’re playing shows to four people and those four people leave after the first song. I really felt for El Hefe when he first joins the band. He’s the last to join, he’s a trained musician and he comes from the furthest away from the punk scene.

There are bits that may make some people squeamish (just one for me, set in Tokyo) and if they do, please skip ’em and keep reading anyway. Also, keep reading past the first chapter, it’s just pee (you’ll understand when you get there) and settle in to take one hell of a ride.

Lastly, I tried to not read too many reviews of this book before I wrote my own, but the few I did read seemed to note how we “learned way too much about Fat Mike’s sex life”. I get that near the end Mike seems to focus on it, but it’s part of who he is. I don’t know whether it’s because he talks about BDSM and his discovery of his brand of kink or what, but I think it’s a little unfair to single him out when they all talk about having sex, repeatedly, in less than normal, vanilla circumstances. Also, come on the beer bong butt-plug is hilarious.

Needless to say, read the damn book and maybe get a copy for someone for their preferred winter holiday. I read it cover to cover in two days and I couldn’t put it down. Then I read it again (slower) in about a week. You don’t have to like their music or know who they are to enjoy their book, but you may find yourself listening to some tracks with a new perspective and liking it a little more than you did before.

5/5 – if I had a rating system


*I had heard Linoleum at this point though, as Frank Turner covers it on one of his albums, I just didn’t know that yet.
** And end up waiting almost three months to get it because of the high demand.

Writing & Not Feeling Qualified

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I’ve been thinking a lot about writing recently. Possibly it’s because of NaNaWriMo, maybe because my coworkers have been asking how my novel has been coming along. They’re excited about it.  I’m too ashamed to tell them that I haven’t looked at it in 3 months, even though I think about the main character, Sydney, every time I listen to a punk song. So, I asked myself, “I love this character, why am I not writing her story?”

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More than that, there’s something about the process that has made writing difficult lately. The act of showing my thoughts to the world and what may come back to me isn’t that frightening. I don’t usually start out to open a dialogue between myself and the reader. I write just to get the words out of my head. At least once a day I compose an essay style piece in my brain around a topic that I’ve been mulling over. It’s one way I process things I’m currently obsessing over and if they have substance I want to share them. They very rarely, if ever, make it down on paper. Why?

I’ve determined it’s a mix of confidence and feeling like I shouldn’t have an opinion on certain topics (music & improv are the big ones). I still need to get the words out, but there’s actual fear holding me back from publishing it. After all, don’t you need experience to write about stuff? I read that on the internet somewhere. I mean, I’m only taking improv classes, what do I know? I’ve only listened to punk music for a couple years. Apparently two years ago today I talked about my first punk mixtape on this blog. Sure, when I find a band I like I try to jam 10+ years worth of being a fan into two months, but I still didn’t know them before. 

When I type this out it’s so silly sounding, but it’s exactly the way I think!

It’s not just essays. These feelings also exist in my fiction. Continue reading

Star Trek TOS – A Change of Opinion

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I’m think I’m starting to become known as somewhat of a contrarian.

That may be an understatement. I don’t usually set out to be seen that way, but it often happens. I enjoy not seeing something because everyone is recommending it. I generally end up seeing things in the wrong order and as is often the case I prefer the first thing I see.  I’m trying to break out of this pattern though, it’s one of my resolutions for 2016, and while there’s no way to see certain series in the correct order I’m trying to give the “originals” a chance. That’s why I started at the beginning of Star Trek: The Original Series and currently sit somewhere around the middle of season two. I’m really, really enjoying it, so why is this a problem? Well…

I was recently on Star Trek: Romulans Bearing Gifts talking and thinking about the newest Star Trek reboot movie Star Trek Beyond. During that discussion I said that I preferred the reboot cast to the original cast. I said it was difficult for me to connect to the original series and my Kirk and crew would always be Chris Pine, Quinto, Pegg, etc, etc. Just like my Captain will always be Picard, my Doctor is the Fifth, and my preferred Obi-Wan will always be played by Ewan McGregor. So, here comes an admission of guilt of sorts: I said that knowing full well that I had seen maybe six episodes total of the original series. That includes the pilot and the Trouble with Tribbles. It was a blanket statement and a hasty one at that. Opinions can change sure, and you never have to see everything to make a decision, but now I’m stuck in a strange circumstance where it seems like I’ve totally changed my mind about something. I haven’t changed my mind; it was never really made up in the first place. Ugh.

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It’s a potential peril of podcasting, I guess, especially with group reviews, where you find yourself maybe agreeing a little bit more, or disagreeing simply to freshen up a conversation and actually bring in some discussion. I’m sure many, many podcasters are completely honest, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with stretching a review here or there. If you haven’t listened to the episode I still recommend it, just take what I say in it with a grain of salt. In fact, always take what I say with a grain of salt and that way I won’t feel the need to write any more of these. What follows are more, let’s say, informed opinions (from 2.5 seasons of the show) on the reboots vs TOS. More informed than before, less informed than any proper Star Trek fan.

Continue reading

Let’s Talk about Strong Female Characters: My Top 10 Kickass Ladies

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There’s been a lot of talk lately (and rightly so) about feminism, fandom and the lack of “strong” (3-dimensional, interesting, complex, REAL) female characters in mainstream media. The above quote has been going around for a long, long time and I encourage you to find similar quotes from female writers. I just adore that quote, so I put it there.

There was a very interesting post about female protagonists here that I encourage you to read. The author talks about looking at the books she was reading to her child and her attempts to balance male and female protagonists, but they fall very short of a 50/50 split. (It ends up being more like 60/30)

When I saw that my spreadsheet project featured exactly zero actresses I realized I needed to do something. As an exercise I decided to put down my top 10 favourite female characters. Surely there were ten lady characters that kicked ass from TV shows and movies I love. Ten fictional ladies that I’d want to have a drink with, or at the very least were played by actresses I really enjoyed?

The first five were a breeze, and then suddenly I was struggling to come up with female characters that I liked, let alone strong female characters I admired or that I could take traits from to help me in my everyday life. I looked. Leading ladies didn’t suddenly come out from the woodwork, but there were strong, awesome characters that I was over-looking because I was too busy watching the leading men on the show. (Leading men talk a lot and the camera likes to spend lots of time pointed at them.)

A lot of these characters are supporting characters, in fact they all are except Rey* and an argument can be made for Clara and Sara Lance who are both part of an ensemble of sorts. Yet they are kick ass in their own way, furthering the plot and embodying traits that I want to emulate in my everyday life.

So here’s my list, I know I’m forgetting lots and I’d love to see your lists in the comments.

(In no particular order)…

Continue reading

Feeling Fake Fangirl Feels.

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I feel like an imposter or a fraud.

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Not quite. More like I feel like a fraud for calling myself a fangirl. A fake fangirl if you will.

Let me explain. When I wrote “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Being a Fangirl” it felt very important to me to reach out into the void and talk about this great label “fangirl” and how it applied to me, because I had gone so long without knowing and I didn’t want anyone else to feel that way if they didn’t have to. That hasn’t changed, that label is still an excellent one for me. In fact, if given the opportunity I will happily extol the virtues of it as an important part of your complete lifestyle. That article has received the most views and comments of any article on this blog and I love that people have responded so positively.

However, the truth is that sometimes I hate being a fangirl and I keep all my fangirly thoughts to myself out of fear of how others will treat me. Sometimes I wish I watched all shows once, had no immediate need to see them again and just moved on. Sometimes, I wish I didn’t need to watch the full filmography of an actor because I need to chase the acting trends that are apparent in their work. (ie: Norman Reedus so often having a cigarette in hand.) Occasionally I think, damn all these feels, why can’t I just watch a show for the CANON PLOT.

The truth is I can’t do any of those things, they aren’t part of my personality and I feel like a fraud to want these qualities and at the same time to receive happy, thankful comments on something I’ve written.

For example, I took half an hour to write this tweet:

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I almost didn’t post it on my own twitter. Silly, huh? It’s just… using words like “feels*” and talking about fangirling over a TV show in front of people who know me still makes me nervous. I regularly hear people joke or mock about how stupid/foolish/immature people are that use “tumblr words” like feels, ships, and OTP.

“Those aren’t even real words,” they say, and sometimes I laugh just because they are silly words. That doesn’t make them fake, Bumfuzzle is a real word but it’s very silly.

I feel like a hypocrite and I hate it. I say how proud I am to be a fangirl, and then worry every time I mention spreadsheets or a random fact about an actor on Verity! or in casual conversations because I want to be taken seriously. Spreadsheets and data collection is difficult. Researching all that stuff is hard dammit. But, it’s one thing to say what I want into the tumblr-sphere, (seriously look at these tags) but on twitter and on facebook, there’s people there who I might see tomorrow face-to-face. They might (might) laugh at me.

So what’s a fangirl to do? Well, I’ve devised some basic things for me to remember when situations like this happen. Feel free to steal and personalize:

  • Marathoning TV shows and building filmography spreadsheets has led to new friendships and opened the doors to new media.
  • You joined improv because Kids in the Hall started in improv but you kept going because you love it.
  • The English language evolves (TEDtalk), Shakespeare started using words that are now commonplace today. Your turn fic writer.
  • Does this TV show/spreadsheet/music make you happy? If it’s something to look forward to after a bad day and helps you, then you shouldn’t be ashamed of talking about it. Take it and USE it to make yourself a better person and to change the world around you.

It’s not easy being a fangirl but it can be fun and hella rewarding.Think of it like playing a difficult video game, finding lost episodes of Doctor Who, or introducing your favourite show to a friend. Or, in the spirit of my recent House M.D. rewatch, dealing with a difficult friend.

A great fangirl-needs-answers resource is Fangirl Therapy, the author Kathleen is a licensed therapist and big time awesome fangirl. Have a look at her site, she takes questions and gives great real answers.

Now I’m off to read fanfiction and try to decide which is the best House M.D. ship**.

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*Yes, I realize I used the word ‘feels’ at least twice in this blog post alone, I’m coming to terms with it.
**Opinions are welcome, although all three I’ve read have been amazing.

These Are a Few of My Happy Things…

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Disclaimer: I get that now maybe isn’t a good time to come out and say, “look at all these happy things!” but there never will be a good time. I hope they bring a little joy to others.

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One of the things I love about being on Verity! Podcast is the inclusion of our “happy things” section we start each full episode with. I may moan about finding a happy thing some weeks, but it is nice to see what is going on in the world of Doctor Who that has my co-hosts excited.

Of course, Doctor Who isn’t my only love and as a proud multi-fandom lovin’ person I thought it might be nice to devote a blog post here and there to talk about things I’m excited about in different fandoms. Read on for Supernatural, Walking Dead, superheroes (SPIDEYPOOL!), music, young Peter Capaldi, and more.

BLOGS

I don’t read a lot of blogs. I have a RSS feed reader that I will dip into when I have time, that covers different topics of interest but subscribing to blogs is limited to a select few. Right now two that are always on the top of my inbox belong to Verity! ladies. I include them because they are awesome not just because they are friends.

Liz recently has been blogging a lot and about all different things, including cupcakes (with a recipe!) She talks about video games, books she’s written, Doctor Who and many other topics that interest her. Even if you aren’t interested in the topic, her sense of humor will be enough to keep you interested. All I ask is more pictures of desserts.

I’ve mentioned Erika’s blog before and with good reason. It’s always interesting and has a good, diverse range of topics. The topics range from silly (D&D podcast! Yay!) to thought-provoking (puzzles and anxiety). Her puzzles post got me thinking about mental illness and inspired my essay on being bipolar. She has a patreon too, if you like her work you could throw money that way.

Not a Verity! but run by an awesome lady nonetheless: Yoga With Adriene, who offers free yoga instruction that is funny, interesting and appealing to someone who has never done yoga before. She takes her craft seriously, but also takes her motto “Find What Feels Good” seriously, too. Right now I’m doing the 30 Day Yoga Challenge and I think I’ve laughed during every single video.

Now, onto fandoms! After this point there will be spoilers and gifs!


SUPERNATURAL

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Are you watching Season 11? Aside from all the wonderful that is Mark Pellegrino back as Lucifer, we now have Misha rocking it as Lucifer inhabiting Castiel’s body. The term Casifer has been rolling around and I like it. A good portmanteau is a wonderful thing, kinda like the faces Misha pulls to pay homage to the first actor playing Lucifer.

We also have a look at the Season 11 bloopers. This is the reason I buy the boxset! I’ll admit I’m a Crowley fangirl before a Dean or Sam fangirl, but they have their share of really great bloopers and antics.


THE WALKING DEAD

The Walking Dead is not supposed to make you happy, it’s supposed to rip out your soul and taunt you with it.

However, one of the actors Michael Cudlitz turned a phrase uttered on the show that compared certain baby-making fluids to Bisquick into something grand.

Line on the show -> memes -> actor acknowledges this and challenged fans to bring Bisquick to the Dallas Walker Stalker con to donate to charity.

The Walking Dead’s Michael Cudlitz Turns Bisquick Meme Into A Good Cause


SUPERHEROES

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Deadpool can just take all my money. Whether it’s comic form, movie form, it doesn’t matter. Now, I need cinematic Spideypool goodness. Spider-Man/Deadpool is my favourite one-sided ship. Really, there’s fanfiction, and I’m sure Wade Wilson wrote some of it.

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This is from Amazing Spider-Man #698, note: “prattling”.

The CW is doing an excellent job with their shows and I am a very happy fangirl every single time we get a cross-over or reference in Arrow and Flash. It’s that simple. I adore crossovers, sometimes more than the individual properties and between Arrow/Flash/Legends of Tomorrow I have more shared universe than I can shake a stick at.

 

Also, someone documented every shirt Cisco Ramon has worn (up to that point) on Flash and where to get ‘em. http://www.mtv.com/news/2287480/cisco-ramon-t-shirt-ranking/


MUSIC

Last post, I talked all about how going to a concert made me very happy and in particular how Frank Turner’s music has been playing on repeat all the time. Discovering his older music thanks to Spotify is making me super happy. Then there’s this audiobook. It’s short in audiobook terms, coming in at about 8 hours. If you’ve read any of Henry Rollins touring diaries they are in that same vein, if a bit more positive.

∧ That’s a mandolin. I have one of those, and I picked it up the other day after watching this to try to scribble through the opening of one of those songs. Videos make things so much easier.


DOCTOR WHO (Or rather, Peter Capaldi)

Ok, I lied, there’s a bit of Doctor Who in this.

Sometimes you just want to watch an actor’s work from before their current role. Sometimes you just want to watch a young Peter Capaldi play guitar. Tumblr has you covered. A wonderful person has put together a Peter Capaldi Annotated Filmography from 1982 right up to 2015 (Series 9 of Doctor Who).

They have uploaded many videos, made many wonderful gifs and I encourage you to watch them all.

Here’s The Ruth Rendall Mysteries: Some Lie and Some Die (1990) featuring a singing (that’s Peter singing), guitar playing Capaldi playing Zeno. This is just the Capaldi parts but the full thing is here.

 

So, what’s making you happy? Links, anecdotes, memes, gifs, it’s all welcome here!

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Fangirling: A Review of Frank Turner & the Sleeping Souls

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March 6th I went to a concert. Now, I’ve gone to concerts before, it’s what differentiated this concert to all the other ones before that has stuck with me. It’s the reason I’m writing about it on this blog. It’s revitalized my perspective on fandom. If I wax a bit nostalgic about this experience it’s because it has imprinted itself in my memory just enough to make me wonder if it was actually a dream. So, here’s a retelling of that experience and some very interesting things that I’ve learned because of it. All the videos and pictures that I included are credited to their owners. Crowdalbum was a huge help in re-living the concert.

I bought tickets last year, as soon as they were available, to see Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls. Frank Turner’s music had played a big part in getting me through a rough period of time in my life. Hell, he’s the only person to which I’ve ever written a “fan letter” and he wrote back! At the time I purchased the tickets I hadn’t asked anyone to come with me so I just bought one for myself. I’ve never gone to a concert alone, but I figured I could find someone in five months. At some point I heard that they had sold out the venue (I misheard, there were still tickets available at the door) so I gave up finding someone to go with me. At first, I hoped I could work up the nerve to go by myself. That nerve didn’t seem to come. The day before and the day of I really considered not going. The tickets were less than $30, so chickening out wouldn’t cost me too much and I had to work the next day. (I know, I know. Excuses, excuses) More than one person told me that not going was a stupid idea and to just go. They said that I would regret not going.

I showed up at Union Hall about 5:45pm assuming there would be a line already forming to get in when doors opened at 7:00pm. The last concert I went to at the same venue there was a fair size line an hour before. This time there was only one person. She had been there since 4:30pm making sure she could get a spot at the barricades, front row center. A year ago I would have shut up and sat there, in silence until she said something. Instead, we made small talk almost right away; talking in line at conventions gave me some confidence and the conversation helped us ignore the cold and rain.

My original plan was to get a spot on the second level overlooking the stage, but that looked far less interesting in the face of her spot by the barricade. She had seen at least 10 times the number of concerts I had and hadn’t been scared away from it. I had always been scared to stand in the mass of people (on the floor, general admission in bigger venues) given I am not good with people in my physical space, and I thought things like crowd surfing and moshing would terrify me. I had heard horror stories about punk shows. I didn’t know what to expect and as a general rule, the unknown scares me. I put some non-committal words together when I was asked where I was going to stand. Doors opened and ten minutes later I’m leaning against the barricade right next to front row center. Big, bold choices, thanks improv!

The show started as it meant to go on with Mo Kenney, an acoustic act who was amazing (and from Nova Scotia!) This was followed by Northcote originally from the Prairies playing with the heaviest bass and drums I’ve ever felt in my life. I had seen them as an opener for Gaslight Anthem at this same venue last year, and while they were good from my spot on the second level, they were amazing up close. Being at the barricade means every beat feels like it could restart your heart, in the best possible way.

People were having fun and I joked with my line friend in between acts. The people at the barricade were close together but the people standing behind us were politely an arm’s length away. Even when Frank Turner took to the stage, there was enough space behind me for another person. This would close up as the concert got going but everyone was still super respectful.

Union Hall is intriguing in the fact that there is very little room between the stage and barricade. There’s enough room for security to help people who were crowd surfing get off the crowd safely, but that was it. The close quarters reminded me of a small bar performance just with way more people. As if it wasn’t intimate enough, there were two speakers turned on their sides to allow Frank to get toe-to-toe to the barricade on either side of the stage. He doesn’t shy away from interacting with the crowd. He said at the very beginning of the show that the performance was equal for every person in the venue, regardless of where they were sitting or standing and he lived up to that promise.

@frankturner rocked @unionhalledm tonight! Great show! #unionhall #franktuner

A video posted by Union Hall (@unionhalledm) on


You can see the speaker turned on its side near the end of the loop.

#frankturner

A photo posted by Adam Birbeck (@awbirbeck) on


There was crowd surfing, even Frank participated.

Now, I can’t say that I know music or even understand why I like what I like, but I was in complete awe for the first two songs. Looking at the videos that surfaced I look like I’m in a daze, which I was. As much as I was fangirling over just being there, and seeing him and the Sleeping Souls perform, there was a part of me that couldn’t comprehend the amount of energy the entire band had, both musical energy and physical energy – those guys can move! There was always something to watch and I can’t imagine trying to see that on the second level looking down. There was a passion in the words and it quickly turned into a sing-along nearly every time. I’ve since come to learn the Sleeping Souls have been the band for Frank for a while and that partnership dynamic shows in the smirks and interactions between them.

he just wants to dance..@frankturner #foursimplewords#fthc#fthcfans#frankturner

A video posted by Melissa Gilroy (@mewmaximus) on


Between some more than others… He just wanted to dance…

Above the passion and the fucking amazing music I believe that there’s a message. It focuses on coming together because of a shared interest, making friends with strangers and having a great time. Does that sound familiar, fandom? He spoke in between songs, impressing on the fact that there’s enough bad shit happening in the world right now that dragging it into a show is stupid. I completely agree. At one point, he asked the whole floor to sit and do something together. Everyone sat without any real hesitation. Now, I’m poorly paraphrasing, but he said that if we (the crowd) don’t come together here then it’s pointless and we’re just adults shouting at each other in the dark. So, the song Photosynthesis was cued up and when the drummer signalled, everyone was to jump up, sing if they knew words (and sing even if they didn’t) and dance their hearts out. We did just that, myself included, and I didn’t care how stupid I looked because I wanted to be a part of that experience.


Show 1850, Edmonton AB! Thanks Alberta. It's been a blast.

A photo posted by Frank Turner (@frankturner) on

So, there was a point to this post other than just reliving that wonderful concert. The music, the energy, and the experience unexpectedly helped to remind me of the spirit and influence that fandom brings to my life. You can learn something through the experiences fandom brings you, you just have to be willing to open your mind and when necessary make those little leaps. Go to the concert or convention alone and make friends with strangers. Take up a hobby just because your favourite actor enjoys it. Maybe you’ll hate it but there’s always the chance that you will find a new passion. If you see something lacking in your fandom and have ideas for something like a podcast or fanart, then don’t wait for someone else to do it, just do it.

Thank you for getting through all of that and if Frank Turner comes to your area, grab a ticket and experience the passion he has for his music.

My First Fandom: The Importance of The Phantom Menace

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Well, 2016 is here and with it a new theme for Verity! Podcast* and new topics to match that theme for us to talk about. Our theme this year is “firsts”, and it’s one I’m rather excited about because there is so much room to wander around. We have episodes to pick apart and experiences to discuss with each other. I hope to take away a new appreciation of some things my cohosts enjoy because that’s part of the fun of sharing a love for a TV show. Of course, Verity! Is about Doctor Who, and as someone who is so proudly multi-fandom, it’s hard to dim that fangirl shine to just one fandom. I figured my own blog was a great place to talk about my first fandom; even before Queer as Folk graced my television set, posters for a certain big-name prequel graced my walls. I’m also talking about it because I’m really tired of hearing people heap complaints on it with The Force Awakens taking the world by storm.

Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace was my first fandom, even though I didn’t really associate with other fans either online or in real life. I had a kindred spirit to talk to about it, and we dreamed up elaborate starships and new characters based or set on first the movie and then the Jedi Apprentice book series. It was just her and I though, and when I wasn’t spending time with her I had the movie, the novelization, the tie-in books, and the multitude of extras and merchandise that Lucasfilms put EVERYWHERE. I spent so much money on Lays chips, trying to get a bag with a certain character card in it. I threw myself into the Star Wars universe and let imagining I was a Jedi soothe my troubles away.

It was the first movie I could quote all the lines in, the first movie I defended when I heard someone in school making fun of it, and it brought my first crush on an actor. That movie, regardless of whether you like it or not, helped me get through a rough time. A lot of that is because it happened to occur during a perfect storm of factors in my life.

I was 12 years old in May of 1999, and I had found out a month before the movie was released that (after being an only child all my life) I would soon have a baby brother or sister joining the family. I was excited to be a big sister, but I was also terrified what this change would bring. I don’t handle change well, that’s why I do improv. My mother and I had moved a couple years earlier to a small town where I didn’t know anyone, and instead of trying to make friends, I read by myself and did extra school work. I had a couple friends, but I really only saw them at school.

I kept what was bothering me about my family from my friends at school and kept what was bothering me about my social life from my family at home. Compartmentalization seems like a way better word in theory than in practice.

Perfect storm for falling head over heels for a fictional universe:

  • BIG inevitable change over the horizon that you can’t change or make go away.
  • (Perceived) Lack of people to talk to about said, giant change.
  • Everything around you is boring, and you lack a good solid friendship.
  • Friends at school are excited about a new thing (because they’ve seen the original trilogy, you haven’t).
  • Attractive actor you see in one trailer.

With those factors in mind, The Phantom Menace didn’t have to have the brilliant qualities of the original trilogy or the amazing things that make it so great like The Force Awakens because it was there at the perfect time. I needed to lose myself in a rich, full world, and that’s exactly what I did.

Phantom Menace, when I first saw it, spoke to me on another level. I read so much into it that sometimes I forget what the movie is really about. The movie was about more than trade disputes, battle droids, and “no one is buying what you’re selling Palpatine” storylines. I still saw the lame characters and poorly written dialogue, but I didn’t care. You had an established Jedi “family” of Jedi Master and his apprentice whose world is turned upside down because of exciting events they live through and change that they barely blink an eye at. They then meet an annoying, bratty kid (little sibling on the way) who joins their family much to the annoyance of Obi-Wan. Anakin represents a big change; he’s supposed to bring balance to the force.

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(via dyingsighs.tumblr.com)

This is unlike my little brother, who did not bring balance to the force. He does have the same number of letters in his name as Anakin, however.

I took away from the first screening I saw of Phantom Menace (I saw it six times, I think, in theatres) that even when the worst happened, life went on. Obi-Wan does the unthinkable when, despite the Jedi Council not agreeing with him, he goes and takes on Anakin as his apprentice after Qui-Gon dies. If you read anything about Obi-Wan before that point, this is very not like him. He would have NEVER disobeyed the Council before. Qui-Gon was the maverick; he questioned authority and made things up as he went along. Some of the books hypothesize that it was one of the main reasons Qui-Gon was never on the Jedi Council.

To 12-year-old me, knowing Obi-Wan could get through such a big change made me feel a bit better about the change I would have to face. I got a little bolder because of that movie, taking bits and pieces of character traits and assuring myself it was okay to be a little bit wiser, to break the rules now and then, and I started talking when I would have normally stayed silent. That kindred spirit and I were just starting our friendship, and it strengthened after we went to see the movie together. We stayed up all night talking about it. That shared love for a show that becomes a deep friendship is what I have now with Doctor Who and the other fandoms I romp around in. I can only hope The Force Awakens will appear during a perfect storm for someone else and help them through a big event.

Oh, and that attractive actor in the trailer that drew me in, and that I developed a HUGE crush on?

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I had posters of him everywhere in my room and was so embarrassed when I realized I had been pronouncing his first name wrong for months. (This is when access to interviews or YouTube would have been great.) I was looking for the movie Trainspotting (which he is in) on Showcase when I found that first episode of Queer as Folk.

We know how that turned out.

 

*Thanks to Erika for editing this. Without her there would be no commas. 

The Five Stages of Fandom

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I love the fandoms I take part in. They’ve brought me happiness, frustrated me, helped me through bad times and made me cry all while introducing me to friends and ideas I would have never met otherwise. While Doctor Who is my family fandom; the one I will always come back to, I also have Supernatural, Firefly, South Park, Kids in the Hall, and the Walking Dead. Each of them have shown me something and helped me discover a bit more about myself.

Recently, I fell head over heels with the TV show Chuck, and like the other shows I fell hard. So hard in fact that I took a step back to look at the process, how I went from scoffing a show I knew little about (telling my partner Chris that no, I didn’t want to watch it and that it wouldn’t interest me) to watching five seasons in less than a week. As I stared, I noticed that the process for me was the same for every single show*. It also bore a similarity to the five stages of grief if I tipped my head the right way.

*Although I wrote this from a TV show point of view, you can easily replace TV show with book, movie or anime. If it exists there’s a fandom for it.

When a death occurs, it is believed a person goes through five stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Some people will skip a step entirely, and each step may take a different amount of time for different people. With fandoms we begin with an event or a series of mini-events. Continue reading

Teamwork and Harold the Space Gerbil.

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I learned what teamwork was yesterday. I also learned that gerbils will be the only ones to survive when the aliens attack your spaceship.

The first part looks like the first line of an after school special*, doesn’t it? The second part looks like this:

Harold the Space Gerbil.

Harold the Space Gerbil. Survivor.

But I digress. I learned what teamwork was yesterday. I finally understand what people mean when they talk about sports teams and trust between players. I don’t enjoy sports and I still struggle to understand why others do. It took a theatre and a stage to understand teamwork and trust. That stage would house a scene that involved among many things, a space gerbil named Harold, played by me.

I’ve been taking public improv workshops at Rapid Fire Theatre since June this year (with August off). (I mentioned one of my improv classes in this post.) Most workshops offered end with a “workshop show” where all the classes perform in a showcase for their invited guests and each other. It’s kind of like a graduation. It’s a great, supportive atmosphere where lame jokes get big laughs and the applause and cheering is very enthusiastic. It’s a wonderful way to gently dip your toe into performing if you’ve never done it before. It’s also a prime spot to take risks with your improv and if you fail you don’t have very far to fall.

Last night was my third workshop show, and it was probably the most comfortable one so far. One of the reasons was because I was in a small class and I had more opportunity to get to know the other people in the group. My previous two shows were larger classes (between 13 and 16 people) where I felt I could easily blend into the background. If I can blend into the background I naturally do, unfortunately. In this class of six, I had worked with the other performers at least a few times and got at least a very vague idea of how they liked to play. There wasn’t the time to develop the level of trust and comfort that troupes have with each other but, there was enough time to feel like you belonged in the group and that they had your back. We were all learning together and although sometimes we didn’t recognize the cues that others needed help, we were right there to help when we saw them. In fact, on stage all that instruction from class just seemed to kick in and we suddenly didn’t need all those reminders to jump in from the back line (where other players wait) and help out when necessary during scenes.

The last scene of our part of the show was a “Scene Paint” where two players go up, get a suggestion from the audience and describe the setting and environment for the scene. We received “Spaceship or Space Station” and proceeded to describe a strange spaceship up in space, divided in half by a black line where one half is very clean and the other is dirty and covered in potato chip crumbs. The clean side was given unpacked boxes stacked against a wall, and right at the end I added an empty gerbil cage. Then, other players jump into that environment and do a scene using the objects and tone that has been “painted” for them.

The scene went really well, I think. It’s very satisfying to see players using what you gave them and watch them twist a world into something you never would have thought possible. The two astronauts after bickering about their sides of the ship were interrupted by two aliens who were intent on taking over. The scene was winding down to a close when I heard “what about the gerbil… hamster?” from the host. I was still in the back line and up until now I would have faded back and waited for someone else to take that offer. I barely do human characters well, could I even be a gerbil? Animal characters are strange and physical and while I’m strange I try not to show how awkward I am physically.

This time, however, there was trust. The teamwork element of improv finally made sense to me. I acted as gerbil-like as possible, taking off from one side of the stage to the other making a squeaky gerbil-like noise. The audience laughed. One of the players held his arms out and I ran over, (apparently this gerbil acted like a dog) he put me in the only space pod and launched it. Harold the gerbil survived. The scene ended and audience applauded.

After the show, everyone headed to a local bar for celebratory drinks and discussion. Post-show energy mixing with my favourite local beer being available, I was in a really good mood. When we were chatting, one of the level one students complimented my class (level two) and said we were really funny. He said he didn’t know how he was going to do that when he went into the class. I assured him that he would be great; he had been good on stage and he would only get better with time.

In the back of my mind, something hit me and I realized how happy I was that he had said “your class” instead of directing the compliment at me. For the first time, podcasting notwithstanding, my goal wasn’t to be funny and noticed. It wasn’t to take the spotlight, it was to help my scene partners be as funny as possible on stage. That improviser complementing the team; not me, meant so much. I think I would have felt like I failed somehow if he had pointed to me directly and said that I specifically was funny. I was funny because of how the rest of my class reacted to the gerbil offer. I only took a risk at looking like a complete idiot because I was confident my team had my back. Teamwork.

You know how sports teach kids teamwork and how to be strong and brave and confident? Improv was my sport. I learned how to not waffle and how to hold a conversation, how to take risks and actually be excited to fail.
— Emma Stone

I scribbled this post up last night and then I found that quote by Emma Stone this morning. I had so many feelings but my words now feel somehow validated. Also, I’m not sure if the Space Gerbil was actually named in the scene but I felt Harold was appropriate. Points to you if you understand the reference.


*If you are of the generation that has never had the “after school special” let me explain. It was generally a made for TV movie, often low budget, usually using teenage actors that talked about topics relevant to teens. Social issues or current events like drugs, dating, friendship and stress were explored in fictional stories that would teach a (usually) conservative value. Don’t do drugs, be nice to people, don’t pressure others into doing things they don’t want to do, etc. They aired in that strange 3-5pm time slot when parents were on their way home and teens were already off school. Degrassi and Degrassi Jr. High are great examples of TV shows that look at these situations and offer a far more realistic and entertaining product while still having the same style. -goes back to telling kids to get off her lawn-