Thursday, 31 August 2017

Putting the Pop into Pop Music review in Quip Magazine

Just to let you know I am still writing, just nothing for Pop Culture lately. Soon though, I've been storing up a bunch of stories from spending the summer with the boys.

In the meantime, below is a music review I recently wrote in Quip Magazine.

Beast Epic by Iron and Wine

“Beast Epic”, the latest by Iron & Wine, is a smooth summer listen

Beast Epic, the sixth album by Iron & Wine, marks a self-described revisiting of the past. How so? First, it’s put out by Sub Pop, his first record label, and, secondly, in terms of sound. Recording everything live and employing minimal overdubbing gives the album a warm and intimate sound.
What does it sound like?

MORE

Monday, 15 May 2017

LIES, DAMNED LIES AND PARENTING


 
 
Recently I have been asked why I haven’t posted on Pop Culture in such a long time. There are lots of reasons, lack of time being the consistently underlying one. As a father of three boys, scrambling to pick up work, often working three different jobs and - with various home and community responsibilities on top of attempting to bootstrap creative projects of my own – I have no time. But that’s a lie.

The real reason, I have confessed in moments of vulnerability (often after a beer or three), was that I felt like a fraud writing about parenting since, recently, I have felt like a failure who doesn’t have any clue what he is doing.

“But that is what is so great about it!” people have consistently replied. “It’s awesome to see you don’t know what you’re doing. None of us do. And it’s funny.”

I have chosen to take that comment in a positive manner and so below follows another example of how I stumble through parenting.


***

I used to get lied to for a living. Or that’s how I described my former job to people at parties. As a prosecutor, I would be dealing with people who were lying to me all day long. I did get some pleasure from breaking down the lies people were telling me and then holding them responsible. But I got tired of it. The court system is adversarial, with people not at their best. It warps you – I started doubting what anyone said to me. I was skeptical of any story told me. So it’s Monday, huh? We’ll see about that.

So I quit. To become a stay at home parent.

I’m sure you see the irony.

Currently, my three boys are 14, nearly 12 and almost 10. And they lie to my face every day.

While I’ve improved my situation in that I now love the people I’m dealing with, the downsides are that I don’t get paid and I can’t put them in jail. And the relentless attempts to deceive me over the smallest issue are exhausting.

“Have you put away your laundry?”

“Yeesss.”

“Really?”

“Pretty much.”

“So, that means ‘no’. Get going.”

I have read that insisting on honesty from your children only results in them becoming better liars. I’m not sure what the alternative is, tell them, “Go ahead lie to me at will with no consequences”? Also, I’m ok with them being better liars. It’s a life skill and we all know that you need to be able to lie well at points in your life. Whole ethics courses have revolved around this.

So, I know they will lie to me. I know that nothing I do will stop it. But, by the same token, I totally lose my mind when I catch them lying to me. And if there is anything I hate more than being lied to, it’s being lied to incompetently. It’s damned insulting. Remember, I used to do that professionally.

So, when my nearly 12 year old comes home on Monday to tell me that the Tuesday night Spring concert, in which he plays viola, has been postponed because the music teacher will be away, I don’t challenge him immediately but it seems… weird – I have heard nothing from the school. Tuesday morning I call the school and the secretary she tells me no, it’s still going ahead. I hang up the phone and prepare my cross-exam.

Not surprisingly, under a withering inquisition, he coughs up that yes, he made it up, lied to me, because he didn’t want to go and that he sucks at viola and he’ll be terrible and embarrassed. Tears follow. I am gob-smacked – what was the plan here? Did he think I wouldn’t find out? What a terrible, terrible lie. Frankly, embarrassing.

If he was so worried about his performance why didn’t he actually practice? And he wants to just quit? Not show up on the day of the show? He has made a commitment to the group and he will honour it. He needs to learn he has to face challenges and sometimes he won’t come out looking so good. He created this situation and he will see it though. It is the mature, responsible thing to do.

“Well, then, I don’t want to do the mature, responsible thing.”

 Part of me wanted to laugh, part or me wanted to shake him like a dust mop.

“You’re going to anyway. I’m not going to let you be that guy. I care about you too much to let you do that.”

“But why, why do I have to do this?”

So, I pause for a moment. Do I tell him the truth? 


 
I opt for the truth.

“Because, otherwise, your life will be shit.”

His eyes widen.

“If you don’t try things that are hard or continue with something when it gets difficult or persist in putting yourself out there after you fail and fail and fail again – you will unlikely ever do anything worthwhile or satisfying or discover what makes you happy and feel alive. You might decide at the end that something isn’t for you but you can’t stop until you give it a real shot and take it to a natural end point.”

And then I told him another couple of truths:
  1. Most of these concerts are pretty bad and expectations are low. Very low;
  2. Parents are only watching their own kids anyway;
  3. In life people don’t pay that much attention to you, they’re concerned about themselves and so, if you put on a big smile and go into things looking confident, you’ll fool most of them;
  4. Someday, not for a long while maybe, you’ll be glad you finished this properly; and
  5. I won’t give up on you or let you give up on yourself and, if you go up there and try your best, I’ll respect you because I know how hard it is.
He went, not willingly or with grace but he went. And he did fine. I’m pretty sure he was faking a couple of the numbers, but, I couldn’t tell and neither could anyone else.
 
Hopefully he learned:
  1. The stuff I told him was true and it wasn’t nearly as bad as he feared; and
  2. To tell me a better damned lie next time.

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

LIFE WITH TEEN

Teen: I can't believe how controlling you are! You give me no freedom! Why do you treat me like a baby? (looking in fridge) Oh my god! Where is the jam? Who finished the jam!?

Parent: It's in the fridge.

Teen: Where?! I can't find it!

Parent reaching into fridge and grabbing jam: Right. There.



*Disclaimer: This conversation is an amalgam of roughly 347 conversations over past two years.

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

SEND WOMEN INTO SPACE: WOMEN ARE FROM MARS


My SciFi comedy webseries, Women Are From Mars, has all of its episodes now up and ready to be streamed. In roughly 2 minute bites it is a delicious low-fat snack. Perfect to watch on long road trips with a bunch of people who drive you a little crazy.

Do me a solid and check it out if you haven't yet. It's a lot of fun.

Women Are From Mars: An all women group of international astronauts embark on a one-way mission to colonize Mars – not realizing their billionaire male patron is along for the ride, cryogenically frozen in a locked room on the ship.

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC86zkj7eO8sqZhxeMBl8y_A/featured

Monday, 21 March 2016

(The Game of) LIFE



March Break has ended and so I finally have the place to myself (well, except for my sister's dog we're looking after while she goes off for a week of skiing in Whistler with her husband - sigh).

Yes, SIGH.

It's been a very long time since I've been able to go on a week-long holiday with just my wife for something as luxurious and satisfying as a ski holiday - because I don't have the time or money to do that. Why? 3 Reasons. All of them children. They are very expensive propositions, children. In both time and money. They have activities which cost money and eat up a lot of my time to get them to. They need stuff which they either outgrow, break or lose. They get sick or injured and need braces or orthotics.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, "I'm blessed etc."

I'm not sure I buy all that "Your life would be so empty without them" stuff you hear.  I think if I never had kids, I would have been OK. Not the person I am now, for sure, and I would have missed out on lots of wonderful things, but still, you know, I think I probably could have had a fine life without them. And I'd have experienced different wonderful things. Parents aren't supposed to admit this but surely I can't be the only one.

I love my kids and I'd be utterly destroyed if something were to ever happen to them, to the point that I don't know how I'd function. But it's more of a 'what if' scenario that plays out in my mind on a regular basis.

What if I made completely different choices throughout life - not just one or two - but completely? No kids. No house. No wife. Totally different career path. Maybe that life could have been amazing. But while I still have choices to make for the time I have allotted to me, and am making different choices than I would have made in the past, some things are closed off and can never happen. And I am OK with that (pretty much... OK maybe not... but I accept that... grudgingly).

So, back to March Break and our staycation (which is a synonym for 'no vacation'). It was low-key and good for us all to reconnect and do family things, like play board games, watch videos, go to a Marlies game etc. It was during this time when my kids invited me to play the Game of Life with them. I think I played this game once before on a New Year's Eve when I was about 12. And to be honest, it never really interested me. Seemed like it was pretty boring actually. However, this time I was interested in playing - a lot. And I was determined to make completely different choices than I did in real life. Among them - no kids.

Since I didn't announce my plan, my wife and boys were a bit taken aback at the vehemence with which I told them I would not be having kids and I proceeded to become a fireman out of highschool, later upgrading to a veterinarian. I refused to buy a house and attempted to pursue a selfish and hedonistic life. The game is unlike real life in many ways (there are no really bad things that happen in the game and overall it is a little too sunny for me, of course it is a kids' game, still...) but in one respect it is the same - despite my best efforts, I got married and had a kid. Sigh.

My youngest (the 8 year old), however, was having a great run. He was making over 100K a year out of highschool, he was a SPY, he owned two vacation homes and a bunch of other cool stuff but he was getting increasingly upset - because he didn't have any babies. He literally had tears in his eyes. He was offering to buy kids off of my wife and other son (each of whom had over 4 kids). Eventually, he got one kid but was extremely dissatisfied with that result. Only one?! Even last night at dinner he was commenting on how lucky my other son was who had 7 kids.

So, I'm not sure what the takeaway from this story is except that maybe my kids believing having a family of their own is a mark of success and value, maybe my choice wasn't so bad? If they think that much of family maybe I'm doing OK, after all? It touched me anyway and cheered me up about my choices in real life.

I still wouldn't have minded one of the vacation homes though.

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Interplanetary Women's Day: Women Are From Mars: First Two Episodes Up and Streaming on YouTube

Women Are From Mars - YouTube Channel


I took it Interplanetary yesterday as I celebrated International Women's Day (#IWD2016 #InternationalWomensDay) by launching a number of women into space towards Mars.

Our first two episodes are now streaming on our YouTube channel and I encourage you to check them out to follow our all female astronaut crew on their one way trip to Mars.

WAFM YouTube Channel:
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC86zkj7eO8sqZhxeMBl8y_A

WAFM Trailer:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ry5RUjze_QE