this blogging century

Ironically, I had another post about numbers all lined up for today, but when I hit the Blogger dashboard to start writing, I noticed that this is post #100.

It took two and a half years to get here. A lot of bloggers hit post #100 after a hundred days of blogging, but right from the start that was never going to be me, and I had planned it that way.

The whole point of The Eyrea was that it was to be an anti-Facebook. No-one (especially not me) was going to get reminded that they hadn't talked to this or that person in a while. No-one would be compelled to log in every freaking day just to stay caught up... with what exactly? No-one will ever be tempted to play Farmville or whatever the hell the game of the week is. For a while I had a link to the non-Facebook version of Scrabulous, but I took it down and I'm not even sure it exists anymore.

The one thing on Facebook I entered data into on a regular basis was my status update, so I signed up for Twitter. My Twitter feed hit 1,000 posts several days ago. I thought about having a little fanfare for it, but That's Not What Twitter's About.

I guess I feel more compelled to point out the hundredth blog post because, with only a few exceptions, I actually try to find topics I can thrash out in writing. My DIY blog has at least one photo on most entries; this blog rarely has even that (although I agree more visuals would spruce the place up a bit).

This is the part in a typical "milestone" article where the author muses about what they've learned. I'm not going to do that, because I always find that part narcissistic, and I already use the first-person pronoun too much around here. But if people want to comment on something that they've learned since March 2008, whether in the blogosphere or anywhere else, that would be very, very cool.

Cheers. And thanks for reading.

June's West End Stories & how we amuse ourselves

I missed May's West End Stories because I had to work that weekend, but I made it to June's. They were last night, and a good time was had by all. Once again there was sort of a hive-mind "DJing" of stories going on. Pat, who went last, did a great job of telling a short-and-sweet Aesop's fable that tied together three previously-told stories from earlier in the evening. Entertainment doesn't get any more interactive than this.

Last weekend I got together with some friends near Kensington Market. We sat on a blanket in the park and talked. We admired the ever-creative Tara's watercolours from her recent trip to Ireland. I took photos (some of them have been added to my photo stream), and we tried to help the ever-sensible Nichole decide what kind of bicycle to buy. The ever-effervescent Fiona had some great advice about what bikes were on sale in which stores.

Later, Tara and I walked downtown. There was some sort of event going on at Yonge-Dundas Square, for Luminato, I think. There were tents where you could get makeovers, crowds (and crowds and crowds) of people, a swing band, and giant LED billboards everywhere. We marvelled that less than half an hour's walk away we had been sitting in a blanket in a quiet park, watching retro-hippies do yoga and tai chi moves.

This is not some Luddite comment on how much better blanket-sitting and story-telling are than big urban cultural events. But I will say that I think variety makes you appreciate each event better. It certainly keeps one from being bored.

In praise of —

Have you ever been caught complaining that something ought to exist, only to find out that it does exist, exactly the way you want it, and, in fact, has existed for some time in that state? Your emotions do this weird thing where you're both delighted and embarrassed at the same time. That's what my emotions do, anyhow. Most recently that happened with my discovery that it's as easy as anything to use the em-dash on-line for things like this blog. If you already know this, you may well be rolling your eyes and thinking, "Yeah, so?". Hey, remember your first time.

The em-dash is that longish dash that gets used for pauses in mid-sentence. It's heavier than a comma, but (to me, there's some controversy about it) lighter than parentheses, semi-colons, or colons. They can be used to death — some of the nineteenth-century poets went a little silly with them — but they're also very handy and seem to be more in use of late.

The alternative is to type two or even three hyphens, like so: --. The problem with those on-line is that one hyphen can word wrap while the other one just sits there on the previous line. Instead of looking like you intended a longish pause in the word flow, it just looks like you can't type. There are various ways to get one entered using a word processor (most word processors will replace a double hyphen with an em-dash anyhow), but for HTML you have to write —. I guess what kept me from discovering it myself is that it's "m", not "em".

Now that I'm writing about it, I'm wondering why they're so difficult to get keyed in while semi-colons are right on the home row. Hmmmmm....

April's West End Stories

I love films, but one thing I don't like about how films are publicised is the focus on how much they cost to make and how much money they made once they were released. I know that if you're in the industry it's terribly important, but what does it really matter to the viewer? Citizen Kane used all sorts of tricks to save money, wrapped under budget, and still gets picked regularly for those Top 10 lists.

There's another impact, though, one I worry about more - the idea that only things that cost money and are done by paid professionals are any good. Because every month, events like West End Stories prove that just isn't so.

The April West End Stories was held at Poor John's Café, same as every month, presided over as always by the ever-magnificent Howard. It's always free, although of course it's only polite to buy something from the café, and anyone is free to go up and tell a story. The first time I went, only a few people wanted to tell, so the ever-brilliant Ariel told a story from 1,001 Arabian Nights that lasted the entire second hour, even though it only felt like twenty minutes.

This time there was no shortage of tellers, so each person kept it short. Because everyone was a listener, and each teller was mindful of the listening experience, the stories dovetailed to each other with recurring themes, recurring central conflicts. It was a spoken word mass DJ mix.

Some people came prepared, even with props and, if not costumes exactly, dressed for the occasion (like the woman who wore the waistcoat with images of African animals on it and told a Masai story). Other people just thought of something while they were there that went with the stories just heard and asked Howard if they could go up next.

The first half was traditional(ish) tales from all over the world, but the second half was all contemporary or personal stories. It was in the second half that I made my telling debut. I am happy to report that nothing got thrown at me, and it was a vast improvement over the story-telling assignments that I did for my senior drama class ('cos, um, I failed that unit)! I was surprised - it really wasn't any harder than doing a reading.

By the end of the evening, our collective brains had been stuffed with far more good stories than we could ever remember (okay, I'm sure people of Ariel's or Howard's calibre could, but not mere mortals), and the satisfied feeling that only a very excellent film can provide.

Go if you can. If you can't, organise your own.

Talking to fish and other tall tales

Last Sunday I went to the last day of the story-telling festival at Harbourfront. I attended three sessions altogether, all with the ever-cool Tara, and wound up hearing three very different types of story-telling.

The Uppity Women session was the first and, unfortunately, the most disappointing. Although the stories were well-delivered, they had a “scripted” feel to them. The “uppity women” featured in the stories were problematic, too. Sure Greta rescued Kay from the Snow Queen, but what about the Snow Queen as a feminine stereotype? And sure the ordinary woman got away from her annoying family, but what about her teenage daughter, who doesn´t get so much as a description?

The next session were a trio of story-tellers from Germany. This was the session I enjoyed the most, largely because this was the session where the stories were meant to be enjoyed the most. They were still discussion-worthy if you wanted to go by Sir Phillip Sidney´s dictum that the purpose of poetry is “to teach and delight”, but the emphasis was on delighting, with the teaching added quietly. At the end, there were two stories told in dual-language tandem, with the leader telling the story in German, and the follower translating to English and re-telling as they went along.

The third session we heard had stories about disability, told by people with disabilities. This could have been awful (flashback to well-meaning but pedantic auditorium sessions in elementary school), but was saved because the story-tellers were very good at what they did and put the emphasis on the story. Again, the message came in all by itself. I got a little squirmy about the very personal nature of the stories (reading about someone's sex life is one thing; having them sit on a stage and tell you about it is something else again), but I suppose that was also the point.

Listening to all of these different stories and styles of telling them made me think about writing. The most “literary” stories presented the worst; the most fun ones were the ones where I knew or could guess the ending (like when one of the German tellers did "The Fisherman and His Wife" -- the repetition of the fisherman talking to the enchanted fish was great, even though you knew it was coming). Something to think about for readings.