Friday, August 31, 2012

Wasting Time

Don’t think “liar” when I state the obvious here: I am a storyteller. Lying is not the storytelling definition I’m referring to. Instead, I speak of that quality many have: we enjoy the art of the story. Is there embellishment? Yes. Is there exaggeration? Yes. Storytelling couldn’t exist without either. However, what I’m underlining here is the source of this compulsion to tell. Storytellers must tell.

But not tattletales. Or braggarts. Nor gossip. Although juicy, those stories don’t satisfy because of one very “telling” flaw: they don’t appreciate the audience. Real storytellers turn to look at you with glinty eyes, and say “See that path? The twisty one through your imagination. Go ahead. Wait until you see what’s down there. I’ll show you the way. (But you go by yourself.)” Storytellers take us nowhere and everywhere simultaneously; the campfire fades away while the audience leans in closer, closer…. It’s the safest magic. Pure alchemy. And that sort of nonsense just makes me giddy, both the giving and receiving.  

So where does that quality come from? That urge to entertain? To preserve life’s moments? To caution? To teach? To inspire thought? I suppose, like everything, it’s a combination of nature and nurture. My nature theories lead me to an unlikely source: my Dad.

My Dad wasn’t the type to tuck us into bed with a story but he was my prototype, my original storyteller. Now, years later, he’s also the subject of some of my favourite stories. So what was the very first story he told me?

I warn you. It wasn’t long. But it said everything it needed to. It made my heart race. It left me speechless. It completely delighted and horrified me at the same time. It even taught me something. And I can still hear my Dad’s voice as he shared that first story (and quite likely my favourite shortest story) one day while driving me home:

“David. If you pick your nose and eat it, do you know what happens? Flies grow in your stomach.”

I thought about that for years. Years.

At the end of the story all we have left is the story. Eventually, not even the storyteller. Thank goodness stories are like living things. They survive for generations. So stop wasting your time doing so-called important things so much. Go tell some stories.

Sunday, August 26, 2012


A London University did a study on pain. Participants were asked to squat against a wall as if sitting on a chair. The longer they maintained the posture, the greater reward they earned yet the longer they remained in that position, the more pain they had to endure. Apparently, after about 100 seconds the pain increases significantly since the thighs begin to bear the whole weight of the body. However, the real test began when researchers invited other participants to sit on their knees thus adding weight to their task.

How long could you last?

In fact, the answer depends on exactly who sat on your knees.

In all the groups studied, “people held the position longer and so endured more pain the closer they were to the beneficiary.” In other words, if the person who sat on your knees was a stranger your ability to squat would be poor in comparison to squatting with a relative on your knees. Researchers found that “people will do more for their loved ones irrespective of whether they like them or not and the closer you’re related to someone, the more pain you will go through for that genetic connection.” I guess we’re just programmed this way.

The conclusion? Family matters. Immediate and extended. Enjoyable and not-so-enjoyable. And especially biological. Our genes matter in ways we probably do not always recognize or even understand. (Sort of explains why you keep inviting that drunk uncle to Thanksgiving, doesn’t it?)

I enjoy writer Erma Bombeck’s description of her family: “a strange little band of characters trudging through life sharing diseases and toothpaste, coveting one another’s desserts, hiding shampoo, borrowing money, locking each other out of our rooms, inflicting pain and kissing to heal it in the same instant, loving, laughing, defending, and trying to figure out the common thread that bound us all together.” (My family is not much different. Maybe add gas.)

However one defines family and despite family dynamics, those researchers have proved something else too: families endure pain for each other.

Is there someone in your family who needs your knees?

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Things that deserve the stink-eye:

dryer turds.

What was this before it went through the washer and the dryer?


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Zoetic (Random Sign Edition)

I noticed this sign on a playground fence so I thought I'd share it in case you needed this information too.


Sunday, August 19, 2012

This is my hood.

"There are two spiritual dangers in not owning a farm. One is the danger of supposing that breakfast comes from the grocery and the other that heat comes from the furnace." ~Aldo Leopold


Thursday, August 16, 2012

Take it.

I mowed my dead lawn today. That pretty much says it all. I mean, what’s the point? Ever have one of those kinds of days? (Weeks?)

So instead, I decided to take a walk.

Take a walk. Three simple words connected to an action that can make such a difference. What I’m realizing though is this: the most important word in that sentence isn’t walk.

Take it.

Take time. Take it in. Take five. It takes some getting used to but nevertheless, take it, whatever it is. I’m not talking about a walk. The noun doesn’t matter. Take the time. Sure, sometimes the time has to be scheduled based on all those responsibilities we adults have. Spontaneity is certainly a luxury for many people. But when you can, take it anyway.

And I don’t mean escape either. I’ve learned that escape is easy and it only gets me so far, sometimes never really much farther than when I started. I remember once watching some reality show when a man said something like this: “I want to live life instead of just watching it on TV.” And then I swear he turned to look directly at me. People escape life in a variety of ways, many of which are unhealthy. Life can make for heavy shoulders and our duties and troubles can be so tiring, even overwhelming at times. Waving a white flag and retreating is understandably tempting. But “taking” life means actually living it. Isn’t that a gift? An opportunity? A kick in the donkey? 

As we all know and we are told time and time again until we finally, finally hear it: "you only live once." It's a very honest cliche but for me, this saying speaks the truth more fully: "You only live once so do everything twice." I say three times! Twenty if it's really fun. Take it. Before it gets too late.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Some Relief Please

Um, why do the Olympic mascots
look like metric wrenches?
This is not meant to be disparaging. Who am I to criticize sports? But the Olympics are killing me. I'm GUTTED. I'm knackered even.

Here's the thing: where's the much-needed comic relief?!!!!! WHERE?!

All the tension. All those bodies. All the spandex. All those pissed-off coaches. All the events I keep missing. All those neon shoes. All the events that confuse me: what happened to the tug-o-war? All the crooked judging in synchronized swimming: what can those judges actually see? All the inspirational music. All the bawling. All the parent replays. All the 4th place finishers. All the reporters insisting athletes define disappointment. All those google doodles. All the Prince Harry. All the hyperbole.

It's too much. Absobloodylootley. I want to but I can't look away. My anxiety is at 8 awaiting the next emotional marathon double lutz thingamawhatthehell are those hats for? Bullocks! Most sports confuse me but especially these sports. (Except for the shot-put. I'm totally all over that.) Why team dressage and not dodgeball?! I'm gobsmacked. I'm just going to fast-forward it all until the closing ceremonies when the arts will rule again unless, please no, the Spice Girls show up. (I wonder how old Baby is now? Is she all botoxicated? Now I'm worried about that too.)

The Olympics would be a lot less stressful and confusing for me if we could just periodically cut to Mr. Bean on the keyboard again. PLEASE?! (I do love how those Brits talk though. Smashing!)

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Things that deserve the stink-eye:

movies (lately).

I enjoyed seeing The Amazing Spiderman the other night. Although silly at times, it gripped me. Here and there anyway. For a few reasons.

Years ago, writer John Hughes, through his classics The Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles & Ferris Beuller's Day Off, taught me to accept (maybe even revel a little in) my awkward teenager-ness. I thank him for that. Thus I'm a sucker for Peter Parker-types or any remotely introverted protagonist. Plus Spiderman makes me nostalgic for my long-ago Saturday morning youth. (I shot webs out of my wrists for years. Who didn't?) And isn't the whole Spiderman story essentially an allegory for adolescence itself? And double plus: Emma Stone. A terrific actress in everything she does but especially Easy A, speaking of rare quality teen flicks.

So yes, I enjoyed the film. At times. But it was missing something so many films seem to be missing now: true originality. Most films are sequels or reboots of previous box office successes. What's next? Smokey & the Bandit 2.0? (I scoff but it's probably in development right now.) Plot-lines are so predictable; it's like studio executives are whispering at board-room tables just outside the frame: more explosions, more jackass, more water on the women.

You know what they're really whispering though? Man, this audience is stupid...stupid...stupid. Plus cha-ching.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

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