All posts by joanna

Technology & Artificial Incomprehension

Within the past week there were two text conversations between me and my daughter, Linda, that I found disturbing. Could I blame it on friggin’ technology or should I blame it on my arthritic brain? I will always blame it on technology. Each time a short phone conversation would have been infinitely more precise and uplifting. Why didn’t I call my daughter? Because she has a very busy life, but she’ll usually respond to a text.

Me: Sunday 4.02 pm: Are you recording third season of The Affair?

Monday 7:32 pm: Helloooo????

Linda: sorry been busy rearranging house lol
no I get it on crave tv

So you can’t record?

I already get it on crave

I know. Can you record it for me?

no I can’t its like Netflix
the affair is on showtime right?

Good to know. So I won’t get crave. I don’t get showtime either. Never mind. I’ll wait. (big eyes emoji)

how did u watch it before steaming? (she means streaming)

On prime but I got virus the last time

ya sucks
you can watch here whenever you are here lol

Ya. OK. (heart eyes emoji)

Tuesday 12:56 pm: You were wondering: what’s wrong with mom? She knows I can’t record record Crave. Mom is thinking: what’s wrong with Linda? Why is she being difficult about recording it? Hilarious!

yup hilarious!

Me: Pleasant dreams Beauty! xxoo

A bit of background information: Linda has a new job, is teaching her old job to a colleague and learning her new work. At home she has a husband, a daughter and a dog. I have none of the aforementioned. I am a writer and a hermit and have lived alone for a long time. It’s all about me.

On Wednesday evening I got a Facebook notice via email that Linda, Judy and I would be attending Kim’s jewelry show. The email stated 6:11 pm.

The next day a conversation via telephone would have saved a lot of time and incomprehension . Linda daughter was very busy at work. I was at home and already tense because I had received an email from CALQ. It stated that there was an update on my profile and I should click on the link below to access my grant application file. I clicked. It said: application denied (in blue and underlined). A letter would follow telling me the same thing, albeit in gentler terms.

The following texts ensued between Linda and me:

Me: Thursday 10:40 am: Heya! Do I meet you at Kim’s? What time?

Response not fast enough and I need to know if I should put on my makeup. Her phone is acting up. Maybe she didn’t get my text. I called her at the office and left a message with someone.

Thursday 12:21 pm: sorry mom haven’t had a free moment I’ll call you later.
I’m eating lol
is it urgent

(fuck ya! – thought not text) I have to go out. I just need the answer to my question above

don’t know yet

Ok. I’ll do my thing and we’ll connect later

Judy and I didn’t make a time but we may go for brunch or lunch before

(OMG emoji) because your email post said 6:11 pm I thought it was that time today!!! Bye!

you’re so silly (one eye closed one eye open tongue sticking out emoji)
that’s when i answered post

I know that now. I hate texting and posting when a quick phone call would have save a lot of time

okay sorry been training and learning

And I’m sorry that I’m a grumpy (grumpy face emoji) old mom. xxoo

Saturday 10:50 am: Do I maybe makeup today?

mom Kim s thing is tomorrow only

I guess there was something I didn’t read. I’m booked for theatre tomorrow. Try to have fun without me.

Moral of the story: Texts and emails often leave stuff out – like emotion, tone of voice, laughter (emojis don’t cut it), information and comprehension. We don’t process or pay attention to everything we read, especially if it’s an email or text. I’m sixty-eight. For me the telephone was the best invention ever, second only to the inside, flush toilet and electricity. All of these things were invented before I was born. We got a television set when I was thirteen and the world started deteriorating at an alarming rate. The next best invention since I became a secretary and a writer was a word processor that could cut and paste. I hate cell phones but I have one. Please call me when you can. I like the sound of your voice. And I need a hug!

My Play – The Lie Speaker

Hello Friends! After a year of working with Infinitheatre’s, The Unit, my play, The Lie Speaker, is ready for a free staged reading that will happen at Centaur Theatre on Friday, September 16th at 7pm .  Walk ups are welcome.

I encourage you to Learn More & RSVP at http://www.infinitheatre.com/unit-season#The+Lie+Speaker   By RSVPing, your seats will be held up until 15 minutes before showtime plus ticket holders will receive 10% off the final bill at Le Bourlingueur Restaurant near the Centaur http://www.lebourlingueur.ca/.  Thanks!

Fringe Festival and the Effing 51 Bus

I’m ready to kill. I practically ran all the way to Mainline Theatre because the effing 51 bus took an hour and I have to walk/run many blocks. I made it. Half way through the play I’m choking because of the dust in this delightful old theatre. And I’m trying so hard not to cough and disturb the wonderful actors which only makes me cough more. I finally calm down. The show “Enough Already” is excellent! I need to pee desperately but I refuse to use the bathroom at Mainline Theatre. I have to walk another 20 minutes to the metro because St-Laurent street is closed to buses due to the week-long Fringe Festival. I decide to get the 102 bus because I’m sick of the 51 (I practically live on the 51). I wait 10 minutes and then the 102 bus driver comes over and says we have to wait for the next bus (1/2 hour) because something is wrong with the engine.  One lady starts bitching at the bus driver: “You saw us standing here for ten minutes while you were talking on the phone! ” “Je ne comprend pas madame. Est ce que il y a quelqu’un ici qui parle Francais?” I’m bilingual but I don’t have time for this argument. I go back to the metro, explain the situation to the guy in the window who shrugs his shoulders. I don’t have time or energy to create a scene (and my bladder is screaming) so I use another ticket to go to Snowdon to get the effing 51 bus.

As I wait for the metro I realize I could have saved myself $3.25 by taking the 105 bus and transferring to the effing 51 but my anger and my bladder made me witless. So witless that as soon as I get on the metro I realize I’m going in the wrong direction! I correct the situation at the next stop, get to Snowdon and the wonderful effing 51 bus is waiting for me. Half an hour later I’m home and grateful I survived another theatre experience. Now I must stop socializing, stay home and finish writing my own play.

 

Choir Happy!

Singing Happy! I just joined the Yellow Door Choir in Montreal http://yellowdoorchoir.com/and I’m having a blast. It’s a lot of work but it’s mostly fun. I’m singing along with a 40-member choir, instead of singing alone to my four walls (and any neighbours who care to listen in). We’re learning some great music and the first performance this year is in Girouard Park (corner of Girouard and Sherbrooke) on Saturday, Oct. 24 at 1:15 pm. Organized by: http://compassionglobally.org/, their mission is to challenge world leaders to take action that will substantially reduce sexual violence against women and girls.

On Oct. 24, 2015, Compassion Globally presents a cross-Canada musical ‘flashmob’ extravaganza. 16 to 18 choirs will sing simultaneously in locations from coast to coast. Yellow Door Choir is representing Montreal and singing “Hope in Every Handshake” and “Plenty Good Room”. Join us in Girouard Park and celebrate a great cause!

Play – Happy!

My play, The Lie Speaker, was chosen by Infinitheatre to be part of The Unit!! My play, along with six other plays, will be supported and dramaturged for a year, culminating in a reading festival in September 2016. Check out Infinitheatre website for more information: http://www.infinitheatre.com/the-unit

If my play had not been chosen by The Unit, I was going to sulk for a few days, curse that back-stabbing Muse bitch, and then get on with the business of writing. But sometimes Plan A works and I am now happily writing The Lie Speaker, which is based on my novel, LIAR. If you can’t wait for the play you can purchase the book version at Amazon. Of course it will be dramatically different, even though some of the content will be the same. Condensing 314 pages into 90 minutes on stage will need a magician’s vision. All writers conjure words from thin air, but playwrights have the added burden (or joy) of imagining a world that speaks directly to the emotions. The theatre is an unusual realm confined only by the arbitrary borders of the stage and the bums in the seats. There is no time to slowly understand a character or situation. “This is who I am. Jump into my world and swim with me.”

The Unit will meet in November for two, exciting, exhausting days. Check out my blog for more news mid-November.

Angel Exchange

We all have Angels in our lives. Sometimes they live in our families, but sometimes they can be strangers who become good friends for a short or a long while. And often the relationship becomes what I call an Angel Exchange. The connections travel both ways. I must assume the Angel gives me something I need for the satisfaction of helping. I accept their gifts and hope that one day I will be able to return the favour. Or maybe my joy is enough. I never ask my Angels why.

A few days before Christmas I had the joy of recording the song I wrote for my grand-daughter, Kayla (Eyes of a Child). I watched my Angel, appropriately named Angie Arsenault, YTGMF (young, techno-geek musician friend) use computer software to record my voice to music she had already recorded. Her fingers flew over the computer keyboard (usually they’re flying over the piano keyboard) to marry my words and voice with her music and producing expertise. Please check out Angie’s website (angiearsenault.com) and you will see that she is a beautiful singer, savvy, eclectic producer who refuses to have her creations restricted by borders.

Angie encouraged me to use my lower range, to sing more in my chest and throat instead of using my classically trained head voice. Singing with a microphone can be a much more intimate experience. You can soften and whisper chosen notes, or growl and use breathy consonants to colour the lyrics. The recording session was over too soon. I wanted to stay in the studio forever, experiment with all the different sounds I could make, bring out every song I ever wrote and sing it differently. But Angie has her own projects to breathe life into. I am just so grateful that she took the time to be my Angel. It’s not ready yet. She will mix and harmonize, add this and that, and deliver the precious song to me in a few weeks. But wait – there’s more. I will then call another Angel to help me combine the song with pictures of Kayla until the video and song is ready to be posted on my website. Please be patient.

LIAR – Q & A

I love book clubs! Here are some questions asked by a book club in Newfoundland, and answered by the author (me).

Q. How did you research/ learn about the acceptance/ or not of ‘white’ art in a native community. I wondered how in a community that has such divisions would the introduction of an ‘outsiders’ art be accepted?

A. My experience/research is that they work side by side doing their own thing and admiring each other’s art. China wasn’t on the island long enough to be an artistic threat. Sam was considered to be much more of a threat to the status quo.

Q. Did you receive any feedback (positive/ negative) from the native community about the book?

A. Grimshaw Island doesn’t exist, therefore neither does the native population on that island. So far I have heard only one comment from an Inuit who had nothing but praise. My publisher did very little to market Liar beyond the shores of Newfoundland.

Q. Sam and China had a very complicated relationship. Do you feel that marriage (because of all the mundane/day to day activities that it usually must address) is doomed to be complicated/confining?

A. I wouldn’t compare their marriage to anyone else’s because Sam is not “normal”. Generally speaking, I have rarely seen a truly happy marriage but they do exist and are a delight to behold.

Q. Were Sam and China’s woes due to a “mixed” marriage? Sam’s unconventional behaviour?

A. A “mixed” marriage had nothing to do with their woes. Unconventional behaviour can often be exciting and productive. However the disease of the pathological liar and the resulting manipulation is injurious to everyone concerned. You may not be aware that a pathological liar is mentally disturbed and there is no magic pill to cure this disease. They are are often very intelligent and run the gamut of behaviour from charming liars to serial killers.

Q. What role did China play in the relationship’s demise?

A. Her innocently written journals played an important role. Daily self-examination – the constant recording of inner and outer events will always reveal the truth even if you would rather avoid it. It is much easier to alter or forget unwritten memories. For obvious reasons, Sam felt threatened by China’s secret scribbles. China was only doing what she had always done – chronicle her daily life. She didn’t know that it would turn into a record of Sam’s deceit. When China realized it was impossible to fix Sam, the only other solution was to fix herself.

Q. Your book “Liar” contains both poetry and prose. Have you ever written a book of poetry?

A. I have written hundreds of poems but it is a very different market, extremely subjective and selective. Very few people buy poetry books – it’s hard enough selling novels. And I really enjoy using my poetry as a natural extension of the prose. As in a musical, it is writing a song that comments on the previous scene elevating the emotion or action to another level.

Q. The general consensus from our book club is that everyone loved or liked the book (believe me that is not always so)! This book contains great sex, deceit, love, betrayal and even humour and these are often found in many other books. What do you feel sets your book apart from other stories?

A. The journal entries and poetry. I have read a book a week since puberty and I have encountered very little written sex (by women) or prose that combines sex with humour. It’s as though people are afraid of laughing in bed.

Q. When I read Liar I had the feeling (like I did when I first heard the song Maggie May by Rod Stewart) that a person would have to live through /experience some of this in order to write about it. Your comments?

A. I lived with a pathological liar but LIAR is not an as-it-happened tale. LIAR is 50% true and 50% fiction. The journal entries are mostly true except for occasional manipulation for the flow of the story. I invented much of the novel and the invention was pure, exhilarating FUN.

Q. I loved the ending! Was it planned from the beginning or did it somehow evolve as you wrote the book?

A. The end evolved when I got there. Once the characters are fleshed out and the structure is established (the hardest part) you can then fly with ease to the end and exact whatever delicious revenge you prefer. It’s not a good idea to cross a writer.

Q. Newfoundland has produced many talented actors, authors, singers, etc. How do you feel growing up in Newfoundland influenced your talents?

A. Growing up in a small town gives you room to develop and make mistakes in front of a nurturing audience without the intimidation of big city energy and too much competition. Of course the downside is that there is not a large enough population to sustain the performing arts and you may have to leave to make it big. That being said – I did not leave Newfoundland for my career – I left because I was pregnant and in love with a Frenchman from Montreal. But that’s another book (a memoir) that I hope will soon be published. Your book club will be one of the first to know when that lucky day arrives.

Q. How did you “find” acting? Do you still act today?

A. I do a lot of acting as I write. I speak out loud when writing dialogue. I laugh, cry, get angry, etcetera. I am always working on at least two levels. I still work occasionally in film as a background actor (for fun) and sometimes I’m cast in a larger role.

Q. The book states that you sing, dance, act and of course write. Which is your passion?

A. All of them. I am passionate about everything that involves creating something out of nothing. I did not enjoy frequent employment as a secretary, but I always did a good job and I appreciated the steady paycheque.

Q. China and Sam meet, marry, and move to the end of the world. You do not use many lines to convince us why an independent and experienced middle-age woman marries a man she barely knows and moves away from everything that is dear to her. I thought this was a weak link in the story and would like to know why you did not spend more time on making that part of the story stronger. I liked the explicit physical scenes between them but that is not enough to justify a marriage.

A. If I explain it all up front, why bother reading to find out why? Hopefully by the end of the book you will understand (if not believe) that great sex is a very seductive narcotic. Also, China is an artist and those blessed (or cursed) with abundant creativity often take risks that less creative people would never dream of taking. You are correct that physical love will not sustain a marriage – as it could not sustain China’s marriage to Sam. Her life experience and courage helped her get out of a bad situation relatively quickly.

Finding Myself

Writing is about memory. What is research but delving into the past that you or I lived through and recorded. Perhaps I spend too much time in the past but I cannot deny it since it is the journey that brought me to my present. However, I know it is time to take a break when the past becomes a burden and my lonely occupation makes me mute. Then it’s time to travel or be with my children, or friends, live in the present and enjoy the release from memory.

There is nothing quite like children to tie you to the here and now. That’s why, when my children were small, I have very little memory of myself and the events in my life. I remember some events but I don’t remember me. Women lose themselves in the dream world of pregnancy, the numbing sleep deprivation, the squalling of babies and the demands of husband. In the seventies, when divorce became rampant, bewildered husbands were tired of the phrase “I need to find myself.” All of a sudden the devoted wife and mother was on a quest to find herself – a quest that did not include the husband. And since men rarely lose themselves, their identities, to love, to children, to that delicious smell of a tiny baby, the wife’s reason for divorce is incomprehensible to them.

It was a brand new reason for divorce, rarely used before the seventies. The birth control pill liberated women from their bodies and their minds were free to roam into uncharted territory. Up until the seventies, the only reason for divorce was violence, alcoholism or abandonment. Women divorced in droves to find ourselves, to take back the lives we lost, to become aware of ourselves as poor but powerful, proud, working-like-slaves, single mothers. And then, in the nineties, women started ignoring the plan to first get married, have children, then divorce. Now the plan is to establish a career, become financially independent, and travel to a sperm bank for the children. Or women without financial opportunity just become pregnant and depend on the government for support, which is not a good idea since daycare has now become prohibitive. Throughout history, and in no matter what era, the price women pay for the joy of bearing children is unreasonable. Nothing ever really changes because men still run the world and are not able to bear children. Pity.

Moving The House

Every person on the planet goes through similar events in the circle of life. But if you don’t keep a journal you are missing out on some amazing experiences. I hereby testify that the memories in your brain are not the memories you wrote down ten, fifteen, even two years ago. Granted, some things are best forgotten and when I re-read a passage in my journal, I often have to wade through a ton of crap. But then I read a paragraph or two that makes me laugh at the folly of chasing this brilliant idea or that crazy dream. All those seeds I scattered and thought would bear fruit, but fell on barren ground and came to nought. We do not travel alone. We are altered, detoured by others, children, lovers, friends, colleagues, who cross your path, travel with you, help or hinder.

The passage below was lifted from my journal two months after my mother died. I had just moved into my new apartment after living with her for a year and a half. There’s nothing like moving to shake you up. I have wasted a lot of time putting things in boxes and taking them out again. But everyone needs a house for your house, a roof over your head, a floor under your feet. For two to three months you are in chaotic limbo until your life is sorted, the boxes are gone and everything is in its proper place. You can carry on once again as though you were normal.

May 16, 2000

Day begins exceedingly foggy. I’m having a lonely wobble today. I had a feeling that once the move was over I’d feel worse, and I do. Surrounded by old books I’ll never read again and old photos of dead or soon to be dead people. They’re not very good company.

I’m enjoying the gift of not having to leave the house for one thing today. We are such slaves to the body. The time it takes to buy groceries, prepare the food, and then feed the body. The exercising, washing, manicuring, applying lotions and potions; the aches and pains that must be attended to; the clothing and housing it needs. The body is a selfish house. It’s too damned sensitive to stress. The food we love best makes it ill. The body is so limited compared to the incredible leaps our minds can make. And the very worst is when our minds finally become attuned to this strange instrument, it starts falling apart! This body, on good days, feels pretty good. But the spine is badly designed. The female organs are prone to misery. If only something could be done about the horrible differences between men and women. If only the emotions weren’t in such conflict with autonomy. Enough if only’s! Stop moaning and take your house for a walk.