I haven’t been motivated to write a movie review in quite some time. Not even for “The Last Jedi”, which I have a lot of feelings about.
But after seeing “The Greatest Showman” I have some things to say.
First, for some mysterious reason there are people out there who seem to think that this is some kind of bio-pic. Uhhh, no. For starters, IT’S A FREAKIN MUSICAL. The closest I have ever seen a musical come to depicting actual events is “Chess” and here’s a hint that you can apply to almost all musicals — The singing and dancing parts probably aren’t the historical parts!!!! If you are thinking you are going to get even a remotely accurate picture of how P.T. Barnum got the whole thing going you are going to be disappointed. A good biography will be more worthwhile and I’d love to see one actually. P.T. Barnum is an interesting, if sometimes very disturbing character.
Anyway, you shouldn’t be disappointed. No far from it.
So I’m going to start with this little tidbit of information which you may or may not know. I do not like musicals. I can count the number of musicals I actually like on one hand and still have fingers left over.
But being who I am, being interested in things like this, and knowing that Hugh Jackman actually was a song and dance man long before he ever took on the mantle of Wolverine, I figured I’d go and see it. At worst I would see circus and sideshow acts I’ve been fascinated by since I was a kid.
This was oh so much more.
Maybe I’m especially susceptible to the overriding theme of this movie summed up well in the following lyrics:
Every night I lie in bed
The brightest colors fill my head
A million dreams are keeping me awake
I think of what the world could be
A vision of the one I see
A million dreams is all it’s gonna take
A million dreams for the world we’re gonna make
Every artist/entertainer dreams big. One of the earliest lessons I ever got from Mystery School was to “imagine as if you had unlimited resources.” That way you have a vision. After that you can start to figure out how to make it work.
And that is exactly what the overriding message of this film is. Yes, the road has it’s challenges, and that’s the story here, but the message, the thing you will walk away from this with is one of the most entertaining depictions of “DREAM BIG” I have ever seen.
The stories of “outsiders” making a home with each other should speak to the souls of nearly everyone I know. The music is relentlessly modern, as are the depictions of the various circus acts, and I am completely fine with that. This is meant to appeal to a modern audience. Nevertheless, the imagery still maintains an era appropriate feel even if not a strictly era appropriate authenticity. Again, I am good with this as the point is not to recreate but to reimagine a story you are meant to feel good about. It’s meant to move you and inspire you, and for my money it does so incredibly well.
I was moved to tears of happiness from the very opening moments and the rollercoaster ride of inspired dreamer never left me.
I can say with all honesty that I have found another musical that I can add to my very short list, and I only have one finger left before I need to go to another hand for counting.
With the release of Star Wars: The Last Jedi has come a wave of controversy utterly unexpected. I’ve seen it twice now. The first time with my wife and a friend who had gotten the tickets for free. The second time because my office decided that was what we were going to do for our holiday party. We’ve been doing that every year since I started working here actually, so I’ve seen Force Awakens, Rogue One, and Last Jedi all on my office’s dime.
I have to admit that after my first viewing I had some serious questions, which I could talk about endlessly but that isn’t the point of what I’m writing here. Upon doing a little extra reading and then seeing it a second time I think I am having some serious reconsiderations such that Last Jedi may be up there even with Empire Strikes Back as one of the best of the whole Star Wars saga.
No, I’m not interested in debating that with anyone. Time will tell whether I am right or not about it, but regardless I believe that I have found the aspects of this movie that lead me to thinking it is actually that good and that’s enough for me.
So what am I here to talk about?
Artistic Control. See here is the thing, whether you like it or hate it, it has inspired some serious reaction in you the viewer. And debate about the merits of a film in a beloved epic is really the heart and soul of the geek. Cue stereotypically slurred speech patterns arguing “Space Leia”, “Finn’s a coward”, “Poe sucks” or any other topic you like.
But what set me off is that yesterday I actually saw a petition that someone had started to try and have Last Jedi “stricken from cannon”. Seriously. Here’s the link: https://www.change.org/p/the-walt-disney-company-have-disney-strike-star-wars-episode-viii-from-the-official-canon
As of this writing it has gotten nearly 35,000 signatures.
Think about that for a second.
Now, admittedly since then it has changed directions, and that’s a good thing, but think for just a moment about the implications of such a petition.
Have we become so easily riled up that we think we, the fans, have any kind of right to demand such an asinine thing in the first place? Do we genuinely believe we have a right to control another artists vision simply because we disagree with it?
Look at our political climate right now. Silencing dissent is a huge issue for us as a nation.
I remember about 15 years ago getting a phone call from a religious group that wanted to actually put in to law that Hollywood had to make “Christian friendly” versions of their films. This, of course, died a quick death, but it seems that some of us are still suffering from the same kind of backwards thinking regarding ART!!!
Just because you don’t like the art doesn’t mean you have a right to force the artist to conform to your demands. What you do have the right to do is talk about it. Say why you don’t like it. Say why you do like it. And best of all — YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO CREATE YOUR OWN ART!
And THAT is what we all need to be doing. Creating art. Art that inspires. Art that disturbs. Art that gets the conversation flowing, that points out the greatness in humanity, and reveals it’s flaws.
A society that thinks it can petition to have art removed in any fashion is a society that is heading in a dangerously bad direction.
Create your art. I look forward to seeing it.
The past few months have been difficult for several friends of mine. Conflicts over misunderstandings compounded by lack of communication compounded by miscommunication compounded by rumors and untruths. My loyalties have been stretched beyond their limits and still I held on because that’s the person I am. I have sacrificed myself on that hill for others in the past, I will continue to do so for others in the future.
One of the hardest things I have ever had to do in my life is to give up on someone. In my entire life I have only done it twice.
I might be looking at a third time now. I don’t know.
Whatever the situation is now, this is not by my choice. I have worked hard to find a path for them to help them. I have spent my time, energy, credibility, and sanity on them. I feel like some of my own friends have started to steer clear of me because of my association with this one person for whom I have a loyalty I can not just dismiss out of hand, thus trapping me in between people in ways that I should never have had to deal with. A situation even they admitted I didn’t deserve.
I can’t blame my other friends for their seeming withdrawal, but that doesn’t change the fact that real or not it hurts like hell to feel this way. But I must acknowledge that my own perspectives have been skewed and it’s going to take me a while to get a handle on such things again. If any of you read this then consider it a request for understanding on my part and a chance to reach back and forth across any gap that has grown between us.
For the time being it seems that this one person has dismissed me from their life entirely now and there may simply be nothing I can do about that. Or should do about that. If years of loyalty to them and supporting them means so little that one honest statement during such hard times coming from me, one of the few remaining people in their corner, is enough to write me off than there is a clear lesson in that.
Maybe they will wake up and realize what they have done. Maybe they won’t. Even if they do, will they attempt to resolve this situation? Who knows. Certainly I don’t. I understand stubbornness and how ingrained never apologizing is for them. But my loyalty to them is such that I’ll hear them out. No matter what else might be true I do still care about their well being. They have been through years of difficult times and I bear a responsibility in that. Because of these things and more I will always want the best for them. It is who I am.
I know the terrible troubles they have been through. I know them better than anyone as the only person who was ever completely confided in. I know the emotional storms they passed through that would distort their heart and mind, the fears that would cause them to act out in ways that were irrational and hurtful. I also knew the times when things were well, when they had control and mastery over their own nature, and at those times they could achieve great things, be deeply generous, and even powerful.
None of which should be taken as anything other than some entirely to brief glimpse into why I have done what I have done for them over the years, caring for their well being. Now it seems that care is no longer requested or required of me.
I need to care about my own well being too.
I have been spending a lot of time over the past couple of years in particular trying to relearn gratitude. Trying to relearn my own boundaries and limits so that I would know better how to not hurt myself overextending to help everyone I hold so dear. I have been carefully harboring my resources so that I could fulfill my dreams.
I have been trying to relearn my own value and how to be better at not letting others words and actions make me doubt it. As cheesy as it sounds I have been very grateful to the wisdom of my “wizards community” and the guidance they provide in seeing things differently and with purpose.
The world has changed and if resolution is what this one person wants, there is going to be a whole lot of work that would need to be done before it can happen. I will listen, happily, to what they have to say. There will be things I will be listening for though. Important things. I hope that I will hear them.
It is a terrible burden to lose someone whom you have invested so much in to. But this is what they seem to have chosen. I haven’t given up on them. I’m not prepared to do so.
But all I can do for now is go forward and see what happens next.
Tomorrow I am doing a community service thing with my office. We’re going to go to a senior center and help out with a party they are throwing for the residents.
In theory this is a good thing. Even in practice it is a good thing.
Except I’m scared.
Okay, here’s the thing. First off I was thrown under the bus by the person who arranged this because while everyone else in the office is just going to be helping with decorations and serving food, I am going to be entertaining. I wasn’t asked if I wanted to. I was volunteered.
And by now if you know me you know exactly how I feel about being volunteered without my knowledge or consent.
But this particular one goes a little deeper for me.
My grandmother used to be a nurse in a nursing home. And one year, when I was in about 6th , my school decided it would be a good thing to go to the nursing home and put on a show. It was some kind of a Christmas program as I recall, involving a bunch of “cute kids” singing carols and passing out gifts and cards to the residents.
This is a good thing. Both in theory and in practice. I know that such places are starved for entertainment and for general human interaction. I know that residents of such places are very lonely.
And it has been pointed out that magicians use such opportunities to build their shows and perform for an audience that is deeply appreciative. And can even make some decent money doing so, though obviously there are better reasons than just dollars to do such things.
Except I’m scared.
See, during that little Christmas show I was a part of all those years ago, I walked the halls of the facility passing out cards and gifts. At one point I stopped and handed a card to an elderly lady but before I could move on she grabbed my hand and began crying. She clutched my hand and arm so hard that I would have had a very difficult time escaping without hurting her. She tried to pull me in closer to her and while I know intellectually that she had no ill intentions, emotionally I was never prepared for that and there were no adults in the immediate vicinity to help me.
I found myself holding very still and listening and doing the best job a kid that young could do to try and comfort her, to make her feel a little less lonely, and through all of it I was very scared. I didn’t know or understand back then just how difficult it can be for people in such facilities. I didn’t have the maturity to deal with it.
It wasn’t long before an adult came along and got me out of that situation. Maybe no more than a minute. But clearly that situation has stayed with me far longer than I ever realized.
Now, I’ve been ambushed again. This time by one of my own co-workers by offering me up without asking me in advance. But I’m not shying away from this either.
Those fears that I thought were long gone have re-emerged. I understand them much better. I am not as worried about them as once I was. I am even eager to engage and perform for these people because I have a much better understanding of them and their emotional load.
And I have that little touch of fear but the tools I need to be able to face it and overcome it.
I don’t anticipate it will be a huge challenge honestly. I mean until this whole thing came up I didn’t realize I was still carrying around any of those feelings at all. But it’s good to know that I am going in to this situation prepared and more focused than I ever have before.
What will be most interesting to me in the end of this is how they will receive me. I will not be doing a lot of entertaining. Only about 15 minutes. But, after circumventing the person in my office who arranged this, I spoke with the entertainment director at the Senior Center and what started out as my being thrown under the bus has now become a kind of audition.
You see, they’d like to be able to have a magician they can bring in more frequently to do shows for them. They were looking in to it already when my name came up. So now, for them and for myself, I will be going in with a much better feeling and attitude. I’ll challenge my old fear and be free of it, and if all goes well, I’ll come out of it not just better internally, but better externally with a contact and a future venue.
All from a small ambush.
Okay, look, I know that all of you in Facebook land who care saw lots of pictures, but I still think a summary is in order here. For me if nobody else. I like to get it all in to a nice little package at the end.
In the interest of full disclosure there are a few things you should know up front:
- Ostensibly this was a trip to celebrate my father-in-laws 75th birthday
- I didn’t pick the time of year to go to Orlando. That happened due to other management
- Due to the timing it was actually closer to his 75.5th birthday
- Yes it was freaking hot. I know, I was there.
- While we are big Disney fans, the truth is we were much more excited about going to Harry Potter Land. Get over it. It was worth it.
- I highly recommend having a father-in-law who is retired military and can get awesome level guest passes for you. For about half the price of two day park hoppers for Universal and Disney we ended up with four day park hoppers for both. This gave us pretty much unlimited freedom while we were there.
Okay, so, we stayed at a Doubletree Resort which put us approximately ten minutes from Universal Orlando and twenty minutes from Disney World. In other words, the perfect spot. Weirdly the Doubletree Resort had things like an arcade, miniature golf course, people sized checkers and checker board, an outdoor pool table, and multiple pools, along with the other regular amenities. It was very strange. Our room was pretty much standard Doubletree fair, but no refrigerator. Called the front desk to deal with that because although not necessary I do prefer to keep my insulin refrigerated whenever I can. And of course it makes a good place to store extra snacks and water bottles.
Flight out wasn’t to bad even having to get up at 3am, but it was still late afternoon by the time we got there. We had just about enough time to get to the hotel, decompress briefly from the flight, and then meet up with family in the Universal City Walk for dinner.
So, if you don’t know, Universal Orlando is basically divided up in to four areas; The City Walk which is pretty much like Downtown Disney (lots of shops, restaurants, and a theater), Hollywood Studios where you’ll find a lot of their rides and attractions, Volcano Bay which is basically a giant water park, and Islands of Adventure which is more rides and attractions.
Most of the restaurants around there seem to be loud and themed-kitchy. In other words not my thing. But this is central to everyone and we’re there for all the adventuring to be had, so loud and themed-kitchy is the order of the day. We tried to go to Margaritaville, which I’ve been to one before and was very not impressed, but this one had a really long wait and none of us were in the mood for that. We ended up in a place called “Grill & Brew” which was basically a sports bar type place. Food was mostly adequate, service was terrible. I say “mostly adequate” because most of us got something edible but one of our party literally (yes, I do mean literally) got mashed potatoes that you could bounce your fork off of. When I say the service was terrible this is because when this unfortunate mashed potato situation was pointed out he got another order from the same batch. Words and discounts were had but I wouldn’t really recommend the place.
Anyway, if you want to do the whole Harry Potter Experience ( tm ), you will need to get a park hopper pass. This is because half of it is in Hollywood Studios (Kings Cross Station and Diagon Alley) and half of it is in Islands of Adventure (Hogsmead). The two are connected by The Hogwards Express but you can’t ride if you don’t have that park hopper.
We did. It’s worth it. Ride it both directions because different things happen going each way.
We started off in Hogsmead because most of the rides are there. The two competing “dragon” roller coasters, The Dragon Challenge, were totally awesome and if you do it right you can ride them one immediately after the other. We did. Got a little wozy by the time we got off the second one riding them in such rapid succession. It was good.
There is the Flight of The Hippogriff roller coaster that is basically a kids coaster but it’s got some moves and was fun.
Harry Potter and The Forbidden Journey was a pretty good ride but I had some trouble with it as it mixes live and video interactive elements and the video stuff tends to set me off a bit because I tend to see the off sync nature of the video versus your actual movements. But it was still really fun and worth the slight dizzy I get.
There are multiple Olivander’s Wand Shops as well as carts and other places you can buy wands. You can buy “interactive” wands or not. The “interactive” wands allow you to manipulate/activate little attractions all around the parks. Not unsurprisingly we got “interactive” wands and it wasn’t long before I was helping people figure out how to properly use them. I did start to wish I had brought my wand holster.
Riding the Hogwarts Express was a great way to get over to the other park. One of the cool things is that when you walk out of Kings Cross station it just dumps you into Hollywood Studios. You have to go looking for the way in to Diagon Alley. It’s not hard to find, but it’s not obvious either. If you aren’t looking for it you could walk right passed and you wouldn’t know.
That being said, we walked in and it was really amazing. As cool as Hogsmead was, this was more so. Because of the way it’s hidden and how you get in, you really do feel like you are walking in to a “hidden world”. The architecture is exactly as you would expect based on the movies but standing there makes a huge difference.
Of course we went into the Weasley’s joke shop. And you can get so pretty amusing stuff there. The Leaky Cauldron is there, and although we took a quick look in, we didn’t really stop for a bite there.
But the real stars of Diagon Alley are the Escape from Gringot’s ride, and Nocturn Alley. Escape from Gringot’s is another ride that combines live action and video action, but I actually found it much smoother and it didn’t set me off. It was an excellent ride and a lot of fun.
But Nocturn Alley…..
Oh my friends, Nocturn Alley….
Again, you have to go looking for it. You know it’s got to be there somewhere but if you aren’t looking you could miss it. We didn’t. And as immersive as walking in to Diagon Alley was, Nocturn Alley was more so. Standing there was the deepest I felt I could get in to actually being in the Harry Potter universe. It was amazing.
The next day we headed out to Kennedy Space Center for several hours. One could easily spend several days there but we just didn’t have the time. What we did have time for was to visit Shuttle Atlantis. Which we did, and which I cried over, and which I wrote about already. But I will say this much again here – the nation we were that could do those things is a nation I wish we would be again. Yes, we’ve grown and improved many things, but socially we’ve taking huge steps backwards since then and we won’t survive if that continues to be the case. Okay, enough of that.
Once we were done there we headed back to the Universal City Walk, ostensibly to meet up with the family, get dinner, and do some more rides. That only partially worked out. The rest of the family had already gotten in to Margaritaville (some are very determined). Laurie and I decided on Vivo, a nice Italian place. And I do mean nice. We sat down in a very quiet place, had a fabulous meal, discussed various things including our need for quiet meals when we are on trips like these as this is a part of our way to decompress or at least regroup before tackling anything else.
Once we were done we headed back out only to discover that the rest of the family was still at Margaritaville, but getting very annoyed because they couldn’t get out. No waiter, no bill, once bill arrived, complaints and coupons apparently. Such is the way of things, but through observation I am once again convinced that I don’t really have a need to ever go to another one. My one time long ago was enough.
An amusing incident while waiting – I was sitting on the edge of a fountain while Laurie was off doing something and as I sat there a very drunk guy of the “bro” persuasion sat down nearby. He was very definitely hammered. Eventually Laurie returned and shortly thereafter his girlfriend also showed up in a pretty drunk state.
I’m not sure what happened next exactly, but either he fell or he was pushed. In either case, he was hanging backwards in the fountain while his girlfriend was desperately trying to keep him from falling all the way in. I stepped up and helped fish him out.
Once the ten minutes that it was supposed to take the family to get out of their restaurant had turned to thirty Laurie and I stole the kids and headed back in to the Universal Hollywood Studios park.
Basically we hit three rides there. Spiderman, Hulk, and The Mummy.
Spiderman was mostly a 3D ride on a rail. And pretty good for it. I think the fact that it was on a rail is one of the reasons why it didn’t make me dizzy but I’ll have to think about that.
The Mummy was much like Indiana Jones in Disneyland, but obviously Mummy themed. And the Brenden Fraiser Mummy thank you. This one was also pretty damn good. Very enjoyable. Someone did decide to have a political statement though as somewhere along the few days we were there they had managed to get a red “Make America Great Again” hat on to one of the animatronic mummies. It wasn’t there the first time through for my sister-in-law, but it showed up later. And for all I know it’s still there.
But the real winner on this set of rides was definitely Hulk. Hoo-boy! This is one of those hanging coasters, lots of corkscrews and upside down outside loops. The really awesome thing though is that like many coasters it has that initial uphill climb but halfway through that turns into a magnetic launch system. So you’re slowly going “click-click-click” up the track and all of the sudden you go from that to “WHOOSH” as it shoots you out the end of a cannon! Which, by the way, ROARS like The Hulk.
We took the extra few minutes to ride the front car there just as we did with the dragons in Harry Potter Land. And Holy-Crap was that worth it! Definitely a kickass coaster!
Now this is just two days in and we still haven’t actually gotten to any of the Disney stuff yet. But now it’s time.
The next day we headed over to Disney Hollywood Studios. Think of this as roughly the same as California Adventure in Anaheim. Our goal here was to ride The Tower of Terror as we no longer have one here.
This is where things get interesting. We had been experiencing difficulties all along due to the fact that we have become so well versed in our Disney experience that doing these parks were confusing. Trying to figure out where this thing or that thing was involved a lot more work than usual.
But we found our way to the Tower relatively easily and it was great. More elaborate exterior, but the ride itself had some interesting differences, including a long horizontal portion through mirrored hallways and extra set dressing. But the same ride in the end and well worth the trip for us.
While there we saw The Beauty and The Beast live show which was fun, did Toy Story Mania and Muppet*Vision 3D. All of these were pretty much exactly the same as in California Adventure but things we love to hit so worth it. In general everything had a more elaborate exterior given that the parks in general have more space. Among other things this does make being in line more tolerable simply because more of the lines are INSIDE! More air conditioning! YAY!
We hit Tower of Terror a second time and then finished up with dinner at The Brown Derby. Basically contemporary American cuisine in a “Golden Age of Hollywood” setting. We had a great waiter from Jamaica named Jerry. Food was outstanding. I would definitely go back to that place again.
Last day – The Magic Kingdom!
So, this is Disneyland but bigger. I mean, exactly the same layout, but with more room. So, you go up Main Street, you have big circle in the center, you have all the lands laid out radially and in the same order. Now, those navigational instincts of ours were usable again. It was definitely a case of “well, it should be over there if they’ve stayed the same” and we were always pretty well on target.
A brief digression. Normally I don’t care about FastPasses. This is because I don’t like the hassle of running from place to place to try and get them at the beginning of the day. They’ve solved this problem via the DisneyWorld App. If you have an account, you can tie your tickets or Annual Pass to the account and you can then start reserving FastPasses directly on your phone. There are limitations, but they aren’t unreasonable ones and we definitely took advantage of this. If Disneyland adopts this (and I know that they are working on it) I will be much more likely to use them in the future.
Anyway, we scheduled FastPasses for ourselves at Space Mountain, Pirates, and The Haunted Mansion. These were the important ones for obvious reasons. Our passes for Space Mountain weren’t until late in the evening. The rest were early in the day. But we had enough time that we headed straight to Space Mountain and rode it first.
I have to say I was a tad disappointed.
The environment was great! But the ride didn’t have the same speed and kick as ours does. It was good, really. But when I get off of Space Mountain in Anaheim, I’m totally adrenalin rushed. It’s a kick in the chest. This one just didn’t have that same level of UMPH that I love so much.
Pirates and Haunted Mansion both were practically identical to ours and definitely fun for that! Haunted Mansion doesn’t have the Hat Box Ghost though. Not surprising, but we noticed it’s absence.
We also hit Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, The Tiki Room, and The Little Mermaid.
There were many other things we could have hit if we had more time. Clearly a return trip is in order, but that might be a while.
Finally we headed from there to Disney Springs. Think of this as Downtown Disney but not close enough to any parks to make it easily accessible. It’s Commerce Land. There are tons of shops, including the dress show that Laurie really wanted to go to that does Disney Themed retro style dresses. Next fancy dress up party people are going to see something interesting I think.
And our final meal with the family was at Morimoto’s Asia. Another good meal in a really good place. Very fancy.
There were plenty of pictures to be had as any of you who saw my Facebook feed knows. Some pretty spectacular stuff all the way around. And I came home with a fair number of treasures, mostly pins to add to my collection both from Disney and Harry Potter Land.
I’m sure I would like to return at some point, but I love my Disneyland. I’ll have to try the Harry Potter Land at Universal down here. I know it’s not as extensive but I’d like to see it for myself. That may become a part of the planning for the next Laurel/Apprentice trip going forward.
The thing that I love so much about being able to do all of this is that it does inspire my creativity. Looking at even the smallest details of places like this gives me a lot of ideas.
I wonder if I can write off the expenses as “research” for my business. Hmmm, where are those receipts.
Anyway, that’s what I did on my Summer Vacation.
If you are reading me there is a reason. Could be you like what I write. Could be you don’t. I don’t know. And I won’t say that I don’t care because that isn’t true.
What is true however is that if you are going to read me then you need to understand something about me.
I am an extremely passionate personality. And that passion can, and does, express itself in dramatic ways. What that means is that when I am genuinely happy I can be giddy and generous and hugely demonstrative. When I am genuinely hurt I can spiral into a deep depression that absolutely no one can get me out of.
And when I get angry I will express it in no uncertain terms. I will push all that anger out at top volume. Mainly because long ago I learned that once I was done with it than I would be totally done with it and it wouldn’t weigh me down anymore. And that right there is my biggest problem. I own it. I’ve made that mistake in the past. I’ll make it again in the future. So be it.
That doesn’t mean that I don’t recognize it for the massive flaw that it is, or that I don’t take responsibility for it. I’ll do whatever I have to in order to make things right that I have made wrong. Because when you are like me, that is what you do. I’ve done it in the past. I’ll continue to do it for the rest of my life. So be it.
In conversation tonight I made the observation that the problem is not that my compass is broken, just that I don’t have a good control over my “proportional response.” That is about as accurate an assessment as I can give.
And I know that in the eyes of many people that makes me the bad guy. For years I have heard the mutterings of “arrogant asshole” and worse. Okay, well, I can’t do much about that without changing myself at such a fundamental level that I wouldn’t be me anymore. Sorry to say that, but it is what it is.
None of which is an excuse. Just an explanation. A snapshot of the person who writes these words you are reading, both good and bad.
Now, once again, let me be clear. As clear as I know how to be –
I do not for one moment believe that the people who were hurt in this situation should be the focus of any of this. They are working on their thing as they need to and that is what needs to happen. If I have given anyone the impression that they should be the focus of this then that is my responsibility and I’m asking you now to please give them the space they need to do what they need to do.
If you need to give me my comeuppance for making things worse with my previous post, so be it. I’ll take that. I’ve already explained myself but I recognize full well that those words were very much in the heat of the moment. I will also say that my own personal rules are that if I make a public blunder then I’ll make a public apology in exactly the same forum. That’s what all of this is.
So to those of you whose lives were made much more complicated by my words (you know who you are) I am sincerely sorry for that. You need to know that everything I have said has been born out of my truest emotions and my deepest need to protect the people I care about as well as the people they care about. The whole family. The whole picture. Being a protector is a characteristic that has defined me for my entire life. Sometimes I’m even good at it. Take all of that for what it is worth.
As to the rest….
I do think that the problem lays on the people who broke the rules, but they don’t deserve to be anything more than scolded. And that is what I mean by the problem I have with my “proportional response”. When I wrote what I wrote my anger was coming out but I wanted nothing more than for that to be a scolding and to reflect the depth of the pain that was caused. To bring to light a problem that exists that has vexed myself and others over the years in the integrity of our councils. The difference being that this time there were serious and real consequences that were caused by a breach of a simple rule that should not have been broken.
Fear causes fight or flight responses. I have a lot more fight than I do flight. When something big gets dropped on me that makes me fear for someone then I respond. And that is what gets me in to trouble. We all become protective of people we care about. When those people are hurt so deeply we want to respond not just to heal them, but to punish those who hurt them. The greatest mistake I have made is that I let my anger rule my words with regards to this.
So in that light I apologize as well. Yes, I am angry about what happened, but no one deserves the level of anger that came out of me. If I had been doing what I should have been doing all along then I would have responded more “proportionally”. I don’t know that they will ever see this. But everyone else who reads my words will at least understand why, and that is good enough for me. I hope it will be good enough for them as well.
The truth is that we should not care about the who. What we should care about is that it happens at all and that somewhere along the line some of us have lost the thread of what our responsibilities are as Peers sitting in a council. We have the power to do a great deal of harm. We have the power to do a great deal of good.
Sitting in a council means that we, collectively, have at our disposal the best possible self correcting system of judgement that we can make. When one of us goes outside of how that system works it undermines the very power a council actually has. It weakens us all.
And sometimes it hurts the very people we are supposed to be trying to foster along on a very important path.
There are several conversations that need to take place. Some of them will take place with me. Some of them will take place without me. I am, in fact, quite sure that people who are my friends won’t want to talk with me for awhile about this or much of anything else. It’s a familiar pattern. I am quite certain that I have created a great deal of animosity in my direction. I’ll accept that too. That is being said, by the way, with no sense of self pity. It is nothing more than an observation about how some people work and how social dynamics work. I may not always have the best social skills but I do have a pretty damn deep understanding of them. Might be part of why I act the way I do. I’ll have to think about that.
In the end, you need to take away one important thing from what I am writing here; that I am deeply sorry for the over reaction of my previous post and the difficulties it may have caused people I care about. I hope that I have explained myself. If I haven’t, or you feel you need to know more, I’m not hard to find.
If you are Peer in this Kingdom (The West) then you know this rule:
The Deliberations of The Council are secret.
You don’t have to agree with that rule. You just have to follow it.
Yet I have now over the years of my involvement as a Peer had to deal with multiple times where some idiot decided they could violate that rule. Most of the time this has not resulted in a lot of difficulty in the long run but it does cause problems. And I have never once seen a situation where doing so improved anything. It only causes pain and resentment. But this time…..
This time is different. Why?
BECAUSE I HAD TO FUCKING TALK SOMEONE DOWN WHO USED THE WORDS “CONSIDERING SUICIDE” DUE IN LARGE PART TO HOW MUCH PAIN THE ASSHOLES WHO BROKE THAT RULE CAUSED!!!
I SUDDENLY FOUND MYSELF IN THE MIDDLE OF PEOPLE I KNOW WHO LOVE EACH OTHER VERY MUCH GET TORN TO SHREDS BECAUSE A SELF-RIGHTEOUS MORON DECIDED TO INTERJECT THEIR PERSONAL OPINION INTO THE SITUATION WITHOUT CONSIDERING THE REAL CONSEQUENCES OF THEIR ACTIONS.
DISAGREE? GO BACK AND READ THE WORDS “CONSIDERING SUICIDE” AS MANY TIMES AS NEEDED UNTIL YOU REALIZE HOW KIND I’M ACTUALLY BEING. IF YOU ARE THE REASON WHY SOMEONE WOULD SAY SUCH A THING THEN YOU ARE A SHITTY HUMAN.
And let me be painfully clear about this — if you have never dealt with someone who has uttered those words in such a way that you can’t tell where they are on their emotional scale, then you have to understand something: You don’t take a chance that it might be hyperbole. You stick it out, do your best to control your own emotions, and you gently work on finding a way to pull them back from those words until you at least feel like they are safe again. And you keep your finger hovering over the appropriate phone numbers on your phone until you have assured confidence that they are back in a managed place.
In case you are thinking something along the lines of “well, they are over reacting” let me point something out to you. You DON’T know how bad it can get for someone. You DON’T know how much pain you can cause in someones life because you FUCKING DON’T KNOW what state THEY ARE ALREADY IN, what trials they have already been dealing with, how much pain they are currently managing, or how much disruption to their lives they already have. Sometimes all it takes is adding one more thing to the pile to push someone over the edge.
The deliberations of the council are secret because as Peers we will INEVITABLY find ourselves having to evaluate our friends and loved ones. If you don’t think that happens you are delusional. That means that sooner or later, as a PEER, you are going to find yourself having to decide if your best buddy/girlfriend/boyfriend/spouse really has been doing what they need to do, or if they have a bad habit, behavior, or PR problem that is holding them back, and more importantly IF YOU HAVE THE BRASS BALLS IT TAKES TO STAND UP AND SAY SO!
Unless you opt to not be there, which is a perfectly understandable choice. I will say only one thing about that choice — if you aren’t there to explain then you aren’t there to explain and that can mean that a misinterpretation or misrepresentation can be perpetuated without any realization at all from anyone. The council might not make the best decision if they don’t have all the facts. That’s true no matter what the situation is.
But if you are there then at the very least you should have the confidence to be able to rely on that one simple rule as you stand up and say something like “Look, I love this person, but I have to say something here that is going to hurt….”
It’s hard enough to get up and say something negative about a person you care about without also having to take the time to say to yourself “well, so-and-so is sitting in council today, so I know if I say anything then I might as well just post it on Facebook because they sure as fuck are just going to blab anyway.”
There are ways we have to deal with what gets talked about in council. Ways to get a proper level of information out of the council to the appropriate people without having to hurt anyone or circumvent that one simple rule, and yes, we’re human beings who make mistakes. A perfect storm of miscommunication can AND DOES happen. It sure as hell is happening this time. There is a lot of perfectly legitimate pain and anger to go around here. But anyone who takes the council discussion outside of the council directly to candidates IS NOT HELPING ANYONE!!! ALL YOU ARE DOING IS CAUSING HARM, DISHONORING YOURSELF, AND THE PEERAGE YOU ARE PART OF!!!
YOU ARE MAKING THINGS WORSE, NOT BETTER!!!
If nothing else, you aren’t even reporting the actual facts. You are, at best, repeating words out of context and adding your own SELF RIGHTEOUS BULLSHIT to them.
If you have a problem with something someone says in council than you talk to that person in council. Or you talk to that person outside of council about why they have taken the stance they have taken. If you feel like you’ve been lied to or misrepresented then you deal directly and privately with that person ONLY! You don’t dump any of this on the candidate! THEY DON’T KNOW ANY OF THIS AND NO MATTER HOW “ACCURATE” YOU THINK YOU ARE BEING, YOU ARE STILL DOING NOTHING MORE THAN PLAYING THE SHITTIEST GAME OF TELEPHONE EVER!!!
Let me say that again: NO MATTER HOW “ACCURATE” YOU THINK YOU ARE BEING, YOU — YES YOU — ARE STILL DOING NOTHING MORE THAN PLAYING THE SHITTIEST GAME OF TELEPHONE EVER!!!
We are FUCKING PEERS, and this rule EXISTS and you KNOW IT EXISTS and you KNOW WHY IT EXISTS!
And until YOU are the one who has to talk down a person who has been hurt so deeply that the word “suicide” creeps into the conversation because some SELF RIGHTEOUS MORON couldn’t follow one simple rule, YOU DO NOT UNDERSTAND ANYTHING about just how bad a situation like this can be and you sure as hell don’t have any kind of moral ground to stand on.
(Note: Yes, I know at least one of the culprits. I have my suspicions about the involvement of at least three others. I wish I was surprised at the possibilities of who it is.)
A lot of things going on the past couple of months. My magic business is actually beginning to roll via the gigs I’ve done with Mirror Speaks The Truth. I’ve been building a lot of infrastructure and developing marketing. I’ve also been visiting restaurants to determine which ones I want to start working at. I feel like there is a lot there. But all of that will have to wait for another article.
Today I want to talk about my apprentice graduating.
Two days from now she will no longer be my apprentice. She will be a Laurel.
She has been a Peer for some time now, being a member of the Order of The Pelican. I think that she is a pretty good one. And she has done well.
But there is also no denying that her heart has been with the Laurel. She hasn’t always been my apprentice. She has had two other Laurel’s before me; one in CAID and one here in The West. She has been my apprentice for nearly 15 years. How long she was apprenticed before then is, well, in the mists of time.
So she has been dedicated to the idea of Peerage for the Arts and Sciences for a long time.
I won’t speak to her time with anyone else. But with me, it was a different story.
Part of that story begins with my own Laureling.
I am the first in the history of the SCA to be Laureled for Performance Magic. Since then there have been a couple of additions to this tiny clan. But being the first is a bit overwhelming. When I was first apprenticed it wasn’t for this. It was for jewelry making, specifically cut work jewelry, though I’m sure if I had kept it up I would have branched out into other directions eventually.
When I found my true passion there was a brief bit of time where there was consideration about whether or not I could stay apprenticed to people who knew nothing of the art I would eventually “graduate” with. But that was quickly resolved. My Laurel’s acted as guides in making sure my PLQ’s were in place and that my scholarship was worthy. The rest was up to me.
On the day that I was Laureled, hell, within minutes of being Laureled I was approached by someone who asked to be my apprentice. I mean that I had literally just finished the ceremony, stood with my back against the wall at the back of the room, and a person walked up, started a conversation with me and “popped the question.”
I don’t hold that against them. They weren’t thinking about me at the time, and honestly what they were interested in learning would have fit pretty nicely with what I had just achieved in terms of the historical research context. But I knew instantly, based on so much of what my Laurel’s taught me, that this would be a bad idea. I politely declined and set the rule that I wouldn’t even consider such a question for at least a year. I needed the time to get my legs under me as it were.
Now a quick gear shift. As a magician I am often asked “How did you do that?” Not a surprise, right? You understand how that happens. Another popular question is “Can you teach me that?” followed by “Can you teach me a trick?”
All of these questions are normal, and expected. But if you happen to ask them of a magician you are likely to get a flip answer back. This isn’t because we are being rude, but rather because chances are pretty good we’ve already figured out that you don’t really want to know. “How did you do that?” is a question generated by you being startled and/or amazed. “Can you teach me that?/Can you teach me a trick?” are questions that only give us a clue about who you are. We might respond with something flip just to see how persistent you are. After all, there is some serious dedication needed here.
But that’s not the question she asked. “Can you teach me to be a magician?” That’s the question she asked. And it made all the difference. That question opened up a genuine dialog about why, and dedication, and everything else that needs to be asked in order to determine if someone really has what it takes to be a magician.
And I don’t mean to make it sound like it’s some big super special deal that only the elite can do. It’s more about knowing that there are secrets to learn and secrets to keep and that in order to be good you have to be willing to dedicate yourself to the art. Like any serious undertaking. We who already are magicians are the gateway to others and if we’re serious about it we only want to introduce people who are truly interested to the deeper levels.
So she became my apprentice.
And then, in a funny twist of history repeating itself, she found a different course to follow. Related but different. She decided that she was going to pursue the art and history of Divination.
That was some time ago.
It took me as long as it did because not only did I have to forge my own path, I had to also educate my audience enough so that they could get an understanding of what I was doing.
It has taken her as long as it has because not only did she have to forge her own path, she had to also educate her audience enough so that they could get an understanding of what she was doing. And, on top of that, overcome certain prejudices that might get attached to the idea of someone “officially” being recognized by the SCA for something so esoteric.
It has been a long road. It has had many ups and downs. It has been fraught with difficulties of all kinds, both SCA and mundane. It has been filled with laughter and discovery. It has been enlightening.
I am laughing at the moment because I want to say that if I had known how this was going to turn out…., but of course I’m not the diviner. She is. That’s what she is going to be after this weekend. The first ever Laurel for Divination.
I am proud that I am the first for my art. I am doubly proud that she is the first for hers. My other apprentice looks like she might be on the verge of forging her own path as well.
I sort of like the idea of a family of firsts.
But however it comes out, there is one thing that is certain; she has her future to look forward to as the first Divination Laurel. She will get to set her path and be an example to others who might choose to follow her. She has labeled herself “The Seeress of The West” and that is a great deal of fun and a great way to start her journey as a Laurel.
And yes, I am proud.
Good fortune to The Seeress of The West!
This past weekend was the 30th anniversary of Darkwood. Lots of big deal. I had decided a while back that I intended to fight in the tourney. I’m not anywhere near to being a threat to anyone as a heavy fighter but that was not the point. I had made a promise a long time back when I was Baron that I would get into heavy armor and fight for and with Darkwood. I didn’t quite manage it during my time, but was on the field shortly thereafter. And while I am enjoying myself I don’t have a burning desire to be a Knight just yet. My goals are elsewhere and I’m totally comfortable with that.
But I knew that being on the field for 30th year would be a thing to enjoy and would make me feel even better about keeping my promise though I’ve already done this many times over. I think the most fun I’ve had as a heavy fighter has been when I’ve had the opportunity to stand with our current Baron on a war field and that’s pretty damn cool for me.
Let me tell you though, what the hardest thing has been for me since stepping down. The hardest thing has been to let go enough that my successors can do the job their way without me interfering. And I knew it was going to be like that so I made a really concerted effort to restrain myself.
They have done a fabulous job under some very trying circumstances by the way. I’ve still been close enough and in the know enough to be aware of many of the trials and tribulations they have had to deal with. They have done well.
When Rose and I stepped down we both made ourselves available and said “use us” but they said they wanted to give us a break after all the hard work we had done. Reasonable, rational, compassionate, pretty much exactly what we said to our predecessors when we took over from them ….. AND TOTALLY UTTERLY FRUSTRATING. Because anyone who steps up to do a job, especially a long term job like Baron and Baroness of a Barony already needs to have the “helium hand gene” to be successful. But we were forced to admit that they were right in that “I don’t wanna” kind of way.
Unfortunately that sort of made us feel a bit “outsider-ish” as we watched other people doing stuff we wanted to do and be involved in. Separation anxiety and all that. You just want to feel wanted sometimes, and in a game where appreciation is the coin of self-worth you start to notice when you aren’t involved as much as you want to be.
You’ll understand in a bit why I digressed that way.
You see I was reminded that I have a greater worth than I have felt this past weekend. I was reminded by a couple of very simple things but they meant the world to me.
For those of you know how SCA Tourneys go this is going to be a bit of exposition but not all my readers are SCA so I need to cover some of this.
When we have a big tourney we line up with all the Knights on one side and all the not-Knights (unbelts) on the other side. There are always more not-Knights than Knights. So in order to make things balance out for the format of fighting we do we must move some people over from the not-Knights to the Knights. This is an honor generally reserved as an acknowledgement of various fighters who are “up and coming”, people who have gotten good enough to be noticed and might be formally raised up in rank to join the Knights. It is a powerful sign of recognition, a gift that the royals in charge of that tourney can give to those they see as worthy.
I was invited to join the Knights.
Even now, as I type that I am getting a bit teary-eyed and choked up.
I was confused. I was shocked. I’m sure that the look on my face was priceless and if anyone managed to get a picture of that I hope to see it. My mask rarely breaks but I know it was shattered in pieces at my feet in that moment.
We walked up to say our piece and I had been rehearsing in my head (like any good entertainer) the things I wanted to say. I’m rarely caught speechless but for the first few moments I struggled to find my way in to the words that I had in my head that I wanted to say.
I spoke of the desire Rose and I have to show that we are still there, still proud to be Darkwood, still ready to bring our art, our service, and our courage to Darkwood. That to reaffirm that on the 30 year field seemed no better time or place. I’m sure I said it with something approaching a form of eloquence but for the life of me I can’t recall now.
And for the next several minutes I stood with the Knights of the Kingdom and I asked myself over and over and over again why I was there. I literally was weak kneed and had to have Rose help me stand. After a few moments I began to realize that instead of deciding who I was going to challenge for my first fight (which the not-Knights do), I was going to be someone’s first challenge. I had to stand and wait and let someone come to me. A very different perspective.
Eventually I was challenged, and not as someone’s last pick (a left over fear from childhood I’m sure many people can relate to), by a fighter whose name I knew but whom I’ve never fought or even had seen fight before. And it was a good fight. A fight I felt I had fun with, that I comported myself well in, and that I was able to make it a worthwhile time. He took that fight, and well deserved, but I was as happy as I could have possibly been even if I had won it.
Later I was told by a Knight who has been a very long time friend and whom I respect that I had done well in that fight from his perspective too. A little acknowledgement that I am getting better even if I don’t practice as much as I should.
A little later on His Excellency Jared and I were talking and he made it clear that the reason he and Her Excellency Brid invited me over to the Knight side of the line was because of the promise I made and have kept, and that in doing so along with so much else that I was an inspiration as well.
Still later at the feast that evening he and I talked some more and he made it clear that the kind of Baron I had been helped him to decide on the kind of Baron he has chosen to be, and that we are “family”.
I do not use the f-word lightly. Well, one of them I do, but I’m talking about “family”.
If I tell you that you are family, if you tell me that I am family, well that means something. I know that many people say that the SCA is one big family and to a certain extant that’s true, but in this context, even in this space, my chosen family is special and unique and not easily joined.
Their Excellencies Jared and Brid have been a part of my chosen family for years now. Their blood family has become a part of my chosen family. And maybe I’ve felt a little “outsider-ish” from time to time, but I’ve never not known that this family of mine hasn’t been there or been around.
My apprentice asked me what it was like being on the Knights side of the line and I couldn’t explain it at the time. It’s taken a couple of days of contemplation for me to really put these words together and make some form of sense out of them, but maybe, after having read all of this I can sum it up in a way that makes it all come together.
Standing there was an acknowledgement. It was a gesture of affection that could only come from the way we have our “families” in the SCA. It was a reminder that my family is still out there even when I’m not always the best me that I can be.
And I don’t know anything better than that.
It’s been a long while since I’ve written anything here.
I’ve been busy. Real busy. Like crazy busy.
If all goes according to plan I will be relaunching my magic business in the next few months. That’s a lot of planning.
“But Santiago,” you say. “You’ve never stopped doing magic, right?”
Yeah, kind of.
Almost all of my performing opportunities have come about because of my participation in the SCA. I’ve built up things like my Carnival and continued the work of the Golden Stag Players. I’ve used those opportunities to expand my magic and they have been good.
But I want more.
For one thing, it’s not the kind of opportunity it takes to make money. I don’t charge for my performances in the SCA. No reason to. No reason why I would expect anyone to pay me in that context. Just isn’t the right way for me to do things.
The past couple of years I have been going back and forth to Las Vegas to Jeff McBride’s Magic and Mystery School, taking classes and building skills. I’ve taken the opportunity to perform at The Las Vegas Wonderground. I’ve also made a connection with a local performing artist, a wonderful singer and musician named Glenda Benevides, and we’ve started to work out opportunities to perform together. In fact I was able to debut my Straight Jacket Escape at one of her events.
And perhaps even more influential I have been binge listening to a number of really great podcasts including story telling casts and interview shows. They have given me great ideas and great tips for getting my business going again. Maybe even, with enough work, back to the level of being possible to support myself full time. That’s the dream.
But it has to start somewhere. So there has been a lot of planning, a lot of scheming, a lot of study and research.
So, as they say, if you put something out in to the real world, if you go public with it, then you give it legs, you make it real.
So, time to go public with it.
By the end of this year I intend to have my magic business up and running again. I don’t anticipate it being my full time business, but I do anticipate making it in to something that will provide a nice supplementary income.
In a couple of weeks I’m going out to Vegas again and when I come back I hope to have in hand a real foundation for a whole new version of me as an entertainer. After that I plan to tackle getting a serious long term situation going by trying to score an actual restaurant gig. More about that as my plans firm up. I also expect to launch a whole new website with this new version of me.
So, lots of things. Lots of planning. Not as much writing as I was up to.
I appreciate your patience. I appreciate the support I’ve received. I promise I’ll keep you posted.