Reflections: “Dear 16-year-old Lauren”

With New Year’s Eve and the end of 2010 quickly approaching, many bloggers, Twitter personalities, news outlets, etc. are taking this time to reflect upon the year that has passed.

I do not yet feel like reflecting upon the year that has passed. It was a long year (365 days!). A lot happened. ‘Nuff said.

However, in the spirit of remembering days gone by, and in the spirit of the nostalgia that visiting my childhood home in Saskatchewan for the first time in two and a half years has given me, I decided to dig up my oldest box of journals (I started keeping a diary when I was in grade 3) and read some of them. Most of my entries are painfully embarrassing. I had a lot of crushes (esp. for an 8-year-old). I deluded myself into thinking these boys had crushes on me when probably they just wanted to play with their pogs. Pretty appalling stuff, and for the most part too humiliating to share with the internet.

My trip down Embarrassing Memory Lane revealed a treasure I had completely forgotten about: a letter I wrote when I was 12, to myself at 16 (I’ve changed all actual names but the spelling mistakes are real):

October 5, 1998

Dear 16-year-old Lauren,

I wrote a letter to you when I was in, like, grade two, but I lost it, and besides, nothing interesting was happening.

I hope you haven’t dropped out of school. I want to be a teacher right now. And if I have girls, I want to name them Katrina, Fiona, and, maybe, Meredith. I’m not really sure about the other two names, but I like Katrina for sure.

Right now I have totally fallen for Russell McDonald. My friends are Amanda, Tiffany, Jane (my best friend), and Cassie. My enimies are Kathleen, Jennifer, and Louise. Angela is OK to hang out with, but she flirts and acts stupid all the time. I like to get hyper with my friends, my favourite band is the Cranberries, I like Swing Music, I’m on the X-country running team, the volleyball team, the music group, the SRC, I will probably be doing French by correspondence, and I will be doing drama. My favourite colour is blue, my favourite number is ten.

I hope you’ve made good decisions: not to smoke, not to drink, not to do drugs, …and so one.

Love, Lauren (at 12 years old)

Yikes. I suppose it never occurred to 12-year-old Lauren that dropping out of school isn’t just something that might happen without you noticing when you turn 16, especially when your parents are teachers. And yes, when I said I liked to “get hyper” with my friends, I really meant being hyper and energetic…no sinister euphemisms here.

I was super cool 'cause I'd grown out my bangs.

A couple of things surprised me about this letter. Firstly, it seems to say absolutely nothing at all. Wouldn’t someone writing to their future selves have a lot to say? Wouldn’t they want to fill their letter with important information?

The second thing that surprised me was the realization that these silly details actually were REALLY important to me, and probably to many 12-year-old girls. Who my friends were, who my “enimies” were, what band I liked, all the extra-curricular activities I was involved in in Junior High… It’s strange to think about how small my world was then, how little I knew of what my life was going to be like, and how old I actually thought 16 would be, when I know now that 16 isn’t old at all. And that even with 12 more years under my belt (a whole other lifetime for the author of the letter), my world is still smaller than I want it to be, I still know very little about what my life will be like, and I’m still not really very old at all.

I’m actually impressed that I was involved in so many activities. Good for you, 12-year-old Lauren. (Full disclosure: I was terrible at volleyball. I made it to the end of the season and never signed up for it again. I like to play “casual” volleyball now though, when I get the chance.)

I’m happy to report that I’ve come far enough since grade 7 that I don’t have any “enimies” anymore. And that I don’t need to worry about people who “act stupid all the time” because I’ve been lucky enough in my adult life to be surrounded by kind, smart, fun people most of the time. I still like swing and big band music. My favourite colour is still blue. I like the number 10 but I think the number 2 is better. As for “making good decisions…and so one”…well….I never took up smoking. So good for me.

I hope that if I ever do have a 12-year-old girl of my own (Katrina is a family name so that one’s still on the table), I’ll remember to think of this letter and try to understand a time when my crush and my social circle and my little activities were everything and I wasn’t worried about the world or whether or not my dreams and the dreams of those I love would be possible against the backdrop of the hundred million things that could happen before I grew up.

And what did 16-year-old Lauren think of her 12-year-old self? Well, in 2002, when I was 16, I wrote on the envelope, “Ha ha. Poor little 12-year-old Lauren. She doesn’t know me, but I think she’d be proud of what I’ve become.” As if I was really anything at the ripe old age of 16 for a 12-year-old Cranberries fan to be proud of. But maybe I was.

Ha ha. Poor little 16-year-old Lauren.

And soon enough it will be…Ha ha. Poor little 24-year-old Lauren.

I guess the moral of the story is that I’m going keep embarrassing myself, and writing stupid things, no matter what my age.

Happy New Year, everybody. Remember that no matter what you do or think in 2011, you’ll likely think you were stupid later, so don’t worry about it. :)

Dear Rick Mercer: Please make me your sidekick

 

Saskatchewan (usually BC), Canada

ATTN: Rick Mercer, The Rick Mercer Report

CC: CBC Television

Watch the Rick Mercer Report on CBC Television

Dear Mr. Mercer,

I am writing to you today to humbly request that you consider making me your sidekick on the Rick Mercer Report. I know what you are thinking. You are thinking, “The RMR is an excellent show just as it is, without a sidekick.” And it is. It certainly is. But my dream job is to be your sidekick on the Rick Mercer Report, and I’m pretty sure my effect on the RMR will be harmless at worst, and at best, I might improve ratings in the “enjoys watching well-mannered young Canadians on TV” demographic. (And who doesn’t like well-mannered young Canadians? It’s what we DO.)

I will now outline the reasons why I would make an excellent sidekick for you on the Rick Mercer Report:

1. FANDOM. I think anyone who is going to be your sidekick should be a fan. I am a fan. Of you Mr. Mercer, of the Rick Mercer Report, and of the CBC. Being from rural Saskatchewan, I was raised on CBC TV (one of two channels we received) and CBC Radio. I grew up watching This Hour Has 22 Minutes. Sure, once I moved out to the West Coast and mysteriously got free cable for a while I left my CBC roots. But after the Rick Mercer Report visited Simon Fraser University (my alma mater) for the Spread the Net Student Challenge I started watching the RMR. A wave of nostalgia washed over me and my highest show-biz ambition is now to be a CBC media personality.

2. TRAVELLING CANADA. A lot of what you do on the Rick Mercer Report involves travelling across Canada. As my only dependents in Vancouver at the moment are fairly hardy houseplants I am up for Canadian adventures whenever you and the CBC say the word. (I graduated with a BFA, so you know I have free time.) One of the reasons the RMR works is that you have a genuine interest in and love for Canada. So do I. I’ve lived in other countries and I relished the experience but I’ve got a pretty strong bias for Canada. Big places, small places, north, south, east, west, Canada’s my home and I’d love to show it off. I also feel that between the two of us (you growing up in the Maritimes and working in Toronto, me growing up in Saskatchewan and working in Vancouver) we’ll have Canada pretty much covered east to west. (As a matter of fact, let’s add “Western Canadians” to the demographic I can try to help reach. Cha-ching.)

“Hold the phone,” you might say, “there’s a lot more to the RMR than just travelling around Canada.” I know this, and I am ready. Heli-logging? Love to try it. Bungee jumping with Rick Hansen? Zip lining? Sign me up. Harvesting potatoes? I’ve been picking potatoes since I was a young fry. I am ready for you, Canada. I will taste your jams and dance your jigs and fire your cannons and ride in and/or drive vehicles I most certainly do not have the certification to operate. I will wear a camera on my head as I plunge off some Canadian summit, kept safe by only a harness and my will to not die on Canadian television. So Canada’s a big wild country? Bring it.

3. MY TV-FRIENDLY ATTRIBUTES. I understand that good RMR sidekick material would also have to be good TV material. I’m outgoing and love talking to people. I’m cheerful and silly, smart and grounded. I keep abreast of Canadian politics with my Maclean’s subscription (all the better to quip about politicians with), my more-clever-than-me friends, and my new Twitter addiction. I have a clear and pleasant speaking voice (like an elementary school secretary), I’m very polite, and I’m reasonably easy on the eyes too:

 

Nothing that a CBC make-up artist can't spruce up.

I realize that the RMR and CBC TV likely do not have the budget to hire a whole other (more or less unnecessary) person to be your sidekick. I would like to point out that in addition to the attributes listed above, I’m relatively small, don’t eat much, and require fairly little upkeep. I am happy to curl up each night in a bedroom set left over from “Wind At My Back” or any other remnant of CBC Canadiana not currently being used. A nice four-poster from “Road to Avonlea” would do just fine.

As a spunky Canadian and fan of your show, Mr. Mercer, I believe I really ought to be considered as a possible sidekick for you on the Rick Mercer Report. I would do an outstanding job mostly because I would be so jazzed to be there. Also, my parents would think it was really cool.

I am able to drop everything and be an awesome sidekick at your earliest convenience. References are available upon request. I wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Best of luck in your 2011 season.

Sincerely,

Lauren Kresowaty

(twitter.com/niftynotcool)

P.S. For all of you reading who are NOT Rick Mercer or a representative of CBC Television, remember to watch the Rick Mercer Report on CBC when it returns in the New Year and to have a wonderful Christmas.

Are you going to watch the Rick Mercer Report? I know I am!

 

 

“Christmas on the Air” – The internet giveth and I giveth back

This year, Christmas came early courtesy of Twitter. On Saturday, Sabrina of Twenty-Something Theatre (@theatre_20) tweeted that she had a +1 for Midnight Theatre Collective’s “Christmas on the Air” at Pacific Theatre she was hoping to make use of. Not having met Sabrina in the flesh yet, I wasn’t sure she’d want to give a ticket up to me but I decided to message her on Twitter anyways and see if she still had the ticket to give away. She did, and even though she’d never met me, she saved it at the box office for me and I got to see some delightful Christmas theatre. (I met her at the show, by the by. She’s very friendly and cool in addition to being generous with her +1’s).

Since the connective power of the internet (coupled with Sabrina’s niceness) got me my free ticket to “Christmas on the Air”, it only seemed right that when Raul from Hummingbird604 (@hummingbird604) tweeted that he wouldn’t mind having someone guest post for him, I offered up the “Christmas on the Air” review I was going to post here for his site. I had the good fortune to meet Raul this spring at the Global Agents Gala through a mutual friend and he has been nothing but kind and supportive during my adventures in this brave new world of Twitter and blogs.

(Incidentally, if you’re considering getting in the holiday spirit by donating to a worthy organization, Global Agents is a very effective Vancouver-based non-profit committed to eradicating global poverty. That’s why they’re in my “Nifty AND Cool” links.)

Before you think I was being altruistic by offering up my review, I should point out that Raul is a Vancouver Blogger Extraordinaire and that my post will get far more exposure through Hummingbird604 than it ever would from Nifty Not Cool. I am  tickled that Raul agreed to post my review. If you want to read about my evening at “Christmas on the Air” on Hummingbird604, click here.

Lucia di Lammermoor: My trip to the opera

 

Vancouver Opera Poster. Artwork by Leonard Dente.

Yesterday was the day I had decided I was going to write a new blog post. About what, I didn’t know. I had planned to write about whether or not Carole James should step down as the leader of the BC NDP, but then she went ahead and did it and saved me the trouble of pondering whether it was going to happen.

I had already changed out of my respectable work clothes and into my “comfies” and was just settling in with my lap top for a promising evening of procrastination when my phone rang. A friend of mine who works at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre had been given a free ticket to the Vancouver Opera‘s production of Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor (an Italian opera set in Scotland! How quaint!) and wondered if I would like to go. Free opera? You bet. I was out of my “comfies” and back in my “look respectablies” in half a tick and out I went into the wind and the rain.

I’ve been to the opera before, but not in Canada. A few Christmases ago I was lucky enough to see La Traviata in Bassano del Grappa. The only problem was that Italians don’t need surtitles to understand Italian operas so I didn’t really get much past the general gist. I was excited to be seeing an opera that provided surtitles so I’d know what the heck was going on.

I would like to state that the acoustics in the Queen Elizabeth Theatre are excellent. I was sitting pretty high up in the balcony and I could hear every sound onstage. The man unwrapping his candy three rows down sounded like he was unwrapping it in my head (thanks guy! You really made Act II for me!). Most importantly, of course, the incredible voices carried.

It always annoys me when Famous Old Shows (like this one) are full of men with only one main character being played by a woman. But what a woman! In this production, one is all you need. I know nothing of sopranos, even less about “coloratura” sopranos, but I thought that Eglise Guitierrez was exquisite as Lucia. She was a powerhouse who carried the show for me. I’ve always imagined that high notes are shrill for everyone, even if you can hit them, but every sound from Guitierrez was as smooth and pure as a crystal bell. Her voice didn’t sound like it was coming from her mouth, it seemed to be coming from the entire theatre. She sang her ass off and made it look easy. I was awe struck.

I’m not a big opera buff and when I see classical performances like this I’m always worried that I’ll fall asleep or be bored stiff (even if the music’s great) but I really enjoyed myself.  Obviously, the vocal athletics helped, as did the surtitles which were sometimes a little funny (“Oh. I cannot contain my anger. My blood blazes.”) but were sometimes downright poetic. It may have been my hormones but when the betrayed lover Edgardo crashed Lucia’s wedding to another man, and the surtitle to his part read, “I am a martyr to a deceiving heart” I was moved to tears. Oh Edgardo! It’s all a misunderstanding! If you would just listen! But no, he didn’t listen. He threw his ring at poor Lucia and sang something scornful and Italian at her before fleeing the scene. Epic.

The highlight for me was the Mad Scene, when the blood-stained Lucia entered and began to sing Il dolce suono.  A thought stuck me: I know this one! Why do I know this one? Well folks, I know this one because I have watched the movie The Fifth Element a gajillion times and Il dolce suono is the aria the blue diva starts singing before she goes into her Techno Opera. You learn something new every day. Sweet.

Not your grandmother's Lucia

While I had a lovely time and am extremely grateful for my free ticket, I’m not sure yet that I’m the kind of person who should be a regular opera-goer. Even though my heart went out to Lucia in her madness, I couldn’t help grinning as brother Enrico awkwardly moved her unconscious body a foot or so upstage because she had “fainted” right where the scrim was going to come down. When Lucia’s dying lover Edgardo gave his last fatal flop and collapsed at the end of Act III it was just too much for my silly little soul and I emitted an audible snicker (carried far and wide by the beautiful acoustics). Whoops. Sorry everyone. I really am moved, it’s just…  tee hee.

Despite not being sure that I’m mature enough for the opera, I had a top-notch evening and if tragedies and good music are your thing I heartily recommend Lucia di Lammermoor. The last two performances are December 9 and 11 at 7:30 p.m. at the Queen E. I have heard good things about Vancouver Opera’s season so far so please check them out at www.vancouveropera.ca if you are an opera lover or are thinking of giving it a whirl.

A Call to Political Participation for the ME-llenial Generation

In the November 22 issue of Maclean’s this fall, columnist Andrew Potter had this to say about the generation I belong to:

The members of the “millenial” generation have been accused of being a self-centred and politically apathetic cohort of cool-hunting technology addicts whose central claim to notoriety is that they have the attention span of a puppy dog on Red Bull. In last week’s mid-term elections, they did their level best to prove their critics right.

The context of this diatribe is an article entitled, “Where Was the Youth Vote?”, examining the effect poor youth voter turnout had on the recent mid-term elections in the US. Though I think my generation has a little more to offer than a puppy on Red Bull (I for one don’t pee on the rug), I can’t say I blame Andrew Potter for blaming us.

According to Potter’s article, Obama was voted into office in 2008 on a wave of support from new voters. A vital component of this wave was the youth vote: over 50% of eligible voters between 18 and 29 showed up at the ballot box (the second largest young voter participation rate in US history).  Fast-forward to the 2010 mid-term elections, and only about 20% of young voters bothered. Apparently two years can do a lot: “Yes We Can” has turned into “Do We Have To?”.

Yes. We do. I know voting for a more-or-less not famous Democrat or Republican during the mid-terms isn’t quite as exciting as being given a chance to vote for the first black US President ever, but that doesn’t mean it’s not important. Unfortunately, being a Canadian, I am not able to vote in US elections.

A little closer to home the picture doesn’t seem quite so bleak. The Stats Canada website didn’t have a neat little figure like “such and such percentage of eligible voters between 18 and 29 voted” (at least not that I could find), but I was able to glean that 59% of Canadians in their 20s have voted in at least one election. This is pretty much on par with the 58.8% of eligible Canadians who voted in the 2008 federal election. This doesn’t mean we should rest on our laurels. There are still 40% of Canadians in their 20s not doing the bare minimum when it comes to participating in democracy in Canada, and I see no particular virtue in being only as bad as everyone else.

All is not lost, however. The Stats Canada webpage helpfully goes on to cite a report called “Willing to Participate: Political Engagement of Young Adults” that found that while voter participation among young people was low, young adults are just as likely as any other age group to participate in non-voting political activity. This non-voting activity includes signing a petition, boycotting a product, or choosing to buy a specific product for ethical reasons. Social networking has made these non-voting activities all the easier (no more walking door to door collecting signatures: 200 000 Canadians can express their disapproval of Harper proroguing Parliament on Facebook!).

I understand that it’s easy to become disenfranchised with the government and have a preference for non-voting activity over voting in elections. As one of my friends (a Poli Sci grad) recently pointed out, government’s hands are often tied when it comes to the issues that are important to us. For diplomatic reasons (or because they want to get re-elected), governments are sometimes unwilling or unable to go to certain places or to tackle certain hot button issues and leave that gap to be filled by NGOs, non-profits, and advocacy groups. Being the young people we are, it’s reasonable to expect that we’d rather put our energy and faith into supporting non-voting activities that actually seem to have an impact than cast a ballot and try to choose one bunch of stuffy old jerks over another bunch of stuffy old jerks. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t vote.

The only way to make politicians care about the concerns of young voters is to make them think they actually have something to lose if they don’t. A lack of voter participation in elections allows the governing party to pander to the demographic that voted for them– and no one else. An example of this would be the tempest in a teapot the Conservative government created this summer over “privacy concerns” and the mandatory long-form census. What do they care that minority and low-income groups might be poorly represented by a voluntary census? Statistically, these groups are less likely to vote, and so the government has nothing to gain in the polls by troubling themselves over the concerns of those groups, and everything to gain by catering to the caprices of the far right groups who “don’t think it’s the government’s business to know how many bedrooms they have”, because these are the groups that can be counted on to show their support on election day.

www.marriedtothesea.com
www.marriedtothesea.com

The government doesn’t really seem to have a lot do with my daily life. I suppose as a BC theatre artist, the provincial government has a lot to do with the fact that I had to take a job in a different sector to support myself, but really, we all just seem to hum along no matter who’s in power and maybe we assume we can just hum along forever and it will never matter who we have in government. Well, someday it will matter. If you ever have children, it will matter what the education system is like. When your parents (and someday you) retire, it will matter what pensions are like. And unfortunately, someday, without warning, it will matter very much what the health care system is like.

I am incredibly impatient. I hear a lot about my generation having a short attention span and being addicted to instant gratification and maybe that’s true. I hate the excruciatingly slow pace of getting something, ANYTHING, done in government. The systems I mentioned above are in need of massive change if we want to preserve the quality of life we enjoy now. But change comes in baby steps. So why not take the baby steps now, become part of a strong voting base NOW, so that by the time you really need change to occur you’ll have provided the foundation to bring it about?

Marketers have realized that the millenial generation is the most important consumer demographic, because we can be counted on to buy things. Wouldn’t it be great if governments treated us as the most important citizen demographic because we could be counted on to vote?

Voting is practically one of the easiest things I’ve ever done in my life. Not registered to vote? Register with Elections Canada online at www.elections.ca and click on “Voters” in the upper left of the home page. Are you one of those lucky readers who can vote in the US? Visit www.usa.gov/Citizen/Topics/Voting/Register.shtml and get your ass registered.

Technically, Canada isn’t scheduled for another election until 2012, so in the meantime, effect change in that non-voting political way we’re so good at. The internet is full of information about how to get involved with just about any cause under the sun. Seeing as how we’re all “cool-hunting technology addicts”, I’m sure we’ll have no trouble finding it.