Project Updates

So, you probably have seen I’ve not been on my author page for Facebook for a while. I could blame a lot of things. Anxiety. Depression. Apathy. Fear. Overwatch. This past year has not been kind – a trend I’m seeing in the years since 2014 came to roost. It’s thrown me off my game, but I am, thankfully, starting to feel something that might be a comeback.

With the echo chamber now taking a backseat (mostly clean of Facebook for a week) in my personal life, I’ll now have some time to turn to its more professional uses. My personal page is going to go dark for a bit (maybe forever, still not sure), but my Author Page (probably how you got here) will be remaining up.

One of the things I loved to use Facebook for was to give me a sense of personal accountability. When I was trying to get my weight down, or my diabetes numbers in order, or my stories written, Facebook gave me people to pledge to who I would, in turn, do my best not to let down. With eyes on me to see if I failed, I felt I had better chances.

Whether or not that’s a good thing or a bad thing, it’s what was done, and I feel it’s time perhaps for a little more accountability. I’m going to list my present projects, both active and back-burnered. I want to see them, and honestly, I want someone else to see them too.

So, here’s what’s going on:

Podcasts

  • The Most of the Hour Podcast – A joint project between me and my cousins that has entered a conceptual phase. It would be a podcast that would be no less than thirty minutes and no more than fifty minutes. My cousins would have their own components and stories, while mine would focus on a series I’m calling ‘The  Lighthouses.’

lighthouseslogo

Short Stories

  • The Challenge Edits – I’ve been working with some good people in a critique group who have helped me over past months to sharpen my stories a little. Some are ready for publication (such as Hoomins) while others (Blackhand) need either to have more work or to even expand into something bigger.
  • New Story-A-Week – I’m not writing a lot of new content save for two recent episodes (in need of heavy formatting) of The Lighthouses

Manuscripts

  • The Pirates of the DeeCee Beltway – My NaNoWriMo project started in 2011 that got a completed first draft but has sat in revision hell for some time. I started a little editing over the summer and got through a significant portion, but it languished.
  • Parked – A NaNoWriMo from 2012 that becomes more and more irrelevant the more I let it sit. I never finished this one, but it had promise. But, it’s only valuable so long as there’s a political relevance to it and history gets changed every day with more to come ahead.
  • The Many Labors of Bob – The longer I let this one get away from me, the more different I feel about it. It’s my first completed manuscript, but I feel like it needs some major changes.

Visual

  • I have no visual plans at the moment, but with the acquisition of an iPad Pro with a Pencil peripheral, I’m starting to draw more again. I don’t know what it will produce, but I look forward to finding out.

This is what I have at present. And I need to move. I have some time back now. And I need something to focus it on.

Taking A Step Back

Anyone who knows me could probably tell you this, but… I have a social media problem.

I’m highly (or hyper) active on social media, specifically Facebook. I have both a personal and professional presence there. I have over 500 people in my personal feed. I obviously can’t keep up with all of them, but I post frequently and skim through the feed for things that might be interesting. I hit it when I’m bored. I hit it out of habit. I check in too often when I could best be pointing my focus elsewhere. It’s a constant distraction.

And a constant irritation.

For the past year it’s fed me news about the election. Which, without getting on either side of the political fence, is nerve wracking. The echo chamber got real loud, and so did the comment posts. People on both sides were branding their pitchforks and torches. It was unpleasant. Adding it to a longer list of stressors was making for a difficult situation. Something I started to use as something to connect me to others was showing me sides of personalities that I never wanted to know. I think different about some of the folks after hearing them go off on their own soapboxes. I did my best to stay out of these frays, though sometimes I got sucked in. Sometimes it wasn’t about politics either. There was negativity on everything.

So, I have opted to pull out the plug on my Facebook account for a while. At least on the personal side. I’ll still need it for my writing stuff. I’ll also need LinkedIn and Twitter for work, but I so very rarely find that Twitter is an everyday thing, and LinkedIn is mostly used for research.

The results of the pull back in the past thirty-odd hours (almost a week at time of update) has been interesting. I’ve found that the things I’ve been sharing are generally unimportant. I’ll see something happen and my first instinct is to post about it. When I go to my phone to do it and the icon for Facebook is gone… there’s this jarring sensation and I realize: I have reclaimed a minute of my life. I’m not tapping at the facepane of the phone, I’m going about my day.

How much time have I lost?

Another thing though I note is how much of it is just habitual. My basal ganglia tells me whenever I have a good thought that the next step is to broadcast it. It’s incredibly hard to slap that down. And even as I have the thought of not posting, the next thought that comes up is that I should post about not posting. Let that sink in.

My brain is a jerk.

The best thing though that I think I ever did was taking the app off my phone. I still go to access it, again, as an entrenched behavior. Already, I’ve had a dozen times where I reflexively open the folder on my iPhone and click the space where it used to be (which is now Twitter, tied to my work profile).  Twitter usually feels like Facebook Lite, so I feel almost no draw to use it apart from promoting work. I think that the more I get away from just having it at a moment’s notice, the more of my life I’ll get back.

Of course, I’m saying this as I send out a blog post. So, who knows.

Dispatch From the Northwest

This week has been jammed full of stuff.

I continue to explore more of Vancouver and have finally discovered a city recognizable to me as such on the south side of the harbour (officially known as the Burrard Inlet). If I was to compare regions, Vancouver’s Downtown is to Philly as North Vancouver is to Manayunk. I’ve been living in an up and coming neighborhood undergoing a certain transformation. The more traditional city lies across the waters, and it looks a lot more like Philadelphia or Boston. The old buildings live there aside new, shining apartment highrises that we’re so used to seeing on television programs.

Until recently, Northodox Vancouver was just a kind of bedroom community. Older buildings and homes dotted the path up to the mountains. But in recent years they’ve had a real estate boom that matches the one being seen in San Francisco. The average house here, even on the small side is 1.2 million CAD (that’s $896,000 USD approx. at the time of writing). One of my new co-workers told me that the block I’m looking at from the porch where I type was entirely demolished as recently as a year ago. It jives with her explanation – all of the buildings in that block have either very new businesses on ground level, or are wholly vacant with ‘coming soon’ signs places in abundance. I can regularly see the spaces above being completed. One office loft in particular has an industrial light facing out toward the street and I see contractors casting shadows against the papered windows as if Plato moved his cave to the damp and shadowed hills of Canada. To hear one of my bosses tell it, there’s been some initiatives by local government to try to adjust the ballooning costs of real estate with prohibitive taxes, but the city has a ton of new money coming in every day. New taxes and guards against inflation seem to be dashed by more and more outside money coming in from Asia and from the film industry. The developers are lapping it up, raking in money like they’ve never seen before. So, when the crash comes… it’s likely to hit hard.

Politics and economics aside, the city across the Inlet is an interesting mashup of several different cultures. Typically in an American city, you can identify a neighborhood by its dominant ethnicities. Chinatowns, Little Italys, K-Town, J-town, Germantowns, Little Odessas all of the small, unnamed Polish, Caribbean, or Greek neighborhoods , – all of these are a part of an American experience that I just… don’t seem to see here. In a single block I encountered a Japanese infused hot dog joint, next to a Falafel King, next to an Indian restaurant, next to a Pho place, across the way from traditional North American fare. There seems to be a smattering of different ethnicities on every block. If there’s racial tensions… I’m not seeing them (though I am certain it’s here because, well, humanity is rife with bastards). The only group I’ve not seen in significant number are Africans of any variety – either African Americans or native Africans. Which is offputting as an American coming from the Mid-Atlantic where we get all of the above groups in a somewhat more scattered if siloed distribution. The demographics are very different here and I’m not sure why. Perhaps it’s time to ask a Canadian.

Today though I do have somewhat lofty goals – I’ll be exploring downtown today and making my way to the Vancouver Aquarium and its surrounding parkland. I’m told there’s some wonderful Totem Poles to be seen there, and that it’s a generally a good way to see the ccity West-to-East. I figure I’ll start at the park and work my way back through downtown until I hit a bookstore near Gastown I’ve been seeing on my travels through the area.

More tonight I reckon. I’m out to see what all of this is aboot.

Observations On Canada (Specifically Vancouver)

So, it’s now day seven into my trip to Vancouver, British Columbia. To say it’s been a whirlwind affair is not at all inaccurate. I pretty much hit the ground running and never stopped save to sleep in the past week. I finally had opportunity last night to stay up late, then sleep in accordingly late. Most of today has been spent binging Z-Nation on Netflix and washing some laundry. So, I thought I’d post today, make a couple observations on Canada.

I’ll be honest – my first and primary exposure to Canada was at an early age. God knows why either parent allowed it, but I had to have watched Strange Brew a hundred times before I turned eight. Calling my sister a Hoser, telling people to ‘take off, eh’ was a kind of thing that happened. As I aged I knew that these were the grossest of stereotypes… sort of. But, now that I’ve had opportunity to cross the border for longer than a two day thing (last I was in Canada it was in Ontario for a wedding) I thought I’d take a moment to go over some things I’ve learned.

1.) Apology Is Constant

Canadians apologize more than any other people I’ve met. If there’s even a chance you might be offended by something a local has said, the apology is out before their brain knows how to catch it. The politeness is almost unnerving coming from America where people mind their own business and if something you’ve said offends, the offended party can screw right off.

2.) Canada Is Largely Reserved

Or at least it feels like that in Vancouver. Now, while I’m told that Montreal is less reserved in this capacity, the remainder seems to be very, very mellow. Bars in Vancouver actually close at eleven o’clock. Which is like when a lot of bars are kind of getting started in Philadelphia. At approximately 11:01 PM last night, I started hearing drunken barriers returning to their homes in a stream of humanity that took about an hour and a half to clear. Suzanne tells me that the Night Bus ferries most of the drunks home and that if I take said night bus, I should be ready for the opposite of the first entry above (though if someone barfs on you you can be assured an instinctive apology).

3.) They’re Watching Us

There is a surprising amount of concern for our political process, and by ‘our’ I mean ‘America’s.’ They talk about Trump up here quite a bit, and I’ve heard many people talking about our debates. In America, I can’t think of even one person who takes an interest in politics to this level of a foreign country more than they watch those countries’ soccer teams. I can’t name their PM or the mayor of Vancouver, or tell you anything about their government, but they sure as hell know about ours. I found this out when I walked into a Comic Book store on Lonsdale Ave. and overheard the proprietor talking about an offended American who had stormed out of their store after simply mentioning Trump’s name. When it was outed that I was an American, the immediate apology came tumbling out, and I let them know that despite what they see on the news, we are NOT all as crazy as we’re made out to be.

4.) A Distinctive Lack of Junk Products

I miss Crystal Light. I really, really do. I’m drying out though – the lack of junk food here is notable. Now, I mean you can still find chips and soda and all of that – but the instant stuff we take for granted just isn’t here. Options seem limited for frozen dinners, powdered drinks, and other convenient quick foods. A lot of the brands I recognize just aren’t about.

5.) Nothing To-Go Sized

I really miss being able to select the size of any given good in a grocery store. You want butter? You are buying a pound of butter. And that pound? It doesn’t get broken up into individual sticks. It is a literal BRICK of butter. Sour Cream? Don’t care it’s a short trip. Here’s your bucket. Travel sized stuff is in extremely limited supply – I’ve had to but lots of things in large sizes despite the fact I”m not going to be here long enough to use all of the items I’ve picked up. Sometimes I can find toiletries in travel sizes, but that’s a given anywhere I think.

6.) The Stereotypes Are Here, but Limited

For all I said above about Strange Brew, I have heard a couple of things come up. ‘Good day,’ and ‘beauty’ and ‘eh’ have all been heard (in various combinations). I have run into some French-Canadian speakers. People like their Maple Leaf stuff. But it’s not the way it’s portrayed in the States.

7.) Diversity

There’s a huge mixture of people here. While all ethnicities are not necessarily present, I see a lot of diversity here without a lot of the negative stuff I see when multiple cultures  put together in the States. I’m told that absolutely, there are many of the cultural frictions that I’m unfortunately used to, it just doesn’t seem to spill out into visibile life – or at least if it does I’m not seeing it.

I’m sure I’ll have more observations soon – but right now, it’s time to maybe find a bite to eat, perhaps a bookstore to cozy up in, and then come home down the gigantic slope that North Vancouver is built into.

So for now, good day, eh.

Blog, Fiction, Columns and Art of Maurice Hopkins