How I Killed Mine (Or: My Life Beyond Cellphones)

Today, let us talk about cell phones.

I don’t own a cellphone. Can anyone else claim as much?

A Brief History of Cellphones

The only truly unbreakable cell phone that I have ever had was a Samsung Galaxy S-II.

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Look how it just stares at you

Now, I want to be very clear about something: I hate this fucking phone. There is no love lost between us. I hated it for the three years that I had it, but during that time, I developed a mentality, which while I think it is responsible led to our mutually assured destruction.

When it came to electronics: until it is broke, I don’t fix it. Meaning if the screen is cracked, but usable, I just keep trucking. So I used that piece of shit every day. It didn’t matter to me that it:

  1. Overheated like a son of a bitch
  2. Died repeatedly throughout the day if I called one person for 15 minutes
  3. Had no data plan
  4. When I got a data plan it couldn’t keep up with the network traffic
  5. And on and on and on….

Every day I got angry at that phone. And every day I hummed it at the ground hoping against hope that it would smash. But, not only wouldn’t the screen crack, but the casing wouldn’t dent or even scratch. I turned it in to a T-Mobile store years later and they were amazed.

Them: “How long have you had this?

Me: “A few years.”

Them: “This looks amazing.”

Me: “I know.”

Them: “You took really good care of this.”

Me: “I really didn’t.”

So one day my phone would turn on to a blank screen. I thought, “OH GOOD. What fresh hell is this?”

I brought it in to a T-Mobile store. They told me that the SIM reader was busted. Somehow it had fried itself. They said it should have outlasted the phone. They asked if I wanted it replaced. I said how much. They said about the cost of the phone.

I started laughing. Maniacally. In a T-Mobile store. The employees looked back and forth at each other worriedly. I laughed. Told them I would like a new phone.

So I got a Galaxy Galaxy Core Prime:

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You beautiful bastard

And that little guy lasted all of three months. Before the screen shattered. And then I kept using it because…well the screen still worked. Didn’t matter that I was cutting my fingers on it. I could still use it, so I kept using it.

Finally, when it got too severe I did get it fixed. But, that pattern repeated itself probably two or three times. It would shatter within a month and then I would continue to use it until it “broke” and then I would get it replaced.

One time it broke when I was playing PokemonGo. I was walking on cement trying to get a signal. It fell. I blamed myself. One time I tried filming myself hula hooping because I wanted to look cool for social media. I knocked the phone clean out of my hand. It shattered on the concrete. I blamed myself for not asking other people.

The point is: there were many things that were completely out of my control for why I now had a broken phone (gravity). I didn’t need to blame myself, but I did.

Anyway, fast forward to about March of this year. The screen is cracked, but still usable. A cat who shall remain nameless decided to knock my phone off of my top floor of my loft to the ground below. I discovered this after my shower at about 5am. I look at it and half the screen is completely black. I freaked out, my partner freaked out. I said gimme a minute and went upstairs to meditate.

After half an hour I let the scared voices go quiet and started asking myself really reasonable questions like:

  • Why is this so important?
  • Do I really need a phone?
  • If it is just going to cause me anxiety and distress why bother getting it replaced?

So even when my partner suggested that she pay for the cost of replacing it (it was her cat) I said no. I would try living without it. And so I have for six months now.

My Life Now

I feel very free walking down the street. It is very freeing to throw away a piece of tech that people take for granted. It is kind of like walking around without underwear. Nobody needs to know you’re doing it, but you feel kind of cool anyway.

Google Voice

You see, I had already transitioned to a digital number while I still had my cellphone. I decided a plan of $600 annually where basically all I used my phone for was a mobile computer was highly unrealistic. So I cancelled it and transitioned to a Google Voice number. I highly recommend it to everyone. Having it as an international option if nothing else (it works wherever there is google).

So my phone went from a mobile social media center to something I could only use on wifi anyway. Once the screen broke for good, I just got rid of it and instead started relying on my tablet and desk computer.

Google Voice Features

  1. I can use any of my devices now as a calling and video messaging service so long as I have a strong enough connection.
  2. If the program is open, people can call me like they would any phone
  3. If the program is closed or I am unavailable, the call goes to voice mail, which I can access at my leisure
  4. Google will transcribe it for me into a text file
  5. Depending on your settings you can have your notifications sent to you through text (if you still have a phone), email, or through media.
  6. If you have a cell service and someone calls your Google Number, the phone call will not only be forwarded to you, but you will have the option to take the call or send it to voicemail after you hear the person say their name

I cannot emphasize how cool all of this is, especially if you still have a phone and a cell service. It is like having your own personal secretary! She will even field your calls for you. 

Regrets

Here is the thing that I wasn’t expecting: I couldn’t keep my same number.

That really was very, very sad. I have had my cellphone since I was 14, which means I have had the same personal phone number since I was 14. It had more significance than my home phone number did. My home number is how you reach my parents. MY number is how you reach ME.

And I lost it, guys. I lost it when I gave up my plan.

So my number changed.

Which meant that nobody had it. I am still sending texts and calling people reintroducing my number. People are still calling my old number, which has since been given to a very irate middle aged man as I understand it. I’ve considered calling him to apologize about the confusion, but figure it’s probably best to leave him well enough alone.

So those are some of my biggest regrets:

  • Losing my original number
  • Losing my contacts for a lot of people with that
  • People not knowing how to get in contact with me

If I were to do something again, I’d probably find a way to get in touch with all the people in my contacts just to make sure that I could stay in touch with everyone.

Setbacks

What I was most surprised about was the vitriol that I would receive for making this personal choice, which if I could remind you was:

To not replace my phone.

It wasn’t like one day I decided to trade it in or burn it or anything. My phone broke, I decided I didn’t need the hassle and anxiety of replacing it particularly with where my financial situation was.

That being said, I have lived and worked in a number of industries. A lot of them ask for a reliable way to get in touch with you, which is reasonable.

Now, keep in mind that my employers have that. I have provided all of them with my

  • new digital number &
  • they have my email.

The only thing I did not do was I did not inform them that I had broken my cellphone because I figured that that would discourage people from using my new number.

 

In most instances my not having a cellphone caused a lot of animosity or distancing between me and my work contacts (even after I told them it was now broken). I was astounded and when I asked why it came down to one thing:

We need to be able to get in contact with you all of the time.

This staggered me.  It wasn’t even subtle; I have had that literally said in a directive tone of voice by employers or managers. Some asked what it would take for me to get a new phone. This was the root of all of the problems I had had with every organization over the last few months.

I was made to feel crazy, but the more I thought about it the more crazy the notion seemed to me.

There is an idea that we all need access to each other all of the time. And I’m seeing it more and more:

  • Work places use Facebook to befriend and open private group messages between employees
  • Through Facebook and other social media tools private files are shared, work related events are planned totally through the social networking platform
  • Employers have their own private form of social media, a private messaging service, that is required by their employees to be open all of the time for “emergencies” but they can shut off when they go home

It is this mad-brained idea that we, as employees, need to be in contact or able to be contacted 24/7. Think about it and think about it in your own lives. Why should we do that?

Why should I, an artist, be treated like I am on-call like a doctor or a nurse? People aren’t going to die if I get stuck in traffic. People aren’t going to die if I get into an accident and have to be rushed to the hospital.

I’ll give you an example. I was working on a show. I also use public transit. Sometimes it is on time, sometimes it is late. Because I don’t have access to a cellphone, I cannot call ahead. So there I am, sitting on the bus, approaching the rehearsal hall. I get there just a few minutes late. The stage manager pulls me aside and asks why I didn’t call ahead. I inform them that I don’t have a cell phone and that I take public transit, that this might be a thing moving forward. They tell me they need me to call ahead if I am going to be late.

Now, I appreciate their position. They need to know if they need to move on or not. But, seriously, what is the best solution? What did people do in times of yore? Because I only have so many resources. It’s not like there are payphones everywhere. Not everyone has a cellphone and not everyone is willing to let a stranger use theirs. I cannot predict when I am going to be late based on traffic and once I’m out of my house, I have no way to do it.

But, here is the kicker for me: I was five minutes late. It wasn’t the only time, and I am no angel, but I was five minutes late. It was a first offense and I warned there could be others. But, FIVE minutes late. There was just this implicit assumption that I had access to a phone and that I should have called ahead. That I was in dereliction of my duty to inform my manager. And they would be correct, but how could I possibly have done that? I ask you. These things can keep a person up at night.

The Nitty Gritty

I am discovering in the midst of everyone else’s inter connectivity what an island I live on.

If anyone has any suggestions on how they have lived without cellphones in the past, I’d be happy to learn because I was not even working when I got my first one.

I do want to end with this though: I find it absolutely liberating.

  • I cannot call ahead so I don’t worry about it.
  • The only times I get mad are when people are in the room with me.
  • Arguments don’t last longer than they need to.
  • I can’t storm off and then type out my staircase wit (l’esprit de l’escalier).

There is a certain freedom to that. I have to tell people my stories while I’m there. I don’t get to just walk away. It makes for a lovely organization to my life of which I have grown fond.

I have to tell people I love or hate them to their faces a lot and very quickly before we part.

That is just the nicest thing.

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F is for Fickle

 

F is for Fickle, capital “F”.

Fickle is a good word. I would call most things fickle.

  • love
  • attention
  • concentration
  • resolve
  • relationships
  • work

Fickle means changeable, marked by sudden or unexpected changes in the nature or quality of a thing. That doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing.

The challenges that I set for myself this month:

  1. Camp Nanowrimo (write 50,000 words in 1 month)
  2. NaPoWriMo (write a poem every day this month)
  3. Blogging A to Z challenge (blog according to the alphabet every day)
  4. 21 day challenge (retrain your brain through meditation/exercise/gratitude)

My attention is fickle, my resolve is fickle. People have called me fickle, but I don’t know that that is a bad thing. A synonym for fickle is mercurial. We tend to dislike Mercury, the god of change, of speed and all the rest. But, why is that?

Mercury was based on Hermes, a beloved character in Greco-Roman myth. He was one of the few beings in existence that could outsmart Apollo. He was the fastest among the gods. He acted as a messenger. He was the comic relief.

In the modern pantheon Flash is Mercury. He is quick, smart, loveable, & affable. And dare I say fickle?

So fickle doesn’t have to be a bad thing, but we treat it like it is. Why is that? I think because we prefer the idea of stability. People who are consistent in their reactions are people we can trust. Yes? Well, yes and no.

We like people being consistent because that makes them predictable and to a certain extent that is healthy. Right? I mean it is outlined in basic psychology:

Secure attachments vs. avoidant/ambivalent attachment. Secure attachments are developed when people are consistent with how they show love to their children. Ambivalent attachments are developed when parents are inconsistent. If you are greeted with either love or hate when you show love, you aren’t going to show that love very often are you? So inconsistency can be really unhealthy.

However, in this time of political polarization, we are approaching a society of tribes. People are choosing movements over ideas. With a remarkable certainty if you know someone’s stance on one thing, you will know their stance on a number of other things. Case in point, here are some hotly contested topics in politics:

  1. gun control
  2. birth control
  3. immigration
  4. health care
  5. education

Now, none of these are interconnected. You can safely reason that guns have very little to do with babies. You can have completely divorced reasoning about both. Yet, with almost absolute certainty (some studies have shown) if you know someone’s stance on one of these topics, then you know their stance on all of them.

Without knowing anything else about me, if I say:

I support the constitution with regards to the second amendment.

What can you glean from that? What does that tell you about me? Everything you need to know? I hope not.

Because I do support the original framing of the second amendment, which states:

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

Emphasis on the “well regulated.” Surprise! I support gun control as outlined in our constitution. You can be a supporter of the constitution and believe that some people deserve to have their guns taken away. Who knew? I knew.

Because I’m fickle. Because I’ve supported both sides over the years and I have finally settled on this idea that I don’t need to belong to a tribe or a group. I can make up my own damn mind all of the time.

B is for Bullshit

B is for Bullshit. Capital Buh-

I wrote a not so good stream of consciousness post not very long ago about this very issue when it comes to the theatre and, in particular, reviews:

Critical Response (Why Everyone Hates Reviews…Fuck ’em)

I thought I said everything in that blog post. But, it just keeps coming up. So let me address something that has been on my mind for a while now: Bullshit.

Bullshit:

usually vulgar

  1. :nonsense; especially:  foolish insolent talk

I’m tired of bullshit in the theatre. Endstop.

What do I mean by bullshit? Let’s do a run down of some of the theatre reviews. Let’s do Detroit (c. 2017)

Detroit:

  1. Slipstream brings zany French farce to Detroit-centric ‘Nain Rouge’
  2. MOT’s ‘Girl of the Golden West’ is gold indeed
  3. Purple Rose tackles marital truths in ‘Vino Veritas’
  4. ‘1984’ feels very 2017 at The Williamston Theatre
  5. Outvisible shines with Mamet’s ‘Oleanna’
  6. World Premiere: ‘Clutter’ at Theatre Nova exposes the pain of no do-overs in marriage
  7. ‘Disgraced’ at The Jet is rough, real and revelatory
  8. UDM’s ‘Avenue Q’ a sharp-edged hoot at The Boll Theatre
  9. Premiere: ‘Capital’ good time at Detroit Rep
  10. Riverbank’s ‘Shrek’ a fairy good time

These are the top 10 newest reviews for Encore Michigan, the region’s only review website.

Full disclosure, I know a lot of these people. I even like a lot of these people, but if the last 10 shows were all unequivocal successes, I’ll eat my shoe.

Nain:

For optimum enjoyment of Nain Rouge, it may be best to surrender one’s sense of disbelief and any strict reliance on plotlines. Farces are meant to be enjoyed, not understood.

Golden West: “gold indeed” it’s in the title, mate.

Vino:

Unfortunately, the staging of this significant reveal feels clunky. Lauren re-enters but stops short, as if to eavesdrop, despite being in Ridley’s and Claire’s line of vision. In this way, logistic questions – like, if the wine makes you tell the truth, wouldn’t Lauren’s presence not affect Phil’s words? – threatened to distract attention from one of the play’s defining moments.

Would you look at that! I’m just about ready to eat my shoes.

But the play sticks the landing, with as satisfying an ending as you could hope for.

…Never mind

1984:

Director Tony Caselli deserves credit for these key shifts in his actors that give this production an intensity and intelligent interpretation. He paints a chilling picture from the very beginning and uses the staging and pacing to communicate the fear that is ever-present in this world. He knows when to build things up to a point of suspense and when to provide the audience with some relief, though don’t expect many laughs during this presentation.

Mamet:

The play flies by in one act at just over an hour. Get to the theatre a few minutes early and you can hit the Dairy Queen just the other side of the parking lot.

Clutter:

The writing here is razor sharp and the acting is more than up to doing it justice.

Disgraced:

The script and this production are is brilliant, taut and razor sharp. The 90 minutes flies by.

Avenue Q:

The cast is truly strong across the board, there is no weak link in either acting or singing.

Good Time:

The Rep’s compact stage doesn’t lend itself to run-around comedy but the cast manages pretty well and some moments are especially choice:

Shrek: Come on! This is Shrek!

There were a few musical moments when the mic balance was not ideal, and there were a couple scene changes that could have been a bit smoother, but that is not what audiences will remember. They may not even leave the theatre raving about the music, which felt incidental to the story in many places. They will, however, be talking about how thoroughly funny this show was, how many times they laughed aloud, how the little details brought the characters to life. There is no better way than humor to teach a wise lesson: don’t ever judge a person on outward appearance.

Fucking SHREK?! Really??

What about New York?

New York:

Aladdin

If a genie had sprung from my teakettle last week and offered to grant me three wishes, I might impulsively have asked to be spared any more children’s musicals. Since a certain blockbuster feline arrived well over a decade ago, Broadway has been lapped by wave after wave of big, often gloppy songfests adapted from animated movies, mostly from the mother ship, Disney.

So the prospect of “Aladdin,” promising another weary night in the presence of a spunky youngster and wisecracking animals, didn’t exactly set my heart racing. But this latest musical adapted from one of Disney’s popular movies, which opened on Thursday night at the New Amsterdam Theater, defied my dour expectations.

The Broadway version of “Aladdin” sticks to the movie’s formula, but also infuses the conventions of the genre with a breezy insouciance that scrubs away some of the material’s bland gloss.

We can’t even speak ill of the Disney babies?!

Amelie

This mild-mannered musical adaptation of the famously divisive 2001 French film is unlikely to inspire similarly passionate responses.

I was like! Yes! Finally! Some serious critical reviews here.

Instead I get:

it is pleasant to look at, easy to listen to and oddly recessive. It neither offends nor enthralls.

WHAT IS THAT?

Now, this is not a call to “bash”. I don’t want people to be torn apart in reviews, far from it. But, vigorous, spirited conversation is what I hope the people want to read and what we want to engage in. If I read “pleasant to look at, easy to listen, and oddly recessive,” I wouldn’t know where to begin.

Let me recommend the reviews for Clutter, Vino, and 1984 in particular. They are quite good reviews. And, to be honest, the New York Times does do good reviews, they can afford to go into much more detail and I know much less about the theatre scene in their area than I do in mine.

Let me recommend Nain Rouge @ Slipstream, Oleanna @ Outvisible, 1984 @ Williamston, & Clutter, oh and Good Times. Those are strong companies with solid work.

My point is this: not everyone is going to produce gold every time. Not if what they are aiming at is art. If we can’t speak truthfully about a theatrical event without letting bullshit get in the way.

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe Shrek really was a great musical as it is billed to be and as the reviewer seems to think. Who knows? But, if in the damn review it says: 

They may not even leave the theatre raving about the music, which felt incidental to the story in many places.

Then, it wasn’t a very good musical was it?!

Simply say that! I enjoyed it, it was fun because it was funny, not a good musical. Here are some specifics.

People’s trust in main stream media, news sources, and enthusiast press are steadily declining. I don’t think that journalism is any worse than it was. However, I do feel like we dance around the issues at hand when it comes to our enthusiast press simply because we are afraid of something.

Normally I’ve got hope for the end of my blog posts, but today I’m just tuckered. So I’ll leave you with this:

Let’s do better.

 

What is necessary for writing? p.II

The Middle Bit

Okay, for a little bit more…

Q: What is necessary for writing?

A: This much…

-me 2016

So what is absolutely necessary for writing? For art?

For me and my artistry it lies in the middle bit. The beginning and the ending are the hard parts. That is what separates the good from the bad from the ugly. Middles are, relatively speaking easy.

They are not easy. 

But, relatively? Compared to beginnings and endings, middles are easier. All you have to do is right two words: “This much…”

Or maybe less? Maybe all that is necessary is one word: “This…”

Maybe less? A letter? “T…”

Less? “…”

The point is…all you need to write is just to write. That is the secret of the Middle Bit. Writing anything, and let me say this ANYTHING means you are that much closer to a finished product. Think about that.

My saving grace has been and always will be Nanowrimo.

Nanowrimo

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For those who do not know: Nanowrimo is National Novel Writing Month. It is a celebration of the novel inside each of us.

The goal or how to “win” Nanowrimo is by writing a novel in a month. They break it down:

  • 1 month
  • 30 days
  • 50,000 word goal
  • At least 1,666.6 (repeating) words per day

That is a lot of content for those who do not know. But, it is about 2-5 pages depending on spacing and font. Anyone can write two to five pages a day! But, the truth is so much more simple than that.

The truth is the time limit does not really matter. The novel already exists inside of the writer.

50,000 words and the novel is outside of you. Sure, it might be a crummy novel, but that is what editors are for!

So if, after the first day you hit word count: 48,334 words to go.

After five days and you hit word count every day: 40,000 words to go.

After fifteen days: 25,000 words to go.

By the end of the month you have a novel(ette): 50,000 words.

But, even if you are the worst person at Nanowrimo, even if you are just a writer on weekends and you only write two words a day: “This much…” you are still chipping away at that block: 49,998…96…94…92…90…

Don’t believe me? Try it. Write “This much…” right now. Write it in whatever medium feels good: Word, Google Machine, Paper, Stone, Ageless Monolith from the Time Before…whatever blows your skirt up.

Write it out and see if you don’t feel better. If you do, then great, let it lie and call it a good day. You don’t? What would you prefer to write? Did you remember that scene that you have been putting off writing for a script, for a book, for a poem? You want to write it don’t you? You’re itching to write it…I may have to go away for a second…

Okay, I’m back!

The point: Middles beget Middles.

You do not need to get too far into your work to realize where you would rather be and what you would rather be doing. Listen to those voices. Listen to those impulses.

Ideas stack and take up space. By writing them out you get space enough for new ideas. Otherwise they will just keep itching. Write the blog post, sketch the sit-com, write a podcast, & WRITE A NOVEL.

No “or’s”, just writing. Middle bit after middle bit until the work is done. Until you hit your 500/1,600/5,000/10,000 word count. You build and you grow as an artist. Don’t tackle more than you are ready to take on in a single night. Don’t tell yourself you are going to bang out a novel in a weekend. That is probably artistic suicide (unless that sounds really cool to you in which case, why are you listening to some guy on the internet?…go…Go…WRITE THE DAMN THING).

The point is, start small. Start tangible and start with just two words:

“This much…”