Best friends: A very small note for Andrew Ridgeley and Mark Hamill.

My mom died when I was fourteen.  Remember that for later.

When I was 17, I knew a guy at my Roman-Catholic high school named Jason. He was tall, nice-looking, and the prototypical life of the party. He died of a massive heart attack when we were in grade 12. He’d had a congenital heart defect which he and his family knew about — but very few people at school did. Our school held a memorial service for him, and I happened to sit near the front. I clearly saw Jason’s closest friend, and later wrote in my journal “Please help him God, he looks like I did three years ago.”

He was sitting in the pews beside the altar. With the family.

My first thought when George Michael died was for Andrew Ridgeley.  Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go was released in 1984. I was 9 years old, in grade 4. I loved George, obviously, but it was Andrew I had a crush on – he looked more attainable to me (for a superstar adult who lived in Britain). He looked nice. It always bothered me a bit whenever I heard a joke about him years later (“the other one from Wham!”), because I had felt overlooked all the time too. But think about this: they’d known each other since they were 17 years old. He was likely the first person George ever told he was gay…in the early 80s.  Yes, George Michael was the utterly talented, charismatic sex symbol. Yet I think it’s now very clear, there would have been no George Michael without Andrew.

And in the same week…Carrie Fisher. Whom I adored so much in When Harry Met Sally, but who had to forever after be Princess Leia. Princess. A princess who can lead an army, shoot a laser, fix a spaceship… oh that’s not normal? Oh well, that’s what 10-year-old me thought a princess was.  Sorry Disney.  Another reason I looked up to her: she was so pretty, yet not unachievably beautiful, like the supermodels my sisters and friends and I were inundated with in the 80s and 90s. , Carrie Fisher I could actually look like! (I didn’t remotely resemble her, but I felt I could.)

Amongst the explosions, taun-tauns, Ewoks, and VADER, my favourite scene in all the  Star Wars movies is Luke asking Leia about her mother. Yes, I loved, loved, loved Han and Leia, but I identified with Luke and Leia. They were destined to be best friends. And I always felt that same twinge about Mark Hamill whenever I heard a joke about him.  Whatever else happened (or didn’t) after, he was Luke Skywalker.  And there would have been no Princess Leia, no Carrie, without Mark.

Hug your closest friends. Be the best friend who becomes family.

 

WHO has the nuclear codes?!

I’m scared.

I’m still in China, here until February. I had yesterday off work, and I didn’t sleep the night of 8 November (here, because I live in the future). I was anxious about the election in a country I’m not a citizen of, on the opposite side of the world. I sat up at 7 am yesterday, turned on my VPN (because I’m in China), and the shaky live-feed of CBC news because I wanted — hoped — to watch the first woman ever be elected President of the United States.

I don’t want to talk about the reasons the other candidate got in instead — I follow Joyce Carol Oates on Twitter, and she has NEVER referred to him by name on her feed, and neither will I. I can’t dwell on how a woman who has spent all her life in public service lost to someone like…that. And since I’m not American, I don’t live there, and even if I did, I’m white, I’m not even immediately affected, personally, by what’s happened.

Canada is utterly dependent upon the US economically, and our language and cultures make it a permanent fact that I’ll be mistaken for American outside the US. So, there are meta, existential, personal-vanity issues I have with the election’s results.

These are my genuine worries. Half of the popular vote in the election put that man in office, and:

  1. one of my former co-workers here in China, and my closest friend here, returned home — to the US — in the spring. She’s black. Just typing that has made me stop breathing for a second.
  2. my sister, brother-in-law, and their daughter live in the US. Daughter. My niece. Little girl. In the United States.
  3. Being a theatre person, I have met or social-media-communicated with other American theatre people. Some of whom are gay. Some of whom are women. ALL of whom are theatre people, in America, now.
  4. Half of the popular vote in the election — voters, people — have just told all these people they don’t matter.
  5. That half of voters genuinely believe that all the non-white people are going to made miserable — why they’d want that, that…I can’t fathom — but all THEIR wishes are going to come true. Everyone is going to be miserable. Half of the US wants misery, and that boggles me.
  6. I’m a woman. Canada has its issues with pay equity, misogyny, and…sexual assault. That the US has just told the world they think this is all okay, is NOT OKAY.

I’m scared for the people I personally know in the US. I’m scared about how the US will affect Canada. I’m scared because I’m not even in Canada right now, and I more feel alone and vulnerable than I ever have in my life.

And as for the nuclear codes. What is there to say about that except:

Kabuki Theatre and Oiwa #theatre

I am a theatre junkie. Kabuki is at least as old as Shakespeare.  It’s one of THE drama traditions I heard about as soon as I decided theatre was my life. Going to a kabuki play was on my must-do list while I was in Tokyo, but it was also felt, for me, like going to a cathedral and I hadn’t been to confession.

The Kabuki-za Theatre in Ginzu, Tokyo, the largest in Japan.

The Kabuki-za Theatre in Ginzu, Tokyo, the largest in Japan.

Billboard for the show outside the theatre. Of course no photos were allowed during the show.

Billboard for the show outside the theatre. Of course no photos were allowed during the show.

It was utterly amazing. It was actually four short pieces I saw, which — with intervals when you could get full meals and beer to have at your seat! — was three and half hours long. The style of acting and the men playing women (I’ll need to post about that separately—because) took some getting used to, because it’s so utterly different from any show I’ve ever seen before, and that’s part of the reason it was enthralling.

One of MANY screens hiding the stage over the performance.

One of MANY screens hiding the stage over the performance.

Everything I felt seeing my first kabuki was wrapped up in what I’d felt earlier that day while trying to track down Oiwa…the main character in one of Japan’s creepiest ghost stories, most famous kabuki plays (I didn’t see that one, sadly), and many of the country’s successful horror films.

There are a few different versions of Oiwa’s story: here’s one of the shortest, yet best and scariest. Horror and/or Japanese film fans will recognise her likeness from the Ringu series.

I have presumed to put her into one of my stories…the short film I started work on in France over the summer, and the related feature-length screenplay I just drafted. They both concern domestic violence, culture clashes, racism, sexism, revenge, and guilt.

Theatre people are, put mildly, superstitious. We call it “The Scottish Play” or “McBoo”. We leave a “ghost light” on in the middle of the stage when the theatre is otherwise empty and dark. And in Japan, whenever an actor onstage, or an actress on film, takes the role of Oiwa, they go to her shrine in Tokyo and ask Oiwa’s permission to play her.

And that’s what I did too.

The shrine in Yotsuya, Tokyo.

The shrine in Yotsuya, Tokyo.

The trope of the Maiden Ghost, based on Oiwa, has appeared in so many incarnations now that she’s thrown the first pitch in a baseball game. Which sounds silly, but I find it actually shows that Japan takes her as seriously as kabuki; she is embedded in Japanese culture — everyone knows her, and everyone, in a strange way, loves her. She embodies something genuinely wrong — vengeance — but it’s something everyone understands and has, at some point, wanted against someone else. I’m frightened by and enthralled by her.

I hope it’s not cultural appropriation — Gore Verbinski’s remade Ringu, quite well, I thought. Yes, I went to visit Tokyo to see the city, yes I met up with an old friend who’s been in Japan 14 years. However…I also went to Tokyo specifically to visit Oiwa’s shrine and ask “is this okay?” I hope it is.

A closer look at one grave.

A closer look at one grave.

Cemetery behind the shrine.

Cemetery behind the shrine.

Photos of #Japan : #Asakusa , #Tokyo

Asakusa is the neighbourhood where I stayed, still very much Tokyo, but quiet and hip. It’s where I had the best burger, doughnut, and sushi of my life (so far).

Photos of #Japan : The East #Imperial Gardens, #Tokyo

The East Gardens of the Imperial Palace of Japan…distinct from THE Imperial Gardens because those are immediately around the current Palace, and are off-limits.  And what you do get to see is utterly magnificent, and huge — I was there nearly three hours and didn’t see everything.

Photos from #Japan : #Kategawa Castle and Shrine

My first full day in Japan, I visited a university friend who’s been teaching English since 2002. He lives in Shizuoka Prefecture, and we met up in Kategawa, 90 minutes south of Tokyo by train.

This is what Japan’s “countryside” looks like, and this area grows mostly buckwheat. However, industry is never far away – my friend teaches Yamaha employees at the local plant.

Photos from #Japan : #Tokyo

There are only two substantial holiday periods in China – the reason they’re called “Golden Weeks” – and one was this past week, so I went to Japan! I was there four days; I saw some of Tokyo, and an old friend in Shizuoka prefecture, an hour and a half from Tokyo by train.

Several days of photos coming – here first are the random things I saw and loved in Tokyo itself.