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Wednesday, 2 October 2019

500 Scientists UN Letter: A Response

NB: Long post.

Recently, I've seen a few people posting about a recent letter, apparently sent from 500 scientists to the UN on the same day that Greta Thunberg made her speech to the UN Climate Action Summit in New York, with the letter saying that there was "no climate emergency". This raised alarm bells for me, so I did some searching. I quickly found that a grand number of sites were reporting on this, and going, "Oh goodness, isn't it amazing! People are ignoring real science! Look at this!" ....which is basically a good clue to dig a little deeper. There is an actual letter that was sent, it is real (as far as I can tell). I'll include a copy of the text below, in fact (which seems to be identical on all sites I've seen thus far).

Your Excellencies, 
There is no climate emergency. 
A global network of more than 500 knowledgeable and experienced scientists and professionals in climate and related fields have the honor to address to Your Excellencies the attached European Climate Declaration, for which the signatories to this letter are the national ambassadors. 
The general-circulation models of climate on which international policy is at present founded are unfit for their purpose. Therefore, it is cruel as well as imprudent to advocate the squandering of trillions on the basis of results from such immature models. Current climate policies pointlessly, grievously undermine the economic system, putting lives at risk in countries denied access to affordable, continuous electrical power.
We urge you to follow a climate policy based on sound science, realistic economics and genuine concern for those harmed by costly but unnecessary attempts at mitigation.
We ask you to place the Declaration on the agenda of your imminent New York session.
We also invite you to organize with us a constructive high-level meeting between world-class scientists on both sides of the climate debate early in 2020. The meeting will give effect to the sound and ancient principle no less of sound science than of natural justice that both sides should be fully and fairly heard. Audiatur et altera pars! (listen to the other side)
Please let us know your thoughts about such a joint meeting. 
There is no climate emergency
A global network of 500 scientists and professionals has prepared this urgent message. Climate science should be less political, while climate polities should be more scientific. Scientists should openly address the uncertainties and exaggerations in their predictions of global warming, while politicians should dispassionately count the real benefits as well as the imagined costs of adaptation to global warming, and the real costs as well as the imagined benefits of mitigation. 
Natural as well as anthropogenic factors cause warming
The geological archive reveals that Earth’s climate has varied as long as the planet has existed, with natural cold and warm phases. The Little Ice Age ended as recently as 1850. Therefore, it is no surprise that we now are experiencing a period of warming. Only very few peer-reviewed papers even go so far as to say that recent warming is chiefly anthropogenic. 
Warming is far slower than predicted
The world has warmed at less than half the originally-predicted rate, and at less than half the rate to be expected on the basis of net anthropogenic forcing and radiative imbalance. It tells us that we are far from understanding climate change. 
Climate policy relies on inadequate models
Climate models have many shortcomings and are not remotely plausible as policy tools. Moreover, they most likely exaggerate the effect of greenhouse gases such as CO2. In addition, they ignore the fact that enriching the atmosphere with CO2 is beneficial. 
CO2 is plant food, the basis of all life on Earth
CO2 is not a pollutant. It is essential to all life on Earth. Photosynthesis is a blessing. More CO2 is beneficial for nature, greening the Earth: additional CO2 in the air has promoted growth in global plant biomass. It is also good for agriculture, increasing the yields of crop worldwide. 
Global warming has not increased natural disasters
There is no statistical evidence that global warming is intensifying hurricanes, floods, droughts and suchlike natural disasters, or making them more frequent. However, CO2-mitigation measures are as damaging as they are costly. For instance, wind turbines kill birds and bats, and palm-oil plantations destroy the biodiversity of the rainforests. 
Policy must respect scientific and economic realities
There is no climate emergency. Therefore, there is no cause for panic and alarm. We strongly oppose the harmful and unrealistic net-zero CO2 policy proposed for 2050. If better approaches emerge, we will have ample time to reflect and adapt. The aim of international policy should be to provide reliable and affordable energy at all times, and throughout the world. 
Our advice to political leaders is that science should strive for a significantly better understanding of the climate system, while politics should focus on minimizing potential climate damage by prioritizing adaptation strategies based on proven and affordable technologies. 
The undersigned ECD Ambassadors
Professor Guus Berkhout, The Netherlands
Professor Reynald Du Berger French, Canada
Terry Dunleavy, New Zealand
Viv Forbes, Australia
Professor Jeffrey Foss English, Canada
Morten Jødal, Norway
Rob Lemeire, Belgium
Professor Richard Lindzen, USA
Professor Ingemar Nordin, Sweden
Jim O’Brien, Republic of Ireland
Professor Alberto Prestininzi, Italy
Associate Professor Benoît Rittaud, France
Professor Fritz Vahrenholt, Germany
The Viscount Monckton of Brenchley, United Kingdom
What was difficult to find was any response to this from the other side. I did find a post that had a look through the ambassadors list, and found a few shady characters (notably Richard Lindzen). They also found that many of them aren't really experts on the topic at all, and almost definitely have ulterior motives (i.e. being paid by the fossil fuel industry, or similar).

But that's not what I want to focus on. No, I want to focus on the points that they've made, and I want to refute them. With easily available data, that anyone can access and have a look at for themselves. (I will concede that I am relying heavily on www.skepticalscience.com, so if you consider them to be a bad source, you may think my arguments are void. However, they are very good at listing their sources, and being detailed and honest in their answers.) As a reminder, these are the basic points that they are arguing.

  • Natural as well as anthropogenic factors cause warming
  • Warming is far slower than predicted
  • Climate policy relies on inadequate models
  • CO2 is plant food, the basis of all life on Earth
  • Global warming has not increased natural disasters
  • Policy must respect scientific and economic realities
  • There is no climate emergency
Hopefully, by the end of this post, I will have shown somewhat conclusively that these are each incorrect on some level.

Natural as well as anthropogenic factors cause warming
This is an old argument from climate skeptics. It goes something along the lines of, "the Earth's temperature has fluctuated for millennia, this warming that we're experiencing is just part of that fluctuation". 
The first part of that sentence is true. The Earth's temperature has variated quite a bit in the past, and yes, we have had Ice Ages before. What's significant about now, and why scientists are saying this is different, is the speed and amount of that change. It's getting warmer faster, and at greater levels, than anything we have records for. Here's a handy infographic that gives you an idea, with sources.
So, while the Earth does naturally change in temperature, it doesn't naturally do it as much as it is now. And the amount it is doing now is alarming.

Warming is far slower than predicted
This is a classic of Lindzen himself, actually. You can see the long version here of why this statement is incorrect; essentially, though, claiming that warming is slower than predicted is ignoring a number of factors. When those factors are taken into account, then the warming matches the predictions quite well.

Climate policy relies on inadequate models
The argument here is saying that we shouldn't base our economic plans on climate models that are uncertain or unreliable. We need concrete, definitive data to act on.
Again, read the fuller rebuttal here. But it's good to remember that we're talking about the future. It is, by definition, uncertain and unknown. Considering that, the climate models that we have and have been working with have been pretty darn good so far at predicting what's happening, with a high degree of certainty. The point about CO2, we will tackle momentarily.

CO2 is a plant food, the basis of all life on earth
Everybody knows that plants use CO2 to survive. This is actually why one of the big pushes you might be seeing at the moment from climate warriors is planting trees (which we should do more of!) - and so this is a clever argument, because it uses a nugget of truth.
However, while plants love CO2, it's clearly quite toxic to humans, and most other animal species, if it gets to higher concentrations. Higher amounts of CO2 are also increasing the warming effect, as detailed further here again. If we want to decrease our warming, we need to decrease our CO2 emissions, and increase our numbers of trees to take the CO2 out of the atmosphere that we've already put there.

Global warming has not increased natural disasters
This one is almost observably false. There certainly has been an increase in both the number and intensity of natural disasters, as you can read about fairly quickly here (with a nice graph). A telling sign in Australia - where I live - is that each year, the "fire season" gets longer. We have a history of bushfires in Australia, and the "fire season" (usually just over summer) is when you get most of them. Each year, that season has been getting longer, and stretching through more of the year, leading the CEO of the Bushfire and Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Centre to say that there's now a danger year-round.
So the only way to say that global warming hasn't increased natural disasters, is to say that these are caused by something else. But that seems very unlikely. As this page goes into detail on, more and more indications are pointing to the likelihood that these are the result of climate change, or that climate change will result in effects like those we are seeing.

Policy must respect scientific and economic realities
This is basically putting the focus back on money. It's saying, "we have no reason to panic - and if we do this now, we're pouring money down the drain." This is where I will come back briefly to the note I made before this, that several of these scientists may be being backed by fossil fuel companies. And indeed, if we go down this path, they are going to lose money. Big money. They're the ones that stand to lose the most, and have known as much for a long time, and have been intentionally fighting against efforts to reduce climate change.
To answer the point more directly, though - it really comes down to whether you think this is an emergency, or just a serious issue, or not an issue at all. If it's the former, then any economic loss in the short-term is mitigated by the prevention of catastrophic loss that would have happened. If it's the middle, then there's good evidence to say that climate change policies, such as putting limits on carbon emissions, only have a very minor impact on the economy, and an overall positive impact. And if you think that there's no issue, by now - then there's not much I can do to convince you, and you'll think that any spending of money on this is a waste.

There is no climate emergency
Many would disagree. Many would say, in fact, that we've already passed dangerous points, where there will be irreversible damage to the ecosystem. Depending on who you listen to, we may have no time at all, or a very short amount of time.
And when people hear that, it can be shocking. People don't want to hear that things are going to change, and get worse. People want to hear that it's all going to be normal, and they'll fight to preserve that normal. They'll fight to ignore or dismiss anything that might disrupt that normal. And that's what we see happening. We see people denying that anything is wrong, fighting to keep their 9-to-5 normality, fighting to keep economic stability, and shutting their ears to the doomsayers.
It's a psychological phenomenon that's well-documented, and it's called normalcy bias. It's kinda when you get the "freeze" response instead of the "fight" or "flight" ones, but it's not just an in-the-moment thing. It's also a mental attitude, and an issue with brain psychology. As in, it's normal for us to have! 
How do we break out of it? Generally, by someone else pulling us out. From someone else pointing out to us what's happening, the dangers, the situation that is around us. The truck that's rushing towards you, the plane that you're in having crashed, or the cyclone on the horizon. The problem is, climate change is much less visible, for the most part. People can't see it, and so they can feel like it's not real, or not important, or not urgent. It will be fine.

But unless we take some very real and serious action right now, no, it won't be.


Thanks for those that have read all of this and stuck with it for the long haul. Please be somewhat civil in the comments, if you decide to leave some. If you're looking for what to do next - check out Extinction Rebellion on Facebook. They typically have pages local to your country and/or state as well. They're generally pretty good at keeping on top of what's happening, and keeping people informed about developments, as well as encouraging and facilitating action (particularly in the face of very inactive governments).

Wednesday, 28 August 2019

On Not Achieving.

The title of this blog and header text are feeling less and less appropriate moving forward. In the event that I do change them, they currently read "Kainos Zoe" and 'The musings and thoughts of a man living a new life. "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, they are a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come." Welcome to the new.' Plus a background with birds. Yay.

As many of you know by now, I haven't been doing well for a while. If we're going on a 1 to 10 scale - I used to average around an 8, with my lowest being maybe a 4 (which I wasn't often near), and going up to 10 a fair bit. These days, my average is a 4-5, highest might be a 6 or 7, and I can go down to a 1 or a 2 at times. I'm at about there at the moment.

Depression kinda sucks. I'm seeing a psychologist once a fortnight now, but we've only had a couple of sessions so far. They've been helpful, but it's early days yet. And unfortunately, when I'm in a low spot, I tend to head towards behaviours that only continue the trend; moving away from people, retreating further inside, etc. I don't have the energy to do things. But hey, I'm writing this, so that's something.....right?

It's annoying flipping between states of "there's so much I have the potential to do, but I don't have the opportunity to use it anywhere" to "I can't even do the tiny things that I still have responsibility for". Neither is good. I'm still looking for work, but still also doubting my ability to be able to actually do any work, in my current mental/emotional state.

There's a neat little tool that my psychologist taught me about in our last session, the ACE circle. I'm attempting to make it a daily thing, but I've stalled a little. It stands for Achievement, Connectedness, and Enjoyment. Basically, the idea is that you need all three as a regular part of your life to be doing well. I'm fairly good at the Enjoyment portion most of the time. Connectedness - I have that with Thalia, and now a bit more with family (I'm living with my mum again, because no money), but not much with anyone else. Achievement is a big ol' zero most of the time. Depression is very good at making you feel like you really can't do anything. So I'm trying to do little, manageable things to tick off that portion of my life, if that makes sense.

And I've mostly been doing okay at that. But it still feels a bit shit when you feel like the least productive person you know; not even able to do this, not even able to do that....
While I know that a lot of that is not actually true in one sense, my brain tends to diminish in importance in these things. Or in its power. I mean, all of it's in the brain, I know, but yeah. Emotions seem to be ruling the roost at present, which isn't great.

I don't know if this had a point. It probably didn't. But hey. I'm writing. That's something.
I'm getting through each day, but it's hard. There are a lot of times when it feels like it's not worth the effort. I get a bit emotionally numb to the rest of the world when I'm like this. It's not good.
Anyway. That's where I'm at.

Thursday, 8 August 2019

Stark Clarity and Murky Obscurity

Over the past few weeks, I've suddenly been getting some real clarity from God in terms of my purpose, and what I'm here for, and what he's calling me to do. In some senses, though, it's been more of a reminder than anything else. These aren't things that are new to me; just things that he's bringing back to the forefront, and prompting me on their importance and significance.

They are that I am a messenger; given words to speak by God, understanding from God of his word (the Bible), and that I am to communicate and share this with others. That I am made to speak these words to many, not to keep them to myself. These words have been given to me in many forms - in songs, in poems, in sermons, in other writing. And these were made to be shared.

As I said before, in some sense, I already knew these. But reframing these as central to my life, my purpose - has put a fresh perspective on things. It's caused me to rethink the various things that I'm doing, where and how I spend my time, and how I use my gifts. It's also helped me to recognise some of the gifts I've been given that I really haven't been using; particularly the gift I have to understand the Bible and to be able to communicate that to people. (I'm not sure if that comes under the spiritual gift of knowledge, wisdom, or teaching - perhaps someone with more knowledge in this area could speak to that. Or perhaps it's an overlap of two or all of them.) And I want to focus more on these.

But at the same time, this is very much a big picture view. This is an overall perspective, the broad idea, and it gives me very little clue on what to actually do here and now. It raises more questions than it answers. Questions like, what does that look like? How do I do that practically? How will I be able to do that and survive financially? How does that work with what my fiancée has been called to do? Is he calling me to put all of my time and energy into doing this in a big way, or more to let this approach permeate everything that I'm doing? How do I do this while I need to plan for supporting me and Thalia as a family?

...I don't know. And that's the difficult thing. I've gotten a clear view from the mountaintop, but right now, I'm down amongst the forest, and I can't really see the way forward. At times, it can feel very claustrophobic, and constricting. Now and then, I'll think I see a path to follow, but it ends up going nowhere, or bringing me back to the start.

Perhaps the answer is spending more time with God, and asking him to reveal a path to me. But if experience has taught me anything, it's that he has never made my path clear. He's only ever given me one step at a time, and sometimes not even that much. Most of the time, he's left it up to me to decide for myself. Which can be very scary. Perhaps the answer is going all in on trying to get these words heard. But how do I do that? The songs are all written; the book is mostly done; but I have no real following, or audience, to be able to share those messages or words to. I'm mostly speaking into an echo chamber - which isn't what he's wanting. I never did put all my eggs into one basket, to build up a following for my music early on, or anything like that. Yet he's still asking me to share these words, and so I can't have gone down the wrong path; or, at least, he feels like he can still use me where I am. I just don't know what that looks like.

Sometimes, I wish God would give me clearer instructions. But that just doesn't seem to be how he works - or at least, not with me. And that can be hard.
But I'm also grateful for what he has revealed to me. It's something that I can cling to, something I can remind myself of, and something to keep in mind as I try to move forward in life, and figure out a direction. But really, I'm still just making it up as I go.

Thursday, 25 July 2019

Whirled

This is a poem that I wrote about a week back, and then performed two nights ago at the Narellan Poetry Slam in Harry Hartog - and I came second! :D So I said I'd put it up. Here you go.

This world is a tortured place.
Tortured by us; and it’s hard to count the ways
In which we’ve managed to make it worse
Than it was - we’ve become this planet’s curse.
Whether it be plastic in the oceans, or smoke in the air,
Or things just dying - we seem to not care
About what’s happening around us, we shut our eyes
To the evidence that’s so clear, we believe the lies
That say it will sort itself out. We don’t need to worry.
The earth takes care of itself. Well I’m sorry,
But that might be true if we weren’t so good
At beating it within an inch of its life! You would
Think that we’d have more sense than to kill
The very thing that sustained us, but history will
Testify that this is clearly not the case.
There’s no greedier species than the human race.
And race it is, because we just can’t stop,
We have to go faster, we have to get to the top,
No matter the cost, no matter the pain,
It’s always about the little we can gain,
And we don’t really care what we do to get there.
But, if we can pause for just a moment, can you please tell me where
Do we go from here? What’s the plan?
Do we just use up what we have, and
Hike it off to the moon, or Mars, and use up those too?
Are we that parasitic? Is that really true?
Or is it possible for us to turn around
And heal this world? Heal this ground
That has grown us, and shaped us, and made
Us who we are. The hand that we’ve played
Are not the only cards we’ve been dealt.
We just think they’re never good enough, we’ve felt
That we’re worth more, and so we keep pushing for more power,
More strength, more of everything in this hour.
And the thing is, we are worth more.
But more doesn’t mean burning the floor
Just to get an inch ahead of the rest -
It’s about working with this planet that we’ve been blessed
With, not against it. Because as much as we think
That we are stronger than Nature, in a blink
We could disappear if we keep going this way.
That’s how strong she is. And we try to push her away.
But together, think of what we could do -
Rather than torture, remember that it takes two.
We were given a gift, but instead we destroyed.
But if we stopped - if we employed
Even a modicum of the brains that we’ve been given,
And did something good. Maybe then, we’d be living

Well. 

Tuesday, 9 July 2019

On Directing.

Having finished the run of The Crucible now, I have an opportunity to look back on my first attempt at directing, and the various failures and failings therein. While it was a successful show that did quite well, we certainly had our hurdles.

I think a large part of the issue comes from the idea of the role of 'director', and what different people see them as.
To many, it seems that the director should be the be all and end all, the buck stops with them, they make all the calls and all the plays, and the success or failure of the show ultimately rides on their shoulders.
For those that know me, though, they'll know that this doesn't really sit with who I am, or how I work, very well at all. Rather, I like to work collaboratively. And the word that is crucial for me here is 'ownership'. (NB: not meaning owning people! Very important.)

What I've strived to do as a director - and I think what I try to do when I lead creatively in general - is give people ownership over specific things. Not everything; but specific things.

For example. For the person who is in charge of sound, or lights, or props, or costumes, or whatever it might be. I give them ownership over that. I enable them, as much as it is in my power, to make their own decisions with those things. By and large, I don't have much knowledge in these areas. Me dictating what I think they should do makes no sense. I'll give them my ideas that I have from my knowledge of the show, of course - but I'm not going to prescribe what they do.

I do a similar thing with the actors; but with them, I give them ownership over their characters. Yes, I'll have ideas about how the character should look, or feel, or say. But ultimately, they're going to have a lot more time to dive into their character than I probably will, when I need to have a working knowledge of all the characters and scenes and relationships. They'll also (hopefully) have a deeper knowledge of the specific things they do than I will. I've cast them because of their acting ability, because of how I believe they can build and portray a character, not for their capacity to replicate what I say. I don't want to be a puppetmaster. I want to be a collaborator, a facilitator.

Unfortunately, this way of thinking and working, while allowing some lovely flexibility and creativity, lacks decisiveness. It lacks clarity. It lacks (strangely enough) direction. And I think that's the difficulty that I faced, in finding these things hard to give to people, and I think that's what some of the actors and team found tricky as well at times, particularly as we got towards the pointy end of things, and bits needed to be a bit more nailed down. Thankfully, I had other people that were good at that sort of thing, and able to step in there.

I'm not sure if there's a good balance in between somewhere; or perhaps what I'm talking about is something very different to what a director is. I don't know. But I don't think I'll be doing another go at this any time in the near future. For now, I'm happy to rest.

I do want to note - considering it was my first time doing this, and seeing as it was such a big show, I think I did pretty well. And that's what I've heard from most people as well, which has been very encouraging. This is just me looking back at the things that I did and didn't do well, seeing the patterns, and being able to articulate and formulate them more clearly than I was able to in the midst of all of it.

Thursday, 4 July 2019

Slowly Dying.

They say that death comes as a surprise to most of us.
But not all of us.
Some feel her approach, slow and sweet, drawing us in, bit by bit.
We are already hers by the time she arrives.

I am a slave to my emotions, and my emotions are a slave to my circumstance.
My body might look young, but it doesn't feel young. It feels ragged, worn, and heavy. Leaden. My moves are as through treacle, or custard.
My brain sees it all happening, but can do naught about it. It slowly wears from lack of use, finding only moments of clarity.

The world feels like a dream. Or something distant, far away.
There is too much pain, too much suffering, too much injustice, too much idiocy, too much violence, that could be so easily ended - but it is not.
And the world continues to turn. And the world continues to burn.

I once had hope for this world. For this people.
But it feels as though this hope has been snatched away, obscured by the harsh realities of today.
The world is dying. In so many different ways. And we could stop it. But we won't.

Because we're too busy. Or too comfortable. Or too rich. Or too stubborn. Or too oblivious. Or too ill-informed.
Or too unable to do anything, when the weight of the world seems to be on our very shoulders, and it is slowly crushing us into the ground.

I feel like I am slowly dying. I have felt this for a long time, in different ways. But never more than now.
Never worse than now.
And I do not know how to stop.
I do not know if I have the strength, or the energy, to stop.

I do not particularly want to die. Neither do I want to hurt myself, or anyone else.
But living just keeps getting harder. And harder.
And I'm a middle-class white guy in a good house in Australia. If it's this shit for me, then damn.

This is an emergency, folks. Whether you believe it or not, our planet is in crisis. In so many ways.
If we don't do something about it now - we might not be around for that much longer.

Sunday, 30 June 2019

Not Working & Blinkers

The following was written a few weeks back, but I didn't want to post it in the middle of working on the play to demoralise the folks there, or distract from it. I haven't edited it since then, because it still represents fairly well where I'm at now, but I've added a few more comments at the end.

I'm feeling more....I don't want to use the word useless, but it's feeling a bit that way. 
I feel like I'm getting more lazy, less motivated, less sharp (in mind and body), more aloof, less good at keeping up with people and tasks, and just less able. More and more, things are piling up (both literally and figuratively - my room is more of a bomb site now than it's ever been) that haven't been done, things are getting put off, I'm actually finding it harder to get out of bed in the mornings (I'm a morning person, so it's usually pretty easy for me - but then, winter, so there's that), I'm having fairly frequent periods where I feel like I can't do anything, and none of it feels like it's getting better. 
Yeah, that sounds employable. 
I know that a good bunch of it is depression, and that a combination of seeing a good psychologist and getting the right medication will help. I'm just not sure what that means for me right in this season, while I'm still having to just deal with it. I've always been a bit distracted at work - I'm no workaholic by any stretch of the imagination, and I've never really had a job that I've been passionate about (though plenty of great workplaces and people to work with) - but in the bits and pieces I'm doing of work at the moment, that's even more the case. 
Add to that, the whole climate change/global warming bonanza making me feel like very little work has much point, when everything could be going belly-up before we know it. That doesn't really help the depression, either. The world falling apart around you never seems to lift the mood particularly well. 
I'm not sure what the answer is. Maybe there isn't one. Maybe it's just time. There are a few things here and there that I'm still invested in. My fiancée. The play. God. Friends. People. Music. ....I don't know if there's much else. Maybe that's enough. I guess we'll see.
Perhaps one of the things that's most difficult for me, though, is the feeling of always being in crisis mode. Emergency mode. I'm having to constantly deal with my emotional and mental state - but then also somehow find work in the middle of it, which gets me crazy stressed normally, let alone now (there really should be some sort of mental health payments for people who are finding it difficult to work - I know there are some, but the hoops you have to jump through feel like you wouldn't be able to jump through them if you actually weren't able to work) - and I feel like I'm living with blinkers on. Now, don't get me wrong, even at my best I don't tend to look ahead that far; I find it absurd when people say they have ideas about things five years, ten years ahead. I'm lucky if I can think one year ahead, my life changes that much.

But at the moment - it's almost always one day at a time. Living very much in the moment, in the right now. Which some people might say is a good thing, and it's certainly a way to live, but not to the degree that you're almost completely oblivious to plans that are coming up next week that you're supposed to have prepared for! It's quite.....difficult. Annoying. It's caught me out more than a few times in the last month or two, and meant that I've had several last-minute scrambles or situations I've gotten myself into. It's not good.

I'm trying to find a psychologist, but it's difficult to find one that isn't on the other side of the city, bulk bills, and doesn't have a waiting list of several weeks. The last time I checked in with the doctor, she suggested the possibility of bipolar, since the depression meds I've tried so far haven't worked (so far, I've tried a grand total of two). Apparently they don't have any affect if you have bipolar. I don't think I am; my moods can be a little erratic at times, but that's just because life is. I find it difficult to remove myself from the events that happen around me, and so I tend to adopt the emotions that I see. But I don't think I've had the massive upswings that you see in bipolar. I was just generally more of a happy, bouncy person before. And, a lot of the time, not so much now. I still have days, or moments when I'm like that. But it feels a lot more....fleeting.

I don't know. I'm hoping I'll be able to work through this in time, whatever it is. That it's only here for a season. I'm just not sure how long that season will be. And I'm not sure what to do while I'm in it.

Monday, 24 June 2019

The Crucible Diaries: Entry Four

Our opening weekend is done. It's been quite an experience, and we've now had about 250 people who have come and seen the show. The responses, so far, have been really good. Everyone takes something a little different from it - it's quite an intense and emotional experience, and so it is quite a lot for some people, and understandably so. But many people are really connecting to what is happening on stage, and really praising the performances of our actors, and the look and feel of the show. People love the stage, and the tree! If I haven't mentioned before - I can't recall whether I did or not - we've made an entire false stage out of wood that's raked (angled), which is something quite different. It was a bit of a monster effort, but it looks amazing. There's also this one big tree in the centre at the back, that's just incredible, and has this ethereal or spectral quality to it. And yeah, those tend to draw people's attention right away.

The weekend has certainly been tiring. It's a long show - close to three hours, including interval. Which means that we finish up at about 11pm on Friday and Saturday night - plus a bit of time for talking and packing up at the end. I had a bit of a sleep-in yesterday to catch up on sleep - I'm hoping that my body will be a bit more ready for it all by the time the next weekend comes around.

Because I'm not just sitting up the back of the theatre and watching with the audience. I'm actually up in the tech box above the audience, crafting a soundscape. I've got a little MIDI keyboard (courtesy of my housemate Josh) plugged in to my laptop and Ableton Live, which is all plugged in to the sound desk, and I perform - if that's the right word - the soundscape live as the drama unfolds. It's quite an experience. I'm using a number of different sounds for different times, and building it up and down as the tension changes. There are some things that I'm doing the same each time, or similarly - like counting up in semitones with John's attempt to list the ten commandments, or having particular leitmotifs for "witchcraft" happening - but there's a bit of improvisation as well. It's a balance of trying to craft an immersive experience, but also not overwhelming what's occurring onstage. Which is delicate sometimes, and I probably get it wrong in bits and pieces. What I'm able to hear up where I am is a little different to what people hear in different seats - so hopefully I'm not obscuring the lines on stage. I haven't heard any comments to that tune insofar, which is good.

But it's been really interesting seeing how this show has developed quite differently and uniquely. We have a raked stage; a live violinist; an ambient soundscape; we never close the curtain; we reveal the lights. There are a lot of things that are making this production just a little bit different from the norm - but perhaps that shouldn't be so surprising, given that it's me! But it's been great seeing the creativity that has been shown through the course of this show, and amazing being a part of that.

Sunday, 16 June 2019

The Crucible Diaries: Entry Three

We open this Friday night.

The last couple of weeks have been crazy. When I started this project, I knew it was going to be hard, and ridiculous, and crazy, and that I was probably not going to be great at a lot of things. I didn't know that all of that was going to squish itself into the last few weeks before opening night. But, I guess, such is the way of things. It never rains, but it pours, right?

What I am very grateful for is that, though we've had many issues we've had to work through, we haven't lost a cast member. I suppose I should add a yet - there's still five days to go. Someone's bound to come down with something now.... but I've been really grateful to the cast and crew that I'm working with for their incredible patience with me as I stutter about trying to make this massive show work as a first-time director.

Thankfully, I've got a lot of help. And I've needed it! These last couple of weeks have been all hands on deck, and plenty of last-minute changes and fixes as we make sure that everything is working how it's supposed to. Is it all perfect? Nope. It can't be, and it won't be, with something this complex and with this many people involved. But it is incredible, and amazing, and powerful.

Today, I was asked what next. What show would I direct after this? And the thing is, I don't know if I would. The Crucible has been a passion project for me. It's a play that I've been passionate about for years, and fell in love with back when I encountered it in high school English about ten years ago now. I've been wanting to direct it and planning it out for about....three years I think now. There isn't another play, or musical, that I have that level of investment in. The amount of work that's required to put this on has been crazy, and I know that I haven't been doing as much as some directors do. I don't think I would have been able to get this far with this show if I didn't have this passion for the play that I do. So I don't know if there will be another play. At least, not for quite a while. I've got that musical that I've written still sitting around somewhere, if I pick it back up and try to straighten it out a bit. And there are a couple of other shows that have somewhat piqued my interest. But again - not for a while, I think. After all, I'm getting married next year! I'll be focussed elsewhere for a while.

But this, for me, has been enough for now. While I'll certainly be involved again in shows before too long - there are some crackers happening for the rest of the year, as well as next year - I won't be directing again for a good while yet. I think I'll only do it once in a blue moon; I don't have quite the right personality for it, I think. Good in some ways, but not in others.

I'm very proud and grateful to be a continuing part of this powerful show. We have nine performances, starting from this Friday, over three weekends; Friday and Saturday evenings at 8pm, and Saturday matinee at 2pm. It will be a longer show, so I'll recommend the matinee if you don't like having a later evening. It's not exactly the sort of thing you go to for a laugh and a fun night out - but if you like history, or emotion, or drama, or real stories, or characters with grit, or something a little out there - then this is for you. Don't miss it, because there hasn't been anything like this on stage for a while, and there won't be anything like it for a while yet. You can get tickets here. I hope to see you there.

Wednesday, 29 May 2019

The Crucible Diaries: Entry Two

Still not writing as much as I should. But let's give you folks a bit of an update.

Since I last checked in, we are now just over three weeks out from opening night, which is a little scary. But, more importantly, our stage has been built! It's looking pretty amazing, and you'll just have to come and see it rather than taking my word for it ;) There's still a bit left to build, but the big stuff is done.

This Sunday is our first full-day rehearsal. It's where things really start in earnest. There's still plenty left to do - like get lights happening, sounds working, music alongside it all, costumes on, props getting used, and lines down! It seems like a lot, because it is. But we have an amazing team, and an incredible cast, and I know we can do it. I'm just really excited that it's all happening, and still have to pinch myself sometimes that we're actually doing this.

I keep being reminded of how much of an analog it is to events happening today. For those that aren't familiar with much of the storyline; a group of girls are discovered dancing in the woods, and rather than say what they were actually doing, they accuse other people of bewitching them. At the time they lived in a theocracy, so religion, government, and the judicial system were all very much intertwined. And witchcraft was punishable by hanging. So the people accused could either go to the noose; or confess, and give up more names. What followed was an absolute tirade of names that was released, and a ridiculous number of people put in the jail and arrested. However, only twenty were executed before a halt was put to it.

These days - depending on which country you live in - the death penalty isn't around as much. But you certainly still have a demonisation of minorities, of the "other". Because of course, it was the slave from Barbados that was first accused; and then the women, particularly the poor or those that were considered immoral. These days, we find similar things occurring to refugees or immigrants; Muslims; women who have abortions or have been raped; the homeless; people from the Middle East; and many other groups besides. Governments have literally been elected based on an "us vs them" strategy. Anyone fancy building a wall? I hear there are spots going over in America....oh, and in Europe, now, too.

We don't quite have a Trump in power yet, but we do have offshore detention centres still keeping people out of our society that we think are "too dangerous" for some reason. They don't even get the chance to be heard by most of the country - they're just locked away, for who knows how long, like rats in a cage. Australia isn't always the "young and free" we'd like to think we are.

There are some, by the way, that would like to link this "invisible crime" of witchcraft to the similarly often invisible crime of rape, or sexual abuse, with things like the multiple scandals within the church of sexual abuse of children, or the #MeToo movement that was still fairly recent. But even though there are similarities - they could not be further apart. Rape is very real. Sexual abuse is very real. False reporting in both these instances is a tiny percentage - what is much more common is an absence of reporting. Some people would like to think that their idols and heroes really hadn't done all that, and these people are just liars trying to besmirch their names....but no. While I'm not saying that can't happen or is never the case, that's not what you should be comparing this to. In the vast majority of cases, those coming forward with stories of rape or sexual assault are extremely brave and vulnerable individuals who have been hurt in really serious and devastating ways. Don't try to cut them down again.

But there are many other parallels that you can see between The Crucible and our modern society. When you do come along (I'll say when, not if ;) ), you can decide for yourself which parallel seems most apparent to you. Or perhaps you'll just be taken in by the emotion of the story in itself. It has a lot of power. Either way, please join us in just over three weeks on stage, as we tread the (somewhat creaky) boards at Campbelltown Theatre to show the town of Salem in 1692, and what happened there. You can buy tickets here: https://www.trybooking.com/book/sessions?eid=408884&embed=true