Fast & Curious: Short Takes on Random Things

Fiddling while the world burns?

I don’t know about you, but every time I find myself doing something that does not involve contemplating the darker aspects of the Freedom Convoy or the horrible developments in Ukraine or the increasingly obvious manifestations of climate change, I feel like I’m being a frivolous person.

Mind you, it doesn’t stop me from watching hours of YouTube videos of a bossy British woman teaching people how to “declutter” their houses for faster sale — even though a) I’m not selling my house and b) I got her message the first time and it doesn’t change from video to video and c) if I spent half the time decluttering my house that I spend watching her stupid videos my problems would be solved.

It also doesn’t stop me from doing yoga and trying to learn Gaelic (I’ve picked it up again after a rather extensive hiatus and I recently learned to say, “It’s raining. I am as wet as a cormorant,” and I sincerely hope the world doesn’t end before I’ve worked that into a conversation.)


Cormorant perched on a lamp post, South Kessock, Inverness, Scotland, 2012. (Photo by Lynn Cadger from Aberdeen, UK, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

I tell myself that even were I to abandon YouTube and Gaelic and yoga and spend every spare moment I possessed watching cable news it wouldn’t make an ounce of difference to what’s happening around me and that’s true, but it sounds like a defense of apathy and ignorance and I’m not a fan of either.

I even catch myself thinking there’s something to be said for going out Pompeii-style. Not that having your city buried in a volcanic eruption sounds like fun, just that you wouldn’t have spent the preceding weeks unable to tear your eyes from the 24-hour “Vesuvius” channel. One minute, you would have been going about your business, possibly even indulging in whatever the AD 79 version of bingeing YouTube videos was; the next, good night Pompeiian nurse.

Although, maybe the people I really envy are the ones living in China in AD 79 who had no idea Vesuvius had erupted or that Pompeii had disappeared and probably died without knowing because it had no impact on them whatsoever.

Or maybe I’m just tired of knowing (some version of) what’s happening all the time, everywhere and being able to do nothing with the information.

Really, there is nothing to say but:

Bha an t-uisge ann. Tha mi cho fliuch ri sgarbh. 

And in case you’re thinking I just wrapped things up with a beautifully apt Gaelic saying, let me disabuse you: I said, “It is raining. I am as wet as a cormorant.”

Just in case.


More to lichen

Sean Howard, who will be writing about “the darkness falling on Ukraine” in next week’s edition, sent along these pictures after reading my feature on lichen.

He said:

I’m not a complete novice when it comes to identification, but I think the first lichen (26 April 2021) rejoices in the name of Lipstick Powderhorn, the second (1 July 2021) is possibly Brown Beret, and the third (13 September 2020) is a close-up of some kind of Reindeer Lichen (I think Star-Tipped).

He’s given me permission to share them, which I’m doing. He’s also made me think that a walk in the woods would be a good way to declutter — my head.



Great escapes

Editor’s Note: This next item is from Spectator contributor Don Clarke who has also found a better use for his downtime than watching YouTube videos.

If you’re like me, you read “Whirlwind Tours” in this space last week and thought the schedule seemed pretty hectic (unless you like to drink three or four energy drinks a day).

But for Spectators looking to escape the same four walls although unable to actually travel, whether due to work, or COVID restrictions or something else entirely, I have an idea: you should try the online gaming community.

There are many tabletop, video and other games to be played through a program (like Discord) that allows for direct messaging, calling, group chats and the sharing of pdfs, images, docs or memes among a group of players. Sometimes, this works in tandem with another program (like Astral TableTop) that provides a map of some kind that all the players can view (like, for example, a Monopoly board with tokens that the players can move). People can talk on the messaging program to create a group atmosphere and to take turns.

One of my interests is what are called role-playing games or RPG. Games like Dungeons & Dragons Beyond, Pathfinder RPS, Call of Cthulhu, Maze Rats and others. As  noted, I like to use Astral TableTop for maps and Discord for connectivity. But the programs lend their capability to many applications or games. People create a community to “house” many games or create a personal server for a variety of reasons, and it can allow you to create a network of “friends” from all around the world.

DnD dragon

DnD dragon. (Artwork by LadyofHats, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons)

I have found this very helpful during the last two years. The pandemic has kept me (like many of you) inside a lot, deprived of many social activities. Discord has been a great resource. The immediate connection and group chat capabilities are excellent for gaming, or for simply making connections  –  I have had conversations with people I would otherwise never have met. I can be connected in all the ways I need to be but I get to choose my level of exposure. I find many social media platforms plug me into too many things at once and allow too many people into my space. (It can be annoying when you’re working on something or focused on a game to be interrupted. It is absolutely vital in role playing — and in many games, really — to have a more private space. The coordination needed to properly organize a group of people from two countries — or how about three? — takes a bit of focus.)

I tend to find the communities on Discord much better than the more recognizable social media platforms for making friends. Friends are found through shared interests, not happenstance or friends of friends, or because you knew them in high school (even though you really don’t want to talk to them!). I find the acquaintances I make are very interesting, even when I only know a person by an avatar or a handle or perhaps a first name. And I find that people often are willing to talk in more subdued tones, free from the anxieties that can arise in real life or on Facebook when you meet new people..

It is certainly a way to escape your own walls – both the physical ones and the ones formed by the anxious thoughts and feelings that seem to close in on us when we’re isolated, as many people have been for far too long.


Donald Clarke

A “military brat,” Don Clarke finally put down roots in Dominion, Cape Breton. A graduate of CBU (Communication) and NSCC (Business Administration), he has been active in the local theatrical community for years, having performed and directed at the Boardmore Playhouse and Two Hoots Productions. He has worked in film and television, directed a Canadian Short Film and published poetry in Caper’s Aweigh, and The Caper Times, where he also served as editor.