Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Startled By Digital Loss

I like the safety that comes with everything I snap a picture of or type in a document being automatically backed up to some Cloud somewhere.  It's not like I'm taking nude pictures or writing embarrassing erotica.

I mean, just last week, my sister was one of the victims of that cyberattack in which the aggressor left her a digital ransom note that said basically "give us $1400 in Bitcoins or all your files are gone." So just like that, she lost a lot of her documents and pictures.

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The real American Horror Story.

Thankfully, if this happened to me, I don't think I would lose much because of my consistent auto-backup settings across media.

But sometimes... sometimes symbolism kicks in.

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"But you see, searching for symbolism within your reality is a sign of--"
"I spent 6 years getting 2 writing degrees.. Let me have this."

Cut to last winter...

Many of my friendships were dissolving out from under me and I was reaching boiling point. As a lyricist, I decided to channel this emotion into a lyric that I would never, ever show anybody, on account of the extremely specific and personal details I included. I wrote a simple AABA song in a Tim Hortons in, hm, 30 minutes? And then reread it and edited it for the better part of an hour or so. Writing well-crafted lyrics usually takes longer, but this came from such a raw place - and the structure of the lines felt so natural - that it just spouted out of me and became one of the best lyrics I'd ever written.

Which I would still never show to anyone.

Well, maybe Sondheim or Bobby Lopez, should they insist on setting any of my material.


And it was therapeutic. I could have deleted it - cast my worries off to sea, so to speak - but I realized that it encompassed all my emotions in one concise page, and I knew that I would want to have it onhand to calm me down later. (Just 'cause you say, "Hey look! A storm!" doesn't mean the storm is suddenly over.)

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I'm basically a meteorologist.

So I saved it in a private place on my tablet: my Documents folder. Not my OneDrive Documents, just plain ol' Documents. It wouldn't be accidentally read there. This wasn't a big concern, but still... my devices were always around my classmates, and I felt like the more places I had this Diary-Entry-With-Scansion, the more likely it was to pop up.

Meanwhile, in the land of WHYYYY...

The keyboard of my (relatively new) laptop had decided to stop working. Apparently since my computer is an ASUS, which "never breaks," getting a new keyboard would put it out of commission for a month. This is around the time I got a tablet, because I needed something to write my thesis on, and I'd been thinking about investing in a smaller portable device anyway.

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And stone tablets are so last season.

Guess what also broke.

Thankfully, Tablet Dearest held out until school ended. But then the power button got jacked up (it was punched in, but even removing it didn't help) and suddenly I couldn't turn my tablet on.

I took it back to Best Buy. After what happened with my computer, I had bought the warranty, so I was expecting an easy repair. They told me they'd have to send it out, but it was probably going to be fine. I asked if I should have backed everything up - unsure if there was even a way to do that with the tablet unable to turn on. The guy said it would probably be fine but yeah. maybe I should have. I thought about it. Didn't I always save everything to OneDrive? Yeah, except that short story I wanted to start over anyway. No problem. Taker her away, folks!

Can you see these storylines converging yet?

3 Weeks Later...

I received a comically-muffled phone call and all I could make out was my name, something about the tablet, and... yeah, that's it. So I just went back to Best Buy to find out for myself.

Oh, hey. Turns out they couldn't repair my tablet. And they kept it. Like, it's still wherever they sent it. Never to return to my hands.

I know this because I asked.

Because I wondered if there was something I was forgetting.

Tonight I remembered what that thing was.

And it's weird, because the particular subject of the lyric is something that I have recently realized I've made peace with. I still have some anxiety and anger about the situation but most of that is gone, especially the sadness. I don't think I have that sadness anymore.

But still. It was a dang good lyric.

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What? I'm not just saying that because you literally cannot read it now.

And it was a relic of that state of mind I was in. It was honest and strong in the way that something powerful and raw is. I don't know about you, but I have a hard time just conjuring that up. It was an emotional photograph, if that's not being too cheesy.

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It is. It definitely is.

Tonight, I opened up a new document (YES I SAVED IT TO ONEDRIVE THIS TIME) and hammered out everything I could remember from it. I can still feel the rhythm of the rhyme scheme so I know where I'm missing words. And I'm missing a lot of them. It's crazy... I read that thing so many times over. It came so easily to me when I wrote it. How come I can't even remember the gist of some lines? Don't they all lead into each other?

I've preserved nearly all of the first A, but only some of the rest of them.

I keep hoping it'll turn up in a Recycle Bin somewhere, or maybe an email I sent to myself. Dropbox? Open Office? Word's Recent Documents option?



It's gone. I think it's gone.

Could be in my plushy memory somewhere. I hope I'm buying pickles at the store when I remember a line, getting change for the dryer when I remember another. Maybe I'll end up in this kind of situation again and suddenly the sentiments will rush back. Slowly I'll fill in this crazy MadLibs/CrosswordPuzzle hybrid.

But... I mean, it kind of sucks if I have to put myself in that mental and emotional place again to remember those lines. Is it worth revisiting all that for a lyric? That I will still never show anyone (probably)?

I guess so. Because retyping what I do remember didn't put me in a funk. Besides the general regret of not backing up my tablet. RIP Tablet.

And hey... even while writing this post, I remembered another line. There are so many rhymes in this thing that every line is a clue to another one.

Now tell me, what rhymes with "insane"?

Sunday, June 14, 2015

I Have Graduated Into a Disney Princess

Well, I'm no longer a student.

Achievement Unlocked: MFA.

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What does that mean? Well, for one, my triumphant and desperate return to social media.

I just spent two years studying the technique of writing musical theatre. This might surprise some of you who mostly know me as a prose writer and reviewer, but I have a lot of irons in the fire. But the thing is, you can be a great musical theatre writer (still working on it...) and yet so much -- nearly everything -- comes down to who you know.

Well, I will never know people if people don't know me.

Time to start using my real name on things! Update social media often! Self-promo like mad! Apply to everything!

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alright alright alright alright alright alright al-

And in the meantime, how do I make money? Yeah. Survival job.

I work in a tea shop. As far as survival jobs go, it's pretty great. I get to drink as much tea as I want and the people I work with are people I consider friends.

Sometimes, crazy things happen.

Last week, I was outside giving out samples when a customer says, "There's a bird in your store." I look inside and sure enough, a house sparrow is zooming around like a Toys R Us demo helicopter.

"One second," I tell the customer.

Inside, the bird hits the window, and people are freaking out. The bird is fine, just dazed, and still flapping at the glass. My assistant manager herds it from one side of the window to the other, where I'm standing. I reach down and pick up the bird. (I have a ringneck dove at home, so I knew how to hold it.) It turns its little neck around and chomps down on my finger. Which is kind of cute because it can't break skin and its little angry face looks so sure of itself.

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"Om nom nom."

"Don't bite me," I scold.

I walk out to the street and realize that I don't know how to let it go safely.

But then I remembered: I've seen this in the movies.

The Disney movies.

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There will be a test.

So I toss out my arms, releasing my grip as I do, like I'm creating momentum for the sparrow. Sure enough, he flies from my fingers and nyooms his way down the street.

That's how I became a legend, I guess. My coworkers often like recounting the "rescue" story.

Would you believe this isn't the first time this has happened to me?

When I was about 4, I was in the reptile house at the zoo. Kids were screaming in delight and running around. A mouse was loose. It ran along the wall. I made a little bowl with my hands and knelt down. The mouse hopped right into my palms. I let it go outside in a bush.

All the cells have been replaced in my body 3 times over since that  happened. But I guess some things never change.

-- Sarah JF --