StartUp Weekend Saint John

As most of you know I have volunteered at ROGERS tv for going on 19 years. Bi-weekly there is a talk show that I work on called What Matters most. A few weeks ago the had someone on as a guest from the Momentum Group to talk about a then-upcoming event for a Startup Weekend. Long story short that episode didn’t make it to air and was instead put on YouTube. Therefore you can watch the following 13-minute interview to get the idea what it is about.

Or not… I guess I can tell you what it is about.

The premise is that you pay money for a ticket and choose if you are a Developer (can code), Designer (can design stuff), or Other (smart person, marketing person, money person, et cetera). Then on Friday you show up raid the buffet spread, socialize, network, and assess the competition.

Then you get to listen to speeches, “The is is how the weekend is going to go down”, “we love business”, “entrepreneurs are awesome”, “there are so many services you have never probably heard of that you are going to get a taste of”, “your community needs you”, and lastly “who has an idea!”.

This is the first taste of the opportunity where you get to line up and present and possible idea, everyone claps for you presenting your idea, then you walk off to write your idea down on a big piece of paper and stick it on the wall. After all the ideas are presented comes the fun. Everyone in the room goes an puts a post-it note on the idea they like. Then the top several ideas get selected and then they get moved around the room that the idea person stood beside their idea and if you liked their idea you could join their idea team. If an idea had at least 3 people it was then a team.

We then spent a few hours planning out the idea. Then we went to socialize at a special after-hours gathering at the new Saint John Yuck Yuck’s Comedy Club.

The next morning we arrived to have a light breakfast. Then go off to work. It was this portion of the day where we got to choose the local business people and entrepreneurs we would talk to in a type of speed-dating to understand our idea and it’s potential best future best. Of course, we then had an amazing lunch. Then back to work on the afternoon working on the business plan, the supporting market research, prototypes of ideas, and to build a blow-away presentation for the next day. Then a large supper arrived and it was back to work into the night.

The next morning involves a lot of fine-tuning the presentation, and practice of the presentation. Our group used Prezi for the presentation and there were a few points where we had to add a few seconds of fill to transition the topics for the visual animations that done well, nails the presentation and, not appearing to be filler.

Then we got to do a test presentation and got some great feedback from the event organizers. Using the feedback it just made the presentation stronger. Then lunch arrived I think this one was from Toro Tacos and it was a rice bowl that was incredible.

Then it was presentation time. This was the first time I ever used a presenter button (or TV term GPI) it is so much better than hitting the arrow keys on a laptop and makes it easier to present. After the presentation, I was relieved that that was it. Now to listen to the other presentations. There were nine teams in total with prizes for the first, second and third place teams.

When the third place team was announced, I was a little surprised. The criteria I thought of that would make a great idea was not what the judges looked for. There was great but impractical ideas in the pack, some that when it went from the idea Friday night took a turn for the worst. Then there was some that got a whole thot better after research. The thirds place idea was one of those and in reflection well deserved and was championed by someone truly invested in the limitless potential of their idea.

My team won second place and again I was in shock not because I didn’t believe our idea but because I had spent the last hour being won over by some of the other ideas.

Then when the first place was announced it was definitely the one I expected. I’ll link to a CBC interview on the winning idea.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/new-brunswick/startup-saint-john-2017-1.4316355

After the awards it was a bit more, socializing, networking, and business talk on where the ideas can go from there.

There is going to be another one in Saint John hopefully in the Spring, and there is going to be one the first weekend of November in Fredericton.

http://communities.techstars.com/canada/nb/startup-weekend

Fundy Fringe Festival #5

This summer I volunteered with the Fundy Fringe Festival again. Giving my physical limitations I was really worried if I could actually do it. It has been the highlight of my summers for the past several years and I really didn’t want to miss out.

This story begins with the gathering on May 20th. At this point, I had just started to go back to work and was trying to get my life back to normal. I really wanted to go to this event as a way to get out and try to be a bit social. It was a great night and I had so much fun even if it was a struggle to get there.

I then filled out the volunteer application and was a bit unsure what I would be able to do so I applied for Captain again, and venue tech, and bartender, and I think HUB volunteer. I then didn’t hear much of anything until shortly before the festival, on NB Day. I was on a road-trip of the province and while as I was waiting in the line for the Magnetic Hill attraction, I had seen the post that the first orientation was at 7 pm that night.

I did the Magnetic Hill drive backwards in neutral thing. Which for $6 is the biggest waste of time and money ever! Then I went to Shediac to get a pic with the giant lobster. Following that, I was headed to Boisetown to get to the centre of NB monument but ran out of time as I really wanted to get to the orientation night.

It was a good-sized crowd and more exciting of a presentation from earlier years that had gotten monotonous from reading the handbook that hasn’t changed over the years. I found out that I was selected to venue captain (again… or “Once a Captain Always a Captain!) It was also here I learned that there was going to be recorded introductions of the sponsorship and the “buy a button” speech. My heart sank a bit as that was one of my favourite parts of Venue Captaining.

After the meeting and email went out that there were still a few shifts open, I took it as an invitation to try something else than captaining so I offered to tend bar for the Big Tease night after the volunteer BBQ. As the night of the big tease came, I was still unsure with my feet always uncomfortable with long-standing periods due to the numb feeling if standing for a long time was even possible. I went to Giant Tiger and bought myself a folding bar stool and brought it with me and that worked very well. I had so much fun that night, and my beer knowledge came in very handy.

The next night was my first Captain shift at the year’s newest venue, the balcony lobby of the Imperial Theatre. When I arrived, I sorted everything out and found out there wasn’t the prerecorded opening on site that night. I was so glad that it gave me the extra motivation to blow the socks off the moderate-sized crowd there that night. I had nailed it and got a great reaction from the crowd. The show was “Denial Is a Wonderful thing”, I spent most of this show dealing with a situation so I didn’t get to hear much of the show. What I did hear was pretty good.

The second show that night had a pretty good size crowd, MIDDLEhood. After this show started, I had overextended myself a bit and needed to get off my feet. I spend most of the show in the stairwell laying on the upper landing listening to the show, while Snapchat and instagram posting selfies. Occasionally, paying closer attention to the show like the description of a period.

The next day, I was at the BMO theatre for Crippled and Two Minds Into One. Since I had the option, I insisted on doing the pre-show announcement for these shows and again, I got the reaction I was looking for and was so worth it. After the shows, it was the Not-So-Family game night. This was a great night, I started with playing some Hungry Hippos but that got old fast and a game of Cards Against Humanity began and that was beyond fun, as more people joined in it just got better.

Thursday was my shortest day and I only had Crippled to captain. After that, I went to see some shows. The first show was I Want to Come Home. This show was beyond impressive. It was a mix of storytelling type, performance, and crowd interaction. I loved how the projector became a character in the play. After that, I stayed to see Illustrated Lady which was an ingenious version of storytelling and demonstrating how tattooing works.

On Friday, I had my last shift back at the Imperial Theatre for Escape the Ordinary and SMASHES. Both were really good. Bernard started out with a math demonstration that I was following along with seeing how this was too predictable to control the outcome, but then took it to simply, WOW!

On Saturday, I didn’t have any shifts but still had 3 passes to see shows so that is what I did. I didn’t have a lot of time to fit them in so there were so many I wanted to see but couldn’t. I saw A Century of Belly Dance and was really impressed, I didn’t go into it thinking it would be something for me but it was informative and entertaining at the same time. I then saw Two Minds Into One, like most people I love a good magic show. I can usually tell how something’s work but with the big finale I was beyond amazed. The last show I went to see because so many others people said it was a must-see for theatre fans.

I have to agree, it was great watching him show how theatre works in a one-man format, except the tech and an off-stage assistant become part of the storytelling as well, as a point that actors have to rely on the “non-talent” to make them “talent”. After this, I ran to the Imperial to see a non-Fringe show Jay and Silent Bob Get Old. This show was funny and entertaining and lasted about two hours.

After this, I went back to the BMO for the Fringe dance party. This was so much fun, a lot of the performers and Volunteers were all there. I also danced as much as I could but that wasn’t as much as I wished I could.

All in this experience was still fun, emotionally challenging, and really highlighted my limitations.

My First Heckler

I love comedy and always have. Robin Williams and George Carlin are amungst my favourites. Over the past few years starting with the summer of trying things I have started going to see stand up comedy shows. Not to say I no longer love improv comedy, but there is just so much more stand-up lately in these parts.

One of the recurring shows is the No Jokes Barred put on monthly by Jon Forward at the R Bar. What I love about this show are the new performers. Back when I was rehearsing on A Midsummer Night’s Dream with Ken Bolton, he kept encouraging me to try stand-up. I never did however mainly due to my anxiety.

However this past June, Ken was going to be leaving town, and after the No Jokes Barred show, there was an open mic for the third anniversary post-show. I was considering doing it and was trying to think up some good material all day before the show. All of which I ran out of time to perfect and only used a bit as a preamble to my 2013 Amsterdam Trip story. (Which you will not find on this blog)

All during the show I was debating actually doing it. There was the option to do a Karaoke song, or comedy. They were giving past performers 6 minutes and other people 3 minutes. At this point, I was unsure about the comedy as 3 minutes was not enough time to tell my story. When the sign-up papers were placed on the table I grabbed one right away and wrote “Charles Frees-Melvin… Comedy”. I was still nervous and spoke to a few people and then, what the hell, gave Jon the piece of paper.

After a few others, my name got called and there was no turning back. From my 18 years of TV experience holding and talking into the mic was child’s play. I also love to story-tell as well so that was not an issue. The hard part was I had to make them laugh.

As it turned out my story was either really funny or the crowd was great because they were laughing a lot and in all the right places. Then the dreaded R Bar experience a heckler! That guy said something stupid and wrong and I made fun of him and moved on to finish the story. I don’t know how but the right words just came to me to shoot that guy down.

Obviously thrilled with myself I finished my beer and headed home.

My Messed Up Canada Day Roadtrip

I was off the Friday before Canada Day and had Physio and a call for the pre-op to fix my pinky finger. I came up with a plan to take a spontaneous road trip to Ottawa. My surgery is concerning for the possible side effects. I was pretty devastated after the call with my anxiety.
Since I was less than 500km from my oil change mileage I went to Kia and booked the appoint for this past week.
I went home and cleared out everything from my car I didn’t need, grabbed my passport and wad of US cash and took off down the Hwy 1 towards the border. At the border I got through pretty quickly and had no issues. Having all the signs in a weird foreign system of measurement increased my anxiety. In Calais, I fueled up and headed down Route 9 to Bangor.
I stopped for dinner at Dysart’s. It was a pretty good meatloaf. I then proceeded down Route 2 to Skowhagen where I needed to pee bad so I stopped at a gas station and it was there my fate turned. My GPS lost my route and I was lost. I kind of remember Route 201 so I turned on it and kept questioning that I was not on the right road,
It turned out I wasn’t, I really wanted 201A in the next town. Around midnight I ended up at the border on the highway headed towards Quebec City. By this point it started to rain really hard. I was not able to even drive the speed limit it was that hard. I made it to an Esso in Ascot Corner in Quebec and refuelled again at 1am. I then kept driving but got too tired and stopped at a mall and slept for an hour.
My sleep was interrupted by the lights of a cop that woke me to see if I was alright. He started talking in French and I was trying to translate it and I didn’t recognize enough words. He then spoke English and I responded I was okay and he moved on.
I then determined I needed to move on. I then crossed the bridge to Montreal as the break of day was happening. I was having such bad anxiety Siri was giving instructions that made no sense and there were so many construction signs that made no sense either. I stopped on a side street for a while and decided I wasn’t making it to Ottawa and it was time for starting a return back to see fireworks.
After a few hours back on the Highway, I needed so sleep so I pulled into a gas station and slept for an hour in the back corner of a Petro Canada parking lot in my car. I continued on the journey down the highway. As I was passing the town of Levis I seen the sign to cross the bridge to Quebec City. Since I had never been there before, I made the decision I needed to see it.
I took a drive through the packed old town and it was very reminiscent of the old parts of Paris. (Montreal is more reminiscent of the rest of Paris.) After leaving Quebec, the next stop was a gas and Tim’s break in Rivière de Loup. (a place Siri can’t pronounce close to right.) When ordering I asked if she spoke English and it was a fast nope. So I tried to order a coffee and a Dutchie and I was certain that I can pronounce Hollandaise properly but she had no clue.
Armed with my coffee and gas it was off to New Brunswick and lots more highway with spots of rain along the way. The next stop was Florencevile and I grabbed a donair sub that was really good. The interesting part was a guy in line ahead of me was Amish and had his horses and carriage waiting outside.
As I passed through Fredericton, the rain had stopped and was starting to clear. The people from home were messaging on Facebook that the weather in Saint John was bad and there was no fireworks to hurry back for. So I headed home anyways.
The next day I slept in until noon and then wasted most of the day away. I had seen that Hampton was having fireworks and decided to go see them, but then heard that Cambridge-Narrows was having some so I went there instead. They were pretty impressive and amazing.

WordCamp Halifax 2017

Yesterday was my 8th WordCamp, the first one ever held in Atlantic Canada.

Dalhousie University was a great location, and the buildings are very modern but historic looking at the same time. As for Halifax the city, it was meh. I didn’t spend much time elsewhere as the traffic and confusing signs stressed me out.

I got to see some very interesting presentations my favourites in order were: Shelly Peacock’s The “No Badger” Zone, Sarah Rennick’s You Don’t Have To Sacrifice Your First Born To Make A Child Theme, Laura Hawkins’ Tips For Creating Effective Site And Blog Content, Kathryn Presner’s A CSS Adventure, Jean-Francois Arseneault’s Guardians of the Website, and Chris Van Patten’s It Doesn’t Have To Hurt: Bringing Modern Dev Practices to WordPress.

It’s Showtime!

Now to continue the story. The biggest point of fear is the moment before doing something. However, I have at this point completely learned my part and it is showtime for the final full rehearsal and there are a limited number of media and a few other people in the audience. It makes this effectively the first show. I’m standing behind the curtain waiting for my cue, which was in the second part of the first act, and am trembling because although I’m not on stage yet, I have no way to escape out of doing this. After two months of faking it, pretending to be an actor, I step out on stage. I don’t remember much of that show I was in character and pulled it off.

The next day, the first day of paying guests, I trip on my way to work, rip open my knee and elbow, but the most tragic event happened. My coffee cup exploded all over the sidewalk and I lost it. A world without coffee is not a great world. That night I was faking it again and really was focused and didn’t even notice the audience. Each night after the show I got to meet some of the audience.The reason why the story started here was that after the Friday show, I invited my mother to travel with me to see London and Paris on the fateful trip when the story gets interesting.

I did absolutely love the acting and had auditioned again the next year but have never gotten a chance to do it again yet hopefully as I heal, I will get a part in the future. The following April I did perform with my friend Tony in a Shakespeare open mic a bit from Coriolanus. Unfortunately, he messed up his line. (sarcastic supportive emoji 🙄)

It was also at this point that I convinced myself that it was time for Contiki trip number 4. My friend Tony also wanted to join me for the Contiki and to do a post tour trip to visit Pompeii and Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany. (Do I even need to state it is in Germany. Doesn’t everyone know Munich is in Germany?)

Later, my mother sent me a list of things she would find interesting like the Tower of London, the English Moores, Normandy, and where in Paris that Princess Diana was killed. (Moan, not Paris again…)

So the plan is to bring my mother for a few days, send her home. Meet Tony and then go on Contiki, then a post week of exploration.

Getting the Part

This is the third in my series on Life with GBS, if you haven’t read the first two then you should.

The next weekend, I got the call that I got a part in A Midsummer Night’s Dream if I wanted it. At this point I was terrified that A whim had gotten me way over my head. I had not done this, and it was completely foreign territory. However, without thinking I said yes anyways.

 I got the roles of Snug the Joiner that is a very shy and insecure person that is part of a group of mechanicals that are putting together a play at the palace. And in the play, portrayed a Loin that is probably the origin of the Cowardly Lion. The second role I got was the fairy Cobweb. At first I was really worried that the second role was going to be too much since I never even tried to memorize lines before.
As the following weekend came and we were supposed to have the first read through the cast list was published. As I read through it I noticed, I was not on it. At this moment I was overcome with relief that I was not over my head with having to pull off the biggest performance of leaving my comfort zone in years. On the other hand my anxiety that everyone hates me kicked in and I was devistated. So, I messaged the director and asked if there was a typo not giving an indication how I felt. To my relief it was and the list got reposted.

For the following two months I had rehursed and memorized my lines. To my relief, the cast was very friendly and welcoming. The first mistake I made memorizing the lines was not learning the cue lines that came before it. Then learning the acting and where to be and where to move that was not in the script helped a lot with the lines I learned to go with their placement.

As we approached show time there was a night after rehearsal that most of the cast met at Pepper’s Pub and we had a great conversation and meal, and then went to hit up the dance floor at Callahan’s. One thing I learned that night is that performers are a different breed and that even though I had been working on improving my fitness keeping up with them was really hard.

Hamlet: The Notes

Last night I went to see this show from Saint John Theatre Company’s Canadian Series at the BMO Theatre.

It was honestly an hour and half of almost non-stop laughs with well fitting serious moments. I really enjoyed how this is not the typical show that you go to see, but interactive with the audience and slightly fluid.

There is another performance tonight that you just have to see. You don’t even need to know the Hamlet story to enjoy it, although if you do it is equally enjoyable.

https://www.facebook.com/events/497438537089005/