Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Reflections on a transatlantic move #1 - Making Friends

I moved to Toronto at the end of September, which has been a great experience so far, but since it's been almost two months since I posted about the motivations behind the move, I thought it'd be appropriate to follow up with some more introspection on how things are going.

Making Friends
It's incredibly easy to make friends when you're a foreign guy in a new city, especially if you have no friends. My friend-making skills are rusty - I've tended to ride the coattails of my childhood friends or girlfriends for the past few years, but now that I'm away from all friends and family, I need a support-network, and my efforts reflect that.

Some friends of mine were playing a few gigs in Toronto, which meant I had people to tag along to bars with for a few evenings. I'd walk up to people, introduce myself, and make chit-chat for a while. This approach can't fail, especially since many of the conversations with Canadians start with "You're from Ireland? That's so cool!" I've been the foreign guy in a few different cultures before - you never run out of things to talk about, because people are generally interested in hearing about the curiosities of their culture that they take for granted. Armed with a few humorous ice-breaking anecdotes of my first-impressions of Toronto, I got into plenty of fun conversations with people that led to valuable advice on finding places to live, work, or just things to experience.

One facet of psychology that's always stuck with me is that if you want people to like you, have them do you a favour - it seems counter-intuitive, but even if someone is telling you a load of information you already know, or offering to take you to a place you've already been, just go along with it.

From my first couple of nights out, I had a stock of phone numbers, twitter-handles and e-mail addresses to follow up on, and I realized that my friendship 'problem' was now a matter of quality control (granted, most of the consideration that went into deciding who to get in touch with was who is most likely to drug and rape me).

I was concerned that since I'm in a relationship, it'd cripple my appeal somewhat, and cut off certain 'shortcuts' that have worked in the past (to paraphrase a dear friend; I can't fuck my way into a social circle), but I've met some great people that I'm excited to call my friends - I'll delve into the 'reinvention' clich├ęs in another post.

Being a teetotaller does not help one in making friends. Minds boggle at the thought of alcohol abstinence. Everybody wants or expects a quick, narrative explanation, and since I don't have one, they assume that I'm hiding something dark. Alcoholic? Religious-nut? Dryballs? My strategy is to hold off admitting to it as long as possible (depending on the circumstance, naturally), but I could tell that I was disappointing a lot of would-be friends by declining drinks, or passing shots off onto my coconspirators. The cooler people would say "that's awesome that you don't drink - want to go outside and get high?" I'm offered weed in Toronto about as often as I'm offered tea in Ireland, and I feel about as bad for not being interested in this social icebreaker.

I find that I've been hesitant - almost hostile - about engaging with the Irish community in Toronto, as if not having an entirely Canadian support-network constitutes a failure to emigrate 'properly', but every fellow expat has been awfully decent, with many going out of their way to offer some sagely wisdom to spare me weeks of figuring stuff out for myself. I'm pretty sure that as the weeks crawl by, and the need to get more stable work grows, I'll be pulled into the orbit of the Irish community proper. Which will be a good thing. One can never have enough people to not drink with.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Keith Barry and the Massive Os

Keith Barry is an Irish magician. That's about 90% of what I know about him. I caught his Irish TV show a few years ago, and it seemed that he was just aping Derren Brown's tricks and style, but without the charm. I didn't pay too much attention to him.

When he was hosting Ireland's version of Deal or No Deal, I had assumed that he had given up on the magicianing lark, but it seems that his star has continued to rise - his hypnotism shows have drawn major crowds and broken records in Ireland, and he even made a 4-part series for Discovery.

He's clearly doing something right, and I've great respect for magicians, but when I tuned in to his appearance on Limerick's Live 95FM to promote his tour, he just sounded like a perverted 13-year old boy, giddily bragging about how ladies were having "massive Os" on stage. In case you missed it, he said it again and again, each time more unnerving, an ill-fitting phrase-of-choice for a man in his thirties. Yes Keith, your potency is such that ladies can orgasm from your very suggestion, but please don't sound like such a potential-sex offender next time you're trying to lure in the bawdy blue-collar crowd.

I couldn't find a copy of the recording, but in the first interview I found on YouTube, he asserts that the camerawoman is 'waxed, not shaven' within the first minute. Classy, classy guy!

Anyhow, what really prompted this ad was catching a few minutes of 'Deception with Keith Barry' on Discovery. I noticed that the producers put as much effort into designing the title card as Keith does into creating his act. Keith sees what other magicians are doing that looks cool, and then claims it as his own.



So the producers are making his title screen - they take a picture of him standing in front of something with his arms crossed, slap some text over it, then click through the fonts until something looks decent, like 12-year old girls formatting a book report.

"'Cracked' looks cool. Good enough for you? Let's pillowfight!"

It bothers me when this is done, so to punish Keith Barry and the lack of effort, I made a graphic of the show that I wish I caught five minutes of:



Still not painting a proper picture? Okay - everyone knows and is sick of Comic Sans, right? This is how much effort they put in:



Alright, that's all for today. File this under 'General begrudgery of successful Irish people'.