It was quite devastating to see what nature and extreme weather can do to a city during the flood that flattened Calgary in 2013. On the other hand, it was borderline aggravating to see people abandon their senses and act like the world was coming to an end or blatantly ignore all warnings from the police, the fire department and the city to keep safe and not become a liability during the crisis. I’m referring to a very, very small portion of the population. The vast majority of people in Calgary heeded warnings and requests.
The most ridiculous activity that people engaged in was going as close to the river or the flooded areas as possible. Some even waded into the flooded streets or into the raging water – how stupid are you? If your mangy cat was in a house in the middle of a raging torrent of a river, you’d wade out into it and kill yourself in the process? Okay. You only have one life. Cats have nine. To a lesser extent, wading into a flooded street is almost as dangerous. How do you know that there are no sink holes, no uncovered manholes, no logs, nothing sharp that could shred your legs? You don’t know.
To an ever lesser extent were people who stopped on the side of highways and freeways to take pictures of the river. I agree, it’s a once in a lifetime event. However, getting yourself killed and causing an accident with other motorists who are wondering what is going on is equally moronic. Why is your picture so much better than what is seen on TV or captured by the media on the internet? Why would you so carelessly think about yourself during this time when emergency responders have better things to do besides coming to a scene of an accident that you have caused?
I completely understand those home owners who have been evacuated who want to get back to their houses as quickly as possible – I would to. But is it really necessary to sneak in behind the backs of the police just because you are worried about ‘your stuff’? You can’t stay there – the power and gas and electricity have been turned off. Are you going to carry out your grand piano on your back because you think someone might steal it? Do you really think thieves are going to break into your house and steal your 5000 inch flat screen TV? It’s ruined. You are safe. So is your family. Isn’t that enough? Is it really necessary to drain the resources of the police who are trying to guard the neighborhood by having them come after you as you sneak in to hug your priceless Ming vase? If you are more worried about your “stuff” than about people, I feel very sorry for you.
The city of Calgary also put into place a water ban – no watering lawns, no watering plants, no washing driveways, no washing cars. How many people do you think we’ll see march out their door and water their lawn or wash their car? Lots. There are three kinds of people who do this: those who haven’t heard the news (okay), those who think only a little water won’t hurt (ummm, get some education) and those who blatantly defy any government ordered order because they have a problem with authority and being told what to do (go see a psychiatrist).
The whole point of a water ban is to not only conserve water but to not put a strain on how water is treated and processed. The water coming into a water treatment plant following a flood is dirty, muddy, silty and brown. It takes the plant much, much more time and energy to get the water clean. No matter how or how many times you try and explain this to brain-damaged people, they still don’t get it. They think there’s so much water that it can’t hurt one bit. That idiotic explanation may try to work during a flood, but what about during a drought? You still see chromosome-challenged people pouring water on their lawns to keep it green. Why are these people so obsessed with a green lawn? Again, it’s a power trip thing and a “my lawn is better looking than yours, therefore, I’m better than you”. What?! Did you get hit in the head with a hammer repeatedly when you were growing up in La La Land?
I haven’t heard of any incidents of looting, despite what some people are trying to make into an issue on social media. I haven’t read of any issue on any stream of media. I’m quite sure that most of the hints of it are imaginary and/or exaggerated by both internet trolls and the people who are richer than the Pope in their mega-million dollar homes that they built on flood plains. I’m quite sure that there was looting and/or breaking into of homes during the last flood in 2005 because a lot of places weren’t flooded, but were just evacuated and some thieves just strolled into their neighborhoods. This time, they just couldn’t stroll in because the streets were flooded. Speaking of people who are richer than the Pope and their mega-million dollar homes, it was your choice to live on a flood plain and it should be up to you to bail yourself out financially. If I hear of any of these society types leeching off of the Red Cross when others of lesser means are doing without… well, there’s a place in a boiling tar pit for you.
Finally, for those (the very, very few) who priced gouged people in this city for supplies during the flood, you may also take your place in the boiling tar pits. Some of the evidence presented on social media was grossly exaggerated and taken out of context. For example, a platter of prepared fruit for $59.99 sold at a local store was actually a platter to feed 30 people – not a few people. I was stunned as I made my way home during the height of the flood to see line ups at gas stations and on the news, line ups 30 deep in grocery stores with people hoarding water. Come on. This was not the apocalypse. It was almost laughable. Did you people even listen to any news report that said the water was 100% safe to drink? Trust, it seems, is also thrown out the window during a disaster and it’s every man for himself.
My car’s gas tank was getting towards empty. Did I race to a gas station, almost causing an accident in the process, and fill up my car? No. Did I careen into a Safeway, push people out of the way, race up and down the aisles, while dragging my screaming kids with me and stand in line for 30 minutes to buy a case of bottled water because everyone else in the city appeared to be doing the same thing? No. I refuse to believe that the society we live in has people that stupid. We do, however, have a society that lives in fear and reacts based on it.
Unfortunately, there have been way too many ‘floods of the century’ these days all around the world. I don’t want to blame it all on climate change, but you have to admit that the environment is changing in ways that no living person has ever seen before. I used to live in Nova Scotia and when I was young, I lived through a couple bad hurricanes. Since I left many years ago, there have been way too many to count on both hands. Usually, people not used to extreme weather conditions see devastation through the media around the world. When you experience it first hand, it is something entirely different.
In 2005 in Calgary, Alberta, there was a major flood due to several days of continuous rain. I lived in one of those low-lying areas. The city constructed a berm of ground across the street just south of where I lived to keep the water from the Elbow River from flooding the neighborhood. It worked. In other areas, it didn’t work. I remember having to travel in long and obtuse directions to just around the flooding. I thought it was bad back then, but the latest flood to hit the city eight years later is much, much worse.
I remember having a conversation with someone in 2005 during the flood and saying that Downtown Calgary was built on a flood plain and some day, it was going to get flooded. That day has happened. May and June are typically the months when Calgary gets the most rainfall. That, combined with the snow melt in the mountains causes rivers to rise, but not to overflow their banks. Unfortunately, when weather systems stall and continuously rotate against the foothills, that (combined with snow melt) cause the flood disasters of 2005 and 2013. That continuous rain we had in 2005 wasn’t torrential, but it was steady. In 2013, the rain was relentless, not only falling on Calgary, but in the already saturated watershed west of the city. With the low pressure system not moving, the rivers swelled and disaster struck.
At first I thought it was going to be a repeat of 2005, but as the hours went by, I realised it was much, much worse. To live in a city that has declared a state of emergency is unnerving. You are constantly on edge. It’s not until you see the pictures of the Bow and Elbow Rivers rushing into neighborhoods that you have travelled through or lived in that you get a true sense of the magnitude of the flood. There was river water in places that I never thought would ever see any water. It is mind boggling to see the city that you live in come to a complete stop – pictures of downtown with skyscrapers and streets of muddy brown water and nothing else. Communities that live next to the rivers completely submerged. Unbelievable.
I no longer live in the area that flooded in 2005. I have moved to high ground. Although the river is only a short distance away in the river valley, it still affects me because I have to travel over a couple bridges to get in and out of the community – bridges that were shut down temporarily because the river flooded them. Probably because I lived so close to the flood in 2005, I went for a closer look. It was a damp, musty, dirty, heavy wet feeling in the air. In 2013, I had no desire to see the flooding up close. On TV and the internet, the pictures satisfied my curiosity. It was all too unbelievable and surreal to see anyway.
I get a real good sense that the City was much more prepared this time, even though the situation was much worse. Our mayor and the people who work with him as aldermen really have done an amazing job. The city was right on top of things from the beginning. Although you can’t stop the force of nature, it was kind of a relief to see the city take control and secure the city. It’s probably too early to tell if this was really the ‘flood of the century’. It certainly feels like it because Calgary has never experienced something like this ever, and by the next flood of the century, I hope I am safely back home in Nova Scotia – in a hurricane. Not.
Perhaps I should have titled this post ‘Maybe I’m Just Getting Old’. When I first started to get interested in tennis (both playing and watching), pro tennis was more of a genteel game with a lot of touch, feel, strategy, thoughtfulness and natural shot making. This was back in the early to mid 1980s – Evert, Navratilova, Becker, McInroe, Wilander, Edberg. Even after Steffi Graf (admittedly my favourite female player of all time) came on the scene with her blistering forehand, there was still an element of that old school touch, feel and strategy.
Something changed however at the turn of the decade. Monica Seles’ ‘go for broke on both wings until you tear the cover off the tennis ball’ style of play was kind of a foreshadowing of things to come at the end of the decade. She was in an element all her own, for no one else played like that – until the end of 1990s with the arrival of Lindsay Davenport, Serena and Venus Williams, Jennifer Capriati and Mary Pierce – all big hitters, or as Mary Carillo called it ‘big babe tennis’. It was exciting for sure, but part of me grew tired of it and I guess I’m just a little bored by it now. 15 years of slugging and hammering the hell out of the ball is not what I call thoughtful tennis.
I thought that by 2013 the crushing style of play that is the norm in tennis today would have worn out its welcome. Alas, it is far from over. Even Roger Federer (who started out as an old throwback, but who could rip the ball with the best of them) is not immune to the effects of slash and burn tennis. At the very top of the men’s game, it seems that he has been forced into playing this type of tennis that Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray do so well. In the end, in playing this type of slash and burn tennis, he has not seemed like the Federer that he once was when he imposed his game on his opponents. It may be because of his age, but last year at Wimbledon, even Federer (for the first time I can recall in his career) called for the trainer to work his aching back.
Is it any wonder that players are constantly calling for the trainer in the middle of matches? When I first started watching tennis, this never happened. Retiring from matches, withdrawing from tournaments, constantly injuring themselves and then taking months off of the tour – this isn’t what I remember even as far back as the 1990s. Is it any wonder Nadal’s knees are shot? How can a player like him or Djokovic even consider a lengthy career when their bodies, most importantly their arms and legs, are contorted into impossibly, unnatural positions just to pound the hell out of the ball to win a point? The human body wasn’t meant to move that way and they will (and are) pay a price for that.
On the women’s side, slash and burn tennis is just as ferocious. It’s possible that the decibel level of the shrieking has something to do with it. Again, you can thank Seles for that. Her grunting was legendary. It seems that as the grunting/shrieking gets louder, the hitting gets bigger – there’s a direct correlation between the two. Beginning in the late 1990s, as sledgehammer tennis took over the game, the vocal prowess increased – and it hasn’t stopped – it’s gotten worse. It’s no wonder there have been hindrance calls in women’s tennis during matches – the shrieking of one player goes on for so long that it ends as the other player is hitting the ball back – with another extended shriek. It’s a shriekfest out there. You have to wonder how much success Maria Sharapova or Victoria Azarenka would have if they played with their mouths shut. Their semifinal at the 2013 French Open was… I had to turn the sound down.
I don’t know when sledgehammer tennis is going to come to an end. I hope it’s soon. The players will probably be the ones who will end it because the toll it takes on their bodies will force them to end their careers. I said back in 2009 when Nadal first had knee issues that he’d be gone from the game in 5 years. I stand by that. I don’t see him playing beyond 2014. The sledgehammer tennis that he and others play will ultimately be their downfall. The generation that came before me was probably annoyed with the style of play in the 1980s and 1990s. Now entering the second decade of sledgehammer tennis, there has got to be a new wave or style on the horizon to replace it. I’m patiently waiting.
Or maybe it just seems that way. I’m not a big fan of soccer (sorry to my UK readers: football) but I’m sure there are some pretty off-the-wall fans there too just because of the soccer riots in stadiums that I read about or hear the crowd go singularly nuts in unison when a goal is scored. I’m also quite sure there are rabid fans in other sports: hockey, basketball, football, golf, baseball… I’m sure of this because when I peruse the forums on sports news websites (you know, where you can leave comments after the articles) there are quite the insane spats between the ummm “fans”.
Curling is another perfect example. It has always been known as a conservative, blue collar sport that attracts an older crowd. However, in recent years, it has been attracting a younger crowd both on and off the ice. Try introducing some colour or flair (or anything different) into the game and those offending charlatans will be roundly sneered at, mocked or debased to the harshest degree – mostly online. I can still remember when six-time Canadian champion Colleen Jones was vilified by outraged “fans” for chewing gum, wearing a skirt and talking too much. Okay… Still, during the curling season, there is always an online spat between these “fans” who pick and snipe at the curler du jour.
I understand we all have our own favourite player, but the over the top nastiness and vigor that these “fans” express in defending their hero is disturbing. Some of it has to do with online trolling. At first I thought an internet troll was just that – you know, that nasty, ugly, short, smelly version of a gnome that lives under a bridge. I soon discovered that an internet troll is someone who posts inflammatory, off-topic, over-the-top responses on message boards and forums to provoke a response. A perfect example of this exists on TSN’s website in their tennis section whenever there is an article written about Milos Raonic. A poster constantly posts that Raonic was born in Montenegro and therefore is not Canadian, even though it has nothing to do with the article – causing an immediate response from the rest of the forum.
Which brings me to the tennis “fan”. For some reason, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Victoria Azarenka, Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova generate some very strong feelings among their most ardent supporters. At times it is downright scary – as if they all belong to a cult and have all been brainwashed into defending everything they do whenever a differing opinion is raised against them. I am at a loss to explain it. The only reason I can think of is that these players are not only at the top of the rankings, they are very polarizing people – especially Nadal, Djokovic, Azarenka and Williams – people hold very extreme opinions of each of them at both ends of the tennis spectrum.
As a tennis nut, I try very hard to restrain myself in posting comments about these players because I know I will get the googly-eyed wrath of their off-the-wall “fans”. At times it can be very entertaining to read the back and forth on www.tennis.com between the crazy “fans” and those who just have an opposing view on things. At other times, I end up shaking my head in disbelief at the scary cultish comments. It’s too bad, because as a tennis fan I’d like to have an adult discussion about tennis with other adults. However, when I try, I’m pounced on by banshees in straight jackets. I end up leaving benign comments in general so as not to raise the ire of the crazies who lurk in the shadows.
It’s nothing new and yeah, they come and go – mostly when I’m tuned in to reading about the industry in Los Angeles and how difficult it is for ‘foreigners’ to get into Hollywood. By that I mean every writer who lives outside of the city. It is increasingly difficult the farther you are away from the epicenter. So if you’re a screenwriter in Antarctica, forget it. You’re better off having your own ice cube stand on the corner. Are there corners in Antarctica?
When I started my quest to be a screenwriter, I knew it was going to be an impossible task to break into Los Angeles. Funny, but I’ve heard stories of people trying to break OUT of Los Angeles, but I digress. I knew it was going to take a lot of hard work, sacrifice, money, time and (most important of all) luck. All of this is not lost on me. I am a nobody from nowheresville who knows no one. I try very hard not to lose focus and keep blinders on – ignoring all the unimaginative re-boots that seem to gush from the studios. I keep telling myself: ‘out there somewhere, some day, there is a home for what I have written’.
I told myself that once I had gathered up a solid portfolio of screenplays, then I’d be ready for the real reality check. That time has now come. Part of that process is putting myself and my work out there. Another part is discovering the politics of the industry: who’s buying what, who’s selling what, who’s making what and just the general ‘how things are done’. It’s the how things are done that makes me want to scream.
It’s important to note that I’ve decided to try the LA-Hollywood route. I’m going for the big enchilada. I did consider my own country and the fact that I’m not even going to try speaks volumes about the state of the Canadian film industry which is an entirely different topic. I just can’t see myself making a living as a film screenwriter in Canada. There are those that do for TV and good for them, but it is a very small community – one that is even harder to break into than Hollywood if you can believe that.
The reality of the international spec screenwriter who does not live in LA (or the US for that matter – and trying to work in the US after 9/11 is an entirely different topic) is that reality trumps moving to LA.
We have families that need our support, bills that have to be paid, mortgages, debt, day jobs that pay the bills, loans and health care/insurance that we’d be crazy to give up, etc. There are probably a lot that live paycheque to paycheque. For the financially prudent spec screenwriter in these uncertain financial times, it would be ludicrous to pack up and move to LA to try and make a go of it with the chance of losing everything you have and ending up destitute a distinct possibility – not that I’m writing a screenplay about that right now… hmmmm…
I know that producers/consultants/agents in LA know this, but they are so far removed from the spec screenwriter’s circumstances that they really don’t see the kind of pickle we’re in. Sorry, but I’m not willing to risk everything, to take that one in a million chance. It’s incredibly risky. I’m quite sure things were different ‘back in the day’ when a screenwriter (or even an actor) arrived with nothing in Hollywood and took that chance – they had nothing to lose. People who have already built up savings and have debt on their plate have everything to lose.
BTW, I think it’s great that LA is looking for new, talented writers and I understand the need to be in LA for meetings etc., but if I’m a wanted commodity, I shouldn’t have to bear all the risk of moving to LA for something that may or may not work out. If I’m that talented and that wanted, pay me to take that chance without me having to worry about losing everything that I’ve worked hard for in my life.
So I’ll try to break in outside of LA and if it doesn’t work, I’ll pursue other avenues – the UK, Australia, Bollywood and if that doesn’t work I may just have to do what I was going to do 25 years ago – write novels. Hmmmm…
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