• Well! I’m pleased to report that my book How to Cure Yourself of Narcissism has now found a starring role in two interviews, featuring yours truly excited and Erik D’Souza, author and author-wrangler.

    First I was a brief guest called in to discuss etiquette on Erik’s Canada Day broadcast. (Click this link for our mini-conversation about whether Canadians are as polite as Americans claim we are.)

    Second, this past weekend I was the inaugural long-form guest on Erik’s Writers in Our Midst publication. (See the video at the bottom of this post to enjoy a cheerful, if meandering, discussion of self-absorption in modern society.)

    Now you might think that the fact that Erik and I are friends implies that Erik may have invited me for nepotistic reasons, but you would be wrong—embarrassingly wrong! You see, Erik and I are both writers, and therefore we are rivals, and therefore Erik is best off not making me look as grand as I normally do.

    In fact, in the long-form interview, Erik celebrated our rivalry with some tough questions, such as, asking me if I—of all wonderful people—was a narcissist.

    You’ll have to tune in to find how I escaped that perilous query.

  • Recently, one of my top-three favourite sisters had a birthday, but again, social distancing prevented a proper gathering, so instead I decided to create a fusion of a childhood favourite TV show, Cheers, and of course the greatest movie franchise of all time, Star Wars.

    Our tale is set in the Star Wars universe sometime after the events of Star Wars: Episode VI: Return of the Jedi, and features a pair of Han Solo and Chewbacca impersonators (Han Sethlo and Coobacca). Our hero-impersonators enjoy travelling to strange lands “where nobody knows their name” to visit with unique creatures. This episode takes our delightful duo to “Earth.”

    In honour of your time, I have only included here the opening and closing jokes of the episode. However, you will get to imbibe the excellent vocal and piano stylings of my talented Uncle Rick as he reproduces the Cheers theme for our intergalactic investigators.

    May the 4th be with you!

    Our previous episode FUN WITH INTERGALACTIC SOCIAL DISTANCING, PART I tells the story of me promoting an anti-anxiety workshop through the uplifting lens of Star Wars: Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker.

     

  • Well, by order of social distancing, I have been travelling to a galaxy far, far away for my creative productions. Today’s episode features my efforts to promote a recent online workshop I was giving to my writers’ group wherein I provided suggestions for combatting the inevitable pangs of anxiety that rise up in most of our bellies before any public speaking venture.

    With the assistance of our planet’s greatest-ever composer, John Williams, and the cast of Star Wars: Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker, I present the following inspirational promotion. If you can listen to the swing of John Williams’ baton and not feel courage gathering inside you to take on those evil butterflies, then you’re either on the wrong side, or you’re a droid.

    May the 4th be with you!

    (Our next episode FUN WITH INTERGALACTIC SOCIAL DISTANCING, PART II will feature a collision of Star Wars and the great television comedy, Cheers.)

  • To my fellow narcissists: Five ways to keep your #narcissism at bay during these quarantimes (based on the recent real-life adventures of ME, Seth McDonough—soon-to-be famous author):

    (5) SIDEWALK DOMINATION: When you’re a group of two or more walking on the sidewalk and you see a stranger or two coming towards you, you might notice that they’ll usually veer tightly to one side of the sidewalk (or even off the sidewalk) in preparation for the upcoming crossing of your group. Strangely, that DOESN’T MEAN they’re deferring to the grandeur of you and your party. Instead, it more likely suggests that they’re hoping you will simultaneously switch to single file on your side of the sidewalk, too, so that you’ll all have a friendly but non-cuddling interaction.

    (4) SNEAK ATTACK SHOPPING: When you go to the grocery store, and you see someone is considering their options for a can of soup, I suggest NOT sneaking yourself into the small space between them and the shelves to pick your favourite before they do. Patience, my friends!

    (3) PARKS & CLUSTERING:  When you go to the local park that’s still open for you to get some socially distant exercise, and there’s a prime path that people are using for that purpose, maybe DON’T congregate your friends and family in one of the bottlenecks of the trail to chat and/or play with your little ones.

    HINT: That one’s good practice during non-quarantimes, too.

    (2) JARGON CORRECTING: When you’re in a video conference, and a co-worker attempts to make a case for something using language that does not match the pre-packaged buzz-wording that you would prefer, it’s OKAY to let them finish their thought without correction.*

    * For similar instance, I submit that the following correction that I witnessed was unnecessary: “Hold on, Betty, before we get into what we should do and who does what, I think we need to discuss the important distinction between ‘co-worker’ and ‘coworker’ at length.”

    (1) CHEERS FOR ME: During the new 7pm tradition of people cheering from their balconies for front-line workers, if you happen to be out on a walk at that time, I submit it would be best NOT to wave and take a bow under your assumption that the cheering is in honour of your recent book launch. (Okay, that one may have been just ME.)

    Stay safe, my fellow narcissists!

    (Simulcast on my Facebook Author Page.)

  • In honour of me, I’m delighted to announce that my book, How to Cure Yourself of Narcissism, is now available at every worthy-of-me virtual location:

    Including all the Amazons (including Amazon.ca, and Amazon.com), Barnes & Noble (ebook only), and Smashwords (ebook only).

    In additional honour of this announcement, I would like to celebrate five of my favourite ego-driven quotes from the cinema:

    (5) “Unless I’m wrong, and I’m never wrong…” —Prince Humperdinck, The Princess Bride (1987).

    (4) “I’m pretty sure there’s more to life than being really, really, ridiculously good looking. And I plan on finding out what that is.”—Derek Zoolander in Zoolander (2002), honoured here by Seth Zoolander.

    (3) “As a specimen, yes, I’m intimidating! As you see I’ve got biceps to spare… I’m especially good at expectorating… I use antlers in all of my decorating!”—(singing) Gaston in Beauty & The Beast (1991).

    (2) “There are few people in England, I suppose, who have more true enjoyment of music than myself, or a better natural taste. If I had ever learnt, I should have been a great proficient,” —Lady Catherine de Bourgh in Pride & Prejudice (1980).

    (1) “Would someone get this big walking carpet out of my way,” —Princess Leia Organa, Star Wars IV: A New Hope after that particular movable rug, the Wookiee, Chewbecca helped rescue her from her cell in the Death Star (1977).

    Congrats to ME!

    (Simulcast on my Facebook author page.)

     

     

  • (Simulcast on my new Facebook Author page.)

    During our current social distancing predicament, my favourite Writers’ group has been itching to meet up for our usual creative interchange. So we decided to send ourselves into the cyber-abyss for an online meeting. We had no idea how such a technological interaction would go, but—with wine (which we pretended was coffee) in our mugs—we courageously pressed the connect button… and there we were.

    Our faces were a little more pixelated, and our voices a smidge less crisp, but our personalities and banter were almost life-like. And, while it wasn’t “the same” as meeting in the real world, I derived from it a similar rejuvenation of creative spirit that I always do when I meet with this group. (Plus, we all learned something new about each other that we wouldn’t have in our usual one-location-fits-all meeting place.)

    I realize that I am not an early adopter of this epiphany, but I would nevertheless like to suggest to anyone who is internet-resistant that—if you have a social group with which you would normally be meeting were it not for these Corona times—try an online meeting.

    Here are a few tips to get you started:

    (1) Unless everyone in your group has IT experience, I suggest setting the first gathering as a test meeting—to learn the wireless ropes.

    (2) If you’re the host of the virtual gathering, plan a few questions to ask everyone. Or, if you would like a more sophisticated virtual ice breaker, you could plan a game, such as a trivia challenge.

    (3) For that first interaction, just aim for a half-hour pilot session.

    And, voilà, you’re all set to click the meeting invite button. Worst-case scenario, the gathering won’t go as brilliantly as I predict, but at least you’ll have an entertaining new tale to tell your spouse, roommate, or favourite pet.

  • On a recent Friday afternoon, I was sent on a priority mission to the SFU Vancouver campus to deliver a forgotten item to my spouse. The campus is small, but for newcomers such as myself, its maze-like structure is confusing, so after circling its premises a couple times, and realizing I needed a different floor, I was pleased to spot an alcove leading to an elevator.

    As I entered the small hallway, I came upon two adult-looking characters who appeared to be having a serious discussion. The gentleman of the two eyed me for a tiny moment with what I was sure was a sigh of frustration that his private conversation was being invaded by a gangly elevator-seeker.

    I was sheepish to be causing such distress, but I comforted myself with the knowledge that I only needed to go up one floor, and then—with my urgent errand still pressing on my shoulders—I would quickly depart and discontinue my disruption of my fellow hallway-dwellers’ lives.

    But my hopes to save the two conversers from my intrusion was impeded as I realized that I did not know if the established elevator-waiters had called our conveyance to travel in same direction as I needed; the answer, I realized, would be housed on the faces of the elevator buttons.

    As I scanned our little area for the location of the vital technology, a terrible epiphany landed in my rushed contemplations. My two aggrieved colleagues, who were clustered close to the elevator doors, were blocking my sightline. My errand could not sustain the weight of an extra wait if my fellow elevated travelers were planning to go in the wrong direction, so very carefully, I peered around the two chatters, but their hand-gesturing bodies continued to block my view.

    At that moment, I felt a wild hope that the two button-concealers might spot my interest in the secret information, and either move themselves out of the way, or let me know of the elevator’s current status.

    My dream was not to be; the strange strangers continued their important chat with no further acknowledgement of my annoying presence. There was nothing more for me to do but stand and wait in hopes that the noble chiming of the elevator would soon end our impassioned impasse.

    But as several more ticks of the clock sounded in my ears, it seemed to me that the elevator was taking an unnaturally long time to arrive for duty. My chances of completing my delivery in time were now small, but I still had to try, so I risked more awkwardness, and circled around the two elevator-blocking strangers. I hoped to get a better angle on the obstructed buttons so that I could confirm that my new associates’ body language was telling the truth and they had indeed called for our deliverer. It was a long trip around the humanoid barricade, but when I finally got to the other side of the whispering duo, I found a tiny gap between their presence and the wall. I looked through and discovered that the elevator button light was not on at all.

    Could it really be? Had these two conversers really witnessed me peering past them without feeling any obligation to let me know that—despite their body language to the contrary—they were not there for the elevator, and that I should reach around them and hit the button, myself, if I wanted to take a ride?

    No, surely the reason the elevator button was not shining a light on our situation was because its bulb had broken. In spite of this obvious solution to the mystery of the elevator blockers, the clock in my head continued to tick ever so loudly, and so, sheepishly once more, I reached my hand into the narrow space between the strangers and the elevator wall in pursuit of the unlit button. I felt rude as I went for it, as it seemed to me that—by redundantly pressing a button that obviously just had a broken light—I was accusing the irritated pair of lacking any common courtesy. But then my finger activated the curious elevator trigger, and it lit up.

    I looked again at the pair who had done their best to keep me away from this revelation; maybe now they would realize their error in body language, but, no, they did not waver from their lack of concern about their effect on the hurried stranger in their private conversation chamber.

    Seconds later, the elevator arrived, and as I boarded, the solution to this strange riddle of human behaviour blazed in my brain like the shining light from the elevator button. It was a wild speculation, but once I considered it, I realized that no other explanation could possibly account for the odd inability of these individuals to understand the most basic laws of human interaction. And so, as I arrived too late to my destination, I was not sad, for I had, on my journey, received the experience of a lifetime. I had met two strangers who were not humans at all: they must have been androids. I smiled as I lingered in this realization; for I knew I would never forget my meeting with these nearly human marvels of technology.

  • As someone who has been resistant to the omni-tentacled powers of social media, I am pleased with myself for noticing something that social media does with more audience consideration than mainstream media.

    As with all topics, this one can be best understood by travelling far, far away and backwards in time to the Star Wars galaxy. I recently watched a documentary, Rogue 1: A Star Wars Story, which examines the events just before the historical time period of Star Wars, Episode IV, A New Hope.

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    Worry not, I am aware that these characters are living in a fictional galaxy, but I jest because I am obsessed. I adore my Star Wars, so when new episodes arrive to fill in gaps in my favourite patch of fictional history, I am as excited as a Sith lord finding a new apprentice.

    But there is one tiny chink in my Darth Vader armour: the movie reviewers that I observe in mainstream media are often disrespectful of movies, such as these, that are meant to entertain.

    First, as I’ve discussed before, many reviewers are only capable of appreciating films that match their deep and dark genre sensibilities. If you’re not depressed or confused by the end of a screening, they’re not loving it. Consequently, they fail their movie reviewing duties because not all of us go to the cinema solely to cry and deconstruct opaque symbolism. There are other genres we like to imbibe, and many reviewers are unwilling to examine those movies’ abilities to live up to their genre requirements. For instance, if I’m looking to see an action film, and my reviewer treats Die Hard (an obviously brilliant offering in its category) and The Matrix (not so much) as equally “brainless collections of violence, stunts, and special effects,” then they will not have aided me in selecting between the two.

    Second, and more importantly in this case (since I do not need a critic’s help to inspire me to see Star Wars), many of the mainstream reviewers, with whom I have a begrudging one-sided relationship, have an annoying a penchant for spoiling the movies they discuss by giving away too much plot in their critiques. As in my first criticism, I think the leading causes of this aggravating habit are that the reviewers are arrogant and inconsiderate. Notice that, as they babble freely about the plots they’re exposing, they enunciate their unwelcome delivery with a patronizing tone of voice that implies, “Come on, in a movie like this, obviously that character was going to turn out to be that character’s dad. And, then obviously…”

    This condescending inconsideration is amplified by the reviewers’ distance from their audience. When my Friday afternoon movie reviewer, Katherine Monk, gives away too much of a movie in her Friday afternoon reviews on CBC Radio, she is not aware of me yanking my head phones out of my ears to protect myself.

    In contrast, then, after a trilogy of viewings of Rogue 1—which is a fantastic companion to A New Hope, and a superior installment, in my opinion, to its most recent rival, the pleasing, but troubled Episode VII: The Force Awakens—I craved more contemplations than my own about the new addition to the family. And, while I no longer had to fear the spoiling tendencies of the mainstream media, I was also aware that they were not going to consider my hobby with the nuance I was seeking. Therefore, I cranked up my internet, and dove into the wild space of Youtube, where I was greeted by individual and group conversations, featuring humour, intelligence, and appreciation for the subject. These youtubers were reviewing this Rogue 1 movie because they loved the Star Wars franchise, and even if they didn’t positively perceive this Star Wars story and collection of characters as much as I did, they had gone into the film—quite in contrast with our mainstream movie rebukers—hoping to like it. As a result, where it failed to delight them, I was open to their critiques because they hadn’t treated the movie as intrinsically irredeemable before they’d starting watching it.

    Now, I had visited in Youtube before, so I should acknowledge that I reviewed these reviews anticipating this level of respect. However, what I wasn’t expecting was that every Youtube reviewer that I surfed upon expressed concern about spoiling the movie for their audience, and so offered both a “non-spoiler” and a “spoiler” analysis of the film. In the latter service, every youtuber that I encountered reminded their audience at least twice that they were about to unleash vital plot details, so, if the viewer hadn’t yet seen the movie, they were invited to leave then or forever hold their complaints.

    I assume that this sort of consideration was motivated initially by the democratic nature of Youtube, wherein one starts with a tiny audience, which one can diminish or increase rapidly with every right or wrong turn of phrase. Regardless, the result is that such respect-for-audience has for now become a feature of Youtube culture: even the large, popular Youtube channels that I took in offer this same spoiler protection service.

    While Youtube has its vices (never read the comments: the many anti-social creatures who ply their crassness there will leave your belief in humanity scarred), this fantastic, spoil-resistant result has me pleased with the You-niverse. They have achieved a compassion for their audience that many mainstream reviewers have not even sought. In short, they have gone Rogue, and I like it.

  • This week, the world gets to witness for the first time, Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens.

    I was in grade 1 when the prior entry in this galactic log, Episode VI, Return of the Jedi first visited our movie screens. At the time, I was afraid of watching movies in theatres. I don’t remember why I was scared, but I know that I must have been quite anxious because I recall my dad having a serious chat with me, trying to persuade me that this movie would be worth overcoming my fears for.

    When he mentioned the movie, though, I was already aware of it. That very morning in “show and tell,” one of my classmates had told us about having seen Jedi the night before. He described a compelling story of a heroic Lifesaver guy dueling various evil forces (I can still remember the image I produced in my mind of a cylindrical lifesaver candy man wearing a rainbow of colours battling bad guys).

    So, halfway through my dad’s description of Return of the Jedi, I told him that I had heard of that movie, and that, actually, I was interested to see what would happen to the colourful hero. No further persuasion was required: I would deign to take in a film that evening.

    I don’t recall whether I realized, during that first viewing that the “Lifesaver man” I’d been daydreaming of was, in fact, the lightsaber-wielding Luke Skywalker, Jedi Knight. There probably wasn’t room in my brain for such contemplations: it was already occupied by a thousand thoughts and emotions, as my new heroes and friends, Luke, Han, and Leia battled the evil yet mesmerizing villains, Darth Vader and The Emperor.

    There was now a force permeating my imagination that would never go away.

    I tell this candy-flavoured story of my first meeting with the greatest saga of my movie-going life not because I think it is especially unique, but because I suspect all those who love George Lucas’s galaxy far far away have their own story of complacent expectation turned to wide eyed, ‘What have we here?’ discovery.

    The fact that I was lucky enough to meet Star Wars for the first time in childhood probably intensified its effect on me. As did their unprecedented offering of action figures. All huge movie franchises have toys, but the Star Wars empire sold figures of every minor character who stumbled into frame long enough to wave “Hi” to their moms. And my brother, one of my sisters, and I wanted them all. Not just for the sake of completing a collection, but because each character seemed to be a true resident of that wonderful galaxy. They weren’t just cogs in in the wheels of Jabba the Hutt’s tomb, they were the keeper of the Rancor (i.e. the guy who trained the monster who was paid, in food, to eat unwelcome visitors). That shirt-less Rancor-keeper, who cried when his drooling, building-sized creature was killed by Luke Skywalker, was an important person to us. Rancors needed someone to take care of them just like our own pets did.

    Each character and location in the Star Wars galaxy existed independently of what would eventually happen to them: in our minds, they were significant people and places that housed communities and hierarchies and bureaucracies. To posses an action figure who worked on the Death Star was to have, in our Star Wars carrying case, access to that terrifying place.

    My parents and relatives supported my siblings’ and my Star Wars figure obsessions with birthday and Christmas gifts. My bother and sister’s unwrapping moments were consequently just as important to me as my own. (And my other sisters joined in, too: collecting Star Wars figures, which they could then use in trade to extort their Star Wars-addicted siblings to help them with their particular household tasks.)

    I am sure that every generation has their childhood-earned kinship with particular adventures and characters. (The Harry Potter generation, I imagine, feels Ron and Hermione are better companions than Han and Leia, while generation Oz probably thinks The Tinman, Lion, and Scarecrow are the best friends a person could ever have.) And so my hope here is not  to persuade anyone that Star Wars is the best adventure ever put to screen.

    But let’s face it: it probably is:

    You see, Star Wars isn’t just about space ships, it’s about the most textured space ships you’ve ever seen. Not just because they’re big, but because they have fascinating shapes and sounds (for instance, the iconic screech of the tie-fighter was created from an elephant roar). And George Lucas realized that not all space ships are new, and so he outfitted them with wear and tear in both their look and sound.

    Nor is Star Wars just about grand CGI-generated settings; in fact, the best of the Star Wars universe was built using models. (Unfortunately, Lucas tried to outdo himself with CGI in the prequels: but, to quote Yoda, while he tried, he “did not do.”) As Lucas said of his original achievement, he created those worlds by zooming in on the parts that made up the story, and so letting the backgrounds speak for themselves without the filmmaker announcing, “Look what I have created!” The results provoke the feeling that we are guests in a galaxy of stories that are happening simultaneous to our particular viewing.

    And Star Wars doesn’t just have great characters, it has more iconic characters per minute of story time than a Charles Dickens novel.

    Star Wars villains aren’t just dark and deep voiced. They have a whole dark spiritual side of the force to themselves, and they’re the most deep voiced of bad guys you’ll ever wanna hear (CNN even hired Darth Vader to introduce their network). Plus they’ve got personality. The Emperor doesn’t just mock his enemies, he mimics them. And he doesn’t just have a maniacal laugh, he has a maniacal chuckle when he sees Luke starting to succumb to his taunting.

    And the humour! Well, let’s just acknowledge that Jar Jar Binks is the worst character in the history of cinema (partly, I suppose, by relativity, because he is living in a saga that produced many of the best-ever characters); regardless, you can feel free to fast forward through his parts. (George Lucas, himself, acknowledged in the making of Episode I: The Phantom Menace that Jar Jar was either going to make or break the film. He was half right: although Jar Jar ruined every scene he was in, the story is still worth watching if you make sure to get pop corn during Mr. Binks’s scenes.)

    And the romance in Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back isn’t just sweet, it’s entertaining and genuinely-earned. (Plus the love triangle has an accidental moment of innocent incest. Beat that, Hunger Games!)

    Star Wars doesn’t just have pure-veined heroes, it has champions who could turn to the dark side (like their dads did before them); it has reluctant heroes who only rescue princesses because they can imagine a hearty reward; and other heroes who betray their friends, only to try to rescue them from the chilling results.

    Star Wars doesn’t just have a good side and a dark side, it has a corpus callosum in every brain that puts its owners at risk of being pulled to the other side.

    And Star Wars doesn’t just possess catch phrases (“May the force be with you,” “Search your feelings,” “I’ve got a bad feeling about this”), it has echoes of language across all six films that is operatic in its placement and repetition. (This is something Lucas acknowledges was his intention.)

    And Star Wars doesn’t just have the most exciting music, it has the heart-starting scores of John Williams. Try humming the theme to Star Wars without smiling. But, equally as important, consider Williams’s melancholy yet hopeful music in Episode IV: A New Hope, as he serenades Luke Skywalker’s longing to escape his Uncle’s claustrophobia-provoking farm. Whenever I hear that somber tune, the force awakens in me.

    But again, my appeal here is not to argue that my Star Wars figures are more worthy than your Buck Rogers figures or your Catniss Everdeen posters, but instead just to say that there is room for one more on the Millennium Falcon if you’d like to join us.

    As the sequel to the Star Wars film that first triggered my imagination comes to screen this week, I would like to invite anyone who could use a boost to join us on this quest to see what happens next.

    And, if you’re afraid to get caught up in an imperial world of modern cinematic warfare, don’t worry, it’s not as overbearing as all that. It’s just a little movie about a little Livesaver-candy Man standing up to some bullies.

    (P.S. It’s now January 31st, and I’m on the other side of having seen this movie three times now. My thoughts on it are here.)

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  • Hello Sethblogs Curious:

    I think I overheard that one of you has been requesting more information about the person behind Sethblogs. Well, in addition to being a ranter, I also work in canine colossus astrophysics. Utilizing my special expertise in duct tape application, I am helping to build “AirPug,” which will be competing in Portland Flugtag (Flying Day) on August 1st, 2015. My brother Calum will be riding our giant pug, while my sibling-in-law Trevor, my sisters Tarrin and Sorrel, and I will then skillfully push him (and then ourselves) into the water from the Flugtag deck in the sky (approximately 26 feet up!). Following our motto, “When pugs fly, anything can happen,” our goal is to break the world giant pug flying record of one foot.

    Skeptical? I refer you to the following two videos which will verify my scientific claims.

    You can also follow our puggy exploits on your favourite social media:

    Twitter at https://twitter.com/AirPugFlugtag. #TeamAirPug #WhenPugsFly

    Instagram at http://Instagram.com/airpug_flugtag.

    And FacePug at: https://www.facebook.com/airpugflugtag?fref=ts

    Fly Airpug, fly!
    Seth

    P.S. Air Pug flew well (click this pic for motion):

    17_air_pug_gif

    And we did break the world pug flying record! However, we haven’t yet gotten credit for it, as certain members of the media have suggested that I might have been on steroids at the time of pug flight. So we’re awaiting the results of that investigation before we get our membership in the Pugness Book of World Records.

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    Red Bull Flugtag 2015. Portland, Oregon. August 1, 2015. http://www.aflitt.com #aflitt #flugtag #redbullpdx

    Red Bull Flugtag 2015. Portland, Oregon. August 1, 2015. http://www.aflitt.com #aflitt #flugtag #redbullpdx

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