Group Dynamics II

As a people watcher, I see group dynamic watching as the next logical step. (Last time I ran away with the circus, it was one of the first things I posted about.) When you put 60 or so people (with people coming and going daily), group dynamics is something that exists in abundance. Who contributes and who doesn't really pull their weight, who complains and who makes due, who gets along with whom, who are snuggle buddies, etc. etc.

One of the things that intrigues me most about this ever-morphing animal that is called Chautauqua is the way responsibilities are handled. There is no end-all buckstopper to whom you can take your questions or even figure out who you should take your question to. In general, if you start asking the questions, you become the one that has to answer them. Take "When are we going to leave?" for example. A simple question, right? Well, try asking it around a Chautauqua camp the day before a travel day. You quickly become the one to coordinate between all the people that know what else has to happen and when, such that you become the authority.

This whole concept of responsibility for the taking is one that has its ups and downs. Ups: everyone is responsible for the experience, rather than being able to point to just one organizer; each year is very different (so I'm told); everyone has a say in how things go down; you can be as involved as you want; the fact that it works is just plain amazing. Downs: it is easy for people to decide not to pull their own weight since there is no one to call them on it; each year is different*, the people who care often get overworked and burnt out; personality conflicts can have a bigger impact.

Sufficive to say, it is a trip, both on the performance/travel/circus side as well as the group dynamics side.
Thursday July 30 2009File under: chautauqua

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Show Day

Salt Spring Island B.C. is the third stop on this tour. Three stops is enough for me to start to get down the routine. The big day of every stop is Show Day, the day where we get all dressed up in costumes, parade through "town"*, put on a teaser show and workshops (in hopes of drawing as many people in), and finishing the day with the big show. As a non-performer*, it isn't as stressful a day as it could be, but it is still a lot of hustle and bustle, and we all play our role.

The reward, however, is worth it. Between the logistics of camping, food, and transportation, etc. and hanging out with awesome people, I sometimes forget that the focus of Chautauqua is on putting on a quality vaudeville show for the communities we visit. After the show, and usually until we leave the community, the people let us know how much they appreciated and enjoyed it. Hearing, "Hey, aren't you those circus guys? You were awesome!" does the whole goosebump thing for me, even though my role in getting the show to go on simply involved mathematics of erecting a trapeze set and putting oatmeal in the performers bellies.

Anyway, Show Day is a good day. (Actually, they've all been good days, but show days are particularly fun.)
Saturday July 25 2009File under: chautauqua

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Breakfast for 60

Cooking for 60 people is a slightly different experience than cooking for a few friends, or even for a reasonably sized dinner party. Cooking for 60 people requires planning, huge pots and pans, a knowledge of your eaters, and having a little help in the "kitchen" doesn't hurt. The role I've fallen into on this tour is that of breakfast buckstop. That means that I am responsible for making sure there is breakfast every morning. That doesn't mean I necessarily have to do it, but I gotta make sure it gets done. So far, it means that I've been up before anyone else getting the water boiling for coffee, cracking eggs, and delegating to my helpers*.

What makes the experience that much more exiting is the facilities. For the past 3 mornings, we've been camped out on Gabriola Island with an outdoor kitchen consisting of 2 propane fueled burnings, a picnic table for prep, pots and pans in totes, and food strewn about in boxes and coolers everywhere. That didn't stop us from making a kick ass sausage, potato, etc. scramble one morning, and some delicious oatmeal another. At our last stop, Lasqueti, we had a nice indoor kitchen at the community center which facilitated delicious berry pancakes among other deliciousness. Who knows what Salt Spring Island will hold breakfast-wise.

The combination of cooking for a large group of people with whoever happens to be around helping out is really an inspiring experience (as long as there isn't too much griping, which there hasn't been at all). And knowing that I have the easiest meal of the day*, I have that much more respect for those putting together the other meals. Then there's the guy who plans and shops for the food we should have on hand, the people who organize the finances of it all, the people who move it and sort it, and the people who help clean up after it all*—feeding a traveling circus of 60 people ain't a small job. But like with everything here on Chautauqua, it can be a fun job.
Thursday July 23 2009File under: chautauqua

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Chautauqua in 3 Words

So far, the experience of Aqua Chautauqua II is beyond words*. So instead of trying to capture it all in words and failing or waiting until I have the time, thought processes, and pictures to make a respectable post, I've put together a few 3-word phrases to at least hint at the wonderful time I've been having. (Apologies for any insider jokes that found their way in. Ask me any particular one someday and I'll explain.) Enjoy!

Epic tent camp. "Type of Mushroom?" Mayonaisse eating contest. Pancakes for 50. Breakfast buck stop. Juggle and snuggle. Bioluminescence night swimming. Strangley's handstands happen. Magic juggling clubs*. "Hop on in."*. Load and unload. Load and unload. (Load and unload.) "Where's my beachball?" Hurry-up n wait. Fake mustaches everywhere! "Where's the coffee?"* Never grow up.
Saturday July 18 2009File under: chautauqua

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Running Away with the Circus...Again...

Remember that one time when I ran away with the circus? While this go round is a different circus, a different country, and a totally different dynamic*, I still get to say I'm running away with the circus*!

As for what this experience is going to be like, I don't really know. What is my role going to be? I don't really know much about that either, although on my application I said I'd do pretty much anything (except perform). Besides our itinerary (Canadian Gulf Islands), about all I know about what I am getting myself into is what I've read on the group's website. From the sounds of it, it'll be an adventure.

I'll do my best to keep you all, my friends, in on the fun by posting about my adventures. The last time I went to Lasquiti Island, however, the place we stayed had only minimal solar power and not a wifi signal to be found. Point being that updates might not be as frequent as we'd all like. But when I return, at least, there will be pictures and posts and stories to tell. Yeehaw adventure!
Tuesday July 14 2009File under: chautauqua

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Bingo! X 2

Are there any Scrabble players in the audience? I thought so. So I assume you know what a bingo is in terms of Scrabble. For those of you that don't, it is using all 7 tiles in a given turn. The reward is an additional 50 point bonus.

In a recent game, I not only scored a bingo (a rare enough occasion in itself), I scored two bingos BACK TO BACK on the second and third turns. It's pretty much the highlight of my scrabble career. INGRATE and TOSSING were my words, both pretty low scorers aside from the bonus. But still. Then on the fourth turn, I was one letter away from a 3rd consecutive bingo, but alas.

What's your highest scoring scrabble play ever?
Sunday July 12 2009File under: games

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FC 75 - Boo!

With all the weight loss products out there, I'm surprised no one has ever thought of this*. Sure it probably isn't healthy, but neither is completely foregoing carbohydrates*. Anyhoo, I think I would make a great infomercial graphics guy. In researching this comic, I looked up a few screen shots and figured out the secrets: lots of flashy fonts, different colors, hokey background, and lots of wow. It didn't seem like there was a lot of finesse to it all. Anyway, if my comics career never takes off (which is looking more and more likely these days), I can always resort to a position at RonCo.

Oh, and I'm thinking there is going to be a 3 week Friday Comic hiatus starting next week. I'm running away with the circus to some tiny islands in Canada so I don't think I'll have much internet/computer access and hopefully will have more exciting things to post than nerdy comics if I do. In the meantime, you can always go through the archives of the comics only page.
Thursday July 9 2009File under: comic

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Ready Set Eat

What could be more American than gathering together on the 4th of July for a BBQ with friends? Doing exactly that but adding in an eating contest, of course. That's exactly how I spent my 4th and I have to say it was a hoot.

Recalling antics from college, I decided to put together a watermelon eating contest and get as many people to play along as possible. In the end, I could only convince 3 others to join me, but we had a good time with it. As we all stood by with our first piece at the ready, the proverbial gun sounded. We all dove in and immediately burst into such hard laughter that our times suffered dramatically. Perhaps competitive eating and having a sense of humor don't go hand in hand.

With the exception of me (who couldn't stop laughing long enough to get down more than 3 pieces), the competitors were neck and neck until the end. While Tone looked like he had it sealed up, judges ruled too much meat left on the bone so he had to go in for a second pass. Nater, who had been meticulously cleaning the rinds as he went, pulled ahead for the win.

The whole thing was so much fun that I'm inclined to do it again next year. In the meantime, I've got some practicing to do (and that's no laughing matter).
Wednesday July 8 2009File under: holidays, food

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Portland Happiness Pie Chart

Portland

I've been having too great a time in Portland these last couple weeks. I've been having so great a time, in fact, that I'm officially putting Portland on the list of places I would think about moving to if I ever decided to settle down, move out of the garage, etc. etc.

Why am I having such a great time? you ask. I've made up this handy little chart to help explain. Click on any wedge to get a brief description.

Sunday July 5 2009File under: misc

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FC 74 - Mixed Signals

At my last housesitting gig, one of the big perks was a fancy home theater system with projection HD tv and Blu-Ray player thingy. It was all housed in a windowless room so I could easily pretend that it wasn't beautiful outside* and while away hours watching movies. One of the ones we watched was Dark Knight (one in the myriad franchise Batman films). I had never seen it (nor seen any of the other recent Batman films). I guess somewhere in there is the inspiration for this comic (although once I came up with the idea for a superhero named Moonman, I had quite a few other ideas, let me tell you... Maybe he will have to make a recurrence in a later comic.)*

As I've mentioned before, my enthusiasm for Friday Comics has been waning of late. A combination of lack of positive feedback along with diverting interest (like making crosswords) has me thinking that the end is near. This past week, however, I was catching up with an old friend and, as always, talk came around to my blog. I mentioned my comic series and showed off a few of the better ones*. My friend's reaction got me excited about making comics again, at least for the time being. The point has always been to get a chuckle or two and that's exactly what I got. Moral of the story: a smile holds many wonders.
Thursday July 2 2009File under: comic

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