Monday, December 12, 2022

Lola LaRue Christmas 2022

 We made a Christmas video for The Lola LaRue Variety Show! Just Lola hanging out, having a few drinks, wrapping some presents and singing a song. 

We're working on the next batch of episodes for Series 2 and are aiming to have our next episode out for Valentine's Day.

Monday, November 7, 2022

Lola LaRue Variety Show - Love on the High Seas - Episode 6

 Here's the last episode of series 1 of the Lola LaRue show. We've already started working on series 2, so new episodes will happen, probably early-ish in 2023.

It was very hard to not laugh while recording this.

Monday, October 31, 2022

The Lola LaRue Variety Show - Episode 5 - "Do the LaRue and Look Like Lola!"

 Here's the next episode of the show I've been working on with my friend, Diana! We only have one more (next week) and then we're taking a little break to work on some new material.

Monday, October 17, 2022

The Lola LaRue Variety Show - Episode 3

 Here's episode 3 of the Lola LaRue Variety Show, where Lola gets some visitors in her apartment/dressing room.

Tuesday, October 11, 2022

The Lola LaRue Variety Show Launches Today

 Hello! If you've tried to call or text me this past year, chances are good you got a reply that I couldn't talk because I was in a production meeting. What, you wondered, was I producing? Well, wonder no more. I was producing the Lola LaRue Variety Show! It's a new series (6 episodes long so far) that my friends Diana Costa, Lola LaRue and I created for YouTube.

I first met Lola way back in maybe 2009? Hard to remember now exactly. She was doing some gigs down in Hollywood and I would go see her late-night weekend performances. I became an instant fan and forced some of my friends to go see her. They also became instant fans. I hope you will also become an instant fan.

The first two episodes of her show are available now. Here are the links:

Episode 1:

Episode 2:

Please like and subscribe to Lola's channel. She needs 100 subscribers to get her owl URL.

Saturday, August 20, 2022

Puzzle Pieces Always Falling into Place

 If you read my blog regularly, you probably read my New Year's Resolution wrap up when I spent the year reading books…and hated it. A piece of the puzzle of me finally fell into place in the past year, thanks to comedian Richard Herring and RHLSTP (Richard Herring's Leicester Square Theatre Podcast).

You see, Richard has a cognitive condition - which might not be the right way to describe it - called aphantasia. Part of his imagination is broken. He has no mind's eye. Ask him to visualize a tree, and he can't. He dreams and that all seems "normal," but daydreaming means something different to him.

Back when I was in high school, I had a best friend/boyfriend who was an artist. I would spend hours on the phone with him and I remember one time talking to him about what, at the time, I called "visual thoughts." I told him how scary it must be to have "visual thoughts," because I didn't have them. I assumed only a few people could actually visualize things. Lucky people who could then do things like draw from memory. I wasn't one of them.

Turns out, thanks to Richard Herring letting me know that not having visual thoughts put you in the minority and not the majority, I realized that I fell into that minority. I wouldn't say I'm 100% unable to visualize things, but from talking to people since learning about aphantasia, and reading about it, I'm much closer to the no visualization end of the spectrum than the other end, where people have the ability to hyper visualize things.

When I drift off to sleep, I can visualize things a little. That's when I work on the plots of my stories, or think about things I love, or daydream. The way I can sometimes imagine images when I'm awake I can best describe as someone holding the picture just out of my field of vision. It's on the side, in the periphery, or even behind me. I'm aware of it, but I can't look directly at it.

I assumed when you were told to visualize something, or picture something or whatever, that it wasn't a literal suggestion. That it just meant "think about." If you ask me to visualize something, I don't. Instead, I get my brain ready to access facts about that item. "Think of an apple" would send me into the following thought process:

Apples are fruit. They can be basically green, red or yellow. They can be sweet or sour. They can be eaten raw, or are often cooked and added to pies. Seasoned with cinnamon. They can also be crushed to make applesauce and juice. I like the way apple juice tastes and often order it on planes. I have three apple trees in my yard. An apple a day keeps the doctor away. Ok. I'm ready for a follow-up question.

It is all words in my mind. If I want to remember something, I have to be able to recite it. When I learn tap routines, I memorize the steps, saying them, and then do them. Until I can say the order of the steps, I can't do them. When I learn music, I have to be able to say the chords or I get hopelessly lost. Everything I look at is converted to text in my brain. What does someone look like? I can only tell you the parts of their appearance that I've taken the time to convert to words. If I didn't look at someone and intentionally think something like "blue eyes," I will have no idea what color their eyes are. I cannot pull up their photograph in my mind and see what eye color they have. My memory is essentially spoken word.

I think this is why I don't like to read. The more descriptive the writing, the less interest I have. If a writer spends three pages describing a person's features, I'm not following along. I'm not creating a picture of the person in my mind. I banking important details in case they become plot important later, but I have no idea what that character looks like. I usually assign real-life people to what I read. I cast actors to play different roles. And all I see when I read a book is the words on the page.

I do slightly better listening to books because I can look at other things. But, as I've learned is the case with many of my fellow aphantasia people (aphantasiacs?) is that I would rather read non-fiction than fiction. I'd rather sit with the Audubon Field Guide than the latest novel by the hottest author.

I'd also rather write screenplays than novels. A screenwriter has to only put in plot important details and leave room for other creative people to inject their creativity into the project. It doesn't matter what kind of car you put in your script, you can just say "car." Unless you need the car to have some specific quality later, and then you can be more specific.

I think this might also be why I'm good at my job. I watch movies and write what I see. My imagination doesn't interject. I see what is there. And I think this might be why I'm good at figuring out how things are made/put together, how things work and how gears will turn. I also think this is why I don't have many memories of my very young life. I remember seeing photographs of places I've been better than remembering going to those places. I know I've been to New Zealand, Australia, Turkey, Germany, England, etc., but my "memories" are the stories my parents have told and the music we listened to.

A few friends have said things like, "Why didn't you tell me?" Well, I didn't know! And you couldn't tell! There is no decline in my ability to learn. I was able to get my Master's Degree with honors. I wasn't singled out. This isn't a disability in any way. It is just different than what apparently most of the people in the world experience.

I'm fine. I just hate reading and have to look at reference pictures to paint. I panic that I might not recognize people when I see them, but I don't think I have a problem with that. My subconscious brain remembers some things, even though it likes to keep them hidden from my conscious.


(A picture of a dead tree in the Nevada desert just because I prefer my posts to have at least one picture.)

I might write more about this in the future, but for now, thanks to Richard Herring to push in a puzzle piece of what it is to be me.

Saturday, May 28, 2022

University of North Texas (UNT) Advanced Film Production Films - 1997

 Hopefully YouTube won't take these down. I've finally, after years, uploaded and posted the short films we made in the spring of 1997 in North Texas. 

Here's the one I was in:

Here's the one I edited:

Here's the whole playlist:

UNT - Advanced Film Studies Playlist

Here's what I posted under the videos:

University of North Texas (UNT) Advanced Film Studies - 1997

This is one of several of the final student films produced by the UNT advanced film studies class in 1997. I don’t remember everyone involved. I’ve pulled names from the credits on each of the films and will assume these are the students from the class. If you would like to see the specific credit received, and additional cast/crew credits, please watch the credits on the individual short films. If you were in the class and your name is missing, let me know and I’ll add it. If you weren’t in the class and your name is here, congratulations! If your name is spelled wrong, it was probably wrong in the credits of at least one of the films, where I copied these names from.

UNT Advanced Film Studies Students:

Seale Adams

Steve Andrews

Heath Banks

Chris Blackledge

Melinda Buckley

Will Chen

Shane Clark

Tad Dennis (Thomas A. Dennis)

Brandon Dodd

Richard Doss

Jim Driskell

Cindy Edgemon

Elisa Farrell

Deedee Freeman

Matt Hirsch

Ben Hogan

Norma Inocencio

Jeremy Jimenez

Katherine “Katy” Kirby

Diane Lowe

Jariya “Jun” Manoonkulchai

Heather Matson

Keith Miller

Clay Mills

Mike Moe

J. Michael Owen

Fernando Perez Del Rio

Heidi Quintero

Dan Riddle

Paul Salinas

Kristi Sandoval

Joe Scott

Chris Switzer

Camille Sharon Thien

Nathaniel Torson

Devrin Usta

Jeff Valeri

Matt Walters

Chris Weatherly

LouAnn Wu

Jack Young

I can’t recall, but I assume these films were all shot on 16mm silent film. The audio was recorded to mag and the editors had to work with reels of synced film and mag stock. This transfer was completely out of sync, so I’ve done what I can without making myself crazy to adjust the sync before uploading.  The way these films were made is much more expensive, time consuming and difficult than making the equivalent films would be today with digital recording and editing options.

All of these were shot in and around Denton, Texas, near the University of North Texas, in 1997. I think this was a spring semester class only, because I actually graduated in 1996 but stayed at school after graduating so I could participate in this class.

My VHS copy - which I don’t think I’d ever played prior to this conversion - has suffered from age. The films which were later in the tape look better than the ones which were early on the tape. The quality, therefore, varies from one film to the next just because of the VHS. If you were part of this group and have a better copy, please let me know! I had lunch with a couple of the guys from class and they prompted me to upload these films since they couldn’t locate them. I’d be happy to share a better version, if it exits.

Also, to the people who made these films, please drop a comment or find me on other social medias! I’d love to hear what you’ve been up to.

Don’t forget to like this video and to subscribe to my channel. It may not seem like a very big thing to you, but it is the most important thing you can do to show support for people who create videos on YouTube.

While you’re here, you can also:

Read my blog:

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Follow my not-very-active Twitter: @CamilleSharon

Friday, April 29, 2022

Perfume Ranking - House of Sillage Whispers in the Garden Noir

I did a video of this. Please watch it above. Spoiler alert: I didn't like any of them and won't be buying any of them! How cruel does my review get? You'll have to watch it to find out. 

P.S. They will never send me free products to review at this rate. But I figure an honest review is more important than a pandering one.

Monday, April 18, 2022

House of Sillage - Whispers in the Garden Ranking


That's the video. I did two rankings on each fragrance, first on paper and then on my skin. I'll post the ranking below as skin/paper, because I ultimately ordered them in the skin order. If you don't want to watch it, here's a rundown of what it says:

In last place, 7/7: Whispers of Strength. This is the perfume in the purple bottle. It is a white floral and isn't for me mainly because it has tuberose in it, which smells rotten on my skin. Very sweet and floral.

6/5: Whispers of Innocence. This perfume comes in a white bottle. This is another white floral and even though it doesn't have gardenia in it, the overall effect is gardenia to me. It is very strong and really makes a statement. That statement is, "I'm wearing perfume!!!!" If that's the statement you want to make, then this is a good choice for you. 

5/6: Whispers of Truth. This perfume comes in an opaque white bottle with multi-colored crystals on the cap. It is the most expensive perfume in the line. At $495/bottle, you might not be surprised when I tell you I bought the travel version, which is much less expensive. The overall scent is very powdery to me. It has a sweet/bitter scent which competes for your attention. 

4/3: Whispers of Enlightenment. This perfume comes in a peach bottle. It has a clean scent and is much more fruity than the others in this collection, which tend to be more floral. I think it might not have had a lot of staying power on my skin.

3/1: Whispers of Guidance. This perfume comes in a green bottle. It has something called "green notes" in it and even though I liked this one on paper the best, when I put it on, it smelled like tomato plants on me. I'm not sure if I would ever want to smell like a tomato plant or not. It was clean and green, but just not an ideal match for me.

2/4: Whispers of Time. This perfume comes in a blue bottle. I wonder if the color of the bottle influenced how much I liked this one. I really wanted it to be the best one, because the bottle is blue. It has ginger in it and that's the main thing I could detect. On paper, the ginger was sharp. On skin, it was softer.

1/2: Whispers of Admiration. This perfume comes in a pink bottle. It is sugary and reminds me of cotton candy. So again, not very floral, but I liked it the best. I didn't buy a full bottle only because it seems to either be sold out or never on sale. To me, that means it is the favorite one by everyone. Why put it on sale when they can't even keep it in stock? I only have a travel size of it because I'm not going to spend full price on any of these bottles without there being an amazing gift with purchase on offer.

There you go. The bottles are very pretty. I didn't hate any of these perfumes and ranking them was a little bit difficult because none of them were really horrible.

Whispers in the Garden Noir collection ranking is coming soon...

Friday, April 8, 2022

I Watched Three Versions of Death on the Nile so You Don't Have to!


I’m going to do some comparisons between the three different adaptations of Death on the Nile. I will assume you’ve seen at least one or read the book, otherwise this is meaningless and spoiler alter - filled with spoilers.

Characters and key plot:

1978 Version

2004 Version

2022 Version

Hercule Poirot

Peter Ustinov

David Suchet

Kenneth Branagh

Colonel Race

David Niven

James Fox


Linnet Doyle née Ridgeway

Lois Chiles

Emily Blunt, playing American

Gal Gadot, no longer American

Jacqueline de Bellefort

Mia Farrow

Emma Griffiths Malin

Emma Mackey, no longer American

Simon Doyle

Simon MacCorkindale

JJ Feild

Armie Hammer, playing English

Linnet's maid Louise Bourget

Jane Birkin

Félicité Du Jeu

Rose Leslie

trustee Andrew Pennington

George Kennedy

David Soul

Ali Fazal swapped in as  Andrew Katchadourian

Salome Otterbourne, romance novelist

Angela Lansbury

Frances de la Tour

Sophie Okonedo, now an American jazz singer

Rosalie, Salome’s daughter

Olivia Hussey, becomes engaged to Mr. Ferguson

Zoe Telford, propositions Tim, but he is a homosexual and turns her down

Letitia Wright, Salome’s daughter and business manager, in a secret relationship with Bouc

Tim Allerton

Omitted, so the pearls are not counterfeited

Daniel Lapaine

Tom Bateman swapped in as Bouc, he steals the necklace and hides it in Euphemia’s luggage where it is found

Tim’s Mother


Barbara Flynn

Annette Bening swapped in as Euphemia

Marie Van Schuyler, socialite kleptomaniac

Bette Davis, steals and returns the pearls

Judy Parfitt, steals the fake pearls and Cornelia returns them (I think - I’ve forgotten already)

Jennifer Saunders, no longer a socialite or kleptomaniac, now a closeted lesbian with her “nurse.”

Cornelia Robson, cousin of Marie


Daisy Donovan, agrees to marry Dr. Bressner after turning down Mr. Ferguson


Miss Bowers, nurse to Marie

Maggie Smith


Dawn French, closeted lesbian companion of Marie.

Mr. Ferguson, communist, witnesses first shot

Jon Finch

Alastair Mackenzie

Combined with below.

Dr. Bessner, Austrian

Jack Warden

Steve Pemberton

Russell Brand swapped in to replace Dr. Bessner and Mr. Ferguson as Linus Windlesham

Guido Richetti, archeologist




Jim Fanthorp, lawyer/solicitor







Susannah Fielding, Poirot’s former fiancée, not a character from the source material









1st murder victim




2nd murder victim




3rd murder victim



Bouc* New character in this version.

4th murder victim




5th body








Pearl Necklace

Still pearls, stolen by Marie

Still pearls, stolen by Marie, counterfeited by Tim

Changed to diamond necklace

Nail Polish Bottle

Filled with unexplained paint

Filled with unexplained paint

Filled with red paint from new character Euphemia’s paint supplies.


This proves what? Nothing. Just noting the differences to keep track of them. One difference in the 2022 movie which I think was a problem was Linnet saying she rented out the entire riverboat for her guests. All of the characters, including Poirot, are on the cruise by Linnet’s invitation and yet Jacqueline still manages to get a room despite Linnet renting the whole boat. Doesn’t make sense. And why change it? It was fine that Poirot just happened to book himself onto the cruise. And that the other people had some connection with Linnet. She was rich and owned a lot of properties or companies or something. Everyone didn’t need to be on the boat at her request.

I also didn’t think the changing of Salome and Rosalie’s characters in the 2022 version worked. Salome was such a great character in the other 2 versions that the changes just didn’t work in 2022.

2022 wide shots of the Nile looked like CGI and did nothing to entice me to want to visit Egypt. 1978’s shots of the Nile and Egypt were better. Which is good because it was filmed on location.

Anyway, what are my thoughts? 1978 was the best as a movie. 2004 seems most faithful to the book and is the shortest one, so that’s a bonus. 2022 was embarrassing and cringe in so many ways. Just search on YouTube for the opening dances between Simon and Jacqueline and Simon and Linnet and see if it doesn’t make you incredibly uncomfortable.

Tuesday, March 8, 2022

Some of the Lessons I Learned at School


I was born and raised in Texas. I vaguely remember hearing that at the time I was in school (I only went to public schools for my primary and secondary education) that a public-school education was better than a private one. I don’t know if this is true, but I was told that private-school teachers didn’t have to be certified while public-school ones did. This might have been the story my parents told themselves to not feel guilty about sending me to public school, but I do feel like I got a pretty good education, although there were a few problems with it.

In elementary school, early on in 1st or 2nd grade, or possibly even kindergarten, a friend of mine was very chatty. We students would often have to sit on the floor, gathered around the teacher while she taught us something. Do kids in kindergarten still do that? Gather around the teacher, sitting on the floor. I have memories of gathering around the teacher and sitting on the floor as far as 4th grade. The floors were carpeted, but some teachers had carpet squares stacked in the corner of the room and each kid would go get a carpet square to sit on. It was always disappointing if I didn’t get there fast enough to get a good color and ended up sitting on brown carpet.

Back to the chatty friend. During one of these “gather around the teacher” times, my chatty friend had a lot to say. I crawled around the group moving to the other side to get away from the chatty friend and she followed me. We were friends, but I was, and am, a rule follower. I knew she was about to get in trouble and I wanted to get as far away as possible. It didn’t work. So I turned to her and either said, “quiet,” or “shush” or something. And I got in trouble. I learned that it was possible to get in trouble when other people are the ones being disruptive and you shouldn’t speak up for yourself.

I don’t know what grade of elementary school I was in when the first computers appeared, but I do remember immediately being let down by my education. My elementary school was in a square building. The library, which had no real walls, was in the middle of the room. Smaller classrooms were around the edges of the room. They didn’t have real walls, but rather partitions which slid out of the walls and locked into place, so the size and shape of the classrooms could be changed. The grades of students went around the room clockwise. Stepping into the room, the kindergarten kids were closest to the door on the left. The fifth graders were closest to the door to the right. The other grades went around the edges in order.

Because of the layout of the building, I’m going to guess I was in at least 3rd grade when this happened. We were sat at a row of computers with a very simple test on the screen. One question at a time was shown. Only one question stands out. Fill in the blank with either “to,” “too” or “two.” I knew that “two” was the number, but I was never actually taught the difference between “to” and “too.” I looked helplessly at the girl seated beside me and she acted like this was common knowledge. In other words, not something that even needed to be taught. We were expected to know it going in. I took a guess, and I’m pretty sure that I got the right one, but I knew, without any doubt, this was a failing of my education and not of my ability to learn things. I was never taught the difference so I never learned the difference. I learned that basic things are sometimes skipped over.

I don’t blame my parents for any blind spots. I actually think my mom did a better job than most moms when it came to sending me off to school with a basic education. I didn’t need to learn the alphabet or how to count from my teachers. My mom took care of that. And she was always reading, so I had a role model who was never without a book. Sure, they were romance novels, but she ran through them two or three each week.

I did hate English class, but I paid attention. The class I would daydream in was math, because I was good and math and caught on quickly. That left me a lot of time do think about other things. Once, during independent study, I started to read a book and was scolded for not continuing to stare at the math pages. I didn’t need to stare at the math pages, because I got it! But I learned then that there was theater involved in being a student. You had to pretend you were learning something, even after you had learned it.

I think the main thing I learned during middle school was that people are mean. I was sometimes mean, too. I’m sorry to anyone I was mean to. Believe me, I was on the receiving end of mean behavior and comments infinitely more often than I did mean things. I’m pretty sure I also apologized after I realized I was being mean.

In high school, when we signed up for classes, we got a list of the classes offered and had to pick what we wanted to take. Physical Education was required for at least 2 years in high school-- maybe more? I don’t remember. The first day of 9th grade I went to my chosen PE class: tennis. The coach tossed a ball to me, I hit the ball, and I was told I had to drop the class and take “regular” PE. The tennis class was only for students who could already play tennis who would then be on the tennis team. I learned that not all of the classes offered were there for learning. Some were there for the school to win awards and the learning part of some of the classes took place at country clubs on the weekends.

I took bowling by correspondence. It was a lot of fun and I didn’t have to change clothes at school.

Back to middle school now. In middle school I started taking French class and I continued French in high school. One French teacher I had was preparing a class trip to Paris. I wasn’t going, but I heard a lot about the planning. I was also in French Honor Society, so there is a chance that’s where the planning for the trip to Paris was focused. The students who were going to travel to France were given a dire warning by this teacher. I’m paraphrasing:

“In France, if you get injured, even slightly, they will take you to a hospital and treat you, even if you don’t want to be treated. You don’t want this to happen to you. Don’t get hurt. Make sure you have insurance to get treatment when you get back to the US and if something happens, shout at them that you don’t want to get treated.”

Huh. I knew that the teacher was telling us something that she thoughts was unbelievably bad. Dangerous. Unwelcomed medical treatment. But I couldn’t understand exactly why it was bad. She didn’t say you wouldn’t be able to afford it. I think she said something about France being socialist. I told my parents the story and tried to convey the same terror the teacher had in her voice. They didn’t seem too interested. I wasn’t going on the trip anyway. I took money with me to school and bought a sweatshirt from Paris when the students returned. They bought extras to sell to those of us who weren’t going. I learned how the conservative politics of teachers is passed on to the students.

During high school, I got my driver’s license. Most kids in Texas (and maybe the US?) do this as an exciting right of passage. Since my sister was two years older than me, I didn’t bother to do this in the same way as kids on TV shows and movies do. On TV, as soon as a kid turns 15 they go in for their driver’s permit and start learning to drive. They either enroll in driving school or their parents teach them. My parents taught my sister how to drive. I was going to driving school whether I wanted to or not. But I still had an unwilling chauffeur in my sister, so I didn’t actually go to driving school until I was already 16.

Getting a driver’s license involved getting the learner’s permit and then passing the road test. You had to pass the written test before you got your learner’s permit. I failed my first road test because we didn’t learn to parallel park at driving school. The second test, I just backed into the spot and said, “I’m not doing this.” I got full marks off for it, but didn’t fail that time.

The year after I got my driver’s license, Texas stopped requiring the road test for new drivers if they had been to driving school. A quick Google of this and it looks like they require the road test again. But for a while, it wasn’t required. I thought this wasn’t fair and I learned that the people driving in Texas might not be qualified.

My college experience is something for another post, but eventually I went to the University of North Texas (UNT), and that’s where I finished my BA. My major was in Radio/TV/Film and I got a minor in French.

Because I had studied at a number of different colleges before settling down, I had taken French 1 twice already (not counting in 8th and 9th grades), and I took it again at UNT. I could have taken some tests to get out of it, but I learned that each school thinks the education they offer is superior to any other school. When I got out of high school, I could have also taken tests to get skip over some basic math and English classes since I had taken AP classes, but I opted to not take the AP (advanced placement) test. This just reiterated that I’m too lazy to take tests to get out of doing work. I’d rather have an easy A than the stress of a test.

When I enrolled at UNT, all students were required to have a major and a minor, and two years of a foreign language (12 hours). I had studied French since 8th grade, and was happy to continue with it in college. To get a minor in French, you only needed three years (18 hours). One of my French teachers was trying to get me to change my major to French. When a summer program in French came up, where students went overseas to study, she helped me get accepted into it, no doubt thinking it would convince me that I really wanted to be a French major. The summer program counted as 6 hours. I was already at my 12 hours required for graduation, so this 6 hours would give me the minor and a summer in Nice. My parents were surprised I wanted to do this, but they let me do it.

If you know me personally, you know I am an introvert. I’m happy to do things with friends…one friend at a time. Maybe I can handle going somewhere with two friends at once, but more than that and I’m not only going to uncomfortable, but I’m going to be very quiet. Going to France to study in a program like this is not something that introverts usually do. We stay at home, inside, alone, with our cats. We have cats. But I like to push myself into uncomfortable situations and I really wanted to do this.

On the plus side, I was able to get a single room. I actually think all of the dorm rooms on campus were single rooms. It was a sparse room with a bed near the window, a desk and a sink! The window had shutters on it that you cranked open and closed. When they were closed, the room was as dark as if it was night.

The first day of classes, we all had to take assessment tests to find out which classes we belonged in. Oh! My favorite! I tested at or near the top, to be put in the most advanced classes. There were two classes each day that I had to take, as far as I remember. In the morning, we (the students) went to the grammar class. Written French. In the afternoon, we went to the conversation classes. Spoken French. Oops! I think I was only in the very small (four students including me) advanced conversation class for one day before the teacher was like, “You’re dropping down a level.” I didn’t mind.

I was at a huge disadvantage when it came to speaking and hearing French - most of my teachers had had heavy southern accents. American southern accents. Texas, y’all. This was also in the beforetime, when there were three or four French movies available on video in all of Texas and I had seen them all. And one, a movie starring Christophe Lambert, was dubbed into English. I couldn’t go to YouTube, or Netflix, to watch French movies and TV shows to work on my listening comprehension.

I liked the other class better. It was a much larger group of people - maybe 30? It felt like a normal class. There wasn’t as much pressure to perform. We learned the words to La Vie en Rose and La Mer. On the last day of class, after almost everyone had left the classroom, the teacher came over to me and said, in English, “I don’t know why you came here. You are the wrong person.” I learned that teachers aren’t supportive of students trying to push themselves.

Obviously, it still bothers me. I didn’t tell my parents about it, but it made my trip end sourly. I got my minor, still took another French class (phonetics), since I really liked the French teacher at UNT, and have gone back to Nice again. It was a good trip and I’m glad I went. It defined part of me.

I also had over 18 hours of study in music, but there was one required music theory class, at 8:30 in the morning, and no minor could be received without taking that class. I learned, about myself, that even if a goal is easy and within reach, I won’t reach for it if it requires waking up early.

While I was at UNT, I also decided to take an art class - watercolor painting. Part of being in college, I thought, was experiencing new things. I had never taken an art class before. It was a bit like tennis all over again. The teacher didn’t want me there. He told me that he didn’t want me there, giving me a chance to drop the class before it got to be too late. I didn’t really understand what the problem was. Most of the other students were hostile toward me. The teacher accused me of having my sister (who was in an art program) of doing my homework paintings. (She did not, but she did offer some input - more helpful than any input from the teacher, obviously.) Despite my grades averaging to a B-, he gave me a C in the class. He called one of my paintings trite. I learned that there are some closed clubs, with no reason why they are closed, and trying to get into them just leads to frustration and tears.

Before I graduated from UNT, where I only studied 2 ½ years, the requirement that students have two years of a foreign language was dropped. And then the requirement that a student have a minor was dropped. Just like how I felt about the driving test, I felt about this college dumbing down that I was witnessing. I learned that things were going to be harder for me than for people born just one year after me.

After college I went to work for 5 years and had my first nervous breakdown. It wasn’t officially diagnosed, but that’s what it was. For some reason, it is ok, and maybe even expected, in the US for people to be miserable at work to the point of crying in their cars during their lunch breaks and when they get home at night. I knew that something had to change and I decided that I needed to go back to school.

After being in the “real world” for five years, being back in college to get my Master’s Degree was a breeze. You mean all I have to do is read and write things? I don’t have to worry about a creepy client making passes at me during a 33-hour shift? And that if I’m not polite about the passes we could lose a lot of work and money? I don’t have to overhear other clients talking about how much they hated my work? I don’t have to politely listen while Pauly Shore tells me I made him look like an idiot in his reel? Did I mention all of the unwanted sexual advances? Being in school was what I needed. I could afford to put myself through California State University, Northridge, CSUN, so that's where I went.

I was lucky enough to TA (be a teaching assistant) for my favorite professor. As part of my TA work, I had to give a couple of the lectures. I shared my hesitation at lecturing with the professor. Did I really know what I was talking about? Did he want to review what I was going to say to make sure it was right? Will the students believe what I’m saying? Yes, he assured me, they will believe you. You are in charge. Just say what you want to say with confidence and it will be right. I learned that even the professor I admired more than any teacher I’d ever had before was just winging it to some extent. Confidence counts for a lot - probably for more than being correct. The topic was screenwriting, so it wasn’t like a math class, where being correct counts more than anything else. But is writing, and creative things, confidence is the most important thing.

These are just the bad things I learned. They were lessons the teachers didn’t even know they were teaching. But someone is always paying attention and learning from you. I’m sure I learned good things, too, but the bad things are the things that stick out. 

Anyway, here's a watercolor I did of my dorm room in France:


Saturday, March 5, 2022

Camille Awards for Excellence - March 2022


If you have followed my blogging for years, then you know I occasionally will have my own awards season. Usually I do this in December or January, but the pandemic has rendered time meaningless. With the news today (March 5, 2022) that Taskmaster is getting its own streaming services, I decided it was time to hand out my awards again. Although looking back over my current blog - the one you are reading - it looks like I haven’t found anything excellent since starting this blog.

The Camille Awards for Excellence have no set categories and no requirements as to how many there are or, apparently, when they are handed out. The only thing that is required is that something be excellent. I am the arbiter of excellence. Past winners include Jim Parsons and Richard Ayoade. Maybe the episodes of Doctor Who with David Tennant and Catherine Tate? If I didn’t bother to give them an award at the time, I’m giving them one now, retroactively.

The pandemic changed a lot of things, and in the early days it shut down new TV shows and movies. This proved to be an excellent opportunity for shows from other countries to make their way to the United States. As you may have guessed, based on my previously given awards, I am a little bit of an Anglophile. It should come as no surprise that my current batch of excellence awards are all for British panel shows.

The first award goes to Taskmaster. Thanks to the creator and star, Alex Horne, apparently being smart enough to own rights to the show or to convince whoever does own them that YouTube was a great distributor, he was able to start a Taskmaster YouTube channel. The first 8 series are now available there. They were originally spaced out during 2020, with one new episode each week and then there was a tragic miscalculation. Series 8 and 9 were commissioned to the WB and taken off of the air after episode one of series 8. The rest of the series is now on YouTube, but for a while you could only watch it on CW Seed (which I don’t think exists now). Series 9 is in limbo, but there was an announcement on March 5, 2022 that it will be available on the new Taskmaster streamer in April 2022. I’m looking forward to that. I’ve watched Series 1-8 at least twice, some episodes more than that, and don’t doubt I’ll watch them all again.

The second award goes to The Unbelievable Truth. You can get it in the US on Audible, or wait for illegal uploads to YouTube. It is a radio production, so the YouTube version just has a static picture that goes with it. Kids-- A radio show is just like a podcast, but with regularly scheduled times to listen to it on the radio. I had heard a lot about TUT from guests on QI (another show which I might have given an award to, and if not, it gets one now, blah, blah, blah), but had never actually heard it or even been interested in seeking it out. I’m giving Series 21, Episode 5 a secondary award for being one of the funniest things I have ever had the pleasure of listening to. Go listen to it. You’re welcome.

And finally, I want give another retroactive award, assuming I haven’t actually given it one before, to Would I Lie to You. Now available in the US through BritBox, although I was first introduced to it via illegal YouTube uploads. It, and QI, are the main reasons I have a BritBox subscription. Now if they would only add new episodes of Alan Davies: As Yet Untitled, that would be great.

Anyway, the world is currently a terrible place and Russia might destroy us all. So until that happens, these shows help keep my spirits up. If the winners want an actual prize, all they have to do is ask. I’ll work something up. I suspect they aren’t bothered, though.

Let me add a picture now, because the blog looks better in my list of blogs if it has a picture. This has nothing to do with the awards. A sunflower from my yard and my painting of it.