Being Part of a Group

I have been pretty quiet on the fandom front for a couple of weeks.  Yes, I completed my blog posts last weekend but have not done much beyond that.  I have debated how much I have wanted to share about why that is.  Yet, I have decided that I should share what has been going on with me because I realized that it absolutely connects with fandom.  You might want to get a glass of wine or a cup of coffee, depending on what time you are reading this as it make take awhile for me to make the connection.

I am a teacher in the state of Wisconsin.  As many of you are probably aware, a bill was introduced a couple of weeks ago that has gotten a lot of people upset.  This bill has been presented by the current governor as a means of fixing the state’s budget.  This bill is a lengthy one that contains a lot of very controversial ideas.  Some of those ideas directly impact me and my job.  First, this would require me to pay a significant more money for some of my benefits.  Second, it would take away collective bargaining rights for public employees, including teachers.  This would, in essence, break the unions here in the state.  For those people who don’t know much about unions and collective bargaining (and I admit that I didn’t until it came into my life), unions work to get workers the best working conditions possible from their employer.  This is similar to a business’s purpose of making as much money as possible.  The employer and union sit down and discuss what the contract will contain.  The contract could include everything from wages and benefits to things that are not related to finances.  For teachers, this may include transfer procedures from one school to another or might include what time we need to report to school.  In this way, the two groups discuss and reach a compromise.  This bill is upsetting to many people because we feel like we should have the right to group together in a union and to be able to negotiate for our working conditions.  (Now, before I go further, this blog post isn’t one where I want people to discuss politics.  You are welcome to disagree with me but the purpose of this entry isn’t to have political debate.  I’m just trying to give background to the rest of the post.)  Personally, for me, if this bill passes, I won’t be able to continue to teach here.  I won’t be able to afford it and won’t feel like I have a voice.  I will absolutely feel like my rights have been taken away.  It is destroying me as I keep hearing really negative statements about teachers and other public employees.  Honestly, I believe that teaching is an important job for the good of the public and deserves both respect and fair compensation. 

In many cases, when people are upset with their government or with a law, they find a way to protest their displeasure.  The workers, union members and supports have done just that in Wisconsin.  For last 12 days, thousands of people have made their way to the state capital to protest this bill.  I have joined in to have my voice heard for the past 11 days.  When I haven’t actually been there, I’m communicating with others fighting the same cause or doing something to help with the cause.  My focus has been on this political battle (one in which I didn’t invite, by the way.  Yet, the fight came to me).  I haven’t had much choice as I feel like I’m fighting for my students, my colleagues, my state and myself.  Thus, I haven’t had much time or energy to focus on Duran Duran or on fandom.  I desperately miss that normalcy.  Yet, I had the strangest realization the other night.  This protest, this movement for worker rights is just like fandom.  In fact, in many ways, it captures some of the best elements of fandom.  Now, I’m sure you think that sleep deprivation and stress has caused me to lose my mind but keep reading. 

How many of you have participated in a protest or demonstration?  How many have been involved in some sort of group or organization that is pushing for some change, in a public, political way?  Well, I’m going to do my best here to describe what it is like.  Before I do, I feel it necessary to say that this protest/movement has been like NOTHING I have ever seen or been a part of.  I have participated in other demonstrations before but they cannot begin to compare to what is going on in Wisconsin’s capital.  The heart of the protest has been taking place in and around the Capitol.  There have been many rallies outside of the building which houses the state government.  These rallies are like other rallies in that they have speakers and an audience who cheers when the speaker says something interesting or exciting.  In many cases, individuals and groups have marched around the downtown area to get to the rally.  This idea is to voice one’s opinion through signs and slogans as well as through chants and songs.  While those outside rallies have been powerful and interesting, they do not have the same flavor as what is taking place inside.

When I’m inside the Capitol, I feel like I have been placed back in history.  Confession time:  I have a history degree and focused on social movements of the 1960s/1970s.  What is happening here reminds me of things I had only read in history books.  Inside the Capitol, a community has been born as rules and expectations have been established (Note: Protesters are present at ALL times inside the Capitol).  Some of the rules include being polite, being respectful of each other, always being peaceful, cleaning up after yourself, and more.  Strangely enough or not, I have only witnessed such things since I have been going.  Besides these rules, there are common activities.  During the day, the protesters are speaking about what they think and why.  There are also many chants and songs that are said over and over again to express our collective opinions.  These songs and chants include music that is made with make shift instruments.  For example, there are many people hitting buckets as if they were drums.  Some of these chants are in the form of question and answer.  For example, a group of people might say something, “Tell me what democracy looks like.”  The rest would answer with, “This is what democracy looks like.”  Other chants are more constant, like “Kill the Bill” or “Recall Walker”.  Beyond the chants and songs, people are carrying signs or making posters.  In fact, the walls of the Capitol are covered in them.  These posters also work to express people’s opinions.  Of course, people are also walking around and talking to each other.  Strangely or not, I have seen a number of people whom I haven’t seen in a long time.  It has become the meeting center for many, many people.  The music, the chants, the posters, and the people create a sensory overload inside. 

A couple of nights ago, I found myself outside of the governor’s office with a few of my colleagues, chanting a “tell the truth” chant during one of his many press conferences and I realized that social movements are very much like fandom.  In many ways, it shows some of the best elements of fandom.  (If I was teaching this entry as a lesson, I would ask the class if they can guess what makes social movements like fandom.  Any ideas?  🙂 )  First, fandom doesn’t exist without people.  Fandom begins when one fan meets (literally or figuratively) another fan.  Then, those two fans find more people like them and it continues to grow.  This is the same for social movements.  They begin with individuals coming together as well.  Like fandom, the numbers involved can ebb and flow.  In Wisconsin, it started with about 10,000 people and, tomorrow, there is a crowd of 100,000 expected.  In Duranland, there were millions of fans in the 1980s and thousands now.  Fandom brings people together over some common interest as do social movements.  For our fandom, people often come together to go to a concert.  For this social movement, people come to the Capitol.  If you go often enough, chances are you will meet people and/or see people you know.  The same thing happens at Duran shows.  Second, In both cases, these groups form communities with common expectations and written as well as unwritten rules.  In the movement for workers rights, some of the rules that I listed above are literally written on signs and some aren’t.  In fandom, rules are rarely written, but some are.  Take a look at message boards.  Most message boards have a post or a thread describing rules.  Of course, many unwritten rules exist as well.  Typically, those rules are discovered solely when someone does not follow those unwritten rules.  Then, of course, there are common activities.

For Duranies, concerts are times when fans get to sing along with their favorite band.  They are also a time to buy a t-shirt or two to show others your support.  It is common place to find people holding up signs at shows.  These signs are message for the band.  The same things are found at this social movement.  We go to the Capitol now knowing that we will say the same chants that we did the day before and the day before that.  Many people are making and wearing t-shirts in support of workers’ rights.  Lastly, there are tons of signs that citizens have made.  In this case, the messages are not for a band but they are for legislators and the governor.  They might also be directed at the media in hopes for truthful coverage.  Yet, beyond the rules, the slogans and songs are the people.  While the cause of group formation between the two might be completely different, the results are the same.  Participating in fandom and participating in a social movement provides a sense of belonging.  When I’m at a Duran show, I feel like I’m with my people.  I’m with people who understand me and who share something at the core of who I am.  The same has been true for me at the Capitol.  While I don’t like fighting to keep my rights, I have loved being a part of something monumental  Something important.  Something bigger than me.  I have loved standing with my colleagues, with my fellow workers, with my state.  I feel as if I belong there. 

-A

Why I do it!

With all of the less-than-uplifting chats, posts, tweets, etc. about the Duran Duran Fan Community these days (I’m referring specifically to DDM here, but I think there’s been tension everywhere lately), it’s easy to forget why we decided to get involved with the fan community in the first place.

Today I received a message on my personal facebook page (as opposed to the Daily Duranie facebook page – if you haven’t found us yet, please do – send us a friend request!) from someone who had read my 3 part blog about planning the Duran Duran Fan Convention.  It reminded her of why she joined in on the message board to begin with and so forth.  The note was very kind (thank you Michnoon!), and I really appreciated the time she took out of her day to write, as well as the words she typed.  The fact is, the last week or so has not been easy for either of us here at Daily Duranie for very different reasons.  It’s just been a crummy week, even though yes – I just got back from Napa with a trunk load of wine.  (we all have our vices…and good wine happens to be my own!)  In any case if I were being completely honest – Duran Duran has actually been in the backseat of our minds lately, and it was really, really nice to read something so kind.  With the current political climate in much of the world, it’s easy to forget the small things, the things that make life enjoyable.  My little place in the fan community (this doesn’t mean the “paid” community – it means the community in general.  If I’m talking DDM, I will do my best to make sure to differentiate!) really does help to make me smile during the day at times.  It’s a good thing.

I joined the fan community because I was desperate to make a connection, somewhere with someone – who had the same interest that I did.  I wanted to find people that weren’t necessarily moms, that didn’t necessarily have husbands that traveled…or husbands at all for that matter.  I wanted to find people who loved the band, that could understand my obsession behind watching New Moon On Monday to see absolutely every nuance of the “extra-long movie version”.  I wanted to find people who knew all of the words to every one of their songs, and who knew what in the hell Simon was saying in Nightboat.  I needed someone to send me the list to the easter eggs on the Greatest DVD, and I wanted to find someone who was willing to share their experiences in exchange for reading my own.  What I didn’t expect and yet readily found was that I knew almost NOTHING about the band compared to other people!  What my husband called obsessive behavior has nothing on what other people practice.  When I first found a message board and joined the fan community I don’t even think I had all of their B-sides.  There were songs out there that I hadn’t ever even heard, and at the time I didn’t even know what a bootleg was.  (how is that for honesty?!)  I’d never heard of Trust The Process, nor did I know that John Taylor had done more than one solo album or been in another band besides Power Station.  I didn’t even know that Simon had recorded Magic Bus or Dreamboy.  Yeah, I was a huge fan, but only in my own head.  It was a very humbling experience, but I was a quick learner, and the key was that I tried VERY hard to stay quiet, learn fast, and never put myself out there for obvious flaming.  (if you don’t know what flaming is – consider yourself lucky.  It’s when you post on a message board, and everyone on the board – or at least a few key people, basically hand your arse back to you on a silver platter, slightly chewed up and burnt, so to speak.)  Message boards can be tough places to learn to navigate, without question.

All of that aside, I also found fast friends.  I found a place where I could be MYSELF.  Not a mom, not a gemologist (in my case), not a wife…but a DD fan, or a Duranie if you so choose.  I could get back in touch with the person I left behind a long, long time ago in favor of being the person everyone else wanted.  It was a comfort to feel as though I belonged somewhere in the world. Is there drama?  Of course.  Life is full of drama and it’s never perfect.  We can choose to walk away, or – as some like to do – we can choose to engage.  It’s there for us to take as we wish.  I miss the group of us who were together on duranduranfans.com – it was a good group, and while yes, there were definitely differences of opinion and drama at times, I know that we all tried to remember why we were really there.  We wanted that support from one another, we wanted that connection and friendship, and for the lions share of the time that the board was busy – we wanted to talk about Duran Duran without judgement or ridicule.  I learned PLENTY about the band during the time I was active on that board, and it was good.

That group has all but moved on now, and there are many times where I miss them.  They were my online “family” and it’s hard to find other places where I’m that comfortable.  Yes, at times it’s easy to just throw in the towel and say that you’re done.  It’s easy to console yourself with the idea that your real friends will continue to stay in touch – and that you don’t need to talk about Duran Duran all the time, or that you don’t need the fan community to be a fan (of course not).  I’ve said those same things myself, and I very much meant them.  The trouble is – there’s definitely something missing from my own fandom when I don’t have the message board to rant about things to.  Sure, I could post on the few message boards I still read occasionally, but those people don’t know me as well, they don’t recognize the sweet words of sarcasm from me, and they definitely don’t get my sense of humor.  Facebook isn’t quite the same either, it’s a pain in the neck to make sure that only Duranies are reading whatever I’m posting (if my mother only knew….), and I find that I end up censoring myself far more than I really want.  As for Twitter, well, you can only rant so much with 140 characters.  Talk about creative debating….

I do miss the days when we’d wonder (even if we didn’t openly post) whether or not the band was reading the board.  Come on, even if you didn’t post it – if you never really wondered I think you missed half of the silly fun.  Nowadays, we know Simon, John and Roger are on Facebook, Twitter or both. Granted, I don’t think they have the time or energy to keep up with all of the replies and posting!

I know exactly why I got involved with the fan community, why I do the blog, why I’m writing the book, and why I will never completely leave the community.  Some might say that I’ll leave my SENSES before I leave the community, but that’s another story for another blog.  The real question is, why do YOU stay?

-R

Finding the Person I Used to Be, The Final Outcome (for now!)

The day eventually arrived, and I was about to board a plane to New Orleans, alone.  I remember that day clearly because I was so glad to say good bye to my husband, and yet my heart ached when I said good bye to my kids.  The amount of guilt I felt in leaving them could have filled my house, and yet I knew in my head that I was doing the right thing.  It’s always the worst right before I leave for the airport  (its still that way to this day), but once I’m in the car it’s as though I’ve switched gears in my head and the “mom” part of me is put away on a shelf for later.

The entire way from security to the gate at the airport I kept looking around me as though I’d forgotten something – that’s another issue when you’ve had small children – I’m convinced that for the rest of my life, if they aren’t with me I’ll feel as though I’ve left something behind.  Once I got on the plane though, I felt settled.  Even a bit peaceful!  I don’t think I’d had the opportunity to read without someone interrupting me since before I got married – and as a result I’m pretty sure I finished an entire book on the flight to New Orleans.  (I’m a quick reader!)

Once I’d landed in New Orleans, I had another small worry – and that was finding a way to the Hotel Monaco.  I hadn’t wanted to rent a car or anything since I wasn’t going to be really going anywhere aside from the hotel, but I knew this meant I’d have to get a taxi for the 20 minute drive.  I’d never hailed a taxi alone before, which is ridiculous when I think back on it.  The thing is, since I’m from Southern California, there’s really not a lot of opportunity to take a taxi.  My little area of the world is easily a good 1 and a half hours from downtown Los Angeles OR downtown San Diego, and so that means I’m really in the suburbs.  Taxis aren’t really plentiful here, and as a result I am used to driving.   In any case, I hailed my cab (it was evening when I landed) and got myself to the hotel.  At this point, I can’t remember if I was the first to arrive in our room – I was sharing a room with another committee member in New Orleans that I’d grown close to – and I seem to think she’d gotten there first and either left me the key at the front desk, or I’d called her and she met me in the room.  Regardless, my biggest memory of my first night in New Orleans was finally meeting a fellow Duranie in real life!  To understand how I felt, I need to give you yet another small glimpse into my life at home.

I know I’ve mentioned I’m from Orange County California.  I live in a fairly new area, and I would say that a majority of the moms in my neighborhood are your basic stay-at-home PTA/soccer moms.   They are apt to drive luxury SUV’s, wear Ugg boots and (at the time of this story) Juicy Couture tracksuits, and hair extensions.  I, on the other hand, am not.  Yes, I do (did) have blonde hair, but that’s about where the similarity ends.  I always felt out of place when standing next to my fellow OC Moms, because while they’d be talking about volunteering in class or the latest PTA functions or Starbucks gossip – I would be thinking about getting home to read the Duran Duran boards, or chatting with my online friends.   My life as a Duranie, especially at this point in my life – was kept well under wraps.  I didn’t share any of that with my PTA mom friends, and while they would take joy in handling a class party or being the mom chosen to paint scenery for plays – I would run from that sort of thing screaming!  Don’t get me wrong, I did my “mom” duty – I was even a girl scout leader for my daughters Brownie troop, but I did that mainly for her, and as soon as I could offload that duty, I did!  It’s just not my thing.  I’m not the mom who played Barney or Preschool music CD’s in her car…I’m the mom who played(s) Duran Duran.  My kids knew the words to Planet Earth before they learned their ABC’s, and I’m not kidding.  🙂    All of that aside, I was also desperately lonely.  None of my friends here are into Duran Duran.  My husband doesn’t mind them, but there is something very odd and unsettling about attending a Duran Duran concert with him in tow.  I mean, how does one yell “I LOVE YOU ROGER!!” when their husband is right there within earshot?!?  It takes a little bit of the fun out of it at times.  I always wanted a female friend that I could giggle with, or commiserate over the lack of tour dates and so forth.  Which brings me back to that fateful meeting…

As soon as I saw JTDuran standing there (that’s her screenname), I knew we’d be friends forever.  We are very different in many, many ways – but there’s something very comforting about that.  At that point, she was very much the unsettled side of myself – the side that I wanted to get in touch with, but was almost afraid of setting loose from her cage.  🙂  She’ll say and do things that I would only dream of, and I still envy her to this day at times.  We’ve stayed friends since that weekend, and I have no doubt that we always will.  Along with JTDuran, we had several others in our room with us that weekend, and in every case, as I met each one I realized that I’d been given such a wonderful gift.  No longer was I alone out on a limb.

The main thing I want to convey from that weekend isn’t the story of the actual weekend, as it turns out.  It was a great time, absolutely.  I don’t think I’ve ever spent as much time talking and laughing as I did then.  I learned a lot about Duran Duran, and I learned a lot about the fan community in general, and all of that was amazing.  The thing is, none of that is really the story.  The STORY, is finding myself again.

I don’t think I’d truly been comfortable in my own skin since I was in middle school, to be honest.  That’s an odd statement just because of the fact that middle school is about as unfriendly of a place as you’ll ever be, and yet during that time I think I was the most “myself” I’ve ever been.  My friends during that time were all huge Duran Duran fans, and while I had many other aspects to my character and personality – I’d be crazy not to admit that being a fan was a huge part of it.  The friends I had at that time gave me the comfort and space to just be myself, and I did.  In high school, we drifted apart, I gained a boyfriend or two, and things just changed.  I still loved the band, but that part of me was kind of put up on a shelf for later, so to speak.  After that, I never really found friends who had the same love for them that I did, so I learned to just keep that part quiet – and as is the case when you ignore anything that makes you a part of who you really are – I think you become someone else, as though you’re playing a part in a play.  That convention weekend reminded me of who I really was.  I had the comfort of being able to talk all about the band without getting sideways glances from anyone, because let’s face it – they were all understanding exactly what I was saying!

One of the best things to come out of that weekend, and there were really plenty – was that I met some of my closest friends ever.  One of those friends is my writing partner, Amanda.  I’d exchanged posts with her on www.duranduranfans.com – but I really didn’t know much about her until that Saturday night of the convention.  The committee had planned a dance party – complete with dinner and videos, and it was great fun.  I think we all could have continued to dancing to every single song in the band’s catalog – but eventually the party ended, and a bunch of us decided to continue out after the party, and so we did.  Somehow we ended our evening at Howl at the Moon on Bourbon Street singing Rio.  Wow.  That must have been quite a site (and sound).  I can only imagine, and I still don’t know what in the hell I was thinking getting up on stage like that.  Insanity.  I remember Amanda that night because she was wearing these really cute boots with a heel that would have killed me.  I could barely walk in my own flat shoes much less navigate a heel, not to mention the pain involved.  Regardless, that night began our friendship, and touring has never been the same since.  (then again, at that point, I’d never even gone to a show with friends!!  Another story for another blog!)  Amanda is the one person I call with an Official Duranie Alert – and I can always count on her sharing my exuberance, my frustration, and my flat out annoyance at times over whatever the band has done, is going to do, or never finishes to my satisfaction.  😀   While my husband will say “Why do you even care?”  Amanda will say “What the hell is the problem with that stupid band?”  (or something similar)  It’s a beautiful friendship and was well worth the wait to find!

I would have never guessed that at the age of 33 I’d have rediscovered part of my personality again.  It’s not really that I’ve changed so much here at home, though.  I’m still mom, I’m still married (a miracle given some of the crazy things I’ve requested from my husband over the years), and I’m still a stage mom for my oldest when I have no other choice (it’s my least favorite chore – right up there with cooking!).  In addition to all of that though, there’s another facet of me that I’m still polishing and perfecting from time to time.  It’s the part of me that I really don’t “share” with my family, but it’s every bit as important because it’s who I am.  It’s really nice to have the sense of accomplishment that came with planning and carrying out the convention, and it’s shown me that yes, it’s OK that I have interests that don’t have anything to do with my husband or my children.  Even my husband has grown used to the idea that Duran Duran and I are kind of a package deal.  He rolls his eyes a lot, and I’ve learned where his line of tolerance is. (although I do try to cross it often just to keep things interesting!)

We’ve never had another convention since that first one in 2004, at least not one that I’ve been a part of or planned, and perhaps that window has been shut for me as far as being the planner goes.  It’s a lot of work, and while I would gladly help to see another one take place, I could never put the time in now that I did before. I’ve moved on to other projects with every bit as much determination, however.  This blog is part of that, and although I admit there are some days when I can’t even put a sentence together much less come up with a decent topic, it’s been good for me as a person.  If I’ve learned anything from all of this – it’s to encourage my children, my girls most of all, not to leave themselves behind once they are married or are moms.  It’s important to have balance, and that’s something I intend to continue.

-R

Finding the person I Used to Be, Part II

As the convention planning continued to chug along, I grew more and more excited by the prospect of going to meet all of these people I’d been working with for the last several months.  Interestingly enough, throughout all of the planning, I hadn’t considered the idea that although I’d committed heart and soul to bringing the convention from an idea to a reality, there wasn’t much of a chance that I would be able to attend…at least not without creating World War III in my house.  At this point, I’d never traveled by myself anywhere, aside from a trip home to see my parents when we lived in Chicago.  I knew that I very much wanted to go to the convention, but the idea of talking to Walt about the idea of spending my (his) hard-earned salary to go on a trip…by myself to meet people I’d never truly spoken to…sounded like it would be as much fun as going and volunteering for a root canal.  So I did what anyone else would have done in my position would have:  I planned to go, and figured I’d deal with my husband later.  Priorities, people!  My husband, however, is a very smart man.  He picks up on the small things…he picks up on the omissions of word, the missing details…and the fact that I was on the planning committee for a convention dedicated to fans of the band I loved best in the world.  He definitely noticed I’d forgotten to mention that I was planning to attend.

It wasn’t that long into the planning process when, one night after I’d excited relayed the details behind the committee’s decision to have the convention in New Orleans, and the hotel we’d chosen, (Hotel Monaco, sadly which after our convention was badly damaged during Katrina and never reopened)  my husband looked pointedly at me and asked the question I’d been dreading:  “You’re not actually thinking that you’re going to this thing, are you Rhonda?”

After a couple deep breaths, I explained that I really WAS hoping to go – but only if he thought we could do it.  It’s very tough for me to go anywhere these days, but back in 2004, it was even tougher!   We had two young children at that point, my husband had just been laid off by one company and hired by another…and I’d have to find some way to get the kids to and from school along with having someone watch them while my husband was working during the day.  I was determined though, and while it was very, very clear that I was walking a fine line with my husband, he didn’t say no.  That said, it didn’t make home life any easier.   My husband just didn’t understand my fascination with not only message boards, but working so hard at planning a convention even though I wasn’t being paid.  I guess that to me, my “payment” was the enjoyment I received from feeling as though I was part of a group.  I loved the fact that I was working, so to speak, with other adults.  Once again I have to say that there was something very desirable about having this be one thing that was all for me.  I didn’t have to share the message boards, the friends I was making, or the convention planning with anyone….but on the same token I loved talking about everything I was doing, even though I knew that to some extent, the very things I enjoyed doing were putting quite a wedge between my husband and myself.  I suppose at the time I just felt that the sacrifice was worth it.  I needed this for me.

It was with great joy that I was able to go back to the planning committee and give my own personal commitment for attending the convention.  I couldn’t imagine doing all of the work and not being able to go and see how it came out for myself, so I was thrilled by that respect.  On the other hand, however, I was nervous, if not downright scared.   First of all, up until that point, I’d never left my two children for more than a day to go somewhere by myself.  My husband and I had taken vacations without the kids before, but only for a couple of days, and as I said – we were together.  I kind of felt selfish for wanting the time to myself, and especially when I thought about the fact that it wasn’t just an overnighter to go to a MOMS Club event or a scrapbooking convention or something that pertained to being a mom.  No, this was solely MY thing.  I couldn’t even justify a good reason for my attendance other than saying that I really wanted to go!   I suppose I really shouldn’t have felt as though I had to justify my reasons for going, but that’s never been the way our family has worked.  My husband comes and goes as he needs for work, never giving me more than day or two notice of his travels – and most of the time it’s a LOT less – which completely annoys me, but he always says the magic words…”It’s my job.”  Somehow that’s supposed to make it all OK.  I’m not sure that it ever really does, but it’s the life I lead.  I make it work.   I don’t work for a salary outside of the home, so therefore none of my travel is ever really necessary or justified (don’t get me started about traveling for the sake of book research…that comes MUCH later.)  So, as time passed I worried about every last thing that needed to be accomplished while I was gone, and I have to say – I had a lot of sleepless nights during the summer before I went to the convention.  I tried very hard to make myself sound “cool” online and not talk about my worries behind leaving my kids, but I knew that in order for my marriage to stay on the same even keel I was used to, I had to make sure everything ran as smooth as silk in my absence.

to be continued tomorrow….

Finding the Person I Used to Be

As you all are reading the blog today – I’ll be on a short vacation.  My husband and I are taking a long weekend for ourselves, sans children, up in Napa Valley.  Napa is probably my very favorite place on earth.  Yes, I thoroughly enjoy wine and so it’s my own personal version of what Disneyland should really be like, but it’s also a place for my husband and I to dream about what kind of life we’d like to have at some point after he retires and our children are grown (we would love to own our own wine bar), and I can’t help but love the beauty of the area.  So, I’m pre-writing this blog for posting while I’m gone, and I’m crossing my fingers that major news doesn’t erupt – because I will be happily sipping wine somewhere in the valley without my cell phone!  

Since we started the blog, we’ve had several requests for some of our own personal stories to be posted.  I’ll admit that at first, I scoffed at the idea mainly because that wasn’t the real purpose behind the blog.  We wanted the blog to be about the news of the day/week/etc and how we see it from a fan perspective. It seemed to be a bit more like gushing to post our own personal stories.  That said, from time to time – we’ll go ahead and post what we feel we can share.  In the case of me, my stories are far and few in between, really.  I’m no different than most other fans – I’ve seen them at concerts, never truly met them in person aside from a signing – and I’ve mostly just heard things from lucky friends who have had much better opportunities!  
With that in mind, my first story is about the first time I really had “in real life” experience with the fan community.  In 2004, I was a lurker on duranduran.com in the fan forum.  Once in a great while I would post, but mostly I read the posts and kept to myself.  Another fan had created her own website dedicated to Duran Duran and a message board forum to go with it, and wanted people to check out the functionality of the boards.  I felt I had nothing to lose – so I went over to the board. (duranduranfans.com – still in existence today)  I liked what I saw, and I especially felt comfortable because at the time it was a small board (in population) and I could post without being ridiculed or judged.  As time wore on, I found myself coming to the board more and more often.  It was a friendly place and plenty of new people seemed to be posting as time passed.  Not long after joining the board, a fellow poster brought up the idea of organizing our own fan convention.  I have to say that at the time it seemed like a very daunting task, but I was curious as to how it could be done, and I was excited by the prospect of meeting new people – especially new people who loved Duran Duran.  So, I agreed to help out.  I’m really not sure how it all got accomplished – I think the person who was in charge (I am omitting names on purpose) put her heart and soul into making sure the convention became a reality and that probably made all of the difference, but we came up with a time, city, venue and plenty of activities to keep people interested.  
In the meantime, my home life was slowly unraveling around me.  My husband, who is truly not an obsessive fan about anything other than his career, wasn’t thrilled about my sudden interest in a fan community.  I suppose that to him, it all happened overnight.  One day I was happy to be a mom and housewife, and the next – I was spending all of my “free” time online planning a convention with people I’d never met.  There were many “talks” of the time he felt I was wasting online, and it got to the point where I felt my husband was more like a father or a jailer than he was a partner.  There was concern that I was pouring money into making the convention happen (which I was not.  I never spent one single penny on planning the convention beyond the electricity to run our computer or the internet connection), and even more concern that I had virtually NO idea with whom I was trading posts with online.  The discussions we had regarding the convention, the fan community, and my involvement went on for many months (years) beyond the convention….and remained a bone of contention for quite some time. 
You would think (and really, you really would think!!) that the tension at home with my husband would have made me pause and reconsider my involvement.  At what point does it all become “not worth it”?  I suppose that for me, it has come very close many times.  The truth is, I needed to plan that convention.  When my husband and I first married, within months we were moving to Chicago – and certainly not by my choice.  I think from then on, I felt as though my life were not completely my own.  Then when we became pregnant with our oldest and it was agreed that I would give up my job to stay at home with her (which at the time was the soundest decision that could have been made given the time requirements of my job at the time), I think I felt like I’d completely lost my own will, my own purpose.  For anyone who has been a mom before of a human child (as opposed to puppies, kitties, etc.) – they are pretty darn demanding.  It no longer matters whether YOU are sick, or YOU are tired – it’s all about the baby.  My goodness, you even lose your own name when you have a child – instead of being called the name you’ve had since birth, you’re suddenly given the generic name of “mom”.  Don’t get me wrong, being a mom is beautiful, and the bond between a mom and child is something that can be truly amazing.  That said, there are real tradeoffs with becoming a mom, and it’s part of my story. Between a baby and a husband who travels constantly for work, it became very clear that my purpose was to handle the house and the child.  I know I could have gone back to work – but I also know that it would have been a nightmare.   So my career became being a mom, and somewhere along the line I forgot all about Rhonda and who she was.  Planning the convention was a step in the direction of finding that self I’d left behind.
….to be continued…

Types of Venues

It seems that Duran Duran has announced a special show in London on March 7th.  I’m not really sure what is special about it beyond the fact that it is for a BBC Radio 2.  Maybe I was the only one hoping that they would play the entire album at one of their upcoming shows and thought something like that might be considered “special”.  Anyway, another thing that I have been seeing and hearing about over and over again is opinions about the venues.  Some people seem to be more excited by this special show simply because of the venue, which is fascinating to me.  Likewise, I have seen people complain about the choice of large venues for the UK tour.  This is interesting to me because I don’t really have a venue preference.  Is that weird?

I have seen Duran Duran in all sorts of venues.  I have seen them at large outdoor venues, at arenas, at smaller theatres, at places like House of Blues, and more.  I don’t really have a preference other than the fact that I like seats.  I know that I have mentioned that a million times before but I’m not a fan of general admission.  I hate standing for hours and having to fight to keep my spot.  I’m sure that a lot of people have a preference for a specific type of venue because they have seen better shows there, especially if they were better Duran shows.  I can get that.  Yet, I have seen really great shows at all types of venues.  For example, I loved the Chicago show in the spring of 2005, which was at a large venue.  I also really liked the Broadway show that I went to in 2007, which was at a small theatre. 

What I find particularly fascinating by this preference isn’t that it is there, but that it has been a factor in some people’s decision to go to a show or not.  Obviously, I can understand other fans wanting to go to the best Duran show possible.  For me, though, I think all Duran shows have the chance to be really great–no matter the type of venue.  A show is more than a venue or even the sound quality that comes from the right type of venue.  A good show for me depends on the crowd, the band’s energy, interactions with the band and other fans.  Yes, bad sound quality could definitely have an impact on a show (I won’t ever forget the 2007 fan show…).  Yet, I haven’t seen much of that.  Of course, I have seen not great performances and some problems with the sound but, typically, they haven’t been that bad and they don’t usually last long.  I don’t know.  Generally, I guess I feel pretty lucky to be at a Duran show at all. 

-A

Keeping Fandom Alive

How do you keep fandom alive?  How does the band?  I have often wondered these things as I ponder the nature of fandom.  Obviously, fandom begins with single fans who are people who have discovered a band, an artist, a team, a movie, a TV, an actor, etc. and liked it.  Then, fans come together (not necessarily literally) to form a fandom.  It is easy to get fans when the object of the fandom is new, young, and happening.  This was the case for Duran Duran in the early 1980s.  They were new to the scene, fresh and seemed to be busy all the time.  Certainly, when I look back, I’m amazed that they were able to release 3 studio albums between 1981-1984!  Can you just imagine that now?!  Then, it was easy for them to get fans because their music was great, their videos were amazing and they looked good!  Those fans were easy to keep for those years because the band was busy doing new music, new videos, interviews, tours, appearances and more.  Fans couldn’t get away from Duran.  I remember seeing and hearing Duran Duran EVERYWHERE during that time.  Turn on the TV and they were there.  Turn on the radio and they were there.  Go to the store and see tons of magazines featuring Duran.  They were everywhere.  It was easy to keep fandom alive then but now seems more challenging.

Duran Duran has managed to keep fans for decades.  This seems to be a pretty amazing accomplishment to me.  Obviously, this says a lot about the quality of their music and related projects.  Once we were under their spell, it wasn’t easy for us to get away from them.  Yet, I suspect that many of us have walked away from the fandom at one time or another.  Why weren’t they able to keep our attention?  Is it because they no longer made products that we were into?  That’s possible.  Is it because their exposure in the media decreased?  That’s very possible, too.  Is it also due to the fans?  I think that can be true as well.  Is it a combination of all three?  Probably.  So, how can the band help keep us?  How do we keep our personal fandom alive?

The band, certainly, can help by getting as much exposure as possible.  I’m sure that they would love to be on the radio and TV all the time.  I bet they want as many magazines as possible to do stories or features about them.  Unfortunately, they don’t have the exposure like they once did.  They also don’t release products nearly as quickly as they once did (and some might argue that they aren’t as good).  Heck, they have released 3 albums in the last ten years.  That doesn’t help.  Of course, it seems like they are trying to combat some of this by participating in social networking and updating their official site with news about what they are doing.  But, do we have some responsibility with keeping fandom alive, at least within ourselves?  I think we do.

Since I have spent time away from fandom for the last week, I have had thought about how removed I feel from Duran and the Duranie community.  I have missed it.  I feel a little lost.  On the other hand, I also feel like the longer I’m away, the easier it gets.  The easier it would be to walk away.  Of course, I don’t have any intention of doing that.  I would miss the music, the other fans and especially my friends who are involved in the community.  I certainly would miss writing this blog and would hate to not finish a book that I’m already extremely proud of.  This led to me to think that it is my responsibility to pay attention to what is going on.  I should be communicating with other fans.  Yes, those things are fun but they also help me to keep my fandom alive.

-A

Escape from Reality

I honestly have no idea what is happening in Duranland and that is pretty much a first for me in years.  Years!  I won’t go into too much detail (for the sake of your sanity and mine) but I’m a teacher in the state of Wisconsin and, if you have seen the news lately, you understand my lack of time and energy for Duran.  So, here I sit after a VERY long, stressful, exhausting week and think about Duran and what the band and being a fan brings to me.  It seems to me that life is hard.  It is really hard for all of us.  Yet, for many of us, Duran Duran provides the escape.  The music can definitely give you an escape from whatever you are dealing with at any given moment.  The videos do, too.  The tours even more so. 

I always have found it interesting when I hear/read statements talking about how Duran Duran exhibits Margaret Thatcher politics in the 1980s.  I honestly have no idea what they thought of her or how they voted.  I have often wondered where that assumption has come from and the only thing I can figure out is that people took Duran’s videos as reality.  They believed that Duran really did live on big, beautiful yachts and drank champagne everyday.  Obviously, Duran had plenty of money then and seemed to live a very glamorous life.  Does that mean that they would support more Conservative politics?  Who knows?  Who cares?  It certainly didn’t matter to us fans during the 1980s as those videos and images meant something different to many of us.  Yes, they did show wealth and luxury but they also showed a world VERY different from the one we experienced.  For many of us, these video clips allowed us to escape for a few minutes as we were transformed to their world of glamour.  Now, of course, we attempt to reach the same type of escape by touring. 

One element of touring that I love the most is the lifestyle I lead for that day(s).  When I go to a Duran show, I must travel.  I have never attended a Duran show where I live.  Now, they have come to my city but it was in 1984 and that was before I lived here.  Thus, I always have to go somewhere to see a show.  It may be a close city, which I can get to in a couple of hours, or it could require a plane ride.  Nonetheless, Duran shows mean that I get out of town, which is always a good thing.  It is nice to get out of town and let it all go.  Then, typically, a show always means that I get to stay in a hotel and, if I’m lucky, a half way decent one.  (I am spoiled on this front!)  Obviously, staying in a hotel is very different than staying at home.  Of course, the show is (with any luck) a perfect two hours of escape.  Let me ask you, fellow fans, do you ever think about your problems when you are watching a good Duran show?  I don’t.  Every problem seems to melt away, at least for a little bit!  Then, if things go well, the escape continues after the show by whatever my friends and I do, whether it is going to a club or just hanging out in a nearby bar.  In many cases, after show times means having a ton of fun by hanging and partying with my friends and fellow fans. 

I long for this escape right now.  I would love to have a show tomorrow.  Unfortunately, I have to deal with reality for a bit longer.  Perhaps, this will just make me appreciate this escape even more when it does come!

-A

Bop Ba-bop, ba-bop bop ba-bop….

I’m in my car quite a bit between taking the two younger kids to school, picking up my oldest and doing all of the chauffeuring, shuttling and errand running.  I’ve never been the mom who plays Kid Bop or Barney CD’s in the car – I’m the one who exposes her children to the finer things in life rather early, like from birth.  I am pretty sure there hasn’t been a time since I bought my car (or my long-since retired minivan) that I haven’t at least one DD cd in the player, and more likely – all 6 slots are taken up by various works of DD art.  As you can probably guess, my kids were educated early, Sabrina included.

When my first two were younger, Astronaut had just been released.  I remember the first day my son – he was probably about 4 at the time – started murmuring the words to Sunrise in the backseat.  At first I thought I was hearing things, then I realized he knew the words!  It got to the point where the entire van was singing a rousing rendition of the song, along with much of the Astronaut CD.  We were enthusiastic if not entirely on-tune!

As the years wore on, my son began to groan incessantly as he’d begin to hear the familiar chords of Duran Duran’s music in the car.  I don’t know when and where the change first began, but I realized with sadness that somehow, my choices in music were no longer acceptable to him, but with a flair that only moms have – I insisted that since it was MY car, MY music prevailed.  🙂  It wasn’t that long after that when my daughter started her eye rolling, but once again – my car, my music.   Rarely she’ll beg me to plug in her iPod, and typically I’ll relent, mainly so that I can get a sense of what she’s listening to these days.  (there is ALWAYS a method to my madness, you see.)   What is my oldest listening to these days?  Well, to my ears – complete and utter crap.  😀  (Spoken/written/typed like a true parent.  Ha ha!)

I really thought my years of sharing the joy of Duran Duran had come to a swift end.  I’d failed in my mission to completely brainwash them into being Duran Duran fans, but the shame I felt in having done so drifted aimlessly into complete apathy towards their own musical choices, probably in much of the same way that my parents felt when I first became a Duran Duran fan. (although I will share here that I can distinctly remember my mom singing along with Hungry Like the Wolf in the car on more than one occasion!)  Little did I realize that along with the surprise of welcoming yet another little one into our household, I also had the opportunity to educate her in all things Duran Duran!

Truthfully I haven’t even thought about what the youngest must be hearing when she’s in my car – a lot of times the music will be on and I don’t even hear it myself – it’s just background noise to whatever else is going on in the car. (with three kids, I’ll leave it up to your own imaginations!)  Since the remastered albums have come out, I’ve been playing them in my car – right now I’ve got their first album along with the CD of demos that came with it in there, along with the Arcadia album and a couple of other DD cd’s from a variety of places in there.  They’ve been in there quite a while I suppose, but like I said – I don’t notice them a lot of the time.

Yesterday afternoon, I was on my way to pick my oldest up from the bus stop – and it’s a good 20 minute drive from my house (she goes to an arts school that’s pretty far from where we live).  All of the sudden my little one was yelling from the backseat – “More bop bop bop Mom!”  At first I didn’t realize what she was saying, and then all of the sudden it dawned on me – she wanted more Planet Earth!!  I put it on…she sang along with the “bop bop” section, and then she requested it again.  And again.  And again.  (gotta love toddler repetition)

Let the brainwashing begin.  🙂

-R

Durama!

Before I completely forget – I wanted to say a VERY Happy Birthday to Andy Taylor today.  While you may no longer be a member of Duran Duran, without you – there would have been no band, and as a result there wouldn’t be this blog or my friendship with so many Duranies around the world – including my writing partner Amanda.  May you continue to enjoy good health and happiness Andy!!

As of late, I have not had a lot of time to be a constant presence on any Duran Duran message boards.  I try to check in when I can, but I seem to only have a few seconds on any given board, not nearly enough time to read, process and write.  It seems as though between my regular duties as “Mom” and writing the blog – there just isn’t enough time leftover for anything else.  That would include writing for the book, which is an entirely different issue that I need to address on a different day.  *takes deep breath*

Yesterday, I decided that it was beyond time I spend some quality time with the few DD boards I tend to visit on any kind of a regular basis and get caught up.  One of those boards is duranduranmusic.com (DDM).  I have to admit that I have grown sick of that board, mainly because there’s never really any good “news” on there.  Where other boards will dissect the music and talk about things that I actually care about – that one just doesn’t.  I’m sure the regular members there would disagree, and that’s OK.  I can only read so many threads about John’s looks, or what members are thinking of right in this moment….those threads are great and they are the things that bind a community together, so I’m not finding fault, it’s just that my time is limited and I have to pick and choose carefully.  I’ve never felt as though I was a part of that board – there seems to be one particularly close knit group that “runs” the board, and although I know some of the people within that group, admittedly I am not one of the “cool kids”, so I’m really not involved.  No bitterness there – I know where I fit in and where I do not.  🙂

So yesterday morning I sat down and began browsing the various threads on DDM.  Almost immediately I noticed that things were not calm and friendly on the board.  There was a battle of nearly epic proportions taking place between members, and unlike other scuffles that have taken place over the years, this one wasn’t really just confined to one thread – it carried over into other threads, and kind of cast a pallor onto the entire board, which is unfortunate.   After getting my fill of personal attacks, name calling and other behavior that I thought I left behind in my sorority house in college, if not middle school or high school (oh yes, I really WAS a sorority sister.  Just imagine that for a second….Ha!), I went over to another board I’ve mentioned here before – www.duranduranboard.proboards.com to read some real news.  Even over on that board, I could feel the tension.  People are ready to snap at anyone, for any reason.  Odd.

Rather than discuss the board issues here, (and I’m really not sure if there is just one issue for either message board….) my point in bringing it up is to draw attention to a strange sort of phenomenon that seems to happen any time there is downtime, desperation and anxiousness in the fan community.

Since December, we have had a single released (AYNIN), the iTunes 9-song version of the album released, and a handful of dates announced – both in the UK and in the US.  We’ve seen the band doing some promotion work in various places.  None of us have a physical album to have and hold, and those who have either not been able to take advantage of buying tickets for the announced dates, or are in places in the world where dates have not been announced don’t even have shows to look forward to.  (yet!)  We all know something is coming our way:  the physical album is coming in March, the tour is coming….well, we know it’s coming.  Eventually.   Duran Duran management has announced the revamping of both dd.com and DDM, but to my knowledge as of this morning, nothing has been completed yet. (although DDM has gone through some big changes as of the website and the pre-sale handling – I just don’t think it’s completely done yet.)  I would assert that the overall sense of anxiousness has led to desperation during this period of downtime.  I keep joking that the community is ready to offer up one another as a sacrifice to the Duran “gods” in return for tour dates – the only thing is that I am really kind of not joking, and the in-fighting on the message boards is only leading up to deciding which one of us is going to be the sacrifice! Go on to any message board these days and you can cut the tension like a knife.  It’s like being in a sorority house on any college campus right before Rush (this is the time spent in early fall and early spring where the houses are trying to recruit new members) – the girls are typically ready to kill one another.  It’s not pretty.  Talk about a Red Carpet Massacre, wow.  Some say it’s like Duranie PMS, and in my opinion they aren’t exaggerating.

While I’m on the subject of Red Carpet Massacre, ever listened to that song with the fan community in mind?  It gives you an entirely different prospective.  During your downtime, I highly recommend it!  Go listen and let us know what you think!

The constant state of Durama seems to come to an ugly head each time we get close to an album release or a full tour being announced – sometimes it’s far worse than others, and of course each message board handles it differently.  Some boards have personalities that are able to diffuse the conflict, and others tend to just allow it to breed and seep throughout the membership of that board.   The cure?  Well, that’s easy – when the band announces the tour and the album is finally (yes, FINALLY!) released, they’ll be far more threads about who is going to what show, where people are staying, and of course the ever-popular “What I’m wearing to the show”.  I almost feel sorry for the male fans sometimes…. 🙂

I’ve had a few fans comment to me that you don’t find the Durama on Twitter.  Oddly, I think you still do.  First of all – it’s probably not quite as inflammatory as it is on the message boards because of the blessed 140 character limit. (as wordy as *I* am, it’s a tough limit to follow!)  However, I’ve seen groups of people gang up on others to the point where they’ve deleted their account, whether justified or not.  I’ve seen the same name-calling as on the boards, and I’ve seen people talk about what is happening on the boards. (hi kettle, meet me, I’m the pot.)  It’s funny how we can all agree that it’s ridiculous, but yet none of us know how to stop ourselves.   I’ve also had more than one (actually FAR more than one) tell me that they don’t consider themselves Duranies because they can’t deal with the drama.

Hell, if I thought that doing that would have stopped it all – I’d have done that years ago and just stuck with the music!  The fact is, you can call yourself anything you want, but if you’re a fan and you’re at all involved in the COMMUNITY – whether it’s on Twitter, on Facebook, on a message board or even the paid fan community – you’re one of us.  You’re a fan.  Learn to love it.  😀

So at this point I humbly and kindly request for the band and their management to take pity on their fans and release some tour dates.  It’s like throwing fresh meat to the lions….it’ll be a frenzy at first, but we’ll all be so busy that we’ll forget what we were fighting over in the first place.   🙂

-R

An outspoken examination and celebration of fandom!