Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Posts of Others: Insightful, Thought-Provoking

This morning I think that I will steal from link to posts on the blogs of others. A couple of blogs yesterday caught my eye as they dealt with different topics that, in an odd way, are connected to one another. Both are from my growing 'circle of writing friends.' If you are not familiar with these folks, please take the time to drop by their blogs and read their schtuff.

I will first send you to Aaron Polson's blog post from yesterday: "Why I'll Never Make a Living as a Writer." Mr. Polson, educator and molder of young minds, explores the state of short fiction and the state of 'popular art' in general. His post is fueled by a recent comment on Robert Swartwoods's blog that basically said "...if you want people to read what you write, then you have to write what people want to read..." An interesting post, and interesting comments on the 'fluff vs. art' issue.

My next referral is to Cathy Olliffe's post yesterday on her blog Life on the Muskoka River. She posts about Hugh Garner, whom she describes as Canadian 'literary bad-boy' of the 1950's and 60's. He often wrote of the mean streets of Toronto, from his working-class roots, and managed to eek out a living as a full-time writer.

Check out her link to Historical Perspectives on Canadian Publishing that describes Garner outspoken social critic and self proclaimed “one man trade union,” Garner was not afraid to argue with his agents, publishers, and editors in order to control the content of his writing, ensure that his books were properly displayed in retail outlets, and to squeeze as much income as he could from his published works.

Hugh Garner is one of Cathy's literary heroes. After reading her post and the link I can understand why. He managed to 'out-tough' a tough business and stay in control of his writing. I wonder how he would have managed in this wondrous age of Internet publishing.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

A Little Character

I've been giving a lot of thought to the word 'character' the past couple of days. It's one of those words that we throw around quite a bit...

"That Chester was quite a character at the office party. Get a few drinks into him and you don't know what he'll get at."

"Nana Pat can really spin a yarn. She must have been quite a character, back in the day!"

I could go on, but I think you get the idea. I'm not talking about the protagonist, antagonist or some minor character that gets his brain eaten by a horde of rampaging zombies in your horror story. Nor am I referring to a foreign symbol you may see spray painted on the side of the grocery where you do your shopping.

I can't quite put a definition to the word. A former Lebanese co-worker of mine noted that the English language is very difficult to learn. One word can have so many meanings. The best definition I can arrive at for the word character is 'A person who stands out against what one perceives as the norm of society.' In the old days they may have been called: an odd duck, a bit queer, a rogue or a scallywag or perhaps the eccentric old lady living alone in the Victorian mansion with 40 stray cats.

The St. John's paper referred to the blog of a local photographer who, in his spare time, took photos [with permission, of course] of characters who frequent the downtown streets of our city. The only criticism of the journalist was that the blogger/photographer didn't update their blog very often. That is true as their are 11 folks listed there over the 13 month period of time the blog has been active. You can see the photos and descriptions of the characters here. Drop by and see a few colourful folks that inhabit this old city. Perhaps they will brighten your day or become a character in your next short story. I suppose in our own ways we are all 'characters' with our own stories to tell.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Back to Normality?

Man, is normality even a word?

As some of you may have noticed the past few days, Alvin is back from vacation. I have only had time to read the blogs of others and comment on a few.

Many thanks for the comments on the last post. Some were very...interesting. I stayed away from the single malts, but did have a rum punch or two. Umm, I've never worn a kilt but my dad did at our wedding. That reminds me of a joke: How many birds can you get up a Scotsman's kilt? depends on the length of the branch...

We got home just before midnight last Friday night. I drove Sean to his usual Saturday morning swimming and my wife dove into the two week pile of dirty laundry that spilled from the three suitcases. Sean had a marksmanship practice with the cadets (with a pellet gun, not a rifle) and V and I drove to Gull Island to retrieve the greyhound. I was pleased to see that he remembered us and was no more neurotic than usual.

I have not been able to access the server at my employer's HQ in Ontario but can open my email through a Microsoft exchange server. They hope to have that sorted out by tomorrow. Being a dumb draftsman, I don't understand the technical aspects of my remote link to work and choose to leave that to the IT overlords. If I had my way I would still be drafting on a board with a pencil pinched between my fingers and graphite smeared across the flat part of my right hand where I absently drag it across my work. Sigh...the good old days...

Oh. Vacation. That went really well. It's amazing how fast, and slow, 15 days can pass by. I had hoped to post a blog a couple of days ago but our camera was just purchased before vacation and my wife still has to figure out how to download the 1000 or so photos on to the computer. Our old camera had a card reader, but the card in this camera doesn't seem to be compatible. I have also been thinking of an old co-worker from my first drafting job 22 years ago. I discovered while reading the obits in the London (Ont) Free Press a couple of days ago that he had died at the age of 51. I know, I should get a new hobby...

The first three days in Manhattan were great. The only downfall was that I put my back out on day 3 and it hurt for a week (and I'll head off the evil comments by saying it was hurt while bending over the bathroom sink to wash my face). We visited the USS Intrepid, now decommissioned and a floating museum. We also toured through the submarine USS Growler at the same site. The sailors apparently were underwater for 60-90 days at a time and the claustrophobic conditions on board really gives you an appreciation for what they endured. We got 2-day passes to jump on and off the double-decker buses that drive about the city and took tours of both upper and lower Manhattan. I must say, NY has a bit of a reputation for being unfriendly but we found the rumours to be totally unfounded. I would go back there anytime.

Our cruise was departing out of Bayonne, NJ on the Sunday afternoon and the hotel found us a private taxi to get us there at a price much better than the yellow cabs. The ship was enormous...the Explorer of the Seas (Royal Caribbean) is just over 1000 ft long and, at one time, was the largest passenger ship in the world.

While waiting in line to check-in, I noticed that we were surrounded by the elderly. Some with hair much greyer than mine. I had began to suspect that V and I were the youngest on the ship. However, we noticed a couple of families with you children and began to relax. After a couple of days at sea we began to shake off the hectic-ness of travelling and began to relax. Sadly, the elderly began to shed their clothes and dance about on deck. All that was missing was a brass pole. One old fellow had a gut hanging over his speedos, wore a captain's hat, and danced about the pool deck waving a beer about. I referred to him as 'Captain Morgan' for the rest of the trip. If I had a dollar for every electric scooter, oxygen tank and surgical scar we saw over the 12 days the trip would be paid off by now.

Our ports of call were: Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas (USVI); Phillipsburg, St. Maarten; Rosseau, Dominica; Bridgetown, Barbados; St. John's, Antigua; and San Juan, Puerto Rico. I have differing opinions about the ports and what we could do there and I'll leave my long-winded comments for another day...

As noted, the photos are still pending but I can include one that was taken in Antigua when we took the 'swim with the stingrays' day trip. They took photos of each of us posing while holding up a stingray. My wife's was the best photo. Mine wasn't so good as I wasn't really smiling and I couldn't get my stingray up at all...

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

I'm Outta Here.

Figured that I should post something substantial to keep you lot busy until I'm back-just in case you don't have a WIP. I'll be away from a computer longer than ever before (*hand trembles and left eye begins to twitch at the thought). Maybe I'll sneak off to an Internet Cafe and post to my own blog anonymously...see what people are saying about me behind my back. Probably dirty stuff (not pointing at anyone in particular).

Am getting a bit verklempt at the thought of missing my online friends. Feel free to discuss amongst yourselves. The subject is pictures from previous posts over the past 9 months. Those of you who have been with me since the beginning may remember some of them. Au Revoir.

Map of Newfoundland...the island I will be escaping for a while.

Pan of brains. I have sampled brains before in previous travels. Does not taste like chicken.

This ugly bugger looks a bit like someone I know.

Him too...

Ahh...the horror of it.

Three years playing violin in public school, and I could only hope to be half the musician of Will.

Just because...

Photo of a travelling companion from a previous trip.

Apologies to Mike Meyers...

Monday, March 1, 2010

Butt, is it Art?

Finally, the blog post that Natalie Sin has waited for months to read (personally, I think she has been a bad influence on me). If you don't believe me, check out her blog here.

Note: Tacky story warning...possible naked buttocks [spoken in a Forrest Gump voice].

I hope that those of you who have attended my blog for a while will understand that after seeing this article in today's news...I could not leave it alone. The story begs for comment. It caught my attention right away (any time I see the word "nude" in a headline, my attention is piqued) and seemed like a story to sink my teeth into.

American photographer Spencer Tunick had about 5200 volunteers pose naked today, embracing one another on the steps of the Sydney Opera House. His photograph is to be called "The Base" and he notes that "In a way, I'm making a base for the structure, a base for the architecture- and by combining straight and gay and lesbian people I'm weaving the different sexes and society together to form this wonderful fabric that holds up this gorgeous building."

Tunick has produced nearly 100 of these works around the world and 19 year old student Art Rush was thrilled to participate. "I'll never get a chance to do this again; it's not worth being inhibited. It doesn't feel sexual, it just feels tribal, a gathering of humanity."

If I had paid more attention in high school art class I could have had a gig like this. Thousands of naked people, in warm, exotic locations, bending and posing on my command (That last line was for Natalie). I was thinking that there's no way the guy would ever come to Canada, where his models would have body parts turn blue, crystallize and drop off. But then, I discovered he had done a shoot in Montreal, in La Belle Province. They are a bit more cosmopolitan there.

The photo that came with the story was very tiny and gave a view of the Sydney Opera House with piles of bodies clustered together. I wanted a picture that would speak volumes. You will see to the left a picture from a previous session of his in Melbourne, Australia in 2001. I'm thinking if you click on the image it will give you a larger, clearer view of tanned bodies and pale bottoms (just thought that Karen would like to know that). Hmm, perhaps that blond haired woman on the bottom right could be Danielle...or the dark haired bloke low in the center, with the finely sculpted cricketers body, could be BT? Just a thought.

*sighs to self* Guess that means I'll have to apologise to my Ozzy friends next post...