Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year!

I figured that for the final post of the year I would dredge up some humour. Couldn't find any. As a result, I again resorted to posting an old photo of me wearing a goofy hat. My mum took this when I was a wee lad, back when Kennedy was still around. I figured my 'girl-fans' would appreciate seeing me in a cool hat and tightie-whities. My 'guy-fans' will just have to avert their eyes.

For most people, New Years eve is about the social gatherings and the eating and drinking. I'm not much into going out for that. I prefer a quieter night at home, watching the Dick Clark Ryan Seacrest and the ball dropping in Times Square and all of that. The new year has never been a big deal for me. Perhaps it's because I try to think of the progress of time as less a cyclical, yearly thing and more a linear progression. Hope that doesn't come across as philosophical.

A lot of people will make promises today on how they will better themselves in the upcoming year. I prefer not to make resolutions. I figure that if you can't make those choices to better yourself at any point during the year, why make them on New Year's eve when you're drunk and silly. Or on New Years day when you are hung over. Here is a list of things that I probably won't do to better myself:

  • I shall get more weekly exercise than running about, wheezing for an hour while playing basketball with a bunch of geriatric men svelt athletes. Perhaps I will walk the dog more. Maybe even dig out the old Richard Simmons "Sweatin' to the Oldies" VHS tapes (1 through 5) and my satin shorts from that unmarked box in the crawlspace.
  • I shall eat less junk food.  I shall try harder to use a napkin while eating soft ice cream.
  • Perhaps 2011 will be the year I throw away that old rotary phone and embrace technology and buy myself a cell phone.
  • This will be the year that I stop watching reality TV shows coz there's enough reality in my own life.
  • I shall be more tolerant of the kids from the neighbouring Junior High School and try to curse them out less when they throw litter on my lawn or kick over my garbage cans.
  • I shall contribute to the #fridayflash scene more with short stories.
  • I shall finally start working on that long-term novel project (sighs).
  • I shall dry-clean my fez this year. The odour of camel is getting a bit much.
  • I shall shave off all of my hair again this year...yeah, right!...I love my silver mane too much. However, my good friend Laurita Miller of Brian Droppings is taking the plunge and participating in this year's Shave for the Brave to raise money (her goal is $2000) to help young people dealing with cancer. A fantastic thing for Laurita to do and a very worthy cause. I believe this link will take you to her fundraising page and this link will take you to the home page for Shave for the Brave.
I have yet again rambled on for too long. I'll close here wishing all my family and friends a great 2011. Health and happiness to you all (Alan toasts you all with his mug of hot chocolate). To steal a line from an old song...this year will be a good bright, in fact, that you'll have to wear shades.


Monday, December 27, 2010

Belated Christmas Stuff

I had intended on posting Christmas wishes and all that nice stuff on the 24th, but my internet connection was sporadic at best and it just wasn't happening. We were off by noon to drop in on V's dad out along the bay and see how he was doing. He got out of hospital about 10 days ago after his minor surgery for one of those 'men's issues' and is on the mend. We continued on to the north end of the bay to visit my parents over Christmas. We had a nice visit. It would have been even better had the wind and rain let up. The waves were spectacular (the cancelled ferry crossings to the island were on account of the 9m or 28ft waves) and would be perfect for surfers if not for the large, jagged rocks along the coastline. And the fact that the bay is connected to the Atlantic and it's so frickin' cold!

On the 24th I read an outstanding Christmas horror story over at The Broken Laptop, the blog of Mercedes M. Yardley. 'A Krampus Christmas' was written by her writing group pal Ryan Bridger and its about the chappy that deals with the kids on Santa's naughty list. I should warn you that it is for mature audiences only and not for the faint of heart...

I have lived here long enough now to get the fact that Christmas here has traditionally been about the family gatherings. The meals, the singing, the dancing. Many traditions are fading away over time due partially to the fact that so many here have to leave to find work and also from outside influences from the rest of Canada and the United States.

I recently discovered a local Celtic group with a couple of CD's out. The Navigators are regulars on the Sunday morning radio show and are quickly gaining a large audience. This link will take you to the song lyrics for 'Days Gone By' where the lead singer Fred Jorgensen tells of those family gatherings. The link here also allows you to play the song (you can listen to all of the songs from both albums at their website here) and you can also link to the YouTube video of the performance of this song from their CD release party. Take a few minutes to give them a listen. Fred's voice is nothing like you've ever heard before.

One old tradition that is difficult to find here now is mummering. This tradition of dressing in costumes or wearing masks and going door-to-door dates back to the earliest English and Irish settlers in Newfoundland. Often men would dress as women and women as men and they would sing and dance and play instruments in the homes that welcomed them in. The practice was banned in 1861 because on increasing instances of violence. There is a yearly mummers parade in St. John's and you can link here to YouTube footage of the festival and a CBC story on the practice can be read here. I stumbled across another link with a bit of background on mummering or 'jannying' in Newfoundland here.

Wherever and however you celebrated your Christmas, I hope it was happy and memorable. Best wishes from the Davidsons to you and your families this holiday season.

Photo from 'These Hands Upholstery and Design'

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Baby Solution

Now, it's not what you think. We're not having another youngster as a solution to anything...

The insanity is at hand...can't breath...can't think...the walls are closing in.

It must be almost Christmas time! Or else I'm about to get married again. Har! Just kidding, of course (I say this because V might read this post.

I went in search of YouTube humour to help stop the insanity. It came to me in the form of the E*Trade babies. Cool little commercials. You must have seen them on TV at some point in time, unless you've been living under a rock. I have selected a few that didn't seem familiar to me. I've noticed that alternatives to ones on TV get posted on YouTube as well. I'm not plugging this company. I said that when I last posted about a product here on my blog in October of 2009. Robert Carlyle in a commercial  called 'The Man Who Walked Around the World' for Johnnie Walker Whisky. I got a kick out of the commercial because they used subtitles as Carlyle was talking. I've never thought his accent was that thick.

OK, back to the babies. This time, I'm not plugging E*Trade...

I thought this 'Solitary' video was funny because it differed a bit from the one shown on TV. The baby flying fist class was one I had never seen before. 'Un-Broke' where the baby is interviewed by ABC is cute because his little pal is smitten with the interviewer. The clip where he's trying to explain to his girlfriend why he didn't call was really good as well. Again, I don't recall seeing that one on TV. And finally, there was a clip with 'Outtakes' from 2010 that are well worth a view.

Hope that one or more of those bad boys takes your mind off the insanity for a while. Only 2 shopping days left...remember, the Walmart near you is probably open 24 hours by now and the drugstore on Christmas eve is always a way to get things done (not that I advocate that, of course...)

Friday, December 17, 2010

#fridayflash~In God We Trust

In God We Trust

We departed Rawalpindi early that cool morning, driving towards Murree in the north-eastern corner of Pakistan. The hills and valleys of the single-lane highway snaked through the western Himalayan foothills and made for slow progress. A pall of smoke hung over one region—the result of burning to cover up the large-scale timber theft occurring in these temperate forests.

We arrived in Murree at noon and went our separate ways seeking adventures within the busy mountain village. Christmas was only a week away and I wanted to find unique gifts for my travelling companions. And a decent cup of coffee.

The local market was packed with vendors selling a wide range of goods. They waved to me, calling me to drink their chai or perhaps sample a falafel. Booths selling fine fabrics were next to others peddling questionable looking vegetables. I peeked through the grimy glass of one shop window. Cheap trinkets and plastic prayer beads were proudly displayed on a dusty cloth; not a single thing I would want to give to my friends as Christmas presents.

Most of the men wore round pakol hats and had shawls wrapped around themselves to fend off the lingering morning chill. They wandered through the market, hands clasped behind their backs, thoughtfully examining the goods for sale. Occasionally there was shouting as they haggled over price. The few women in sight had their heads covered with hijab but the more traditional wore the body covering burkha.

Several children ran to me with dirty hands extended. “Baksheesh, Baba,” they shouted in unison, pantomiming eating by pinching the air and drawing their fingers to their mouths. As I had done in many countries previously, I ignored the beggars and continued my trek down the busy street.

The cluttered commercial district eventually evolved into haphazardly stacked tenement-style buildings. A man leaned over a balcony rail and eyed me suspiciously while smoking his cigarette. I proceeded down a hill and stopped at a school whose courtyard was about 20 feet below me. Orderly rows of children, dressed smartly in their blue uniforms, stood at attention. They began to sing melodically and march in unison. Their song, presumably, was in Urdu but every so often the word ‘Pakistan’ rang out and I assumed it was their national anthem.

“Sahib.” The soft voice came from behind me, accompanied by a gentle tug on the arm of my Columbia jacket. I spun around to find an old man looking up at me expectantly. A wool shawl was draped over his narrow shoulders and his ears stuck out from the red checked scarf that covered his head. His almond eyes were sunken into his face; his cheeks and forehead had deep wrinkles that reminded me of folding, geologic strata. Most noticeable, though, was that he carried a large sack of belongings over his shoulder and the bottom of his grey beard looked like it had been dipped in red henna.

“Baksheesh, Sahib,” he repeated and pantomimed the eating gesture the children had demonstrated earlier.

“Sorry, pal,” I said, shaking of my head. “I don’t give money to beggars.” I turned and began to walk away.

“Allah.” He said softly, his voice breaking. I stopped. I slowly walked back to the old man and dropped a few rupee coins into his outstretched hand. He smiled at me, exposing his tooth. I quickly turned and made my way back to the market in search of my gifts.

I've often wondered if the old man was pleading to God—or if he was calling to me.

* Note: Photo credit to J.E. Kirkebo

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Gift of Horror for Christmas

Is your significant other into horror? Then the release of 52 Stitches (Volume 2) should be of interest to you. This newly released collection of horror stories from Aaron Polson and the folks at Strange Publications is described at Amazon as:

"...quick, dark and sometimes mean. You'll find black humor here. Zombies. Killer Angels. Maybe a vampire or two. But there are other, less common, horrors at work. Even a few subtle, unsettling tales which stretch far beyond their few pages. Each story can be read in a few minutes, but will haunt you for much longer."

Man, if that doesn't scream Christmas, I don't know what does...

Lurking within its depths is my story "Thor's Hammer," an innocent coming-of-age story of three children in a small New Hampshire town. Ok, maybe its a bit darker than that...

You can link to 52 Stitches (Volume 2) at Amazon here. I encourage you to drop by and buy a copy. As you may have heard, the profits from the sale of this anthology go to Jamie Eyberg's memorial fund put in place for his children.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Speaking in Foreign Tongues

"It's a braw, bricht moonlit nicht."

Just thought it would be relevant to start off this post with a line from a song called "Wee Deoch and Doris", a song written by Scottish entertainer Sir Harry Lauder. Its translation? It's a beautiful, bright moonlit night (more or less). The Queen's English (or King's English, in Sir Harry's era) can be a wonderful thing when you put a wee Scottish spin on it. Also somewhat entertaining as I've noticed that the Scottish accent is used quite a bit for comedic advertising.

A couple of people mentioned that they liked the use of my dad's Scottish accent in a post from a few days ago. Funny thing is...I don't hear an accent when my parents talk. I suppose any child with parents who speak with an accent will tell you that after so many years of hearing that accent you no longer perceive it when they talk. When I was a child I would occasionally bring friends over after school. They would listen to my parents, smiling and nodding in response to what was being said to them. Later, my friends would ask me what it was they were saying.

I'd like to think that whenever I use a Scottish accent in my writing it's fairly accurate. So my knowledge of the accent comes from listening to them. And, of course, from listening to that great Scottish comedian Billy Connolly. I'll attach a link to a 7 min. video here, but it's 18+ for mature subject matter and more than a few 'sweary words.' My Auntie Pat back in Scotland used to mail me out the annual 'Broons' or 'Oor Wullie' at Christmas. These were compilations of the comics carried in the Sunday Post newspaper each week. I have included a Christmas themed comic of the Broons from 1993. It won't be easy to read and I'm hoping that you can click on the picture to enlarge it. It will give you a good example of the Scottish speech written as it is spoken.

*Crap* f*%$ing technology. I tried clicking on the comic strip after posting and it won't enlarge. Story of my life. If anyone desperately wants to read the Broons comic email me and I'll send you the one that I scanned.

My creative writing instructor, Ed Kavanagh always told us that we should be careful when using local dialects in writing. It's often best to not even attempt it unless you do it well. Below is a short excerpt from his novel "The Confessions of Nipper Mooney" published by Killick Press in 2001. I think it gives a flavour of the Newfoundland accent without being over the top.

"How you findin' the teachers?"

"Okay, I s'pose."

"Well, I'd watch them, too--especially the Brothers. A couple of the fellas I works with on the dockyard went to school with the Brothers. They told me all about 'em. Some of the friggers sounds like real nut cases." He glanced at Nipper. "Want my advice?"


"Blend in," Bobby said. "Don't go doin' nothin' to draw attention to yourself. Then the Townies will leave you alone. And the Brothers, well, as long as you don't piss 'em off, they probably won't look twice--unless you comes from some rich la-di-da family. Or unless you're right smart--you know, winning scholarships and stuff like that. That's what the fellas I works with said, anyway."

"No need to worry about that," Nipper said.

What's your thoughts on using accents in dialogue? Do you try it very often? Are you confident in using a certain accent or dialect? Enquiring minds want to know...

I'll finish here with links to a couple of articles I stumbled across. The Use of Foreign phrases in Creative Writing by Laurence O'Sullivan and How to Write Dialogue with a Foreign Accent by Polina Skibinskaya both seem to have useful information.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Poppin' the Happy Pill

No. Alan has not turned to pharmaceuticals to help him get through his day. I'll get to the 'Happy Pill' business in a minute.

It was another amazing day here on The Rock. It maxxed out at about 10C (50F) or so and was sunny for much of the day. Hard to believe that Christmas is only 17 days away. Guess I should start shopping. And decorating. And whatever else the season requires. The photo to the side is from the steps of the Confederation Building (our provincial House of Assembly) looking towards the harbour. It was taken two days ago and, as you can see, there was a bit of fog but not a flake of snow. I am knocking on wood so as not to jinx this unseasonable phenomenon.

The news on the television tonight showed people golfing at the local golf club. They promise the course will stay open until the snow flies. This was in sharp contrast to footage from Florida that showed children going to school in winter coats, toques (Tooks?) and mittens. Apparently some regions of the state are under frost warnings and are worried about their citrus crops. Quite a role-reversal indeed.

Speaking of Florida...the lovely Laura Eno, one of my longest online pals, passed along a new award to me. It is called the 'Happy Pill' award and was recently created by Lydia Kang. My last post, regarding my stupid unfortunate hand injuries over the years, had her thinking that I could surely benefit from the Happy Pill because I sure is a mess! Can't hurt, might help...and I thank Laura kindly for the award. She didn't specify that I have to do anything special, such as divining the future or eating Naga Viper peppers, so I assume I can smile and pass it along to another person without the usual revelation of personal information. guys already know everything about me. Right?

For those of you out of the loop, Laura is one of the most productive people in the #fridayflash crowd and she's the author of Prophecy Moon and Don't Fall Asleep: A Dream Assassin Novel. Drop by her blog, A Shift in Dimensions and say hello. Perhaps lend her some warm clothes, or buy her a hot chocolate even. I understand the cold is making her snake, Jezebel, is a bit sluggish so bring a warm rat with you.
Without further ado, I bestow this fine Pill of Happiness on the hilarious Kathryn at From the Inside...Out because when I leave her blog it's always with a smile (and after reading about some of HER situations I'm feeling a lot better about MYself).

Friday, December 3, 2010

Yesterday, I Stapled my Finger

Pretty catchy title, eh? Figured that some people would just click over here to see what the heck that was all about. I didn't make it up. Honest. I in fact stapled the pad of my index finger while stapling the December page of my desk calendar on my blotter. I accidentally ripped it off while ripping off November's page and had my fingers behind the cardboard for support while stapling and then... The photo to the left is not me BTW. The puncturing of my finger brought back a flood of childhood memories of stupid things I've done to my hands...

  • I was about 8 or 9 and I was playing guessed it, a stapler. My mum told me to quit playing with it (umm...the stapler) or she'd beat the living bejeezus out of me I'd hurt myself. I of course ignored her and ended up ramming a staple, full depth, into the fleshy part of the palm of my hand under my thumb. I couldn't whine about it go to her to ask for help because that would obviously admit stupidity on my part, so I pried it out of my hand with something sharp (obviously not my intellect).

  • Around the same time I was playing the back yard while my dad was working on our fence. I was farting about with his tools and was jabbing a chunk of wood with a particularly cool looking chisel with a clear handle. He said, "That's really sharp, put that doon ye daft wee bugger!" I of course ignored him and kept playing with the chisel...until it slipped and cut the palm of my hand. He may have said, "I told you away and see your mother."

  • I was about 10 years old and had the chore of making the evening cup of tea for my parents and bringing it to them while they watched TV. Heck, that was so long ago television may even have been in B&W (that's black and white, or uncoloured, for you youngsters). Anyway, I boiled the kettle and was pouring it into the teapot and for whatever reason stopped paying attention and poured the boiling water on the top of my left hand above the thumb. It was sure red and swollen and eventually fluid built up into a big bubble and when it was ready to pop...sorry, a bit graphic. Hope nobody was eating their sausage rolls or beef wellingtons while reading that.

  • I was bit in the left thumb while trying to catch a rabid cat in a former career as a short order cook a dog catcher. Except I wasn't a kid when that happened.

  • I was sitting on the floor at my parent's house and was writing something on a bit of paper with a pencil (yes, it was pre-computer days) when I tried to toss the pencil up onto a table, eraser first, and the eraser jambed into the edge of the table and the palm of my hand rammed into the sharpened tip of the pencil. The graphite mark stayed in the palm of my hand for months. Note: I was about 25 years old at the time. Sigh.

  • The first and only time I joined a group of friends playing 'flag football' in the snow I tried to catch a pass and the ball snapped my left thumb back. It really hurt, but the pain my have been numbed by the cold (and alcohol). The next day my thumb had swollen to the size of an Octoberfest sausage and I went to the emergency. I apparently had a 'flake fracture' of the left thumb and they bent up a special splint out of fibreglass so that I could keep working as a draftsman with my drafting machine. Yes, that would be the mid-80's prior to the glory days of AutoCad.

*Sniffs* The memories bring a tear to my eye. Such fond memories. I stayed out of trouble in my 30's by coccooning myself completely in bubble wrap. When possible, I try to have V or Sean use the power tools about the house on my behalf while I drink beer and watch TV cower in fear in the basement.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Political Humour: Canadian Style

Just a quick post to link you to a sketch from the fine people at This Hour Has 22 Minutes, a CBC comedy show that has run in Canada for years. It's been very popular in this province as the shows creator, Mary Walsh, and most of the cast are from Newfoundland and Labrador.

The sketch from last night's show has a distressed 22 Minute regular Mark Critch confronting premier Danny Williams about his resignation from office effective this Friday. Mark has been impersonating the premier on the show for years and figures he will now be out of a job. The two men go to see 'The Codfather', as played by Gordon Pinsent, to resolve the situation. I'm thinking that you don't have to be Canadian to appreciate the humour (and accents) of the men in this skit. Watch for a small cameo by a couple of men from another popular CBC show near the end of the skit (I won't say who they are as it will spoil the surprise. Then again...probably only Canadians well get the joke...) Nobody can say that Danny Williams doesn't have a sense of humour.

As per usual, my total lack of technological knowledge leaves me baffled and I will take the easy way out and rather than trying to embed the sucker I will post a link to the YouTube video here.