Saturday, December 31, 2011

Year End Round Up

It's nearing 6pm here and I'm on a push to finish this post...otherwise the title would be rendered invalid.

For those that don't know this, St. John's is the first city on the North American continent to celebrate New Years. The time difference makes it a bit awkward to watch Dick Clark (whoa, he's 82 now!) and such New Years eve shows on the TV. The ball drops in the Big Apple at 1:30am our time. I've taken out my false teeth and used my walker to make my way to bed long before that.

We've enjoyed the neighbourhood Christmas lights the past few weeks but they will soon be coming down. Except for those who leave them up all year round. My favourite (again) this year is the large display of muted green, blue and purple lights in the trees along the busy boulevard from our provincial parliament buildings to the university. My pet peeve is the dozens of ladders on the sides of homes with fake elves perched on the rungs. Also on that list are inflatable candy canes that light up and those inflatable clear balls with blowing snow and a Santa trapped inside. They remind me of the display at St. Patrick's Church back in London. The big fella and his crozier are proudly displayed on its front lawn encased in a clear plastic cylinder. He seems a bit excluded from the general public, but at least he's protected from snakes.

Where was I...yes, Christmas displays that leave me scratching my head. You see a lot of homes here with those little electric lights sitting on the sills of all the front windows. They look like little menorahs except there are fewer lights involved and they're made of plastic. I'm not sure if they are symbolic of something. Does anybody out there know? Please enlighten me. Finally, have you seen those lit-up deer all over the place. You know the ones...a light metal frame in the general shape of a deer with small, white lights strung all over it. I think they sell them at Costco. Probably every where else as well, going by the number that can be found grazing on the front lawns of houses in this area. I did see a photo of one deer display that showed great humour and a lot of originality. The gutted deer in the picture to the left was hanging from an arbour SOMEWHERE in North America. There's a lot of hunters living here and I'm sure the trend will catch on for NEXT year.

I watched a couple of really good independent movies on IFC this holiday season. The first was a comedy-drama called 'The Station Agent' (2003). It's about a young man with achondroplastic dwarfism who inherits from a friend a small train station in Newfoundland, New Jersey (yeah, that's the's just a coincidence...honest). Fin (an amazing performance by Peter Dinklage) seeks a life of solitude, shying from human interaction. However his neighbours find ways to insinuate themselves into his life. This tale of friendship and lonliness was written and directed by Thomas McCarthy and is well worth your time should you see it in the TV listings (or chose to rent it).

Another thoughtful movie is 'Saint Ralph' (2005), written and directed by Michael McGowan. This story begins in Hamilton, Ontario in 1953 and is about a boy whose mother is in failing condition in hospital. This young man, played with tons of charm by Adam Butcher, is a social outcast and attends a Catholic school. He decides the only way she can be helped is with a miracle and he sets out to train for the upcoming Boston Marathon. The cynical and dismissive headmaster is played with uncharacteristic malice by Newfoundland's Gordon Pinsent. This is a good one to lift one's spirits and has a lot of laughs.

This year has seen me mainly unproductive in the writing world. Even the frequency of blogging has fallen off the past couple of months. It's now 3 hours until midnight. I'd make a resolution to do better if I believed in that sort of thing. I'm of the mind that if one wants to improve they should work on it at any time of the year, not just January the first. I'd like to wish you all the best for 2012. May health and happiness be the order of the day for you and yours, my friends.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Mummering: What's Old is New

Photo by Keith Gosse/The Telegram

Upon moving here to Newfoundland in 2006 I quickly observed that 'The Rock' was unlike any other location in Canada. A little-known Christmas tradition that has gained a resurgence in popularity in recent years is mummering.

It is believed that mummering found its way to Newfoundland from England nearly 200 years ago. The tradition involves a group of people disguising themselves in costumes and visiting homes within their community. They will entertain their hosts by singing and dancing and perhaps telling jokes. The hosts will supply them with snacks and 'liquid refreshments' and try to guess the identities of the visitors. This is not easy as everyone has their faces covered and men are often disguised as women and women as men. This tradition was made popular in "The Mummers Song" by Newfoundland folk duo Simani in 1982. Play the 3 1/2 minute video, first aired on the CBC program 'Land and Sea',  for a feel for what a visit from mummers was like for those living 'round the bay'.

And...below THIS is a link to a two minute video from last Saturday's Mummer's Parade here is St. John's.

The mummering tradition has been noticed by the US satirical new organization The Onion and featured/lampooned in a recent video. You can see that two minuted video below.

Traveling Group Of Medieval Mummers Is America's Top Pick For Holiday Entertainment

So there you have it...all you wanted to know about mummering. And a bit more. Holiday wishes to you all...whatever it is you may be celebrating this time of the year. And finally a feel-good story...the little puffin who found his way home. In a case of 'misdirection', a 6 month old puffin somehow got lost and flew from the Atlantic Ocean to downtown Montreal (mon dieu!). He was flown back (courtesy of Air Canada) to St. John's last night and will spend a couple of weeks R&R at a bird sanctuary before being released back into the 'wilds'. Now there's a happy ending. You can link to that story here.

*sniffs and wipes tear from eye*

Saturday, December 17, 2011

An Encounter in the Woods

Just thought that I'd pop into the blogosphere again for what's quickly turning into a semi-monthly posting schedule. Perhaps my inactivity explains why the number of followers has dropped a couple since my last post. Perhaps that svelte picture of me in my last post offended a couple of people? Too much butt-crack perchance? Hopefully nobody thought that was really ME!

My back pain persists but at least I'm staying away from the hospital. A couple of weeks ago the dog was lying on the floor of my office...looking at me with sad, bloodshot eyes. He has been ailing as well of late. Perhaps some sympathy pains from man's best friend?

I figured that a mid-day walk would be good medicine for us both. It was a bit chilly so I threw the lined coat on our greyhound and leashed him up. As we left the house, Jake the Shih Tzu spied us from the house across the road. He stood on the back of the living room sofa and I'm sure was imagining a big, tasty rat as he vigourously shook his stuffed toy.

We walked down the gravel path into the urban woods, breathing the fresh air and stretching our limbs. Jet eventually forced me to use a poopy bag. Thankfully only one (anyone who's owned a large breed dog knows that a dumpster is a requirement in the back yard). A beagle darted towards us. It had a collar with tags but there was no owner in sight. As it neared its hind end dropped and its tail curled between its hind legs. I tried to lure it towards me but it ran off the path into the stunted pine trees. (On a side my former life as a 'Dog Catcher' only one type of dog ever tried to bite me...a beagle).

A young man came along the path. He looked a bit cold as he wasn't wearing a jacket. He stooped as he grasped the collar of a shepherd-ish looking dog. He explained that the dogs escaped the house when he had the door open. The lived at the end of a nearby busy street. I couldn't loan him my leash as my dog would no doubt run away. With my back in its present state, I was deduced to running the 100 yard dash in over 12 seconds and knew there was no way I would be able to catch the sprinting greyhound.

He explained that the beagle was his step-father's hunting dog. She was normally kept in a pen (Boo!) and naturally ran to the woods after the 'great escape'. He tried carrying the beagle in one arm as he stooped to grasp the collar of the other dog. The beagle squirmed too much so he put her down on the gravel path.

I told him that perhaps he should lead the dog he had home and I would keep the beagle following me in the woods until his return. "Good plan, dude!" he said.

Unfortunately the beagle spied a woman jogging along the nearby busy street and chased after her. "Bella," the young man bellowed after the fleeing beast. The scene in the faux forest had become a bit too surrealistic for my liking. I knew we were only a few sleek bodies and sparkles away from being in a bad Hollywood blockbuster (apologies to Stephenie Meyer).

To make a long story short, the young man soon returned with a leash and Bella the beagle grew tired of chasing the jogger and returned to the woods in search of more challenging game. She hung about Jet and I until she was secured on the leash and returned to her life of drudgery.

The End

Thursday, December 1, 2011

I am a Beetroot

We've quietly slipped into December and now begin the three weeks of madness that lead into the Christmas festivities. Speaking of madness...NaNoWriMo is now complete. My congratulations to those of you who completed the 50K word goal. Maintaining the required pace (of about 1666 words) for 30 days can be really challenging (physically, mentally and maritally).

New topic. I've posted before about the odd assortment of people who have appeared on my doorstep for one reason or another. You may recall my mentioning the man selling fish products door to door from the trunk of his car. Though the list looked tasty enough, I just can't see myself buying food products that have been stored with old beer bottles, jumper cables and a spare tire.

A few years back I had a middle-aged man appear looking for used books in order to make enough money to get the ferry to return home to the mainland. I gave him a few paperbacks and he tucked them into his plastic bag and continued on. The following year he was back again looking for more books. At least this time he didn't spin the story of using the money for ferry fare. I gave him a couple more.

Two years ago I posted about an elderly gentleman selling a book about the (recent) history of Old Perlican, a fishing community on the northern tip of the Avalon Peninsula. There was a story about the old man and how he lost both hands in an electrical accident back in the 70's. I bought a copy of the book for $20. He gingerly pinched the bill between the tines of his right hook and tucked it into his shirt pocket.

We have had charitable fundraisers, security system salesmen, politicians and purveyors of religion appear at the door. Sometimes the traffic has been so heavy it's hard to imagine that we live on an island. I guess that suburban door to door 'visitors' are universal. Perhaps the oddest thing I've seen at the door was the week after Halloween of this year. Supper was on the go in the kitchen and darkness had fallen. The doorbell rang...

The Happy Vegetables.

I opened the door and three young people stood before me, ready to get into their spiel about Oxfam. I have nothing against this fine organization but their people were more than a little creepy showing up at the door, in the dark, dressed as vegetables. Seriously. One was a carrot, another was a celery and the third was a vegetable yet to be named. Note to Oxfam: it may be in the best interest of your fundraisers NOT to show up at people's doors dressed as food items at supper time. Their being a couple days late for Halloween didn't help the oddness of the encounter. I can't help but think of a Barbara Walters interview in this situation. "If you were a vegetable, what type of vegetable would you be?"

What's the oddest person/thing that has appeared at YOUR door?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

On Back Pain, Laziness and Lame Ass Excuses

OK...I suppose I left off on my last post with a bit of an ominous tone. And a cheesy grin.

Seriously, I'm doing great. least adequate.

I thought that I'd pop in and reassure the two or three readers I have left that I'm not pushing up daisies. Thanks for the concern shown via comments, phone and email.

In the past *checks back to when he last posted* 36 days I've managed to stay out of the hospital. The first couple of weeks of that time frame were taken up with my sister's visit from Edmonton. Our AHL hockey team began their season and I went to 5 home games in 11 nights.

I've visited my Dr. again once, had another blood test and been to see a physiotherapist 5 times. I was hoping to come back with some cool pics of my liver from an ultrasound. However I can't be scheduled in until January so the organ will have to remain a mystery for a while longer (anybody...did that sound weird?). Perhaps it's kidney shaped instead of liver shaped. All this internal organ discussion has got me a bit hungry. All we need now are some mashed potatoes and fried onions and we'd be all set.

With all the time out of the office I find myself playing 'catch-up' after hours, sometimes until 7pm.

This is not a picture of me...
My back is still bothering me quite a bit. So much so that I'm still keeping away from basketball. The geezers aren't too concerned as I'm not the only one off with an injury (fondly referred to as 'broke' in the circle of the elderly). My main concern is that I"m probably the topic of conversation when they head out for beers after the game.

I'm still waiting for those exercises I was shown at physio to start working for me. Damn voodoo. I even purchased a new office chair hoping for better back support. At that price it should have come with a codeine dispenser. Now THAT would have been useful.

I suspect my sense of humour departed the same time I went to the emergency with the fever and chills. A general laziness has set in (yes, a special much more consuming than my usual laziness). Perhaps my humour, and ambition, will soon return.

I will stop whining now, wipe away the drool dripping from the corner of my mouth and shamble into the living room. It's Wednesday night and Survivor is on TV soon. Oops! Did I say that. I only meant to think it.

Be back soon...well, at least sooner than 36 days.

The boy's report card is coming home by the end of the week. Hmm...perhaps something blog-worthy...

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Evening at the Emergency

A couple of afternoons last week I had a problem with chills followed by fever. It didn't concern me...the entire event lasted only a couple of hours. It's the season when people get the flu, so I figured something was coming on. I never developed a head ache and wasn't sick. On Thursday I woke up to a chill, followed by fever. There was no way I could work and I called in sick to corporate HQ. I felt better after a couple of hours and talked with my sister who is visiting from Edmonton.

By mid-afternoon the chills returned and I lay on the sofa, covered by a blanket, shivering for a couple of hours. V came home from work and stuffed a thermometer in me (my mouth). I had a temp of 103 F. She called our Dr.'s office but he was just closing up for the day and suggested she take me to the emergency department of the hospital. She drove and I sat with a plastic container in my lap (just in case...we didn't want a repeat of the 'vomit volcano' in the van as happened with the boy earlier in the year).

The ER was fairly busy (when is it not?) and we were told it would be a 3-4 hour wait. I was surprised, though, that 5 minutes later I was called to see the triage nurse. I went through the ritual...pulse, blood pressure, temperature, pee in a bottle...I was a bit surprised when she sent me off for a chest a wheel chair! I think the rolling chariot was a response to the 103F I scored on the thermometer. THAT and the rapid heart rate. I guess it's bad for business if one keels over with a heart attack while wandering the crowded corridors of the ER...

When I got back from X-ray I was put in the 'Plaster Room' across the hall from the triage nurse. I think I was kept there, with the crutches and tensor bandages, in case I was carrying some nasty plague. Or perhaps my fez was a distraction to the huddled masses in the waiting room. Anyhow, I was soon put given a 'johnie coat' and told to put it on. "Should I strip right down to my socks and underwear?" I inquired. The nurse looked horrified. "Please...No. Just take off your shirt. That will be fine."

I was then put on a hospital gurney and left in the hall of the ER with a couple of elderly people. Obviously we were going to have to wait a while to reach the promised land behind the sacred double-doors. A girl came along and took another blood sample. This was apparently to make blood cultures. She assured me that the little glass bottles she carried didn't contain alcohol and I shouldn't drink them....Har! Humour, that's the ticket. I passed the time by watching the comings and goings of injured people. That, and the little man that occasionally passed by on some sort of ride-on vaccuum cleaner. Who WOULDN'T want that around the house!

I eventually saw the ER doctor. He poked and prodded my stomach, listened to my chest and generally asked a lot of questions. The bottom line was that I wasn't showing ANY other symptoms besides the chills/fever and rapid heart rate...both of which were now gone as the nurse had given me a couple of ibuprofen earlier in the visit. He could not explain what was causing the fever. He was curious about my previous history with liver function problems (many years ago) and issued me a form to go off for more blood tests. It was a long six hours, yet pockets of time flew by rather quickly.

I'll be off to see my family Dr. again in a few days. It was a strange way to lead into a long week end, but the past four days have past uneventfully. We went for a nice turkey dinner at my parent's house yesterday. It was nice to have the entire family back together again. Many thanks to the stalwart 'V' who hung out with me at the Emerg and asked all of the pertinent questions that I was too stupid to think of. She also took a photo or two on her new phone. I'll inclued one. You won't want to see the other pic as the 'business' end of the johnnie coat may have caught a breeze and blew reminds me of that time with the kilt...

They took my fez...apparently it wasn't sterile...

Thursday, October 6, 2011

A Funny

In some foreign country a priest, a lawyer and an engineer are about to be guillotined.

The priest puts his head on the block, they pull the rope and nothing happens -- he declares that he's been saved by divine intervention-- so he is set free .The lawyer is put on the block, and again the rope doesn't release the blade, he claims he can't be executed twice for the same crime and he is also set free.

They grab the engineer and shove his head into the guillotine, he looks up at the release mechanism and says, "Wait a minute, I see your problem..."

I figured it must be pick on engineers week somewhere in the world.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Slugs and Bad Behaviour

Today's stormy weather (leftovers from hurricane Ophelia) pushed some toasty weather at us on Friday and Saturday. We reached a balmy 22C (74F) over the week end. Yes, for Newfoundland THAT is balmy. We've reverted back to normal temps as we dropped down to a misty 10C yesterday (50F).

Mr. Squishy, and friends
The weather yesterday and today has been damp enough to bring out slugs on to the front walk. They are actually 'miniatures'...only about 1/2" long. There was a tiny snail as well, about the size of a pinkie nail. It makes what I call the "Double S Shuffle" to the driveway a bit treacherous...nobody wants to hear that cracking sound beneath their foot while walking. A little bomb going off. Worse yet, you don't want to look back to see that the slug you thought you had narrowly avoided has mysteriously disappeared  *peeks under foot*.

All this talk about cool weather and slimy things has me thinking about a couple of incidents of 'bad behaviour' in the hockey world recently (this IS a blog by a Canadian are you NOT going to hear about hockey on a semi-regular basis?). 

Here is a link to a story by a sports writer who received a racist message on his answering machine. The message was not directed at him per se, but at the management of the new Winnipeg Jets franchise for its having 5 black players on the team. The caller spewed a lot of 'Feks' and 'N-Words' in his rant. He apparently was miffed because he could not get tickets to a game and took it out on the sports writer for some reason....

In a similar tone, about two weeks ago the Philadelphia Flyers were playing an exhibition game against Detroit in my old home town of London, Ontario. The game went to a shoot out and as the Flyer's Wayne Simmonds skated towards the net for a shot, a banana was thrown on the ice in front of him from the upper deck. I should add here that I probably attended over 100 Knights games while living in London and never once saw any sort of fruit be tossed onto the ice. Let alone a banana as a black player was shooting the puck. The player ignored the racist insult, by the way, and scored on his shot. Link to story here.

There was a lot said in the media about the incident, both nationally and internationally. I have heard some talk reflecting the notion that it really wasn't THAT big a deal. Right...

London is a conservative city, and the incident speaks to the racist tones  that lie just beneath the murky surface of civility. Both the banana and racist call incidents may be isolated cases of A-holes popping out of the slime, but they really indicate a racist sentiment still plaguing society. I think that this giant 'melting pot' needs a stirring.

On a side note...the 26 year old banana thrower in London was identified. The police felt that his actions did not warrant a hate crime but he was "...served a summons for engaging in a prohibited activity under the provincial Trespass to Property Act." That and the arena may ban him for a season or longer. Ouch! That slap on the wrist must really hurt. Though the man has retained a lawyer...

Second side note...Wayne Simmonds, the target of the banana thrower, was involved in his own scandal just days later in an exhibition game with the New York Rangers. Simmonds was in a scuffle with Ranger's tough-guy Sean Avery when Simmonds uttered a homophobic slur against Avery (yet another story link). For those of you who are unaware, Avery became something of an advocate for the gay rights movement when he endorsed marriage equality in the state of New York earlier this year. I guess that Simmonds didn't like that and spoke his mind in the heat of battle.

So much bad behaviour occurring around this simple game of putting a rubber disk into a net. It seems to me that folks have got to give their heads a shake and start growing the hell up. Behaviour on the ice and around the ice should be no different than in any other segment of society. People have got to get the message out that this sort of behaviour has never been acceptable, is not acceptable and never will be acceptable.

*Gets off soap box*

I'll close with a final link to a story by long-time sports writer Morris Dalla Costa of the London Free Press after the banana incident. The article is titled 'Silence can be Racism."

Well said, Morris.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Darken my Door

It's been a chilly couple of days here in Newfoundland.

There has been a near hint of frost in the mornings. Or perhaps it's whitish dew. At any rate, I wouldn't want to be out there with no pants on. The chilly air and brown leaves scraping off the cold sidewalk are pointing to the fact our short summer is now over.

I've had a couple of unexpected visitors at the house during my work days this week. Nothing so dramatic as the cops or starving clowns, but visitors nonetheless. The oddest visitor was a guy selling fish door to door. Now I know you all are picturing this fellow with a cod flung over one shoulder and perhaps a trout stuffed under his armpit. If fact he had the fish in a cooler in the trunk of his car. His careful concern about keeping the sea life cool was touching, yet not enough to inspire me to purchase something from the trunk of a stranger's car.

Sorry, got off topic there. My visitor yesterday was the Liberal candidate in our riding running in the provincial election to be held in about two weeks. We exchanged pleasantries and I assured her that I was firmly undecided on how I'm going to vote. I may not know until I'm standing behind the partition of doom looking at the list of names that inspire confidence. This woman will have an uphill battle as the current premier of our province is the Progressive Conservative representative in this riding. May the force be with you, Liberal lady.

photo from KSL. com
Today I had a visit from two smiling young men with back packs. You know the guys...they represent a certain religious group and wanted to come in and discuss Jesus Christ with me (and the dog who's collar I had a death-grip on). I informed them that it wasn't necessary for them to come in and educate me on JC. "May I ask why not?" he inquired. I assured them that if I was feeling like learning more about theirs, or any other religion, I was only a short walk from a number of churches, a mosque, a synagogue and even a Buddhist temple.

What seems odd is that these young men always describe themselves as missionaries for their church. I had never thought that we up on "The Rock" were considered 'Third World' (is that PC to use that term these days?) and in need of help from missionaries. Yes, perhaps a few years ago...but not now because we have been declared a 'Have' province and are rolling in wealth from the oil industry. Then again...the new wealth for some causes a growing gap between the rich and the poor. And perhaps that leads to more crime. Maybe a little salvation isn't a bad idea after all. I'll drop by that Buddhist temple tomorrow. Or maybe the mosque. or maybe...

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Patrick Boivin, new kid on the block

In the summer of 2010, I posted  a blog about one of my 'Bad Movie' nights with the guys. That term is a bit misleading because not all of the short or feature films we watch are necessarily 'Bad.' Some, in fact, do amazing things on a small budget. One of the short films that evening was a dark comedy called 'Le Queloune' (The Clown). I have learned more about the film's director over the past year and have taken in a few of his short films.

Patrick Boivin is a French Canadian film maker out of Montreal. He has amassed quite a following in the YouTube world over the past few years for his short stop-motion animation videos (some of which have over a million hits). I will link to some of his work below but you can see more by clicking on his name.

Mr. Boivin has now ventured into feature length films with his first movie 'Enfin l'Automne' (Fall, Finally). The movie looks at the friendship between two men and a relationship that developes between one of these men and a woman that they both like. It spans about a year time span and is beautifully shot and very professional looking considering it's $45,00 budget. It's about 68 minutes long and well worth a viewing. It has english subtitles but at times no dialogue is necessary as the actors do a great job of conveying thought and emotion through their gestures and facial expression.

The film, in a way, makes Canadian film history as it's the first Candian feature film to debut on YouTube. I think that we'll be seeing a lot more of this man's work on the Canadian film making scene.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Fez in the Wind

I’m wearing my matching sou'wester hat and thong this evening to protect from the residuals of tropical storm Maria that is spiralling in our direction. Past experience has proven that the water-proof fez won’t cut it in the high winds during the storms that occasionally hit The Rock. In fact, it's been almost exactly a year since hurricane Igor dropped in for a kitchen party.

Back to the topic of headgear, I find myself wearing the fez a lot less—often going about town with no chapeau at all. In fact, I’m really quite a lightweight in the 'fezular' realm when you look at it in a global context. There are many others who don the exotic fez with far more flair than myself.

courtesy of
  The always-popular Dr. Who wears the fez rakishly with a bit of hair poking out from the front in a care-free manner. The bow tie sets off the look perfectly (note to self...get a PhD in physics and look into purchasing better cravats.)

courtesy of
  Todd exudes a certain unkempt charm with his slightly unshaven face and bogus porn star moustache. He delivers pizzas week nights, but on the weekends he's an exotic dancer with the stage name 'Howard Johnson'. You should see him gyrate his tassel.

courtesy of
  I don't know what her name is or anything about her. However her emerald dress and platinum hair really bring out the colour of her hat. The Masons were wise to let her into the club. I'd loan her my fez any day.

courtesy of

Bruno LeDrew took too many head shots in his lengthy boxing career. He wears his fez to hide his pet squirrel Bonkers. Bruno scores points with me for that cool necklace. He obviously likes it a lot. He is one step away from getting a room with his necklace. And his little friend Bonkers.

courtesy of
  I've heard that Monica dresses like this when she goes to the opening night of the Harry Potter movies. Her friends are too embarrassed to tell her that the costume doesn't work. I think it works just fine. Her wrap nearly matches the hue of her eggplant fez. Very nice, indeed. But please stop staring at're making me nervous.

courtesy of (makers of fine hats)

I saved Mr. Cairo for last because he captures the look that I can only dream of attaining (on account of my grey hair). His fez is centered perfectly on his head and the black jacket and tie are perfect with his dark side burns and goatee. Mr. Cairo has perfectly captured that "Svengali meets Dos Equis guy" look. Well done, sir. Well done.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Head in the Sand

Yep, that photo pretty much sums me up lately...head in the sand. Except, like, I'd have more of a gut. And pants on (except on Friday). The picture also reminds me of a tasteless joke from my misguided youth.

Why do the people in ________ (insert country of your choice) bury their dead with their butts sticking out of the ground? .... So they can be used as bicycle stands...

Moving head has been in the proverbial sand recently because I've been immersed in a book. The past couple of weeks, every moment that hasn't been either work or family time has been spent reading Under the Dome by Stephen King. I've been reading his horror stories since I was about 20 or so. However in recent years I lost interest in his stories. But he has won me back with this novel. It's been many years since a story has grabbed my interest like that. If I may so bold to use the cliche...."a real page turner."

This massive tome is over 1000 pages and could be used to inflict serious harm on another human being. I strained muscles trying to hold it up to read for days. I found the first 100 pages or so a little slow as the first day developed, introducing all of the characters in the town after the 'dome' came down. You know that your novel has a lot of characters when there is a three page section listing them and what they do. I think that the book's main message is about the corruption and the abuse of power. There is also a strong environmental message here and a fine display of people thrust into an extraordinary situation rallying together.

FYI, I looked this up on IMDB and at Wikipedia and see that it's under development as a TV miniseries to be aired on Showcase some time in the distant future. I bet that today's special effects could make this visually stunning. Cool...

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Aug 28, Alan remembers that he has a Blog

Just yesterday it occured to me that I had been back from vacation for about 10 days and had done nothing with the photos that V had downloaded from the camera. I had promised myself the next blog post would be about our 5 days on the west coast (of this island). It was a real treat for me as we were covering places that I had never been before.

It was mid-August and the weather on this Rock had finally warmed up a bit. As a result, both flora and fauna were well represented...

Pretty flowers near the bog

The mighty bull moose

The innocent calves

The elusive loon

The snaggle-toothed llama

Well, yeah. So maybe llamas aren't the norm here, but we got to visit that character and his buddy alpacas at the Alpacas of Newfoundland on the Port au Port Peninsula, west of Stephenville. The drive around that peninsula was very scenic and we got a feel for the French heritage of the area.

Part of the trip was taking in four plays over five nights. The highlight for me was 'God of Carnage' at the Stephenville Theatre Festival. It was done in a small square room with only 25 seats for the audience in each of the corners. We also saw an interesting play called 'Stones in His Pocket' at the Gros Morne Theatre Festival in Cow Head. The story is about two men working as extras in a Hollywood production being shot in a small, Irish village. The fascinating, and at times hilarious, thing about this is that all of the parts are played by only two men with a minimum of props about them. Well worth going to if it's playing near you.

A view from the hotel room in Cow Head

While in Gros Morne National Park, we took the boat tour in Western Brook Pond. This should be a stop for all who visit the park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is a scenic 45 minute hike through woods and a bog to the marina and a two hour boat trip down the pond (that is about 16km long). The water is over 500 ft deep in places and the rock walls on either side tower above at about 2000 ft. The weather thankfully cooperated and we had a wonderful time (though they really pack folks (capacity of 165) into the two boats. Note that this glacially created fjord is now fresh water and closed off from the ocean and the first tour boat had to be brought in overland through the woods.

Below are a few photos from the boat tour. I'll let the scenery speak for itself...

The walk through the bog (no rubber boots required)

Exciting stuff, though the guy in the middle need a nap.

Small water falls

Pissing Mare Falls (seriously) is about 1140 ft.

Are we there yet? I REALLY need to go...

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

A Little P & R (pimping and rioting)

I have been avoiding TV and Internet stories about the rioting in England the past few days. It's a bit like a car crash, though, isn't it? You avert your eyes yet still take a peek on the way past to safer ground. I was shocked at the rioting in Vancouver after the Stanley Cup finals, but Britain has elevated it to a whole new level. I'm all for rightful protest and even a little civil disobedience where required but there seems no point to what has been going on in London...and Manchester...and Liverpool....and...

Anyway, I won't go on about it but my thoughts go out to my writing friends living in those cities and wish them all a quick return to normal (whatever one's definition of THAT may be).

I'll be out of town for a few days. As in no Internet access. Not quite living under plastic in the wilds but still no means of keeping up with the bloggy worlds of my friends. And speaking of friends...

I've been a lazy sod for weeks as far as writing is concerned. Not so for some of my longest running cyber-buddies:

Cate Gardner is a going concern at her blog. Her novella Barbed Wire Hearts will be published by Delerium Books in November 2011. Also...her novel Nowhere Hall will be published by Spectral Press in September 2011. Cate is a fine example of how hard work pays off, even for those that work a day job.

KV (katey) Taylor is a busy girl, what with the blog Spec Fic and Nonsense AND taking care of business at The Red Penny Papers, that fine quarterly electronic journal. Somehow she even finds time to write (I'm so jealous). Her debut novel Scripped, an Appalachian Faerie Tale, is available to pre-order from Belfire Press.

"In an attempt to escape constant arguing, Jonah Gray wanders away from the family cabin deep in the West Virginia wilderness. But he wanders too far, over the borders to a Faerie land that could only exist in Appalachia.

Faerie-napping, cold knives, underground oppressors, horror stories, and unwilling affections threaten to suck him forever into their desolate Company Town. If they do, he’ll lose himself in every way possible.

You might escape the fae, but you can never go home. Not really."

And finally, my pal K.C. Shaw's The Taste of Magic has been released as an ebook from Etopia Press.

"Analefa Miradwen has spent the last ten years avoiding vampires. She knows her blood is a delicacy, but she doesn’t want to share. Not after the last time, which nearly left her dead.

When the vampire mage Magnus begins stalking her, Ana turns to the King’s Enforcer for help. Vincent Ondarr has the manpower and the magic-power to keep her safe. According to him, Ana’s blood doesn’t just taste good, it enhances a mage’s magic.

The trouble is, Vincent’s a vampire mage too. If Ana wants to keep her blood to herself, she’ll have to figure out which one of them she can trust. And what exactly Magnus wants from her..."

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

A Potter Moment

The boy and V and myself went to see the new Harry Potter movie on Sunday. I know, it's been out for ages. We prefer to wait until the smoke clears a bit and the pandemonium has died off a bit. And to answer your questions...NO. I did not dress up like Dumbledore, or Draco or even Dobby. I don't have enough beard to be the wizard and I prefer to leave the school boy outfit to Angus Young of AC/DC...

It amazes me how each movie in the series has gotten progressively darker. The first one was positively carefree in comparison to the last one. The subject matter in the last couple of movies doesn't seem like something that you would want to take young children to see. I have never read the books, so I can't comment on how the movies compare to the books. Perhaps somebody can comment on that. Maybe I'll get to the books one of these years.

I'll include a one minute Harry Potter summary for those, like me, who are way to busy to read all of the books. It's a cute thing stumbled across on the Internet a few days ago.

On a side note, it is Regatta Day here in St. John's. It is the 193rd instalment of the longest run annual sporting event in North America. You can read about it here. The city is more abuzz than usual as Russell Crowe is in town. Not so much for the regatta, but he has released an album with local singer Alan Doyle of the band Great Big Sea.  They will be performing together in a pair of fundraising concerts this week and are promoting the release of their new album "The Crowe/Doyle Songbook, Volume III" (also featuring Crowe's wife, Danielle Spencer) available only on iTunes. Crowe and Doyle, along with two other "merry men" (Scott Grimes and Kevin Durand) from last year's Robin Hood movie are also on set to shoot for an episode of CBC's Republic of Doyle.

You can link to an interview with the pair (Crowe and Doyle) by CBC here. I'm hoping that it's accessible by my American (and Australian) friends.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Joy of Moving. And Hockey...

...and then Alan opened his eyes and realised that nearly a week had slipped past...

Yes, I'm still visiting the bloggy world when I can find the time (and something to ramble on about). I'm also still trying to keep one step ahead of the evil work overlords with their long whips (long enough to reach even me hiding on this rock in the Atlantic).

I took a couple of days off this week to help my parents move from the NW corner of Conception Bay to the Southern Shore. They had a rented U-Haul truck and there were the usual problems with reserving the truck, with realtors, with cable companies and with lawyers. A legal issue prevented us from being able to start unloading the truck until 4:30 in the afternoon.  *Alan shakes fist to sky and vehemently curses the evil lawyers* (Alan is also Canadian and must now profusely apologise to any and all lawyers who are currently reading, or in the future may stumble across, this blog post). Anyway, they are in their house and now in the process of unpacking and moving furniture from here to there. And back again. One day they will have time to just sit and enjoy the view of the harbour. My dad said that this is definitely the last time they will ever move. I agreed. That is until the day we move them from the house into that nursing home with the bland food, high-fibre diet, cards three nights a week and invigorating geriatric exercises.

On a side note...our new AHL hockey team has been 'officially' named in the media. The St. John's IceCaps have now come into being. The name has been one of the worst-kept secrets in the city's memory and outrage over it has been spewed into cyberspace for about a month now. For the non-Canadians in the crowd...the name IceCaps brings to mind a certain frozen, cappuccino beverage by a certain major donut doughnut chain in our country (and parts of the northern US). I am in that camp of not liking the name but think the logo is tres cool looking. The top of an iceberg stylized from the Newfoundland and Labrador parts of our province. Very nice. Now is the time for whining over the name to stop and for everyone to move on in support of our local hockey team. *Alan gets off soap box (the same one he stood on when he cursed the lawyers)*.

I have put a down payment on a pair of season tickets for this new team. It's quite a chunk of money, but I'm going half's with V's sister's husband (did that make sense?). We'll also eat less lobster and more hamburger. We'll also force the boy to chip in by mowing lawns and delivering newspapers. The boy can even work George Street this tourist season by singing and dancing outside the swankier pubs...or...perhaps I should sell my body for money. I would come home from downtown with $150.25 in my pockets. V would ask me "where did the odd quarter come from." I would reply sheepishly, "Everyone."

I'm to go to the arena tomorrow to select the two seats that we will plant our butts in this inaugural season. I'm live in hope that there are a few moderate views of the ice surface left as we are near the bottom of the pecking order as far as priority on the season's ticket list is concerned.

It may be July in Canada but the smell of professional hockey is in the air--the first sign that winter is coming to the north. We will be there to support our team and certainly don't want the weeks to slip past unnoticed.

Let the games begin.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Can These Guys Jump, or What?

The coolest thing about the Internet is the opportunity to see weird and wonderful things (no, not THOSE things). It's really very educational out there. Mostly.

One can use it to 'travel' to other parts of the world and experience cultures in an indirect sort of way. I saw a story today about a popular south-east Asian sport I had never heard of before. Sepak Takraw is kind of a cross between volleyball and hackeysack. A team of three has to keep a rattan ball in the air using only their feet, knees and head (basically, anything but their hands) and then send it over the net to score a point against their opposition. I was once able to jump and twist like that (did I just hear someone call bulls*&t?) Here's a 2 1/2 minute sampling...

While reading the Wikipedia info on this (linked to above) I discovered that they have an association here in Canada. After watching the video, I got thinking that it reminded me of the Inuit sport of high kicking that is part of the World Eskimo Indian Olympics held every other year in the North. There is the one foot and two foot variety of kicking. Here is a short video of that...

All interesting stuff. Maybe the world is now a closer place and learning more about each other all the time. If I may quote Martha Stewart, "...and that's a good thing."

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

I've Been Memed!

I know...I promised to post my answers to this meme on the weekend but somehow life throws curve balls at you (or perhaps sour grapes, or even Yorkshire puddings once in a while). We had a bit of a family situation come up that is now mostly resolved and we can move on. Don't worry...nobody died and I'm reasonably sure there was no blood-letting. Also, believe me when I say that no moose were harmed during the commission of this family drama...

Anyway, who's dad didn't say "When somebody hits you, hit 'em right back" at some point of time. In my case, I was memed by my good friend Katey Taylor at her blog KV Taylor--Spec Fic and Nonsense.  Umm...I guess I can't meme her back because the game doesn't work that way. I imagine that I'll have to "pay it forward" (see my victims selections later on). Check out Katey's blog...if she's not there, perhaps you can find her lurking at The Red Penny Papers (an electronic journal of sensationalist and fantastical fiction).


Are you a rutabaga?

Not exactly, but I DID once have an old girlfriend call me a cabbage. Is that close enough?

When was the last time you ate lion meat?

You know what? I've never eaten lion meat (I know, I've had a sheltered life). Does a nice goat curry work as a substitute for Simba? How about shark steak...

Upload a heartwarming picture of something that makes you smile.

Baby pics can be very heartwarming. Lord knows, I've thrown enough pics up here recently to be an authority. There are probably underlying stories going on here. A commentary on violence with today's youth? Perceptions of French-English relations in Canada? Stuff like that. Or perhaps its simply a little Habs fan giving a little Leafs fan a left cross. Or maybe its just a clever segue to the next question...

If you could go back in time and kick the crap out of someone, who would it be?

Hmmm....most of the boys (and some of the girls) in the 6th grade for starters. Perhaps I was teased mercilessly because my mother dressed me funny--it WAS the 70's after all--or maybe it was because I was just a little a**hole...luckily for those folks, I have taken a path of non-violence. As my cousin, wise sage and long-distance truck driver, used to say, "I won my last fight by 50 yards."

Name one habit that makes other people plot your demise.

I've heard that my biting my fingernails can be quite annoying. It's a habit that I picked up from my father in my childhood (that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it). My God...the things my mother used to do to get me to stop. Punishments, harsh words, tying on mittens at night (I know that some of you are thinking that the mitten thing was during my teen years). She even used to paint nasty tasting 'stuff' onto my nails. I got used to the taste. People around me should be happy that I've made progress over the years. At least I'm no longer biting my toenails...

What song would you like to be playing while you are kicking the crap out of someone?

If I were to venture into crap-kicking I think that I would like a little Great Big Sea accompaniment. Something lively with a good beat. It seems to me that question is right out of "A Clockwork Orange."

Where da muffin top at?

He, he, he...when we were kids, my cousin's nickname (a different cousin) was the Muffin Man. I think that was on account of the shape of his face and head. In retrospect, after close scrutiny of my once-svelt body, I think that I should have been given that nickname...let's move on...and could you pass me another Danish, please?

How many goats, stacked atop one another like Yertle’s Turtles, would it take to reach the moon?

It seems to me that one would reach the moon faster if giraffes were used. I'm wondering, though, if they will be more prone to the effects of wind and such than goats. *Goes off for another cup of coffee to ponder this*

Describe yourself using obscure Latin words.

I'm always thinking ahead (and some would say worrying too much). Non incautus futuri apparently means "Not Unmindful of the Future".  Yeah, that works. Needless to say, I didn't know that off the top of my head and perused Wikipedia for a while to find a suitable response.

Why does evil exist?

To maintain a fine balancing act with good, of course. Then again if there was no evil what would horror writers have to write about?

What the chiz are you thinking right now?

I'm wondering what the frig does 'chiz' mean? Going to online Urban Dictionary now...

Tag five people who will have amusing answers if they choose to do this. No hard feelings if not, of course. But it’ll be fun! (or a decent time-waster.

1. Cathy Webster

2. Laurita Miller

3. John Wiswell

4. Gigi

5. Harry Sanderford

Pick a funny nickname for number 1.

The Muskoka Mistress of Hilarity Who is So, So, Pretty.

Make up a rhyme about number 2.

There once was a girl from the shore who wrote day and night until the words she could think of no more...

Where would number 3 hide in the event of the apocalypse?

I daresay John would seek shelter in his bathroom. Perhaps passing the time by sitting. And working on another monologue or maybe a satire.

Where does number 4 purchase her pants?

Ya know what...if I was to answer such a question about Gigi with any degree of accuracy I'd be branded some sort of a creepy stalker guy. In a fez (does it get any creepier than THAT!)

What would number 5′s favorite dance move be?

I'm picturing him busting a move, doing some sort of a cowboy boot, Yee-haw'n line dance. Oh, yeah, it would involve a surf board some how. I can't imagine why.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Oh, the Rumours...

Yeah, I know that the Vanity Project ended a week ago and there's been radio silence at Land's Edge ever since. I had to drop in to address rumours that I have been hearing about me in the darkest corners of cyberspace...

The rumours that I had passed away while eating a piece of toast are not true. However, the rumour that I nearly hit a moose on the highway 12 days ago is correct. If not for my cat-like reflexes at slamming my foot on the break peddle I would have had a lap dance from a 1200 lb moose. It's a good thing I always keep a clean set of underpants in the glove compartment...

The rumour that I was offered a juicy book deal was not true. However, I did manage to finish a story and submit it to this year's Cuffer Prize here on The Rock. I was going for two stories but finished only one. A 50% completion rate. What would you think if, just as the mask was placed on your face and you were counting backwards from 10, your surgeon told you that they were in the 50th percentile of their class...?

The rumour that I had won the Atlantic Lotto was greatly exaggerated. However, I did manage to find 38 cents while vacuuming under the cushions of the couch. I know, who am I kidding? Me, vacuum?

I was going to post a few answers to a meme I was recently clobbered honoured with. But I think that I will leave it until the week end so that I can give the questions some deeper reflection *snort*. Then again, it's our anniversary on Saturday and I may get sidetracked with tidying up (vacuuming and such) the place before my parents drop by for a visit. Isn't that the time most people tidy up? When company is dropping by?

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Vanity Project- Part X

Part 10...where Alan FINALLY uses up those photos...

Is that a collective sigh of relief I hear? I know, my friends, I have pushed your patience to the limit with all of those photos and I promise that this is the last batch and I won't make you endure any more (assuming there is still anyone reading my blog by today...) Thanks especially to Gigi, Cathy and Laurita for hanging in there the entire project and commenting all the way.

This was March, 2010 on one of those double-decker bus tours in Manhattan. One eye is on the camera while the other is watching for low hanging traffic lights...

This was the second part of the same trip last year. Sean and I were preparing to ice skate on the lower deck of the cruise ship we were on. A side note: we will next be able to afford a to take a cruise in 2020. Maybe.

The next three photos were taken on an overland bus tour I took from Sept. 1990 to Jan. 1991 from London, England to Kathmandu. The proverbial 'trip of a lifetime'. I got it into my head to quit my job and give up my apartment and take the plunge. I recommend this type of adventure for those who like foreign countries, camping and travelling on a small budget.

This is on the travertine (limestone) deposit at Pamukkale, Turkey in Oct. 1990. It is part of the Hierapolis, an ancient Greco-Roman city that is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site

A horseback/camel trek in the desert near Giza, Egypt. S%#&! I think I'm wearing the same shirt as in the previous picture!

This is on Christmas Day 1990 in Udaipur, India. Don't even ask me why Aussie Pete and I are dressed that way (notice that one leg of my shorts is longer than the other--hey, I think I still have those in a drawer somewhere). It's TOO long a story...

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Vanity Project- Part IX

The silly side of Alan...

My younger sister was here on vacation three years ago. She doesn't always look that grumpy. I think she wasn't feeling very well

Father's Day lobster boil up three years ago. This one's called "Smokin' da fish"...where I bite the head off a smoked caplin. They're really very nice...taste like chicken...

Playing cards with my mother on Christmas Day three years ago. Like a boy scout, I am wearing my warm hat and am prepared for anything. I wearing that damned shirt AGAIN! Note to self: Go to closet today and throw out brown shirt...

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Vanity Project- Part VIII

Just me and the boy...

It occurred to me that in that last family post I didn't include a photo of Sean. I have posted three below from the archives.

This one was shortly after we found the lad in the cabbage patch. I'm sure that 'V' has a different version of how we acquired the boy. Note that I am looking feverishly for the instruction manual that was supposed to be included.

I think this was taken in 2007. We were over on Bell Island and took the tour of the abandoned iron ore mine. Spooky. Whoa, look how short the kid is. It's hard to believe that he's nearly as tall as me now!

On vacation last year. Somewhere warmer and with nicer water than around here. I look very svelt when photographed from the shoulders up. I should insist that I only be photographed this way in the future.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Vanity Project- Part VII

Happy 4th of July to my American friends.

This weekend was the Canada day weekend and a good time to get together with family.

Here's a few shots of the vain one with family in days past.

Yep, with my mum and dad on wedding day back in '94. I just don't have the knees to wear a kilt.

The auld y'ins arms stopped working so I fed him his Christmas trifle.

At the lookout at Grate's Cove, Newfoundland with my mum and 'V' ( I wearing the SAME shirt as that iceberg photo from the other day?)