Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Travellin' the Long Road

Dating a girl with a family in Toronto means I gotta cross the 401 more often that I'm used to. In this last excursion, I noticed something strange about the rest-stops we refuelled at: there's always a few video games and there's always at least one driving game. After being on the road for a couple of hours, why-o-why would you want to play a racing game? Let's have some diversity here!

This past year, I've rented more cars than usual, so I'm figuring that's a sign from the gods that my six-year moratorium on owning a car has come to an end. In the next couple of weeks, I should be buying a car.

More than likely, I'll be getting a Ford Focus Wagon. Sure, it's not a car that fully reflects my inner macho man, but I do alot of things that require some cargo space. I ski, I camp, I white water kayak. I need a car that's got some room in the back to store people and things.

The Focus has gotten some good value-for-money reviews, so it's a good buy. I've spoken to a few FFW owners and they've had good things to say. And it's not such a bad looking car, but I've always had a thing for hatchbacks.

But just to get it out of the way: No, I won't be moving your stuff on July 1st, although I can be talked into making a trip to IKEA. I am the spirit of compromise.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Objects at Rest

After being on a forced vacation for a few months, I'm getting back into the working groove. I've got a new contract that has me working from the home office. I'm sure you're all weeping boo-hoo for me, but it takes some mental preparation to get back into the working world. I need to be independently wealthy.

I've got a whole bunch of things coming together at the same time. The company work is picking up, the Book/CD is 95% finished, and I've got another storytelling show on December 7th at the Shaika Cafe (Sherbrooke, corner Old Orchard).

Who knew putting a Book/CD could be so much work? Zimmerman and I have to go back to the studio next week to record a final track and clean-up a few glitches on the recording and then I gotta finish the layout and meet the publisher's requirements.

And to think I was hoping to have this done by end of September. Sheesh.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

One step closer to Linux

Argh. Ever since I updated my Windows XP with Service Pack 2, I've had nothing but headaches. Windows Explorer is constantly crashing and I need to keep rebooting my machine to get my email though Outlook.

I'm this close to backing up all my files, wiping the hard disk clean, and reinstalling everything. If you haven't installed Service Pack 2 for XP, don't do it. Get a good firewall application (like Norton from Symantec) and sit tight.

Friggin' Billzebub Gatecifer and his demonic machinations...

Friday, November 12, 2004

Nice Lasso

I've been hearing rumours floating about that a Wonder Woman movie is in the works and that Sandra Bullock might be taking the lead roll in all her star-spangled glory. If you've been following the animated Justice Leagues, WW's been kicking ass and taking names anew.

So let's just go over her super powers, shall we. The WW of the 1970's had super strength, an unbreakable golden lasso that made you tell the truth, bullet-deflecting wrist bands, and a boomerangish tiara that she could use on the bad boys who started running. She couldn't fly, but she could always use her invisible jet.

The modern WW doesn't use her tiara anymore, but she can fly on her own steam (although she still takes the invisible jet out once in awhile, just to impress the locals (assuming they can see it, that is)). I wonder how the modern movie machine will change WW for her new millenium debut.

And Lynda Carter simply must make a cameo appearance. Maybe as Hippolyta?

Physically, Bullock does seem to suit, but I'd go see the Wonder Woman film just to see Sandra tumble out of the invisible jet, her foot caught in the invisible seatbelt.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Sudden Telling

So I went to French storytelling last night at Café Sarajevo (the second Tuesday of each month). I happened to be in the neighbourhood and I had been meaning to stop by. I've always loved Café Sarajevo; they have great gypsy music and the ambiance is relaxing. It's a great place to bring a date.

I ran into the usual suspects there and got drafted into telling a story myself. I was quite nervous about this telling because it would be in French and I didn' t have time to prepare it. But Yves insisted, saying that I needed to learn how to tell spontaneously. Besides... he bought me a beer. How could I refuse?

I ended up telling The Blue Hippopotamus in French and did a pretty good job. The people responded well and I only tripped in a couple of places. It would have been better if I had had time to prepare it, but oh well.

The teller who performed before me (Eric Chalifoux) told a couple of very traditional Quebecois folktales, including Ti-Jean se debarrase du Curé. In this story, Ti-Jean tricks the local priest several times which ultimately causes the priest to throw himself off a cliff.

I was telling the story to Ms. Carotte this morning and she exclaimed "That's a horrible story!" She was horrified that the priest would be treated in such a disrespectful way, but that's very much a part of Quebecois folk culture; it's a very strong love/hate relationship. Even though this is not the case now, people raised in French Canadian culture know that at one time, the parish priest was not to be trifled with. He had enormous amounts of power and respect within the community.

I'm not sure if I would retell this story, but if I did, I would have to be very careful about the audience I did tell it to. For example, I could not tell this story to an Irish audience because in their culture, while the priest may be a bit of a partypooper, he is still highly respected and slightly feared. Telling them a story about how the hero humiliates and ultimately tricks the priest into taking his own life would be such a culture shock, the people would not be able to appreciate it.

I can already hear some of you saying stuff like "So what? Why shouldn't they be challenged in their thinking? Don't pander to their insecurities!" This is where Storytelling differs from Spoken Word as an art form.

Many Spoken Word artists I've seen tend to shock their audiences with controversial verse and taboo subjects. Sometimes this is effective, sometimes it isn't. But this is the nature of the Spoken Word beast. It's very experimental and the audiences that it draws know to expect the unexpected. They expect to be challenged and shocked.

But in Storytelling, you can challenged your audience, but it tends to be more subtle. The concepts, the imagery, the folklore can be challenging to the audience, but if your main focus is to shock the listeners out of their seats, you'll end up with empty seats. It's important to have a good idea of what the audience is expecting to hear and pick the stories that fit under that umbrella. If you're telling to children, don't pick stories with strong sexual content. If you're telling to an adult audience, don't pick stories whose themes are too childish.

The Blue Hippopotamus story sounds childish, but it deals with the complex idea of reincarnation. I've tried telling that story to kids and they get confused by the ending. But to adult audiences, it is complex enough for them to appreciate, but fantastic enough for them to find it magical.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004


I just checked the results of the presidential race. Argh. Bush is in the lead. I'd say good riddance to them if the results didn't impact Canada so much. Maybe we could put a 30 foot wall along the US/Canada border with mirrors on the US side. Faced with their own reflections, they may forget we're here at all.

Of course that will mean that BNL will no longer be able to tour in the US, but that suits me fine. Maybe they can turn-up in Montreal a bit more often.

Monday, November 01, 2004


Any rock-star that has managed to carve out a decent to indecent living will tell you about the time the agent booked a hall that could hold 1000 people and only 100 people turned out. Hopefully, the rock-star will have played his best and those 100 people will have gotten a show that they would never forget. One of the basic rules of theatre is that you never play to the empty seats.

But I learned a hard lesson in humility this weekend. I'll admit it... I got cocky based on past successes. When we did the Irishman's Tale concert back in March 2004, we got a record-breaking turnout of 140 people. Looking back, it was a bit of a unique situation and we cornered a particular market with that success.

So when we were trying to figure out when to put on this year's storytelling festival (our second), we had originally done it for mid-October. Unfortunately, the hall where we wanted to put our main concert was booked for that date and was only available at the end of the month. "Hey," we thought. "That's Halloween! What better a time for a weekend of creepy tales?"

It turns out that with Halloween parties going on all over the city, we may have had too much competition for the weekend. To me, halloween is all about ghost stories and creepy tales, but I am biased in that opinion.

On Friday night, we had room for about 150 people in the hall, but we only got 20 (including 5 tellers). The Friday night show was our only money-maker, so we were in definite financial trouble. We had shows on Saturday night and Sunday afternoon/night, but aside from donations, we could not recoup our losses. Fortunately, we're only talking a couple of hundred dollars.

This is the risk you take with a self-funded festival. If it's a financial success (ie: you break even or you make a profit), you build confidence from that feather in your cap. If it fails, then you start to question if what you do is the right thing (along with other joyrides down Negative Notion Lane). This failure is not coming at a good time, what with a published book/CD on the verge of being printed (all self-funded, BTW). I think it'll be time to crack one of my sacred walnuts to push me forward.

On the upside, the weekend of storytelling was fantastic. All the storytellers were dead-on and Tom Lips (our guest teller from Ottawa) was in tip-top form singing songs and telling ghostly tales.

It would've been nice to at least break even, but the weekend wasn't about making money. It was about storytelling, and in that, it was a success. Gotta stay focussed on that.