Saturday, December 10, 2005

Internet Blackout

My Bell modem went belly-up on Friday, so I'll be without Internet access for a few days until I get a new modem sometime next week.

If you need to get a hold of me, it's best to phone.

I shudder to think of the amount of email that's going to be dumped in my lap after four days of non-access. Gak.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Gazettified

The article I mentionned appeared in the Montreal Gazette on Saturday (page A-3). It's a great article and the photo is classic. I'll be laminated the article... :)

The Gazette coverage really brought in a gaggle of folks to the fair and the ritual. The counts vary, but it seems to fall somewhere between 75-90 people. And I was expecting 40-60! Yikes!

The Ritual went off without too many hitches. There were a few things I hadn't counted on and could've planned for better, but I didn't really have time to work on it this week (with the end of the contract looming and all).

Many thanks to all who helped out, especially to Ms. Carotte who made me a gorgeous vest for the ritual.

Thursday, December 01, 2005



Montreal Sabbats presents
Battle Royale for Yule
Public Yule Ritual 2005
led by Hobbes

Concordia University Pagan Society (CUPS)
7pm (after the CUPS Yule Fair (10am - 6pm)

The harvest has been taken in and, as the snow piles and the winds blow, we can't deny that Winter is upon us once again! Join us as we celebrate Yuletide with our special guests: the Holly King and the Oak King.

After the CUPS Yule Fair has wrapped up, you can bear witness as the Solstice brothers do battle to see who will reign from the Winter Solstice to the Summer Solstice.

Each participant in the ritual need to bring a candle that they can hold in their hands lit (so no wax spillage). Also, participants should NOT bring feast food because having food on the Mezzanine is problematic.

Experience is not necessary and all paths are welcome to attend. Pagan Standard Time does NOT apply (don't be late). The ritual will start promptly at 7pm.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Making the Papers

Last night, I went out to the West Island to join a few other fellow pagans to be interviewed by the Montreal Gazette. With Yule coming up, one of their reporters was curious about what Pagans do during the holidays and asked to interview us about it.

We talked about Pagan philosophy and Pagan practice. We talked about Pagan creeds and guidelines. We talked about rituals and symbology. We talked about community and public reactions. We talked about good and bad experiences about being Pagan in a non-pagan society.

He wrote all of it down and his photographer snapped off a few pictures of us in discussion and some of us in posed shot with an athame and a goblet of wine (symbolizing the Great Rite).

All in all, it was a nice discussion and we were well-pleased with it. The article is supposed to appear in the paper sometime before the CUPS Yule Fair (on December 3rd). But before the reporter left, I asked him what section the article would be in, and he replied "The A section".

The A section. That's the front of the paper. It has all the city news in it. I suddenly worried about what this would mean. I was going to be Pagan in a VERY public way now and I'm worried about what that might mean. Not worried enough that I'm going to ask for a retraction; I volunteered for this interview and I'm sticking to it.

Actually, I'm more worried what this might mean for Ms. Carotte. She's a devout Christian and she attends an Evangelical Church. She's starting to make friends there and getting involved in that community. I do stuff for that Church too since I think it offers positive contribution to our neighborhood (not that any of them know I'm Pagan).

I don't care if these Church people started to treat me differently based on my religious affiliations, but I would hate it if they started to treat Ms. Carotte differently. That would suck.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Take a Moment

If you missed the 11am moment on the 11th, take a minute now to sit or stand silently and meditate on the sacrifices made by those who were left behind and who live on today.

I find reading this poem helps to put me in the proper headspace. Lest we forget...

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders' fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Reflections of a Greater Glory

I teach a Paganism 101 class at the Crescent Moon School on Wednesday nights, so last night we were watching an NFB documentary on pagan spirituality, the new feminist movement, and the environmental movement (Full Circle).

With so much on Goddess spirituality in the mainstream media, the concept of Goddess spirituality is certainly well-known. I'm sure that in 1992 (over 13 years ago), this would've been a relatively new concept to hit the mainstream consciousness.

So the film was more than a bit dated for my students, as well as myself. There was also a nasty undercurrent of anti-male sentiment that I found disturbing (that the males were responsible for everything that had gone wrong in the world). That type of male-villification just gets my blood boiling (so don't get me started).

I was discussing this with Ms. Carotte last night and I said:

"The movie attributed everything to the Goddess! The oceans, the moon, the animals, and the earth is the Earth Mother. And what about the God? The God gets regulated to the Sun, sperm, general security, and taking out the garbage. Argh!"

"Think of it this way," she smirked. "The only reason we can see the Moon at all is because it reflects the light of the Sun. What does that say about the Goddess?"

I grinned malevolently. "I'll be sure to use that on some unsuspecting pagan feminist. Maybe I'll go get my tombstone done now and avoid the rush."

There's a reason I love that girl. She always trying to get me killed in some kind of spectacular way.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Feet are Wet

Remeber back in August when I posted about fighting Cold Feet about my new business idea? Since then, I've been meeting with a few people, discussing the project and generating some interest, but no one has formally given me the Nod.

Until this morning.

I got my first committed client and work on the project will start in January 2006 (although the setup work will probably start this month). When I complete this project, I will formally launch my new company project with some kind of shindig, probably in the Spring.

In the meantime, I celebrate my first victory. I'm very excited and terrified at the same time.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Halloween Handout Gets Bitten

As I do every year, I decked the front of the house with all things ghoulish and ghastly, including spooky music and ghostly moanings and groanings. Ms. Carotte and I both got dressed up and we freaked out the little kids as they went Trick or Treating. I really love this time of year.

It took about 2 hours for the kids to clean us out of our goodies and we got some really interesting costumes. There was one kid who had a steady stream of blood pouring down his skull face.

But then came the Teens. I hate it when Teens go trick or treating because they refuse to get into the spirit of the night. Going around with a pillowcase to get free candy doesn't make you a Trick'OTreater: it makes you a Beggar. So we refused to give anything to the teens who just showed up in their regular clothes.

I had a pair of brothers show up (with their Mom looking on) who were not only offensive, they were abusive. I made the mistake of asking the youngest one what he was as I gave him the candy. He replied loud and proud "I'm a faggot!" Stunned, I looked over to his mom who just shrugged and admonished him lightly as she laughed.

"If that's your answer, then I'll take my candy back," I said, reaching for his bag.

"Okay, okay," he laughed, snatching his bag away. "I'm really a vampire. Watch!" and he grabbed my hand and bit me hard! Again, his mum just laughed. I turned to his brother, ready to ask him what he was (he was in his regular clothes), but he just grabbed the candy from my hand and pushed me out of the way with a "Yeah, yeah. Whatever."

As they walked away from my porch, I called out "If you're trick or treating, you could at least get into the spirit of it! I spent money on these candies, so I'm not asking that much from you to just wear something interesting. And if you're going to take my candies, you can can the attitude!" I swear, I'm getting more and more like the "old guy shaking his cane at the young folks" every day.

The mother looked so torn. She was shocked and surprised that I would rant at her son, but at the same time, she knew I was right. She just waved half-heartedly and ran off after her children. Better spend a bit more time teaching your kids to pay *some* respect to others, especially when asking for food.

Halloween is one of those rare occasions when you actually get to meet your neighbours. I love doing that, but if you could just keep your bratty, arrogant, "whatever" teens away from me, it'll take the horror out of my holiday experience.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Professionalism

Sometimes it frustrates me that I'm expected to stay polite, PC, and respectful in the face of people who are everything but these things. Why do they get to be rude, non-professional, and arrogant, and just keep chugging along in their lives?

I was once like that early on in my career. After a couple of weeks of missed review deadlines, with the final deadline hanging over my head, I walked into the client's office, plunked down my guide for review, and curtly informed him that he had a week to get comments back to me. Did I mention that my client was meeting with another potential client of his at the time?

A couple of hours later, my client (the Prez of the company) knocked at my door. He came in, closed the door behind him, sat down in front of me, and said:

"Hobbes, I know you're a young guy, just starting out in your career, so you're not going to know about these things. I like you, you're a talented writer, but you need to learn how to behave with your clients." And then proceeded to lecture me for about an hour.

He was polite, but firm. I could also see he was really pissed off and I knew I had made a serious error in judgement. However, my employers never heard anything about it, so it was just between me and him.

I'll never forget that day and what he taught me, although when faced with young professionals who treat me the way I treated him, I struggle with crossing that line everytime.

Thanks Don.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Suddenly squeemish

Note: squeemish people beware

It's weird how certain imagery will bother me in one instance and not in another. I usually enjoyed watching the various flavours of CSI and Law & Order, but last night I just could not bear to hear how these people died so horribly in their last moments.

It started with CSI: Miami (just Caruso's acting might make you squeemish enough) with a description of how a woman's ribcage was crushed, puncturing her lungs. I flinched and changed the channel quickly. A bit later, we started watching L&O: Criminal Intent (pre-D'Onofrio starring Chris Noth) and watched with horror an innocent man be bound, gagged, and chained on a tugboat. Then his kidnappers ripped off the gags and threw the chains off the boat, watching expressionlessly as they let the man scream until he disappeared beneath the water. I turned the TV off immediately and went to bed, calling it a night.

But I couldn't sleep. All I could see was the drowning man's terrified face as he watched the heavy chains disappear into the black depths with nary a splash. Over and over, I couldn't help but imagine his last moments as the water pressure squeezed the air from his lungs.

I'm terrified of death and personal suffering and the older I get, the worse it becomes. I've never been a fan of horror movies, but I find myself flinching at violence that I used to be able to shrug off.

Does this mean I'm struggling with my own mortality or the mortality of my loved ones?

Friday, October 14, 2005

Trolls Leave their Bridges

The Internet has the fantastic capacity to unite people. The vast expanses of land, sea, and air fall away only to be replaced by Internet Superhighways, allowing people to connect and build friendships and communities. It's an amazing feat of technology and simple human thirst for connection.

But with all that good, there will always be an element of badness, abuse, and just plain annoying. I am reminded of the early days of the Internet (before the graphical arrival of the World Wide Web) when email and usenet groups formed the first communities. My favourite hang-outs in those days were alt.folklore.ghost-stories and alt.shenanigans. These were the days before there was any Spam on the Internet, so these usenet groups were pretty junk-free. I go back to them occasionally, but they are so overloaded with Spam, it's not worth sorting through all the messages.

And with all those fantastic connections come the Trolls. These people are not interested in positive connections. What they want is to stir emotions, make people angry, and then absorb all the attention that comes with it. At first it was easy to spot these trolls: they wrote all in CAPS and their email addresses ended in AOL.com.

But as the mainstream audience becomes more net-savvy, the Trolls become trickier, sneakier, and harder to spot. They hide behind multiple email aliases, they lurk in elists waiting for the right moment to spout, they create elists of their own so they can say and spout at will and ad nauseum (sometimes their verbiage is only heard by their own mulitiple email aliases).

And somehow, we can't look away. We're facinated by the twisted, the insane, and the rambling. The wwweb is like a window into the mind of a serial psychopath, committing text-based atrocities right on our own screens. We shake our heads in wonder, shake our fists in rage, and reply with a great pounding of our keyboards, hoping that our own textual daggers can pierce through the wall of ignorance our targets have thrown up in all its HTML glory.

I can tell you that it's rarely very satisfying. True Trolls rarely admit they're wrong, no matter how passionately and logically you argue your point. And while these Trolls sleep happily under their bridges, a satisfied smirk on their lips at the chaos they've stirred, you're lying awake at night, formulating your response in harsh whispers, clutching at the sheets as if your mouse has crawled into bed with you.

I once had to muzzle a person on one of my elists because she was infuriating the other members with her trolling ("If you're irresponsible enough to get pregnant, then you don't deserve to keep your job!"). She tried to post to the list after I had gone to bed, and because she had been moderated, her post didn't go through. She tried resending it 12 times and then sent me 22 angry emails on why her post was getting through and who did I think I was to censor her.

After a frustrating day of angry emails back and forth (effectively feeding this Troll), I went to bed and didn't sleep a wink. I was afraid she was a nut, that she'd start calling me, that maybe she'd show up at my door, demanding her Internet rights.

I'm as guilty as anyone when it comes to feeding these Trolls with the attention they so deeply crave, but they really aren't worth the effort. Let the psychologists figure these people out. We must refrain from falling victim to these Trolls who not only feed on our attention, but also our emotions. I know it's hard, but it's best to walk away and not look back.

When I figure out how to do that completely, I'll let you know.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

The Sweet Taste of Power

There's been a reshuffle of positions at my client's site that has ended with me taking on more responsibility and more work, which has in turn extended the contract.

With this new position and mandate, I find I'm more motivated and feel better about my contribution to the project. I guess being in charge really suits me better.

In other business-related news, I'm working on a formal business plan with a consultant for my other writing business and I got a call from someone who is interested in me taking pictures of their handfasting (wedding).

If I could balance my worklife between writing, teaching, storytelling, and photography, I believe I'd be more fulfilled. That's important to me and I suspect it's important to you.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Writer's Block of the type of blockWriter block block

I'm documenting a system for my client (I'm a techwriter y'know) and had written up a few definitions for some parts of the application. When I'm defining a term, I try not to use the term itself in the definition. If you know what that term meant, then you wouldn't be looking it up right?

I sent the definitions out for review and I just got them back. I had to laugh when one of the definitions I wrote was scribbled out and, in its place, was written something like the following (I changed the actual terms to protect the inept):

RedBlockType:
RedBlockType is a block type declaration that defines a block of type “redblocktype”.

Note: the more you read it aloud, the dizzier you get. It helps if you spin your chair in place while you giggle non-sensically, waving your hands.

The funny (tragic?) thing is that programmers really think their writing is clear, concise, and a joy to read. And if you can't understand it, then you're just not smart enough to get it.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Postcards of the World: Lick!

I was listening to the CBC during my errands and I heard an interview with Mr. Risley, a Grade 6 teacher in California. He just started a project with his class that he hopes will open their minds and understanding on the different peoples of the world.

But his project depends upon those people of the world. He needs folks to send his students postcards from the edge of the earth that they are from. I'll be trying to find a unique postcard to send him, but if you're interested, here's his note:

Hi. My name is Jason. I teach 6th grade (11-12 year olds) in Perris, California. I am trying to improve my students' view of the world and increase their knowledge of geography. I am asking friends, acquaintances and even strangers to send an appropriate postcard to my class at:
Mr. Risley's Class
c/o "A" Street Elementary School
755 North "A" St.
Perris, CA 92570
USA

Please tell us: Your name, where your from, what you do for work and the subject of the picture on your postcard.


I would really appreciate any help in this. Your kindness will be VERY appreciated. :)


BTW, I really did hear the interview today on the CBC. This isn't some Internet mailing hoax that travels from Inbox to Inbox. And if you send him a postcard because you read this blog, could you mention the blog (shameless plug)?

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Ig'nance of non-tea drinkers

I'm a tea guy; I've never gotten into the whole coffee-culture thing, although Ms.Carotte has gotten me addicted to Ice Cappacinos (which is the first step down a slippery slope, I realize).

But Tim's has decided to go after us, the utapped Tea Market and offer steeped tea, which to tea drinkers, is infinitely better than dropping a poor, unsuspecting tea bag into a boiling, screaming death pit. Kinda like sticking a live lobster tail first into a vat of boiling water: the agonizing death just does something nasty to the overall culinary experience.

But not all Tim's understand this. I went to a Tim's on St. Jacques and rolled up to the mechanical Tim attendant and said "I'll have a steeped tea, please."

"A what?" the speaker garbled.

"Tea. Steeped Tea, please," I replied.

There was a pause. "We only have regular tea sir," she replied.

"Steeped tea is regular tea! It's just been steeped!"

"What?"

"Do you have any prepared tea? Instead of just the hot water and tea bag?"

Another pause. "I'm sorry sir, we only have Earl Grey or Orange Pekoe."

Fine. I took what they had to offer, but the person I dealt with was obviously not a tea drinker. Apparently, Tim's will have to send their employees on a 6-week Tea Orientation course to understand the subtlties of tea drinking.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

I have a Question

I heard with some relief that the gas prices were coming down off the Island of Montreal. It's dropping from 1.39 ot 1.15. Still outrageous though.

My question is this though: since we get most of our gas and oil from Alaska, Alberta, and Saudi Arabia, why is the devastation in New Orleans doubling the cost of our gas? Am I over-simplifying the situation?

This would be the equivalent of a couple of farms burning down in Saskatchewan and having bread shoot up to $5 a loaf.

Something capitalistic is afoot.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Superman is such a Jerk


I had no idea that Superman could be such a jerk. Thanks be to Tal for opening my eyes.

In a related vein, I finally went to visit the comic book guy at Komico (on Queen Mary) after a 3.5 month absence. My bin was overflowing and I wince when I think of the damage.

My comic book hobby costs me about $18 per week (on average). I'm already thinking of dropping few titles (like Ultimate Spider-man, the new Green Lantern, Legion of Super-heroes, Batgirl, and one of the X-men titles). The ones I'm still definitely keeping are Robin, Usagi Yojimbo, Teen Titans, Birds of Prey, JSA, X-men (?), Nightwing, and Ultimate Fantastic Four.

Good thing I don't smoke and snort cocaine from the belly buttons of young children. I'd never make ends meet.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Good Ideas and Cold Feet

Why is it that when we get a good idea, that we know will work, that we know will be profitable, that we know will allow us to succeed, it takes every ounce of strength to put it into motion?

I've decided that I just need to push this idea ahead, put myself knee-deep into it, and then deal with what it means. I know this will work and I'm fairly sure I'll enjoy it, but I'm so afraid of committing myself to it.

Maybe the fear comes from this certainty I have about my idea. What if I'm so sure that my idea will work and then it fails. What does that say about me?

Then again, maybe I should stop whining, take it by the horns, and see where the wild ride takes me. Last year, I was whining about my book never being published and now I'm a published storyteller.

This is me jumping in feet first, eyes open, and chucking the life vest.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

How much is there in a Beowolf Cluster?

Last week, something went awry with my home PC. It just wouldn't reboot -- it kept chugging in place, never moving forward. Fortunately, I had recently backed up everything important, but reformatting that drive will mean half-a-day lost. Argh.

Happily, I had a Linux boot CD lying around, so I rebooted from the CD and up popped my first Linux session. I've always intended to explore the Linux option, but until now, had not had the chance. The computer booted up and loaded a Linux desktop, allowing me to explore it. I have to say, it was pretty neat. There were a few things that acted weirdly, but overall, it was interesting. I need to explore this OS a bit more in the future.

Then again... if I intend to be a super-villain, maybe Linux is what I really need.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

What was Old is New Again

I was listening to an epsiode of the Goon Show (a radio comedy series from the 1940's featuring the late, great Peter Sellers, Spike Milligan, and Harry Secombe) and they mentionned that the episode was "especially writted for the Wireless".

It made me wonder at the evolution of technology and how it changed the lives of the people who used it. The old wireless radios brought people together from across the globe, allowing them all to share the same experiences at the same time. They could be a part of history as it unfolded instead of reading it in the newspaper a few days later. It was the global village in its infancy.

But evenutally, the term Wireless to refer to a Radio became antiquated and quaint, referring to and older time, a (seemingly) more innocent time.

And now here we are with our computers, our Internet, our laptops, and a plethora of gadgets. It used to be that, if you wanted to access the Internet (our new global village), you had to sit in your office, your basement, or somewhere static to connect and surf.

But now, thanks to the Wireless Routers, you can access that electronic global village from your cellphone, your laptop, or your PDA. You don't have to wait until you get home or get to the office to find out what's happening in the world or around the corner.

So let's bid a warm welcome back the great term Wireless, harkening back to a time when we had to do without. I can't wait to see what technological doodad will uncover terms like "horseless carriage", "grammaphone", and "voicebox" from the mothballs.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Suds and Stories

I was doing the dishes last night (gasp!) and I decided that listening to a story CD would take the sting out of the drudgery. I slipped the Eric Gauthier CD out of its sleeve, into the CD player, and selected my favourite tracks (1 & 5).

Track #1 is the story of how Ganesh got his elephant's head, told in a way that only Eric can pull off. He has a casual way of telling, filled with such Quebecois flavour, that it puts a new twist on such a classic tale, you'd swear this story happened in Chibougamou instead of India.

The only thing that embarrasses me is that I was apparently there when this CD was recorded and you can clearly hear me laughing. People often tell me that my laugh cannot be ignored, but having it recorded onto a CD for all time, it makes me *wince*.

If you get a chance to see Eric tell a tale, make sure you get yourself there. Just make sure that you're comfortable with the Quebecois accent and jargon, or you'll be mostly lost.

So if you've got my CD (You Don't Know Jack), pour some hot water on your dishes and give a listen. A good story is a great way to pass the time.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Another KG Come and Gone

I spent last weekend at Kaleidoscope Gathering 2005, a fair-sized pagan festival in eastern Ontario. This was my third KG and now I can't imagine my summer without attending one of these.

The current contract meant that I couldn't spend as much time at KG as I had originally intended. I could only get the Friday off, so I arrived on Friday at noon with Dez (a old friend who has accompanied me these last three years). Next year, if I've got a contract going on at this time, I'll tell my client I'm in Spain for this week with tickets already paid for and hotels reserved. I know people who were on site as of Tuesday (lucky buggers)!

I'll admit, KG is more of a party than a spiritual retreat, but that doesn't mean I don't get some spiritual deepening each time I go. With an attendance of 400 people, it's difficult not to have it turn into some kind of fiesta.

One of the events I always look forward to is the Stag King competition. It's a male-only event where the men get to compete in a series of trials (physical and intellectual) in the hopes of being crowned Stag King. Now I know I don't have a prayer of winning this event, but what I love about it is that the negative side of competition is non-existant. It's a bunch of guys competing for the fun of it, rather than it being an all-out smackdown to destroy your opponent. That is one of the reasons I'm not that competitive when it comes to sports (or life in general really).

The other part of KG I look forward to is the Bardic. It's an evening of entertainment presented by the attendees of KG itself. Of course, I always tell a tale, but it gets more and more difficult each year, mainly because we are restricted to 5 minutes each! Most of my stories are at least 10-20 minutes and it's a job-and-a-half to squish them down into the 5-minute constraint.

This year, I decided to tell the story of the Teamaster and the Samurai. I've been working on this story for a few months now (since my book launch back in February), but it took some doing to get it down to 5 minutes. I had noticed that Marcus had a katana (he had shown it off during the masquerade on Friday), so I went over to him to see if he'd lend it to me for the tale. He agreed, but we'll get back to that later.

When it was my turn to take the stage (or the firepit), I began to tell me tale. When I reached the part where the teamaster draws his sword, I drew the katana out of its sheath as I had been instructed. I drew it out slowly so that the blade could properly reflect the firelight, but also because I was afraid of it slipping out of my hands and impaling someone.

When it came time to resheath the sword, I stopped speaking so I could concentrate on not sticking it into my belly. As I slid the katana back in, I took a moment to scan the crowd. There must have been 300 people there and everyone was focussed on me. Despite the size of the crowd, there wasn't one word spoken, not one sound coming from them. It was as if they were all holding their collective breaths, waiting to see what would happen next.

I'll never forget that moment as long as I live. I remember thinking, "I don't care if I don't win the Bardic. I've just accomplished what I needed to do." I finished my story to tumultuous applause and cheering.

I went back to Marcus and handed back the blade. I took a step back as he inspected the blade for any blemishes and he began to swing it in a very ritualized fashion. I found out later that tradition dictates that if the blade is pulled from its sheath, blood must be paid. I figured this ritual he was performing might be a substitute for that blood price.

Once he was satisfied, he sheathed the sword and put it back into his bag. "Thanks Marcus," I said earnestly. "Your blade really added to the story I told."

"You're welcome," he replied, then looked thoughtful. "Y'know... Normally, I would not have let anyone else touch this blade. But because it's you, I made an exception."

"Th-thanks," I stammered, suprised. "But we don't really know each other that well. What do you mean by that?"

He smiled and replied, "It's true, we haven't known each other for that long, and most of the time, we tease each other mercilessly. But I've been hearing about you for years. You've got quite a reputation, not only in Montreal, but also in Ottawa and Toronto. Now that I've met you a few times, I'm glad to say that you more than live up to your reputation."

I was stunned. I have a reputation, one that extends beyond Montreal? I can't imagine how that happened. Sure, I post fairly regularly on elists and I stay fairly active in my own community, but I never thought that anyone would notice beyond that. I'm glad I didn't happen to be holding the katana at that point, because I would have probably dropped in shock.

And with that, another KG has left me in shock and deeply humbled. A fella could get used to his. There's more to my KG experience, but I've said enough here for now. I'll probably tell my other KG tales over here.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Dust off the LPs

We were checking out a new bar last night (owned by a friend of mine who plays Domaine) called La Distillerie (corner Ontario and Sanguinet). They have a few good beers on tap and make cocktails with fresh fruit. Yummers!

A song came on over the conversation that mystified a few of us for a few moments. I maintained it had to be Boy George while others thought it was George Michael. In the end, I was disturbed to realized that my ears were sensitive to Boy's particular type of warbling.

Which led to these questions:

1. What was the first piece of music that you were given and what format was it in (tape, 45rpm, 33rpm, 78rpm, CD)?

2. What was the first piece of music that you bought and what format was it in?

My first 45rpms that I owned were as follows:

Illusion by Imagination
I Love Rock and Roll by Joan Jet and the Blackhearts
Hurts So Good by John Cougar Mellencamp
Jenny 867-5309 by Tommy Tutone

And the first 33rpm LP that I ever bought with my own money was (God, this is embarrassing):

Physical by Olivia Newton John

Share in my shame! Respond!

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Ultra Sound: Not Invasive?

As far as I know, Ultra Sound operations are supposed to be non-invasive, right? It's supposed to be the more humane way to go to see what's going on underneath the hood.

A friend of mine is going for an ultra sound examination today and she's afraid that, because she didn't need to drink water, fast, or howl at the moon the night before, this means the docs will be sticking cameras inside her to find out what's going on.

If that's true, what's non-invasive about that? That sounds plenty invasive! What the difference between that and the doctor lighting a candle, pulling on his hiking boots, and climbing right inside?

Sometimes doctors know a little too much about history. Sure, modern technology has made medical procedures to be much smoother and less risky, but having even a tiny camera shoved down your thoat (or any other orifice) is not something to which we look forward, no matter how medically amazing it is.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Unexpected Photo Opp

I got a weird email from a friend yesterday. He was going through the Montreal Gazette recently and found a photo insert that was credited to me!

I've had my pictures published here and there before (this pic is being considered for a magazine called Sky and Telescope), but never in the newspaper. I'm thinking this is a case of mistaken identity, but I'd really like to see that photo insert.

I'll keep you posted. Maybe I'm famouser than I thinked!

Monday, July 11, 2005

What Was I Doing

Got this from her who got it from her.

10 years ago
I was 26 and I was very busy in my job as a freelance technical writer. My main client, Storm Technical Communications, had just closed their doors in Montreal, but I was soon to score a long-term contract with Bell Canada. I wasn't seeing anybody steady and that was just the way I liked it. In the summer of 1996, I had moved in with my friend Barbara into a 4000 sq.ft. loft in Old Montreal. It was a great place and we had fantastic parties there. Living with Barbara wasn't as great though and our friendship suffered a major blow from which neither of us ever recovered.

5 years ago
I was 31 and life wasn't too bad, considering what was coming. My job at Toon Boom was stressful, but satisfying. I was surrounded by good friends, my pagan life was still new and exciting, and I was recently re-singlified. Of course, September was a bad month all around, with world events going haywire and losing my Toon Boom job (which sent me into a spiraling depression that I was too depressed at the time to notice). I felt I was being taken down notch by notch and I wondered what was out there in store for me.

1 year ago
This time last year I was deeply in love with Ms. Carotte and was making plans to go out and visit here in TO. My contracts had ended and I decided to take the summer off. It was the summer of play. Festivals, Domaine (LARP), and general summer merriment. I had plans to visit a friend in Britanny, but I never followed through with them. I kinda regret that now.

Yesterday
I was just getting back from my fourth trip to H2O Adventures, a company that hosts a weekend of whitewater kayaking. WWK is a newfound love of mine, and although it terrifies me and I'm not good at it yet, I love it. I especially love bringing my crew with me and see them enjoy it as well.

5 snacks I enjoy
- Ritz Chips
- Corn Poofs
- Crispix mixed with trailmix
- Pepperoni sticks (from Dad's Bagels)
- Toast

5 songs I know all the words to
- O Canada
- Sit on my Face (and tell me that you love me): I get to sing this out loud in the metros more often than you might think
- The Toronto Song (by Three Dead Trolls in a Baggie)
- Home for a Rest (Spirit of the West)

5 things I would do with $100 Million
- Pay off my debts
- Take my friends on a wild vacation somewhere (maybe on a ship)
- Get some land in Hawkesbury and build my Dream Home
- Tour the world's storytelling festivals
- Take my pagan buddies to Stonehenge

5 bad habits I have
- chew my fingernails
- bite my lip
- get easily distracted
- being unfocussed
- fret about my body shape

5 things I like doing
- White Water Kayaking
- Alpine Skiing
- Hanging with my friends
- Talking trash over a good game of Poker
- Attending storytelling events (even when I'm not telling)

5 things I would never wear
- Leather pants
- Hand-cuffs
- Silk anything (except ties): it gives me the willies when I feel it against my skin
- contact lenses
- piercings in sensitive areas

5 TV shows I like
- Battlestar Galactica
- Myth Busters
- CSI: various flavours
- M*A*S*H
- Family Guy

5 joys of the moment
- A successful story told
- Seeing someone else thumbing through my published work
- Friendly discussion over pints
- Sharing in a friend's accomplishment
- Feeling a strong spiritual connection

5 favorite toys
- my computer
- my car
- my Creative Zen mp3 player
- my PalmPilot
- my digicam

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Speed up, Slow Down

This week has all been about speed. Did you see how the people were speeding during the rainstorm in Montreal? It's wet people... Time to slow down, not speed up!

But time is just zipping by and I'll be flipped over in a kayak before I even know on which side my toast is buttered. I've got no time, no time, no time, no time... I've taken on too many activities again and it's taking its toll on me.

I love my extra-curriculars, I always have. I don't get into all this stuff because I'm lonely (when I was single); there's just lots of stuff I want to experience and learn. When I get into a relationship, my free time gets majorly squeezed.

I don't mean to say that my gal is taking over my life, but there are only so many hours in a day, and spending quality time with her is important (and no, she's not theatening to tip a jar of mammory milk over my head so that I'll write that).

So I end up having to drop a few things so I can get everything done. It's heart-wrenching, but what can I do? Something's gotta give before someone tosses me out.

So here's what I have on my plate that's keeping me so busy:

Ms. Carotte (most moments)
Assorted friends (every other moment)
MPRC (every Thursday plus planning events)
Storytelling (twice or more a month)
Work (40 hours a week)
BNI (every Thursday morning, I'm the VP of my chapter)
Dragon Boating (Mondays, Wednesdays, and the odd race weekend)
Domaine LARP (one weekend a month)
Pagan festivals (three weekends in the summer)

But that's not all! There's loads more stuff I'd like to be doing with my free time, but as I complete projects, I need to find time to work these things in:

Teaching (pagan stuff)
Learn to play Tin Whistle
Learn to play Bodrahn
Learn how to draw (university educated and I draw like a four year-old)
Learn sign language
Learn how to fence
Learn more stories
Take a professional photography course
Attend more storytelling festivals/events
Tell more stories in French
Publish another book (a collection of Irish/Quebecois stories)
Do more Whitewater Kayaking
Direct theatrical plays again

Argh. Just not enough time in a day or a lifetime. Anything else you think I should add to this list?

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

StreetCorner Books

Montreal is a bizarre city, but NDG has its own eccentricities. I really want to buy a house in this neighborhood.

As heard from our waitress at the Old Orchard pub last night (if anyone sees this story in the newspaper, please clip it for me!):

It seems that a blind man who lived alone on Girouard was babysitting over 3000 books for a friend of his for a few months. This was apparently a few months longer than he expected to be housing this many books and he was getting fed up with bumping into the dozens of boxes that were strewn around his apartment.

I don't know if it was the heat or the bruised shins, but he just snapped.

On Monday night, this man dumped over 2000 of these books onto the corner of Terrebonne and Girouard in a plethora of boxes and other containers. Apparently, this collection had new and old books, some dating back to 1910. His friend is going to be pissed when he finds out his book collection has been decimated.

By Tuesday afternoon, dozens of people had already rooted through the boxes and books looking for treasures. Unfortunately, many of them discarded the books into the street to the point that there were books, ripped pages, and torn covers strewn from one sidewalk to the other.

So it was that Zimmerman and I showed up on Tuesday night to see what was left. The destroyed books were no longer littering the street, but there were still a few hundred books left on the sidewalk. There were a couple of people left going through the remains, sadly shaking their heads.

One young man kept muttering how sad it was that the books had been so mistreated. He told me that he and his cousin had come by that afternoon, rescued a few hundred books, and donated them to a local library.

Meeting people like this young man renews my hope in the evolution of the local population. We're not all selfish and self-serving.

There really wasn't much left: trashy novels, psychology books, magazines, etc. But rooting through that mess, I found the following:
  • Watership Down (hardcover) by Robert Edwards. Published in 1974 (two years
  • after it was first published).
  • Greenview Review (it has two original stories by Beckett and Ionescu).
  • Tissue Cleansing through Bowel Management (the title makes me laugh)
The Watership Down hardcover was the true treasure though. I've always wanted to have a copy of that, and hardcover no less!

As I sorted through the discarded books, part of me was dreading to find a copy of our own book (You Don't Know Jack). I wonder if other published authors live in fear of one day seeing their books in the discount bin brushing covers with books that didn't sell like "Tissue Cleansing through Bowel Management" and "Cheese: The Processed Years".

Friday, June 24, 2005

On the Road to Ottawa

Zimmerman and I have had our show accepted by the Ottawa Storytelling Festival, so we'll be putting on The Devil's Details in November. Yay!

This is a show that Zimmerman and I have put together and performed in Quebec city (at the Literary and Historical Society of Quebec), and so we'll be taking it on the road.

This is an hour-long storytelling that features the (mis)adventures of the devil as he hops around the globe, stopping in Quebec (twice!), Cuba, and the Southern States (some say that he's even had children there).

This is a special show for me because it features my very first story of my own creation. Most of the stories I tell are handed down to me from other tellers, but I recently wrote my own version of La Chasse Galerie (a traditional Quebecois folktale) which tells the story of how my great-great-great-great-grandfather arrived from Ireland to a little farming community south of Quebec city.

It gave me great pleasure and satisfaction to have my father and mother hear it for its first telling in Quebec city. My Dad was grinning from ear-to-ear as he listened.

I'm hoping we can swing by Rasputin's Cafe in Ottawa to put on this show (or our original Jack show), sell a few books, and have a good evening of storytelling.

UPDATE: Thanks to Pietro who has a fantastic lead for me to sell some books. He's made contact with a teacher at Marianopolis who is teaching a course on Fairy Tales, and she's reviewing the book right now.

If she decides to get the book for her students, it could mean a sale of 65+ copies. Yay! Keep your fingers crossed!

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Summer Solstice

Pietro, Ms. Carotte and I went down to Dorval/Lachine tonight to celebrate the Summer Solstice in a ritualistic way. We set up near the Lac St. Louis, right along the shoreline, and got to work.

Unfortunately, it was too windy to light the candles or incense, so we had to just rely on our intentions. The rain came and went, the wind was steady, and the lightning was surprisingly accomodating. As we went through the motions of the circle cast, the lightning bolts seemed to appear whenever we called out.

I love it when that happens. Synchronicity is a beautiful thing. Happy Summer Solstice!

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Rude Awakening

At about 6:30 am today, I was shaken out of sleep by a loud banging sound and muffled yelling. I sat upright and listened. It sounded like two people having an argument, but I couldn't tell where it was coming from (from the side or from downstairs).

Then I heard a front door slam and loud voices from outside. So I threw on some pyjamas and looked out front. Jim (my landlord) was holding a guy face-down on the sidewalk, yelling at him.

I ran downstairs and cried "Jim! You okay? What the hell's going on?" Jim was in his boxer briefs and nothing else, holding the other guy down with his knee, fist raised in a punching position.

"Yeah... yeah," he sounded out of breath. "This bastard broke into my kitchen." Jim had left the back door unlocked last night by accident.

"Nah, nah man," the would-be burglar replied. "It was just a mistake. I thought this was a friend's house. Look... I'm a McGill student--" He started to get up, but Jim shoved him back to the pavement.

"You stay the fuck down, you shit," Jim snarled, turning to me. "Can you call the cops?"

My neighbour was already on the phone, calling the police. Pretty soon, the ambulance and two cop cars pulled up: the ambulance guys gave the perp a bag of ice for his swollen eye and the police cuffed him. The whole time, he professed his innocence, saying that he was just visiting his buddy and that he walked into the wrong house.

Pretty lame story, but I wasn't sure if he was really lying. He seemed to be hopped up on something, so in a stoned haze, he might have made a mistake. Still, even if I showed up at my friend's place at 6:30 am, I would knock to be let in and not just walk in.

The adrenaline was wearing off and Jim chuckled as the cops drove away. "I rushed him with a pillow in my hand. I whacked him a few times with it, then grabbed him by the thoat and pushed him outside. I tried to hold him down, but he fought me, so I had to punch him a couple of times." I remember noticing that the burglar's eye was swelling a bit.

The ambulance driver remarked, "If this had been the States, he could've charged you with assault."

"No he couldn't," I replied. "He was trespassing on Jim's property. In the States, he could be lawfully shot on sight. As it is, do you think he'd want to charge Jim with deadly pillow assault?"

I went back inside and made a mental note to make sure all the doors and windows were shut at night before we went to bed. I don't know if I would have handled the situation as well as Jim did, and it scares me.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

The Rain in Spain is mainly in the Drain

I'm sitting in my office, wondering when my computer is going to wink off due to the lightning storm raging outside, when I hear a strange sound.

The window is closed, so the sound is muffled, but it sounds like its coming from the pedestrian tunnel next to my house (the one that goes under the commuter train tracks, leading to Sherbrooke). I peer out the window, hoping I'd catch a glimpse of what was happening when I hear a "Kabong!" against the glass.

Newton (the cat) turns out to be just as curious and makes a leap up to the window, only the discover that it's still closed. He lands on the floor in a confused heap, trying to shake the ringing out of his head. Dumb cat.

Suddenly, the muffled sounds stop. I open the window and stick my head out. I notice someone walking out of the tunnel, looking back confused and slightly fearful. I know that look all too well... it's the look you see in people's eyes when they observe someone strange, unsure if they should be amused or on guard.

As soon as the person clears the tunnel, a voice erupts from within, and it's singing. Off-key, but with lots of enthusiasm. Someone is using the pedestrian tunnel as a sound chamber to warm up their pipes, but he keeps stopping every time someone else uses the tunnel.

I love living here. You just never know what the rain might bring.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Sleep Entertainment

I've always known that I talk in my sleep, so whenever I hook up with a woman with whom I believe to spend long-term time in my bed, I give her this caveat:

"You CANNOT use anything I say in my sleep against me, no matter what I say."

It's a simply rule, methinks. I'm not in control of what I'm dreaming and the person lying next to me has no context for what comes out of my mouth in that state, so she's bound to misunderstand. And I'm one of those sleep-talkers that speaks very clearly and audibly, as opposed to those who mumble non-sensical things ("Mumble, brumble, Purple Broccolli, grunt, ZZZZzzzzz").

Once, a couple of years ago, a girlfriend and I went to a party hosted by a mutual friend. We had a good time and then we went back to my place. Apparently, during the night, I rolled over, held my girl tight, and whispered the party host's name in a loving sigh.

I don't even remember the dream that would've caused me to say that, but I could've stored ice cream in that bedroom in the morning, so cold was her reaction. I was not attracted to the girl to whom that name belonged in any way, but I was hard pressed to convince my girl of that. Sheesh.

But this weekend, Ms. Carotte was treated to a few disjointed episodes in the cavalcade of stars that is my mind while I'm asleep. The most memorable one sounds like a line from a Chris DeBurgh song:

"Good evening Gypsy King. Let me take your coat and here is my 35-page proposal."

I'm still waiting to hear back on the proposal. He'll get his coat back when he returns my call. Darn Gypsy King.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Knocking Knees Back Home

I've got my big gig tonight in Quebec city. Zimmerman and I have been invited to tell stories at the Literary and Historical Society of Quebec. The LHSQ does a monthly candle-lit evening that usually involves some kind of art form and they get anywhere from 30 to 50 people.

And yes, it will be performed in English, despite the fact that the show is in Quebec city itself, which is a bastion of French-speaking people. There is an English-speaking community in Quebec city (about 2% of the population) large enough to support six elementary schools, two high schools, and a CEGEP.

This will be a series of firsts for me.

1. I'll be telling a new story that I've written myself (a version of la Chasse Galerie that explains how my Irish family came to settle in Quebec). Yikes!
2. My parents and my sister will see me telling stories in a professional gig setting.
3. This is the first time I'll perform in my home town.

Think good thoughts for me 'round 7pm tonight!

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Stroke! Stroke! Stroke!

Le ciel est bleu, la mer est grande.
Ferme ta guele pis rame.

I'm on my third week of Dragon Boating and I gotta say I'm loving it. This is my main problem with exercising in gyms: I hate going to the gym because it's so artificial. It's not an activity that I enjoy: it's a bunch of little activities that bore me to tears.

But challenging myself to a boating race, that's fun. I'm on the water in a teetery-totery boat with 20 other people and we're all working together. It's challenging, competitive, and qualifies as exercise. We practice twice a week and it really feels like a workout afterwards. We've got races in Montreal, Sherbrooke, and Ottawa, so there'll be camping too (yay!).

I seriously doubt we'll be winning any Dragon Boat cups or anything, but I've never been obsessed with first place. I'm happy to compete, do my best, and accept whatever happens after that.

This is the attitude I've developped after spending many hours in that government-enforced hazing ritual known as Gym. Only once did I get the Bronze badge, while the rest of the time I got the "Good on you for trying" pin. That doesn't mean I don't want to compete, but I'm not preoccupied with winning. I'm just there for the fun of it.

It's difficult to see the benefits in Participaction when the strongest kids are firing an over-inflated volleyball at your head in a rousing game of Eliminate the Weaker Members of the Tribe (aka Dodgeball).

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Hiccup

Nothing constructive to report today, but these are the things I find on the Internet. Actually, even as I write this, I'm thinking of new things to say. Writing is therapeutic and stimulates neurons. My neurons are lazy. Bad neurons! Moronic neurons!

It's that kind of day, so present to you:

Tiny Plaid Ninjas and Tiny Plaid Ninjas 2.

Also, check out Penguins Calls at SpinnerDisc (the author of Tiny Plaid Ninjas).

Friday, May 20, 2005

Geek Fest 2005

Yesterday, all 36 of my years were pounding down on my eyelids 'cause at midnight on the 19th, I stood in line with various other geeks 'round the block from the Paramount to see Revenge of the Sith. Just 10 years ago, I could recover rather well from an all nighter, but now at the hoary old chestnut age of 36, mah joints are achin'.

Still, it was worth it. ROTS definitely makes up for Attack of the Clones, although the "touching luv scenes" in ROTS drip with fromage. I kept expecting Ed the Sock to pop out of a vase and protest at the cheeziness of it all. George needs to go back to Film school to re-learn some cinematic basics about setting up a scene.

But aside from that, the movie holds together pretty well. I won't be revealing any great secret here (except for one girl I overheard saying "Y'know, I really thought until the end that Anakin could've gone either way on the Dark Side thing."), but it was heart wrenching to watch Ani give himself completely to the darkness. The tragedy of it was really well done and I flinched all the way to the end.

My only real complaint was the introduction of the Vader suit. This movie takes place roughly 20 years before Star Wars: A New Hope, so all the tech in the movie is outdated. The basic designs for the Star Destroyers, Imperial Cruisiers, Tie Fighters, and X-Wings are all there, but you can clearly see that they're bulkier and will be refined in 20 years.

But apprently, Vader's suit doesn't need an upgrade. The fashion trends in that galaxy far far away seem to trudge along much slower than the evolution of technology.

I just would've liked to see that there was a 1.0 version of the Vader suit with some kind of doodad that would've been phased out in subsequent versions (like a bulky aerial antenna so he could pick up the local rock station in his Doom Dome).

So now that we've got all the Star Wars chapters done, here are my favourites in order:

1. Chapter 5: Empire Strikes Back
2. Chapter 4: A New Hope
3. Chapter 3: Revenge of the Sith
4. Chapter 1: Phantom Menace
5. Chapter 2: Attack of the Clones
6. Chapter 6: Return of the Jedi (hated the fact at stormtroopers could so easily be dispatched by walking teddy bears)

Note: Fifth and Sixth place are closely tied and quite interchangable. Any thoughts?

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Surprise!

I love surprise parties. I haven't had one in many, many years, so maybe you can imagine my surprise when I walked into my friend's apartment last night and saw all my friends waiting for me. We had gone out to play pool last night, like we usually do, but the rest of the evening was a blank to me. Something had been planned, but I didn't know what it was.

The table was covered samplings of my favorite foods and some of my closest friends sat 'round. We began to eat, laugh, and drink, sharing some great stories and explaining a few "incidents" that have occured over the years.

We played a drinking game called "I Never" (introduced to me by the fine lady known as Kowy), which involves each person stating something they have never done and each person at the table has to take a drink if they have done it. Some interesting truths were revealed that night!

So thanks to everyone who has made my 36th birthday special. It's been a fine year and I look forward to griping about turning 40 with all of you over the next four years.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Signs of Age

I completely forgot: today is my birthday and I'm 36 years old. I only remembered when Ms. Carotte woke up, looked at the clock, shook me awake, and wished me a happy birthday.

I usually try to organize some kind of doodad down at the local pub to celebrate the day, but it completely slipped my mind. Is this a sign of dementia taking hold?

Maybe it's too late to worry about that. And even if I did, I'd probably forget it in the next minute or so.

Hey! Did you know? Today is my birthday! Oh wait... I already said that. Dagnabbit it!

Monday, May 02, 2005

May Day Challenged

On Saturday, I led a public Bealtane ritual (May Day celebration) for the local Pagan community (organized by Montreal Sabbats and hosted by West Island Pagan Association). It went off extremely well and mostly without a hitch (I arrived a bit later than I expected).

But I learned an important lesson about organizing a maypole dance activity: you really need to use wide ribbons. I used yarn, and while it eventually worked, the process of twisting around the maypole took forever and the revellers were running out of steam.

We selected two people to be the King and Queen of May and had them stand at the base of the pole so that they could be bound to it by the yarn. Once they were bound, the people were given flowers and began to dance around them, throwing their flowers to them or inserting their flowers in the yarn or in their pockets.

By the time we were done, the King and Queen looked like a flower bush! I wished I had brought a camera, but ritual etiquette dictates that it is inconsiderate to take photos of people at a ritual (some people don't want a physical record of them being associated with a pagan event).

There were a couple of other things I had planned, but time and logistics made them impossible. All in all, it was a smashing success and my thanks go to everyone who made it possible.

Monday, April 25, 2005

This post has been Postponed tooooooooooooooo ... now

The word "postponed" is coming up way to often lately. I've been chosen to be on a team for a new contract that was supposed to start today, but it's been postponed for a month. This contract couldn't have come at a better time, because my company ain't doing that great and I really need some new work. Working this particular client also means long-term work, which means that I could be working there for up to two years if I play my cards right (ie: I don't sucker-punch the president of the company because he's taking to long to photocopy his secretary's bum).

But the word "postponed" also came up today because the Book Launch I was supposed to get in Quebec city has been pushed off. It seems there's a book fair going on in Quebec city this coming weekend and the bookstore owner doesn't have enough staff to run the store and be present at the fair. So he's suggested to postpone the book launch until September and coordinate it with a school tour.

Overall, not going to Quebec city on Saturday is a good thing because I'm leading a public ritual for Bealtane that night (for Montreal Sabbats) and it's a bit risky to be so far away from Montreal (2.5 hours east).

But all is not lost! I am speaking with the Literary and Historical Society of Quebec and they might be interested in putting together an evening of storytelling to promote the book (old Quebec city boy does good).

Still, I was disapointed today. I moped while playing WoW. I really need things to go my way now. Where is that good luck breeze?

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Pillow Fumble

We were lazing in bed this morning, but I was pretty much awake. Ms. Carotte needed some more Zzzs, so I decided to get up and let her sleep some more.

Me: "I'm keeping you awake, aren't I?"

Her: "Maybe... zzzzz"

Me: "I'll just get up and let you sleep."

Her: "No, no... You can keep talking. I can still sleep and keep listening to you."

Me: (chuckling) "Sure... Why should today be any different?"

Friday, April 22, 2005

Newton: the Dark Cat Returns

Sometime late last year, I took a couple of photos of my cat Newton. Yes, I one of those owners who takes cutsie pics of his pet as if it were some kind of substitution for children. Just be glad that slide carrousels are going out of style.

I caught Newton between expressions which made him look a bit demonic. Then, as I clicked from site to site, I found the My Cat Hates You website. So in January, I sent the website a photo of Newton and hoped for the best.

Four months later, Newton has risen to a super-star of Evil! Click here to see his demonic side that I live in fear of every day.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Men in Retreat

Last weekend, I went to a spiritual retreat for men. No, I wasn't out fishing. No, I wasn't looking at stereo equipment. No, I wasn't out buying a car. I was at an honest-to-goodness Men's Retreat organized by the illustrious Pagan Owl of Ottawa.

We were supposed to be 30 guys, only eight of those people turned out. It kinda threw the scheduled events out the window, but the time spent was more organic (No, we weren't smoking pot) so we just flowed from breakfast to discussion to preparing for the evening's ritual to supper and so on. I had hoped for more spiritual discussion and development, but just having a weekend with other pagan men was strengthening on its own merits.

But we weren't entirely without the ladies. Our youngest, a goth in the making at the tender age of 15, was tempted away by the daughter of the owner of the land (Whispering Pines in Ontario). This is why we don't have women at a Men's Retreat. They are too distracting!

Saturday night was clear and a bit chilly, but being way out in the country, we could make-out most of the stars in the sky. It would have been more star-filled if the moon wasn't so bright. Fortunately, Rick decided to bring his telescope to add to the star-gazing activity.

I had never used a telescope to look at the moon and I was amazed at the detail you could make out. You could clearly see every crater, every mountain range, every boulder on the moon's surface. I brought my digital SLR camera with me and by adjusting the manual focus, I was able to use the telescope to take close-up photos of the moon.

You can see these photos at my Photoblog. Rick (being an avid astonomer himself) was so amazed at the quality of the photographs that he submitted them for review to the Sky and Telescope magazine (an American astronomy publishing company). Wouldn't that be cool: my first published photos!

Sorry for the long silence folks. Life is finally starting to pick up again, so I'm hoping to have more to say as the days get filled.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Culture Costs

We had our Tristan and Iseult show this evening and it was a beautiful night of storytelling. Melanie Ray was outstanding and mesmerizing as she told this story of action, adventure, and tragic romance. I had never heard the story in its entirety before, so this was a real treat.

The story of Tristan and Iseult has, over the years, been broken down into shorter individual stories and I recognized quite a few of them. It was great hearing them all linked together as a single epic telling.

However, we needed 60 people to attend to make ends meet. I had received 40 RSVPs and I had hope that the remaining 20+ people would just show up, but in the end, we only had 25 people in attendance. The missing 15 people either cancelled at the last minute or just never showed up. Drat.

I'd like to say that this will be the last big show we're putting on, but we have a largish charity concert taking place mid-May (for the Montreal Children's Hospital). After that, I think we need to focus our efforts on smaller, less expensive venues. We can't afford to keep running these shows at our own expense.

We need Canada Council monies to make this work. It's unfortunate to say, but promoting culture is not a money-making venture. To keep English storytelling alive, we need government support.

The grant applications are being filled out as we speak. Keep your fingers crossed.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

The Principal's Office

I've been taking business trips back to my home town lately and, filled with nostalgia, I've strolled the halls of my old edumacational institutions. My first stop was to CEGEP St. Lawrence (Champlain Regional College) and I stopped in to visit some of my old teachers. Surprisingly, many of them were still there and have become slightly greyer in the foliciles than I am now (which isn't saying much really because the men in my family always grey prematurely).

My second stop was mostly for business: St. Vincent's Elementary. I was hoping to meet with the principal and try to get a few storytelling gigs at my old Alma Mater. I hadn't made an appointment, so the secretary said if I was willing to wait 15 minutes, the principal would be willing to meet with me.

Sitting just outside of the principal's office, I was momentarily overwhelmed with anxiety. I was taken back to a dark day in Grade 2 (1976) when the teacher caught me in some kind of misdeed (I can't remember what exactly), so I was sent to see the principal.

I remember feeling like I was walking the Green Mile, each step taking me closer to my doom. My mind was racing with excuses that would miraculously save me from the dire punishment that awaited me, but nothing was really coming to mind. I briefly considered hiding out by the jungle gym in the recess yard and hoped that the teacher would forget all about the transgression, but (fortunately) I didn't take the flight option.

I finally arrived to the secretary's office and said with a squeak "I'm here to see Mr. O'Connor". The secretary clicked her tongue, rolled her eyes, and gave me a firm look. "Sit over there and wait. You should be ashamed."

From my perspective as a 7 year old, Mr. O'Connor was a giant man. Tall, thin, unforgiving. These were the days when the principal's had the power to spank children and Mr. O'Connor had huge, paddle-like hands. Just the thought of this man rearing back to spank me was (usually) enough to keep me on the straight-and-narrow.

But in the end, I was spared a spanking from Big Bird (as we called him). He gave me a lecture in that booming voice of his and he bent down to give me a stern look in the eye. Extra homework and a call to my parents was my punishment.

And I was thinking about that day as I sat in the same seat just outside the principal's office. Sure, I was wearing a suit and tie and Mr. O'Connor had long-since retired. But I couldn't help but smile as I watched the kids march past me on their way to gym or for their drink of water, whispering to each other, hoping the teacher didn't catch them. Things haven't changed that much.

My meeting with the principal did bear fruit though. They've agreed to buy a few copies of the book for their library and I'm writing a proposal to do a few shows for the kids in April. It'll be great to stroll through those halls again and maybe...

I'll be able to stay for recess.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Equalizer

Whenever I get frustrated with seeing too many Beautiful People(tm) with their shiny cars, toned and buffed bodies, designer clothes, and rich lifestyle (where nothing seems to go wrong), I just head down to the Old Port of Montreal and watch these Beautiful People try rollerblading for the first time.

With newfound wheels on their feet, their balance, poise, and confidence goes skidding out the window. Hands outstretched and legs rigidly propelling them upward then downward, the blades are a great equalizer.

I laugh myself silly and feel no guilt. I may pop the occasional gummy worm in my mouth while I watch them make their wobbly way down the sidewalk, but that's the extent of it.

If that's wrong, I don't want to be right. Is it summer yet?

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Happy Parade Day!

I feel so weird celebrating St. Patrick's Day on the 13th when the 20th is the Sunday closest to the actual St. Patrick's Day. Don't these people believe in tradition?

I'm told the reason behind it is that next Sunday is Palm Sunday, so that wouldn't have worked out. I'm not sure I'm comfortable mixing religion in with St. Patrick's day...

*waggling eyebrows in a sarcastic way*

So enjoy yourselves on this day where everyone can be as Irish as they'd like to be. I really hope that the clouds part and let a little sunshine in before the parade starts today. It really makes St. Patrick's Day feel like the first day of spring and I think we all really need to feel that nowadays.

And for your amusement, here's a little video that Aengus sent me. Please don't bother soapboxing me on how Guinness has commercialized this holiday: I've already heard it.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Same-sex Storytelling

We're starting to get calls by people interested in the Tristan & Iseult show being held on March 24th. I've faxed flyers to all the local media, but I need to follow up with some phone calls. We need to get at least 60 people in those seats to make ends meet, so I really hope we get a good turn out.

I got a call today by a fella who said he was very interested in the show, but wanted to know if the only show being done was at the Unitarian Church. I told him it was a one-night only show, so he replied he wasn't interested because "I find that the banner they have is in poor taste."

Puzzled, I asked what he meant by that, and he replied "They have a banner out front that says that they support same-sex marriages and I find that is in poor taste."

"It's not the Unitarian Church that is putting on the show," I replied. "We're just renting the hall for the show."

"That doesn't matter," he returned. "I don't want people like that making money if they support such a thing."

Wow. I've never... just... Wow.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Houston: The Book Has Been Launched

We had our book launch last night at Hurley's pub and it was a tremendous success. Our rough head counts came up with a crowd of 50 people and the room was filled to capacity (with about a dozen people sitting in the room next door). We even managed to sell a few books and made some interesting contacts for future storytelling gigs. Fingers are being crossed as we speak.

Aside from the bagpipe player not showing up, the night went without a hitch. Our invited tellers held the crowd spellbound (when Mike Burns was telling his stories, I remember thinking that I had so far to go before I attained his level of skill) and they were a great addition to the evening.

Zimmerman and I performed admirably, although I found the strength of our performance increased as the night progressed. Zimmerman told the story of Hodja and the Sack (my request) and he was dead on. When I told the story of The Hall of Wonders (Zimmerman's request), I tapped into something that I always quest for, but rarely attain: being in The Zone. If I haven't blogged about The Zone yet, I really need to.

The crowd was fantastic too. They were with us every step of the way, present for every detail in the stories. It's a storyteller's dream to have a crowd like that and I'll remember that night with great affection.

So I must offer heartfelt gratitude to everyone who showed up and shared the evening with us. You all made that evening special.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Recycle Rage

PSA: Make sure you get your recycling out on time so that the recycle guy doesn't have to deal with you personally.

I just missed the recycling truck the other day, so I had to jog up the street to catch him. When I gave him my bin, he snarled at me that I hadn't sorted the recyclables properly. Then he blasted me for trying to slip a cardboard box into the recycling. With the look he gave me, I was sure he was about to clock me for it. He ranted and raved for a few seconds about how stupid people are with their recycling as he smashedg the bottles and tossed the cardboard box at my head.

I'm sorting my recycling better now and trying not to put things that don't belong. But if you cross the recycling guy, watch out: he's liable to take every frustration about every irresponsible recycler out on you.

Update:

Kudos to Stephanie for providing us with mucho gusto information on Montreal's recycling guidelines (comments can be edumacational!). BTW, Stephanie is a freelance journalist whose articles regularly appear in Hour:

    Pamphlets on how to recycle are available at your local Eco-quartier or at the Coop La Maison Verte on Sherbrooke St. W. If you're not sure what gets recycled, call Access Montreal or your local Eco-quartier.

    The rules are simple. Paper and smaller cardboard boxes on one side; milk cartons, juice boxes, metal and glass containers on the other. They accept every kind of plastic with a number on it except number 6. They also accept bread bags and plastic grocery bags. They love it if you put bread bags in plastic grocery bags. A good idea on windy days: load the heavier stuff on top of the lighter stuff - for instance put the plastics/metal/glass etc. stuff on top of newspapers and cardboard.

    Containers should be rinsed so there's no food or other residue and so they don't smell.

    For a list of Montreal recycling guidelines on the City's Web site, see: http:// servicesenligne.ville.mon...yclablesAng.jsp

    What I don't understand is the pamphlet I have says they don't accept aluminum foil but take cans, pie plates etc. The French section of the Web site says they do, so long as it's clean.

    Big cardboard boxes are supposed to folded down, tied with string and placed next to your bin.

    The guys picking up the recycling are subcontractors and the trucks are set up so they put paper/carton on one side, glass/plastic/metal on the other. I understand they're paid per pickup.

    Recycling from the Island of Montreal ends up at a sorting centre at the Complexe Environnementale St-Michel. It looks like a factory - the materials are dumped on the floor, machines sort them first then they whizz along on conveyor belts for hand sorting by employees. Forklifts push materials into bales.

    What gets recycled depends on the market for materials.Recyc-Qu├ębec, the Quebec government department handling this, offers plenty of info (in French) on their Web site

    http://www.recyc-quebec.gouv.qc.ca

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Weird Dreams with Pincers

This morning, I woke up feeling guilty. I couldn't shake this horrible feeling of guilt, even after the dream was done and I realized it was a dream.

Last night, I dreamt that my friend Ceri had been magically transformed into a lobster and tossed into the river. Someone else had saved her from the river, gave her to me for safe-keeping, and said "Just hang onto her until we find the right spell to change her back."

For some reason, Ceri the Lobster was partially frozen, so I had to keep her in my breast pocket (she was a tiny lobster) so she would thaw out. Passer-bys would inquire as to how my friend Ceri the Lobster was doing and I would reply indignantly "She's a crustacean, I'll have you know!"

I went home to my apartment and put her in a bowl of warm water to thaw her out, but my mother had a bag of lobsters and she was preparing to cook them for supper. Even though I explained to my mother that this was really Ceri and not a lobster to be cooked, she kept trying to toss Ceri the Lobster into her pot. I re-pocketed Ceri and headed out to the park.

Once I got to the park, a friend invited me to play soccer, so I did. I figured some exercise would help raise my body temperature and help thaw out the lobster in my pocket. However, at the end of the game, I looked into my pocket and Ceri the Lobster was gone!

I searched all over the park, but I couldn't find her. Then her husband started phoning me and mutual friends started popping up all over, asking me if I had seen her lately. Just as I thought I couldn't take the guilt anymore...

... I woke up.

Monday, February 28, 2005

Disgruntled Acquisition Move

Seeing as how the voters on the upper East and West coasts didn't get Kerry into the White House, I think Canada should send delegates down to the movers and shakers in those states and organize a group-secession so that they can become part of Canada (territories at first, provinces later).

It's not such a stretch, is it? After all, we used to own much of that land in the first place. It was only a loan gone awry, so it's time we start reclaiming.

The problem is that we'd need someone a bit more charismatic as our leader to secure the deal. Would you abandon your Apple Pie heritage to join his Dodge Ball team? I wouldn't and I live here! That's a problem with the Canadian political system: we have a general disdain for everyone actively involved, but once they retire, respect begins to grow (or fester).

I think it has something to do with our national obsession with Heritage Moments. We prefer to look back fondly rather than appreciate currently (but we do also enjoy speculating cynically).

With that wee bit of historical real estate settled, I'd then give the natives New York state. It would amuse me greatly to see New York renamed to New Kahnewake.

The more I think about it, the more I think we need a King rather than a prime-minister.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Printed, Bound, and Stuck Together

The books are finally done and delivered (thanks to Relux), all 500 of them. We got them delivered to the house on Tuesday night, the books in one set of boxes and the CDs in another set of boxes. It only took a few hours to stick each CD at the back of each book.

So now they are ready for sale and we've already sold 15 copies (not bad for the first week). Our official book launch is on March 6th 2005 at Hurley's Pub at 7pm. We're going to have a 2-hour show with a few invited guests (Mike Burns, Jack Nissenson) and I'll see if I can get a couple of musicians to make an appearance.

I'm very excited about this new publication. We've been futzing with this book for months, so I'm relieved that it's finally moving into the next stage. I figure it'll take the better part of 2005 to sell them all, but I'm already speaking with Canada Council to help me with the next book.

The printer even gave us an extra 30 CDs (no charge), so we'll be using them to put together a press kit that we can send to festivals and get some new gigs. Wouldn't that be cool?

Very excited.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

The Memorial

I attended Deniz's memorial last night and it really helped bring some closure to her death. Her mother and brother were there, as well as 150+ people whose lives she touched. Deniz sang in a choir that practiced every Thursday night (it seems that most of the choirs in Montreal all practice on the same night), so the choir sang during the memorial while family and friends shared their memories of Deniz (including an ambassador from the Turkish Consulate!).

There are two passages I want to leave you with before I bring this to a close. The first one was read during the memorial and the second was not read, but I remembered it clearly during the service. It describes Deniz's presence at that memorial so perfectly, I could almost hear her whisper it to me.

===========
Psalm 23:
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2 He maketh me to lie down in green [1] pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. 3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake. 4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. 5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest [2] my head with oil; my cup runneth over. 6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever. [3]

===========
Do not stand at my grave and weep.
Mary Frye (1932)

Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there, I do not sleep.

I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glint on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.

When you wake in the morning hush,
I am the swift, uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circling flight.
I am the soft starlight at night.

Do not stand at my grave and weep.
I am not there, I do not sleep.
Do not stand at my grave and cry.
I am not there, I did not die!
===========

Good night.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Is it that Age Already?

I've been struggling with this post for the past few days, writing and rewriting it, pondering, remembering.

I found out yesterday that I lost a friend over last weekend. Granted, we had drifted apart a few months ago, mainly over a difference of opinion, but I wished her nothing but a happy life. I kept reading her livejournal, was concerned over how much time she was spending at work, and I knew she could get through it somehow.

She was strong, smart, and beautiful. She had depth and substance. She was artistic and spiritual. She also had a difficult time communicating with people, so that might explain why we couldn't find that common ground. But even though we couldn't make that friendship work the way I had hoped, I knew she was a fantastic person and I couldn't regret the time I invested.

Deniz was good people and she didn't deserve to die at 27 years old, especially when a doctor she was suffering from nothing more than the flu (which was a misdiagnosis). I know I'm not the only person who basked in her smile and that's how I'll remember her best.

See you in the summerlands Deniz. I'll bring the Vindalou.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Hiss, Hiss, Spit

Newton's been acting up lately. I had a few people over last night for a meeting and one of them had been around three cats before coming to my place. Newton almost never hisses, but when she picked him up, he hissed at her. However, he was perfectly sociable afterwards.

Newton's a very social cat and loves people/attention. When I play with him, he may gently bite me, but never hard. However, I've come to the realization that it's because he knows me. If other people he doesn't know try to rough-house with him, he'll bite harder. I have to remember to tell people that.

Today, he got out of the apartment and into the basement. This shouldn't be a problem except that I share the basement with my landlord who has a couple of cats of his own. We've had incidents before and I can tell you, they don't get along.

So I went down into the basement to look for him. I could hear him hissing at something and then caught the flash of his eyes from beneath the stairs. There was a nasty growl coming from the other side and when I went to check, there was another cat poised to attack.

I knew better than to reach under the stairs for Newton when he's like this. I tried to coax him out, but he was completely freaked out. He was breathing hard, drooling slightly, and his tail was bushy (twice its original size). So I got some wet food in a dish and led him back upstairs. He's fine now, but still a bit skittish.

This worries me because Ms. Carotte and I have been thinking about getting a kitten. How is Newton going to react to having another cat in the house? I know there's a period of adjustment needed for both cats to get used to each other, but I don't want to end up with one cat who owns the apartment while the other spends his life hiding under the bed.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

So... So Close

I spoke with the printer yesterday and the pages of the book have been set and are ready for printing. The CD has been scanned and is ready for printing. That leaves just one more thing:

The cover. The cover is being such a bitch. It's supposed to be a deep red with gold and white lettering. I've generated a PDF of the book and handed it off to the printer, but when the printer printed the proof, dark red came out as a muddy brown.

Weird. Apparently, Macs and PCs have different ways of printing color. A PC will use the color you see on the screen while a Mac will process the mathematical color you've chosen, no matter how it looks on the screen. We've tried changing the pantone color to something more specific, but it still comes out as brown. Nuts.

So now the printer will be remaking the cover in Quark Express (I used Framemaker). I'm supposed to go see the proofs today and hopefully approve them. If they get approved today, I'm told I should get my 500 copies by Friday or Monday.

Keep your fingers crossed.

Update: the cover has been approved (with a couple of minor corrections) as well as the CD label. There were a couple of pages with pictures that were too close to the edge, so I've resized and repositionned them. I also found that the font size for the body text to be too big, so I brought it down a point (Book Antiqua, 11 pt).

The printer assures me that he'll have them printed and bound by Monday afternoon. A bit tight, but that means we should have them ready for the Love is Blind show on Monday night. Are you coming to that?

Monday, February 07, 2005

Strawberry Flavoured

Ms. Carotte and I went to the Salon de L'amour et Seduction at the Big O (tee hee) on Saturday afternoon. I was warned by some that it would a festival of tackiness, but I found it to be fun and pretty conservative considering the topic.

There were plenty of shops and vendors selling clothing, toys, and lotions of all kinds. It's fun to go to one of these things if you and your partner can be open-minded (and Ms. Carotte is definitely that). The demonstrations alone were worth the price of admission.

Everbody's got their own website nowadays. The most memorable guy there (just because of his uniqueness) was The Hugger Busker. He was offering free hugs for those who couldn't afford to buy love.

So after a couple of hours, we were leaving the expo and we decided to pick-up a gift for The Admiral (a naughty fridge magnet). We then realized we hadn't bought something for ourselves! So we headed for a particular booth, picked up something for ourselves, and went straight home to try it out.

It was a good idea after all, Ms. Carotte.