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Saturday, December 31, 2005

A Writer's Resolutions

Children's Picture Book
I resolve to finish work and either find an illustrator for or start submitting to publishers the children's book that I started writing for my Godchild two years ago. I think the text is almost completed to my satisfaction, and I'd like to get the book published before my five year old niece is in University.

Morning Son (novel)
I resolve to get this novel back into the slush piles of publishers. It's been a few months since it was kicking it's way around the rejection circles, so it's high time to get it back out there and in the fight.

Kid's Drama Book
I resolve to finally put together a proper proposal package for my combination plays and how to put on a play book for drama teachers. Once I properly compile the proposal package I can get that, too out into the front lines.

A Canadian Werewolf In New York
I resolve to do my best to actually complete this novel. The first 10,000 words burst out of me like nothing, then the next 15,000 words followed along quite nicely. But it's been stuck a bit in the "mid-novel" slump - I resolve to do what I can to get over this hump and get the novel completed.

Healthy Body/Healthy Mind
It's been way too long since I've spent any quality time either outside jogging or on the treadmill. Given the time of year and slushy mess outside, I'm resolving to put aside an hour each week for running on the treadmill or lifting weights. I know that it's not a lot of time, but I'm trying to be realistic with when and how I'm going to accomplish this with so many other things going on. But I figure, if I can at least start a regular once per week routine of jogging and lifting weights, I'll be on the right track for increasing the intensity.

All the best of the remaining holiday season to you and have a safe and Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 29, 2005

HNT - Gift of the Monkey

As I sang about so excitedly last Thursday, Francine often buys me fun boxer shorts. This Christmas was no exception as I received two more great pairs of boxers. So I present to you the "monkeys throwing snowballs" boxers she got me.

I copied in a little close up of one of the monkeys in case they're hard to make out

Fran always buys me the coolest things, and for anyone who was wondering, she did also get me a Darth Tater! (this is the "Darth Vader" version of Mr Potatohead) Woo hoo!

For fun, I've also included the fun Santa PJs that I bought her.



The Os-master has requested that this week, being the end of the year, we post our own favourite HNT post of 2005.
I'm going to go with my "Conan The Barbarian" HNT post for two reasons. The photo was taken at one of the very awesome "theatre group" parties from my Carleton University Sock'N'Buskin Theatre Company days in Ottawa and whenever Francine sees it she gets really excited (say no more).
If you'd like to see the original HNT post from November 10th that featured my Conan costume, click here.

Happy HNT and Happy New Year to you!

If you want to know what HNT is all about, don't wonder any more, simply click on the link below and find out.

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Sunday, December 25, 2005

God Bless Us Everyone

I just finished putting my son down to sleep after reading him "Twas The Night Before Christmas" -- today and this evening were very exciting and overwhelming for him. Tomorrow will, of course, be more of the same.

One of the favourite parts of my day is sitting with him as he falls asleep in my arms and watching him drift off, so peacefully to sleep. I know that it won't be long before he's too old put to sleep this way, and I'm sure I'll miss it.

As I sat there watching him, I started to reflect on how great it is to be a father, how proud I am of his achievements each day, and I think about all the things I look forward to teaching him, and all the experiences we will share. I marvel at how I'm sure the days and years will pass, like lightning before my eyes, and I'll wonder why he grew up so fast.

Each day I vow not to let those days and years pass without enjoying them to the fullest, regardless of the daily slings and arrows that life throws at us.

The world is far from a perfect place. There's a lot of work to be done by all of us. In our own way we can help make the world better, through small personal acts, and towards the end of each year, I remind myself of the importance of the simple things, like treating others with respect, and taking the time to listen to and help others. Yes, lots to be done. Lots to imagine. Lots to dream for.

But for now, I sit there, and look at him sleeping peacefully and everything is all right with the world.

Peace on earth, good will towards all.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Ghosts of Christmas Past

I just finished reading a wonderful article in the Hamilton Spectator by Lorraine Sommerfeld who writes the “Motherlode” column. As she has often done in the past few years, her words moved me. In today's column she reflected on some amusing and personal family Christmas traditions and memories. And, of course, by the end of the column I was practically in tears as her memories and sentiments reminded of my own family memories.

Yesterday at work some colleagues and I took a friend who is leaving our company out to lunch. Among the places we tried to get into, we stopped by Gretzky’s (a road-house type bar and restaurant themed after hockey’s greatest player and ambassador). There was a sign on the door stating that the restaurant was closed out of respect for Wayne Gretzky’s mother, whose funeral was that day. I thought that was very fitting. And with all the holiday lunches likely happening this week, this was truly an example of honor and respect over the dollar.

It reminded me, of course, of the fact that the year before I met her, Francine’s father passed away on the 22nd of December, and then she lost her grandmother very next week. It’s not easy to lose someone period, and the holidays are always difficult because of those empty chairs and the bitter-sweet memories of missed loved ones. But losing someone at the very time that the rest of the world is celebrating is a doubly painful blow. Francine, of course, has amazing strength and her heart is filled with so much love that despite what is always a difficult time for her, she’s a source of spreading cheer and joy into the lives of her friends and family. While I never had the privilege of meeting either her father or grandmother, I feel like I’ve known them for many years through the loving stories and memories Francine has shared with me.

My Mother and Baba arrived in Hamilton last night thanks to my brother-like cousin Rodney who went up north to pick them up and bring them down to spend the holidays with family. Rodney, his brother Kevin and I grew up very much like brothers and spent every Christmas together when we were young -- we haven't all celebrated Christmas together since the early 90's. This will also be the first Christmas that my Baba gets to see ALL of her great grandchildren at the very same time, which warms my heart to no end.

I can only image the fun that my father (who passed away the year before my son was born) would have had playing with my son Alexander. I think it’s cute that Alexander loves to play with the wooden Rudolph reindeer with the flashing red nose that my father made, the little “Mr Bunny” figure he carved and the way he runs to the front window and yells in excitement when he sees the white light reindeer in our front yard turn on in the early evening (the same reindeer that Fran and I had bought for my father intending to give them to him at Christmas the very year that he died). I smile at how, though my father never met Alexander how he's still able to bring a smile to my son's face.

There are so many others, so many cherished and loved friends and family that we’ve known over the years who are either no longer with us or who live far away and whose company we will not have the pleasure of when we share in the holidays.

But, they are ever present in our hearts and in our fond memories. And to extend the thought that Lorraine Sommerfeld put so eloquently in her column, nomatter where we roam or how much time has passed, there will always be a chair for these celebrated ghosts at our table.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

HNT - Song & Gifts To Strangers

Today's HNT is broken into two segments - the first is the usual photo combined with a seasonal re-write of an old Christmas classic - the second is Osbasso's desire to see HNTer's bestowing "gifts" upon one another.

Part One - Walkin' Round in Christmas Underwear

Once a year for Christmas season
I finally have a really good reason
To take off my pants
Just look at me dance
Walkin’ round in Christmas underwear

In my drawer I have a lotta
Festive briefs my wife has boughta
She loves the way
I love to sashay
Walkin’ round in Christmas underwear

On the net there’s this guy named Osbasso
He’s the one who started HNT
Little did he know what he was starting
And what a huge success that it would be

Here’s a New Year’s resolution
You too can join the revolution
Abandon your clothes
And strike a new pose
Walkin’ round in Christmas underwear

Walkin’ round in Christmas underwear
Walkin’
Round in Christmas
Underwear . . .


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Part Two - Gifts To 3 fellow HNT persons

Mellissa (Ladybug’s Kingdom)
A gift card for her favourite shoe store loaded with enough $$ to buy a pair of shoes a month for a year, a leather-bound personal travel diary/journal and a box set of classic John Hughes DVDs.

Robin (Wisdom of Funky Bugs)
Round trip tickets for her and her hubby to NYC for New Year’s Eve, a signed first edition of John Irving’s A Prayer For Owen Meany, as well as a signed copy of my own book for good measure - (since she also seems to enjoy scary stories too and I stop at nothing when it comes to self-promotion)

Robin (A.K.A Binsk)
A handy pocket dictionary pda so she can easily look up any new words she hears, front row tickets and a back-stage pass to a Blue Rodeo concert and tickets to see the Toronto Maple Leafs the next time they’re in town.

How I chose my list.
I randomly selected strangers whose blogs I have visited in the past and whom I found interesting, not just their HNT posts, but some of the other posts and entries they’ve made. I scanned through several of their historic posts looking for clues and ideas of what types of gifts they might like -- and I hope I picked appropriate things for each. They’re interesting people, you should check out their sites. (Actually so many of the HNT folks are fascinating, but I had to stop at three)

And a very small real “gift” that I’m giving each of these folks is adding a link to their blogs from mine, and wishing them plenty more visitors.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

The Stockings Were Hung

Last night was the first night in several days that I wasn't working on the fireplace mantel. With the second coat of glossy honey oak stain, I think it's finally complete.

While the gas fireplace in our basement had been roughed into the wall during the spring of 2004, and hooked up and operational since January 2005, I figured I should get the mantel installed before Christmas, you know, so that Santa could finally have a good and proper entrance into our home, and we could hang our stockings there.

Which leads me to "The Night Before Christmas" - Fran bought me a book with classic paintings in it a few years ago, starting the tradition that we do a reading from this book every Christmas Eve. But I've always wondered why the stockings were hung by the chimney rather than the mantel or fireplace.

I've always thought of chimneys as that thing that stuck out of the top of your house, attached to either a fireplace or perhaps a furnace. So when I was young (especially since we didn't have a fireplace) I always had this image of them hanging their stockings outside on the roof near the chimney.

The other thing I used to misread when I was younger would be the sugarplums. I always imagined them as dancing sugarplums; but I guess the sugar plums aren't actually dancing (like Lionel Richie dancing on the ceiling), but visions of them are dancing in the kids' heads.

I've never had a sugarplum, but I did just find a recipe for them. Hmm, that would be fun. I could eat them by the fireplace while admiring the new mantel and waiting for Santa to appear.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Walter's Brain

A friend of mine (and a heck of a talented writer), Kimberly Foottit, has her first published piece of fiction appearing in Hammered Out 7.5. Hammered Out is a Hamilton area literary magazine that normally features poetry - once a year they publish a fiction special, and they're launching this year's tonight at transit gallery at 230 Locke Street South in Hamilton at 7:oo PM.

"Doodle (drawing on literature)", by Robert Clark Yates - from cover of Hammered Out #7.5

Kim's story "Walter's Brain" which appears in HO 7.5 is a brilliant science fiction tale. Interestingly enough for Kim is that while this is her first sale, she sold the same story twice within a one week period. At the same time Hammered Out was offering to publish it in their magazine, I was also acquiring it for the anthology North of Infinity II.

If that in and of itself doesn't tell you how great a story it is (two editors with distinctly different tastes, each wanting this story in their collection), then I don't know what will. If you would like to read Kim's brilliant debut, as well as some other fine Hamilton area writers, get yourself a copy of Hammered Out 7.5. Better yet, if you're in the Hamilton area, swing by the launch and get an autographed copy.


Monday, December 19, 2005

My Favourite Christmas Movies

Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer &
How The Grinch Stole Christmas

Original animated half hour shows. Ever since I was a kid, these are two of the cartoon/clay-mation “movies” that I enjoyed watching the most every year. That hasn’t really changed now that I’m an adult (or rather now that I pretend to be an adult). I think I partially enjoyed them, of course, because of the fear they instilled. I did find the Grinch rather frightening (though not as scary, as Jim Carey’s live-action interpretation of the character) and the Abominable Snow Creature in the Rudolph stop-action show was always rather chilling.


Christmas Vacation

Arguably the most memorable in the “National Lampoon” series of Vacation movies starring Chevy Chase. Randy Quaid’s Cousin Eddy steals many of the scenes in this movie, which has always been an inspiration for me in my own holiday illumination plans. The scene where Clark is stuck in the attic and watching old home movies is funny and cute, but also borders on touching, so this movie is not without its sense of warmth and family. Combine that with the compassion with which Clark Griswold wants his family to have a big old fashioned Christmas, and you’ve got a timeless holiday classic.

Planes, Trains & Automobiles

I know, it’s not technically a Christmas movie, but it’s a movie about American Thanksgiving, which is so darned close to Christmas and it’s made such a huge deal of as a holiday in the States that there’s no reason this can’t be considered a holiday movie. I’ve seen this one countless times, and can’t get enough of the chemistry between Steve Martin and John Candy. (And yes, that’s two John Hughes movies in a row - speaking of Thanksgiving, thanks Mr Hughes)


Die Hard

This has to be my favourite Bruce Willis movie (yes, despite the really cool eerie movies directed by M. Night Shyamalan). Set during a Christmas party at the Takanomi Corporation, this movie, to me, is evidence of what intelligent action movies can aspire to. To boot, it’s based on a wonderful novel by Roderick Thorpe called "Nothing Lasts Forever", which I managed to track down in a used book store years ago. Brilliant novel. Die Hard 2, of course, also takes place during the Christmas season, and it also ranks right up there.

Lethal Weapon

Here’s another great action movie that takes place during the holidays, and the beginning of a great series of “buddy” movies. I’m particularly fond of the psychotic yet hilarious character that Mel Gibson brings to life and the way in which, through the course of the movie, he gains a sense of purpose and of family through his reluctant partner.



Life of Brian

Although most people quote “The Holy Grail” as Monty Python’s greatest movie, IMHO, this is their best. The movie opens on the first Christmas Eve, where, just down the street from the manger where Jesus is born, young Brian is born. When the three “not so wise” men arrive in the wrong place bearing gold, francincence and murr (“what’s murr?” -- “it’s a balm” -- “you don’t give a bomb to a baby”), Brian’s mom is delighted. When they realize that she’s an opportunistic whore and not the holy mother of our savior, they grab back their gifts and beat a hasty retreat. That pretty much sets the tone for this hilarious movie about Brian who is repeatedly mistaken for the messiah (“He’s not the messiah, he’s a naughty boy”) , and is a glorious example of the Python troup setting the standard for playing multiple characters in the same movie.

Friday, December 16, 2005

I'm Not An Anti-Dentite

After about five days of severe throbbing pain in my right lower jaw, I got to see the dentist yesterday. As my friend Gwen says so eloquently: Weeeeeeeeee.

But seriously, I hadn’t been to a dentist since 1997, just before moving from Ottawa to Hamilton. I did try, though. Over the years I've made appointments -- but each time I had to cancel, either because I was working as a retail manager (crazy schedule) or because I live in Hamilton and work in Toronto. I know, I know, convenient excuses -- there must be something more going on.
There is.

I’m a huge chicken.

You see, in the town I grew up in, the one dentist we had looked a bit like the character Laurence Olivier played in The Marathon Man. For those of you not old enough to remember this old Dustin Hoffman movie, it’s about a runner whom these bad guys believe witnessed a crime. There are some pretty terrifying scenes in which Olivier keeps asking a captive Hoffman “Is it safe?” -- to which Hoffman replies: “Is what safe?” -- then Olivier proceeds to yank open Hoffman’s mouth and starts drilling holes in his teeth (no anesthetic, of course).

So there’s that movie, and also this scene from my childhood. I remember driving my bike down the street and hearing someone screaming and crying at the top of his lungs. It’s my buddy Pete M. (No, not Pete Mitchell of blog-world fame, but my very first friend Pete Mihajic). Pete’s standing there crying, and when I ride by to ask what’s wrong he just ignores me. But his mother, who is trying to drag him down the street explains that he’s a little frightened of going to the dentist.

Pete was a year older than me and at that point had taught me many things about life and the world, like the fact that you should knock before entering someone’s house. His was also the first phone number that I memorized thanks to his patient help (of course, you only needed to dial 4 digits in our town, so it was relatively easy at an early age). So he wasn’t only my friend, he was my mentor. And he was terrified, refusing to go to the dentist. Thus he taught me that fear, too. Thanks, old buddy.

So there you have it - Laurence Olivier and Pete Mihajic helped spawn my great fear of the dentist.

But I’m overcoming it. Yesterday’s appointment was a lot of laughs actually, despite the fact that Dr. Ivankovic told me I’ll need to have a root canal (scheduled for the 29th). And, then, after she explained that it had nothing to do with a gondola ride in Venice, I was still relatively relieved. Why? Because she gave me a prescription for antibiotics (there’s a bit of infection and damage to the nerve of a back molar which is causing the excruciating pain) and Tylenol-3. For the first time in about a week I’m able to properly focus thanks to the blessed codeine flowing through my system. But I’m also relieved and happy to learn that after not having regular dental checkups that the root canal (and about three cavities) are all that’s wrong with me. (Okay, all that’s wrong with my teeth, because anyone who knows me knows there’s plenty wrong with me)

I’ve read a bit about root canals, and they’re not as bad as people make them out to be (speak to me in a couple of weeks once I go through it and I might sing a different tune) -- but in the meantime I should remain positive and hopeful. And speaking of which, I must say how wonderful Dr. Ivankovic and her staff were -- how they helped put me at ease, calmly put up with my hair-trigger gag reflex, and of course, lovingly talked me down after I screeched at the top of my lungs and then scaled to the top of the ceiling-fixed lighting arm and tried to stay out of reach there, shivering and uttering under my breath “is what safe is what safe is what safe.”

And a word of praise, of course, for Dr. Andrews, my hometown dentist. Yes, he looked a bit like that nasty character from a movie of my childhood. But he was a good dentist and a great man. I remember how he always tried to put me at ease by talking to me about fishing. Of course, my Dad always thought he was trying desperately to find out, through me, his secret fishing spots -- maybe my Dad had similar yet unspoken Marathon Man-like suspicions as well -- after all, he did have those drills and I’d likely say anything if he kept them out of my mouth.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

HNT - So Naked Together

Fran has joined me for this week's HNT shot, a reprise of the Christmas ornament shot. The branch, of course, strategically covered my naughty parts, but I had to "extend" the lightbulb aura a bit on her side of the tree before Fran would let me post this picture.

It's a bit blurry, but it was the clearest of four shots we took.



Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas and Happy Half Nekkid Thursday!


So what's all this Nekkid-ness about? Click on the link below for more info.

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Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Screams Across America

Because self-promotion is an obsession of mine, I recently started a frappr map called "Screaming Hands Across America" - it's a map in which people can sign up and become a "pin point" on a world map. I thought it would be a fun way to visually see folks who have read my short story collection One Hand Screaming.

But because this is an exercise not in selling more books, but in seeing how many pin points can be gathered on the map, potential readers, please be aware that several of the short stories and poems from the book are available to be previewed online at http://onehandscreaming.blogspot.com.

So, have a fun quick read of one of the free online tales, then check it out and join - and be sure to wave (especially if you convert the map to satellite view which is kind of cool).

In other "but enough about me let's talk about what I do" news, www.blogherald.com picked up the release about my forthcoming "I, Death" novella which will be told in via the convention of a blog. My fictitious main character, Peter O'Mallick, will be blogging as a method of dealing with the fact that people around him are dropping like flies. The mayhem begins in January at http://this-mortal-coil.blogspot.com. You can read the blogherald article here.

A website in Turkey (www.bildirgec.org/) seems to also have picked up on the story. I can't read it, but a friend at work offered to help translate it for me. I just think it's pretty cool. I've copied the text below.

ilk ücretsiz blog roman

anahtar sözcükler: , , , , , , ,

kanada'lı yazar Mark Leslie yazmaya 2006 ocak'ta başlamayı planladığı korku romanını bir blog sitesi aracılığı ile karakterinin ağzından yazarak ücretsiz dağıtacak.
"I, death" adını alacak kitabın kahramanı trajik bir lanetin pençesinde olan genç bir çocuk. günümüz dünyasında yaşayan bu genç sorunlarını bu blog üzerinden dünya ile paylaşıyor.
yazar, romanı genç karakter Peter O'Mallick'in dilinden yazdıkça blog aracılığı ile eş zamanlı olarak paylaşacak. üstelik blog sitesinin yorumları açık olarak! okurlar yaptığı yorumlarla hikayeye yön verebilecekler. gelen eleştirilere göre yazar, kısa sürede kıvrak çözümlerle okurlarını memnun etmeyi deneyecek.

kitabın adresi [this-mortal-coil.blogspot.com] olacak. başlangıç 18 ocak'ta.
azurenus 13/12/2005 - 01:13 43 kez okunmuş



Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Got My Spine, I've Got My Orange Crush

It’s always fun to watch the heart-warming television shows and annual specials that are on this time of year -- it’s all part of getting into the mood and spirit of Christmas. A series new to television this year with the spirit of warmth and of giving is NBC’s “Three Wishes” -- it’s a wonderful show with many tear-jerking moments in which Amy Grant and friends tour through different towns, listening to the wishes of people from the community. They grant three big wishes, which often completely transform, or at least temporarily brighten up the lives of people who seem to need it the most and often fill a whole slew of smaller “good deed” wishes as well. The show draws upon not only the generosity of its corporate sponsors, but also on the limitless wealth of kindness and thoughtfulness of friends, family and neighbours.

Watching the show always leaves me with a warm feeling and the desire to try to be more thoughtful, giving and considerate.

But there’s an extra happy feeling of just soaking in the beauty of Amy Grant. She has such a natural beauty to her, and I don’t just mean her physical appearance -- there’s something wholesome and genuine and down to earth about this country girl that I’ve always found so attractive.

Thinking back to when I first spotted her, it was in the music video for a duet she did with Peter Cetera called “Next Time I Fall” -- I was an easily excited teenager (as opposed to the easily excited man I am today) and couldn’t watch the video enough, swooning every time I saw her.

A few years later, she released a pop album called Heart In Motion which a girlfriend of mine at the time was a big fan of. When hanging out or driving in her car it was a lot of fun listening to the uplifting and fun songs like "Baby, Baby" and "Every Heartbeat."

And sure, while that particular girlfriend dropped me (my love life was very much like me playing the role of a string of losing contestants on "The Apprentice" - I'd barely get the boardroom seat warm when WHAM "You're fired!" would hit me), at least she left me with the Amy Grant cassette -- sure, it wasn't fun to be dumped, but at least I had the joy of sitting there in my misery, listening to Amy sing and staring at the photos from the unfolded cassette “sleeve."

Even at those low moments, Amy made me feel good. Is it any wonder why I've had a crush on her all these years?

Monday, December 12, 2005

Better Spent on Beer & Popcorn?

Toronto area highways are instituting H.O.V. lanes as a way to help ease traffic congestion. When I first heard the news I got excited because I thought it meant they were creating lanes specifically for hovercraft vehicles -- but I was wrong. H.O.V. stands for “High Occupancy Vehicles” -- now why couldn’t they just have called it a “car pool” lane so that everyone would know what they meant?

I write this post from one of the highest occupancy vehicles of all, the GO Train. Which leads me to the belief that the whole H.O.V. lanes thing will not really ease congestion all that much. I think that, like the recent flip from one way to two way streets in downtown Hamilton, it’s just a lot of tax dollars wasted. Especially if it’s based on the honor system, because how would you monitor and control it all?

Besides, the minute you put someone behind the wheel even the world’s nicest person become a selfish, self-centered prick. Stick him behind the wheel of a Hummer on the Toronto-bound 403 between Burlington and Oakville at about 8:30 AM and suddenly Gandhi morphs into Genghis. Drop Mother Theresa into an SUV on her way to volunteering at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Hamilton, and by the time she navigates the idiotic intersections at James Street Sout, St. Joseph's Drive and John Street South you’ll hear enough foul language spewing out of her vehicle to embarrass Richard Pryor (God rest his comedic soul).

If our government wanted to ease traffic congestion and perhaps even put a little bit of money back in the pockets of those who could use it the most, I don’t know why they haven’t tried to make public transit a tax deductible expense.

Think about it. Public transit serves an important community need and is better for the environment -- the more people use public transit the more money gets injected back into it and the more it can continue to improve to serve the needs of the riders. That makes public transit more desirable for some, and for others, who have no choice but to use public transit, perhaps it makes the services even better for their needs. In a nutshell, the more people on buses and streetcars and subways and trains, the less vehicles on the road, which eases congestion, and, of course, doesn’t hurt our air quality.

This could be done at either the provincial or federal level, of course, and something that is eased into. Perhaps they could start with making 30% of public transit expenses tax deductible the first year, and then move towards an end goal of 50% to 75%.

But what do I know? I'm just one of those idiot voters who'll end up spending my tax savings money on beer and popcorn.

Friday, December 09, 2005

No Offence, but Merry Christmas

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about being sensitive and considerate to others. But in the same spirit of openness and acceptance, I don’t think it would be a terrible crime for me to wish someone a Merry Christmas.

Yes, to me, Christmas has a personal, spiritual and religious meaning. And that’s fine, so long as I’m happy with it and not trying to thrust my belief system in everyone’s face all the time. Christmas as a grander seasonal and societal concept, of course, has a much broader meaning that typically means warmth, compassion, friends and family, love and the hope for peace on earth. And I’d like to believe that those things are universal.

So when I slip and forget to offer a generic “Happy Holidays” during this season which coincides with the winter solstice, and you catch me wishing you a “Merry Christmas” instead, please note that it’s an attempt to spread a little warmth, a little compassion and love as well as a wish for peace to you and your loved ones. And if you’d rather wish me back a Happy Hanukkah, a Blessed Ramadan or perhaps even a Happy Festivus, I will, of course, take your greeting in the spirit of love it was meant.

Sound good? Cool. Now let’s get out there and spread some love. Our world could certainly use it.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

HNT - Bare Naked For The Holidays

Because Francine and I recently put up our Christmas tree, I thought it would be appropriate to be a little "bare nekkid" for the holidays. I'm also suggesting that my fellow HNTers get in the spirit early as well, because reflections off ornaments can be great fun. This week's musical accompanyment would be Canada's Barenaked Ladies recent release, "Barenaked for the Holidays" - they're awesome, go buy the CD now! You know you wanna!


Talk about strategic placement of that single white light bulb, huh? Happy HNT!

HNTbutton

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Waiting For The Barbarians

So when Rick Mercer posted the latest "Photo Challenge" a shot of Harper and Martin, I thought that I'd give it a try. When I looked at the pose the two men were in, it reminded me of my "Conan costume" party pose, so I started working on this.

The only issue is that I can't come up with either a fitting background nor a caption (or perhaps dialogue bubbles)

I originally thought I'd title the post "Waiting for the Barbarians" (yes, an ode to the book by J. M. Coetzee). Then I considered calling it - "At the party leader's debate" - But nothing seems to work.

Any help?

Monday, December 05, 2005

It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Bullshit

On our way to drive past the Christmas lights in Hamilton’s Gore Park yesterday (Alexander just loves the light displays), Francine made an interesting observation. Usually, this time of year, one of our favourite things is how the seasonal Christmas decorations and lights tend to beautify the landscape.

Only this year, the yards aren’t just going to be inundated with multi-coloured lights, wooden Santa’s, lit-up reindeer or those giant inflatable snowman globes -- there’s also going to be a plethora of political campaign posters as part of the upcoming unnecessary election.

Talk about taking the warmth out of the season.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Naked Writer Question

Now that I’ve done the regular Half-Nekkid Thursday thing for several weeks in a row, some friends of mine have asked: “Why are you doing that?” You mean, besides the fact that it’s fun, besides being a part of Osbasso’s cool genesis that has become such a phenomenon and all my wonderful and creative HNT colleagues who participate in it?

Okay, besides that, there are two things:

Traffic and readers.

HNT brings a lot of traffic to my blog every Thursday (with blips of traffic waves due to the whole HNT thing on other days of the week as well). So, thank you Osbasso and my HNT friends. You’ve given me more readers.

It makes me pose a writing related question to myself. I think it would also be interesting to see how other writers would answer it, so I’m offering you (yes you know who YOU are, fellow writers) to either answer the question in a comment or pose it and answer it on your own blog (there I just gave you a fun writing assignment/idea. Aren't you glad you stopped by?).

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QUESTION: You are offered a once in a lifetime choice between having half a million people buy your book BUT NOT READ IT where you make $2.00 in royalties for the each book sold (Thus landing you $1,000,000), or having 1 million people read your book for free, and you make nothing but perhaps a small honorarium. What option do you choose, and why?

ANSWER: I’d take the million readers over the million dollars. No doubt about it. Sure, the cash would be nice. Who am I kidding, it would be awesome. But I write to be read, not in an effort to be rich. If it was riches I was after, I certainly wouldn’t have chosen writing. There are far better pursuits with guaranteed income, like real estate and porn.

Don’t get me wrong, if I ever actually start making money from my writing, real money, “go ahead and quit your day job” kind of money, I will be very thrilled, ecstatic actually. But I write because I have no choice as well as for the possibility of being read. The thought of a million readers is, to me, more exciting than a million dollars.
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So there you have it, another little window into my soul.

And a long, drawn-out answer as to one of the other reasons why I’m a converted HNT person. It draws people to my blog. Thursdays my daily unique visitor hits double and sometimes triple. And my “return visitor” traffic ever since I started HNT has continued to increase over the weeks as well.

Sure, some visitors might just be looking for a cheap thrill (if you can believe that seeing a middle-aged balding guy with more hair on his body than on his head is exciting). But all the extra traffic also holds the promise of yet another reader. Maybe even someone who might consider buying my current short story collection, or one of my future releases. Hey, the royalties would be nice, really nice, and I feel a little tingle when I get my quarterly royalty report and see that another small handful of books were sold. Not because of the small cheque I get to cash, but because it means that there's another small handful of people out there with my book in their hands. And even if the increased traffic doesn’t increase sales of my book, at the very least it increases the opportunity that another someone is reading my words.

I am a writer, tried and convicted. At this moment in time you are my reader. I love you for that, more than I can ever express.

Thanks for visiting, thanks for reading. Now, all you writers out there, go ahead and pose the question on your own (feel free, of course, to include a link back to my site here, I certainly won't mind an extra hit or two)

Thursday, December 01, 2005

HNT - Streak of the Naked Baby

“Oh yes they call him the streak;
He likes to turn the other cheek.
He’s always making the news
Wearing just his running shoes
Guess you can call him unique . . .”

- The Streak, Ray Stevens

Ever since he was very young, Francine and I have played a “naked baby” pre-bath ritual with Alexander.

It happened by accident one night. I was getting him ready for his bath and walking from the bathroom to the bedroom. Francine was coming up the stairs at the time and let out a joking scream saying: “Help! Police! There’s a naked baby streaking through my house.” Alexander giggled at that, so I started to run with him from room to room, with Francine trying to chase us. Alexander loved it best when, in our goofy chase sequence we came around the same door from the opposite side of Francine and nearly crashed into her.

Later, as he became mobile of his own volition, the tradition continued, only this time with Alexander running from room to room, arms flailing in the air, giggling his head off while Francine and I give chase, screaming our terror that there’s a naked baby running around our house. We stumble around like keystone cops, repeatedly looking in the wrong direction or just missing him as he runs past. He thinks it’s a hoot.

The whole chase usually ends in a big tickle fest. (And in case anyone is wondering, there has only been a single “peeing” incident in the whole year since we started playing this game. But I couldn’t help it - I was laughing too hard)

Of course, Alexander is still at the age where he’s glad to be free of his clothing and can run around uninhibited with nary a care in the world. I’m sure our society will help condition him in the standard “naked is bad” mentality of the Western world soon enough.


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