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Thursday, December 28, 2006

HNT - Best of 2006

The theme for this week's HNT post is supposed to be my favourite HNT picture from the past 12 months. Despite the fact that I had a great time throughout the year and think I offered many fun HNT posts over the past year, it was easy for me to settle on this picture.

This picture from the "Darth Tater Unmasked" post was the very first picture in the whole "Darth Tater" series of HNT posts that I ended up taking several months to unravel. I was fooling around one day and decided to post this on a whim, never realizing how long I would end up stretching out the joke and the storyline. It represents, for me, adapting HNT into a little something fun that allowed me to become creative and hopefully keep a small handful of people out there entertained with the continuing story.

For anyone curious to see the entire story, you can find links to each of the episodes here. (The "Spud Wars" episodes are indicated)

To my HNT friends out there -- thanks for stopping by each Thursday, thanks for being a pal, and a very Happy New Year to you all!

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

A Brooklyn Christmas Tale

I like to think that I always look for the brighter side of things in life. Take this past week, for example. I could have been frustrated with the fact that I was hacking up blood and stuck inside the house and away from family during the holidays. But while it wasn't all that pleasant, there was a brighter side to it.

I had time to read this book I'd started about a week ago -- one I bought last year and which I'd been waiting until Christmas time to read. Denis Hamill's Empty Stockings (A Brooklyn Christmas Tale).

Like all of the other Denis Hamill books I have read, this was a great read -- the characters and setting were strong and vibrant. And the story was a touching one. The novel takes place in 1963 and starts on the day that JFK was shot, following the struggles of a fourteen year old boy living with his family in a tenement apartment in Brooklyn. Dreaming of growing up and becoming a sports writer for a daily newspaper, Rory Maguire is trying to support the family with a part-time job at a local butcher since his father's accident which has cost him his job, his ability to walk and his dignity.

This is a poignant and heart-warming tale. Hamill is a brilliantly gifted storyteller who brings home the urban Irish-American experience wonderfully in this novel which I plan on reading again and again each December.

So, sure, I'm a bit miffed that I spent the holidays under the weather. But at least I had the comfort of a wonderful book to help fill the hours.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Offering A Simple Phrase

Shhh . . . browse and click quiety. Of all nights, this is the one where we should all be sure to get to bed early. After all, Santa has a lot of work to do, so let's give him as much of the night as possible to get it done in.

Goodnight, and Merry Christmas to you. Peace on Earth, good will toward all.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Possible Side Effects

I've been diagnosed with Pertussis (AKA Whooping Cough) which has kept me off work for the past couple of days. I know this might sound silly, but I actually like work and am disappointed not to be there right now. Now don't get me wrong, I love taking vacation -- but I hate being off work when I have planned several important things to do during the last week days -- being unable to accomplish them is as disappointing as being sick. I guess it could be worse, I could be sick during vacation (which I will be on during the Christmas break)

Yesterday my doctor gave me a prescription for Sandoz-Azithromycin (damn, I wish that name wasn't already taken, because I was planning on naming a character that in my next novel) -- and I started taking it yesterday.

I'm a bit worried about the side effects, though. Apparently some of the possible side effects this medication might cause are: diarrhea, stomach ache, nausea and vomiting and vaginitis.

Now the first four I can deal with. I mean, a sip of Pepto-Bismol will take care of those nicely.

But vaginitis? How the heck am I going to treat that when I don't even have a vagina? Oh man. I'm just not ready for this . . .

Thursday, December 21, 2006

HNT - Gifts of the HNTer

As per directives from the great and powerful Os -- the illustrious and good of heart founder of the HNT blog movement -- we are to abandon the half naked shots of ourselves this week in favour of picking three HNT members that we don't know all that well, researching a bit about them and then offering them some Christmas gifts.

I had a blast last year while doing this, and similarly enjoyed the task again this year (although I couldn't resist a nekkid ornament reflection picture this week) -- it's always great to take the time to try to get to know someone better.

This year, I picked three HNT folks whom I don't know very well (ie, we've never exchanged emails or much more than the occasional comment on each other's blogs, usually on Thursdays), but I enjoyed spending more time reading their blogs to learn more about them and would like to offer them the following Christmas wishes.

BTExpress

My gift to Tony would be a lucrative publishing contract from a major publisher like Random House to tell his autobiography, particularly about his experiences in Vietnam as well as what it is like to lose a spouse of over 30 years and then to re-discover joy and love. Combined with this contract would be an extensive tour to do book signings in every major city in North America -- so that he and Lori can enjoy traveling together. His last stop, of course, would be in Hamilton, Ontario at the bookstore where I work so that we can sit down together after the book signing and enjoy a toast.

Chelle


My gift to Michelle would be for the city in which she lives to throw a huge birthday bash for her on her birthday (Dec 31st) that rivals the giant festivities that go along with the Dick Clark event in Times Square. Friends from all over the country and world would, of course, be flown in for this event to surprise her. At this party her workplace would announce that to help ensure she continues to feel special for the rest of the year, they will be providing Tim Horton's coffee for free to all staff. (So that the rest of the people she works with can understand the addiction to this coffee that many Canadians deal with on a daily basis)

Cosima Underwater

My gift to Cosima Underwater would be an extended family travel pass that involves 4 months of traveling by rail across Europe and Asia with her family. Also provided for the trip would be digital cameras for her as well as for her entire family. That way, once the voyage is over, they can enjoy looking at the different photos that each of them ended up taking while on the trip, and she can enjoy the trip again and again, through shared memories and the images that each person in the family decided to capture while visiting different places.


And, breaking from the rules a bit, I'd also like to offer a gift to the great and powerful Osbasso as a way of saying thank you Scott, for using blogs and this weekly ritual to help bring people together -- not just at Christmas time but through-out the year. You've helped to make the world smaller and a bit closer. I'd like to gift you with the chance to tour throughout the world with your band and thus get a chance to meet in person so many of the bloggy folks who you've made a positive difference for over the years.


Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Tracking A Christmas Meme

I've been delighted to find many folks having a good time with the Silly Christmas Lyric Meme, and am now wishing I'd named it "Cousin Eddie's Silly Christmas Lyric Meme" or something more fun than using my own name -- but I'm rather enjoying all the different songs people are chatting about on their blogs.

Here's a sampling of the Silly Christmas Lyric Meme offerings out there -- at least the ones I've been able to find following tags and posts. Check them out:


  • Franny
  • Rainy Pete
  • This Is Me
  • Osbasso
  • Velvet Girl
  • Heartinsanfrancisco
  • Holli Lama
  • Lime

    If you've played along and your link isn't listed here, flip me an email or leave a comment and I'll add it. :)


  • Monday, December 18, 2006

    Getting Published Episode 3

    The third episode in the "Getting Published With Mark Leslie" reality series on Paula B's The Writing Show is now available for download, as is yet another sample of my novel is progress "A Canadian Werewolf in New York"

    Within the episode, Paula and I discuss the detailed commentary about the first several chapters of the novel sent in by reviewer and Writing Show guest host Mick Halpin. Click on Mick's name to go to his website where you can read more of his wonderful "free of rules" reviews.

    In this podcast you can also hear me say "vampire" instead of "werewolf" several times in a row which makes you question who I really am. How can I call myself a horror writer when I can't even tell the difference between these two classic monsters? I mean I should know better. A werewolf is one of those transparent things that hang out in creepy old mansions and float around and say "boo" -- right?

    Saturday, December 16, 2006

    I Got Them ALL Cut

    Alexander, 2 and a half years old, finally got his first haircut today. It's not that we were being cheap or too busy to get to it or anything. It's just that, unfortunately, like his father, he hasn't been all that good at growing the stuff. Sure there were a few flyaway tufts of hair on the back of his head and partially with his bangs, but for the most part there just wasn't all that much to cut for the longest time.

    It was, of course, a big event, with all of us going, Daddy with camera in hand.
















    Linda, the hair dresser was pretty accomodating of the fact that we made such a big deal about it. I wonder if the dentist, next week, will be so flexible when I set up the three camera tripods and lighting fixtures to record that event.

    Friday, December 15, 2006

    Luxury Flannel Sheets

    I know it's not very manly to admit this, but I've always enjoyed the winter months when Francine gets out the flannel sheets for our bed. It's just so cozy.

    But even less manly of me now is the fact that I absolutely LOVE the latest sheets she has bought. They're called luxury flannel and they're cozy and warm like flannel, yet smooth and silky at the same time. Wow. Makes it difficult to get up in the morning and leave the comfort of the bed to have a warm bubble bath then put on my silk dressing gown my bunny slippers, then apply my makeup and work on my hair . . . er, I mean, it makes it difficult to get up, run a quick comb through my hair, eat a bowl of gravel for breakfast and read the sports section of the newspaper . . .

    Thursday, December 14, 2006

    HNT - Francine's Christmas Fantasy

    Since Osbasso wants HNTers to showcase themselves Half Nekkid beside their Christmas tree this week, I thought I might as well let Francine hang onto the camera while she was getting an early Christmas present.

    She has this thing about liking to watch me walk around in nothing but my tool belt while working around the house; putting up the lights, painting, putting together bookshelves or, in this case, decorating the Christmas tree. Of course, I'm sure that to complete the fantasy she's imagining that I'm Kevin Costner or John Corbett, but whatever lights her tree works for me . . .

    Speaking of Christmas, I started a Christmas Lyric Meme -- check it out below and join in the fun of sharing your own personal confusion/frustration/pet peeve regarding a classic Christmas lyric.

    If you're dreaming of a half-nekkid Christmas,
    dream no more. Visit Osbasso to learn more about

    Wednesday, December 13, 2006

    Mark Leslie's Silly Christmas Lyric Meme

    I've always wanted to start a Meme, and of course, try to give it a title that I'd recognize as mine and see how far the thing could spread. An experiment in vanity, of course . . .

    The Rules: Pick a Christmas lyric that you've always had a question about and discuss it. Then either tag one or more people or either tag nobody and invite your readers to tag themselves and enjoy discussing the subject on their own.

    Feel free to use the "Cousin Eddie" image by copying the following code and replacing the '(' and ')' with '<' and '>' :


    (a href="http://markleslie.blogspot.com/2006/12/mark-leslies-silly-christmas-lyric.html")(img src="http://static.flickr.com/136/321235351_90abf16624_m.jpg" alt="Mark Leslie's Silly Christmas Lyric meme" /)

    The Song: The Christmas Song (by Nat King Cole)

    Lyrics In Question: "And so I'm offering this simply phrase, to kids from one to ninety-two; although it's been said many times many ways: Merry Christmas to you."

    The Comment: Nothing against Nat King Cole or the multitude of people who sing this song. I, in fact sing this song all the time. Even when it's not Christmas time. It's just a fun song, an easy tune and I find it so wonderfully relaxing.

    And I'm not even going to take the "easy one" about this song and discuss the whole politically incorrect "folks dressed up like Eskimos" -- that's a freebee for another who wants to run with it.

    But I've always been bothered a little bit by some of the lyrics. "To kids from one to ninety-two."

    What about kids that aren't yet one year old? Why haven't they been included in the Christmas wishes? I suppose when I was that age I never noticed that the singer didn't include me in his Christmas wishes, so I was never upset about it. But if I do get to live to the ripe age of 92, will I be worried that Nat King Cole and most of the others who sing this song don't include me in his Christmas wishes? Will I myself stop singing it? And how would I feel singing in a room to a group of people if there were any babies under 1 or people older than 92 there? Would I feel it necessary to stop and apologize to them that they weren't included and perhaps after finishing the song go and wish them their own unique "Merry Christmas to you" since the song didn't include them?

    Don't get me wrong, I know that to make the thing rhyme the writer had to pick an age range. But I always wondered how 1 and 92 were decided on and not something like: "from my heart and out to you....." which still rhymes and is relatively inclusive. Or perhaps to keep the "kids" motif something like: "from kids out there like me and you" (implying, like the original lyrics do that we're all kids nomatter what age)

    But maybe I worry too much about these things . . . and regardless of YOUR age: Merry Christmas to YOU!

    Tagging: Anyone who wants to play as well as Franny, Rainy Pete, Lime and Gwen. (I'm rather curious to read your takes on different Christmas lyrics)

    Tuesday, December 12, 2006

    Ahh! It's a Peeping Alex!

    I think I'm going to offer to buy a set of blinds for my neighbour's basement window.

    I'm not sure where the expression "peeping Tom" comes from (although I do have 4 or 5 books on word and phrase origins so it shouldn't be hard to look up); but a new phrase is being added to my vocabulary: "Peeping Alex!"

    It's completely innocent, of course, and cute -- but something I'll have to explain and put a stop to before he ends up embarrassing himself and the neighbours: but last night when Alexander and I were taking out the garbage, he ran over to peek in the neighbour's basement window.

    I know why he's doing it, of course. He wants to see the kids -- his little buddies next door that he spends a good part of spring and summer playing with, but who he sees very little of during the late fall and winter months (heck, I barely see my buddy Chad during the winter months -- for some strange reason we rarely stand out in our yards drinking a beer and shooting the shit when it's minus 30 or blizzard conditions).

    But I'm going to have to explain to him that it's not polite to peek in neighbours' windows. Perhaps in the same way that my buddy Pete taught me at a very young age that a person should knock on the door and not simply waltz into someone's home.

    Monday, December 11, 2006

    McDonald's Treat With Chris & Jodi

    This past Friday we headed off to the McDonald's near Slimeridge Mall for an "end of week" treat. I completely forgot that Chris and Jodi of Y108 Rocks were broadcasting live there as part of their 18 hour marathon toy drive. We quickly popped over to the nearby Toys R Us to get a toy for someone Alexander's age, then returned to McDonald's.

    In all the excitement -- watching the live broadcast and the special guests that filtered through as well as the appearance of Grimace, which Alexander was completely taken with -- little Mr. Man didn't eat quite so much as he normally does when we visit McDonald's. But it was certainly a memorable evening for all of us, and a wonderful opportunity to help share a toy that will go to a needy child.

    I was also, of course, impressed with how attractive Chris & Jodi were -- you don't usually expect radio personalities to actually be good looking, particularly not after having been working for over 14 hours by the time we saw them.

    Friday, December 08, 2006

    Pass The Prep-H, I'm a Hammeroid!

    Paul Wilson's StreetBeat column in The Hamilton Spectator recently talked about some of the slang names for Canadian cities and towns. Within it, he mentioned the organically occurring nickname for Hamilton that surface naturally: "The Hammer." This prompted readers to write in and share their own memories of when they first heard or used that term.

    One reader wrote in to say that he and his friend who used the term about 20 years ago in musician circles, jokingly called themselves Hammeroids!

    It's zany enough that it works nicely for me. Look at me, I'm a Hammeroid! It almost makes me want to sing a Simon and Garfunkel song that might go something like: "I'd rather be an ointment than a roid . . . yes I would . . ."

    But think of the wonderful possibilities -- any projects or organizations that are formed to revitalize the downtown core, for example could be called: Preparation-H -- they could do some swell work using such catchy, fitting terminology.

    Thursday, December 07, 2006

    HNT - Tis The Season

    The season for celebrating with friends and family has begun. In honour of the many toasts and cheers with loved ones, and in memory of those no longer able to celebrate with us, I offer a picture that my buddy WaiJai took of me opening a bottle of Reaper Ale's Mortality Stout at my retirement celebration from Indigo.


    Pull up a chair and join me, would you? If you're not a fan of Stout, there's also wine and some nice hot apple cider available.

    Click below to visit Osbasso and learn more about HNT

    Wednesday, December 06, 2006

    Buffet The Vampire Slayer

    Last night we attended my sister-in-law's 40th birthday party at Mandarin, a decidedly popular and yummy Chinese buffet. (Okay, she's technically not my sister-in-law. She's my brother-in-law's wife. But doesn't that make her a sister-in-law? What's the proper term then? And if the proper term is too damn wordy, why CAN'T I call her my sister-in-law?)

    Alexander enjoyed his first visit to a buffet, and despite the fact that he'd had an early supper at home, he still wolfed down quite a bit of food (he was most excited to see slices of watermelon on the desert table). On the way to the restaurant I was teaching him how to say "Happy Birthday" (he says "Happy" really well, but the word kind of faded into nothing when he got to "Birthday") and also explained that we were going to a buffet and what it meant. (To me, of course, it means half a dozen trips back up to ensure I've sampled every single offering, and then sitting back and opening my belt to make room for the engorged stomach)

    He kept repeating the word "buffet" all night, but of course, he said it as: "Buffy" -- as in Buffy The Vampire Slayer. But it would make a nice spoof, wouldn't it? Buffet The Vampire Slayer. A spoof of a spoof featuring Mandarin employees cooking and serving during the day, but after the restaurant closes, combining forces to fight the undead.

    Tuesday, December 05, 2006

    But The Lights Are So Delightful

    We had our first major snow dump of the season yesterday, and might I say: "About freakin' time -- after the 3 days of heavy rain last week, which should have been snow, dammit! In December it's supposed to snow, not rain."

    Heck, from where I grew up, many many miles north of here, in November it's supposed to snow, too. And I even remember a year or two when there was snow before Halloween . . . but of course that goes back about 25 years in the whole global warming thing that we're killing our planet with.

    But in any case, we got a nice dumping of snow yesterday. Alexander delighted in joining me in shoveling the driveway, and, of course, just standing there and staring in awe at the giant white beautiful flakes as they floated down from the sky. (I sometimes feel like the easily excitable Tattoo, the little guy played by Herve Villechaize in Fantasy Island. But instead of running excitedly into the house shouting "Boss, Boss, da plane, da plane!" I usually run into the house yelling: "Fran, Fran, da snow, da snow!")

    But one of the best things about snow is the way that the Christmas lights look. No matter how good they might look when you first put them up, they finally look just right in the presence of snow.

    Friday, December 01, 2006

    NaNoMore

    Yesterday was the last day of NaNoWriMo. My word count for November 30th was about 1200 words. When I was writing during the month (far far less than I'd originally planned on, during my promise made as a guest on Paula B's The Writing Show reality series "Getting Published With Mark Leslie") I was usually able to squeeze out half an hour to 45 minute writing sessions into my early mornings. I was averaging anywhere between 800 and 1800 words during each session, but only managed to fit a few of those sessions in, and mostly during the last week of NaNoWriMo.

    I ended at just about 12,000 words.



    Yes, it was a great deal less than I'd been planning on. And I could use all kinds of excuses such as extra hours spent at work, a funeral in the family as well as several incidents involving loved-ones in hospital, as well as trying to fight off a cold -- but I won't. As often happens to a writer, I sacrificed writing time for family time and I don't regret a single moment of that.

    Besides, when I look at the grander picture of where I am with "A Canadian Werewolf in New York", I've got 12,000 words more than I did before I made the public commitment and the first draft of the novel now sits at about 34,000 words. (I've set 80,000 words as a low end goal for the first draft -- a bit short for a novel, but it's a ballpark figure for me. It might go another 10,000 words, but I'll let the course of the writing dictate that rather than an arbitrary "a novel is x words" belief dictate that.)



    Not only that, but the attempt to focus on the novel during November, thanks to the good folks at NaNoWriMo, the inspiration of my local Hamilton area NaNoWri-pals -- several of whom far surpassed their own 50,000 word goals -- congrats to you ALL! -- as well as Paula B's encouragement and support has allowed me to press forward past an early hump in the novel that I was having trouble getting past and likely while I had shelved the project for so long. (Common situation I find where I know where I am now in a story, and know where I want to be after another 10,000 words or so, but not so sure what happens within those 10,000 words) -- so I'm past that, and have some momentum working for me.

    Yes, I slept in today to catch a bit more sleep (still fighting off that tickley, scratchy sore throat and winning the battle so far), but tomorrow morning I'll be back at it again, likely in another small burst of 800 to 1600 words or so.