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Thursday, March 29, 2007

HNT - Being Needed

I'm preparing to spend the next several days at the World Horror Con in Toronto. Since I don't have any recent book length horror to flog around (the anthology I'd edited which came out in late 2006 was science-fiction), I thought I'd offer folks a free copy of a recent horror story which I'd had published in 2006.

I put together a 12 page booklet of the short story "Being Needed" which was published in the anthology Bluffs in May 2006. If I end up getting a spot at the Friday night mass autographing session, I'll be handing these out for free. The cover photo was one of the author publicity shots that my very talented friend Greg Roberts took for me a couple of years ago.


But why only spread the wealth at WHC? Thus, for my Half Nekkid Thursday pals, I thought I'd offer a special treat. To the first five people who request it and answer a really easy trivia question, I'll ship off an autographed copy of this booklet. To easily get the answer, you can listen to the first few paragraphs of the story and a bit of a "behind the scenes" look at it from Episode One of the Prelude To A Scream Podcast. Right click here to download and listen to the episode. Or click here instead to listen to it online.

There -- easy enough, right? Email me (mark (at) markleslie.ca) with the answer to the question: "What is the name of the main character/narrator in "Being Needed") and a signed special limited edition booklet of the story can be YOURS completely free.

How's that for yet again taking advantage of HNT for a little completely shameless self-promotion?

And for those of you again disappointed that the "Darth Tater" saga hasn't continued this week. I promise, the story isn't over. Oh no, it has JUST BEGUN! I've just taken a short break. (Photoshopping those pictures takes lots of time, you know)




Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Jingle Heimer Schmidt

When we named Alexander, we thought it might be nice to give him the same middle name as me "Leslie" -- but we also didn't want him to lose touch with Francine's side of the family. And since we thought it would be unfair to give him a hyphenated name particularly given our lengthy surnames, we gave him a second middle name of "Marzanek" (Fran's maiden name)

Thus, his full name is:

Alexander Leslie Marzanek Lefebvre

This makes filling out ANY official forms (like his birth record, etc) extremely fun. We almost use up every single possible space for his name. And he might be a front-running in any contest involving the greatest number of letters used in his name or in having 3 of the more rare end-of-the-alphabet letters in his name. X, Z, V.

Since I like singing to Alexander (on those occasions when he doesn't put out his hands and say: "Stop singing!!!!") and making up songs, I've enjoyed singing the following to him to the tune of the classic song: "John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt."

Alexander Leslie Marzanek Lefebvre
His name is hard to spell
Whenever we go out
The people always yell
"Hey it's Alexander Leslie Marzanek Lefebvre"
La la la la la la la . . .
Of course, this often results in an urgent cry of: "Stop singing!!!!!" from both Alexander and Francine. Just wait until he's a teenager. M'wah hah hah!

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Something To Strive For

I read an interesting article in The Hamilton Spectator this morning about the narcissistic tendencies of young people, particularly those born in the 70's, 80's and 90's. The article is based on a study done which shows a significant rise in narcissistic thinking among college students. One theory about the cause is related to the "self-esteem" boosting that became a huge trend in child-rearing. Apparently, focusing on building a child's self-esteem without building character can have this effect. It can lead to the reverse desired effect.

Self-preoccupation is a natural part of growing up, and a side-effect of being a teenager. We all felt that the world revolved around us as we were attempting to establish our place in the universe. I suppose now, with blogs and other online communities allowing oneself to assert well beyond our physical environment, it would seem that the narcissism is a little further reaching.

I can certainly sense that our world (not just young people, but all of us) has become a place of "what's in it for me" and selfish tendencies -- evident in the behaviours that are all too common. I like to think it can be simplified into a single symptom: Aggressive drivers cutting people off because their needs and destination are far more important than all the other drivers on the road.

Thus, despite the narcissistic writing on my blog (I like to think that it's really just flexing my creative writing ability, allowing me a chance to practice putting words together to make me a better writer -- but a part of it has to be vanity, too, right?), I try to pause and take time to think about my own fascination with myself, and wonder how often I stop just to listen to what others have to say (ironically, one of the ways I do that is by reading other people's blogs).

I know I make a conscious effort each day to just stop and watch my son while he's playing, or listen to him tell me about the exciting things that happened in his day. Not instruct. Not dictate. Just watch and listen. That listening, that watching warms my heart, makes my day complete.

But I also worry. Because it has been important to Francine and myself to help build his self-confidence, to help him feel good about himself, to feel important. But it's also important to us that he recognizes the importance of strength of character, that one of the greatest ways to feel good about oneself is to help others or strive to make someone else smile. I suppose I'm worrying that I'm not doing enough to support this, that I'm not offering the proper guidance and setting the right example.

It's something to strive for, that's for sure. And poems, like "IF" by Rudyard Kipling help inspire me to try to be that better person, to try to be that better father.

IF - Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or, being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with wornout tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on";

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings - nor lose the common touch;
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run -
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man my son!

Friday, March 23, 2007

Da Count - Brave Writers DIY

Does the following tag line catch your interest?

What if John Hughes Wrote Comic Books?

That, and a preview of the novel "Brave Men Run" on Paula Berinstein's The Writing Show certainly caught mine. The author, Matthew Wayne Selznick, read the first chapter of the novel on Paula's podcast, and I was hooked. I just had to find out what happened next!

I just finished listening to the podcast of Brave Men Run and was completely blown away by Selznick's novel of the Sovereign Era. The book takes place at about the same time that I was an awkward and frustrated teenager, when Ronald Reagan was President of the United States and movies like The Breakfast Club were in theatres.

Selznick easily takes the reader back to that time, place and experience, offering up the sights, sounds, smells and feelings of being a teenager. Of course, his main character isn't just the standard outcast teenager. Nate Charters was born a bit different, with odd animal-like features and interesting enhanced abilities.

Combining the things I used to love in comic books and the things I always enjoyed in a good John Hughes movie, Selznick creates a universe and characters that are real and genuine and live on in your heart long after you've finished the book. And I got a huge kick out of several subtle references he made to Peter Parker and Spider-man, like when Nate's girl friend quotes Mary-Jane by saying: "Face it Tiger, you just hit the jackpot."

I strongly encourage anyone who has ever been a teenager to listen to this podcast or read this book. You don't need to like super-heroes or science fiction, either, because while there are speculative elements in the story, they are mere elements -- the characters Selznick has created are either people we've known, or people we've been. If you were a teenager in the 80's or get excited wanting to view a classic John Hughes teen angst film, you're likely to enjoy this tale even more.

Admittedly, I first was turned off by the cover that Selznick used. Personally, it didn't attract me as a reader, despite the fact that the premise of the story was intriguing to me. So, big deal. The cover doesn't do justice to the incredible tale that Selznick spins. How often can the cover of a book properly do that anyway?

You can purchase one of 4 different versions of the book (print, e-book or audiobook) on Selznick's website Brave Men Run or purchase the print edition on Amazon. You can also subscribe to the podcast there or at Podiobooks.com.

So, if you haven't already guessed, what I'm counting this week is the fact that Matthew Wayne Selznick, a pioneer do-it-yourselfer, took the time and made the effort to write and make available to the world, this wonderful, exciting novel.

Kudos Matt! Excellent job. And I can't wait to read more of your work . . .


dacount

Thursday, March 22, 2007

HNT - Haunted Doll

I'll never forget the haunted doll that my lived in my mother-in-law's house. Every time we were visiting from out of town and I was sleeping on the couch in the living room, I remember having to cover the doll with a blanket every night.

I simply couldn't sleep with that doll staring at me from across the room with her piercing aqua eyes and devilishly evil grin.

Francine is in the process of cleaning and sorting through many of her mother's things these past several weeks. I was horrified to learn that the doll that had antagonized me so often was now living in our house.

I sit there some nights, coated in a cold sweat, jumping at sounds in the night, convinced that she's sneaking up on me, just over my shoulder. But it's just my imagination, right? I mean, she's still in the other room, under that blanket I covered her with.

Right? Right?



Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Peckish Like The Wolf

I was quite delighted to hear the fourth episode of the "Getting Published With Mark Leslie" series for Paula B's The Writing Show podcast, which went live today. (Paula is following me as I attempt to finish writing the novel "A Canadian Werewolf in New York")

The interview was pretty interesting, there were some good moments revealing the frustrations that can sometimes keep a writer from reaching desired goals as well as methods of revealing researched details in writing.

But the best part about the interview is that there are three distinct moments when you can hear Alexander in the background as he came barging into the room during the interview.

The most priceless moment is about 9:30 minutes into the interview when he runs into the room and says: "Doin'?" (It's his version of asking me what I'm doing?) I "rewound" and listened to that one several times, giggling madly each time.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Oh Snow!

Alexander has really enjoyed playing in the snow this year. (Just maybe it's because we actually had snow this year). On Wednesday and Thursday of last week, the snowman we had made on our back deck had all but melted down to nothing more than a pile of peanut shells and the cap. It was pretty depressing.

Every morning Alexander would run to the back door look outside and say: "Frosty! Melted! Fix him!" I know spring is supposed to be about re-birth and new life, but every spring I can't help but think about the end of yet another wonderful season (who am I kidding, I pretty much love all four seasons, and the more distinct each one is the more I cherish each). Particularly when you see snowmen and snow forts melting down to nothing, I find the whole thing depressing. (Yes, it was the inspiration behind my snowman stories "That Old Silk Hat They Found" and "Ides of March" which appear in my book One Hand Screaming. You can read the opening scene from "Ides of March" online by clicking here.)

But with the wonderful snowfall that we got on Friday evening, Alexander and I were back out enjoying the snow on Saturday morning, shovels in hand and eyes of wonder aglow. Despite the fact that we only got about 4 inches of snow, Alexander wanted me to build steps in the snow piles and construct another snow fort.

Instead, I took him to the park where he delighted in running around the snow-covered structures, and enjoying the snow-covered slides. Whew, close save there.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Dad - Four Years Ago Today

My Dad died four years ago today. It seems like such a long time ago, yet almost just like yesterday when we (my Mom, my cousin Rodney, and I) spent several hours that morning at the hospital waiting with him to go into surgery. He was supposed to be in surgery at something like 6:30 AM and he didn't end up going in until some time around 9:00 I think.

I remember kissing him and telling him that I loved him and watching him walk in with the nurse, already joking and horsing around with the hospital staff. Leave 'em laughing was his motto.

We never saw him again after that. He bled to death in the recovery room when the clips on his renal artery unexpectedly came out (he'd had a kidney removed).

I'm posting a picture of my Dad which was taken a couple of years before he'd died. Dad, and Rodney and I were staying at a cabin on Manitoulin Island in November during deer season.

I'm not a hunter, but Dad and Rodney were hunting. I was the cook who stayed at the cabin and spent the day writing while they were out hunting. I was working on what I think was the fourth draft of my novel Morning Son -- it's basically the story of a man whose father dies and states in his will that he wants his son to spread his ashes at his favourite fishing hole. Only, his father kept his favourite fishing spot a complete secret, so the son is scrambling around, interviewing all of his father's old friends and digging through family archives trying to figure out his father's secret. He ends up also uncovering some deeply buried family secrets as well.

Although entirely fiction, this novel was, in a way, an ode to my father, and some of the scenes in it were based on things that had actually happened to him (like when he was 18 and was almost killed when a car slammed into his motorcycle on the highway).

In the picture, my Dad is reading the motorcycle accident scene. Because this was one of the scenes based almost entirely on something that actually happened, rather than a fiction that I'd concocted, I'd asked him to read it and correct me where I steered too far from the truth.

I remember the tears in his eyes when he read the scene. I could tell that I'd actually been able to recreate it genuinely (I wrote it based on dozens of conversations with him about the accident as well as the court transcripts I'd read about it -- the person who crossed over the centre line of the highway and struck him was charged). When he'd finished he told me how proud he was of me.

That was a very rewarding and memorable afternoon that I will always cherish.

My novel Morning Son is currently at a publisher, and last I heard, just last week, the editor who is considering it has passed it along to a second reader. So, he's actually considering it. That gives me a bit of hope.

If this novel ever does get published, it will be one small way of bringing back at least some elements of this man who I greatly respected and whose memory I cherish.

Goodbye Dad. Not a day passes that I don't think about you, and miss you dearly.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Phenomenal Loss!

Today I saw a One Act Play performed by the McMaster University School of the Arts in the Honours Performance Series.

LOSS
, was written and directed by Stephanie Myers, Laura Pomeroy and Rebecca Zaretsky and was based on a short story from Hamilton author Jean Rae Baxter's collection A Twist of Malice.

The story, and the play explores a woman's loss of self as she suffers through divorce and breast cancer. It exposes a macabre side of femininity fraught with violent and fatal fantasies.

Wow. What a wonderful play -- a brilliant adaptation of an intense and disturbing story. The acting was great, the lighting, the sound, the set were all done nicely, and the overall effect was stunning. About the only thing I might have changed (not that I've done theatre in a long time), was I would have toned down the background mood music just a bit in a few scenes -- it seemed a touch too loud and occasionally drowned out the actors voices. The music by Andrew Loeb was perfectly fitting, though, for the play and the three actors (Michelle Urbano, Danny Shuster and Heidi Ludwick) worked wonderfully together. Certain scenes had me on the edge of my seat or almost in tears. Really well done.

The only down-side to this play was that it was only slated for 3 performances, and two (Friday March 16th at 12:30 PM and 8 PM) are already past. There's only one more performance left, Saturday March 17th at 8 PM, and then it's over. Sigh. But I'm at least glad I was able to see this remarkable show.

Da Count - Three Simple Words

Last night while Alexander was having his pre-bedtime snack (milk and bowl of cereal -- Fruit Loops, or as we like to call them "Fruit Poops") I was standing behind him and in my overly overbearing affectionate way, stroking his hair gently and just admiring watching him eat.

Suddenly, he turned, stood up on the chair, reached up and gave me a giant hug, and while hugging me he said. "Daddy. Love you."

Francine and I just stared at each other. Sure, he has spoken those words in response to our telling him we love him. But it was the first time he had ever spontaneously just blurted that out. I couldn't stop the tears from coming to my eyes.

Does life get any better than that?

dacount

Thursday, March 15, 2007

HNT - TiT - Captured


Terror in Toyland (TiT) - An HNT Adventure
by Mark Leslie



Continued from this post.

Disturbed that the latest laser blast had not only changed his shirt again, but had also shrunk him down to a height of 4 inches, Mark lay on the floor virtually paralyzed in fear. He knew that his enemies were close, but wasn't able to get away from them.

Darth and his cronies laughed as they looked at him.

"What a goofy look on his face," Darth said. "I bet his mother used to tell him not to make such goofy faces or his face might freeze like that."

"He's so funny to look at, it would almost be a shame to kill him." Spud Trooper said.

"Oh," Darth said. "We're not going to kill him. Not just yet. We need to stretch this story out as long as possible and drag it on and on and on like the first Spud Wars HNT series last year."

"You're getting all self-reflective again," Artoo said.

"Oh," Darth said, picking Mark up off the floor. "Sorry about that. It was just a cheap attempt at humour. What I meant to say was that I have a very special series of tortures in mind for our little friend. He's going to learn what it's like to be TOYED with."


To Be Continued . . .



Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Unruly Interview

I was delighted to be interviewed by Mick Halpin (AKA Critical Mick) recently. Mick, who is an occasional guest host on the inspiring The Writing Show podcast, recently reviewed my short story collection, One Hand Screaming. and then later asked if I'd be willing to do an email interview.

I did, and it was a lot of fun. Particularly fun to be on the OTHER side of an email interview, as I'd interviewed Tanya Huff, Nancy Kilpatrick, Julie E. Czerneda and Richard Laymon that way.

Mick's reviews are truly creative and intriguing and he has been a driving force behind offering insightful criticism for scenes from my in-progress novel A Canadian Werewolf in New York which Paula B and The Writing Show are following in a reality-inspired "getting published" series on her podcast. (We just recorded Episode 4, which should be up within the next couple of weeks and Paula and I are ALWAYS looking for feedback, so please have a listen, have a read, and throw me a bone . . .)

I particularly like the way Mick opens the interview with the question: "When was the last time you were scared shitless?" asks me if I was ever arrested, the volume of coffee I drink, yet mixes these fun queries in with good solid writerly questions.

You can read the unabridged and off-the-cuff interview I did with Mick here.

Speaking of my short story collection, One Hand Screaming, I was delighted to learn yesterday that Bakka Phoenix, Toronto's best place to find a glorious selection of speculative fiction (science fiction, fantasy, horror) and a staff of passionate and knowledgeable readers of spec fic, is going to be stocking my book at their dealer's table at World Horror Con 2007 which takes place in Toronto at the end of March.


Woo Hoo! Er, ahem, I mean, ah... That is a good thing. I'm quite delighted. Oh who am I kidding? Woo Hoo! Look at me. Lionel Richie and I are dancing on the ceiling . . .

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Keep On A Mockin' Me Baby

As much as I love the internet and the "oh-so-easy" access to virtually any kind of information (and misinformation) a person wants, I sometimes miss those days of my teenage and early adult years before there was an internet.

I'm thinking about those really fun discussion and arguments over misheard lyrics. You'd be singing along to a song on the radio (or your 8-track or cassette) and your friend would stop you and say: "That's NOT what he's saying, you idiot. He's saying THIS" and he would quote what he believed were the proper lyrics. You would, of course, tell him that he was the idiot and didn't know what he was talking about.

The argument would potentially go on for months until either one of you or perhaps another friend would show up with the album (yes, the vinyl album, those lovely beautiful giant art covered albums that sometimes had a record sleeve which contained that oh so precious thing: the lyrics to the songs) and put the argument to rest. The winner (if there was one, because sometimes the lyrics were ANOTHER thing entirely) would punch the loser in the arm and dance around the room quoting from Eddie Murphy's stand-up video "Delirious" -- "I got my ice cream, you didn't get none!"

Then another song would come on the radio and a whole new argument would begin over some goofy lyrics that your friend misheard or misinterpreted.

Now don't cheat, but here are some lyrics I heard on the radio just this morning that I have ALWAYS had trouble figuring out, no matter how many times I've heard the song or rewound the tape and listened to it again and again. For some reason this one line (and the only line in the entire song, BTW) eludes me.

(Steve Miller Band - Rockin' Me)

Well, I been lookin' real hard and I'm tryin' to find a job
But it just keeps gettin' tougher every day
But I've got to do my part 'cause I know in my heart
I've got blah blah blah blah blah blah blah

Well I ain't superstitious and I don't get suspicious
'Cause my woman is a friend of mine....etc, etc

Now, c'mon, before you cheat and go google for the lyrics online somewhere, please tell me, what is old Stevie singing there? C'mon, don't wait to tell me, I've been wondering this for a couple of decades and have completely RESISTED the urge to google and look for the answer. To me, it sounds like he's saying "I've got to squeeze my blah blah blah blah yeah."

But maybe it's just me and everyone else can clearly distinguish what he's saying there -- but I'm sure you have your own favourite confusing bits of lyrics. (And yes, you're likely to go google them right now rather than have a fun argument with your best friend about it. Sigh. The internet has taken away some of the fun.)

Sunday, March 11, 2007

The Twelfth Bookshelf

This past Saturday, Francine and I finally broke down and bought another matching bookshelf for the den. Two years ago, when we first finished the basement and dedicated a single room as the computer room/writing room/library, we headed off to Zellers and bought a series of very affordable 5 shelf bookshelves and were FINALLY able to unpack all those boxes of books we'd kept under the stairs for so long. (The original bookshelf setup also included a quick trip to Home Depot where I picked up some extra wood and hardware so I could add 3 extra shelves to two of them for Mass Market paperbacks, and an additional shelf to two other ones for the extra space. And my handiwork kind of blends in quite nicely if I might add.)

We lasted a couple of years with the eight units in the basement den and the four other units in the house. Actually, we also have two smaller corner bookshelves that we got in December of 2006, but I didn't want to count them, because the title "The Twelfth Bookshelf" sounds much better than "The Fourteenth Bookshelf" and we're not stuffing these particular ones to full book capacity because they're in the living room and only have enough books on them to "look nice" rather than overwhelm. Also half of the shelves have plants or pictures or other decorative items.

And, yes, we ended up piling stacks on top of the spines of the shelved books because there wasn't room for more. That's why we finally caved in and bought a new bookshelf.

On Saturday night, Alexander helped me put the new bookshelf together. It's simply amazing at how much he not only WANTS to help but is actually ABLE to help. He helped with holding pieces of wood together for me, with tightening screws and with hammering in the nails for the back of the shelving unit. (I love the determined look on his face in the picture below as he's hammering in a nail)

He also helped raise a goosebump on my head when he was moving one of the shelves; but he did kiss it better for me.

And since I did record some of the moments of the event, I thought it'd be fun to experiment with my very first YouTube video, so I uploaded it for your viewing pleasure:



Friday, March 09, 2007

Da Count - Connecting

dacount

I know, I know, it seems like I've harped on a subject like this for several Da Counts -- but hey, people are important to me.

This past week I joined FaceBook -- yes, yet ANOTHER online community of friends and colleagues, etc, etc.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre's Facebook profile

Sometimes joining new online communities can seem like more of a chore (ie, okay, I've signed up and have to remember yet ANOTHER login and password -- oh, and now I have to fill in yet ANOTHER "about me" section with my favourite this and my favourite that, yadda yadda yadda) I mean, I think I'm a member of at least half a dozen, if not more communities and networks and message boards, most of which I rare ly log into on a regular basis. And in many ways I feel guilty when I sign on to something yet am unable to commit more time to doing the cool things that the community is a part of. (I have trouble enough visiting the countless number of really cool and awesome folks that I've met through blogging -- I mean, I love visiting and reading all the blogs listed on the right side of my nav bar, but I find myself constantly falling behind on my visits -- and get that same old: "Man, it's been so long since I've called so and so just to chat" feeling you get when you haven't written or phoned a friend in a long time)

But the cool thing about it is that, like the blogging community, Facebook has given me both additional connections to the already cool people in my life, but also has added new connections to some pretty cool folks, or re-established older connections.

And it's pretty darned cool. So, what, exactly am I counting this week? I'm counting the fact that the internet is NOT just for porn. But it's for almost countless ways of connecting with real people, with establishing new friendships, with finding things in common with people all over the world, and with staying in contact with people.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

HNT - TiT - Shrinkage


Terror in Toyland (TiT) - An HNT Adventure
by Mark Leslie



Continued from this post.

"Ow!" Mark said after the laser from Spud Trooper's gun struck him. "That stung. But I fail to see what that just accomplished. It had absolutely no effect on me."

"But it did have an effect!" Spud Trooper said. "I changed your shirt from grey to white." He started laughing. "Mwah, hah hah! Not only that, but I made you really blurry, almost as if you're now being seen through a cheap webcam rather than a high resolution digital camera."

"OhmyGod! It's true!" Mark said. "I am blurry like I'm being seen through a cheap webcam. And my shirt did change! Fix it! Fix it! It's driving me nuts!"

"I'll fix it, alright!" Spud Trooper said. And he fired another shot at Mark.

"Aw man!" Mark said. "Now that's a cheap shot!"

"We are seeking revenge!" Darth blurted out.

"No, I don't mean your laser shot. I mean the picture. It's just the same picture that was used in the last episode with a little bit of red added to it. The pictures of me might be crappy, but at least they're NEW MATERIAL!!!!"


"Stop commenting on stuff like that." Artoo said. "I hate stories in which the writer acknowledges himself and the act of writing."

"Screw you, Artoo!" Mark said. "I'm the writer and I'll do whatever I damn well please in this twisted little story."

"Aw c'mon, stop it already! Artoo said. "It's too damn Brechtian."

But Mark didn't hear it. He was too busy feeling the effect of that second cheap shot.


"Oh No!" He yelled. "I'm shriiiiiiinking......."


To Be Continued . . .



Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Abstinence Was Never An Option

I'm continually amused when I go into the closest men's washroom at McMaster. The Health and Wellness Centre creates "Reality Check" posters with regards to different lifestyle choices. In September the focus was on drinking and reminded students that a certain percentage of students chose not to drink at all, while a large percentage of students only drank 3 drinks in an evening.

Some good facts to hopefully help students keep things straight while facing numerous new life challenges often in a completely new environment.

But I still can't help but chuckle at the last series of posters aimed at sexual health:

Abstinence is always an option.

It goes on to say that 37% of McMaster students chose not to have sexual intercourse. In all seriousness, good for them. But this, of course, brings me back to my own early University days. I was one of those 37%. Of course, it wasn't really a choice. Well, it was a choice. Just not my choice. It was a choice of all the women I dated, or tried to date.

To properly encapsulate the experience of my own early University years, the statement would have to be modified to: Abstinence is your ONLY option, chump!

Speaking of abstinence, check out my buddy Mathew Growden's blog, where he has started up his own answer to Half Nekkid Thursdays. He loved the idea that Osbasso started, he just wasn't all that comfortable with stripping down. (He, of course, doesn't have quite the brilliant and sexy physique that I have -- giant middle-aged man beer belly and hairy back and all) He's calling it Fully Clothed Tuesdays. Apparently 37% of all bloggers choose to participate in FCT over HNT.

In all seriousness, I keep meaning to join in on FCT, but I keep forgetting. Go check out Mathew's site. He's a funny guy. (And if you want to blame someone for the fact that I started blogging, blame him. It's really all his fault. He forced me into it. And now I'm a blog junky, dammit) When I say the name "Mathew Growden" I still always add the following in my mind: "Purveyor of neat stuff."

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

MeMe - Fort Alexander

Welcome to another installment of, "Come ON -- tell me the WHOLE story!" AKA "I love to talk about myself", or "Me-Me Monday" for short. The object of the game is to refer to your 101 Things About Me list, pick one of your "things" and tell the whole sordid tale.


67. I've always loved digging snow tunnels and building snow forts.

One evening late last week Alexander and I played outside after doing some shoveling. He wanted to climb the giant snow piles beside the driveway (what he called "mountains") so he could slide down them. He was having trouble getting up the steep hill, so I was lifting him up. But he's a do-it-yourselfer so I started to dig steps into the snow for him.

The steps quickly deteriorated into a ramp, and then that ramp opened up a "hallway" into the mountain, and it kind of got away from itself from there. We built a few turrets at the top, then I started digging a covered room for him. He kept insisting that we build a door. When I told him it wasn't easy making doors out of snow, he looked at me like I was an idiot and said: "Need door handle."


This past weekend while we were out in the yard, we decided to expand our little snow fort. I created a separate entrance to the fort and dug a tunnel from the one entrance to the other. I also poked a thin air hole into the side of the tunnel (beside he insisted that the tunnel have a window).

When we finished the fort we wanted to put up a sign to declare it as "Fort Alexander" -- Since we're pretty good at making signs together I thought we might go inside and make one, but didn't want to put a stop to the fresh air fun we were having. So we went into the storage space in the "attic" of the garage and pulled out the Halloween decoration of a skull with a sign that says: "Do Not Enter" -- "Spooky Guy!" Alexander said, delighted, when I told him that the spooky guy would protect his fort and keep people out while we were inside the house.


On Saturday the neighbour's kids came over and they all played, having a blast helping make snow bricks out of the recycle box, crawling through the tunnel and planting stick flags in the fort. "Kids next door!" he beamed that night as he was settling down for bed. "Tunnel. Fort. " And of course: "Spooky guy."

Oh yeah, this post was supposed to be about me and my childhood passion for building snow tunnels and snow forts. Well, it was. Because when Francine and I were going to bed, I was laying there and summing up my own day. "Did you see the cool fort Alexander and I created? I hope we get more snow because I make to make it bigger. Oh man, wait until next winter, when he gets bigger. We can maybe move some snow from around the side of the house and build a big spiral staircase and three more entrances. We need a bigger yard, I think." I think Francine fell asleep after about twenty minutes of me going on like this.

I suppose I never outgrew that passion and now I have this wonderful excuse in my two-year old for going outside and building them again.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Da Count - Bumping Into Old Friends

"Make new friends, but keep the old
One is silver and the other gold"
- (Scout Song -- also attributed to a poem from Joseph Parry)

Within the past month I've bumped into a couple of old friends that I haven't seen in years. And there's always something really heartwarming about that. One friend is from my elementary and high school days back in Levack, and another from my Theatre/Lighting Designer days in at Carleton University in Ottawa.

Greg Storey and I went to school together in Levack for my entire public and high school career, we played hockey together, bruised each other playing "fight for the hill" skipped classes together in high school and generally farted around a lot. He was one of those really cool guys who always knew the right thing to say and the right thing to do. He was also extremely funny and could always be counted on for an on-the-spot quick joke and laugh. Something I always appreciated about Greg was he was friendly and amiable with everyone. I was a big nerd through high school (hell, I'm still a giant nerd, some things never change) but Greg always included me in activities that the cool kids were up to.

We parted ways after graduation and I honestly can't remember us bumping into each other since high school. We've exchanged a few emails and learned that we now live merely 40 minutes away from each other. It has been really fun to catch up on the joys and successes of this old friend.

Here's a recent picture of my old friend Greg.
(Damn I hate the fact that he has aged so well and still has lots and lots of his hair)


A few weeks ago I also bumped into an old friend from University, Sharon Klassen. We graduated the same year at Carleton (very close to each other in the grad line-up because it was funny that despite the fact I didn't know her at the time, she was in a few of the pictures of my heading up to get my diploma) -- Sharon and I met at a Sock'N'Buskin reunion function in Ottawa (I was working it as a technician and she was assisting in another area). We struck up a friendship immediately, and I'll never forget the time when I was doing lighting design for the stage play version of Lolita (Edward Albee) - Sharon had taken dozens of photos of cheesy motel signs that I'd used in the backdrop covering the travels of Humbert Humbert and Lolita. I still have the slides.

I bumped into Sharon, her husband and their cute little baby at Sears at Slimeridge Mall a few weeks ago. She teaches drama at Redeemer College right here in Hamilton. I'm looking forward to seeing some of the shows that she'll be helping to produce there in the years to come.

This week, I'd like to count BUMPING INTO OLD FRIENDS -- new friends, old friends, and bumping into old friends you haven't seen in many years. All things that make a person much much richer.

dacount

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Email Issues & Revised Website

I think that I've finally resolved the confusing (at least to me) issues that I've been having with my mark (at) markleslie.ca email address.

I've been using that email address ever since purchasing the domain www.markleslie.ca, but I was having my emails forwarded to my gmail account lefebvre.markleslie (at) gmail.com. It worked beautifully.

A few days ago I started playing around with Google Aps web services, creating a much prettier home page, I changed the forwarding of users from the site I'd stored on my AOL ftp space to the newly revamped Google pages. Unfortunately that affected the auto forwarding properties of my emails, so for about maybe 30 hours or so emails to mark (at) markleslie.ca were bouncing back. D'oh! It appears that I have all the DNS services set up properly. Finally.

The Google Page templates, etc aren't nearly as flexible in terms of customization as the ones offered by Blogger (or maybe I just haven't learned enough of a way to work around or with the environment there yet) -- but it's still way easier to maintain a site using this format. Historically, I had to create the different pages for my site manually and upload them rather than just edit them online. I found it took my way too long so rather than update my site, I just let it stagnate.

Of course, I'm far from an expert at web design but I think I'm on the right track.

You
be the judge -- my old, manually created page is still here. The new page, which I think is easier to navigate and less cluttered looking is at www.markleslie.ca). No seriously, I'm curious at to what people think. Please feel free to leave comments about it.

HNT - Fat Lip

Okay, so here's a really flattering picture of me.

The other evening, Alexander and I were going down the stations "bums" fashion. It's one of those favourite activities of his, where, when we're at the top of the stairs, he yells out "bums" and we both immediately sit and race down the stairs on our bums. At the bottom he yells out "pile on" and there's a big mess of arms, legs and bums.

After losing yet another bum race to him, I was laughing with him at the bottom. He was sitting on the step immediately below me and suddenly (is there any other word to describe the way 2 year olds do things than "suddenly" and "unexpectedly"?) he jumped up and the top of his head connected with my mouth, pushing a top incisor through my bottom lip.

So there we sat, him crying, me trying to console him while also trying not to bleed all over him.

Francine came downstairs, tended to our wounds and put a stop to the whole "bums" race game. Sigh.


For those of you here for the continuing Darth Tater saga, it should be back next week.

For those of you wondering what the heck Half Nekkid Thursday is
click the image below to visit Os and learn all about it