Friday, February 29, 2008

Da Count - Da Dance Of Joy

Does anyone remember the phrase "Now we are so happy, we do the dance of joy"?

If so, then, like me, you were likely a fan of the late 80's/early 90's television sitcom Perfect Strangers. This sitcom, which fell off of most people's radar rather quickly, is one of my absolute favourites. For years I have been waiting for there to be a release of that show on DVD -- I constantly scanned through online video retailer listings, continually dropped into video specialty retailers asking the question: "Is there any sign of a DVD for the Perfect Strangers television series?" and finally, in Feb 2008, my years of waiting are over.

My copy of Perfect Strangers, Seasons 1 & 2 on DVD arrived a few weeks ago. I was so happy that I did the "dance of joy." Sure, the DVD comes without all the bells and whistles of special features that normally accompany DVDs -- but who cares? I have the first two seasons of my two favourite cousins on DVD. Woo hoo!

Despite the show having been off the air for over 10 years, I still make reference to it or quote from it quite regularly, having liberated many of Balki and Larry's timeless quotes into my own regularly used phrases.

That was, of course, one of the things I loved about the show. The brilliantly scripted and masterfully performed dialogue were matched only by a unique slapstick choreography that has to be among the tightest, most difficult to ever be pulled off on a "studio audience" stage. In terms of the actors, I think the casting was perfect, with both Bronson Pinchot and Mark Linn-Baker offering thorough characterizations right down to the most subtle of facial expressions. There were elements of Abbott & Costello (confusingly intelligent and funny dialogue), Laurel & Hardy (slapstick) and The Odd Couple (two mismatched men sharing an apartment) that made the show great.

Balki's dialogue, which regularly included misquoted common English/Western Culture phrases are a key highlight of the show and I still marvel at the sheer brilliance and subtly of some of them. Sure, most people remember his key catch phrase of "Of course [not/I am/I do] don't be ridiculous!" - but I also quite love his "Where do I come up with them!" (when he makes a particularly awful moaner of a joke), his "Get out of the city!" (more accurately misquoting the "get out of town" phrase, given that they did live in Chicago and not a town) -- but then there are many of the moments of intelligent humour that I still fondly remember such as:

Larry: [makes a statement about trying to maintain at least a modicum of dignity in an embarassing situation]
Balki: Cousin, you've got modicums you don't know about!


Balki: [referring to the fact that they're both wearing identical tuxedos] But if we dress alike, how will people tell us apart?
Larry: Dental records.


Balki: What band are we going to see?
Larry: Chicago
Balki: I know we're in Chicago. What band is it?
Larry: Chicago
Balki: Yes, I know that's where we are. What band are we seeing
Larry: The Beatles.

I often wonder why I loved the show so much (I mean, apart from the silly antics, great dialogue and fantastic physical humour) - part of it, I think, was the show's sensibility and compassion. Despite their character differences and having unique outlooks on things, Larry and Balki stuck together and cared for each other. Many of the shows involved Balki's innocent take on things, his belief in the goodness of people or doing the right thing. One of my favourite lessons he offered (when referring to Larry's relationship with his sister in one episode) was that if you had something "in here" (touching his heart) what was the point of keeping it to yourself and not sharing it. Balki often helped bring that compassion and simplistic sense of goodness in a way not often seen on sitcoms. In much the same way that I appreciated and learned from Peter Parker's sense of responsibility through reading Spider-Man comic books, I also appreciated and was inspired by Balki's ability to find good in everyone and appreciate the simple pleasures of life.

Francine has pointed out to me (I'm making her watch the newly bought DVD) that Larry and Balki were giant nerds. I think part of me liked the show so much because of that. Yes, they're nerds. Just like me and my best friend John Ellis -- who talked me into watching the show all those years ago. He came to school one day and was talking about this funny quirky show about some foreign guy who moves in with his cousin. I said it sounded stupid. He said to just watch it. I did. I loved it. I was hooked. And over the years John and I continued to riff on tons of references from Perfect Strangers.Thanks, John. (Or should I say, "Thanks, cousin!") Even when I made a musical montage of video clips for a friend of our quartet of friends (John, me, Steve and Pete - four certified nerds - the friend was Steve's cousin Vicky who'd visited with us several times over the years), I used the Perfect Strangers theme song and inserted ourselves and names into the "opening credit" sequence.

John and I, who, like Larry and Balki, got married within the same stretch of a 6 month period, also actually ended up doing the "dance of joy" (seen in the YouTube video clip below) on my wedding day. I seem to remember our wives rolling their eyes and shaking their heads.

As you can likely tell, I can talk about this show virtually endlessly. And now, watching these episodes on DVD, I still get a fun chill whenever I hear the Perfect Strangers theme song -- there's only one or perhaps two other theme songs that give me that same exciting emotional lift. (Those would be the "Cheers" theme - "Where Everybody Knows Your Name" and the theme from Mash "Suicide is Painless")

So to end this count, here's the Perfect Strangers Theme song "Nothing's Gonna Stop Me Now" (lyrics by Jesse Frederick and Bennett Salvay)

Sometimes the world looks perfect,
Nothing to rearrange.
Sometimes you just get a feeling
Like you need some kind of change.
No matter what the odds are this time,
Nothing's going to stand in my way.
This flame in my heart,
And a long lost friend
Gives every dark street a light at the end.

Standing tall, on the wings of my dream.
Rise and fall, on the wings of my dream.

The rain and thunder
The wind and haze
I'm bound for better days.
It's my life and my dream,
Nothing's gonna stop me now.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

HNT - Punching Bag Leslie

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

Continued from this post

"Get up, fool." Farmer Jones said to Mark. "I pity the fool that messes with me."

Slowly getting to his feet, Mark said. "You pity the fool? Who the hell do you think you, are? Mr. T?"

"Shut up, fool!" Farmer Jones shouted and took his first swing at Mark and punched him in the face. POW!

"Oooof!" Mark said.

"What was that?" Farmer Jones said, winding up again and punching Mark in the gut so hard it lifted him off the ground.

"Oooooooooof!" Mark said again.

"I thought that's what you said," Farmer Jones said, laughing. "And now, I'll finish you off, fool."

To be continued . . .

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Roll Up The Rim To Kill A Tree

Yesterday morning I took my environmentally friendly reusable coffee mug, the nice black one I'd gotten from the Dalhousie University bookstore back in November, up to the Tim Hortons in the student center of McMaster.

Pleased with myself that I'd remembered to retrieve the reusable cup -- not just because it would save me ten cents off the purchase of my coffee, but also knowing that I would not be contributing another coffee cup to environmental waste -- I got into line and noticed that it was Roll Up The Rim To Win time again at Tim Hortons.

I needn't explain this phenomenal to any Canadians out there -- at least not to any Canadians who haven't been living in a cave, or under a rock for the past twenty years -- but to my foreign readers, "Roll up the rim to win" is a campaign run by Tim Hortons where there are a number of big ticket and thousands of "free coffee" and "free donut" prizes and countless number of "PLEASE TRY AGAINS" hidden under the rim.

Of course, my selfish nature immediately took over. After all, I didn't want to miss out on a chance to win a new Toyota, expensive speedboat or one of thousands of reloadable gift cards.

So, I abandoned my environmentally friendly intension, and bought an extra large double double in one of the "Roll up the Rim" disposable coffee cups.

I didn't win. Neither did the environment.

Don't get me wrong -- I'm a HUGE fan of Tim Hortons. Given a choice, I'll pick their coffee over any other, hands down. (Like many other Canadians, I have a bizarre addiction to it) But I wish that they would come up with some sort of way for people to participate in their "Roll up the Rim to win" contest WITHOUT having to throw away an entire cup. Perhaps a really tiny tear open 100% recycleable card no bigger than a business card? I know, I know, it defeats the whole purpose and the catchy marketing phrase that rolls off the tongues of Canadians quite wonderfully. But you've got to think SOMETHING could be done to keep a fun contest AND reduce the waste.

For example, I'd love to see an ongoing year-round marketing campaign where people who buy a Timmies coffee using any sort of reusable coffee mug (saving Tim's money AND helping the enviroment) automatically get entered in a draw to win some fun prizes. Without wasting paper, it could be administered as simple as swiping one of the environmentally friendly "Quickpay" reloadable Tim Hortons gift cards that have replaced the paper gift certificates (especially since you can register your gift card online). Just a thought, and perhaps not the craziest idea that has been tossed out.

For fun (and with a note about reducing waste), I found the following video a web site entitled How To Roll Up The Rim and support the environment. It's cute and does pay attention to the "please don't litter" concept that I'm sad to see violated way too often by people far too intelligent and who should know better. They also link to Tree Canada where you can get more information about doing your part for the trees.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Freedom To Read Week

Feb 24 to March 1st 2008 is Freedom to Read Week in Canada. It's important that we don't forget the many freedoms and liberties that we often take for granted living in country where we are allowed to choose what we read, hear and see.

Freedom to Read Week 2008

But rather than re-hash the important statement, I'm going to quote from the Freedom to Read website:

The Book and Periodical Council encourages all Canadians to read challenged books and magazines during Freedom to Read Week (FTRW).

"Canadians often take our freedom to read for granted, but it's a right that regularly comes under fire," says Emily Sinkins, Chair of the Freedom of Expression Committee. "Whenever books are removed from school library shelves or journalists are silenced by the threat of legal action, we're reminded how important it is to fight for the free exchange of ideas between writers and readers."

During Freedom to Read Week, the BPC urges Canadians to use their right to choose what they read and to celebrate Canadians who fight to protect that right from would-be censors.

Check out a list of "challenged" books by clicking here.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Da Count - Counting Inventory

Every year, during "spring break" or "reading week" we conduct an annual inventory count. We pick that week because it's one of those times with the least amount of student traffic during the school year and there is less impact on students when we close "The Tank" (our main textbook location) for a few days, followed by two days of our Health Sciences bookstore, then two or three days at Titles, the main, and largest, bookstore.

Given the long, grueling hours of the boring, repetitive task of counting, I'd like to pause for a moment and count the good things about doing inventory:

1) It gets me out of meetings
2) It allows us to, at least for one day, reset our inventory values to be a bit closer to accurate
3) I can wear jeans and a t-shirt
4) I get a chance to actually physically be close to books and be more familiar with our stock than at any other time of the year
5) I usually get to know one or more fellow employees a bit better during inventory
6) Getting in to work at 7:15 AM and leaving at 10 PM means I don't have to contend with rush hour traffic
7) Doing "mindless" tasks is a great way to think about other projects, brainstorm, allow one's mind to solve problems that sometimes don't come to you when you focus on them
8) My silly jokes and goofy comments are often appreciated more by my tired and giddy colleagues (or perhaps they're just too exhausted to throw things at me when I make them)
9) The whole business of inventory is an entire change of pace from the typical day -- and changing things up is refreshing and good. Or is it "Change is bad - trust no one"? I can't remember.
10) At least we only have to do this once per year.


Thursday, February 21, 2008

HNT - Closed For Inventory

The title says it all. This week at work has so far involved two 14 hour days counting inventory at two of our locations. With the counting of our largest location starting this morning, those 14 hours are likely to stretch into 16 or 18 hours for the next two days . . . wish me luck.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Gotta Love The Public Lending Right Commission

The other day I received a cheque from The Public Lending Right Commission (AKA PLR Commision) for a period of time in 2007.

When I first saw the envelope in my mailbox my heart dropped a little. It was some sort of government form, and those typically don't bring good news. The last government form received was a notification that I'd made an error in filling out one of the forms on Francine's income tax last year, and we owed them more money.

I'd completely forgotten about what this great entity was. The PLR Commission distributes annual payments to Canadian authors for the presence of their books in Canadian public libraries. These payments represent compensation for the free access Canadians enjoy to Canadian literature.

The PLR Commission electronically samples the holdings of selected public libraries across Canada.

Because my book One Hand Screaming was found in 3 of the 7 library systems sampled, I received a cheque that was actually greater than any other single royalty payment I received in 2007.

Gotta love that. Gotta love The Public Lending Right Commission.

Unlike Access copyright, they actually work hard to get the money back into author hands. (Read the arts technica article on the report entitled "Authors get short end of copyright collective stick" or Michael Geist's blog article entitled "Independent report blasts Access Copyright Over Lack of Transparency" for more information on that matter)

But back to the good people who make up The PLR Commission. If you're a Canadian author with a book of poetry, fiction, drama, children's literature, nonfiction of scholarly work, you really should check them out to see if your work is eligible.

It doesn't take long to fill out the forms and submit the required information. In my case, it was definitely time well invested.

Monday, February 18, 2008

New Story: Active Reader

I've had a new short story go up online recently. You can read the entire story for free online.

It's a short contemporary horror tale about a disturbed young man who works as a bookseller. No, no, no, you've got the wrong idea. It's entirely fiction and has nothing to do with yours truly -- except for the bookseller part of it. Okay, and the disturbed part, too. But I don't think I'd be mistaken for a young man any longer.

The story is called Active Reader and appears in the second edition of the online ezine Dissections: The Journal of Contemporary Horror. Dissections is an international horror and dark fantasy e-journal that provides an opportunity for academics, critics and creative writers and artists to publish alongside each other.

I thought this would be the perfect place to premier Active Reader. The story follows the twisted activities of a bookstore manager who uses the discount loyalty card program for his own disturbing needs. The name of the book club card was inspired by the then called "Avid Reader" loyalty card the company I worked for at the time was promoting. I just couldn't resist playing on that name for my story which is a bit of a cautionary tale about membership cards and customer tracking programs.

Throughout the story I purposely injected references to various different magazines that my stories have appeared in over the years; I also managed to plant a few references to the titles of some of my stories in the tale. (I've always been a fan of hiding stuff in my writing for people to discover) I also featured my good friend Carol Weekes as one of the brilliant horror authors that my main character "collects" -- creating a fictitious story collection of hers for the purposes of my plot, but also managing to build in a plug for "Walter's Crossing" -- her first published novel. (This story was originally written several years before Carol sold that novel to a publisher and I'll gladly hand-sell any one of Carol's pieces of writing at any time -- she is simply that talented a writer)

Click here to read Active Reader. It's less than 2000 words long. But do be warned -- it does contain a tiny bit of graphic violence and a scene that might be disturbing to some readers.

If you do read it, by all means, please leave a comment here or email me [mark (at) markleslie (dot) ca] to let me know what you think.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Debbie Does Reality

Francine and I were flipped around the tube the other night, not sure what we were going to watch, when we stumbled upon a program on Showcase called "Debbie Does Dallas . . . (Again). "

Yes, it was referring to that classic porn movie from 1978 called Debbie Does Dallas.

Apparently, it's a reality series following director Paul "PT" Thomas as he works with a group of porn actors, all of whom want the coveted role of "Debbie" in the film in a re-make of that classic porn flick.

It wasn't quite as riveting as some reality shows can be, but it was amusing to see a reality program based on the making of a porn film. Having seen a bit of the behind the scenes of the making of this movie, I don't think they're being true to the original 1978 classic -- it looks like they're taking the modern version of "Debbie" in an entirely new direction.

We watched it for about fifteen minutes and had to admit it was slightly more interesting than this season's version of Trump's ongoing Apprentice reality series "The Celebrity Apprentice."

Friday, February 15, 2008

Da Count - Fort Alexander 2008

Every year, Alexander and I enjoy creating "Fort Alexander" in our front yard. That's why, whenever we actually get snow around these parts, I'm beside myself with joy.

You see, I might have physically gotten older, but I've never outgrown my passion for making snow forts and snow tunnels.

So the fact that Alexander loves to play outside in the snow and loves digging forts and tunnels allows me to recapture that simple joy from my childhood.

There is, of course, an art to building snow forts. For example, you can't just build a snow tunnel the moment after shoveling. You usually have to let it sit for 24 hours. A good rule of thumb is you want the snow to compress and slightly melt in the afternoon sun of one day, then settle and compact together in the overnight cold. So usually, by the second day, your snow is compacted enough to build some semi-decent shapes in it that don't just crumble.

The exception, of course, would be snow that is packed down from a snow blower. Usually within an hour of my Dad having blown the snow at our house in Levack when I was a kid -- and these were often six or seven foot high piles of snow, tightly packed down -- I was able to dig my tunnels through snow that didn't immediately collapse. When I was a kid, I remember digging an entire series of connected tunnels and rooms. And I just couldn't get enough out of playing outside in the snow.

It makes me worry tremendously for kids these days -- I rarely see many other kids playing outside in the snow in our neighbourhood -- perhaps it's the climate we live in. Hamilton doesn't get a proper winter, not like the proper winter that Sudbury or Ottawa get. So perhaps the kids simply aren't used to the occasional snowfall that seems to send the entire city here in a tizzy. Perhaps, like their parents, they rush inside to hide from that strange white stuff falling from the sky, and dream of those hot summer days. Not me! I like my seasons diverse! Bring on winter! Bring on spring! Bring on summer! Bring on fall! Make each as intense as they come and I'm a happy little person.

With the really nasty COLD snap we had earlier this week, the snow refroze and settled to such an extent that it was extremely hard and crusty -- and yes, when I got home from work, despite the freezing temperatures, Alexander was raring to get out there and play in the snow yet again. So I was able to actually carve properly shaped stairways into the snow fort. We ended up creating 3 stairways in and out of the fort (2 from the outside up to the top rim, and one spiral-shaped stairway down into it) Of course, the fort also has a slide to get into it, and Alexander delights in just crash landing in whatever way he'd like.

So, if it isn't already obvious, this week I'm counting the fun I'm able to have with Alexander working on his snow fort. And the fact that he's still young enough to want to let me play with him while building this make-believe fortress of solitude in our front yard. I'm pretty sure a day will come when I'm out there building Fort Alexander in the front yard (perhaps Fort Alexander 2018, when my son is thirteen years old) and he'll walk by the driveway on his way to the mall to meet his friends, carefully averting his eyes so as not to make eye contact with his crazy old man. But for now. Vive La Snow! Vive Fort Alexander!


Thursday, February 14, 2008

HNT - I Heart Valentine's Day

Themed boxers. Gotta love them.

And gotta love my wife, Francine, who always makes sure I have fun themed boxers for almost every occasion. In fact, I have no less than 4 different pairs of Valentine-themed boxer shorts. I was debating posing in the red heart pair or my "Homer - Irresistible" boxers. But Os's theme of RED HNT won, since there's simply more red in this pair.

Happy HNT!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008


Yesterday morning, while moving through the pitch dark bedroom to kiss my wife goodbye before I headed off to work, I misjudged where I was walking and slammed my foot into the wooden trunk at the end of our bed.

Wooden trunk: 1
Mark's toe: 0

Not one of my smartest moves, but it certainly smarts.

I don't think I actually broke the toe, which was throbbing all day yesterday, but I must have come close, because bending it or even touching it provides a nasty jolt of pain. This morning the swelling and the coloration has come down quite a bit, the most interesting combination of black, purple and red that I've sported in a long, long time. I should have taken a picture of it yesterday when the colours were more spectacular, because the blurry shot I took this morning just doesn't do it justice. But then again, I'm quite happy to never have to see those bruise-inspired colours again.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

I'll Drink To That

I bought a bottle of 16 year old Lagavulin single malt scotch this weekend and enjoyed its hearty smoky and peaty flavour, all the while shaking my head and uttering under my breath: "Thanks, Terry."

You see, I blame Terry Fallis, author of The Best Laid Plans for this newly acquired favourite drink. Or, more properly, I blame Terry's character, Angus McLintock, who regularly sipped Lavavulin in his novel, for creating in me the desire to try this scotch out.

Prior to Terry, I had Neil Peart to thank for inspiring me to seek out The Macallan after reading about it in one of his travel biographies (Ghost Rider: Travels on the Healing Road).

And years before being inspired by Terry and Neil, I was a Glenfiddich drinker and had been since my first gig as a lightning designer back at Sock'N'Buskin theatre company. I had designed the lights for Edward Albee's Lolita, and on opening night the director presented me with a bottle of it saying: "Lighting designers drink scotch." Up until that point, beer was my drink of choice -- but when I don't feel like a beer, I now turn to scotch.

I'll regularly drink scotch while writing in the late evening -- for a few main reasons. First, because drinking coffee late at night is not a good idea -- it'll simply keep me even more wired than writing makes me and I'll not get a wink of sleep when I finally turn in. Second, because I can sip it slowly and enjoy the taste and experience -- as opposed to the manner in which I very vigorously kill bottle after bottle of beer without evening noticing it; whenever I do that, I end up having too much beer and my writing gets progressively worse.

Perhaps I'm a bit too suggestive -- but I like to think that there's something special in the manner of the authors I am reading that intrigue me enough to check out a new product that inspire me to try a new drink.

Last year, when I was reading Denis Hamill's Fork in the Road I could not get the thought of having a Guinness out of my mind. And when it came to beer drinking, I hadn't tried a dark beer like Guinness in years, never actually liking it, always being more of an ale or lager drinker. However, after reading that novel, I plunged into Guinness on tap the first chance I could get, and paused to enjoy the full flavour of it -- and thanks to Denis Hamill, I now regularly enjoy Guinness as well as other richer, full bodied stouts.

But before I come off sounding like I have a drinking problem, there have also been food motivations and inspirations from books that I've read.

For example, I'll always associate reading Patricia Cornwell's Kay Scarpetta mysteries with the desire to enjoy Italian food. Regularly in the first half dozen or so of her novels, she would spend time showing her main character Kay Scarpetta fixing up some fantastic Italian dish, practically making my mouth water. In fact, I'm pretty sure she also put out a short mystery tale/cookbook one Christmas, featuring characters from her Scarpetta mysteries at a dinner party alongside some Scarpetta-inspired recipes.

And I've never been so hungry as the time I was reading Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath. So much of the novel was concerned with finding and preparing meals that I remember always feeling famished while reading the novel. Evidence, perhaps, of Steinbeck's masterful skill as a writer. (Of course, I was a student at the time, and part of the fixation on food might have had a bit to do with that as well)

Monday, February 11, 2008

Podcast With A Cliffhanger

Episode 6 of the "Getting Published with Mark Leslie" reality series on The Writing Show was posted late last week. The series has centered on my attempt to complete work on the first draft of a novel I'm calling A Canadian Werewolf in New York (or ACWWINY for short).

The series has followed me through painful sidetrack after painful sidetrack, with me barely inching forward on completion of the novel as I take various tangents on different writing projects.

For example, with Episode Six, we learn how my submission of the novelization of "I, Death" to Leisure Books went, about the sci-fi anthology I edited (North of Infinity II) becoming remaindered and what that means for the authors and the frustrating state of the price of books in Canada. There is another fine critique by Writing Show guest host (and my unpaid editor) Mick Halpin, and finally, there is a bit of a cliffhanger ending, as Mick Halpin throws down the gauntlet and challenges me to bolt for the finish of my first draft.

I respond, of course, by accepting his challenge and offering Mick a challenge of my own. All good fun and an interesting half hour episode if I do say so myself.

One of the things I am most impressed with about the episode, of course, is the editing job that was done. While the editing of each episode is always done wonderfully, it's more apparent to me in this episode because, afflicted with a nasty cold (which you can hear in my voice in the interview), I had to regularly pause and turn off my mic while having a coughing fit. Occasionally, the coughing fit overtook me before I had a chance to turn the mic off -- but you can't tell listening to the episode -- nor can you tell when, in the middle of the interview Paula got bombarded with an instant message ping at the same time while my son Alexander burst into the room and distracted me. Nope, the editing was solid and all those rough parts were nicely clipped out.

Perfect editing, a great conversation with Paula, and a fun challenge from Mick that is forcing me to plant butt in chair and get cracking on this novel. In all, lots of fun.

You can download and listen to the interview by clicking here.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

A Rush Of A Flush

Francine, Alexander and I just got back from a couple of days at Great Wolf Lodge, an incredible indoor water theme park in Niagara Falls. We were celebrating Francine's birthday and thought we'd do it with a water theme, since Francine is part fish.

We had a blast checking out the many different water slides, the wave pool, the splashy fort and the other water-themed play areas. Grand fun was had by all.

But I have to admit the most intriguing time I had was when I rode on The Vortex -- a tube ride that starts off in complete darkness, with a sudden and steep drop that throws you into a giant round bowl of water, where you spin around and around, waiting for it to eventually suck you into the giant hole in the middle and down another steep chute and into the pool below.

The coolest thing about The Vortex was that it felt like I was riding in a giant toilet bowl . . . hilarious. As I was circling, I kept imagining this giant hairy butt hovering above me, and that's what kept the ride scary.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

HNT - Rerun Time

Busy, busy, busy. Lots going on, lots to do. And yet, another Thursday has arrived and here I find myself without a new picture to post for Half Nekkid Thursday. Worse than that, I haven't done anything for the "Terror in Toyland" storyline (although I do have about half a dozen shots ready to be modified via Photoshop, I haven't had any time to work on putting them together).

But I just can't bear the thought of not posting something for HNT.

So I pull out from the archives, one of my favourite HNT pics -- a picture of me unmasking Darth Tater (and of course the shot that kind of got that whole "toys attack Mark" storyline thing going - so you can blame this picture for all that nonsense)

There are a few things I really like about this picture. First, I took it -- by placing the camera on my desk, angling it at me and hoping I was framed in the shot, used the index finger on my left hand to snap it -- the framing worked out quite nicely, and I particularly like the fact that I've got almost all of Darth's head in the shot (for recognition of the iconic figure from Star Wars), the mask nicely off to the side. Second, I like the expression on my face. I was hoping to go for a more startled/shocked look for humour effect, but I like the way my expression turned out. Third, the background perfectly captures who I am. There's the sketch of the skull that Francine's Grandmother drew, a calendar of pictures of Alexander, my skull Yorick and, of course, my nerdy library in the background, complete with the messy piles of books that define my chaotic organization style. (It's interesting to note that since this picture was taken a couple of years ago, the number of bookshelf units in the den has grown by two, completely covering the wall behind me to my right)

I like this shot so much I also recently sent it to Paula B, host of The Writing Show podcast, to use as the accompanying author shot in the most recent episode of "Getting Publishing With Mark Leslie" that we recorded last week and which is going to appear on the website shortly.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Nice Signal, Buddy!

One of my pet peeves involves people who don't use their turn signals while driving. It's a simple thing, really, flicking this tiny little switch on the side of your steering column that helps inform other drivers of your intent to maneuver your vehicle in a particular direction. In some cases, the use of this luxury device installed on all motor vehicles could potentially help prevent misunderstandings and possibly traffic accidents.

Of course, with the complete lack of manners or simple courtesy in today's society, putting all of the incredible effort required into signaling your turn is obviously a huge waste of a person's precious, self-important time.

While driving I often comment aloud about the other drivers, particularly when I observe boorish behaviour.

It should have been no surprise then, to hear Alexander pipe up from the back seat a few weeks ago while we were driving, and in a very loud voice, shout out: "Nice signal, BUD EEE!" This fun little phrase has since become the mantra of many of our father/son drives. Another common one is yelling out "YOU'RE WELCOME!" after politely letting someone pull into the lane in front of us and not even getting a simple wave in response from that driver. (Of course, I only ever offer that courtesy to people who are signaling that they want to move into my lane -- no signal, no courtesy from this driver. I do have to draw the line somewhere)

Monday, February 04, 2008

Alternative Fun For Snow Days

During the snow day we had on Friday (A big snow storm blew through town depositing a wonderful blanket of snow all over, and, of course, causing all kinds of school boards, community centers, etc to close down for the day) I'm noting, of course, that in the two other places where I have lived (Ottawa and Sudbury) a snow storm like this would barely have even made the news. It's all relative, and the simple fact is that people in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton area simply are not winter savy, at least in my experience.

Alexander and I enjoyed shoveling the snow several times on Friday as well as early Saturday -- I made sure to take care and move ALL of the snow from the driveway and sidewalk in front of my house into one spot on our front lawn -- the goal, of course, was the great as big a snow pile as possible so that we could create one very massive snow fort.

On Saturday and Sunday we made a cool new snowman to guard our back deck from monsters and in the front yard created a new version of Fort Alexander, complete with two stairways, three tunnels and a hallway.

But it made me wonder, since my family seems to be the exception to actually enjoying being outside in actual winter weather, what we might have done instead of playing outside. Here's a list of alternative ways I might have had fun during a nasty snow storm:

  • Pick up Calvin & Hobbes books and search out all of the "snow" themed cartoons - particularly the ones featuring Calvin making bizarre and hilarious snow art.
  • Call up a series of paving companies and ask them what they would charge to do my driveway today - record the phone calls and post them online.
  • Make up signs that say "Repent Sinners. The sky is falling" and head to the nearest open shopping mall and march around inside one of the entrances.
  • Head out to a local hardward store as early as possible, buy up every single shovel, then stand near the empty shovel section and laugh at all those people who didn't plan ahead
  • Run around in the driveway with a hair dryer trying to melt as much of the snow as possible before it hits the ground (note: long extension chord required for this)
  • Call local news media (newspapers, radio and television) and inform them that your driveway and home are now officially closed to visitors due to inclement weather.

What are some other fun alternative things you can do to amuse yourself during a snow storm?

Friday, February 01, 2008

Da Count - Snow Days

I love my job, and I enjoy working. Yes, I'm one of THOSE annoying people. Damn, it sure makes life easier when you don't have to painfully drag yourself to work every single day, but instead look forward to it. I'm lucky that way, because the core of my job involves the selling of books. Something I can be truly passionate about.

That being said, today McMaster University is closed due to "inclement" weather -- in other words, it's a . . .


WOO!!! HOO!!!

Something I love even more than my job is spending time with my family. Francine and I are going to enjoy a cozy morning of relaxing, reading the newspaper, having coffee and a relaxing breakfast. Then, later on Alexander and I will be taking one of likely half a dozen trips outside to shovel the snow (one of his favourite things to do -- of course, once the snow is piled high enough, we'll get to rebuild the usual "Fort Alexander" snow fort that we like creating -- based on the 15 to 20 centimeters we're expecting, we'll likely be able to do something like that)

(Cartoon image from Bill Waterson's Calvin & Hobbes)

So this week's count is being able to enjoy the actual winter weather we're supposed to be getting, and, of course, getting more fun family time to enjoy it.