Friday, 26 December 2003

A Notice to All and Sundry

Notice: as I have received nothing whatsoever but chocolate for Christmas, I will no longer be accepting gifts of any kind of chocolate for some time. (Note the miniature chocolate computer on the left) I have approximately 6 months worth of chocolate to get through, and as I am trying to cut down, I will be devouring it at my leisure.
Please consider the vast numbers of non-chocolate items that can be readily purchased in your locals centres of commerce and consider making me gifts of some of the wide assortment of other things for sale of a non-chocolate nature.

Saturday, 20 December 2003

Off For Two Weeks

Once my time filling in for a teacher at the Adult high school was up, I did some fill-in work on a day-by-day basis at various programs for troubled children and youth. I, for instance, supervised the twelve-year-olds whose mothers had sent them to school with their cigarettes and a permission form for them to smoke. I led them outside, where they (on Thursday, after an entire morning spent not doing their math) began to do the calculations for who would need how much booze on Friday. They had the ideal place not to get caught drinking underage (the eldest was 13): right behind the sewage treatment plant.
Eventually, I got hired as an "Instructional Assistant" for the rest of the year at a different "Adult" high school in the next town over, teaching people (some of them juvenile delinquents, some of them ladies in their 60s, who hold the mouse sideways and open a new instance of Word every time they look back at the screen after chatting with someone, and then can't find their original work) to use Microsoft Office. Some of the local scholars can be seen giving a friendly bird to the camera.
Had the school Christmas party. I can be seen here with the guitar. Now we are all off for two weeks at Christmas. Because I am technically a Temporary Instructional Assistant (though the reality is that I teach full-time and will until the end of the year), I won't be paid for the second half of December. Ha, bum hug.

Monday, 8 December 2003

" 'Tis The Season... "

I've been hearing that phrase around an awful lot lately, usually without the ellipses or anything to make it a complete thought. For me personally, it seems "'tis the season for a huge buck to run full tilt into the side of my car while I was driving, caving in my front fender."

Friday, 5 December 2003

more niceness and also something else

Finally got over to my folks' house for birthday supper belated by nearly a month. I ate way too much pot roast (roast beef with the carrots and potatoes cooked right in with the meat so the flavours mix together) and then chocolate cake.
There's a whole lot more going on in the lives of people around us than anyone can handle. Not many people are currently confiding in me, which is unusual. Some suffer in silence and others seem to get deadened to the bad stuff in their life and just endure it as if it were inevitable or normal. Some are kids.
Who here had a happy childhood? Didn't think so. When I was 15, we were asked to draw pictures of ourselves in art class. I attach the one I drew of myself back then:

Monday, 3 November 2003

A non-Band Practice

What we did today was, a bunch of us all got together and worked on each other's songs with no focus on an immediate gig or who was in what instrumental roles. We were freely switching instruments, and generally playing songs by three different people who have never played in the same band before. At one point I was sitting on the floor cross-legged in front of a keyboard, feeling like Schroeder, playing left-handed keyboard while singing harmony vocals and shaking an egg shaker, feeling like I was contributing something. It was fun. My brother-in-law and sister have moved back to town, so we can practice music together. Laying aside dreams of being stars and having huge gigs really seems to help us get places with putting together some songs with everybody helping out.

Thursday, 25 September 2003

How September's Looking

So my car died and my sister had a miscarriage and I didn't get a job to start the school year. I trusted that it wouldn't be all bad, though, and the first Friday of the first week of school, I got called for a 4 week fill-in job. Only 4 weeks isn't good, but 4 weeks of work at full teacher pay is badly needed. It's an "Adult Alternative High School" which means kids who dropped out of the normal system paying money to come in and work fairly independently on lessons to get high school diplomas. Almost all of the girls (15 and up) are pregnant or new mothers. At ten minutes to each hour, pretty much every student (all but maybe 3 of 30) goes out for a smoke. Extremely pregnant 15-year-olds smoking in low-cut tops and push up bras and sweatpants stretched drum-tight that say "Naughty" across the butt is starting to look normal and everyday to me. There are a lot of gauged ears, piercings and tattoos of all sorts, including several people with tattoos across their throats and up and down their necks. There's a lot of talk about visits from lawyers, police, abusive ex-boyfriends, parole officers and welfare people. Girls are scared that they'll be thought "bad mothers" and argue about who is a bad mother. I'm teaching a lesbian woman who my father taught in Grade 5 ten years ago. I'm teaching kids who are struggling with following the rules and jumping through the hoops to pass Grade 12 English, who write plays and poetry in their spare time and read John Irving for fun. I'm trying to get 18 year olds with kids named after Greek gods to read two pages of newspaper article and answer the questions, and they get bored and go back to reading "The Fellowship of the Ring" under the table, which they're halfway through. I'm liking it far more than I thought. In high school, I never heard the words "Can I PLEASE get the other books so I can do more work now?!"

Tuesday, 2 September 2003

A Good Weekend With Not Nearly Enough Names to Go Around

Saturday was Dave's birthday. Bill and I drove to my Dad's house and worked on the garage roof for an hour or two, then went to Kingston for Dave's party. Dave's sister has started selling Tupperware, so the party was in the form of a Tupperware demonstration, with Tupperware products being used to make salsa (which we ate with corn chips), chicken with rice, and chocolate cake, all using only using the microwave and Tupperware stuff. Dave's friend Dave was there. Dave's friend Dave hosts stand-up comedy nights at the "Time To Laugh" comedy club in Kingston, so we hung out with him, then went to the show.
All the comedians we saw were hilarious, which came as a bit of a shock. While hosting, Dave asked "Who has a birthday today?" and one lady put up her hand. He asked what she'd gotten for her birthday and she said "A facial!" He turned pink, then said "Just when I was trying not to get too dirty... A FACIAL? What else? A pearl necklace?!" When Dave asked "Who else has a birthday today?", Dave sitting with us yelled "Me!" When comic Dave asked birthday Dave "And what did you get? Not a facial, right?" Birthday Dave yelled from the back of the club "Tupperware and Scotch!" which was an odd enough response to get a laugh.
The headliner was Steve Patterson (pictured here) who has a unique style, to say the least, and doesn't depend upon sexual humour as much as the others did. There were actually TWO guys named Steve Patterson (out of four comics) that night! The "other" Steve Patterson (who had to go first, to support the "main" Steve Patterson) said he was annoyed that gay people have taken the rainbow as their symbol. He says he isn't ready to give it up as a symbol with non-gay connotations, and suggested several symbols that would more explicitly symbolize homosexuality. Steve Patterson the headliner took requests and did song parodies with different accents. His "A Scottish Pink Floyd sings about the audience tonight" song was extremely weird. The mother of some kid name Ryan who is competing on "Canadian Idol" was there.
We slept on couches and the like at Dave's afterward, and the next day we had french toast, talked and played video games on the XBox, then we came home and Troy, Bill and I watched an episode of "Six Feet Under", a show I really like that I wanted them to see. We went to rent it, but it was all out, so we were "forced" to get it by electronic means.
Bill bought the "Bowling For Columbine" DVD and we watched the extras for that as well. I'm certainly not saying what my real name is, but it's exactly the same as the director of "Bowling For Columbine", so I have just gotten used to seeing that name written everywhere and assuming it doesn't mean me, even if it is getting an Academy Award.

Saturday, 23 August 2003

Great Neck Pennsylvania Revisited

Renting a dolly or trailer to tow a car isn't expensive. Thing is, you need a sturdy vehicle to tow with. You can't rent these from anyone besides U-Haul. I was unable to borrow a truck locally , so I arranged a one-way rental through U-Haul. I drove 40 min to my folks to switch cars to Mom's car, the one Dad was willing to let me drive into the States. Then I drove 1.5 hours to Dave's house in Kingston. We got confirmation over the phone that equipment would be ready for us when we arrived in Binghamton New York. We had just enough time to drive the 4 hours down to Binghamton and get the equipment before the U-Haul office closed. I'd arranged a truck with a 14' box on the back, and they only had one with 17', so I ended up driving quite a big truck. Dave followed me in Mom's car as I drove the truck 20min south to Great Bend, where my car was waiting. U-Haul trucks are A/C with radios, so it was okay, though all those hills at 65mph are a bit scary to non-commercial drivers put into huge, heavy trucks on a windy day. The rental guy had assured me that he'd left the radio "Cranked up to a station with some kickass guitar tunes" so that's what I listened to. How many stations in the Ottawa-area play "Whitesnake" on a daily basis? (Don't answer that, it's a rhetorical question and we don't want to argue that Justin Timberlake rocks so much harder than Whitesnake that there's no comparison, do we?) We said hi to the folks who'd helped me out when I first got stranded there, had pizza slices, Dr. Pepper and miscellaneous junk food hard to find in Canada (Milk Duds, Charleston Chew and so on) and then got things started. We loaded the Beretta onto the dolly (it still starts and drives and makes an awful clatter from inside its falling-apart engine) and then we drove it back through a thunderstorm with high winds and a lot of extremely violent lightning. (kickass guitar tunes the whole way, too. I found out which local fairs had bands like Def Leppard and Honeymoon Suite playing at them) At the border, they didn't really ask anything about it. I'm tempted to drive the truck back down, put my plates on someone else's car and bring it up here too, if it's that easy. Dad thinks I'm crazy to tow this car back up here instead of selling it for scrap, but I like it and we have two spare engines besides the one that's in it. One is low mileage. Once I get a teaching gig, then I can look to getting my cousin to ready the better of the three engines to put it back in. On that day, perhaps my Beretta will live again!

Tuesday, 19 August 2003

Thoughts on God

When you're a kid, people tell you to reach out to God, to tell Him everything. They tell you if want stuff, to simply ask Him for it. I didn't have Santa Claus when I was growing up. I had God. I didn't often get anything I asked Him for. I didn't even get a lot of answers to my best questions. Sometimes I think my relationship with Him is permanently arrested in that childish phase of wanting Him to give me stuff and help me out of binds I get into and being confused and upset when it turns out that life often just doesn't work that way. For non-theists, this is analogous to trying to be optimistic or positive, but feeling like Life (or God) takes your best efforts throws it all back at your feet, mangled and shat upon. What is a more adult relationship to have with one's parents and one's God? An inability trust is a weakness, right? I believe there is a God. I believe there is a God who lets children starve and dogs die and people die of cancer and flesh-eating disease (Is "dis-ease" really a harsh enough word to come after "flesh-eating"?) God lets babies be born. (Except in the case of my sister, who just lost hers.) I know in my heart that the template for every sunset and every breath-taking woman's genes are brought to you by the grace and endless innovative creativity of God (even if her jeans are brought to you by Old Navy.) I try to believe in a God who is interested in the kind of human good that I can see and understand, but I don't always do a good job of it. I believe in God the way I believe in my dentist, and I don't resent Him any more than that little Scotsman with the big red beard and (in my opinion) far too much upper body strength for a dentist and all sorts of needles, grinders and drills for sticking in my mouth. In a way I am grateful each of them is there for me, and in a way I'm not. I was raised to believe that God had a wonderful plan for my life that would make me happy if only I followed it. Now, I wonder how out of control He lets things get. They always look out of control, not in a "roulette table random" way, but in a "747 with the pilot in the crapper taking a dump" kinda way. Or else, I guess, in a "747 headed straight for the World Trade Center buildings" way. If He will let thousands die, why should I believe He cares if I get a job or if I can get my car towed back where I can fix it or sell the remains for a fair price?

Monday, 18 August 2003

A Song Neil Young Wrote When HIS Car Died In The Middle of a Trip

Long May You Run
We've been through some things together
With trunks of memories still to come
We found things to do in stormy weather
Long may you run.

Chorus: Long may you run.
 Long may you run.
Although these changes have come
With your chrome heart shining in the sun
Long may you run.

Well, it was back in Blind River in 1962
When I last saw you alive
But we missed that shift on the long decline
Long may you run.
Maybe the beach boys have got you now
With those waves singing Caroline (Sweet Caroline, oh)
Rollin down that empty ocean road
Gettin to the surf on time.

Saturday, 16 August 2003

My Trip Doesn't End Well

So, I took a risk, drove down to visit Michael and Bethany in Pennsylvania, had a worthwhile time and some deep talks, and then on the way back home today my car's engine finally blew properly (connecting rod loosened right up and started whapping around) and I was stranded on the Pennsylvania/New York border in a tiny village called Great Bend. I got the car to Bill Buzzard's Pump 'N Go Gas Station. I phoned people, was a bit panicked, got the number of a mechanic who officially pronounced the car dead, and found out that no buses came to Great Bend. I resolved to phone a a taxi to come get me and take me to Binghamton (half an hour away) where they have buses and so on. I phoned the taxi number a clerk had given me, but it was no longer in service, so I asked the lady at the Pump 'N Go for another taxi number, and she insisted on calling her husband Darren to drive me to Binghamton. Not only did he drive me, he insisted on waiting while I talked to the Greyhound bus people, who apparently will not drive you 4 hours due North from Binghamton to Ottawa without taking a 5 hour detour through Toronto first. My pointing out that Binghamton is actually closer to Ottawa than Toronto is made no impact whatsoever. Darren suggested I rent a car, and I arranged this over the phone for only $40 more than a bus ticket, with arrival in 4 hours instead of 24. This meant I didn't have to sleep in the bus station. Darren drove me out to the airport (which is in the middle of nowhere, by a landfill, the road it is on being the only road around, and actually ending at the airport terminal) and we got the burgundy Kia Spectra that was their cheapest option. Darren knew both the older man and the young teenaged girl who were manning the Hertz desk, so he had fun talking to them while I got things finalized. Then he had me follow him back to Great Bend, where he helped me load all of my stuff from my dead car into the Spectra. Naturally, he refused any money whatsoever. The last thing I saw, he was teasing his wife as she came offshift at the Pump 'N Go, and giving directions to a guy who was lost. I drove back, with a half-hour delay at the border due to a mile of cars and trucks and only two customs agents working. My cat had been very worried about me and scolded me quite a bit when I got home. Now I have to go back to Great Bend somehow in the next 3 or 4 days to sell the car to a mechanic or else rent a trailer and bring it back up here.

Monday, 11 August 2003

Road Trippin'

Now, a great leap of faith: I plan Monday to hop in my beatup old car and drive down to Pennsylvania to visit my friends down there. The leap of faith involves whether the car will get me there or not. I think it will. [note: It did. It just didn’t get me back] That's why I'm going. I include in this blog entry a picture of Natalie Portman and a young man with a stern look, trying to come to terms with his power and the future fate of the republic.

Friday, 8 August 2003

Turning my face from happiness

Today I realized that, often when I'm really brooding over something, I have to go through a process of shutting out all the things I'd naturally want to react positivelyto, just so I can be miserable. I forget compliments and not only remembernasty things people say and do, but cross-reference them with similar stufffrom the past. If I am about to start something that I really care about, I kind of give myself little peptalks, preparing myself for the worst. Right now I am applying forjobs. I am planning a road trip to the States. I'm going to recordand edit the audio for a flash cartoon I'm making with my friends. So whyam I focussed on "These jobs are probably already wrapped up by people'snephews and drinking buddies" and "My car is about due to break down again onthis trip" [note: It did. Permanently] and "I don't know if the cartoon will be as funny when acted by my friends as it is in my head" ? Screw all that. Get ready to be happy, I say. To help with that, here's apicture of a happy same-sex Micronaut couple. I am not happy, gay, or aMicronaut, but I think it's a smile-provoking image, don't you?

Tuesday, 5 August 2003

It's Not Logical, but...

So, last week I realized something, came to an epiphany of sorts: Besides the fact thatnothing much was going on in my life, my life wasn't moving forward ordeveloping in any way. Back when I worked at Nortel, I used to work 14 hour shifts and it would take me a couple of months, and then I'd realize "I'm not living my life, I'm sleepwalking through aschedule other people put together for me." Now, waiting for teaching jobsto open up for September, I'm doing very little, but I realized that I waswatching movies I knew all the words to, listening to music (same deal) andreading books (same thing again). Nothing new. Staying in the sameplace doing the same old things and a whole lot of nothing. Once I realized just how sick I was of more same-old, same-old nothing, I decided then and there that this week had to be different. Odd, but when you decide something likethat, suddenly the constipated gears of momentum start rolling again and thingsstart happening. Today, for the first time in many months, I didn't havetime to do anything I'd planned because unplanned things kept occurring.People showed up with stuff they needed or wanted to do, people dropped in tohang out and people phoned and woke me up in the morning and during a nap. I'm also planning a short road trip (that won't cost overmuch money). It did not seem like a logical move for someone whose money is pretty much nil, but I got a good deal from eBay on the very Spock doll that I loved so much when I was ten, and the guy forsome reason refused to ship it to anyone not Amurrican, so I got it shipped tofriends in the States and now I can drive down and say hello.

Saturday, 2 August 2003

more music recorded

I finally got down to it and did some more recording on a song of mine called "Digging For Pride." It has a ridiculous number of different vocal and instrumentparts, and is fun. The idea was that the music would be extremely happy, but that the words would be the most alienated, angry, frustrated ones ever. The big question, therefore, was "How does one sing these angry words with such a happy song?" I could sing them in a happy voice, or I could try to convey anger. I was trying to convey anger by singing loudly and angrily, and more and more lately I find my voice is annoying when I do that. I have to sing more intensely and quietly to get the right effect. So the instrument parts are pretty much done (except for a dodgypiano part I can't quite play perfectly) and a fairly good vocal is down, but I could probably do with re-singing it and redoing the piano. The part inthe middle of the song sounds a lot like there are Muppets doing the backup singing. Is that bad?

Saturday, 26 July 2003

Adam rocks the house

Many years ago in 1997, I started recording an album that was to be called "Peter the Slaughterer"(it still isn't quite finished, and is now called "The Story of PeterGrey".) I hung out a bit with the sound engineers Chris, Adam and Mike. After the studio closed down in 1998, my album sat dormant until I started work on it again in 2001. I got an email Wednesday from Chris in Montreal (he works at Musique Plus, French Canada's answer to MTV) telling me that Adam was having a CD release party with a live performance at Café Dekcuf (spell it backwards if you don't get it). I went, and it was like stepping right back into 1997. Everybody was there and we all had a great time. Adam was entertaining. A girl threw a "thong" style pair of turquoise panties on the stage, so he wore them as a headband for a song. Adam did his "movie ad" voice and said things like "In a world of wonder and hardship, only THIS AUDIENCE can drink enough beer to marinate in." I reacquainted myself with various musicians, learned what gigs theyhave coming up that I could go see, got emails and URLs and took pictures of the show for Adam#2 the bass player, who was playing a 12-stringbass.

Tuesday, 22 July 2003

I am Invincible! (and I'm a geek)

I now have the power to capture VHS tape and television to my computer and edit it. All because of an astute purchase on eBay. Yay. My performance on TV earlier this month is first in line to be transferred to digital media. The cartoon script "Sonnet Crescent" is pretty much finished. The people whose personality quirks it blatantly lampoons seem fairly pleased with it, and not apt to take it too personally, so long as they get to be part of the fun. Wow. I wish I'd been able to afford to go to the huge comic/sci fi convention in San Diego this week. Guests included Halle Berry, Kevin Smith, Angelina Jolie, Elijah Wood, Sean Astin, Dominic Monaghan, Billy Boyd, Robert Englund, Hugh Jackman, Neil Gaiman, Dave McKean, Mark Hamill, Michael Madsen, Quentin Tarantino and many others. Also, with all the talk about a new Batman movie, and with how bad Batman movies have always looked and been, it was cool to see some raving fanboys (obviously costuming and propexperts) put up an online little movie short called "Batman:Dead End" with Batman in a cloth and leather suit (not rubber) that looked good. It has the usual choppy, "too much in too little time with not enough story" problem we have grown accustomedto in Hollywood blockbusters and the work of teenagers with video-cameras alike, but is worth checking out for the great job they did on the look of everything, especially Batman, who is meaner than he ever was in a movie before.(Batman spitting out blood after being hit in the face helps add that kind of grittiness that seems more realistic. It's pretty much impossible to get in any kind of a physical confrontation and keep all your dignity, to staylooking cool, clean and undisheveled)

Monday, 21 July 2003

Celtfest 2003

I went to Celtfest again this year. Missed hearing Danny O'Connell and Kelly Sloan perform (they're local acts) but enjoyed Newfie singer extraordinaire Dave Anthony, who has a powerful voice and a frenetic stage presence, with the usual songs sung about people fightingand drinking while pubs (or ships or fair lasses) burn down. One song rhymed"arthritis" with "colitis". It was windy and damp, and rained off and on,but we hung tough and enjoyed what was being done on the little stage in the hollow of the hills with forest around. I only saw 7 or so kids I taught while student teaching last year in this small town, but went unnoticed by them, being out of context and having more of a beard and shaggy hair than they're used to. Lots of piping and some outstanding stepdancing from four sistersin a family group called Searson. A bevy of young girls with hairflying in the wind, stamping rhythmically, but somehow also appearing next to weightless, like they were on wires. Wirework special effects in movies never impresses me much, but trampoline performers, gymnasts, dancers, martial artists and other people who appear like they can almost fly make my heart pretty much stop while they're in the air.

Sunday, 20 July 2003

The crap you can get on eBay!

This attractive plastic duo, engaged in not-quite solitary vices! I had the one on the left (Aquaman) when I was about 6. It was the first action figure that I bought. The hole in the hand (for putting weapons and objects in) was perfect for threading string through, and then you could slide them down string or thread stretched out the window to trees and so on.

Saturday, 19 July 2003

First Blog Post

I'm newly-certified to teach high school English, and find that July isn't a good month to talk to schools about hiring. They've all disappeared to cottages, no doubt. So, I'm just trying to pass the time without spending any money, despite having recently discovered eBay. I'm doing swimming and writing a script for an online Flash cartoon I think I will call "Sonnet Crescent"