Sunday, December 05, 2010

Notes on the Facebook Child-abuse Cartoon Awareness Campaign


So you may be aware of the current meme on Facebook to post a favourite cartoon character from your childhood into your profile pic in solidarity to child abuse issues.

Change your FB Profile picture to a cartoon from your childhood. The Goal??? To NOT see a Human Face on FB until Monday December 6th. JOIN the fight against Child Abuse!!♥ (copy and paste to your status to invite your friends to do the same.

For some reason a lot of people think this is an empty gesture and a waste of time.  I've read a lot of Facebook threads arguing these points - including one on my own page.  I'm not going to bother reposting any of that here, but I will post what was my ultimate summing up of my opinions (minus some personal comments) - which at least identifies many other people's negative issues....

First, I'm having a lot of trouble understanding the negative reaction people are having to this awareness campaign. Every arument against it seems to come from a place of either ignorance or from an emotional argument rather than a reasoned one. There is no doubt that this is an emotionally triggered subject for people - particularly those who have experienced some kind of abuse.

This is an awareness campaign. It never claimed to be anything more.

Part of the issue seems to stem from the definition of 'awareness.' Yes, there is a nearly total absence of people who are connected to Facebook who are also unaware of child abuse and that it's an awful thing. Suggesting that this campaign is about spreading the word at that level is a total strawman. Rather this is about RAISING awareness levels at the level of personal understanding and detail, and having the cause benefit from that rise.

I've been aware of child abuse for longer than I could possibly assess with any accuracy. But how often do I think about it? Being that I never experienced it, it's not really something that haunts me - so really, I don't think about it often. But guess what? This week I have. Some of which I've sought out and much of which has been put in front of me. Knowing that child-abuse exists and is an atriocity is a long step away from knowing the wide spectrum of details associated with it. I've read a bunch about it and been told a lot more about it as a result of debates (sadly most of them about whether this is an effective campaign or not) and discussions on-line. Really, when it comes right down to it, the campaign is a success because one person - me - has been immersed in so much information as a result of it. But, it's safe to say I am not the only one.

I seriously doubt most people are ignorant enough to believe that changing your profile pic to a cartoon is going to make any sort of direct difference. If one person had changed their picture it would have been meaningless, but millions of people changing their profile pictures to something that is both symbolically interesting (and that is the genius of the campaign - calling out to our remembered innocence of youth) and that allows from some personal expression has makes it a much more interesting call to arms than a red ribbon (Sorry AIDS awareness, someone had to be the example - in your day you were the leading edge of awareness activism, credit where credit is due.)

Certainly not everyone who has changed their picture is going to donate to a child abuse charity, or intervene on behalf of a neighbourhood child in jeopardy, or volunteer - or any other suggestion anyone can come up with of things that have more direct effect on the issue. But some will. More will than did last week. How is that a bad thing? I'll ask that one again - HOW IS THAT A BAD THING? Yeah, some people will change their pics and tell themselves they've done their part. That is unfortunate that they feel that way, and it is a character trait that they will have to deal with in other manifestations in their life.

Does it trivialize those who have been abused? Even if I myself had been abused I can't really answer to that, because ultimately that is about your feelings as an abused person. But let me ask this, is it not worth enduring a little bit of trivializing by people who are genuinely care in the hopes that some additional resources are directed to the issue and that some other child (and hopefully many children) either suffer less or not at all in the way you did? I am frankly a little baffled by the selfish seeming anger of the past-abused who are railing against this campaign.

I don't really have any issue with people who aren't changing thier picture. We can't all get on board for every issue. Haiti, Aids, Breast Cancer, SPCA, UK Libel Laws - that is only the tiniest tip of the iceberg. We don't all believe in all causes, and even if we did, there simply isn't enough time in a person's life to be effective at all of them. I only rarely do choose a cause to get behind. As a new parent, and having recently witnessed the severe emotional damage done to an adult who was abused, I was touched by this one. Perhaps by having chosen it I have raised my awareness of the debate surrounding it too, but it seems to me like this one has really put a fire in some people's tummies and it has caused a lot of debate.

What amazes me more is that the people who are jumping up and down shouting about the ineffectiveness of this campaign the most are in fact causing more discussion which.... raises more awareness. This campaign caused me to think more about child abuse than I regularly do even before I read the first dissenting comment - the debate that has raged across many discussion threads has probably made me think and find out more about child abuse than I ever have.

Scoff at it all you like, but the reality is - mission accomplished.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Shit My Dad Says (the sitcom) Review

So I watched.  It was terrible.

They could have given us even better truth in advertizing and not bothered with last 75% of the title.  I know, that's an obvious and unoriginal joke, but you reap what you sow.

This afternoon I figured I'd see what reviews I could find on-line about the show.  I figured at least they'd be amusing.  Not so.  I could only find one review - linked to a million times.  (I'm not bothering linking to it again here, just do a search, you'll find it.)  So I figured I'd help fill that void.

The Twitter account was (frankly) more hype than hilarity.  The book is almost certainly going to remain unfinished and returned to the friend I borrowed it from.  And the show... well I've made my opinion clear and I severely doubt that this will be a case of me being in the minority. 

Casting Shatner seemed like a good move, and he delivers... as much as he can with such a tepid script.  The MadTV alumni oversell their parts and utterly fail to find any reality behind their choices - which is no way to do comedy.  And the "My" of the title is so completely humdrum and uninteresting that you have to wonder how bad the guy they fired was.

I almost laughed at one joke - not even a particularly good one, but at 20 minutes into the show I was getting desperate.  Shatner comments on "My" doing an impersonation of him.  Yeah.  Fucking brilliant.  I couldn't muster enough breath to actually make a fully voiced guffaw.  I guess I'd expended my full appetite to "meta" earlier on in the evening watching Dexter being calmly greeted by an all too obsequious funeral director.

I predict this one won't be on the air after (Canadian) Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Hey Padawan

Yeah.  "Padawan."

Who could really doubt that I would call you that?

We - your mother and I - were out this past weekend and I noted that I wasn't sure what particular flavour of "geek" was my top-note.  Jodie wasted no time in pointing out that the unique element of my email address is "jedischooldropout."  So should it be any kind of question that I should pick "padawan" as a term of endearment?  Hey... at least I never (seriously) suggested that it should be your actual name.

My Dad called me "my boy" - fairly easy, that one.  He called my sister "princess" - rather common, don't you think?  But they worked for him, and we responded.  That is what is important.  They meant something between us, even if I was to grow up to see them as rather quaint.  I smile in spite of myself when he uses them today.  I am totally prepared for you shaking your head at my choice and thinking "gawd, Dad - that stupid turn of the century mythology of yours is so lame!"

I built your crib and stroller this past weekend.  It didn't make your arrival seem any more real - we passed the zenith of that ages ago when I first saw your "face" on ultra-sound (and so I built my own mythology of our relationship).  What it did do is hammer home the imminent nature of your arrival.  As unlikely as it still is, we are realistically in the range where you could arrive any day.  It is far more likely that you'll show up in at least a few more weeks, maybe even a month... but the chances beyond that point are diminishingly small.

Tomorrow morning I'm going to go be told how that is going to "go down."  Of course they can only be approximate, and even my interpretation of that generalization is likely to be abjectly wrong.  All the effort in the world to not put expectations on what that day is going to be like, how it is going to play out, is futile.  I can't help but imagine, at the very least, the tiniest details.  Little things that Jodie and I have discussed....

"Do you want to cut the umbilical cord?"

"Yeah sure.  I don't put any sort of higher spiritual connection upon it, but how often am I going to get to perform major surgery?"

But who knows what the moment could bring?  Maybe you could follow in your old-man's shoes and demand a c-section... in which case I'm not going to be in the room even if  they would invite me - which they won't.  I'm okay with blood, but the stuff that nature keeps on the other side of the skin-barrier on a daily basis... yeah, I don't need to see that.

The last ten days or so we've spent a fair bit of time squeezing in the last bits of "being social" before "normal life" disappears completely... but I've been thinking today that normal life evaporated ages ago.  What is coming is the new normal.  The normal with you in it.  And by now it is almost inevitable that I am in a holding pattern.  We are just waiting.  Waiting for you to come.

That kind of began two weeks ago.  We spent six weeks doing a lot of running around.  We went to London for Demetri and Fionuala's wedding.  Jodie took a detour to Belfast to visit Lynn and Phil.  After the wedding we went to Amsterdam.  Once we returned to Canada I had mere days before heading to Mississauga for a film festival, and upon returning from there there was little turn around before we went to Kelowna for the World Premiere (yeah yeah - I've dealt with that contradiction elsewhere).  We were there for the better part of a week before coming home, and a by the next weekend we were heading back to the interior, to Logan Lake for Jodie's birthday....

Coming back from Logan Lake was wrought with (erm...) pregnant meaning.  After weeks of running around the world, country and province - each time the circle getting closer and closer to home, it was the unspoken reality that we were heading home to have a baby.

We deflected that with a series of dinners with friends.  Almost as if we were saying "hey, it's been good... we'll see you on the other side."  Tonight I went to what was almost certainly my last Skeptics in the Pub meeting for a few months.

From here out, virtually every appointment is prefaced (at least implicitly) by "we may have to cancel as we might be brand new parents by then and be up to our ears in a learning curve that we could not imagine."

Anyhow, Padawan...

I'm as ready as I'm going to be... which is to say, "not at all, but trying hard."  And what is weirdest of all to me... you have yet to breathe your first breath out here but beyond my comprehension, I already love you.  I don't know for certain that you are a girl.  I've only ever felt you through your mother's skin.  I don't know if you have blue-eyes or brown... but you already have made me smile and you've already made me cry. 

It seems like you already have your job down pat.

See you soon, Little Jedi.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Songs as Computer Programs

If you are a Facebook friend of mine you recently witnessed my ability to pull the scattered thoughts of my sleep cycle into the real world.  "Ellemenopie" (for those of you who were in on that extended conversation) was an example of the fruit of that process.

Here's the latest. Can you name this popular anthemic song rendered (with some imaginary commands) in BASIC?
10 FOR Q = 1 to 2
60 GOTO 10
Naturally the guitar and vocals are absent, but that's "We Will Rock You."

Anyone else want to take a run at a song?

Here are some "rules":
  •  Any song is fair game, but pointing out that "The Body Electric" already features a chorus made up significantly of binary (Yes, Geddy Lee's lyric consists of "1001001."  No, Rush isn't pretentious.) is cheap and kind of misses the point.
  • Adding a few made up commands that help illustrate the sing is (of course) accepted, even expected.
  • Any programming language is fair game so long as it helps serve the song and/or the use of said language is clever in it's own right.
Anyone got what it takes?

Friday, July 30, 2010

I just don't do comic strips like I used to.

I guess I blame the internet.  And by extension I blame the fact that I no longer get a daily paper delivered to my house.

I was laying in bed this morning thinking fondly on the days when I looked forward to getting home and seeing what could possibly happen next in Bloom County.  Bloom County was the pinnacle.  Berke Breathed's strip was socially relevant, absurd, hysterical and his story lines would often carry the reader along for weeks.

There were others that brought me back time after time.  Calvin and Hobbes, of course; and the best single frame comic in the history of print media, The Far Side.  All three of these comics had the heart-breaking good sense to quit while they were ahead.  (Although Bloom County kinda resurfaced as the tepid Outland - which raises the question that perhaps Breahted had already peaked but no one had noticed yet.  Outland was followed by Opus which I had never read a single panel of before looking for the link to cite this sentence.)

Some other strips got read regularly along the way, but none really had the drawing (pun intentional) power of the residents of Bloom.  We used to actually talk about these comics at school - what would Bill the Cat do today?  I laughed so hard, did you see yesterday?

Today I enjoy an occsional XKCD or Dinosaur Comics and for a while I tried to follow the plot on Achewood, but the fact is that even with RSS, I just don't have patterns in my life that compel me to slavishly follow any of them with the discipline that blew Bloom County off the page and into my life six days a week.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Demetri and Fionuala's Wedding

I have been fortunate to have a large number of really great friends in my life and I think I am quite justified in not referring to any single one of them exclusively as my best friend.  The specific roster has changed and I've always exerted some degree of restraint in keeping the numbers down - I'm guessing that I've never called more than three people my best friend at one time.  But there is one unassailable point: For thirty years Demetri has always been one of them.

He got married a week ago tonight.  I was there of course - in London England for the first time.  It was a fantasic event.  I was there from the Monday onwards, but things really got going on the Thursday with the rehearsal, which was followed up by the rehearsal dinner, and then a less exclusive social drink in the atrium of a hotel where many guests were staying.
Friday afternoon Demetri took Mido (the groomsman) and myself (I was the bestman) for our wedding-party gifts.  He had his suit custom made for the wedding - his gifts to us were shirts of our choice (including the detailed, hands-on attention of the shop's proprietress... er... that sounds dirty - I assure you it was not) from the same shop.  It was quite an experience, and it is easily the best shirt I've ever had.
That evening was the pre-wedding drinks and socializing - which I wrote about in part in a previous post.
And of course Saturday was the wedding.  It was pretty awesome.  The main venues - the church, St. Ethelreda's - the oldest Catholic Church in England is really amazing.  Its not lavish and ornate, its simply grand in its history.  Its hard not to be moved by the fact that Henry VIII took confession there when he was still a Catholic.
The reception was held at the Foundling Museum (not to be confused with the Fondling Museum - a joke that kept resurfacing all weekend).  Which when I saw it the previous day struck me as a nice museumy kind of place... but when we got 150 guests in there it came alive.  Putting celebrating people in front of the paintings and other exhibits made it all suddenly seem grand.
Sunday was much more relaxed.  Jodie and I had time to go to the British Museum and see the Rosetta Stone before joining the happy couple and other guests in watching England's unfortunate World Cup route by Germany.  (There had been great relief that it had been the U.S./Ghana game that was played on Saturday, not the England/Germany game.)  Following that was yet another get together - food and drinks at a pub for all the North American guests who travelled.

It was a really great four days.  The weather was outrageously clear and warm throughout.  I'll have to include photos once I've got them posted.

But that is all set up.  Really what I wanted to do was post my Best-man's speech for posterity.  I spent about six months on this - honestly.  I thought about it many nights as I fell asleep and I made sure that I got some of my most puerile material out of the way at the stag back in March.

I had notes ready when I got to London, but I didn't do my first full draft until we had landed.  I did a second draft the morning of the rehearsal and then, because of events in the rehearsal I added more (as will be obvious - as I mention that very fact) before the day before the ceremony.  Naturally, when I actually gave the speech, this text was merely a guide and I said the words that came to me, though Jodie assures me that I was close... except for the part where I started to cry.  (I made it as far as the Gabriel Garcia Marquez quote.)  Yeah, well... what can you do?  Demetri's my oldest best friend and Fionuala (whose name I was mispelling until sat down to write this post - how embarrassing) is a wonderful lady inside and out... I am so happy for them both.

Demetri spoke before me, and as always he was a hard act to follow - which I also commented upon at the top of my speech. 
I’ve been asked to keep this under 45 minutes, so we should probably begin. I have a lot of ground to cover.

In preparation of this toast I found myself creating a new blessing. “Everyone should have a friend like Demetri.”

In the words of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, “He is my soul’s friend.” I have known him for ¾ of my life, and even the most difficult times we have spent together have been among the most enriching of my life, and it is a proud honour to stand here for him today.

I’ve promised Demetri for over two decades that I would come and visit him here in London. I never have until now, and it seems to me that this is an extremely severe tactic he’s employed to get me across the Atlantic at last.

Indeed, from the moment I found out he was getting married, I knew I was going to come and be here with him and that was long before he asked me to play the role of best man.

I can understand that the selection of the person who will be your best man is a difficult choice, after all, you have to consider that before the occasion is over they will deliver their version on this very speech. It is important to pick someone who has known you long enough to speak from a wealth of kinship and yet, there lies the trap... they’ve certainly seen you in your least proud moments.

When I look back at the embarrassing tales I might tell about him and our exploits of the past 30 years as friends I find that I am hard pressed to shame him. He is a man of exemplary character and if anyone comes out on the embarrassing end of our hi-jinx, it is me. But I won’t bore you with those tales.

Indeed, until the wedding rehearsal, to his credit, I had thought of nothing to roast him with. But then Mido and I both noted with amusement a part of Demetri’s character that endears him to us, and if the two of us recognize it, then perhaps you do too.

I have met few people in this life who are as eloquent as Demetri. Anyone who attended his father, John’s service bore witness to Demetri at his best in this. He delivered a eulogy of deep honesty, emotion and illumination that at the same time was built upon a beginning, middle and end, complete with bookends that elevated his tribute to his father to a work of art. No doubt John would have been as proud then as today.

Yet within Demetri’s eloquence, I know no one who is simultaneously capable of putting his hoof in it in with such spectacular panache. Yesterday’s incident wasn’t even a good example of it. He merely widely mis-stated which cities some of today’s guests were coming from. It was enough to remind us though that he is capable of some extreme howlers.

I recall a day in mid-highschool where he and I went for our first appointment at the gym we’d bought membership at. Our comely instructor asked if we were still in school. Demetri snapped at bait that simply wasn’t there – accepting an imaginary compliment and informing her that he in fact had a few years before he graduated. She gave him a withering look and said “I meant is school out for the summer.”

I attribute this side of Demetri to a very special strength. A fearlessness. One which marks the earliest days of our friendship. We became friends initially through an unlikely confluence of meetings, crossing paths variously at an extra-curricular presentation our sisters were both involved in; at a movie and a class – all in the span of a few weeks. At the third encounter he met my eye and at the ripe age of ten or eleven declared “we’ve got to quit meeting like this, people will talk.” That moment is so fixed in my memory that I have used that same joke numerous times in my life, and like so many things I have shared with him, it has become vocabulary for me. To explain any of our in jokes, for instance why I can never hear the phrase “strong bones and teeth” without grinning and thinking of him would take a very long time and probably require a powerpoint presentation – which I have been denied.

And so he lives his life. Unconcerned of the scattered mis-steps. It is certainly a pattern I have noticed, but I am hard pressed to provide good examples. He knows that his slips will fade in memory and his successes will live on. We will count the hits and forget the misses- just as I have largely failed to come up with a really solid tale of Demetri’s shame. And so it should be.

But I will tell you this tale. One that Demetri may not even recall himself. When we were still in our teenage years, Demetri was on the verge of coming here to live for the first time and I was on my way to University on an Island off the wild coast of British Columbia... we had spent the night with other friends before setting out on what would be the beginnings of our adult journeys through life. In the morning we left together, but at the train we were literally headed in different directions. We stood on opposite platforms and waited for the trains to arrive. The story is as simple as that. I don’t recall whose train arrived first. But at that young age the metaphor was extremely potent for me. I know I sat on that platform wondering if that might have been the last time I ever saw the person who I had for years called my best friend.

Spoiler alert – that was a naive fear. We could credit a wealth of at that time unforeseen communication opportunities – email, skype, cellphones and deregulated airfare (which clearly I was not the one who took advantage of.) But more than anything I credit the resolve of my friend. We never lost touch, always had plans and though the rogues gallery of people I have called best friend has expanded and changed over the years, Demetri was always there and he was always there first.

In a sense, the modern symbolic duty of the best man is one of letting go. To formally pass the baton and relinquish the title of best friend. But that isn’t going to happen, we’re just hopping on a new pair of metaphorical trains, both with similar familial destinations, if different routes. Demetri as husband, myself soon to be a father. And this time I am not so naive to think that we aren’t making these trips in a tandem that I can only imagine will last us the rest of our lives, and I heartily welcome Fionuala in as part of the most rewarding collective friendship of my life.

For those here as Demetri’s friends and relations who haven’t adequately met Fionuala, I admit my acquaintance with her is also still short, but I can tell you this. When I first met her a few years ago, she was bleary-eyed from jet-lag to Vancouver and was turning into a pumpkin almost right before my eyes.

At his first private opportunity, Demetri jabbed me between the ribs and through teeth clenched out of a need for confirmation asked “Well...? So...?” And I told him the one thing that was self-evident. “Demetri, you have had some wonderful girlfriends, but for you, she is the best that has ever been.” And in the half-dozen times I’ve spent with her since she has yet to dissuade me from that position. And considering the occasion, Demetri must feel the same way.

For those of you on the other side of this union, wondering who this Demetri character is I provide you this, which as a soon to be father – biggest compliment I can imagine:

In 30 or 40 years when I first let my daughter date, I can only hope she brings home a young man (or woman) who reminds me of Demetri.

I am so happy for both of you. I can’t for the life of me figure out how two people as wonderful as you two made it this far without being snapped up. But I am so glad that it hasn’t happened ‘til now. Because your commitment to each other makes me very happy. So happy that I’ve arranged a surprise – a medley of Beatles love songs played by the National Vuvuzela Orchestra of Ghana... apparently they have more important things to celebrate.

So please drink with me in joy to Demetri and Fionuala, I love you both. This will certainly count as one of the hits – live fearlessly and put your hoof in it with panache.

Sunday, June 27, 2010


I'm in London.  Have been here for a week, and I probably should be talking about the fantastic details of the trip (and the pains of travel) or of the event that brought me here - the wedding of one of my best friends, Demetri.  The details of both the trip and the wedding are, by necessity, intimately woven.
But instead I want to spend some time thinking about one very small and specific aspect of the past two days...

When Jodie and I arrived last Monday - bleary eyed and jet-lagged - we spent some time visiting with the Bride and Groom and the Groom's mother while we waited for our hotel room to become available.  Not to surprisingly the main subject of discussion was the wedding and extending from that who else was going to be here.  Its a long and relatively expensive journey to make from Vancouver to London.  I imagine it would be a select group who would both be invited and have the resources and time to make the journey.

Among the various names were Bill and Judy Russell.  I honestly don't know how long it has been since I've seen the pair them.  Years, but not a decade - maybe not even half a decade, but it would be a reasonable guess.  I did see Judy a year and a half ago, very briefly, at Demetri's father's funeral - but it was not a time either of us had for in depth visiting.
As soon as Demetri's mom, Ruth, mentioned that Bill and Judy were coming I was immediately struck with delight.  Though there were other people I was eager to see and in a few cases meet for the first time (like Demetri's groomsman, Mido - my London based counterpart) I was not more excited than to see Bill and Judy.

They didn't arrive until the morning before the wedding - that was two days ago.  I didn't see them until that evening.  It was the pre-wedding meet and greet at a pub near Piccadilly Circus.  Jodie and I arrived and headed downstairs and said 'hi' to Demetri and Finoula (his then fiancee) and turned around and there was Bill, camera in hand snapping our picture.  Judy was right on his heels, grabbing us and pulling us to the bar "let's get a drink!"  And that was our night.  We found a table and visited with Bill and Judy all night.  Really neither of us spent much time with anyone else.
Yesterday, the day of the wedding, Jodie caught a cab with them to the church (I was off making sure Demetri was shaved, had his shirt ironed, and his tie on straight.), and then again after the ceremony (on a side note - Omigod!  That church!  It's the oldest extant catholic church in England, and now my name is part of the permanent record there as witness to the marriage.  I'm not the least religious, but I still think that's pretty cool in a historical sense.) we caught a cab together, the four of us, to the reception.
As best man I had plenty of socializing to do, but still the balance went to Bill and Judy and when we left we all walked down the street together.  Seeing them here was the best thing other than the wedding itself - even better than the play (Avenue Q - which was awesome) that Jodie and I saw earlier in the week.

Despite my excitement to see them, I wasn't really prepared for that reunion.  I am guessing they are roughly ten years older than us, and though when I was younger, in my hometown of Prince George, I certainly considered them as friends they were at the time adults to me.  Bill had been a Dj at one of the local radio-stations and in so being was for all practical purposes a local celebrity back when my perspective on celebrity was extremely telescoped compared to today.  Judy was a dance instructor.  They were both a part of the local am-dram - the Prince George Theatre Workshop.  I had seen them in Finnian's Rainbow (I am amazed I can recall all this detail!) and a few years later, PGTW did a production of Anne of Green Gables and needed kids.  Both Demetri and I were cast in it.  Judy choreographed the show.  It was a big step for her.  She'd had her own studio, but (and I only just found this out this week) getting the opportunity to stretch and do a whole show was at that point a big opportunity.
Significantly there was a "big" number at the start of the second act.  We all dove in and pushed our limits.  We weren't dancers, but we tried our hardest and Judy did her utmost to find our strengths and capitalize on them.
After the run of the show Judy came to a small handful of the guys who had been in the show.  She offered us free dance lessons on the condition that we also join her dance troupe - which performed at events and anchored her company's involvement in the regional dance festival.  This, quite frankly, was a stroke of genius on Judy's part.
Three of us including Demetri and I agreed, and though I have never really been 'a dancer,' things I learned in the following two years have been among the most invaluable I've ever learned as a performer.
Only a few years ago I had a sequence of callbacks for a role that required a non-dancer to dance.  I didn't get it, but I was on hold for the part.  I don't think I would have made it through the first round had I not had some previous experience in picking up choreography.
Mostly those years were fun.  I was just at the age where girls were really beginning to be an important part of my life, and though I never got involved with any of the girls in the troupe, that period really helped me get comfortable with the opposite sex.
I thanked Judy for that the other night, and she told me what I already knew - that those years were equally important for her.  Though I didn't fully appreciate the extent to which they were until she filled in the blanks the other night.

It was obvious, back in 1987, when we attended our first dance competition that bringing us boys into her troupe had been a turning point.
I don't know what its like now, but back then in the central interior of British Columbia there weren't any boys in dance.  None.  Not in logging country.  If you were straight you wouldn't be caught dead doing it for fear of being thought of as gay.  If you were gay... it's logging country - there were no gays.  No out of the closet gays.  And if anything they would be even less likely to want to be seen doing something like dance that would be tagged as "gay."
So there we were, three hetero-guys in Judy's classes and troupe.  Judy made it easy on us - didn't require that we wear anything that would challenge our boundaries - sweat pants were good enough... though I wouldn't be surprised if I tried to get away with jeans in my first class, but memory fades.  Even so, we didn't run around letting our friends know we were in dance classes.
But there we were - at regionals (yep, set-up your Glee moment) the only three guys in the building except for a lighting technician and the adjudicator.
We won.  Everything.  A total sweep.
Every award and category that we were eligible for was ours - and the adjudicator could not hide his delight that the troupe had boys.  But it went further than that.  Judy's other students won an unprecedented number of awards.  It wasn't merely us.  There was something really going on here.  Judy was a talent, and the inclusion of us merely drew attention to it.
The very next year there were dancers at other studios who jumped ship to Judy.  Before long there were even more boys, and it wasn't much later before Judy's studio was expanding, taking over more of the building they leased and eventually buying a much bigger facility.  Bill was soon going into business for himself in a related support busines that would become the city's most relied upon provider of production and staging equipment.  I worked for him briefly at one Children's Festival.  Their sons are all in the trade in some capacity.

Those early days of the troupe were big for Judy in other ways too - not just having made a good choice.  I didn't see it at the time, but were were pushing her too.  Keeping her at the edge of her abilites both as a choreographer and as a teacher - in both cases having to integrate performers who were doing their best, but were still behind the curve of everyone else on the stage.

Clearly they made a lot of other good, consistent and reliable decisions.  The troupe eventually became a local theatre company in it's own right, having produced something like 21 different musicals.  One of here students - a boy - made it to the top six of So You Think You Can Dance Canada?

I've never quit being fond of Judy and Bill, I just kind of let our acquaintance slip.  It was so great to see them.  It was great to be able to reconnect as adults - and perhaps if Jodie, who had no context of them in any kind of "superior" role, had not been there changing the context for me it would have been different.  Not less friendly - it has always been friendly (even when they were the "adults" they were the cool young adults we knew) - but with more of the past relationship up front.  I am not at all surprised that Jodie and Judy in particular hit it off, and I am really glad they did.

I really look forward to seeing them the next time they are visiting their boys in Vancouver... and that will be a paradigm shift in it's own right.  Most of my memories of them feature the boys as kids - real kids, not the adolescent adults the rest of us were at the time - though I do also recall them as aloof teenagers as well.

In any case. I under estimated just how much my appreciation for what Bill and Judy meant in my past would translate into a happy reunion here on the other side of the planet, and how much I want that to continue.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Best Laid Plans....

NOTE:  Seriously, don't bother reading this.  This is really just blogging as therapy... and not even particularly juicy therapy.

It has been a really busy month.  Holy crow, has it.

I've been working on a contract for... well I've lost specific track, I think when I began it was six-weeks until I had to be done because I was leaving the country on holiday.
I leave in less than 24 hours.  I'm not done the contract.  I probably should have been.  I could have found a few more hours to work on it - particularly early in the contract.  But who knew what this past week was going to be like - how capricious life could get.  (I'll get back to that in a moment.)
I've passed some of the last of the work on - stuff that I could technically take with me, but would be incredibly inefficient for me to do while travelling.  I'm continuing to do some of the other stuff in the contract.  Things that I can fit into the cracks - reading on the plane or when I would be doing leisure reading... but I refuse to let it impact on the vacation itself.  That is all work that would have extended past my departure regardless of whether I had managed to tackle the rest early.  Indeed I'm told to expect more in my inbox by the time the plane takes off tomorrow evening.

So... I was pretty much on course to finish all the complicated work as of a week ago.  Then on Monday of this week I was hit by a double whammy.  First thing that happened was I woke up... to the sound of the phone... A message from Craig that our film had been accepted into the Mississauga Independent Film Festival.  This was cool... except that it kind of changed our plans.  We had until that moment been doing the world premiere of the film in the Okanagan over two weeks later... precious time lost.

About 3 minutes later I discovered that one of the two screens I have on my desktop computer was not working.  Worse yet - it was the larger of the two.  So now I had about 40% less screen real-estate, all of it on my most powerful computer.  This in itself was going to make a lot of the work I had to do in this week much less simple.  (You would be surprized just how much time you can lose to dragging windows around and resizing and so on.)  It was a challenge to get everything I had to do done (and I failed) - including day-job, Best Picture episode final editing (I haven't mentioned this yet - I will soon), the contract, and several tasks I had to do before leaving that only I could do efficiently for Provost Pictures, that had now been bumped up by the change of premiere dates.  I did spend some time and effort looking into a quick fix of the monitor - no dice.  It'll have to be replaced... and I was not really going to have an opportunity to do that until I return... maybe even after I return from Mississauga!

So I forge on, working at a slower pace, trying to prioritize and put contingencies in place should I not finish everything in time... but hoping that in fact I'd manage to pull it off in the long run.

Provost Pictures' work in particular - despite the fact that most of it was being handled by other people out of necessity - just would not settle down into an easily managed pile.  But wait!  There's more!  Not that I can really get specific for reasons of efficiency (so many details to explain to make the circumstances clear) and discretion (I'm hardly legally bound, but it would be un-cool to talk specifics on either of these) but both the contract and another item I haven't even mentioned (a grievance I am involved in resolving on another project I'm working on) each got more complicated as the week went on.  Oh, and did I mention the Best Man's Speech (the primary reason for my vacation is to attend a wedding) and an episode of Best Picture that is to be shot in part while I am in England, both still have to be written... and both will now wait for on the plane.  Anyhow... somehow as the week wore on I continued to keep just ahead of the wave.  Until yesterday evening I really thought I would have finished everything in time.  It had been a challenge, but I had some how actually managed my time to the bleeding edge of my capability...

And then the power went out.

No kidding.

And as if that wasn't enough, for some reason the power is intimately connected to our internet in our building, to the degree that when the power went out, the internet was still on.  (I am writing on borrowed wi-fi now.)

That was the proverbial straw.  I should point out, in case you thought I was complaining (venting, yes, complaining, no - subtle distinction, I know), that I am actually rather amused by all of this.  Perhaps if I could actually recreate the precise chain of events in detail and in all its snowballing glory and just how close I came to succeeding, then it might actually seem more amusing than I suspect it does.

Even today on borrowed wi-fi, working solely from my laptop (I swaer, that going from working on two separate computers and three screens, so working on less than half the screen-space and the least robust of the processors make me feel like I'm using a rock to do a hammer's job.) - and coaxing it to perform at the level I need of it in order to successfully do all the stuff I need it to in order to finish up all I have to do before I go - including be prepared to finish those few imperative tasks I have to do while on my way, I have barely kept the engine on the tracks... but as I watch the last few automated tasks complete as I finish writing this, I remain mostly bemused.  I don't know I guess this is sort of a "don't sweat the small stuff" affirmation for myself.

You didn't really read to the end of this did you?  Yeah, sorry about that.

At some point early on I thought I might actually get to talk about the honour of being asked to be Best Man at Demetri's wedding, or the happy complexities of having your world premiere scooped to a festival two weeks earlier than planned... but that didn't manifest.  Perhaps while I'm on vacation.  Afterall, part of the idea is that I'm going to have more time for stuff like this...  but don't hold your breath.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Are you frikkin' allergic to Google?!?

Okay, so I know I can use some big words and some esoteric references. I can hardly help it. I'm a smart guy, I'm well read* and I'm a bit of a sponge for factoids. I don't expect everyone else to have the same knowledge set as me, or even the aptitude for acquiring it - we all have different strengths, that's the way of the world. But it's not like I'm Dennis Miller. You don't need degrees in History, Literature and Theoretical Physics to follow along with my Facebook statii.
But yes, I recognize that on a regular basis my status will be eliptical and vague if you don't have the foreknowledge of what I am talking about. I accept that many of my one-liner Facebook statii are going to go over many people's heads. But here's the thing - any joke that has to be explained is not going to be funny. If you 'get' it initially, fantastic. If you don't - that's unfortunate, but when you DO get the next obscure reference I make you have the added benefit of feeling superior over the rest of those folk who you damned well know didn't have a clue.

But here's the thing... I am officially stating for the record, that I am no longer going to be responsible for illuminating the details. If you 'get' the joke - congrats, you are 'in' (for what little that is worth); if you don't 'get' it, either let it go and wait for the next one ('cause really, I'm not so clever that every lateral thought I have is going to be a worthwhile gem, so you probably aren't missing anything), OR (and here's the crux)... muse on this: If you have Facebook in front of you, you also have the awesome power of Google in front of you. You can figure out what I'm referring to much more efficently by searching on one of the interwebs than by adding a comment to my status that reads "????" or "Huh?" or anything else that doesn't really add to the conversation. The ONLY way that is going to be more efficient is if I just happen to refresh the page the second after you post your query and I happen to be looking at that specific comment thread. Even then, you have to get me in a good mood - which the simple act of displaying your inability to use Google will almost certainly ruin - AND I will have to feel that I can explain the detail more succinctly than a quick trip to a relevant Wikipedia page can (good luck on that one).

If you are actually in the room with me... thats a different story - asking me is then a social act that is actually likely to get you the answer faster. Otherwise I have better things to do than type out an explanation for you that will almost certainly not be funny, and if anything, will ruin the joke for everyone else.

In almost any obscure post I make there is bound to be a word or phrase that is unique enough that even the most clumsy of Googlers can craft a search string (I use that term so loosely - in most cases said "string" will be a single word) that you'll find the info you need in order to understand my gag within the first page if not the first hit. A few recent examples; a link to their first hit (excluding news) in a google search:   Sisyphean; Evel Knievel; Preakness; "down two with the hammer"; "I stab at thee" - the first hit, EVERY SINGLE TIME (with no special search terms or symbols except for the quotes around the phrases) gives relevant context.

If by some chance you can't find an illuminating reference on Google, then chances are that the reference was a more personal one - one that while not actually private, is actually intended for a select group of people. If you aren't one of those people, then you just have to let your need to know go.

It may seem that I'm making more of this than it warrants, and perhaps I am. But I have gotten so tired of explaining my more esoteric references that I've taken to simply ignoring the requests - and I know that that in itself doesn't solve anything. So this is official notice. I can't imagine any likely circumstance where a person might have access to Facebook but not Google and therefore I hereby assume that any request for clarity on any of my left-field witticisms is nothing but either outright intellectual laziness or, more charitably, a failure to realize that there are far better ways to get the answer than by tossing a "WTF?" in the comment thread. Either way, don't expect an answer. Sorry, I'm not doing your homework anymore.

But I WILL do this:
If you don't really know how to leverage the best results out of Google, here's some handy and very simple tricks. Now you can be a Google ninja.

*When I say I'm well read, I am including the voracity with which I consume all media - including TV news and podcasts... indeed I actually don't read all that much these days, and am a slow reader anyhow.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Hey Li'l J

You kicked me tonight.
Just for that, you have to stay in your womb.

Your Mom's been trying to get me to feel your kicks for weeks now.

No luck 'til tonight. It was really weak, but it was there.

We were watching Being Erica (that's an old-school 2-D TV show on the now defunct Canadian Broadcast Corporation in your world) and I had my hand on your Mom's belly. There was this tiny poke into my palm and your Mom asked (as she always does) "did you feel that?"

My response was a simple, but immediate "yeah...." and that was that.

You kicked me tonight.
See you soon.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Another Old Piece of Work

I took sometime on this one 'cause I figured that the script on it's own didn't have the impact that it would if produced...

The main short coming is that I am doing all the voices... but I think I've effectively differentiated them all.


Friday, April 09, 2010

Help Kids Read

Or, more to the point, help kids learn the value of reading.

I'm not prone to public service announcements on my blog, but I'm making an exception this time.

I've been involved in this project before - it is a fun way to spend an afternoon...
And it is in danger of cancellation due to too few participants.

If you read for any reason in your job, then you have something to offer the kids and you WILL have a good time doing it....

Read on, what follows is from the organizer - I'll have more to add at the end.


It is that time of year, some of you have helped out in the past with this. We are really struggling this year to find volunteers so are casting the net as wide as possible.

The Camp Read program occurs at an inner city school in Surrey where folks come in from the community and read stories to the elementary kids. A lot of these kids come from pretty rough backgrounds or are brand new immigrants to Canada, so they need to have some positive role models.

It is a really relaxed and simple community event. You simply come, have lunch, read a couple of stories to a class of kids (you can pick the grades/ages you would like), they ask you a few questions (supposedly about how you use reading in your daily life... but more often it is just crazy stuff kids ask). All in all it takes just a couple hours.

We are in need of around 20 people still, so it is quite a shortfall this time.... so if you know folks who might be interested we can use all the help we can. This school has a very diverse population so it is especially great to have volunteers of various ethnicities to show positive role models of all types. Kids are still talking about Sewa coming in his fireman's uniform last year as they hadn't seen an East Indian fireman before and unfortunately a lot of them in this area don't get to see positive role models that look like them and they can relate to.

The details are:

Thursday 29th April

Info Sheet:
Lena Shaw Elementary is having "Camp Read" on Thursday April 29th, 2010. We are asking good role models from the community to volunterr their time and visit Lena Shaw for an afternoon of reading to students and talking about how reading is important to their lives. We are asking for volunteers to arrive at the school between 12:00 and 12:15, and then be available until 2:00pm. The volunteer can bring their own favorite book or let us know if they want one picked out for them.

Lena Shaw Elementary School
142500 100A Avenue,
Surrey, BC


If this sounds like something you would like to give your time to, please let me know and I will connect you with the organizer.

If you are concerned about getting to the school, I have been assured that they will be more than happy to arrange transport from the SkyTrain to the school.

I will see you there... RIGHT!??

- Kennedy

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

The Re-lighting of the "W"

I really needed to do some refreshing of editing basics so I took some half-assed footage that I shot on my balcony the night after we moved in and a number of stills I've taken over the years, and a few other sourced out pieces and made a very short documentary...

Monday, March 29, 2010

Les MiseRap

I cannot tell you how happy I was to find an extant copy of this.  If only I could find a video copy of it.

No doubt it hasn't aged well, but there was a time when it was the best sketch The Juanabees had in our repetoire.

The story of it's creation goes like this...

We were doing our first tour.  It was kind of limping along.

We had arrived at the Winnipeg festival but weren't scheduled for the first few days, so we took advantage by distributing a LOT of flyers.  One afternoon while working a line-up at someone else's show, Don was asked if we were "a rap group."  (I still have no idea where that came from - never will.)  Don explained that we weren't but that we would prepare a rap number and if the woman came to the show, she would see it.

Our original response to that was "For fuck-sakes, Don!  Don't make promises you can't keep!"  Later that night as we were making our trip home we were passing Centennial Concert Hall (which happened to be right across the street from our venue) where Les Miserables was playing.  We were all big theatre geeks and some of us had seen the show at least three times.  As we drove past, I looked at the sign out front and murmured "Les - rap...."  This actually turned out to be one of two times on that trip that week that something would get said along that stretch of road home that would result in a show-stopping sketch... but I'm getting ahead of myself.

We actually thought that we might be able to do something with "Les MiseRap."  I don't specifically recall, but we must have tossed ideas around in the van through the ride home, so pretty much everyone got to lay claim to some corner of the sketch, but when we got back to our billet's, it was Don and I who stayed up into the wee-hours hammering out the script, and figuring out what popular rap songs we were going to use throughout it, and when we'd rely on music from the actual show.

In the morning we shared it around, divided up roles and rehearsed the pants off of it.  Later that night we did our first show, and we took a leap of faith and made Les MiseRap our curtain call sketch.  It brought down the house.

As we were cleaning up after that first show, an audience member approached me and said "Hey, as a cast member, I have to say, you made my night."  I was confused.  He pointed at his hat - on which was emblazoned "Les Miserables - CAST."

His name was Sylvain.  He was a swing.  (Sort of a back-up cast member who understudies a bunch of smaller roles.)  They had got to intermission and no one had sprained an ankle so he headed out to see a show at the festival.  He picked ours, simply because it was close.

The next day as I was cleaning up after our matinee, a woman approached and handed me a note.  She said that Sylvain had sent it.

It was an invite to show up at the back door of their theatre at intermission to perform the sketch for the Les Mis cast.  We did.  They loved it and gave us tickets to a matinee show on the weekend.  A photographer for the Winnipeg Free Press showed up and took photos.  It was one of a few things that catapulted our show into the forefront of the Winnipeg Fringe that year.  Les MiseRap ended every show for the rest of the tour.

The touring cast of Les Miserables delights at the 5 minute condensed rap-version of their show.

The success of our show in Winnipeg not only made touring again a viable option, but it also resulted in Winnipeg being the cornerstone of every tour that followed for the Juanabees.  They loved us there, and while other cities approached the level of support that we got in Winnipeg, Winnipeg will always hold a special place in my memories of touring.

Here is the sketch.  For once I'm not going to present it as it appears on the page.  I'm going to include additional notes that will help illuminate how it was staged.  Note that there are way more than six roles in the sketch, but there were only six of us on stage.  Part of the fun was how we'd change characters simply by changing a prop - or perhaps a hat for costuming.  In the script I am identifying roles, not performers - you'll simply have to imagine that Javert and Marius were played by the same person; that Eponine and Enjolras; were the same actor, and so on.


CHORUS LEADER:  (Counting in the 'music.')  2 - 4 - 2-4-601!

CHORUS: (Hums two figures of the main melody of  "Look Down" from Les Mis.)

     The Chorus Leader breaks away from the group.


CHORUS: (Hums the main guitar riff of "Walk this Way.")

CHORUS LEADER: (To the tune of "Walk this Way" as performed by RUN DMC.)
   At the end of the day (CHORUS emphasizes the bolded words.)
   You're another day older
   All you say for the life of the poor
   Its a struggle  its a war
   That anyone's given
   Standin' 'bout what is it for?
   At the end of the day
   She's the one who would play
   With her skirt flyin' up in the air
   Singin' Hey diddle diddle
   Like a piggy in 'a middle
   She cut off all fo her hair
   She'd swear...

FANTINE: (To the tune of the chorus of "Just a Friend" by Biz Markie.)
   I... I dreamed a dream
   Life has killed this dream I dreamed
   Life has killed this dream I dreamed
   Oh, Cosette!

VALJEAN: (Generic rap.)
   And so Javert
   You see it's true
   This man bears
   No more guilt than you

CALLER:  Who am I?


VALJEAN: 2 - 4


   Javert breaks through the row of chorus members.

JAVERT:  (A la, the bridge of "U Can't Touch This" by M.C. Hammer.) 
   Javert time!

CHORUS: (Hums the bass line from "Super Freak" by Rick James.)

   Javert and Valjean circle each other like animals.

JAVERT: (To the tune of the verse of "Super Freak".)
   You're a very slippery eel
   The kind we like to put behind bars
   Twenty years ago in jail
   And you're on your way back there now

   They grapple.

VALJEAN: (To the tune of the "oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh" part of either of the above songs.)
   No-no.  No-no.  No-no-no...

JAVERT & VALJEAN: (Simultaneously.  Generic rap.)
   You will go there.  (Javert.)
   I won't go there.  (Valjean.)

   Valjean throws Javert to the ground and escapes.

CHORUS LEADER:  Let's do it.

CHORUS: (Hums the guitar riff from "Wild Thing" by Tone Loc.)

   Cosette enters on her knees with a broom.

COSETTE: (To the tune of the verse of "Wild Thing" by Tone Loc.)
   There is a castle
   It's way up on a cloud
   Nobody beats me
   Ever mistreats me
   Ever talks too loud
   I dream of my Mother
   She's all dressed in white
   She sings me lullabies
   Never ever cries
   Holds me through the night
   (With a mighty stroke of her broom she leaves the stage.)


CHORUS: (Hums the guitar riff from "Wild Thing" one last time.)

CHORUS LEADER:  (A la, the opening of "Unbelievable" by EMF.)

CHORUS: (Hums the main guitar riff from "Unbelievable" by EMF.)

M. THENARDIER: (To the tune of the verse of "Unbelievable" by EMF*.)
   Welcome M'sieur, sit your self down
   And meet the best innkeeper in town
   As for the rest, all of them crooks
   Rooking the guests and cooking the books

   What a cruel trick of nature
   Landed me with such a louse
   God knows how I've lasted
   Living with this bastard in the house!

CHORUS: (To the tune of the chorus of "Unbelievable" by EMF.)
   The Master
   Of the house

   Hypocrite and toady and inebriate!

   The Master
   Of the house

   I'm unbelievable!

   Huh - huh!

   (Two chorus members grab chairs and majestically bring them together mid-stage as a very tiny barricade.)

CHORUS:  (Generic rap.)
   Red and black - red and black - red and black

   To the barricade!

   Red and black - red and black - red and black

CHORUS LEADER: (To the tune of "Colors" by Ice-T.)



   (The chorus forms into a wedge and marches in formation with a flag waving in the air behind.)
ENJOLRAS: (To the tune of the chorus of "Walk this Way" by RUN DMC... though admittedly the chorus of the RUN DMC version is pretty much the Aerosmith version.)
   This revolution's got...

   One more day
   One day more
   One more day
   One day more

EPONINE:  (To the tune of  "Joy and Pain" by Rob Base & DJ E.Z. Rock.)

   (A gunshot rings out.)

   And pain...

   And what else?

   (Eponine falls into Marius' arms.)
   A little
   Fall of rain
   Come on - here we go
   Don't die

   Help - help - help her up
   Don't cry
   For me...

   (Eponine dies in Marius' arms.)

MARIUS:  (To the tune of "this song" - to type it out would ruin the joke.)

   (The 'dead' Eponine looks at Marius like he's completely out of line.)

CHORUS: (Hums the bass line of "Ice Ice Baby" by Vanilla Ice.)

PROUVAIRE: (To the tune of the verse of "Ice Ice Baby" by Vanilla Ice.")
   Heres to pretty girls who went to our

   Heres to witty girls who went to our

   At the shrine of friendship never say

   Let the wine of friendship never run

   Bring it down

   White - white - rappers

CHORUS LEADER: (To the tune of "this song" - to type it out would ruin the joke.)
   Kick it!

   (Enjolras leaps up on another student's shoulders.)
  You gotta fight!


   For your right!


ENJOLRAS: (To the tune of "Red and Black" from Les Miserables.)
  To a night at the opera now.

JAVERT: (Spoken.  Well... shouted.)
   Yo, Blood!

   (Javert shoots Enjolras who falls to the ground.**  Valjean steps up looking upon the fallen body in horror.)

VALJEAN: (To the tune of "Bring Him Home" from Les Miserables.)
   God on high
   Hear my prayer
   In my need...

   (The chorus stands about confused as he sings.  Cosette steps up with a Pepsi.)

COSETTE:  Yo!  Valjean!

   (He drinks.)

VALJEAN:  Proper!  ...Urk!

   (Valjean dies.  Everyone is sad.)

   Do you hear the people sing?!

FIRST CHORUS MEMBER:  (To the tune of "Do You Hear the People Sing?" from Les Miserables.)
   Do you hear the beat box beat?
   (SECOND CHORUS MEMBER joins him.)
   Does it sound at all like drums?
   (THIRD CHORUS MEMBER joins them.)
   Real musicians have more talent
   (FOURTH CHORUS MEMBER joins them.)
   Than a rapper in their thumbs***
   (FIFTH CHORUS MEMBER joins them.)
   When you hear a record scratch
   Do you scream and hold your head
   (CHORUS LEADER joins them.)
   Just be thankful it's not disco you're hearing instead
   Dis-co in-stead....!

   (All pump their fists in the air.)


*Yeah, okay.  This stretches the definition of 'rap' to it's limits.  What can I say?  Van-full of white Canadian kids.

**If you are familiar enough with the show, you know that this transition makes no sense as it it Marius who Valjean sings over... but it's all in service to the humour in the end.

***I have to admit that my appreciation for rap has grown since then - this was, after all, written in the same year that Apocalypse '91, the album that got me interested in rap, came out and it wasn't 'til months later that I first heard it.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

A David Lynch Family Christmas

Second to last one.  One that is close to my heart.

This was written for the Reelfast 48 Hour Film Contest.  In short, teams are given a bunch of elements to use as inspiration and then are expected to make a 10 minute film in 48 hours.

In the third (of seven) year of the contest I asked my friend Rob Frederickson (you may know him as the artist, Robert Ives) who was teaching animation if he thought we could make an animated film in 48 hours.  He figured we could.

We spent some time working out with the organizers what would be allowable for us to plan in advance.  Basically, we had a stable of pre-designed characters and sets.  To this day there are purists who think that this was "un-fair."  They seem to forget that our characters are no different than the actors they already had on their teams... except that their actors can change more of their costumes than just the colour; and their actors are capable of programming their own movements.  Not to mention that the live action teams had an entire city (and more, if they were resourceful enough - and the occasional team was) to use as sets.  If anything - anything at all - was "unfair" it would be that each subsequent year the animation team had all the previous characters and settings at their disposal, as well as any new ones that had been created since the previous year.  Anyhow... it's all academic.  We had the organizers' support and consent.  Besides - it was years ago, in a contest that no longer exists.

The first year there was a HUGE learning curve.  None of us had ever made a film in 48 hours, let alone an animated film.

The animation studio was in Victoria.  The contest started and ended in Vancouver.  I got the inspiration package and headed for the ferry, chatting on cellphone with Rob and his animators on my way.  By the time I got to the ferry we knew what direction we were heading.  We had previously discussed some loose ideas based on the character resources we had.  Among the characters was a family and a non-specific horned ungulate.  We knew that the creature could pass for a reindeer and we could do a "Christmas Special" with the family.  We had also discussed the possibility that some sort of surreal randomness to a plot line allowed us to squeeze in all kinds of elements from the inspiration package.

One of the elements in the package was a collection of small shaped plastic baubles.  Rob figured that he could model and rig a christmas tree by the time I got to Victoria and we could scan the baubles and add them as ornaments... we were pretty much committed to a Christmas Special.  It was simply a matter of me writing something that pulled all our random bits together.  (I actually don't even recall what most of those elements were... Some backwards music, I think?  A can of something - soup?  Something worm-like I think too... a photo of worms or snakes maybe?  I'm fairly certain there was something that made us think of the clock... but not a clock.  And I did go to Jericho Beach first and took some reference photos... 'cause it was our 'location' - though I'll be damned if I can recall how we used/justified it.

Anyway, while I wrote my ass off on the ferry, Rob and his guys did as much advance work as they could.  (Making presents and other anticipated animated props.)  When I arrived at the studio I read them what I had scrawled and they got down to more specific work while I typed up a copy (oh those pre-laptop days) for distribution... 'cause no one could be expected to read my handwriting.

More thoughts after the (for some reason not properly formatted) script... 


Fade in.

A quaint family bungalow.

Woman at stove.  Cauldron of soup boiling.

Clock on wall ticks once.  Second hand moves forwards 2 seconds.

Woman stirs cauldron.

Soup boils.

Living room.  Two children.  Ten year old boy, decorating tree.  Three year old of indeterminate sex, humming gutterally to (him)self.  His hair looks like a bad wig.

A present at the bottom of the tree is shaking back and forth.

Clock on wall ticks once.  Second hand moves three seconds backward.

Woman at stove stirs cauldron.  She shakes in some seasoning.

Several creatures swim to surface and feed on seasoning floating on top.  The soup is too murky to see them clearly.

Woman stirs cauldron.

There is a quiet, shy, polite knock at the door.

Woman looks up from soup but does not acknowledge the door.

WOMAN: Your father.

She listens tentatively for a moment.

The clock ticks once and moves forward two seconds.

The two children are at the Christmas tree.


The three year old has found a jar of marbles.

The present gives a quick shake and quietly whimpers.

PRESENT:  oooh.


The three year old stops humming long enough to stuff a fistful of marbles in its mouth.

The clock ticks backwards three seconds.

The woman stirs the soup.

There is a quiet polite knock at the door.

Something slivers just beneath the surface of the soup.

The ten year old enters the kitchen.

TEN YEAR OLD: Mom, when is Dad coming home?

The woman laughs.

WOMAN: Your father.

The three year old is chewing ambitiously on the marbles.

The present lurches slightly.

TEN YEAR OLD: Can I have something to eat?

The woman sighs and looks wistfully at the soup.

There is a polite knock on the door.

WOMAN: Your father.

The ten year old sighs, disappointed.

The clock ticks forward two seconds.

The three year old has found a rubber ball the size of a fist.  (S)he is humming gutterally again.

The present shakes back and forth, making helpless noises.

A door opens behind the three year old.  A man dressed as a penguin comes out.

The penguin sets an iron chest at the foot of the tree and shuffles into the kitchen.
Elsewhere, an axe is being dragged through the snow.

The penguin enters the kitchen.

The ten year old boy watches the penguin.

The woman ignores.

The penguin opens the door to the fridge, climbs in and closes the door.

The woman shakes her head in disapproval.

WOMAN: Your father.

Something in the soup makes a sudden dive to the bottom.

The three year old gnaws viciously on the rubber ball.

The clock ticks backwards three seconds.

The woman goes to the fridge and opens it.  A penguin wing hands her a can.  She closes the fridge.

There is a knock at the door.

Elsewhere an axe is dragged through the snow.

Under the tree, the present shakes violently and tips over.  It murmurs.


The woman pours a chalky, lumpy red liquid from the carton into the soup.

The soup seems to stir itself.  A small fin briefly rises above the surface.

The ten year old boy curiously opens the fridge.

There is no penguin inside, simply a wall of cans like the woman just took out.


There is an irritated knock at the door.

TEN YEAR OLD:  How does Santa know what to bring?

The woman is visibly agitated.

WOMAN: Your father.

The clock ticks forward two seconds.

The three year old is humming again.  (S)he has found a ragged softball.

The present shakes slightly and cries.

The ten year old enters the living room.

There is a loud irritated knock at the door.

The woman follows the ten year old into the living room.

The clock ticks backwards three seconds.

Elsewhere an axe is dragged through the snow.

The ten year old opens the iron box.

The three year old dogs ravenously into the softball, tearing the cover off with his teeth.

The clock ticks forward two seconds.

The soup churns violently.

The ten year old pulls several small penises from the box.

WOMAN: Your father.

The present shakes desperately.

There is a loud, insistent, irritated, pounding knock at the door.

The woman acknowledges the door expectantly.

WOMAN: Your father.

Elsewhere an axe is dragged through the snow.

The clock ticks backwards three seconds.

The ten year old begins hanging decorative penises on the tree.

The door bursts open.  Four evergreen trees rush in.

Something in the soup preys on something else.

The trees enter the living room.

The woman watches.

The ten year old hands penises.

The three year old furiously destroys the cork centre of the softball with his mouth.

The present shrieks and shakes violently.

The trees seize the ten year old.

Red clad arms lay a frightened reindeer's red-nosed head against a large chopping block.

The clock ticks forward tewo seconds.

The trees rush out the door with the ten year old.

The woman watches.

Something slithers contentedly in the soup.

The three year old picks up the present.  The present makes weak frightened whimpers.  The three year old is humming gutterally again.

WOMAN: Your father.

Red clad arms swing an axe over a red-capped white-bearded head.

The ten year old stands amongst presents.  Baubles hang on his outstretched arms.  An ornate star rests on his head.  Lights are strung around him.  A family of trees surrounds him, exchanging gifts.

A frightened reindeer with it's head against a chopping block looks up in resigned terror...


A wet chopping noise.

A dull thud of something heavy landing in the snow.

WOMAN: How was your day dear?  I've cooked your favourite.

 - END -

Don't try to make sense of it.  There is no meaning to the story.  More than anything it was intended to be sort of an excercise in disturbing tension.

As an excericse, it ultimately failed.  It was simply too much to chew in too little time for a team that was doing something no-one (let alone us) had ever attempted.  The learning curve was damn near vertical.  The number of unfinished shots was long.  We had zero-time to do any real editing.  All we could do was assemble the completed shots in order.  It didn't make much less sense than the original script, but we had no chance to tweak the timing and otherwise finesse it.  Add to that that one team member fell through a glass table and had to be taken away in an ambulance, and a major last minute system crash that nearly resulted in me not being able to catch the last ferry back to Vancouver to submit the film under the wire...  It was a wonder we finished at all.  In the end, that was the victory.
But it had it's moments.  Scott's vocal performance as the three year old (The three year old would end up being the 'star' of every film the team made.) was hysterically funny - it remains a running in-joke to this day.

The following year we tweaked the team - added more animators, and more people who could handle multiple jobs.  One animator did the trip from Vancouver with me to help massage "impossible" ideas.  The same team member was charged specifically with editing - though we still didn't have as much time for finessing the cut as we'd like.  and we arranged to fly the finished product back to Vancouver, rather than losing the time on the ferry back.  In that second year we actually completed a film that made some odd sense and won a special achievement award for our efforts.

The third year I decided I wanted to try something new.  I had never done a live-action film for ReelFast.  It was time.

The animation team entered again without me.  This time a well oiled machine full of mostly veterans.  With literally dozens of characters to pick from and a very complete western-ghost-town set at their disposal, they delivered a tour de force.  It was still rather bizarre and at moments inscruitable (but honestly, plenty of live action ReelFast films suffer that fate), but it was the most beautiful looking and smoothly animated film yet.  They placed in the top ten films of what was a highly contentious contest.  My team did not - but that is a tale in itself.  I could not have been happier for them.

The next year I returned to animation with a new team - this time doing stop-motion.  The old team did not compete.  One other team did stop-motion that year - together we were the first two teams to do stop motion.  They kicked our ass.  But that shouldn't be too surprising... that team was headed up by Zach Lipovsky who would go on to the final five of On the Lot... and frankly, he should have won - but that too is another story.

Saturday, March 27, 2010


This one makes me howl.  It was probably funnier ten years ago when the references were that much fresher.  I didn't write this for any reason but to amuse myself... that happens a lot.


Broadway is barren of people.  The sky is a dark, dirty red.  There are huge potholes in the pavement.  Abandoned cars litter the street.  Windows in the surrounding street are long since broken.  Vines and creepers cover many things.  It has been a long time since this place was disturbed by sentient life.

Madison Square Gardens itself is in terrible repair.  The roof appears to be caved in and the doors are broken off, hanging on their hinges.

A lonely wind blows dust down the street.

The sound of horse hooves echoes between buildings.

A pair of horses appear at a trot.  They slow down to a walk outside of MSG.  Atop one horse is an earthy, busty, beautiful woman in a short buck-shin dress.  On the other - Brendan Shannahan.  Shannahan is dirty and unkempt.  He is wearing a loin cloth.

He dismounts and helps the woman down.  He looks at MSG in awe.  The couple enter the colesieum.


Dim light fingers through the huge hole in the ceiling.  Rubble is strewn across the rink and the seats are all in dis-repair.

A lonely zamboni, broken, sits mid-rink.

Through the passageway enters Shannahan and his female side-kick.  He enters the rink area and looks around, gaping in disbelieving horror.

He casts his gaze upwards where his eye falls upon a banner in the Rangers' colours.  Boldly printed on the banner - which hangs askew from a broken girder - is the number "99."

Shannahan falls to his knees and pounds the floor.

     You did it.  you finally did it you bastards!  Damnit all to hell.  You blew it up, you bastards.  God damn it, you blew it up!

                VOICE OVER
     Well, let's not get ahead of ourselves.

                                                             SMASH CUT TO:


A chimpanzee stick-handles down the ice....   Skates in on goal.

He shoots!  He.....