Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Goodbye Old Man, Hello Baby!

I thought that I would refer to my post from a few days ago regarding art and my total lack of skill or even having a thimble-full of knowledge of anything resembling art. Years ago Bob Ross's program The Joy of Painting was very popular on the PBS stations (who knows, perhaps he still
lives on in syndication). I have, however, painted my share of door and window trims with a brush about the size of what he holds in his meagre contribution to the arts. And to answer your question. No. I have never had a 'fro' like Mr. Ross. Back in the day, I did have hair down past my shoulders but never permish.

The year is winding up and it seems somewhat appropriate to finish the year with my 100th post (not that I pay attention to milestones...) I have little to report regarding my writing progress for the year. This has been a time of learning about online networking and the places for one to go to peddle their stories. I started this blog in May of this year and have connected with many fantastic and knowledgeable writers with big hearts. I had some early success with a couple of short stories at 'those sites' that publish pretty much everything that appears in their in boxes.

My goal for 2010 is to focus more on a regular schedule of writing in order to crank out more stories (which, of course, will in the long run make me a better writer). I was pleased to have a flash story accepted at 52 Stitches as part of their 2010 line up. This was my first acceptance at a publication that actually pays its writers. This year I shall try to send out more stories to similar paying markets, some of which turned me down this year.

I shall keep practicing and continue to drink in knowledge of 'the craft'. I wish all of you success in your continuing endeavours for the upcoming year and look forward to reading your stories.

Thanks for all you kind words and support this year. I send a toast in your general direction!

Cheers, Alan

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas (to absent friends and family)

I thought that I would sneak out one more post before Christmas. We've got a lot of vacuuming, cleaning, etc. to do today. Having visitors is, of course, a good motivator to get one to clean one's living space (nod, if you agree).

We are pretty sure that all gifts are accounted for (except for the ones that Santa brings...). They are even wrapped this year. The Christmas eve tradition in our house has usually been to take turns in a secluded room to wrap your presents. That was not fun, but a single malt usually made the task bearable. My wife is ahead of the game this year with everything wrapped on behalf of everyone. This was to allow us to spend time with my parents who are driving to town this afternoon.

Danielle Ferries had a great pre-Christmas post at her blog From the Attic where she posted a festive photo of herself as a little girl. I think we should start that as a small, online tradition. I present to you at the left a photo of me and my mother exactly 40 years ago (now I feel really old) when we lived in Sidney, B.C. That's the best that I can come up with as mum would have all the good stuff in her album (me naked in the tub, etc.)

I wish you all a great holiday in whatever format you are celebrating. So...have a Merry Christmas, a happy Hanukkah, a memorable Eid, a jolly Kwanzaa, or perhaps just an eggnog or glass of wine while watching the snow gently fall on the lawn (for those in the northern hemisphere). Cheers! ~Alan

Monday, December 21, 2009

Christmas Chuckle

I have been frequenting the blog Some Days it's Not Worth Chewing Through the Leather Straps for a few weeks. Skylersdad really has a keen way of poking fun at as all in all our strange and quirky glory.

Today he had a link to a YouTube video. It's the current Christmas offering from Jib Jab. Perhaps you've seen it, perhaps you haven't.

The short video reminds me of the story currently to be found at 52 Stitches called The Bump in the Night, by Bill West. I may never look at Santa quite the same again.

You can find the YouTube video here.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

In The Eye of the Beholder

Yet again, this post may be sub-titled "aimless rambling of that guy on the east coast" or "Al should stay away from the hard stuff".

About a month ago there was a national news story here about an oil painting--correction, an oil sketch--that sold in auction for about $3.5 million Canadian. You can link to the full CBC story here or you can go to the auction house information about the paintings for sale here. The sketch in question was called "The Old Stump, Lake Superior" by Group of Seven Artist Lawren Harris (shown above). They were a group of Canadian landscape artists, primarily from the 1920's, heavily influenced by European Impressionism that held a strong desire to depict nature in their own unique way.

I will be up front about my total lack of background in art. If my knowledge could be measured, it would half-fill a shot glass and I would spill the contents down the front of myself trying to drink it. One only has to look at the stick-men drawings my son does by way of art at school to know what side of the family his abilities came from. I was trained as a draftsman in school, back in the days when pencils, rulers and drafting boards were used. I find comfort in the linear and orderly words and lines on the page. I was dragged, kicking and screaming, into the foreign world of technology and AutoCad. Art is even more abstract and foreign to me.

The story caught my eye because of Lawren Harris. Many years ago, while living in London, Ontario, I spent a weekend in Toronto and took a side trip north to the village of Kleinburg. There you will find the McMichael Canadian Art Collection that displays contemporary art, First Nations Art, Inuit Art and most of the works of the Group of Seven. If you find yourself about the Toronto area, I recommend a side trip to the McMichael. the McMichael I saw Mt. Lefroy, by Lawren Harris and was mesmerized by it (shown right). My lack of art education shows when I can't even explain why I liked it so much...I just 'did'. I suppose that if I had a few million of disposable income lying about I may be inclined to buy that piece of art, or something similar by Harris.

I recall a story a few years back about the federal government buying a painting from a Canadian artist for a large sum of money. That's fine, I suppose, except that it was three vertical stripes. I wish that I could remember the name of the artist or painting and I would attach it here. The three stripes thing just doesn't inspire me the way that mountain does. Then again, I guess that it's up to a person's individual tastes.

I know that a couple of you that read my blog have some art training and are much better qualified to discuss a topic like this. What do all of you consider art? Have you a favourite?

Monday, December 14, 2009

Holiday Madness

It's now been two weeks since completing the NaNo for this year and I'm yet to revisit the story. I simply stopped after achieving my goal, even though it requires at least another 15-20K to finish.

I believe that I'm using the holiday madness season as an excuse not to get back to it again. We got the last batch of cards out today; the ones to points in North America. The cards to my family in Britain, Australia and New Zealand went out a week ago.

We also got the holiday Christmas tree up yesterday. Up, but yet to be decorated. It's one of those tall ones from Costco with about 1000 small lights wound within its branches. That would be different than the 'Thousand points of light' once mentioned by you-know-who (personally, I liked it better when Dana Carvey said it...).

Yeah, back to the writing thing...I've had a couple of short story ideas over the past couple of weeks and jotted down a few notes to gather dust in the idea file. As of the 24th, I'll be off for 11 days so I hope, between stuffing my face with turkey and chocolate, to get some writing done.

I'll leave off with a picture of the boy and the dog. Jet looks smart in his Christmas attire (I will note here that it was not my idea) although somewhat demonic with his glowing eyes. And Sean is almost cracking a smile. It's the photo that was attached to Ginny's annual Christmas letter. Again, this is just the photo, I wouldn't want to bore you all with the family schtuff.

Friday, December 11, 2009

On Writing and Korean Movies

I kind of figured that if nothing else, the title would catch Natalie's attention...

It's hard to believe that it's been almost a week since I last posted a blog. I guess that it's a combination of the push to stay on track with work and a certain amount of apathy towards writing since the NaNo ended 11 days ago. I have spent evenings either moving snow or watching episodes of Criminal Minds or CSI that were taped for me the past month.

I have also been reading Stephen King's 'On Writing' that was strongly recommended by some of you. I must say that I haven't been disappointed. He speaks with such honesty and candor that you can't help but think that it's directed right at you. His analogy of a writer honing their skills and keeping them handy as a carpenter keeps and maintains his toolbox in working order is bang on.

I really enjoy how he bluntly gets his point across with humour and a certain homey vulgarity. For example, this passage both made an important point and made me laugh...

Make yourself a solemn promise right now that you'll never use "emolument" when you mean "tip" and you'll never say John stopped long enough to perform an act of excretion when you mean John stopped long enough to take a shit.

I was flipping through the channels earlier this evening when I caught a bit of a couple of Canadian film reviewers talking about a movie that was released a couple of years ago. The movie is called 'The Host' (aka Gwoemul) and is a horror feature from South Korea. I looked it up at IMDB and at Rotten Tomatoes, where it had an impressive 92% approval rate. Sadly, it didn't get much play in North America and had only 2 million at the box office.
It's apparently a great mix of horror, drama and comedy and set records as South Korea's all-time box office leader. It is about a mutant creature living in the Han River that was apparently created by an intentional formaldehyde spill. The creature begins hunting humans along the banks of the river and abducts a young girl. The full plot can be found at the Wikipedia article here. I know that I'll be looking for this one at the video store soon.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

The Height of Laziness

Whatever happened to the idea of people doing a bit of walking? I remember an ad campaign when I was a kid promoting walking and we should all 'walk a block' each day.

The thing that drives me absolutely crazy are the people who park at the curb in front of the supermarket so that they don't have to walk that extra 50 feet or so to their vehicles. They sort of ignore the 'No Parking' signs and the marked yellow crosswalk so that people pushing their carts out of the store have to run a gauntlet of vehicles. The parking issue becomes even more challenging with a couple inches of snow on the ground as even more cars are parked in the way and the carts are harder to push through the slush. This is not unique to the grocery store. The same can be found at the liquor store (next door to the grocery), in front of the banks and other locations about town.

I was picking up my son this afternoon in Bay Roberts, a small community about an hour drive from here and about 45 minutes from my parents, where he had been for a couple of days during a school break. The Tim Horton's donut shop (got them in your area yet? A chain started by, of course, a long deceased hockey player) has a drive through and the line was over 20 cars long. Using my advanced math skills, at a good pace they will serve one in 45 seconds therefore the last guy will take at least 15 minutes to get to the front. There was parking in front of the building, wouldn't it be faster to park, walk in, get your coffee and dognut and leave? The laziness that people demonstrate never ceases to amaze me and I bet that it's a global phenomenon (at least to the fat and lazy western world).

I'm not the most athletic guy, but I do appreciate the cardio benefits of a bit of walking. We have a 4 level split house, so the regular hiking of stairs helps a bit (until I fall one day and break a hip bone).
My sister sent me another video that shows how Stockholm is doing their bit to encourage people to get a bit of exercise by ignoring the escalator and using the stairs. I think that this is a great commercial, you have to look past the VW advertising, and demonstrates that a bit of imagination can make exercising fun and perhaps we can all get just a tiny bit rant is now over. Get yourself a big old Boston Cream, or Danish, or whatever and watch the attached clip.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Morality Tale

My boss emailed this to me today. Not sure if there was an underlying message I was to get from it, but I thought that I would pass it on to you. Apologies if this has already made the Internet rounds and missed it, or am just living in a bubble...


One day a farmer's donkey fell down into a well. The animal cried piteously for hours as the farmer tried to figure out what to do.

Finally, he decided the animal was old, and the well needed to be covered up anyway; it just wasn't worth it to retrieve the donkey.

He invited all his neighbours to come over and help him. They all grabbed a shovel and began to shovel dirt into the well. At first, the donkey realized what was happening and cried horribly. Then, to every one's amazement he quieted down.

A few shovel loads later, the farmer finally looked down the well. He was astonished at what he saw. With each shovel of dirt that hit his back, the donkey was doing something amazing. He would shake it off and take a step up.

As the farmer's neighbors continued to shovel dirt on top of the animal, he would shake it off and take a step up.

Pretty soon, everyone was amazed as the donkey stepped up over the edge of the well and happily trotted off!


Life is going to shovel dirt on you, all kinds of dirt. The trick to getting out of the well is to shake it off and take a step up. Each of our troubles is a steppingstone. We can get out of the deepest wells just by not stopping, never giving up! Shake it off and take a step up.

Remember the five simple rules to be happy:

Free your heart from hatred - Forgive.

Free your mind from worries - Most never happen.

Live simply and appreciate what you have.

Give more.

Expect less.

NOW ....... Enough of that crap.

The donkey later came back, and bit the farmer who had tried to bury him.
The gash from the bite got infected and the farmer eventually died in agony from septic shock.


When you do something wrong, and try to cover your ass, it always comes back to bite you

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Limping Across the Line

The month of November seems to have come and gone in a flash. Well...that NaNo business was a real treat (in a masochistic sort of way). I'm now going to have to retrain myself in being more concise.

That was a real learning experience for me. It is nice to know that when my back is against a wall (yes, that was a cliche) I can produce a novel length bit of fluffage. And I think my WPM count at typing improved.

I limped across the finish line, yesterday, with about 5 hours to spare. I'm pleased that it's done, but not really pleased with the story. While outlining the story in October, I had a page written up with a list of messages I wanted to convey. Very little of that was accomplished. I've decided that I had too many characters. Some where fleshed out very well, others I only scraped the surface of. I do realize that all of that can be added/altered during edits 1 thru 13...

The story is still in progress and probably needs another 10k words to bring it to an end. I want a break for a few days, but I fear if I delay too long I may never return to the seedy underbelly of Metropolis.

Many thanks to those of you who dropped by my blog during the month and endured my endless whining. I would have packed in the project the first week of November had it not been for those cool inspirational pep talks the NaNo people email to the participants. But, more importantly, the advice, the kind words and the frantic shaking of the pom poms by my Internet writing friends was the real reason I completed NaNo. Congratulations, also, to those of you who completed your novels and to those of you who didn't, but bust a gut trying (oops, my cliche is showing again).