Faith Can Move Mountains... But Dynamite Works Better

Sunday, June 30, 2013

True Patriot Maple Syrup

Before getting started today, a link for you. Authors For Oklahoma has its second blog up right here, with three more sets of books to be raffled off to benefit the American Red Cross in the wake of the Moore Oklahoma tornado. Check it out, and the instructions at the bottom of each blog as to how to participate. We'll be getting more blogs up soon enough.

Now then, to today's tomfoolery....

"A true Canadian is one who can make love in a canoe without tipping it." ~ Pierre Berton

"Sweetie, why haven't we ever done it in a canoe?" ~ Stephen Harper

"Let the name Trudeau be stricken from every history book in the land. Every archive and every database. Every internet site and every newspaper. Every monument and every building. Let his time in office be nothing more than a void in our history. Let the name of Trudeau be unheard and unspoken, erased from the memory of men, under penalty of being subjected to Preston Manning and Don Cherry talking to them for forty years. So let it be written, so shall it be done." ~ Secret Directive #4582, Prime Minister Harper's Office, August 2013

"I had tracked him for days on end. It didn't matter how far I'd have to go.  If it was from Signal Hill all the way west to Tofino, I'd do it. If it meant hunting him from Point Pelee north to Tuktoyaktuk, I'd gladly do that too. There was no place my quarry could hide that I wouldn't follow. I would hunt him across the tundra, across the plains, across the mountains, across the Great Lakes. I would search in every corner of every city and every town. In every hole in the wall dive bar. In every place he could think of. It was only a matter of time. That infernal twit Ben Mulroney would pay for daring to ask me if Metallica was going to tour with Carly Rae Jepsen. For one thing, I didn't know or care who Carly Rae Jepsen was. For another, I wasn't that Lars Ulrich." ~ from the journals of RCMP Inspector Lars Ulrich

It's Canada Day tomorrow here, so of course I will be absent, off in the midst of thousands of crazy Canucks in our capital city. And I must be obliged to mark the occasion.

And without further ado, as I did last year, I'll give you places from each of the provinces and territories of the Great White North. Some I've been to. Others I would love to explore for myself. I'll be back with a blog for Wednesday, something similar for our American neighbours. Enjoy, and to all of my Canadian readers.... Happy Canada Day!

Viking Settlement Reconstruction, L'Anse Aux Meadows, Newfoundland

Peggy's Cove, Nova Scotia
Province House, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island
Franklin Roosevelt Summer Home, Campobello Island, New Brunswick

Wakefield, Quebec

Bruce Peninsula National Park, Ontario

Polar Bear Viewing, Churchill, Manitoba

Athabasca Sand Dunes Provincial Park, Saskatchewan

Auyuittuq National Park, Nunavut

Nahanni River, Nahanni National Park, Northwest Territories

Kluane National Park, Yukon

Mount Edith Cavell, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Takakkaw Falls, Yoho National Park, British Columbia

Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Clock Upbraids Me With The Waste Of Time

There's never quite enough time in the day. Either I need a few extra hours or I need an intern.

Anyway, as mentioned in the last post, Authors For Oklahoma was getting geared up with the book raffle. There'll be six of these blog entries in total, showing the various books that are being offered up to benefit the American Red Cross in its work to assist those affected by tornado damage in the area around Moore, Oklahoma. The first blog is right here. And click on the Crowdrise link at the bottom; the raffle is tied to that. From there, make ten dollar donations to the Red Cross, and you're entered into the raffle. Also leave us a comment in each blog to let us know what you're interested in. And look for more of those blogs in the days to come. We have quite a few books and ebooks donated to the cause.

I'll be glad when the week is over. I've been writing the entries for those, each blog in turn, and that's finally getting near the end. And I still have blogs to get in place for Canada Day and the Fourth of July. Beyond that... I have a blog to get done before the weekend for Lyn Fuchs... something I've had in mind for awhile on the battle of Gettysburg. At the very least, I did get one thing done and over with. Over at our joint blog, I wrote a fake news article with the unlikeliest director and cast for 50 Shades Of Grey. Go on over and have a look... and comment!

Anyone got six extra hours they can sign over to me, no questions asked?

And a good night's sleep would do nicely too. I miss those.

Monday, June 24, 2013

It's Just Been One Of Those Days

I should have known better.

Every once in awhile one of those days comes along when you get one thing going wrong. Then another. And another on top of that. And it ends up leaving you frustrated, annoyed, irritable, and ready to launch a land war in Asia (note to self: don't launch a land war in Asia).

As I mentioned earlier in the month, a number of us are working on Authors For Oklahoma. We're doing a book raffle to benefit the American Red Cross, and we've got donations of books and ebooks set up from various authors across various genres. What we're doing at the moment is some last minute details. I started out today writing up a Word doc for a blog for the group blog Writers of Mass Distraction. The idea was simple: write up a blog with the first three sets of book bundles, offering up the details for each, a pattern we'll follow up with for the remaining sets, generally three a day. When we start that up (hopefully tomorrow), you can find the link to start looking at the sets right here at the WMD Wordpress page. 

Anyway, I was just about finished this morning when the first disaster of the day struck. A hapless electrician in the vicinity inadvertantly hit a switch... turning off the power to a number of computers. Including mine. An hour's work went right down into cyberoblivion. I was most displeased, to say the least.  It took me another hour or so to rewrite the whole thing, saving it into my email, planning on uploading it to the page after lunch.

Well, the copying and pasting the text into a blog went fine... but for some reason Wordpress seems to hate me and refused to load up pics from the media library (where we're keeping our covers) in the places where I wanted them. Another source of annoyance. This is one huge reason I avoid moving over to Wordpress. I've saved cover images in other places today, and we've got something of a solution in mind, but still, I would have preferred to have the blogs up and running over at the WMD page. Oh well, best laid plans and all that.

This brings us to the other source of annoyance for the day. This morning there was, from Facebook, a friend request. It was someone familiar, someone I had a falling out with a couple of years ago. I met her and another writer through a writer's group, and well, long story short, things ended up going south. Much of it had to do with the other writer, a guy who well, charitably put, is something of a train wreck. There was a lot of sturm und drang, and it did not particularly end well. At one point afterwards, she made a completely unreasonable demand, and that was pretty much the end of it all.

And then she turns up making a friend request. Under a different name, but it was her. I had an eye rolling sort of reaction, posted a reply that I knew it was her, asking her to leave me alone. She did reply back, saying that she didn't realize I felt that kind of hostility, claiming that she was sorry. That said, I just didn't believe it. Using a different name regardless felt like it was a headgame... and I just can't put up with headgames. Not right now.

It's hard for me to forgive. It is a trait that doesn't come easy, and that is a character flaw (along with stubbornness and occasional lack of patience). I might have thought differently if that had started out with an actual message accompanying the friend request, something expressing regret over the past. Instead, what I got was a bloody headgame.

The last few weeks have been very difficult. I find it hard to concentrate, to focus on anything. Creatively I'm completely stalled. I try to do the final readthrough for Heaven & Hell, and I can't get more than half a page in before I'm lost. I've tried repeatedly to write something for the joint work I'm writing, Same Time Tomorrow, but nothing at all comes for me. I feel pulled in a dozen directions, and I'm not getting anything done right. I know where that's coming from; it's the grief, and it's part of the process. 

And then I get a day like this....

Saturday, June 22, 2013

What Does A Retired Lunatic Do With His Free Time?

Before getting to the business at hand, have a look over at our joint blog, where yesterday we said hello to summer as only we can.

Every once in awhile I'll check my blog stats. Sometimes the search terms people use to find my blog are, well, slightly beyond bizarre... which would be an understatement. That would explain how, among the top ten search terms for the week is the term Porn Captain America. Okay then...

Of course, the international audience for my readership varies from week to week. The top place each week is consistently the United States, where many of my readers are (big hugs to all of you!). Below that, things can get rather odd. There are some of the usual nationalities: Canada, Britain, Australia, Germany, and France. Then there's the strange places like Malaysia or India, which, I suspect, is where many of the spambots that turn up in my Anonymous filters come from. Note to spammers: I'm not publishing your posts, and if one sneaks in past the filters, it's getting sent back to spam land post haste! Go away! Note to other bloggers: check your published comments each day, because spam comments do tend to get through your filters.

Anyway, this week, the second most readers of my blog came from an unexpected country... Iran.

This I find a bit puzzling. I have from time to time featured Iran in blogs (usually grouchy diplomats), and I do have a character loosely based on the outgoing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (also known as Mr. Cranky) in my writings (for the record: my fictional one is a rather nasty chap). Still, how is it that within a week, six hundred views originated from Iran? What is it about this nonsense that I write that appealed to that part of the world? I don't really think of Iranians as the ideal audience for my usual brand of mischief, after all. Sorry, Iran, but you do have a rather dour, frowning reputation, you know...

An election was held there in the last few days, and it seems the new president, Hassan Rowhani (much harder to make fun of that name), is seen by some as a moderate or centrist. Not by our Foreign Minister, who dismisses the whole thing as "meaningless", but between us, our Foreign Minister is a sneering self absorbed blowhard jackass. Here in the West, when we hear moderate in terms of a new Iranian President, the subtext of that is Please, let this one not be a crazy loon like the last guy.

Well, so... the new guy is coming in, and the old one is stepping out. Mr. Cranky has certainly not been dull during his tenure, sniping and snapping at every opportunity, grabbing the tiger by the tail, and viewing the world through a warped and rather demented lens. At least that's the view from here. Still, Mahmoud (I can call you that, right?), your annual speeches at the UN consisting of endless I hate all of you rantings gave a lot of fodder to many a comedian here. What will you be doing now that you're stepping away from the spotlight? Writing your memoirs? Puttering around the garden in retirement? Yelling at kids to get off your lawn? Plotting how to get yourself into the post of Ayatollah, by chance? Come on, now,  you can share.  

To the people of Iran, just in case it's actual people from the country reading these dispatches (as opposed to Mr. Cranky and his minions... hi, minions!), you'll have to get used to the new fellow. At the very least, you're lucky enough not to have this guy as a mayor of your largest city...

And while I can't say I live under the auspices of a theocracy (something I'm quite grateful for, thank you very much), I do know something of what it's like to have a leader who's a hyper-partisan, paranoid, vengeful control freak seeking to reshape the country in his image, and would love to get away with being called Supreme Leader, Majestic Excellence, or Glorious High Muckety-Muck.

We call him Stephen Harper.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Do You Hear The People Caterwaul?

Mark Twain once remarked that nothing could make an opera more perfect than to leave out the vocal part. I would generally extend that to musicals; I've always thought they'd be much more tolerable if it wasn't for all that singing. And so it was that I skipped seeing Les Miserables, the musical adaptation of the Victor Hugo novel, when it was in theatres at Christmas. I know the novel well, having had first read it in my high school days. The story remains a classic; at its core are these two men, a convict who finds redemption in an act of mercy and the obsessed lawman who spends years searching for him, all amid the unrest, upheaval, and rebellions of France in the early decades of the 19th century. It has of course been adapted for film several times before; the most recent before last year had been the Liam Neeson and Geoffrey Rush version (if you haven't seen it, check it out). The musical, meanwhile, got adapted to great success for the stage, and ultimately by director Tom Hooper (The King's Speech) for the big screen, starring Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, and Amanda Seyfried.

The other night, there it was, on the express shelf in the library. So, I figured, what the hell?

Well then, having had seen it now... obviously I'm still firmly of the musicals are like fingernails on a blackboard mentality. Though I will freely admit that the reprise of Do You Hear The People Sing at the end with Valjean and the spirits of the dead on the barricades (oops, did I spoil it for you?) is pretty stirring. This would have worked better for me with the actors adapting the book in a non-musical way. We can't always get what we want though. Anyway, that aside, Hooper does give us a France of two centuries ago in vivid detail, the grubbiness of the streets and the condition of the poor all too obvious (and for some reason, everyone's singing). There's a rich attention to everything, from sets to costume design to put us in that place. And most of the casting is pretty good. Hugh Jackman makes for a good Jean Valjean, a man spending the prime of his life in prison for the minor crime of stealing a loaf of bread, and spending years afterwards seeking redemption in a quiet life and the foster daughter who comes into his world. Crowe embodies Inspector Javert well, carrying an authoritarian air, a man who sees the world in strict black and white. He finds himself at a crossroads, struggling with the notion that a convict can become a better person, a fact that defies everything he has ever held dear. As to the quality of their singing, I'll leave that for fans of musicals to comment. I would have just preferred everyone stop singing.

Anne Hathaway sympathetically plays the tragic Fantine, doomed to an early death (death is a big thing in this whole film, in case it's not already apparent). She's had it tough in life, and yet finds energy to sing. And sing. And sing some more. And just when we think she's done, she's singing a little bit more. Amanda Seyfried plays her adult daughter Cosette, raised by Valjean. She's the ingenue role of the story, of course, falling in love in an instant... but stuck with someone who, well... we'll get to that when we get to the bad parts of the film. Samantha Barks plays Eponine, who features into later parts of the film during rebellions in the streets of Paris. She's got her heart set on a fellow who seems completely oblivious to her- and she deserves better. Yes, you guessed it, she buys the farm too ( they could have just named the film Everyone Dies). Still, she plays the role knowing her character deserves better than this. While singing. Did I mention the singing?

This brings us to the bad. Marius is a key figure in the novel, and he's been played well before. In the Neeson & Rush film from 1998, Hans Matheson played the character with conviction, and we got the connection between he and Cosette in that film. In this, however, we are stuck with one Eddie Raymayne, who is singlehandedly the worst actor in the ensemble. There's no conviction, no strength, no spark, no intelligence in the role. Not a thing. It's like we're looking at Kristen Stewart's long lost brother, with maybe one or two extra facial expressions. And for some inexplicable reason, both Cosette and Eponine seem to find the nitwit irresistable.

The other bad actor in the cast has a way of tarnishing a very good actress, seeing as how she spends most of her time onscreen with him. Helena Bonham Carter, whose work I consistently enjoy, finds herself cast as Mrs. Thenardier, the innkeeper and something of a thief, with a husband who's just as much of a thief. Unfortunately, however, he who is cast as her husband is the problem, and being in his company doesn't do the usually wonderfully spirited Carter any favours. Sacha Baron Cohen is one of the world's most obnoxious human beings (yes he is, times infinity plus one... this is Russell Brand level obnoxiousness). To say he is an irritating rock troll is an insult to rock trolls, who have better manners and charm. Every second the man appears on the screen, I feel compelled to throw something at him. He's essentially playing his own obnoxious self (I suspect variations on that are all he's capable of, judging by his previous work), and I would have rather liked to see a French soldier come out of nowhere, take him out, and just put the audience out of its misery.

Anyway... I'm not a fan of musicals. Fans of musicals might well have loved this one, particularly if they're long time Les Mis fans. Or they might protest that Hollywood actors don't sound the same as Broadway singers. Those like myself, who find musicals to be cruel and unusual punishment might want to seek out an earlier adaptation. I would have preferred to see Hooper assemble this cast for a straightforward adaptation that didn't involve caterwauling. As long as Cohen and Redmayne were stranded on some deserted island, or in the high Arctic (without wintercoats), somewhere they couldn't annoy us.

And so with that, it seems, as you'll see, that Les Miserables inspired a lot of twisted pics. I'll leave you with a whole pack of them.