Archive for April, 2008


Hockey, schmockey, gimme a book

11 April 2008

Slowly, we are becoming more familiar with Canadian authors. (And playwrights, but more on that another time.) In my past, without knowing at the time they were Canadian, I read Robert W. Service (a hoot) and W.P. Kinsella (a disappointment). More recently, however, while Katharine has been reading Douglas Coupland and a bit of Alice Munro, I have read oodles (but not yet enough) of Stephen Leacock, four (or is it five?) novels and a play by Robertson Davies, one Margaret Atwood (I know, I know—more later, I promise!) and three books by humourist Will Ferguson.

Recently at the Toronto Library Ferguson gave a short reading from his new novel Spanish Fly and chatted awhile in an interview afterwards. Most entertaining, thank you, Will! Great stories about the publishing industry, travel, creative writing and more. The new book, a story built around a compendium of con artist swindles, sounds like a good read.

I spoke with Mr. Ferguson briefly and thanked him for helping me with a number of Test the Nation questions, since his book Canadian History for Dummies was my main reference source. (Second was an online list of Canadian inventions; we were asked about pablum and the caulking gun.) He signed my copy of How to Be a Canadian (Even if You Already Are One), co-written with his brother Ian. Hooray for friendly celebrities!

On a completely unrelated note but as a favour to my brother, my sister-in-law and puppies, herewith a link to a new site for Greyhound rescue, fostering and adoption. Just because we’re all about kitties at our house doesn’t mean we don’t care, dammit.


Fun in the dark and on TV

1 April 2008


On a happier note, Katharine and I had an unusual and enjoyable weekend.


Saturday evening from eight to nine o’clock was Earth Hour. Cities around the world participated in this symbolic event, encouraging people to turn out their lights for an hour to heighten awareness of global warming and energy conservation. Canada got involved in a big way. 


So we went to a lakeside park to see the Toronto skyline from a distance. A cold walk to the vantage point and a colder wait by the water led to something of an anti-climax: the hour began before darkness arrived, so lights didn’t so much get turned off as not get turned on. Singularly undramatic. And, despite reports of widespread participation, many lights were on.


We went back to the parking lot (which had no view of anything) and had an Earth Hour picnic of chicken and donuts in the car, illuminated by a candle on the dashboard. Then we left the park and went home as some downtown lights flickered back on. All in all, a little disappointing, but we make an effort every day to keep a reduced carbon footprint.


Sunday we were contestants on the CBC quiz show, Test the Nation.




Broadcast only a few times a year, it’s a two-hour, play-at-home quiz on a variety of mostly Canadian subjects. In the studio are six groups of people, about 35 people per group. In the past there have been groups of doctors, backpackers, taxi drivers, celebrity impersonators, and so on. For the “Canada, Eh” edition our group was Americans living in Canada, competing against weathercasters, tour guides, and members of the Canadian Armed Forces, among others. Six celebrities also participate; we got to see Barenaked Ladies‘ Ed Robertson, stoner Tommy Chong and actress Kari Matchett.




Everyone in the studio has a device with four buttons to answer the 50 multiple-choice questions. Silly rivalries are encouraged, partial results get announced along the way, and the individual with the highest score at the end of it all gets a prize. The rest of us got a travel mug and a pen.


Wheel of Fortune it ain’t.


But fun it was. And I’m not supposed to reveal who won or lost, so you’ll have to wait and watch the program when it airs in August or September.


Two rugs pulled out from under

1 April 2008


Professional honesty has been in short supply lately.


I had an audition for a series of three commercials. A good response at the audition and a callback. Even better, my agent said I was “on hold;” that the callback was just a formality; that I was practically booked subject to approval by the client; that only something like four people were on hold. Four people for three roles? Good odds.


Lies. There were dozens of people called back. I had to read a different role than the one that had gone so well before. I was directed to not do the things that got a good reaction at the original audition. The callback reduced my participation from that of skilled comic actor to that of a face, a look. Lots of others looked the part better than I; without my performance I didn’t stand a chance.


I also had an interview for a non-show biz job. As jobs go this was better than most: good pay, good working conditions, and related to my profession to a degree. The interview and practice session went well and Friday I was offered a contract, with details to come this week. Nice.


Wrong. The client’s needs changed and today I was suddenly in the “wait to hire” pile. 


Damn and pfui on both gigs. The standard rejection is tough enough without a big let down after a false build up. Onward and oof.