Archive for October, 2008


If you want to kiss the sky, better learn how to O’Neill

25 October 2008


Eugene O’Neill. American playwright. Tragedy. Gloom and doom. Disillusionment and despair.

And yet, O’Neill wrote one comedy. A gentle, nostalgic look at the boyhood—and the family—he wished he’d had.

I have been cast in Ah, Wilderness! at Chemainus Theatre Festival (same place I did Miracle on 34th Street last year) as Nat Miller, patriarch and owner of the local newspaper. It’s a role that has been played by the likes of George M. Cohan (original Broadway cast, 1933), Lionel Barrymore (movie, 1935), Jason Robards (Broadway, 1988), Craig T. Nelson (Broadway 1998), and Walter Pidgeon (musical version—Take Me Along, 1959).

A warmhearted and classic piece of theatre by an immortal. Spring on beautifully scenic Vancouver Island. Actual work in my actual profession. Good all around. 

April 22 to May 23, 2009. Be there.


Latitude stats

22 October 2008



Toronto beach

Toronto beach

When I announced I was headed north for my birthday vacation, most of the responses I got were variations of “You’re already north!” My friends and relatives do not as a rule tend to be idiots, so it was with some confidence that I assumed these comments were meant as jokes. 

Still, it seems a good idea to give a more precise view of my relative north-ness. I drove 225 km (140 miles) north-northeast from Toronto to our motel. The province of Ontario extends beyond that (to the northwest) another 1,500 km (930 miles). Canada itself stretches more than 2,800 km (1,740 miles) past Ontario’s northern boundary.

At latitude 43º 39′ 0″ N, Toronto is farther south than every other Canadian province and territory outside of Ontario, and only a few other Ontario cities are farther south than Toronto.

Toronto is farther south than Minneapolis, Seattle, and Portland, Oregon. In fact, Toronto is farther south than all of Alaska, Washington state, Montana, and North Dakota; south of almost all of Minnesota and Maine; and south of half of Oregon, Idaho, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Vermont and New Hampshire.

Toronto is farther south than the United Kingdom, Iceland, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Liechtenstein, Germany, Poland, Switzerland, Austria, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine; as well as most of France (including Paris), Romania, and Russia.

Despite our near-tropic location, a brief flurry of snow yesterday—can you say early?—gave us a taunting of things to come. Yikes.


Ontari-ari-ari-o, look!

20 October 2008

In honour of Fall, I am falling behind again on blogging. What else is new?

Two weeks ago I treated myself (for my birthday) and Katharine (for my birthday) to an overnight trip out of the city and into Ontario’s scenic countryside. Driving about three hours north of Toronto, we were greeted by ever more colourful signs of autumn. I can recommend Route 118 between Rtes. 11 and 35! Even the off-and-on rain wasn’t enough to keep the beauty from shining through.

Our weather luck improved, and by the time we visited Haliburton Skyline Park, the sun was putting in more of an appearance, illuminating the leaves in a variety of stunning hues.

Then to our charming, not-a-chain-or-brand-name motel.

A short walk took us to bewitchingly tranquil Twelve Mile Lake for a brief visit before the rain returned.

After dinner and sundown, the clouds remained—thick, low and dark. So I was unable to enjoy starry skies and once again missed the Milky Way, which I have really seen only once since I was in college. (We have yet to see a moose, either, so future trips to the country are required!)

The following day brought clear skies and magnificent views, as we crossed from the Haliburton Highlands into the Muskokas and to the Dorset Scenic Lookout Tower, the high point of my birthday (rimshot).

On the way home, we stopped for a second time at Weber’s Hamburgers (a tradition! a must! we were told—and now I’m telling you). And back to the commonplace reality of day-to-day existence, plus one year of deterioration. And since then the somewhat subdued yet ever so welcome colours have reached the trees of Toronto. I love autumn.


Sub-Basement 3 continued

11 October 2008

Door host (Chet?) who played Marcel, and "guest" Miroslav Grabornik

I’ve just added over three dozen more photos from my Adventurers Club archives to including a few from the last night of original cast members Paula Pell, who played Pamelia Perkins, and Kerry Long as Millie the Maid.  

I had that evening off and, with management’s shrugging approval, visited the Club as an original character from Eastern Europe (Latvia or Lithuania or Estonia or some other -ia) named Miroslav Grabornik, who through the course of the evening fell in love with Pamelia.

At the end of Millie’s Sing-Along, I got up on the Library stage and proposed marriage in broken English, to which Pamelia exclaimed, “This is so sudden! I had no idea!” And then she whipped out a bridal veil from behind Fingers and stuck it on her head.

Pamelia asked Millie to be her personal maid, and Millie said okay, as long as she could bring along an old friend. At that point Marcel appeared. He had not been present at the Club for some time, if I recall correctly, but one of the door hosts who had played him previously—and whose name I shamefully admit to have forgotten (Chet?)—re-enacted the role.

We all exited through the Main Salon, up the stairs, and out onto the porch. Marcel and I gave piggyback rides to Millie and Pamelia, and down the street we went, all the way around Mannequins to disappear into the night. I missed Paula, Kerry and Marcel for the rest of my term at the Club.

Probably got a hundred more various pics still to be scanned and edited and uploaded. Don’t hold your breath.


Hungerdunger, Hungerdunger…

3 October 2008


Opening today, Flash of Genius is a based-on-a-true-story movie about the inventor of the intermittent windshield wiper, played by Greg Kinnear. Also starring Lauren Graham, Alan Alda and Dermot Mulroney, the film includes a rather inconsequential 8-second scene in which I appear as an unnamed doctor who prescribes an ointment for Ms. Graham’s hands. For the record, she was very nice and friendly to me. A pleasure, as Katharine and I were ardent Gilmore Girls watchers.

I’ve been reading some of the Flash of Genius reviews at, and they are mixed. Either it’s boring, pointless, and hackneyed, or poignant, inspirational and estimable. The Toronto StarRoger Ebert and Rolling Stone liked it; The Globe and MailVariety and the bozo at the Orlando Sentinel (who used to annoy me with his overbearing self-importance when I lived in his territory) did not; and others like The New York Times fall in-between.

Having attended a screening shortly before the film played at TIFF, we had already made up our own minds. Sure, I’d like it to be a hit, if only for the potential residuals. But my eight seconds aren’t enough, I would hope, to cloud my judgement. In short: I liked it; didn’t love it.

Seems to me some of the reviewers, however, missed a key point or two. Some complain that Kinnear’s character is flawed and not always likeable. But that is just what keeps him from being two dimensional. And he pays for it, lending a rare ambiguity to the conclusion.

Others scoff at the windshield wiper as being too insignificant either as a subject for a film or as something to spend one’s life fighting over. But such little things can be all that we common people have to point to as ours. Besides, such a unique topic separates Flash of Genius from so many other underdog stories. It isn’t about defeating the Roman Empire or winning the big game (in whatever sport you prefer). It is more personal. Moreover, the almost ludicrous subject allows us to appreciate how even the mundane can represent integrity.

I kind of like these review quotes:

Flash of Genius is a conventional crowdpleaser but not, I’m pleased to report, a shameless one.” —Eugene Novikov, Cinematical

“There’s definitely hope for an industry that can still make a movie as good as Flash of Genius about a subject as difficult as intellectual property rights.” —William Arnold, Seattle Post-Intelligencer

“With minimal saccharine emotions and a reliance on low-key realism, Flash of Genius is a formulaic underdog tale carried out with decided intelligence.” —Dustin Putman,

So yes, it’s yet another little guy fighting impossible odds and yes, the movie contains some of the clichés we’ve all come to expect from such David vs. Goliath stories. But it does so more quietly than most, leaving room for contemplation. Beautifully filmed, well acted, and without the easy, hard-to-believe absolute victory of many such movies. Which would you sacrifice: personal relationships and happiness or self-esteem and truth? We the audience must decide whether the character’s resolve is honourable or merely obsessive. Or, perhaps, both.


From the Club Archives, Sub-Basement 3

1 October 2008


The number of hits this blog has received since posting about the Adventurers Club is both encouraging and a bit frightening. Before now my highest number was a couple dozen; the “Bear Eats You” post is nearing a thousand hits. My emotional response falls somewhere between “Wow, cool” and “Get a life.”

So I’ve scanned a few more silly photos from my pre-digital camera days. You’ll just have to forgive how often I appear in them! Eventually I’ll add more if I can dig them out. Thanks to the sundry photographers who generously gave me copies of their work. And thanks for the kind words in comments left here and on Flickr.

Find my Adventurers Club pictures here.