Monday, June 21, 2010

My father's day church recital.

Those of you know me know that I have no love for religion in general, though I try not to be a jerk to those with any sort of faith. Alas, my wife has (re?)discovered religion, and so I occasionally end up going with her to church functions of various kinds.

Also, every thursday a 'life group' (essentially a bible study thing- I call em the 'God Squad') meets in my living room. I attend just to be polite more than anything.

There's also cookies, generally.

The pastor (Henry) attends these little meetings, and he once jokingly called me 'the pagan'. Which I revel in. I'm the token pagan of the group. When one member was exclaiming about Jesus' resurrection, he seemed to think this was a unique thing no one had heard of before or since. Skipping right by the bible's own Lazarus, I pointed to a handful of other figures from various religions with prophets who came back, long, long before Jesus came 'round. (My favorite of which is Horus ... check the similarities) But this was met with a "Oh, I hadn't heard of those." And the discussion continued as if I'd said nothing. What did I expect?

Similarly, I was in the church's 3 year anniversary service, (a rare service appearance by me) and Henry was declaring with great joy about the uniqueness of Jesus' resurrection. I smiled, but bit my tongue, hard. As I was doing that, Henry added, "And I'm not talking about any of those MYTHS."

Que the eye roll as I pick my bitten-off tongue from the floor.

But I've ranted way off track. They're all really nice people, and if religion is important to them, I certainly won't go to an lengths to attack it, especially when they do some really good stuff, like the foodbank/counseling program my wife is starting up. It really hits towards the 'teach a man to fish' angle.

Where was I? Right. To the point. One time, I went along to 'open mic' night at the church. Religion rarely gets into the mix, but little ones are present, so it stays pretty PG, if not G. The wrangler of this thing is Carolyn, a songstress/guitar player, who occasionally has her young daughter perform with her.

If you look at the sum of the performers at open mic night, and average it out, you get 'average'. There's been some great stuff, and there's be unabashedly horrid stuff, which was applauded, appreciated and fun all the same. The highlight in that category I hear, was a little boy doing a piano solo... for a LONG time, despite not knowing how to play the piano one bit. Months later, people still talk about that performance with a smile.

My wife thought I should go to one and do a reading of my writing. My books have broad sections of "NSFW" sections... not TOO bad, but more than the young ones need to hear. So, they were out. It's also hard to read a section from a novel.. especially a sci-fi novel, without leaving people in the dark, feeling the need to explain a lot. My wife brought up a little non-ficiton bit I did about THE DEMON RAMP.
And I thought, "Hey, that'd be perfect!" But on the day in question, I re-read it at home, and realized it was in need of some polishing up. So that night I skipped getting in the front, promising I'd have something for next month. I had fun enough, heard an amazing pianist, and saw my 3 year old dancing her heart out on a pew, while holding hands with her mommy. That kid's got moves.

At some point, I got it in my head to do something with the piano next month. I told Carolyn. She asked if I needed anything. I think she might have been hinting at some accompaniment, but I told her no.

The thursday prior to my performance, my wife leaked the details of it to god squad, but of them, only Henry was able to make it to the event.

We were late that night, due to nosebleeds and train crossings, but were told we didn't miss a ton. Carolyn was playing. she soon relinquished the stage to a band I'd not seen around before. They were pretty decent. As they played, Carolyn told me I'd be on after them. "You're just going to be playing piano?"
"I could use a mic, too."
"Oh, you're singing?"
Not answering, I asked "Can you GET a mic down by the piano?"
"Oh sure! No problem."

My wife rolled her eyes, having just tuned into the conversation. I aim to get her to do that as often as I can.

When it was my turn, I wheeled up to the gradually aging standing piano. The bench was moved out of the way, and the mic set up. Since my injury, I can't use the pedals anymore, but that would affect me no more than the fact that my wheelchair raised my knees just a BIT too high to get under the keyboard.

Note- the dialogue ahead is 'as of best memory' and streamlined to counter any rambling I did due to hyperness.

I tested the mic volume, and got a little chatty. "I think anyone here that considers themselves musical in any way can trace it back to some kind of family seed, probably a parent, yes?" A few hands went up, most notably from the singer in the previous band, whose dad had been the drummer.

"Well, when I was planning on doing this, I was going to talk about my dad a little, but when I realized this was going to happen on father's day, well, badabing."

I turned myself towards the piano and rolled up my sleeves. I turned back to the people. "My dad was very musical. Piano, guitar, sax, trumpet, he dabbled in a ton of things. He did the most with the guitar, I think. I remember being like five or six, and curling up in his lap. He'd put the guitar over my head, and I'd ask to hear the lowest note. He taught me all about resonance, and frequency, and I loved to hear the low notes up close, and feel them fade away."

I turned half way to the piano, but then back. "Of course, we didn't always have a piano. we moved a lot, and pianos are expensive to move, especially with the recession coming down on the world."

"We sold the sax, too. Heck, my mom didn't like it a lot. It was unavoidably loud, and resulted in 'mush mouth' from playing. She insisted on a kiss BEFORE, not after playing. But now and then... now and then we'd get our hands on a piano." I turned to the piano, and rested my fingers on the keys. "He didn't play all that well, and heck, I'm sure not going to come close to that fella last month who blew us all away."

I forgot a little joke I planned to add here, I wanted to say at this point "Well, my dad's no longer with us.... He went to Maui last week. He's coming back on tuesday." It's true. Back tomorrow. But, I missed that part.

I DID continue solemnly with "He wasn't so fast, but he liked his jazz slow anyway." I turned away from the piano and said to everyone. "It kinda makes me wish I'd learned to play SOMEthing!" I rolled away from the piano, down the aisle, watching the people's faces as they realized one by one that I had never intended on playing a note.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Kitty litter, and feeling young again. Repeatedly. Repeatedly..

In my weekly household garbage patrol, I stopped for the most glamourous task. Armed with a rubber glove, I pulled off the plastic dome that protects us throughout the week from foul feline evidences.

Note: these roll-over 'auto' clean kitty litter boxes... (That's the exact model. The litter box, not the cat.) Don't work. Well, they do... barely. We keep it just because it gives Leela a little privacy. But changing to the clumping-style litter was a good move. A brave hand protected by latex makes short work of it all.

I was about half way done my work in the far corner of the bathroom, when I hear little footsteps behind me, followed by the 'clunk' of wood. I looked behind me; Caitlin was already gone. One of her little wooden chairs I'd painted had appeared.

I turned back to the litter box. Behind me, she reappeared with her other little chair. Then her little dolly highchair. Then three stuffed toys:

Bert, (as in "& Ernie"), which had been mine at her age. In the last 3 decades, Bert had lost all his clothing, and his hair. Baldness hadn't shaken his confidence however, still getting through life his his confident, scrutinizing scowl. Without eyebrows.

Bert had been renamed of late. Caitlin has fallen for a TV show "UmiZoomi". There's no toys relating to this show that I've seen, but she doesn't need them. She just delegated the roles of the main characters to existing toys. Bert was now "Geo", a little blue-clothed fellow with geometric powers who can build anything with his shapes.

The second member of team UmiZoomi was being played by a little pink stuffed bear, which once was named "Berry", and has gone through a few names since then. It was now "Millie", a pink-dressed sister to Geo, whose primary ability is 'pattern power'. Her dress changes to a pattern she needs, then can apply that pattern in various ways. Her secondary power is to extend her pigtails to swing on, or to form rulers. Look out spiderman.

The third and final member was being played by a... an anteater. (Do you remember my anteater story? Anyway, this anteater gets to play the role of "Bot", a creatively named green robot, whose main ability is... a TV screen on his chest. Which can show anything. In the exotic examples of what he can show, he cites a skyscraper, a taxi cab, and a traffic light. Yay? What happens when Geo hit puberty? How many traffic lights will he be asking Bot to show, huh? anyway, Bot also can act as a storage container, his hands turn into handy little food processors, and yada yada.

UmiZoomi 2025: Bot shows porn, and turns his hands into cityscape leveling maser cannons, while Geo builds nukes, and Millie uses her pattern powers to supply camo, while she swings around like spiderman. Umizoomie 2280? :

Children's TV. Children's TV never changes.

No, well, we're still in 2010, and Caitlin declares the purpose of this Umi-filled gathering as she brings in a box, covered with a little brown silk cloth. "We throw you PARTY, Daddy! Surprise party! Your birthday!"

Well, OK, My birthday is a couple months away, but she recently had her own birthday party, and evidently liked it. Seemingly having gotten over her globapobia, she inflated three imaginary balloons, and set them to rise to the ceiling. I guess she breathes out helium.

She declared the box to be a 'birthday' (cake) and the silk cloth on top to be chocolate icing. I had to blow out the (pre)'tend' candle. Despite being the birthday boy, SHE got the first piece. Me next, then Geo, Millie, and Bot. Then presents. I received imaginary Dora bouncing balls (like a pair she got on her own birthday), a Simpsons driving video game, and a Simpsons game based in space. I have to pretend to play them both. I asked her how old I was. I was informed that I was 'three old'.

Ready for my release from the bathroom, I caught holy heck for trying to move a chair out of the way. It was now time for Caitlin's party. She was also 'three old'. (again). We went through the whole thing again, down the the same three presents.

She was being very cute about the whole thing. I told her, "Sometime you just need to be hugged." Too busy with party arrangements to stop for a hug, she replied, "And sometimes I don't!"

As I feared, Bot, Millie and Geo all needed a party. Thankfully, she threw them one party for all three of them. They were 'three old' as well, by the way. As I type this, she is being tucked in alongside Bot and Geo. Millie couldn't be found. We decided she was out camping.

In other news: Claudia Black. Sorry. I must stop doing that. That is all.

'Echoes of Erebus' editing copies landed today!

They're purdy. And a little heavier than I thought. I knew they'd have to be, with 60 pages more than Lifehack, but I didn't expect to notice the weight so much when I lifted one out of the box.

The editors working from digital copies have already sent me a few things they thought needed tweaking, so these paper editing copies are a little out of date. But just a little.

Working on the image files, printing drafts of the cover out on ye olde inkjet.. it give you an idea of how it's going to look.. but holding the near-finished, glossy, story filled weight in your hand is decidedly different.

Did I mention 'purdy'?

Prisoner of Gravity, Mark Askwith and being hit by a firehose in Pitt

Recently getting into Doctor Who, after having given it up when I was a wee one, I'm now leisurely catching up on what I've missed in the last few decades. After the new episode, "Amy's Choice", I had some theories that I wanted to share with the station I see DW on, "Space: The imagination station". For any non-canucks that read this, it's the Canadian answer to the Sci-fi channel.

Oops. "SyFy", sorry. Gurk. What a name. "SyFy". I can get that on my Wii, right?

At any rate, I sent off my theory with the glimmering hope that it might get mentioned on the next "Inner Space", a half hour program produced by the station that talks about the preceding show (They follow a handful of the biggest shows).

Well, later that very day, I get an email from Mark Askwith. "Askwith, Askwith.. why do I know that name?" A googling later, I found that among other things, he produced a little show called "Prisoners of Gravity" starring Rick Green, who discussed and interviewed people relating to sci-fi and comics. The show was set in space. COMMANDER Rick chose to depart Earth due to ... well... you live here, pick a handful of reasons.

As it happened, Mark Askwith is not the picture of monlithic execu-producer that we tend to imagine, and we ended up emailing back and forth quite a few times. Coolbeans. I still don't know if my DW theory will show up on the air, but he did seem to agree that they were pretty plausible. I'll just have to tune in after the next new DW episode to watch Inner Space.

The whole exchange left me nostalgically itching to watch some 'Prisoners of Gravity', so.. Youtube to the rescue! The tragically unrelated first 15 seconds or so could have been cut, though it does paint an accurate picture of watching TV in the wee hours, when that banjo starts up for the nature show, and the satellite signal is 'hacked'. The entire opening to the show is great stuff. And hey. Meet Jack Kirby while you're watching that clip.


Pitt Meadows day. I had been in the parade the last couple years (With Caitlin in my lap, no less), ending up at a table in the fairgrounds. This time, I was just a spectator. Kiddo had issue with the noise of some sections of the parade, but had no problem with the free candy. Yes, Caitlin, take candy from strangers! Overall, she loved the parade. Afterwards, we went to lunch, and she kept asking to go back to the parade.
"It's over, honey!"
"Go back! Go back!"
The the next few days, much like at halloween, we had to convince her that it wasn't happening again today. "We go gym today? Or go parade?"
"No, Honey, the parade is only once a year."
It's still kind of sinking in, I think.

So, we happened to bump into John H. Fair briefly (the ex-head of my writers' guild who stepped down to assistant due to moving) then upon a pack of other friends, almost all of us with a strollers. Oh, if only we could have seen that moment back in highschool..

We meandered to the fairgrounds, and sort of diverged from there, many of us still looking for food, or just having various objectives.

I spent way too much time wheeling on grass.

On the way out, we passed by a regular sight at the PM day fair... a firetruck had its ladder reaching high, with a hose affixed at the top, sprint a cone of water to the cement. I'd never found my way over to it in previous years, but my wife was navigating us, and I was tired, kind of just following along.

In the middle of this fifteen of so metre (yard) wide circle, I'm sure it was a refreshing rain for the warm June day. A kid jumped around in the middle. My wife opted to walk near the outside of the circle, to be cooled by the sea-spay-like mist.

Hark, I was brave, and stupid. I'm sure if one crossed the circle boundary, (the heaviest part of the downpour, a two foot wide boundary around the gentler 'rain') it was easy. The kid in the middle did it to get in.

I didn't need to go into the middle, nor did I want to slow my wife down much. So I took a more or less straight path that ran me in the boundary for about three of four metres.

I had already seen how hard the water was hitting the ground, bouncing back up. I knew I'd feel that. I didn't count on how cold it was. Hypothermia sets in fast. Droplets about the size of ping pong balls pummeled me. I found myself having problems breathing, which made it hard to laugh, as well. Fighting a case of the giggles, and the fact that I couldn't SEE anything, I knew I had to push through. With a frigid warcry, I wheeled forth. (Everyone reading knows I'm in a wheelchair, right?) I heard SOME lady cheering me on. Didn't SOUND like my wife.

Emerging on the other side, warmth quickly returned, and I looked at myself. Strangely, I was somewhat wet. A supervising fireman stood nearby, next to the truck. I informed him that "Hey, hoses spray water!" He nodded. And I got to wheel home dripping all the way.

My cell phone's battery life went from about a week, to about 8 hours thanks to that dousing. I'm lucky I was able to fix my cat-controlling laser, and my watch still works. That was the most spontaneous thing I've done in years.

And I don't like cell phones anyway.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Website renovation, and book supplier hassles.

Site's prettier now, and laid out smarter. I included 3 sources people might be wise to buy my trade paperback* books from, but...

After spreading the love around for "The Book Depository" due to global free shipping, (DESPITE taking their bleedin' time to put up images to my books, and DESPITE a really crappy royalty rate), my books are mysteriously "Out of stock" there now. How is it said over there? Bollocks? Quite.

Ohhh, with any luck, it is a momentary hiccup. If not, I'll just have to remove them as sources on my page, hm? More money for Amazon then, and better royalties for me. At least Amazon will give free shipping to a US buyer who gets more than one of my books at once.. It's better than nothing.

One-book buyers and non-US buyers may as well skip amazon and go though Createspace, where I get the BEST royalties. Erf. It's always a pain to pay shipping though, isn't it?

Well, for the truly frugal, there's always e-book versions of all my stuff. Assuming you're okay with reading off of a screen.

*2 good sources of e-books are on the page as well, and one source for hardcovers... BUT, I'm investigating an option that could get my retail price for hardcovers closer to $20.. which would be quite nice.

hmm... I see my books are finally carried on Amazon finally got that sorted out... .UK, too... this will take a bit more fiddling to get optimal....