Fat lady sings – Cowboy poet dies!

The CBC techies hard at work
Brent giving me an intro

Perhaps the title to this post is what I should have used as my six word entry in the final challenge of Canada Writes 2010. But I think it would have taken a lot more “perhaps’ ” and “what-ifs” to have had much of a chance against the other talent in the writing competition.

When all was said and done I think the whole exercise went much better than I had anticipated. My fixation with beer helped cover up and/or explained some of my lapses in writing and seemed to strike a chord with most of the judges and the audience. The irony of course is that my beer consumption rate is far below the average consumption rates for the typical Canadian male.

That is the beauty of being a writer though. You can create your own worlds, your own realities, and if you are good enough – you can invite others into those worlds.

I’m back in Kamloops now and I’m gearing up for some new projects: I have a pilot to prepare for a children’s nature show we are trying to pitch to the learning channel. I have a radio play that I am wanting to pitch to CBC. I am burning incense and offering up chickens in a bizarre voodoo ritual with the intent of securing an interview with the people at TRU for a job as a research assistant. On top of all of that I am getting my solar system up and running and am trying to figure out how to spread the gospel about the benefits of augmenting the grid.

The solar project is going to take some work as I want to design a system that will automatically collect data from the system and post it onto a website so others wishing to invest in solar can see what the potential rewards are. For now I have a very low tech solution – I have thermometers on the intake and outflow sides of the solar panels and can record the differential in temperature. This differential, when multiplied by the volume of water going through the system will tell how many calories the system produces – a calorie being the amount of energy required to raise one gram of water one degree celsius.

So with my plate overflowing with projects again, I must sign off and get to work.

Peace out – keep your cinch tight and enjoy!

On the road to Winnipeg

Forget Snakes on Planes – Try kidney stones on planes!

I am sitting here, quite comfortably I hasten to add, in the well appointed Delta Hotel in downtown Winnipeg.

Addicted as I am to maintaining my blog I spent the ten bucks it costs to get a connection for the internet and am happily catching up on my emails, blogs and other posts. Quick aside: Why is it at the Super Eight or the Blue Bell Motel in Fort St. John you get free wireless internet but the more expensive the hotel the more they charge you for what should be a free item?

So the trip out was quite eventful. Apart from our plane being two hours late in Calgary, I had the unexpected joy of attempting to give birth to a four pound kidney stone. Those that have had the joy of kidney stones will know of which I speak, for those that haven’t – try to imagine a rabid ferret trying to gnaw it’s way out of your lower intestine. The trip seemed to take forever but we finally landed in the (and I don’t know what colloquialism they use for Winnipeg is but you can insert it here) city and we were met by my bleary-eyed in-laws. It was shortly after midnight their time.

I am afraid I was not much fun as we made the one hour drive back to their place. Unlike the strong silent types I am more of a free spirit when it comes to expressing my pain and I was howling like a coyote with a leg in a steel trap. Their threats of taking me to the local vet/doctor must of had some type of physical effect on me and the stone finally stopped. As long as it doesn’t start moving between now and the end of the taping of the show tonight I will be fine.

I met up with Marc and Jason at the hotel and had a good time chatting with people equally as warped as I. Both Marc and Jason are like Brainiac from the old superman comic books  – okay maybe they are not super-powered evil types but they are super smart and actually know stuff – I just know how to make obtuse references to stuff and they actually know what an obtuse angle is.

We made our way over to the CBC building where we met up with Saundra Vernon the other contestant and after quick introductions made our way up to write our one hour challenges.

Jill Walker, who looks after all of us contestants said I looked horrible but after I assured her that this was in fact how I normally looked she allowed me to continue to write. I was in fact feeling a little under the weather but had brought my secret weapons along: Mars bars and Tylenol. The tylenol would cut the pain and the Mars bar would provide mental alertness by depositing large amounts of sugar into my system.

I can’t tell about what I wrote or how brilliant I was or wasn’t but I did make it through the two hours and with the writing behind us we went out for supper and some drinks.

It was great being around people who shared the same sense of humour and could follow your logic no matter how convoluted it might be. I will sign off now and the next post will be after the competition and then we will never speak of the mother corporation again.

May day – May day!

campfires are always a good source for inspiration

Okay, that was the distress call used back in the old days of radio and is probably still in use today – although I have not seen it employed in anything that didn’t have Humphrey Bogart as the leading character. It is a crude derivative of the French m’aider and was something that was easily recognized over the cruder radios of the day and when repeated three times meant the caller was in “grave and imminent” danger.

So it is with me as I am staring at a blank screen and trying to think of pithy things to write to prepare me for the upcoming Canada Writes competition. Unfortunately I am pith-less today and all I can come up with is parodies that involve Captain Kirk, Spock and the ever outraged Bones.

I had put out a call to my facebook friends to send me what they felt was the ultimate Canadian song and will be rewriting those all day today. I found it amusing that the folks at CBC gave one of the finalists in the east the Anne Murray classic “Snowbird” to rewrite – obviously the contestant did not heed the advice given a few posts back and missed a great opportunity to wow them with a song about a dead cat.

I have a few good tunes in my arsenal now but don’t wish to share them on the off chance that one of the producers sees that I have already covered the tunes and would have an unfair advantage over my fellow writers. On the other hand they might just take pity on me and give me that foot or two headstart that my gym teacher always gave me when I had to race against the other kids.

Well I will churn out a few more songs and then turn my attention to capturing some video from my last field trip.

Just need a good rhyme for Klingon.

The party’s all over

Marc and I off to Winnipeg
where the magic is made
the magicians: Anshuman Iddamsetty and Peter Morey – and if it isn’t Peter then it’s Paul Hodge, and if there had been a Mary on the staff then it might have been Peter, Paul or Mary but I was really zoned out at the time so my deep and profound apologies for screwing up on the names – someone from CBC could post a comment as to the proper names. I’m pretty much screwed now as the man controlling the sound board pretty much has your fate in his hands. Just found out that it is in fact “British Pete” and my brain isn’t total mush – and that I have just set a world record for the longest photo caption on a blog.

Well that was so much fun I had to pinch the girl beside me on the plane to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. I wasn’t, but she was and that’s what led to all the trouble in the first place.

But let’s not talk about that, let’s talk about my trip to Vancouver and the western semi-finals of the Canada 2010 Canada writes competition. That, of all the competitions I have entered and not won, except for the gold in a triathlon that had no other competitors in my age group, was the best of them all.

First the production of the show was incredible. I will do another blog when I can properly mention everyone by name but I am afraid of missing someone, or getting a name wrong which is worse. They took four people from the general population with limited performance experience and inserted us into a very tightly timed show format – and everyone hit their marks. Okay so now I’ve got the names, the credits are as follows: Brent Bambury, host; David Carroll, senior producer on GO and writer of Western semi-finals;  Peter Morey, producer, GO; Anshuman Iddamsetty, program assistant, GO;  Paul Hodge, broadcast technician. And then there’s Jill Walker, whose title I don’t have but it must be pretty close to something like Person Who Does Everything under the Sun – she made everything run so smoothly behind the scenes that we didn’t have time to be nervous or to get into too much trouble.

The judges were perfect for their job – each was a master of their craft and knew how to be honest without being too “Simon Cowell”. It was just so cool to be able to meet people like Mina Shum, John Mann and Sugar Sammy. John is a master lyricist – his performance of the rusty knife song was bang on for those of us that grew up in the era when playing “the splits” was still allowed. Mina will be getting my three hundred screen plays next week before she can get the restraining order in place. Sugar Sammy – google his act on Youtube and you’ll be hooked – just a warning to the women though, he is a player – he made two dates with audience members while on stage, and I don’t know how many after the show.

The other writers were really interesting people that loved to write and you could tell that in our conversations off stage. Marc is an extremely talented wordsmith. He knows just which words to use to convey not only action but to evoked the right emotional response – a true craftsman. Evan is a passionate writer. His punk band, The Isotopes, plays punk rock songs about baseball and he says: everyone writes about love – why not write about something that you love. Marissa’s Zombie song (which you can see on her page on the GO website) shows her to be a kind and caring person – even for the undead. Hopefully her songs will go platinum one day so that all can enjoy her humour.

And I do have to talk about the audience. It is true what they say – CBC listeners are the nicest people in the world. Everyone of the people out there came to have a good time and were extremely supportive of the show. They laughed and applauded even without the laugh and applaud signs which are necessary with some of those TV game shows. Everything you hear on GO is real, well,  except for the trap door but they are working on that.

The show’s host Brent Bambury is amazing. He gets everyone’s name right. He memorizes an hour and a half show and if something goes too long or short he can improvise with the best of them. I never realized how intense the pressure is to ensure that there is no dead air time on a show like that.

After the show, Brent opened it up to a question and answer session and the audience stayed for another half hour and asked some really good questions. Brent and the producers made everyone feel a part of the production and it was all in all a great time.

I think I have run out of adjectives as I have used “great” and “amazing” eight times now so that means it is time to sign off.

I promise my next post will be a lot more interesting as I notice my vial of wood ticks that I had by my keyboard is missing a lid. The great tick hunt begins.

Okay I’m a big fat liar

Me at CBC

Had to break down and make one more quick post. I made it into the big smoke and wanted to share a couple of quick pictures.

The producers at CBC are great – they make a fellow feel right at home, but they did ask me to return the pencils, pens and staplers which I really thought were complimentary. Actually it was quite an experience to be inside the CBC building and see where everything goes on in terms of putting together the news and all of the shows we love to listen to.

The writing went well I think – I just sort of blanked out when they set me in front of the computer and then I came to out on Georgia Street somewhere.

On to phase two of my plan which is to go out and enjoy the bright lights of the big city. Maybe some bravery in a bottle will help me with calming my nerves – or maybe it will just make me really hungover. Probably the latter but one should never jump to hasty conclusions.

Where it all takes place