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Archive for 2006

Crap! Crap! Yay! Yay!

Crap #1:

Our new water heater stopped working. A little investigation revealed no reason why it stopped. Further investigation revealed that the appliance had blown a fuse. We discovered this after stores had closed, and we had no replacement 25-amp fuses on hand. Elvi replaced the one blown fuse with a 20-amp fuse.

Of course, the water heater blew that out and by my turn for the shower this morning, I had only half a shower’s worth of hot water left.

We decided to switch to 30-amp fuses. The water heater is not only hooked up to the fusebox, but to a circuit breaker farther up the line. The 30-amp fuses are safe. We’re pretty sure.

Crap #2:

The water heater is not the only naughty appliance. Our dishwasher decided to stop draining. We can hear the motor working, so I suspect it’s a clog. There is no water in the drainage hose.

Unfortunately, we can’t get to the drain under the washer, and even if we did clear the clog, the dirty water would run out onto our kitchen’s hardwood floors. (No, I don’t know why – and it’s the second consecutive house I’ve lived in with a hardwood kitchen floor.)

Looks like a job for Dishwasher Repair Person.

Yay #1:

I just finished grading all work and submitted all grades. Time to get to that travel article.

Yay #2:

I just checked. We have hot water again. Time to wash that still-dirty half of me.


Alex, Lisa (Mrs. Alex), and I auditioned actors for his proposed short yesterday. I’ll be an associate producer if we get funding. We’re planning to shoot in the spring, but funding agencies require full packages – including cast – before they dole out money, so we’re casting now.

Alex has hinted at what the day was like for him. Here’s my perspective.

Lisa and I alternated between reading scenes with the actors and working the camcorder, depending on the sex of the role that needed to be read. That was a blast. I had a lot of fun reading and shooting. I took a TV course or two as part of my graduate journalism degree, so I know how to frame and shoot.

What was amazing, and Alex commented on this, too, was how the actors could keep a scene fresh. Actors in the afternoon would crack us up with a look or nuance, even though we’d seen that scene read dozens of times already that day. Sometimes it was hard to keep from laughing in the middle of an audition take.

It was fascinating to watch. One of the scenes has a character say “Of course it does” – which is a fairly vanilla sentence. Yet by stressing one word over another, the passage takes a different approach. That’s obvious, but it doesn’t come to life until it’s done to your face.

I wondered how the actors could handle playing off a non-actor, i.e. me. I tried to put a little something into my readings to keep from being flat, and too allow the actors to play off me. I fell into it with them. One scene ends with a comical embrace, but while Stephanie and I performed in office chairs oppposite each other, we nearly jumped into each other’s arms as the camera cut.

One other actress, who also teaches acting, complimented me, saying that for a producer, I was a good reader. I just heard “You’re a good reader,” or maybe it was “You’re a great actor.” Even Alex asked me at the end of the day whether I’d ever thought about acting – in jest, I’m sure, but there’s a kernel of truth in every joke, right?

For the record, acting has never appealed to me – too much memorization.

The day also presented me with the opportunity to go all fan boy to Al Goulem. I told him to his face what I told 101 readers last winter.

Another familiar face was Trevor Hayes, who played the title role in “Dr. Norman Bethune” and acted with my kids last summer in that Canada-China co-production. You may recall that I had a discussion about salaries with the producers – whether or not that is the cause, I never got a copy of the children’s performance. Trevor offered to let me see his DVD copy of the miniseries and we’re in touch. I’ll et y’all know when I have a copy in my hands.

I’ve held auditions and casted before. In university, I co-directed and produced plays. One similar problem is that you have only a limited number of roles and too many actors qualified to fill them. Two actors yesterday were both fantastic, funny, and a pleasure to watch, but because they didn’t quite fit the type of character, we may not have a place for them. It’s a pity that we won’t be able to use all the superb talent we saw.

Units matter

George Vaccaro has an unlimited Verizon calling plan in the US. Before a visit to Canada, he called Verizon to find out what download fee Verizon would charge him to transfer data. The customer rep George spoke to quoted him a rate of 0.002 cents/kB.

Verizon’s computers calculated charges at 0.002 $/kB and billed him nearly $72.

See the difference? Verizon employees don’t.

George blogged about the misunderstanding, and posted an audio recording of his call to the company on YouTube (since removed). I would not have held myself together quite as long as George has.

Weep for our future.

Up for a breath

I got all the audition times confirmed for Monday. I spent last night correcting quizzes and assignments and I’m doing that all day today as well. I’m also taking confirmations of audition times by phone.

Gotta get back to it.


Drowning in work

Remember way back, when I said that once my classes end, I’d be able to write? Ha!

I got that travel assignment from the blog, due early January. I need to get that done on time for it to lead to further work.

I have a Reader’s Digest article to work on. It’s about Afghanistan and some of its people. My contact at the magazine told me that unless I speak Afghani and want to go to Afghanistan, I don’t have to reach the tribespeople to confirm their statements. Nice. Because the article is not scheduled in the magazine yet, I have no hard deadline, so I’ve let it slide a bit.

And then, there’s this. And this, too, I suppose. Although it feels a bit like I’ve been cryogenically frozen, transported to a star system beyond the nearest one, and dumped into the deep end of an alien ocean of some sort of fluid in which I can’t swim, with things that want to lay their eggs in me – and not in a nice way – I find myself a producer of Alex’s short film.

The funding agencies want a cast in place before they fund. Alex is doing the casting, but I’m in charge of getting in touch with his wish list of actors, and finding any more that would be appropriate. And I have four days to do it, of which today is day two. I’ve done a pretty good job, if I may say so myself, but headshots and resumes and DVD reels have yet to show up in the mail. I really, really hope they appear tomorrow. We plan to hold auditions this weekend.

My biggest problem is finding a 30-ish East Asian male accent-free actor in Montreal. I don’t think there is a single one with experience. I tried all the agencies, I tried ACTRA’s Face to Face interface, and I tried my old pal Josa at the Montreal School of the Performing Arts. I found two people through Accès Asie, a local Asian cultural heritage group, but only one has acting experience. I had to stoop to Craigslist.

Ahhh, Craigslist. I’ve had three applications from that ad, one an Asian in Toronto, one local Asian with no acting experience whatsoever and not even a decent headshot, and one moderately experienced local guy who happens to look more Caucasian than Fred Willard.

To top it all off, I have to correct collections of two QuarkXPress assignments, two final quizzes, a database assignment, and a Web page assignment – and I should do it real soon now. I hate correcting QuarkXPress assignments.

Oh, and the wife is on a business trip tomorrow.

Maybe I should advertise on Craigslist for someone who wants to grade QuarkXPress documents. That way, I might find an experienced and appropriate Asian male.

“Studio 60” scores again

Much of this week’s “Studio 60” tied up or twisted old plot lines. The episode has one character revealing growing feelings for another – but whoever hasn’t seen that coming must not be watching the show at all. Now that I think about it, you might count two more instances of that. Still, the show was funny again.

One subplot in the show – and here I don’t really spoil the story – involves refugee musicians from New Orleans. Danny hires several of them to get them some cash and union cards. The tiny end credits ran by quickly and we didn’t catch the answers to what we’re curious about. Are the musicians in the City of New Orleans band actual refugee musicians? Did Sorkin and his crew write about refugee musicians and have them play on the show just so that they could hire these folks? Anyone know?

UPDATE: Someone does know. Check the informative links in the comments to this post, especially the link to this Times-Picayune article. The musicians are all New Orleans refugees, although they may not all be starving and need union cards.

Elvi possesses the musical ear in our family and she tells me that these guys were excellent. She says the trumpeter could be a Marsalis in quality.

UPDATE: In fact, Wynton Marsalis calls himself the biggest fan of that trumpeter, Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews.

Bonus pointer to Sunday’s Gazette:

The photo isn’t on the newspaper’s Web site, but the Gazette had a photo of the tree on Marcil I mentioned yesterday.

Drive-by blogging

Me and my big blog. No sooner do I tease the Pacific Northwest for their terrible weather than we get some. Yesterday was one of those days with temperatures hovering at freezing and rain. Those are ice storm conditions. We lost power at home at 7:00 p.m. Hydro Quebec restored our power at 2:30 p.m. today. The temperature indoors had dropped to 14 degrees C – livable, but uncomfortably close to the line.

We still don’t have our cable Internet connection, so I’m in a Starbucks.

(Whoops – I just splashed some gingerbread coffee on my CD-ROM drive.)

I was going to park outside and wardrive – er, warpark, but there was no place to put the car near the shop. I had to park and come in.

While the ice melted before the night was over, the blast of ice and wind has taken down trees, and power, and cable all over NDG. Every five blocks, you’ll find a tree or huge branch down. One old tree on Marcil just south of Monkland took out three parked cars.

I came to Starbucks to get that fajita recipe I posted on 101 during the summer. I don’t have it written down at home, only online.

Gotta cook. Gotta run.

Goalie pics

As promised. View the album here.

(The arena lends the pads, but is short of sticks. My father will buy Child Three a goalie stick for Chanukah, so long as I “tell him it’s no way to make a living!!!”)

Bonus proof that the world is ending:

In Montreal, it’s 15 degrees C and we’ve had a half-hour of snow this season.

In Vancouver, they have blizzards.

Rice University’s football team was invited to its first bowl game since 1961. When I went to the school, I saw the football team win a home game for the first time in four years.


My blog traffic quadruples Tuesdays and Wednesdays because this is the blog that shows up when folks search for “House” on Google. Sorry, Diane.

My teaching duties have ended for this year. The pay is OK, but what makes the effort worthwhile is when you get an e-mail that says “Thanks for a good course. I learned a lot!” And I did.

I have a long list of obligations to complete before I get back to original creative screenwriting. Oddly, blogging isn’t on the list, and yet….

I have just signed a contract for writing/editing/updating/research on some Montreal travel info. As I mentioned previously, I was offered the contract as a direct result of this blog. I’d like to ask all you Montrealers to add a comment to this post with your favourite things to do and places to go. Make my life easy.

Now, I’m off to get a haircut, call ACTRA, and write up a Reader’s Digest report all at once…. Multitasking’s where it’s at.

A funny “Studio 60” and other observations

Dang. I had a post earlier, but Blogger lost it. Let me try to recreate it….

“Studio 60” made me chuckle last night. It seems like the show finally let Matt Perry do the funny in a way he’s comfortable with. He gave a performace that seemed… joyful. He gets to cock his head in that Matthew Perry way. Although his appearance has been poorly advertised, the episode gives show collaborator Mark McKinney some face time. Even playing a somber deadpan, he cracked me up with his first line.

(Posting about “Studio 60” before its shown in the US gives me a bit of a thrill. I asked Alex if that makes me a bad person and he said maybe, but it for sure made me a Very Good Canadian.)

The show is certainly getting funnier. It addresses an early critique of the show, that this drama about a comedy wasn’t funny enough.

Laughing is good, but I seem to only remember odd, disturbing dreams. Friday night, I dreamed that Elvi had left me to take up again with her Husband One (I’m her Husband Two). Last night, I dreamed that she’d come back from music camp, which in the dream she’d attended with her band. (In life, she’d gone with a gaggle of high-school girls.)

In the dream, she returned home with many tattoos. Her bottom was covered in a small fishnet pattern that had a rose at every intersection of the lace. Even within my dream, I thought thath the elaborate pattern had to be painful – but Elvi told me she’d been drunk so it didn’t hurt much. Her bandmates had tattooed signatures on her back. Down from her hips on the front of her thighs, the tattoo artist had written vertical sentences that alternated in black and orange ink. He’d written business card info and “care of” instructions.

I argued with her about the tattoos, but then had to leave to join family at a meeting in a sort of dining hall. The meeting before ours was some sort of Israeli-Palestinian workgroup. I entered the hall and sat with my (deceased) grandfather, my dad, and Child Three, also male. (The three older of us are all first-born males of their fathers; Child Three is a first male, but third child. That probably means something.)

They say you dream every night. Why do I only remember the harsh ones? I’m a dream analyst’s dream, I guess.

Next, I’d like to point you to Craig Mazin’s blog. I discuss my experiences with migraine and other headaches occasionally
I doubt too many of my readers don’t read Craig, but in case you don’t, I’d like to point you to his Artful Writer blog. He posts about how he gave up caffeine and got rid of his migraines.

Am I misjudging the situation, or does this NFL season feature far more shutouts than usual? Anybody know? Anybody industrious enough to crunch the numbers?

As I composed the first draft of this post, I received an e-mail from a travel-writing outlet, an e-mail that could help show that Blogging Does Pay. The editor had found my blog and expressed interest in hiring me for a freelance gig. Let’s see how that turns out.

Bonus observation:

This is what it looks like when a wife errantly feels herself too dignified to laugh at a whoopee cushion.

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