Thursday, 22 December 2016

Laundro-Cats

Me: (setting down bag of laundry) Okay, the laundry is done.

Cat 1: Oh, a fresh bag of softy freshies.

Me: Get out of the laundry, please. (Picks up Cat 1)

Cat 2: Oh, a new bed. I must investigate.

Me: (Putting down Cat 1 to turn to Cat 2) Get out of the laundry. (scooping up Cat 2 and turning away to put her down)

Cat 1: I claim the new bed.

Me: Get out of it. (shooing away Cat 1)

Cat 2: (nestling into the laundry) This feels great. Good job.

Me: Would you leave the laundry alone please?

Cat 2: Fine. I’m leaving. (to Cat 1 as they slink away) Did you get the sock?

Cat 1: Yeah. They’ll never suspect a thing.

Cat 2: And so our collection grows.

Saturday, 19 November 2016

Free Templates for Amazon and Smashwords

It is enough for indie authors to squeeze creativity out of their brains and onto paper, without having to worry about things like formatting their work for upload to Smashwords or Amazon.

Save a few coins and spend it on a real editor.

Smashwords and Amazon formatting of fiction e-books just got a lot easier for authors thanks to these MS Word templates.

All templates include a premade hyperlinked Table of Contents and exact directions on how to customize it.

There are a total of six MS Word Smashwords / Amazon templates. They have been created using Arial, Times New Roman, and Garamond fonts. These are the basic fonts allowed by Smashwords. Each of these fonts has two available templates: one for people who want to use chapter numbers and chapter titles, and another for writers who don't want to use the word 'Chapter', but would rather just name their chapters.

Great care has been to taken to set out easy to follow instructions. These instructions are not as in depth (that is to say "confusing") as the Smashwords Style Guide, so you shouldn't have any difficulty.

Here's what to do:

1. Download and read the instructions here: Smashwords Template Instructions

2. Download your choice of Smashwords Templates:

Arial: Chapter and Title
Arial: Chapter or Title
Garamond: Chapter and Title
Garamond: Chapter or Title
Times New Roman: Chapter and Title
Times New Roman: Chapter or Title

Start writing or copy and paste an existing manuscript (while following the instructions) into your new template.

Upload your work to Smashwords or do more conversion and upload to Amazon.

Congratulate yourself on getting in the Smashwords Premium Catalogue or onto Amazon

Check out your material and realize you should have hired an editor with the money you saved on formatting. Ah well, there's always the next novel.

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

7 Tips to Overcome Fear of Public Speaking

Your book has been published and you are faced with the monumental task of promoting it. Among the venues open to you is giving talks about your book and doing readings. This means (gasp / shock / horror) getting up and speaking in front of people.

The thought of oration can strike fear into the hearts of even the most experienced public speakers. It is estimated that over 90 per cent of the population suffers from glossophobia; otherwise known as stage fright or its literal translation 'tongue fear.' It is one of the top ten fears.

Here are some public speaking tips for authors from someone who has spoken to crowds for over 40 years (that's me, in case you hadn't guessed):

1. Prepare. Jerry Lewis (comedian, director, film star) used to say that some of his best adlibs took him 12 hours to prepare. Don't think you'll be able to stand up in front people and just 'wing it.' The better prepared you are the easier time you will have. That is not to say that you should memorize your speech word-for-word. Such intense preparation may lead to rigidity. If you are interrupted at any point in your speech you may find it hard to get yourself back on track. It is better to know what you are going to talk about. Figure out the key points of your talk and know what you want to say about each point. A little spontaneity adds sparkle to a speech.

2. Do some deep breathing exercises before you start your speech. Inhale slowly through your nose and exhale even more slowly through your mouth. Repeat this procedure a few times until you feel more relaxed. When you are giving your speech remember to fill your lungs before opening your mouth. Don't squeeze the air out with your words. Let the air push your vocalizations smoothly and flowingly (no, it's not a word, but you get my point)out to your audience. This will not only keep you calm, but will add a beautiful tone to your speaking voice. Announcers, narrators, and other voice professionals always 'speak from the diaphragm.' Slow down when speaking.

3. We've all heard about the trick of picturing your audience naked to relieve nervousness. This is not recommended. Most people, when faced with the nudity of another, do not become more relaxed. If anything they tense up. It is better to scan the audience for a friendly face. You may even want to picture a friendly face in your mind.

4. Maintain good posture. Slouching looks bad and makes it harder for you to breathe properly.

5. Remember that you have nothing to fear. You were invited to give the talk. As one comedian said to his hecklers, "You came here to see me. I didn't go out looking for you."

6. Smile and be of good humour. A friendly smile will take you a long way.

7. This one works well and is a great excuse for leaving, at least briefly, right after you have finished your speech. If you get extremely nervous speaking in front of a group you may want to delay any trips to the washroom until after the speech is over. Concentrating on getting your points across coupled with a need to relieve oneself make it very hard to be distracted or nervous.

These seven tips will help you overcome your 'tongue fear.' Try them and you'll see how much more enjoyable talking about your book in front of a crowd can be.

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Voice Over Pronunciation Guides

Many years have passed since I began using my voice professionally. (This reminiscence comes after listening to my 1989 commercial demo, which was recorded many years after my start in voice over. You can hear it here.) In that time I have recorded over 16,000 commercials for radio and television. I've also written more copy than I care to remember. Or could at this stage of life.

When in the studio it is easy to ask the director how certain words, names, and places are pronounced. Voice artists using their own studio do not have that luxury. Just because a writer knows the correct pronunciation of what they are writing, it does not mean everyone is privy to that information.

Take "Gananoque" as an example. How would you say that name? People who see the name of that town for the first time often say, "Ga-na-na-kew", even though it is pronounced "Ganna-nok-way".

How about these two? Gore and Gower. "Gore" is pronounced "Gower" in some areas and "Gower" is verbalised as "Gore".

These examples are used to illustrate the importance of providing pronunciation guides to voice talent.

Since these guides aren't always available, I've made a short list of websites that will help.

For name pronunciation try:

http://www.pronouncenames.com/

or

http://inogolo.com/

And there's also http://howjsay.com/


For other words try:

http://www.forvo.com/languages-pronunciations/en/

For those asked to use a foreign accent or dialect, this archive is invaluable:

http://dialectsarchive.com/

Unfortunately, you are on your own when it comes to minor company names.

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Social Media versus Traditional Media - Advertising

There is a war being raged between traditional advertisers (print, radio, television) and advocates of social media platforms. Both camps make valid points in favour of their chosen methods of reaching new customers, yet both overlook the value of the other.

Traditional advertisers show little awareness of the practical use of social media. They see it as being in direct competition with them.

Social media enthusiasts don't appear to understand that social media platforms are not the be all and end all of advertising.

Savvy businesses realize that there is room for both approaches. A business that relies on only one method of reaching and keeping customers will not experience their desired growth.

It is important for businesses to market themselves offline as well as online.

Traditional advertising is good for reaching a wide audience offline. The strength of traditional advertising is its ability to make more people aware of a product or service.

Social media is good for customer engagement. Businesses that use social media well understand that it is a chance for them to interact with their customers.

Proponents of social media do not help matters by telling their clients to pour their advertising budget into social media. A small portion of the client's advertising budget should go to social media initiatives, but most of it should be coming from their personnel budget. Business need to comprehend the requirements of maintaining a social media presence. This means having someone on staff who can handle the interactions necessary to make effective use of social media.

Businesses have only themselves to blame for building inefficient enterprises. Instead of having two or three people to handle various tasks, they insist on having one person do all the work. Use your personnel wisely instead of like slaves. A burned out employee is of no use to anyone. Do a cost analysis on how much it costs to hire and train new employees. Put that money into keeping your staff and watch how your profits grow.

The bottom line is this: in this day and age your business needs both traditional advertising and social media interaction. One cannot replace the other.

Saturday, 9 July 2016

Cat Customs

We have two cats. One is older than the other and thus it falls to her to pass on the customs and practices of the cat world. The following is one I can do without. I'm sure other cat owners can relate.

Cat 1: Get him up.

Cat 2: Why me?

Cat 1: Because you’re hungry, right?

Cat 2: Yeah, I guess.

Cat 1: Right. Then get him up.

Cat 2: Dad. Dad.

Cat 1: No, no. That’ll never get him up. Jump on the bed.

Cat 2: Then what?

Cat 1: Make sure he’s still breathing. Check his breath.

Cat 2: How?

Cat 1: Stick your nose up to his lips. Make sure you lick your nose first so it’s good ‘n wet.

Cat 2: He flinched. Guess he’s still alive.

Cat 1: Not much reaction, though. Go to phase two.

Cat 2: What’s that?

Cat 1: Head butt him.

Cat 2: Okay. A bit more of a reaction, but still no movement.

Cat 1: Maybe you hit him too hard. Okay, time for phase three.

Cat 2: Which is?

Cat 1: Sit on his face.

Cat 2: Won’t that make him mad?

Cat 1: He never gets mad at Mom when she does it. And she’s a lot bigger than you.

Cat 2: He rolled over. Now what?

Cat 1: Go nudge Mom.

Cat 2: Why? Mom just rolls over and goes back to sleep.

Cat 1: Yeah, but when she rolls over she’ll elbow or knee Dad and he’ll move onto his back again.

Cat 2: Gotcha. Hey, it worked!

Cat 1: Told ya.

Cat 2: Now what?

Cat 1: Now I’ll join you so we can do “The Dance” in unison.

Cat 2: Ah, good plan.

Cat 1: Ready?

Cat 2: Yep.

Cat 1: Here we go - aim for just below his stomach -

Cat 1 & Cat 2: Bladder Dance! We’re dancing on Dad’s bladder! Get up now and feed us or we’ll make you wee the bed!

Me: I’m up. I’m up. Hey, where did you two go?

Cat 1: (innocently licking a forearm) Oh, hi Dad. Are you up?

Cat 2: (appearing from the other room) Hey, Dad’s up. Hi Dad. Love you Dad. How ‘bout some food?

Monday, 23 May 2016

Jay's Jokes - Part Four

My brother Jay has been feeding me jokes for a long time. Here are three from a long time ago.

When my brother and I were younger the Native Canadians were called Indians. This was a hold-over from when the early explorers landed on North America and thought they had reached India. I tell you this as it relates to the first joke.

Joke # 1

An Indian walks into a grocery store and asks the clerk for some toilet paper. The clerk says, "Here. Try this No Name toilet tissue."

The Indian thanks the clerk and leaves.

A few days later the Indian returns to the grocery store and is greeted by the clerk. "How did you get on with that No Name toilet paper?"

To which the Indian replied, "I have a name for it. I call it 'Lone Ranger Toilet Paper'."

"Why do you call it 'Lone Ranger Toilet Paper'?" The clerk asked.

"Because it's white. It's tough. And it don't take no crap off no Indian."

Joke # 2

A Brave was sent to the Medicine Man to get something to cure Big Chief No Fart's chronic constipation. The Medicine Man gave the Brave a concoction and advised him that the Chief must take a spoonful of the medicine every day for a week.

A week later the Brave returned to the Medicine Man.

"Well, how did it go with Big Chief No Fart?" Asked the Medicine Man.

To which the Brave replied, "Big fart - no Chief!"

Joke # 3

A young Native Canadian boy had a question for his Chief. "Elder," he asked. "Is it true that you are the one who names all of the new children?"

"Yes," replied the Elder. "As soon as the infant is delivered, I look to nature to choose their name. If I look out and see a bird on the wing, then the child will be called Soaring Eagle. Why do you ask, Two Dogs Humping?"

Saturday, 14 May 2016

Windows 10: Who's Operating This System

For months Microsoft has been urging Windows 7 and 8 users to switch to Windows 10. The following is a scenario I can see happening soon. (If you've ever experienced Mitchell & Webb, I saw David as the user forced to upgrade and Robert as the Microsoft tech.)

A computer user clicks the tiny “X” to dismiss the ‘get Windows 10’ pop-up and finds himself teleport to a dimly-lit room. “How did I get here?” He asks.

A tall man in a lab coat approaches. “That’s not important. What is important is that you refuse to upgrade to Windows 10.”

“I don’t want it. I was happy with XP, but you took that away from me.”

“Did we? Did we really?”

“You stopped supporting it.”

“That’s not the same as taking it away, though, is it? You could still be running Windows 95 or 3.11 if you really wanted to.”

“No I couldn’t. None of today’s software would run on those systems.”

“So you agree that upgrading your operating system is a good thing.”

“I didn’t say that.”

“Doesn’t matter anyway. You don’t have a choice.”

“Don’t I?”

“No. And since you’ve repeatedly refused our generous and kind offer to make the bold move to Windows 10, we had no choice but to bring you here to enhance your user experience with Windows XX.”

“Windows 20?”

“No, Windows XX. X-ray and excavate.”

“Excavate starts with an ‘e’.”

“Please, we aren’t the first to drop the ‘e’ so we could get to the ‘x’.”

“What happens now?”

“First we put this monitor up to your head and have a look inside. That’s the “x-ray” part. Oh dear. Look at that. You’ve got a hamster in a wheel inside your head. Look at him run. Spinning that tiny wheel every time you decide to have a thought.”

“What? No. That’s impossible. Where’s my brain?”

“That is your brain. Oh. Look at that.”

“What? What now?”

“He’s dead. Your head is filled with a dead hamster just rocking forward and back inside his tiny wheel.”

“Aren’t you going to do something about that?”

“We most certainly are. Here, just stick this suction cup onto your forehead.”

“Like this?”

“Yes, that’s fine.”

“Aaahh! It’s drilling into my skull.”

“Yes, that’s right. Drilling straight into your brain.”

“It hurts. Won’t this give me brain damage?”

“Maybe. That is a possibility, but it’s not something you need to worry about. Or will be able to worry about very soon.”

“What do you mean?”

“If your brain is damaged, and often times even when it isn’t, we just yank out your old brain and give you a shiny new one.”

“An entirely new brain?”

“Well, not entirely. Just the parts that doing the thinking. The automatic systems remain intact. Mostly. But there are special pants you can wear if anything goes amiss.”

“I don’t want a new brain.”

“Sure you do. Why not try this one. It’s a lark.”

“It’s a bit of idle fun?”

“No, it’s a bird. I want to implant the brain of a bird into your head. It’ll be a huge upgrade.”

“Isn’t there some way I can get out of this?”

“No. Well, you could always buy a Mac, but then you’d have to give up pretty much all you hold near and dear. Their upgrades are really painful on a physical, emotional, and a spiritual level. At least with us you still get to keep your soul.”

“A lark’s brain, you say?”

“Sure. It’ll be fun. Think of the fun you’ll have really tweeting;; not just pretend tweeting. You’ll get used to the taste of worms. And pooping on newspapers and parked cars. Ready? Let’s begin.”

Facebook Stops Your Business From Growing

Some businesses have been convinced that all they require to interact with their customers and potential customers is a Facebook page. I’m here to tell you that is not the case.

Contrary to popular brainwashing, not everyone is on Facebook.

Those who have not been branded with the Mark of the ZuckerBeast are not allowed to clearly view pages on Facebook.

A giant white banner appears on the page (taking up a full half of the screen) telling you to either sign in or sign up. This mask blots out a good deal of information and is quite annoying. Any sane person will immediately click away and your business will lose out to another business that was smart enough to build an independent website.

If your business is only has a Facebook page, you are losing business.

Saturday, 7 May 2016

Vegan Mind Control

Just when you thought the conspiracy theories about aliens and the Illuminati couldn't get any more dire, here I come with an idea to really make you consider your point of view: vegan spiritual gurus are trying to control your mind.

If you are a follower of modern philosophy as advocated by the folks behind "The Secret", and the likes of Abraham Hicks, Bashar, Teal Swan, Ralph Scott, and the rest, then you will have heard that you create your own reality. They all say it. You create your own reality based on your core beliefs. What you deeply, truly, down in your heart of hearts, in the depths of your inner mind believe to be the truest of the true, that is what you perceive as reality. This is a key tenant of their philosophy. Remember it. It will be on the exam at the end of this blog.

Keep in mind that you have been conditioned (socialized) since the day you were born to believe certain things. These ingrained beliefs have become the basis for your reality. The good news is that you can change your beliefs. The bad news is that you don't even have the first clue that you are carrying around the majority of your beliefs. That's because you've been fed them for so long you've forgotten they even exist. Take fluoride as an example. People have been told for years that fluoride fights cavities. It turns out no one knows for sure, but I have my doubts about brushing my teeth with an active ingredient in rat poison.

How you view yourself and society around you is programmed into you by your authority figures; the people who you 'look up to'. They bend your beliefs to their beliefs.

This brings us back to the "what you believe to be true is your reality" concept. If you are told that certain foods are bad, and you believe it because the information comes from a source you trust, then those foods will become toxic to you. For a long time I was scared of squirrels because my Mom told me they might have rabies and if they bit me I'd have to get 900 needles stuck into my stomach.

The caveat, addendum, corollary, whatnot, to this is that there are (according to the aforementioned group) a set of collectively agreed upon conditions. Gravity comes under this category. We, as a collective group of consciousnesses, agreed that when something is dropped on Earth, it will fall. Most likely on your foot.

Getting back to the "spiritual gurus", many (like Abraham Hicks and Bashar) will tell you that what you believe is more important than any "facts" (which are the beliefs of others). Those two won't give you a straight answer on what foods are good or bad, because it is your belief system that makes them that way. Others, who are on the raw vegetable, vegan bandwagon will insist that you should only be eating what they have labelled (as part of their belief system) "high vibration food", which, to them, is the vegan diet. This completely ignores the way the human body has developed over centuries and negates the belief system of others. So, if you believe these "gurus", then you should go with a vegan diet. If you think bacon is good for you, then eat bacon. (I don't consume any pork products, unless it's on a pizza or in Chinese food, simply because it doesn't agree with my system. My friend Steve Milburn cooked a mass of pork ribs, which were divinely delicious, but I really paid for it later.)

You are what you eat. Does that mean vegans are raw vegetables? Why hasn't a zombie ever won the Nobel Prize? They eat brains, don't they?

Vegetarians eat vegetables. Beware of humanitarians.

And while we're talking about vegans and vegetarians, don't let them fool you with their concept that eating plants is completely innocent. Check out this article on how plants feel pain.

"A dream is a wish your heart makes." - Jiminy Cricket
"A stain is a squish your fart makes." - IBS Stanley

What's the bottom line? Listen to what your body is telling you. Eat what you believe (what you truly believe) is necessary at any given time. No, this does not mean you can fill up on chocolate and nachos every time you take a craving. But now and then, sure, go for it. Your intuition and your body will tell you what you need. Believe in yourself.

Thursday, 28 April 2016

The "Guy-Next-Door" "Natural" Voice

In the mid-1980s I was asked (by two of Steven Spielberg's casting agents) to go to the Nelvana Studios in Toronto to audition for one of their upcoming cartoon series. Nelvana was a major player in those days, having made their money from the animated "Raid" insecticide commercials. They were also behind 'The Care Bears' and the movie "Rock 'N Rule" with Susan Roman (whose credits in voice would stretch to the moon and back) voicing the female lead while Debbie Harry (of Blondie) provided her singing.

When I arrived at the studio I was given the breakdown (short piece of script) and a sketch of the character. I studied these and practised a few deliveries before being called.

In the booth I gave the delivery I thought best suited the character based on his look and his choice of words and phrasing. Then came shock number one. The director said, "Just give it to me in your normal voice. Nobody does character voices anymore."

So I gave it to him in my normal voice, even though the voice I had previously delivered wasn't far off my usual vocalizations. (It was a bit more nasal.)

I was so dismayed and downhearted about his "nobody does character voices anymore" comment that I stormed out of the studio without leaving any of my contact information. They had some on file (I think), but I was very much in transition at that time, so reaching me was tricky.

Shock number two would come a few years later.

I was flipping the TV dial when I came across the series. It was the exact scene I had read. The voice they used was identical to the first (character) voice I had given the director. I was flabbergasted.

This brings me to the reason I wrote this blog: the "guy-next-door" voice and "natural" voice reads.

"Guy-next-door" is a vague description at best. Do you mean Wilson (Earl Hindman) from the Home Improvement television series? Are you thinking of the whiny guy or the loud mouth? Just who is this "guy-next-door"?

"Natural" is another quandary for me due to the fact that I regular use a variety of deliveries in my everyday conversations. If the voice fits, I use it. The voices I speak to my wife in differ from the way I speak to my cats. When I'm out shopping or conversing with others, there are any number of vocal tones I will emit given any situation. (The whole reason the casting directors asked me to go to Nelvana is that during the audition for them I was delivering the lines of all the characters in the scene.) That is why there are so many different variations in my commercial voice demos. Each one is my own voice, slightly tweaked to match the material being delivered.

Certainly the voices in my character voice demos are vast exaggerations, and I do not consider them in the realm of the "natural" voice delivery. Character voices are something I've done since the 60s when my parents would return home and I'd deliver messages in the voice of the person who had called.

So help me out. What do you consider the voice of the "guy-next-door"?

Check out all my demos (and ask for a free audition of your project) on my website. Click here for demos and a free audiobook.

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Unexplained Paranormal Mysteries

Today on Unexplained Paranormal Mysteries: Ellie Bishop's Pants.

If you have been watching the television program NCIS you will be aware of the character Special Agent Eleanor Bishop, played by Emily Wickersham. Having observed this character for some time I have been struck with the question as to how on earth Ms. Wickersham is able to get into the ultra-skinny pants her character wears.

(Note for the people from the U.K.: When I say "pants" I mean "trousers". There will be no discussion of Ms. Wickersham's under garments. Sorry.)

And for those who don't remember the old joke about the guy wondering how a woman put on her tight pants, here it is:
Guy: How do you get into those pants?
Woman: You start by buying me dinner.

I have postulated the following 12 theories:

1. Ms. Wickersham is actually made by Mattel. Her real name is Matilda Mason and she is a Major. That's right. Emily Wickersham is really Major Mat Mason. That's why she is "bendy and flexible".

2. Ms. Wickersham has removable feet.

3. Ms. Wickersham is a genie. She turns her lower half into smoke and glides into the pants with ease.

4. From a small platform several storeys high, Ms. Wickersham plunges into the pants which are suspended below her on long bungee cords.

5. Cables are attached to Ms. Wickersham's ankles and pulled through the pants. The other end of the cables are attached to a team of Siberian Huskies. When the dogs achieve their top speed, Ms. Wickersham is yanked into the pants.

6. Ms. Wickersham is a mutant with the same abilities as Mystique. Her skin tight pants are so skin tight because they are actually her skin.

7. CGI: The pants are painstakingly animated for every episode.

8. CGI - part 2: Ms. Wickersham's legs are painted green and the pants are keyed in using green screen.

9. Ms. Wickersham is sewn into the pants before filming.

10. Giant claws grip the waist band and cuffs of the pants, stretching them out to four times their size while Ms. Wickersham is gently lowered inside.

11. The pants are painted on with fabric paint.

12. Ms. Wickersham's lower half is dipped in baby oil or butter and she slides into the pants.

There you have it. One of those must be true. Which one gets your vote?

Next time on Unexplained Paranormal Mysteries: How does Emily Wickersham breath, bend her knees or (the ultimate question) sit cross-legged in those pants?

Monday, 7 March 2016

Kung Fu Fighting Ghostbusters: a comedy song

In 1974 Carl Douglas topped the charts with Kung Fu Fighting. It took 10 minutes to record and was supposed to be the 'B' side of the single, but it went on to sell over 11 million records worldwide. It became the go to song for martial arts movies and any television program that needed that funky kung fu flavour.

A decade later, in 1984, Ray Parker Jr. (who had been in and out of the charts since the '70s with his group Raydio) knocked a number one home run out of the park with the theme to the movie Ghostbusters. The song was as catchy as it was unavoidable. It was even nominated for an Academy Award.

Now, for the first time, these two songs have been edited together by yours truly. The result is the one minute and twelve second comedy song Kung Fu Fighting Ghostbusters.

Crank it up and laugh, laugh, laugh. You're sure to get a kick (hiiiiiiiiiiiyah!) out of Kung Fu Fighting Ghostbusters.

Just click this link and prepare yourself for unexpected humour.

And please let me know what you think in the comments below. Thanks.

Friday, 12 February 2016

Superman or Not Superman?

Hey kids! It's time to play: Superman or Not Superman!

The Last Son of Krypton has been portrayed by a myriad of actors on the stage, on radio, on television, and in the movies. However, not all of these thespians has truly embodied the essence that is the Man of Steel. Let's take a look.

First up: 50s television star George Reeves. Superman or Not Superman?


Yes. To millions of children across North America, George Reeves was Superman. He may have been the 'thug' Superman, but his smile won the hearts of all. When Clark winked at the end of the episode, it was a delightful breaking of the fourth wall that made us all wink back.

Next up: 90s television star Dean Cain. Superman or Not Superman?


Yes. When I read Mr. Cain's disparaging remarks about George Reeves (that George wore a padded costume) I wasn't sure whether or not I would embrace Mr. Cain as Kal-El. (It should be noted here that George was a former boxer and didn't need to wear padding - unlike the Batmen of today's movies - it was the producers who made that decision.) Dean Cain went above and beyond in his dual roles of Superman and Clark Kent. That winning smile was hard to resist.

Now let's look at: 2006 movie actor Brandon Routh. Superman or Not Superman?


Oh, so close. Brandon is almost Superman. But no. Not Superman. A valiant effort. But his effort as Superman was bogged down by too many other issues to give an accurate judgement. Lois Lane. That's all I'm saying. Okay. WRONG. I'll say that, too.

It's time for the latest cape-wearer: Henry Cavill. Superman or Not Superman?


NO. No, no, no. Not Superman. A thousand times: Not Superman. It is possible that Henry may rise to the status of Superman if he were given a script that wasn't so full of angst, anger, and sadness. Superman is sure of himself. Superman is fun. Henry's Superman is neither of those.

And now, in case you thought I'd forgotten: 70s and 80s movie star Christopher Reeve. Superman or Not Superman?


Yes. Christopher Reeve was the truest embodiment of Superman that the screen has ever seen. Dean Cain came close on the small screen (he was excellent), but Mr. Reeve understood the character of Superman down to his molecules. A winning smile that won the world.

So, now you know. A winning smile, a light touch, and the ability to laugh, all make for a great Superman. A true Superman. Superman is a lighter character and should be treated that way. That's what garners the biggest receipts at the box office and the highest ratings on television.

Thanks for playing: Superman or Not Superman!

Addendum

I have not mentioned Kirk Alyn because I do not have sufficient experience with his serials from the 1940s.

The animated versions have also not been looked at, but Tim Daly deserves mention for his voice work because his portrayal of Superman was marvellous.

Tom Welling in Smallville was not mentioned because 'no tights - no flights' does not a Superman make. Besides, we are talking about Super 'man' here, not wimpy, angst-ridden - uh, sorry - Super 'boy'.

Just once I'd like to see a movie where Jonathan and Martha Kent are alive at the end of the film. I'd like to see them in their hardware store, having sold the farm. Ideally, by the time this movie would be filmed, I'd like to see Dean Cain and Teri Hatcher playing the elder Kents.

Extra bonus points to Dean Cain for showing up on Supergirl. If you haven't seen Supergirl on CBS, I urge you to do so.


Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Easy Pancakes and Syrup

Easy Pancakes

1 cup milk
2 tsp sugar
2 tbsp butter
2 eggs
1 cup flour
2 tsp baking powder
Sprinkling of salt

Heat milk, sugar, and butter slowly in a saucepan to melt butter. Remove from heat and let cool while beating the eggs. Add milk, sugar, butter mixture to eggs. Sift in flour, baking powder and salt. Mix until smooth.

Don’t feel like slaving over a hot griddle? Try the lazy bake method:

Thoroughly grease a 9 x 13 brownie pan. Pour in pancake batter. Bake in oven at 350 degrees for 10 minutes.

Easy Syrup

Brown sugar
Water
Corn starch
Vanilla
Butter

Amounts used will vary depending on how much syrup you want to make. The following examples are good for use with the number of pancakes produced by the recipe above.

Use twice the amount of brown sugar as the amount of water you use. So, if you use a 1/4 cup of water, use 1/2 a cup of brown sugar. Put them both in a saucepan. Break up brown sugar in the water. Stir thoroughly. Bring it to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer. Sprinkle in about 2 tsp corn starch. Break up the lumps with the back of a spoon against the sides of the saucepan. Bring it back up to a boil. Let it boil up for a minute or so. Turn off heat. Add a tbsp of butter or so. Stir to melt butter. Add a tsp of vanilla. Stir it. Stick a lid on it.

Monday, 8 February 2016

Say It Ain't So, Noel


I found myself (not that I had actually lost myself, it's hard to lose one self unless you're really invested in whatever you are doing) seated on a hard, wooden chair. Before me (before me was the rest of my family, but let's leave them out of this for the moment) sat a grey metal desk, upon which stacks of paper rose like industrial chimneys, choking the air with their bureaucracy.
Behind the desk, diligently focused on one particular piece of parchment, sat a man with closely cropped black hair. The hair was on his head. It wasn't sitting beside him or anything of that sort. It wasn't draped across his lap while he stroked it idly. He had short, black hair. His suit of inoffensive blue (the latest colour from Farrow & Ball) screamed 'Conservative'. It was quite loud. I had to cover my ears. His beady brown eyes finished their final lap of the paper he had been scrutinizing and he smoothed it out on the desk in front of him. He fixed me with a stony glare. (At least it felt like he had neutered me, what with that icy stare and all.)
"Too great a risk," he stated. "We cannot insure you."
It was then that I happened to notice the name plate perched in front of the gleaming white blotter on his desk. I could scarcely believe my eyes. The plaque read (well, it didn't actually read, it was just a piece of wood and metal and therefore was incapable of reading) 'Noel Fielding - Actuary'.
"Just a three-horned minute," I stammered. "Is that name plate correct?"
"Yes," he answered without a hint of a smile.
"You're Noel Fielding?" I asked.
"Yes," he replied. "I am."
"But, I..."
"Don't call me butt eye," he said without a trace of humour in his voice. "Although I have been called worse. Just because we cannot insure you does not mean you should insult me."
"You're Noel Fielding," I repeated.
"Yes," he assured me again. "I am Noel Fielding. I am an actuary and staunch supporter of the Conservative party."
I managed to regain some of my composure. It wasn't easy. I had to use two paper bags to scoop it up. "You're having me on. Is this a hidden camera show?"
"It is not," he said, stone-faced.
"Noel Fielding? The Mighty Boosh? Luxury Comedy?"
"I recognize my name, but I haven't the foggiest about the other things you mentioned."
"Luxury Comedy! Fantasy Man," I blurted at him.
"It sounds like nonsense to me," he stated. "Fantasy and comedy have no place in my world. Complete and utter wastes of time."
In a tank in the corner of the room, a school of fish, resplendent in thick fur coats, some wearing bowler hats while others donned pill boxes (those were the ones with the bright red lipstick) issued forth mournful dirges of lamentation.
The man who claimed to be Noel Fielding got up from his seat, walked over to the fish tank, pulled a gun out of his suit jacket and proceeded to shoot each of the fish with tiny bullets.
He returned to his chair and said, "Now, if you have finished wasting my time, please leave."
"Wait," I said. "Your eyes. What happened to them?"
"Nothing," he responded. "My eyes have always been like this."
"No they haven't," I informed him. "Your eyes are brown now. They used to be blue."
"No they didn't."
"Yes, they did. Sparkly blue lit up like they could fire sapphire beams of imagination."
"Imagination is overrated," he stated. "What anyone needs is two feet firmly on the ground. Nose to the grindstone. Shoulder to the wheel."
"Ever tried working in that position?"
"A hard day's work and a regular routine with no frivolities. That's what makes this a great life."
It was then I realised to my dread that Noel Fielding had lost his imagination.
I woke up in a cold sweat. Okay, it wasn't really cold. It was more of a lukewarm sweat, but you get the idea.
My cat was walking by, smoking a cigarillo. Her red kerchief and Stetson glowed as she puffed. She stopped. "What?" She asked.
"Watching Cat Ballou again?"
"What of it?"
"Nothing," I said. "You enjoy. But stay out of the whiskey this time."
"Yeah, yeah," she said, over her shoulder as she sauntered away.
"Oh," I called after her.
"What now?"
"I had this terrible nightmare," I said.
"I've never heard of a wonderful nightmare," she replied. "What was so terrible about it?"
"I dreamt that Noel Fielding had lost his imagination. He was a conservative actuary and his brilliant blue, smiley eyes had faded into brown, lifeless orbs."
"Are you sure it wasn't Richard Ayoade having you on?"
I paused to consider that possibility and drifted back to a (thankfully) dreamless sleep.

It's a dream come true. Noel Fielding is coming to Toronto! (And other places in North America.) http://noelfielding.co.uk/tour/



Thursday, 7 January 2016

Jay's Jokes - Part Three


Jay and I met up at a family get together just before the Holidays. It was to celebrate my Mother and her accomplishments; not the least of which was finally getting my Father's memoirs into print. You can buy the book through the publisher here: http://www.wmpub.ca/8085-Mittler.htm It's a much better story than is described on that page. Please pick up a copy and help pay for my Mother's years of putting up with my Father.

Anyhow, back to meeting up with 'tall and talented'... At one point Jay said, "I only have about three jokes." This he mentioned in conjunction with a tale about a young lad who stormed up to him in the grocery store to let Jay know that the boy had finally figured out why the punch line of one of "Jay's 3 jokes" was funny. The kid finally got it and had to let Jay know. That joke? Why was the pirate upset at the price of corn? Because it was just a buck an ear. Jay has always enjoyed puns. It is something we have in common. This love of word play was inherited from our Mother who passed it down from her parents.

Like a true sibling, I am here to prove my brother wrong. Jay may think he only has three jokes, but I assure you he has shared a multitude of mirth over the years. Here's another one:

Jack and the Bears

Jack was sitting in the Lavigne Tavern, complaining about the bears. "They get into everything. Over-sized rodents. I've tried everything to discourage them and get them to stay away from my place, but no luck."
Guy, the owner of the Tavern, smiled at Jack and said, "Bears used to be a pain in my backside, too. Then I figured out how to show 'em who's boss. Now I don't have any problems with bears."
Jack was intrigued. "What'd you do?"
Guy said, "Buy yourself another drink and I'll tell you."
Jack was happy to comply.
"Okay," Guy said. "First you'll need some supplies. Do you still have your ice fishing gear?"
"Yeah," Jack replied. "Pretty much anything and everything. Auger, saws, lines, hut, you name it."
"Good," Guy said. "The only other thing you're going to need is a large can of sweet peas."
"Peas?" Jack gave Guy a bewildered look.
"Yes, sweet green peas. Bears love sweet green peas almost as much as they love honey and rooting in garbage."
"Okay."
"Now here's what you do," Guy explained. "Go out onto the lake and cut a big hole into the ice. Make it really big. Not just a little ice fishing hole. This hole has to be massive."
"Okay."
"Then take the can of sweet peas and make a line of them along one edge of the opening in the ice."
"Got it."
"Next find a spot close to the edge of the lake where you can hide from any approaching bears."
"Yup."
"Now you just wait. When a bear stops to take a pea, rush up behind him and kick him in the ice hole."