Wednesday, August 31, 2011

My All Time Most Read Posts

I've been running this blog off and on since 2004, and have been posting almost daily (or more) since near the start of 2010. I've written on a wide variety of topics, and for the most part, usually just write what will amuse me or what I need to get off my chest. Though my writing career has benefited from having this blog, for the most part I'm not writing content with the sole purpose of furthering my career or writing articles that I can eventually sell (for starters, it isn't common practice for publishers to buy content that was originally put on the 'net for free). I'd be lying if I claimed that I didn't care a little about growing my readership or making the site more popular, but in the end, its main purpose is going to be my place to write about things I want. The simple fact is, a site of random assortment of content is rarely going to attract as many readers as a site that is focused on a specific subject matter. But my job is to to write on specific subject matter and write to the specification of others, and so I don't want to do that on a blog that is designed to be a hobby.

All that being said, I do like attracting traffic to the site. I am always interested in seeing what blog posts bring in the most readers. So, I decided to reveal the current all time most popular blog posts.

RIP Macho Man Randy Savage 1952-2011 - This blog post actually still gets several hits a day, despite the fact it was written at the start of June. This is one of the examples of where 'pimping' out my blog paid off huge. I ended up sending this link to a few sites, because I thought their readers may be interested in checking it out. Most of the sites were nice enough to put up the link, which lead to this being the post that generated the most traffic for this blog within the first day. Because of that traffic and the fact the link is on several sites, its convinced Google that this article is an authority on Macho Man. Now, the post usually gets pretty high on Google rankings if you search for info on Randy Savage(especially if you want to know about a Macho Man Halloween costume). The good news is I'm pumped to have an article that does well on Google, but the bad news is that I'm pretty sure I'll never write anything that will attract the same number of readers. Right now, this article has garnered more than four times more hits than anything else on this blog. And people used to complain when I wrote about wrestling.

RIP Jack Layton 1950 - 2011 - So, this would lead you to believe that people sure like reading obits. Though I think it has more to do with the fact that I also passed this link around to several sites, and most were kind enough to post it. It hasn't been able to get close to the Macho Man article, mainly due to the fact Layton is much less known outside of Canada than Macho Man. I'm not saying that is fair or that I like that fact, but I guess, I can't blame people being more interested in 80s wrestling than modern Canadian politics (sometimes I am too). Unfortunately, my Layton article doesn't do as well on Google, or people just aren't searching for Layton as much after his death. Again, not necessarily a fact I like, but then again, I don't tend to google too many politicians (especially those outside my country). This blog will always have a special place with me because not only do I think it was a fitting tribute, but others liked it enough that they wanted to buy it for their own site (which is pretty cool considering it was offered up for free on my blog first).

My Wonderful and Amazing Life Changing Announcement - I told you that babies equal traffic. The subject header probably could have only meant three things 1) I was going to be a father, 2) I landed a book deal or 3) I was just being ass and would end up writing nonsense (because I do that). At least two of those would have been intriguing enough to draw in people that wanted to find out what it was. I think it also helped that I ended up using social media sites like Twitter and Facebook to build up anticipation for my announcement and cause people to be alert for when I finally posted this article. It also shows that obviously lots you actually care about my personal life, which you know, is nice for the ego. In the end, I chalk this up to the power of babies and the value in hyping something up (and the fact my wife didn't want to make her own announcement, so she referred people to my blog).

As Promised By My Previous Post. . . - I actually have no idea why this one rates so high, especially since there are many more articles that I promoted more constantly. This was essentially just a throw away I threw up, because I promised I would put up something after the Bears vs. Packer NFC Championship game. All I can think is that you're all cruel and you wanted to see me cry about my beloved Bears.

Craig Kielburger: Inspiring Others For Greatness - I am happy with this blog post's position because it isn't about my favourite team losing or my random moanings. I also didn't really promote this blog much outside of Facebook and Twitter, so its pretty high considering it has nothing to do with babies. I think, it has done well because Kielburger is known well enough that people want to read about him (he's been googled by folks from several countries) but isn't big enough where he is written about on a lot of major sites. Essentially, the blog post had a lot less competition on search engines, and so it usually ranked fairly high when one was looking for Kielburger. I am fine with that because I think it is a pretty good article, and I think Kielburger is a great human being that more people should recognize. This is another article that still gets Google hits on a fairly regular basis.

My Token I Survived The Week Post - I even have less of an idea why this one has garnered so many views. I never promoted it, and it is nothing more than me just making an excuse for not blogging that week. The only thing I can think of is that Survivor Redemption Island was premiering around this time and I had 'survived' in the title, thus it did surprisingly well on search engines. Or people just really liked hearing me complain about work, and so they passed my moaning on to friends (with this and the Bears post, it seems like whining is a bigger traffic magnet than babies).

Evangelical Failure: The Flaws In Aggressively Pushing Your Belief - This was one of the blog posts I was most afraid to make public, but for a short while, it was my most viewed post. This one drew a lot of traffic from social media sites like Twitter and Facbeook, obviously due to the rather controversial title. The other big help was that Dave Carrol (who wrote the blog post that played a big part in inspiring this post) was kind enough to link to it from his blog and Twitter (so I gained a lot of his followers for this post). It also probably has an inflated number because some debates started up in the comment thread, which means a few people returned just to engage in the discussion. Actually, that is pretty obvious now, since it hasn't gotten many views for quite awhile now. It is proof once again of the value of people linking to a post, and also creating subject matter that stirs up debate.

Goodbye Ford Plant: Brantford Permanently Loses A Piece of Its Heart & Soul - This one is up this high entirely because of Google, because I didn't really try very hard in promoting it, because I (wrongly) believe no one outside of Brantford would care. The Ford Plant isn't something that is going to be really well known outside of Brantford, thus not many articles or pages devoted to it, but clearly, it was known enough around Ontario that for several months it was googled. Due to lack of competition, my blog post again benefited by being able to rank really high. I think it says a lot about how important the Ford Plant was that "Brantford Ford Plant Shutting Down" was googled by people all around Ontario and even parts of New York. It's going to be missed. And yes, I realize that actual Ford plants being shut down would also be something that is googled and lead people to my non car oriented article, but since "Brantford' never had a car plant, it is safe to say there was people clearly searching for the much missed music venue.

"Ground Zero Mosque": The Debate That Should Have Never Existed - Chalk this one up to 'striking the iron while its hot' strategy. Not that I wrote this for the sole purpose to reel in a horde of readers, because in reality, it was written more due to the need to vent over an issues that was driving me insane. But for the end of August and first half of September, this was a pretty hot button issue. The article got tons of views thank to ranking decently on Google, the link being a magnet on Facebook and Twitter (thanks to the whole controversial title philosophy), and it ended up being a lively debate in the comment section. It had a lot of different factors that made it a go to article, and for a good while it was the reigning king. The fact it was a news story and eventually people got bored with the issue, caused it to be an article that people stopped seeking out, but the fact that it still ranks, proves how popular it was at one time.

Rebuttal to the Overstated Argument That Atheism Has Killed More People Than Any Religion - Basically, all the same reasons as the above article, but with the advantage it isn't a news story so it will continue to be picked up by Google. Plus religion is actually a pretty hotly googled topic, or at least it is according to my other more widely viewed articles. Though like a lot of my other articles, it will eventually slip down the rankings based off the fact it is an older article and sites with fresher content on the same subject will move up top. It is fine with me, because I also plan to creating fresh content.

So, those are the current most viewed articles on my blog. Nothing older than September 2nd, 2010 but that is partly because a lot of my views come from a particular topic being googled (older content eventually gets pushed down by fresher content). At this point, my web presence isn't large enough for people to actively seek out specific articles I've written in the past. Though there are a few that still get viewed from time to time, but not enough for them to really move up the rankings.

Though I am sad to see that some of my favourite posts have now been knocked out of the top ranking positions and thus no longer readily viewed by the masses. The main one being what I feel is the best thing I've ever written here, It's Not Okay. . .

It is still interesting (for a geek like me, at least) to see what articles are viewed the most often and see what type of things are picked up by Google. Of course, there isn't much I am going to do with this knowledge, since as I said before, I am mainly just writing for myself on here rather than trying to launch my career with this site (though I happily accept all the loyal readers I am blessed with -- you guys rock).

Monday, August 29, 2011

For Your Listening Pleasure, An Awesome Track from an Awesome Man

I occasionally like doing shout outs or 'pimping' for good friends as a favour. When I do it, I try to make sure I actually stand beside and enjoy the product I'm promoting. Well, today I came across a catchy and groovin' track that happens to have been performed by someone I both respect and call a friend.

G-Qu is someone I know from back in high school, and unfortunately, haven't kept in touch with him as much I'd have liked. When we do still occasionally talk, I am reminded of what a great and genuine person he is. At this stage, we've both decided that we want to follow our dreams and make the most of our talents. I've decided to take the writers path, and he has followed the road of a musician. Trust me, you should all be glad that I've at least decided to follow writing rather than singing. As for G-Qu, he could be a mighty fine writer, but I definitely know the world is a happier place with his fantastic music in it.

I dig his newest song enough that I wanted to pass it on to all of you and then ask that if you do like the song that you'll share it. The man is extremely talented and he deserves to have his music heard.

I want to make it clear that this isn't one of those times that I am doing someone a favour. He never asked me to promote his music. I just felt that it needed to be heard by as many people as possible because it is delicious piece of ear candy.

Samson (The King's Speech) by G-Qu

It's Monday, So Let's Watch Videos from a Late 90s/Early 00s Pop Culture Phenomenon

I was never huge fan of Who Want To Be A Millionaire, but I can appreciate the fact it was a massive part of late 90s/early 00s pop culture. It inspired a plethora of prime time game shows, and essentially made game shows 'must see TV" for the first time since the 50s (when television first became a household staple). The Millionaire was the king of the TV ratings until it was replaced with the next non scripted (thus cheaper to produce) phenomenon, Survivor.

Though I wasn't a regular watcher of Millionaire (basically I'd catch it while flipping through channels), I did end up getting hit with the usual water cooler chatter. Most people around me did watch the show, and it was super hot and trendy. I realize it did create some classic moments, and probably the biggest moment was when somebody finally won the million dollars. I don't think it could have been won in a more memorable and classic fashion.

And just so you can enjoy the polar opposite and the 'car wreck' type enjoyment portion of the show, here is one poor contestant's epic failure.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

It's Yet Another Sunday, So Let's Play the Appropriate Music

Which of course would be "Another Sunday" by I Mother Earth. A band that I absolutely adored in high school, or at least until the departure of Edwin caused all parties involved careers to swirl down the drain. But for a brief few years, I Mother Earth rocked the casbah as one of my favourite musical acts and I still prefer to remember I Mother Earth as this version (and probably the most successful period for all those involved anyway).

I've got things to be doing, so you can enjoy this hot little diddy from the 90s.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Another Glorious Week; Another One Worked

I get to enjoy the flexibility and freedom of self employment by working yet another Saturday. Of course, I'm doing it partly because I went off to taste fermented grape juice a few days ago, so it isn't like I didn't get a 'day off'. Plus I've got some work that will land me another byline, so that is always fun to do anyway.

Hey, having to work your dream job on an occasional weekend is far from the worst thing in the world. I like what I do, so I'm not complaining.

Now, scamper off and go play; I have work to do.

Friday, August 26, 2011

A Sad Story About the Fall of a Wrestling Icon

Ric Flair is one of my favourite professional wrestlers of all time. And among many wrestling fans ad journalists, he is considered the greatest wrestler of all time. In his prime, he could wrestle for 60 minutes and pull a fantastic match out of anyone. He also was the king of the wrestling promo and could get you excited about almost any match he was having, no matter the opponent. He was typically the heel in his wrestling career, and thus he loved doing interviews that would rile up the crowd and put sympathy on his opponent. Of course, he became such an icon in wrestling that it started getting really hard to keep him a bad guy. By the mid 90s. he would get huge ovations even if he was supposed to be the villain.

Unfortunately, Ric Flair is one of those guys that has wrestled way past his prime. He is still wrestling today even though he should have retired almost 10 years ago. Since he was such a massive star, I don't think these past ten years of sub par wrestling will tarnish his legacy, but it isn't improving it either. But sadly, a large reason Flair is still wrestling is because despite years and years of making millions of dollars, he is in financial ruins. This struggle may tarnish how many view the man.

Shane Ryan over at Bill Simmons' fantastic site Grantland (if you like sports or pop culture or just great writing, you really need to make this site a regular stop) has written a very sad article on the recent struggles of 'Nature Boy' Ric Flair. It is the tragic tale of the massive fall of a wrestling icon, and a look at the price of fame and fortune. It's an insightful and interesting read, even if it is tough and depressing (especially as a huge Flair fan).

Thursday, August 25, 2011

I'm Back Home, So Let's Celebrate With Faith No More's Epic

Because after a wonderful day of wine tasting and enjoying lovely people's company, there really isn't a better way to cap off the day.

Faith No More was probably one of my favourite bands back in 1989 and this little diddy known as "Epic" was the reason. The video now screams 'I am the late 80s and I Laugh At Polished Effects', but the song is still groovy and fun. And a catchy tune never ages too badly.

Hopefully, your Thursday was as epic as a Thursday could be. If not, it is now.

I'm Off to Have Some of These. . .

But hopefully without the faces. And more fermented. And much more liquidy. It should be fun for all. In this case, 'all' means the people going with me. But you can have fun too. Just not with me. Sorry, we don't have room.

But I'll be back, and then we can have fun together.

When will I be back? Well, I may stop by this evening, otherwise, I'll see you here tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Latest "Spiritual" Moment for a Soon To Be Father

A little while back, I had mentioned how seeing the ultrasound of my soon to be child (who may be an owl) was a powerful and almost spiritual like moment. I was overcome with emotions, and it really clicked that my life was going to be different -- better. I love Emily more than anything in this world, but it was looking at this ultrasounds that I realized someone else was eventually going to get that same level of love (not sure if it is the same or even equal -- but just as powerful and impactful). I realized this was a new being that I would vow to protect, support, and love. And I was also filled with a lot of emotions that I can't quite explain, but I knew it was coming from a place of purity and 'parenthood' (whatever that may mean in this context).

Well, I recently experienced yet another spiritual moment. Another powerful time where I was absolutely filled with emotions. I once again realized that I was going to be a father -- which in itself is really powerful and overwhelming.

Emily has been talking about experiencing 'flutters' for a few weeks now. She believed she could feel the baby moving. Though she wasn't sure, since this was the first time she allowed a being to occupy her insides, and thus didn't know what it felt like. We also were under the belief that the baby was still a little too small to feel much. But our midwives then informed us that there was a chance the baby may start 'kicking' and could be felt.

So, finally Emily alerted me that she felt movement and that she wanted me to feel the belly. The hope was that I would feel something too, and thus prove she wasn't going crazy or imagning a moving baby.

As an aside, it has been established by almost everyone who has done ultrasounds or listened to heart beats or whatever, that our baby is a mover, The baby doesn't like to stay still. It shouldn't be a huge surprise considering the child's parents.

Anyway, I am now just prolonging the anticipation.

So, I agreed to feel the belly. I had tried a few times in the past and felt nothing.

But this time. . .

I felt a 'kick.'

Well, I say 'kick' but it really could have been anything. But I felt it, and immmediately after Emily asked if I felt anything. At that moment, we both verified that our child was moving. I then felt another 'kick' shortly after that, and Emily verified again she felt that as well. It wasn't imagination. It was real.

Now, I say 'kick' but I prefer to call it a 'high five' from my baby. My baby was giving out a high five, and saying, "I am feeling good, Daddy, and I love you."

Now, I know that it could have been my child's butt or head or whatever. It doesn't matter. I felt my future baby. Our future baby. If I thought the ultrasound was a moment of emotion and spirutuality -- well, it didn't compare to actually feeling my child move.

A high five and a "I am feeling good, Daddy, and I love you."

I was hit by the wave, and completely covered in emotion. This is our future baby, and the being that will shape the rest of our life. This is the litte person who will make me become a father. It is a life that I must protect, cherish, nurture, and love.

"I am feeling good, my child, and I love you, too."

Follow Up on My Recent Jack Layton Tribute Article

I have to say that it does my heart really good that only after one day, my Jack Layton post is the second most viewed article ever on the blog. There seems to a view that modern society is disengaged from politics or doesn't care about the news or won't read something unless it is about the latest celebrity break-up. It's nice to have that proven wrong, and to know there was a lot of Canadians and even Americans who were interested in clicking on a link and reading about the late great Jack Layton. Thanks readers for constantly proving that you're highly intelligent and care about important events or figures, and also willing to read my long walls of text.

I also wanted to give two shout outs. One is to Scott Keith who is the owner of the very popular Blog of Doom. Who not only gave my blog post a link, but he also put it on his very read weekly wrestling recap article on Inside Pulse. The other is to Diane Bertolin of the Collective Publishing Company, who did something even better than post a link to my article.

Collective Publishing purchased my article, and so it is now posted in its entirety on the site. You can go over right now, and read the whole article all over again. Or if you missed when I posted it here, then you can drop on over there to read it for the first time. I'm honoured that my tribute to a great man has the chance to reach even more eyeballs.

Be sure to do me favour and give a huge thank you to both those people. The best way to do that is to check out their site and enjoy their content. Scott's stuff tends to go along the lines of wrestling and comic books and actions movies and other fanboy fun. Collective Publishing is the wonderful site that has published a few of my articles in past, and offers up high quality political, financial, and social news articles on a daily basis. So, even if you don't want to do it as a favour to me, then at least enjoy the fantastic material for yourself.

I've stated that my blog is essentially the place where I am free to rant and rave without having to be edited. It is self rewarding. I don't necessarily do it for any career furthering. But it is nice when a blog post does pay off in an actual monetary way, and proof that you never know when or how your work will benefit you (even when it wasn't done with that goal in mind).

Once again, I just want to say RIP Jack Layton and you will most definitely be missed by many.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

A Powerful Comic That Will Make You Think

I'm a huge fan of Winston Rowntree (the alias for the person who writes the Subnormality comics), and I've linked to many of his comics in the past. His comics have a great range from the hilarious to the political to the thought provoking to the plain weird. I feel he produces some of the very best comics around, and I appreciate he doesn't limit himself to expected comics standard (like the typical three panels). He does draw beautifully, but he often has no fear in inserting massive amounts of text as well. Essentially, he doesn't restrict his comic to a specific structure, but rather allows each work to grow into what it is supposed to be. You could laugh or smile or cringe or ponder -- possibly all in the same comic. He has turned out to have a pretty successful web comic series, proving that you don't need to fit the standards to attract readers (sometimes people are just begging for something different -- and they actually like to have to work or think a little bit for their entertainment).

I discovered this untitled piece by Winston a few days ago, and thought it was a brilliant piece of work. It was written back in 2004, and has been hiding on his website for quite awhile. I don't want to describe it too much, because it will ruin the impact of the story. Rather, I just want to encourage you to check it out and reflect upon the message it gives. Then you can come back here, and we'll have a coffee and discuss it.

Though, I do want to make note that this was during George Bush's tenure as 'ruler of the world'. Rowntree had written several comic parody pieces about Bush, and it was pretty obvious he was not a very big supporter of him. Other than that, you don't need to know too much, so go check it out.

Monday, August 22, 2011

RIP Jack Layton 1950 - 2011

NDP leader Jack Layton passed away at 4:45am today (August 22, 2011) in the company of his family and loved ones. He has been fighting with prostate cancer since 2009, and ended up having to take time off this summer when a new form of cancer developed. His goal was to get treatment and recover over the summer, so that he could return to Parliament in the fall. His passing is obviously extremely sad news, and a big blow to Canada.

Jack Layton was a fighter. Anyone who has had cancer or been close to someone with cancer, really knows what that means. I've had a few people close to me that have suffered from the dreadful disease, and sadly, I have a few people close to me that are suffering right now. Cancer has claimed countless lives. But there are also inspirational and heartfelt tales of those who have persevered and fought hard against cancer. Cancer patients are among some of the most courageous and toughest people out there. Jack Layton has been fighting cancer for several years now, but still been able to keep up a strong public image and be a powerful leader of the NDP. I don't actually like using the word 'fight' when it comes to cancer, just because such a word almost mandates that there is a winner and a loser. I don't consider that Layton lost this battle. Just like I don't believe most people who died from cancer really ended up losing their fight. Yes, cancer was the cause of death, but they didn't end up being losers. They demonstrated a toughness, perseverance, humility, and will that most could only dream of having. Layton didn't exhibit the traits of a loser, and he passed away a strong and inspirational man.

Layton's legacy as a fighter doesn't stop with his battle with cancer. He was a warrior when it came to politics, especially when concerning equality, human rights and the working class. He was a man who was passionate and in love with Canada, but he refused to be blind to the injustice and hypocrisy that tarnishes this great country. He fought for what he thought Canada should and could be, and even though he never became Prime Minster, he influenced and shaped this country in an unforgettable way.

Jack Layton was a fighter and a tough guy who called out bullshit and refused to be pushed around. But he was also an extremely compassionate and loving man. Anyone who follows Canadian politics, knows that Layton wouldn't back down from a challenge or have any trouble aggressively calling out those he didn't agree with. He also was a man who had a heart for the underprivileged and would openly show compassion to the hurting. He had deep convictions and beliefs, and most had to do with equality and ensuring a positive future for all Canadians. He fought hard for those convictions and railed against those opposed to them, but in the end, his legacy will be one of compassion and love. You may not have agreed with his policies or politics, but it's hard to be opposed to what fueled them -- his strong belief that everyone deserves happiness and well being in Canada.

I always liked Jack Layton, because he reminded me of the ideal uncle figure. He didn't look like most of the other pretentious and white businessman type politicians. He had the receding hairline and the bushy mustache, but most importantly, the ever present mammoth smile. He came off as warm and always willing to give you a big hug, but also willing to call shit when it is shit. He seemed like a guy who would be cool to go out for a beer and be more than willing to listen to your story. But then he would also give you the necessary advice and let you know what needs to be done.

Layton's famous saying was "don't let them tell you it can't be done." The words of an eternal optimist. He truly believed NDP would eventually be the party in power. He believed in the potential to change Canada for the better. Some like to claim that optimists are people who keep their heads in the clouds and try to ignore the chaos around them. This definition couldn't be farther from who Jack Layton was. The man was an optimist, but he was also a fighter. He believed in the good of people and the possibility for change, but he also realized that actions and policies needed to be pushed in order to make this happen.

Layton really did leave a huge impact and make some big changes. Under his leadership, the NDP federal party did the unimaginable and claimed 103 seat to become the official opposition party. Liberal vs. Conservatives has been the cemented federal battle since the beginning, and for years has made people believe that it really was only a two party system. NDP was able to rise ahead and achieve the amazing victory of getting the majority of seats in Quebec. I strongly believe a huge factor for the NDP's rise, was due to the strong leadership of Jack Layton. People believed in Layton, and they felt his passion and more importantly, his compassion.

The rise of the NDP is far from the only victory achieved by Jack Layton. He has brought many important issues to the forefront such as pension, healthcare, domestic violence, and First Nations right. Actually, Layton fought so hard over many First Nations' issues, that PM Stephen Harper gave credit to Layton for his role in 2008 for the federal government's apology for residential schools. Layton refused to ignore all the atrocities committed against First Nations, and he'll long be remembered for helping in finally righting one serious wrong (there is many more to go).

I'll remember Jack Layton as a man who fought for equality. He believed that Canada should be a place for everyone, no matter their sex, beliefs, race, or lifestyle. He was open minded and compassionate to the citizens of Canada, but he also held strong to what he felt was right. He was the face of a party that desperately needed a strong leader. It is sad he won't ever get to be Prime Minister, but his impact and legacy will be felt by all future leaders.

I never met or personally knew Jack Layton. I voted for him. I cheered for him. I liked him. But I never had a personal relationship with him. So, as much as this day hurts for me, I know it is even harder for his loved ones. I send my heartfelt condolences to Olivia Chow (his wife) and his children Sarah and Michal Layton. I send all my sympathies to all his friends and family. He will be missed by many, but I know you will miss him most.

To see the compassion and love that Jack Layton had, I encourage everyone to check the recently released final letter written by Jack Layton. I think it is a great final piece to remember a great man.

I Usually Try Not To Leave a Mess Behind Me But. . .

As you may remember, I spent a few days at a cottage in Goderich last week. Unfortunately, after I left, this lovely town received a new visitor. A very disruptive and dangerous one. A tornado. Or as the news seems to be reporting, a really big storm. Whatever you want to call it, it laid down some serious damage on the beautiful downtown. It was pretty surreal looking at pictures of completely devastated buildings, and realizing these where the same places I walked into and enjoyed a few days ago.

I send out my thoughts to the people of Goderich, and hope for a speedy recovery.

The Advantages and Disadvantages of Being Self Employed and Working at Home

I've been playing the self employed game for a few months now, and so I think I am getting a pretty good vibe of the highs and lows. Now of course, I am a freelance writer, and so my take is going to be more along the lines of the self employed that works at home and provides specific services to clients (of the non paint my face up and say 'Hey big boy, want to have fun' variety). So, if your self employed dreams consist of a different type of work, then your take on self employment could vary. But based off my freelance writing career, here are the advantages and disadvantages of being self employed and working at home.

Advantage: The commute is a breeze, so you can almost always sleep in.
Disadvantage: There is no Tim Horton's on the way to work.

Advantage: You can just wear boxers to work and not worry about being laughed at.
Disadvantage: No one is laughing at you, because the only living things around are your pet dog and cat.

You get to work for the most handsome, witty, intelligent and fun boss ever!
Disadvantage: Your favourite game of 'throw the dart at the picture of your boss' now seems self defeating and depressing.

Advantage: There is no limit to the amount of money you can make, and it is just a matter of how many clients you land and how much you're willing to work.
Disadvantage: There is also no limit to how little you can make, and you've got potential of making less than the guys asking if you want fries with that.

Your hours and days are flexible, and so you can skip off to a movie in the afternoon without worrying that you'll get fired or disciplined.
Disadvantage: Bills and mortgage due dates aren't flexible. They're still there even when you hide in the closet.

Advantage: Working at home means you can see your spouse and children more.
Disadvantage: Of course, you only see them when you briefly look over your shoulder and yell, "I just need 10 more minutes to finish this project" every hour or so.

Advantage: You don't need to ask anyone in order to take a vacation.
Disadvantage: You get to spend the entire vacation pondering how much potential revenue you're currently losing out on.

Nobody is deducting chunks of money from your paycheque for benefits you never use.
Disadvantage: Because you don't have any benefits.

Advantage: You don't have to wait every two weeks to get paid.
Disadvantage: Sometimes it can be a whole month or two!

Advantage: Once you mention you're self employed, you gain respect and even jealousy from others.
Disadvantage: Until your credit card is declined and you're asking them to cover your coffee.

Advantage: You get to work in the comfort of your own home and get to set your own hours.
Disadvantage: Some mistake 'work at home' for 'free to babysit my raging hell beast or always available to move ridiculously heavy furniture.'

Advantage: You can work as much or as little as you want.
Disadvantage: Also known as, "damn I hope I can get enough work to pay off the electric bill this month."

Advantage: Who am I kidding, you work at home and you're the boss. That is all you need to know.
Disadvantage: Some people also call it 'unemployed.'

Sunday, August 21, 2011

You Know How I Said I Wouldn't Be Around This Weekend

Well, I lied. Because here I am posting something.

But now, I probably won't be around.

Just wanted to make you're aware that it is Sunday. So, I am going to do Sunday things now. I expect you to do the same.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Downside of Taking Midweek Off. . .

You pretty much ensure work will be clamouring for your attention over the weekend. Self employment is flexible, but deadlines, sadly, are not. So, I may or may not be around this weekend depending on how productive I am able to be. So far the neglected work has been raging at full force, hence the short post yesterday (but at least it had pretty pictures!)

Anyway, hope you have a lovely weekend, even if it ends up being without me.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Here is What I Left, So I Could Come Back For You

Well, you and the clients that pay my mortgage and my pets that I miss dearly when I'm away for a few days. But its better for our relationship if you just believe I left the relaxation and beauty of cottage country for you.

But now that I'm back, I am recharged and ready for many more days of glorious writing. Or at least days of sitting in front of the computer mashing on a keyboard, while the pats guard/warm my feet. Oh the wonderful life of a writer.

As for a recap of my mini vacation, we traveled up to Goderich to stay at a cottage our friends rented. I came up armed with several books and movies. I ended up not watching any movies and didn't even finish my first book. But even though that strategy of relaxation was not a success, I still had a magnificent time. We spent lots of time just enjoying the town of Goderich and chilling out on the beach. Plus our friends have one of the most beautiful one year old daughters on the entire planet. So, it was nice playing with her and getting me ready for what is up ahead for the Spicer family.

So, that was my mid week excitement. How have things been with you?

Monday, August 15, 2011

Allow This Cat Picture to Distract You From the Fact I Am Leaving for a Few Days

Aww, isn't he just the cuteness? Now, just keep looking at him, until I come back here on Friday. Have a lovely next few days.

My Review of Cowboys & Aliens Reviews

I've read a few reviews of Cowboys & Aliens and also read a few article that reference the movie. I have to say, I'm not really understanding the negativity that is being directed towards the film. There has been some positive reviews, such as the reviews by Roger Ebert or Red Letter Media. As my readers know, I gave the film a strong review as well. But for the most part, people are marking it as a disappointment or a failure in the alien invasion genre (one article pegged both this movie and Super 8 as failures). While I am all for people being entitled to their opinion and not liking a film that I enjoyed, I just don't understand the criticisms being waged.

The best I can figure out, is the source of dislike is coming from misguided expectations of what type of film it was going to be. The title Cowboys & Aliens gives you the impression it is either going to be a comedy or a very tongue in cheek in science fiction campfest. People may have gone in with the belief they were going to see a big budget version of a B-film. Or at least, this summer's attempt of Snakes on a Plane

Cowboys & Aliens isn't any of those things, nor does it even try. Instead, it is a movie that answers the question, "What would happen if aliens invaded the old west." It then tries to answer that question in the most serious and 'realistic' fashion possible. It is a serious science fiction film that is trying to do a very different take on the alien invasion genre (or could say, trying to go a different route with the wild west genre).

The marketing department may have actually hurt the film. The film probably should have been given a different title, in order to avoid people expecting something entirely different. The posters also give off the feel of a big budget camp film, and so the marketing material could have been better geared towards the film that was produced. If they changed the expectations people had for this movie, then it may have had a chance at being better received.

Cowboys & Aliens
was far from a great film. It isn't even one of the best films this year. It doesn't deserve any Oscar nominations, other than those for effects and costumes. It isn't a film that revolutionized the industry or even a film you're going to remember that well a week from now. But as a summer pop corn muncher, its a pretty good movie. For the world that was established, the film stayed true and 'realistic'. The plotting was tight and the action was satisfying. For what it was supposed to be, I thought the film hit the mark rather well.

Sometimes reviewers have unfair expectations of a film. You can't compare this movie with Citizen Kane or even Hurt Locker. But it doesn't try to be that type of film. But for a movie that tries to reveal what would happen if aliens invaded the old west, I thought it did very well. Most importantly, I want to have fun when watching a summer blockbuster and that is exactly what I had.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Working the Weekend

I've got some pressing client work, plus some other work that isn't client focused. So, Sunday is going to be a lot like Saturday, in that my blogging will likely be kept to the minimum. And well, this looks like the minimum to me. Have a great Sunday!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Saturdays Are Not For Blogging

Or at least this Saturday isn't. Have yourself a lovely day.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Cowboys & Aliens Review: Does It Win the Summer Blockbuster Shootout?

When I first saw a trailer for Cowboys & Aliens, it instantly provoked thoughts of the early/mid 20th Century dime novels (and pulp magazines) and the Saturday matinee adventure serials at the cinema. My parents were barely alive during the heyday of these two pop culture phenomenons, so I definitely have no hands on experience. Being a bit of a pop culture history buff, I've read lots about the mediums and I know they've had a huge influence of some of the great modern directors and authors. The premise of Cowboys & Aliens seemed to perfectly capture the type of campy action adventure that would be expected from those types of entertainment. Especially considering that both alien invasions (or space adventures) and the wild west were two of the most popular subjects matters in those stories and were the biggest sales among young boys at the time (which both the dime novel and serials marketed to). It seems only natural that someone back then would have eventually come up with the idea to combine the two genres. When I first heard of this film, I immediately thought of it as a homage to those campy adventure stories.

The problem is, Cowboys & Aliens is far too glossy and extremely special effects laden and way too reliant on hugs box office receipts, to be a proper homage to that era. Even if the stories of that time were inspiration to this film, the reality was it was never going to be able to properly capture the style and feel of that lost era. Instead, it had to be a special effects extravaganza with big name stars and the goal of appealing to all the demographics known to shell out the cash. With that knowledge, it seems a little risky that a major studio would green light a concept that screams campy cult classic, but try to package it as a summer blockbuster. I went into the film knowing that Cowboy & Aliens was a film that borrowed a concept perfect for the era of dime novels and cinema action serials, but it needed to rise above pure camp to become a serious, big budget action extravaganza.

Cowboys & Aliens begins with a cowboy (Daniel Craig) who wakes up with no knowledge of who he is and with a mysterious metal bracelet on his wrist. He eventually goes into the nearby town, and quickly discovers he is a wanted criminal, Jake Lonergan. He isn't just wanted by the law, but also by the wealthy and influential cattle owner with the very cowboy like name, Woodrow Dolarhyde (Harrison Ford). During all this tension, Lonergan is constantly hounded by a mysterious woman (Olivia Wilde) who wants to help restore his memory and help him find 'them.' The plot and tension is actually pretty compelling and sets the mood for an exciting western. But as the title alludes to, this film isn't just about cowboys and right when you're ready for an exciting showdown between the leads, the aliens make their explosive appearance. So, Lonergan and Dolarhyde are forced to team up together and try to rescue several town folks who were captured by the aliens, including Woodrow's son, Percy Dolarhyde (Paul Dano). The stage is now set for an old west showdown of cowboys and aliens.

The opening scenes (before the aliens' arrival) that sets up the mystery surrounding the bracelet, Lonergan's lost memory and the women intent on helping him combined with the mounting tension and drama between Lonergan and Dolarhyde (and most of the town) is absolutely fantastic at drawing the viewer into the film. The characters are engaging, quirky and unique, and fit well in shaping the story. Even after the big alien attack, the story does a great job of building up the eventual return encounter and continues to build anticipation for the resolution of the mysteries the story drops. As a lover of cinema and a good story, I've seen enough similar films to become incredibly cynical of this type of film's pay off. I feared that the build up of Cowboy & Aliens was just going to lead to an anti-climatic finish that is equivalent of using firecrackers to cap off Fourth of July.

Now, it was probably inevitable that a summer blockbuster with such a good build and several plot points and mysteries would not be able to meet the level anticipation built. But surprisingly, Cowboys & Aliens did a far better job then I thought it would while watching the film. It may just be the level of film cynicism I've built up over the years, but I was ready for a pay off close to a fart in the wind but instead, found myself incredibly satisfied. The final showdown was explosive and exciting, and the mystery's resolution made sense, and the majority of plots and issues got properly wrapped up. There wasn't too many plot holes and everything important was given a satisfying pay off. It is a film that starts off exciting and was able to keep that level of excitement throughout the whole movie. Essentially, it did a great job of being a summer blockbuster popcorn muncher.

Both Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford fit their roles perfectly. Both actors have great chemistry together, and you could sense the necessary tension between them. It's a concept that raises expectation for something silly, and it is a great challenge to actually try to create a more serious action adventure, but both actors deserve huge credit for making it work. This isn't to say this film doesn't have the cliches or some silliness or delve into being over the top. But the actors do it with such gusto and energy that you can't help feeling engaged and immersed. Ford has lots of experience playing over the top characters like Han Solo and Indiana Jones, and he brings that same type of presence in his role here. It is exactly the type of character you expect from Ford, and he really helps in setting the mood and feel of the film. These aren't Oscar nominee type performances, but no one wants or expects that here; it is exactly the performances that is needed to make the film work.

The story and writing isn't going to be something you leave the theatre and then enter into a deep discussion about over a coffee. There isn't a deeper message or any powerful symbolism. It's an action film, with cowboys and alien -- so, you are pretty foolish to expect something that will spark film debates for years and years. But at the same time, the character development is pretty strong for a film of this type and you find yourself fairly attached to what happens. They build people up enough that you care what happens to them, and you have a good idea the mission and purpose of each character.

The film does a good job of setting things up early and then making sure to provide a pay off to what had been alluded to. I was able to call the pay off a lot of what was set up (such as what the young boy would have to do in the end of the film or how the relationship would end with Ford and his pseudo son), but sometimes it is comforting to be able to know exactly what is going to happen. Many modern films are so bent on having twists and turns, that they often have plot points that contradict past events or go against what had been established with a character. This doesn't happen here. You may be able to predict the turn out, but at least things stay consistent and you aren't left confused by the results. The story is tights and is largely absent of holes or contradictions, and the characters stay true to what had been established.

Cowboys & Aliens is a concept and film that hinges on being fun. That is exactly what it is. It's an exciting and enjoyable big budget summer blockbuster. It takes material often considered camp or associated with a different pop culture era, but is able to make it work with today's expectations attached. It promises to entertain for two hours, and it sticks to its promise. If you like your cowboys and if you like your aliens, and most importantly, if you just like a fun movie then Cowboys & Aliens is the perfect summer hit for you.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Rebuttal to the Overstated Argument That Atheism Has Killed More People Than Any Religion

Yep, a nice light topic for the blog today.

While I was in New York, I was catching a bit of Real Time with Bill Maher and there was a heated debate about the supposed difference between Islamic radicals and Christian radicals -- arguments on how both religions have a dreadful history of violence. During the discussion, a panelist brought up the statement often touted by many religious, of how atheism has killed more people in the last 100 years than any other religion. She then went on to use blood thirsty dictators like Hitler, Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot. Speaking of blood, that is the very thing that was boiling while I heard her continue to go on and on with her rhetoric. Rhetoric that I've heard countless times before, and is one of the most overused arguments when a religious folk wants to espouse the evils of atheism.

I find the statement so infuriating because it is one of the most misleading arguments out there. It is the dictionary definition of 'completely missing the point.' I realize it is usually used to counteract those who blame war and violence on religion, and that is often an argument that is flawed as well ( or at least is without proper justification and explanation of the larger root problem). But using monsters like Stalin or Mao or Hitler or Pol Pot as examples of how atheism has murdered millions is absolute lunacy.

Yes, all those men may have been atheist or at least, non religious. Even then, some records show that at least Hitler had a rather distorted interpretation of Christianity (but for argument's sake, I'll happily not bother debating that and just throw him in the atheist heap). Most of those men worked really hard to destroy and ban organized religion from their respective countries and clearly despised the major known religions of the time. But a horrid monster who happens to be atheist, is not the same thing as atheism being the driving force for the death of millions.

On the other hand, religion has been used as the driving force to justify some of the greatest atrocities in history. The crusades is a particularly dark period in Christian history, and at the time it had the full backing of the church. Jihads are completely done in the name of religion, and 9/11's attackers where considering themselves religious martyrs. Now, these are cases of the respective religions being distorted and falling in the hands of nut jobs, but the simple fact is, the wars and massacres were done in the name of religion.

The acts perpetuated by the previously mentioned dictators were not done in the name of atheism. They may have been atheist, but that was inconsequential to their reasons for killing millions of innocents.

If anything, these awful regimes essentially replaced religion with their own evil new religion Each of the these leaders elevated themselves up to the position of gods. They implemented traditions and policies that essentially ensured that the citizens would be worshiping and following them. Most of them even created their own versions of 'religious' texts that outlined exactly how their followers are to behave and live. They played on people's insecurities and frustrations and desires to create a hive mentality, and have followers that would do anything in their name and regime. These regimes may not have had supernatural elements or almighty gods like most religions, but their is evidence of almost every one of these regimes deifying their leaders to some extent. They erected statues and made these men bigger than the country or even made them part of the cause or purpose of the country. It was essentially a religion -- just horrid and violent and unloving religions.

I want to make it clear here, the religion preached by Jesus Christ and the type of Christianity he proposed was not the crusades or bombing in Oklahoma City or anything resembling Westboro Baptist Church. Christianity according to Jesus was love and feeding the poor and offering understanding to all. So, I am not saying Christianity or religion equals war. I am saying there is nut jobs and radicals that distort a religion to serve their agendas and bloodlust. I am saying that religion has the potential of creating mindless followers or people doing awful acts with the misguided hope of spiritual rewards. Exactly the same type of things we saw in the previously mentioned regimes.

Religion can be dangerous in the wrong hands, just like almost anything can be. Unfortunately, some good religions have been used for awful means. It is the problem when you have anything that asks for followers who are not allowed to question and are expected to mindlessly do the deeds expected. Usually, there is promise of some great spiritual or heavenly reward if they follow through on the orders. This is exactly the same things used by the vile dictators, I've mentioned.

I don't see the awful regimes of Hitler or Stalin or Mao or Pol Pot as atheist regimes, but rather vile dictators that created their own devilish version of religion, with the leaders as the gods.

This is not an endorsement of atheism or an attack on religion. It is just a simple rebuttal against those that use these horrid regimes as examples of all the blood letting done in the name of atheism. These were not regimes that supported free thinking or individualism, and actually followed closely the same elements used by many radical religious powers. The massacres done by these men are not examples of the evils of atheism, but rather the massive dangers of mindlessly following one leader who promises great rewards.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Billy Elliott Review: My First Foray with Broadway

When I was in New York, one of our 'must see' stops was a performance at Broadway. We've both seen several musicals and stage plays up here in lovely Ontario, but never had the opportunity to experience a performance in the world renowned Broadway. Now, I sort of had a feeling it wouldn't be all that different from watching a musical anywhere else, but I also appreciated the fact that most Broadway theatres have a long and storied history. Plus since Broadway is known as the ultimate location for musicals in the world, you'd assume you're likely to get the best actors and performances possible. So, we both decided that watching a Broadway musical was a must, and it just came down to choosing the show.

Luckily for us, are decision was made easy by the cost of the tickets. Broadway is perceived as THE place for musicals, and clearly, the person pricing the tickets realizes that too. Even the 'cheap' tickets will do a good job of reducing the weight of your wallet. Luckily, there is a lot of web sites you can go to for discounts, but unfortunately, most of the musicals we wanted to see were super hot attractions, thus didn't have reduced rates. So, it left us with Billy Elliot, which was a play Emily was interested in seeing and I was willing to watch because I really wanted to see something at Broadway.

Billy Elliot performed at the Imperial Theatre, which is one of the classic Broadway theatres. The theatre opened way back on December 25, 1923, and was built to replace the then outdated Lyric Theatre. It was also the Broadway home to the legendary musical, Les Miserable for 13 years (1990 - 2003). Of course, prior to that it played host to several of the famous musicals including Fiddler on the Roof, Annie Get Your Gun, Dreamgirls, and Mystery of Edwin Drood (also a Dickens novel). The Imperial Theatre has the classic 20's style theatre architecutre, and inside is furnished and designed to keep a similar motif. It's also your typical downtown New York building, meaning it is very narrow and long. The actual auditorium was interesting, because the balcony seating was incredibly steep to the point many patrons remarked on it, though Emily told me that Toronto's Royal Alexandra's balcony is even steeper.

Billy Elliot is unique in that it's initial presentation was as a film. Often, people will criticize the fact that film ideas are taken from successful novels, plays or musicals. In this case, both the musical and the novel came from the original film. I haven't yet seen the film or read the novel, which may be part of the reason I didn't have any super keen interest to see the musical other than be able to say I went to a Broadway show. I had a good idea of the plot and premise, but the idea of a boy trading in his boxing gloves for ballet shoes wasn't something that caused me to squeal with excitement. I was sure I'd be able to survive a few hours of spins and pirouettes.

I didn't need to worry about having to 'survive' the performance. Billy Elliot is about far more than one boy's love for ballet. It is an edgier and grittier musical than you'd assume on something based around ballet. It's a blue collar musical with a powerful message about acceptance and open mindedness. Plus it is an incredibly fun time.

The musical is set during the 1984-1985 UK miner's strike and takes place in the fictional town of Everington. Essentially, the town is a blue collar community that is largely populated by coal miners and relying on the strike to successfully stop Primer Minister Margaret Thatcher's push for privatizing the majority of industries. Though this is an historical piece, knowledge of the time period isn't a huge necessity because they explain everything that is crucial. The main themes are universal enough and the characters are relatable even today, so knowing the real issues beforehand isn't necessary.. The focus is obviously on a young Billy Elliot who lives with his widowed father, older brother and crazy grandma (both the voice of reason and comic relief). Billy initially is enrolled in a boxing club, but the ballet class after is what he is truly talented at. A huge part of the story is about Billy's struggle of being talented at and loving something that isn't going to accepted by the rest of community or more importantly, his family. It deals with issues of being an outcast and trying to gain acceptance for who you are. Another big part of the musical focuses on Billy's amazing talent and growth in ballet juxtaposed with the long and failing strike that his family is a part of. The strikers know that coal mining is really all they can do, and the town will be hit hard if the strike ends up failing. Meanwhile, Billy has a chance of being so much more than a coal miner and has an opportunity for a future, even if it is something that isn't looked upon favourably by other community and family members. It is a theme that has been explored numerous times by other fictional works, but never with such a unique plot.

One of the great appeals of Billy Elliot is that it is a authentic look at the working class. The musical is raw and gritty, and full of foul and rough characters. I've heard it said and I've always believed, that good fiction is truthful. What that means, is that it allows the characters to behave the way they should and doesn't hold back in what is presented. It isn't afraid to go in the most honest direction, even if it risks offending. Billy Elliot is an honest portrayal of working class folks that have come on some hard times. The musical is full of profanity and the characters often act very crude. It reminded me of Brantford in some ways, which is also a town with a long working class history. I felt like I was watching real people rather than one person's take on how someone should act. It doesn't shy away from the behaviours and mannerisms of the working class, and it uses the type of language you would expect. It causes the audience to believe in these characters and the situation. Billy Elliot's greatest strength is that it doesn't shy away from being raw, dirty and crude, and allows for a much more authentic tale.

The second biggest strength of the musical is its ability to balance serious subject matter with large doses of humour. Billy Elliot touches on important and serious issues and themes, but it also a very funny musical. I am confident that every person in the theatre broke into hysterical laughter when Billy's friend Michael revealed his hobby of wearing his sister's dresses, and then breaking into a complete dance number to showcase his love (which included several dancing dresses and a poor pair of trousers that Michael continually tried to kick off the stage). Michael inclusion as a character was to demonstrate how different we really are and how important it is to be accepting, but the musical was able to present this serious message with large doses of humour. The musical is full of quirky characters, like the dance instructor and grandma, that allow for funny one liners and comic relief. When Billy Elliot is going for laughs, it was always pretty successful.

Now, it is a musical, so the show needs to also be graded on its songs. Though the songs may not be the most memorable, I did feel they did a good job of setting the various moods. When it was a tragic moment, they presented a song that would create the necessary sadness. When it was a tense and violent moment, then they played a song that added to the tension. I may not be humming these songs after watching the musical, but they did add the emotions and feelings necessary while watching the show. The music was a nice compliment to scenes, even if they weren't unforgettable compared to some classical musical songs.

The acting for the most part was solid, especially considering it was full of child actors. Though a few years back, I was blown away by the amazing child performances in the play, To Kill a Mockingbird, and I haven't been able to find children performances that have been able to compare since -- and after watching Billy Elliot, it hasn't changed. Everyone seemed to know their characters well, and I was never jarred out of the presentation and felt like I was watching someone try to act. I am not sure if it was an all UK cast, but if there was some Americans, I have to say everyone did a great job of holding their accents. Along with the acting, the dancing choreography was solid, and the actor playing Billy Elliot was talented enough to make me believe the character did have a chance to make it big. My wife was hoping for some bigger dance numbers considering what the show was about, but for the most part, everyone did a good job with what they were given.

I did really enjoy the story for the most part, but I did think there were two glaring errors. The first was that Billy's mom (who comes to him as a vision since she is dead) was underused. We were supposed to believe that Billy was using his mom as a crutch and still relying on her after she died, but she just didn't show up enough for me to feel that kind of connection. Even if they just kept her on stage watching Billy and allowing him to occasionally look at her, would have helped make the relationship seem tighter. As it was, she came off as a bit of an after thought and caused the closing moments of the musical to lose some of its impact.

The second story problem was the tension between Billy and his family that doesn't want him in ballet. At first, I thought it was conveyed really well and helped push the story along. The resolution came along far too sudden and out of nowhere, and was one of the moments that came off unrealistic. It may have been an issue of having too much to cover in the performance, and needing for a quick resolution in order to move on to the next act. I was disappointed in how the tension was resolved, and from that point, caused me to be less engaged with what was happening.

This musical is about the underdog. The coal miners fighting against the Conservative government. The boy who loves something not accepted by the community. Then the same boy trying to make it out of this working class town and try to achieve something much greater. People love rooting for the underdog, and this musical does a great job of making you care and cheer for them. The characters are authentic and real, because they are full of flaws and problems. They cuss and make mistakes, and thus are easy to relate to. It makes you want to cheer for them, and see them end up happy and successful. It is full of many people who may seem 'different' but it shows that they all belong and need to be accepted. The most powerful scene for me comes near the end of the play, when Billy and Michael interact for the last time. The scene shows that even though both may be very different, Billy does something to show he is supportive and understanding of his friend. It is a great moment and one that demonstrates what the entire musical is about.

Billy Elliot
is a far deeper musical than most would expect. Unlike most polished musicals, this is a raw and gritty affair. You won't take your whole family with you, but it does have a message worthy of everyone knowing. It is a serious but also funny show. You'll be able to be incredibly entertained, but also able to discuss it with someone over a coffee. The story has a few missteps and flaws, but in the end, it conveys its message in an entertaining way. That is the most important part, being able to keep the audience thoroughly entertained. Billy Elliot is a musical that can display some of the harsh realities of life and have a serious message everyone needs to hear, but also allows you to escape from the real world for a few hours of fun entertainment.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

I'm Not One To Think Society Is In a Mass Moral Decline But. . .

If I was a believer in the end times being near or the world going to hell, then this would be the week that supports my stance.

Great Britain plagued by mass riots, pillaging and anarchy.

United States is given their own share of crazines with random shootings and flash mobs.

The global economy continually swirling around in the toilet.

The Middle East playing host to civil unrest and the usual assortment of insanity.

Places like Somalia are tormented by famines along with corruption and violence.

Essentially, the news is not your current source of warm fuzzies and one is led to believe this week is not much more than a harbinger for depression and sadness.

I'll decide to cope with it by encouraging you to check out my previous post for necessary uplifting.

Otherwise, I don't have much more to add for the moment. Though I'm sure that will eventually change.

Hope you're all having a much more joyous week.

Proof Cats and Dogs Can Live in Harmony

Or at least, Crosby and Summit sometimes can pose in front of the camera and seem like they get along just great.

A Pictorial Followup to A "I Really Am Going to be a Father" Moment

Last week, I wrote a post about how I was overcome with emotion and experienced a spiritual moment while looking at the first ever ultrasound of my future child. I thought, it would be a nice treat for everyone to see the very images that caused a tear to come to my eye and butterflies to invade my stomach. Emily experienced tears as well, but more due to the fact the head on this baby is HUGE. Good to know the baby is definitely mine, but have fun birthing, hon.

Monday, August 08, 2011

You May Have To Go Your Own Way

Because I've got some deadline pressing client work to attend to today, and so my time playing around the internet will be minimal.

So, yes, you very well may have to go your own way.

What better way to kick off your journey than with Fleetwood Mac's classic hit, "Go Your Own Way." Because not only does it fit the very theme of going your own way but it is a pretty awesome song.

And really, who doesn't want to kick the week off with an awesome song?

Saturday, August 06, 2011

While I'm Away Enjoy a Free Short Story

It isn't mine though. John Scalzi wrote it as a gift to his readers after reaching 20 000 Twitter followers. He's a great writer and novelist, and so you know the story is a real treat. I am pretty sure almost all of you will enjoy it, and besides, what else are you going to do while I don't blog on here for this weekend?

Friday, August 05, 2011

Warning: Don't Be Surprised If I Completely Vanish Until Monday

So, consider yourself officially warned then. I've got some deadline heavy client work to attend to, plus the weekend is almost here and I am still in 'need a vacation from my vacation' mode. Things have been a little frantic since coming home, and I like that because it means business is good. It also means my body starts screaming for a little bit of rest.

But no rest today, because I've got a legion of work to conquer. If I am successful then I may return to revel in my glory. Otherwise, I'll likely see you Monday.

Have a grand weekend.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Lots to Say but Not Going to Say It

I could probably give you a nice, detailed summary about my adventures in New York. But my pictures just captured the emotions and moments so well. Plus at this exact moment, I fear my summary will end up becoming an epic tome, which my current client works says I don't have time to write.

I could write a review on Billy Elliot, which was the wonderful Broadway play we enjoyed in New York. I ended up liking it a lot more than I thought, and I could use up several paragraphs explaining exactly why. But I'm not going to because I'm not in a current review a stage play I watched several days ago kind of mood. The one massive advantage of my blog over my paid writing work is that I can actually choose to not write something if I don't feel like it (actually, I don't have to do any paid work either since it is all freelance but then I'm left with an unpaid mortgage and mounting bills).

Speaking of not being in a review writing mood, I've got a growing pile of books on my desk that I've read over the last several months that I've had every intention of reviewing. I could review one of them today or just do a whole grab bag of reviews for all them. But I won't. Not today.

Lots of things are shaping up in the political world. Not just in Canada, but down with the Americans, and way over the ocean too. It has been an interesting time for politics and news. I could easily come up with lots to write on today. But I won't. Not today at least. It just isn't a political writing kind of day.

Nah, instead, I would just rather tell you all the things I could write about, but then not do any of them.

Yep, that sounds good with me.

Now, I've got pressing writing work to attend to, and that, I must (if I want to be paid) do.

How has your Thursday been?

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

A "I Really Am Going to be a Father" Moment

I've just got back from our first ultrasound. Throughout my life, I've experience non religious events that I could still describe as spiritual; moments that emotionally move me in ways I don't quite understand; an event that instantly touches me to my very core. Looking at this simple ultrasound was one of those moments.

Anyone who knows me, wouldn't be too surprise to find out that I got a little dust in the eyes when looking at the ultrasound. When I was looking at the blobs on the screen and trying to figure out what was an arm or head or butt, I started recognizing that this was my child. This was the very life form that would bestow the title of father upon me. But it was so much more than that. This was the being that I will love and protect and provide and teach in a way like nothing before. This was my child. One of the symbols and demonstrations of the indescribable love I have for Emily. And now, yet another person who I will love more than almost anything.

Another member of my family. My child.

Yes, this may all sound rather hyperbolic or flowery. But I am writer, and so I hope I can be excused.

Besides, one can't always control their thoughts and feelings. And I felt a lot of emotions and power looking at that simple ultrasound. I was bombarded with a million thoughts about the future. So, I felt the crash of an emotional wave. It really was one of the true spiritual moments of my life.

Despite the fact that some of the pictures made my future child look like an owl.

The Pictorial Revelation of Where I Disappeared to for the Last Week

I think it is very clear that my one week hiatus was due to a vacation. Yes, the self employed need vacations too. I deemed this past week the perfect time to take the long overdue vacation with my gorgeous wife. We declared it our official 'babymoon', because a baby is coming and apparently, you can't just leave them with a breeder every time you want to go off on an adventure. So, this is our last big vacation for a bit.

But the pressing question of the day, is where did we vacation off to?

Well, I am about to reveal that. But not with words. Oh no. But with pictures.

But not any random pictures, but the very pictures taken during the glorious vacation.

See, if you can guess where we were.