An evening of music, comedy, poetry... and Englishness


meeting new people?
enjoying a fine night of entertainment?
bringing out your inner Brit?
sampling gourmet coffee with health benefits?
supporting a fellow Canadian in his cultural-exchange journey?

Then come on out to the

A local writer named Jeff wants to bugger off to the U.K. to do a few spoken-word gigs in October. But he's not a wealthy man, and nobody's paying his way. Here's your chance to help a fella out so he can do his thing.




a RAFFLE for books, CDs and a gift basket!

Sponsored by GANOLIFE coffee!

Sunday, September 15, 2013, doors at 7:00 p.m.
The Black Swan Tavern, 154 Danforth Avenue, 2nd Floor
Cover: $10 (includes a free raffle ticket)
Facebook event page: RSVP here

For more info or to RSVP apart from Facebook:

Ozwald hayd 'bout as much use fa Rushin as a cayt hayz fo' pa-JAH-mas!

Aaaaaaaaand... just like that, I'm employed.
I am officially a productive and useful member of society once again.

It sort of came out of the blue. Well, not exactly; I'd applied for the job around April or May and then forgotten about it, and they'd put off moving forward until last month. I'd actually given up on finding a full-time job and resigned myself to living off freelance work and credit lines for the rest of my life. I'd even planned to do some extensive travelling this fall, dipping into my savings and credit to do so.
Since getting this job, I've had to cancel the NYC trip I was planning in September, and now I have to limit my U.K. jaunt to a week and a half maximum (limited holidays). The irony is that now, I can afford to travel, but have to cut it down.

So I'm now a full-time magazine writer/editor again. I've been there nearly a month. I write and proofread news stories and articles about occupational health and safety (i.e. people getting hurt on the job). I have two editors, one for the print magazine and one for the weekly newsletter. The latter seems to like what I'm doing a lot, says my articles are well written and researched, and the former has said nothing negative. I haven't gotten in trouble for anything yet. Nobody has even tried to cut me off the Internet or accused me of goofing around all day.

Actually, a lot of the time there is spent kind of trying to look busy while waiting for sources and contacts to call me back. There's a fair amount of downtime. I love downtime, but now it makes me a little nervous too, since my last full-time job did not permit any sort of downtime and blamed you for slacking if you ran out of work to do. Especially as one of my bosses sits right across from me. I've seen her scrolling Facebook occasionally, and it didn't look work-related, so I assume the policy on Internet use is relatively lenient. But I don't want to give the impression that I just ignore my work and sit around surfing the web all day. She usually looks too busy with her own work to play Big Brother on her underlings, though.

And I have a cell-phone gadget now. I made that big leap into the world of 1992. It's an android, and I'm still figuring out all the things it does.

omg your so rascist!!!

Has it really been almost nine months since I've posted here? The last post being a private, whiny rant about how I can't handle friends' vicious criticisms? I guess I just lost my interest in sharing the twists and turns of my everyday life. Especially as I'm not sure if anyone even reads this anymore. Haven't been mightily inspired to write, either, except for occasional and Digital Journal articles.

I still don't have a day job, and applying for them seems more futile by the week. The jobs I want are out there, but the competition for them is absurd. I have been looking since July 2011, and in all that time, I've had five interviews (three of them for paid internships). Qualifications, experience, suitability, enthusiasm... these assets don't matter anymore. If they did, I would be employed full-time. We all would. Who knows what they want. I'm almost ready to give up on editorial jobs and resort to telemarketing again... but I'm not that financially desperate yet.

I recently saw a Cracked article that talked about secret online blacklists that employers share with each other in order to avoid hiring certain people. It would not surprise me in the least if it turned out I was on such a blacklist. Yes, I've had bosses that petty and spiteful, who would do exactly that.

I haven't been at my most sociable over the last six or seven months. Not that I've been a recluse... I still go to movies and concerts and the occasional party with friends and whatnot. But I stopped going to literary events back in October, and have started popping up at the occasional one only in the last while (not to perform, just to listen).

It was back when I went to the last CFSW, in Saskatoon – a trip that I now regret – when I started feeling that I really didn't belong in the spoken-word community. The political correctness in the Canadian slam scene has just become way too shrill, even hateful, for my blood. It doesn't even seem as if people are passively getting offended by stuff anymore... they're actively looking for excuses to be morally outraged, either out of some misguided idea of good citizenship or just as a way to get approval from the cool kids. You just can't say anything anymore without freaking people out or being considered “unsafe”. Anything you say can be twisted into “rape culture”, whatever that is, and nobody takes a moment to consider context or intent anymore. When I hear about the Kitchener-Waterloo Slam banning a person and turning him into a social pariah because he made an innocent joke about the Trigger Warning; when I see a Vancouver acquaintance encourage a cult-like witch-hunt mentality in publicly shaming a guy on Facebook; and when somebody I've known for five years or so, and thought was a friend, suddenly turns against me and says she's not “physically comfortable” around me, just over a stupid misunderstanding... when all that happens, it's no fun anymore. I lost my enthusiasm for the scene and all my respect for these people.

My last attempt at dating ended in three straight days of relentless, bullying verbal abuse in Facebook messages. I barely even know what I did to provoke it. I kept saying, please leave me alone, I don't care who's right or wrong, I don't care if I “deserve” this, just please stop it... and it wouldn't stop. And then the harrassment started again for a bit two months later. I can't block her because we have several mutual friends and I now have to avoid events she's going to. I can't understand why negative, rage-fueled people are (temporarily) drawn to me and nice, calm, rational people show indifference or repulsion. It's clear that I shouldn't bother with serious dating in any way, as my track record shows that I have nothing of value to offer to a relationship.

These days, my unique talent for accidentally pissing people off, a talent that has never been slight, seems to have reached a peak. Sometimes I'm even hesitant to open my e-mail or check voicemail messages... wondering, “So who's angry at me today?” “Who's the lecture going to be from this time?” “What am I being accused of now?” People do seem to get a precious kind of joy from blaming me for their insecurities and troubles. I wish I could feel that kind of joy. I get so sick of apologizing, it's almost not worth it to deal with people in the first place.

But. On the bright side... I'm seeing the Stones in concert. Next Saturday. Go me.

Sometimes I have to question the wisdom of paying several hundred dollars to watch four 70-year-old men prance around trying to be sexy for a few hours. But then, will I get the chance again?

Are we not men? We are Nemo.

So, what have I been doing over the past month?

Turns out I kind of stumbled into an acting gig.

Very ironic. I mean in the sense that even though I have nearly fourteen years (on and off) of professional experience with magazines, I can't even get interviews in that field now, except for internships that I don't even land. And yet, after I more or less gave up on acting after the Grouch on a Couch semi-disaster, after I realized that maybe I just didn't belong in the theatre world, this comes up out of nowhere. Just because one of the show's producers happened to know me. If I'd still been working full-time, I'd have passed it on to one of my "real" actor friends, but I needed the extra money and thought it would be fun, so took it as an opportunity.

It's a kiddie puppet show on Centre Island, based on the old Little Nemo comic strip. I'm actually part of the "B" cast -- I was originally supposed to be replacing the main guy, who wasn't working out, but they've since decided they prefer another of the producers' take on the two characters, so I mainly do later afternoon shows on the weekends and emergency fill-ins. It's a physically tiring job because I spend half the time inside a giant King Morpheus puppet, and the other half under a Commedia-style mask and a giant top hat, and sometimes it's plain hot outside. But depending on the day and the time, the money can occasionally be good (it's PWYC).

Originally I thought the role was just going to be a weekend stint, and then they decided to use me for the entire run -- and then, when I was expecting to be working every day, they decided to scale it back and make me just the "understudy", sort of. Actually, I think the real reason is that they don't think I'm that good. I'm constantly getting well-meaning notes on how I'm doing the characters wrong or working the costumes wrong, sometimes completely contradicting what they told me before... but I shouldn't complain, because they're a nice group of people, they've stuck with me and I've made some decent extra money for it. I just hope they appreciate that I was trying my best to master in almost no time what must have taken the previous guy a month or two, and that I have by far the most *technically* difficult roles because of the costumes.

The show's supposed to be continuing up to next Sunday, although they've been vague as to whether they'll be needing me this weekend.
In the meantime, I'm still getting absolutely no response on the job-search front. Almost a month ago, I sent an application for a great entertainment-editor job for which I was almost certain I'd get at least an interview. Why? Because I was perfectly qualified for it; because I've contributed to the magazine numerous times; and because I've known the managing editor for ten years. But there was precisely no response at all, and when I mentioned it to him, he got a bit evasive and said, "Yeah, well, remember you're competing with a lot of people who've been laid off by The National Post and so on..."

So much for experience, hard work, dedication and who you know. What are the new rules?

You play the gee-tar on the YouTube TV.

Did I mention that I shot a reasonably professional-looking video of "He Reads Michael Ondaatje" back in April?

In fact, I went ahead and set up my own YouTube channel.
I made a playlist out of videos of me that already existed, but it was really an excuse to upload the video of Grouch on a Couch online.

So... if you wanted to see Grouch onstage, but missed it -- you can see it now.
It's a low-quality video of the least-attended performance, in six parts. But it's there. I've embedded it under the cut.

Collapse )

I'd go with Wilma, but I'd be thinkin' of Betty.

Update time, update time. Everybody loves update time.

I didn't get the magazine job.
They told me they'd "love" to work with me on a freelance basis, though, so feel free to e-mail story pitches directly. So I've sent them a number of pitches, and the response has been an overwhelming flood of absolute dead silence.

I've had two more interviews in the last two weeks, though -- both of them for internships. I've worked on and off for magazines since 2000, and still, the only bloody interviews I can get are for internships.
One of them was for a similar online hip men's magazine, and it would have paid for anything I'd published, but they also went with somebody else and said I could pitch to them. The other one I haven't heard back from yet: it was for a paying four-month internship for a campus magazine about, ironically enough, job-hunting. They said they'd let me know sometime this week... but I just noticed that they re-posted the same job ad online, after interviewing me. So I and all the other candidates must have really blown it.

Of course, I can pitch stories to them too... the problem is that I suck horrifyingly at pitching stories. It's not that I can't come up with ideas; it's more that I tend to express them very badly. When I used to write movie reviews for Exclaim!, the editor asked me to pitch ideas for a new rant column that would have actually paid. So I sent him a number of ideas... and not only did he reject every one of them, he rejected them very sarcastically. Most of the time, he completely missed the point of what I was trying to get across. Then one day, I sent him one and he replied, "Hmm... that one might work." And then went and changed his mind about it a few days later, for no apparent reason.
That's why I'm generally more comfortable with being assigned stories... or with a case like Digital Journal, where I just post whatever the hell I want and hardly anybody edits anything. And people do read Digital Journal. If only it paid more than almost nothing.

So I've been out of a day job for six weeks now. I'm not even sure whether I'm getting EI. And the worst part is that I've been feeling very unmotivated. I think it has a lot to do with the heat -- my building doesn't have air conditioning, and I'm not handling the heat wave well. So while I know I should be devoting all of my abundant free time to job-hunting, writing, pitching stories and other constructive pursuits, all I end up doing is sitting around surfing the web aimlessly or watching Red Dwarf episodes on Netflix.

In spite of unemployment, I still went to Washington over Canada Day weekend. (I'm a bad Canadian; this was the latest of several Canada Days that I spent part or all of outside the country.) I got to see a lot of the stuff I missed the last time: the Capitol, the Library of Congress, the Smithsonian, Ford's Theatre, the Exorcist Steps and Arlington Cemetery. I even caught an excellent production of The Music Man, although I couldn't get the Simpsons Monorail chant out of my head. The heat, however, was almost unbearable. And I was on my own again, which made me feel even lonelier than usual.

With my finances about to become strained again, I know I shouldn't be going to plays and concerts. But I already planned certain ones before my job slipped away. I'm seeing Peter Gabriel (again) in September and then Rush in October; this Friday, I'm seeing the Beatles-themed play Backbeat.
And now I hear that the Who (or what's left of them) is coming in November... as is Bob Dylan, opened by Mark Knopfler. Dare I strain the limits of my credit cards?

I'm jes' a ol' graveyard ghost, that's all in the world I am. Jes' a plain ol' graveyard ghost

Well, the "want" for this new magazine job evolved into more of a "need" this week.
Because I got laid off on Tuesday.

This is a very mixed blessing. I did want to get the hell out of there, but not like this. I was hoping to land a better job first and then quit on my own terms.

It was very sudden, quick and cold. As in, "Here's the situation -- we can't afford you anymore; now here's something you have to sign and send back to us; now give us your keys and collect your possessions and get the fuck out of here."
Followed, of course, by history's most insincere "Nice working with you and sorry it had to end this way" and obligatory handshake.

And now? I actually wish that I'd goofed around and slacked off as much as they'd accused me of doing.
Really. If that's the kind of appreciation they show. Why did I put so much focus into trying to get work done by deadline and improve my stats, when I could have been sneaking in more Digital Journal articles instead? Or writing anything else, for that matter?

If I understand right, I'm supposed to be getting two weeks' pay (in lieu of the standard notice) as well as one week's severance pay, plus any outstanding vacation days. Plus what they owe me for the day and a half I put in this week. That ought to keep me going up until after the Washington weekend. Another return to the U.K. may have to wait, though.

If I do get the mag job, then it's all good and I've won a free "staycation".
The last I heard from them, they were still conducting interviews. I wish they'd let me know soon, so I could know whether to take it easy or to start panicking.

Burying Ray and Brad

Once again, I've been slacking on my LJ updates. The last time you heard from me, it was early April and I was in Europe. As always, I've been busy: writing, performing, working, job-hunting, travelling and half-assed girlfriend-seeking. I wish the writing part had taken up a much larger proportion, but having a soul-sucking day job really takes a lot of the creativity and ambition out of you.

I am hoping the soulsuckery will be at an end shortly.
I had a job interview on Wednesday (my first after ten or eleven months of searching) with a really cool online magazine, and I think it went well. I'm afraid of counting chickens and making myself even more depressed when it doesn't happen, but I did have a very good feeling about it. Actually, what it is is a three-month internship -- but a paying one, and one that has a 99.99% chance of turning into a full-time job if I don't fuck it up. They made it clear to me that it wasn't one of those deals where you intern for a short time and then they just toss you back on the street.

I haven't heard back yet. Not sure what that means. It could be very good or very bad. Or it could just mean that they're not done interviewing people yet. Despite the reduction in pay, this job would solve so many problems... I could actually make a living writing again. The hours, as I understand, are flexible, so I'd have time to freelance. It's a small, informal office space with seemingly nice and laid-back people, so I wouldn't be living in a real-world Orwellian nightmare for forty-three hours a week. I would get my dignity and self-respect back.

Oh -- but I have been writing. I've picked up the pace on contributing to Digital Journal lately. Even got paid once.
Click here to see my contributions.

I particularly hope you'll read the E.T. one that I posted this morning, and "Like" it. Nobody else is, apparently.

The tower, she's a-falling.

I may never be able to go back to eating shitty pizza again. Which now includes Pizza Pizza, Panzarotto, even Domino's.
Tonight I had a whole pizza with kebab and pepperoni. It was just a big pile of meat pieces on top of a slab of mozzarella. The past few days have also seen much in the way of gelato and fusili.

I'm at a hostel in Pisa that has free Internet access and four-hundred-year-old windows. I wanted to go up Il Torre today, but it was all rainy and cloudy so I decided to save it for tomorrow. Fortunately there are other things to do in this little town, such as the cathedral and other museums. I'd been hoping to get in a day in Florence tomorrow, but I've seen plenty of Florence before, so it's not that big a deal.

I spent two and a half days in Rome, seeing some of the usual cliches (the Coliseum, the Forum, the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel) for the second time. I took a tour of the Vatican Museum that skipped the lineup and went straight to all the important stuff, so it was much more enjoyable than last time. Even found time to hit a karaoke night at an Irish pub.

After Pisa, it's two days in Venice. I have generally noticed that as you go further north, the gelato gets even better.

At'samatta for you, uh? You got a no respect?

I believe I mentioned in a previous entry that I was going to Italy for the first week in April.
Well, I'm flying out tomorrow night.

I've been meaning to go back to Italia for years. I was there for two weeks in June 1999, and have always wanted to return. All of my across-the-pond trips over the past several years have been to England, of course, because I have friends there as well as contacts for poetry gigs. This year, I'm going to see if I can fit both trips in...

And now the Leaning Tower is open again.
When I was in Pisa the last time, the tower was closed to the public, and there were giant weights on one side and wires attached, trying to stabilize the lean. I got photos, but that's about it.

I'll be in Rome for a few days, then up to Pisa, Florence if there's time (it's close to Pisa), and Venice for the last two days. Pasta, pizza and gelato will be enjoyed.

I imagine the entire trip will go something like this: