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Wednesday, April 27, 2005
This is my town: A medical laboratory waiting room, with a sign on the wall announcing that all cellphones must be shut off. Underneath the sign, talking 20 to the dozen on his cellphone, a well-dressed businessman, who waves off the clerk who tries to shush him. "You should put up a sign," he says afterwards.
Definitely out of my comfort zone. I took a character voice workshop on Sunday. There were two men in the class who were unstoppable clowns, like Robin Williams and Jim Carrey at their very most annoying, but what was even worse was how bloody great their character voices were. On my own, I clown around with "eckcents" quite a bit, but it was a different and daunting thing to voice an entire ad. Still, I survived, and enjoyed the recording session at GGRP very much. What's my favourite accent, currently? The slightly slurred Texan twang of Holly Hunter. Can I mimic it? Not successfully.
Sometimes rediscovering a book is a richer experience than discovering one. I first read "The Spoon River Anthology" in 1982, and then only in excerpts. When I read "Meisner on Acting" this spring, a few excerpts were used for exercises, and I couldn't stop thinking about them. I finally bought an unabridged copy and have been drinking it in greedily. Some hit me harder than others:
"To put meaning in one's life may end in madness,
But life without meaning is the torture
Of restlessness and vague desire--
It is a boat longing for the sea and yet afraid."

(from No. 64, "George Gray")
Some of my fellow book lovers are fairly scornful about Edgar Lee Master's writing, the same way I am too often scornful about writing that doesn't captivate me. But to me, the Spoon River Anthology is the work of genius. I don't ever want to be without it again.
Thursday, April 21, 2005
Hot and straight up. On my way to work each morning I pass the Hard Disk Café, which has recently invested in a portable signboard that advertises the daily specials. Each morning, it is carefully rolled into place to attract the notice of passing drivers. And each morning, a naughty someone carefully changes a few letters so that the sign reads "The Hard Dik Café."
Wednesday, April 20, 2005
So, the acting class. I read all about the Meisner Technique before I started the class, and thought, wow, this is some brilliant stuff. Acting truthfully in imaginary circumstances, yes! That really makes sense. Imagine my shock to find out how very, very bad at it I am. And some additional bemusement to find that my classmates were in no hurry to be my partner in the next round of exercises. There was a list on the wall to pair students, which I checked at the end of the evening. Mine was the only one with a blank beside it--there was an absent student that night. This could be the usual paranoia, but it's also a scene that's played time and again in my life. Despite being conscious of the fact that I tend to put people's backs up, I seem to have once again put people's backs up.
So this next class should be something of a kick. Last week we had solo exercises where we had a real-life task to perform. The instructor, CH, stopped me before my exercise was a minute old. "What are you doing?" she said. I had been miming looking at a computer screen. Miming is not allowed at this stage, because it isn't truthful. Well, here's another truth: my old Mac monitor weighs about 70 pounds and is about as easy to carry as a greased rhino. I decided against bringing it in. I tried to do another task on the spur of the moment, but it, too, was a complete disaster. Sometimes that's what learning is like. I have no idea what I'll do this week--my confidence is snivelling a bit.
I also took a two-day "Microphone Intensive" voice-over workshop, an intermediate course. Friday's experience still rattled me, as much as I tried to keep it in its own compartment. The workshop was fun, but I was "off" when we went into the studio to record. The fun part was working with the engineer who had recorded most of the commercials I'd written at Karo. Lots of joshing and fake hysteria at the thought of listening to me voice a commercial. My performance wasn't spectacular. "Everyone has off days," said the incredibly nice instructor, but the fact is that you can't use that as an excuse in voice-over land. You've got to be your best each time you're in the studio. So, upshot: I'm no longer as sure that I'll be any good at voice-overs, and I've got a third workshop coming up this Sunday. Learning! It are hard.
If you've never read the Nancy Mitford novels about the English upperclass in the '20s and '30s, this next comment won't make much sense. But when I heard the result of the papal election yesterday, my first reaction was to exclaim, as might Uncle Matthew, "Good God! There's a bloody Hun in the Vatican!" Of course, Uncle Matthew would despise him just as much for being a "bloody Papist."
Wednesday, April 13, 2005
The Condo Board bites Jane in the ass: While still wanting to be part of the Condo Board, I had made it pretty clear that I wasn't much interested in being the President, Treasurer or Secretary, or any post that meant, you know, actual work. So I begged for the Community Liaison post, figuring I'd have to go to the Inglewood Community Association meetings once a month and report back. Pretty sweet.
And then I went to the meeting. I'd heard from a couple of neighbours that the ICA meetings were hysterical. Foolishly, I took that to mean funny. I showed up at 7:00 on meeting night, paid my membership dues, and was handed an agenda that looked eminently do-able in the 2.5 hours allotted to the meeting.
One-point-seven-five hours later, we were still arguing about the first item on the New Business list, which was whether the Calgary Zoo's outdoor functions make too much noise, disturbing the peace of the Inglewoodsters directly across the river--it should be noted that these are the very few but very rich Inglewoodsters who can afford such riverfront property. We hear the same points being made over and over again, in tones of increasing petulance. Two representatives from the Zoo have attended the meeting and are treated fairly rudely, told that "they can't be trusted to do what they say they'll do," and despite their offers of monitoring noise, setting up a callback system for noise complaints, and insulating their amplifiers, the ICA is not satisfied.
Questions from the audience. "What about the animals?" asks one woman. The Zoo reps ask her to explain. "How can you continue to hold these functions when you know what the noise does to the animals?" The reps explain that the well-being of the animals takes precedence over any entertainment. Voices rise in disagreement. The chairman starts hammering on his table with a gavel. The Zoo reps offer to meet with the ICA Redevelopment committee, and when the board agrees, they leave. No one thanks them for coming to the meeting and spending nearly an hour getting berated. Oh, well! At least we'll move ahead to the next item on the agenda!
Not so fast, Janey. Some people have not had their chance to speak their versions of what others have already said. We reach the two-hour mark, and when I check my agenda, I note that there are at least nine more items to discuss, as well as a 15-minute Powerpoint presentation on the upcoming summer festival. I lose it, and leave.
Perhaps I could trade jobs with the Treasurer.
Tuesday, April 12, 2005
I thought grade inflation was bad enough, but I'm utterly amazed by the idiocy of the people who have decided that teachers using red ink to make corrections on their students' papers is demeaning and stressful. The solution? Use friendly purple ink to scrawl critical comments, not to mention those Cs, Ds and Fs. Fast-forward to 2015, where "pedantic purple" is replaced with "goodwill green." It doesn't matter what the teacher writes--it's the appearance of what is written that matters. For. God's. Sake.
It's probably just me. Every time I hear Kentucky Fried Chicken's (sorry, KFC's) latest commercial for its new "Unbreaded Herb Garden Chicken," I'm reminded of the "Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer" sketches on the Phil Hartman-era Saturday Night Live. Also, I want to know, assuming that KFC continues to offer "healthier" items such as roasted chicken, can they still call themselves KFC? Or will they be KRC?
Yep, I'm a little bored (although not from lack of work). I guess it shows.
Friday, April 08, 2005
IAQ, or Infrequently Asked Questions at Not My Dog:
  1. Surgery, you say? Yes.
  2. A subdivision of a well-known part of the gastro-intestinal tract.
  3. Oh, all right. A gastric bypass.
  4. Because. Part of my probationary period for this surgery involved delving into my earliest memories in an effort to discover the foundation of my poor relationship with the basic function of eating. I'll spare the details, which are of significance only to me. The bottom line is that I turn out to be the poster child for gastric bypass.
  5. I'll tell you how I feel, though. It's like I said to Vinnie La Vin. This is my dream and nightmare come true.
  6. Any negative judgments? Yes, but only a couple, and those from people whose opinions don't mean much to me.
  7. When? The earliest would be at the end of June. If that doesn't occur, then I don't really know when. My guess is some time in the next six months.
  8. Expectations? Oh, certainly, but not of being thin. My vision is to be what I am, a mesomorph, but a much more active one.
  9. What about those fizzy beverages? I'm working on not drinking quite so very much of them.
  10. Cooking, my love of. Thankfully, it won't be much affected.
Now, back to the regular doggery:
The Meisner Workshop starts tonight, and after reading the book on Sanford Meisner's approach to truthful acting, I realize I'm at the base of a very tall mountain, looking upwards. It is going to be a challenge of intellect, emotions, and character. Especially if I'm partnered with someone whose personal habits drive me crazy. But! I am looking forward to it like you wouldn't believe. If you don't want to know the details, I recommend not checking this blog for the next week or so.
My iPod shuffle has saved the lives of all the account executives at Karo this week. They're completely oblivious to this fact, of course.
Wednesday, April 06, 2005
Some things should not be forgotten, and so I shall mention a few of them below:
  1. Buffalo and chocolate sauce. I found myself hanging out at Jean and Tyke's after driving south from Edmonton, and cleverly got myself invited to dinner. Tyke is famous for making omelettes, and it now turns out he's a natural gourmet. Not all people are: f'rinstance, I am a good cook, but not a great improviser. My beloved cousins Leslie and MaryAnn are culinary artists, as is der Schmuke. And now, Tyke. He sautéd buffalo cutlets for dinner, and concocted a sauce of preserved cherries, unsweetened chocolate, cloves and other spices that was utterly amazing. I don't even like cooked fruit, and am not the world's biggest fan of molé sauce, but I took a dollop to be polite. One taste, and I realized I would have to beat up Jean and Tyke to take away all the sauce for myself. Velvety, aromatic, perfectly seasoned...Escoffier should only have hoped to create sauces half so delicious. Who would put buffalo and chocolate together, add a few cherries, and think it would taste good? It would never have occurred to me.
  2. Fresh air, horses and dogs. Natural mood enhancers, all of them. Another 6-mile wagon ride on Sunday afternoon convinces me of this.
  3. The movie, "Holy Land," made in Israel in 2001. It's a mesmerizing tale of culture, sex, religion, politics and prejudice that makes me realize that as an insulated Canadian, I can never hope to understand the peoples of the Middle East. The camera would pan over miles of arid desert, and I'd think, they're killing each other over this? Anyway, my socio-political shortcomings aside, the movie is by turns hilarious, tragic, maddening and incomprehensible. The acting is flawless. Highly recommended.
  4. Flipping the bird! Someone blocks you in a parking lot with their stretch limo, and won't move? Bird! Somebody tells you, as you are intently training your dog, "that's never going to work, you should do this?" Bird! There's an e-mail informing you that your new office is to be kept tidy? Bird, bird, double-bird and raspberry! Maturity is for other people.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005
Caption Competition again, and we have a finalist! It means absolutely nothing, gets me nothing other than my name on a Beeb page, and is extremely silly. Naturally, I'm hooked. Note: yes, my caption was lame, but as it says in the competition's FAQs, "you should see the ones we don't post."
The move, oh, the move. The new space isn't bad, not bad at all, though I have some work ahead of me to imprint my grotto with Janeness. It was also delightful to find a thank-you iPod shuffle on my desk this morning, a gift from the partners.

It's strange to be back in the "corporate" part of the office, instead of the free-wheeling creative studio, but I think it was probably the right decision, given my irascible nature. Which is about to be given free rein, as we venture into the land of
What Makes Me Crazy

The Sound of High Heels on Concrete! Female ad execs at Karo dress extremely well and walk extremely fast. I must overcome my aversion to the sound of rapid "clickclack clickclacks" and "ka-slip ka-slaps" of expensive shoes on the concrete floor.

Tongue-piercing! It's your body, it's your right to adorn yourself how you choose, but consider for a second that if you work in the service industry, putting a metal dumbbell through your tongue that causes a major speech impediment may be a stupid move. I know, I know. I'm getting crotchety in my old age, and believe me, there are thousands of my contemporaries who are regretting their early 1980s impulse to have their earlobes pierced in 20 places as time and gravity wreak horror on flesh and cartilage. But I am fed up with hearing "How thort do you want your hair cut?" or "Ah be right wif you" and assuming the person has a malformed palate, only to find that he/she has a gonking huge spike of metal through an organ of articulation.
That's probably enough ranting for one day. In upcoming Not My Dog news, my surgery has been approved. The earliest it will happen is end of June, but that's unlikely.