Happy April Fool’s Day, My Online Jeopardy Tryout and Living in Hollywood North

Gotham Lg
I’m some­what relieved that April 1st fell on a Sat­ur­day this year, as I learned that there were sev­er­al peo­ple in our office who were real pranksters, and I don’t rel­ish the thought of return­ing to my desk to find my desk­top changed to a snap­shot of my open win­dows, my new mail noti­fi­ca­tion changed to a fart sound, or oth­er such geeky tricks. For­tu­nate­ly the rel­a­tive dif­fi­cul­ty of doing these things in Win­dows com­pared to the Mac make this a lit­tle less like­ly, but I won’t count out these get­ting tried on Mon­day, even if its April 3rd at that point.

Ever won­der how April 1st got such a des­ig­na­tion? The Muse­um of Hoax­es has a whole page on it. My favourite bit on this page is this story:

British folk­lore links April Fool’s Day to the town of Gotham, the leg­endary town of fools locat­ed in Not­ting­hamshire. Accord­ing to the leg­end, it was tra­di­tion­al in the 13th cen­tu­ry for any road that the King placed his foot upon to become pub­lic prop­er­ty. So when the cit­i­zens of Gotham heard that King John planned to trav­el through their town, they refused him entry, not wish­ing to lose their main road. When the King heard this, he sent sol­diers to the town. But when the sol­diers arrived in Gotham, they found the town full of lunatics engaged in fool­ish activ­i­ties such as drown­ing fish or attempt­ing to cage birds in roof­less fences. Their fool­ery was all an act, but the King fell for the ruse and declared the town too fool­ish to war­rant pun­ish­ment. And ever since then, April Fool’s Day has sup­pos­ed­ly com­mem­morat­ed their trickery. 

I like this not only for it’s nod to bureau­cra­cy, but also the fact that it involves King John. King John is so deli­cious­ly bad (he is the King who the Sher­iff of Not­ting­ham reports to in the Robin Hood sto­ry as well), and despite the fact that he signed the Magna Car­ta — he was forced into it, the his­to­ry books say — he was, accord­ing to some accounts, such a dis­as­trous­ly bad king that the Eng­lish woud nev­er again have a king with the same name. Hmm, we can only hope that there will nev­er again be a Pres­i­dent (who acts pret­ty much as if he were a King any­way) with the name ‘Bush’ for the same reasons.

I’ll Take “Game Show Try­outs” for 200, Alex
On Thurs­day Night at 8:00 PM I took the Online test for Jeop­ardy. I did OK, I think, but missed a few (the movie title ‘Brave­heart’, for exam­ple) because I could­n’t type the answer fast enough. There was an unnerv­ing ani­ma­tion in this Flash-based triv­ia test that if you did­n’t make it in time, the let­ters of your answer-in-progress were lit­er­al­ly swept off the field as you were typ­ing, like so much alpha­bet­i­cal detritus.

At the end of the 50-Ques­tion 15 sec­onds for each answer (and No, one did­n’t have to answer in the form of a ques­tion) test, a mes­sage appeared that the show would tab­u­late the answers, and if there were more than enough qual­i­fy­ing con­tes­tants, there would also be a draw­ing among those. I haven’t heard any­thing since Thurs­day, and I have no idea if I even made the draw­ing. Oh well. I tried out for Jeop­ardy some 15 or so years ago in Boston (in per­son), and near­ly made it (or so one of the women grad­ing the entries said). Maybe the third time will be the charm.

My Office is so Typ­i­cal Look­ing That…
On Thurs­day and Fri­day of last week, a group of peo­ple parad­ed through the offices I work in on Water Street in Gas­town. They were scout­ing spaces for film­ing some scenes for a TV Series. Appar­ent­ly the pilot has been shot already, and one of the scenes involves the char­ac­ter’s father who works at a soft­ware com­pa­ny. The main char­ac­ter is a kid who ‘has the super pow­er that he speaks bina­ry’ (I remem­ber see­ing that movie back in 1969, when it was called ‘The Com­put­er Wore Ten­nis Shoes’ with Kurt Rus­sell). So, it’s now look­ing as if the sil­ly TV Show called ‘Kyle X/Y’ will be shot at our offices, because they look so ‘soft­ware company’-ish.

Ear­li­er in the week, there were lights and cables every­where on Water Street because they were film­ing the movie ‘Rogue’, an action flick with Mar­tial Arts Star Jet Li. On Fri­day while walk­ing back from lunch, one of my co-work­ers point­ed out one of the build­ings where they shot an exte­ri­or for the movie ‘I Robot’ (it’s the old build­ing where Will Smith’s grand­moth­er lived).

While I’m tick­led that the Van­cou­ver Film Indus­try that is so preva­lent here is now bump­ing into my real life, it’s the not the first time that I’ve come close to a film in pro­duc­tion. When we lived in Cam­bridge, for about a week there were sev­er­al trail­ers in the park­ing lot of the Dante Alighieri Cen­ter behind our town­house, for the film­ing of David Mamet’s movie, ‘The Span­ish Pris­on­er’ in one of the offices in the One Kendall Square plaza across the street from us. We’re not pos­i­tive, but we believe that for a few days, Steve Mar­tin, who was the main vil­lain in that movie, was in one of those trail­ers, about 200 feet from our back door.

Another Holiday, sort of

Groundhog Day

“Is this is what you do with Eter­ni­ty?” asks Andie MacDowell.

It’s Ground­hog Day, again. As I’ve often said, it’s one of my favourite movies of all time, part­ly because I think that Ground­hog Day with Bill Mur­ray is actu­al­ly a very seri­ous movie mas­querad­ing as a light, fun­ny movie. If I were ever called upon to teach a course in say, ethics or karmic redemp­tion, that film would def­i­nite­ly be on the syl­labus. I par­tic­u­lar­ly love it because it man­ages to ‘teach’ a les­son with­out being preachy or condescending.

It was a good day today, one I would­n’t remind reliv­ing (although not for­ev­er, to be sure).
There was the review in Geor­gia Straight. And it did­n’t rain today. A pat on the back from the boss did­n’t hurt either.

Expe­ri­enc­ing a law of Musi­cal Economics
I’ve been going to Game­lan rehearsals twice a week now, because of our upcom­ing con­cert on Feb­ru­ary 21st. It’ll be at the UBC Muse­um of Anthro­pol­o­gy. In fact, I’m learn­ing first­hand a rule that my father has cod­i­fied after many years of per­form­ing music:

Arno’s Law of Remuneration
The amount of mon­ey that you will receive for a con­cert is inverse to the amount of effort expend­ed in prepar­ing and giv­ing the performance.

This means that if you don’t work hard on a con­cert pro­gram, if it’s some­thing you’ve played many times and comes togeth­er eas­i­ly, you’ll be paid well. If it’s hard music that you have to prac­tice and rehearse a great deal, for­get about any pay­ment. My father played Gersh­win’s Rhap­sody in Blue many times. So many times, that the last 10 or so per­for­mances were prob­a­bly a snap, and sure enough, they paid well. But if he played Schoen­berg’s Pier­rot Lun­naire, or per­haps Leon Kirch­n­er’s Sonata Con­cer­tante for Vio­lin and Piano (I remem­ber that was incred­i­bly dif­fi­cult because I turned pages for it but I real­ly liked it nev­er­the­less), he did­n’t get a penny.

The music for this con­cert that I’m play­ing in on the 21st is very hard. Yup, I’m get­ting bupkis.

Gung Hei Fat Choy!

So, Hap­py New Year! Wel­come to the year of the Dog. To put things in per­spec­tive, Chi­nese New Year is the main hol­i­day of the year for more than 25% of the world’s pop­u­la­tion. With one of the largest Chi­nese pop­u­la­tions out­side Chi­na here in Van­cou­ver, it’s a big deal.

Rather than cel­e­brate it by going to the parade through Chi­na­town, we actu­al­ly had anoth­er mis­sion. Or rather, I did. Today, I had my first writ­ing gig for the Geor­gia Straight. The Straight, for those of you not in this area, to quote the ‘About the Straight’ sec­tion of their web site, is:

About the Straight
Canada’s Largest Urban Weekly
No oth­er city pub­li­ca­tion knows more about Van­cou­ver than the Geor­gia Straight. Estab­lished as the lifestyle and enter­tain­ment week­ly in Van­cou­ver for over 30 years, the Geor­gia Straight is an inte­gral part of the active urban West Coast lifestyle with a per issue read­er­ship of almost 340,000.
Every Thurs­day, the Geor­gia Straight deliv­ers an award-win­ning edi­to­r­i­al pack­age of fea­tures, arti­cles, news and reviews.
Reg­u­lar week­ly cov­er­age includes NEWS, ARTS, MUSIC, MOVIES, FASHION, TRAVEL, BUSINESS, HIGH TECH, FOOD and RESTAURANTS, plus Van­cou­ver’s most com­pre­hen­sive list­ings of enter­tain­ment activ­i­ties and spe­cial events.
Through­out the year, the Geor­gia Straight also pro­duces a series of read­er polls cov­er­ing a vari­ety of inter­est that are enter­tain­ing and informative.
The Best Of Van­cou­ver — September
The Gold­en Plate Awards — March
The Straight Music Awards — June

My assign­ment was the Sun­day Van­cou­ver Sym­pho­ny Orches­tra con­cert cel­e­brat­ing Mozart’s 250th birth­day. For me, this is both easy and hard. Easy because it required less research; I knew most of the music on the pro­gram already: Over­ture to The Mag­ic Flute, Piano Con­cer­to No 23 — (that’s the one with the last move­ment that sounds like the theme from The Flint­stones — go check it out and see if you don’t agree!), Exul­tate, Jubi­late, and the Sym­pho­ny No 39 (the first of the final trio of them that end­ed with The Jupiter). Hard, because, well, what can you write about Mozart that has­n’t been writ­ten already before? Prodi­gy, Genius, Bil­liard Play­er extra­or­di­naire, it’s all been done before. Not to men­tion the fact that there have been Mozart fes­ti­vals all around the world, includ­ing some 24-hours of non-stop par­ty­ing in Salzburg and Vien­na. What can Van­cou­ver (much less I) add to the mil­lions of notes and words being played and uttered about one of the great­est musi­cians who ever lived? Oh, and last­ly, it had to fit with­in 500 words, and be writ­ten in the Straight’s style. If I get to write for them again (and I’m hop­ing I will), I’ll expound more on what I think the style (or maybe even for­mu­la) for a Geor­gia Straight review is. I think I’ve got it fig­ured out, but I’m not pos­i­tive yet. Only my edi­tor will tell for sure. The review, if they print it, like every­thing else in the mag­a­zine, will be avail­able online on Thurs­day. I’ll link to it if and when it goes up.

Yes­ter­day, we met Matt and Oana for break­fast at The Elbow Room on Davie Street, a café that cooks some of the best break­fast cre­ations I’ve ever had, served up with a side order of ‘per­son­al­i­ty’ (if your wait­ress does­n’t give you a hard time, she’s appar­ent­ly not doing her job). Nev­er­the­less, despite the wise­cracks, it’s no sur­prise that near­ly every movie star that spends time in Van­cou­ver ends up there a morn­ing or two. Like Lindy’s or Sardie’s in NYC, the place has signed pho­tos every­where and quite a few dish­es named after celebri­ties. I had the Brett Cullen, which is two poached eggs, sautéed spinach, bacon, avo­ca­do and blue cheese on a sour dough muf­fin, topped with hol­landaise sauce (Deli­cious!). I guess Brett Cullen was on West Wing this month. Pam had the Cindy Williams (of Lav­erne and Shirley fame). That’s sautéed mush­rooms, red and green bell pep­pers, white onion, fresh spinach, black­for­est ham and toma­toes, one large egg over easy on a crois­sant, cov­ered with melt­ed moz­zarel­la and feta cheese. What could be bad?

After­ward we took refuge from the rain for a while at the mall down­town (imag­ine us, mall rats!). We lat­er end­ed up at the Caffe Arti­giano, where I had one of those gor­geous Lattés as we chat­ted the morn­ing and after­noon away. It felt great to just hang around, and it helped get my mind off my impend­ing review, which is now, thank good­ness, in the hopper.

So, my sched­ule (which con­tin­ues to be pret­ty full) and my new writ­ing gig have made my post­ings to this blog a lit­tle hard­er to squeeze in. I’ll put up more if I have the time, but to be hon­est, the pay stuff comes first. I hope you’ll under­stand, dear read­er. Next week is much like this past one: Game­lan rehearsals on Mon­day and Tues­day Night, and one evening event, a meet­ing regard­ing Pod­cast­ing, on Fri­day. Nev­er a dull moment, despite the near­ly per­pet­u­al dull and gloomy weath­er. Busy sched­ules are poten­tial­ly one treat­ment for S.A.D.…

Happy 2006!

Our vis­it with my broth­er’s fam­i­ly in Seat­tle went by in a whirl. After some Hol­i­day par­ty­ing, shop­ping, and what felt like tons of eat­ing, we returned via Trail­ways bus. The bus trip back was­n’t quite as com­fort­able as the train we took down, but it was fine, and cer­tain­ly beat the expense of a rental car or the tir­ing dri­ve and poten­tial­ly long wait at the bor­der. I’m hop­ing that we can do a repeat trip some time soon, or per­haps they can vis­it us here again.

If felt good to be back, and both Pam and I noticed that it was great to see famil­iar land­marks as the bus start­ed to get near to town.

One More Sur­prise Stat
Since New Year’s Day fell on a week­end day (Sun­day), many peo­ple in the US and Cana­da appar­ent­ly felt cheat­ed out of a hol­i­day. So in some back room, some­one placed a check (or an x) in a box, and lo and behold: Mon­day is anoth­er statu­to­ry hol­i­day (a ‘stat’ for short). I did­n’t know this. In fact, I got up at the usu­al time, took the bus in to work and found the door to the office locked (and no answer to knocks or phone calls; I could even hear all the phones ringing!)

So, I had lunch with Matt (who is back from his vis­it to Lub­bock with Oana) and got caught up. Lat­er, Pam and I did some gro­cery shop­ping, so we’re much bet­ter pre­pared for the week. An extra final vaca­tion day, even if some­what unex­pect­ed, was appreciated.

Boxing Week

Too Angry?
I may have to go off the polit­i­cal com­men­tary for a while. It’s just get­ting me furi­ous and there’s no point any more. I did what I could — more than most, I sup­pose — and it’s up to oth­ers to take on the fight. With any luck, Pam and I will have avoid­ed the com­ing crash. Already I’ve seen some omi­nous signs of the US Nation­al Debt start­ing to appear in the news again. It’s unfor­tu­nate that Cana­da is still so depen­dent on the US as a trad­ing part­ner, but even they are wis­ing up and increas­ing oil exports to Chi­na, who I no longer have any doubt will be the dom­i­nant super­pow­er in the com­ing decades. In the mean­time, I am going to have to just shake my head and hope that my fam­i­ly and friends are able to dodge the bul­lets as well.

Box­ing Week

You know that the hol­i­day sea­son has gained a larg­er foot­print when peo­ple start nam­ing the peri­od between Christ­mas and New Year’s Day. With Christ­mas falling on a Sun­day this year, Box­ing Day fell on Mon­day. That meant that the entire rest of the week would be a down-time for a lot of com­pa­nies (includ­ing mine), and stores are run­ning post-Christ­mas/Year-end close­out sales to take advan­tage of so many peo­ple who now have time to shop. The result is that Box­ing Day has become an entire week. We’ve even seen signs on mer­chant win­dows around town that say ‘Box­ing Week Sale’ on them. I sup­pose that’s one way to avoid the crush of peo­ple all try­ing to take advan­tage of a one-day event.

A US Visit
Tomor­row, Pam and I are going to ven­ture back into the US. While I’ve already done this a few times since we moved here, Pam has not. I won­der if I’ll start to notice more dif­fer­ences between the US and Cana­da. It will also be inter­est­ing to use our pass­ports and my work per­mit when we re-enter Cana­da. I’m not expect­ing any trou­ble, but it will be yet anoth­er first.