Friday, December 17, 2010

TV, eh? podcasts - episodes 22 and 23

Oops, a little behind on linking to the TV, eh? podcasts:
  • Episode 23: Lethally Sexy and Borderline Sociopathic
    The title's not talking about me and Anthony, but quoting the press release for new CTV shows. We talk about good endings and bad, Netflix's Canadian content, CTV's please-let-it-be-a-joke press release, and rants about 3D TV and the whiny, pathetic side of the Canadian TV industry.
  • Episode 22: Insidious Negative Popular Stereotyping
    Guests are from A Heartland Christmas: Nicholas Campbell (Da Vinci’s Inquest) joins series stars Amber Marshall and Graham Wardle. Anthony and I discuss the bizarre starring turn of Canadian TV in the WikiLeaks documents, Yule Log gate – where Shaw backs down from plans to charge for the channel – and the disappearance of Montreal from the English TV landscape. Anthony also reflects on the career of beloved CityTV anchor Mark Dailey.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

TV, eh? podcast episode 21: CanCon Yule Logs

Check out the latest podcast with Anthony Marco and I talking holiday programming, Leslie Nielsen, CBC winter schedule vs The Death Star hockey championships, MuchLessMusic, and more:

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thankful to be thankful

I completely missed Canadian Thanksgiving this year - something about going from Egypt to Edmonton to LA that day and working as soon as I hit the ground. Today is American Thanksgiving, which, oddly, I only ever celebrated the two years I lived in Mexico, where they don't celebrate Thanksgiving at all.

But while I got screwed out of turkey and pumpkin pie this year, I find myself reflecting on what I'm thankful for lately, and today seems like a good opportunity to express it. So pardon the sappiness.

I could examine my life and focus on what's lacking, but I (mostly) choose not to. And when I do succumb to the negative, that's why emo music was invented.

But how could I experience such an incredible Egyptian vacation with such an incredible person and not feel grateful for the means to travel, the ability to appreciate the world around me, and the company of someone who knows me so well and still voluntarily spends time with me?

How could I not feel grateful for a job that gave me such a great work experience in Los Angeles, and at the same time the opportunity to see some wonderful people I don't get to see often enough?Also, I got a personal tour of NASA JPL. That is insanely cool.

I don't need international travel to consider myself lucky, either. I'm thankful for the ability to appreciate the beauty of the snow falling, the taste of a pumpkin latte, the warmth of a fuzzy cat, the comfort of solitude and of knowing my friends are a phone call or text away if cabin fever descends.

I look at my life and the people in it and realize I would have to be the biggest ingrate to not be thankful every day, not just Thanksgiving Day(s). And I'm thankful for the ability to be thankful for what I have.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

TV, eh? podcast episode 20: When the Levy Breaks

With Denis McGrath and Anthony Marco discussing copyright and Bill C-32, plus the CBC winter schedule and the perils of hype. Click here for more or listen via the links below.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Fostercat appeal

I don't know much about Fostercat Holly's background other than she was rescued and then lived at a shelter for quite a while. It's pretty clear she's been abused. She's very flinchy and takes a long time to trust. After she finally came out of hiding, when she suddenly demanded attention, I had to learn how to move and how not to move in order to make her feel safe, or she'd cower as if I was about to belt her.

Compounding that problem is her painful teeth. She loves to be petted. I haven't found the end to her tolerance for being hugged and stroked and she will repeatedly rub her head against my hand ... until she hits a part of her mouth that's painful. Then she'll flinch and cower as if I'm about to belt her. Something has to be done to take away her physical pain before we can make much more progress on the other kind.

The rescue organization is supposed to pay for all fostercat-related expenses, including food, litter, and vet bills, but they're strapped for cash so I've offered to do it. But here's the thing: she's only one of 300 fostercats they already have in their system, never mind the new ones coming in a steady stream.

So if you can spare some money and want to help this organization help abandoned cats and kittens, please consider giving here. Holly's got me, but there's lots of abandoned cats out there who need someone too.

Here's their media release:

Cat rescue organization needs help to stay alive

News Release, November 12, 2010—Hundreds of abandoned kittens and cats in Vancouver and Burnaby are hoping the Vancouver Orphan Kitten Rescue Association (VOKRA) can raise enough money to enable them to continue their work.

“All animal rescue organizations are stunned by how enormous the need has been this year,” says Karen Duncan, co-founder and president of VOKRA. “There were so many more cats who were abandoned and dumped on the street or came to us really young and pregnant.”

VOKRA is a no-kill, registered charity that works to reduce the uncontrolled breeding in feral cat colonies, while also actively finding foster and forever homes for the growing number of cats and kittens in need in the Lower Mainland. VOKRA does not receive any government funding. Run by volunteers, VOKRA relies entirely on adoption fees and donations to pay for high-quality food, litter, and medical costs for over a thousand cats each year. Average monthly costs are $28,000.

Duncan says VOKRA doesn't euthanize cats if they have a will to keep living. Instead, it pays for life-saving treatment. Many cats who are taken in are ill or easily susceptible to illness because they have not been fed properly and generally have not had good lives. To put costs into perspective, helping one healthy cat can cost at least $190 in vet bills, plus $40 per month in food and litter costs until they are adopted. VOKRA adoption fees barely cover these costs, and the need to fundraise becomes greater every year.

“The number of cats is increasing, as is the demand for what we do, and so our vet bills and expenses keep going up,” says Duncan. “We go through kitten season with ups and downs, and this is the time of year when things start to catch up. We're doing everything we can to fundraise to pay our bills and have enough to start another year of rescuing abandoned cats and kittens.”

“We aren't closing VOKRA,” continues Duncan, “but our capacity and what we can do is limited, so we are now focusing on very young kittens, pregnant/nursing cats, and our own returns, which is our original mandate.”

Duncan is optimistic that the constant flow of kittens will diminish, and the current 300 cats and kittens in their care will be adopted out soon. Until then, VOKRA has stepped up its fundraising efforts, including grant applications and planning for next year’s Walk for the Kitties walk-a-thon. But what the association really needs are additional regular donors.

“Even though we're still coming out of the economic downturn, ten dollars a month is nothing to most people. But every dollar helps us,” says Duncan . “We wouldn't be here without the generous support of the community. We're appealing to everyone, so we can continue to help these neglected creatures. They have not asked to be born into an already overpopulated world.”

How you can help:

1. Donate online at and then ask 10 of your friends to donate at least $10. Consider becoming a monthly donor.

2. Donate by cheque made out to VOKRA and mail to:

PO Box 74571

2768 West Broadway

Vancouver, BC V6K 4P4

3. Purchase VOKRA calendars, T-shirts, bracelets, or retail store gift cards - ask us for more info!

4. Become a VOKRA sponsor at

5. Spay or neuter your cat by five months. Tell your friends and family to do the same.

VOKRA issues tax receipts for donations $20 and above.

In 2009, VOKRA spent $338,382:

Veterinary Costs and Medicine: 69%

Supplies (incl. food and litter): 20%

Administration and Fundraising: 9%

Fuel: 2%

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

TV, eh? podcast episode 19 – The Dread Carpet

Episode 19: listen or download on Posterous.
Our guest this week is Chris Leavins of Todd and the Book of Pure Evil (as well as Cute With Chris, Traders, Slings & Arrows, etc.) who talks about playing the guidance counsellor from hell, his favourite Canadian television the limitations of making a web series about cute cats, and so much more.

But first Anthony and Diane rant, of course, about the Geminis foreign content, Canadians' wacky list of 25 favourite shows, the excrement that is Lake Shore, and the difficulty of cutting the cable cord in Canada. Oh and Lost Girl was renewed, but we're happy about that.

Your hosts

Video: House writer Larry Kaplow on "A Pox On Our House"

Yeah, I had to post this FOX video, because, you know:

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

TV, eh? podcast episode 18: A $450 Geminight to Remember

No guest interview this week but Anthony and I talk about the Geminis, Gordon Pinsent, Canadian cop shows, and the CRTC:

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Dan Mangan - "Nice, Nice, Very Nice"

Since I've already confessed my long-standing brain crush this weekend, now it's time to confess a musical crush: Vancouver artist Dan Mangan and his album Nice, Nice, Very Nice (such a  nice Canadian title, eh?). I think I first heard Mangan from new-ish radio station The Peak - which like all commercial radio stations mostly plays the same thing over and over again, but in their case, they play music I love that you don't hear ad nauseam from other stations over and over again, and thus have introduced me to some new favourites.

I do love the album, but his videos make me love it even more. They're beautifully shot mini-movies fitting to the tone of their accompanying songs.

Road Regrets is a melancholic animation:

Indie Queens are Waiting looks like an indie movie shot in a local diner:

And Robots is a hilarious parody of an 80s gang movie:

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Predictably Irrational

A lot of books (and movies and TV shows) have changed my perspective in small and big ways, but Dan Ariely's Predictably Irrational has probably had the most profound impact in changing the way I view how people behave the way we do. The title says it all: rather than perfectly rational creatures, in many ways we are irrational, but in predictable ways. Ariely's point is that if we understand these ways we are irrational, we can use them to overcome the limitations of that irrationality, and his book gives practical and humorous examples and suggestions.

He's a behavioural economist (yeah, I didn't know there was such a thing either) so his research focuses on consumer and business choices - from purchasing decisions, retirement planning, health care, executive bonuses - but that covers a wide area, and there's a lot to be learned about human behaviour in general.

I first read Predictably Irrational a couple of years ago and have annoyed friends since by quoting it in appropriate (to me) circumstances. I am finishing up his follow-up, The Upside of Irrationality, now. When I had the opportunity to meet one of my favourite authors, Yann Martel (Life of Pi), at the Vancouver writers festival, I babbled to him about Ariely's research as it applied to Martel's Beatrice & Virgil ... because I was a volunteer writer escort who had to wait until he was done a book signing to escort him back, so I was reading on my iPhone, and on the way back we talked about the impossibility of signing an e-book which is how I bought B&V, which made him comment on me reading a book on my iPhone, which happened to be The Upside of Irrationality and happened to be a chapter that touched on themes of Martel's talk and quoted Stalin in the same way Martel had just quoted: "The death of one man is a tragedy. The death of a million is a statistic." He at least pretended to be interested.

Anyway, below is a taste of Dan Ariely's humour and insight while giving a TED talk. You really have to read this book though.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Love me?

In the year or so leading up to Oliver's death, I launched a plan to get through the inevitable period where I wasn't ready for another cat - both the emotional commitment and the commitment commitment - but would be missing having another animal in the house besides me. After he died and I was done with my holiday/work trip, I applied to foster with VOKRA - the Vancouver Orphan Kitten Rescue Association. They can operate as a no-kill organization because they have hundreds of foster homes to take in cats and kittens until they can find permanent homes.

This is Holly, my first fostercat. She hid in the lining of my guest bed boxspring for a week, and still likes her enclosed places, but she also loves when I come to her for an intense petting session. From her bio:
Holly is an incredibly affectionate cat who would probably let you pet her forever, purring and rubbing her face against your hand if you're too slow with the petting. She's shy and needs time to warm up to you, and probably needs a quiet household with no other animals or small children. She's very quiet and low-maintenance and just needs someone to love her and bring her out of her shell.
I seem to have to keep justifying why I'm fostering instead of adopting, but trust me: it's a good thing for both me and the cats. It will be hard to give them up when they're adopted, but not as hard as you might imagine. I go into it with the mindset that they're mine to socialize and love, but not to keep. I'm preparing them for their rightful owner.

I fully expect that in time, my cat will cross my path and I will adopt him or her.  Holly is a sweet cat; she's not my cat. Is she yours? Come visit if you think she might be, and apply to adopt.

TV, eh? podcast episode 17: The Further Adventures of Lip Ring

I'm bad at remembering to post the TV, eh? podcasts here but the latest has my interview with Being Erica's Erin Karpluk and Adam Fergus, plus Anthony and I bicker as usual, this time about the Geminis, E!, Shaw, potentially doomed shows, and DVRs and ratings.
Erin Karpluk is so pretty ... she really doesn't need this much PhotoShopping.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Egypt as Edmonton

In our first attempt to go to Egypt, the Icelandic volcano cancelled our flights and I got stuck in Edmonton, where Teresa and I tried to recreate an Egyptian experience. This time the trip went as planned. And it was incredible … but it was no Edmonton.

Once we landed in Egypt, we searched for something as spectacular as the glass pyramids of the Muttart Conservatory, and came upon passable replacements in the Pyramids of Giza.

We didn't encounter any zoos, so settled for camels in their natural habitat.

The North Saskatchewan River in Edmonton's beautiful river valley – the best feature of my hometown - is unparalleled, but the Nile has its charms as well.

We didn't see any malls to compete with West Edmonton Mall, but the local markets were full of wares and entertainment, and some of the buildings in Cairo looked a little like Europa Boulevard if you squint a little.

The graveyards we saw in Egypt had none of the flowers and tombstones we found in Edmonton, but the Valley of the Kings did have some interestingly decorated tombs, and the Egyptian museum had other fine objects that had been found within.

Above and below pics from Wikipedia - no photos allowed at Valley of the Kings or Egyptian Museum

So it may not have been Edmonton, but don't hold that against it: Egypt was great in its own unique ways.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

More excited than scared for Jeff Greenstein's directing debut

Tonight I think you should watch Desperate Housewives, even if, like me, it's not a show you regularly watch. Who can resist a Halloween episode ("Excited and Scared") airing on actual Halloween Day?

But the real reason I'll watch and think you should too is that it's the directing debut of the talented and witty Jeff Greenstein, who also wrote it. (Oh and he recorded a commentary track that'll be available on on Monday, too, though it'll likely be geoblocked in Canada as usual.)

He apparently moved to LA with the dream of becoming a director, but took a not-too-shabby 25-year digression into writing for shows such as Dream On, Friends, Will & Grace and Parenthood, plus developing his own, including one he's working on now with novelist Jennifer Weiner.

We barely know each other, but I care because we have an odd history that I get a kick out of and that's given me an appreciation for his intelligence, humour and talent. And it feels good to see good people succeed.

We've never exactly met - though you could say that I've met him but he hasn't met me. I've interviewed him a couple of times since and we've kept in touch, but our paths first crossed at the Banff TV Fest a few years ago. I was in the audience for a session where he was to be sole speaker, except he brought BBC producer Jon Plowman to help. I wrote a very brief blog post at the time saying that Plowman didn't need to help much because Greenstein sure can talk, so luckily he was funny and informative.

Almost 2 weeks later, I started writing a full article for Blogcritics that included Greenstein's session along with House writer David Hoselton's. Literally as I was finishing the final edits, an email alert notified me that I had a message from a Jeff Greenstein with the subject line "I sure can talk." It took my confused brain a few moments to sort out the fact that the man I had been writing about for the past hour - a man I didn't think knew I existed - was writing to me at the exact same time. I know in my head that a world without coincidences would be freaky, and yet the coincidence freaked me out a little.

It was a good-humoured email that saw the genuine if jokey compliment in my original assessment. I don't regret saying it, either: he really can talk. He also sure can write, and now I bet I'll be saying he sure can direct. Let's find out.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Illustrated tweets from Egypt

I hope to write more substantial posts about the incredible trip to Egypt, but for now here's an annotated and illustrated compilation of tweets I wrote while it was happening. Unfortunately pictures aren't allowed in the Egyptian Museum (so no pics of King Tut's treasures or the mummies) or in the Valley of the Kings (so no pics of the tombs).

It's Egypt Eve! I'm as excited as a kid at Christmas and as terrified as an adult about to fly across the world in a tin can.

It really happened this time
Woke up, checked Twitter, 1/2 expected news that'd cancel today's Egypt trip. RIP Tony Curtis, loved you, but thx for not being a volcano. 

[A reference to the fact that our original trip was cancelled 
by the Icelandic volcano, news I read first on Twitter.]

Heading to the airport for Egypt! Well, Edmonton for now, but as Teresa & I proved last time - same thing

Outside the Muttart Conservatory in Edmonton when our first attempt to go to Egypt was cancelled.

Napping at the Edmonton airport, hair askew, bags piled around. Only thing distinguishing me from a hobo is Twitter.

[No picture. Duh.]

Teresa's here! We're through security & at the gate! Reunion Trip 2: Actually Getting On The Plane is underway.

Plus, it's rare to see Diane in glasses in the wild.

In Cairo, exhausted but exhilarated. Egypt doesn't seem very similar to Edmonton after all, though. Huh.

View from our first Cairo hotel. Not like Edmonton.
Take my word for the "exhilarated" part

Day 1: wandered Cairo streets (got lost), survived 42C weather (turned into puddle), made friends (fended off strange men). Loving it.

Checking the map during one of the many, many times we were lost.

Pics will be: here's us sweaty & gross at pyramids. Here's us sweaty & gross by Nile. Here's us sweaty & gross at Abu Simbel.

True. Also us with dorky headwear. And yet there's no way I'm posting the worst examples.
This is our closeup in front of the great pyramid.

Pyramids, sphinx, King Tut's treasures - so surreal to see in person. Flying to Aswan now to make friends with a camel.

Pyramid of Khafre (not the big one)
Sphinx and Pyramid of Khafre
Sphinx and Great Pyramid of Khufu/Cheops

Pyramids from a distance.

Amazing, incredible day in desert near Aswan. Boat on Nile, camel to monastery, gardens, lunch in Nubian village.

In Aswan. Scenery unlike any I'd seen before.

Krestina the Camel and I in front of St. Simeon Monastery.

Banks of Aswan near the Kitchener gardens.

Getting a henna tattoo in a Nubian village.

The Nubian village.
Up at 2:45am taking police convoy through desert to Abu Simbel. Teresa's dream destination but too sick to come. Other girl puking on bus.

The "lesser" temple of Hathor and Nefertari
Ramses II on great temple
Just hangin' out at Abu Simbel. Which is ... wow.

Posing awkwardly, or collapsing from the heat?

The greater temple. The scale of this complex is enormous. And they moved it all when the Aswan Dam was built.
Visited an essence factory/shop on the way back from Abu Simbel.
Bought essense of papyrus. It's pretty.

Perfect midpoint to trip, sailing down Nile in cooling breeze, doing nothing but watch camels, donkeys, cows, trees, sand, reeds as we pass.
Obligatory vacation foot shot

One of our feluccas

Hanging by the Nile

Also? No one is puking or dropping from heat exhaustion. We're saving that for Luxor tomorrow. Sleeping on the felucca deck tonight.

Relaxing on the felucca

Docked for night, Teresa seasick so sat on Nile bank. Lovely man gave me Nubian name of Unati (moon) and promised to build house for me next ... [tweet cut off]

Last tweet was supposed to say lovely Nubian man was going to build me a house next to his other wife's. It killed the romance a little.

Teresa on the banks of the Nile, watching our felucca bob up and down.

3 temples today, all spectacular. Karnak built over period of 2000 yrs. I can't commit to what to do next weekend.

At Kom Ombo Temple

Horus at Edfu Temple
Sanctuary inside Edfu Temple

Statue at Karnak

Peeking behind columns at Karnak

Queen Hatshepsut obelisk at Karnak

Ram-headed sphinx at Karnak

Shoutout to Sem Sem, our Egyptologist guide. By the time I'm home I'll have forgotten astonishing amount about ancient Egypt.

The amazing Sem Sem, Egyptologist, storyteller, and tour leader extraordinaire

Day began at 4am w/balloon over Luxor, then donkeys to Hatshepsut Temple, then Valley of the Kings. Last day in Egypt tomorrow. Sniff.

Sunrise over Luxor
Valley of the Kings below

Post-landing: another balloon landing in Luxor, Valley of the Kings in the background
Only a little freaked out

Luxor Temple
Avenue of sphinxes - excavation ongoing in Luxor

Me and my donkey, who tried to knock me off by brushing against everything in sight.
"Yallah habibi!" ("Let's go, darling!" That's what the guides yelled to the donkeys.)

Temple of Queen Hatshepsut, only female Egyptian pharoah

Statue of Queen Hatshepsut

Last day in Egypt. Said goodbye to tour leader. Now must make all decisions on our own. So Twitter, where should we go for lunch in Cairo?

Our historic hotel for the last night in Cairo
Not sweaty and gross for the first time in a week, enjoying a
drink with ice at Shepheard's Hotel
Teresa on the balcony over the Nile
One of us got a bit of a tan. One of us got a lot more freckles. (Hint: I'm not the first one of us.)

But if my freckles would spread and join together, we'd be the same colour.

Such an incredible couple of weeks I've had in Egypt and LA. Now back to reality. Sigh. Gotta plan my next adventure to anticipate.

[A hint? Next summer I'm going to the country that
ruined the first attempt at an Egyptian vacation.]