Sunday, 25 February 2018


A New Novel Coming Soon

I’ve wasted two years fretting out the back door window, watching the birds, churning over the future of my third novel The Garage Sailor. Publishers release fewer titles and book shops sell throw cushions and candles. An archaic industry struggles with disruption. And I’m aware that what I write appeals to a very slim audience, if anyone at all. A couple of people I know have seriously suggested that I seek psychological help although who are we to argue with what goes on in my head? However, I am capable of scribbling a well written story.

The Garage Sailor is the most commercial book I’ve written which probably isn’t saying much. But hey, it features a diabetic tabby cat, I mean, c’mon, that’s cute. There’s some prose about being a rabid music fan too: maybe too much or perhaps not enough? Falcon Press published my first two works and I am grateful to that organization, but this time around I’ve decided to crash and burn on my own - without professional help.

There is a stigma attached to self-publishing. Personally, I imagine a Holocaust denier busy in his garage cranking out damp pamphlets from an antique mimeograph machine, high on hate and chemicals. Me, I will own up to being a relatively harmless misfit with a weathered voice. My friend Netflix Derek jokes that I write “dick lit.” Male readers don’t tend toward fiction and oftentimes I wonder why I bother to do what I’m apparently wired to do. Still, I believe The Garage Sailor deserves more than a seventh draft stack of paper constricted by a blue rubber band.

Thirty-nine years ago a creative director at McKim in Montreal harrumphed to me that everyone in the ad industry had a manuscript in their desk and that’s where they tended to remain; I would be no different. Upon the publication of a couple of short stories and then because of the gracious support of Falcon Press, I’ve been able to spare him a few smug second thoughts through the ensuing decades – I’ve never been overly prolific.

Flogging a novel is a lot like job hunting. Everyone worries about the potential fit. I’ve always tried to manage my own existence on my terms. Slots designated by others never particularly suited me. Despite the highest hopes and the best of intentions, the results I’ve achieved have often careened between disastrous and catastrophic. Life hasn’t been a picnic and I suppose I haven’t been one either.

Well, here I go again, as stubborn as ever, trying to do something my way. Inspired friends of mine, talented artists, musicians and entrepreneurs whom I respect and admire, are doing it for themselves. The tools to augment this young century’s DIY ethos are readily available at a reasonable price - for the first time in all of human history. The times, they are a sea changin’. No point in testing the water, time to dive in. I am excited. I am utterly petrified.

Wednesday, 21 February 2018


Encounters with the Lord of the Dance

Ann and I attended two funerals last week. Both of the deceased lived in our immediate neighbourhood. One of the men was our age which was cause for alarm. We’d often bump into John at Blues on Whyte, Edmonton’s premier lowdown music venue. The second gentleman died a day or two short of his ninety-third birthday and that was cold comfort. We’d chat with Earl in our shared back lane, careful always to reintroduce ourselves because he was legally blind. All the kids on the block knew John’s children and they all used to scamper through Earl’s yard shortcutting street to street. Earl thought kids having fun was a fine thing indeed.

The death rite has become less exotic these past five years. So much so, that if I had the wherewithal, the know-how and the backing, I’d create a Rate the Funeral Sandwiches app. But to what purpose, really? Only James Bond lived twice and everybody knows to avoid rancid Spam sandwiches lovingly assembled by well-intentioned Red Hat ladies and how egg salad can turn toxic in a hurry. Ann and I have been to a lot funerals together. I guess we’re at that age: the terrible tombs.

The upside of course is that life waltzes on. Over the weekend Ann and I partook in the celebration of her great-nephew Jake’s eighteenth birthday, a brilliant excuse to gather the clan. Whether it’s nature or nurture, I don’t know, but Jake is as heavily into music as his parents, his grandfather, his great auntie and her consort. Perhaps because it’s retro and somewhat exotic, or just sounds better, Jake is into vinyl. Consequently, a gang of his relatives invaded the indie music shop on Whyte Friday afternoon to watch Jake spend his birthday booty.

Forty years between us but my tastes and Jake’s overlap: Cream and Led Zeppelin, for example. In this disrupted age of streaming subscription services vinyl is obscenely expensive, much more so than compact discs when they began to appear in the marketplace in the mid-eighties. A decade earlier, sometime in the seventies when I would’ve been about Jake’s age, an hour’s wage was good for two long players, provided they were on sale or plucked from the delete bin. A curious fan could afford to explore.

My advice to Jake was, “If you’re into Zep, start with Physical Graffiti.” Speaking as a former advertising production manager, the packaging alone is a triumph of design. I figured also that their mid-career masterpiece would allow Jake to slide backward and forward through Led Zep’s catalogue should he be so inclined.

Sunday night, the midpoint of the Family Day long weekend: three generations of Jake’s family and various friends and relations went pub crawling; swilling shots with your mother and grandfather probably wasn’t the holiday’s intent. There was music all through the frozen night which ultimately culminated in a magical moment: every patron in a karaoke bar singing Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’,” accompanists to the newly minted voter on the mic, a birthday boy on his first legal night out.

A few hours prior our roving party had descended en masse on Blues on Whyte. A band was playing. We occupied a long table facing the stage, seating for fourteen. I glanced over at John’s usual table, where he’d always sat with his wife and their friends. It was vacant. Jake and the other kids were on the dance floor, having fun, cutting moves to the soundtrack of the great world spinning. And the beat goes on and on, as it will, as it must. 

Tuesday, 6 February 2018


Doctor King Rocks a Ram

Martin Luther King Day was celebrated in the United States this past January 15th, less than one month ago. The late civil rights visionary and inspiring orator is perhaps under-served by such a national honour; a pause on a frigid winter’s day doesn’t quite envelope the man in full nor grant a genuine martyr proper justice and respect.

The Super Bowl was played on February 4th. The American championship football game is the singular global television event of the year. The sport itself is no longer the main attraction. The half-time spectacle, a 13- or 14-minute mini concert by one of the world’s biggest music stars draws viewers. The performer works gratis in exchange for exposure to hundreds of millions of ears and eyeballs. Advertisers, famous brands with immense marketing budgets, pile on hoping to share the numbers, leverage that one glorious evening of heightened receptivity. People want to watch ‘the Super Bowl ads’ televised during football’s annual finale. The commercials aren’t invasive or intrusive tonight; no, they’re part of the show!

Big brand. Big spend. Big stage. Big audience. Big opportunity. Big recipe for disaster.

Great advertising will reward you for a few moments of your attention. Essentially, a good ad is the shortest story ever told. You may glean a useful bit of information, have a chuckle or experience an emotion, warm or bittersweet. The tacit intention of the deal is always positive. Great advertising plunders the current zeitgeist and sometimes even pings an agency’s creation back into pop culture to form a sort of Mobius strip of common reference. Classic examples include ‘I’d like to buy the world a Coke’ and Apple’s ‘1984.’

Bad advertising botches any such aspirations exponentially. Metaphors are butchered and analogies slaughtered for a minute of well-intentioned, contrived and patronizing pain that seems to last a lot longer. North American society is more divided than ever. Lately the New World pie hasn’t been doled out in wedges so much as slashed apart by a knife-wielding serial killer. Left, right, up, down, black, white, aboriginal and everyone caught in between, we can’t even mutter at ourselves in our bathroom mirrors let alone converse civilly with other people. Advertisers mean well, bridges (the exclusive walls of luxury brands aside) are generally in their interests. The more consumers, the merrier.

This is how we end up with Dr King, professional football and pickup trucks in the same sentence. God bless Super Sunday but the revolution will not be televised. The Dodge Ram spot debuted incorporates a speech by Dr King extolling the virtue of service to God and community ergo Ram trucks are ‘Built to Serve.’ Expropriating the words of an assassinated African-American reverend in the BlackLivesMatter era in a country still obviously grappling with race after the violent cessation of its 19th century slave economy and then serving up ‘Serve’ in the tag is so wrong-headed as to beggar any, any branding rationale. Nor is there an iota of evidence that Dr King was a closet gearhead, a Road & Track subscriber who frequently paused in his quest for universal civil rights to dream about engine torque and horsepower. 

Decades previous, rockers Bob Seger and John Mellencamp allowed Chevrolet to use songs of theirs to sell trucks. Seger said Detroit was his hometown and if ‘Like a Rock’ helped move another Chevy or two and kept a factory line going, he was okay with that. Mellencamp was less altruistic. He figured that since corporate radio had reduced his entire career to three songs, a television commercial was as good a way as any to give exposure to his latest single.

The speeches of Dr King are in the public domain. As such, his family has no say on the use of something they don’t own. One hopes they were consulted, at least out of courtesy. Perhaps, like Seger and Mellencamp, they were able to somehow rationalize a Super Bowl audience of millions to spread the wisdom and legacy of Dr King. The likely scenario is that the King family was helpless to intervene and is now sickened and embarrassed by the appalling ‘Built to Serve’ result.

Sunday, 4 February 2018


Love from Russia! XOXO!!

A meGeoff world exclusive! Your intrepid blogger has obtained an e-mail written by a senior White House official to the president himself, a close relation, eyes only. Its authenticity has been verified by independent sources. Its content promises to blow the lid off the 45th administration. Or not, because there’s no real news here.

Daddy Dearest,

I took another meeting with Boris and Natasha at the T. Tower. They’re well acquainted with our friend Vlad – as you know. We had a very productive working lunch although the steak was a little chewy. Ketchup might be my favourite condominium! LOL!

I’ll keep this brief because I know you’re busy. Two items of very good news. Tremendous news. Huge. Very, very big.

First, remember when no bank would lend us money for our projects? And we met those nice men in Italian suits in Moscow who provided the bridge loans? The ones with all those icky tattoos? They’re prepared to write off our entire debt! All they ask in return is a simple business arrangement, the ability to keep funneling money through our properties, especially the ones with casinos. A no-brainer, no strings attached, so I agreed. You are an inspired genius with a very high Q.I. to diversify into private financial services! Amaze balls!

Secondly, and best of all, Boris and Natasha promised more dirty laundry on Crooked Hillary! Did you know she ran a pedicure ring out of a pizza parlour in DC? Drain the swamp! Lock her up! There’s an e-mail trail too, they say. Who would be stupid enough to write anything down? Anyway, there’s still three years to teach that social climbing wonk a lesson she’ll never forget! Sweet revenge!

Must run. Have a meeting with the Feds I can’t blow off as you haven't fired them all. Boris and Natasha said not to worry about it. The Kremlin did not interfere in the last election. Collusion only applies to labour law, as you well know. Conspiracy and obstruction, whatever they are, aren’t easy to prove. In fact, they said Vlad really approves of the state our great country is in under your inspired leadership and that he’s more than happy to take up the slack given our shrinking spore of influence. Or something like that. It’s all good.

Hey, before I forget, who is Stormy Daniels? Her name came up a couple of times. Did she write your book or act on your TV show? I asked Melania but she got like, all frosty? Climate change or what! OMG!

Love you, big guy

Donnie Jr

PS: Has that Phillipino cook at your place learned how to make a decent Big Mac yet? Do I need to order the limo to stop at the drive-thru on my way from the helipad?