On the road again.

The Pixar movie “Cars” was written as a way John Lasseter could revisit his memories of family road trips. A tip of the hat to some of the American towns that had grown with the rise of the automobile and were now in decline, if not gone.

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Trasler road trips are not like that. Most of the time, they’re just the most cost-effective way to get to a holiday destination. We want them to be PART of the holiday, but Mrs Dim has to fight against my ingrained “Don’t leave the highway for anything but fuel” instincts, and the reticence of the kids, who find being penned up in a small space with nothing but a phone screen for comfort to be perfectly acceptable.

We went to Disneyland in 2017:

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Mrs Dim’s goal that year was to drink coffee on Main Street (pictured) and wear her tiara (not pictured, but it happened). This year I have goals, centered around the Galaxy’s Edge attraction, naturally, but we were also intending to make the journey down more fun than simply blasting down the I-5 and staying in anonymous motels along the way. We were going to take the Oregon Coast road.

Disneyland route

The total route would be just over two thousand kilometers. In miles, that’s somewhere between “more than ten” and “less than a million”. Friends advised against the Coast Road because the constant back and forth, as well as the rise and fall of the road often makes passengers motion sick, and the driver doesn’t get to enjoy the view, having to cling to the wheel and actually DRIVE (instead of engaging cruise control and thinking about building a pedal-powered landspeeder, for example…)

Mrs Dim and I discussed it, and eventually I saw her point of view. And it really was a good idea. We’ve taken three days to get here, but the contrast between those first two days, driving down an admittedly winding but beautiful coast, and the last day of nothing but highway (except for the last bit in LA, which included lunacy, road rage and a terrifying lack of observance of road rules…) was incredible.

We headed out from Albany to the coast on day one. With three of us able to drive, we took shifts, enabling all of us to nap, sightsee or drive, depending on where we were in the car.

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I didn’t take any pictures en route that first day, but we arrived at Newport by 9.30pm. Although it was almost dark, we could hear the hooting and roaring of sea lions from the harbour. I crashed out, but Mrs Dim and the Weasels walked down to the beach, and figured out a route to the harbour for the morning.

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In the daylight, the beach was impressive, but not as impressive as the smell of the horde of sea lions on their floats in the harbour. There were even some out on the island.

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One of the closed attractions was this “Undersea gardens”. I have only the vaguest idea of what it used to be, but I know that young me would have loved it. Also, the octopus is not real. Probably.

We set out after a moderate breakfast (you pick a cheap motel, you get toast or yoghurt and you LIKE IT!)

We made good time, but luckily, Laurel was driving when we saw a sign advertising some kind of dinosaur experience. She had pulled over before most of us had finished reading the sign. Laurel likes dinosaurs.

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They weren’t all big and scary though:

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(This is a joke. It’s a chipmunk. A real one. Not a dinosaur.)

We dawdled, spent too much in the gift shop, and then made it to the next stop in time for lunch at Griff’s on the bay. (At Winchester Bay, which is funny if you know the Griff I’m thinking of.)

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The view from the table was probably a metaphor for something.

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Laurel pulled the last driving shift of the day, and really earned her stripes. She drove through insanely twisty roads, up and down through dark forest. She was amazing, spotting the roadside deer from a long way off, and slowing so none of them dashed out in front of the car. We DID scare up a bear, but Laurel was quick enough to avoid hitting him.

Our second motel was just like the first, even down to the room number. Better yet, there was a cafe just around the corner. No toast and yoghurt for the start of Day 3!

In fact, it was a REALLY big breakfast for everyone.

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But this was the back to the highway day.

Believe it or not, two of those photos include an aerobatic display that was going on in the distance. Don’t worry if you can’t see it, I may have been hallucinating by that time!

We rolled into LA almost twelve hours after setting out, having stopped only for fuel and bathroom breaks. We were sick of snacks, done with our audio books, and terrified of LA drivers. Luckily for us, Mrs Dim had outdone herself with the room she booked.

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I wasn’t enthusiastic about the walk that Mrs Dim suggested, but we stepped outside the hotel and the Disneyland fireworks show kicked off. We had a fantastic view, but I had left my phone in the room, so you so don’t get to see it!

Tomorrow is our first day in the park, but it’s also Columbus Day, I think, so it may be busy. We’re just going to stroll around, get Mrs Dim her cocktail and seat on Main Street (she already has her tiara ready) and I’m going to research booking my “Build a lightsabre” and “Fly the Millennium Falcon” goals.

Hope your week is as much fun!

Where’s the catch?

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In 1998, Peter Symond’s Sixth Form College hired an ex-student, Duncan Gale, to come in and teach the cast of the upcoming production to juggle. It wasn’t necessary, but the drama teacher (whose name I have completely forgotten, so sorry Dave…) thought it would be a good exercise. Since I could already juggle three balls, Duncan leant me a set of clubs and a catalogue from the main juggling supply shop in the UK, Pippa Tee’s.

All this ancient history was brought back to me yesterday when I spotted this book on the shelf in my library.

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I met Charlie Dancey in the summer of 1989, when he and his juggling partner Haggis McCleod came to the Winchester Hat Fair. I had been juggling for a little less than a year, but I had already formed a partnership with my friend Dougie (“Catch 22”, because we were stunningly original. Dougie hadn’t read the book, so he didn’t know it had nothing to do with juggling. In fact, he may not have realised it WAS a book….) In 1989 we went to the 3rd British Juggling convention and learned how much we still had to learn.

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And at the Hat Fair I watched Haggis and Charley’s routine and and set out to learn it. We straight up stole their “pick up to six” club passing routine, except for skipping over some of the more exotic passing tricks. We couldn’t match their finale, since we didn’t have six-foot unicycles, but we could pass fire, and that was a big deal for the types of crowds we drew at village fetes and church events (the only gigs we were getting, obviously).

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Haggis and Charlie’s show was blindingly good. They seemed half cocksure, half desperate. Tricks were pulled off with assurance, or a last minute effort, and their banter was hilarious and all off the cuff.

Except the next time I saw them, the show was almost identical. Aside from the little flex for changing circumstances, the lines, the tricks, the accidents and miracles were bang on. I learned that even the loosest-looking, most extemporaneous-sounding show can be planned in advance. These guys pulled off their great moves not because they were good (although they were and ARE exceptional jugglers), but because they had run through this show and those tricks a million times or more. The jokes landed in the right place just like the clubs did, not from a lucky coincidence, but by intent.

Doug and I never got to Haggis and Charley’s level, even when we were able to replicate all the tricks in their routine (including the six-foot unicycles…) We added members to Catch 22, which became the Juggling Fiends, because we (some of us anyway) were Shakespeare scholars, and it’s a quote, don’t you know?

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The Fiends had a good run, reaching seven members at our peak, and doing shows every weekend from May to September. We even appeared on TV with Toyah Wilcox

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(That was the year I had to stand in for Dougie and perform the crowd-pleasing stunt known as “The Bucket of DOOM!” Simply put, we announced that one of the team would stand on his head in a bucket of water, and the crowd formed, waiting to see what the trick was. The trick was, of course, that there was no trick. Dougie, or in this case, I, simply stood on his head in the bucket of water. It’s not hard, just uncomfortable, but people seemed impressed. It has never been of any use to me since, however. Don’t put it on your resume.)

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So, seeing Charley’s book brought back happy memories of stranger times, and reminded me that I’m juggling on September the 7th for the Burnaby Public Library Summer Reading Club Medal Ceremony. I won’t be doing the Bucket of DOOM, though. Sorry. Check out Charley’s book – it contains way more than just juggling tips.

https://www.amazon.com/Every-Trick-Book-Charlie-Dancey/dp/1468303430

 

 

In search of Roxanne

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Mrs Dim and I were big fans of the movie “Roxanne”, back when we owned a copy on VHS. Living in the UK at the time, we had no idea that the city where the movie is set really exists – Nelson, BC.

A few years ago, we decided to make the road trip out to Nelson from Vancouver, stopping in Osoyoos along the way. Sadly, that first night there was an apocalyptic rainstorm, and our tent was drenched. We didn’t fancy driving another four hours and setting up a wet tent and maybe having another wet night, so we packed u and went home. This year, with the weasels otherwise occupied, Mrs Dim and I decided we would get there.

Since she’s smart, Mrs Dim arranged for the overnight stop in Osoyoos to be in a hotel this time round. No wet tent.

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Road trips as adults without kids in tow are really good. We listened to music, to audio books, drank coffee and talked, talked, talked. The weather was fine, the roads were clear and the scenery was awesome.

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We were hoping to visit some of the locations in Nelson that were used in the movie, but we hadn’t had a re-watch before we left. Mrs Dim had made a couple of notes, but we were relying on the self guided walking tours that we’d heard were available from the Visitor Centre. And they may be very fine tours, but we couldn’t FIND the visitor centre. The signs said 1km, 3oom, then vanished altogether.

We walked Baker Street, the main drag, and had a lovely coffee in the Dominion Cafe (not featured in the movie). We eventually located the shop that was used as “All things Dead” in the film.

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But regardless of our abject failure in locating film spots, Nelson is a great place to visit. There are some beautiful buildings, quite old (by Canadian standards!)

We walked all the way up to the viewpoint and took in the whole cityscape:

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Whether you’ve seen the movie or not, Nelson is worth the trip. Also, you can stop in Osoyoos on the way home and pick up some Mooncurser or Nk’mip wines..

A project’s premature end.

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Building things is a hobby of mine, as you’ll know if you’ve read this blog or accidentally bought one of my ebooks on the subject. I’ve been building props (mostly helmets) since we arrived here in Canada and I got room to have a little workshop. Each time I’ve tried to build something, I’ve run into some kind of problem, and every time there’s a point where I almost quit. That “almost” is important. I suffer from the unfunded fear that if I fail to complete one project, I’ll never finish another ever again. This fear was the only reason I completed the disastrous Death Trooper Helmet.

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I took the lego model pictured above and set out on the biggest build since Derek the dalek: I wanted to make a life-size version of the model. That would have been huge, so I reconsidered, and based the final size on a couple of tubes I already had. I figured if the tubes would stand for the steering vanes, the lego man would be about three feet tall. That made the whole thing half life size, but it quickly became apparent that that was quite big enough.

I enjoyed building the speeder bike, but it was a very different process from the helmets. I couldn’t just grab five minutes here and there to do a little piece. Each work session had to be carefully thought out and done with attention to detail. None of those are my strong suit.

So I’ve struggled with measuring and finding time to do the job right, but I’ve had to admit that the remaining sections – the landing skids, mainly – would take an enormous effort. Having seen the project stall for weeks, I thought it was time to say I had achieved all I intended.

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So I’m going to stop, and disassemble the bike (but keep the lego man, I think). I’m glad I built it, and Mrs Dim s glad it’s not going to be cluttering up the basement any longer. I’m looking forward to taking on a smaller project next (though Derek is still being reassembled and is planning to make an appearance at the next Fan Expo).

Is this me learning?

The Weather and the state of the roads

If you’ve read the last post, you’ll know Mrs Dim and I took Tiny Weasel back to the UK for a couple of weeks, stopping off in Paris for a few days. Since we’re a talky family around our own dinner table, we warned Tiny Weasel that she ought to be a little more circumspect with her views in front of her UK elders. Mrs Dim offered Jane Austen’s advice “Stick to the weather and the state of the roads.”

Much the same advice is given to writers, actors, and artists of all stripes on social media, but only when those concerned don’t agree with the statements made. “Stay in your lane”, the Right Wing folks shout at Chris Evans (Captain America, if you prefer), but they cheer James Woods for presenting the opposite sentiment.

The general thought is that you should avoid alienating your potential audience/market by expressing political opinions that may upset people. The problem with that is, these days you have fans of concentration camps and forced exportation on one side, and fans of universal healthcare and free education on the other. I don’t WANT the good opinion of people who support or excuse Trump, thank you.

And so I come to the news from the UK. Boris Johnson falls into the role of Prime Minister, despite demonstrable incompetence and outright falsehood. He and his friends lied, over and again during the Brexit campaign, then they lied again by denying that they lied. Now he’s marching about, shouting that he’s going to “deliver Brexit”, as if he knows some secret that was denied to the government up to this point (a government he was part of while it failed to deliver Brexit.)

Part of me is curious. I genuinely believe that Boris and his cronies know that Brexit is a ruinously bad idea, and that they have been making money and influence off the chaos that the vote produced – Boris is, after all, Prime Minister now. He’s in an excellent position to hand out favours to his mates. I don’t think he wants to preside over the fall of the UK, so he’ll find some way to weasel out of the break with the EU. Most importantly, he’ll find someone else to blame for it.

If anyone actually reads this post, some may feel they have to point out the wretched “17 million” figure as proof that Brexit is the will of the majority. once again, I’ll just say that there was a 4% majority out of the people who were eligible to vote AND voted at the time. That’s not the whole population, it’s not even the whole voting population. And just the day after people were saying they hadn’t understood what they were voting on. Coupled with the lies told by the Leave campaign, it’s clear the referendum itself was no mandate for change. In two years, there’s been no clear plan for how to proceed, and Boris has given no sign that he actually has any PLAN beyond his usual nonsense bluster.

Though my family and I are safe in Canada, my parents still live in the UK, and as older citizens I worry for them. With his Etonian, profit-oriented, selfish worldview, Boris inspires no confidence that he can understand the problems of regular citizens, let alone have any compassion for them.

Jeremy Hunt would not have been any better, but appointing Boris is almost as big a mistake as Brexit itself.

Paris in the Spring time…Wait, is it Summer?

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This is not a travel blog.

Having said that, my family did go traveling recently, and I’m about to blog about it. Huh.

It’s been six years since I last went back to the UK, so a return visit was overdue, plus my folks had moved into a new house etc etc. However, we knew from past experience that trying to visit all the people you want to see after traveling so far can be exhausting. y wife, always the smart one, programmed in a three-day hiatus in Paris so we could recharge.

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We Air BnB’d a small apartment in the 16th Arrondissement. (When I say “we”, I mean Mrs Dim did.) The place was small, but since we were only using it as a base for day trips, that didn’t matter. There were basic cooking facilities and more superior coffee-making facilities, so all was well. Each morning we had a five minute walk to the bridge pictured above, and from there we would walk along the Seine until we reached a Metro or the Bateaubus for the day’s activity.

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I’m not going to give you a blow-by-blow account of our visit, because not everything we did will work for other people, and some things were just plain wrong, like trying to go to the Musee D’Orsay on the one day of the week that it’s closed. But maybe it’s worth noting in passing that there are still huge crowds flocking to Notre Dame, even though it’s (obviously) closed, and the streets around it are clogged with building supplies and trucks.

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The best view of it may be from the Bateaubus.

We loved strolling most of all, taking advantage of our flexible schedule to stop off in cafes whenever we felt like it. Tiny Weasel objected to the endless cigarette smoke, but they do at least attempt to keep it outside, even if all the cafe windows are wide open in the heat.

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Versailles was disappointing in many ways, but we didn’t brave the mighty queues to go into the palace itself, so maybe we’re just really critical gardeners, but for me, the high point was a tip we got from Richard Ayoade’s YouTube Series “Travel Man” .

In his visit to Paris, he mentioned that it was pointless to climb the Eiffel Tower, only to take pictures of the Paris cityscape without the Eiffel Tower in it. He recommended the Tour Montparnasse, so off we went.

It was BRILLIANT! No queue to get in, Europe’s fastest elevator taking us up 59 floors in less than a minute, and a wonderful 360 degree view from the top:

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Which INCLUDES the Eiffel Tower.

I enjoyed the trip a lot more than I thought I would, because of the company, the relaxed scheduling and the regular food and drink. It’s likely to be many years before I go to Paris again, but if I do, I’ll do it this way again.

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Talking a good game

My next book

Publicity is a tricky thing. A lot of social media is people carefully trying to sell you their stuff, without looking like they’re trying to sell you anything at all. Influencers call this “your brand”, or your “author platform”, and some people are better at it than others, like most things in life.

My own experience with selling my stuff (ie, plays, ebooks and whatnot) online is that I am not good at talking myself up. I like the things I have written, am often quite proud of them, but it just doesn’t feel right to shout “My stuff is great! Buy it!” without at least adding “Of course, you may disagree, and there’s lots of other great stuff out there which may suit your needs better, I would perfectly understand if you want some time to compare and contrast and make an informed decision…”

This is NOT a great advertising strategy.

The trouble is, if you’re going to build a brand online, you need to be consistent. If you’re going to be consistent, you have two choices. The first is to invent the person you’re going to be, and stick rigidly to that persona whenever you post ANYTHING AT ALL. The second is to be yourself, and admit that sometimes that might not be great for everybody. This is why we see actors or authors get slammed for having political opinions online. We think we want to get to know the real person, but often there are doors we don’t want opened, or illusions we want to keep intact.

Part of who I am is the self-deprecating, anxious, uncertain person who feels it’s wrong to brashly boast of your brilliance. Certainly you won’t find me quoting reviews of my stuff on Twitter where I refer to myself in the third person (I have seen authors do this, and it looks weird.)

Anyway, this is a roundabout way of saying, when I finally got “Even More Cosplay Disasters” fixed for the third time and published for the second time, I was all out of enthusiasm for doing any publicity at all. I’d done a little for the first publication, and luckily it had fallen flat, because the book had NOT been properly published, and anyone who bought it would only have been able to download the cover.

I thought I might try and interest the local papers, but writing a press release is really just talking about yourself in the third person again, so instead I wrote directly to the reporter for the local paper (Janis Cleugh of the Tri City News) and asked if she might be interested in the story of a playwright who builds strange helmets and props with his daughter. She was, and she came round to interview me and my Eldest Weasel, as well as taking a very nice picture. She was kind enough to mention the books, as well as being very thorough in her questioning (best of all, she didn’t ask “Why the hell do you bother with all this tosh?”, which is Mrs Dim’s favourite question.)

Here’s the online copy of the article:

https://www.tricitynews.com/entertainment/sci-fi-superfans-build-costume-props-1.23852723

Sales of the books have not gone through the roof, so as an advertising stunt, it hasn’t achieved its aim. On the other hand, I did take a positive step towards marketing, and it was a different one to the ones I’ve done before. We got a nice picture out of it, if nothing else, and the article seems to have spurred Eldest Weasel on to fixing up Derek the Dalek for the next Fan Expo.

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