Friday, November 18, 2016

"The Goods", The Bads, The Uglies...My Perspective

I had lost my motivation to write further blogs. Despite having travelled to many places, having celebrated another birthday, and having experienced some wonderful things, blogging wasn't happening. A splash of photos and a couple of comments on Facebook were sufficient for me...until this past week that is.

Interesting how one event can inspire, by triggering memories, and invoking feelings.
Historical photo borrowed from:

Ye olde channel 6 test pattern
I grew up around the CBC. My dad was a long time employee, so, from a very young age, I was afforded opportunities to see the making of a variety of tv shows. I was a regular audience member at "Razzle Dazzle", and met the likes of Alan Hamel long before there was a Suzanne Somers. I was familiar with announcer Lloyd Robertson, long before there was CTV. At that time, the CBC was on Jarvis St. They had a broadcast tower that resembled a mini Eiffel. At 540 feet it was the tallest free standing structure in Toronto and a source of great pride for the city. Since it was also an easy to locate landmark,  I often met dad there and accompanied him home after work. I was an independent young kid who often explored downtown. Toronto was safe.

The process of creating any kind of broadcast programming still fascinates me. As it turns out, not much has changed. I've seen the occasional production during my adult years. Some have been good (see blog March 31, 2011 "Monday With Mona, Then Marilyn") and some have been bad eg. Caesar's Challenge, a game show produced briefly in Las Vegas in 1993.

Lots of advertising
A friend of mine, who now shares my retirement affliction, and I, are frequently in search of inexpensive yet fulfilling entertainment. I applied to several tv shows at the CBC, CTV, and City. We received a quick response with tickets for the new show "The Goods", at the CBC in downtown Toronto. It has been located at a spectacular new facility on Front St. since 1993. We attended on Monday for an episode to be aired on December 6th.

At the risk of never being allowed to set foot into the building again, I will describe our experience prior to, and during the making of the show. Our 1:45 arrival time was changed to 2:30. No problem. We amused ourselves by taking photos. (In hindsight, their free museum might have been a blast from the past and an entertaining time waster).
We've seen him in Newfoundland.
 He's not that tall.
Oft filmed in Cobourg...ooh...he's apparently
here again on the 21st and 22nd of November.

When the time came, we lined up as suggested along the wall. Although we were near the front, the ticket stated that it was not "first come first served". We wondered what that meant. We also heard people asking aloud whether anyone had ever seen the show. Uh oh.

After standing on our elderly feet for more than forty minutes our curiosity was allayed. The audience manager, organizer type person and her twelve year old sidekick collected all the best looking, youngest people, removed them from the queue, and escorted them to the 6th floor on the first elevator shuttle. Meanwhile, we made friends with a lovely couple from St. Catharines. The gentleman didn't really want to be there, but he bravely accompanied his wife on this expedition. He seemed to appreciate all our clowning and jokes.

When our group's turn finally came, we went up the elevator to the sixth floor into a warehouse type facility. Here, we were herded into a large group and stood for another forty five minutes. We did have a few Steven Sabados sightings but none were long enough to focus a camera in his direction.  My friend suggested that they might be trying to deter seniors from coming to their show with the endless standing, not a chair in sight. Meanwhile, I noted that the first "attractive" group was still segregated into a triangular shaped compound, also waiting. No  special privileges were noted as yet. We continued to joke with our new friends until it was finally time to enter the studio (almost 4 p.m. at this point). At least this long standing time helped us appreciate our seating arrangement.
Lovely audience co-ordinator and assistant
The hosts...Jessi Cruickshank, Steven Sabados, Andrea Bain, Shahir Massoud.
The studio was huge and impressive with laminate flooring, birch tree backgrounds, and three areas of seating. We were asked, "How many?" and immediately changed our answer of two, to four. After all, almost two hours of burning feet, gabbing and laughing with people creates somewhat of a bond. The first group was, as suspected, seated in the front row. We...well, we were hidden in the back but on the end...aisle seats and beside. Perfect for all of us, particularly the gentleman who hoped nobody back home would likely see him.

There's not much to report about the show which, as I mentioned can be seen on t.v. on December 6th. We practiced clapping because nobody had ever applauded before. Smattering of men first, with women joining in to the excitement a few seconds later. The stars came out, shook a few hands and sat on a beige sofa. Several scenes were "cut" and redone because of errors not noticeable to the average human eye. We were given a happiness test part way through the process and were encouraged to wave our papers in the air when asked. I don't remember doing this because by this point, I'm fairly certain I'd dozed off. Speaking of dozing off, there was a segment entitled "Beauty Sleep" were three hosts were in a bed while the fourth slathered the with an assortment of creamy goops. Appropriate daytime programming?
I was70% happy based on some really dumb questions.
I was snoozing during the show. It didn't help.

During commercial breaks we got to play games for fabulous prizes. In fact, the Toronto Star, Oct. 3, 2016 described it perfectly...

 "... between games of musical chairs, balloon toss, Hula Hoop and Who Am I,  you feel you’ve been trapped in Chuck E. Cheese for three hours." 

I know that the CBC has a limited budget, but I'd like to suggest they skip these wonderful opportunities to win one Hershey's kiss, a hair brush, a disposable razor, a cookbook, or a box of condoms. I got the sense that some staff were either cleaning their bathrooms or made a quick trip to the dollar store to provide these remarkable items. I suppose the big prize was the cat toilet trainer which fits atop of your human throne. Or perhaps, it was the one which I got....lucky #38 on the back of my chair...a pizza warmer.

Having said all this, we did have an entertaining day in the city. Lunch at Joe Badali's, the free show, and short armed me...carrying around a giant pizza box toward the GO train at rush hour.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Back to Random Stuff

I haven't been writing again. I'm unsure why. There's always enough time in 24 hours to squeeze in even a bit of production...15 minutes a day is suggested as a minimum for wannabe Hemingways, Twains, Shakespeares, and the like.  I'm fairly certain that these gentlemen dedicated much more than this amount of time to their craft, since they were unlikely to be taking care of much other business. My favourite approach has to be the Hemingway. It involves such activities as travelling to Paris, Africa, Florida, and sitting in Cuban hotel rooms, drinking, writing, wandering, smoking, drinking and writing some more.

I think that perhaps I created a certain amount of pressure for myself in the previous blog when I committed to writing more about Iceland and parts of Europe. I didn't want to continue. The photos alone take forever to insert into blogs. That's time consuming and boring for me, so I thought it time to go back to the basics. It also occurred to me that anything I'd write could be found elsewhere on the internet, so why bother?

Instead, I want to get back to my favourite blather, insights (feeble when compared to the world's great thinkers), nonsense, recipes, book reports, and fun. That's not to say there won't be future travelogs, Galapagos, Bora Bora...maybe even Iceland Part 2...just not right now.

For me, writing can be therapeutic. The pressure to write or produce (especially in retirement) is not.

This week, a woman kept staring and smiling at me. She was a cashier at Canadian Tire where I waited patiently in line. When it was my turn to deposit my monthly purchase of that magical clean-all Lestoil on the counter, she smiled and said, "You're the one." 

My puzzled look and the fact that I seemed eager to find out whether I'd won a prize, encouraged her to elaborate.

"You're the one who writes the newspaper column aren't you?"

I answered with, "I was. I mean, I am, but I no longer do them." I wondered whether I should elaborate or whether I even owed an explanation for abandoning this activity.

"Oh," she responded looking disappointed.

My point, and there is one, is that even though I was only contributing one column a month for a couple of years, the pressure to produce existed. There was a deadline, and there was the dreaded word count (I always went over and was unceremoniously edited, often turning my words to nonsense). I hate that. I'm not sure whether it reminds me more of school, or work, or school work. It's something I don't want or need in my life now. There's enough stress in just getting basic day to day things done.

So, no pressure. I'll write when I write. I'll write what I want. It will be long, short, ridiculous, interesting, or not. I don't really have followers so it's all about me. That's how it's going to be from here on in.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

The Golden Circle, Iceland - Part 1

I realized after many hours of working on this Golden Circle blog, that it would have to be subdivided into parts, just as my Reykjavik ones were. Here's part one of what might be two or three.

Sadly, we did not have the best of weather when travelling this famed, 300 km route. It was approx. 10-12 C with unusual precipitation. We were told that the rain never comes down so heavily, nor does it come straight down, but rather from the side. On this day, July 25th, 2016, the weather created some new rules. Nonetheless, it was easy to see how spectacular the landscape was. Our host and tour guide, knew the way well. He also took us to off the beaten track points of interest, and a small town where we enjoyed a spectacular lunch.

I noted with interest that the Icelanders are very protective of their environment. For example, the beaches are not to be driven on. In fact, vehicles are only allowed to go where there are tracks. I think there are a lot of rules which tourists need to learn. I recently read that some tourists had to pay 800 Euros for entering a restricted area. I was also surprised to read about the many tourist accidents and fatalities particularly on the roads. Most likely, isolation is a contributing factor. It's not easy to get help when something goes wrong on a deserted road, and cell phone reception is minimal.

 As we left Kopavogur the sense of a barren landscape was obvious. Except for some errant sheep, it was truly eerie and deserted. At one point, hubby announced, "How can there be random wandering sheep without a farm house anywhere in sight?"
Creations made specifically for tourists are for sale
Our host readily responded with, "There are farm houses wayyyyyyy on the other side, away from the road. In the summer, the sheep are allowed to roam free."
We passed one postcard like farm area
As we approached an area that looked particularly scenic, we pulled off the road to marvel at the volcanic black beach sand.

Although it was beginning to rain heavily, we stopped in an area of interest somewhere between Kopavogur and Arborg for a photo op and some bubbling lava. Pictures are limited because of my new camera and unusual precipitation.

 After the lava stop, we approached the Strandarkirkja, in Selvogur. It was a Lutheran Church built in 1888, and facing the sea to protect travellers. The original church was erected on this site in the 12th century when a group of sailors prayed to navigate the rough waters and promised to put a church wherever they landed. It is said that many miracles have been attributed to this church and as a result, the church became quite wealthy from donations. There is a sculpture entitled "Land in Sight". It faces Angel's Bay and commemorates the church's founding. There are also elf houses behind the church and cemetery.  These are an essential consideration in any Icelandic landscape.

It was time for lunch. How fortunate we were to have a host who knew his way around Iceland and also great restaurants. We stopped at a fishing village  (pop. around 600), formerly a major trading port, called Eyrarbakki. It is known for historic buildings, great food, and a prison Litla -Hraun (prisoners are not counted in the population) which is the largest in Iceland. 

One building, now a museum in the village dates back to 1765 and is the oldest timber dwelling in Iceland. It once belonged to a wealthy Danish merchant and his staff. 
We dined at the Rauda Husio (Red House), another historical building. The seafood chowder, the lobster tail appetizers, the breads and the salads were fantastic, 

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Iceland:Impressions, Insights, Incredible. Reyjkavik-Part 2

One of the highlights of visiting Reyjkavik was being able to sit outside in a common area and enjoy a goody from a local bakery prior to going to the famed Hallgrimskirkja. Besides that, it gave us a break from walking uphill toward what was surely one of the most imposing sights we've ever seen.

To me, the building looked a lot like a space shuttle, ready for takeoff. After entering the church, we purchased an admission ticket to go to the top of the observation tower. It cost only a few dollars and was well worth the price.

Statue of Leif Erikson, discoverer of America
in front of church.
The bottom line..not right when money is
 paid for tower admission

From this high vantage point, we could see the surrounding neighbourhood including this interesting grass roofed restaurant, and good view of the city in general.

 As we searched for the downtown city hall area, we walked past many magnificent houses, art installations, a sculpture garden, shops, and restaurants. Everything was different, but not totally unfamiliar. I developed a renewed fascination for Vikings, trolls, and folklore.
Many sculptures appeared if carrying heavy weights

Lovely gardens and sculptures all around.
Children in Iceland play. They spend  much time outdoors and
use their imaginations. This is what impressed me most.
Centrally located and a good landmark - Hallgrimskirkja

Hand knitted woollen products abound.

I have been one and I loved it.
Meeting Vikings...dream vacation

In the evening, we attended a show at the famed Harpa, a conference hall and conference centre which opened in 2011. It was a one man comedy performance entitled "How to Become Icelandic in 60 Minutes." We enjoyed the surroundings of this beautiful building, then laughed heartily at the show presented by Bjarni Haukur Thorsson. We had already had some of the experiences which were described so it became even more amusing. Besides explaining that all Icelandic names end in "son" or "dottir" eg. his name....Thorsson, meaning son of Thor, he gave us many tips. Here are just a few that I remember. To be an Icelander, it's essential to be rude (explains the airline experience). Embrace the smells (sulphur and other things...lots of wind). Know that the Icelandic horses are special and have five walks while Icelandic people have two. Argue - think big-you know you're right (they have 7 political parties and a huge national debt). Give vague directions (had this experience many times). Learn to say the name of the volcano Eyjafjallajokull (he showed a video clip of varied newscasters stumbling over the name).

Here's a similar cute clip I found on youtube.
Lovely  modern architecture
Street view

We graduated
Back of the Harpa

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Iceland:Impressions, Insights, Incredible. Reyjkavik-Part 1

It's about as hard to believe that I'm back home as it is to imagine I ever went. And yet, it was a month ago, when we first landed on a very different island. It wasn't warm like a tropical vacation. It didn't have lovely turquoise waters, familiar music, or a well known culture and language. Words and names were difficult to pronounce and the landscape was dark, cold, volcanic, and treeless. It's a mysterious place which has become a bucket list add on for many tourists. It was spectacular in its own way. Iceland is indeed an experience.

So where does one start? There's a sculpture of a wing, slowly emerging from a giant metallic egg at the Keflavik airport. I related to the feeling in that sculpture, as I left the shell that was our aircraft and descended the metallic steps, emerging into this most mysterious and eerie of lands.

As we drove and neared the more populace area where we would be staying, I marvelled at how a place, an entire country, with a population of just over 300,000 could accomplish so much. Nothing appeared to be lacking. Houses were being constructed or repaired. Architecture was modern. City streets were in good shape. Bus routes were efficient and regular. There was art, culture, and technology.

We learned a lot in the four days of our visit. Icelanders get all their electricity and heat from renewable sources. For example, our host was sure to inform us that the reason the hot water smelled like sulphur was because they get it from the springs. Similarly, geothermal water is used to heat houses in the winter. Produce is grown locally and many people have their own mini greenhouses. They even grow bananas!

Along with the good, comes the bad. Things are expensive. Icelandic kronas are often spent in units of hundreds or thousands and the country is deeply in debt.
ISK samples. I took along $700 or 63,000 ISK...we spent 100,000 ISK
As I always do, I photographed our Airbnb house, the closest intersection, and an obvious landmark. I learned some time ago that this is advisable and helpful in order to find one's return route in strange areas. Here were our surroundings in Kopavogur (remember no "a" or surrounding letters, so Koap-o-gur ) on the outskirts of Reykjavik.

view from our Airbnb balcony
near our bus stop
Kopavogskirkja...recognizable landmark
We boarded a bus near our host's home and transferred one time to get to the "big city" which houses one third of Iceland's total population. It cost 420 ISK (almost $5.00) per person. Of course, I photographed the bus numbers (another way to compensate for diminishing brain cells). I also noted how vivid things were...the buses, the art, the fashion, the flowers.


There were many delicacies available at the restaurants and Icelandic food was generally delicious. Restaurants were, like everything else, expensive. We discovered that lunch meals are better value and we found a wonderful little place with soup and sandwich bargains. Bakeries were also great. We were also told about the famous "Tom's Hot Dogs", real name Baejarins Betzu Pylsur where the likes of Justin Bieber, Bill Clinton, Charlie Sheen, and now, hubby and I have eaten for 350 ISK per hot dog. It turned out not to be a restaurant as we had thought,  but rather a food truck. It wasn't easy to find, since it seems that nobody can give directions or descriptions in Iceland (more on that later).