Sunday, February 19, 2012

To Two More...

I had a diamond ring in my pocket as I steered the car into the snow-covered parking lot of the closed Orange Julep. I had a dozen red roses and one yellow rose in the car. There was a photographer waiting in the dark.

A few years earlier, our first date had been at that spot.

I got out, got down on one knee and proposed to Susan. She said, "yes"! It was February 14th, 1992 and we were on our way to Mon Village restaurant when I made the unscheduled stop.

Last night we went back to Mon Village to celebrate the two decades that have past since the proposal.
Picture by Tristan and used with permission

When I was telling Tristan about that night, I mentioned that Susan called her Mom. He asked where she called from and my reflex was to say, "Her cell phone," but then I realized we didn't have cell phones! Crazy.

Last night we had a cozy time, toasting, "To two more decades".

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Pants, A Pain in the Butt

So much for sitting behind the anchor desk in comfy pants. No more cheating; no more projecting the illusion of a complete suit. For the last two weeks, I’ve actually been wearing an entire suit!

What happened to the delectable days when I could park my butt on the anchor chair wearing jeans, cords or comfy slacks? As strange as it sounds, progress means pants!

The newscast has a new set and, on most nights, the anchor stands for the opening shot. It may only last a mere ten to twenty seconds, but it requires me to be upright and visible, thereby forcing me, obliging me, to wear a complete suit.


Laziness compromised

It’s not enough that I have to contend with the untold stresses of applying countless layers of high-definition make-up on a nightly basis (see Jan 17 blog "HD = Heavy Duty"), but now, it seems, I must also ensure garment presentability from head-to-toe!

For the last two weeks, I have been required to dress for the newscast, not just in a shirt, tie and jacket, but also in dress socks, dress shoes, belt and dress pants.

Prior to February 6th, I could work around the newsroom in my choice of comfortable slacks, cords, trousers or occasional jeans and then, at air time, because I was sitting behind a desk, I could, lazily, continue wearing the same comfortable slacks, cords, trousers or occasional jeans while reading the news!

Ah, those were the days.

The additional prep time, HD make-up and complete suit, is worth it, though. While discussing the new set and its inherent clothing requirements with Trena, producer of our late-night newscast, I was, admittedly, compelled to use words like “eye-catching” and “dazzling”. The word “massive” also applies! The new computer-generated studio is positively mammothian (not yet in dictionary), not to mention darn stylish!

Fear not, that reckless rebel in me is still twitching. If ever the newscast starts with a shot of me sitting behind the desk, hold your breath people, I may well be in slacks, cords, trousers or occasional jeans!

Wild and crazy lives on; I never once applied the lip balm in that gigantic make-up bag and I haven’t been putting make-up on my eyelids. You heard it here first.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Delights of Duncedom

Our instructions were strict. We were told to pull off the wrapping paper at exactly the same time. Inside, we each found our own bound booklet. Page one read, “This is a story about my two favorite guys.” Tristan and I looked at each other, waiting for authorization to turn the page. It was Christmas morning.

Page two read, “They both love watching hockey!” Page three was, by far, my favorite so far and a towering testament to how well Susan knows her "two favorite guys". It declared, “They both have no use for Don Cherry and his puppet Ron McLean!”

By this point, Susan had already excitedly asked us whether we knew what was coming. I had no clue. Page four continued to confirm our accurate, though highly subjective assessments, negative and positive, about the talents of other hockey broadcasters. Page five elaborated on our hockey allegiances, “They are both fans of the Sens and also like the Oilers!”

Again and now incredulous, Susan asked us whether we knew where our booklets were leading. I remember blankly looking at Tristan, hoping he’d take the pressure off his squirming, dunce cap-adorned father by providing our wonderful wife and mother with the answer she so eagerly sought. Unfortunately, he, like me, had nothing.

Two pages later, we saw Sens-Oilers tickets and finally, lights bulbs of understanding faintly flickered. We were so excited!

Yesterday, we attended the game that was our Christmas gift; Senators versus Oilers at Scotiabank Place in Ottawa. Our seats were five rows from the ice!

We had great fun! Unfortunately, the Sens lost in overtime, but we got to see Alfie and Michalak score and, after witnessing it up close, we marvelled at Hall’s blazing speed! Past his prime but having a better season than last year, a pre-game ceremony marked Ottawa defenseman Chris Phillips’ 1000th game in the NHL. There were little souvenir towels on every chair in the building.
Ask me if I knew his nickname was "Big Rig"
Susan taped the game for us. We found ourselves in the crowd and snapped a picture off our television. Actually, I tried using my digital camera to snap a picture off our television, but my camera wouldn't, or couldn't, focus. Tristan's fancy pants iPhone4 camera snapped it, no problem.

Could the league ask for a more attentive pair of fans?
To this day, Susan cannot believe we were unable to figure out where the booklet was leading! It was Christmas morning, our hearts and minds were hopping and skipping with excitement; we couldn't possibly think straight!

Still, I’m already looking forward to next Christmas and, to be on the safe side, I’ve decided to have my dunce cap decorated.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Siriusly Shady

Am I seriously stupid? Maybe.

I bought a new car in 2007. It came with six months of free satellite radio. At the end of six months, the satellite radio was still there. Eventually, the message “Call Sirius” appeared on the radio display screen. I called and decided to pay for a one-year subscription.

I never really kept track of when the year started or when it would end. Occasionally, over the last few years, the message “Call Sirius” would pop-up on the radio display and, after ignoring it, several days later, the satellite radio would mysteriously resume.

I chalked it up to bureaucratic incompetence and/or subscription challenges; either they had too many subscribers and lost track of who was due, when; or they had too few subscribers and chose to keep people hooked-up to make their listener numbers appear better.

I got a form letter January 16th from Mark Knapton, vice-president of customer operations, saying they were unable to process payment for the balance owing on my account. Thinking it strange I had a balance owing, I called Sleazius only to discover that for the last few years, they’d been automatically renewing my yearly subscription without my authorization.

Nowhere in the terms of the initial subscription did it mention I had authorized renewal of my subscription until the end of time. I don't even remember fine print! The employee with whom I spoke, never mentioned that I had agreed to eternal renewal.

Am I seriously stupid? Maybe. Somewhere in my mind I thought these sort of automatic renewal-without-customer-knowledge deals were illegal.

Am I seriously stupid? Maybe. I guess I should be paying closer attention to my credit card statements. I don’t use my credit card often so I never really pay close attention. I use it at Christmas and for some special occasions and the balance never changes drastically.

What saved me from eternal satellite radio renewal was a lost wallet! Naturally, when I couldn’t find my wallet a few months ago, I cancelled my credit card. When the credit card number changed, Sleazius was up a creek without my paddle. Ha!

As far as I’m concerned, the unilateral unauthorized renewal of a customer’s subscription is no way to do business!

The guy on the phone was so eager to get my new credit card number, the slobbering drool was detectable. I’m sure he was all set to saddle me with a variety of charges they’d been conveniently racking up on my behalf.

Physician William Mayo said “Lord, deliver me from the man who never makes a mistake and also from the man who makes the same mistake twice.” Where Sleazius is concerned, that’s not me. I told them so on the phone before I hung up, enraged.

Since then, they've left an automated voice message on the answering machine and sent me e-mails. I may have to change continents before they stop.

Knapton's letter states, "Remember, we have a number of plans that you can choose from". When did I choose the plan you gave me, IDIOT?

Driving in the car this morning, my son asked me whether I missed satellite radio. I said I didn't miss it and then I told him I was afraid he might miss it, but he said he didn't.

Thank goodness for lost wallets because that’s the only way you’re going to stop them.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Power To the Prompter

It's been an interesting week, work-wise.

On Monday, there was late-night drilling in the building and although our crew could barely hear it when the newscast started, it gradually got louder, until the audio guy was urging me to somehow have it stopped! You could hear the rumbling on-air. I ran out during a commercial break, found one of our technical guys, who managed to have it stopped in time for the last story in the show. During the same newscast, the teleprompter failed and let me tell you, a day without prompter is like a day without - brains!

There were a few other prompter glitches over the course of the week. I love my prompter.

The station studio is not massive, but we manage to fit all sorts of wonderful performers into the space for the weekly interview show. In November, the Bach Festival brought in a harpsichord for a performance by harpsichordist Ilya Poletaev, now a professor at McGill University's Schulich School of Music.

Pierre-Yves Asselin tunes harpsichord in studio
We've had the Alexandre Coté Quintet come in to perform, complete with drums, piano and bass. A couple of weeks ago, we had a terrific and dazzling clarinet performance by CEGEP student and OSM Standard Life music competition woodwind winner, Eric Abramovitz. This week, it was the Nouvelle Generation Chamber Orchestra. Conductor Alain Aubut had made a special trip to the station earlier in the week to get an idea of how many musicians he could fit. By taping day, we had several violinsts, cellists and a double bass in the studio, performing Mozart for this weekend's show.

Nouvelle Generation Chamber Orchestra during soundcheck
I told the musicians after the performance it was a privilege to be in the same room with so much talent and such wonderful music. I was impressed by their attention to dynamics, their precision and professionalism.

One of the orchestra musicians is Stephane Tetreault, who plays a 1707 Stradivarius worth well beyond 6 million dollars. He told an interesting story about performing for former Prime Minister Chretien and other passengers in November, while flying back from China.

Thanks to our technical crew for putting the orchestra performance together and to Alain and his talented musicians for fitting us into their busy days! As a musician, it's a great feeling to be able to encourage young, talented musicians to continue performing and it’s piles of fun to be able to help spread music around.

Keep the prompter rolling.