Rob’s 7-Word Review of the film “Mank”

Dove in nervously. Came out in love.

The Salesteam

Way back when, a century ago, I began a job as Creative Writer for radio on PEI. I started either in 1998 or 1999. I believe it was ‘99. That is not really important to this post, Rob.

I wrote with two other writers, Rod McGrattan – whom I’d continue working with until a few years ago when our jobs became redundant, and Cynthia King (Dunsford, at the time), who left the job a couple years after I started, to pursue other interests.

In those early days, when we had some down time, we’d play around on Microsoft Paint, each taking turns on either creating our own individual pieces of art, or working collectively on projects. One such collective piece was an attempt to capture the essences of our radio salesteam.

Here is the result, printed out on photo paper and left in the sun too long to fade and get dirty and such:

Diary of a Milk Maid

January 1

Dearest Mother, I have arrived at my new employ! It is a wondrous country home with lovely gardens and vast acreage. I have only briefly met Sir and his only instruction to me was “Milk your cow daily and when the time comes, do My Love’s bidding.” I was then brought to meet the cow from which I am to extract the daily dairy. A lovely enough beast. I have named her Abigail.

As I said to you before I left home for this mysterious new employment, a lot is not known about the situation in which I now find myself. My understanding was that I was to be Sir’s solitary milk-maid. However, when I was shown where my lodgings would be – a small cottage adjacent to the barns – I was most surprised to find another seven young ladies there within. They are all, like me, newly-arrived and we are all hired as milk maids, each with our own personal cow. The cottage, as such, is going to be rather cramped but the girls seem nice enough, and I am sure we all will get along quite well. Still, it was a surprise to discover an entire cottage of milk maids, each responsible for only one cow. Surely, one, or at most, two of us could handle the responsibility. Oh well, I anticipate that I may have a bit of free time on my hands each day once the milking is done. I hope to explore more of the grounds tomorrow. Love to you and Father, and of course the siblings!

January 2

Dearest Mother, Abigail is a peach of a cow! She gives her milk freely and easily, and is not shy with her quantity. I am sure Sir will be pleased with the output. Speaking of Sir, I was informed by Cath, one of the other milk maids – and this is just rumour and gossip, but who doesn’t like stories, eh – that apparently Sir is madly in love with a young lady, and has been regaling her with gifts these past few days. He is so sweet! I admit, I am envious of his love, and I cannot wait to meet her, when the opportunity arises!

After my morning milking duties were completed, I had opportunity to peruse the surroundings of the home. There is a lovely large lake, in which a dozen or more swans reside. I was told these swans, like me, are newly arrived to the estate. They are gifts for the young lady, I’m told. She must be fond of swans, because as I was there at the side of the lake, another seven swans had just arrived. So many swans! The lake can barely contain them all. Perhaps she is a bird lover. She must be, as the entire estate, actually, is rather flooded with all manner of fowl. There are no less than two dozen geese, just wandering about the yards. We maids are not sure whether the geese are in fact the present Sir’s given to his lady, or if it’s the eggs they lay each day. I wouldn’t be surprised if, with all these geese wandering about and laying eggs, my duties will soon include collecting those eggs along with milking Abigail.

After I returned to the cottage from my tour of the estate, i was very much surprised to see another eight milk maids had been hired. Each responsible for her own milk cow. They too, will be living in the sam cottage, and that is going to mean tight quarters indeed! There already were not enough beds for the first eight of us, so it looks like doubling and tripling of beds will be required. After a quick chat with one of the new girls, I understand that this new lot were also hired as milk maids for Sir’s love. Why on Earth she needs so many of us is anybody’s guess. Oh well, the pay is fair enough, the job is easy, and we’re all fed three full meals, so despite the close quarters, no complaints from me! After all, I do remember Father’s oft recited admonishment: “A Young Maid who complains becomes a complaining Old Maid!”

Cath told me that these new maids aren’t the only new arrivals today. Nine ladies have also been brought to the estate. Cath says she heard Sir’s only demand of them is that they dance – at least once a day – for his love. I am slowly painting a mental picture of this love interest! It seems she is fond of fowl and the arts! A few of the girls from the cottage snuck up to the main house and peeked into a window, and sure enough, there they were. Nine ladies in a room, all dressed in fineries, and it seemed they were practicing what looks like a Morris dance. it seems Sir really does love this girl, to be hiring all these dancers! At least they won’t be living in the cottage with us, as they, being ladies, will remain in the Great House.

January 3

Dearest Mother. Guess what? When me and the other girls got back to the cottage this morning after milking our cows, what sight befell us but another eight young girls, just sitting at the cottage table. “What are you lot doing”, asked Cath. They said they were the new milk maids. What in the Heavens is going on, Mother? There are now two dozen of us supposed to be shacked up here in this little cottage building! I didn’t know what to make of it, so I had to get away for a bit. Went down to the lake just in time to see another half-dozen or so new swans being uncrated. More geese too! So many geese eggs!

And that’s not all! Remember when I said this love of Sir’s must be fond of fowl? Well, I have seen with mine own eyes, that gaggle of geese, upwards of thirty blackbirds which he keeps in a barn, maybe two dozen hens, a dozen or more doves, and, at last count, nine newly planted pear trees, each containing its own partridge. The partridges are each chained to its tree. And I’m told that a new lot of each of these birds arrives every day. I know it’s called a gaggle of geese, but what do you call a group of two dozen milk maids crammed into a tiny cottage? I claim it should be called “An Uncomfortable of Maids”. And this is all for his love? I don’t understand?

January 4

Mother, I guess I may have made a mistake, agreeing to take on this position. Another eight maids have shown up this morning, each with a cow in tow. The barn is over-run with cattle, and our cottage is far too overcrowded to even be called uncomfortable. More ladies showed up, too, for more dancing. And almost a dozen men! They call themselves Lords, but I don’t see how even one Lord would hire himself out to Sir, let alone ten of them! And get this, Mother. Their job, these “Lords” is to jump around. Yes. In amongst the – what is it now? – 18 dancing ladies, there are ten men just jumping around. And it’s not ballet. There’s no talent in their jumping. At least, not that I could see from my vantage point peeking in through the window. Plus, more birds have, of course, arrived on the premises. The whole place has gone quite mad! I dare not write this, Mother, for fear of it being seen by the wrong eyes, but I am starting to think Sir is more than a bit touched in the head. I am starting to wonder if there even is a True Love upon which he is bestowing these gifts. I am thinking I might steal away in the night sometime soon, and return home.

January 5

Okay. I want to come home, Mother. More maids today of course! More everything today!! Sir came down to the cottage today, and asked how we maids were getting along. Over 30 of us in that tiny cottage room, four or five to a bed, and he has the gaul to ask us how we’re getting along? Cath asked him, point blank, if there’d be an incresase in how much food each of us would be given as provisions seem to have been rationed pretty thin now that there’s so many of us. Sir said he’d look into it, and asked us to be patient as all this would be worth it in the end, once his true love arrives tomorrow to see all the wonderful gifts he’s gotten her. She has no idea he’s been doing this for her, and I really think he’s going to be shocked -and not in a good way – when she sees all of this. Why, even the shit alone is monumental!

I have also started wondering – worrying, if I am honest, Mother – what all this means for when Sir’s True Love arrives. Am I to then be automatically become employed by her, or will I still be under Sir’s direction? I assume it to be Sir as I imagine he’s the one who will be paying all the bills, as they say. Still, whose commands do I take heed of? Sirs, or hers? Oh well, I am sure it will all become quite apparent in due time. Perhaps I will ask the question of the other Uncomfortables tonight before we go to sleep.

I had some down time today. Of course I did, because all I have to do is milk Abigail once a day. I’m still waiting for the shoe to drop and Sir tells me that he’s increasing my daily duty list, but it hasn’t happened. Seems he’s adamant about us all to remain purely as, in his words, “Maids a-Milking”. Honestly, Mother, I’d be afraid to be alone with him! But there’s no chance of that, as the whole estate is just teaming with birds and even more lady dancers and another crew of jumping men having just today arrived. I mean, what did Sir even do? Put a notice in the newspaper asking if any young men were availble to be hired as jumpers?

Anyway, I had some down time, and I was trying to find a quiet space just to think and figure out what in the world is even happening. I was on a knoll behind the barn when a couple of the dancing ladies on their break came up to me, bummed a smoke. We got to conversing, and they confided in me that the two of them weren’t even Ladies. And neither were any of the other 30 or so dancers. They were all hired from various theatres and burlesques. Sir demanded that they pretend they were Ladies of Repute, especially when being interrogated – they said that was the word he used – “interrogated” – by his love when she arrives tomorrow. That caused my heart to skip a beat or two, Mother, as I am now even more wondering what kind of situation I have gotten myself involved. We three were just getting into a conversation about that very topic and others – for instance, one was saying how she heard every day a delivery of gold rings arrives. Five or six at a time, and Sir just puts them all in a drawer in the kitchen. Anyway, we were ruminating about that when we hear an ungodly din coming from the front of the Great House. We, and the rest of us employees – the maids, the ladies and lords – all rush to where the terrible noise is coming from. And sure enough. It’s eleven bag-pipers. Each one playing a different song, Mother! All wearing different tartans! It terrified the swans and geese. The partridges tried to fly off their pear trees, but of course they’re chained to them.

January 6

Mother, I ask you this: what could be worse than eleven bagpipers each playing a different tune, all the day long, non stop? The answer it turns out, is another eleven pipers joining them the next day, again, each playing a different song, and then being assualted by even more noise as a dozen drummers show up on the scene, each hitting his drum in a different tempo it seems. Sir hires almost two dozen bagpipers and a dozen drummers and doesn’t even think to hire even one conductor? Whatever the definition of chaos is, I have heard it today with my own ears!

There are rumours starting to percolate around the estate that Sir is perhaps running out of money, due to the extravagant cost of this undertaking. I believe this might be the case, as it would explain the ruse asked of the fake-ladies, along with the less-than-artistic jumpers, and the cacophonous noises emenating from the pipers and drummers. I don’t think they are actually musicians at all! All I know is I got paid my wage each day so far, and as long as that continues I shall be considered content.

This is it, Mother! The day True Love is to arrive!!

So, let me set the scene for you, Mother. Sir told us all early this morning that his True Love is arriving today, and we are all – everyone and everything he’s hired and bought – we are all, directly after lunch, to meet outside the front of the Great House so all her gifts will be there as she steps out of the carriage. He is so excited! I am so afraid of him! It is just dawning on me now, Mother, that he considers me a gift for his True Love. Don’t you find that a bit odd? I should take a closer look at that contract i signed, before I go to sleep tonight.

So, he has these twelve pear trees – they were originally planted in a back field but he’s had them transplanted just today onto the gravel drive. They are placed in no apparent pattern around the yard. Each with a madly sqwacking partridge chained to it’s main branch. These partridges are not happy! There are no pears on any of the trees, it should also be noted. Then, in six wooden crates – again, seemingly set in a haphazard fashion – he has jsut over 20 doves imprisoned. Which doesn’t even make sense why he’d have them in these crates because I was told he had their wings clipped so they wouldn’t fly away. At this point, i was just glad he hadn’t put a ball and chain around my leg to force me to stay in this increasingly mad situation!

While I was standing there with Abigail, amongst the 40 of us maids and cows, just waiting for his True Love to arrive, I tried to count the hens that were ambling about and I think there were maybe 30 of them. And by the way, were I his True Love, I’d be perfectly happy with hen eggs from all these hens instead of having to deal with the over 40 geese he had held in a pen he’d had built there in the drive for this special occasion. For the 40 or so swans he had a large moat dug out in the drive and filled with water. Honestly, it ruins the landscape. It was just finished, so the water was basically just mud. He had wanted the swans “a-swimming” – his word, but they were basically just barely floating. Maybe he’d clipped their wings too? Do swans even fly, Mother? Maybe you could ask Father. Oh, and also, could you ask him to come save me from this madman? Cath said the swans were so docile because Sir had drugged them all with some sort of potion. Yes, I have just decided I will no longer eat or drink anything for the rest of my duration here, until I saw the effects it would have on any of the other hundred maids, fake-ladies and lords, drummers and bagpipers here assembled.

What else? Oh, the 30 or 40 blackbirds he had captive in a large cage. One of the two dozen pipers, when they weren’t blaring their infernal racket, an obvious self-satisfied know-it-all, stated they were “calling birds”, but one of the, at last count, 30 gentlemen hired to jump around, said that was incorrect and that they are Colly birds, or simple blackbirds.

So we’re all there, assembled, and the moment is about to happen. Sir’s True Love is about to arrive. Sir runs into the Great House, and returns with what must have been 40 or so rings. He’s carrying them in his hands, and runs up to a pedestal upon which is a red velvet pillow. He roughly tosses these 40 gold rings onto the pillow, as we see the carriage approaching. I must admit, despite the strangeness of this whole affair, I found myself giddy with anticipation as to what was about to transpire!

Sir kneels down on one knee and instructs the 20 or so bagpipers to start bagpiping. They do, as dischordant as before. Did nobody think to get together and decide upon one song? Is Sir absolutley tone deaf? He also instructs the drummers to begin to beat their instruments, and each, like a petulent child takes it upon themselves to go with their own rhythm. “Ladies dance!” Sir bellows. “Lords, get to a-leaping!” And they do.

The carriage approaches.

Sir looks over to the 40 of us maids. “Well,” he yells, in a surprisingly angry tone, “get a-milking!!” He then looks back at the ever-closer carriage. We girls look around at each other. It was, like, two in the afternoon. Our cows had already been milked in the morning. In some kind of silent solidarity, we all decide to get behind our individual and docile beasts and mime the “a-milking”. I made sure to situate myself so that I could see everything as it happened.

The carriage came to a stop just in front of the still-kneeling Sir, beside his pedestal of golden rings. The curtains of the carriage drawn.

I see a pair of eyes peek out from behind the drawn curtains of the carriage window. Then the curtains open and the face of Sir’s True Love is seen, as she takes in the madness that is Sir’s demented love for her.

I see her cover her ears to protect herself from the noise of the pipers and drummers. I see her look over to the muddy moat of lethargic swans. To a few of the partridges chained within the fruitless pear trees; to the mass of fake ladies dancing around on the gravel drive, clearly needing much more practice before whatever they were doing could be construed as dancing. She takes in the two dozen men in tights, agressively jumping and leaping into the air as they run around.

She turns her head towards us milk maids, and I manage to catch her eye. I smile and nod my head. She does not smile and does not nod her head. Just as I expected. She turns her gaze towards the pedestal of golden rings, a couple of which have since fallen onto the drive way.

Finally, her gaze attends her suitor. This man who must have spent a literal fortune to show this young lady just how deep his True Love is. A gesture so grand, and so pure, that I would not be surprised that it were not one day celebrated in song. Their eyes lock onto each other’s. They remain locked as he rises, stands at his full height, and holds out his hand towards her.

It’s a moment that seems to last forever! The eternity of true love’s blooming, I suppose. A love that even inspires the poetical to come out of me it appears!

As they gaze, I see a smile appear on her lips. The subtlest little taste of a smile I ever did see. Then I see her mouth words that I can only surmise were “Driver. Drive on” as she drew the carriage window curtains closed.

Then the carriage jolted to a start as the two horses were hutted into action. And the carriage rolled its way back down the long drive.

After standing there, the jilted lover, for what seemed like another eternity, this time because of the infernal noise still emenating from the pipers and drummers, Sir finally turned to us all. After shushing the musicians to a quiet, and imploring the dancers and jumpers to refrain from their movmentts, Sir asked us, rather politely, I should note, if it would be okay, us having witnessed the calamity that only moments ago befell his heart, if it would be okay if we were all summarily released from our duties and contracts, and would it be okay if were were not paid for this final day of servitude.

None of us felt it our right to take anything else from this mad, mad, sad, and mad man, and all agreed to null and void said contracts.

So, Mother, if you would, could you ask Father if he’d be able to send for me the means to return home? I have been gifted three of the hens. They are French, apparently. I was also offered two swans, but felt it best to decline them.

An Old Christmas Card from Mom

There wasn’t a lot of music in our house when I was growing up. We had a few records and a phonograph player, but I don’t remember them being played that much. The radio would be on most of the time, and that’s where we’d hear music. Sometimes, but not very often, there would be live singing. Almost exclusively by my Mother.

Every so often, Mom would get the urge to grab the guitar, and a bit more often, she’d play the organ. And she’d play and sing. I always thought she had a lovely, sweet, soft voice, but I don’t think she thought much of it. She’d always seem to sing shy, it seemed.

I’m so glad we have a few clips of her singing. I don’t listen to them very often. But when I do, they bring me right back to my childhood. And, yeah, they make me miss her a whole bunch, and I get sad that she’s not around. But sometimes it feels good to feel sad. Listening to these songs is a good sad. Much better than not having them at all.

As it’s Christmas Eve, here’s my Mom. Jean Emily (Hume) MacDonald, playing guitar and singing An Old Christmas Card.

A Round Eight Knockout Punch of Intimidation

I was asked recently, quite out of the blue, “what is the most intimidated you’ve ever felt in a room full of writers/arts people?”

It took me only a moment to come up with an experience, as I realize I molded almost my entire artistic career in a way that ensured I never found myself in a room full of writers/arts people. That mold also ensured that i never found myself in a room with an extra dollar in my pocket.

So I don’t have a lot of experiences for my mind to Rolodex through. But there was one time when I did find myself in a room. With arts people. And I did end up feeling intimidated.

Let me take you back to Charlottetown. Mid-September 1991. John A. MacDonald was still very much a man to look up to. It would be another few years, in fact, until a gang of young men, barely pubescent, would look up to him so much, to the extent that they’d take to strutting around the summertime streets of Charlottetown dressed in replica costumes of 1864 fineries, calling themselves “The Fathers of Confederation”. It would be another couple of years before they felt compelled to add Mothers, Wives and Daughters of Confederation to the mix as well. And another 29 or so years until a drunken lad decides to vandalize the statue of a bench-sitting MacDonald and in the quick sobriety that followed, claim it to be an act of social conscienceness. How far we’ve come!!

1991. PEI Tourism was focused almost entirely on one entity. Anne of Green Gables. The idea of promoting Island golf courses to the world was not even on the horizon.

I was merely a few years into my independent theatre *ahem* career *ahem*. I was asked to take part, as a reader/actor, in a day-long dramaturgy reading of a new play by a writer I hadn’t heard of, nor do I remember today who it was. It might have been a screenplay.

The workshop was being held in a conference room at The Confederation Centre of the Arts. But it wasn’t hosted by them. It might have been a PARC thing. PARC is, I’m guessing, the Playwrights Atlantic Resource Council, and they’re still a thing. They’ve asked me to join their community a few times, but scroll up and read paragraph two again.

I was pleased to be asked to take part, and I was a bit nervous walking into the room. I took comfort in recognizing a number of the faces, and people seemed to accept me as legitimately being there. We sat around a big, long table – maybe 8 to 12 people – mostly actors, plus the writer, a dramaturge, a stage manager type assistant. Maybe a couple of observers.

Many of the actors were from that year’s Charlottetwon Festival. You know. “Real Actors”. Most with training, some with longevity. The air of triple threats hung in the room. And here was I, a big nobody really, whose claim to fame was not yet evident. It was September, so I would have just wrapped the first low, low, low budget season of Annekenstein. I assume it was the burgeoning cache from that which was the reason I was asked to take part in the workshop.

As a workshop, it must have had at least a little bit of money behind it, because the scripts were bound with those brass rivet-type binder thingies. The scripts I was used to were hand-written on yellow foolscap. And there were at least two trays of muffins and an urn of coffee. Were I a person who cared about such riches, I surely would have thought that I had “Made It!” But I was more a rebellious punk who believed that comforts such as food and drink and scripts bound with those brass rivet-type binder thingies were the things that separated true artists from those who sold out and made paycheques while being well-lit on stages that gullible tourists would flock to see. No sir. Give me a too-small room with a leaky ceiling and too-expensive rent with folding metal chairs for 30 audience members to sit upon upon rickety risers, and let me call that a theatre!! That’s where REAL art is being made! Real art like our children’s play knock-off of Robert Munsch’s “The Paperbag Princess”.

What I’m trying to say, I guess, is that, sitting there, in that room, I felt a bit like an imposter, in amongst real, serious, professional theatah people.

And while that was a bit intimidating, I could handle it well enough. They were all lovely people, and I always thought I did a pretty good job with cold-reading things. So I felt that I belonged.

What I had a harder time handling – and the element that turned this into a next-level intimidating experience – was that one of the characters I was asked to read was Jamaican, and I was to attempt to inhabit a Jamaican patois.

I don’t know if you know me, or if you’ve seen me. But I’m not Jamaican. I don’t sound Jamaican. I shouldn’t ever be attempting Jamaican accents. I’d be more attuned to portraying white Canadian guy.

When this was revealed to the room, that I was to read the Jamaican character, I could see a reaction on many of my fellow actors’ faces. A couple of reactions, actually. One was “thank god I’m not doing that”. Another was a very specific look, which I will attempt to describe here.

Imagine you’ve made a big bet on a sporting event. Like a boxing match. A big enough bet that, should you lose, your spouse will know because there’ll be no money left in the bank account. So, huge stakes. Imagine you’re there, at the event, and you’ve bragged to those around you about the big bet you’ve made. These people also know, because of your big mouth, especially when you drink – and right now you’re pretty well sauced – of your troubled relationship at home, and how your spouse is already ready to leave you – you know that, even though it’s unsaid – you can see it in their eyes. In fact, you tell the crowd, you believe they’ve already left you. Not in a physical sense, because you still sleep together in the same bed. But in a spiritual sense. You know this in the way they toss the plate of scrambled eggs down on the table in front of you at breakfast. You can see it in the way they look past you, not at you, and you assume they’re likely daydreaming of a better life. A life that doesn’t contain you. So, even though you know your relationship is over, you still believe, somewhere deep inside you, that if you could just score this big score – betting everything on the heavy underdog in the fight – it might make things better. Things would go back to the way things were early in the relationship, where they’d laugh deep and hard at how unfunny your jokes were and you knew they were laughing because they loved you. Your guy is holding his own in the match, and through the first seven rounds you’ve convinced yourself you’re going to win the bet. Rounds five, six and seven, particularly, you get so excited that you tell those around you your life sad life story and how now, with this win, things are gonna turn around! You’re on the top of the world, moments away from your new life!! Then, early in round eight, your guy doesn’t see the roundhouse. Nobody sees it. Later, the pundits will wonder if it was planned. But why plan for the underdog to take a dive? It doesn’t make sense. Anyway, the roundhouse lands square on the jaw and your guy goes down like a sack of bricks. Match over. Mere moments later, you crumple to the floor of the arena, so immediate and encompassing is your failure. While lying there, crying, in a heap, you look up at those who surround you. Many have already forgotten you, moved on to their own next chapters, but a couple, you notice, look down at you. They know your situation. How you’re going to have to go home to your spouse, and all will be revealed. You see them looking down at you. Pity in their eyes. Lips clenched tight. An imperceptible shake of the head at the pathetic beast that is before them.

Anyway, that’s the look that I saw in others when I was given the role of the Jamaican guy.

The play, as I recall, took place in Toronto, and it was supposed to be a gritty, hard-hitting story full of social issues and tortured souls. Not a lot of levity. My Jamaican guy was newly arrived in Toronto, so his accent was supposed to be full-on Jamaican. Thankfully, he was something of a secondary character, so not a whole lot of lines.

But what was worse still, was the writer admitted at the beginning of the reading that the Jamaican character’s dialogue wasn’t, as of yet, particularly written with any necessarily Jamaican patterns of speech. But I was to try and see if I could make it work.

In hindsight, I have wondered if the whole thing was an elaborate joke on me. I mean, who would create a Jamaican character and not write their dialogue with the flow and cadence of Jamaican speech? Whatever the reasons, the reality is it happened.

So, when asked about a particulary intimidating experience in a room full of writers/arts people, that is the experience that came to mind.

As for the reading? Well, I’s think me nailed it, mon!!

Did you see the letter Bush wrote to welcome Clinton as the new occupant of the White House? Just saw a draft of the one Trump is writing for Biden.

Moe Gorman – Malcolm’s Goose is Cooked

Malcolm McKearney owes me a goose.

I’ll get to that.

If you don’t know Malcolm, he’s the one what’s always going on about being smarter than everyone he knows. And most that he don’t know.  Trouble is with Malcolm, it’s easy to prove him wrong, right. At least, it’s easy to prove him wrong to others. But Malcolm’s belief in his knowledge is stubborn. You can’t convince Malcolm of anything if he’s got his mind looking in any other direction.

Anyways, I see him there sitting in the corner there of the Seal Club and Sandbar Lounge. This is, what, about 9 months ago or so. Just before the latest incident with the shit socks at the Seal Club. The one that shut them down for them couple of months.  I see him there. Usually he’s with his boys, Arnold McCutcheon, DeBlois DeBlois, and Earle Stanley, but that night he’s sitting there all by himself.

He looks bored so I figure I’d take a trip over and gab a bit about this and that. You know, spill some time before heading back home. So I goes over and he looks up and nods.

“She’s some wet, what?” I go.

“Seventy-two millimetres since Sunday” he goes. Malcolm is all about the weather. He’s got all the amometers and measuring stuff that they got at the weather center in Charlottetown or wherever it is. He’s right into it, and it’s always a good way to start off a conversation with him by bringing it up. A sure-fire “in” if you know what I mean.

So I sit down and he brightens up and goes off on a long trail about the climate and his thoughts on all that. Me, I listen and nod every so often and take occasional swigs from the beer I brought to the table. He’s spouting off statistics and numbers and prognostications and whatnot, all about the weather. Honestly it was boring as shit, but I go along with the listening to it, just to pass time more than anything.

So that wraps up without much incident and then he goes off on another drive about stuff. Things he’s reading, ideas he has about things that should be invented if he had the time. You know, bullshit stuff.

Anyways, he goes “This May’s been the wettest May in the Northern Hemisphere since May 1912 when the Titanic sunk.”

And I’m thinking “Wrong!” Now I can let his wrong-headed opinions go because you can’t argue opinion, but I will always argue facts. And I know for a fact the Titanic sunk on April 14, 1912. Because April 14th 1925 is my Aunt Sadie’s birthday and they always talk about how it was her claim to fame that she was born on the same day as the Titanic sunk. Not the exact same date but the same day. So I know for a fact he’s wrong.

“Titanic sunk in April” I go. “Not May.”

“No, it sunk in May” he says. “Fact.”

“Not a fact” I go.  He can’t go calling something that’s wrong a fact. “Titanic sunk in April. April 14th 1912. I’m sure of it”

Anyways, we go back and forth, both claiming to be right about which month the Titanic sunk.

Finally, I have enough.  “Betcha double or nothing on one of your Christmas geese that you’re wrong and that the Titanic sunk April 14th.”

Malcolm is well-revered for raising top-quality geese. Geese ain’t as popular these days as they was back in the day, but enough people still like them for Easter or Christmas or Thanksgiving or any big celebration dinner over turkey.  Enough for Malcolm to keep at it, raising and selling geese to those that want them.

“You’re on” he goes and slams his hand down onto the table and laughs. “Easy money! Pay up!”

“Hold on” I go. “You can’t prove the Titanic sunk in May ‘cause it didn’t. It sunk in April, and I can prove it.”

“You can’t prove it because it sunk in May” he goes. Stubborn to the core.

So I pull out my phone and ask Google. “Okay Google, what month did the Titanic sink?”

Quicker than a flash the phone goes “The RMS Titanic sank in the early morning hours of 15 April 1912 in the North Atlantic Ocean.”

“Yow owe me a goose” I go.

“That don’t prove nothing” he goes. 

“Whattyamean” I go. “Proves everything. Proves you owe me a goose!”

“You can’t prove that machine is right” he goes.

I go “It’s Google. Of course it’s right.”

“Still” he says, “that’s not proof”.

“You owe me a goose” I go.

“I owe you nothing” he goes. “Titanic sunk in May.”

“You owe me a fucking goose” I go. I’m starting to get right agitated. He senses my irritations and goes even harder into his belief that the Titanic sunk in May.

“Sunk April 14th 1912. Same day as my Aunt Sadie was born, only thirteen years earlier.

“Wrong” he goes. “You owe me double a goose. And you don’t get the goose.”

I ask Google again and it says the same thing. “The RMS Titanic sank in the early morning hours of 15 April 1912 in the North Atlantic Ocean.”

“Aha” he goes. “You ARE wrong! Even if your Google thing is right, you said the Titanic sunk on April 14th.  Google said it sunk April 15th. YOU ARE WRONG” he yells.

I ask Google again. Sure enough “The RMS Titanic sank in the early morning hours of 15 April 1912 in the North Atlantic Ocean.”  My Aunt Sadie’s claim to fame was based on a lie.

I think for a minute and go “Well, it started sinking on the 14th probably. Probably took the better part of an evening to sink, and the actual sinking ended in the early morning of April 15th”.

“Either way, you said it sunk April 14th. Your Google says April 15th so you’re wrong. You’re both wrong, because it sunk in May anyway.”

And that was that.  I tried a bunch more to get him to admit he was wrong but in his mind he wasn’t wrong.  I went home furious and vowing to prove him wrong.

Month later I come into his shop – he’s an auto mechanic in the day, the goose stuff at night or whatever – with a picture of an old newspaper front page headline my nephew Donald got from provincial archives that states the Titanic sunk on April 15th.

“Could be photoshopped” he goes.  

Fucking asshole. I knew then and there that  I’d never get my goose outta him.

So I wrote this song about him.

Malcolm McKesrney’s Goose Is Sunk

It took an iceberg to sink the Titanic on April 15th 1912

Though probably started sinking the evening before.

But it would take something harder than that berg

To get Malcom McKearney to say he’s wrong.

He says it sunk in May. Don’t matter what Google says

Or the Provincial Archives, his ignorance stays alive.

How do you prove that two plus two is four?

Or that the sun rises high in the sky?

If Malcolm thinks otherwise you can’t.

No matter what he thinks 

Malcom McKearney owes me a goose for Christmas.

Don’t make a bet with Malcolm McKearney even if it’s based on fact.

Malcolm ignores facts in favour of his own stubborn brain.

Don’t make a bet with Malcom McKearny and expect to get his goose.

No matter what he thinks

Malcolm McKearny owes me a goose for Christmas.

Rob Reviews: “Still the Water” (movie)

I recently watched, online as part of FinFestival, “Still the Water”. Written and directed by Susan Rodgers, it’s her debut feature, and here’s my review.

Having been aware, primarily through social media posts made by Susan, of many of the challenges, problems, and difficulties she had in the process of persevering this film into existence, I first want to offer sincere congratulations for creating something that looks so good, and works as a fully complete and bona fide dramatic feature. This is an accomplishment that deserves mighty praise!

Here’s more praise: the cinematography is sharp and sparkles. The acting, very much of a professional quality, is much better than I was expecting. The direction and editing work well in serving the story being told. By that I mean it doesn’t meander or lollygag too much from what needs to be shown and told, and for that I am always grateful.

I just wish I liked the story more.

Here’s a brief story brief: Sacked from another team in the From Away, Jordie MacAulay (Ry Barrett), a semi-professional hockey playing brother comes back to PEI – to his Summerside community – to sort out his troublesome life and work on his anger issues. His first stop is to his brother Nicky (Colin Price) and his young family, and takes up the offer to temporarily stay in a nearby vacated house. Jordie’s presence is troubling for Nicky, who already seems to have plenty of problems of his own – chief among them is his relationship with haunted-by-her-past next door neighbour Abby (Christena McInulty), who sings at the local bar. There’s also Nicky’s emotionally brooding and stoically suffering wife Alice (Sherri Lee Pike); the brothers’ younger, brother Noah (Spencer Graham) whose obnoxiousness is, I guess, supposed to be played for laughs (?); and their formerly-abusive but now tolerated-by-most father.

The movie follows the leads as they attempt to work through live through their individual and familial troubles. The brothers Nicky and Jordie take up playing hockey together, arguing with and resenting each other endlessly, spending a we-all-knew-that-was-coming challenging day lobster fishing, and working in their father’s boat repair (?) shop, where nothing (work or relationships) seems to happen.

As I said, the movie looks more than good enough and the acting is pretty sharp, but unfortunately, it all gets let down a bit too much by a story and script that I just did not care that much about. That said, I can certainly see there being people for whom this story might resonate well. But not me. I didn’t find myself really caring about or for any of the main characters. I did, in one scene, feel bad for that Gentlemen Jim’s server, though, who had to suffer through the inexplicable assholery of Obnoxious Noah. Probably the reason I found myself not caring is because I got a bit bored by the repetitiveness of the same challenges showing themselves again and again to the same characters, without any real advancement. And that, I suppose, falls to the storytelling.

Another issue for me – and maybe this is a matter of direction – is the way almost everyone in the movie seems to have a performative air of depressive inevitability to their character. Like everyone was told to express their characters inner turmoils on their faces and in all their movements. It’s like they didn’t trust the script enough to allow any subtext so they telescoped the issues into their physical performances. In this movie even the smiles are played sad.

While I liked the cinematography for the most part, I could have done with far, far fewer “beauty shots” of PEI. Every scene seemingly started and/or ended with pretty shots of sunsets, sunrises, beaches, etc. And a relatively new pet peeve of mine that this movie employs – I am already tired of seeing, in videos/films/shorts/etc., drone shots of PEI that look like they’re taken out of PEI Tourism commercials. Shot for shot’s sake. In this movie, in particular, I didn’t think the beauty of those Tourism Shots lends itself very well to the darker, brooding moods and emotions the movie is attempting to convey.

Something that surprised me was my reaction to the way the story arc of Nicky’s wife Alice was handled. She ended up not being a character so much as a plot device. And that really bugged me. Without giving away too much as a spoiler, I found I was desperate for Alice to have at least one opportunity to release and vent about her situation, to have it out with someone who was actually negatively impacting her life. Or at the very least, let us know why she is seemingly incapable of doing so. The last fifth of the movie I found myself really bothered that she didn’t have that opportunity. And then the way the final shot/scene unfolded only compounded that bother to the extreme.

I hope Susan Rodgers makes more stuff. The filmmaker’s eye is definitely there, and I expect that with more experience she’ll learn to allow the actors to hint at their emotions and inner-feelings a bit rather than have them blatantly wear them on their sleeves.

Were I to give this movie one of my 7-Word Review reviews, it would be: Competent, good effort but a bit blah.

Annekenstein V – Opening Sketch?

I have such a bad memory about things I’ve performed or haven’t performed. I came across this script I wrote for Annekenstein V, and I cannot for the life of me remember if it was staged or not. I think it was, but the document is entitled “Opening (unused)”, so that’s making me doubt myself.

I’m thinking that perhaps it was performed at least a few times but may have been replaced by another sketch?

Anyway, I like a lot of the script. It very much represents the kind of comedy I like to write and perform.

I post it here, for posterity.

Opening (unused)

Rob enters onto a stage, upon which are three chairs, set up in a row.  He takes center Stage

Rob: Good evening everyone, and welcome to Annekenstein!  Before we begin, I’d just like to point out some changes to those of you who may have seen our shows before. 

After last year, a governmental agency called the Prince Edward Island Anne of Green Gables Merchandise Regulatory Commission contacted us at Annekenstein.  This Merchandise Regulatory Commission is responsible for giving out licenses to any group or individual who wishes to make money off the intellectual property of the Lucy Maud Montgomery creation Anne of Green Gables and all the characters there involved.  This commission was developed beacause there was a worry that some of the crafts and dolls, and such, which had an Anne of Green Gables theme, were of a lesser quality, esthetically speaking, than was worthy of such an important fictional character as Anne Shirley. 

So, it was felt that a commission such as this could deny licenses to any persons or groups whom the commission deemed as unacceptable to the positive portrayal of Anne of Green Gables.

Well, to make a long story short, Annekenstein falls under this commission’s jurisdiction, and unfortunately for us, and for you the audience, the Prince Edwrd Island Anne of Green Gables Merchandise Regulatory Commission found Annekenstein portrayed (gets out paper and reads) “a negative perception to the wholesomeness and good feelings which are so inherent in Anne of Green Gables” and declined to give us a license. 

Dave Moses and I, being the primary writers, talked to them, and to make a long story short, we finally did manage to get a license for this year’s Annekenstein.  However, there were a few catches. 

We were told we could still make fun of Anne, et al., but the humour had to be gentler.  In sketches where Anne isn’t present, we could be the same old satirical wits we used to be, but when Anne was involved, we had to tone down quite a bit. 

Still, we feel we are still presenting one hell of– one heck of a… a funny show.  It’s still funny.  We still make fun of Anne, and you’ll still laugh, I hope.  But, like I said, for those of you who are familiar with the  comedy of Annekenstein’s past, you’ll likely notice some subtle changes.  Some for the better, some, not so for the better. 

So, on with– Oh, and the Merchandise Regulatory Commission had final approval of any sketches involving Anne Shirley.

So, on with our show.  Here’s our first sketch of the evening, and, co-incidentally, it does involve references to Anne.  I think it’s very funny and it’s entitled  “The Importance of Being Anne”.  Enjoy!

Rob leaves and stage goes black.  Lights come up on the three chairs, with Laurie and Jan occupying two, the middle chair empty

Laurie: Hello, Jan Rudd, and welcome to Annekenstein 5. 

They get up and hug

Laurie: It must be quite exciting, being one of the two new additions to the Annekenstein cast.

Jan: Yes, Laurie, it certainly is.  Myself, and Matthew Rainnie, who is the other of two additions to the cast, we are both happy to be here, and look forward to the raucous joviality that this show is all about.

Laurie: Yes, and although we tend to poke gentle barbs at Anne of Green Gables, ourselves profiting from such tom-foolery, or should I say “Anne-foolery”, we musn’t forget just how important Tourism is to this province, and  that Anne of Green Gables represents a very large part of the Island’s Tourism dollar.

Jan: Yes.  Anne is so important to our provincial economy that we really shouldn’t make fun of her at all.  (Laurie laughs)  What, Laurie, did I say something funny?

Laurie: Yes.  You said ‘we shouldn’t make fun of her’, as if she were alive!

Jan: So I did!  The funny thing being that she’s not alive, nor ever was. She’s just a book!  (Jan laughs)

Laurie: Exactly!  (Laurie laughs as well, stopping suddenly when:) Look, here comes Matthew Rainnie now.

Matthew enters and hugs Laurie, then Jan

Laurie: Hello, Matthew, and welcome to Annekenstein, but you are not part of this sketch are you?

Matthew: No, Laurie, and Jan, I’m not.  But the Prince Edward Island Anne of Green Gables Merchandise Regulatory Commission, along with the writers of Annekenstein, feel that one of the best loved aspects of the old Annekenstein shows was the unpredictbility.  You know, when something unexpected happens.

Jan: You mean like right now.  Neither Laurie, nor I, knew you were coming out here, now.

Matthew: Yes.  The writers feel impromtu bits of comedy like this are excellent ways to get the audience to laugh, and the best thing is, we can do it without making negative references to Anne of Green Gables, keeping her image meticulously wholesome and positive.

Laurie and Jan laugh, then Matt joins in.  Ed enters wearing Anne hat and braids.  The others stop laughing and stare at him, shocked

Ed: Hey, guys!  Are you improv-ing already?

Laurie: What in the blazes do you think you’re doing?

Ed: I’m getting ready for the next sketch.

Jan: Not with that thing on your head your not!!

Ed: What do you mean?

Matt: You know the new rules for the show.  Boys aren’t allowed to wear Anne of Green Gables hats and braids anymore.  Only the girls are, and only if  portraying her in a positive fashion.

Laurie: Now, come on! Take them off!! 

He does

Ed: Aw, man, this Regulatory Commission is draining the life out of this show.

Jan: It’s not.  It’s for the betterment of the community that they’ve been given the power they have.

Ed: All’s I know is, men in funny girl-hats makes people laugh.  This really sucks!

Nancy: (Off stage) Who swore!!!  (Entering)  I heard a swear!  Who swore!!  Ed?!!

Ed: I didn’t swear!  I just said this sucks.

Nancy: Blasphemer!!  The Prince Edward Island Anne of Green Gables Merchandise Regulatory Commission, in association with the writers of Annekenstein, consider the word S-U-C-K-S as an unsuitable word, when associated with Anne of Green Gables.  It’s a forbidden word.

Ed: Why?

Jan: Because S-U-C-K-S could conjure up images of fellatio.  And no one wants to think of Anne Shirley giving head. 

Ed and Matt become instantly aroused by these words

Nancy: Jan!!

Jan: Oh my God! What did I say?!?

Laurie: You said “Anne Shirley giving head”! 

Ed and Matt groan, involved in their own sexual fantasies

Nancy: Oh, no, the boys are fantasizing!  About Anne.  That’s most forbidden!!! (To Jan and Laurie) You see what happens!!!

Laurie: This is all your fault, Jan!

Jan: ‘Tis not.

Nancy: We’re in big trouble.  We could lose our merchandise license over this!

Rob enters

Rob: People! People! Calm down!  What’s all the stir? Why have we stopped the show?

Matt: I don’t know, Rob.  I came out with that bit of improv you wrote me…

Rob: I didn’t write you any improv, Matt.

Matt: But that guy from the Regulatory Commission gave it to me and said you wanted me to say it.  Seemed to go over alright, anyways.  Then Ed shows up in a hat and braids!

Rob: Red braids?

Matt: Yes, they were.

Nancy: And then Ed swore.  He said sucks!

Rob: Is this true, Ed?

Ed: Yeah, so?  What’s the big deal?!  We used to stuff like that last year.

Rob: Yeah, Ed, and a hundred a fifty years ago Dodge was a rough and tumble city,  but it had to get cleanded up!!

Nancy: And Jan said “Anne Shirley giving head”, and then Laurie said it, too!

Rob: Nancy, that’s enough tattling!

Nancy: Well, they did!

Rob: Nancy!

Laurie: I only said “Anne Shirley giving head” to tell what Jan said.

Jan: Well, I only said “Anne Shirley giving head” to tell Ed what image “sucks” could conjure up.

Rob: Enough! Enough with Anne Shirley giving head!  I mean, here it is, our first sketch in association with the Prince Edward Island Anne of Green Gables Merchandise Regulatory Commission, and we’ve already resorted to the same stuff that we were doing last year.  It’s stuff like this that was the reason they wouldn’t give us a license in the first place.

Ed: Stuff like that makes people laugh.

Rob: I don’t care about people laughing, Ed!  I only care about the license.

Ed: Rob!  Listen to yourself!  “I don’t care about people laughing”?  That’s not the Rob MacDonald I know and love!

Rob: Drop it Ed!

Ed: No I won’t!  What have you become? “People laughing” used to be all you cared about.  You’ve devoted your whole life to it!

Rob: My hands are tied!  We need this license if we want to perform.

Holds up license

Ed: Screw the  license, man!  You did before!  Remember when the cops got you for drunk driving and you lost your license!  But you still drove!  You drove without a driver’s license and By God, you can act without an Anne of Green Gables Merchandise Regulatory License!

Rob: You’re absolutely right, Ed.  I’ve become some mewling sycophant, rubbing bellies with those snakes in governmental beauracuracy!

Nancy: That’s not your style!

Rob: No, it’s not…. This is my style! (rips up license)

Jan: But what about all the scripts you and David Moses wrote in association with the Regulatory Commission?

Rob: To Hell with them, Jan!  From now on we’re doing things with both barrels blaring!

Laurie: What obvious phallic symbolism!

Matt: Yeah, that’s all fine and dandy, Rob, but now we don’t have enough new material to put on a whole show.  What are we gonna do?  This audience is hungry for comedy.

Rob: Not to worry, Matt.  When you’ve been in this Annekenstein business as long as me, you begin to get tired and lazy.  And with that laziness comes a desire to rest on your laurels…  Ed!

Ed: Yes, sir?

Rob: Ed, do we have any of those old sketches lying around? You know, the ones from the last four years?

Ed: I think they’re all in a trunk, backstage.

Nancy: If Ed can’t find them, I have everything saved from every year but the first, ’cause I wasn’t asked to be in that one.

Rob: Well, go get ’em, kids!

Ed and Nancy exit

Rob: Everyone, run off and learn your lines!

Jan and Laurie run off, Matt begins but stays to listen

Rob: We’re gonna put on an Annekenstein!  And not some watered-down, government regulated Annekenstein, but a good, old fashioned barn-raising Annekenstein.  Like they used to do in Them Times.  We’ll take the best of all the old shows, put them together with some new stuff, and put on a show to end all shows!

Matt: What’ll we call it?

Rob: How ’bout “The Best of Annekenstein”!

Matt: Couldn’t we call it “Spirit of The Nation”?

Rob: Are you out of your fucking mind?… Let’s go!

BLACKOUT