Sunday, December 31, 2006

2006: The Year it Hit the Fan. Again. Hard.

Tonight, we find ourselves on the eve of 2007. All I can say is "it's about time."

I don't mean to be a downer, but I'm so happy to see 2006 go. I'm not saying nothing good has happened this year, but it sure has seemed everything good has come with a complimentary kick to the groin.


The year started with the premier and surprisingly large success of Nintendo: OldSchool Revolution, but also with having to pay for repairs to my dear old iBook.

I spent a lot of time being creative and working on films, but ended up losing touch with friends, sometimes for months at a time, as everyone got caught up in their own lives.

I finished my work on Batman's Gonna Get Shot in the Face and our TV died after only 5 years.

I saw the fantastic final cut of Batman and the flood hit.

I went to Niagara Falls for my birthday and my iBook died. Again.

I caved in and bought a shiny new MacBook. Four months later, it had a drink and left me with the bill.

I went to Canada and had an amazing time with Chantal Kreviazuk & Raine Maida, but I was miserably sick the whole time.

My favorite holiday of the year, Christmas, came along and my brother had a nasty run in with some drunken, cowardly, lowlife thugs.

See what I mean?

2006 has left me drained, but I have high hopes for 2007. I'm going into the year working on a big, great project which will soon be revealed. It'll be followed up by more excellent projects, including helping Larry out on the upcoming sequel to Zombies in My Neighborhood.

Here's to a fantastic 2007 for everyone, filled with love, happiness, and success. Adios '06, see you in the funny papers.

Holiday Recap

I hope anyone reading this had themselves a nice holiday. Mine was enjoyable, I'd say it started for me on the Wednesday before Christmas with the Bullcrank Christmas party.

It was about an hour's drive and we got lost along the way, but we eventually found the place. Due to some miscalculations regarding the door to the house and my wheelchair, the party was moved out to the garage, which was surprisingly enjoyable. It was really nice just hanging out with the whole crew, chit chatting and watching Aaron's new short film.
A lot of the gang has been a bit down lately, so Larry secretly cut together a video to rally the troops and showed it at the party. I gave him a hand with some animation for it. It's funny, I wasn't even present for most of the stuff in the video and it still makes me sentimental. You can check it out here.

Corey drove in from Pittsburgh on Thursday, so we chilled out several times throughout the weekend. We had ourselves a big Christmas-time game night on that Friday, the last one with the whole gang for a while as Brendan moved down to Florida this weekend for an internship at Disney World. He'll be down there until August. Not a bad gig, eh?

On Saturday night, Eric and Aaron visited along with Corey for a bit before they headed out for a night of barhopping. Aaron was the hero of the night, letting us have his old TV to replace the tiny one we've had standing in for our broken one.
Sharon visited on Christmas Eve and then Corey swung by for a little Madden football and a couple episodes of Trailer Park Boys.

Christmas morning was nice, everyone seemed to be happy with their gifts, I know I was. You can't go wrong with CDs (Gnarls Barkley, Regina Spektor, KT Tunstall, and Our Lady Peace), DVDs (Justice League Unlimited: Season 1, The Chronicles of Narnia: Extended Edition Gift Set, and Short Circuit- also, Corey got me Over the Hedge and The DaVinci Code), Superman stuff, and iPod accessories.

After unwrapping, we ate and Kris & I played The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, courtesy of Brendan and Mikey. A little bit later, we were off to Granny's.

It was a good time hanging out with everyone there and just relaxing. I'd have to say the highlight of the night was Jeff messing with Aunt Karen. He broke out some classic word play and wrote down "I am sofa king wee Todd did" and had her read it out loud. It was hilarious listening to her read it over and over until it finally sunk in. The moment of realization was priceless.

This Christmas was nice, but it felt Everything we did was 100% Christmas, but for some reason it didn't really feel like Christmas. I can't quite put my finger on it. Even so, I did have fun and I hope you all did too.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Spilled Milk and Other Random Bits

It's only been two weeks since my trip. I'm finding that increasingly hard to believe. Things have been so hectic and nonstop since we got back, it feels like ages. The nasty medicine I took for my cough made that week alone seem like an eternity.

I'm finally feeling better and cough free, which is a relief. As soon as I started feeling better, I began work on a small, secret project I'm helping Larry out with. It was fairly simple and I've already finished my part.

On Wednesday morning, bad luck reared its ugly head in a sudden and unexpected way. It was 5 AM, I was putzing around online as Dad passed through to the kitchen for a drink of water. On his way back to the bedroom, I asked him to give me a sip of the milk I was drinking. He lifted the glass from my tray and that's when it happened.
In slow motion, I saw the glass fumble and its milky contents rain down through the air.
Directly onto the keyboard of my MacBook.
The computer shut itself down and my stomach sank. Mom quickly awoke and did her best to dry it off before any serious damage could be done, but it was too late.
Not knowing what else to do, I went to bed and we placed the MacBook upside down to drain while I slept.

To my surprise, it did turn back on the next day, but things weren't right. Everything was running slow and the computer was frequently restarting itself. It stayed on long enough for me to backup some files, but then it shut down for what appears to have been the last time.

What really gets me is that I paid extra for the 3 year extended warranty which is void if an outside force is what screws up your machine. If that's not bad enough, I'm not even close to paying the thing off yet. I'm gonna spend the next few months paying off my sleek looking Apple iPaperweight.

It doubles nicely as a doorstop. With an Intel Core Duo processor and built-in iSight.

We're still looking into whether or not anything can be done to help me out (credit card protection, house insurance, etc.), but I'm not holding my breath.

I'm currently using my old iBook, which runs off an external harddrive. It's a bit sluggish and pretty outdated, but it's doing what I need it to. Mostly.

I really can't believe Christmas is just a week away. For some reason it just doesn't feel like Christmas to me. Maybe it's the warm weather we've been having, I don't know. I'm not turning into Scrooge here or anything, I'm feeling more like Charlie Brown. I guess I'm just having an unusually hard time getting into the spirit this year.
I have a week to turn it around though.

I guess I'll go get started on that. Stay tuned for some especially exciting news about an upcoming project I'm taking on. It's big and it's cool. Trust me.

Canada (Better Late Than Never)

It's been bugging me that it's been two weeks since my trip and I haven't blogged about it yet, so I'm taking this opportunity to remedy that.

Day 1 - November 28th, 2006

I woke up still coughing, but determined not to let it derail my plans. While coughing, I hopped online and booked our room (last minute, I know) as Mom made sure everything was packed and ready. After some more coughing, we hit the road around 1:30, a little later than I'd have liked, but good enough.

The ride was nice and uneventful, not many people traveling on a Tuesday in late November. We pulled into the road stop nearing 4:00 and headed into Denny's. I was hungry, but worried eating would irritate my throat and make the coughing worse, so I took it slow. Everything went well until a tiny sip of Coke went down the wrong way and triggered a really bad coughing fit that kept us at the rest stop much longer than planned.

Once we finally made it to Niagara Falls, we missed a turn in the dark and ended up driving the exact same path we walked when we got lost back in September. There was an eerie feeling as we drove due to the thick fog/mist rolling across the road and the lack of people around. I could hear the Silent Hill theme in my mind. Through the fog, and in complete contrast to the creepy vibe, we could see the big display of Christmas lights they had set up along the road, which was pretty cool.

We ended up getting to the festively decorated Marriott around 8:00 and quickly settled into our room. And coughed. I was okay though, I was in Niagara Falls, I was comfy, and Veronica Mars was going to be on shortly. I switched to the channel to get ready and found...a rolling picture. It rolled through the entire show, but I was still able to follow and enjoy it.

Before too long, I took my medicine, had some soup, and called it a night.

Day 2 - November 29th, 2006

This was it, the day I had been looking forward to for months had finally arrived- the day of the Chantal Kreviazuk and Raine Maida concert. I was still coughing, but my spirits were high.

We were up early and had a few hours to kill, so we loaded into the van and headed to the Pen Centre in St Catherines. It was surprisingly crowded for the early afternoon of a Wednesday, it took fifteen minutes just to find a place to park.

I'll admit, I spent a little too much on DVDs, but hey, I'm allowed to every once in a while. I got myself Superman Returns, Trailer Park Boys: Season 5, Trailer Park Boys- Xmas Special and did some Christmas shopping as the music of Our Lady Peace played over the speakers in HMV.

We nibbled a bit in the food court, restocked our Kleenex supply at the drug store, and were on our way to the Centre for the Arts at Brock University, thanks to the helpful directions of a kind taxi driver.

We arrived just before 4:00 and made our way to the Sean O'Sullivan Theatre. You might be thinking that's pretty early to show up for a concert, but as I've said before, Chantal and Raine have always been extremely kind to my family and I, this time they invited us to the sound check. I couldn't fully wrap my head around it until we were actually in there. It was an amazing evening, most of which we were lucky enough to spend actually hanging out with Raine and Chantal.

The concert itself was fantastic and very intimate in the small venue. Raine opened with a poem before playing a handful of songs from his upcoming solo CD and a great acoustic version of Innocent. Chantal played a nice mixture of old favorites and newer songs from her most recent release, Ghost Stories. They both sounded absolutely great and put on an excellent show.

Many many MANY thanks to both of them for all of their kindness and such an unforgettable experience.

Chantal & Me

Me & Raine

After leaving Brock University, we headed back to the Falls, got takeout from Fridays, and headed up to the room to eat and sleep after a long and amazing day.

Day 3 - November 30th, 2006

Before heading home, I had one last mission: find out the name of the delicious wine I had on my birthday. Mom and I headed downstairs to the Terrapin Grille, I looked at the menu, and found it. Jackson-Triggs. Fantastic, I tell you.
We were told we could find it much cheaper at a liquor store or the duty free shop. Works for me.

On our way back to the room to pack, we discovered we were locked out of our room, despite having requested a later check out time. Turns out it was just a mix up and they forgot to update our keys, a quick visit to the front desk fixed that.

I gazed out the window as Mom packed and made a couple quick phone calls. The weather was mild, hovering around 60 degrees the whole time, but the grey look of winter was always lingering on the horizon. It was very strange to see Niagara Falls so devoid of tourists. We never saw more than twenty people on the walkway overlooking the Falls.

Before long, we were on our way. It was funny, the bellman who helped us get our stuff from the room to the van actually remembered us from our last visit.

We made a quick stop at the duty free shop and grabbed some of the wine before crossing the Peace Bridge and heading home.

It was a much quicker trip than two days before, but the weather made it a bit less relaxed. We had heavy winds the whole way through New York. It felt like a giant had the van in its grasp and would randomly give a violent shake.

As we crossed into Pennsylvania, the winds died down and were replaced with dark clouds and torrential downpours. The rain stayed with us for the rest of the drive.

We arrived home just after 5:00 to share our travel stories and relax after the drive. Looking back, I know I normally never would have left the house with a cough like that, but I'm so glad I pushed myself. This experience was 100% worth it.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

What A Weekend

I've had the strangest, most chaotic, and most unexpected events happen over the last few days.

Wednesday was really nice, I got to hang out with Corey, Bridget, and Eric. We caught up with each other, had a few drinks, and I dominated at the pop culture edition of Trivial Pursuit.

Thanksgiving was cool. Went to Granny's and visited with everyone. The day was a blur.

Friday rolled around and it was time for game night. Corey, Brendan, Eric, and Aaron all gathered and the games began. As we played, though, I started to feel a After everyone left, I went to bed and ended up staying there until Sunday night.

Out of nowhere, I had the worst cough I've had in years. I coughed for about 48 hours nonstop.

I went to the doctor today and he gave me an antibiotic, I'm feeling much better, but still far from 100%.

I was really scared this was going to compromise the trip to St Catharines, but, thankfully, it appears I'm in the clear. As a matter of fact, we're leaving in the morning, so I better get some sleep.
I'll write when I get back Thursday!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Do You Hear What I Hear?

Everywhere I go, I hear Christmas music. Even as I type this, I'm listening to Dido's "Christmas Day" on the radio. It's nice and calming, it would be a perfect little holiday moment...except for the fact that it's not even Thanksgiving yet. Not to mention that I've been hearing Christmas music in stores since before Halloween.

I'm a guy who likes tradition. Every Thanksgiving morning is the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, at the very end of the parade is the grand arrival of Santa. That is when the holiday season starts. The music, the decorations, the lights, that's when they should all begin.

Now, don't go thinking I'm channeling Scrooge here, ask anybody who knows me and they'll tell you the Christmas spirit takes over during the season. What's going on right now, though, is overkill. Everyone's going to be sick of these songs weeks before the holiday arrives, the meaning of them will be sucked dry from the overexposure.

So, I'm going to try to shield myself from the premature holly jolly tunes and enjoy my Thanksgiving for the day it actually is. I love Christmas too much to jump the gun and spoil it. Candy canes aren't quite as special if you eat them every day.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Sunday Afternoon Ramblings

I can't believe Thanksgiving is this week. I can't believe I haven't posted since the 3rd. Truthfully though, not much worth posting about has happened.

I've been on a big DVD kick lately. Target had an excellent deal and I bought Ghostbusters 1 & 2 for a total of $10, I forgot how great those movies are. Animation was the order of the day, as I recently rented Over the Hedge and Curious George from Netflix and bought Cars. All were great, each had its own unique strengths.
Having a love for creepy and paranormal movies, I rented An American Haunting, sadly, it was a major disappointment.
And now I find myself addicted to yet another TV series. I just rented the first couple discs of the recent incarnation of Battlestar Galactica and I'm already hooked. Surprisingly awesome on every level.

In other movie news, Batman's Gonna Get Shot in the Face passed the 10,000 view mark on iFilm a few days ago! It took a little while, but people are watching and that's all that matters.
On a related note, I'm not too crazy about iFilm's new layout.

And my main source of excitement...only 10 days til I see Chantal Kreviazuk! I really can't wait, it'll be fantastic.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Updating Again

Blogger recently upgraded their layouts and all, so I'll be revamping the blog a bit over the next few days. Bear with me and don't mind the rough look it currently has.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Change of Plans

At the last minute, I got a quick and easy costume idea that I'm confident nobody else anywhere was wearing tonight. I decided to go as...

Cartoon Jacob!(click for full size)

And now for my pumpkin. The star of my most recent short...

(click for full size)

Yeah, I'm weird, but it's fun.

Ghosts in the Machines?

Technology hates me. I no longer have any doubt in my mind about that.

Our TV (only 5 years old) died back in July, then the one we put in its place died, leaving us with a ridiculously tiny one. It looks like the old TV got pushed back about twenty feet through the wall.

I listen to music as I go to sleep. I pick the CDs that'll help me relax, press play, and drift off. It's just what I do.
From the beginning, my stereo (only 3 years old) never worked quite right. It would skip songs or entire CDs for no apparent reason. Sometimes it wouldn't even read a CD. It was pretty much just a minor annoyance, then it got worse...after the warranty expired.
A couple nights ago, it died completely. Dad opened it up and found the wires warped and discolored from heat as well as a hot smell to it.

I haven't gotten a new video games in nearly a year. So, what happened when I recently got one?
If you guessed "the Playstation 2 died before I ever got to play the game", give yourself a gold star.

I love electronics...when they, y'know, work. Is nothing made to last anymore? This stuff costs so much to repair, you might as well just replace it. If you can afford it. Which I can't.

I can't believe it's Halloween already. Where did the rest of the year go? This is the first year I haven't dressed up in at least a thrown together costume. We'll be carving pumpkins in a bit here and handing out candy later, though I doubt we'll get many trick or treaters with the chilly and rainy weather.
After that? Veronica Mars, Boston Legal, and tonight's live episode of Ghost Hunters. Low key, but works for me.
I'll probably watch Silent Hill tonight too, gotta have a scary movie. Reviews seem mixed on the movie, but I'm a fan.

Maybe I'll put up some pictures from Halloweens gone by a little later.

Have a fun and safe one!

Sunday, October 29, 2006


I haven't posted an entry in a few days. I wish I could offer a good excuse, but the only one I have is that I've been excessively bored.

It's been cold, windy, rainy, and snowy these last few days. Add to that that there's really nowhere to go around here that really interests me and I'm sure you'll get the picture that I'm already going a bit stir crazy. And it's not even November yet.

As I've said, I don't like the cold months all that much, but I am looking forward to November for two specific reasons:
  1. The concert trip up to St Catharines
  2. The end of the increasingly annoying political ads on TV
I'm still keeping myself really busy writing. I've written the next installment of Ask the Reading Monkey, I finished a poem for a friend, and I'm working out some ideas for possible film projects.

Along with all that, I'm also re-working my script. I was given some brilliant and very helpful advice from Rachel, who voiced Batgirl in Batman's Gonna Get Shot in the Face.
I took a few days off between drafts (as Larry advised) and like magic, I felt the creative spark. A tweak here, a minor change there, and I can already see some drastic improvements. It's always nice to have friends who know their stuff. Thanks, guys.

In the spirit of Halloween, I'll leave you with something kinda scary. Check out this creepy (and seemingly pointless) commercial for the upcoming Playstation 3.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Script Update

Weighing in at 95 pages long, this draft of the script is finished! I'm extremely pleased with it, but of course, it still needs some fine tuning.

I was a bit nervous sending it to Larry for feedback, but to my surprise, he really liked it. Larry's not one to hide it if he doesn't like a movie, so this was a big confidence boost for me.

Not quite sure what the next step is, but I'm excited.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Out With the Cold, In With the Cold

After about a week, my cold is finally gone. I still have the occasional cough, but it's done for the most part, thankfully.

I can't believe it, we got the first snow of the year today. Granted, it didn't stick and only lasted for a couple minutes, but it snowed. It was 70 degrees just a couple days ago.

The current draft of my script is just a couple pages away from completion. It'll still need some tweaking and polishing, but progress is progress.

I've been trying to write steadily, but keep getting distracted by my recently purchased box set of Scrubs: Season 4 and my resurrected addiction to Snood. Curse those freaky little faces and the joy of firing them from their cannon!

Back to work. Focus, Jacob. Focus.

Monday, October 02, 2006

My Achin' Head

I've got a cold. A nasty, all encompassing, annoying cold.

My sinuses are working like there's no tomorrow, my nose hurts, I feel the start of a tickle cough coming on, and my head just aches.

I woke up at 8 AM today. I think it's been about a year and a half since I've gotten up that early. It's a result of me falling asleep early last night, which was a result of not being able to sleep at all Saturday night.
I normally stay up all night working on my various projects and head to bed around 6 AM.

I'm all messed up.

I've realized one thing today: daytime TV blows. I've never gotten into The Price is Right, the kiddy shows on PBS are kind of terrifying, and they've changed Family Feud. John O'Hurley is the host now? Peterman?
I can't keep up.

Okay, I better get back to my orange juice.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

The Time of the Season

I don't like the Fall. Sure, the leaves and the big billowy clouds are beautiful, but then there's also the days getting shorter, the air getting colder, and the overall dreary look of it, which leads to the complete lack of desire to leave the house.

On the bright side, it's also the start of the new TV season.

In the new show category, I'm already a fan of Heroes, but I'm really loving Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. It's just brilliant, I'm hooked.

Last Thursday was great with My Name is Earl, The Office, Grey's Anatomy, and ER all premiering, but tonight, my Superman sweet tooth gets its fill with the premier of Smallville.

And then next week is the season premier of my most recent TV show obsession, Veronica Mars. Jenny got me hooked over the summer. I got the first disc of season 1 from Netflix and I wasn't quite sure what to think. It had some really cool elements and it was really unique, but something left me feeling iffy. Maybe it was Paris Hilton guest starring in the second episode.
By the end of disc 2, I was completely hooked and itching to see the resolution of the Lily Kane murder mystery. The investigation spanned the entire season and somehow managed to never get old or tiresome, plus, after you've suspected everyone of being the killer, the big reveal at the end actually delivered.
I got Mom hooked and when the season 2 DVD set came out, we watched the whole thing in just 3 or 4 days.
The show is just excellent. Great cast, great characters, and fantastic writing.
So now we're eagerly awaiting the start of season 3 on Tuesday.

Okay, it looks like this Fall should be alright.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Shiny and New

My MacBook rules. Flat out. Without a doubt. No ifs, ands, or buts.

I'm finally able to play The Sims 2 and I'm addicted. I'm a police officer on the vice squad, I married Andrea Corr, and we have a son named Fernando.

He looks nothing like me. Scandal!

I've also been having lots of fun with the built in iSight and a program called Photo Booth. It lets you take snapshots and warp them in various ways in real time. I now have a bunch of creepy pictures of myself.

I've got my iTunes library all set up and organized, including cover art for the cool new jukebox-like feature. It's not really important, but man, it looks slick.

So, I've set up shop on my new computer, now it's time to get to work again. If only the writing bug would bite me.

That wasn't meant to sound mean, I have no animosity toward the writing bug. You know what I meant.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

100th Entry!

This, lads and lasses, is the 100th entry of this blog!
To mark this special occasion, I'm unveiling my new toy. Watch the video below and guess how excited I am.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Losers and Monkeys and Bats. Oh My.

After one week on iFilm, the films are doing pretty well. The Losers Have a Junkyard has chalked up 18,471 views so far at the moment I'm typing this, while Batman's Gonna Get Shot in the Face has been viewed 8,833 times and is currently the #1 most viewed animation in the past 7 days. A cool little bonus is that still hanging in at #3 is Nintendo: OldSchool Revolution, which is currently up to a total of 411,171 views. Thanks to everyone who's been watching!

I think Revolution spoiled me. In its first week online, it racked up over 200,000 views. I've been finding myself disappointed with Batman's numbers, thinking "Okay...only 8,000? What's the problem here?" Then I remind myself that a year ago I would have freaked at the thought of eight hundred people seeing my work would have freaked me out. No matter what the numbers, I'm extremely proud of Batman.

Another cool note, Batman and Losers are both officially listed on the Internet Movie Database! You can view the pages here and here.

I'm still plugging away at that script of mine. It's taking longer than I'd have liked, but I'd rather take a bit longer and get it right as opposed to rushing it at the cost of quality. Wow, with all this talk, this thing better not suck.

I watched Sin City again tonight and it's got me feeling the creative flow, not only because it's an awesome movie that was amazingly executed, but because, cheesy as it might sound, Robert Rodriguez inspires me.
I mean, the guy started out by basically being a guinea pig at a drug testing facility to make enough money to shoot his first feature. He worked his way up to where he is now because he loves doing what he does.
He's such a hands-on filmmaker, doing everything he can do himself to keep the films as close to his vision as possible. That's how I want to do things. It'd be torture for me to film a whole movie and then just pass it off to somebody else to edit.
His movies just get me pumped to make movies. Can you tell?

I'll end this post with something I have recently finished, the second installment of Ask the Reading Monkey! Enjoy!

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Lappy's On Life Support

My laptop's been acting funny for about a week and a half. It was making a strange grinding sound and running really slowly. On Monday night, she gave out and wouldn't start up again.

Seeing if anything could be done, I headed out to the Apple Store yesterday. In a nice change from the norm, I got helped way before my scheduled appointment.
When I mentioned the grinding sound, I couldn't hold back the laughter when the guy actually whipped out and used a stethoscope to listen.

Long story short, my hard drive is shot and I'm now running my system from an external drive. After four long, good years, my lappy's on crutches.

In more cheerful news, Batman's doing great at iFilm! They featured it on their main page today and it's currently been viewed 3,500 times!
Losers is cleaning up too! After being featured yesterday, it's up to 12,300 views!

Keep spreading the word!

Monday, September 11, 2006

Film News

Okay, for anyone who had trouble with the films before, the wait is over. has been revamped and the video issues have been resolved. So go check it out!


As of a few hours ago, Batman's Gonna Get Shot in the Face and The Losers Have a Junkyard are online at iFilm!

To see Batman, click here:
To see Losers, click here:

Enjoy and spread the word!

Niagara Falls 2006: Day IV

Nursing an achy stomach, I somehow managed to wake up on time for checkout on Thursday morning. The mist was still thick like the night before.

We debated doing more around the Falls after checking out, but with both of us slightly under the weather, we agreed to just hit the road. While waiting for the bellman to come help with our luggage, we took a few last pictures from our room.

Buckled in and loaded up, we started the ride home. A few people had told us that you get money back at the duty free shop if you give them a receipt for at least $50 worth of non-consumable items, so we made it a point to stop on the way.

In a brief moment of confusion, we turned off of the freeway one exit too soon and ended up at the Ontario Welcome Centre.

Apparently we weren't the first ones that day as they quickly drew a simple map with directions to get us back on track. Minutes later, we were at the duty free shop.

We took a little time to shop around, grabbed a bite to eat, converted my casino winnings to US dollars and left a little later with my refund and some souvenirs.

I also bumped into an old co-worker of mine.

Mario & Me

After crossing the Peace Bridge back into the States, the rest of the ride was scenic and uneventful. Unevenftul for the most part, anyway. In an unexpected recreation of another event from last year, I killed a bug. With my face. Involuntarily. I guess that's the risk you run by traveling with an open window.

Again, thanks to some good music, the ride flew by and we were back home a little after 5 PM. Before long, we had gone through the pictures and I was back on my laptop, trying to figure out how to fix her up. In a way, it felt like we never left.

It was a great birthday week and a great little getaway. I needed it.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Niagara Falls 2006: Day III

The first order of the day was to shop. I've been a huge fan of Chantal Kreviazuk for at least ten years now, and her newest CD, Ghost Stories, was released in Canada last week. If I had ordered it online, it would have arrived at the house while I was away, so I just decided to buy it while I was up there.
After a bit of research, I found out about the Pen Centre, the fourth largest mall in Canada. Sounded like a plan.

So, after waking up from a (slightly) better night's sleep, we hit the road for the Pen Centre in St. Catharines. We weren't on the road long when I completely cracked up. What could possibly crack me up on the road like that? A Canadian biker.
Now, there's nothing immediately that funny about a Canadian biker, the funny part was his choice of music. Picture, if you will, a big, gruff looking older man with a grizzly beard riding a heavy duty, mean looking motorcycle. What would you expect to hear blasting out of his speakers? Probably something like Born to Be Wild, right?
Guess again.
A fit of laughter overtook me when I recognized the music to be (Everything I Do) I Do It For You by Canada's own Bryan Adams.
At full blast.
I'm not knocking the song or Bryan Adams by any means, but in that setting it was absolutely hilarious.

About twenty minutes later, we arrived at the Pen Centre.

After seeing this place, I can really see how far downhill our mall here has gone over the years. It's big, nice looking, tons of stores that are actually open, etc. Even the food court was impressive. They actually have sinks and microwaves if you needed them. It may not sound like a big thing, but it was a nice little touch of convenience.

It was strange not recognizing so many of the store names as we roamed the mall. I was pretty amused by the name of one store in particular...

They also had a giant chess board on the floor, complete with huge, movable pieces. It was kind of like that scene in Harry Potter, but less violent and with senior citizens instead of magical British children.

I eventually found my way to HMV and grabbed my copy of Ghost Stories. I also treated myself to Trailer Park Boys: The Complete Fourth Season on DVD. Mmm...Canadian goodness.

On my way out of the store, I stopped and posed for a quick picture with a poster of Chantal.

Before heading back to the hotel, we took a slight detour and drove by the Centre for the Arts at Brock University in St. Catharines, where, to my extreme excitement, I'll be seeing Chantal Kreviazuk and Raine Maida perform in November.

Back at the hotel, the sun and clouds decided to give us yet another beautiful photo opportunity.

Even more great shots presented themselves as we journeyed to the Skylon Tower.

The Skylon was cool again this year, though it was already getting dark out, so the pictures didn't come out very well through the windows. We tried to find a wheelchair-friendly way to leave that would aim us toward Planet Hollywood, but that turned into a twenty minute headache full of running around, broken elevators, and badly lit sidewalks.

We eventually got onto the right path, though I underestimated how long the walk actually was. It was long and dark and the night air was chilly. Mom even temporarily ditched her shoes at one point to ease her feet. Just after passing Clifton Hill, they started to shoot off fireworks over the Falls, so we paused to watch.

After a run in with a kiss, we continued on our way.

I'd been wanting to check out Planet Hollywood for a while, so I was relieved when we reached the end of our long walk.

Once inside, I took a quick picture with the Terminator, but that was just about it. I wasn't really into anything on the menu and the tables were too tightly packed to walk around and look at all the stuff, so our visit was relatively short.

We wanted to avoid having to go up the big hills on the way back to the hotel, so I lead the way toward the main road. At least that was my intent. About a half hour later, it was clear I had gotten us lost. Sort of. We could see where we wanted to be, but had no idea how to get there or where we were. Passing tattoo parlors, small foreign food restaurants, liquor stores, and the serial killer museum, we eventually found ourselves on a familiar street. A few blocks later, we were back by the hotel.

Cold, hungry, and tired from our several miles of walking, we went to Fridays, it's become a tradition for the last night in Niagara Falls. We split some chicken and I tackled an Ultimate Long Island Iced Tea.

Back in the room, I took a last nighttime look at the Falls. It was something I hadn't seen before, the mist was so thick, it would occasionally entirely block out the American side of the Falls. Impressive, to say the least.

Knowing I had to be up early for checkout, I headed to bed after another busy day.

Niagara Falls 2006: Day II

After an oddly restless night's sleep, I woke up around 11:30, which, if you know me, is actually really early. I took some time to wake up, enjoy the view from the room, and call home while Mom got herself ready.

First up for the day was Marineland. It was another overcast day, which was actually pretty nice, since I got sunburn the last two times we went there. The park itself seemed strange though, there was hardly anyone there and we only saw one concession stand in the whole place that was actually open. I'm not complaining though, it's always nice not having to battle a crowd.

We got right up to the killer whale viewing area in Friendship Cove, which was nice. They were constantly moving around this time as the mother nursed the baby. It was really amazing to watch.

Since it was pretty cool last year, we tried to check out the deer park area, but decided against it when the deer seemed to be somewhat overly social. There were a handful of them right up at the gate when we got there, if we tried to get in, they would have gotten out.

I've never imagined a deer growling before, but I'm pretty sure I heard one doing that to some guy inside the enclosure. We even saw a couple of them knock over an empty baby carriage by the gate. So, we decided to go somewhere a bit more tame. The bear pit.

We watched them horse around a bit and wait for people to throw food in, but the smell of bear gets old really fast, so we didn't hang around too long.

Next was the beluga area, Arctic Cove. I'm always surprised at the number of them in there, always clamoring for food.

A really cool sight, much like at Friendship Cove was a mother nursing her baby. Yes folks, I saw Baby Beluga in person.

While eating lunch, it became apparent to us who was actually in charge of the park. The seagulls.

Wherever you look, where you would expect to see park employees, you'd instead see seagulls patrolling the area. Remember the Goodfeathers on Animaniacs? It was like that, but with seagulls instead of pigeons and in much greater numbers. I never noticed how cocky the walk of a seagull is. Never trust a seagull.

As if that's not enough avian fun, we had a strange sparrow encounter as well. As we picked at our fries, we heard a slight "thud." A sparrow flew right into the window. From the inside. He wasn't hurt as he was going relatively slow. The bird hovered down to a chair to take a breather, moved down to the next window pane, and once again, "thud." This went on, pane after pane. A blind Canadian sparrow with OCD. Probably a spy for the seagulls.

We headed back to the hotel for a few minutes to gather ourselves and the sun finally broke free from the clouds in an impressive way.

By some strange coincidence, Maria and her boyfriend, Steve, were visiting the Falls at the same time we were, so we made plans to meet at Tony Roma's for drinks.
I noticed how good the music they were playing was and thought back to hearing a Corrs song played in there last year, a rarity around these parts. I casually said to Mom "I'll freak if they play Chantal this time." To my surprise, mere seconds later, I heard the opening notes of Chantal's latest single, All I Can Do. As promised, I freaked. Well, it wasn't so much of a freak out as it was a stare that said "Holy crap."
*Sidenote- To my amusement, the Moby waiter was there again!
A few minutes later, Maria and Steve showed up. It was a nice couple hours of drinking and catching up.

Hoping to ride my luck from the previous night, I headed back to the casino. I sensed the vibe wasn't there after a few minutes and stopped before the fun was taken out of the experience.

Despite the fact that it was dark and cold out, Mom and I wandered down to check out the Falls and take some pictures. Again, the area was pretty empty, so the walk was nice and leisurely. We got some pretty cool shots thanks to the lights they use to light the Falls. Also, the camera's flash combined with the nighttime mist produced a really funky orb-like effect, see for yourself.

Chilly, damp, and tired, we returned to the room. I played with the laptop a little to see if it had sorted itself out and to get some driving directions for the next day. I got the directions, but lappy was still cranky. Adding "frustrated" to my list, I rolled over in hopes of a better sleep than the night before.