~ The Checkerboard Guy's Blog ~

Archive for March, 2010

Mall Gigs

Where in the world am I today?: Winnipeg, MB, Canada

Though it’s not a market I proactively seek out, working at shopping malls can be a goldmine of opportunity. I was reminded of this again while in Winnipeg as I got to do a couple of days at the Portage Place Shopping Centre here in Winnipeg. In this instance, the performances were set up in association with the Winnipeg International Children’s Festival as a sort of extension to the C.A.M.P. program and all of the leg work had been taken care of before I even showed up for the gig. This was fantastic! I was one step removed from dealing with the mall authority on this one because I answered to the production company who was handling all of the details, not the mall itself.

I have done gigs in the past where I worked directly for the mall authority of what ever shopping complex I happened to be working at. In fact, in one instance, I had a great client in a huge shopping complex called Canal City in Fukuoka, Japan that ended up being one of my best clients through the mid t0 late 1990s. Now this was a bit of an exception to the rule as the performance space at this particular mall was a treat to perform in and this ‘mall’ looked at entertainment and their entertainment program in a way that I’d never encountered before. They ‘got it’ in terms of realizing that a good performance program would help make their complex and entertainment destination as well as a great shopping experience.

I’m sure Canal City isn’t the only shopping mall in the world that ‘Gets It,’ but I’ve encountered far more malls where you’re asked to perform in an environment which is less than idea in terms of it’s focus.

My experience at Portage Place Mall actually ended up being better than many others I’ve experienced in the past, but it did come with it’s share of challenges. In the picture that accompanies this post (photo by: Leif Norman) you can see that there are a bunch of people leaning against a fence like barricade and there are a bunch of people sitting on the floor in front of this barricade. On Friday when I performed in the space I worked on the stage that was set a long way back in the space. Because people naturally wanted to gather behind the fence, it was a big challenge to get them to come into the courtyard and fill in the space closer to the stage. Because the audience was behind a barricade, this had both a physical as well as psychological effect on how much the crowd seemed willing to commit to the show. I did my best given the scenario, but made some tweaks for my show on Saturday.

  1. I moved off the stage and moved closer to the barricade so I could more successfully engage the audience.
  2. I opted for the non-verbal version of my show that I usually do when I perform in the Piazza on Princess Ships. For some reason this non-verbal version of my show seems to work better in this sort of situation because it forces me to be more physical in my actions and play a big space with broader strokes.

These tweaks had an enormous effect on the show which felt much stronger than it had the day before. The fact that it was a weekend may also have contributed to larger crowds in the mall which no doubt helped as well.

A couple of other things to keep in mind when working with shopping centres.

Insurance – The mall will likely ask you to carry some sort of third part liability insurance. If you don’t have any already, get it. It’s a good idea in this litigious society.

Material – Because of the diverse cliental that form the customer base for most shopping complexes, the people who organize special events are very sensitive to complaints. When ever possible make sure you’re material plays well to kids, teenagers, adults and grandparents. Keep it clean, keep it family appropriate.

Audiences – Sometimes they’re big, sometimes their small, but every time you go out make the effort to give those people who are watching the best show you possibly can. Not only will the audience appreciate it, but the mall manager will recognize the extra effort which could mean repeat bookings.

Mixing art with commerce is at times a tenuous mix at best, but if you can successfully mix your performance into the shopping mall environment it could mean a very lucrative merger.

Bring the right Cables…

Where in the world am I today?: Winnipeg, MB, Canada

It might be as a result of the training I received as a Street Performer dealing with my own sound, it might be because I’m generally a bit anal about trying to make everything look and sound it’s best, not exactly sure, but I was reminded again of the importance of traveling with the correct cables the other day… I showed up to perform at Portage Place Mall on Friday and I was splitting the bill with a local magician. He came all prepared to plug in his MP3 Tech into the sound board that the client had provided, but the cable he brought wasn’t quite the right one for the job.

Thankfully I had the cable he needed or at least one that got things working and we were able to get his music plugged into the board and working fairly painlessly. It was one of those scenarios where a fairly small part of the equation was missing and could have created a significantly larger hiccup had I not been able to have a quick fix on hand.

I’ve encountered a number of instances when a client said that a sound system would be provided and I didn’t need to worry about a thing, yet when I showed up I was very happy that I had brought my regular gear on the off chance that something wasn’t as is should be. Especially when working with a new client or when you haven’t had a chance to check things out in person it’s always a good idea to show up with a few extra bits that might be needed. It’s always better to have something and not need it as opposed to not having something and needing it.

The one cable I never leave home with out is the mini plug stereo to quarter inch mono plug that I use to plug in an iPod to a soundboard. You can also have stereo mini jack to stereo RCA plugs or perhaps stereo mini jack to dual mono quarter inch to achieve the ‘stereo’ effect, but rarely am I in a situation where stereo sound is key to the equation. I find almost always that the stereo mini to mono quarter inch gets the job done. Now, I should mention that the cable I use is really a male stereo mini jack to mail stereo mini jack to which I attach a stereo mini to mono quarter inch adaptor. this simple solution has worked well for me for years and is something that any performer who uses an iPod should just have.

Actually if you visit the site (www.audiogear.com) that I used to demonstrate most of the above mentioned cables I was talking about you may even come up with some more solutions…

Don’t have one? Get one. Even if you have a fancier set up than an iPod running your music, having your tunes on your iPod and having one of these cables as a back up alternative could save your bacon one day.

Play nice with Photographers

Photo by: Leif Norman

Where in the world am I today?: Winnipeg, MB, Canada

I’m back in Winnipeg for another great run at the Circus And Magic Partnership and will be teaching unicycle for the next week, but have also been plugged into a couple of performance programs around town, so along with the teaching I’m also doing some performing. Everything is being organized in association with the Winnipeg International Children’s Festival and the people associated with the Festival are smart enough to know how important it is to have good photos from the various events that are being produced, so while I was doing shows at Portage Place Mall and again when I was performing at The Forks Marketplace I ran into Leif Norman who had been hired to shoot a little big of everything over the course of the week.

Now I’ve run into Leif at events produced by the Winnipeg International Children’s Festival in the past so I recognized him right away and made sure to touch base and chat a bit prior to the beginning of my shows. I like photography myself anyway, so I always find it interesting to chat with photographers, but the benefits of being friendly and nice to the pros who are capturing my show in stills has always been something I aim for anyway.

That tired cliché that a ‘Picture is worth a thousand Words‘ is not only true, but having great photos can help ensure that you land gigs in the first place, can make the media department at an event thrilled to work with you, can help generate excitement about your performance before you even turn up for the gig, can, in short benefit you in so many ways that if you don’t recognize their importance you can seriously limit your options professionally.

A lot of the time photographers are really protective about their work and the images that they create, and you need to respect this, because although the image may be of you, it was their skill behind the lens and shutter that captured the key moment that may help launch or further your career. I remember watching an Annie Leibovitz documentary in which Whoopie Goldberg said that one image that Annie had shot had more of an impact on her career than she could have possibly imaged. The value in this may be hard to recognize initially, but the value to you over time is huge and treating photographers with professional respect only makes sense.

So… Leif shows up at Portage Place Mall on Saturday and we have a great chat before my show and catch up a bit. During the course of my show I’m certainly aware of his presence and occasionally play to him a bit, but my main focus is on delivering a great show to the audience who’ve gathered. We chat after the show a bit and he mentions that he’ll be throwing some images up on Facebook… He’s being paid by the Children’s Festival, the Festival is using these images to promote the events that they’re doing, so getting the images up on Facebook benefits all concerned. A day later I check out the images on-line, see the image that’s attached to this post, drop Leif a line and ask for permission to use it with this blog post, he says go for it, and Boom it’s up.

In this sort of application this casual approach to the use of the image seemed cool to all concerned, but were I to end up using one of the images that Leif took for additional promotional purposes, I’d make sure to check in with him again to make sure he was cool with it. It doesn’t take much to extend professional courtesy to people who capture great images of me, but it never seems to be unappreciated or unnoticed. Make the effort.

“Number Two Lane in My Number Two Car”

After the last piece by Zimmy Page which was a bit dark I got the following piece which is a lovely response to as he put it “The horror, the horror of the last one.” He wanted to get it up quick to as he put it “Replace the Stink of the last ink,” so here you go! More from the comedic mind of the Zimster!

September 2004. I pull up in the number two lane in my number two car to the red light at La Brea and Sunset.

I have no radio; I have a burgled Tercel…I have my thoughts as usual, and I have too many as usual. How can I afford to pay for my dental surgery? I have to remember to buy cigarettes before Debra Jo yells at me again…More thoughts intrude…Then I hit upon a really good one! I don’t remember what was so damn funny, but as I looked to my left up Sunset, I started laughing really hard. Alone, in a car in broad daylight…in a car without a radio, in hysterics! I looked forward through the windshield to be sure I hadn’t missed my cue…nope, red…permission to continue laughing at nothing granted…so I do! Now I glance right to the number one lane…at a number one car. The Very Very Rich Guy is staring at me, smiling.

Sitting in his bright red Benz convertible, he’s smiling in just szuch a way, I know he not only approves, he…he actually…

I lean in closer to my very open passenger side window. (I couldn’t afford any fucking air conditioning either…)

“Jealous, huh?”

He’s just so rich and his sports car is just so vanity-plated…he’s obviously smart. He’s just beaming as he says –


Winnie the Pooh – Quoted

Where in the world am I today?: Winnipeg, MB, Canada

You can’t stay in your corner of the Forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes.

Winnie the Pooh Fictional Bear Created by A.A. Milne (1926 – )


“Success in relationships often means not just meeting in the middle, but going beyond that point. Make a little extra effort, and you’ll be amazed at the results”

–David ‘checkerhead’ Aiken

Seeing as I’m in Winnipeg at the moment I wanted to have a quote up by Pooh Bear because the inspiration for the name Winnie came from Winnipeg. I pulled the following directly off of Wikipedia

A.A. Milne named the character Winnie-the-Pooh after a teddy bear owned by his son, Christopher Robin Milne, who was the basis for the character Christopher Robin. Christopher Milne had named his toy bear after Winnie, an American black bear which he often saw at London Zoo. The bear cub was purchased from a hunter for $20 by Canadian Lieutenant Harry Colebourn in White River, Ontario, Canada, while en route to England during the First World War. He named the bear “Winnie” after his hometown in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Beyond just wanting a quote that was somehow tied to Winnipeg, I thought this one was particularly appropriate for my time in Winnipeg because the crew that gather’s for C.A.M.P. all make an extra effort to connect with the ‘Youth at Risk’ we’re here to teach. It’s a great program and one I’ve been proud to have been a part of every year since it started back in 1997.

Luis Brusca • Interviews from the Inside

Where in the world am I today?: Winnipeg, MB, Canada

Prologue: At first I really wasn’t sure what to make of Luis Brusca… We met at in Japan in 1998 and at first he seemed a bit distant. In retrospect he was probably just suffering a bit from JetLag… We were both engaged to work the Obon Holiday in Japan at the Kuashiki, Tivoli Park which is a Japanese replica of the famous Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen, Denmark. For about two weeks we did our own shows during the day and hooked up in the evening for a group show which also included famous juggling duo ‘Clockwork‘ and solo juggler Tony Duncan. I was much more interested in the dynamic character that Luis created than the work of any of the jugglers who were involved in the programming, and we ended up becoming great friends. I think the fondest memory I have of our time together during that contract was when Luis decided that he was going to introduce my wife Emiko and I to a hole in the wall restaurant that served great chicken wings… He had stumbled across it on his way back to the hotel one night and was convinced that these were the best chicken wings in all of Kurashiki. I’m not sure if they were or not, but his passion for discovery and exploration really struck a chord and although we haven’t crossed paths since I count him as one of my dearest friends.


Name: Luis Brusca
Birthday: May 5, 1964
Place of Birth: Arata, La Pampa, Argentina
Started Peforming/Working in the Industry: 1986
Discipline: Comedy, Clown, Pantomime, Street Theatre
Websites: www.locobrusca.com
Video Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uOC3cdhDj50
Venues Worked: it’s a long list, jajajaj, check my web, history

Hot 10 Questions:

  1. What’s your favorite flavor of ice cream and why? • Dulce de leche con almendras– cream caramel whith almonds, mmmmmmmmmmm, that flavor, unique in argentina, moves my sences and my mouth became like the Iguazù falls, full of water.
  2. Name one movie that would make it to your Top 10 all-time great films. • Masacre. Come and see.
  3. What was your favorite toy from childhood? • Here in my home town not so many nice toys, we play a lot in the nature.
  4. Who were your biggest inspirations when you got started? • Django Edwards.
  5. From the world of animation what one character do you most identify with or see yourself in?The coyote.
  6. Name something that scares you.Bureaucracy.
  7. Apart from the entertainment industry, name one other job you’ve had. • Selling kitchenware, pans and casseroles dishes.
  8. What’s something you haven’t done yet that you’d like to try? • Fly a delta-wing or paragliding.
  9. What’s your least favourite thing about being a performer? • Making calls for find gigs.
  10. If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? • “Excuse me, I didn’t want to make so difficult for you, it was a joke, jajajajaja,……” After that I’d kill him – jajajajaja…

The Nugget:

Pick one nugget of wisdom you’ve picked up from your career in Show Business to share with the World.

“A couple of years ago, a budist master Daisaku Ikeda say for me: play for the audience as you are playing for the universe, with all your energy. “

–Luis Brusca

I’m Holding Out for a Hero…

Where in the world am I today?: North Vancouver, BC, Canada then on to Winnipeg, MB, Canada

In 1984, Bonnie Tyler released “Holding out for a Hero” as part of the Footloose Soundtrack… The Chorus is awesome!

I need a hero

I’m holding out for a hero ’til the end of the night

He’s gotta be strong

And he’s gotta be fast

And he’s gotta be fresh from the fight

I need a hero

I’m holding out for a hero ’til the morning light

He’s gotta be sure

And it’s gotta be soon

And he’s gotta be larger than life

Somehow I was reminded of these words when I received a link from a friend of mine yesterday. This is all she sent –

Have your digital photo or webcam at the ready, then go here and do what it says!


So I went and played along… It’s a really elegant implementation of a pretty great idea and if you’ve got a few minutes to turn yourself into a Hero then I highly recommend swinging by for the fun.


Where in the world am I today?: North Vancouver, BC, Canada

I’m a bit anal at times… This can get annoying to others… Heck it even gets annoying to me at times, but I derive a certain level of comfort from having things organized and in place. Just the way I’m wired I guess…

I’m off to Winnipeg tomorrow for the 14th annual Circus And Magic Partnership (C.A.M.P.) program and to do shows as part of the Downtown Clown Around Program and the Festival of Fools at the Forks. So… Fly to Winnipeg, spend a little over a week in town and be a part of three different gigs – sort of. All three gigs are set up by the same guy, but service three different clients, so it’s like having an agent in your back pocket working on your behalf which is awesome!

Some gigs allow for this sort of freedom… Perform during the day at one venue, dash across town in the evening to perform at another. If you can find these opportunities, you can effectively double your income with multiple bookings in the same location. This technique is often used with booking school shows. I know many performers who have come out to Vancouver for Artscan and have ended up booking tours where they do two or three school shows a day and jam as many as possible into the space of a week or two. This is awesome because when an artist flies in to do a school show tour they get as many shows in as possible in a fairly short period of time, what’s even better, Art Starts in Schools helps set these tours up much like the giggage that’s been set up for me in Winnipeg over the course of the coming week.

Some gigs do have a very specific exclusivity clause in them though.

“Performer agrees not to perform for a competing event with in a two hundred kilometre radius for a period of two weeks on either side of the date of the booking”

Or something to that effect.

The purpose of exclusivity clauses like these is to ensure that a particular event gets to keep you all to themselves. This can be a good thing for the event if you’ve got a particular draw for a specific demographic…

Anyway… I sort of strayed from my original thought and the title of this post – ‘checklists.’

I’m a big fan of having either a written or mental check list that I go over as I’m packing up for a gig and this time around is no exception… I’ve got several things sitting on my desk at the moment that I need to take with me as they’re either gifts for friends I’ll be working with in Winnipeg or for friends I’m looking forward to hooking up with who happen to live in Winnipeg. Other things on my check-list (and I had this on my list for my recent trip to Yellowknife as well) check the weather in Winnipeg to see what the appropriate winter clothing is going to be… (Apparently I’ve got a spread of -14˚C to + 14˚C to look forward to on this up coming trip based on a quick check of the weather in Winnipeg).

It’s always better to arrive reasonably on top of things which is why I’m a big fan of the check list as I’m packing. Arriving prepared is best, but unless you’re in the middle of nowhere and need something incredibly specific chances are you’ll be able to pick up anything left behind at your destination. Arrive ready to go when possible, but don’t sweat the small stuff if you forget something like your toothpaste… They have toothpaste in Winnipeg too…

When software acts funny…

Where in the world am I today?: North Vancouver, BC, Canada

I had one of those days today noodling with Photoshop and not having it be very happy with me… Actually ever since I upgraded to Snow Leopard back in September I’ve been having issues… Everything seems to be functioning just fine, then boom, mid-task I’d run into menus being greyed out and unaccessible…

The quick fix was to force quit the program and then restart it, but after six plus months this was getting really old, so today I decided it was time to get to the bottom of the problem… I’m not sure I’m entirely there, but I think I may have figured it out.

The following is a bit geeky and really only relates to those out there using a Mac, so if you’re a Window’s Fan, sorry, this isn’t for you… My blog, my rules and this was a big chunk of today for me so I wanted to get it out there in case anyone else out there has run up against any issues like the ones I described above…

#1 – I trashed the preference files for Photoshop so that they regenerated themselves from scratch. This way, if anything in the preference files were corrupted those issues would be thrown out the window. To do this, I first quit Photoshop then I followed the following path: Hard Drive -> Users-> My User Account -> Library -> Preferences. Once inside the preference folder I trashed the Adobe Photoshop CS4 Settings Folder. Once I restarted Photoshop I was presented with the default settings and needed to rebuild a few of the actions that I had in the Actions Pallet from scratch. I could have avoided having to rebuild them had I exported the actions before trashing the preference file, but rebuilding the very few actions I had didn’t really take all that long and ensured that I was wiping the slate clean.

#2 – I realized turned off Rosetta compatibility. The only reason for me to have Rosetta active is because I have an old scanner and it’s import plug-in only works under Rosetta. To turn Rosetta functionality on and off, I navigated to the Photoshop Application Icon: Hard Drive -> Applications -> Adobe CS4 Folder -> Adobe Photoshop CS4. Highlight the icon then go to the File Menu and “Get Info.” In the window that pops up there’s a check box for “Open using Rosetta.” I had this checked because I like being able to access my scanner, but decided to turn it off.

With any luck these two tweaks will bring my Photoshop wows to an end… And I’ll be able to get back to the tasks I use the software for as opposed to the task of getting the software to perform like I want it to… Fingers crossed!

Juggling Balls as Promo

Where in the world am I today?: North Vancouver, BC, Canada

I’m well aware of the fact that I’m not the greatest technical juggler the world has ever seen. A very long time ago I lost interest in ever trying to become the world’s greatest technical juggler because I realized that my gift was not in what I do but the relationship I’m able to build with my audience. I was reminded of this again when I was up in Yellowknife over the weekend when I was told by one observer who enjoyed the show that it wasn’t necessarily what I did that made the show so engaging, it’s how I made people feel during the show what made it a success. Well thank goodness for that.

Success in business is all about skillful relationship building and building a relationship requires a certain commitment of time. On a number of occasions I’ve used three juggling balls and the time it takes to teach someone to juggle as a part of this equation. In fact, when I order the red and yellow bean bags that I use in my show, I usually order dozen’s of them so I’ve got a good supply that I can give away in the months to come.

Giving someone a piece of swag is one thing, but investing the time to teach them something new, something that is very much related to you (in my case juggling) and then giving the supplies away as part of the exchange will leave a lasting impression. How you make people feel in the process of teaching them this new skill will also have an effect on how well you’re remembered.

My friend, Shawn Farquhar, is a great magician who’s appeared on national TV and performs to standing ovations on cruise ships on a regular basis… He makes a point of carrying a slew of ‘Svengali Decks‘ with him as give aways to his technical crew and to just about anyone else he wants to leave a good impression on. The Svengali Deck is a classic ‘trick deck‘ that with minimal effort allows the user to execute a really powerful magic effect. Shawn loves to give these away because he loves to share his passion for magic, but also provide a trick that people are going to have success with quickly. That way, when the recipient of the deck does the trick for his friends and looks like a hero, Shawn, by association becomes a bigger hero for having provided the trick in the first place.

Juggling balls, Svengali Decks, or what ever… It doesn’t really matter what it is that you use, but if you’re successfully able to pull a ‘bit’ out of your show and put it in the hands of the people you work with or better yet, the people you want to work with, you’ll look like a hero and it’s not a hard equation to figure out who a client is going to hire… The guy who looks like a hero, makes an extra effort and makes people feel good or an unknown who’s only made enough effort to send in a promotional kid. Sometimes growing business relationships requires just a little bit of extra effort.

Sir Arthur Eddington – Quoted

Where in the world am I today?: Yellowknife, NWT, Canada

“We are bits of stellar matter that got cold by accident, bits of a star gone wrong.”

Sir Arthur Eddington, English astronomer (1882 – 1944)


“The stellar matter in Yellowknife seems to have got significantly colder than say the stellar matter in Hawaii.”

–David ‘checkerhead’ Aiken

At -21˚C my show at noon today in a ‘semi-heated’ outdoor tent at Caribou Carnival is likely the lowest temperature I’ve ever performed at. I swear I thought I was going to be doing indoor shows when I took this gig, but in my experience being able to pull off a show when the conditions are a bit challenging endears you that much more to your audience. The muffled sound of glove wrapped hands applauding my silliness today was music to my ears.

Daniel Craig • Interviews from the Inside

Where in the world am I today?: Yellowknife, NWT, Canada

Prologue: Daniel is another of the guys I met through the Winnipeg C.A.M.P. Program… When I asked Daniel about it, this is what he said –

The year was 1999. I was fourteen years old, just having started in street performing and I was doing my first year of instruction at the C.A.M.P., surrounded by amazing acts, performers and people. We met in the teachers lounge of Gordon Bell High School where the C.A.M.P. Program was being instructed – just after the little intro show all the performers do to hopefully inspire the kids to learn some of the skills. I remember you as energetic as you’ve always been introducing yourself to me, checker pants and all, and I was probably scared and/or intimidated out of my mind.

Apparently I have that effect on people… Who knew? Since 1999 it’s been fun watching Dan’s show grow and evolve and a treat to see him win an award at the Kingston Buskers Rendezvous a couple of years ago. He’s come a long way!


Name: Daniel Craig
Birthday: May 8th, 1984.
Place of Birth: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.
Started Peforming/Working in the Industry: At 10 years old, as a walk-by devil sticker. Did my first circle show at 13, and it’s been a wonderful ride ever since.
Websites: www.thedanshow.ca
Video Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X3bmdFEBpJ4
Venues Worked: Almost every busker festival in Canada, Cirque on Ice in Singapore, Singapore Buskers Festival, touring theatre shows across over thirty five of the United States, street in Germany, the United States of America, Thailand… Um… It’s pretty awesome that I have to stop and think about this now!

Hot 10 Questions:

  1. What’s your favorite flavor of ice cream and why? • Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough. Something about the cookie dough always being a consistent viscosity, whilst the ice cream meanders about around it. It’s a testament to solidarity in an ever changing world!
  2. Name one movie that would make it to your Top 10 all-time great films. • I’m a big B-Movie fan, so I don’t often see the Hollywood blockbusters. Give me a camera that can’t record sound, and only do thirty seconds at a time! But as far as recent movies go, I have to say that “Donnie Darko” was a dark and intensely speculative thriller. One of my all time favourites.
  3. What was your favorite toy from childhood? • Lego. I would build huge elaborate castles that combined all the medieval lego sets. I’d still play with it if I knew where it was.
  4. Who were your biggest inspirations when you got started? • My first real inspirations to start performing were a street act called “The Three Canadians.” They actually invited me on stage to help introduce one of their shows and after the two seconds of what-I-knew-as fame, I was hooked to hearing an audience react. Since then, (and no, I’m not just putting this here because it’s your blog) Robin Chestnut, Flyin’ Bob, and you, The Checkerboard Guy, were the first big acts I was exposed to. Robin taught me about juggling and how to make it interesting so you’re not just a guy juggling, you’re an honest and true entertainer. Flyin’ Bob Palmer showed me there is great potential in any idea or any trick with any prop no matter how small or seemingly insignificant. The Checkerboard Guy taught me to leave the pitch or stage in a better state than I found it. These are three big things that I have never forgotten to this day. Recently I have to cite Paul and Joey of the Phantastyks for being so gracious when training with me, and most recently three amazing performers whom I met doing Cirque on Ice, Adam Kuchler (who reminds me of Flying Bob), and Anton and Vladimir Kostenko who remind me that as you get more skilled at your discipline, you should get more and more humble to boot.
  5. From the world of animation what one character do you most identify with or see yourself in? • On rough days, I’m a total Charlie Brown. On good ones, I’m all about the Wolverine.
  6. Name something that scares you. • Getting injured. I have delusions that I’m indestructible, yes, but I wouldn’t know what to do with myself if I was held back by my own body. Aside from that: BUGS. HATE THEM!
  7. Apart from the entertainment industry, name one other job you’ve had. • I’ve only had one other job. I slung drinks as a bartender at a nice Indian restaurant. I miss the chaos of it sometimes, and then I realize I have more than enough chaos to manage day to day anyways!
  8. What’s something you haven’t done yet that you’d like to try? Spanish Web. It just looks like so much fun!
  9. What’s your least favourite thing about being a performer? • I’m sure mine is the same as many others: The promotional and managerial part. I love performing so much and thank god it’s so intoxicating because it makes doing all the busy work worth it. Also, being asked to send promo out and about and then getting no response. Even if you don’t want to book me, please be courteous enough to say so and maybe even tell me what I can do to improve my chances next time!
  10. If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? • “You did the best you could with all the cards you were given and you lived up to a great potential. You affected the lives of your friends, family and audiences in wonderful ways. So… Here’s a guiltless cold one at the end of the road, and c’mon in!”

The Nugget:

Pick one nugget of wisdom you’ve picked up from your career in Show Business to share with the World.

“My experience does not run as deep as many of the others who have posted here, but I believe that in any business, it’s not what you do, it’s who you are. People will remember your achievements but they’ll more so remember the person who achieved them. So – be as good to everyone as you can, accept that mistakes happen and live so that you can honestly say you have no regrets.”

–Daniel Craig

The Moth – Stories Told

Where in the world am I today?: Yellowknife, NWT, Canada

While I was in Seattle last weekend for Moisture Festival, the friend I was staying with, Matt Baker, introduced me to “The Moth – Live Storytelling Performances.” Matt had several of the series on CD so I dumped a few onto my iPhone so I could listen to them in the car on my drive back to Vancouver.

Over the course of the three hours or so that it took to drive back to Vancouver I heard various stories including a couple of great ones that were performed by Thomas Dolby who described how he had met Michael Jackson and another by Joe Jackson who described the moment when it clicked and he decided to become a professional musician. These two really stood out, but all of the stories were great to listen to.

So much media these days seems to bombard you with images and sounds and chaos and confusion, that I found it really refreshing to just sit in my car and listen to various human voices telling stories about events in their lives that had had an impact. There was something quite a bit more human about the stories, the voices and the shared experience of a story that was really great!

I was reminded of a conversation I had with Glenn Singer at one point many years ago. We were discussing his show and how on many levels his show is based around a story that he just loves telling. One of those stories that gets better each time you tell it because it get refined and polished. The intonation in the voice as it’s being told, the pace, the dynamics and expression. Certainly these things are heightened in a live performance situation when you can enjoy the narrator’s physicality as well, but sometimes the telling of a good story is such and auditory experience that it’s better not to be distracted by any visual stimulus because it allows you to craft the image in your mind’s eye and that’s almost always a more vivid playground that what ever reality someone else might create.

Years ago I was on a road trip from Edmonton to Vancouver with Glenn and Amy Rose, and Amy picked up a two cassette tape (yes cassette tapes…this should be an indication of just how long ago this was) story telling package by Garrison Keillor called – The Book of Guys. Garrison Keillor is an amazing story teller and the three hours of tails that the collection contained both amused us and kept us distracted on the very long drive from Edmonton to the coast. There’s something really great about stories on road trips…

Anyway… I quickly devoured the stories that I had downloaded to my phone on the trip back to Vancouver and hopped onto iTunes to download some more from “The Moth’s” podcast. There were six more stories available when I hit iTunes up for my Story fix and I ended up finishing those off on a jaunt on public transit a few days ago… I’ve subscribed to the podcast so that as new stories are posted I’ll download them automatically and feel my hunger for the spoken word.

Sometimes I feel like the world is moving faster and faster and faster all the time, and taking a moment to slowdown and just listen is good for the soul I think. Do yourself a favour, take a moment to slow down and check out ‘The Moth.’

Caribou Carnival – Yellowknife, NWT, Canada

Where in the world am I today?: Flying up to Yellowknife, NWT, Canada

So I get an email out of the blue from an old friend/event producer named Rick Poltaruk a couple of months ago asking me if I’d be interested in coming up to the Northwest Territories (Yellowknife to be exact) to perform as part of the umpteenth annual (there’s some dispute as to how many there have actually been records being a bit suspect and all) Caribou Carnival in lovely downtown Yellowknife and before really giving it too much thought I say –

‘Sure, those dates are open, I’d love to come and play for  you!’

It only really dawned on my yesterday when I was packing and checked the weather forecast for Yellowknife that this might in fact be a very very COLD event to perform at – DOH!

The flight up was uneventful enough. Got to YVR in Vancouver with oodles of time to spare and got some email and stuff caught up while I sat in the Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge pre-flight. The hop from Vancouver to Edmonton was painless… Caught a bit of Drew Barrymore’s directorial debut in the film “Whip It” but the flight wasn’t long enough to watch the whole thing… Might catch the tail end on the way home…

In Edmonton there was enough of a layover that Neale Bacon (a ventriloquist from Burnaby who’s also going to be playing over the weekend) and I ended up parking ourselves at the Tim Horton’s at the airport and yakked away as we waited for the First Air flight up to Yellowknife. Truth is I had a ton of work I could be doing, but it seemed more important to just chill and chat than try to whip out my laptop and get anything done.

The hop up to Yellowknife was a breeze. The service on First Air was great and as we touched down in Yellowknife we were greeted by sparkling fairy dust-like snow that was blowing across the runway and catching the light of the terminal building. My luggage all arrived, I was greeting by Rick at the Airport and whisked off to the Hotel. Got checked in and headed immediately to the Mackenzie Lounge to catch some live music…

Now there’s no doubt in my mind that the temperatures I’m going to experience while I’m here are going to well below the norm in terms of what I’m used to, but with any luck I’ll be able to catch the Northern Lights and have a few great adventures along the way… Amazing to think that a little over a month ago I was performing in India on the other side of the world and tomorrow I’ll be making my performance debut at the Caribou Carnival.

Sometimes taking a gig is about some sort of career advancing opportunity. Sometimes the motivation has something to do with hooking up with friends and having a great hang, sometimes it’s all about the adventure and new experience. I sometimes love to wallow in the fabulousness of the fact that this thing I do for a living has allowed me to life such a diverse and interesting life. I’ve had this conversation with several people recently and the best way that we seem to be able to sum it up is this – I get to live the lifestyle of a millionaire with out the paycheque.

This just in from Holland American Line…

Where in the world am I today?: North Vancouver, BC, Canada

Got the attached screen shot from Bob Cates a couple of days ago with the news that apparently Holland American Cruise Lines has, for some unknown reason blocked access to my blog… Bob writes –

I thought you would find this disconcerting. Holland America Line, for what it’s worth, seams to be blocking your blog. I did manage to get onto your home page (www.checkerhead.com) but when going to the blog, it gave me the following screen. (you can see your url in the image capture). Not sure how on earth one would fix this. Can’t imagine there are many 70 year olds on Holland America trying to access your blog though.

I think Bob was more disconcerted than I am about this which is both flattering and surprising. I wonder if this has anything to do with the weird hack that happened to the blog a couple of weeks back. Someone got in and inserted this weird block of text that appeared before the blog posts. To be honest I hadn’t even noticed it either as the problem wasn’t showing up in Safari for a period of time and it wasn’t until I check out a bug report by my friend Jim that I noticed the problem when I opened the blog using Firefox

As soon as I recognized the problem I talked to my guy at E T Web Hosting and he had it sorted out with in an hour or so… Quick fix and there haven’t been any problems since. I have noticed a huge increase in the amount of Spam Comments that are left on the site for some reason which I also though was semi-flattering in a weird sort of way. If my blog has become popular enough for spammers to try and tap into my readership, well that’s pretty cool in a bizarre sort of way. Mind you the more likely answer to why this is happening is likely some sort of automated robot that’s finding the right combination of software and accessibility and just plastering the site… Might have to go in and have a closer look at the setting actually… Hmmmm… Yes…likely a good idea.

Short story long… If you’re cruising aboard Holland America any time soon and try to access the blog, you may not be able to… Just one of those things in the imperfect world that is the World Wide Web.

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