An Apology, an Update, Fifty Ideas that Could Have Been, and What is Still to Come

September 4, 2015

shrugHello again everyone,

Well, here I stand with metaphorical egg on my face. Back in April I made a rather bold promise to start this blog up again with at least some attempt at regularity, and I contributed an impressive total of three posts to the archives before the site went dark again for four months and more. Strictly speaking I suppose I owe anyone who actually follows this thing an apology, but in the bigger picture I’m guessing the majority of you are doing so because you enjoy my writing, so I’m going to temper my mea culpa with some exciting news: I have probably done more writing in the last five months than in the last five years. You haven’t seen it because it’s the first draft of my third novel, and even in the 21st Century by and large you don’t put lengthy excerpts of your first drafts online when you’re still figuring out what you’re doing with them –Fifty Shades of Grey notwithstanding.

So what am I going to do with this blog moving forward? I don’t know. I haven’t decided yet. The trouble with writing for this thing is it takes me away from my next book(s), and in the grand scheme of things I’m going to be happier writing that than anything I write here. I guess the answer in the short term is this blog is returning to the back burner until I have a bad day with my big project while still feeling like puttering around with some ‘fun’ writing. Anyone who has ever suffered writers’ block is probably chortling at how often that’s ever going to come up.

Anyway, for the sake of demonstrating that I do think about this blog from time to time with some lingering guilt, here are fifty blog post ideas that I’ve kicked around in passing but will likely never get around to actually writing in full. Many of them were flippant, but some were deadly serious. I leave it to you to guess which is which. Have fun with that.

  1. Rob Ford is too sick to run for mayor of Toronto and lose, but he’s well enough to run for his old ward where he’s guaranteed to win. Where’s my pitchfork and torch?
  2. People who can’t believe it’s not butter are far too credulous. How can we exploit that?
  3. “Hey!” (Pronounced ‘Hay!’) “Straw’s cheaper. Grass is free!” and other conversations I had with my father as a child that I did not understand at the time but now fully intend to have with my own future children
  4. I joined a monthly writers’ group, and I’m enjoying it immensely. Here’s everything we are doing in embarrassing and excruciating detail…
  5. Johnny Cash’s 92nd album was called The Personal File. It’s all the stuff his record companies never let him put out when they called all the shots, and it is bloody brilliant!
  6. Everyone who waits in lines for rollercoasters should take a yo-yo with them and practice their skills while they wait. That’s a fad waiting to come back in a big way.
  7. You hate Windows 8? I hate Windows 8 too! We should hang out. A rant against Microsoft’s hubris with a nod to Mike Judge’s under-appreciated gem Idiocracy.
  8. Three years ago or so I reviewed 80% of an international art project producing weekly covers of the entire Beatles discography in various genres by almost 200 artists while always involving a ukulele. Here’s my thoughts on the last 20%.
  9. Writing is like riding a bicycle: You never really forget how to do it, but you also don’t tell anyone when you fall on your face after going back to it after a number of years without regular exercise…
  10. The World of Coca-Cola in Atlanta is not a museum: It’s a place of focused and calculated propaganda, but it was all built around making people happy. Is that evil? I don’t know, but I’ve been drinking a lot more Coca-Cola products since spending three hours there in February…
  11. Bored of beer? Tell people you want to learn more about bourbon and watch the free bottles drift into your home on waves of good will!
  12. My barber retired –or he may have gone blind: The sign on his door was ambiguous. Is there still such a thing as a small-town barber in a big city like Toronto?
  13. John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight is a worthy successor to The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. It may even surpass it. Yes! I said it…
  14. The last two winters in Toronto were among the coldest in recorded history, so of course I was dating a woman from San Diego the whole time. Now that she and I have parted ways, can we please have one of those mild winters where the rest of Canada says we’re not really Canadian?
  15. The NDP just won a majority in Alberta. I’m not sure I can properly communicate how unlikely that is, and I have no idea what comes next. Shall we run through a few options together?
  16. I miss reading books for fun: Why researching historical fiction is sometimes a drag, and how to find the joy in reading a book an 80-year-old nerd wrote to impress his friends and torture undergrads.
  17. Al Gore guilt-tripped me into going without air conditioning in my home. Here’s why I only think about that for three weeks a year.
  18. Canada’s economy lives and dies by the commodity markets, and I can’t name you a commodity we have at the moment that isn’t in the middle of a once-in-a-generation slump. Let’s talk about BRIC countries in the current political and economic realities, and afterwards we’ll laugh that we did this on WordPress.
  19. Once upon a time no one had ever heard of Reddit. I suffer hipster-angst because I’ve been a daily visitor since before it was cool…
  20. My local pub for four and a half years closed without warning. I am a Norm without his Cheers.
  21. Hawksley Workman and The Weakerthans: My favourite Canadian artists who never made it in America, and are therefore still ours body and soul. Rush and The Tragically Hip are still awesome, as well. I’ll even include BNL too if you can ignore the break up.
  22. Life Hack: Skip spring cleaning and go out of town for a week in the summer. Let your mother use your apartment as base camp for a girl’s week in the city while you’re away. When you come back –in the immortal words of The Lego Movie—Everything is Awesome!
  23. Once upon a time my mother took me to church as a kid and then left me to make my own mind up. Later I went to church as an adult for a couple of years before I stopped. Here are the pros and cons of my ever going back again, and #7 will surprise you! (Buzzfeed and BusinessInsider, don’t you dare poach this off me without accreditation!)
  24. Renting a cottage up north for a week with three professional chefs: Their slumming it is the best camping food I will ever eat.
  25. Canadian craft beers and the lost recipes from the 1940s –Just kidding! I’m not going to write anything that involves research for a long while that doesn’t feed into my next book. Or could I make that a chapter? No, too niche…
  26. Once upon a time I put together a list of my 11 favourite writers of historical fiction, but I only blogged about four or five of them before life caught up with me. Now I can’t remember who the rest of the list was going to be, but I guess I’ll take a stab at it and bluff my way through?
  27. Now that I’m far enough into my thirties to lord it over my younger twenty-something self, here’s what that little punk didn’t understand about the world. (This is going to be good!)
  28. Hey, Canada? Now that we’re all pretty sure Jian Ghomeshi is a creep, can I still enjoy Moxy Früvous for what it was in the 1990s?
  29. They say everyone in my generation is likely to have five different careers before retirement. This is why I’m starting my third.
  30. I started off researching magic for an episode in a book I’m writing, and now I can’t stop watching Penn & Teller videos on YouTube. Send help!
  31. Since the last time I was single the online dating world has gone insane. Why does every woman have the same five pictures? There’s a group shot where you can’t tell whose profile it is, a shot of someone jumping on a beach silhouetted by the sun, another where she’s standing next to a hopefully sedated predator (ideally a tiger), a formal shot where her last boyfriend has a well-toned arm around her, and a tight headshot taken up almost entirely by face-hiding sunglasses. Did she write anything in her profile? Of course not…
  32. Mad Max: Fury Road is probably the best-realized action movie and chase movie of my generation. How many awards should it win, how many will it win, and what does that say about awards in the film industry?
  33. Dance like no one is watching works best when you are alone and no one is watching. Here’s a playlist, you knucklehead you! Be careful: There is a surprising amount of profanity that the neighbours might hear…
  34. Wait, we care about baseball in August? What the hell has happened to the Blue Jays for the first time in 22 years? (To be honest, I’m less interested in blogging about his than reading blogs about this…)
  35. The (almost certainly in-) complete song list of what I’ve done at karaoke joints in the last 13 years. Be gentle: It’s my 1000th-ish time.
  36. My grandmother just turned 90. Here’s an extensive list of the things she does, says, and believes. Number twelve is where she goes too far. (Again I’m watching you, Buzzfeed and BusinessInsider!)
  37. He called it a doorstop in the making: When your ballooning five-act novel should become a trilogy of three shorter novels, and how to put a positive spin on things.
  38. Then what happened? How a backyard BBQ in Scarborough was visited by an owl, a fox, a lemur, a tortoise, a kangaroo, and much more!
  39. Twitter just might be useless, but I love it all the same. Here’s why most people hate it, and why they’re wrong, wrong, wrong. (I’ll be devastated if that doesn’t fit into the arbitrary 140 characters…)
  40. My new job is one block from St. Lawrence Market. How long will I last before I just start buying oysters as part of my grocery shopping? #Toronto (That’s right! I use hashtags in blog post titles now. Welcome to the mid-Twenty-Tens my friend!)
  41. Persian Poetry: How possibly the whitest brown-haired boy you’ll ever meet accidentally became a fan of Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi and Omar Khayyam.
  42. Losing my religion: What no longer having a neighbourhood pub has done to my free time and my neighbourhood social network.
  43. Every other blog is wrong: LinkedIn is not about finding a job; it’s about keeping track of people who move from job to job to job over the course of their careers.
  44. As a young man my best friend said only little kids wear ball caps. He wears ball caps all the time now. Should I call him a hypocrite at my soonest opportunit, or document his countless selfies for a while and save up his hypocrisy for some kind of wedding reception or awards ceremony speech slideshow that might be many years off yet?
  45. Working with people who care about sports: A bluffer’s guide to having a two- to five-minute anecdote for any conversation about athletics and then artfully allowing your compatriots to take over all further dialogue until they change the subject.
  46. Slow cooking in August: A masochist for steaming appliances can still make a pretty amazing stew in the middle of summer for a few dollars’ worth of ingredients.
  47. The Canadian National Exhibition in the 21st Century: How the Greatest Generation and the Baby Boomers remember The Ex, and why today’s Toronto should nod patiently as they’re talking while still having our own fun after they’re done.
  48. So my sister and my parents are going to live in the same city for the first time in a dozen years: A tutorial in creating new excuses not to visit the small town you grew up in as narrated by your host, Geoff Micks.
  49. Can we clone Bill Burr and train the two Bill Burrs to box one another with the winner immediately delivering a half-hour of new material over the prone figure of his vanquished foe? Because that would gross more that the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight…
  50. A sentence-by-sentence breakdown of James Joyce’s immortal ‘surely no one will ever put up with this nonsense’ classic Ulysses, because of course I am both a fan and have so much time on my hands that I’m happy to do the leg-work for everyone else’s final essay. Also my sarcasm has been known to burn small children in close proximity without the benefit of goggles and gauntlets. Let’s be honest: No one is reading Ulysses for fun. Rise up, young men and women! If you all say the Emperor wears no clothes, maybe the English Literature department of your local post-secondary institutions will finally turtle up and move on to something that isn’t an Irishman’s equivalent of MTV’s Punk’d for the Lost Generation. Bonus points if your professor published an unappreciated (read: awful) gem when he was in his twenties that you can pick apart instead!

Read the rest of this entry »

My (Belated) Favourite 13 Tweets of 2013 and 14 Tweets of 2014

May 4, 2015

twitterjailHello everyone!

So the last time I was active on this blog, it was an annual tradition of mine to pick out my favourite tweets of the previous year as my first post of the New Year. Here are the posts for 2010, 2011, and 2012, if you have the interest.

Anyway, as I mentioned in April, I am starting up this blog again after a two-year hiatus, and I suppose that means I should go through the archives of @faceintheblue to see what jumped out to me. I’m skipping over a lot of my fury and scorn and disbelief and despair over Toronto’s former mayor Rob Ford for the sake of making this post more interesting to a general audience. I have also adjusted my rules a little from previous summaries: I’m no longer trying to evenly separate my selections across the calendar year –if I had four great tweets in November, why not highlight all of them?– and I’m also adding more explanatory notes where some context will be helpful.

Anyway, here are my favourites of the last couple of years. Enjoy!

My Favourite 13 Tweets of 2013

January 1

I just asked a fellow where he was for the Year 2000 ball drop. “In prison.” I changed the subject. #NewYear

February 21

Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” How do I become an arriving streetcar, Gandhi? It’s freezing out here! #Toronto

April 5

Okay, solid weather this morning, April. Good effort, nice hustle. Now give me ten laps and don’t you dare cool down or hit the showers!

June 13

Ah, buying beer from a corner store. Are you watching, Ontario? Did you note the lack of fire and brimstone smiting one of your citizens?

(I was in Colorado running a mining conference. On principle, I bought a six pack of local beer from a corner store, a luxury that will likely never be made available to me in my native province.)

August 2

Sometimes life’s stories don’t fit in 140 characters: Yada Yada Yada; Hide-a-key; Yada Yada Yada; I slept in a hallway last night.

September 7

The bouncer at a bar pointed out my driver’s license says I’m 170cm tall. I guess I was when I was 16? I’m over 190cm at 30. He bounced me.

November 1

Trapped in the elevator for 30 minutes with 5 coworkers and a mailman. I was THIS close to leading them in song to keep their spirits up.

Read the rest of this entry »

The rules to what I lovingly call “Old Man Poker”

April 20, 2015


Hello again everyone!

I thought I’d start off my return to regular blogging talking about something near and dear to my heart: Hanging out with my father and his cronies during the annual fishing weekend. It began more than thirty years ago when a group of young men would help each other open a cottage in the spring or close it for the fall over the course of a long weekend, and it has evolved into an excuse to get together and spend some guy time away from the wives and kids. There’s golfing, and fishing, and telling the same tall tales the grow with each year’s repetition, and of course a healthy dose of eating and drinking like they still have the metabolism of twenty-somethings. They’re a cool bunch of guys, and I could go on at some length about how much fun we have, but for the sake of talking about something specific, I want to talk to day about something we do every year that I never see anywhere else: We play what I lovingly call “Old Man Poker.”

fish_storyNow when most people of my generation talk about poker, they’re talking about Texas Hold’em. I can’t speak for everyone, but I believe Hold’em first rose to prominence in my imagination during the 2004-2005 NHL lockout. Canadian television was a wasteland that winter as station after station scrambled to fill all the airtime we normally spent watching the Toronto Maple Leafs lose, the Ottawa Senators choke, and Vancouver and Montreal whip themselves into a rioting fury whether they win or lose. Someone seized upon the bright idea of televising no limit Texas Hold’em tournaments as a cheap airtime filler, and before you know it every young man with at least four friends was organizing a get-together where he could push all his chips into the center while trying to deadpan, “All in.” I had a lot of fun with that as a young man, and without claiming to be any good at it, I won more than I lost. I enjoy Texas Hold’em a lot, and I can get my father and his friends to play it from time to time, but it’s not their game at all. For them, Texas Hold’em happened emerged as the king of Poker when they had already been playing poker for thirty years. They’re loyal to their way of doing things, and more power to them!

So what exactly is “Old Man Poker”? Speaking in broad terms, it’s the traditional poker games that would not have been out of place in a Legion Hall basement in the Fifties and Sixties. Everyone gets a turn as dealer, and each dealer calls his own game after anteing for the privilege. A dealer who starts describing his game of choice without putting his money down is met with a chorus of clearing throats and requests for him to speak up because no one can hear him. It’s a rule that mystifies the non-regulars at the table, but everyone learns in time.

Anyway, all manner of stud and draw games are welcome, and some truly rare and magical variations have been created over the years as well. My Dad’s crowd plays a friendly game with between twenty and thirty bucks in coins each. A dime is the traditional wager in each betting round, with a nickel almost automatically raised on principle and pennies not welcome. Twenty-five cents is big money, and the maximum raise per round is fifty cents. That said, many of these games have ten or twenty betting rounds, so folding money does trade hands over the course of the night. A player who goes bust is allowed to play on without anteing on the understanding that when they start winning again, they start paying again. It’s a pretty solid way to guarantee everyone will have a good time for the entire evening.

Here are a selection of some of the games that a dealer may choose from:

Read the rest of this entry »

Starting this blog up again

April 19, 2015

Hello everyone,

bluedustydeskAfter a hiatus of more than two years, I have decided to get back into blogging. I don’t know how often I’ll update this site, but I have begun writing again in earnest, and this was always a great forum for me to change pace and work on something different.

When this blog was good, it was very good. The post about presidential knife-fighting became a runaway hit, with more than 300,000 views to date. I imagine I’ll try to do something equally hair-brained in the future if I ever hope to see those numbers again. I’m also delighted that so many readers of my two novels, Inca and Zulu, have come to this site to learn more about how and why I wrote them. You can definitely expect to see more of that, and hopefully my renewed enthusiasm for seeking our the elusive and possibly mythical third novel will offer much grist for the mill.

There are a few things that I did not do in 2009 through 2012 that I will likely do now: I can see this blog being a space for me to talk about current issues and events as I see them, and so moving forward I will not be so worried about the longevity and staying power of a piece. Better to write prolifically and have some content become stale than to sit idle for months for want of inspiration. I also suspect I will lean more towards many short posts rather than my more customary long and rambling essays. We’ll see how that goes.

Anyway, people start and stop blogs all the time. This was a longer break than I meant to do, but I was busy with other things in the last couple of years, and I have no regrets about how I spent my time. Now I am back, and hopefully we can have some fun with this.



Maps for My Novel, Inca (Minor Spoilers)

January 29, 2013

Hello again everyone,

I’ve had a few readers tell me they have some trouble following where my protagonist is in any given chapter. It’s a fair critique. One of my goals with this book was to have the narrator visit all four corners of the known world over the course of his life, and that can get confusing in fairly short order. I wouldn’t expect most people to have a firm grasp of South American geography, let alone pre-Columbian geography before the Spanish renamed everything. Here is the map included in my book:

(Click to enlarge.)

(Click to enlarge.)

But that doesn’t really make it easy to figure out where things really happened, does it? There are half a dozen landmarks, cities, regions, and tribes to use as way points, but I still left it up to the reader to constantly flip back to the map for reference. That must be especially irritating in the e-book version. Accepting this, I started playing around with the map, trying to track down where Haylli went from chapter to chapter. For my own ease I didn’t line things up exactly with the Royal Road network or the available mountain passes –preferring instead to approximate– but even if I had the overlapping journeys would only have muddied the waters. This is what I came up with:

(Click to enlarge.)

(Click to enlarge.)

That’s kind of a mess, isn’t it? A problem with drawing lines on a map of an empire 3,000 miles long and up to 500 miles wide based on a 70-plus-year narrative is that there’s a lot of repetition. A simple coloured spaghetti chart isn’t much help to the reader interested in matching up the story to the geography. It occurred to me a chapter by chapter breakdown is the only way to really bring clarity to the situation. I did my best to avoid spoilers, but there are some broad plot points that just can’t be avoided. With that said, here’s the prologue and the first two chapters:

(Click to enlarge.)

(Click to enlarge.)

If this is an approach that will help you enjoy the book, I’m happy to show you the rest. Just click through the jump for the rest of the breakdown.

Read the rest of this entry »

Both of My Novels Are Now Available as Trade Paperbacks

December 30, 2012


Happy Holidays Everyone!

My office was closed this week, so to keep myself busy I set myself a goal: I’ve finally figured out how to get my e-published novels available as print-on-demand trade paperbacks. A copy of Inca and Zulu are in the mail to me as we speak. In the next week or so they’ll be available for sale through the various Amazon websites, but in the meantime they’re already available via CreateSpace directly:

Inca by Geoff Micks

Zulu by Geoff Micks

For any authors out there with e-books, I cannot say enough good things about the CreateSpace process. Formatting for print was a little time-consuming, of course, but if you have any kind of a graphic design background it is also relatively simple and totally free! That’s a far cry from the not-so-distant past.

Once upon a time, physical copies of self-published books were only available via vanity press: You bought a few hundred or thousand copies up front from a publisher, and it was up to you to sell them. There was a stigma to vanity presses, and the costs were prohibitive. Today, the stigma has been replaced with a spirit of entrepreneurialism, and making your books available costs nothing at all. When someone orders a book, CreateSpace prints off one copy and mails it to the reader. They deduct their costs from the price, and send me the rest as a royalty payment at regular intervals.

It’s a brave new world, and for the first time in a long time I feel lucky to live in an age where traditional publishing is gun shy of long works of historical fiction from new authors. This is better –so much better! I have total control over my novels in perpetuity, and I have the freedom to write what I like, format it as  I please, and publish on my own timeline. I even have the option of making the book available to bookstores and libraries, although that’s something I want to research further before taking that step.

This has been and will continue to be a journey, but I’m very happy with how far I’ve already come and the road still stretching out before me. I’d like to thank everyone who helped me set this course. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from a man who finds himself grinning ear to ear lately.


My Favourite 12 Tweets of 2012

December 29, 2012

twitterHello again, everyone!

It’s been another great year, and I continue to enjoy Twitter –my account is @faceintheblue— beyond my wildest expectations: I’ve live tweeted political debates and playing tourist in foreign cities; I’ve complained about the weather and my distaste for shoe shopping; I’ve championed things I like and rubbished things I don’t; I’ve made new internet friends, and entertained some of the people I know in real life; most of all, I’ve killed time waiting for a bus, and I’ve had a lot of fun doing it.

A few years ago I started a tradition as New Year rolled around. I blogged my favourite 10 tweets of 2010 and my favourite 11 tweets of 2011. Now another year has come and gone, and my foray into micro-blogging continues to distract and amuse me in odd moments that I would otherwise have wasted while waiting for something to happen. As I did last year and the year before, I’ve put together my top twelve tweets of 2012. Here they are!

January 27th

Who decided to give the CP24 traffic cam guy the ability to draw arrows on the feed? “No kidding? The cars go that way? Top-notch analysis!”

February 6th

What happened to you, Monday? You used to be cool. (Don’t ask me to cite examples right now. That’s such a Monday thing to do.)

March 7th

Just watched a baby snatch a set of jingling keys out of her mother’s hand and hurl them the length of a city bus while Mom wailed, “Nyet!”

March 31st

“Sara Three Cats: That’s a great name for a pool shark,” I said to Sara Three Cats as she proceeded to hustle me.

April 18th

Sorry, I never do this, but my April morning is cold: Please send it back to the kitchen, and I’d like to speak to your manager. #Toronto

July 17th

I’m not an incompetent hyperbolic scientist, but I play one on Twitter: If my calculations are correct it’s a billion degrees out today!

July 21st

Random Thought: If plants had ‘the sex talk’ it would literally be about the birds and the bees. Practice safe pollination, saplings…

September 14th

I just saw a squirrel panic at my approach & try to bury a nut into interlocking brick. Conclusion? Winter is coming & squirrels’re idiots.

September 19th

Cooking a premade frozen pizza that promises, “No unpronounceable ingredients!” I am not reassured: I can pronounce lots of awful things…

October 11th

The new guy at work just asked if I stayed late last night. I did. He laughed and said, “Classic Geoff!” Not sure how I feel about that.

November 23rd

Walking through a mall, my buddy mocking all the Black Friday shoppers. Mid-sentence he stops, and now we’re shopping for luggage.

December 1st

I’m sitting next to Typhoid Mary –patient zero of an Irish Wedding that saw dozens fall ill– but she coughs into her elbow, so we’re cool.

– – –

My criteria for the top tweets has evolved this year: They need to be self-contained and stand-alone, flippant, and ideally people enjoyed them on my Facebook newsfeed as well. There were half a dozen more that could have made the cut if only this were 2018. Ah, well. You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes you just mind find you get what you need. I look forward to continuing with it in 2013. All the best to you and yours in the New Year!


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 289 other followers