I Bet There Are Now Thousands of "First iPad Post"s

That's why I didn't call this one that. My birthday present has arrived a few days early. Thank you Debbie. Typing on it is so far no more difficult than on a regular keyboard. I'm not a touch typist but I can usually go pretty fast with my advanced hunt and peck method. I don't notice an appreciable difference. The iPad also has the advantage of Apple's predictive spell checking and of generating an automatic period when you hit the space bar twice. Cool. Next I'll try using Dragon Dictation to dictate a post ...

I'm not embarrassed to say that this is my kind of fun!


“Being is not a steady state but an occulting one: we are all of us a succession of stillnesses blurring into motion on the wheel of action, and it is in those spaces of black between the pictures that we find the heart of the mystery in which we are never allowed to rest.” ~ Russell Hoban - Fremder

It’s Russell Hoban’s 85th birthday today and I celebrated it by writing this quote on a piece of yellow paper and taping it to the side of the large white rock that my city was named after. All around the world, pieces of yellow paper with quotes from his books were left in other public places - cafe tables, bookshops, park benches, telephone booths, train stations or anywhere the birthday celebrant deemed appropriate. The SA4QE (Slickman A4 Quotation Event) website lists 350 quotes that have been left, on his birthday, in big cities and small towns in 14 countries since 2002.  I am still the only Canadian representative listed on their site, but I know at least one other Canadian who leaves the yellow paper anonymously for the simple joy of having done so.

It was a beautiful morning in White Rock and a perfect day to celebrate the “moment under the moment” that Russell Hoban explores and illuminates in his wonderful books. He remains one of the most original writers of the twentieth century and one of my very favourites.

Happy Birthday, Russ!

My End of the Decade Story

Just before New Years, I began writing an ‘end of the decade’ piece chronicling my frustration with the general lack of trustworthy sources of legitimate and reliable information in this digital age. I researched carefully, in order to accurately present both sides of conflicting arguments championed by intelligent and convincing spokespersons. I sweated the details so that my dilemma would be clear. Both sides can not be right, and finding the truth of a thing seems to be growing harder and harder as more and more information becomes available.

I wrote the post using a beautiful and innovative new word processor that fills the computer screen with a peaceful white snowscape, eliminating all distractions. It truly seemed to help me focus exclusively on the writing. The essay grew long, but I was happy with the way it was coming along.

On New Years day, I opened the file to finish it up.

The serene white winter scene filled the screen, the program’s pleasantly unobtrusive music began to play quietly and my story appeared before me. In Chinese.

Or Mandarin. Or Chinese (Simplified) or Chinese (Traditional) - other options I learned about from Google Translator where I later vainly attempted to return my writing to my mother tongue.

The software’s website did have a reference to this problem. “If you get gibberish (oops)” they offered glibly, you could “try” their “workaround”. It didn’t work. I’ve contacted tech support but I am not hopeful.

A Change is Gonna Come

I started writing online in 1996. Those initial years helped to get my confidence up.

The next installment of my online adventure led me into the 2000’s and eventually attracted the interest of a real-world brick and mortar publisher who ultimately helped me create and release the book I’d often dreamed of but never for a moment expected.

What followed was an exciting but often overwhelming concentration of attention on me and my personal life that has only just lately died down. Marginally shaken, I have nonetheless continued writing online - but the spectre of an imagined second book appears to have squatted unceremoniously on my weakling creative impulse and choked its out-take valve.

A change is in order - but I don’t know what to do next. Evolution is important to me. If I work at this unselfconsciously I think it can become something of value, but I need to flail for a while in hopes that a clear path will reveal itself. Whatever I do should be different in some, as yet undefined, way.

So, valued readers, take this as a warning. And … wish me luck.

Book News

My book has received some excellent reviews and has been nominated for the Blooker Prize. Also, I ran into the guys from April Wine at the Saskatoon Airport today and Brian Greenway (who is in the book and, apparently enjoyed reading the book) told me that he had seen it front-racked at bookstores in the Toronto International Airport. Which makes me very happy.

My Dinner at … uh … Janey’s

Despite its jazzy parisian cool, the live recording of Toots Theilemans playing ‘Moulin Rouge’ is, oddly, the perfect headphone soundtrack for this calm and quiet drive to Campbellton, New Brunswick. It’s Saturday, and it feels like a Saturday. People are out in their yards, talking to neighbours, tending to their horses, and lounging in plastic chairs while their kids jump on backyard trampolines. It’s neither sunny nor warm but it’s Saturday, damn it, and the weekend is honoured with great respect in this neck of the woods.

In just twenty-four short hours, the high-intensity rock-and-roll adrenalin of Toronto has subsided to the point where recalling events and impressions will be difficult. As the green and peaceful countryside rolls by my passenger seat window, I’m fighting a strong resistance to the idea of re-visiting the events of the past few days. And that’s as it should be. I am here now. In New Brunswick. In that world so eloquently and lovingly documented by David Adams Richards, one of my favourite living authors, in his magnificent novels.

Many years ago now, I bought David’s first book, “The Coming of Winter”, and was stunned by the power and depth of its intimate human drama. Several years later, In an uncharacteristically audacious move, I called up my literary hero, nervously suggesting we get together for a drink.

“Why don’t you come over for dinner?” he replied.

One of my personal highlights of 2005 was the brilliantly written Globe and Mail story about Trooper, “The Long Good Time”. As a consequence of his week in the van with the boys in the band, its author, Peter Cheney, - one of Canada’s most respected feature writers - became a close friend and the honourary sixth member of Trooper.

I invited Peter and David Richards to join me for dinner in Toronto on Wednesday night. Thanks, in part, to the hospitality of our excellent hosts, Dave and Jane Doherty and the delicious food and casually classy ambience of their ‘Town Grill’ in Old Cabbagetown, the evening became my favourite of the tour. Although the two writers had never met, I had a feeling that they would hit it off - and they did.

Cheney is an outgoing and dramatic character who speaks and thinks like he writes. He is nearly always funny, even when he’s serious.

“I met the Devil at the crossroads …” he often solemnly admits as an introduction to his next story.

David is quiet and deeply thoughtful but can also be equally hilarious.

I had a wonderful time. I think they did too.

Dinner was the welcome antidote to a pressure-filled day that included a live performance with Kim Mitchell on Toronto’s Q107 and a national interview with ET Canada’s Rick Campanelli. The next day I met with Shauna MacDonald (Officer Erica Miller on the Trailer Park Boys, Promo Girl on CBC Radio One) to talk about my possible involvement with a new TV show, and Tom Kemp and Jeff Craib from the S. L. Feldman and Associates Toronto office, with whom we drank a few beers. My book reading was at 7:00, where my old pal Stu Jeffries (97.3 FM EZ Rock in Toronto - ‘Good Rockin’ Tonight’) brought me on … followed by a riotous (and particularly excellent) Horseshoe Tavern rock show with my awesome band, Trooper.


David Adams Richards’ new book “The Friends of Meager Fortune” will be released September 19th 2006. I love all of David’s books. “The Bay of Love and Sorrows” is my very favourite.

Peter Cheney’s work can be seen in the Globe and Mail His Trooper story, “The Long Good Time” can be read here.

Book Launch Party Announcement

The Vancouver launch of my book will take place at the Roxy Nightclub (where the Canadian Idol auditions were held) on Monday May 8th at 6:00 PM. The event is open to the public and free. The invited guest list is a who’s who of Vancouver music and entertainment. I will read from the book and copies will be on sale. The Roxy is located at 932 Granville Street, Vancouver. You are all (every one of you) invited to attend.

‘Sounds Like Canada’ Interview

Last Wednesday, Connor and I went in to the city to the big CBC building downtown. I thought it would be fun for him to see how a big-time national radio show (Sounds Like Canada) worked - and I wanted him with me in case someone decided it might be good for him to join in. As it turned out, Shelagh Rogers did invite him in to the studio after about ten minutes and he stayed on with us for what turned out to be an hour long interview. We were both gob-smacked when she played “The Audience Takes a Bow”. This was our song’s first airplay ever, so, as it played on radios and computers across Canada, we high-fived over our boom mikes. Shelagh was such a joy to work with that both of us forgot that we were on the radio. We were just having a great conversation with a really cool new acquaintance. We left the building wondering what we had said.

I was surprised, two days later, to read an email from Gillian Rodgerson in Toronto saying that she’d just heard the interview. We were told it would run a week later. Heather then wrote from Calgary with another heads up. Connor and I dialed in the CBC Calgary online feed and listened to it in the den. When it was done, Debbie joined us and we listened, again, to the Vancouver feed as it played in real-time.

It really was one of the most delightful interviews I’ve ever done. Shelagh Rogers is beyond professional and has the creative courage of a lion. We wandered fearlessly from topic to topic. She is THE best audience - and it was a total treat to meet and talk to her. And Connor, of course, loved it.

Shelagh said the book should be re-named; “Canada”. God I loved that.

We’ve received permission to post the interview here (and on the Trooper site) so that you can hear it if you missed it. We’re just waiting on the CD from CBC.

Publishing is a Vicious Game

We’d been driving for seven or eight hours and Winnipeg was still too far away to think about. We’d stopped for a piss - and more bottled water. It was dark and see-your-breath chilly. We stood in the spill of convenience store fluorescent light, and talked quietly on our cell phones to our wives and girlfriends.

The new gold Suburban I was leaning up against was overflowing with luggage, jackets, blankets, a pillow, a ukulele, a violin, two computers, empty Starbucks and Tim Hortons cups and cookies from the Alberta Cookie Lady. There was no room in there for personal calls.

Scott, Gogo and Frankie, in the back half of the Suburban, had just watched “Still Crazy” on the onboard DVD player while I watched “Hostage” on my Powerbook in the passenger seat. Smitty, behind the wheel as usual, watched the long, straight and virtually unchanging highway. I was glad for the rest. Our first tour of the season had started with a bigger bang than usual.

My week of CBC National Playlist sessions was followed by interviews with the two local papers. This would be the first time that I would face questions about the book, and I was disturbingly unsure about how I was going to respond. My concern was compounded by the fact that my friends and family would most likely see the results of my potentially amateur inaugural book-promotion efforts. To my great relief both interviews came off without a hitch.

My friend Myles Goodwyn once wrote that “Rock and Roll is a Vicious Game”, which is arguably true, but one of my five interviews on Tuesday made it clear to me that rock and roll’s got nothing on the publishing world. My first interview of the morning was a spirited radio spot with a funny and bright Saskatoon DJ. I was pumped and ready to go when my next call, from an Alberta newspaper entertainment writer, came in. After minimal preliminaries, the writer began to discuss the phenomenon of “books like this”. He made jokes about rocker Brian Volmer’s new Helix book. He told me he was planning a sidebar for my story that would list titles for imaginary books by other rock stars who, he was convinced, were going to write even more “books like this”. He lamented that he was doomed to host a weekly series called “Book Talk with Rockers”. He was reveling in rudeness.

At the point where I was convinced that input from me wouldn’t be necessary for his story - he clearly had all the material he needed - he finally asked me: “So why do we need another book like this?”

“Well, uh, Dickface,” (Dickface is not his real name - I’ve changed it here to avoid potential legal action) “I, uh … you know Brian’s had a pretty intense journey of his own, but I have to say that it’s entirely different than mine in many ways.” I wondered if he could sense the forced smile and the cold, controlled civility.

I continued to speak, as humbly as possible, about writing the book as I carefully considered the idea of hanging up on the guy before I told him to go fuck himself. My wife and son were listening at the kitchen table only a few feet away. I chose to stay the course.

“And what is it …” he asked, warming to his theme “about blogs, that makes you think that we want to read your innermost thoughts from your personal diary?”

“Well, Asshat,” (not his real name), I responded, “it’s not actually my diary …”

And then, like the boxer in “Against the Ropes” the mediocre Meg Ryan movie that Debbie and I watched the other night, I reached my limit, changed up my stance and bit down hard on whatever it is boxers bite down on, and said something like:

“You know, it’s not a diary and it’s not “another book like this”. It’s MY book, and it took me three years to write - and it means a lot to me.”

He paused for a moment - seemingly shaken out of his righteous groove - and then he told me, authoritatively, that I should not be so sensitive.

“I’m just challenging you.” he said, sounding pleased with himself.

“I’m with you” I grinned, “I’m with you.”

Most of the good stuff that appeared in the finished story followed. I went off, and said what I needed to say, convinced that doing otherwise would be a waste of valuable interview time. My favourite part of the interview came when he tried to re-visit the topic of blogs.

“Do you write on your blog about everything that happens to you?”

“No, just things I think people would find interesting.”

“So are you going to write about this on your blog?”

“Oh fuck, yeah” I said.

Waiting …

My books are arriving today. I’ve gone to the door twice already, thinking that they may have been left on the porch – which is stupid, because I know that I’ll need to sign for them.

I’m both Christmas morning excited and sky-diving terrified. When I was writing the blog entries that eventually became the book, I imagined my audience as a group of uncritical friends who knew me well enough to suspend judgment and cut me some literary slack. Now, in book form, those same words are exposed to anyone who cares to have a look. Critics will be reading it – and, probably, voicing their opinions about it. People I know and love, alerted to the book’s release, will now be obliged to read it to see what I’ve written about them. My 90-year old Aunt Lena in Quesnel will see all the F-words.

Erik Hodgson, the publicist for the book, says it looks “great” and my good friend and front line administrator Heather Uhl says it looks “fantastic”. She got her boxes this morning. So where are mine?

Welcome Back

It's going to be really hard to keep writing this blog, now that I know that what I write could eventually be published. My first attempt at writing a quick 'welcome back' post for the new site focused on what I had wanted to be when I grew up - and how, by imagining careers as a DJ or a newspaper writer, my adolescent dreams had undershot my eventual reality. That thread collapsed in navel-gazing confusion. The next two posts self-destructed as well. The writing wasn't good enough. This is my fourth try.

Since this is my first post since the completion of the long and painfully introspective process of editing a three-years collection of wildly uneven blog-writing for my first book, I'm sure I'll get over this self-conscious hump. If I write something stupid I can fix it in the mix.

The book will be released in April - not, like a new CD, on a specific day, but over the course of the month. There are, it turns out, many differences between releasing a book and putting out a new CD, not the least of which is the fact that the book - my book - is all about me and my thoughts and experiences. I have never felt so vulnerable.

Preparation for the book's release has helped to keep my mind off the terror of literary nakedness, and the resuscitation of this website has been a part of that. Mad props to Debbie and Connor who have been my daily (and sometimes, hourly) beta testers and aesthetic gurus, and my good friend and web co-conspirator Heather Uhl, who has once again wrestled PHP, CSS and HTML into submission, helping to create Rev. 2 of ramcguire.com.

Above Alberta

(This is the introduction to my book, written on a plane on the way to our New Years gig at Reds in Edmonton.)


Jully Black closed her eyes and inched her lips toward the microphone. The first two words - the title of the song - seemed torn from a personal reverie ... surrendered unwillingly - as though her thoughts and emotions had boiled over and out of her mouth by accident, by mistake.

"Pretty Lady" she sang, and I let out an involuntary whoop.

"Here I am" she admitted, and other audience members gave it up. Spontaneous.

My nervousness turned to pride. Jully was singing the shit out of a song I wrote 40 years ago with my writing partner Brian Smith - and my wife and son and many of my peers in the music industry were there bearing witness. I grinned across the large round table - first at my family and then at Smitty. Debbie squeezed my leg.

After singing, Jully told the audience that her manager was a huge Trooper fan and had pulled strings to sit at the same table as us ...

"With God" she said.

She went on to describe our band as "honest-to-God Canadian legends". The crowd cheered as she called Smitty and I to the stage to accept our 2005 SOCAN Classic Awards.

Ann Lorie, who wrote "Insensitive" for Jann Arden, was also sitting at our table and had shed a few tears when accepting her award, but Smitty and I were too buzzed for sentimentality. We could feel a palpable connection with the music-biz crowd arrayed before us - many of whom had become friends and compatriots over the years. The evening's awards ceremony played out like a personal celebration of a long and successful career that continues to offer up the elusive rewards of adventure, challenge and straight-up fun.

I was proud to announce from the stage that night that my son Connor and I had just written our first song together. After the show, in Jully Black's dressing room, representatives of an independent record company approached Connor to talk about his music. He smiled and accepted their card appreciatively. Here he was, functioning comfortably in an environment that would have absolutely terrified me at eighteen.

I started singing in a band when I was twelve years old - five years younger than he is now. I recorded my first album 13 years later at the age of 25. I'm 55 years old now and have never had a real job. I've written hundreds of songs, performed thousands of shows and have traveled tens of thousands of miles - most of those back and forth across Canada. Trooper is as viable today as it was in the seventies when songs like "We're Here for a Good Time" and "Raise a Little Hell" were knocking down doors and serving as our invitations to the best party in town. In many ways our status has elevated recently to a place just south of legendary - where, for instance, total strangers embrace us as they would a favourite relative visiting from out of town. The party continues.

Trooper's first web site went online in 1996. Little Timmy Hewitt and I hacked together the html for 'Rev. 1' long before Google, eBay or Amazon.com had registered their now iconic domain names. I started my own personal site - they weren't called blogs then - not long after. I wrote about my life on the road and those things that someone unfamiliar with this kind of life might find interesting. I was surprised and encouraged by the enthusiastic response to that tentative and sporadically updated site, so, by the time Blogger launched their online interface, I had decided to maintain a semi-regular online account of a 53 year-old's rock and roll adventures.

This book represents the first three years of ramcguire.com. It was written in real time as journal entries. It has no beginning and no ending, but surprised me by telling more than a few seemingly complete stories.

It was written in airports and rented vans, on ferries and planes - in billet-rooms in remote high-north villages and luxury hotel suites in the heart of the Big Smoke. Some of it was dashed off quickly at four in the morning. Some of it might be more carefully considered than it needs to be. Often it reveals much more than I'd intended at the time. And sometimes, the story is fleshed-out by that which wasn't written down at all. Each entry came as a complete surprise to me - as did, of course, the unfolding events I was chronicling.

The SOCAN Awards were held in Toronto at the end of November. I'm writing this on a plane on the way to Edmonton Alberta on the last day of 2005. Our New Years Eve show tonight will be at Reds - a very large club in the West Edmonton Mall. It's going to be a total sold-out zoo!