Friday, 27 June 2014

Class Act

School's almost over. I've managed to pull myself together from crying and shivering in the corner, in order to write this entry. Who knows when I'll have time again? September? This is like the moment when the Campbellian Hero is about to cross the threshold, descend into the underworld, brave the jungle, go down the river, step into the Cantina on Tatooine etc. to test himself with madness and see how he comes out the other end.

As it is almost the end of the school year, the kids are not apparently doing much learning and so I thought I'd drop by my eldest (almost 12 year's old) son's class to give a little talk. I arranged with his teacher to talk about comic books/graphic novels since I have written a few of those and the subject matter was one that had a slight chance of keeping their interest for a half hour. There was also a (not) small part of me that thought this might increase his status in his peer's eyes ("What? Your dad makes comics? Cool!), not to mention, my own in his eyes.

I prepared a rudimentary Power Point presentation and ran it by my son. He sniffed, "It's OK  - too much text." My middle son (9) looked on and suggested I add a snazzy design. My youngest one (7) talked excitedly about the one he had created in class this week (which did sound more sophisticated than the one I had just prepared) and he offered to show me how to import some clip art to jazz it up. Humpf. So far my attempts at impressing anyone were not going so well.

I showed up in the classroom yesterday while the kids were in the library and set up while chatting with the teacher. The sound of stampeding tweens let me know that they approached. As they barrelled through the door a number of them surprisingly asked/demanded:

"Can you really do a one-armed pushup?"

"Uh... I can. That's not why I'm here."

"Come on, show us!"

I looked in the teacher - WTF? He returned my look of bafflement.

At this point a number of them dropped to the floor and tried it. They ended up on their faces. I made some positional suggestions.

The teacher tried to regain control. "Alright, settle down, you guys."

"Maybe if the presentation doesn't go well, I could always drop and do one."

I didn't end up needing to do the push up as things went reasonably well. The highlight (for me) was when one of the kids asked if I have ever worked with my son (referred to as "Sweeney" by his classmate, classic) who is a gifted artist. I replied that we had talked about collaborating some day. My son grinned, pleased and embarrassed as an appreciative murmur of "cool!" circulated. That was pretty awesome.

Trying to revisit that moment later that day, when we were coming back from buying ice cream, I asked him about what he thought of the presentation.

"Yeah, it was OK, good." - Yeesh

He told me that the other kids had to research me before I showed up. Suddenly things clicked. I remembered I had mischievously put under my LinkedIn Skills profile - "Can juggle and do one-armed push-ups, but not simultaneously".

He said kids had shouted out in class, "Sweeney, can your dad really do a one-armed push-up?"

"Uh, I don't know..."

"It says here he can."

"Well, I guess you know more about my dad than I do."

I laughed. Then he asked me, deliberately in an off-hand manner, "Can you?"

"What? Yes!" I responded surprised/offended.

Shortly after we got home I proved my stuff with a respectable series of one-armed push-ups as he and my other boys gathered around (with a slight misgiving I might end up on my face in the dirt).

That impressed them a lot more than my power pint presentation, I can tell you.

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

You like me, you really like me....

My TV comedy series, Parental Advisory, has been chosen to take part in the National Screen Institute's Totally Television program this Fall. Woot woot!:

The National Screen Institute – Canada (NSI) congratulates the teams selected to the 2014 NSI Totally Television training course who will have the opportunity to develop their television projects with the best showrunners and story editors in the country.

“I’m so excited to start working with these five great teams,” said Shelly Tyler, program manager. “The level of talent in this group is amazing – they have a lot of potential and I’m looking forward to developing and refining their projects with them over the next year.”
The 2014 teams are:
  • Bastards – Jeremy LaLonde (writer) and Jordan Walker (producer), Toronto, ON
  • Parental Advisory – Christopher Stewart Sweeney (writer) and Jaime Escallon-Buraglia (producer), Toronto, ON
  • Recovery – Liam Brennan (writer) and Katie Weekley (producer), Winnipeg, MB, Vancouver, BC
  • New Wave – Stu Marks (writer) and Lauren Corber (producer), Toronto, ON
  • CrookID – Cathryn Morris (writer) and Lara Anna Fitzgerald (producer), Vancouver, BC
NSI Totally Television is a TV series development training course that connects teams with executives from all major Canadian networks, showrunners, story editors such as Tassie Cameron (Rookie Blue), Vera Santa Maria (producer on Parks and Recreation), David Barlow (KingThe Border), Aaron Martin (Being EricaSaving Hope) and executive producers from companies like Shaftesbury, Temple Street, Breakthrough and Omni.

Thursday, 19 June 2014


World Cup Mania has struck our house.

Well, actually, World Cup Sticker mania has struck. My two youngest have the fever and have emptied piggy banks and sofas to gather change to buy stickers of a bunch of guys with bad haircuts from around the world.

The stickers are actually not too badly priced and I prefer them over Pokémon cards (pause to spit to the side in hatred) which, to my terror, made a brief reappearance in the schoolyard this spring. Is there the equivalent of WHO (World Health Organization) or CDC (Centre for Disease Control) that monitors outbreaks of new and virulent strains of Pokémon fever? Pokémon is indeed an example of evil genius cynically tapping into a boy's need and desire to acquire stuff and compile lists and taxonomies. Pokémon (which apparently is a derivation of Pocket Monsters - more like Pocketbook Monsters) can generate oodles of new and weird Pokémon, since they do not correspond to the real world.
At least World Cup stickers correspond to the real world and actual achievements. It has even had some spillover benefits - they have gained a greater understanding of world geography and know the flags of dozens of nations. So that's cool - even though soccer itself leaves me cold (unless my boys are playing at which point I become VERY invested in it).

This is the background to my youngest demanding to go to the corner store and buy yet more stickers with his allowance. (Here, by the way, is why I believe in allowance - I do not have to constantly justify why I won't buy piles of useless crap for them - they have their own money to do so and if they blow it all they can repent their folly at leisure.  They must be responsible for themselves and their own decisions. It has worked well with my eldest - he has become almost as stingy as I am. Oh, the tears of pride when I overhear him scoffing at his younger brothers, "Why would you WASTE you money on that stuff?" Sniff.)

So, the  6 year old is jumping up and down wanting to go to the store and I say, "Sure." I just have to go downstairs to put something away first. However, when I get back upstairs to take him to the store HE IS GONE. I mean totally disappeared. I yell for him throughout the house and outside. I run to the corner to look the two blocks to the store. No sign of him. There is no way he could run that fast.
I run back and check with some neighbours to make sure he isn't playing in their backyard. Nope. I see a Mum I know coming from the other direction (where there is another, inferior, corner store). Has she seen any of my kids going that way? "No? Do you need some help?" I start running to the first corner store. He must be there. But how could he disappear so fast and so completely?

As I approach the store, the door opens and out comes my beaming boy, his fists stuffed with sticker packs and followed shortly after by convenience store owner looking around - in my guilt and paranoia, I believe for the negligent parent who let their little kid go buy stuff on their own. The relief. The fear! The anger! I manage to calm myself down and not overreact.

"Buddy! What are you doing? I didn't know where you were."

"But you said I could get stickers with my money."

"Yes, but with me. Not on your own."

"You didn't say I couldn't."

Here I was hoisted by my own petard  - me: big talker about generating autonomy and independence; casually bragging my kids walk to school on their own; giving them their own grocery lists to help with the shopping; insisting they pack and carry their own sports equipment bags etc. I used to walk to school and back starting in Grade One, Downtown Toronto, half hour walk, crossing major streets etc. Rolling my eyes at newsletters from school which warn against kids younger than 10 being allowed to cross the street on their own - 'they lack the capacity, maturity'. Ridiculous. How are they supposed to develop those qualities?

Busted. Because clearly how can I only demand independence when I approve it. Contradictory, ennit? So, mental regroup.

"But I haven't ever let you go before on your own. You always go with your older brothers."

Looked at me. What was my problem exactly? I had to confess.

"I was scared."

He laughed.

Then saw I was serious. And he was confused. Over that? As he should be. Mission accomplished. I have another independent confident big boy.

But it went so fast...

Monday, 16 June 2014

The Big Pitch - TAAFI 2014

In a completely unrelated matter, the pitch for my animated comedy series, Split Second, has been chosen to participate in The Big Pitch as part of the TAAFI 2014 closing ceremonies. Finally, I may get the respect of my boys.

The Big Pitch

The Big Pitch + TAAFI Awards + Closing Ceremonies

The triple threat event to close down TAAFI 2014! First, witness the BEST pitches from TAAFI’s Pitch-A-Palooza as they go head to head in front of our panel and audience decide the best pitch of the year