Friday, April 20, 2007

SUV Sophistication

I recently saw a TV commercial for the Chrysler Aspen.

2007 Chrysler Aspen, Sophisticated?

The idea was that they took the letters in the word Aspen and, one-by-one, they made new words out of them, each describing the vehicle.


Now, I realize that you are only supposed to look at the words starting with the last letter from the word Aspen in that particular row. There is no such word as "asperformance", you are just supposed to read from the 'P' on.

But they had to have been able to find something better than "aspohistication". Not a great descriptor for a product you are trying to sell. The base word, sophistication, means sophisticated character, ideas, tastes, or ways as the result of education, worldly experience, etc, according to And the prefix a, means not, without, according to

So it looks to me like Chrysler (or at least their ad agency) is describing the Aspen as being "without sophistication". Lacking sophisticated ideas or ways. No education, worldly experience, etc. They're making it sound downright stupid.

I can't imagine how that would slip past everyone involved in creating and approving this commercial. Does nobody critically review the copy of their ads? I'm sure they don't want people to think that their SUV is anything but highly sophisticated.

Then again, when they considered the part in the definition about "sophisticated the result of education..." they realized that, with the US Department of Energy ranking the Aspen as one of the worst vehicles available in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, saying that the Aspen is lacking sophistication might have been exactly what they meant.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007


Parents of small children always wonder what lies ahead for their kids. I'm no different. I think about my two year-old's future all the time. Add the fact that my son is physically disabled/has special needs/whatever the politically correct term is, and I think it's fair to say that I obsess about his future more than the average parent. I quit my job to stay home with him and make sure that his therapy regimes stay on track for that very reason - to give him a chance to put his best foot forward in life (or, in Eric's case, to be able to simply put his foot forward, period).

The key lesson I've learned from being Eric's father is to try not to judge people too quickly. I know people judge Eric all the time, when we're out at the mall, and he's tired and flopsy in our arms. Or especially when we take him someplace in his walker, people take a second look and often give us the "those poor parents" look. What's there to feel sorry for me about? My son is awesome!

Eric in his 'Pony' Walker

Eric is extremely bright and understands everything you say to him, or around him (my wife always has to remind me "watch what you say, Daddy!"), but with his low muscle tone, he has a hard time working the finest of the fine motor skills: speaking. But that will come, and eventually he will be able to repeat all of the inappropriate things I say.

He's also very funny. First of all, he completely understands that farting, especially in public, is funny. Good start. And he is always cracking me up. The other night, he was having a hard time sleeping, which means we were too. So we brought him into bed with us, which is never a good idea, because he thinks that is just play time. He was laying there, squeezing his mother's nose while she pretended to be sleeping. He thought this was a great game, and I could see that it wasn't going to end anytime soon. I said "OK, all done. No more squeezing Mummy's nose." He stopped immediately, and said "kay" and made his little sign for "all done". Then he turned his head to me, blew me a kiss and closed his eyes. Great. I closed my eyes, thinking of the deep sleep I could feel coming up. But instead, I felt his hand, on my nose, squeezing hard. I opened my eyes to see a look on his face that said "what? I'm not squeezing her nose, am I? Sucker." It's hard to be mad at that. So I didn't sleep much that night, but I laughed a lot.

Anyhow, the point is, he's got a good sense of humour, and he's smart. I have to keep that in mind when I worry about what the future holds for him. No matter how people initially judge him based on his physical issues, his personality will carry him through.

I was really reminded of this today, when I took him to Bloorview Kids Rehab Centre, here in Toronto, for his Occupational Therapy session. In the lobby, I picked up a copy of Abilities Magazine ("Canada's Lifestyle Magazine For People With Disabilities"), and saw the headline "Laughing Matters - Comedians with Disabilities." As a parent of a disabled kid AND an amateur standup comic, that really spoke to me.

The article profiles four disabled comedians, including Last Comic Standing winner Josh Blue, as well as Brett Leake and David Roche. But it started off with a profile on local Toronto comic, Andre "the Anti-Giant" Arruda. The profile started off describing a scene from a show Andre did at Yuk Yuk's in Toronto, highlighting the "awkward silence" in the room as he made his way to the stage, struggling to get onto the stool in front of the mic, dropping his cane in the process.
A few patrons mouth, "Does he need help?" and all of them wonder if it's okay to laugh."
Then Andre starts his set, and and they immediately realize that it's okay to laugh, because he is FUNNY! They forgot about their pre-judgements, and remembered what they were there for.

This is exactly what I need to keep in mind. Sure, people will probably have predetermined ideas about Eric all of his life, based on the way he walks (or doesn't, who knows?), or talks, or whatever. But they will soon forget that, when they see him for who he is. Maybe I need to keep that in mind too, to worry less about his future, and know that he will be great at whatever he chooses to do in life.

And not spending so much time obsessing about it will leave me with more time for the important things. Like getting to work writing material for him when he becomes a big-time international superstar stand-up comedian. No pressure, or anything, but I'm pretty sure that's what he will be.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

FAQ 1 - Hey, didn't you quit comedy?

This will be part one of a series in which I answer questions that people have sent me. It'll be fun! Just you watch. This time, the question is:

"Hey Lloyd, didn't you quit doing that stand-up comedy stuff back in November?"

Where did you get that idea? Who said that? Me, quit comedy? I would never say something like that.

Ok, maybe I did. In a moment of weakness. Here's the thing - I was tired, grumpy and stressed out about a bunch of stuff. Like money, and my son's health and stuff. I wasn't really feeling like being out in bars and whatever.

Then I had a couple of crappy sets at two shows that are usually very good shows. At the first one, I wasn't ready when my name was called, and I ended up all flustered and never quite recovered. The next time, I got flustered by a couple of comics in the audience who made it clear to the small audience before I even said a word that they weren't expecting anything funny from me. The audience spent the first two minutes of my set watching those two guys pretending to laugh and then getting up and stomping out while chatting away. I never really got the audience back, although I did get some laughs finally on my last line.

I decided about half way through that set that I would never put myself through that again. I wasn't mad at what those guys did. It's pretty much what I would expect from them, and I have to learn how to deal with interruptions. I was mad at myself for not dealing with the situation better.

Anyhow, the point is, rather than say "I'm going to take some time off, and maybe try again after Christmas", I got all dramatic and said "forget it, I'm quitting" and put that on my blog and canceled my MySpace comedy account and canceled a couple of shows that were already booked.

Several comics e-mailed me saying "don't be so quick to decide. Just take some time away and then maybe try again sometime." I was too stubborn, but they were right. It wasn't long before I missed it. So, when I was home in New Brunswick in March, I decided to give it a go again at the Moncton Yuk Yuk's amateur night. If I enjoyed that, I would give it another try. I enjoyed it.

So, here I am, outside, drunk, yelling up to the bedroom window saying "please forgive me, comedy. I was wrong. Please let me back in. I'm sorry. I'll never do it again. I love you! PLEASE TAKE ME BACK!!!"

By the way, I'll be onstage this coming Sunday, April 15 at The Comedy Clinic, upstairs at The Fox & Fiddle, 106 John Street (at Adelaide, south of Hooters). Come on out and have a laugh. Just don't get me all flustered, or I'll have to quit this whole comedy thing.

Sunday, April 8, 2007


I was thinking today that it would make sense for the traditional Easter dessert to be some kind of soufflé. You know, because it is risen.

Also, I am proud of myself for resisting the urge, as I drove past an emptying church this morning, to roll down the window and ask the church-goers if Jesus saw his shadow, meaning six more weeks of Godlessness.

Apologies to practicing Christian-types who might read this. Just messing around, not trying to belittle your messaiah.

Happy Easter, everyone. And if you're looking for a good Easter laugh, you should read Me talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris. There is a hilarious story about the author and his fellow French-second-language students in france trying to explain Easter in broken French to a Muslim classmate. "He nice, the Jesus."

Sunday, April 1, 2007

April Fool's Day

Yes, three blog posts in one day.

As my last blog mentioned, today is April Fool's Day. Fun!

April Fool's Day is, appropriately, my nephew Evan's birthday (four years old today). Evan is a lot of fun. While he looks a lot like his father's side of the family, rather than ours, I would like to think he and I at least share a sense of humour. We both really appreciate doodie jokes and fart jokes.

The last time I visited my sister's house, a couple of weeks ago, Evan was running around, breaking stuff, throwing stuff, etc. As my sister was not in the room, I took it upon myself to speak to him and tell him to try to calm down a bit. He put his hands on his hips and said "UNCLE LLOYD! I DON'T LIKE THE SMELL OF YOU!"

"Really, Evan? And what smell is that?"


What could I do? I laughed hard, validating this behaviour. I'm a good uncle.

From a good farty-bum joke to the down side of April 1: it has been two years today since my father's funeral. The only thing that put a happy note on that day was knowing that Evan was excited about his birthday (at two, he couldn't understand anything else, which is how it should be). Well, that and the flask of whiskey my brother-in-law gave me to keep me from hyperventilating before reading the eulogy.

Now that I have this blog set to automatically import into Facebook, there are people who read it who knew my father, so I thought I would put the text of the eulogy that I read that day here. Some of you heard it when I read it, some of you read a copy of it, and some of you don't care. But I'm putting it here anyhow, as a bit of a tribute to my Dad. He liked a good laugh as much as anybody, so I'm sure he wouldn't mind me following the farty thing with his eulogy. Here it is.

Eulogy for Gunnar Ravn - (1929-2005) - April 1, 2005

For those of you who don't know me, I should start by introducing myself. My name is Lloyd Ravn, and I am the youngest of Gunnar and Lois's five children. But if it's easier for you, you can call me Mark. Everyone else does.

A few years ago, my father and I were watching the news on TV, and there was a story about the funeral of a celebrity. The funeral was a huge party, and the reporter mentioned that the man had requested that there be no tears at his funeral, only happiness. Dad said to me that this would be his wish too, that there be no tears at his funeral. Of course, I told him that I couldn't promise that, but I did promise that we would do our best to find a good balance between our sadness and the happy memories we all have of our time with him. Today, I have the opportunity to keep that promise and take a few minutes to tell you about some of the many memories of my father that make my family and I smile when we think of them. Hopefully we can all smile a bit through our sadness.

For me, the story about my Dad that always makes me smile the most is one he often told about his youth, one that I think was probably the happiest time of his childhood. He and his family were living on a farm called White Lilly Farm, near Five Points. Dad was about twelve at the time, and was a voracious reader, a trait that continued well into adulthood. He had saved up his money, earned from doing various chores, and ordered some books through a mail-order bookseller. The farm was quite a ways into the woods, so they had to meet the mailman up the road to collect their mail. On the day that he knew his books were to arrive, he hopped onto a horse and rode out, bareback, to collect his package. When he had them, he was so excited that he galloped his horse all the way home, which was very much against his father's rules. I can picture that young man, with his books in one hand, holding on tight with the other, racing home with an excited smile, and I like to think that what he felt on that day must be a big part of what heaven is like for him now. Those books, which I too enjoyed when I was younger, are still around, with their yellowed pages and scuffed hard covers, and whenever I think of them, I smile at the thought of that story.

The passion and excitement Dad felt that day on his horse was very much like the passion he felt for many other things in his life. For instance, he was very passionate about, and felt extremely close to nature. He seemed to know every thing there was to know about the birds he would see at the feeders, or while walking through the woods. And sometimes, I thought he must know every detail of every tree on his property. It was almost as though he knew those trees by name. He loved walking in the woods, and as anybody who ever hunted or worked in the woods with him knew, he could walk through thick forests as easily as you or I can walk down the sidewalk.

Another passion of his was serving his community. Whether it was washing dishes at church suppers, or ringing the bell at the Salvation Army pot at Christmas time, Dad believed in helping out whenever and wherever he could. One time, in the late 80's, when I was working part-time at McDonald's, on a cold, windy night, an old man came up to the counter and explained that he had no place to go. He had taken a bus as far as Sussex and was hitch-hiking on to his next destination, as he had no money for bus fare. He asked if he could have a free coffee and a warm place to sit before heading on. That night, when I got home and told Dad about this man, he immediately jumped into the car, and he and I drove up and down the highway and around town, looking for him, hoping to take him to a motel for the night, and give him bus fare for the morning. In the end, we never found him, but that immediate reaction on Dad's part to help a stranger in need, sums up his selflessness when it came to doing the right thing. Sometimes he seemed to have a bit of a gruff exterior, but underneath he always had a huge heart and lots of love to go around.

As strongly as he felt about helping others in his community, this paled in comparison to the love he felt for his family. I think that the number of his nieces and nephews here today speaks volumes about Dad's relationship with his extended family. He was the official genealogist for his family, and accumulated several binders full of family records. Each time someone was married or had a baby, Dad recorded it and added more pictures to his collection. He did this not only because he found it fascinating to trace his family tree into its various branches stemming from his parents, but mostly because he loved the way it kept him close with his nieces and nephews, each of whom he loved a great deal.

Dad was a loving grandfather to thirteen beautiful grandchildren, and with each addition he was just as excited and proud as he was with the one before. My own son, who was born just seven weeks ago today, gave dad the opportunity to feel that new grandfather pride and excitement all over again. I feel very lucky to have had the chance to bring little Eric home from Toronto shortly after he was born to spend a week with his Grampie. That week, seeing the love and happiness Dad felt as he held the baby, even through his sickness and pain, will always remain one of the best weeks of my life. He loved all of his grandchildren and was very proud to see the wonderful people each of them is.

Raising five children with fairly long gaps between them (there is a seventeen year difference between the oldest and the youngest) meant that each of us probably had different experiences with Dad, as times changed and as he changed. But I know that over those years, there were certain things that remained constant from child to child. You always knew that when Dad was around, there was nothing to be afraid of, because Dad wasn't afraid of anything. And if your tummy hurt, you could always count on Dad bringing home a treat to help you feel better. Christine remembers having skating races with Dad at the Sussex Corner rink. She usually won them by a toe length. I guess that over the years, Dad's skating didn't improve much, because seventeen years later, I seemed to just barely win skating races with him too!

For each of us, some of our coziest memories are of sitting on the couch watching TV with Dad, whether he was cheering on Gordie Howe on Hockey Night in Canada, or laughing at Foghorn Leghorn on the Bugs Bunny Show, or learning from David Suzuki on The Nature of Things. Once, in the early 60's, Dad called upstairs to Chris and Mark, telling them to "come down and see these girls on the Ed Sullivan Show." They came down to see him laughing at the Beatles, who he figured were just a silly passing fancy. His musical tastes where a bit more traditional, I guess.

One trait that we all inherited from our Dad is his sense of ... well, I won't say humour, because I'm not sure how many people outside of our family would find humour in it. But last night, as Mark and I exchanged silly comments, I knew that this was another part of Dad that will always carry on.

I can't speak for the others, but one way in which I would like to be more like my father is in his ability to say exactly what he was thinking. You never wondered where you stood with him, or what he thought of what you had to say. Sometimes, particularly when I was a teenager, this could be frustrating, but overall, it was one of his best qualities.

Dad's family, being recent immigrants to Canada, moved around a lot when he was growing up. Eventually, they settled in Midland. One day, a neighbour and her daughter came to visit. Dad always remembered that pretty young girl, hiding behind her mother's skirt, peeking out at him. I guess she sensed big things to come, because he eventually married that girl and raised five children and shared thirteen grandchildren with her, through their long and loving fifty-year marriage. Mum was a wonderful partner for Dad, his best friend, constant companion, and the perfect balance, personality-wise. Mum took such wonderful care of him, and we are all so very proud of her. On Wednesday evening, one of their grandchildren said to Mum "you and Grampie looked so good together." And he was right. They fit well, and that gave their children a great model on which to build our own marriages. I know that Dad was proud to know that all five of us followed in his footsteps by marrying somebody who fit us as perfectly as Mum fit him.

Before I wrap up, I just want to say a short thank you to you all. Thank you for being here today, and for visiting yesterday. And thank you for visiting, calling, sending cards, or saying prayers during the past few months. As horrible as Dad's illness was, it helped him to learn a very important lesson. The last time I spoke with him, he repeated something he said to all of us several times while he was sick. He said "I never knew so many people would have cared." The love he felt from all of you made his last days brighter. Thank you for that.

And thank you for thinking of happy memories of Dad with me over the past few minutes. This is what Dad wanted, and it's our way of saying "we love you Dad."

Lloyd Ravn


Well, thanks to those of you who responded to my plea for help with my Guinness Book of Records attempt, trying to get the record for the biggest batch of Cream of Asparagus Soup. Unfortunately, I fell way short of the required 100 people e-mailing the local Campbell's rep, so I can't get that soup from them. I guess I'll have to go ahead with 100% from scratch.

Oh well, maybe I won't bother anyhow, it seems kind of silly now that I think of it.

Also, to those of you who did reply, I wanted to say:


What a lame April Fool's Day prank. But it was still fun to see who fell for it.

Thanks for playing along. Now I know who to turn to if I ever really need something.



I Need Your Help!

Hopefully some of you will read this today, because it is kind of urgent. Not like "I'm dying and need to fulfill my fantasy of having sex with a blind woman" kind of urgent, but kind of urgent.

I'm trying to get into the Guinness Book of records. It's been a long-time dream of mine. Since I've always enjoyed cooking, and especially cooking soups, I want to have the record for cooking the world's biggest batch of cream of asparagus soup (current record = 200 gallons). I've managed to get some local businesses to donate most of the food I need (thanks Gordon Food Service and Port Hope Asparagus Farms!) , but I need one more company to come through for me.

The Guinness Book of Records rules for this kind of thing state that I am allowed to use ready-made soup in my batch, comprising up to 10% of the total volume of soup I am claiming for the record. So, since I am hoping to make 210 gallons, I need 21 gallons of ready-made asparagus soup.

Campbells Soup Company makes a great cream of asparagus soup, so I approached them. The local sales rep, Peter, said that he would only consider it if I could prove to him that I would be promoting the record attempt sufficiently. He just told me this morning that he needs proof by noon today (Eastern Time Zone) in order to get his gratis order processed in time to get the soup to me by Wednesday (which is when I have space booked in the kitchen at the Delta Chelsea Hotel - Wednesday is their slowest day this week, so the Chef said I could use his stoves and counters for a few hours in the afternoon).

What he wants me to do is to get at least 100 people to e-mail him this morning to say that they will be watching either the live webcast video or the archived podcast video I will be recording when I make the soup.

SO - if you could please help me out here it would mean a lot to me. It would be so cool to have my name in the Guinness Book of Records for something as odd as making the world's biggest batch of cream of asparagus soup.

Please e-mail ( this morning to let him know you'll be supporting my record attempt! And feel free to tell as many people as possible - forward this in your e-mail, post it as a note on Facebook, or as a bulletin on MySpace or put it in your blog or whatever. Just please help!



Lloyd (future world record holder)