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Saturday, March 22, 2008

Culture Shock

Once upon a time, I worked in a small CBC station in the Arctic (click to listen). I did a lot of behind-the-scenes work, lining up interviews for one of our show hosts.

The most memorable of those hosts was a fellow named Roy. He was an old-fashioned guy who took a lot of pride in his Inuvialuit heritage. He'd hunt polar bears with a bow and arrow and knew exactly which type of snow to use when building igloos.

One day, I lined up an interview with a local Inuvialuit elder who'd just published a book. He was a wizened little guy, and I'm pretty sure he knows how to put a curse on people, so I was keen to stay on his good side. I didn't have time to read the book, though. I knew it was about his life, and I figured I could write general questions that would work well. The book was titled Call Me Ishmael: an obvious Moby-Dick reference that signalled that it was about old-time whaling. Perfect. Whaling was a traditional Inuvialuit activity and it would work really well for our show.

Note to journalists: Do not line up interviews with authors unless you've read the book. Roy took one look at the list of questions I'd prepared and stared at me like I had two heads.

"What are these questions?"

"They're for Mr. Alunik. About his life as a whaler."

"He's not a whaler."

"What are you talking about? His book is Call Me Ishmael. He's a whaler, isn't he?"

"No. It's called Call Me Ishmael because his first name is Ishmael. Why would you think he was a whaler?"

"Because of Moby-Dick."

"Because of what?"

Fortunately, Roy was a pro. I have no memory of what they talked about, but I do know that it wasn't about whales.


Ricki said...

Oh, ho ho! As someone who's taught English for, oh, probably longer than you've been alive, here's what I've learned: never assume people will "get" liteary allusions. Ever. EVER. That means, "never." Great story, though!

Way Way Up said...

Thanks for the morning chuckle! Neat little story

Seriously Frivolous said...

This is how I remember Roy... When I took over for you while you were on maternity leave, I got a message at work one morning, in his deep baritone voice, that said,
"Uhhhh, I can't make it to work this morning. I have diarrhea." *click*
Thanks for the memories.