Monday, January 31, 2005

no image is currently available for this fungus-bungus

(An evening. Palinode and The Lotus wish to compound their slothfulness with fatty food.)

Lotus: What do you want? There's always something we can't agree on...

Palinode: How about pepperoni and mushroom?

Lotus: (carefully studying yellow pages ad) Okay...

Palinode: How about pepperoni and mossroom pizza?

Lotus: (still studying ad, clearly not listening) Okay.

Palinode: Why don't you call them up and order some fungus-bungus pizza?

Lotus: (finally, gratifyingly paying attention, which is all that her husband ever asks of her) Yeah. I'll look real cool ordering fungus-bungus pizza.


Lotus: Pizza 'pie'?

Palinode: (can't stop with the 'phone fingers') GIMME AN EXTRA LARGE FUNGUS-BUNGUS PIZZA WITH A BUCKET OF NUGGETS ON THE SIDE, THAT'S RIGHT THAT'S RIGHT thanks goodbye.

Lotus: (back to studying the ad) Where do you get 'fungus-bungus' from?

Palinode: It's an old... Basque... recipe.

(A pause.)

Palinode: Fungus-bungus. Now that -

Lotus: That's some comedy gold.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

fresh resources

For all your burning Carpenter needs, the City of Downey houses The Carpenters Collection. Finally, the reason you needed to visit Downey.

rad lobster

Oh, I've been to Red Lobsters. I've eaten in Red Lobsters atop high mountains and watched the TCBYs migrate through the misty valleys below. I've taken bathysphere trips down to the Marinara Mariana Trench and tried their MSG 'n' Cheddar biscuits at pressures unfathomable to the human mind (this is why I'm so small, by the way - I got crushed). On those endless asphalt plains at the edges of cities across the continent I've been cordially seated in those faux-Maritime booths. I've had overdone tilapia in Irving, Texas. I've eaten overdescribed scallops in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Once I went five minutes into the future and got served slightly before everyone else at the table. In Brampton I penetrated the armoured flanks of a Jack Astor's and a TGI Friday's to get to that Red Lobster in distress. A Red Lobster high up in a tower let down a meaty Alaskan king crab leg for me to climb up. Years ago I found a crystal coffin with a Red Lobster sleeping sweetly within, awaiting my kiss to wake up and start serving me my goddamn scampi. When I wake to darkness and the alarm clock registers three AM, the peeping of Red Lobsters at the window seizes me with a mingled terror and nostalgia.

Please discuss with the following points in mind:

What is the primary conflict in this piece?
a) Man vs. environment
b) Man vs. meaty Alaskan King Crab legs
c) Man vs. succulent Snow Crab Leg Buffet, all day Wednesdays
d) Man vs. Jimmy Buffet
e) Man vs. participating locations only

What's a tortoise?
a) You ever seen a turtle, Leon?
b) Same thing.

What parts of this piece can plausibly be deemed truthful?
a) Some bits
b) None bits
c) Every last goddamn syllable, right down to the butter in the bowl.

Friday, January 28, 2005


Hmmm. It's been slightly over twenty four hours since I posted about finding a human bone in a field and no one has left a comment to the effect of "Oh my, Mr. Node. Human bones, you say? What's the tantalizing backstory?" You'd think you'd get a spasm of interest or stomach-gripping anxiety (human bones, people!) but no. I guess you all went out and bought that Archer Prewitt album I recommended, and now you're sliding down into a pool of melted mellowness right now on those smooth Prewitt stylings. The only conclusion I can come to is that my audience is a crew of jaded hipsterites nonchalantly shucking the human bone reference from the shells of their psyches. "Oh yeah," they say, sneering at their friends' record collections, "human bones. I suppose that's unusual".

It also occurs to me that, given my elliptic-to-cryptic style and penchant for pouring hooey into the autobiography, you may have thought that I was just making it up. Well I wasn't. I was examining a genuine human bone, right next to a genuine cat skull, and the field of frozen soybeans couldn't have been more actual. Even the little pile of airplane wreckage was there. In the interest of full disclosure, I assumed the coroner, and I omitted the dead tree charred by jet fuel, the rotting footbridge in the middle distance and that staple of bucolic scenes, the gradually collapsing barn. Also missing: the gully formed by the impact of the jet, the trespassing relatives of the victims and my cameraman.

Have a dandy weekend.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

standard thursday update, no exceptions here

A few items plucked from the fertile fields of my brain:

One thing: It's very, very hard to worry about anything at all when you're listening to Archer Prewitt's latest album. Peak oil, the fact that "nukyular" has become an accepted variant of "nuclear," the horrible spectre of my next assignment in rural New Brunswick: who cares? Archer Prewitt is telling me that "we can go the way of the sun". Whatever that means.

And another thing: Last week I found a human bone fragment and a cat skull in a field of frozen soy. The cat skull was fairly recent, no more than a year old, but the piece of bone had been there for a good thirty five years, slowly pushing its way up through the soil until it broke the surface sometime before winter hardened the ground. The fragment was about two inches long and curved like a clavicle, with the slight green tinge that comes from exposure to air. I placed it on a pile of airplane wreckage and left it for the coroners.

Not to mention: A slightly blunted razorblade from this morning reached down into the afternoon and ruined my day. Now in the afternoon I can't reach back up to the morning and throw the razorblade away before it gave me this shite shave, with little patches of fuzz left on my neck that weren't visible or tactile then, but damn if they aren't apparent to eyeball and forefinger now. I have a thick and dark beard lying in wait beneath my skin, and it hates razors more than anything, eager to dull their edges if possible, happy to lay at odd angles and elude the blade. If you ever wonder why I go around with a constant coat of stubble on my jaw, it is for the simple fact that my beard is more persistent than I am.

Saturday, January 22, 2005


Maybe it's the flax pills I've been popping, but the spam in my inbox has become increasingly literary. The subject lines have been growing more and more suggestive of some great drama, some epic happening that's being transmitted me to a piece at a time from servers all over the world. Somehow it seems to fit with the whole idea of TCP/IP: little fragments all arriving at a destination. In this case it's up to me to unscramble the signal and join the disjointed phrases into a tender coming-of-age tale set in the Deep South, or perhaps a story of war-torn gay lovers facing each other across the trenches of Flanders. "They loved. And then they killed". Something like that.

When my brain isn't soaking in Omega-3, though, the various dada spams I receive come off as mildly amusing and a little perplexing. I see an email from Nadia Gomez with the subject line "Re: growled something and seized" and I wonder - do they expect to open this? Does Nadia Gomez think that I'm going to look at that and say, "Oh, she replied to that 'growled something and siezed' email I sent her". I can't even think offhand what kind of email I'd send with that subject.

To: Nadia Gomez
From: The Palinode
Subject: Growled something and seized

Yeah, Hi there Nadia. Hope things are going good for you over there in Ulan Bator or Romania or wherever you are. I'm just writing because the tiger you sent me got loose again and started tearing things up in my backyard. When I tried to get it back into its pen, it just growled something and seized my forearm with its sharp teeth. So, I'm bleeding something fierce over here and I'd like you to come get your FREAKING TIGER. I'm SICK TO DEATH and SEVERELY LACERATED over this whole affair, and I'm very sorry that I responded to your last email advertising a cheap home security system. Let me tell you, TIGERS ARE NOT CHEAP. Where'd you get that thing? It smells and it bites.


That's the most likely scenario I can come up with.

Friday, January 21, 2005

my coffee with nixon

In a diner on a crowded street in a city I could not place I found Nixon alone at a booth. He looked grumpy.

- Sit down, he said. I have something for you.

- You died years ago, I said. I sat down anyway.

Nixon nodded, rummaged through an old canvas rucksack lying next to him. His suit looked uncomfortable and a fraction too tight. The tabletop was scattered with crumbs.

- I have something for you, he said, his entire face inside the rucksack. Have a cup of coffee.

The waitress brought a cup of weak coffee, gave me a wink as she set it down. Her nametag said Delia.

- It took me a while to find this place, Nixon said again. Your directions were terrible.

I was about to say that I hadn't given any directions at all, that I didn't even know what city we were in, when Nixon set something on the table between us, a smooth glass cylinder capped with a stainless steel lid. Inside the cylinder a creature something like a salamander and a Disney creature circled, sniffing the edges of the glass. The colours of its skin shifted like rippling water. From one angle it had eight legs, from another five, and then from another it seemed to have webbed wings. I stared closely, trying to follow the changing colours across its back.

- This thing is a litmus strip, Nixon declared, tapping the glass. If you can see it then you have left the real world. From the expression on your face I can tell that you are not in the real world.

Nixon tapped the glass again. The creature swung its head around to track the stubby forefinger. Nixon let a snort escape his nose. His hair, full and black and held down with Brilliantine, had an iridescent sheen like the skin of the creature in the jar.

- Did you know that you were impeached in '74?

- I was trying to save the world, he replied. But it was not the real world.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

really quite busy

Everybody's talking at me. I don't hear a word they're saying - only the echoes of my mind. People stop and stare. I don't see them looking - I just keep referencing obscure lyrics from the Golden Age of film. Next.

Because my internet access tends to be limited on the road, I don't have much time to compose entries - and regrettably, my palinode post suffer, and the palace looks a little shabby. Nonetheless I try to maintain appearances with regular but hurried posts like this one, which contains:


Incontrovertable fact #1: 90% of the population of Brampton Ontario (pop. 286 000) lives in a dozen green-and-grey highrises concentrated on five square acres at the city's edge. The wealthy 10% live in luxurious faux brick two-car garage homes bordering noxious freeways and electrical transformer towers. The truly privileged live deep inside a nest of discount malls and chain restaurants. The citizens of Brampton beach themselves on Red Lobster, swarm on Blessings and pick desultorily through bruised produce in the No Frlls food store.

Incontrovertable fact #2: I saw a hawk killing a sparrow on the grounds of the Canadian National Exhibition yesterday. The sparrow called out in alarm and fear. The hawk look pissed off.

Incontrovertable fact #3: Elektra singlehandedly revives the flapping-fabric genre of film. Not one shot goes by without a ribbon, a sheet, Jennifer Garner's hair or Terrence Stamp's mouth flapping crazily in the wind. Come 2006 the Academy will need to create categories for Best Flapping Engineer, Best Flapping Editing and Best Adapted Screenplay with Flapping.

There are no more facts. Nietzsche claimed that facts are interpretations; in that case my interpretations are hard and totalitarian.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

the literary contest

Last week I entered a literary contest at The nation, the world itself, was asked to write a story based on this picture. Confident of my success, I drew up a grand scheme, meditated on plot, character, theme and setting, and then threw something together within hours of deadline. I included several types of conflict (man vs. environment; man vs. cat; alien vs. alien) and introduced a star-crossed love into the mix. The prize? Four Robin mugs and a picture of a kid with a hat.

I did not win.

But you do! Here is my non-award-winning submission.

Before you dive in, make sure to follow this link to study the picture and read the winning story. Which story is superior I leave to you, but remember: mine has aliens.

The Humanologist's Resolve: A Far-Future Extravaganza About a Man, his
Cat and Some Other Creatures

Day 1
Subject ("Ned Shanahan" "Pfc. Shanahan" "Ned") disoriented from
partial mind-wipe and long cryosleep. Emerged from isolation quarters
to inspect new environment (Model 12, "Single dwelling, Rectangular
Subdivision Era, Furnished"). Expressions corresponded with the
following emotional states currently in our database: 'Groggy';
'Confused'; 'Freaked'.

Superintendent RthRg-III was ready to pull the plug on the whole thing
until Subject calmed down and noticed the coloured-light-and-sound box
in the main room. We obligingly supplied power to box. Subject yelled
[First verbal instance, folks! A breakthrough already!], jumped back,
then sat and watched. Expressions corresponded to following:
'Curious,' 'Grokking,' 'Bored'. [Note: Is plasma screen and High-Def
congruent with Subject's technological frame? Too late now.] At
prescribed time we dimmed the environmental ambients and Subject
retreated to isolation quarters.

Day 2
At prescribed time we raised environmental ambients. Subject emerged
from isolation quarters, exited house and explored environs (Model 2A,
"barracks"). [A Note on Environs: There was much debate on the proper
setting for our subject - not to mention the debate on whether to
conduct this experiment in the first place! - but eventually the
barracks setting won out. Besides the relative ease of reconstruction,
our records indicate that the particular outfit worn by Subject places
him in a military setting. Also, the date of Subject's collection
indicates that he existed in the early stages of the 300 year-long
state of warfare that occupied Earth's final days.] Subject interacted
with our various models, appeared slightly confused but not hostile,
eventually retreated to dwelling to watch the
coloured-light-and-sound-box [Does anyone know what those things were
called? Database query unsuccesful] and drinking the dilute alcohol in
aluminum cans that we understand to be the core constituent of his
nutritional needs. At prescribed time we dimmed the environmental
ambients and Subject retreated to isolation quarters.

Day 3
Last-minute meeting called before the raising of environmental
ambients. Anticipation running high - today was the big day.
Superintendent RthRg-III made a brief appearance. Still not convinced
of experiment's value, reminded us all that we were working at his
pleasure, etcetera. What can you do with a Vlort like that who only
thinks with his third brain?

Introduction of Subject 2 ("Knuckles") into Shanahan's environment.
Glarrhk-X wanted to hurry things up and place Knuckles into Shanahan's
isolation quarters immediately, but we have no idea what cultural
strictures we may be violating by such a move. Our information on
human relations, based on the few CLAS box transmissions that our
ancestors thought to record, is sketchy at best. Authentic period
cooking implements & "Knuckles" food bowl included and placed by CLAS
box, where Shanahan will definitely notice them.

Interaction #1: At prescribed time we raised the environmental
ambients. Shanahan emerged from isolation quarters and took some time
to actually notice the addition of Knuckles, even though he spent a
great deal of time staring at the CLAS box and drinking dilute
alcohol. Noticed prospective mate when he returned to the kitchen,
presumably for more cans of alcohol, whereupon he tripped over
Knuckles and damaged the skin on his forehead. Expressions
corresponded to following in database: 'Fury,' 'WTF?'. Shockingly,
Shanahan scooped Knuckles up with one hand and threw her out the door.
Is this part of a courtship ritual? Knuckles appeared unfazed by
treatment, ate some blades of grass. Shanahan returned to his seat
with a sextet of dilute alcohol and watched the CLAS box until we
dimmed the environmental ambients. Shanahan eventually retreated to
isolation quarters with cans.

Day 4
Disaster. Glarrhk-X attempted to return Knuckles to the dwelling under
isolation period. Subject unexpectedly awoke in Glarrhk-X's
hindpincers, communicated displeasure by yowling, leaping on
Glarrhk-X's headcase. Shanahan unexpectedly emerged from isolation
quarters before raising of ambients. Intriguing in retrospect, but at
the time my spleen was kicked into overdrive, I tell you! Glarrhk-X
scuttled out, breaking several items in his haste to exit. Once
RthRg-III hears of this we'll be shut down. Forget RthRg, Glarrhk-X
points out - now that Knuckles has seen him, surely the experiment has
come to an end.

Later. Surprising development. Shanahan is under the impression that
Knuckles is the cause of the broken items. Knuckles refuses to
indicate otherwise. Hiding under chair and hissing instead. Is the
experiment still on? Have wiped the visual log and sworn Glarrhk to

Day 5
Knuckles is still keeping her sighting of Glarrhk to herself.
Presumably she has her reasons. At this point the experiment may be
fatally compromised, but we will continue nonetheless.

Shanahan has attempted to interact with Knuckles by getting her out
from under the chair. After an attempt made with his hand, which
resulted in scratches and yells, he resorted to the long handle on the
end of a broom. No success. The skin on Shanahan's ears and cheeks
started growing red and beads of moisture began to drip from the ridge
above his eyes - an atavistic defensive measure? Glarrhk panicked and
supplied power to the CLAS box. Shanahan yelled again, fell backward.
Knuckles made a dash for the couch. Stayed there until Shanahan
retreated to isolation quarters.

Day 6
Knuckles is now perched on top of the door between the nutrition and
excretion chambers. Will not come down. How did she get up there?
Shanahan tried poking at her with broom handle. No success.

Day 7
Shanahan threw empty can at Knuckles and went out. Knuckles jumped
down onto counter and stared at a spot on the wall, then pounced on
something that we could not identify. Glarrhk opined that Knuckles may
in fact be suffering from cognitive impairment. I am tempted to agree.

Shanahan returned several hours later with food, dilute alcohol.
Knuckles leapt back up to the top of the door and stayed there.

This is not going well.

Day 8
A breakthrough! Knuckles followed Shanahan into isolation quarters
after we dimmed the environmental ambients. Shanahan lay back and
closed his eyes, then began to produce a deep rhythmic vibration that
appeared to attract Knuckles' interest. She started to produce a
similar rhythmic vibration, lower in volume but unmistakeably kindred
in tone. She jumped up onto his chest and began to knead Shanahan's
chest with her foreclaws, which we took to be an encouraging sign.

Unfortunately, Before she could turn around and position her
ovopositor tail over Shanahan's mouth, he sat up and dislodged
Knuckles from his chest. Glarrhk let out a frustrated squelch at this
development, but I feel some sympathy for Shanahan - if, as our
leading humanologists suppose, the female lays her egg in the male's
throat and birth is marked by the embryo ripping through his stomach,
then I suppose I would resist mating as well.

Given Shanahan's reluctance, I fear we may have to resort to more
drastic measures soon.

Day 9
We dimmed the ambients, immobilized Shanahan with several loops of
Klaat vine and waited until he began making the rhythmic vibration.
Once again, Knuckles leapt up on his chest, responded with her own
vibration, and began kneading his chest. Shanahan attempted to sit up,
began yelling once he realized that movement was impossible. Knuckles
continued to produce rhythmic vibrations and knead his chest. Failed
to deposit eggs despite Shanahan's wide-open mouth.

Day 10
Shanahan will not leave isolation quarters. Glarrhk worries that our
attempts to force mating have traumatized him. Knuckles apparently

Days 11-15
It appears that Shanahan and Knuckles have fallen into a pattern.
Shanahan has moved the CLAS box into his isolation quarters, emerging
only to procure food and dilute alcohol. The hair on his face, which
he formerly kept shorn by means of sharpened metal, has grown
considerably, and his body has begun to smell of oils and pheromones.
He more or less ignores Knuckles until she gets too close, whereupon
he will hiss or attempt to kick her. Perhaps this confusing behaviour
is simply a courtship ritual more elaborate than we had anticipated.

Hair all over the furniture.

Day 16
Really unproductive meeting with RthRg-III. Demanded to know why
mating had not taken place. We reviewed logs with him, delivered
progress report with a plethora of promises. RthRg-III seemed
mollified but left making veiled threats about my job. Stupid Vlort.

Day 17-22
I am starting to get discouraged. Shanahan has ceased to change out of
his bathrobe. Abdominal protuberance caused some initial excitement
but scan showed it be a combination of subdermal fat and slightly
distended colon.

Knuckles left excrement in Shanahan's isolation quarters. I cannot put
a favourable spin on this.

Day 23
You know what they say: never trust a Vlort. RthRg-III scuttled in
with a termination nodule in his forepincers, looking unbearably smug.
The nodule was a bud from the Overmind, which meant that nothing could
gainsay RthRg-III's authority. Our experiment was over, he announced;
Subjects 1 and 2 (Shanahan and Knuckles! I wanted to scream. Shanahan
and Knuckles!) were to be put back in stasis and returned immediately
to their planet of origin. When I explained that the Subjects'
original planet had been rendered uninhabitable nearly five hundred
years ago, I thought RthRg-III was going tear my headcase off. How did
this happen? he screamed. I explained that the Subjects had been
mislaid in a Filing Body approximately eight hundred years ago, that I
had happened across them in an unrelated search for Sk'Zogh Crystals
and found the two of them in a cryocube together. I emphasized that
this was an unheard-of opportunity to revive a long-dead and
all-but-unknown species. Finds like this, I said, represent a chance
to advance the study of humanology by a thousand years.

Vlort that he is and a froog counter to boot, RthRg-III dismissed my
protests and ordered the experiment terminated. The barracks were to
be dismantled, the space turned over to developers and the Subjects
returned to statis.

I have been ordered to separate the memory of the experiment from my
forebrain and deliver it to the Overmind. I am disappointed that I
will not be allowed to remember these humans or the plans that
Glarrhk-X and I once entertained. We have agreed, as a kind of
gesture, to hide this document away beneath our mutual hive, along
with an image of the two of them that we found in Shanahan's breast
pocket. Sooner or later we will find them, and then perhaps the
experiment can start again.

Friday, January 14, 2005

follow this link

Scroll down the page or clink on this link to review the best of 2004 in Palinode's Palace. Oh please.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

because my friends are voyeurs and seem to like the marital conversations

Evening. The Lotus lies all supine in bed, superbly naked but for a blanket and a pair of glasses. The Palinode peeks his head around the corner.

Palinode: I finished The Search today. (points at the nighttable where a copy of Geoff Dyer's The Search lies all supine, superbly read but for the verso and a blurb on the back cover)

Lotus: (puts on a puzzled frown) You finished the search?

Palinode: Yes. The Search.

Lotus: The search?

Palinode: The book. The book I bought the other day.

Lotus: You were searching for a book?

Palinode: No. The Search.

Lotus: Oh. (suddenly bursts out into maniacal laughter) Hah ha ha ha ha! I was acting like I didn't understand what you were saying! Ah ha ha ha!

Palinode: Yes, I saw that.

Lotus: Ah ha ha ha ha! Oh my - (quiets down for a split second, then bursts out into fresh round of laughter) I was just LOOKING at you! And you were talking! Ah ha ha ha!

Palinode: I knew you'd get my drift at some point.

Lotus: Ah - ha - ha ha ha! IT'S THAT BLUE AND PURPLE BOOK! OH MY GOD!

Palinode: Those are its colours, yes.

Lotus: That was funny.

jumpy skeleton, christian skeleton

I don't understand this page.

And in all truth, I'm having trouble with this one as well (scroll to bottom).

In Palinode's Personals

As I am a married Palinode, I don't go around filling out online personals and displaying my beaky mug all over the internet. But if I did:

Last great book I read: An old paperback called Why Thor Is My Guardian And Yours.

Favourite on-screen Sex Scene: Those slugs from Microcosmos.*

Celebrity I resemble most: I am a cesium isotope held in null-space and rolled up in the eighth dimension, so probably Michael Moriarty.

Best or worst lie I've ever told: My sudden impotence does not in any way interfere with your sexual pleasure. Please have a refreshing beverage and we can engage in conversation.

If I could be anywhere at the moment: The now-fashionable meat-packing district, where the endless parties and chic restaurants can never banish the ghosts of old pissed-off meatpackers.

Song or album that puts me in the mood: The cry of the humpback whale in the cold Atlantic depths, keening for its mate. A scratchy 45 of Funky Town that my mother sold for five cents at a yard sale in 1985. My sex life never recovered from that sale.

The five items I can't live without: A tube of lipstick from a lipstick lesbian,** a calendar with extra storage pockets, a plasteel synthskin for living in hard vacuum, a class action suit for all occasions, a navy blue pee coat.

In my bedroom you'll find: Manta ray assembly kit, several botched manta rays, crappy instruction manual

Why you should get to know me: I am an artefact from a distant star system, part of a benevolent intelligence sent back from the future. Who can say why I'm here and how it is I run up such huge phone bills?

Most humbling moment: Getting roughed up by Lance Bass.

More about what I'm looking for: Attention and unearned praise.

*This answer is actually true. I've never seen humans get as slinky as those slugs.
**Or a stick of eyeliner from an eyeliner lesbian.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

no image is currently available for this headpeasant

Lotus: Hi there! (sees herself in mirror) Oh my God!

Palinode: Your hair's a little on the messy side this morning.

Lotus: (running hands through hair, pushing down a cowlick here, shifting a tuft there)) This is the first time today I've seen myself in the mirror.

Palinode: (thinking that the mussed-hair look is kind of fetching/sexy) It looks a bit like thatch. You've got a thatched roof on your head.

Lotus: I guess so, huh?

Palinode: Your hair is an outmoded roofing technology. There are peasants living in your head.

Lotus: What? That's... that's a weird thing to say to me. That's like a Bosch painting or something.

Palinode: Your head is a Bosch painting and the peasants are cowering in the thatched-roof cottage of your head.

Lotus: (clearly uncertain about the merits of continuing the conversation) Well. I'm going to get washed up and fix my hair.

Palinode: Aren't you worried about the peassnts?

Lotus: My head's waterproof. (points at head) They'll be okay.

Palinode: Won't they be scared and confused by the sudden advancement in roofing technology?

Lotus: Don't worry. I'll keep my eyes closed so they don't see anything.

Palinode: And keep your mouth closed so they don't escape.

Friday, January 07, 2005

comicstorm: the destruction of garfield syn

The revolution in taste is finally occurring: The L.A. Times is dropping the daily Garfield strip from its comics page (via Waxy). The Washington Post's Gene Weingarten is quoted in the story as deeming Garfield to be "a strip produced by a committee, devoid of originality, devoid of guts, a strip cynically DESIGNED to be inoffensive and bad, on the theory that public tastes are insipid".

My God. When did the tide start to turn against Jim Davis? This is a comic strip that's been around so long now that I remember trading Garfield books in elementary school. Although I don't follow the adventures of that fatso cat and his ineffectual Everyman of an owner anymore, the little I've seen indicates that the strip is no less funny than it ever was. So what's wrong with it now? Less Nermal? Too much Lyman? Readers fed up with Liz's demands? Cross-species relationship between Garfield and Odie? Liz and Odie? Lyman and a farm goat? Maybe people are wising up to the fact that a hedonistic tabbie cat ceases to be funny or interesting after thirty seconds.

I invite you to offer reasons.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

best of 2004

I'm going to be on a working trip over the next ten days, so my posts will likely be sporadic. I give you a review of the goings-on in Palinode's Palace from 2004 to keep you occupied.

My God, I thought, a 2004 best-of from The Palinode. A rundown of the brightest artifacts from the museum wing of Palinode's Palace. Then: My God, I thought, who gives a rat's ass? No one. But then, who's got an hour to kill at work? Me.

January - April 2004: Nothing, okay? Just nothing. I wasn't here. I lived in a small stone house by a burbling stream in Diaryland.

From May of 2004: a very brief exploration of a Halifax family in a subsidized housing project and their surfeit of mud.

From June: a pop quiz, an elegy to braising, a thing I wrote: Lost Cooking Methods of 1958. A brave exposé of environmenalists and fundamentalists and ugly dogs in Australia's Top End. Photos of old men in T-shirts and old men with sunburns and then some elderly people exhausted by the grandeur of Mount Rushmore.

In July I watched a really crappy movie, modified the word "lacunae" with the superlative "dopiest" in a rant against neoconservatives, dealt with the effects of psychic dislocation while travelling through Texas. I also talked at length about people who talk at length. People who talk at length, by the way, are my bread and butter, but I've never met anyone who could talk at length about bread and butter. And speaking of bread and butter, in a particularly obsessive moment I pulled off an anti-Perecian feat of memory and managed to recall every item of food I didn't eat from the 5th and the 21st of the month. Having accomplished that, I then performed the scientific method on my pet rabbit, with mixed results.

August got off to a promising start. I posted a smashing photo of my wife mauling a cat, which drew howls of protest from PETA. Their vicious attacks drove me to wandering the dumpster-studded alleyways of my neighbourhood, where I found a few pages of a manuscript called "Arrival" strewn around a parking lot. I wrote an insightful analysis of the first page. Then things went a bit wrong when I strapped myself to a high-dive tower sixty feet up in the air and then tried talking to children. My situation improved when I went out on a limb one day and invented a word. I bitched about staying in a five-star hotel in Manila and detailed my adventures in a helicopter over a volcano. Finally, exhausted, I came home.

September started off in the most mundane of places, a business centre. In a dilapidated theatre in a forsaken city on a lonely night I watched the worst movie of all time. Things reached their apotheosis when, in an effort to impress my wife on the eve of my trip to Europe, I went back in time and accidentally turned the present into a consumer-driven dystopia. But all was redeemed when I spent an afternoon with the Klompenboer, the last maker of wooden shoes in Amsterdam.

October was warm. Because I spent it all over Europe. But it didn't stop me from complaining about France, darkly muttering about Germany, ranting about Austria and utterly reviling Wallonian Belgium. Despite my endless bitching, though, I had a wonderful (albeit lonely) time and even found time to bitch about early '90s pop and benefit concerts on the last night of my six-week trip. Europe was the place where I discovered that I was a cheerful adventurous fellow who ended up sounding like a complete misanthrope in writing.

November was the Bathrobe Month. After six week of straight roadwork in six different countries I had the entire month off, which I mostly spent in a haze of scratchy chin, cracker crumbs and marital relations (no link there, sorry). I also sorted through the rolls and rolls of film (what? No digital? What?) that I'd shot on the road. My photos started halfway through the trip, after I bought a secondhand Pentax MZ-7 in Karlsruhe. Compared to The Lotus I am a poor photographer but it didn't stop me documenting modes of transportation, a wonderful Belgian family, and a nervous Georg. Right, and a beleagured lady. And a photo of a child that required patience. Then of course there was that mysterious baby carriage, that nun with pet pigeon and that fetching street corner in Feldkirch, Austria.

Between the posting of photographs I made some hubristic attempts at ludicrous fiction, some strange overreaching fiction, followed up by some strange reflexive fantasy. Some projects were wisely abandoned, others carried on in privacy. Which was the decent thing to do.

December was the cruelest month, mixing memory with desire, paraphraing Eliot, what have you. I found myself back on the road again - Montreal this time, nothing quite so exotic as Europe or the Philippines - and was even given my own office with a view of the fax machine and some fine looking Fedex air delivery waybills. I took my office time as an opportunity to post more pictures: a couple of shots of a graveyard in western Austria, and of course, Jesus and Jesus and Jesus. And Jesus. Whooh! All those Jesuses sure tired me out. Here's sunlight on a mountain to wake you up.

Also in cruel December: I refused to talk about the time Ilocked myself in the bathroom of a Chinese restaurant in France, which was wise, but I went on at length about performing experiments with fruit. What all else I did, I no longer remember. It's in the ground with the roots and tubers now. Happy 2005!

red thermals for cold winters

This morning, in deference to the motherfucking cold, I put on some full-body feel-it-all-over wrists-to-ankles underwear. Bright red, buttoned from crotch to clavicle, a trap door in the back for those full-bathroom moments. And I'll be damned if they don't make me feel like a little old man in a cabin in the woods somewhere, armed with a shotgun and smoking a corncob pipe, nothing to keep him company but the howl of wolves and a stack of girlie mags from 1972.

What compelled human beings to show up in a place like this, take a look around and think oh yes, this looks great, no source of water, no hills, nothing but buffalo carcasses and bones, let's set up shop? The answer involves the words "railway" and "money" and "croneyism," but even so. In the midst of winter this city get so cold that its very character begins warp. Sounds echo sharply off buildings, the crunch of snow sounds like styrofoam (comparison via The Lotus), and the entire city puts up so many plumes of steam that it looks like a live-in oil refinery. In the late-breaking dawn the haze of frozen moisture obscures the idling traffic only a block away, occasional streetlights peeking through a corona of ice crystals. When you leave your building the hairs in your nostril freeze at each inhallation. This is the kind of weather that kills joggers, leaving them prostrate in the snow to asphyxiate from frozen lungs. Cold presses against the outer walls of buildings, penetrates doorways. Cold air clings to your coat and legs when you enter from the outside. And when you strip off your bulky outergear and collapse into a comfy chair, it's still cold.

Actually, the cold is manageable. What I hate about winter here is the way all my walking shortcuts are interdicted by snow. My parking lot diagonals and vacant lots, the field next to the train yards, the innumerable back alleys that I prefer to busy streets. Winter maps are relentlessly rectangular and packed with 90 degree angles. That's what winter really is: it's The Man, hassling me and enforcing property rights. Nasty reactionary season.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

no image is currently available for this chickenlizard

Palinode: Hey, Lotus. What kind of animal am I? (does something animal-like with his arms and shoulders)

Lotus: I don't know, some kind of lizard?

Palinde: No, this animal's got more energy than a lizard. (does it again with slightly more energy)

Lotus: Maybe it's a chicken?

Palinode: To be honest I'm not sure what animal I'm imitating here.

Lotus: Have you ever looked into a chicken's eyes? They're lizard eyes.

Palinode: Lotus, chickens are birds.

Lotus: Birds are descended from lizards. Their feathers -

Palinode: Chickens are birds, chickens are birds.

Lotus: Their feathers are -

Palinode: chickensarebirds chickensarechickensarebirds chickensarebirds

Lotus: - modified scales.

Palinode: chickensarebirds.

A few minutes later

Palinode: I'd like to transcribe our conversation.

Lotus: Oh, that'd be awesome! (looks around the room, clearly imagining a stenographer in the corner)

Palinode: No, I'd like to transcribe it right now and put it on the web.

Lotus: Hey, that'd take us right through our earlier conversation and then right up this bit where I said 'That'd be awesome'!

Palinode: Yes. Yes it would.


Even though I'm not a Christian, I understand that they constitute a persecuted minority and need all the help they can get. So the next time some atheist tries to employ Ockham's Razor as a logical tool for denying the existence of God, I'm going to say, "God doesn't shave". And then, when the atheist stands there shocked into silence, all his arguments falling away from him like a silk teddy falls away from a naughty lady, I'll say, "He doesn't shave. God has a long curly white beard that falls down to his belly. Angels brush it out every morning to keep it shiny and manageable. Then God gets into his Tiamat-pulled ziggurat and space-skis around the cosmos. He pulls doughnuts around the Horsehead Nebula. When He shakes His shaggy mane, comets come a' shooting out. And when Winter blows through the celestial court, that is the End of Days". I'll keep talking, of course, but by then the atheist will have been thoroughly converted. Just doing my bit.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

one more thing

Why is this efficient French secretary following me around (Prq c scrtr frnçs ffcc m st-l atr)?

a few things

The first thing (prmr chs): don't bother reading the last two entries (n prn ps l pn d lr ls dx drnr ntrs). They bore me and they're long (ls m'nnnt t ls snt lngs).

The second thing (dxm chs): don't read this entry either (n lt ps ct ntr nn pls). It's deliberately obtuse (c'st dlbrmnt bts).

The third thing: enough of that stuff (ssz!).

The fourth thing: visit this link here and scroll down to the bottom with the two empty images. "No image is currently available for this animal" sounds like Baudrillard discussing the relationship between early colonial exploration and art.

The fifth thing: My favourite thing (and the fifth thing - see start of line) about The Lotus's weblog is having the privilege of reading about my own life from a slightly different point of view. I feel as if I'm part of a biography. I read her stuff and watch the way I pass through another person's life. It's a good feeling to know that I'm doing alright by her.

The sixth thing: No image is currently available for this animal (Aucune image n'est actuellement disponible pour cet animal).

the last man in regina

This and my most recent entry (the last cigarette) were submissions to the next print issue of The National Pist. Editors and executive, please don't hurt me for throwing this stuff up on the web.

If it weren’t for post-apocalyptic B-movies, I don’t think I’d ever have stayed in Regina.

Let me give you some background. In late July of 1989 I took my first walk through Regina’s downtown, having flown in from Halifax only days before. It was a Sunday afternoon, pitilessly hot, the streets wide and bright and empty, and all the silent buildings radiating reflected heat. For a boy raised on the South Shore of Nova Scotia, it felt like a quick dip inside a nuclear attack (remember, the end of the Cold War was still four months away).

Or maybe it was a neutron bomb that had dropped, because as far as I could tell, downtown Regina was utterly empty. Stores may have been open, but no one was entering or exiting. Was this city run from underground bunkers or something? Were tunnels running from deep beneath the earth into The Pant Shack and the Robins Donuts, where pale Reginans with watery pink eyes and blue-veined skin could buy discount jeans?

I began to feel like Cillian Murphy walking the empty streets of London in 28 Days Later, or less presciently, Vincent Price in The Last Man on Earth. Price plays the title role, a lone human wandering the deserted cities with a rifle in his hand and a desperate hope in his eyes. The rifle is there to ward off everyone who’s become a vampire, which seems to be everyone in existence. Eventually he runs into a group of people managing to stave off the vampiric pathogen by means of regular vaccinations. They all dress like extras from La Dolce Vita and live from injection to injection, holding bravely on to their humanity. For some reason that isn’t good enough for Vincent Price, who runs around calling them freaks until they shoot him.

It was pretty clear to me that some sci-fi scenario had cleared Regina’s downtown of all life. Despite the horrific heat, I figured that the Soviet Union hadn’t made a last-ditch nuclear attack on Western civilization (I would have seen the Emergency Broadcast Signal on TV, followed by instructions on where to gather). And that whole business with underground tunnels leading to retail outlets seemed a bit too complicated. The vampire sickness seemed the most likely, being at once an elegant an efficient solution to the creepy emptiness of the city streets.

Maybe if I was lucky I could find that enclave of stylish well-armed semi-vampires. Unless, of course, they’d run out of serum, and now my new city had become a horde of bloodsucking zombies and some American tourists up for the Royal Red Horse Show. Any scenario would be better than the alternative – that Regina was populated by people who would sooner shoot Vincent Price in the head than go for a walk on a summer day.

That possibility was so ridiculous that I dismissed it immediately and set about the brutal business of survival in a fallen and forsaken world. Following the example of Mr. Price, I built a small fortress in the south end of the city, foraging by day and defending against vampire attacks by night. It’s something to see these hideous mimics approaching my building as twilight gathers, all of them dressed in the tattered reminders of their former lives and still displaying their habits of old: police in their cruisers at night, postal workers at dawn, Jehovah’s Witnesses in the mid-afternoon. The JWs aren’t vampires, but the garlic seems to keep them at bay as well.

the last cigarette

I still recall the last cigarette I ever smoked, in early August of 2000, sitting on a bench outside the U of R library and rolling up the dried crumbs at the bottom of a pouch of Drum. I ended up rolling four lumpy smokes out of what was left, figuring that the tobacco could get no staler and drier than it already was. As I selected the most promising one and dropped three back in the pouch I tried to push away the anxiety that comes over smokers when they calculate the difference between the number of cigarettes left and the number of days until their next paycheque. In my case, I had nearly a week to go before I saw any more cash. Given my habit, this was an untenable situation.

Despite occasional breaks, I had over the preceding fourteen years come to think of myself primarily as a smoker. I was snobbish about the tobacco I smoked and strangely proud of my facility in rolling cigarettes of such smooth and uniform shape that they looked almost like assembly line products. And I smoked constantly. In 1992 a pouch of Drum lasted me a week, but by 2000 I was able to go through a pouch in about a day and a half. One day I calculated that a pouch would yield seventy of my uniform rollies, which meant that at my peak I was managing to inhale about forty per day, filterless and pitiless.

Whatever anyone may tell you, it is not easy to smoke forty cigarettes in a day. Each cigarette takes approximately five minutes, which means that at least three hours per day is taken up with rolling, inhaling and proper disposal. Consider that I never chain-smoked and you begin to see the awesome commitment that being such a smoker requires. It takes serious discipline and a careful consideration of priorities.

The first thing to go, obviously, is work. Either you pick a job that allows you to smoke constantly or you give it up altogether and seek other means to fuel your habit. I had found what I thought was a good compromise: an office environment made up semi-nomadic herds of smokers, constantly massing at reception and heading to the alleyway behind the building.

Then there’s sleep. I took advantage of a feedback loop. Nicotine helps keep you awake, which frees up more smoking time. True, there’s a point of diminishing returns, followed by a point of diminished capacity and then some drooling, but at 3 AM you feel like going the distance.

Food, as any smoker will tell you, is a scam pushed on people by agribusiness, and completely unnecessary if you smoke. Cigarettes will provide all the nutrition a body needs – you just have to believe (and smoke). The only thing tobacco won’t provide, besides a few trace elements and minerals, is vitamin Coffee. All-night coffee shops are set up all over the city to provide people with this precious resource.

If you’ve been following my inexorable logic, you’ll see where this is leading. Without a need for sleep or food, you don’t really need an apartment, do you? Once you’ve smoked your bed, fridge and stove out of your life, all you require is a backpack with a few possessions, quarters for laundry, and maybe a girlfriend with a place you can crash at every so often. So what if you smell terrible and your teeth and fingers turn the colour of boiled yam? What you’re doing takes self-sacrifice, discipline, and guts. And lungs.

So why did I quit smoking on that August day in 2000? Was it a final recognition of the disgust I felt when dry shreds of tobacco rushed through one end of the cigarette and coated my tongue? Was it the nasty state of my teeth? Was I perhaps tired of measuring out my moments of anticipation and pleasure to fit around an income that didn’t quite support my habit? Health issues maybe?

It was none of those. I lacked the discipline and the strength to carry my habit through to the end. I’m so sorry, tobacco: I let you down. But I’ve promised crystal meth that I’ll do better.

Monday, January 03, 2005

buyer's remorse

On the advice of Pitchfork Media I bought Animal Collective's Sung Tongs, their #2 pick of 2004, and while it's certainly fascinating and an example of that outside the box thinking so prized bytoday's business leaders, I'm not sure it's all that those online musical tyrants promised.

Sung Tongs is not so much an album of distinct tunes with easily discernible melodies as it is a weird continuum of jungle noises, acoustic guitar and a lot of harmonized howls and coos. It reminds me of exotic music, hypermeditative psychedelia and that theme song to Wild Africa. I keep on listening to the album, not out of enjoyment but out of an effort to enjoy it or at least make some sense of what I'm listening to. Maybe 2005 is the year of the reactionary turn to melody and I bought this disc at precisely the wrong moment. I blame history, that merciless bulldozer.

Actually, I suspect that Sung Tongs is the musical equivalent of an ugly person whose ugliness so fascinates you that you can't help staring at them whenever they're around, and one day you realize with a jolt (or simply admit to yourself) that you are in fact quite attracted to mr/ms ugly. I'm already humming along to one of their no-note twelve-minute strum-a-thons as I write.

food against itself

Here's what I would do if I had access to a whole lot of capital and a few neckties (by court order I can't wear neckties until 2007). I would open up a chain of restaurants with the following exciting features:

  1. the little bowl of individually-wrapped toothpicks at the counter would be individually wrapped.

  2. There would be a little sign next to the toothpick bowl advising customers not to pick out the poisoned toothpick.

  3. One of the toothpicks would be coloured bright red. This would not be the poisoned one.

  4. Every dish would come with a leaflet listing the ingredients and charting the course of the dish from field and farm to plate. Any animals consumed would be given names.

  5. Squeeze bottles of ketchup and mustard designed specially to produce those unbearable farting noises.

  6. Bolivian-Inuit fusion cuisine at prices the whole family can enjoy.

  7. Rump steaks and roasts to be renamed as rudely as possible.

  8. Itinerant server staff fired at the end of each shift.

  9. Washrooms designed to appeal to the Christian right.

  10. All items on the menu expressed as a ratio of calories of fuel consumed to grow and prepare food to calories available to customer.

  11. Each restaurant individually wrapped to prevent nasty oxidation.