Thursday, April 28, 2005

the timely post

Lucky us all. Last post I promised to discuss the "cupping suggestions" that I found on the back fold of my green tea bag.

Well. No. I won't waste time trying to be funny with something that says "cupping suggestions". After I realized that the mangled text was actually a case of mild Chinglish I lost interest in poking it around for comedy. Bad Asian English ad copy is only mildly funny these days, nearly a commonplace, and making fun of it reaps small rewards. And I don't feel like magnifying it into some absurd space-time epic. Because I could, ya know. I could turn the non-apt guide to cupping into a detail peeled from a grand canvas of aliens fighting a war against time, the upshot being: the aliens, lo, they are future humans bent on commiting autogenocide by killing their ancestors, which is us!

Hey, that's a cool idea. That'd be comparable to being given the chance to go back in time and say, save Kennedy, but instead going and kicking your infant self into traffic. Why commit suicide that way? Because if you (Future You) did it, then Future You wouldn't have existed in the first place to commit the act, so there's no harm in trying. Right?

Okay. Try out this stupid wrinkle in fifteen steps:
1) You have a child.
2) Child saves your life somehow, don't ask for details.
3) It turns out that your child has a horrible congenital disease that you passed on, so you go back in time and sterilize yourself, thereby removing both the child's existence and the act that saved your life.
4) So you're dead and you never sterilized yourself in the first place.
5) Of course, you wouldn't remember that you'd even attempted it.
6) So you'd just keep trying, you sick bastard, getting into your fancy ChronoSling with your cracked schemes and gift certificates to a local vasectomy clinic.
7) You invented the ChronoSling in order to travel into the future and see if they could provide some cure for your child's disease.
8) But the humans of the future have lost interest in medicine. The future human race keeps on trying to kill its progenitors (us), but every time they succeed it simply cancels itself out - they don't remember doing it, we don't remember being killed with their patented Ancestocide Zap Ray, and the whole cycle repeats.
9) The unfortunate side-effect of this is to render the autogenocide project the last thing the human race will ever do, since time simply reverts to the initiation of the act every time it succeeds. Time hits its Omega point and they're stuck in an endless suicidal loop.
10) You know this because you've travelled in your patented ChronoSling to the end of time and watched the human race's attempt to off itself repeatedly, inadvertently achieving this by cauterizing its forward movement in time.
11) And what you saw so traumatized you that you no longer wish your child to participate in the existential horror show that is the future of humanity, so you go back and attempt to sterilize yourself in order to prevent the birth of your child.
12) Dummy. Now you're stuck in that endless loop, sealing off time as effectively as our descendants will someday do.
13) Except now they won't, because you've coiled the universe in a loop, so that now they don't even exist.
14) Which means that the events that propelled your dumb-ass decision in the first place didn't happen, so you didn't go back and try to sterilize your kid.
15) Which means that you, my friend, saved the human race from extinguishing itself in such a baroque and unnecessary fashion. Instead, in a display of great parsimony, they all jump into traffic at once.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

where the hell have I been?

That's a good question. Last Wednesday a host of viruses started scooping out nuclei of most of my cells, peptides and all, in order to settle down and start ruining my life. Why haven't I posted? Too busy lying in cold baths and hoping that brings the fever down. Why haven't I slept? Because the task of shifting around in bed and feeling snot painfully pack itself into my sinuses is really demanding, and who wants to sleep when there's a stabbing pain in your throat and tonsils? And don't forget that a social life fades to insignificance at the prospect of sitting around in a crowded mediclinic and thinking I'm surrounded by sick people.

I'm hoping to get a little better in a day or two, in which time we'll talk about this:

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Printed in China for anxious Canadians.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Rule #7: If this is 1980, please replace sign.

Note that two of the rules assume a queue to get in and play a game on this court. I wonder if the phrase 'tennis slum' has ever been used before?

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

rival chapel? egads.

Just across the street from the Speers Funeral Chapel, another funeral chapel is going up. Is Speers quaking in its morto-boots? Do they fear the encroachment of another corpse sanctifier? Maybe they're worried - and rightfully so - that the new chapel will steal their embalming fluid. Or perhaps they're sharing. I'm sure morticians can be quite civilized.


The older I get the more salad I eat. This is only in part a matter of necessity, and increasingly one of taste. It's true that I wake up in the morning, take a look at my no-longer-bony frame and mutter a few resolutions (one of which involves salad) on the way to the coffee pot. Sometimes my resolutions involve the coffee pot, but only when there's no coffee in the house, which is never. Resolutions to postpone gratification work better when the object of desire isn't at hand, but remember: that's no excuse not to buy coffee. And make sure that it isn't some bargain brand from the 7-Eleven with wood crumbs* and gopher teeth mixed in. Get the good stuff, the expensive kind, the one that truly justifies your craving. The whole point of bourgeouis addictions is the quality, the elite brand of the substance you're hooked on. That's why middle-class kids, when they want to talk about drugs, gibber on about Acapulco this and Red Hair, or mention the purity of the isopropyl alcohol used in making hash. They've imbibed their parents' addiction to quality and taste.

Somewhere in the past thirty years, during the orgy of brand diversity and the wild outflinging of supply chain tentacles to the last arable lands on earth, salads got fancier along with everything else. Star fruit and endives infiltrated the Fortress of Iceberg Lettuce and Maybe Romaine in its mountain fastness. Microdairy cheeses wheeled through the predawn fog and assaulted cheddar and blue cheeses in their sleep. And then the cucumbers and tomatoes were marched into the fields and shot. Now our peacetime salads are irredeemably artisanal, sops to a fantasy of pre-Industrial Revolution life. They're the kind of salads the Khmer Rouge would have made if their Year Zero utopia had held up.

If you want you can still go out for the kind of salad that restaurants used to offer everywhere: pale iceberg lettuce browning at the edges, slices of tomato that taste like bitter congealed water, wilting slices of cucumber and shreds of carrot, the whole swimming in a quarter inch of cloudy water. Sometimes I go to places where I know this kind salad awaits me, hiding behind the fries, and I take mouthfuls of bitter recollection - of a middle-class childhood in the seventies in a small Nova Scotia town, in which any family that didn't serve polyvinyl-based food to its children was seen as snobbish, elitist.

Where I lived embodied in a thousand people or so the greatest class distinctions you can possibly imagine, from bizarre inbred families who raised pigs in their backyard to the summer mansions of some of some of the richest people that the world coughs up. The rich showed up in the summer and sailed yachts, the poor kept raising pigs. We were the middle class folks who had moved there from the city, whose family history did not go back five generations on the same plot of land or could be traced to the Mayflower. I was the children of immigrants, a first-generation Canadian set apart by my looks, my unplaceable accent and my air of intellectual superiority, which irritated my teachers even more than it did my peers. I did not fit in very well, finding myself picked on at school and put up with at the yacht club (sailing lessons). I was a product of the long supply chain, a seasonal import on a bed of plastic grass. Given the limited tastes of the time and place, it's not surprising that few people bothered to take me home.

As a consequence I didn't go outside if I could help it, spending my days inside reading - my first furious addiction - and psychically inching ever farther away from other people my age. My parents forced to me mow lawns for my allowance, which I now think may have been a way of ensuring that I would get some sunlight and physical activity. Peeled of my shirt and browning in the sun, I'd aim the self-propelled lawnmower and let it pull me over the acre of grass we lived on. It had the benefit of leaving me to think and sing to myself (which must have looked ridiculous) under the noise of the engine. When I started writing poems at sixteen, a surprising number turned out to be mythopoetic reflections on mowing. But I loved the smell of cut grass, and the dark wet green chunks that fell away when I shook the mower. I also had a fear of losing a foot to a flyaway blade.

Even though I stayed home most of the time, I loved staying overnight with friends. Other kids had the kind of toys and video games (such as they were back then, in that featureless plain bounded by Pong on one end and the Atari 2600 on the other) that I longed for in my book-heavy household. They also had deep freezes and cupboards full of junk food: Popsicles, Drumsticks, ice cream sandwiches, Freezies. Count Chocula, Honeycombs, Froot Loops. White bread. 'Store-boughten' cookies. Hot dogs. Skinny hamburgers with processed cheese, mustard the colour of screaming. The punishment for being a vegetable was boiling. This was a deeply different world than the one in which I lived, in which junk food wasn't frowned on, but it wasn't really a part of our life. My father liked black licorice and sherbert fountains, candies that reminded him of his childhood summer trips to Blackpool. My mother's cooking was always the result of a recipe, an interest in the flavours and textures of food, not at all the transposed barbecue that seemed to be going on at my friends' houses. My complaints about my family's food were taken as bragging, and occasionally grown adults were so rude to me that I was left shocked; I didn't realize at the time how my words sounded, that my pipey little overenunciating sounded impossibly effete no matter what I said.

Now I live a good 3000 miles away from that class-addled hamlet with its sail-spiked harbours and 18th century gravestones. In this city, barely a hundred years old, my looks and accent are still a bit unorthodox, and I fit in only a little better than I did as a child. I've become a lot more likeable, partly because I picked up some tact over the years, and partly because I like people a lot better than I used to. They are more varied and interesting than I had believed when I was a child. And I eat more salads, which suit my metabolism a lot better than Freezies and hamburgers.

*Some folks call it sawdust, I call it wood crumbs, mmm-hmmmm.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Every so often I look at this wall with the words Speer's Funeral Chapel and, through a process of association terminally murky to me, think "Every day the beach pitches up the same shit". Which is odd, when you consider that the nearest beach is a long way away.

paramecium poiesis

If I could, I would stick a straw in Emmanuel Carrère's head and drink his brain juice, like he were some novel-writing drinking box of Tang. I'd absorb his literary talent and suddenly find myself able to negotiate complex mazes that only Carrère knew. The danger of doing that - beside the ever-present risk of kuru - is not that I may end up writing books too similar to Carrère's, with his characteristic style and preoccupations, but that I may simply rewrite his corpus (Also I may find myself writing in French). What if I find my fingers typing out the text of I Am Alive and You Are Dead or The Adversary when I mean to be writing about, say, an adolescent who kills his classmates, or a breezy lifestyle book on martini culture? I imagine myself poring over the proofs, understanding that they were more than just plagiarisms. They were evidence that I had killed Emmanuel Carrère by sucking out his brain through a straw.

I would be doomed but unable to stop myself, thoughtfully making corrections that only brought my text even closer in line with my victim's. I would be writing out a confession, one for which I had received a grant or an advance perhaps. I would put if off as long as I could, until the day would come when I would have to show something for the money that I'd spent.

Once the books were published, surely people would notice that my works were identical to Carrère's in every aspect but the name on the page. Then suspicion would fall on me. The only way to counteract this suspicion would be to assume Carrère's identity, move to France, take up with his family and live my life as if I were my victim. Then one day, on some pretense, I would take a trip to Ireland, track down Michel Houellebecq and suck his brain out through a sharpened straw. And the whole process would begin once more.

*Many thanks to New World Disorder for providing the link to. Gary Indiana's Bookforum article on Carrère also mentions paramecia in connection with the author, which is a weird coincidence.*

Friday, April 15, 2005

on the jetty

If you have twenty six minutes and a tolerance for smarmy British overdubbing, I recommend La Jetée, Chris Marker's short black and white film about a post-apocalyptic time traveler attempting to conduct a romance with a woman from the past. If you're a film student then you've already seen it somewhere in your first year, but the rest of us have only Terry Gilliam's overstuffed remake (12 Monkeys). La Jetée contains all the ingredients that I love most in any story: post-apocalyptic ruins, time travel, doomed love, tragic death, sympathy for the powerless, and the combined joy and sadness of bearing witness to beautiful things that are at once eternal and yet will be lost forever. As a bonus, La Jetée also features people from the future with buttons glued to their foreheads to indicate how advanced they are. I love this film, and I understand that it was made in 1962, but did we ever think that far-future humans go around wearing black turtlenecks and glueing buttons to their foreheads?

the future is biotailored

Happily I digress (in fact, digression is the constant bugbear of my writing, a thing that more dedicated and professional writers either suppress or separate from their subject in order to provide themselves with material for subsequent projects. But I resent the tyranny of the paragraph and its flat surface. I prefer the space offered by digression, the sense that you are not walking over a piece of writing so much as into and through it, checking out this room and that one, a display here, a locked cabinet there. The digression gives the sense of moving not only into space but backwards in time, as if a turn off a path led you on a track that allowed you to see yourself as you were, on earlier points of the path, and by so doing reconsider both yourself and the path you took. That is the value of the digression. But it helps to keep notes). Because digression makes me happy.

And then, one day, they ran out of buttons, and instead used slugs, or wall hooks, or whatever that thing is.

The trick with La Jetée, the thing that sends film critics into little spastic dances, is that it may not really be a film. Because there are no moving images in the whole thing. Instead you're treated to a series of black and white images against a soundtrack of almost intelligible whispers and racing heartbeats. The narrative is so sparse that we don't even learn the name of the time traveller or the woman he pursues or the scientists who keep sending him across time by means of a series of inhumanly cruel experiments (although he seems to spend the whole time in a kind of hammock, so it can't be too bad). All we do know about the man is that his waking life and dreams alike are fixated on an image from his childhood of a woman on a jetty, before the war that would level Europe and render the surface uninhabitable (another winning story point for me: humans forced to live in vast underground caverns).

the woman on the jetty

'After the tenth day,' the narrator says, 'images begin to ooze like confessions'.

Something very bad and important to the plot is happening here, but I'm not going to spoil it for you

Images are the property of the past. Photographs show what has already happened, a fragment of an instant that will never recur in precisely that form again. Images suggest a structure and a pattern to things, showing us assemblages that appear to have been built just for that moment when the photo is taken. For us folk in the twenty-first century, images have become confused with memories, so much so that we often think of our past, especially the distant past, in terms of snapshots. Whether we've invented a technology that mimics memory or we've simply come to inhabit the technology, I don't know. But watching the images of La Jetée flit by will push you out of that place where memory and image cohabit. Anyway. See it, but avoid the dubbed version. And forgive the button-headed denizens of the future.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

In my neighbourhood there's an artists' co-op that's slowly falling to pieces. But rents are cheap and clay heads glower from the windows.

thrownness storage space

What does this mysterious white shed behind my building want with us? Who can unlock its inscrutable Being and so on?

As I mentioned, this housing project is intended to draw in a crowd of motivated go-getters looking to dig the downtown scene and raise a family. Gooood luck.

The mysterious white shed behind my building. It does nothing, yet it receives a fresh coat of paint every spring. Does that seem right to you?

The crappy fake-ass housing project down the block that's destined to turn to slum in ten years.

Range to nowhere

One of my favourite signs in the city. It's hard to explain how endearing this sign is if you've never followed the arrow around the corner, into the alleyway and behind the beauty salon, to see the short flight of steps leading to the door of the archery range. In the years that I've lived in this neighbourhood, two of them in a building directly next to the archery range, I've only once seen a man with bow and arrow emerge or exit from that door. That was less than a week ago. He had a quiver and a moustache.

Stabby Flats

Stabbingest apartment block in town, NW corner of hamilton street & 13th avenue. By 'stabbingest' I mean 'people get stabbed there a lot'.

By way of trivia, I took this photo around three in the morning in the middle of the winter. The sky was lit up with a ghastly orange-brown glow that our sky seems to get every so often. I was too drunk to hold the camera steady so I plunked it on top of a mailbox and took this photo. A number of other pictures from that evening turned out as smudges, blurs, and things that I don't understand.

Colossus of Health

Public health clinic, NE corner of hamilton street & 13th avenue.

This building is full of travellers getting shots for their exotic destinations (1st floor) and schizophrenics on heavy heavy drugs (3rd floor). When the crazy people need travel shots they must go the second floor, I suppose.

The best part about getting the travel shots is the travel video that they make you watch, which is a ghastly cheap video roughly on the same level as employee training films. Best of all are horrible pastel colours and shoulder pads on women's clothing. Somewhere in all that 1989 fashion muddle they tell you not to drink water in foreign countries or sleep with their prostitutes (which, for those red-faced shitsacks fresh off the golf course and itching to get to Thailand, must be a tremendous disappointment). Might as well go for soda.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

the afternoon happy for you

I've had a line going through my head all day, perhaps born in a half-waking moment around 4 AM last night, that death is like a door in the attic that opens into a hole in the ground. This is one of things that I don't know what to do with but don't want to forget. So it goes here. Maybe at the end of the fifty years I've got, I'll say "I've opened the attic door to a hole in the ground!" and then die, and no one will know what I mean. I'm sure by then I won't know either. But now that I'm writing this I've envisioned a few ideal last-words scenarios:

1) leaning from a window on the second floor, screaming it out to the neighbourhood, then falling out the window onto the sidewalk. A little kid takes my shoes.

2) walking down the street with my eldest son at my side, suddenly stopping to utter the words, then falling face-first into a mud puddle. Or being hit by a Puddle of Mudd tourbus.

3) typing it out on my weblog and getting shot in the back of the head execution-style by a sasquatch.

Hold on a sec.

Nope, scenario 3 didn't happen.

Monday, April 11, 2005


Sweet bedtime. Schmutzie is drifting off to sleep in mid-conversation. The Palinode is wide awake.

Lotus: Our kitchen is too small.

Palinode: Our entire apartment is too small.

Lotus: We need a new place. With a bigger kitchen.

Palinode: And a full set of shiny kitchen implements.

Lotus: Like that garlic press your mother has. And one of those can openers where you don't cut yourself on the rim.

Palinode: And a decent coffee grinder...

Lotus: ...yeah...

Palinode: And a new debeaker.

Lotus: ...yeah...what?

Palinode: A debeaker. For debeaking the puffins.

Lotus: What? Oh my god, that's revolting.

Palinode: The new models aren't so bulky.

Lotus: I've never heard of anything so horrible.

Palinode: It's a regrettable but necessary thing.

Lotus: Why? Why would you want to debeak a puffin?

Palinode: You want to eat puffin with the beak on?

Lotus: I don't want to eat puffin at all!

Palinode: Well, debeakers weren't invented for culinary purposes. They were created to deal with the menace.

Lotus: The menace of what?

Palinode: Puffins.

Lotus: What are they a menace to?

Palinode: The local wildlife. And possibly farm animals.

Lotus: Around here?

Palinode: Oh yes.

Lotus: We live on the prairies. Puffins aren't native to the area.

Palinode: Not any more. They were debeaked. But there was a time when the bison was laid low by the savage puffin.

Lotus: Really? And why aren't there puffins terrorizing the plains right now?

Palinode: It's the middle of the night. Puffins are diurnal. And anyway they were all debeaked in the late nineteenth century. All those beaked puffins you see are artists' renditions or flashy CGI.

Lotus: Really. Then why do we need a puffin debeaker for our new kitchen?

Palinode: Sorry, I was referring to toucans.

Friday, April 08, 2005

the dumbest picture in the world

As you prepare for your weekend, I'd like you to take a few minutes to sit down and contemplate The Dumbest Picture in the World.

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I'm sure you have questions. We'll handle them one at a time.

Where does the Dumbest Picture in the World come from?
The DPW hangs in room 14 of the Rodd Miramichi Hotel on Water Street in the city of Miramichi, New Brunswick.

Are they happy, those animals?
I doubt it.

It looks to me like that fox is really into that deer's butt. Am I right?
See for yourself:

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It looks to me like the deer's enjoying the attention, if you know what I'm saying.

What the hell are those trees? Christ.
You know, I used to know what those tall trees with great domes of foliage were called, but I've forgotten. They're all over the Cote d'Azur.

So the Cote d'Azur also sports moose, red fox, brown bear and deer frolicking beneath its trees?

So then why -
Because it's stupid. Don't you get it? It's the most inane crap I've ever seen hanging anywhere! And I had to spend a whole week with that thing hanging over my bed, with a nervous moose and a fox that looks like Joel Grey out of Caberet!

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Argh. So lame. And you'd never have seen it if I hadn't had a 650 watt halogen light with a stand and a full blue filter in my hotel room.

bowls out, ready for slop

May I post again? Sweet Jesus, may I at long last, once more, throw some words up via blogger? This a test, by the way. Just a test.

I've had blogger troubles over the last couple of days, with posts being swallowed whole. Now I trust that we've overcome our mutual difficulties, blogger and I.

Monday, April 04, 2005

what I think about when I'm not thinking about pie

Okay. Today I've got nothing, but I do think that if Dance Dance Revolution is to stand a chance at overthrowing our nations' governments and uniting the globe in a glorious Electro-Athletic Youth movement, sanctified by sweat and pumped up by volume, it needs one of two things:

1) a glorious, powerful leader with a metallic arm such as I have
2) triumphant MIDI files, each packing the sonic punch of three to five ordinary MIDI files (resplendently here)

Actually, it needs both of those two things. And now that I think about it, it needs most (if not all) of many more things. First of all, the upper body needs greater rigidity. You'll notice that most kids doing the DDR whip their upper bodies back and forth as if their legs and buttocks were in command. Caught up in the fervour of Electro-Instruction but undisciplined, they allow their torsos to incline by submissive degrees.

This is heresy. Imagine an army led by its calves and buttocks! A proper Dance Dance Hoplite Revolutionary, raised above the bestial crowd by Electro-evolution, should stand legs astride the sensor pads, upper body rigidly erect with spine straight, and - I cannot stress this enough - one arm outhrust in solidarity with a closed fist to symbolize the force of the Electrocardiothetic Army. In fealty and obedience (but never thrall) to the DDR leader, the one with the metallic arm such as I have, the Revolutionaries should adorn their arms in chrome accents or strips of aluminum foil. Arms upthrust, the glow of the cathode screens thrown into scintillas by their metal arms, the Dance Dance Argonauts Revolutionaries will dazzle their enemies! Enemies include: mall security, the jerk who won't give free refills on your Orange Julius, friends' angry moms. And McDonald's shift managers. The Dance Dance cannon fodder Revolutionaries will dance, spin, jump, spin, and switch on their graves! Arise and jump around, fructose-fueled legions! Follow the path laid out by your Dance Dance Machines across the graveyard of our society!

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