Monday, July 25, 2005

circuit

My city is changing again. Every so often I turn down a street and discover a new building or an empty lot that I'd never noticed before, and it occurs to me that a whole cycle of construction and destruction has wheeled around without me noticing, and now there's a puke-ugly car dealership lording it over the block where a row of old brick warehouses once stood. Or a crumbling old movie theatre disappears behind its facade and a grocery store unfolds in its place.

I'm sorry, I can't continue this. I have no internet right now at home. My ISP is staffed by bureaucratic assholes who like to make us wait for a week before sending out a technician to "hook up" our computer to the "internet". I use my oh-so ironic quotation marks in order to highlight the fact that he hooked up nothing to nothing, and that the internet is not being piped in to our new place. Now we wait for tech support to call us. That's right: we don't call tech support. Tech support takes our calls, fumbles around and then tells us when someone who knows something about IT calls back. Our ISP: run out of a guano-covered tarpaper shed in an abandoned lot.

Yes, I have the internet at work. That's where I am. But as I type I can hear the business manager and the legal affairs guy chatting away in the next room about contracts and sales and markets. And I have realized something: as decent folk as they are, as decent as all these employees and middle- and upper managers may be, as much as they smile and drink water from paper cups and ask me what I'm doing for the long weekend, I just hate them. Really. I can't think because the sound of their murmured voices in the next room squishes my brain until all the metaphors dribble out. I have jokes to crack and stories to relate and thoughts that I've been collecting for the last week at least, but the email announcing free Avril Lavigne tickets for management first and then employees if any tickets are left over swishes down like a giant broom and all is swept away.

On the plus side, our new place kicks so much ass that, um, there's sore asses for blocks around. Now that I think about it, our new place may not kick ass so much as commit a lot of sodomy.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

things we found in our new place

1. a shrimp beneath the stove. We poked at it, asked a few questions (how's the plumbing here? When does the building manager turn the rads on?) but it refused to answer. It had gathered its dust bunnies and was content to rest.

2. a pepper inside the freezer, and I don't mean open-up-the-freezer-door-and-there's-your-pepper, I mean pry-off-the-bottom-panel-and-there's-your-stanky-old-pepper-just-settin'-a-spell.

3. black feathers under the stove, fridge, inside the door of the fridge. I'm an understanding person, but black feathers? What were these people cooking up? Crow cake? Raven ragout? Blackbird blancmange?

4. Black mold in the freezer, which we killed with every single thing we had in our house that was remotely toxic, chemical, sharp, blunted, horsepowered, whatever.

5. an incomprehensible piece of high-technology lightweight plastic mesh clearly intended to cover something, but no object looks appropriate, so it must be a cover for some other equally high-tech piece of plastic. Whatever it is, it's meant to help outdoorsy types stay alive on the North Pole and at the Earth's core.

6. Speaking of the Earth's core, the stuff under the stove was clearly part of the mantle, that miles-deep impenetrable crust made of rock, metals and utter filth.

7. We also found the hollow laughter of the 'cleaners' who had apparently come by a few weeks ago.

8. Plus we locked ourselves out and had to use boltcutters to sleep in our appointed bed.

Moving.

Monday, July 11, 2005

the first family plot

Me and The Lotus are bad people who want to ruin our future children's future. Here's how:

A year or so ago, in between assignments, I spent a couple of afternoons as an extra for the series I now produce. The show is an historical doc series that mixes interviews and archival footage with ultra-low-budget reenactments, and the producer plucked me from the extras talent garden because a) I was her friend, b) between trips I tended to sit at home in my bathrobe and let my brain go to cheese, and c) being an extra on the show pays slightly better than bathrobe sitting. Slightly.

It also helped that I bore a strong resemblance to the person I was playing, a Nova Scotian man (just like me!) who had lost his family to a fire in the aftermath of a storm (not like me!). I had been the one who interviewed him for the program, and my first thought upon seeing him was My God we look alike and then is he thinking the same thing? and then they're totally going to want me to play him in the reenactments.

Since months later I found myself dressed in a pair of ill-fitting pyjamas, choking on mineral oil smoke and pretending to be struggling for my life.



You'll be happy to know that I escaped through the bedroom window, slowly peeling away pieces of venetian blind until I was able to poke my head through the window. It's difficult to see in this photo, but what I'm actually clutching is an actual child.



Several days later I awake in the hospital, where the compassionate and well made-up doctor looks very very concerned. I am made of stone.



Now that I look at these photos again, I have to wonder: if I'm coming to after several days in the hospital, why is my face still smudged from the fire? Anyway, the doctor has left and now the nurse is compassionate.



They make the mistake of telling me that my family has died in the fire.



I thought I was a worldly guy, but I'd never had the experience of struggling in a bed and being held down by several strange women. Anyway. This next one is my favourite. I'm supposed to be yelling and grief-stricken, but I appear to be singing with a mask on. It's some kind of oxygen-deprived opera.



I whip my head around until the mask comes loose, and the scene shifts from Il Convalesci to Heavy Med Elvis.



After the stills came back from reenactments I selected a few from the duplicates and brought them home for The Lotus' amusement. She decided that we would slip them into our family photo album. Years later, when our currently unborn beans find these photos of agony and torment, they'll say, "Dad, what happened to you?" And then The Lotus will whisper "That was from Dad's first family" and close the album gently but firmly, as I exit stonyfaced from the room.

mixmaster, cut avaster

You have been boarded by the Dread Pirate Query/Return. I've realized that if my personality were a kind of sentence, it would have to be the nonsense sentence written in the passive voice. What kind of sentence would you be?

avast

One of the unexpected pleasures of using Microshaft Word is having its grammar checker moronically attempt to correct nonsense sentences written in the passive voice. I just wrote "You have been boarded by the Dread Pirate Yes/No" on a set of interview questions I'm editing, and I've discovered that a single click of the mouse can transform that into "The Dread Pirate Yes/No has boarded you". The active voice of that sentence makes it sound infinitely more like you're getting shagged by Aristotle.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

the summer blockbusters

Revenge of the Sith - George Lucas and Peter Jackson duel to see who can make the longest contiguous multimedia entertainment franchise in history. Lucas launches a cheap but entertaining offensive with the original Star Wars trilogy. Jackson ducks and counters with Fellowship of the Ring. Lucas throws out a concealing cloud of Star Wars paperbacks. Jackson charges through the zone of pulp and dumps the mighty weight of the Two Towers on Lucas' head, but not before Lucas releases hordes of venomous Clone Wars episodes and Xbox games. Jackson shields himself with Return of the King, then reveals himself to be the mysterious Darth Slovenous. He jumps back in time and compels the midichlorians to create J.R.R. Tolkien out of thin air. Tolkien writes a terrifying battery of Middle Earth literature, runy looking scribbles, incunabula and napkin doodles, the combined force of which erupt from the past and flatten Lucas' formidable army. He is left with nothing but the Star Wars Holiday Christmas Special. Defeated, he becomes Slovenous' apprentice and takes the name Darth Throatpoucheius. They invade Iraq.

War of the Worlds - In a horrible alternate universe, Tom Cruise never became a celebrity or a Scientologist. Instead he ends up working as a longshoreman in New Jersey with a crappy house and a couple of ungrateful kids. Suddenly Xenu's forces invade and all those alien thetans that had been hanging around in human bodies are transplanted into giant underground machines. Their express mission: kick the living shit out of New England. The cradle of American liberty! Why they hate freedom is not clear, no clearer than the need to vaporize and vampirize people with Noo Joisey and Bawwston accents, but everything is made right when Tom Cruise kills Tim Robbins over a copy of Dianetics in a farmhouse basement. A bolt of lightning transfers the spirit of L. Ron Hubbard into his head. Suddenly a 1000 foot tall level VIII Operating Thetan spitting electricity, Cruise commands all the microbes of the earth to infect the maurading thetans with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. He goes on to marry the Eiffel Tower in a same-stature union.

Batman Begins - On opening night there's a lineup to get into the theatre. You're herded through the garish neon-drenced lobby, shuffling from end to the other in a crowd of stinky 13 year olds. You duck under the rope to use the automated ticket kiosk, but all five stations are broken, each in a diferent way. Two of them have 'out of order' signs. After five minutes of trying to wring a couple of tickets out of the machines you duck back under and join your friends. At the counter you buy your tickets and a cheapass heart-shaped brooch to support cancer research. Somehow you're out more than twenty bucks already and you haven't even hit the concession stand. Once you get to the concession stand you find out that you're in the wrong lineup for the chili dog you wanted, so you follow the glum finger down to the lineup at the far end. After you order the chili dog you discover that they don't take debit or credit cards, but you can get gift certificates from the ticket counter. Close to murder, you send your partner off to get the gift certificates, which come in convenient denominations of twenty, twenty, or twenty. Finally you get your chili dog and your change - which is less than you thought it would be - but you've lost your friends, and now you have to pace up and down, scanning the dozen concession queues for the people you came with. Cranky thirteen year old girls stare back at you. One of them shouts Pervert as you pass by. Finally you spot your friends wrestling with giant bags of popcorn at one end. You all regroup by the flavoured popcorn shaker island. Everybody checks their tickets for the cinema. It's number 5, which means you have to pass by the freaky preadolescent automatons on the Dance Dance Revolution machine. It's like Village of the Damned with a techno beat. Once past the guy who rips your ticket in half and functions as a vector for the germs of every single person who's seeing the movie, you enter the theatre. A sudden profound blackness makes you stumble into the person ahead of you, but as your eyes adjust you make out the terraced rows of hunched figures crunching away on great tubs of food. The strange submarine light makes you think of a submerged pyramid in Atlantis, the popcorn eaters in the seats the ghosts of a doomed and slovenly race. Eventually you all find an unbroken row of seats somewhere near the back and you wade in, stepping on old popcorn kernels and the sneakered feet of teens too comatose with diabetic slurpee shock to register the contact. Once seated you realize that you have set yourself between two groups of people whom you know will talk loudly and slowly throughout the entire film. In front of you are a couple of stink-haired church of Satan wannabees who like to shout "Rip his skin off!" whenever the hero appears onscreen. Behind you slumps the weird remedial duo of Neophyte and Initiate, who explain the entire movie to each other in real time. For some reason the Neophyte has never heard of Batman, knows none of the backstory, and has not thought to find out about it until now. He will spend the film asking all kinds of questions to the Initiate, who will answer loudly and carefully, and as far as you can tell, incorrectly. Finally the lights dim and you settle in, chewing on cooling chili dog. First a commercial for soap. Then another one for detergent. Then a commercial for a car. Then another one for the army. Then a PSA telling you to donate to cancer research and to turn off pagers and cells. Then there's a preview for a story about one man's attempt to prove himself against the backdrop of the civil war. Then one about one woman's struggle to find the man she loves in outer space. Then another about a daughter who helps her mother find love in the big city. In the middle of a preview a gay character says something gay and everyone laughs. Martin Lawrence makes a face and everyone laughs. Heather Locklear swings a tennis racket into Tim Allen's crotch and everyone laughs. Will Smith kicks a woman in the face and that gets a big laugh too. Then a preview comes on for A Scanner Darkly, and it looks so fucking cool you could cry, and someone in the audience goes, "Man, that was weird". Then the screen announces Our Feature Presentation. It's in Digital Dolby Sound, so you spend thirty seconds watching an embedded commercial for Digital Dolby Sound. It's also a Warner Brothers film, so you watch the brief embedded commercial. And then, after all that, Batman finally begins.

It's okay.