Thursday, July 28, 2011


[Evening. Darkness over the face of the land. Are there clouds? It's too dark to tell. Schmutzie and The Palinode relax on the couch, untroubled by darkness.]

Schmutzie: My family has the strangest saying: 'Nervous as a cat.'

Palinode: It makes sense.

Schmutzie: But I've never heard anyone else say it. Just my family. [Pause] Maybe it's from the German.

Palinode: I doubt it. They don't have cats in Germany.

Schmutzie: [accepting the premise] But they have the word for cat.

Palinode: Yes, but they have no idea what it means.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

An open letter to that shot of J├Ągermeister on Friday night

Like most terrible decisions, the one I made to shoot back an ounce of you after a couple of beers was made in haste. Already I'd hit that state of drunkenness in which one moment is of no more consequence than the next, as interchangeable as grains of salt on a knuckle, and just as quickly swiped up by a tongue.

It wasn't until I caught sight of my reflection that I realized you were the wrong concoction for the evening. My face had that horrible glazed-ham look. My eyes were sort of swimming around in their sockets with a look of watery perplexity, as if I were trying to think my way out of some infinitely complex trap. I was overheated with alcohol, somewhere past the boiling point, and I knew that even the smallest nudge could set off some awful eruption.

That was it for my first proper Friday night in ages. It wasn't even 9 o' clock.

Damn you, shot of J├Ągermeister. I thought you were on my side. And your web site is astoundingly bad. It's all done in Flash. Really? Flash?

Sunday, July 17, 2011

An open letter to pajamas

Pajamas, I don't own you. Why? Because I'm not ten years old. Back in the heady days of 1981, when I was young and pajama-clad, superheroes and cartoon characters covered my walls and the clothes in which I slept. They marched up my arms, struck poses on my chest, flew down my legs. But adults shouldn't wear you. We're not so invested in role models that we need to embroider our sleep with them. Anyway, doesn't it seem odd that we have an entire outfit dedicated to sleep? Why are we dressing up to lay in a darkened room and drool for eight hours? It seems like the one occasion where we can get away with nudity.

One thing you're good for, pajamas: night time emergencies. Fires, floods, a knock on the door - that's when you shine. Don't worry, I'm here and I'm all over you, you say, and when you're old and rocking the adult diapers, I'll be on you all day. You'll probably die in me.

You play on our fears, pajamas. Without them we would have no need for you. I'll tell you what: when I retire, I'll give you another shot.

Friday, July 15, 2011

An open letter to muffins

Muffins. What’s up with you? If you were cupcakes, you’d be fantastic. If you were banana bread, I’d enjoy spending a couple of bucks on you. Instead you sit in that weird in-between space, trying to satisfy all my cravings at once and just not hitting any of them.

I’m not talking to homemade muffins. Don’t ever change, homemade muffins! Stay gold and all that. I’m addressing these remarks to all the grocery store muffins out there, all the Tim Hortons and Dunkin Donuts muffins. Why do you do that thing you do in my mouth, which is dissolve like a sugar cube? And once your innards are exposed with a bite, you have only two states: mush or concrete. It makes no sense that you should be kind of damp – soaked, nearly – with unknown moistures, and then convert into a rock formation within ten minutes. Stop that weird bullshit, muffins. You’re kind of a tease.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

A Palinode Around The Web

Hello, my butter chickens! I'm all over the web today. I should be represented visually by one of those lawn seeding machines that men in madras shorts and old boots push around suburban lawns on summer afternoons. Put on a shirt on, you weirdos.
"Fill me with your seed, suburban retiree."

Okay, let's start with some stuff. On

What The Hell? Lea Michele, Chris Colfer and Corey Monteith Are Out Of ‘Glee’?

Isn’t Glee the story of Rachel, Finn, and Kurt? Sure, there’s Sue Sylvester and the guy with the obnoxious curly hair and the pregnant girl and the bisexual cheerleaders and some kids who sing things—but they’re not the show. 
Or maybe they are. After all, Lea Michele’s Rachel is something of a one-note (zing! except not really, because her voice is pretty good) character who never seems to grow with the story. Her character embodies some of the writers’ worst impulses, going this way and that as the plot demands. Finn, meanwhile, is so bland that a comparison escapes me. Oh no, he’s worried about his abs. Look out, there’s a baby or something that’s not his. Hey, listen to him sing, it’s almost as good as David Cook, yay.

And then there's prairie dog magazine, where I write my various things, scribble scribble.

How dreadful it is, then, when cocktail culture kicks us so rudely out of its bed the next morning. Regina is full of bars that serve cocktails, but if it's full-blown cocktail culture you're after, with a taste of antebellum torpor or '20s Berlin decadence, then you're going to be disappointed. Sure, you can enjoy a really nice mojito on the roof of the Rooftop Bar or a Havana cocktail at La Bodega - not to mention places like Skara or Habanos - but a place that serves cocktails is only a part of a proper cocktail scene.

Chain places don't offer great food, but they're so predictable it's like playing a recording of a meal: the same flavours and textures, note for note. Sure, it's lousy food that sort of jabs at your pleasure centers like a mugger on Vicodin, but you know it's going to be lousy. In fact, you're banking on that lousiness to get you through the lousy experience of eating that meal.
When McDonald's hands you a cold Big Mac - as happened to me once on the outskirts of Weyburn - it's not a disappointment or an insult. It's so shocking it's like the world just tilted off its axis.

Food Notes On Food

Nothing ruins a group friendship quicker than a standing weekend brunch date. Everything starts out hunky dory, but fissures eventually begin to show. Someone never pays, someone else spends their time complaining about the choice of venue, and then there’s the person who combines those habits (“Can someone get my brunch this week? This place has the worst eggs. Buffets just suck in general. Do you have a smoke?” I’m pretty much transcribing myself from 1995). And eventually somebody sleeps with somebody else’s boyfriend/girlfriend/stuffie.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Daily Twitter Story: Llamas vs. Monkey vs. Facebook

You tweet me. I write you. It's a story.

Today's Daily Twitter Story idea comes from @adampknave, who wanted a story on Llamas vs Monkey vs Facebook. Okay Adam. You got your wish.

"Llamas vs Monkey vs Facebook"

It started, as most terrifying and beautiful things do, with a drinking game. The game was called 'Cole Hauser' and the rules were simple

1. Every time you see noted actor Cole Hauser you take a shot.
2. The game ends when the bottle runs out or Cole Hauser dies.

There are ways of maximizing your chances at winning a round of Cole Hauser. For example, you can stake out his home or get a job on a set where Hauser is working (preferably as a PA, because you're on set frequently and it's a good way to get into the industry). You could also kill Cole Hauser, but that stops the entire game in its tracks and then you'd have to make up an entirely new game. Like 'Catherine Tate' or 'Josh Duhamel.'

One day, a monkey got tired of losing rounds of Cole Hauser to a cohort of hard-drinking llamas who happened to be Hollywood's go-to movie llamas. Principal shooting had begun on Mr. Hamma's Llamas, a flick about a Gulf War vet with severe PTSD who's ordered by a judge to operate a llama ranch. Hauser's agent had advised him to take the gig as a way of getting into the lucrative children's market. Predictably, the llamas were getting hammered and winning game after game. Not only did this anger their wrangler, it gave the monkey headaches and further wounded his self-esteem.

Then, in a fit of inspiration, the monkey reasoned that the rules didn't specify whether the participant had to see Cole Hauser himself or simply an image of Cole Hauser. First he tried to rent Tigerland and Pitch Black, but no video store would offer him a membership card. So he signed up on Facebook and selected a picture of Cole Hauser's wife Cynthia Daniel as his avatar. He had a moment of misgiving, but it revolved mostly around Cynthia Daniel's name, which doesn't sound real. Seriously, do you trust someone with a first name for a last name? Or vice versa? That's why you should cross the street when you see Fisher Stevens approaching you.

The monkey spent months as Cynthia Daniel on Facebook, growing his network of friends, posting updates about 'her' fabulous life. Soon, the monkey knew, Cole Hauser would friend him, and then he could win round after round of Cole Hauser by simply logging on to his Facebook account. Genius? Sure, why not.

About six months into his scheme, the monkey logged on and found what he had been waiting for all this time: a friend request from Cole Hauser. With a series of chirps and hoots and some inappropriate genital touching, the monkey clicked the Confirm button.

A message popped up.

Dude, we knoe what you are doing lol we told Cole all about it and he is party with us right now!!! PWND.

- llamas

The message was accompanied by an image of Cole Hauser doing body shots with the llamas. The monkey howled with rage, flung some excrement around and later formed Google+. The llamas were subsequently fired and replaced with excruciatingly bad CGI alpacas.

The moral of the story is: don't rely on social media to forge deep relationships, just like Malcolm Gladwell said.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Daily Twitter Story: The Toblerone

You tweet it. I write it. Bam! Literature ex tweetio.

Today's Twitter story idea comes from @snakey2010, who wants a story on "The Toblerone." I've done better than a story here - I've written a blockbuster screenplay. Wow! I know.

"The Toblerone"

INT-DAY – The Oval Office

Sir, we’ve developed the ultimate weapon. It will annihilate the Russians, the Chinese and Rhode Island in one crushing deployment.

Thank God. Time to shut Rhode Island up once and for all. Tell me about your ultimate weapon.

When deployed, this weapon will vaporize all life within a 100 mile radius, along with all traces of civilization. Whoever’s left will have to fight back with rocks in socks, sir. They’ll be looking forward to the Stone Age.

What’s it called?

The weapon is code named “The Toblerone.”

"The Toblerone"? What for? Is it shaped like a Toblerone bar? Lots of triangles or something?

No sir. It is a Toblerone bar.

No way.

Apparently the destructive powers of the Toblerone remained unknown and untapped by its inventors.

Well I’ll be a sausage-fried son of a bitch.
 Is it one of the ones that have those little crunchy bits?

Does a bear shit in the woods, sir?

Sorry, what did you say?

I said, does a bear shit in the woods, sir.

That is a good question. A good, solid, down-to-earth question. But I don’t know the answer. Let’s get someone on that right away.

Sir –

PRESIDENT (on the phone)
Can you get Weigel in here right away? (places the headset back in the cradle) Weigel is my top man. He’ll get you the answer you need. Let’s just say he solves my ‘out there’ problems.

WEIGEL (enters)
What can I do for you, Mr. President?

Weigel, I need you to find out whether bears shit in the woods. This is top priority, Weigel. Weigel. It’s a matter of national security.

You can count on me, sir.

Weigel. Weigel. Can I count on you, Weigel?

Um - you just - never mind. You know it, sir.



WEIGEL is in bed, but he can’t sleep. A breeze lazily billows out the curtains of his bedroom window. The sound of the PRESIDENT’s voice repeating his name echoes in his head (“…Weigel. Weigel…”). WEIGEL opens his eyes, sighs.


He gets out of bed and wraps himself in a bathrobe. He reaches for a bottle of JD and sits down at the computer. The Wikipedia entry for Bear is already up on the screen.

WEIGEL scrolls up and down the page listlessly. He knows that the information he seeks isn’t there. He sighs again and knocks back a tumbler of whiskey.

Looks like we’re going on a trip.


… It’s a matter of national security. Obviously I can’t tell you more than that, but any information you can give me would be a great help.

You’re not the first person to come to me with this question. (SCIENTIST gets up, selects a book from the shelf of volumes behind him) The truth is, Mr… (the SCIENTIST pauses, but WEIGEL says nothing)… my friend, that no one knows whether bears shit in the woods. In fact, they may not shit at all. Bears are not animals in the sense that you or I use the word.

What – that doesn’t sound right.

I know how it sounds. But that does not make it any less true.

Are you a real scientist?

Obviously not.

A car driving up a country road. The car pulls up to a farmer leaning on a fence. The driver’s side window rolls down. It’s WEIGEL!

Hello there.

Hello yourself, car man.

I just need to know if there are any bears in the woods up ahead.

Bears? No, the bears all moved out back in 2002. Are you looking for Ritalin?

What? No.

Oh. ‘Cause I’ve got plenty.

I didn’t know farmers sold drugs.

I’m not a farmer.

Establishing shot of airport. WEIGEL pulls up and gets out of his car.


Good afternoon, sir, how can I help you?

I need a ticket to the nearest place where bears live.

One moment sir. (The attendant types something into her computer, reads the result). It says here that all the bears are in Rhode Island.

Ticket to Rhode Island, then.

Flights to Rhode Island have been suspended, sir. A Toblerone Bar destroyed all traces of civilization there.



That's it for today, folks. If you'd like your tweet transformed into classic literature, send me a message! I can be found @palinode.

Daily Twitter Story: Popsicles

It is time. Time for another Twitter story, even though I haven't slept and it's five in the morning. You don't want to know how I've spent the last twelve hours, but suffice it to say my stomach is an acid churn and my clothes reek of cigarette smoke. Yay for strange nights and god damn.

Today's Twitter story comes from @lauriewrites, who shed several story topics in one tweet. I've picked popsicles, because I have this nutty idea that I can compel and entertain you with the spectre of popsicles (a spectre which is not haunting Europe, by the way).


Down Vernon Street we ran and ran, our feet pounding and skipping down the sidewalk, leaping over cracks and landing solidly in the center of the concrete panels. Time and time, our worlds gridded by invisible rules constantly resolving and dissolving according to whim.

"Chan!" called Bo. "We found something! It's here!"

And there it was, as Bo had promised: a three-legged dog, blonde and stinking with nameless carrion. We crowded around it, thrilled at its novelty.

"What's its name?" someone asked.

Bo waved the question away. "Stupid, there's no name. We have to make one." And that's how Bo took us down and built us up, all in one gesture.

"He's Bernie," Steven said. Lila agreed: "He's a Bernie." Bernie seemed to like the name instantly, nosing himself into the little knot of us. We pet him despite the stink off his fur.

"He must be hungry," concluded Bo. "Chan, go get him some food. Your house is right there."

Chan broke away from Bernie, whose eyes were rolling back and forth alarmingly. He crossed the street and entered his house. Once there he noticed the smell on his hands and jacket, the sharp putrid tang of Bernie. He smelled the palms of his hands, daring himself to smell deeper, then rubbed his hands over his face. Now he was more like that stray dog, the one with three legs and the nervous face.

"What is that smell?" Chan's mother asked. She sniffed the air tentatively, testing out the upper strata before dipping her nose down to her child's face. "Oh my god. What the hell is that?"

"It's Bernie," Chan explained. "He's a dog and he doesn't have a leg and Bo found him and I have to get him some food."

"Bernie?" his mother echoed. She went to the window and looked out. "Oh my god."

Chan's mother raced outside. Chan went to the window and watched as his mother raced down the steps, arms flapping like a panicked bird about to take flight. We blanched. Bernie erupted from the pack, zipping through the Ehrenmachers' yard and out of sight. The Ehrenmachers made candy apples for Halloween.

Through the window Chan watched his mother point at the houses on the block. She was sending us all home. We shuffled away, tinged with guilt for a crime we didn't quite understand.

Chan's mother strode back in. "Now I have to phone all their parents," she muttered to herself. "Chan, you get in the bath right now."

"Can I put some food out for Bernie?" Chan asked.

His mother sighed. "Here," she said. "You can eat a popsicle. Then you can have a bath and take food out for Bernie." She drew out a popsicle from the freezer and broke it decisively on the edge of the counter. Chan took the proffered half and started chewing on the end.

"But what about Bernie?" he asked. "What kind of food does he like?"

"We're saving the second half of the popsicle for Bernie," she said. "You finish your half and clean up first."

Chan ate his popsicle as quickly as possible, freezing his mouth several times in the process. After the bath, which took a while, he forgot to ask whether Bernie had had his popsicle. It took him nearly thirty years to remember.