Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Counterfactual Cinema

Tonight marks the return of a long neglected feature here at the Lens -- the counterfactual of the week.

Before moving on to weightier examinations of the role contingency occupies in our historical narratives and understandings, we are going to indulge in some rather more aesthetic adumbrations of cinematic consequence.

There are, of course, as many or more counterfactuals than there are "facts", but I'll only mention one or two interesting ones from time to time. It should also be mentioned that these cinematic counterfactuals are not derived from authoritative evidence, but rather gleaned from the gelatinous residue of gossip and hearsay.

This week, we ponder the case of Apocalypse Now (1979).

Steve McQueen was Francis Coppola's first choice to play Willard, but he passed, as did his obvious second choice, Al Pacino. Martin Sheen was next in line, as he had impressed Coppola when he auditioned for the role of Michael Corleone a few years earlier. But Sheen was engaged with another project when filming began in 1976 (perhaps the legendary "Cassandra Crossing", featuring a slumming Richard Harris and a young Orenthal).

Coppola decided to cast Harvey Keitel, then a staple in his buddy Martin Scorsese's stable of actors. Production began, and footage was shot, but Coppola decided that Keitel wasn't right for the role, and he replaced him with a newly available Sheen.

What might have been had Keitel remained on set? Would the film still be considered a flawed masterpiece?

From my perspective, it would have been something special to see Keitel playing across from Brando. As far as I know, they never appeared together before or since.

Perhaps he would have introduced himself to Kurtz differently: "I'm Captain Willard. I solve problems."

When Brando notoriously forgot his lines, the Bad Lieutenant could have rehearsed his later address to Jesus: "Mutt! You got something that you want to say to me? You fuck! You ratfuck, you ratfuck ... you fucking stand there and you want me to do every fucking thing!

Next week: what popcorn pap did David Lynch turn down in order to make his own sci-fi cult classic?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Mutatis mutandis

Motion Matters, man.

Things are moving in the right direction.

I'm maintaining the momentum.

The morphology of the membrane has been modified.

Remanufacturing the motivating mojo.

Refashioning the Mandevillian moment.

Molly Maid has come and gone.

The markings of the immoderate no longer mar my apartment.

Will be muscling in the 42 incher and the Tru-Blu-Ray.

Motion pictures are mustering.

Wanna dial M for Murder.

May I marvel again at a Miller's Crossing.

Gonna mull over a Magnolia.

Might be mystified by a Mabuse or a Metropolis.

Can't wait for Melancholia.

Managing the magnificence of my maturing hockey team.

Getting the mainframe back up.

Ditching the mono for a stereo situation.

Marauding through a fridge full of Mill St.

Remounting the Old Masters.

Remastering the Moderate Literati.

Merely a few more meanders down Main Street towards the mind-melting minutiae mutating within the metastasizing mass of the corporate collective.

The immaculate miracle is coming, and with it a million vacations.

Maybe a mix of Menandering Methe and Manoan Macadamians.

Yep, a million vacations is what I have in mind.

After all, you can only drive down Main Street so many times.

Right Kim?

Monday, November 29, 2010

Notes from the Field

I decided to drop into a walk-in medical clinic this afternoon, and I came away with more astonishing anthropological anecdotes for the note book. I need to get it down before the details fade further into the farrago of my increasingly clouded consciousness.

I've had an ear problem of some sort since last Thursday. I decided that, rather than add time and physical distance to my already heavily compressed daily schedule, I would drop into a walk-in clinic downtown, and save me a drive out to my own doctor beyond the pale of the downtown core. One ear has been plugged intermittently, and the other seems to percussively "pop" every so often. A little potato of ear wax had gotten stuck, I presumed, and I simply needed a flush with a medical syringe.

In my immediate neighbourhood, there is a (putative) clinic that's only open one or two days a week. And last Friday wasn't one of them.

So, on Friday, I trekked about 15 blocks, against an unusually bitter November wind, to the hinterlands of the downtown core, only to be told to expect at least a four hour wait.

The waiting room was suffocating in the swell of sick humanity. Screw that, I says, and I went off to the gym as per usual on Friday afternoons. During that session, my ear got unplugged somehow, so I didn't worry anymore about it.

On Monday morning, it had returned. After getting a reasonable amount of work done, I decided to give the walk-in clinic another shot. The one nearest to me was open today, and I had other errands to do on the same street.

I got there around ten to 1, and a few people were lined up. I went and did a couple of other errands, and when I returned more people had lengthened the line. They all seemed rather anxious and hopeful at once, as if they were in line to buy a limited edition copy of "Halo" or "Call of Duty: Black Ops". I waited for another minute or so, and finally the line started to move quickly into the vacuum of the now open walk-in clinic, and I was pushed from behind into the swirling vortex as the crowd surged forward. I was beginning to doubt the wisdom of my decision, thinking that I should have just jumped into my car and made the pilgrimage outside the pale to my own practitioner. By then, however, it was too late.

I was herded into the waiting pen along with the rest, and once I was registered, there was no going back. An hour and a half wait. OK, I can do that, get my ear flushed, get over with it, and get out of here.

I pulled out my reading material, and settled into a seat. Not long after, an old white man and an older black woman who may or may not have known each other began to engage in a rather loud and public conversation. Eventually the conversation drifted into a discussion of race and ethnicity. "What are you?", the man asked rhetorically, as he had previously asked the receptionist behind the front desk. The woman, without a hint of Samuel Jacksonian irony or self-reflexity, replied, in her shout-speak, that she was a (offensive n-word deleted). For some reason or other, this otherwise mundane conversation continued and escalated to the point where she was repeating, matter of factly, she was a (offensive n-word deleted), and that was that. Stunningly, very few people in the waiting room seemed to bat an eye. There were a few black people in the waiting room, and one of them was getting noticeably and understandably agitated. Even the old man she was talking to was begging for her to shut up, but she inexplicably kept describing herself using that term. I couldn't help but peer up from my page -- almost everyone else was staring into space, seemingly oblivious. Even the receptionists went about their business as usual. It was exquisitely uncomfortable.

Finally, the young black guy told her to shut up, explaining how offensive she was being, and that she should be ashamed of herself. The verbal spat went on for several minutes in the waiting room, and all I could do was squirm in my chair. Then she stepped out for a few minutes, the two still shouting at each other through the window.

Things calmed down after that, even after the older woman returned, and then it became the usual exercise in ennui as all those before me were called in to see the "doctor" down the hall. I finished my TLS, wishing I had brought the following issue with me as well.

Eventually my name was called. I was ushered to a tiny examination room, and almost immediately she entered behind me. I had seen this woman earlier, floating around the front desk in a confused state, and I assumed she was a previous patient. A gnomish four-footer, she was wearing a blue jean jacket and sporting a cheap, bloody orange dye job. She looked to be in her mid-80s and going through a 2nd or 3rd postlife crisis. I expected Ashton Kutcher to pop out from under the examination table telling me I had been PUNK'D.

She demanded to know what was wrong with me. I told her about my ear, and I bent down to allow her to shine her light. In all of 15 seconds, she triumphantly declared "No Wax!" after a peek in each ear with her little light. She proceeded to start writing a scrip for a decongestant and to see her again in a week. I explained that I had my own GP and several other oncologists and endocrinologists, and I had simply expected the walk-in clinic doctor to instantly see what was in my ear and syringe it out. I tried to thank her and leave, but she held me for another five minutes as I dictated an abridged narrative of my health history the past 3 years to her. I had to tell her how to spell a few things, and I really began to wonder where the hell I was.

She handed me back the narrative I had dictated to her, put her stamp on it, and I walked dumbfoundedly outside to the street. 2 hours lighter, and 2 hours later.

Saturday, November 27, 2010


Its damn well time.

A weekend to get down to it. Get over on it. Be over with it.

Dancing through the detritus of the disruptions.

Declassifying the documents.

Discovering the bones of displacement and distractedness.

Dispersing the odour.

Dispatching the days of dolour.

Driving out the disinterestedness.

Destroying the details of depression.

Drilling through the decadic layers of deviancy and delinquency.

Dispelling the indolence of disillusionment.

Disinfecting the disorder.

Dressing up the new order.

Desecrating the dead flesh.

Drawing out the new flesh.

Dismembering old devices.

Misremembering old vices.

Reconstructing the reality.

Deconstructing the decrepitude.

Discharging all dissimulation.

Designing a new direction.

Developing strategies of decorum and decency.

Directing a new dramatis.

Debunking the dreams of fabulists.

Debating the dubiousness of discretion.

Deferring to the demands of the Dionysian.

Daring to defy ....

Friday, November 26, 2010

Explosions! .... in the sky

.... its natural to be afraid

Sunday, November 21, 2010

O Brother Where Art Thou?

Damn! I'm in a tight spot!

My Brother HL2170 has abandoned me in a time of need. I can't print my documents.

I guess all I can do is stop working and watch the football game. G-Men vs. the Eagles.

Damn! We're in a tight spot!

In order to win our fantasy football matchup this week, Eli Manning has to outduel Michael Vick, and real bad at that. Bomber said we were gonna win the Bowl. We started 8-1, but this would be our second loss in a row, and our grip on a first round playoff bye would loosen. Hopefully Eli won't emulate his big brother, the Great Tactician, who earlier today threw a final seconds interception that cost his team the game.

Instead of listening to the annoying Chris Collinsworth, I've got the radio on a station where I can hear some old timey music. The G-Men just fumbled the football to the epic strains of "Tales of Brave Ulysses".

Looks like the G-Men are going to get the Gears given to them tonight. Eli just threw an interception, and the Eagles are again in the Red Zone.

At the half, Eli's fantasy point total is -1.

No matter, my keeper league hockey team is healthily in first place, thanks in part to the Macedonian miracle, the Pride of Markham who Waxes supreme amongst the scoring stars. May the Moirae not strike him down.

Will I win the Dominion Cup this year?

yes I said yes I will Yes.

Will I win the HoC Bowl? With this Manning, maybe not so much.

Thanks, brother.

Eli Eli lama sabachthani?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Jigsaw Man

Sometimes I really don't know what to do with this blog.

Sometimes I think I have to be clever. Sometimes I think that I have to be vulgar. Sometimes I think I have to be funny. Sometimes I think I have to be serious.

Sometimes I think that it should be cathartic. Other times I just get a kick out of writing something, and playing around with some ideas. With language. With expectations, including my own.

Sometimes I just like telling stories. From the past, from the present. Those archived in the remoteness of deep memory, or those that have been thrown before me in the ephemeral event of the day. What we think happens all in a day, though, may stroll through our consciousness for a lifetime.

But sometimes, I feel that the best use of this medium is to talk to myself. To write ... to myself. Things that probably wouldn't be set down otherwise.

The overwhelming majority of the sludge that sloshes around in my mind each day would, I strongly suspect, be too confessional and far too messy for even myself to ingest and make much sense of, let alone subject anyone else to. My levee will hold, buttressed as it now is by the pillars of Sobriety, Stoic self-command, and the Wisdom that inevitably accompanies experience.

This late afternoon, however, as an astringent breeze carries the sound of the late day traffic through my open desk window, I feel a need to set something down.

I am listening to music that never fails to move me, and is embedded with endless layers of memory. From my life and, I can only imagine, from those who composed and recorded it. Music has an ability to invoke that kind of sublimity. An ecstasy that cannot be entirely emulated. By ideas. By books. By cinema. Even by love, or what we each think that to be.

This late autumn afternoon, as a not so fiery sun sets over the city, I am thinking about my father. I have been able to see him more often since the Information was signed, sealed and delivered. But this provokes an emotional polarity in me. On one hand, it is wonderful to spend time with my father. But, during the course of an extended visit, seeing a man's mind slowly and invisibly disintegrate before you is a devastating experience that shatters me to the core each and every time.

Worse yet is knowing that my mother's heart breaks every day of her life, as if she had been consigned to hell and doomed to repeat each day after frustrating day. No woman deserves that. But especially not one who has an infinite capacity for love, loyalty, nurturance, and forgiveness. I do not know if my father truly earned that. Some of the things you see as a child you never really forget. I severely doubt that I have earned that loyalty, as her son. I only hope he is aware of that and still has the facility to understand the sacrifice, though he was never entirely capable of that acknowledgment. Perhaps none of us are.

I cannot pretend (to myself) and fabricate a father who I ever really knew, though I may have egotistically believed that I understood him. But he was, and is, my father, and I love him. He now embraces me, after a lifetime of firm handshakes. But I don't know if that signifies any fundamental change in him other than what he sees my mother do to any loved one she sees. I'd like to think that it does, though.

My father quit school after Grade Nine. He worked for a living from the age of 14, including extended periods in the far north of Ontario and Quebec. He took over my Grandfather's agricultural machinery business and, by sheer dint of a savant-like ability with numbers and business sense, work ethic and trustworthiness, built a business that allowed all of his children to have an opportunity to attend university.

But, like my Grandfather, my father was a hard man, and an immoderate man. If there is anything I can acknowledge that I inherited, it is that quality. I would probably still be immoderate if I could.

Such a salve, yet so destructive. I'd like to think, however, that I had put myself, most of the time, in a position where only myself could be damaged. Until the machina of the Interruptnum saved me from the deluge developing inside my levee. Saved me? Did I really write that? No, I don't think I did.

The genius of contingency! The unintended consequences will always catch up.

Dispensing with the traditions of primogeniture that were so entrenched, my father never expected me to be his successor. But he could not have understood what I appeared to want to do, or what it would all lead to. I asked that question of myself all the time, and never arrived at a satisfying conclusion. But he understood, even when he didn't.

Returning to the ancestral Glen as I am able to do from time to time, largely to help and provide companionship and understanding to my mother in the indifferent absence of my sisters, there are moments that I have been able to share with my father, maybe for the last time, that feel so familiar. Working together on the land. Driving around the countryside, roles reversed. Sharing the pleasure of a Leone western. Talking and listening and, sometimes, laughing. And, sometimes, crying. Hard Men never cry do they? Maybe when they don't know what is happening to them or how to make it stop?

Once upon a time, my father not only ran a successful business, but built things out of wood with his own hands. The pieces that adorn my home will always be cherished. It is so difficult to imagine him doing so now, and he doesn't seem to remember himself. But I do, and I always will.

The bulk of his retirement stolen from him, he can no longer work in his workshop. He feels that he cannot visit his old friends and colleagues. He has become reclusive. He goes outside and tinkers around with the yellow and green machines that are the last remnants of his once vast empire.

When I am home, I sit with him and watch westerns and hockey. I have learned to love almost everything Clint Eastwood because he does. He tells me he went to the movies all the time when he was a boy in the 40s and 50s. Too often, he looks into the flat distance, eyes wide open, neither asleep nor awake. And I wonder where he has gone.

Sometimes, I want to go with him.

Sometimes I bring home jigsaw puzzles for him to do. Though I have never attempted one myself, I have become somewhat of a connoisseur of jigsaw puzzles. I know the quality ones he likes. The number, size and tactility of the pieces. The sorts of images. He becomes obsessed by them, to the point where he has to be told to stop. I wish he would approach his life again with that kind of fervour.

Each of us fell ill at almost precisely the same moment.

But as the jigsaw of my life falls back into place, my father is floating further and further from me.

Sometimes, I wish I could go with him.

Thursday, October 28, 2010


Played hooky Wednesday. Too beautiful a fall day.

I decided to do something I haven't done in a long time. In this age of Amazon and Alibris, I don't visit used bookshops very often anymore. Sadly, there are not that many left.

Like most people, I suppose, I now order most of my books online. You always know you'll find what you're looking for.

But on this beautiful fall day, I wanted to experience (once again) the pleasure of finding a buried artifact during one of those archaeological delves through the various strata of the used bookshelves.

On this beautiful fall day, the dig yielded a handful of useful relics, including an early 20th century edition of Johnson and Boswell's Tour throughout my Hebridean homeland, as well as an excellent edition of Ulysses. It replaces another copy of the same edition that I owned when I was in high school, and had to hock, along with many other brethren and a hefty chunk of my CD collection at the time, for survival cash during a lean period in Vancouver. I can't imagine ever doing something like that, which I had to do several times. But you can't eat (or drink) books, even though I've often wanted to (and may have tried to a few times when in an altered state).

Although, as an erstwhile biblophagist, I have to confess my unabashed love for books. The shape of books. The texture of the yellowed pages. And the smell of books. I think I've gotten high once or twice on bookbinding glue.

Did I tell you that I love books? Those that I want to own and read, that is. And I really love books that have been gathering dust in old bookshops for decades, if not centuries, and the ones that have accompanied me throughout my peripatetic movements all over North America. Like listening to the music you love, the act of reading books that are interesting or important to oneself is humane, calming and civilizing.

Perhaps most of all, I love my bookshelves. Like much of the inner architecture of my apartment, built from knotted white pine by my father in his workshop just over five years ago, though he no longer remembers doing so. Most everything else in my apartment is ephemeral, and while missed, can be replaced. But not those particular books, each of which has other stories to tell. In the marginalia. On the cover sheets. On pieces of paper lost within the pages. Nor those bookshelves and everything else my father made with his own hands. Still solid. Still stable. Forever priceless.

My beautiful fall day continued to unfold. I stepped into a pub that I once knew well very. After a couple, I stopped looking for any familiar signs. I recognized nothing and nobody. Though the bartender was a friendly sort.

And as I walked home, I remembered that it was three Halloweens ago that I first noticed some unfamiliar and unwelcome signs of my own. My old friend the X-Man and I met for a double bill of The Exorcist and The Shining. Shockingly, he had seen neither. For a few hours, I could be blithely unaware, sharing a couple of my favourite films with a good friend.

But paying no heed to the emergent signs of the Interruptnum would have been a much too vulgar display of the power of denial.

Happy Halloween, friends. May the Power of the Book compel you never to buy a Kindle reader.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Information Breakdown

I'm thankful for my country home. I needed to lose those bell rung blues. And finally forget about the Information.

I'm thankful that that old white line was a friend of mine, and that I had the opportunity to make a break from the city into the bucolic bosom of the ancestral Glen. The Glen at the apex of its autumnal allure. Something I missed so much during my occidental exile that seems so long away and far ago. A repatriation with the bounty of the harvest, the smells and textures of the season. The productive portion of the cycle, marked by a plenitude like no other. The reinvigorating chill, the fecundity of Nature, the cornucopia of abundance that Mother Earth thanklessly provides. The Glen, where I can try to make peace with the chthonic gods, and where the pages of my youth can be thumbed though once more. Working with my Dad "on the land", so very different now, but still so familiar. So calming. Like getting the malware out of the hard drive in your head. The family bond that may bend, but never breaks, and is so readily recoverable from the ruins of the past or the catastrophes of the present.

The World that We Have Lost, and the Days that Used to Be.

All of this, accompanied by the resumption of our cultural pastime, has dispersed the doom and gloom of a soul melting summer, dozens of diagnostic tests, bell rung bewilderment, and the multifarious demands of the Information. Though it may have strained the limits of body and mind and, at times, imagination and credulity, the Information (and its contexts) has finally, as a dear friend would say, been slain. And the Heat is off, for now anyway.

Upon return from my restorative retreat in the Glen, my apartment is littered with the detritus of the Information. Armed with a re-optimized mind, I know what I want to reconnect with. Family and friends. Books and beer. Music and film. And maybe a visit from Molly Maid.

But before that could happen, the Information needed to be slain. For me, for the Company, for the Mansion on the Hill, for the corporate consensus. All summer long, I was all too aware that the contents of my head were the property of the corporate client. And I needed to adhere to the expected protocols of corporate genre.

"What's it gonna be Fisheye, orphan, or dame?"

Like a good Company Man, I abandoned my ambition and delivered the deliverables. Damn good deliverables, I dare say. The corporate collective and the individual were as one this summer and early autumn.

But the Information, as all things, has a history, fabulist though it may seem. I do not look for a moral. For an exemplar. There are none. There is only One. One Crazy Summer of severely strained Stoic self-command, corporate incompetence, false starts, false finishes. One dog going one way and the other going the other way, and me in the middle saying, "waddaya want from me?"

There were good times. There were bad times. Exhilarating highs and humiliating lows. Why did I keep Fucking Up and having to do things Over and Over Again?

I knew it was going to be an unpleasant summer once it became obvious to me that I was expected to work two fulltime jobs at the same time. It didn't add up. But after the persuasive rhetoric, with its promises of wealth and riches beyond my most perversed of fantasies, had lured me into the spider's web of corporate consent, I had no way out. My colleague wriggled her way out by prematurely delivering a research product of her own.

And then it was all up to me. The weight of the corporate collective rested entirely on my shoulders. I couldn't fuck it up, even though I may have wanted to.

But having a few more steaks in the freezer wouldn't hurt. Having all those billable hours to myself -- I had visions of abundant car payments and 42" flatscreens in my multiply-concussed head.

It started as commedia dell'arte and hybridized into farce by the end. But I learned a lot of things. Such as the Borgesian paradox that our National Library is not a library of any sort.

But was it worth neglecting my friends, my family, my physical and mental health, and the Blog by subordinating all to the Final Cause of performing a one-man chorus to the strains of the Information?

Of course not, but you gotta be able to walk out on everything when you spot the Heat around the corner. And at least I was in complete control. I work best when its only my name on the bill. When I'm unencumbered by the concept of teamwork and breathing the corporate breath. When I'm on the edge, where I gotta be.

From late August to September I sequestered myself in my Grub Street garret and put in my 12 hour days, ate my Georgie's pizza, and moved ever closer to the End. When I wasn't working along to the innocuous sonic background of Galaxie's "Chill Lounge", the street noise below provided an alternative soundtrack of anthemic jackhammering and backup beeping. On the day of the long gun registry vote at the Mansion on the Hill, there were helicopters swirling around my head from morning to night. I felt like a paranoiac Ray Liotta as they hunted out any disgruntled lone long-gun-men. Another day, while enjoying an end of work day shower, the water was shockingly cut off due to a water pipe burst in my charming yet antiquated building. As always, I blamed the Information.

It also didn't help that throughout all this I was dealing with the Old Masters of the Vinci Park corporation. Every Monday morning, I had to make a pilgrimage down to Vinci HQ to void parking tickets that were administered by an employee # that they claimed to have no record of, although he had access to the corporate toolbox. When I was unexpectedly offered a parking spot at my building that I suspected didn't exist, I took it on trust and was able to get out of my Faustian deal with Vinci Park. On October 1, after an entire day of feeding the gaping maw of the streetside parking meter, I finally got the call. It wasn't encouraging when the first words over the receiver were asking how big my car was. Not parking a motorcycle, I was now shit out of a downtown parking spot. The upshot of it all is that I am now parking my car in the hinterlands of the downtown core, even farther away than my Vinci deal.

I could tell you many other stories, but you probably wouldn't believe them, and I couldn't blame you for that.

All that matters is that the Information has finally been slain. And while there have been many false endings, like twists in a bad horror film, the corpse seems to have stopped twitching. I have delivered the goods into the baseball mitt of the government litigator (literally, sadly). I've taken my bullet for the Company, and next time it will be a corporate comrade's turn.

Dancing Days are here again, and that means the Grand Productive Days are back.

You're home free, brother. Yeah, home free.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Parking Permits and Pigskin Picks

The Faustian bargain has finally been sealed! The Da Vinci of parking spots has been bequeathed upon me. A chunk of downtown real estate to further despoil. Not the location I initially wanted, but it will do ... fine.

Because this one is right next to the finest film rental shop in the city. I see a synergetic sign here -- the universe is telling me that I need to get back to watching films. The finest films.

Mephistopheles, however, has already begun to reap his reward -- Concussion, Vol IV commenced this morning. No matter, I'm feeling rather the Ubermensch these days. No black rain is gonna dampen my spirit, for however long its still mine. I'm gonna break my rusty cage. I'm gonna drink the Devil's milkshake.

Nothing finer than drinking the Devil out of his milkshake.

Phantasy football draft tonight at the pub. New kids picking last, but Bomber predicts we'll pound them all. Like bastards from a blanket.

Now that would be fucking fine.

And there definitely will be blood.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Operant Instrumental

Good time with Snakey at Sir Johnny's last night. Hard core international mountain biker. Great Walls. Greater Falls. Shit load of Balls.

One night long ago, on the other side of the bosphoric bridge, as everyone waited for their shawarmas, Cousine's girlfriend got into a shit talking session with a local professional. When the situation began to escalate, in rushed the pimp. Snakey, a patient and pragmatic intellect, casually stepped into the fray, and after a brief flurry of activity, the local administrator's upper lip parted in a Red Sea of blood. The cops threw him into the cruiser, nodded at Snakey and sent everyone on their way. Such was, and undoubtedly still is, Snakey. Musician, engineer, loyal friend.

Got home late, but had to get up early. Day of the Dentist, rated R.

After a look at the various instruments of torture laid out before me, I quickly realized that it definitely wasn't going to be Safe. Or Secret. Too many people walk around with teeth that have permanently plunged into Gollumnic territory. I knew something needed to be done.

Speaking of tools, the Strombo Show last week was all about the best vocalists/frontmen in contemporary music, taking the band as the organizing principle. Why does instrumental music not get its 2-part series? Are we so hung up on vocal accompaniment, on hearing the human voice, that we can't regularly enjoy extended sequences of intricate instrumental sound that has the aesthetic qualities that move us in one direction or another. Are we operantly conditioned to listen for the voice? For the story? For the parable? For the reference? Is the rule of metaphor so limited? Can't music itself be referential? Can't it nod and challenge?

Not to suggest that the qualities of lyricism and narrative are lost on me. And I certainly like my great frontmen/frontwomen as much as the next music lover. For every Buckley (pere et fils), there are those who sound so bad they're untenably good. God bless Neil. Others insist on providing vocals when the music sells itself. Sorry Les.

But isn't that just it? The music.

So yeah, thankfully we've got Jimi and Jack. Morrissey and Maynard. Roger and Rivers. Ian and Ian. Plant and Page (not that one).

"Instrumental music", as poor a term as it is, spans all the contemporary genres, save for country and folk music. Then again, I learn something new every day. But you'll rarely hear an instrumental track on a radio station (that doesn't focus on jazz or classical).

Beyond the obvious problem of track length, does the lack of vocals initiate an attention deficit? Are audible explosions or a massive vocal attack necessary? What does it take for respect, for people to give a hoot about it? At the very least, can't it be washed down with an antacid?

Goodspeed to you all. Go out into the world and do, make, say, and think.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Information

High noon on Sparks.

Antebellum Beau's. Black Sabbath brats. Bosomed beauties. Bridgehead brews. Beanie or Brady. Bruinschrusher or Brawler. Boom or bust. Bomber says we're gonna win the Bowl.

Still waiting for the Information. Its coming to me now. Climbing up the ladder. Top of the world. A triangular pyramid. Money rolls up, shit rolls down. The campaign is nearly over, the endgame in sight. I've got an exit management solution. An obscene strategy. A shining path in front of me.

A stereo situation no more. Gotta take extreme measures. An armed response.

The Information is on its way.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

What is a Classic? or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Everything (except all the shit I don't like)

When I'm doing some work in my apartment, whether its compensable or not, I usually like to have some music in the background. Sometimes, rather than crank up my ancient and increasingly decrepit desktop to which the stereo speakers are attached, I click on Radio on the TV. Today I made a rare visit to the galaxy of "Classic Rock". There are some curious decisions being made somewhere. It got me to thinking about what constitutes a "classic" in terms of contemporary popular music.

It doesn't necessarily indicate that such a recording or album was really all that good. It could very well be a distorted remembrance, a nostalgic re-appraisal of something that was once so ubiquitous and saturated popular culture to the extent that an annoying piece of shit can now be fondled as a re-discovered mole that was dormant for decades. Surely it was a masterpiece, because it is remembered so easily.

In general, there are as many canons as there are individuals. And I'm just thinking about contemporary popular music, not, for example, the tired debates of literary culture and the human sciences, fraught as they are with canon making, unmaking and remaking. And by contemporary I'm referring to the recollections of MY contemporaneity: the 1970s (faintly), 1980s (regretfully), the 1990s (exultantly) and the 2000's (ambivalently, if not despondently).

But someday, SC, we're going to have to compare our respective cinematic canons. Just promise that you won't begin to pummel me with a Criterion copy of Yojimbo.

Anyway, it seems to me that the term "classic", in terms of how Radio on the TV uses it, is pasted upon anything that is generally considered to be a particularly salient exemplar of its zeitgeist, a protuberance of the spirit of an age. Or, given that it is such an elastic term within contemporary popular culture, sometimes it appears to signal a cultural contribution that is somehow transcendent or universal, and can be appreciated beyond the straight jackets of period, genre or reception. Or sometimes its just a heuristic to encompass those things that "we" really liked at the time and still do, the problematic part being that pesky matter of the "we". But can I have something to say about that? Do I have to know something before I can?

Within our listomaniac North American popular culture, the general qualities of things are given hierarchical order and structure through a cognitive reflex of relative rank and distinction. This helps to lighten the burden of the past and calm the anxiety of influence. As an interpretative community, "we" know what the "classics" are, or we're told what those are by an acceptable arbiter of aesthetic Taste at either end of the spectrum, from bohemian e-zines to faceless corporations (or websites like Pitchfork who exemplify the qualities of each). And then there are standards to either emulate or somehow surpass. Or fall miserably short of. Then again, the merit is in the Form, so you really can't fail as long as you have a model. Go ahead, borrow what you want. Stop waiting for the divine afflatus of original genius, its never gonna blow again. Let's see how you can build on this, as long as the appropriate nods and internal footnotes are provided. Formalists unite!

But back to Radio on the TV. On the "Classic Rock" channel, you'll get your steady diet of Dark Side of the Moon, but you're not likely to hear anything from Meddle. Is there no paternalistic arbiter who considers that a "classic"? Can I make line changes and substitutions? What about a little less of The Wall and anything from The Final Cut. Can I trade that Joshua Tree for an Achtung Baby? Instead of Peter Frampton's talking guitar, can I get some Frank Zappa? Every once in a while though, "Classic Rock" will surprise you with a Fairies Wear Boots, a Jailbreak, or a Tom Sawyer, as it just did.

Generally, "Classic Rock" appears to cease remembering around 1983. And it doesn't seem to acknowledge 1970s instrumental music. What, no "Frankenstein"? The album cover alone was classic. I'd post a picture but it may frighten younger readers. It still scares the shit out of me.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Archive Fever

This morning I am waiting. Waiting for a call. Waiting for an email. If I had a cellphone I'd be waiting for a text. If I had a beeper I'd be waiting for an annoying sound to terminate as quickly as I could. If I twittered I'd be waiting for a tweet, whatever the fuck that is.

I am waiting. I've got the Archive Fever. Real bad. I can't stop scratching it. It won't come off in the shower. There is no salve, no lotion. It scars the body. It scars the memory. As if I didn't have enough of each of those. I'm hot-blooded, check it and see. Got the double vision too. That's right, Radio on the TV is on. I'm at Charlo's place, eating a Jos Louis, the eight-track cranked up, throwing away doubles of Wayne Gretzky rookie cards.

Before undertaking another fool's errand to the Archive, I'm waiting for a sign. A puff of smoke. A gesture.

I'm an asset, waiting to be activated. To be called up. To be sent for. To be made. To get made.

I'm waiting for something toxic to run its cycle, knowing that it never will. I'm reeling in the years, stowing away the time. The things that pass for knowledge, I can't understand.

I'm waiting to solve the aporia of completing two fulltime jobs simultaneously. One job, the universal dream. When there will be World Enough and Time.

To prepare for hockey. For football. To enjoy music again. To begin the biblophagistic project, the fool's errand that will occupy the red zone of my life. Like all its predecessors, it too will likely fall still-born from my imagination.

I'm waiting to follow the worms. All you need to do is follow the worms.

For now, I've got the Archive Fever. When I'm called back, will I be able to make sense of it? Probably not, but Government wants it. It is important. It's the Information. Doesn't matter what else it may be.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Domestic Drafts and Decadic Disruptions

Its time to move the chains. July is here, but June almost held the line of scrimmage. My head is still feeling the aftershocks after the scrum.

The end of the month didn't help it out much, and I have to admit that I genuflected to the chthonic gods as the particle board desks danced about and the tenuous ceiling tiles appeared ready to crack and crumble upon us, the faithful martyrs of the research room. Why couldn't a comet or a three-headed calf Ussher in this epochal event on the geological calendar? Why didn't I choose to work from home, where this particular cataclysm would have been smothered within the sonic swell of my stereo speakers?

Perhaps the Underworld was upset with the time it was taking to complete the DHL Draft. It had begun to unspool the previous week. By that Friday, within 30 minutes of the commencement of the actual NHL Draft, I made the last selection of the DHL Draft. The Highlanders ended up skating away with Brett Connolly (Stammer's future linemate), Beau Bennett (Sid-e-ney Crosby's future winger), and a mature veteran to help advance the cause of my embryonic dynasty. Mission accomplished.

Seconds after making my beaubonic pick, I was out the door. Bomber and I were going to watch the real thing unfold at a local sports bar. Yes, a self-advertised SPORTS bar. I found Bomber sitting at the crossroads of the Entertainment District, enjoying the visual delights of downtown. Its been getting harder for Bomber to separate himself from his suburban fiefdom of sylvan domesticity. But tonight we were going to see, and hear, exactly how well we fared with our forecasted phenoms.

We got to the "sports bar" around 6:50. Ten minutes to the Draft. I began to reconnoiter around. I knew it needed to be a cloistered area, far from the madding crowd of downtown hipsters who decide to pleb it out at the pool hall to the barely audible strains of the music track. No shortage of smaller TVs -- we'll stake out a demesne with a table and turn up the volume as we revel in our rite of spring/early summer. Once we annexed a suitable area, we returned to the bar to ask for the appropriate channel and a little volume. "You wanna watch what? What channel? Yeah, TSN is on most of the screens." Fair enough, we just want a watch it in a corner where the waitress will bring us food and beer and we can turn the volume on slightly. "Well, the volume for all the TVs would be affected, and we'd have to turn off the music." There is no music playing, I replied. "Yes, there is." It could barely be heard above the din of the pool playing pretend-plebs, but yes, there was an inoffensive soft pop/classic rock soundtrack for them to bob along to. Well, could we just have volume for the first hour or so, until more patrons arrive? I doubt they'll miss the music, and just maybe some of them might be interested. It does have to do with hockey. We'll buy food and beer. I felt like I was negotiating in a New Jersey TGI Friday's to have the Ottawa Senators game turned on. No, it's not on the Nascar Network or NBA Gametime .... nevermind.

Seemed the self-styled Canadian sports bar only turned on the volume for what they deemed "major sporting events". It wasn't like it was the goddamn Grey Cup.

Bomber was thirsty, so I grudgingly gave them the last dough they'll ever get out of me, and we had a beer while watching the opening of the draft in maddening mute. At least we didn't have to endure any more of the "Taylor vs. Tyler" tripe that necessarily kicked off the proceedings.

After the predictable first few picks, we headed across the street to another bar. We got a spot in front of a TV, ordered some pub food and a pitcher of Mill St. draft as we resumed watching the Draft.

My boy Connolly couldn't have gone anywhere better. Ditto for Beau Bennett, the last pick of our draft, passed over for players that might never get to the NHL. Bomber's second round pick turned out to be a steal as well.

Then, for the last week of June, the celebrations began with another Zaphodiad on Canada Day eve. Graven plugged in a great set ("I Speak your Sadness" is phenomenal), and, though I had to endure universal ridicule for my odd musical tastes, I also enjoyed the instrumental jazz-core of Ace Kinkaid.

On Canada Day, I sequestered myself from the patriotic throngs to watch the NHL "Free Agent Frenzy", which turned out to be, as it always is, a nibbling of chum.

The following evening it was off to Bomber's pastoral compound. After the requisite intergalactic bus ride, grumbling along with the rest of the bustling hive as they fled the quotidian tedium of Work, I arrived beyond the Pale. It was soul-refreshing to spend a couple of days in the hinterland with Bomber and Lauzzy. Swimming, drinking, retelling stories that never get old, as well as spinning a few new ones. It was especially nice to see Lauzzy's 2 yr-old. I wonder how many more years it will take for her to realize that she was named after Voltaire. Perhaps she will prefer to think of herself as named after Jimmy Page.

The weekend was wrapped up with an Indian buffet worthy of a Mughal emperor. Hopefully I will be able to visit Lauzzy on his home turf in the middle of the South Seas next winter.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Concussed in Centretown

Its been quite a week.

During a brief return to the ancestral Glen, over the hills and far away, amidst the excitement of demonstrating the technological marvels of my newly purchased set of wheels, I managed to sustain a concussion. I suppose things were going a little too well, and The Universe felt the need to redress the delicate balance between my sense of well-being and abject misery. Irregardless, work had to carry on. Now that I have the official diagnosis, however, I have a mandated reprieve.

The diagnosis was only acquired, as per usual, after a character-building ordeal had been exhaustingly endured. After suffering headaches for several days, I made the ill-advised decision to "do something about it." I knew what this entailed, a completely wasted and unavoidably uncomfortable exercise of Stoic self-command and exquisite ennui. I already had a regular diagnostic MRI that was scheduled before the Unknown Violent Event, so I got the brilliant idea that I would go down to the General Hospital early and try to get my 10 pm brain scan expanded to include a check for any further head trauma. Little did I know that the General Hospital would be a scene not only of soap opera melodramatics, but melancholic madness and protracted patience.

Having not yet consummated my Faustian bargain for a downtown parking spot, I took a cab to General Hospital around four pm. There were early portents that this little trip wasn't going to go well. My cabbie was an affable Pole, and he took a shine to me after I correctly recognized his Polish/Slovak accent. While driving down O'Connor, some ditz in a silver Mustang scraped along the rear passenger door where I was sitting. I then rode along with the cabbie as he chased down the Mustang like he was William Peterson in To Live and Die in L.A. She seemed to be an entitled, well-fed public servant who claimed she had the radio on full blast and never felt a thing. Her Mustang bore the battle scars of many other such skillful lane changes. For a time it looked like I would be subpoenaed as a witness, which is something my life is dearly lacking.

Anyway, on to the General Hospital we go. After our bonding experience, the cabbie felt compelled to give me his life story and a quite detailed exposition of his son's recent head troubles and the necessity of positivity. I appreciated the sentiments, but quite frankly, like so many other cancer victims, I've grown weary of the general prescription to be relentlessly positive, that the "bad thoughts" will make the cancer grow again, and that you're a "new" and "better" person if you've "beaten" cancer. I realize that people mean well, obviously, but the downside of this is the Oprahfied snake-oil business that profits from this religion of eternal gratitude and its fraudulent "science of happiness". Sometimes shit just happens, and you have to adjust and get over it. I've rarely complained -- its just been a massive interruption in my life and I'm delighted that it didn't kill me, thanks to contemporary medical science. Everything else is just a psychological and epistemological prop, and I do find them extraordinarily helpful quite often, but that doesn't mean that I can't consider them for what I believe they are. And I don't think it necessarily diminishes them to do so.

I finally extricated myself from the cab and entered the General Hospital. Everything started out well. I got past the vanguard within an hour, all registered up and ready to go. I managed to infiltrate more and more checkpoints, and I was quickly directed to "Urgent Care". I was sitting in my little examination room by 5:15. I had two complete issues of the TLS to keep me occupied, lots of time to get checked out and link up the regular MRI with the Unknown Violent Event that happened over the weekend.

They never pulled the curtain around my tiny examination room, as I was apparently lucid and physically intact, despite the internal throbbing of my head. I was reminded of the Hull jail, as I could hear wailing and moaning emanating out of distant examination cubicles. I knew an incident must have occurred, as there were cops everywhere, and a security guard parked in a seat outside one of the exam cubicles. At the entrance to Emergency they were circling a homeless guy who was prone and semi-conscious before the registration bunker.

But I was now behind the lines. As my curtain was left open, I was able to inspect most of the other cells with a panoptic gaze. Except for the room beside mine. From what I could hear, it seemed to be a very agitated Francophone oldtimer, and he was continuously yelling loudly in French that he needed attention and wanted to make a phone call. No amount of soothing could calm him down, and finally he was led to a telephone. He was wearing some kind of navy blue Hawaiian shirt with identically matching blue shorts with Hawaiian or Floridian motif. Even when instructed in French by the janitor and the rather unimposing security guard, he was unable to figure out the dial 9 and number procedure. It also took some time for him to retrieve his son's phone number from his agitated memory. All of this was accompanied by a high decibel commentary to oblivious medical staff. After about a half hour of continuous dialing and shouts of "occupe"! he gave up and started to wander around the rooms, including mine, until the security guard led him back to his cubicle. After he was attended to, a mother and her brat moved in next door. He was one of those demanding brats who demanded gratification by the minute. The mother seemed to know all the nurses, and a little hen party was staged while I fumed and fevered in the next cubicle.

Meanwhile, after I had burned though all of my reading material, the clock on the wall showed 7:15. I sat dumbfounded for another hour until 8:30. Finally, what appeared to be a 12 yr-old girl holding a clipboard entered my cubicle. There had been a few false dawns over the previous 3 hours in the little examination room, but they all turned out to be nurses. I think I described what was wrong with me about 4 times. By that point, I had almost forgotten why I was there in the first place.

The 12 yr-old girl told me she was a medical student, and she began to ask me again what was wrong with me. I had many questions for her, but all of her responses were prefaced with something like "I'm new here" and "I can't confirm that". It wasn't very encouraging, or reassuring. By then it was almost time to run over to radiology for my 9:30 check-in for the already scheduled MRI. I got my concussion diagnosis and bolted out, hoping to get something to eat before going in the tube. I asked around. "No, the cafeteria and the Tim Horton's closed at 9. But there are vending machines." I grabbed a nutritious meal of Doritos and chocolate milk.

When I got to Radiology, after what seemed like a race from terminal to terminal at the O'Hare airport, they told me rather bluntly that they were "about an hour" behind, and 2 people are ahead of me. With nothing left to read, I wandered around the hospital. This time of night, nothing was going on. I felt like Cillian Murphy when he wakes up in the deserted hospital in 28 Days Later.

I returned to the MRI department. Some kind of power failure that only appeared to affect their machines. Funny thing, eh? You better wait and get it done though, given your state. I did another few laps of the Deserted Village, then I returned around midnight. We'll have to reschedule you for 8:30 Saturday morning, sir.

I took another cab home, dazed and confused. From 4 to 12:30, and 2 cab rides, and nothing really accomplished. But I had the concussion diagnosis in my hand.

Many is a word that only leaves you guessin',
Guessin' 'bout a thing that you really ought to know.
You really ought to know.
I really ought to know.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Bell Rung Blues

Finally poppin' the June cherry. No other reason for a post. Got my bell rung on Saturday. Something ain't right. I've had a headache for four days running.

Got the blues big time. No more hockey. Trying to wrap my scrambled mind around the footie, to no avail.

However, fantasy hockey league entry draft this Sunday. And now I'm in a fantasy football league, so that will provide some relief this summer from the quotidian tedium of work.

I had a dream last night that I was getting it on with Anna Paquin, or somebody who looked like her anyway. There are not many stable identities in my nocturnal circus. On a subliminal level, it seems, a substitution has been made to my fantasy fuck roster.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Bookless in Bytowne

Its one of those scorched earth days. I hope the little AC unit that could keeps chugging away for at least a couple more days. Radio on the TV is playing a song called "Jesus Stole My Girlfriend". I tried to warn you guys about that dude.

Now that my brain is no longer on fire, and I've replenished some vital fluids, I'm just hoping my laptop doesn't blow up.

After the walk home, I am still disoriented, and not just from the mind melting heat. After getting to our National Repository, the reputed Holy Grail of universal knowledge, I ran into the Square Corner. He looked ready for a safari of satisfying discovery. I, on the other hand, had no idea what lay before me. The disappointments, the confusion, the enclosures put upon erudition and enlightenment.

After an hour or so of fruitless file searching, I decided to make the most of my day in this City of Books. I've explored a lot of those, but not so much this Biblopolis. Besides, I took a cab to avoid the heat, it was air conditioned. I've already had my cover blown. What's the hurry? I'm gonna look at some books while I'm here at the National LIBRARY. Yes, I knew all about the file boxes and microforms. But I wanted to find some books. Books that I was actually interested in having a look at. Another hour or so of peeking through a few books in the air conditioned environs. Life today wasn't that bad, I thought.

It started well. I called up some references. It was fun to find my print presence, one microformed, one bound. Shit, that birthdate makes me feel old. But I wanted to find some other books that I hadn't seen for a while, as well as a couple of new ones. Armed with my call numbers I started walking around between the floors. Reference rooms, meeting rooms, empty exhibition rooms, genealogy rooms, microform rooms, file box rooms. Fair enough, but where are the books? Dictionaries, encyclopedias, finding aides, books to help you find books. Great, but where are the books? I kept searching, riding the elevator like an amusement ride at the county fair. I felt like I was caught, as Borges was, in the labyrinthine Library of Babel. Wandering in search of a book. Not a catalogue of catalogues. I didn't know the universal language of this place.

Finally, I sheepishly slid over to one of the ubiquitous "reference" desks before I made a complete fool of myself by climbing back onto the elevator. Too late for that -- at least I got something done today. Yeah ... uh ... I've got my Library of Congress call numbers here, I'm just looking for the book stacks. The what? The books. Where are the books? As Bomber would say, it wasn't very encouraging. Where is the "library" part of Library and Archives Canada? I'm familiar with the archival stuff, where is the National Library? Even the patrons of the reference room raised their heads, interrupting their monastic vigils over the endless boxes of index cards. I felt like a Golden Ass.

"Oh, there is no National Library anymore. The public isn't allowed access to the books. They're in the basement, or in Gatineau. If you want to order a book that is in the basement, you will need to order it. You'll get it in an hour or so".

OK, I realize that you just can't romp through the stacks in the Library of Congress or the British Library. But I wasn't asking for the Vulgate Bible or the Book of Kells. I might as well have been requesting "Tintin in Tibet". And this didn't look or feel like the Library of Congress. It's a depressingly dull five-floor box with arrow-slit windows. It looks and feels more like a military bunker than a National Library.

I suppose in a few years they won't even bother to print and bind books anymore -- "content" will just be published to Kindle.

I gotta get back to building that levee.

Monday, May 24, 2010


Still got the Galaxie going. Thin Lizzy just made a Jail Break. Now its an Early Distant Warning. Starting to get antsy about the game tonight. The Blog is becalming.

That talk about French and the Gentleman's Club got me thinking about all the anthropological field research I've done over the years. In one of those notebooks, there would be an entry about the behaviour of bouncers in their most natural habitat. On an Attic evening, many many moons ago, a member of the posse decided to put some money out for the "entertainer". He folded the bills into clean, crisp cones on the stage before him. Over she came, scooped them up, gushing gratitude.

It didn't take long before the environment became contaminated, and we all went from detached observation to complicit co-agency. The entertainer wasn't pleased. Nor was the bouncer. He clapped his hand on the not so generous offender, and told him, in bouncer-speak, to put his nice money away or get the fuck out. Not that the warning was heeded. A few minutes later, I rather unnimbly fell off my chair, and the bouncer put an end to the Attic evening. Good food next door, though. Sha-war-ma, Mama!

From time to time, this clown would hang around with Lauzzy and I. A lot of memories with Lauzzy. Back in the salad days. I remember the time we scouted out for a student halfhouse -- Lauzzy driving his 1979 Cordoba, Bomber in the back, and myself riding shotgun. Wrong way down the one-way. No problem, we're in the Cordoba. We found the Miracle on Concord. It was perfect, but it was currently rented to a Greenpeace family. The pungent air was going to take a while to dissipate. We reached a deal with the landlord down in the basement -- later it would be sealed over a couple of Molson Goldens from his personal stock. But that inital afternoon, as we harangued over the rent, I couldn't help but notice the videotape on top of the dryer. Right over the wildly gesticulating landlord's shoulder. While the genre was obvious, I couldn't make out the title. Using the available visual evidence on the cover, I decided that it was entitled "Anal Aggressor". An Is/Ought formulation, if ever there was one. I got a lot of mileage out of that one. Seemed the Greenpeaceniks had other interests beyond saving the whales.

Just as soon as we moved in, Bomber got sick and skipped out. On short notice, we got somebody in. Doug Carpenter's niece. It wasn't a Royal experience. By the second year, Bomber came back, and we squeezed him into the closet leading to the balcony. I still remember the early mornings. After a bacchanalian debauch, we could hear Lauzzy in the bathtub by 7 am. He usually got through a book chapter during his morning tubthumps. By the late afternoon, in a usually unsuccessful attempt to rouse me from the burnoff, he would throw a few ancient 45's on his 'family stereo unit' and turn it to eleven. Somehow, I'd manage to keep sleeping through the usual trilogy of "Video Killed the Radio Star", "Rock Lobster", and "Brown Girl in the Rain." A wiser man than I, he knew how to stop. I rarely could.

When I had met Lauzzy a few years earlier, right after I walked away from a car accident that, by all rights, should have left me in a wheelchair, I had decided to reform myself. To give it the old college try. It was the fall/winter of 1992/93. Mario and the Penguins had just won the Cup for the second straight year. We were in the same class. I was being introduced to subjects called "Historiography" and "Intellectual History". Things were beginning to come together for me -- a long held inerest in historical writing, a fascination with the 18th century and the anatomy of literary criticism. At the end of every class, I'd see him haranguing with the intellectual historian. He looked like a grunge kid, I remember thinking, emulating Eddie Vedder. That initial description baffles him now, long after ditching the plaid undergraduate hand-me-downs. He and I seemed to be the only ones who didn't hate this class. I think in our own ways, it was a refuge. For myself, it was a safe haven, away from the ahistorical excess of English literature. For him, a phalanx against the (equally ahistorical) philosophers.

That year was a fulcrum point of its own for me. I have my doubts that I would have continued with graduate studies. I got knocked down, then I got up again.

Thanks for that, Lauzzy.

I'm waiting for my signed copy of the book. Its genesis was forged in the marginalic crucible of the Concord St. tub, I think.

Cannes you dig it?

Its a great morning, even if its now the afternoon. Got up early, made pancakes from scratch, real Quebec maple syrup. The fumes from the Zaphodiad have fully burned off. Galaxie is playing The Scorpions (you know the one). Wish it was Can't Live Without You. Now its Nickelback -- time to change the channel. Black Sabbath's "Warning", that's better. I'm going to miss my Radio/TV on the TV/Radio. Les Glorieux and Flyers tonight. I don't even mind if the Flyers win. I'm more of a Secondary Twelve guy anyway (or Tertiary 21, to be honest). I'm too young to remember the Bullies, unless you count Pat Quinn's Cup Finalist in 1979/80, post Shero. I remember that team won 35 games in a row that season, or something stupendous like that. They still had Clarkie, Leach, Barber, Mel Bridgeman (whatever happened to Ottawa's first GM -- he blazed like a comet across the sky). And a young Kenny "The Rat" Linseman. No Bernie Parent, though -- Pelle Lindbergh was still in Sweden, so Pete Peeters was between the pipes. Les Glorieux had been knocked out in the first round by the North Stars -- Gilles Meloche stood on his head, and rookie Craig Hartsburg had emerged from the rubble of the WHA. No fifth cup in a row. The Flyers I started to watch were Quinn's, then the Iron Mike editions in the 80s. Now that this is Paul Holmgren's team, I'm seeing some similarities. To get you ready for the game, go youtube "Flyers Canadiens brawl 1987". The pregame skate. Eddie Hospodar, Claude Lemieux, even Chico Resch. I love how Chris Nilan just meanders from the bench, resigned to his role, but ready to rumble. I tried to post the video, but I'm still new to this blog thing.

The Cannes Film Festival wraps up today. Looked to be a lacklustre lineup, unlike last year. There was a Godard, though. That guy's gotta be geriatric, genius or no. Someday, before I die, I'm going to rent a villa on the Riviera and go to every screening, maybe even take a walk down the Croisette, Leonard Zelig style.

I need to get back to watching films, like I did before the Interruptnum. My organic cinema has entertained and edified me for a time, but now its getting a little fucked up. Like a David Lynch doublebill at the drive-in. Only more opaque (but still baroque), more twisted, and even more fucked up. I need the normative nod of a Takashi Miike movie to straighten me out.

Gotta renew my membership at the Bytowne. Should I remain loyal to my $30 DVD player? It plays Divx files, which proved handy during the Grand Piractical days, prior to the Interruptnum. Or should I toss it aside and go Tru-Blu-ray, all the time? Maybe I should show a little more loyalty to the $30 DVD spinner. I'm still mourning the death of my 1979 Panasonic VHS top-loader. I couldn't count the number of movies I watched on that thing between 1981 and 2004. It went everywhere with me -- always the priority (and primordial) passenger in the Idler. We bonded together over many a beer-sodden night. It began to break down around 1999. I took it apart and "repaired" it. Around 2002, it once again ceased to operate. I completely stripped it down and at least got the arcana of the videotape spools to work. Robbed of its exoskeleton, it was almost as entertaining to watch the inner architecture at work as it was to watch the movie. Like a fleshless Frankenstein's monster, stuck between Life and Death, it carried me through to 2003/04, when I finally graduated to the versatile disc. It was deprived of a proper burial. Tossed into an East Vancouver dumpster. It deserved better. What could I do? My Chinese landlord (as ostracized as I was in the middle of the Sikh ghetto) told me I couldn't leave my garbage on the curb. For a year, I had to pack my rubbish into the Idler and drive around Vancouver looking for an unguarded dumpster. "Hey, watchout, the cook's out back having a smoke, let's try the one behind the Denny's". Thanks XXXX, for your altruism and general pity. I wonder what my students that year would have thought of that, if they thought of anything at all beyond "sir, who is the Bishop Rick you've been talking about?" I deserved them, and they deserved me. Simple as that. But the 1979 Panasonic deserved better. Never again would its clockwork hydraulics, by then completely open to inspection, catapult its contents across the expanse of whatever Grub Street garret or domestic den of sin that I happened to live within. I got pretty good at catching the tapes when they were spat out -- at the very least I tried to block the shot, Guy Carbonneau style.

Yes, I need to get the cable out, and get the DVDs in. I hear you, SC, on your film noir and Japanese classics of postwar domesticity. I have a sense of what I'm missing. But for me, 1960 is as far back as I go. When the French really get into the game. Shit, they invented the stuff. And the question I always had to ask myself when I watched contemporary Japanese films was -- "what the fuck has happened to these people". Nothing is taboo. Complete lack of restraint. And I love every minute of it. Hiroshima happened. The lack of the Judeo-Christian ethic happened. With no Original one to perpetually atone for, they are free to make up their own sins. And as far as a filmic answer to Hiroshima, they had to go beyond a man in a suit. But that too, as far as I know, which isn't a hell of a lot, was part of a Gargantuan tradition. The new Japanese horror genre plays around with those traditions as well. Miike's Gozu bored me for while on first viewing, until the end. All I need is one extraordinary image or sequence, and a film is a keeper for me.

Cinema may be dying and/or morphing into other forms. But, from 1960 to around the middle of the last decade, I have enough to catch up on. If I can find a little World Enough and Time.

And I think I'm gonna stay true to my $30 spinner special.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Faster Pussycat!

My feet are a little sore today. I hope its not the gout. It's become more of a democratic disease, I hear. Or maybe I need to get the Royal Touch. Problem is, there aren't many Kings around anymore, unless I go track down Garry Galley or Brian Kilrea. The Shawarma King left my neighbourhood a couple years ago. The Garlic King could do it -- he can do anything.

Just saw the old woman's cat across the street. Outrageously obese, it was basking in the antediluvian sunshine.

It got me to thinking about cats. About the ones I've had as pets. I've always been partial to black cats. For what reason I can't say. I've had a black cat with green eyes. I've had a black cat with copper eyes. I even talked my girlfriend into calling her by that name, Copper. And then she talked me into getting some kind of jungle cat that cut me up real good, but that's another story.

Black cats. If you're going to have a cat, it might as well be black. They appear to be more intelligent, more independent, more interesting and yes, more occult. I've always had an attraction/repulsion dialectic going on with the feline. Whether in women or cats.

Is there any better discussion of perversity than in Poe's The Black Cat? So brief, yet no writer has anatomized the principle of perversity so succinctly.

Both of my black cats died the same way. Both died of the same disease that interrupted my life.

I think I'm gonna go down to the SPCA and get me a black cat again.

Friday, May 21, 2010

What's he Building in There?

I had Thai food for lunch today. Might have been some bad pad thai, or else the green curry is taking itself too literally. I can't work. Might as well cram in a post.

Gord Downie's "East Wind" is playing on one of my seldom-used 'Galaxie' channels. Radio on the TV. Or TV On The Radio. I'm not sure. All I know is that this phenomenon is part of the cable company's last hurrah with regards to me. If I wasn't getting channels I'm not paying for, the box would have been yanked a year ago. As it is, I'm digging out the rabbit ears again very soon. Until I can't stand a steady diet of Mansbridge, Strombo and Paikin anymore. At least I'd be rid of those annoying time shift channels. Especially the Can/West ones. Damn, I missed 'a very special episode' of "Two and a Half Men". Oh, I can still catch it on the Regina feed. (Which reminds me, the canada.com email linked to this blog doesn't work -- in the highly unlikely event that somebody has sent an email there, I can't access it). I'll have to get used to losing the puck behind the fuzzy gauze, but I'll still be able to hear Bob Cole stumble deeper into senility. But, aside from hockey, I don't really watch TV anymore. Its not going to make it to the other side of the levee. And I'm getting tired of the turf war between the providers. Fuck em both.

"East Wind" is growing on me. And while I don't normally pay attention to words in music, the simple lyrics in this song are brilliant. The laziest wind. It doesn't go around you, it goes through you. It reminds me of our neighbour when I was growing up. Angus was a fur trapper, and the grand old bugger died just about a year ago. As the kid next door with a curious inerest, I was anointed the unofficial curator of the museum lodge that took up most of his back yard. I could run over to his cabin and watch while he skinned a muskrat. No better juvenile education than that. He did his own taxidermy. The one room cabin was a Kunst-Cabinet of baroque bestiality. Leering lemmings, bemused beavers, and the supreme specimen, the giant, antlered moose head that appeared over his front door. Abandon all hope, ye rodents who enter. The air was pungent, thanks to the seemingly endless carafes of castor oil, and the lingering odour of carcasses recently turned inside out. Every winter he would condemn the east wind -- the worst wind, no matter what direction it was coming from.

Square Corner was talking about unreturned CDs the other day. Reminds me of Cousine. While he was working for a big-box electronics store many years ago, he needed a disc to demo stereo equipment. So I gave him Jethro Tull's "Songs from the Wood", as I wasn't all that fond of it -- irregardless, I still wanted it back. Cousine claimed a customer stole it. $20 down the drain. A pitcher and a half of beer, back then. It got added to the darts/Ping Pong/Statis Pro football/Backgammon/tennis/Trivial Pursuit tab. I don't remember ever engaging with him without some significant dough on the line. The more sloshed we got, the more significant it became. A little while ago, Galaxie was playing a song from the wood. Once Ian Anderson's flute kicked in, not to mention his voice, the album cover suddenly forced its way into my consciousness. I wonder whose CD player that thing is spinning around in these days. Or maybe its sitting over at The Turning Point, and I can enact a happy reunion. I suppose I shouldn't complain -- since then, my pirated CD collection has grown substantially. I had to do something while I was building my levee in the Sikh ghetto.

Anyway, back to the subject. During the last few weeks, during my walkabouts, I've been running into a bizarre old man. One day, as I watched Les Glorieux beat the Capitals, he was in the tavern, his backed turned to the game. He was hunched over his laptop computer, oblivious to everything, with an omnipresent and never empty pint of beer placed in front. He would get up, painfully slow, every 15 minutes or so, and go outside to smoke a rolled cigarette. Maybe it was a pipe. I might even have seen this character before the Interrputnum. Right in that bar, at that very table. Seeing him again, I still couldn't tell if he was a bum, or some geriatric genius that has been exiled to the margins of the bourgeois intelligentsia. Or perhaps he had hermitted himself, far away from the grumbling hive.

The other day, I ran into him again. For about the seventh or eighth time since the evening in the pub. I had just got off the bus, still reeling from my encounter with the fat man. It looked like he was freshly emerged from the library. I was heading in, he was heading out. From time to time, I duck into the discard bookstore at the library. I walked away with four stout hardcovers for less than $5. Square Corner would have been proud of me. My bookshelves are getting full -- the three big bookshelves that my Father made in his workshop, like most of the contents of my apartment. Its hard to imagine that now. I remember asking him to make those for me, such a short time ago. To have them, just in case. I had no idea what was coming, and I can never replace them -- they are priceless to me. Someday, I'm going to read all the books on those shelves. When there is World Enough and Time. I'm still trying to evolve into more of a Biblophagist.

I saw the subject again today. After the curry and pad thai, it was off to Popeye's to procure more powder for my daily protein punch. I also had to get change. My wallet was refreshingly full after my fellow Royal, over the cornucopia of the curry, had given me my share of the winnings from one of our hockey pools. On the way to Popeye's, I had passed by a paraplegic busker playing music on a laptop. I told him I'd doubleback with some twonees. I went down to Popeye's, paid cash for my jug of protein powder, and came back to drop off the promised coins. Who do I run into again, but this character. No doubt headed to his table at the tavern, tobacco and laptop in hand. And he'll resume his hunch over the laptop. And I wonder.

What the hell is he building in there?

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Highway to Hell

At the geometric centre of the epics that underpin so much of the Western tradition, those eponymous heroes suffer a descent into the Underworld, within which they experience the epiphanies that inform those epics, and also much of the Western tradition. I believe this narrative arc applies to us as well. You can read the proton hysteron structure in our lives.

I'm not suggesting for a moment that my life demonstrates Aeneic or Odyssean qualities and virtues. But each of us has a structure to our lives -- at the very least we feel compelled to give it that structure in order to make any synthetic sense of it. Speaking for myself, these structures are more appropriate to a mediaeval commonplace book (or a 21st-century blog) rather than the high genres of epic and tragedy.

Having said that, almost all of us experience a metaphorical descent into hell, a proton hysteron moment, somewhere around the chronological centre of our lives. Hell, maybe some of you have actually been there and back. Who am I to question your epistemological horizons or your flat-out faith in the Judeo-Christian tradition? All that Matters to me is the form in which that tradition is generated and expressed, and the ways in which we interpret and render experience. And that includes great works of art. And it includes our lives, whether or not anyone but our mother knows that we lived one.

As I leave my 30's behind, I believe I've completed my leg through the 9 layers. Or maybe I'm still climbing back up. Maybe I'm in Limbo. The 2000's are over, and I have higher hopes for the back half. So many people have helped me get through this. My sister. My Mother. All that woman is about is love, loyalty and a generosity of spirit that knows no bounds. My Father, who is now so much harder to find, is closer to me than he ever was. Yet I can't go where he so often seems to go. Against the grain, he is ending his life as it started -- locked in his own Hell. One I can't imagine, and can't enter, though I may deserve to.

And my friends -- the Ramblers, now scattered all over the globe, from Vancouver to Toronto to Geneva to Islamabad. And so many others who know who they are. In Vancouver, Mexico, Hong Kong. In Gatineau. In Ottawa. In the Glen. Throughout my 50 Million Year Trip, I have had a lot of people in my corner. Only after the deepest descent did I realize how lucky I have been.

And there are my brothers.

Cousine, who drove ten hours through a snowstorm on the eve of my surgery. And then 10 hours back the next day to work. I don't know if he will ever know how much that meant to me.

And my other two brothers, themselves bonded by blood. I'd like to think of them as my brothers too. The one held vigil with my family as they cut into the part of my body that I cared about most. The other would have joined him, had not the South Seas separated us. But at perhaps the lowest layer of my descent, in what seemed, to me, only minutes after the anagnorisis was washing over, his voice came through. And it too made a difference.

I have never been more certain of anything. After the nadir of the past decade, and the past 2 years in particular, the chapters of the second half will be the finest. By nature, the Past has always been my Prime Mover. As a student, as a professional. On both sides of the temporal/narrative/experiential fulcrum. It is therapeutic and cathartic for me. A lot of what I do here is past-looking, even if just harmlessly nostalgic. But then again the past isn't always malleable. Some things just are, and have been.

I've never been much of a futurist. But even as the world seems to be going to shit before my eyes, I'm happy with where I'm headed. I used to have to build my levee, gulp by gulp. One of the unintended consequences of my infernal itinerary was the end of the excess. I may still be building a levee against the river of shit, but I'm using different materials. And I'm letting people help me a little bit more.

And that's a good fucking thing.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Magic Bust Redux

I'm going to miss taking the bus. I bought a car recently, and after I get a couple of nagging things out of the way -- selling my soul for a downtown parking spot that is within 6 blocks of my apartment, and getting off the alchemy that allows me to sleep -- after the detox and the Faustian bargain, I can get the new Idler back into town and onto the Mean Streets.

But until then, I'm going to enjoy the bus. Once again today I had an interesting anthropological adventure. Yet again, a uniform stepped onto the bus. But this time, the uniform boarded. And again, the sublimity reduced me to simultaneous awe and abject terror. I wanted to avert my gaze, but I was frozen. My sunglasses probably provided enough subterfuge. And then I respectfully re-immersed myself into the narrative of my book.

Through my peripheral vision, I could see that the uniform was carrying about 525 pounds, give or take. And that's a modest estimation. I've only seen guys like this in television documentaries. Here was somebody who looked like that. Like those shut ins. But here was one who didn't need hydraulic assistance to emerge into the bosom of humanity. And he seemed to be gainfully employed.

He sat in the seat across the aisle from me. He had trouble making the maneuver. For a truly terrifying moment I thought the careening of the bus was going to send him, ass-first, right on top of me, and all of my physiotherapy would have been undone in one fell swoop. Once he got into his seats, he began muttering to himself. The uniform was angry. He hadn't been done right. By the bus. By the bus driver. By the bus passengers. By me.

In the heat of the day, boarding the bus had taken all his resolve. He didn't stop panting for the entire 20 minute ride.

As I snuck a few askewed views from under my sunglasses, interrupting the narrative of my book, my initial sense of grotesquerie gradually grew to admiration and respect. My internal dialogue turned from 'How can somebody allow themselves to get this way' to a reflection on how brave this guy was. He knew what he looked like, and I can only imagine what he felt like. This bus ride was an Odyssean journey for him, an epic of sweat, snorts and stares. I would be angry too. He didn't want to be that way, I'm sure. And there was probably a reason he was -- something out of his control. But instead of being a shut in, he was choosing to live his life, and hopefully trying like hell to improve it. Unlike the original magic bust, he hadn't chosen to do this to himself/herself. Then again, maybe he didn't give a shit. I wasn't about to ask him.

And I thought how I probably appeared to people a few years ago. Hairless head, puffed up with steroids, hobbling on my cane, my body dissolving daily from the inside out. Only later was the apocalyptic atrophy to be revealed. Upon regarding me, small children stared and tugged at their mother's pantleg. Some simply started to cry on the spot.

When the bus dropped me off, the adventures continued. But that's a story for another day.

I used to hate the bus. Maybe I still do. But I have more respect for it.