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 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.

Sunday, May 16, 2010


My ears are ringing. I learned today that Steven Spielberg -- the Poobah of Pap, the Sultan of Shit -- is directing a Tintin movie. Another childhood memory massacred for millions of children around the world. A classic of legitimate kid-lit converted into saccharine sentimentality. Mercifully, it won't be live action. Tom Hanks is a tad old now, as is Robin Williams.

I have fond memories of stealing those colourful books from the French classroom in elementary school. Madame Aubin would replace them with Asterix, and I'd steal those too, although I didn't like them as much.

Not bothering to learn any French in Madame Aubin's classroom, I'd look at the strips when I got home, and create my own narratives. My own counterfactuals. My own metanarratives. However, it wasn't very difficult to follow the intended storyline -- the visuals were so detailed, language was rendered unnecessary.

And some folks think that its not just kid-lit -- the other day I read a review of "Metamorphoses of Tintin". Now translated into English, it thrusts Tintin, Captain Haddock, Professor Calculus and the whole gang into the twentieth-century literary canon.

Herge. Heritage, innit?

Pink Triangle Trimester, or, I Had a Lesbian Teaching Assistant

No, its not a 50's b-movie.

It was my professional life, from 2002 until spring 2003.

She was a good drinking buddy. Addicted to everything -- coffee and cigarettes, booze and BC bud.

She lived in her office at the University Graduate Centre. Yes, it had a shower, though I suspect that she didn't make much use of it.

Hanging out with her had its perks -- the generous patronage that she enjoyed meant that there was always a lot of beer, pungent air, and attractive women in her orbit when she held court. She was a great conduit for meeting women, including the host of the campus radio sex show, "Juicebox".

The problem is, the court was always in session. And she almost single-handedly shattered my sessional career. I finished the job myself a few years later.

I'm dumb, she's a lesbian. Pinkerton -- one of the greatly neglected albums of the 1990s.


Got a little bit of World Enough and Time today before a three week hiatus. By that time, maybe the Habs will have hoisted the Cup, and I can post a panegyric on their puckmastery. In the Mean Time, maybe I can squeeze a couple of ramblings in through the out door.

Something has been percolating in my pineal gland for a while. I nearly lost that little buddy when I was semi-lobotomized during the Interruptnum -- thankfully the seat of my soul still seems to be sentient, and it chimes in from time to time. But let's not put des cartes before the horse. (Sorry, that's not a very clever joke, but hey, I had brain cancer, so fuck it).

Now that my third eye is pried open, I can dig out a few things to ramble on about. And one of them has to with movies. Certain kinds of them, and the inspired casting of these certain kinds of movies. Crime films, to be only slightly more precise -- this is an expansive genre, of course. American and/or Italian mafia, French bank heisters, British supergrass, hip-hop gangstas, Japanese Yakuza, et cet.

What I've been struck by is the casting of these types of films. Particularly Italian mob movies and/or TV shows produced in the US, and even more particularly, in the New York/New Jersey area.

I'm not talking about the iconic actors. There seem to be three levels to these casting rosters. On the primary level, you've got your De Niros, Pacinos, Pescis, Braccos, and even the non-Italians -- Keitel, Walken, et cet. In France, Delon and Belmondo. In Italy, Volonte and Milian. In Japan, Kitano and Aikawa. In the UK, Hoskins, Caine and the great Ian McShane. And of course, most recently, a new addition to the American pantheon, James Gandolfini. Often particular directors are associated with this primary caste. Scorsese with De Niro, De Palma/Coppola with Pacino, Ferrara with Keitel/Walken, Melville with Delon, Rosi with Volonte, Fulci with Milian, Sugawara with Fukasaku, Aikawa and Ishibashi with Miike, Kitano with Kitano (and usually his pals Terajima and Osugi), Kiyoshi Kurasawa with Yakusho, Akira Kurasawa with Mifune and Nakadai, Pasolini with Franco Citti, Chabrol with Audran and Huppert ....

I've always enjoyed seeing a director repeatedly go with a favoured guy/girl/ensemble. In the majority of Coen Bros movies, you can usually find not only the Turturros, Buscemis and Goodmans, but the Politos, Mahoneys, Shaloubs, Stormares and Stephen Roots of the world. And of course the great Dan Hedaya at least once. And recurrent cameos from Holly Hunter and Bruce Campbell. Philip Stone seemed to appear in every Kubrick masterpiece, no matter how bit the part. In most David Lynch films you'll find at least one of Jack Nance, Brad Dourif, or Dean Stockwell, as well as the remarkable Harry Dean Stanton. The most powerful scene in my cinematic memory was the final encounter between Stanton and Richard Farnsworth in The Straight Story -- slowly dying of cancer the entire shoot, Farnsworth's performance is the most heroic I have ever seen put to film, and I was considerably affected when I learned of his suicide shortly after. I loved P. T. Anderson's acting troupe which remained intact until they all became big fish -- Julianne Moore, William Macy, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, and John C. Reilly (Philip Baker Hall, the best of them all, never became a big fish). And Lars von Trier sticks with actors who will never become fish of any sort, like Udo Kier and Jean-Marc Barr.

But I digress. Back to the Wiseguys. On the secondary level, you have your David Proval, John Cazale, Al Letteri, Michael Madsen, Bruno Kirby, Richard Castellano, Michael Gazzo, Joe Pantoliano, Victor Argo, Robert Loggia and the truly great Frank Vincent (Billy Batts, Frank Marino, Phil Leotardo). As well, in another example of The Sopranos subtle sublimity in terms of casting cross-pollination, Dominic Chianese. Even Michael Imperioli evolved from the unfortunate "Spider" to the doomed Christopher Moltisante. The intertextuality of the casting decisions that David Chase made during the majestic run of the Sopranos is too dizzyingly brilliant to assess here -- it deserves an entire blog, and I'm sure that there are many out there.
Let me just say -- compare Richard Romanus from Mean Streets to Lorraine Bracco's (Harvey Keitel's ex-wife) ineffectual ex-husband in the Sopranos, obsessed as he is with Italian-American stereotyping.

But my favourites are from the tertiary level. The guys that show up for every audition for a New York movie. The ones that usually get billed as "Thug #2", or "Angry patron in bar". Sometimes they get chunkier roles, like Paul Herman as "Beansy". But in the main I'm referring to guys like Frank Sivero, Frank Adonis, Beau and Mike Starr, Vinny Vella, Rocco Sisto, Chuck Low, James Russo, Joe Bono, Vincent Pastore, Tony Sirico, along with much of the cast of Copland -- almost all of whom went on to play crucial roles in the Sopranos. Even Frank Pellegrino, the owner of Rao's in Little Italy -- I almost got a table in there back in 2001. Sadly, it didn't appeal to my girlfriend at the time -- we needed to get to Macy's before it closed. Joe Spinell -- along with John Cazale, one of the two tragic heroes of American cinema in the 70s.

All of these guys you would recognize upon seeing a photograph or a screen shot, but their names are largely unknown. I am here today to rescue them from the condescension of posterity.

NB. Someone who is particularly memorable for me, and belongs on the primary plane, albeit only from two "gangster" films, is the great Terence Stamp. Willie Parker and Wilson (The Limey), gain him entry into the pantheon. Let alone the "Visitor" in Teorema. We won't talk about General Zod in "Superman II" though.

Another honourable mention -- Michael Gambon as Spica, the 1980s British/17c Dutch gangster in The Cook, the Thief ...

The kids will know him better, unfortunately, from the film franchise that I refuse to mention.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Les Glorieux!

Ah oui! les Ca-na-diens! les super canadiens de Montreal!

Back in January, I ran into an old farmer from my hometown at the cancer clinic. I was going in, he was going out.

The big guy told me, as he nodded sagely: "I think there's a Cup coming!" At that point, Montreal was struggling to squeak into the playoffs, a feat they accomplished on the last weekend of the regular season. A notorious loyalist of Le Tricolore, I thought perhaps that the treatments were doing the same number on him as they had on me.

Then again, he had called the same shot towards the end of the 1993 regular season. Told me, at close range: "I think there's a Cup coming!" I laughed then too, thinking that the big guy had been kicked in the head by one of his dairy cows.

Yet here we are. They are singing in the streets outside my window. They are halfway there, and have more than a puncher's shot to get to the Final. Fuck, I hope its the Bruins in the semis.

Jaroslav Halak is breaking playoff records. Roy, Dryden, Plante, even Steve Penney are being supplanted. And then Pierre Gauthier will make the right decision, and trade him for Vinny and a first at the draft. And Carey Price will then take his place in the pantheon.

I feel like its 1979, 1986, and 1993 -- all over again. And I didn't even wear my Canadiens teeshirt tonight.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

At the Van-In

No, its not a post-hardcore band from Austin, Texas.

French's 68 Mustang got me thinking about classic cars. And by classic I mean mid-late 70s. When you're a kid, those summers seemed to last forever, especially when you grow up where I did. There just wasn't a whole lot to do, besides hammer tennis balls and hockey pucks against the brick wall in the liquor store parking lot. Or play town-tag. We were granted a remarkable amount of autonomy as 7 yr olds back then, unlike today's generation, who need to be bundled in bubblewrap and perpetually behelmed if they wish to ride their bike up and down the driveway. What, you want to go upstreet, by yourself!? What are you talking about, you're only 13! As 7 yr olds, we were out popping wheelies down the mean streets on our kickass mini dirtbikes until the sun went down.

And every summer, other than the Highland Games, there was an event that we all looked forward to. The biggest, badassed, shitkicker show of the summer. The Van-In. A peculiar 70's showcase, it had a brief run in my hometown until the choking cloud that hovered over the fairgrounds forced the town fathers to wag their fingers in condemnation. Too much Wacky Tabacky, they snorted in unison. Too many Max Webster and Uriah Heep cover bands.

For us, though, it was a celebration. Our Carnaval de Romans. My buddy Charlo and I would stock up on Mr. Freezees and park ourselves on the steps of his Dad's Main Street restaurant. And the parade would begin. The cavalcade of cool. Van after van, all lovingly adorned with the very best that modern art had to offer. Sublime sunsets, Hang-Ten waves, King Kongs (you haven't seen it yet?), gleaming toothfuls of Andy Gibb, fire-breathing dragons, fantasy Farrahs, pissed off Chewbaccas, Kiss Armies. And those women. So artfully rendered. So satiatingly naked. When they would pull into the liquor store parking lot next to us to stock up for the weekend, we'd get to look in the back. Plush velvet linings, shag carpets, cabinets of curiosity (where they kept the booze and wacky tabacky, amongst other essential artifacts). We'd ignore the propagandic bumper stickers that cautioned -- "don't touch this van unless you are completely naked", or the wellworn "if this van's a rockin ..."

And there was more. Cruel looking Corvettes and Camaros. The ubiquitous yet eternally ethereal black Trans Ams, rising from the flames while the 8 track blared out. We Surrendered to the sweet sounds of Candy-O. We had spent all our Money on Mr. Freezees, but Time was on our side. We Breathed in the Sweet Leaf. It was More Than a Feeling. We Spread our Little Wings and flew away. For one weekend a year, you could Sheik Yerbouti.

But to the Catholic Scots and dour Presbyterian pastors, it was an Atrocity Exhibition. (OK, maybe I'm playing with the past a bit too much on that last one, but that's the nature of memory, right? -- fucking with your head). Maybe you can only Drive Down Main Street So Many Times.

And then it was gone, and the only sounds you heard emanate from the fairgrounds were the clannish drones of the Highlands. The Hebridean hymns and Ossianic octaves. But that's another story for another day. Stories. At least the ones I can talk about.

And it was back to killing time. Sadly, a lot of those town taggers are dead now. Some would still be sitting in the King George, had it not been recently condemned by the building inspector.

If only I had some of that World Enough and Time again.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Magic Bust

I hadn't planned on posting anything tonight. A bit short on World Enough and Time. Busy as a bee. The bustling hive. Private Vice, Publick Benefits, and all that.

But that was until I took my bus ride home from the quotidian tedium of work. I've never liked the bus. I always preferred to stay away from the madding crowd, the sweaty press of indentured humanity. But during the Interruptum it was deemed verboten for me to drive, and I reluctantly retired the alabaster 94 Cavalier. It didn't owe me any money -- it had got me to Vancouver and back, 9 years between. Like a motorized Leonard Zelig, it pops up in photos of the Golden Gate Bridge, the vertiginous Streets of San Francisco, at the foot of the Space Needle, on Telegraph Rd in Berkeley, along the white beaches of Oregon, and adorning a couple of moving violations forwarded via Vancouver's finest. What wasn't captured on film was it getting lost in Oakland at 1 in the morning, negotiating the boyz in the hood huddling over their burning trash cans (uh, excuse me gentlemen, can you tell us how to get to Palo Alto?) Could that thing be any whiter? Could its driver? Also not captured was the scene of its driver turning down the "orgy option" at the airport hotel while its driver's girlfriend sat in its passenger seat.

I even got $500 for the white wonder. Christened the Idler, it enjoyed the honour of being the official vehicle of the Ramblers, the Johnsonian men's club/secret society that is alleged to have originated in the late 1990s. The Blue Book value for a 94 Cavalier with that kind of mileage is, I reckon, about $50, but the buyer knew what he was getting. A ride right out of history, fabulous and fabulist.

But back to the bus. Shortly before my downtown exit, the bus stops. Something briefly boarded, then, mercifully, disembarked. It appeared to be wearing a uniform of some sort. I still don't know what I saw. Let's just say it was sublime, in the aesthetic, eighteenth-century sense of the term. I was in awe, and also very afraid. Initially, it was ... interesting. Long mane of impossibly blonde hair, the peroxide preening in the preternatural light of the setting son. Irrationally enormous breasts, if indeed it is possible to Reason about such things.

But then she walked by my window seat, presumably on to her next important bus business. I'm still not sure what I saw. He? She? A Transit Transvestite? The skin on her face was pulled so tight she looked like a Mannerist painting. An Arcimboldo grotesque. Imagine a hybrid of Pamela Anderson crossed with Joan Rivers, and that's what I saw. I swear.

This anthropological encounter might qualify as my counterfactual of the week. He/she was a walking counterfactual. What if ... that happened. To somebody. On purpose.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Test Pattern

This concludes my blogging day. The Canucks are hammering the shit out of the Blackhawks. If I find a shred of world enough and time tomorrow, I'll drop another or two. Maybe this will spark a Chicago comeback.

One Night in Hull (makes a hard man humble)

I'm thinking about my cousin today. My cousine. My brother.

There was a time, well, most of our lives until we both got over the mid-20s hump, that we were nearly inseparable. Now, I see him about once every couple of years, and talk to him only slightly more times than that. The memories and stories of our exploits could fill up a hundred blogs. Unfortunately, most of them I can't relate, as I don't wish to incriminate either of us, at least any more than we have already suffered. I don't know yet if these blogs are admissable in court. That same caveat applies to most of my last years in Vancouver as well, where my supposedly respectable position probably saved my ass on more than a few occasions. Good stories for the Sir John A, but not here.

But I do remember one bacchanalian night that is on my mind. It had been, in most respects, a usual weekday night in the early 90s. But I had reformed myself a bit by this point, after rolling my car deep into a farmer's field and walking away, largely unscathed, and seemingly having learned my lesson. Cousine was just beginning to become an engineer. Later that same term, he and I had a routinistic evening -- four or five hours of darts at the Duke of Somerset (RIP), the "tab" fluctuating from $5 to $100 a game. However, instead of the usual plaintive call to his girlfriend to pick us up, we made the portentous plan. Its only 1. Let's go have a nightcap until 3.

And over we go. Chez Henri. Oui, merci monsieur, for taking those ponderous winter coats from us. This place had class. It had booze. And it was open until 3. Everything was going swimmingly well. Until cousine had an idea while we sat at the bar (we were phantasmically drunk by all mortal standards, if perhaps not Glengarry county metrics). But not drunk enough to start sweatily mingling on the dance floor. Not yet.

The idea. Brilliant! Behind the bar was a collection of liquor unlike anything I had ever seen. "Let's order every shooter they have". Two by two, blow by blow. Somewhere during that process is the last memory I have until some indeterminate period later. Post-shooter satiation, we must have decided, tragically, to mingle amongst the sweating and predominantly Francophone hipsters and ravers. The heaving bosom of the room, the hermetic (and hermeneutic) circle of the Attic evening.

My next memory of that night, we are suddenly outside of the establishment. I am lying on the ground, feeling pain around my midsection. Then I get another kick in the ribs as I flail around on the January ice. Somewhere, I hear my cousine getting the living shit beat out of him. He enjoyed resistance, no matter the situation. That's just the way he was, and probably still is. The memory reel skips ahead a bit more -- I'm on the hood of a squad car belonging to Hull's finest. Then I'm in the back seat of that fine vehicle, my hands cuffed behind my back. "This is police brutality", I was screaming. Hull's finest got a good chuckle out of all that.

The upside of all this, however, is that there was a new jail in Hull. All shiny and brand new. New tin toilets, comfy cot. I hadn't slept that good in years. Took a while to fall asleep though, some dude was yelling and screaming all night. The voice was familiar.

When I woke up, I called for the guard to let me out. Over to the discharge desk -- thank fucking god, there was my wallet and keys. But where was my jacket? My King George hotel leather jacket? "You guys weren't wearing jackets when they brought you in", he told me in Fringlish. Fuck. What about my cousine? "We can't wake him up". Seems the comforts of the new Hull jail were too seductive.

I'm led to the front doors and let out into the blinding afternoon sun and biting cold of a January day. No jacket, and no money in my wallet. After what seemed like an eternity as my head throbbed and my entire body froze, a cab came by. I was able to persuade him to take me to an ATM, and then back to Ottawa. To the Mechanicsville basement that my cousine and his girlfriend shared with her uncle. I won't elaborate on him.

"Where's XXXX"? She refused to drive me back over to Chez Henri to pick up our jackets. When he wakes up and calls me, we'll drive over and pick him up. I couldn't wait that long. Cab #2 brings me back to the scene. I went to the ominous looking side door and rang the bell. After an agonizingly long wait, I hear heavy panting breath and savage snarls. The door never moved, but a small rectangular window slid open. I could see an impossibly immense figure, struggling to hold back two rottweilers who seemingly desired to tear out my throat. I nervously explained the situation to the doorman. I felt like I was trying to enter the German Democratic Republic circa 1977. After disappearing for a few minutes, he returned to the door and ordered me to return later. When? Later!

Later arrived. Cab #3 took me back to the scene. I repeated the ritual. Come back later.

Even later arrived. Still no word from cousine. Cab #4 took me over. I got in this time, and was forced to make the humiliating walk to retrieve the jackets. Many large burly brutes watched my every move. Back across the bridge to the basement apartment. Cousine calls. Girlfriend and I go over. He emerged with a couple of black eyes and other miscellaneous wounds. He woke up on the floor of the cell, by the little tin toilet, with the mattress flattening him against the wall. So that was their remedy for his wailing, I guessed.

Turns out I had a class/seminar that morning that I obviously missed. It was my favourite class, 388 -- Historical Theory and Method. The week after I had an interesting narrative to tell, didn't I Lauzzy? I will see my cousine this summer, and we'll have a few beers, and remember this, and a hundred other stories. I still wear that jacket, after all these years. It could tell you some stories.

Strombo Street

I owe George Stroumboulopoulos an apology, not that he would have been aware of the initial slight. Way back after the autochthonic birth of the blog, I dissed him, as part of the "new CBC 2". The Strombo Show and the Signal were not up to snuff -- I wanted Patti Schmidt and Brave New Waves back.

Several Sundays later, I need to change my tune. I still want Patti and Brave New Waves back. I'm starting to lose my grip on the nomenclature of the new music genres. But that's another matter.

Every Sunday, from 8 to midnight, right after the soundtrack to my physiotherapy workout -- David Starkey's "Monarchy" -- lies the four hour commercial-free ambit of The Strombo Show. This has become appointment radio for me. Radio? Yes kids, radio. How quickly we forget those little brown boxes, those ghastly looking ghettoblasters, and now those podcasts, or whatever other devolutionary devices people increasingly utilize. Yes, George, mission accomplished. Congratulations. You have restored the spirit of radio. Once again, the invisible airwaves in my apartment crackle with life. No echoing sounds of salesmen, though. Sorry Geddy.

Where else can you hear, within one uninterrupted four-hour span of radio, old school Tool, an album side from Godspeed's magnum opus "Lift your Skinny Fists to Heaven", the tragic tones of a Johnny Cash fable, the sublimity of Feist, and the baroque grotesque of Tom Waits, all mashed into a sonic stew that caps off each and every week that most of us continue to trudge through.

Even the "Tom at Ten" segment, which counter intuitively arrives at around 9:43 each week, has converted me. I never used to understand the Waits phenomenon, and while I have yet to be conscripted into the cult, I do have an ameliorated appreciation. "What is he building in there?" accomplished that.

I used to ask that question about your alchemical experiment, George. But you must garner a ton of respect with the suits over there at the mighty CBC. Somehow you persuaded them to give you a four hour tabula rasa with which to do whatever the fuck you want. Luckily, from what I can tell, we share not only the same age but similar musical tastes as well.

Thanks, Strombo.

Maiden Ottawa

Finally, a day off. After doing some housekeeping on my keeper league hockey team (WHL bantam draft Thursday, OHL Priority Selections this morning ...), I'm ready to do a bit o' bloggin. I'm feeling good, no night hag last night. In a metal mood, playing some Isis (prog/alt/instrumental metal, for you genre addicts like me). I can't believe I missed them when they played Barrymore's in the spring of 2007 -- maybe they inflicted some structural damage during their sonic swell, and that's why that Imperial palace of live music has been shut down. I did get to the last significant gig that Barrymore's hosted -- Charles Spearin, Ohad and the rest of the Do Make Say Think boys (and girl) later that same spring. A life-altering experience, although I don't know how I made it home (all three blocks). Please, somebody, get live bands into that place again. It should be the radiant cultural core of this city. Even if the ceiling cracks when Pelican comes through town.

As I said, I'm in a bloggin' mood. Got a little piece of world enough and time today to get a few posts in, in Square Corneresque, machine gun fashion. I can hear Billy Cox in my head right now -- dudda dudda du, du du du du du, before Jimi begins to wail.

But as of this moment, my muse is the irreplaceable Iron Maiden. Again, nostalgia fucking with my head, as most memories do. But before there could be "alternative" metal, there had to be THEM -- Sabbath, Purple, the sad wings of destiny, and then the mighty Maiden. They are my muse right now, the divine afflatus, Square Corner's flatulent wind. They're filling my thirsty ears as I write. I haven't pulled out this "mix CD" since I created it on a beer-sodden night in the Sikh ghetto in Vancouver back in 2004. As I built my levee, gulp by gulp, in my Grub Street hovel, the only white guy in the hood, with my even whiter Cavalier double-parked outside. I lovingly pirated, title after title, the iconic discography that sat in the cassette cache in my parent's basement, awaiting the fiery martyrdom of my father's next pique of pyromania. Now, its spinning inside my computer, and spitting out my stereo speakers. I just ran to the hills, and now I'm (vocally) venturing, along with the Bruce, where only eagles dare. What a Steve Harris bassline on The Trooper. I remember in Grade 10, we were all memorizing a particular section of Coleridge's "Rime". What pedagogical purpose this served, I still don't know. All the Maidenists fought over who got the bits from the epic that ended "Powerslave". There was a lot of that pseudo-historical/literary/cinematic shit with Maiden -- Genghiz Khan, the Aboriginal genocide, the Crimean War, the quest for fire -- but hey, it was 80s metal, everyone did it. And we were 14, fuck it.

I got to thinking about Iron Maiden when my massage therapist asked me yesterday, somewhere between the 4th and 5th rib, about the worst moments of my radiation treatments/tortures. As I was already in the same face-down-on a rack position at the time, the memories flash flooded fairly easily. To prepare for the procedures, I had to have a special mould made of my head. At the time I didn't really know why -- I was still reeling from the shock of the preceding few weeks, the brain surgery, having to learn to walk properly, et cet. Little did I know that I was soon to become the man in the iron mask, in an all too Realist fashion. The only little problem was that the shape and size of my head was about to change. In the interval between the casting of the mould and the commencement of the cranial cookout, a few months of super steroids had swelled my already substantially sizeable head to sublime proportions. When I climbed onto the rack, my body was strapped and sideboarded to the static point of complete immobility. Then came the headgear -- the two halves of the cranial cage. When my Hippocratic torturers finally locked my bulbous bulb into that iron maiden, then told me the initial calibrating of the infernal machine would take about an hour, my heart sank into my crotch. My head would have followed if it could move, if I could even take a breath without searing pain. As tough as I thought I might have been, this was beyond endurance. I felt like a martyred witch in a Mario Bava film. Over the course of the next few treatments, following the initial ordeal, they had to cut open a part of the mask so that my nose could at least be free and allow me to breathe. They also "loosened it up" a bit. Over the next 7 weeks or so I gradually grew immune to the daily torments, even falling asleep at times, comfortably numb behind the pharmacological phalanx of my magical morphine. I miss that shit. Kept the night hag away.