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Thursday, February 28, 2002
At the midground between a poet and a hired assassin there stands a copywriter.
Bus tales, the sequel: the sniffers are back, but this time they’re merely enthusiastically drunk and accompanied by four friends. “Who wants to hear a song?” one man roars. The bus is silent. “Who wants to hear an Indian song?” Still no reply. “Some Hank Williams Sr.?” Nothing. “Okay, Hank Williams Jr.” Nothing. “Have you ever heard an Indian singing Elvis?” His friend intervenes: “I don’t think they’re with you, man.” “Yeah, okay. Anyway I don’t got my guitar here, eh. Need a guitar for Elvis.” Laughter. Laughter. Laughter. Slowly the passengers unclench as we travel into Inglewood. Suddenly: “Hey! Lemme sing you this song I wrote,” the same man yells, this time into the ear of the stranger sitting next to him. “I write songs! Are there any Indian women on this bus?” Silence, as the crowd seizes up anew. “Here’s one I’m working on! (a capella) ‘I sold my moccasins at the railway station / Bought me a pair of white man’s boots....’ -- so whaddya’ think?”
Wednesday, February 27, 2002
Funny mad, funny haha: I learn today that Spike Milligan, musician, comedian, author, actor and poet, has died at the age of 83. As a teenager I used to sneak Spike Milligan's war memoirs from my dad's bookcase, although I was never very good at stealth, and anyway, my laughter usually gave me away. I received several lectures from my horrified mother that the books were unsuitable for a girl of my age. Then she read them, saw how truly funny and humane they were, and handed them over. I used to take them to school and read out passages to my friends. I remember one day my home room teacher, a starchy Englishwoman named Mrs. King, saw me reading the first book, "Hitler: My Part in His Downfall," and snatched it out of my hands. "You shouldn't be reading this, you know," she said, nostrils flaring slightly in disapproval. "They locked him up in a mental hospital. More than once." Apparently that was enough to condemn him as unsuitable to read. I think of this because it's another reason I'm grateful for Spike Milligan's existence: he was proof that creative genius does not equate happiness. And also that depression, though severe, cannot kill genius -- it merely delays it a spell.
I am Curious (Mennonite): Good friend Fearless heads off for a skiing trip last weekend in the company of five men: four Swedish doctors and a physical therapist. She is sharing a house with same. Now, Fearless is the child of missionaries, and spent her formative years in Zaire, so one can't expect her to know that she's just entered the plot of a classic 1960s blue movie. Does she capitalize on the situation? She does not. I inform her that no longer will I live vicariously through her if she's going to be this lame. She punches me, hard, in the shoulder.
When Clients Write, Part II:

"....from the freshest bounty of the land, Mother Nature never tasted so good!"

Paging Dr. Freud: A Mister Oedipus for you on Line 2.
Monday, February 25, 2002
Spotted while banking, on the windowsill of the bank vestibule: a putty knife, a vise grip, pliers, a screwdriver, clip-on sunglasses, torn bus schedule, lip balm, crumpled tissues, torn sweater, and several packets of pepper and salt. You just know the scenario had to be a fairly drunken: “Goddamn it, that bank card’s in here somewhere!” with the owner rifling through a backpack or duffel bag. Alcohol most definitely the reason why the random contents were left on the windowsill.
Jane’s Olympic Highlights: (1) Marc Gagnon, short track speedskater, interviewing himself at the opening ceremonies because he can’t hear the broadcaster’s questions over the noise of the crowd; (2) The Australian woman aerial skier’s disbelief at winning gold ["I've never won anything! Not even a raffle!"]; (3) the skating coverage on French CBC, which was joyous during figure skating, but absolutely over the top at the short track speedskating on Saturday night. Everyone in the studio went wild at the Canadian medals, yelping and hollering, the announcers almost too overcome to speak; (4) The stockboys at Safeway yesterday who ran whooping down the aisles as Canada pulled ahead of the USA in the hockey final, 3-2; (5) Hayley Wickenheiser saying, post-victory, “We want to know if they want us to sign it” after hearing that the American women had had the Canadian flag on the floor of their dressing room; (6) Derek Parra of the USA coming out of nowhere to win two speedskating medals, and not pulling any “star” attitude afterwards, really, just almost disappearing from sight. Great games, really. Great games altogether. I know there was some complaining at the hoky Dinosaur puppets at the closing ceremonies, but Calgary paved the way with a gigantic cheesestorm in 1988 at its own closing ceremonies, so I thought Salt Lake did pretty well by comparison. Kiss looked kind of cold, though. And the Italian fashion show was, in a word, dumb.
One final note: American television is awfully hard on its losing athletes. You couldn’t find anything on any of the women hockey players after they lost to Canada, and there was damned little about the men’s team, either. Here in Canada we probably go too far the other way, interviewing losing athletes into mental collapses [“Tell me, Donna, when you fell on your landing, disappointing your home town crowd who donated thousands of dollars to send you here, did you feel bad?” “Yes I did, thanks, Terry.”] but it seemed, on NBC, that once a favoured home athlete failed to perform to expectation -- meaning a gold medal -- he/she simply vanished from notice. Americans should take a note from Canada's book: we're so damn happy to get a medal, any medal, we don't really care what colour it is.
The run-up to the Oscars: Saw “In The Bedroom” with good friend Craig; it was more than average harrowing, but somehow uplifting -- not because of the story, but because of the unparalleled acting of everyone involved. I was overcome at one or two moments in the film, and Craig, who’s a father, admitted that he was glad he’d seen it, but knew he’d never be able to watch it again. Then I went and watched “Iris” yesterday, another relentlessly tragic film -- tragic because of the inexorable disintegration of a brilliant mind and seemingly indomitable spirit. All the performances are fine, but see it especially for the actor who plays the young husband of Iris Murdoch. Hugh Bonneville, I think his name is. He was remarkable. So, to keep this cheery strain going, I guess I’d better make up my mind to see “A Beautiful Mind” -- even though I’m still outraged at how the story has been sanitized. John Nash had numerous homosexual experiences in his life, and was apparently charged for toilet trading, but you don’t see that in the film. Oh, no, too much like real life. That won’t win us an Oscar.
Friday, February 22, 2002
Poetry Friday, or "Man, can those Americans write, or what?"
[Richard Chess, "Chairs in the Desert"]

Though there is no cure, he seeks one
In the discussions of the rabbis, in the shade
Of the eucalyptus, in the bones of St. Peter fish,
In the lyrics of Arik Einstein, in Gitanes.
Before sleep, uniform slumped
To the ground, pen capped, letter
To the prime minister sealed, he seeks a cure
In the expansive dark of the desert.
In the coffee house, enchanted by a folk singer.
In the shade of the eucalyptus, daydreaming.
Best to forget the offerings, how much oil and grain,
How many calves, how many pigeons.
Forget where the moon is in its cycle.
When the first set ends, when the shade moves,
He wills to carry the forgetting forward.
He wills to practice forgetting when he laces
His shoe, when he describes a recurring dream
To the prisoner who has a reputation
For his interpretations, when he gazes at a ship
On the horizon, when he wakes to the face
Facing his. This is the first time
He has seen her in morning light. What is the prayer?
She belongs to Christ, he remembers as he strokes
Her breast. He will forget this morning,
Like he forgot yesterday morning, their lying
Together late on a mattress issued by the state.
Though there is no cure, he seeks one
Where he works, in a novel, in the kiss
He receives from a rabbi of infinite patience.
He forgets fringes and his friends who have stepped
Outside for a smoke between sets. He forgets
Which of them has lately become a pacifist,
Which has purchased a ticket for the far east.
He wills to practice forgetting the scent
Of her hair, the taste of her tongue.
Though there is no cure, he seeks one
On the broken temple steps,
He seeks one in the morning light
Which reveals and reveals her face.

Wednesday, February 20, 2002
Another idea for the trash can: We're working on a series of adverts for new clients, who own an old folks' home [sorry, "assisted living residence"], called The Whitehorn Lodge or Village or whatever the noun. Anyway, my first billboard slogan: "White hair? Whitehorn!" didn't make it out of the brainstorming session. Odd, that.
Spent the long weekend with a brainless Labrador retriever puppy belonging to my older brother. Mostly it was okay, but then there was the Great Sunday p.m. Pukefest. The dog gets a once-a-day snack of a smoked pig's ear. I duly hand over revolting object to the dog, and retire to the next room to continue a massive book binge [more later on that]. Suddenly I hear the dog gagging horribly, and racing to see what's wrong, come upon the largest reservoir of partially digested pig's ear that I never want to see again. Though a fainter by nature, I realize there's no alternative but to clean up the foulness, as running away and hiding in the backyard until my brother returns on Monday does not connote maturity. Problem: halfway through the job I myself barf spectacularly. Just another scene for that movie script I promised to finish someday.
The Book Binge, or How Jane Overcomes Intense Snobbishness. I had forgotten to bring books with me to my brother's house, and I'd read all his Foxtrot compendia, and we don't have the same tastes in literature -- he favours the espionage or private eye genre, as well as copiously detailed science fiction fantasy numbers. So I was reduced to scouring the kids' bookshelves. A voice in my head began to nag me: Give Harry Potter another chance. I struggled mightily against it, but it was either that or the complete Captain Underpants series: I've read everything else the kids have, since I've given them a good deal of books over the years.
So, okay, I've read 'em. From Friday night to Monday night, I re-read "The Philosopher's Stone," then devoured "The Chamber of Secrets," "The Prisoner of Azkaban" and "The Goblet of Fire." By the way, Duane, you were right, "The Goblet of Fire" desperately needs an editor. However, it makes me realize that being a book snob is the most intensely stupid pretense I have. And that one should always give books a second chance. The first time I read "Philosopher's Stone," I hated it, yet this time the ending made me cry. I can't believe it, either, but there I was, all teary. Are these the best kids' books ever? No, but they're definitely very good kids' books, and show a great deal of respect to young readers' intelligence. I still don't think I'll go see the movie, though -- not even three days of frenetic reading can soften me up for the abysmal directing and go-for-the-cheap-laugh propensities of Chris Columbus.
Tuesday, February 19, 2002
So it wasn't indigestion. It wasn't a blockage. It wasn't Crohn's or diverticulitis. My friend KB was in pain for months before finally, finally going in for the biopsy. Malignancy. The most terrifying word to come out of a doctor's mouth. KB was initially rocked back on her heels, but quickly rebounded, and charged ahead into chemotherapy. She "celebrated" her anticipated return to health by getting her head shaved prior to the first treatment. An aggressive chemotherapy it was, too, the doctors hoping to obliterate the primary site and any spots of metastasis. Last week KB went in for a MRI. The upshot: "Make your plans now." Far from responding to chemo, the cancer has metastasized to her liver, gall bladder, stomach, and ovaries. All in under two months. All stark and inescapable facts. KB is 34 years old. Another fact. Her doctors state that further chemo would be futile. Make your plans. None of us can believe we're going to lose her. Everyone who loves her, loves her so much that each wants to swap places with her.
Robust health seems to be as randomly bestowed as any other trait. If only there were a way of transferring time from one life to another, a few years from the prime of one's life. A biological ATM.
Friday, February 15, 2002
Poetry Friday:
All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace
[Richard Brautigan]

I like to think (and
the sooner the better!)
of a cybernetic meadow
where mammals and computers
live together in mutually
programming harmony
like pure water
touching clear sky.

I like to think
   (right now, please!)
of a cybernetic forest
filled with pines and electronics
where deer stroll peacefully
past computers
as if they were flowers
with spinning blossoms.

I like to think
   (it has to be!)
of a cybernetic ecology
where we are free of our labors
and joined back to nature,
returned to our mammal
brothers and sisters,
and all watched over
by machines of loving grace.

Wednesday, February 13, 2002
Okay, let’s get this tiny confession over with: I’m still watching figure skating, despite how I loathe judged events in the Olympics. I would stop watching, but unfortunately I stumbled across the French Canadian broadcast of the events, which has the best figure skating commentary, ever. I feel sorry for anyone who doesn’t have the chance to see and hear it. Even if you don't speak a word of French, you'll still pick up on the fun. The sportscasters at the skating venue, two men, are ecstatic about figure skating. They speak in reverent whispers as the skaters take the ice. Every successful landing is hailed with an excited “Reussi!” [“Success”] or “Formidable!” [“Terrific!"] while bobbles and falls merit “Dommage dommage dommage,” [“Pity pity pity”] or my absolute favourite, “oh lalalalalalaaaaaa!” I am unable to listen to the commentary without shaking with laughter and utterly loving the two old birds. It’s worlds better than the incessant, chipmunk-influenced chittering on NBC and CBC. These old guys adore every single skater on the ice, think the Americans do the best job of hosting the Olympics, and want the judges to get their heads cleaned out and filled with real brains. What’s not to love?
Tuesday, February 12, 2002
Ignore the following: My Oscar picks: Will Smith and Nicole Kidman, best lead roles. Maggie Smith and Ian McKellen, best supporting. Best Picture: Lord of the Rings, FOTR. Best Director: Peter Jackson. This is just my head talking, not my heart [well, okay; my heart rules where "Lord of the Rings" is concerned]. Frankly, I loathed Moulin Rouge. And I was surprised at how disappointed I was with "Ali" as a picture. Mind you, as with every year, I expect to be wrong about most of these, except Kidman and Smith.
I'm embarrassed to admit that I've devoted a few neurons to caring about the pairs figure skating at the Olympics. Lessee if I've got it straight: Canadian and American pairs skate fantastic, clean programs with extensive artistic and technical merit. Russian team skates a clearly artistic program, but tanks one landing and wobbles on a couple more. Chinese pair blows first landing completely, is out of synch on spins and is visibly exhausted by end of program. Yet the Russians get higher technical merit than the Canadians, and the Chinese higher than the Americans. Something's not right here, fellas. I repeat my earlier suggestion: Get rid of judged events, if you can't find a way of making the judging equitable. Or, at the very least, replace all the current old harlots on the judging circuit with people who've actually strapped on blades in the decades since Gagarin went into orbit. Sheesh.
Friday, February 08, 2002
The way to a better Olympics:
  • Women ski jumpers
  • All figure skating moves to special "entertainment" section of Olympics
  • Mandatory grass smoking for all snowboarders.
  • Bobsleds actual sleds, not flanged sex toys [I want to see fear on those faces].
  • Jay and Silent Bob to do all colour commentary.
  • Biathlon to receive more than 30 seconds total exposure. This is one amazing sport. With guns yet!
  • Curling teams to smoke Black Cat cigarettes and drink rye and ginger at all times, as God intended.

The Long Good Poetry Friday:
Vectors: 45 Aphorisms and Ten-Second Essays
[James Richardson]

1.It's so much easier to get further from home than nearer that all men become travelers.

2. Of all the ways to avoid living, perfect discipline is the most admired.

3.Idolaters of the great need to believe that what they love cannot fail them, adorers of camp, kitsch, trash that they cannot fail what they love.

4.Say nothing as if it were news.

5.Who breaks the thread, the one who pulls, the one who holds on?

6. Despair says, I cannot lift that weight. Happiness says, I do not have to.

7. What you give to a thief is stolen.

8. Impatience is not wanting to understand that you don't understand.

9. Greater than the temptations of beauty are those of method.

10.Harder to laugh at the comedy if it's about you, harder to cry at the tragedy if it isn't.

11.Patience is not very different from courage. It just takes longer.

12. Even at the movies, we laugh together, we weep alone.

13. I could explain, but then you would understand my explanation, not what I said.

14. If the saints are perfect and unwavering we are excused from trying to imitate them. Also if they are not.

15. Easy to criticize yourself, harder to agree with the criticism.

16. Tragic hero, madman, addict, fatal lover. We exalt those who cannot escape their dreams because we cannot stay inside our own.

17. Every life is allocated one hundred seconds of true genius. They might be enough, if we could just be sure which ones they were.

18.Absence makes the heart grow fonder: then it is only distance that separates us.

19. How much less difficult life is when you do not want anything from people. And yet you owe it to them to want something.

20. Where I touch you lightly enough, there I am also touched.

21.If we were really sure we were one of a kind, there would be no envy. My envy demeans both of us—no wonder it is the hardest sin to confess. It says I am not who I think I am unless I have what you have. It says that you are what you have, and I could have it.

22. Laziness is the sin most willingly confessed to, since it implies talents greater than have yet appeared.

23. If you reason far enough you will come to unreasonable conclusions.

24. The one who hates you perfectly loves you.

25. What you fear to believe, your children will believe.

26. Of our first few years we remember nothing: experience only slowly gives us the power to be formed by experience. If this were not true, our characters would be completely determined by our infant hours of darkness, pain, and helplessness, and we would all be the same. For her first six months my daughter cried continuously, who knows why. Yet she is as happy and trusting and kind as if all that had never happened. It never did.

27.The road not taken is the part of you not taking the road.

28. We invent a great Loss to convince ourselves we have a beginning. But loss is a current: the coolness of one side of a wet finger held up, the faint hiss in your ears at midnight, water sliding over the dam at the back of your mind, memory unremembering itself.

29. If I didn't spend so much time writing, I'd know a lot more. But I wouldn't know anything.

30.The wounds you do not want to heal are you.

31. When my friend does something stupid, he is just my friend doing something stupid. When I do something stupid, I have deeply betrayed myself.

32. If I didn't have so much work to keep me from it, how would I know what I wanted to do?

33. My deepest regrets, if I am honest, are not things I wish were otherwise, but things I wish I wish were otherwise.

34. I lie so I do not have to trust you to believe.

35. Opacity gives way. Transparency is the mystery.

36. To me, the great divide is between the talkative and the quiet. Do they just say everything that's on their minds, even before it's on their minds? Sometimes I think I could just turn up my head like a Walkman so what's going on there could be heard by others. But there would still be a difference. For inside the head they are talking to people like them, and I am talking to someone like me: he is quiet and doesn't much like being talked at; he can't conceal how easily he gets bored.

37. Anger has been ready to be angry.

38. It's easier to agree on the future than the past.

39. Only half of writing is saying what you mean. The other half is preventing people from reading what they expected you to mean.

40. They gave me most who took most gladly of my love.

41. Back then I wanted to be right about my estimate of my abilities. Now I want to be wrong.

42. Time heals. By taking even more.

43. Self-love, strange name. Since it feels neither like loving someone, nor like being loved.

44. What I hope for is more hope.

45. To feel an end is to discover that there had been a beginning. A parenthesis closes that we hadn't realized was open). 
Remind me to come here whenever I feel like straying from my vegetarian ambitions. Quote du jour: "There is no satisfactory substitute for quality Beef Bladders."
Interestink: Cat Brushes Man's Teeth. Tsk, Owie. What would Strunk & White say? Something snooty about misplaced modifiers. But then they're like that, those fellas.
Thursday, February 07, 2002
Come to think of it, "fatulence" might be a better word than "conflabulate."
That's right, liebchen...the surly writer is bored today, but not for lack of work. Oh, not that. Just lack of mentally involving work. Do you care about mezzanine financing? I know I don't.
Stealing an idea from Grant, I devised a word destined for the PseudoDictionary after overhearing a lengthy conversation between two colleagues: "Conflabulate", v.i. To share copious details of one's diet with another, including exaggerated details of suffering and self-denial. Thanks, Mr. H.
World, be warned: Canada has just taken the first gold at the Olympics: when it comes to bridge, we rule you bastards. We rule! Note: Bridge as an Olympic demonstration sport? Oh, Gott. It's all part of a downhill trend that began in 1976 with the introduction of ice dancing. Wake me when we get to Olympic quilting, will you? I don't want to miss the intense stitch-by-stitch action.
Wednesday, February 06, 2002
The Jaydubs were at my bus stop this morning. You know you're in for it when you're standing there, mindless, and you hear, "Hi! How are you today?" behind you. You turn, and there's a smiling, well-groomed person holding out a copy of The Watchtower.

Me: [Caveman] No. Not want.
JW: [Canary] Oh, okay then! Have a SUPER day!

I should note that my bus stop is right outside the Blackfoot Truck Stop, Calgary's answer to the Mos Eisley cantina, and that the Jaydub probably had a death wish, going in there to convert the No-Doz crowd directly after I'd snubbed her. I wish I could have seen what happened, but then bus come. Bus good.
Tuesday, February 05, 2002
Sunday breakfast and a welcome but unexpected visit from my older brother and his 9-year-old son, Nolan. They're in town for some Cub and Scout frolic at the Science Centre, and decide to hook up with me before heading home. They've obviously been to the iMax theatre as well to see "The Human Body," and it must have resonated with Nolan. He waits until I take a large slug of coffee before announcing, in the tones of a solemn budgerigar, "Your body is cha-a-a-a-anging." Out of nowhere: and I am helpless. Coffee everywhere, nephew startled, brother perplexed. That boy is dangerous.
Now Amazon's trying to kill me, too. Based on my music purchases, which include Dan Bern, Stephin Merritt, Sandrine Piau, and Elliott Smith, they recommend that my next CD be Barry Manilow's Greatest Hits. Not only that, but apparently I should be reading "Skipping Christmas," by John Grisham. I know that if I were working for the low pay that Amazon is infamous for, I'd probably want to have a little fun now and then, too. I'd probably recommend "Auto da Fe" by Elias Canetti to Danielle Steele readers. Or "The Residents" to Kenny G fans. I wouldn't be able to resist.
Friday, February 01, 2002
Just got back from the downtown medical laboratory, a frightening little dungeon in a faded office tower. There's graffiti in the elevator, which doesn't contribute to my notions of an antiseptic, medical environment. I am the only person in the laboratory waiting area, but the lab assistants keep me waiting on principle. Finally they send me off to fill a bottle (a nod to Freud here; at no time in life do I want an externalized urethra as much as when I'm filling a tiny specimen cup). I come back and the waiting room is full. Every seat taken. Everyone looks very, very grim. Meanwhile I'm sure I smell like pee and I still have another round of tests to get through.
Movie note: Well, I saw "BlackHawk Down" last night, and while I agree with Andrew O'Hehir's (sp?) assessment at Salon that it is a deeply flawed movie, in a way as pointless and wasteful as the Somalia mission itself, certain scenes are unforgettable. Fearless nearly faded out during a particularly gory field surgery sequence. I was more disturbed at my exhilarating rush of adrenaline during the exchanges of gunfire. I've always said I know what kind of a soldier I'd be: a dead one. I'm stupid enough to follow orders blindly, and to switch to autopilot in times of extreme stress, without really thinking of myself. So I wasn't overcome with empathic terror during the endless battle sequence; rather, I was keyed up and looking for my next angle of fire. It's my own bloodlust that's haunting me today. Which may be why today's poem is darker than usual.
Poetry Friday:
[John Donoghue]

In Rwanda she gave her victims a choice: Buy the bullet
I will soon put through your head, or be hacked to death.
And here in this river, she doesn't raise that blue heron
from the shallows, she is the rising heron,
as she is the mother of napalm, destroyer
of the ozone, as she is my eyes that see this glass light
lapping at my feet: I've come to search the bottom
for things magical, and I have a pailful,

but I am sick to death of praising her, and sick
of her illusions—language, consciousness.
Look at me, she says, and see yourself as
separate and responsible: I'll make your body, you
drop the bomb—then act as if you came from someplace else.
See that desert's beauty?—I dried a sea for it.