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Friday, May 31, 2002
Poetry Friday:
Is it getting metaphysical in here, or is it just me?
[For R.S.]

A short walk in the damp promising dawn
Taking heady breaths of sour, rich air
Hint of tree buds and last year’s lawns,
messy, wet, stink and sublime. At
this time of year, colours are verbs,
Generous decay and green dance together,
While Earth ferments the brew of spring.
An impatient vintage,
daring you to sip,
vowing to inflame.

It was incredibly beautiful, KB’s funeral. Hundreds of people were there. The eulogies were heartfelt, free from sentimentality, and frequently very funny. I managed to keep it together for the most part, except during the slide show when there were pictures of KB and my cousin Leslie laughing together. I believe there are single moments when the finality of death hits home, when you realize you will never see that person again, and that was it for me. The minister at the United Church was all respect and warmth and understanding, and -- thank God! -- didn’t attempt to lyricize KB’s brief life. I liked very much her saying "The proof of a successful life is reflected here, by every single one of the hundreds of you who are here to say goodbye and that you love and miss her." Really, what better way to live than that?
Finally achieved "Norm!" status at the blood donor clinic today. "Oh, hi, Jane-whose-last-name-I-can-never-pronounce!" "Jane! You’re back!" "Oh, here’s one of our veterans." Very nice. The best part was that they trusted me to know the routine, and have noticeably abbreviated the usual patter. "In the last year have you had sex with someone who performed sex acts for British beef and used tattoo needles from Cameroon to inject heroin -- oh, it’s you, Jane. That’s a "no" to all the sex questions, then... tick tick you go." P.S. Hit the six gallon mark today. No one at work is very impressed, but I have to say that I’m thinking quite highly of myself at the moment.
Thursday, May 30, 2002
At long last, a Canadian variation on the wisecrack "Smooth move, Exlax!" inspired by last night's NHL game and a certain butter-gloved Colorado goalie: "Nice hands, Roy!" ["Roy" to be pronounced as "Rwah," as drawn out and scathingly as possible.]
I knew I was going to see "Y Tu Mama Tambien" within the first week of its opening in Calgary, and indeed, Jon's recommendation only spurred me on. Now, those who know me, know that I have notoriously bad luck when attending movies in this city. It's testament to my undying optimism that I still risk seeing movies with the general, stupid, public. People who are probably real winners in every other situation, but who have failed to grasp the simple concept that their voices can be overheard in the dark. Yet last night was different: at the pivotal moment of the movie, the "surprise" that Jon alluded to in his e-mail to me, a cellphone rang, and its f&cking f&ckstick of an owner proceeded to have a conversation that lasted throughout the remainder of the movie. She was still yapping when the lights came up and the credits rolled. Fearless earned her nickname yet again by walking up to the woman as she yakked away, and asking "What are you doing, talking on a cellphone during the movie?" In response, the woman just widened her eyes and smiled helplessly.
Another testament: "Y Tu Mama Tambien" is the best and most surprising movie I've seen so far this year -- and I was pretty bowled over by LOTR and Spider-Man, as readers of this blog are probably tired of hearing. In fact, "Y Tu Mama" is so good that, despite the unbelievable stupidity of the woman in the theatre, a woman who should have had her cellphone smacked out of her hand and been forced to follow its flight path out to the lobby, I've been unable to shake certain scenes from my head. I can't wait to get back to Mexico again. I'll even risk another beach bar. I want Mexican road dust in my nostrils and limon pulp under my fingernails. Today would be good. How about it, Fate?
Tuesday, May 28, 2002
During my last-ditch attempt to get the condo ready to receive 3 overnight visitors, I carried a bunch of boxes and papers over to the stairs, suddenly lost my footing on the landing, and thundered down the steps. Mercifully, they were carpeted. Nearly two days later I am hobbling about like a veteran of the Somme, clutching my back and wheezing about my roomatiz. Basically, I pulled everything. I recall that, as I was falling, I had the thoughts "Oh, no, I'm not actually falling, am I? I am?" as well as "This is going to look awfully silly to the ambulance workers." Oh, well...just another matinee in my life of vaudeville.
The houseguests, horse owners all, wanted to see a movie after their full-day session of horse-training at the Stampede grounds. They wanted to see "Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron," a movie which, since I'm not 13, didn't hold that much appeal for me. But here's the thing: if you are extremely lucky, as we were, the projector will break down, the sound system lock up and keel over, and you will get your money back. (Okay, actually, we had to demand our money back from a couple of multiply pierced little darlings in the ticket booth.) But if you simply can't escape a session of cartoon banality, it helps if you don't have to shell out 10 bucks for it.
Monday, May 27, 2002
The news has come: KB died on Friday. She taught everyone, even me, a relatively new addition to her vast circle of friends, the lasting lesson of grace. A great and truly kind human being. Profoundly missed by all who love her.
My last visit to her house was the night before she died. My cousin Leslie, KB's childhood friend and a sister in all but blood, had phoned me from California to ask me to take over some music for KB's last hours. The music? "Thanks a lot," by Raffi, the children's singer. KB studied in a Buddhist monastery a few years back, and the song, to me, is essentially Buddhist and holistic; gratitude for just being able to see the sun and stars and even rocks. Les and I will probably never be able to listen to the song again, of course. Mark, KB's husband, has just phoned to ask if I can bring my antique plant box for the funeral. It was a gift from KB, crafted from an ancient barn door frame; using the old to create the new was a constant theme of hers. I suppose that's sort of a lesson, too.
Random but permanent impressions from the weekend: I don't think I've said "Oh my God!" quite so compulsively, fervently, or frequently as I did at a Saturday performance by the West Coast troupe, Aché Brasil, masters of Capoeira, that 500-year-old exotic fusion of dance, acrobatics and martial arts. If you click on the link, take a look at the picture of the troupe; the man at the bottom, who appears to be in mid-backflip, is actually holding that pose.
Fearless and I took in the morning show, and were so wowed that we went straight to the ticket office afterwards and bought tickets for the afternoon performance. And this was in the middle of the Calgary Children's Festival, normally Room 101 for the single and childless. You just know the capoeira troupe had to be extraordinary to get me willingly going back into the throng of those solipsistic little sponges.
Another impression; we walked along Stephen Avenue, Calgary's pedestrial mall, and I couldn't shake the opinion that I'm actually entitled to have: namely, that bagpipes are really *not* a busking instrument, especially not in a narrow street where the sound bounces off the buildings. I'm qualified to say this because I, ubergeekly teenager, played the damned things. There's a good reason they were used in the highlands to call the clans to war. The sound kind of carries, you know. One merchant told me that on busy days, he and his neighbours can only listen to "Amazing Grace," "Scotland The Brave," and "The Black Bear Hornpipe" [titles supplied by me] for so long before they snap and chase the misguided piper a block or so away. Me, I felt pity for the piper, because I recognized myself in that lone, blinkered, pursuit of attention.
Which links somewhat adroitly to a weekend pursuit: a trip back in time. In response to a not-so-long-ago request from the Gaijin, I was trying to track down my first published poem [junior high newspaper, hardly illustrious] and was sidetracked by a few of my old school scribblers from the same era. I could hardly stand to look at them; I had the habit of apologizing for every word I wrote, and such cringing obsequy it was that it had me shaking my head, over and over, to try and rid myself of the memories of the awkward, eager-to-please, fawning soul I was. Not to be compared with the narrow-eyed crone of current glory. I gave up on the schoolbooks and looked at my old journals. What was I doing exactly 25 years ago today? Complaining about my brothers and my lousy French teacher, and pretending I was going on tour with The Bay City Rollers. [Yes. There's no point in lying about it now. I loved those boys as only a melodramatic teenage girl could -- right up until I saw them in concert that summer and discovered, heartbreak! They could neither sing, nor play any instrument. It was a watershed moment: that was also the summer I discovered The Jam and The Buzzcocks.] Finally I had to give up on the quest before finding the poem. I'll try again when I've acquired the proper protective gear, something that approximates sticking my fingers in my ears and singing "LA LA LA LA LA."
Saturday, May 25, 2002
Discuss: Advertising: perfidy or primal drive? Is plumage not advertising? At their base, are not orgasms merely billboards for the replication of one's DNA? And please, let's not even get *started* on religion, perhaps the greatest and longest-running campaign of them all, although the brand's a tad diluted these days. [Oh, and perhaps to ward off waking again with such profound thoughts at the forefront of one's brain, one should knock off the killer-spicy sesame noodles just before lights-out.]
Friday, May 24, 2002
The slightly delayed but ever-popular POETRY FRIDAY:
[J. Allyn Rosser, ©2000]

From the point of view of all time,
these recent changes signal
more a return to nature
than a departure, than degradation.
In the beginning, after all,
there was boiling rock.
Then waters arranging their bodies
around an era of softer forms:
lichen, grassland, swaying treetops.
Then creatures, movingly fleshed,
treading pathways that hardened.
Then pavement hardening
and cities, monumental.
Soon mostly rock again,
and radiant. More and more like moon.
Soon, sooner than is being thought,
there will be even more light.
The creatures will have stopped
being able to move
or be moved.
And the rock will boil.

To recap the day: Five minutes of intense styling of hair in front of the mirror, using the latest polymers known to the frillier sections of science, resulted in nothing more than operatic bedhead.
People are cheerfully game for a little retrenching on the work front in the face of the grim economy. Sure, take our microwave popcorn. Our mouthwash. Forget about the fresh flowers every week. We’ll even chip in for the coffee and cream. However, the women of the office are unified on this: touch the fempro and you’ll die screaming.
Finally, to all the account execs out there: No point in giving me the client’s prospectus two days after I’ve written the damned creative rationale for the campaign. And no, you don’t get any points for “at least you remembered.”
A new morning, after a somewhat more successful sleep, and things are more manageable. Or at least they appear to be. The reassessment from the tax bastards! Post-dated cheques oughta' take care of that, provided I have enough cheques and they don't mind the amount being paid in small change.
It's been an odd year of foreboding and grief so far; the imaginary heart attack in January; the incurable cancer of KB; the loss of Vinnie; and the recent disquiet on the job front. Of them all, KB's situation is predominant, of course. There are no words sufficient for it.
So buck up and shut up, that's what I'm going to do. Finally.
Thursday, May 23, 2002
Distract me, distract me. Ah! Thank you, Rob of, who created the amazing Poetry Generator program. And thanks to Mr. Barol, once again, for posting another winner of a link.'s pretty poetic, really. Or try your own web page. Oh, and here's the Ode to Not My Dog [it changes with every page refresh]:

Not that some
day, I do you've
been distracted by
Jane Farries at 9:08 AM | Link
Waging a mutual friend that, lamer, never get one in El
Condo Non
Grande. With their correct
title], Mind you, still a
colleague at the greenhouse, I
believe the hurt, believe you want
something edgy clever billboards?
Sr. Graphic Designer: and apprehension. And Copywriter:
your own,fault. Apparently,
says these words
with the earmarks of “” my tax return
to which my Back and recommended that her,
life but heightened
by the shower,
scrubbing balefully at 1:50 AM | obviously
overwatering my potting soil of place

Wednesday, May 22, 2002
Newsflash! All clowns are secretly evil: I am more than delighted, thrilled, even, that Robin Williams is going all dark and scary in two current movies, “Insomnia” and “One Hour Photo.” I love the man and don’t care who knows it, even though he appears in quite a few movies that I loathe, Mrs. Doubtfire and Patch Adams just two among them. In fact, in my estimation, he’s been in more bad movies than good. But his best work, in The Fisher King, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, Aladdin -- is creative genius in the present tense. I never get sick of seeing him -- or in the case of Aladdin, hearing him -- in these films. But for the record, I think “Insomnia” looks like warmed over Silence of the Lambs [perhaps Silence of the Shepherd’s Pie would be the culinarily correct title], despite having the brilliant Christopher Nolan at the helm and a cast of Oscar winners. I bet marketing research was involved. It has all the earmarks of “audience-approved” shock tactics. Sigh.
One of the tenets clutched closely in the popcorn- and Twizzler-scented digits of any film buff is that you should never go to a movie just because you like the sound of the title. Mind you, there are exceptions.
Tuesday, May 21, 2002
Awoke to an unfamiliar pressure on the top of my head this morning and a black tail slowly sweeping across my cheek. The cat's ass. Was on my head. That in itself is broad comedy, but it's heightened by a couple of details: this cat is a tank, a miaowing gutbag. So huge that her, ahem, "under-tail maintenance" is dishearteningly hit-and-miss. A charming detail to read, no doubt, and one that never crossed my mind as a possibility when I adopted the damn cat. Definitely enough to get one in the shower, scrubbing balefully at scalp, before one's eyes are even open.
Friday, May 17, 2002
A colleague at Karo had, over a year ago, begged high school pictures from us all. We gave 'em over and promptly forgot about the whole thing. This morning we find out that our colleague had brought in a bunch of trays of bedding-out plants, herbs and flowers, with our high school pictures affixed to the pots. Nobody asked her to do this; she just did it because she thought it would be a fun thing to do. Karo is that kind of place sometimes.

You will be pleased to note that the pot to which my picture is affixed contains a basil plant, which is rapidly withering and near death. But mercifully free of gnats.
And one more observation before the weekend yawns open: I just ate a powdered jelly doughnut, and am reminded once again why I do not do cocaine. Evidence all over me! Face, chest, pants! Everywhere!
Because it contains the phrase "sickly little wings stuck in God-glue air," which reminds me strongly of fungus gnats and the rather mean trick I'm playing on them; because it's a tribute to the jangling noise and rhythm of English, I present today's

Poetry Friday
for James Richardson

Gerard, juke-step Jerry, little wrestler, soul-mess
of sinew and mind-sight, fired spark, joyed Jesuit,
grief-clog too, but a Pan-flute in every Ave, you half-nelson
the syntax dandies, ram them to canvas, sit upon and pin

the god-fops, minions of ghost tomes, trite chimes,
though you walk among them, too, jig and roar
of black-robed stroll in golden-grove and choral iambs.
You were, yes, that falcon flight, the labor, soar, and

dive, but buzzard nose for carrion, too, sniffed your own,
knew, alone, the rot, rope-knot or buckle of roots under-on
rock, your gowned back to roses, rosaries, but eyes a song gone
up, too, sickly little wings stuck in God-glue air: how long?

You sang one dialectic flight, sir -- the only kind. How high
can the swallow swoop, how low the falcon grieve, relieve,
in fall till pinions hold him, there, to kill? light-
weight, mutt, heaver of iron, scrap, feather: I believe

the hurt, believe you saw what you saw.

[John Hazard, ©2000]

Thursday, May 16, 2002
Oh please oh please oh please: I've just read that Tom Stoppard, the playwright/screenwriter/director I admire most in the world, may be hired to write the screenplays for the "His Dark Materials" trilogy by Philip Pullman [comprising The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass]. This would be fantastic.
Waging a pitched battle against fungus gnats in El Condo Non Grande. With the return of warmer weather -- the two days of it we've had so far -- I've been distracted by a squadron of little black things flying at my eyes and flitting around my nose and mouth. Even more distracting is the constant kamikaze assault on the morning coffee. If you were to witness me drinking any fluid now -- coffee, vintage wine, whatever -- you'd note that the receptacle will be nearly to my lips before I remember, pull back, and squint fiercely at the surface of the liquid before proceeding.
It's the kind of problem Catholics like to tackle: things that are our own fault. Apparently, says the know-it-all at the greenhouse, I didn't bake my potting soil to kill the gnat eggs prior to planting, one, and am obviously overwatering my plants, two. Swatting the gnats doesn't help, since my kill ratio is depressingly low. Another problem: I have an inordinate amount of floaters in my eyes these days, which I constantly mistake for fungus gnats, so there's lots of pointless clapping going on at the homestead, which makes the cat vocalize *every* time -- that lamer, never caught a bug in her life but still a critic.
So anyway, if you don't want to spend a ton of money on rarefied effluvia to put the gnats down, what you do is play a dirty trick on them: you buy bright yellow sticky tape, looped sticky-side out, stuck to a twig or stake which you push into the soil of the affected plants. Gnats adore the colour yellow, and will flit right over and stick themselves silly. Congratulations, you've faked out a bug.
He doesn't have a sticker on the cover of my books, but I seem to be a member of Mango's Book Club nonetheless. He read "Kitchen Confidential" by Anthony Bourdain last fall. I read it last month. I picked up "How Buildings Learn," by Stewart Brand, only to learn from a mutual friend that, "oh, yeah, the Mango'd read and recommended that one." Of course he did. I might have known. But I cherish the hope that, some day, I will discover the next "must-read."
Wednesday, May 15, 2002
I have drunk from the cup of satisfaction and am about to issue forth a belch:
New Client: We want a billboard that distinguishes our product from two very similar identical products in the same market, for the same season. We want something "edgy" and "clever."
Account Executive to Sr. Graphic Designer and Copywriter: How's your time lookin' for creating edgy, clever billboards?
Sr. Graphic Designer to Copywriter: I need copy first before I can come up with the visual. Never mind, I'll write my own.
Copywriter: The hell you will. [to Account Exec and Designer]: How's this?
Sr. Graphic Designer: Copy sucks. But okay, here's the edgy visual.
Account Exec to Client: How's this?
Client: Whoa. Too edgy. We'd like it to be more upscale, classic, maybe just a bit tongue-in-cheek, not too clever.
Account Exec to creative team: Too edgy. Reverse!
Copywriter: Here are three tasteful plays on words, which they will like.
Sr. Graphic Designer: They reek. But whatever.
Account Exec to client: What you think?
Client: Love it! Much better! Just gotta' show it to the business partners. [Beat.]The partners want just a big picture of our product and our name on the billboard.
Account Exec to Client: That's exactly what your competitors have. Thought you wanted to be distinct from them.
Client: Not that distinct.
Account Exec to Creative Team: Sorry, chumps.
Client to Account Exec: Thanks for the new proofs! Just gonna' show them to the architect who designed this place. [Beat.] Okay, the architect says these are too much like what the other places are doing right now. Do you still have the creative from the first samples you sent us?
Account Exec, Sr. Graphic Designer, Copywriter [together]: They must die.
Thanks be to Grant, for he saveth my blogs. Again. [Disclaimer: As fond as I am of cultivated incompetence, I actually did try several times to get my archives back online, faithfully following FAQs from Blogger Pro and other sources. To no avail. Monkey brain thwarted. Seek higher power. Hence: wheedling e-mail to Himself. Problem fixed, and the prodigal archives are back, and I am again humbled by greatness.]
Tuesday, May 14, 2002
Colours that are wrong: Chartreuse should be a vivacious red, not a light yellow-green. And puce should be a sickly greenish-yellow, not purplish-brown. Who names these damn things? They confused me for years. "Standish turned puce with rage." "Millicent wore a virginal frock of chartreuse silk." Anger turned him green? A virginal dress is red? I've finally grown the necessary neural pathways to link these words with their correct colours [chartreuse = yellow-green; puce = purple-brown], but I'm always mildly disappointed by the colours themselves.
And apropos of this pointless post: as kids my brothers and I were hugely entertained by the following: "In tonight's news, a ship carrying red dye collided with a ship carrying brown dye. Crew and passengers were marooned."
Monday, May 13, 2002
It begins. Okay, Danyon, you've used "its" and "it's" correctly so far, but I'm watching you, do you hear?
Geez, you buy *one* condo, and suddenly everybody's doing it. Congratulations, Fearless, proud signatory of scary mortgage documents. And no, I'm not jinxing you by posting this, sheesh.
Before I forget: I think the strongest impression that the movie “Spider-Man” left me with was the notion of a world where newspapers were the reigning media. A world without Ted Turner and the 24-hour cable news invasion. [Note to self: send e-mail to TT recommending name change from CNN to CNI.] Forty years ago this was probably true, with t.v. news just starting to increase in prevalence-- but still, most people in the big cities only had two to three channels at the most, whereas everyone could pick up the morning, afternoon or evening edition of the big dailies. I was more than willing to suspend disbelief over this notion, but then among my many occupational frustrations I am also a thwarted journalist. It was sweet to think of a world where Peter Parker *would* be paid for exclusive pictures of Spider-Man, where the streets weren’t clogged with citizens holding camcorders, looking skyward. In addition to that, everything else about the movie was pretty damned good, and I speak as a card-carrying Marvel Comics junkie from the early ‘70s. I read and heard a lot of anguished screaming about the casting of Tobey Maguire as Peter Parker -- incidentally, from a lot of the same people who yelled and hollered about Elijah Wood being cast as Frodo in LOTR -- but I thought both were ideal. I’ve heard criticism about the “dull scenes,” where you’re just looking at Goblin’s mask or Spidey’s mask -- but they didn’t bother me. Sam Raimi managed to make a live-action comic book -- same sensibility, same sense of timing, same look. Definitely one for the collection.
Great Co-dependents cabaret this past weekend. Billy Cowsill brought his younger brother in for a guest spot -- he’s currently touring with the latest exhumation of the Beach Boys -- and proceeded to kick everyone’s asses off their chairs and onto the dance floor. It would be a depressing thing to be a tone-deaf Cowsill. Imagine the family reunions, sitting in a corner, mouthing the songs. And that Steve Pineo -- quite an amazing guitar player he is, as well as a singer and songwriter. It’s the kind of music I like best -- exceptionally talented people simply enjoying themselves.
It’s about damned time, too: Welcome Danyon, the blogger behind Plunderkind. The name itself should give you a clue as to what you’re getting yourself into: more deadly wit, cosmic cultural references and the inability to distinguish between its and it’s. [whammo! Sorry, Danyon. Had to get one slam in there out of pure jealousy.]
Friday, May 10, 2002
Poetry Friday [or, as it has been waggishly called, "Cavalier Use of Copyright Friday"]:
[Gary Soto, ©2002.]

Did you sneeze?
Yes, I rid myself of the imposter inside me.

Did you iron your shirt?
Yes, I used the steam of mother's hate.

Did you wash your hands?
Yes, I learned my hygiene from a raccoon.

I prayed on my knees, and my knees answered with pain.
I gargled, I polished my shoes until I saw who I was,
I inflated my résumé by employing my middle name.

I walked to my interview, early,
The sun like a ring on an electric stove.
I patted my hair when I entered the wind of a revolving door.
The guard said, For a guy like you, it's the 19th floor.

The economy was up. Flags whipped in every city plaza
In America. This I saw for myself as I rode the elevator,
Empty because everyone had a job but me.

Did you clean your ears?
Yes, I heard my fate in the drinking fountain's idiotic drivel.

Did you slice a banana into your daily mush?
I added a pinch of salt, two raisins to sweeten my breath.

Did you remember your pen?
I remembered my fingers when the elevator opened.

I shook hands that dripped like a dirty sea.
I found a chair and desk. My name tag said my name.
Through the glass ceiling, I saw the heavy rumps of CEOs.
Outside my window, the sun was a burning stove,
All of us pushing papers
to keep it going.

Wednesday, May 08, 2002
When she answered the phone, KB's sister's voice was courteous and gentle, yet leaden with such exhaustion that I felt bad for disturbing her. KB's fight to get back into remission has taken a sudden bad turn and she's very, very sick right now. And yet I could hear her whispering in the background: "Make her take money this time," when she found out it was me. Money for "books," our code word for that certain restricted herb. Wanting to pay me is KB all over: it doesn't matter that you're trying not to die, you must not be beholden to your friends. And so here I sit, pondering life's essential unfairness once again, as the production coordinators coax headlines for golf courses out of my reluctant head.
A few hours after a trip over to KB's place to make the herb delivery, and now I'm sitting here trying to comprehend that this will be the last time I do such a thing. KB is very near the end now, so much faster than any of us thought possible. Everyone at the house -- her mother, her sister, her husband -- has made the transition from hope to acceptance, with one last wish that KB's pain end quickly.
I didn't know quite what to do when I left the house, so I sought the old salvation, movies. Went to see "Spider-Man" and was pleasantly distracted. In this mood I can't do the movie justice -- at some other point I'll be able to say how it's the best tribute to comic books ever made. Right now it's still just a movie.
Tuesday, May 07, 2002
I've just had a look at a few of the studio stills from Episode II: Attack of the Clones, and all I can say is, by the look of his hairdo, apparently Obiwan Kenobi was born on the Planet BeeGee. [Oh, look, I'm sorry, that was gratuitous -- but I don't think I've managed to forgive George Lucas yet for The Phantom Menace. The advance noise on the next instalment hasn't yet reassured me that I'm not in for another cheese storm. On the weekend I sat down and watched the original Star Wars (Episode IV) again, trying to remember how ground-breaking it was -- the p.o.v. shots of X-wings attacking the Death Star, the blur of stars during the jump to hyperspace, the amazing details on the Karelian battlecruisers -- and how awestruck I was as a teenager, and how spoiled I have since become. And it's still a grand film 25 years on. Maybe Lucas is a victim of his own success -- maybe I do want each of his subsequent pictures to surprise me as utterly as Star Wars did. And maybe that's just impossible. But Star Wars climbed higher and higher with the first two films, then crashed to earth with Return of the Jedi -- Ewoks, schmewoks, they're just nauseating little teddy bears -- and you mean all you had to do to get rid of the Emperor was toss him down a power shaft, and the most powerful master of the Force couldn't save himself? Who knew? Anyway, anyway....since Lucas himself has finally admitted that The Phantom Menace was, um, "flawed," perhaps this next episode will be worth the $13 ticket. I hope.]
Monday, May 06, 2002
Oh, my. Somebody else's Poetry Friday gives my grateful hinder a kickin'. Thanks for the verse, Richard. I'd have linked to it directly, but I couldn't -- just scroll down to the May 3 entry.
Let us just say that the words "hot water," "gushing," "copper pipe," "boiler" and "uncontrollably" do not make for a restful weekend afternoon. Upshot: plumber called. Two hours on, plumber returns call claiming I have given him a non-existent address. Ever witty, I rejoin that in that case, I have been living in a puff of smoke for 7 months. I repeat my address, mentioning that I live in Inglewood, Calgary's oldest neighbourhood. "No," says the plumber, "that's Forest Lawn!" "Trust me," I say. Finally, like a weary ground control crewmember, I talk him into Inglewood as he drives. Among all the other bull I hear that afternoon, my plumber claims to be a first cousin of Patrick Roy, the Colorado Avalanche's goalie. "That's interesting," I say, implying the opposite by turning away and looking pointedly at the boiler.
So yeah, the snow we're's made for some comic moments. I waited at the bus stop this morning, having left early to account for the inevitable delays, only to watch in amazement as strange bus after strange bus sped past the stop. Traffic must have been diverted through the neighbourhood. Twenty-five minutes pass and my usual bus is nowhere to be seen. Other people are at the bus stop by now; I say "hell, let's stick our thumbs out when the next bus comes," so we do, for a joke, and it stops! Mein gott! I hitch-hiked the bus! It's not our regular bus, but the driver is one of the rare humans who work for the transit authority, and he willingly lets us on board.
Book update: So I said a few days ago that I'd beenreading The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman, and found it brilliant. I finished it not long after that, and was both harrowed and thoroughly gripped by the story, so picked up the sequels: The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass. I finished The Subtle Knife on Saturday and it caused me more pain than I was expecting. Now I'm looking at The Amber Spyglass with suspicion: can I afford to care about any of these characters? He keeps killing them off and it's really getting to me. But I don't know if I can stop without knowing what happens, that's the problem. Howie once asked why all these fantasy sci-fi sagas had to occur in trilogy form, and I see what he means. Pullman's a brilliant writer and can create all-too-believable characters, but the plot is starting to feel a little crunched, "gotta' finish it in three" sort of thing. Here's hoping I survive.
Finally: two projects I wrote won Merit Awards at Calgary's annual Ad Rodeo. This means nothing other than making the finals. Do you remember who else was nominated for any given prize? No. So no big deal.
Friday, May 03, 2002
Far from the madding clients, that's where I'd like to be. It's part of the job, difficult clients, but they're really driving me out of my yip this week. I spent an entire day writing a brochure for one client who, upon receiving it, said "We'll just let [Name withheld because I really hate her too much to write it now] take a look at it." What happens is that Name Withheld, a "communications specialist," completely rewrites the brochure. Like all amateur copywriters, her writing tends to be overtly lyrical, with all verbs in the passive voice and an addiction to words like "beautiful" and "eye-grabbing." What pisses me off more than the flick to my ego is the wasted time: I had other projects I could have been working on.
Oh, well...wah wah wah. How terrible to have a job, after all. If the worst things I have to do today are proofread-but-not-edit Name Withheld's copy, and prevent another client from changing a headline to "Elegant, memorable, unforgettable occasions" by pointing out that "memorable" and "unforgettable" are sorta kinda repetitive, then life isn't so very bad.
Poetry Friday brought to you despite the biblical weather [blizzards and lightning in May, for God's sake]:
[Aaron Fogel (Miami University Press)]

Fellow compositors
and pressworkers!

I, Chief Printer
Frank Steinman,
having worked fifty-
seven years at my trade,
and served five years
as president
of the Holliston
Printer's Council,
being of sound mind
though near death,
leave this testimonial
concerning the nature
of printers' errors.

First: I hold that all books
and all printed
matter have
errors, obvious or no,
and that these are their
most significant moments,
not to be tampered with
by the vanity and folly
of ignorant, academic
textual editors.
Second: I hold that there are
three types of errors, in ascending
order of importance:
One: chance errors
of the printer's trembling hand
not to be corrected incautiously
by foolish professors
and other such rabble
because trembling is part
of divine creation itself.

Two: silent, cool sabotage
by the printer,
the manual laborer
whose protests
have at times taken this
historical form,
covert interferences
not to be corrected
censoriously by the hand
of the second and far
more ignorant saboteur,
the textual editor.
Three: errors
from the touch of God,
divine and often
obscure corrections
of whole books by
nearly unnoticed changes
of single letters
sometimes meaningful but
about which the less said
by preemptive commentary
the better.
Third: I hold that all three
sorts of error,
errors by chance,
errors by workers' protest,
and errors by
God's touch,
are in practice the
same and indistinguishable.

Therefore I,
Frank Steinman,
for thirty-seven years,
and cooperative Master
of the Holliston Guild
eight years,
being of sound mind and body
though near death
urge the abolition
of all editorial work
and manumission
from all textual editing
to leave what was
as it was, and
as it became,
except insofar as editing
is itself an error, and

therefore also divine.

Wednesday, May 01, 2002
Overwhelmed: by still wanting to understand both sides of the Middle East conflict, yet realizing that the amount I still don’t know about the history of that region is daunting. The atrocities being committed by both sides are currently incomprehensible -- well, let me rephrase that, they’ll always be incomprehensible, but I need to expand my knowledge beyond a vague “1948/Exodus/1967 war/1978 Camp David/1982 massacre, etc.” collection of headlines. Otherwise I’ll continue to feel like a brainless stooge, someone content to let the journalists do my thinking for me.
Annoyed: that the flu virus bestowed upon me by a loving nephew made me sick enough to spend all last night in feverish misery, aching, alternately emptying and refilling, but, by this morning, not sick enough to stay away from work (and anyway, we’re swamped) and now I’m feeling mostly better. Robust peasant health is indeed a gift, but I’d like to work it so I’m sick during the day, and feeling better at night, okay?
Blessed: to have spent an hour in a Red Deer park, watching a pair of osprey building an addition to their nest on top of an old power pole. Mad auntie and the nieces and nephews were equally agog, and the more bloodthirsty among us were particularly thrilled when one bird returned to the nest with dinner wriggling in its claws.
Astonished: at the language of “Observatory Mansions” by Edward Carey, a novel I am sneaking in before the scheduled “How Buildings Learn.” Solitary madness, exquisitely scripted. I suppose I should also confess to having bought my first birthday present well in advance of said birthday (June 12 for those who care about such details) (heh), being “London: A Biography” by Peter Ackroyd.
Eviscerated, thoroughly, by the Receiver General of my fine nation. Least favourite term: Capital Gains tax.
Determined to get my own cooking show on the Food Network. If that geezer chump James Beard can do it, why can’t I? My show will be called “Get the Hell out of my Kitchen,” and will feature a different chef each week trying to teach me how to recreate their most popular recipes in a smaller domestic kitchen. The pilot episode will show me struggling to master the intricacies of galantine, a stuffed meat roll formed into a symmetrical loaf, wrapped in cheesecloth and cooked in stock, chilled, glazed with aspic and garnished with edible minutiae -- and then I suddenly lose it, lobbing the complete Larousse Gastronomique at the head of the hapless chef, chasing him/her out of the kitchen with an oyster knife, uttering the soon-to-be-classic title phrase. Then I cook some dirty rice and relax with a beer as the credits roll.