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Friday, August 30, 2002
Ulp, ulp, ulp.... Well, that's it, then. The loose ends at the office have been tied. Gentle "fuck offs" issued to esteemed colleagues. Green and lovely Canadian paycheque reduced to mewling few U.S. dollars. Bra off barstool. Pre-Cambrian lemon chucked in garbage. I seem to be ready to go.
There is a chance, I don't know how big of a one, but still a chance that I'll be able to blog while en route through the Nevada outback. But as I said to Danyon this morning, blog entries that begin "Help help HELP" and "Water! For the love of GOD, water!" will probably not end happily.
Have yourself a great three weeks, and keep up with the blogging, you.
Thursday, August 29, 2002
It doesn’t really “get” Costco. Two weeks ago I renewed my ancient Costco membership so the Pony Express can stock up on bulk goodies for our desert adventure, and last night I thought I’d take my card for a spin. Amidst lineup after lineup of carts filled to overflowing with 20 kg boxes of cereal, aquarium-sized jars of mayonnaise, sides of beef, etc., there’s me with two bags of lettuce and a pack of underwear. It’s a good way to feel appreciated by complete strangers, even if only briefly. They see you standing in line with your meagre items and race over, with groaning carts and whining kids, to get behind you. [“Mommy, that lady’s got PANTIES!” “Shhhhhh! Your mouth!”] There is no express line at Costco for a reason. Who would be stupid enough to drive all that way to the bulk warehouse for less than 15 items? Who indeed. “Is this ALL?” asked the cashier, when I’d handed over my three things. I could almost read her thoughts: Jeez, another looney and I’ve still got more than an hour to go till my break.
Every time I’ve renewed my membership, it’s with the express intent of making regular visits to keep well-stocked with necessities: cat litter, spaghetti sauce, toilet paper, fempro and, of course, wine gums. And then I get tired at the thought of fighting my way past the hordes of shoppers queuing for samples of frozen Mini-Taco Bites (no lie) and Coco-mocho-loco drinks and think, hell, I know I’m paying more at Safeway but I just don’t care. They’re not amazed by single people there. I'm in my inefficient shopper element.
Tuesday, August 27, 2002
It’s the small things that give me such joy. Three years or so ago, I named a typeface for the International Typeface Corporation, as it was then called. The company’s since been engulfed by Agfa Monotype, if I remember correctly, but Magnifico Daytime and Nighttime are still going strong. I still wish there were some tiny Easter Egg on the EyeWire font display pages, one that when you rolled over it by chance, would pop up with a picture of me and a sound file: “I named this font! Yay me!” or some such.
And today, another small triumph: my interview question for Dave Eggers appeared on McSweeney’s. Of course, now that I re-read my question, it comes off sounding stupid and bubbleheaded, and I never intended to knock the hard work of the many independent Canadian publishing houses out there who promote so much good writing by unknown authors. No, I was just knocking the big ones. Still, nice to see that D.E. took the time to answer me. While reading his other responses, I was shocked and saddened to hear of his sister’s death. No, I don’t know D.E., and I’m not trying to borrow grief here. But “A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius” has passages where D. describes living with a dying parent, and it brought my own family past flooding back in glaring detail. I always appreciated how honest he was in describing what it's like to try to carry on normally when everything is so wrong, so hopeless. And while I don’t want to portray how I feel about him as some sort of bogus “connection,” given that we’ve never met, I feel bad for the man for losing another family member. And I feel bad for his brothers, too. [I read elsewhere (on Metafilter) that some people think this is another D. Eggers publicity stunt along the lines of his “Adam Rich is dead” spoof in Might Magazine, but all I can say is: oh for God’s sake. Who would do that? Who would find that funny, besides perhaps the unspeakable and useless Tom Green? And think for a second -- it’s not like Eggers has any trouble getting publicity.]
Oh, man! CRASH! The bracket under the wall-mounted TV in our main boardroom just gave way. It’s like the opening credits from SCTV or something, a big 20-inch set crashing six feet to a cement floor. Get this: only the TV’s housing broke. The screen is fine. And people, with pounding hearts and dilated pupils, are slowly returning to their desks.
Monday, August 26, 2002
God's bodkins: Another breezy e-mail from has arrived, telling me that the delivery of "godbox" has been delayed by yet another two weeks. I'm trying, Tim Earnshaw, I really am, to read your book. At least Amazon is keeping me posted, unlike my favourite scruffy underdog publishing house, McSweeney's. Still no sign of McSweeney's Quarterly no. 7, after not receiving it as part of my lifetime subscription in the spring, then saying "what the hell" and ordering a replacement copy over 2 months ago. A publishing house that's run on the same lines as my bill payment schedule is a scary enterprise indeed.
Another remembered thing: Have had almost all hair removed from scalp prior to leaving for the desert. And so, the Australian stockman's chapeau that I purchased last week, knuckleheadedly, now does not fit quite so perfectly without the abundant tresses to keep it wedged in place.
Succumbed to panic and phoned to interrupt Nikki in the middle of last-minute planning this morning. Update: I don't need to buy a bedroll. I do need to relax, as Nik says (and she is right), "Well, there'll be four of us on the trip. We should be able to cope with just about everything." Right: and here's my coping mechanism: denial.
Wide awake at 4 a.m. (again) and doing a little channel-surfing, I noted that you never see infomercials on The Comedy Channel. Too bad, as it'd be the perfect venue for them. "Roast a chicken in the top tray of your Roastamaster® while baking a fluffy pineapple chiffon cake in the middle and poaching a dozen eggs in the base," accompanied by laughter, wheezing and hooting. Infomercials on comedy channels would be hosted by Sinbad or Yakov Smirnoff, or perhaps Yahoo Serious. It makes perfect sense. They're used to delivering dreadful puns and one-liners. How about the Unknown Comic from The Gong Show plugging a line of cosmetics? Stupid and surreal all at once.
And speaking of the Unknown Comic, the upcoming movie "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind," based on the memoirs of Chuck Barris, former Gong Show host, features Canadian actor Joe Cobden as The Unknown Comic. [For you youngsters out there who were zygotic or perhaps blastocystic during the heyday of the Gong Show, The Unknown Comic wore a paper bag over his head. Yep, that's the joke.] I just saw Joe Cobden in the movie "Suddenly Naked" this weekend, and liked his performance a lot. The movie's enjoyable, predictable and probably forgettable, but there are some hugely entertaining moments. Bad behaviour at a dinner party was my favourite scene, possibly because it reminded me very much of myself at a dinner party some 10 years ago. I still advise against bang shots of cabernet, unless you've got a few too many friends and want to thin the herd.
Things that I remembered: To buy yellow cloth for a bandanna. To buy more shorts. To buy a map of Nevada. To mow lawns for my elders.

Things that I forgot: To see Aché Brasil for free on Saturday afternoon. To go to Ian’s house-warming [I am so sorry, too -- I had been really thrilled by the invite]. To buy a bedroll.

I know what’s wrong with me. I’m stressed by the impending desert “holiday,” and stress makes me spinny. Not sleeping much; making list after list, yet being unable to trust any of them. Every microgram of self-protective impulses broadcasting “DO NOT GO, IDIOT.” Overriding the message with repetitive “la la la” and fruitless industry. El Condo Non Grande has that post-Rave aura; there’s a bra on my barstool and a mummified lemon on the counter. Again, this is nothing new; this is Leaving Everything to the Last Day, a time-honoured Jane tactic for dispelling panic via the performance of many panicked chores. Next up: make a will. Leave cat to science. You think I’m joking.
Thursday, August 22, 2002
While aware that I am playing to stereotype, I am nonetheless going to talk about my cat. I'm running on 3 hours of sleep today, because the cat was yowling all night. This happens about twice a year, and I figure it's Providence's way of warding off the baby crazies. "See, are you sure you want a baby? They can cry all night, too." Martini started in with the yowls at 11:00. I checked her food, her water dish, her litter pan. All were in working order. Yowling is soon augmented by scratching at the door to the balcony. Fine, I open the door. No dice. Because, you see, I don't just have a normally stupid cat, I have one that's so low-wattage, she'll stand and scratch away at an open door, all the while emitting drawn-out wails for attention. Switch to Good Owner mode: I pick up the cat, put her under the comforter, submit her to favourite back scratches and belly rubs. It is now 3:30 a.m. The moment I stop patting her, she blasts out from under the covers and heads back to scratch and howl at the now wide-open door to the balcony. Visions of braining her with a hammer fill my head. Out to the balcony, grab cat, back to bed, physically restrain cat. At some point I fall asleep with Martini still in a headlock. Up at 6:30 a.m., cat snoring. Shower, breakfast, dress self. Cat still fast asleep. Drag self to work, barely restraining self from dousing sleeping cat with a cup of cold water on the way out. Feel like phoning every five minutes just so the ringing will wake her up.
Tuesday, August 20, 2002
All it takes for me to assume my alter-ego, Snide Woman, is the following:
"Note to Writer: If the remarks below are attributed to me they must not be edited without my approval."

These brusque words were at the top of a page of questionnaire responses for an architectural firm's online profile. The author didn't send them via e-mail, but rather filled two pages with handwritten text in block capitals, then faxed them over. You see, this man is the kind of designer who, whenever he talks about his career, always capitalizes his job title in his head. An e-mail just wouldn't have conveyed the proper gravitas of his words.
Suddenly, Snide Woman kicks down the door. "Oh, NO, sir! Certainly we won't change a single word! If you're happy to be "fulfiling" the "rudementary" requirements of architecture, we're happy, too! And if you don't think anyone will notice that your comment "To create successful buildings one must think different" borrows a key phrase from Apple, we definitely won't presume to add an attribution. Thank you, sir! Die howling, sir!
Thanks. I needed that. Will now return to regularly scheduled maturity.
Monday, August 19, 2002
Five more years: five long, long years I have to wait before the 30th anniversary of Elvis's death, where I'll at last sell my T-shirts with the slogan "It takes a King to die on the throne." Currently looking for a designer for same, if anyone's interested.
A carpenter's apprentice I am not, and yet I did my best to help to install solar panels on my brother's farmhouse. Very, very complex stuff, very expensive. Big bruddah had hired an electrician to come out and rig the thing, and a gothic note was added by the electrician's wife, who had advanced MS and was almost completely paralyzed. Every few minutes René would page her husband who would descend the many ladders and trot over to the motorhome where she lay in bed, to adjust her feet or shoulders or carry her bodily to the commode. My beloved sister-in-law Alayne was enlisted to feed and talk to René, which made the usual task of making sure none of her four children were off hurting themselves somewhere even more cumbersome. I wondered why she was so glad to see me drive up.
Apparently René accompanies her husband on all work sites, spending her days listening to audiotapes or the radio. It made me very conscious of the "in sickness and in health" part of wedding vows, and while I in no way envied her condition, I was moved by how she and her husband have simply got on with life.
Then this morning I read The Gaijin's singularly well-written account about long-term relationships (the Aug. 18 post), and a light finally went on in my head. I could never understand before why my father was so content to live with a woman who actively discourages his contact with his children, a woman who has sadly progressed to such a state of hypochondria that she is simply always ailing, proceeding from one crisis to the next. I've said and thought some pretty bleak things about Dad's liking for peace at any price. How I felt betrayed that he would sacrifice his family for so demanding and, frankly, unlikeable a woman. But now I know better. As a single person, I just don't have the same perspective or fears as a person in a long-term relationship. Once again, thanks for the wisdom, Gaijin-san.
Thursday, August 15, 2002
They raineth down as hailcairns:
Sue: Dr. Livingcairn, I presume.
Me: I gave my love a cherry that had no cairn.
Sue: Today, I am cairn-cold sober.
Me: Whereas I am cairny broke.
Sue: My computer is a relic of the Cairn Age.
Me: Leave no cairn unturned finding a replacement. The store's only a cairn's throw away.

We promise: we'll stop soon.
Wednesday, August 14, 2002
Everybody Must Get Cairned: Sue the Designer and I are getting punchy. For two months we've been hacking away at copy and layout on a brochure for a richy-rich real estate development in the Rockies called "The Cairns on The Bow." I did the etymology thing and put a factoid in the brochure about "Cairn" being the Gaelic word for "stone." That was all the straight line Sue needed. "Cairn" is our new running joke. We have our noses to the grindcairn. We listen to the Rolling Cairns. We long to sneak out for a quick hoot and get cairned. In disbelief we yell, "Well, cairn the crows!" It is getting very, very silly around here.
Monday, August 12, 2002
The problem is not that A Clockwork Orange was broadcast both Friday and Saturday night on Bravo, or that I felt compelled to watch it both times, transfixed in the usual horrified delight, wondrous that after 31 years it still pushes the boundaries, with no counterpart in contemporary films (that I've seen). The problem is that Anthony Burgess is simply starkly brilliant and unsettling, that his synthetic language, especially as voiced by the equally unsettling Malcolm McDowell, overwhelms my language processing synapses -- oh, the poor Wernicke's Area, pitifully understaffed for such a task -- and leaves me riled for days afterward. Searching for a release. Wanting to beat something -- anything -- up.
Doubt the movie was responsible, though, for yesterday's goddamned migraine, the first and most serious of the year. Had the aurora-borealis-of-the-retina syndrome for hours. A steel belt around the cranium. Not actual pain, but extreme disorientation and accompanying irritability. Not the best of situations in which to write happy, come hither travel ads, would you agree? But write them I did. They ought to pull big, I tell you.
Irascible writer issues apology: the architect I was mocking in the last post happens to speak four languages, of which English happens to be the most recent, so I can just shut the hell up, mostly monolinguist that I am.
Saturday, August 10, 2002
Why the hell is it taking me so long to write the employee profiles for this architectural firm? I gave them all simple questionnaires to fill out -- all I need to do is draft their replies into 2 or 3 mildly interesting paragraphs. Why have I been here for nearly fucking ever?
Question: What led you to choose Architecture/Design as a career?

Answer: When I was a kid every toy I play with it with 3 dim, my dad he is a great person he was a principle in elementary school he like art and wood paint I used to set with him watch him he teach me a lot of knowledge thanks for him, I have lot's of architect relative, so the dream to be an architect. Education.
Oh. I forgot about the language barrier in certain cases. Heh.
Friday, August 09, 2002
Setting the Record Straight,
a mindless ditty of uncertain metre:

When your family thinks you're gay,
they tend
To smile at your same-sex friends
in a bright but unconvincing way.

You're here, they think, you're queer,
they think--
but dear... you're not going to stay?

There go the bibs, the cribs, the toys--
They saved for your girls or (better) boys
They recall how you were never flirty
They remind themselves you're over thirty.

There's no point in shouting out
you're straight
Especially if you rarely date
Which doesn't ease their growing doubt

Words you really ought to say
are like
Not every ugly girl's a dyke
Not every pretty boy is gay.

In other words:
You're straight. And yes,
You're celibate.
You're not going away.

"My, how analog of you." A satirical comment from a client, who'd glanced at my left hand resting on the meeting table and noticed the reminders I'd written in red ink along the side of my thumb. A habit I picked up in junior high school and one that has never let me down -- after all, you can lose bits of paper, or misplace electronic gadgets, but barring industrial accidents you're likely to keep your thumb with you at all times. I've called this system the "Thumb-o-dex" for years, but the client's comment has led me to think of more up-to-date names: perhaps "Thumb Pilot" or PDA, "Personal Digit Assistant," would do.
A curt, practically snitty note from Amazon informs me that "godbox" (see below) is delayed by 1 to 2 weeks. So there's still hope.
So last night's dream was that I was stopped at U.S. Customs for hours while they tried to figure out why I was hauling a horse trailer containing two life-sized fibreglass horses. I tried to explain it was for publicity -- that we had to be seen to have horses with us at all stages in the trip, and we wouldn't be picking up the live horses until we reached Nevada -- because otherwise people wouldn't buy Nikki's Pony Express books. Nikki was waving to me from the ferry, calling at me to hurry up, as the boat pulled away. Standard travel anxiety dream.
Wednesday, August 07, 2002
It is written: Jane shall not have the book "godbox" by Tim Earnshaw. Or so it seems. I had ordered it some weeks back and, being impatient, decided to track my order online. Nothing. No record of it. I used the order number from my confirmation e-mail as a search term, but no dice. As far as "godbox" was concerned, was a stumped tracker in the desert, shading its eyes and looking across sun-baked lands in vain for a trace of its quarry.
And then it gets weird. I have an account on, the original site, and to spare my faltering memory I used a variation of the same password when I set up an account on -- basically the same password with a few extra characters scattered fore and aft. But then, stupitly but inevitably, I used the ".com" password on the ".ca" site. The ".ca" site accepted it, but slingshotted me to my ".com" account page, which had no record of my ever ordering "godbox."
So lissen, Amazon, if the same password can get me into both sites, even if it shouldn't be able to, then my account page should show my orders from both sites, too. Then I wouldn't have bashed out an incendiary e-mail ["Dummies! Feebs! Where's my BOOK?"] to the help desk team at, who are probably looking at my order summary page, which shows "godbox" and its progress from warehouse to my house in gleaming pixels, and wondering why they're putting up with nutbar e-mails from brain-dead customers. Do they get paid enough to put up with this crap? Did they get a M.A. in English Lit. for this?
Tuesday, August 06, 2002
Score: Hay Bales 1, Jane 0: Sunday afternoon, in west-central Alberta, I am hauling a horse-trailer behind a truck for the first time in my life. Thanks to the great kindness of old pal Jean and her dad Harry, I borrow Harry's 25-yr-old Ford "trock" with standard transmission and a clutch that's so strong my leg starts bouncing after a few seconds of holding the pedal down, and hitch up the big 6-horse trailer. The road driving is pretty easy going, though the wind gusts are worrisome when they push the trailer from side to side. However, backing the trailer is hard, hard work. I practice backing in a straight line and immediately push the trailer into a massive stack of round hay bales. Jean, chuckling, says I should sell tickets before I attempt it in Nevada. At one point she bounds out of the truck, calling something about "Back" as she races behind the trailer. For once, my control is exquisite, and I back the trailer straight at her with surgical precision. "NO! Back AROUND me!" comes the outraged and slightly panicked cry. A short interlude of assuring Jean I am not trying to kill her. I pull the trailer forward and try again. In my sideview mirror I notice that Jean has adopted a flight-or-fight stance, ready to bolt out of the way. But this time I back around her like a pro. Hah! Easy! Or so I think, until I spend 20 minutes trying to back the trailer into its parking space by the barn, once again imperilling hay bales. Apparently I'll be hauling a smaller trailer on the trip, and possibly the truck will have automatic transmission. But that won't make reversing any less of a spectacle.
Friday, August 02, 2002

We never fight alone, you and I,
for we each are stained with history.
To raise our voices is to rouse the ghostly tribe within us,
they who are full of catcalls and encouragement,
refusing to die at last and lie quiet.

Reason glides back through time,
while Revenge spurs forward to attack the unwary.
I thought--
I thought I was merely talking with you.

Yet, all the while, the shadows of ancient swords crept
behind us.
I love you beyond history, but find myself awaiting
the next carefree word that will end in blood.

Thursday, August 01, 2002
Take that Maple Leaf off your backpack, and shut the hell up: Who make the worst tourists in the world? The Brits, the Russians...and us. That's right. The friendly Canadians. [I swiped this link from Tim Blair and care not who knows it. The man is acerbic, informed, stubborn, brazen, abrasive, maddening, hilarious -- well, "addictive" would have been the quick way of saying all that.] So anyway, Canadians, rude as hell! That's one in the eye for the campaign "Canada. Experience Our True Nature." No, wait, don't -- our true nature is...well...we're whiny and demanding and can't hold our beer when abroad. Beer which is so infinitely inferior to our home-brewed blends of grain and hops that we drink huge amounts of it in contempt. Then we barf all over the place. But we apologize for it, being Canadian.
This is all in response, you see, to the charge that I am too pro-American. This came from an associate of mine who reads Not My Dog and expects it to make sense. No, no, numskie, just because I love the country that is the United States, and many of its citizens, does not mean I uphold every action of its government or excuse every error of its history. I'd like to see the country that could make me do that. What I am not is anti-American. "Oh, Americans think they're better than everyone else." That comment tells you much more about the Canadian who said it than about Americans. And again, I'd like to see the country where the citizens don't believe, secretly, that they're better than other nations. Maybe I'd excuse certain troubled spots like Albania. It's our double-hemisphered, two-dimensional thought-prone brains that are to blame..."You are different. We are better." Doesn't mean I don't still get bugged when I hear people say "Oh, Canadians are just the same as Americans." Which is just the same as saying "Australians are the same as New Zealanders." Which is lazy and wrong.
[Editorial note: Apparently I'm getting something off my chest here. You've been warned.] So if you were to ask me, seriously, what makes Canadians different than Americans, I'd have to say it's our sense of humour. We're much more irreverent, surreal, silly and less self-conscious -- I guess I mean "less politically sensitive" by that last. Humour, to us, besides being spelled with an extra "U," doesn't have any taboo subjects. I think Denis Leary could make the perfect honorary Canadian. Oh, and we think putting maple leaf decals and patches on our luggage makes Europeans like us. "Hey, Pierre, our granddad liberated your city in 1944! How's about that?" "Et alors...?" ["So?"]
Vanity, vanity, all is vanity: Today at lunch I saw a car with the vanity plate "Peccavi." Latin students will get it at once, but for all you living language junkies out there, it means "I have sinned." Probably the driver's a Catholic, but the point is, it was a big gleaming Lincoln Town Car. The wages of sin, apparently, are a V8 engine, leather upholstery and a dashboard with more computerized systems than NASA.