Saturday, December 19, 2009

There is Some Meaning to be Found Here!

You know you're sentimental when you spend 15 minutes in Petco almost tearing up as you stare at two hamsters run on the same wheel.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Friday Double Brautigan: "These Hopefully Don't Reflect My Shallowest Anxieties" Edition

15%

She tries to get things out of men
that she can't get because she's not
15% prettier.

Please

Do you think of me
as often as I think
of you?

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Purple Pants: Take Three

The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater has promos up all over town, in which a muscle-flexed male dancer is leaping through the universe in purple briefs. I pride myself on rarely coveting items of clothing, but shit, even I have limits. You would have to be certifiably insane to see these purple pants and not desperately want a pair. If I owned these, I would absolutely refuse to wear anything else for the rest of my life, amen. They're that perfect.

Certain subway ads have a way of attracting more graffiti than others, and Mr. Flexy Purple-Pants has seen his fair share, as I've demonstrated below. The first picture is from the Lorimer L-train stop, and is a little more high brow than the other two (high brow in this instance = no penis involved). The second and third pictures are both from my home stop: the inimitable Bedford-Nostrand, where I've seen two men openly masturbating and one taking a shit off the side of the platform. They both involve dicks: dicks are a big part of Bedford-Nostrand graffiti. After all, it was at my fine stop that I witnessed the zenith, apex, pinnacle of all subway art: Shark Man Penis (pictured below, for your reference). I hope you enjoy the collection of defiled Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater promos I've carefully curated.

Shark Man Penis (for your reference only):



Part 1: Lorimer Stop Flexy Purple-Pants:


It's a little hard to read, so here's a blurry close-up:



A speech bubble has been added that originally said "I won't buy ExxonMobil" but was then revised to say "I won't buy Gitgo," only to be revised a third time into a final, definitive message "I won't buy Bilbo." The last declaration is probably the most reasonable of all three: buying hobbits is truly inadvisable. They are fictional.

Part Two: Bedford-Nostrand Flexy Purple-Pants, Bedford Exit:


Again, you may need a closer look to get the scope of this creative addition:



As you can see, the artist has added an extremely large phallus to this ad, and to clarify (or is it to obfuscate?) his/her intentions, has written the word "molecules" and then parenthetically specifies his statement, adding "(sprem)." Everything here is so lovable; the misspelling of sperm as sprem is one of the funniest things I've seen in subway art, especially considering the artist seemed to be trying to help the viewer out: "these molecules I drew here, coming out of this hairy-balled penis? Don't worry, that's just sp[er]m." And yet, despite the obvious charm displayed here (can I quickly note, I am really, truly in no way being facetious about any of this?) it is not quite my favourite, and I think you'll see why with the third installment.

Part Three: Bedford-Nostrand Flexy Purple-Pants, Nostrand Exit:


As has become customary, a close-up:



Now, this one, to me, is a clear winner. It's so simple. It's what I believe to be a penis coming out of Flexy's bum (it could also be a poo, or a small arm). In contrast to the molecule-(sprem)-phallus that appeared to be about to go into the buttocks, this is some disembodied penis that is emerging from Flexy's rump. Exremely original, visually arresting, simple. It is the masterpiece of Flexy Purple-Pants graffiti.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

A Lil Softcore SciFi

I wrote a flash fiction story! It was online-published here. If you like it, tell me so! If you don't, shut your smug mouth!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Celebrity Insult Hour!

How did a duck get into the Rhys-Meyers lineage?!

(Because he kinda looks like a duck).

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Guess What, World? I Have a Favourite Italian Renaissance Painting!

Below is an early Italian Renaissance painting by Stefano di Giovanni (also known as "il Sassetta"), who lived from 1392-1450.


You may note that this is definitely a contender for the weirdest painting of all time, and it certainly wins Weirdest Renaissance Painting. And although Sassetta took pains to make his intentions as specific as possible by entitling the piece The Blessed Ranieri Rasini Delivering the Poor from the Prison in Florence, 1437–1444, I think we all know that it would be much more appropriate to call it Rocket-Man Going on a Fiery Rampage and Scaring Everyone Away Except a Man Who Lives In a Mouse Hole, 3033-3040 (Also, Is Red-Shirt-Man Grabbing His Crotch or Is That Just a Hole in His Pants?).

Fainting Goats

This is the weirdest, funniest thing I've seen genetics do in a while.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Advice

Try to curb your use of pet adverbs. I just realized that I use "genuinely" so indiscriminately that anyone who knows me well now has grounds to assume that if I don't use it in a sentence, there's a good chance that I'm being insincere.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Friday Brautigan: "Becky Misses the Pacific" Edition

Our Beautiful West Coast Thing
by Richard Brautigan

We are a coast people
There is nothing but ocean out beyond us.

—Jack Spicer

I sit here dreaming
long thoughts of California

at the end of a November day
below a cloudy twilight
near the Pacific

listening to the Mamas and the Papas
THEY'RE GREAT

singing a song about breaking
somebody’s heart and digging it!

I think I'll get up
and dance around the room.

Here I go!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

New Review

Some Calvin & Hobbes'in' here.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

"And why haven't we been properly shelved, hmmmm?"

When I woke up today, the shoes I wore yesterday were in the middle of floor, positioned with one at a slight angle to the other.

It looked like they expected something from me.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer

Don't eat meat, guys, forrreaaalzzzzz! My feature about Jonathan Safran Foer's fantastic new book here.

Tuesday Brautigan

This poem is dedicated both to another great Halloween weekend and to the fact that the ghost of Janis Joplin definitely just threw a basket at my friend Jessi. I won't go into details on the event except to say that it's pretty clear that no other explanation is possible.

BOO, FOREVER
by Richard Brautigan

Spinning like a ghost
on the bottom of a
top,
I’m haunted by all
the space that I
will live without
you.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Sunday Brautigan

Your Catfish Friend
by Richard Brautigan

If I were to live my life
in catfish forms
in scaffolds of skin and whiskers
at the bottom of a pond
and you were to come by
one evening
when the moon was shining
down into my dark home
and stand there at the edge
of my affection
and think, "It's beautiful
here by this pond. I wish
somebody loved me,"
I'd love you and be your catfish
friend and drive such lonely
thoughts from your mind
and suddenly you would be
at peace,
and ask yourself, "I wonder
if there are any catfish
in this pond? It seems like
a perfect place for them."

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Sea Love

Give me a budget and I'll give you this pilot episode for the next groundbreaking drama:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fcett5sPx_0

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Thanks, Subconscious!

Over the weekend, I woke up from a dream that has either proved that my brain is a vacant wasteland of pop cultural references or was a forewarning that I am the One (Luke Skywalker, John Conner, Neo, Jesus, Mohammed, Abraham, Frodo Baggins, Atreyu, that fat kid that got Peter Pan's sword at the end of Hook, Max from Where the Wild Things Are: whatever your narrative understanding of the One is, I mean that).

The dream began by making it very clear that Sarah Conner was my mother and protector. Linda Hamilton Sarah Conner, none of this Lena Headey bullshit. Sarah Conner was my mother and we were in some sort of version of Jurassic Park. Naturally, though, the dinosaurs were super-intelligent and could talk. THAT DON'T MEAN THOSE BITCHES WEREN'T AFTER US, THOUGH! If there's one thing my frequent dinosaur dreams have taught me, it's that imbuing dinosaurs with the ability to reason and communicate with humans doesn't mean they aren't still just going to attack you out of nowhere. In fact, the suspense is even thicker when you can reason with them. How much more freaky is it when the dinosaurs can articulate, from several hundred yards away, their desire to eat you? It's significantly freakier, trust me on this one. I've conversed with my fair share of sentient dinosaurs in my sleep!

So here we are on this island with super-intelligent dinosaurs. Some of the smaller ones are helping us. Anything over ten feet is trying to stop us from escaping the park, the preferred preventative method being ingestion. There is an Albertosaurus on our tail, and that thing from Jurassic Park III (I've heard it called both a Spinosaurus and an Egyptosaurus) is apparently behind every large-ish tree.

Let me tell you, I've been eaten before in these dreams, and it is a real bummer. Thankfully we got out of this park alive, both Mumma Sarah and me. The dinosaurs were held back by a transparent fence. They grimaced at us and made it clear this wasn't over, etc. For the time being - this dream - it was over. For my life, however, I'm sure the battle is still in its infancy.

The next part of the dream was just a haze of running through the jungle. If my dream was a movie and I was its editor, I'd probably cut this scene. Seemed extraneous and generally didn't fit with the tone of the rest of the dream. But I feel like I'd be a liar if I didn't note that there was a little bit of jungle-running. There was, and there you have it.

At some point, Sarah Mums showed me a secret passageway on the forest floor. It was at this point that I realized that the jungle had mellowed and started to look distinctly Endorian. Or rather, it looked forest-moon-of-Endorian. It looked pretty Ewoky, is my point. We opened the passageway and found ourselves in the middle of a big, huge, crazy Sith-meeting. Just a bunch of Sith in there, discussing their nefarious plans. We were hiding behind a pole or a door, so they didn't even seem to notice, and I guess didn't have that much security in their meeting. My mother and I knew what was what. We started taking some serious notes on their plot to kill good things, knowing we could help out rebel friends (rebels against Skynet or the Empire, who knows and who cares?) I'm pretty sure we were discovered and that's what prompted me to wake up, but I did not wake up panicked or in fear. I woke up feeling like I was the bees fucking knees. It should have been a nightmare - I was in danger the entire dream. But some neuronal firing had conspired to make it fun, not petrifying. Thanks, brain!

This dream combined three of my all-time favourite high-stakes trilogies and made me absolutely, unequivocally the focus of each one. Terminator was the running thread that helped me escape Jurassic Park and venture into Star Wars territory. How wonderful of my brain to synthesize these things and give me a chance to simultaneously star in all three. Or how depressing, depending on whether or not you think dreams should be about being in your house except it's kinda sorta not your house and there's a fish jumping out of the floor and your best friend is there except it's not really him, or it's him, but five years younger. YOU BORE ME.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Dear Sweet Jefferson Market Librarian

You don't have to apologize to me every time my fines have accrued to the point where I have to pay them if I want my next book. You don't.

I'm very irresponsible. I'm the kind of irresponsible that is not forgetful, just negligent. I know when they're due. I just don't return them. Don't implicate yourself in my failures. You want to know something? I don't even implicate myself in them.

Love,
Becky

PS. The Black Prince by Iris Murdoch is unlikely to be back in your hands by November 2.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Domestic Tip

Listening to early Cure albums while washing dishes makes for vigourously scrubbed dishes!

OPINION VISION!!!!!!

Regardless of whether it was politically astute to award Obama the Nobel Peace Prize, I am dead set against this argument that's flourished that he didn't deserve it. And even Obama admitted he didn't think he did. HE IS WRONG.

I'm sorry, he devoted years and years of his life to revitalizing one of the most downtrodden and neglected urban areas in America, and building it into a politically and socially active community. He did it by LISTENING to people, a tool almost nobody in politics employs, but which he has continued to use since, in his time in the famously corrupt world of Illinois politics, and then the broader world of national politics. He has written two bestselling books, one of which is deeply moving on a personal level and groundbreaking in its ideas about racial identity, while the other is one of the most extensive modern tomes of diplomacy out there. With these books alone, he has inspired millions of people, and not only Americans. Not enough?

Okay, he is one of the best orators in American history. He has reached out specifically to Europe, Asia and the Middle East and improved America's image worldwide within mere months. He is the first president ever to not only empathize with non-American cultures, but to have lived in them, to have had them deeply shape his identity and philosophies. He is the first black president in a country divided bitterly over race.

He is at the beginning of his years of true international achievement and anything could happen in those years, I agree. But this fact does not invalidate his past achievements.

Yes, this is a wrench thrown into his spokes, yes, he does not technically fit the description of the Peace Prize, but then how did Al Gore fit it?, yes, it's a wry political move on the part of the Nobel committee who really are just slapping Bush in the face, yes, it would have been better to award this to him post-presidency, yes, he is making war in Afghanistan rather than preventing it, yes, the Peace Prize was awarded to Arafat but not Gandhi, rendering it pretty illegitimate but holy fucking shit guys, do not tell me Barack Obama doesn't deserve it.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Norwegian Westerns & Fictional New Yorkers

A few months back, I interviewed the amazing graphic novelist Jason. He is the best thing in comics since Bill Watterson. Genuinely. Read the interview in which I nerd out a little too evidently here. I am such a sycophant, but at least I'm a sycophant with taste.

I also wrote of a review of a neat book called Knickerbocker which you can read here.

MORE STUFF SOON!

Monday, October 5, 2009

SIPs

I only just noticed that Amazon.com lists Statistically Improbable Phrases (SIPs) below the summaries of each book page. Seriously, how awesome is that?! I have listed some of the SIPs of my favourite books below:

Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy

"Kid spat" is the only one listed. Sparse as Cormac himself.

The Elegant Universe by Brian Greene

vibrational string patterns, sliding clock, stationary light clock, familiar extended dimensions, quantum undulations, three extended spatial dimensions, superpartner particles, circular girth, resonant vibrational patterns, quantum jitters, five string theories, given string theory, second superstring revolution, circular dimension, energy denomination, perturbative tools, spatial fabric, string theory offers, nine space dimensions, observational vantage points, winding energies, string coupling, string theorists, perturbative framework, elegant universe

The Philosopher and the Wolf by Mark Rowlands

irish ferries, happiness junkies, simian intelligence, epistemic duty

Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem

garbage cop, ambulance ramp, phone downstairs, homicide cop

The Mysteries of Pittsburgh by Michael Chabon

cloud factory, giant women

Pale Blue Dot by Carl Sagan

great demotions, deflection technology, pale blue dot, scaling heaven, spacefaring nations, cometary fragments, gravitational tides, human missions, first spacecraft, other planetary systems, planetary society

The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien

queer lodgings, fourteenth share, unexpected party, old thrush, wood elves, other dwarves, lake men, gob lins

Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace.

These ones take the cake. I mean, seriously, DFW was a master of employing statistically improbable words, let alone phrases:

medical attaché, annular fusion, entertainment cartridge, improbably deformed, howling fantods, feral hamsters, dawn drills, tough nun, professional conversationalist, new bong, ceiling bulged, metro boston, tennis academy, red leather coat, soupe aux pois, red beanie, addicted man, magnetic video, littler kids, little rotter, technical interview, police lock, oral narcotics, sober time, veiled girl.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Turns out...

...I'm a real sucker for statues, erected posthumously, of artists conversing with their creations. One thing death does, which can be both good and bad, is release the deceased into Legend Land. Kermit and the Cat in the Hat, being fictional, are long-time residents of this legend-realm. To me, these statues approximate what it looks like for them to welcome their creators into this place, both showing them the ropes and celebrating that they are finally able to interact with each other on the same plane of existence. I love how Jim Henson and Kermit look like old friends catching up, and Seuss and the Cat in the Hat look like they are taking a break for a quick, silly photo op, and will return to reminiscing directly after.


Jim Henson and Dr. Seuss died in 1990 and 1991 respectively, and I remember hearing about both of their deaths as a 6 and 7 year old (especially Henson's). Not only were they mourned out of respect for their work, they were mourned for consistently being stand-up dudes; they were loyal, empathetic, honest, it seems like they didn't let talent and fame rob them of very much. Because I was a kid, I know I conflated them with their work, and I wasn't always clear which side of reality/fantasy Miss Piggy and the Lorax were on as opposed to Henson and Seuss. These statues are a little bit of validation for the haziness of the kid me's conception of creator/creation.

My Heart Will Melt...

This is in the mail to me and it should be in the mail to you too.

Friday, September 25, 2009

What's so amazing/ That keeps us star-gazing...

Thesis: working as a non-American in America is very confusing. I have a job that sponsors me and an immigration lawyer and I am Canadian (I can't think of a more entitled nationality to be: being Canadian basically means you get carte blanches from everybody no matter where they're from. It's awesome).

Lawyer, job, Canadian cred - it all makes it easier by 3000% to stay in the USA legally. I do not even want to think about what a drag it is to not have those things because even with them, I have basically gone through a month-long nervous breakdown over what the proper process to stay is. It finally ended yesterday, and I have felt like I'm floating through warm, soft clouds of joy and relief ever since. This shit is terrifying. For realzzzz.

About a month ago, I called the American Embassy in Toronto to make sure everything was set for me to be under my very lovely H1B work status as of October 1st. By the way, you have to pay a flat rate of $35 to even call the American Embassy, and then a $2/minute charge after that. And the representative put me on hold. WTF-vision!!!!!!

The embassy said: no, no, don't take the instructions your lawyer or the H1B approval notice gave you. Drive to the Canadian border within 10 days of October 1st with every record of being in the United States you have, plus more visa fees, plus more forms, plus a bunch of other documents. They will then decide if you should come back in. I trusted them, because their whole thing is knowing what to do with visas. I have lived and worked in the United States on and off since 2003, under three different kinds of visas, and I have two Social Security numbers, and it all seemed pretty daunting. I really hate looking at my immigration document collection.

So this was fucking scary! I was going through the whole "am I going to get kicked out?" fear all over again, which was basically the only thing that has marred an otherwise stellar year. But I gathered all these documents and stressed out for a month and booked a car and prepared to go. In the back of my head, I was always thinking, "What happens if they don't let me back in?" The panic and dread and stress over that thought had increasing effects as the weeks went by - terrible chest pain and lack of sleep and most egregiously, exposing my wonderful, patient friends to bouts of whining and hysteria. Josh Bowman, Simon McNabb, Chris Dingwall, Will Storie and Nicole Drespel are the only reasons I did not become completely unhinged. I thank them.

This week, the anxiety hit its fever pitch. Before this passing Wednesday's Jason Anderson show, I was looking up every single thing I needed on the consulate web page, and getting a billion different answers about what I should be doing. By the time I got to Pete's Candy Store, I was in a cold sweat. Just really in a bad way. I tried to smile and swallow it for about two seconds while Lee and I ordered beers, but then basically blasted him across the room with high-frequency anxiety. I described in detail the physical effects of the dread I was experiencing and challenged him to think of a time when he felt the same way so that I could have a commiserator (not the best social instinct, but also not the worst; you have to give me that). When he told his version, I became angry, basically because it wasn't my version. All my emotions over this were so strange - the anger, the fear, the frustration, the nerves. By no means am I a stalwart reason-over-emotion person, but I am almost never sucked into feedback loops of negative emotions. I am good at happiness: I like very small accumulations of weird, good things, and I like building them up into weird, great things. Probably 90% of my thoughts follow this pattern. I like problems with no solutions, and making makeshift answers to them that are satisfying because they are not definitive, because they are more just a record of an interaction between yourself and the problem. I also am lucky enough to have one of those things in my brain that refuses to accept shitty experiences as being totally negative, even if it's clear that they actually are. All things bad are a deposit in the ol' bank of character, and such. So to be stuck bouncing between every variety of bad emotion - and really recognizing that this was all just negative - was weird and scary and kind of felt like being on a bad drug trip that you can't stop. I had no tools for it. Humans hate it when there are no tools!

Luckily, a discussion of Lee's vaginal bats sketch was enough to distract me from it temporarily, and then of course, there was Jason Anderson. It bears mentioning that on the evening where I've truly come closer to a mental breakdown than I can remember, my nerves were gone about 5 minutes into the show and didn't come back until the next day. So he's magic, definitely.

I emailed Will that night to warn him that any interaction with me in the next few days was going to be tainted by my accumulation of panic-induced craziness. He responded only by asking when he could see me, which I thought was pretty fucking sweet, given it was so extremely masochistic of him. To respond to your girlfriend when she's like "I'M BATSHIT CRAZY RIGHT NOW!" with "WHEN CAN I BE IN THE LINE OF FIRE?" is a sign of an aces dude.

Simon was the person who really questioned what I was doing (I called him very late on Wednesday for reassurance). Being a Canadian working in LA, also with nebulous visa issues occasionally, he knew how to talk to me about it. He didn't think anything the embassy had said sounded right, and he recommended I call many immigration lawyers about it. I count on him to be my intuition from time to time. I should really look into getting my own intuition installed so I don't always have to borrow his.

I called many immigration lawyers, all of whom said the embassy had given me $50 of bullshit. I don't need to leave the country. I don't need a consular appointment. I don't need any of the documents I gathered. I don't need to pay any more fees. I just need to put the approval notice I already had - have had for months - into my passport on October 1st. The most impressive lawyer of all was Josh's, who got a visa for Josh in less than three months earlier this year (unheard of!), who called me right away and set me straighter than an arrow. Half my notes from our conversation are about how safe I am with what I have and the other half are about how awesome he thinks Josh is.

I was in a bland euphoric haze for almost all of yesterday, and slept better last night than I have in weeks. Which makes all the stress worth it? Yes, because I know I have awesome friends - all compassionate but not at the expense of pragmatism - and I also know there is apparently no limit of bullshit I will take in order to stay in this country. Everyone knows it's a horrendously flawed nation in a billion different ways, but...I love it here.I really do.

I had a Muppet dream last night. It's been a Muppet-heavy few weeks. I read a screenplay for a Jim Henson biopic and I am fanatical about Josh and Chuck's "How Muppets Work" podcast a few weeks back, and in general, have been thinking Muppet-y thoughts. I woke up this morning with this very specific image in my head of Kermit in New York, vivid enough that I was sure it was something I'd actually seen somewhere before. An extremely quick Google Image search led me to it. I can't articulate why the salve that my unconscious provided to relieve the upset of this past month was this image, but it seems so unbelievably appropriate that, I'll admit, I cried a little:


ADDENDUM: On Friday night, Simon texted me this: "There's a line in Jurassic Park 3 where Macy says "We've got enough juice for one call - and don't call the US Embassy, they won't do a damn thing!"

SIMON MCNABB AND JURASSIC PARK 3 FOR THE WIN!

Monday, September 14, 2009

KANYE OPINION

Mine is that he has gotten himself into an amazing position, where it's very hard for me to dislike anything he does. Not only do I not dislike him jumping on stage to steal a pretty young girl's big moment, I kind of love him for it. Let me clarify: it is the person I love, not the act. If anyone else did that, I'd fucking hate them for it. Even my other musical heroes! I would not want to watch Robert Smith or David Bowie or Diana Ross launch themselves up there to make fools of themselves, for really no reason at all. We know he did it for no special reason, right? Pretty much another meaningless act by the biggest narcissist in the music business. (BIGGEST NARCISSIST IN THE MUSIC BUSINESS! Just think of the titans he's defeated to hold such a title!)

But if I'm being honest, as the microphone changed hands, I actually think I ended up disliking Taylor Swift somehow. An unlikeable thing was happening, but I could not quite pin it on Kanye West, the perpetrator of the unlikeable thing. So who else is there? Oh you, pretty young girl? I'm already one of those old ladies that hates pretty young girls on the inside, so it was not hard for me to do some split-second transference of dislike.

You know the Force Majeure clause in a contract, which protects both parties from liability in the case that some force beyond our control strikes, such as a war, riot, fire, earthquake, flood, volcano or some other "act of God"? Taylor Swift, I bet, has signed a lot of contracts these last few years, and a lot, if not all, included this clause. Kanye West is categorized as a Force Majeure, as far as I'm concerned, and he is no more culpable for his acts than a hurricane is.

For now. I fear that someday, he will do a thing I genuinely dislike, but it's going to have to be something pretty despicable, because I like him more today than I did yesterday.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Recent Twitter Updates from Cormac McCarthy

cormacmccarthy1 Darkness fell some time ago.
about 6 minutes ago from web

cormacmccarthy1 The stars face away. It is their retreat from our rancid lushness that appears to us to sparkle. #fail
1:14 AM Aug 30 from web

cormacmccarthy1Germs are our beginnings and our end. #reasonstodespair
2:59 PM Aug 25 from web

cormacmccarthy1 Days of drought have strangled the neighbor’s azaleas. They sweat, wilt, melt under the gaze of those who could save them. #tesuquenewmexiconews
2:32 PM Aug 22 from web

cormacmccarthy1 @johnmccarthy Your last baby tooth. #reasonstodespair
9:59 AM Aug 20 from web

cormacmccarthy1 Dead bumblebee.
10:45 AM Aug 15 from web

cormacmccarthy1 Shame on the haiku/ Whored itself to stay alive/ Better to die sad #haikus
8:19 AM Aug 15 from web

cormacmccarthy1 You must kill the host. RT @oprah Anybody got a surefire remedy for ticks? Just pulled 8 off of 1 dog. None of the prescribed vet meds seem to be working.
2:59 PM Aug 14 from web

cormacmccarthy1 Understood. RT @wernerherzog You will die first.
8:32 AM Aug 12 from web

cormacmccarthy1 We’d wake up in our coffins. #inaperfectworld
7:14 PM Aug 11 from web

cormacmccarthy1 RT @tomwolfe New project in the works. #reasonstodespair
10:45 AM Aug 10 from web

cormacmccarthy1 God abandons everyone. #reasonstodespair #biblelessons
5:05 PM Aug 8 from web

cormacmccarthy1 The hopeful succumb to violence before the hopeless.
8:45 AM Aug 8 from web

cormacmccarthy1 “What am I doing?”
2:59 PM Aug 4 from web

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Calculus Time!

Go here. The link is fixed, yaaaay.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Elevator Ghosts

I went to the hospital today for some check-ups. The elevator opened on one of the floors. Nobody was there. It stayed open for a few seconds, closed, and we all moved on.

When I was a kid and this anomaly occurred, I used to think that it was caused by ghosts. Ghosts had pressed the up/down button, ghosts were standing there when the doors opened, ghosts entered the elevators and stood among us. Ghosts had places to go; how else were they going to get there? Take the stairs?

I believed this because I thought it was the most reasonable explanation. Even though it would render me completely useless as an adult, I still sometimes wish I had that kind of kid logic. Couldn't have been that somebody got sick of waiting and took the stairs. Couldn't have been that somebody accidentally pressed the wrong floor. Ghosts just have places to be, other ghosts to meet. The end.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Google Poetry

To my knowledge, I have never searched any of these sentences on Google, though I suppose it's not impossible that I asked it why I fart so much, or became seriously curious as to why a movie was called "Bees".















Saturday, August 22, 2009

Ramble, ramble, I empathize with clouds...

On Friday afternoon, I went to see the High Line that everybody is talking so much about these days. It really did live up to the hype: I felt calm, happy, reflective while walking through it, which is the precise combination of feelings I expect all parks to evoke. Presumably, the gardens are carefully manicured, but they are designed to look wild and overgrown. It makes the whole floral element of the High Line the equivalent of a hipster's haircut. And whether you like the brain underneath the haircut or not, it's neat to look at something very meticulously made to appear completely unfettered and out of control. It's like humans going, "Guess what, Nature! We can make this too!" and Nature obligingly raises its eyebrows in approval, allowing us our fun, while marveling at the fact that we have managed to miss the point again. That's why we call it Mother.

The High Line is also good for reminding its visitors that they are in New York City, a wonderful thing that is sadly increasingly lost on me. I've been living here for three years now EXACTLY (I just realized this right now! My immigration documents have "August 22nd, 2006" stamped on 'em). I was hit with such an intense desire to move here in my last year of university that I would have constant dreams about it, waking up severely disappointed to find myself on a futon in East Van. By the way, Vancouver, I now miss you intensely, if that is any consolation for the previous sentence.

Predictably, I have not spent every moment of the last three years aware that I am in the city of my dreams. The first year, yes, I think I was actually conscious of it more often than not. I was pretty bamboozled. I was in total exploration-discovery-adventure mode. Every eccentricity this place produced was delightful. You don't need to have lived here or ever visited to know that that's a lot of eccentricities to be delighted by. I was delighted probably at a rate of 20-30 eccentricities a day.

By the second year, I had already re-calibrated everything (not a testament to my adaptation skills, just a testament to New York being a kind of "get on with it" place to live). I remember coming back from a trip to Vancouver on the 1-year anniversary of having moved, and flying over all the twinkling lights and shiny, dark water and thinking "hello, home". By that point, my circle of friends had gone through the necessary explosion that occurs after moving to a new place, where you are interested in everyone and everything and are generally pretty socially indiscriminate, but it had also already gone through the corresponding contraction, honing in on the people with the same qualities my friends have always had. Curiosity, kindness, a weird mix of competitiveness and supportiveness: I think that might actually be all I look for in a person. These traits have a bunch of stuff bundled into them: curiosity, in my humble opinion, is the most overlooked yet significant indicator of wit and intelligence; being kind betrays a rare ability to properly empathize (which I admit I don't do well always, or even often); a quiet rivalry among friends is what says, "you challenge and inspire me and I respect you for it, but I am confident that I can also challenge and inspire you, and earn your respect back". I hope this isn't totally self-indulgent: I know about the only thing of the three I can say I am all the time is curious. As admitted and as I will admit again, I have been known to let empathy slide when I want to do something selfish that I know might hurt somebody else. I always thought I was really good at the competitive/supportive thing, until last year when I began spending time with a dude with whom I felt I could not compete, right when my confidence was at a trough in the grid. It led me to do and say weird stuff; looking back on specific examples gives me this creepy feeling that I was periodically possessed with gremlin-spirits (retrospectively taking responsibility for my actions = creepier than random gremlin-spirit possession).

So what I think I'm saying is that I'm lucky that people with those traits, whatever the level of functioning they are at in each person, are everywhere, and though they take a while to root out (truffles in Provence; diamonds in Nunavut), they are worth the wait. My friends now are all people who are like, "here's some neat stuff I am doing, what's that neat stuff you are doing? Hey, why don't we do some neat stuff together?", which is everything I could want and more, and I'm really grateful.

Also, fart jokes. They all tell fart jokes; more essential than anything mentioned above. Farts are funny.

Now, at the end of my third year here, I am so settled and comfortable that I very rarely think, "hold up: I live in New York". Maybe when people visit me, but barely ever beyond that. Just last night, I was walking through Union Square and there were these two people dressed like cavemen, sweatily dancing to some guys playing hand drums while a crowd of about thirty people watched, and it wasn't until I was walking past 3rd Avenue that I was like, "that was kind of weird". I fail to notice the eccentricities now. I'm in a comfort zone. It's not bad, but I will admit there is something sad about it.

The High Line is about two stories up. The New York you would expect to see from this angle, elevated by a pretty miniscule amount, should really be about the same as the street-view New York. But it actually looks dramatically different. There's so much new stuff to look at; the old-timey signs on the sides of brick buildings are more evident, you can see the layout of the Meatpacking District's cobbled streets, the Hudson flows by, all sparkles and murk. One of the arches over the High Line is designed to perfectly frame the Statue of Liberty, in a way that makes it look static, almost like it's only a picture of a long forgotten relic. It's kind of intimidating to realize that all you need to do to fall back in love with New York's volatility is look at it from a slightly different angle. And I mean, extremely slightly, if that is not too much of an adverb contradiction.

Speaking of extreme slightness, how about some calculus talk? The next book I'm reviewing is The Calculus of Friendship by Steven Strogatz; I read the bulk of it that afternoon on one of the wooden patio chairs set up along the line. It's about Strogatz's 30 years of correspondence with his high school calculus teacher, and I'll admit, it made me cry. I'm not made of stone. I took a break only to acknowledge that a storm was sweeping towards Manhattan from the southwest, and I was in the exact position to watch it ominously roll in. It looked a little like the special effects of Independence Day, and I half-expected a disc-shaped spaceship to emerge from the swirling cumulus. I mean, I didn't actually go halfway in expecting it; that'd be crazy and would mean Bill Pullman was President. But I thought about it enough that I kind of freaked myself out, because I was in Manhattan, an island I've seen obliterated by aliens in movies many times and the ol' imagination can leak into other parts of my brain sometimes, if I let it.

Anyway, calculus was also weighing pretty heavy in my thoughts right then. By the way, I think this marks the only time the movie Independence Day and Newton's discipline of limits, functions, derivatives, infinite series, et al. (using et al. a lot these days; Infinite Jest) have ever vied for brain-space, and possibly ever will. I was watching this gorgeous thundercloud, and thinking that calculus, a beautiful, sprawling discipline that revolutionized the way we look at our universe, that de-mystified infinity, that holds everything from spiraled seashells to planets' orbits in its hands, is powerless to predict the kinds of chaotic motion that was right before my eyes, in the underbelly of this storm. I don't think it was even until first-year university math classes that I actually registered that some mathematical problems have no proofs, that we do not live in a neat little mathematically consistent world with a big red bow on top. I was honestly bummed out to learn that, and probably still could be now, years later, if I was in the right mood for it. But I was not in that mood Friday afternoon. It was nothing but refreshing to look up from my human book about a human friendship based around a human discipline and see old Grandma Universe saying, "guess what, kiddo - I got more mysteries up my sleeve than any of your kind could ever even begin to fathom".

Another line of masturbatory inner ramblings occurred shortly after, inspired by the thought that myself and the thundercloud were comprised of most of the same materials, on an molecular level, and I started feeling some weird kindred-ness with it. But then my union with the universe (yes, union-verse) was painfully severed, when the bastard decided it wanted to dump rain all over me and my book, which it, to be fair, had been giving me every warning it was going to do for a long time if I had been paying any attention at all.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

"Hey, I'm here with this dinosaur!"

OBSERVATION: While "researching" my last Jurassic Fight Club review, I noticed that a lot of human-dinosaur scale drawings feature this one super-cavalier guy. There he is, waving politely, while a dinosaur threatens his existence less than a meter away. Who is this guy? OBSERVE WITH ME:

Majungatholus:

"Hey, check out this Majungatholus that's about to scoop me up by my vitals!"


Albertosaurus

So close to death.


Eoraptor

"Hey, just hanging with Eoraptor over here."


Styracosaurus

Probably the only one I've found where the dinosaur looks subservient. The guy could be doing his standard "What's up?" wave, but it looks more as if he is telling the Styracosaurus to heel or something. Or doing that thing Crocodile Dundee does where he sedates a bull using only his intensity.


Velociraptor

Last year, paleontologists confirmed that velociraptors had feathers but I still can't quite accept it. Looks weird to me, all decked out like that. That's my counter-thesis.


Dilophosaurus

The less neutrally-toned a dilophosaur is, the angrier it is.


Edmontosaurus

I mostly added this because it's my hometown dinosaur. Go Oilers!


Brachiosaurus

"Hey, I'm just here with this mind-bogglingly enormous lizard. What's up?"


AND FINALLY, THE BEST IN THE SERIES:

Stegosaurus

You would quit your good-natured waving too if you were about to be the victim of a Stego-fart.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

New Review!

Lil' bit o' graphic novel reviewed here.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

JFC Review #2: MAJUNGATHOLUS VS. MAJUNGATHOLUS

There has been a long delay since my last Jurassic Fight Club episode review. This is not an indication of any lagging commitment to the show on my part. It only represents the period of time that has elapsed between the first season airing and it becoming available on Netflix. Seriously, get this show on Netflix. It's great.

And now for some DINO-WARS!


This scale model is about to be eaten!!!

Episode Title: Cannibal Dinosaur
Time: 70 million years ago; Cretaceous
Place: Madagascar (described by the JFC narrator as a "prison where only one sentence was carried out: DEATH")
Battlers: Male Majungatholus versus Female Majungatholus
Stakes: Survival in the prehistoric world; gender identity

Tag-line for the episode: "THE ULTIMATE BATTLE OF THE SEXES"
Runners up: "The Most Gruesome Act in the Animal Kingdom: Cannibalism"
"One of the Most Disturbing Discoveries Ever Unearthed"

Quotes regarding Majungatholus:

"The T-Rex of the East."
"The ultimate predator in its community."
"Its teeth worked like a conveyor."
"Its tail was like an oversized baseball bat."
"A Majungatholus had the mass of a baby elephant." (Nothing can be terrifying after it's been compared to a baby elephant.)

Key Pre-Fight Moments:

First of all, I love the idea of setting this up as "the ultimate battle of the sexes". The phrase "battle of the sexes" has a romantic comedy connotation to me, where a girl and guy are in the same field or something, and they're competing professionally while falling in love (I can't believe the only example of this I can think of off hand is No Reservations, which I didn't even see). There is sort of an implied affection to the battle, or at least a mutual respect. I just love that the JFC people took it upon themselves to interpret this phrase completely literally. Two members of the same species, different genders, battle to the death. You really can't argue that as far as battles of the sexes go, this is indeed higher on the "ultimate" chart than like, Alvy Singer and Annie Hall quibbling over the meaning of love and stuff.

Josh was valiant enough to watch this episode with me, and we immediately picked sides. Me - rooting for female. Him - rooting for male. IT'S LIKE MEN ARE FROM MARS AND WOMEN ARE FROM VENUS OR SOMETHING.

As a quick aside, another great thing about Jurassic Fight Club is that the episodes begin with this disclaimer: "The following is a graphic depiction of a violent prehistoric battle. Viewer discretion is advised". Watching these CGI dinosaurs fight could really fuck you up, for real, guys! Trauma alert.

There is a lot of hubbub made by the paleontologists and the narrator about Madagascar being an island, which means adaptation worked differently there. The narrator goes so far as to say that Madagascar forces the Majungatholus to "adapt in ways that other dinosaurs would never dream of". Not only does this suggest that dinosaurs had some kind of conscious control over their own evolution (Pterodactyl: "Uh...I think it's about time I grew wings"; Stegosaurus: "Maybe I'd look more impressive with some plate-like spikes along my spine?), it forces us to confront the existence of dinosaur dreams. What do dinosaurs dream about? I can't believe I've never had an opportunity to ask myself this enormously appealing question. Honestly, I dream about dinosaurs pretty regularly, so it's my genuine hope that when they slipped into their little reptile slumber, they dreamed of me. *Wistful sigh*

The other thing we learn about island isolation is that the Majungatholus is a hideously inbred species. Apparently, they are all brothers mating with sisters mating with fathers mating with nieces. One of the experts, "Dinosaur George" Blasing, posits that this may have been responsible for the Majungatholus' "ugly face". Two things. 1) Does inbreeding necessarily = ugly? Purebred dogs are inbred and adorable. I am never going to deny a puppy a cuddle because it has a redundant set of genes. And I'm positive there have been attractive inbred humans; it can't all be the stereotype of heavy brows and closely-set eyes. (I should alert you that this just led me to Google "inbred beauties", which actually turned up a direct hit: "There is a world of breeding potential in these inbred beauties just waiting for the person who is already breeding sufficient dips to make the right matches". The page is about flowers or something).

Secondly, "ugly face"? It's a dinosaur. What are we comparing it to here? Other dinosaurs? I would posit that the Majungatholus' face is about as attractive as any dinosaur face. Compared to a human face? In this case, yes, I would say it has an ugly face, if we are using a human as the manipulated variable. But this might only be because I prefer to mate within my species and time period.

Final Madagascar point: I feel I must reiterate that Madagascar, although it may seem like a tropical paradise, is in fact a "prison where only one sentence was carried out: DEATH".

Stray observations:

There was a weird CGI comparison of a Majungatholus' skull to a hawk's skull and a crocodile's skull. All three skulls were rotating on the screen at the same time. It was so weird. I had no idea what I was meant to be observing.

Re: skulls - one of the paleontologists was talking about how little we know about the Majungatholus. Abruptly, he exclaimed in that desperate nerd voice, "We need more skulls!"

The average day of a Majungotholus was described by one of the dinosaur experts as consisting of the following: "walking around, killing something, eating it, resting for a while". No croquet, for the record.

After describing that Majungatholus had poor binocular vision, the dinosaur experts likened its compensatory fighting style to a professional boxer: they're always moving their heads around to get a better handle on their opponent. The only thing that's weird about this is that it implies that boxers do not have binocular vision.

The first time we see the CGI female Majungatholus (after the narrator exclaims "BUT WHAT ABOUT THE FEMALES?"), she appears to be sashaying.

Blasing says something midway through the episode about how humans clear logs out of forests, but imagine if there were no humans to clear logs. It'd be a pretty loggy forest! When weird statements like this occur, you know it is JFC's Foreshadowing Department at work. Probably one of the Majungatholus will trip on a log during the fight, or whatever. Something with a log is going to happen.

There are a lot of qualifying clauses that the paleontologists use to soften the outrageous fight-story, and make it seem somehow scientifically feasible. My favourite in this episode was "It is very reasonable to suggest...". The rest of the sentence was something about how the Majungothulus had a head like a turkey.

FIGHT BREAKDOWN:

A horny male Majungatholus is walking through a (notably loggy) forest. He is following the scent of a female Majungatholus "like a road map", and finds her in a (notably loggy) grove. According to the narrator, "his motive is sex, but she has other ideas". Time out: Again, why have I never had a chance to contemplate what kinds of "ideas" a dinosaur has? A dinosaur roaring "ROAR-EEKA! in the bathtub. A dinosaur with a lightbulb over its head. A dinosaur watching the sunset, reflecting on life. A dinosaur contemplating me contemplating it. *Wistful sigh*

Time in. This female Majungatholus is no pushover, we are informed. She is majorly cranky. "Is this just a lover's spat?" asks the narrator. Time out: At this point, Josh yelled "What, did he leave the toilet seat up?". Laughter, laughter. Time in. We learn that is not, in fact, any so-called lovers-spat. A vital piece of information is revealed: the female already has a BABY. A YOUNG MAJUNG. A Ma-YOUNG-gatholus. Time out: Puns! Time in.

The female is aggressive because she is trying to protect her baby from the male. Apparently, it is a Majungatholus custom for a male to eat a baby if it is not his baby. Time out: here's advice for an inbred species - don't eat offspring! Yes, even if it's not yours! You are already dealing with poor immune systems and mutations due to lack of genetic diversity. Don't throw infanticide in there too. If you are not related to the baby, maybe you will be able to produce un-inbred babies with the baby in a couple years. Ever think of that, or were you too busy thinking of me (*wistful sigh*)? Time in.

Now here comes something amazing. Brace yourself. The male Majungatholus makes his sexual intentions clear by proceeding to dance. He does a courtship dance. It looks like he is trying to take a shit during an earthquake. It is something you can only truly appreciate if you watch the episode. He is swaying from side to side, but also doing an unmistakable shit-squat. It is the weirdest, unsexiest thing this Majungotholus could've done with its ugly-faced inbred body; I don't know what the animators could have possibly modeled it after. No wonder the female is not only turned off, but becomes totally homicidal.

The narrator informs us that "he has no idea he is dancing with the devil". True enough.

The female fails to prevent the male from seeing the baby. And it's all over after that.

What happens is that the paleontologists all excitedly say some variation of "that baby's going down". One says "he knows he's got to get rid of that baby". Another says "He needs to take out the baby". The narrator echoes it almost verbatim: "The male has to take that baby out". It's hilarious. They're all super-stoked that this male has to kill the baby Majung. If he kills the baby, he will be able to mate with the mother, because she'll immediately want to make a new baby upon the death of the old one. Which means in Majungotholus culture, baby-killing is kind of an aphrodisiac. So, I don't know which dinosaur to root for anymore, because it's hard to choose sides after that.

Regardless, how is this male going to get through this warrior of a female to kill her kid? Well, see, there's all these logs around. So he backs her into a loggy corner. She tried to kick dirt in his face (girl fight) but to no avail. She trips on a log and falls down. Well played, male. Well played, JFC Foreshadowing Department.

I guess the female temporarily passes out or something after falling, because there are then many long, protracted, bloody shots of the male killing the baby. He rams it against a tree and shakes it and stuff. It's payoff, I guess. Anyway, the baby dies, so the mother is sure to be all hot and bothered now, right? You wish! The paleontologists belabour the point that when she recovers from her fainting spell (women), she still thinks the baby might be alive, even though it's basically a mashed-up pulp in the male's mouth. She charges him, bites his neck and full-on snaps his spine. He's alive, but paralyzed. Down for the count. MaDONEgotholus.

The female checks the mashed-up piece of pulp's vitals. It's dead. The narrator informs us that the female Majungatholus can not mourn her child (no need to MajungCONSOLEus). Time out: the rules are that dinosaurs have dreams and ideas, but not feelings. Time in: So if you can't mourn your dead kid, why not eat it? Why not indeed, thinks the female, and she goes ahead and tucks right in. She needs to replenish the calories she burned protecting her baby by eating her baby. Gross!

But wait! The narrator tells us that the baby is only "her first course". Just an hor d'oeurve. After all, there is a paralyzed male right next to her; that's an entree. For some reason, the paleontologists make a quibbling point about this being about sustenance, not vengeance. Fine, but she does eat him alive. It just seems like that's making a point about something. Not to mention that she targets the male's liver, ripping it out and making a big show of messily gobbling it up in front of the still-conscious male. The whole thing is so Promethean that it's hard for me to believe she's not at least a little bit doing it because this male killed her baby, even if she is emphatically incapable of mourning it.

The narrator ends the show by proclaiming, "One thing's for certain: One Majungatholus just showed another who's boss".

WINNER: Cannibalism.
Runner-up: Narrator's intensity.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

One Unicorn Box, Please


You know when something really small triggers an explosion of complex emotions? That can happen when you walk by a thing your child self never consciously knew she wanted to possess, but apparently did want to possess pretty desperately judging by the aforementioned feelings-bouquet, in the garbage.

It was one of those times when I couldn't decide whether or not I'd prefer to just be a robot already.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Homonymphomaniac

Whenever you see a misspelling of the there-their-they're, your-you're, it's-its (et al.) variety, I recommend trying to make as much sense out of the sentence with its error as possible. Like, take a benign sentence "that's there dog": well, this is obviously a sentence about a "there dog", some specific dog ("that's") which has the uncanny ability to be right there. "Its fantastic": well that fantastic - fantastic being an item - belongs to that "it". As in, "don't touch that fantastic! That fantastic belongs to It!" It's not like they often make sense, but you get to force words to do things they don't want to do; an end in itself.

I was excited to find this one:

I can only imagine what having your very own The F*!king Best! might entail.

PS. I am super-proud of this post's title....even though I think they're actually homophones.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Essentials


No bookstore should consider itself complete without this section.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Uh oh

The more I read about the Substance, and how it makes you forgo social events and forget to eat and want to clutch it close to you and to think about it always and to know it is really the thing that understands not just you but everything best, even when it's sometimes clearly not good for you, the creepier my dawning knowledge becomes, that I am feeling exactly this way for the book - Infinite Jest, that is - and that reading about people trying to overcome the Substance is becoming more and more this gloomy omen of the horrible day when I finish it, which at the rate of my consumption is rushing upon me much too quickly, and each chapter foreshadows those bleak days of withdrawal I'll be facing thereafter. Enjoying was the word to describe my attachment to it only a short while ago; god, I was actually reading it casually. Some unholy verb that communicates how craven and unhealthy this relationship has become would be more appropriate at this juncture, and I don't even want to articulate it because that would be some kind of admittance of a problem.

I dropped my copy on the floor the other day and it sounded like a thunderclap. I jumped fully off the ground in surprise.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Nobel Prize money put to good use, for once

Unfortunately, the train I was on never got close enough to the below car for me to get a good shot of its vanity plate. "Jose S".

It could only be Jose Saramago, right?

Friday, July 17, 2009

To escape the world I've got to enjoy this simple dance/ And it seemed like everything was on my side

This is a Michael Jackson post; over three weeks late, but on my birthday, so that's something right?

Part 1. Important Guy

He was important, and saying so is every kind of obvious. But I heard a lot of people say that they didn't expect his death to emotionally impact them as much as it did. I am definitely of that camp. Before he died, I would say I listened to him on average about once or twice a week. Over the years, his music videos and live performances have acted both as a great procrastination tool and as a magic elixir to low spirits. And though I was obsessed with Thriller when I was a kid, it did not survive into my teenage years, as during that time, I elected to develop horrendous musical taste. It pretty much took my college friends four years to correct this, and I'd say it's still shaky (I am a genuine fan of the Scorpions, for example, and I have listened to the song "Let's Get Retarded" more than someone with the resources to not listen to it should have). And so when I thought of Michael Jackson at all, it was with a touch of nostalgia along with a nascent appreciation for the fact that he was, indeed, the best performer in the world.

But I don't think I ever regarded myself as a fan. I turned to him the way you turn to puppies to lift your mood or decide the world is alright because some natural spectacle or other really got to you. It's like, yes, I guess I am a fan of baby animals and snow-capped mountains if I really think about it, and if they were somehow excised from my life, I would really miss them. But they never play into the analytical part of my brain, the way Woody Allen, or ODB, or the Kids in the Hall, or the Cure, or Nathanael West, or Dave Chappelle, or Karl Pilkington, or The Wire, or Bill Watterson, or countless other past and present obsessions have. Being a fan requires you to interact with work in a deliberate and aggressive way; you have to pick apart, parse out and compare each nuance of the person/group/thing's output so that when some unfortunate person asks you why you like it just for small talk's sake, you embarrass yourself by talking about it for an hour, and even when you relinquish the conversation, you are still revising what you just said about it in your head, so the next time it'll be two hours.

I never did that with Michael Jackson. If someone asked me about him, I'd probably say, "Yeah, he's the best", and I'd mean it, but it'd be the way I'd mean it when I say, "Man, these chips are delicious". His music and performances were just there, a reliable indulgence, and that was all. I had no idea that all those little bits and pieces of watching and listening him for my whole life had resulted in him building a pretty hefty residence somewhere in my consciousness. It's a shock that a person we thought we'd wasted no mental energy on was apparently deeply embedded in our thoughts the entire time, and then they're gone, and you're off balance.

Part 2. Who Else is That Important?

One weird thing I heard a lot, I think to counter the surprise emotional upset, was to postulate on what other person's death might impact us in both the same way and on the same scale. It's actually a sick response, but I know I am not alone in having it. Part of it, I think, comes from a kind of perverse addiction to the pleasure that accompanies an icon's death - we kind of want to speculate on when we will get the next big hit of world drama.

Let me qualify that: I've been lucky enough to never have anybody in my immediate family or circle of friends pass away, and on the few occasions when I've imagined what that must be like or have felt comfortable enough to ask others about it, it is resoundingly clear that the pleasure part is absent. It is absent because you knew that person, you related to them on a variety of levels, you taught each other things, you laughed with them, you puzzled over where you were disagreeing with them, you wondered what you should get them for Christmas. There would be subjects that only the two of you could discuss. You had seen the kaleidoscope of that person's personality, and they had for you too, and now you are never, ever going to be able to do certain things again because that person is not there to do them with you. Your life is going to be different, and you have to mourn both the person you lost, and the parts of yourself they took with them.

But we didn't know Michael Jackson. We have exactly the same relationship to him now that we did before his death. And our detachment excuses us entirely from mourning him on the level that the sane members of his family are. There is no personal pain of loss because there was nothing idiosyncratic about our connection to him; we share it with hundreds of millions of people. That is not to say that his music doesn't mean something different to each of us, but anyway, that's irrelevant, because we did not lose his music. About the only thing we lost was the hope that we might see and hear more from him in the future. But obviously, this is a very different kind of loss than if we'd known him personally. If we are upset by the fact that we'll never have his future music - well, that's crazy. We don't have it now either. We are just mourning a potential thing, that might never have happened anyway.

Some have posited that David Bowie's death will be similar. But of course, we know that will be a whole other kind of sad. Yes, Bowie rivals Michael Jackson for otherworldliness, but he knows that and cultivates it. Contrary to the way Michael Jackson tried harder and harder to be like a human only to accidentally become more and more like an alien, Bowie's androgyny and tri-yearly re-inventions are self-aware and deliberate and as such, make us much more comfortable than Michael Jackson's. We know that Bowie's in on it, and we know Bowie knows we know, and it's a whole positive feedback loop of knowing stuff, and our relationship to Michael Jackson just doesn't have that knowing-stuff-ness. Even with other alien-ish people, like Bjork or Crispin Glover, we can see that while they are super-weird, they still give the impression that they've got it under control. Again, Michael Jackson did not give that impression.

I've also heard Barack Obama as a comparable potential death, just in terms of scale. It is a good comparison for the scope of the loss, someone who was regarded as an icon around the globe, and who was truly loved by his supporters. On the other hand, it is a ridiculous comparison. Not that I'm stating anything ground-breaking here, but whoa, Michael Jackson and Barack Obama are the ultimate bizzaro-world versions of each other; they are at the farthest extremes of the charisma spectrum. Take alone their development of racial identity. In his thirties, Obama produces one of the most far-reaching, articulate and affecting books about race ever written. In his thirties, Michael Jackson at some point thinks "I think I am done with being black". And he actually has the money to be done with his race, at least superficially.

Yes, I'm aware that the point I'm making is that Michael Jackson and Barack Obama are very different people. Not all my trains of thought end up at stations.

For the record, the first person who popped into my head when I asked myself whose death would devastate me that much: Robert Smith. Holy fuck, I am going to lose my fucking shit when that guy dies, which my 15-year-old-me agrees with.

Part 3. Michael Jackson Was Super-Alive

Another reason I think his death affected people more than they expected is because every song and video he made indicates that he was about 3,000% more alive than we are. Whether it's his exuberantly happy kid-voice in "ABC" - indisputably joy incarnate - or it's that caged, edgy look he has in the "Beat It" music video - like he is just a mountain of pure potential energy - he was the epitome of life. Not life in the biological sense of "life on earth" or the social sense of "my life is okay" or the philosophical sense of "what is the meaning of life"; he is the epitome of "life" when used in the context of wow, Michael Jackson was "full of life".

Retrospectively, it's all over his work. When you're watching the video for "Earth Song", doesn't a part of you think it's a documentary? Like, the power of Michael Jackson un-logged that forest, un-warred that village, un-poached that elephant? In the "Thriller" video, don't you kind of believe Michael Jackson not only resurrected a bunch of people from the dead but also inspired them to be super-awesome dancers? And in every live performance you can find, there he is, leading his backup dancers. Those dancers will have gone through rounds and rounds of auditions, they have devoted their whole lives to their craft, they pay their Con Edison and AT&T bills with their ability to move well. And I am not shitting on them at all when I say they are furniture compared to Michael Jackson. He is not the focal point only because he is front and center with the glow of the spotlight encircling him. He'd be the focal point if he was three people in on the fifth row back. Something altogether different and exciting is going on when Michael Jackson performs, and it's the easiest example to cite when I claim that Michael Jackson somehow had a lot more life encased in his weird, pixie frame than the rest of us do.

Is there a unit of measurement for how alive somebody is? When Rip Van Winkle was in his 20 year sleep, he was, let's say, at 1 "lifey" (pronounced Lye-Fee). When Buster Bluth was faking a coma in Season 3, he was at 5 lifeys. When Linus van Pelt and Charlie Brown are lying on a knoll looking at clouds, they are at about 11 lifeys. When Jimmy McNulty drives his car into a pillar, gets out of the car, tries to re-assess the curve he needs to take, only to then drive into the pillar a second time, that's about 30 lifeys. On the higher end of things, we have the Greek heroine Atalanta; when she runs a foot race, she is at about 150 lifeys. Rick Moranis at the end of Ghostbusters 2 is at about 170 lifeys. When Wall-E first sees Eve, he's at about 200 lifeys, because you can have lifeys even if you are a robot.

And Michael Jackson, at a resting state, was at least at 500 lifeys. When he was performing, we think he was pushing 100,000, but we can't be sure if it was more, because our lifey scale could no longer accommodate his enormous lifey-ness.

It's just upsetting that this man with such a high lifey count is now at 0 lifeys, that's all.

4. Neverland

Peter Pan has been on my top five favourite books since I began listing my top five favourite books. In childhood, through my teenage years and still today, it is an endlessly appealing story to me. Right now, it is between Blood Meridian and Kafka's The Castle, which is VERY APPROPRIATE.

Anyway, if I was ever to become a multi-millionaire that had lost touch with reality, I would definitely build a Neverland, and would thus be viewed as utterly unoriginal in Michael Jackson's wake. I identify enormously with his compulsion to build that ranch; it might be the strongest personal connection I feel to him, music included. It bears mentioning at this point that I had a very happy childhood. If I, a girl who was lucky enough to spend her formative years actually being a kid - and I did such a good job of it that I intend to continue it today, my 25th birthday - if I am this attracted to a modern Neverland, it's not a stretch to see why Michael Jackson, who's childhood was adulthood in the extreme, would build it for himself.

It would be awesome if I could leave it at that; it would be very neat and clean. But of course, there's a reason that Peter Pan survived in my list of five favourite books throughout my teenage and adult years, and a reason I think it's appropriate to place it between Blood Meridian and The Castle, two dark, pessimistic books, one brutally violent and the other about characters fixated on getting to a place that may not exist. Peter Pan's got some sick and twisted stuff in it. You can sort of gloss over it if you turn a majorly blind eye, but the sex and violence is not even subtext. There was also a companion book J.M. Barrie wrote called The Little White Bird, in which the adult first-person narrator flat-out molests a little boy. It is waaay out of print; I remember having my ebay copy arrive in junior high with a Florida library barcode still attached, but it exists, and it is where the now legendary perennial boy made his debut. Barrie's own fiction betrays him as likely a pedophile, and definitely a man with violent thoughts. And it seems fitting that any Neverland be tainted, including Michael Jackson's.

I actually don't think that Jackson committed the crimes of which he was accused. Of course, I don't know, I fully admit that I have no way of knowing and will sign a waiver if you want me to, declaring that I don't know shit. But the reason I doubt it is because he legitimately seemed nuts enough to sleep in a bed with little boys not so much because he wanted to abuse them but because he desperately wanted to believe he was one of them. He was going off of Disney's Neverland, not Barrie's Neverland. And as somebody who has wanted to be some simple combination of Wendy, Tinkerbell but mostly Peter her whole life, wow, that just gets me where it counts.

Part 5. He Gave Me Rhythm

Oliver Sachs was on The Daily Show the other week, talking about Musicophilia. Jon Stewart was asking if somebody who goes through a stroke is more likely to lose music or language, and Sachs responded that they are way more likely to lose language, that music is very deeply embedded into our brains. He qualified the statement by pointing out that while some people can lose understanding of melody with brain trauma, rhythm is never lost.

For me, it cannot be lost, for it has never been there. It is known to many who have seen me dance that I am the exception to all of Dr. Sachs' hard-earned data. I love to dance, but - and again, many can attest to this - it is not so much "dancing" as it is "moving while music is playing". For it to be dancing, there has to be a relationship between the music and the motion of my body, and that is always the critical absence for me. I put my feet in different places, my arms do things, I swing my hips, I smile, I am always having a good time. But when Karl Pilkington described Steve Merchant's attempts at dance as "a piece of weird art", I knew I fit that bill too.

Except with Michael Jackson. I can actually dance to Michael Jackson, and I've attached proof. A year or so ago, my best friend Chris was visiting New York, and we went to the Times Square Virgin Records. We walked in, and to welcome us, the store immediately started playing "Billie Jean". We danced. On the escalators, in the $10 DVD section, in front of all who cared to look upon us. And below is a photo, which I think captures that I was actually dancing pretty well (by which I mean, what I was doing could be considered "dancing" and not just "being in motion as music plays").

I will always be grateful to Michael Jackson for this moment.

6. Planet Jackson

Here's what I imagine happened to him: there is a planet out there somewhere where all the planets' and moons' and asteroids' version of him goes to after they die. Like, all the weird, enormous superstars all go there, and they hang out. They relax. That's where I think he is, even though I know it's not. Some world where all the other worlds' otherworldly people go. He's taking a nap right now.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

And also, the man is green

Saw this on the N today:


THIS WOMAN'S DISABILITY IS THAT SHE IS A GHOST.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Major Victory

It was raining when I went out for my run tonight, but it was just little dibbly dabbles. I stood on my stoop for a couple seconds, considering abandoning the run, but then remembered I lived in Vancouver for four years, and became afraid of permanently negating that whole period of my life by being intimidated by dibbly dabbles. People would see me retreat into my house and say, "She must never have lived in Vancouver," and I just couldn't take that chance.

Anyway, at a certain point, it was no longer dibbly dabbles, and the lightning that was off in the distance at the start had gotten all up in my face. It looked like it was going to get torrential on me, and I realized I hadn't brought my iPod cover. Suddenly, this became about more than just my comfort; Little Mac's life was also at stake (or so my endorphin-addled brain believed). So I decided to sprint back to my house, to "race the storm" which I put in quotation marks because it sounds...fratty. I don't want you to believe I said it genuinely, though I do believe that I just raced the storm. There. I'm owning it.

And I am elated now, because there's no way around the fact that I won. I can't tell at what point in my sprint down Willoughby Avenue I realized that I was outrunning the storm, but I had that realization, and it may as well have come in the form of rockets popping out of my back and Swift-Wind-style wings growing on my feet. If any part of that storm was reaching me, it was only the back of my heels.

I didn't know that this was a thing I was supposed to do before I die, but wow, there is not much that is quite as satisfying as deciding it's you against a non-sentient force of nature, and then hands-down no-two-ways-about-it flat-out winning the challenge. As soon as I got in my door, I heard that bitch let out a thunderclap and the next second, unleash a heavy, heavy downpour. But it was just too late.

Thunderstorm, tonight, I really kicked your cumulonimb-ASS.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Low Moon is a Metric Tonne of Awesome



I was extremely lucky to get to review this book, and interview Jason. He is far and away my favourite graphic novelist; I was converted after reading only two of his books (Along these lines, I advise you to immediately buy The Last Musketeer). The only reason he is not a bigger deal here is that he is Norwegian and based in France, which are two things that upon close inspection are not North American. But with each new, fantastic book, his audience over here grows, and it would be better for everybody if you just joined it already.

I'll post my interview when it's up on the L magazine site. Review below:

http://www.thelmagazine.com/newyork/low-moon/Content?oid=1199089

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Homemaker

The most important thing you need to know about the below photo is that it is completely unstaged. It occurred when I happened to glance next to my laptop, only to discover that I am apparently taking full advantage of all modern liberties. Behold:


An empty wine glass and an empty Diet Coke with Lime bottle; both recently full. An empty mini-tub of ice cream, full less than a half hour ago. The evidence that I remained unsatisfied by the ice cream, and looked for the only high sugar alternatives in the house, settling on peanut butter and chocolate sauce. Yes, I squeezed the last of the chocolate sauce into the last of the peanut butter and ate it with a spoon. I value my freedom to do so, and take pride in exercising my rights.

The book I should be reviewing right now is obscured by the envelope that my last reviewing check came in. This might almost be professional if Will hadn't used the envelope to fulfill my request for a half-Ralph-Wiggum-half-Santa's-Little-Helper drawing. The drawing is extremely accurate, and is definitely worth more than the check the envelope once held. Here's a close-up:


Of course, modern liberty includes my scattered birth control pills, antibiotics and purple post-it-notes. It also includes two movies that I a) own and b) have watched recently: Conan (both Barbarian and Destroyer) and Ghostbusters 2. I could not get The Room into the frame, but it is also a movie I own, have watched recently and is lying on my desk.

You'll note the only cleaning agent in view is iKlear for my MacBook screen. Next to that: my tacky non-prescription fashion glasses, which I wear if I know I'm about to meet somebody that I want to impress.

I don't know why there is a screwdriver on my desk.

Despite all these clear indicators that I am allergic to resisting random impulses, I think my favourite part is the hair elastic. Because if it wasn't metaphorically clear enough here that I like to "let my hair down" as it were, I managed to shoehorn something pretty literal in there.

I'm proud to be living the life my 5-year-old self would've wanted.