Saturday, January 31, 2009

Guffin War: Leitmotif I

The seething mass of persons that crowded Wángfǔjǐng street would have surprised to notice that they were subconsciously making a space in their midst, if only they were capable of noticing such an act.

Are You Telling Me You Don't Like Chinese Food?

"I'm merely saying that, given my current state, I'm not very partial to the whole culture."

There's Going To Be A Large Amount Of People. We Need A Good Place To Make A Reservation

"But does it have to be Chinese? And why does it need to happen at all?"

I Believe It Will All Be Very Meta. I Look Forward To How It Ends

"Forgive me if I don't share your enthusiasm."

Your Problem, Mr. Bird, Is That You're Rather Short Tempered

"Was that a crack about my height?"

Do Forgive Me

Tweety shot his companion a look. "Hey, how does this place sound" he said, pointing to a sign.

Oh Dear. 'The Little Piggies'. I Am Deeply Afraid That That Joke was Inevitable

Things that stand out from the Budget and today's debate

All the following comes from the government's official budget site, at

"Providing $50 million over two years for a national foreign credential recognition framework in partnership with provinces and territories."

I have no idea what that means. I keep trying to parse it, but it doesn't come through.

Further down, a memorandum informs me that this is a program devoted to examining the credentials (Diplomas? Degrees? Resumes?) of foreign immigrants. That's good, but it could be less flowery.

"Allocating an additional $3.5 million over two years to offer an additional 600 graduate internships through the Industrial Research and Development Internship program launched in Budget 2007."

Just 600 internships? I know that's in addition to whatever the current number is, but that's a very low number. And the funds work out to about 5, 800 dollars per intern- is that in direct cash, is that in services provided or what?

"$20 billion in personal income tax relief"

That's 20 BILLION dollars that are not going to government services this year. (On a totally unrelated note, did you know there are seven remaining Trudeau appointees in the Senate? And one Joe Clark.)

"The Government will provide a one-time grant of $15 million to the YMCA and YWCA to place youth in internships in not-for-profit and community services organizations, with a focus on environmental projects."

That's odd choice to specify the YM and YW CAs. Christian associations, do they offer jobs to non-Christians? I have no idea.

Jean Dorion, BQ, Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher had this to say in today's session:

"The Bloc Québécois has put forward the unanimous priorities of the National Assembly of Quebec. They have been rejected by the Conservatives and the Liberals, who thus choose Canada over Quebec."

Well, yes, M. Dorion. That's because it's the FEDERAL government, not The Quebec-Centric government. What a stupid thing to say.

I need to say that, reading today's debate, one thing strikes me. It's all about the past. Each MP stands up and talk about how things were ten, fifty, a hundred years ago. The Liberals can barely say a hundred words without referencing the previous government, the Conservatives can only talk about promises they've already made, the NDP harp on about what people have said. There's this odd disconnect that nothing is in the "now".

Ruddy hip-hop.

So, there's a loong lull in Wardrobe today. I am spending my time trying to read the Budget. it has graphs!

It's not very readable.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Guffin War: Act 1 Scene 2: Like who doesn't have an interositer.

It must be said that despite his nominal criminal affiliations, Fuzzy Cicero Lumpkins hardly deserved the the abuse he was shortly about to receive. He had been born amongst a large brood of children in a teeny, nameless village that was about a two-day hike from Dogpatch, Kentucky. His father worked his entire day handcrafting spittoons, coming out of his workshop only to grunt and eat meals. His mother, a city woman who had fallen for his father after the Second World War, was a scatter-brained, ineffectual woman who could never keep track of her children, and certainly never recalled Fuzzy. The only thing about him that she had ever remembered was that "he looked nothing like Irving Thalburg". Fuzzy, unloved and certainly unwanted, fled home at what he general assumed was 17. He ended up working in the underbelly of the distillery district of Frankfort, paid to look threatening and to think as little as possible. Like many poor Fantastics of his generation, Fuzzy wound up in the service of Bluto Ricca-Accardo, who's domination of Chicago crime in the 60's allowed him to push his empire outside of Illinois and into surrounding states. Miraculously, Fuzzy managed to avoid getting embroiled in the turf wars with the New York Families, and entered the eighties alive and a basically spotless record. He remained a a low-level flunky, however. Having spent a year in house-arrest for tax issues, Bluto surprised many onlooker by bowing out early, retiring from any criminal activities. His organisation was covertly purchased by Pickles-Whiplash Industries. When Snidely "bought the Outfit", Fuzzy found himself on an actual payroll in an actual company, thought he continued to be little more than hired muscle. But now he had a pension, a health plan, and he got to travel. At this point in time, he was manning the security desk in the local PWI branch in Moneghetti, which wasn't bad for the destitute country boy from nowhere. It should be said that following the event, Fuzzy was treated for his injury, and even went on to settle down and have a happy ending. But at this juncture, his fate is to be used to block projectiles that would otherwise scuff the enamel of the PWI security desk.

It has never been explained to any one's satisfaction the why of Enzo Matrix. Even to those (admittedly few) familiar with his complete history, how he had gotten from the state of reality that was his childhood, to the Now of now, remained an utter enigma. Though neither he nor Fuzzy would have found it of interest, both of them could only guesstimate at their actual age and, like Fuzzy had once did, more-or-less assumed he was "about 17". Whatever the reason, Enzo and his uniquely green skin found himself squished into an ventilation-shaft that was located about a metre behind Fuzzy Lumpkins. The architect of the PWI building wasn't an idiot. That vent really wasn't supposed to be there. But various... nefarious elements in the building's construction demanded certain rooms be built there... and here... and there... and to accommodate, pipe and shaft security was compromised, and the protests of the very clever architect were overruled by large, burly men who could make the action of adjusting their massive ties seem threatening. Enzo was waiting for Fuzzy to go on rounds, or some such activity, but Fuzzy had discovered that the security computer was equipped with software for Mahjong. They didn't know it, but they were at a non-verbal, non-conscious stalemate. Enzo refused to go forward without Fuzzy leaving him access to the computer, and Fuzzy was unwilling to stop playing Mahjong. Unfortunately for Fuzzy, Enzo was younger, and therefore much more impatient about waiting. Fulled by a desire to complete his mission and a desperate need to go pee, Enzo resorted to kicking the grating, hard. It had been cheaply and poorly attached to its mounting, and so it was propelled much harder than Enzo had expected. It hit the back of Fuzzy's head with considerable force. In a stunning moment of utter clarity, Fuzzy perceived two thing: his mother had loved him, in her own impotent way and his current game of Mahjong was fundamentally un-winable.

"Rats." Fuzzy said aloud. And then he slowly, gracefully keeled over.

New Chapter

I do plan to write a new chapter, but I must ask this question for the comments. To all three/fourish of my readers, do any of you actual read it? I mean, am I just writing it for my own amusement? I'll keep writing it (I LIKE my own amusement), I'm just curious as to whom cares.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Happy New Years

Well, Happy New Years, which so far looks to be exactly like 2008. York University has been provincially ordered back to work, so 45000 students lost an entire semester's worth of money and time and education, and all.. for... nothing. Because nothing was resolved, nothing was changed. In Ottawa, the coalition falls apart and Harper returns to unchallenged government. Unemployment has risen to 12.1 percent, but a small headline today noted that the payment of bonus will proceed uninhibited. That's one of the same overspending madness that brought us here in the first place. And for all his talk of change, for all his talk of a new order, Obama still let that vile, intolerant Rick Warren officiate at his inauguration. So hurray for change. Hooray for this brave new world of sameness, identical in all ways to the year before.

And the thing is, it's all our fault. Because Canadians couldn't be bothered to understand their own electoral process. It takes no effort to find information these days, it's the God-Damned Information AGE. A few quick jabs at the keyboard will find you tonnes of information on how the government works. History gives us coalitions. But we feared it, because we only listened to our elected officials, who acted so contradictory and foolish that no wonder we felt afraid. Politicians can feel this. They can feel the undercurrents of society, and they act on it. A good person does what is right. A good politician does what he can to stay aloft. Michelle Jean had a change to act as the Constitution and precedent empowers her to do, but she crumpled under the weight of "doing what the public wanted", which was act as a figure head and do only as the Prime Minister wants. Poor Dion was forced out, because of the grudges of his own people, not for any lack of competence, and in strides the pompous Ignatieff. Ignatieff doesn't want a coalition, it's not his idea, the credit doesn't go to him. So he chooses to dissolve it, to satisfy the cowards of his own party who don't want to upset the status quo AT ANY COST. The cost, of course, is Stephen Harper reigns again unchallenged.

I don't believe Stephen Harper is evil. He is not some mindless robot, or spawn of Satan, or twisted monster that some have described him to be. To do that, we would do the exact same thing we did with the Bush presidency, where we only looked at the caricature, the parody, and we ignored the true threat of the man time and time again, because we called him a puppet and a fool. A clown. And so the dancing, prancing fool of a piper led the children out of Hamlin and down into the river, where they followed him laughing at his idiocy, and the water came over their heads and they drowned. To accept the hyperbole of Harper is to deeply, deeply underestimate the man. No, Harper is something far worse. He is simply a man who is utterly, unequivocally wrong. He is firm, unbending in his mental convictions, no matter how he bends to placate the public. Harper is simply wrong, and he is leading us into this new era of status quo.

So, Happy New Year, here at the end of January. Onwards and around.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Adventures of the Average People

Do I need to buy The Time Chasers Special Anniversary DVD?

No. No I do not.

But I want to. I sincerely, sincerely want too. I can't give yo a decent reason why. I mean, this is a terrible film, but I have loving watched it on MST3K many a time, watching Nick and his massive bum chin prance about the country side in a Castleton T-shirt, getting his girlfriend shot, himself killed, his boss killed and crashing two aircraft. But it all turn out okay, 'cause of time and terrible 80's plaid and stuff. And in the end, that's what really matters, right?

Saturday, January 24, 2009

It's 'return' on Macs.

Judicious use
Of the enter key
Creates the illusion
of poetry.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

These are the shadows of things that have been.

Author's Note: the following comes solely from my own meandering experience. There are no doubt inaccuracies. I humbly beg your forgiveness.

When I was a boy, my mother worked as an auctioneer's assistant, along with a plethora of other jobs designed to keep us in health and home. It should be said that my father also worked this form of labour, but in my mind it is linked with my mother. She, harassed and flustered by her gregarious employer, would dart about the auction house doing whatever it was that needed doing, while I, grossly short for my age, would often lose sight of her for long periods of time.

The term auction house is a bit of misnomer. My childhood was spent in the small provincial town of Creemore. The town was situated in an primordial lake bed, as demonstrated by the picturesque valley surrounding it, and the predilection of local home's basements to flood. one of many former railroad and mill towns that dot the landscape of Southern Ontario. In my youth it was a tired old town, by the time I left it in the early stages of puberty, it had its fancy Bistro and was already showing the signs of it's Lovecraftian re-animation into the shambling monster of place it is today. The presence of the brewery allowed Creemore to survive the death of the railroad the was the doom of many of its peers. Today, however, that same brewery has spelled out the doom of Creemore village life. Already filled with tchotchkes and bored teenagers, it is like a sleeping gorgon awaiting the kiss of princely subdivision to whisk the town into a world of banality and the mundane.

But I digress.

Bellow the hillock that the Junior Junior High-school was built on (Grades 4-8. Make of that what you will) were two long, warehouse like buildings of astonishing similarity. I can only assume they were built by the same developer back in the fifties, but that is only speculation. Each warehouse was sided in wide aluminium panels and ugly concrete blocks. One, the arena, was green. The other, a colour that can only be described as nicotine yellow, was the legion. It was in that building that John Simpson held court.

In those days, less than twenty years ago, it was still an acceptable practice to smoke indoors. It's comical to think back of it now, but everything in the legion was stained by it. The grey concrete, the hideous faux wood paneling, the display cases, the chairs, the fluorescent lights- it was all dyed by a yellowy-green patina of exhaled nicotine. On auction days, you could find all sorts looking at the wares. Young couples looking to purchase conversation pieces; old ladies come to reminisce or complain about their childhood; brass, arrogant nouveau rich who descended from their Olympian chateaus to act like caricatures from seventies sit-coms. Beer-bellied, moustached truckers whose presence there was never adequately explainable. I suppose even truckers occasionally desire miscellaneous turn-of-the-century gardening tools, or 1970s issues of Vanity Fair.

There were also the people who came there because they presumably went there everyday the building was opening. They were the ones responsible for the fine coat of yellow bequeathed to the building's interior. I suppose these men were nominally the veterans the legion was created for, but I can only ever think of them as the epitome of their generation of Farmers. In the words of James Lileks, these were the men who spent their Sundays in church, staring out the window and thinking about coffee. They were almost uniformly burly, and rarely over 5'10. Ruddy, red faced, with thinning hair cut very short, usually greying. They always wore a combination of worn denim, lumberjack shirts and the ubiquitous baseball cap. They spoke in that patois unique to rural Southern Ontario and the Maritimes, a drawl that will suddenly speed up, peppered with “you know” and “right” and “see”, such as “Oh, you know the Litmin's place up on the ninth concession near [insert relevant hamlet here], right? Well, I was down there on Monday, see, and seeing as there cow was sick, I thought...”

These men would sit, filling half the seats, and converse with each other with all the solemnness of Torah scholars, occasionally punctured by a deep laugh. They never bought anything, they were simply there because they had nowhere else to be. These men were serviced by the legion's bar, a filth ridden hole-in-the-wall in the back of the hall. I can still remember the taste of their sandwiches, the tuna and egg-salad that always tasted sweet. I can only assume that it was the poor quality of mayonnaise in their manufacture. When not at the legion, these men would spend their days smoking outside the post-office, or eating in the local greasy-spoon diner (God, how I miss that diner). The grubby tables, the faded white curtain gauze that hung ineffectually in the long bank of windows. The fare was what you'd expect, various undercooked, watery eggs, bacon dripping with fat, crunchy, overcooked home-fries (the best kind). But on auction days, at least a few of these men would dutifully make an appearance.

If it was a particularly hot day, the best place to sit was the floor. The cool of the concrete could be felt through the palm of the hands, bringing relief to a small child sweating in the heat. Mum would often leave me in the care of the lovely cash-box lady who sat at the back, near the snack bar. I have long since forgotten her name, but she called me munchkin, a name I still loathe. For some reason, whenever I think of her I am immediately greeted by a visage of a pull-string Urkel doll, which I cannot explain. To placate me into not nicking antiques and running amok, my mother would on occasion buy me donuts from the aforementioned Snack Bar. These were blobs of yellowy dough, covered with a horrendous, gut destroying icing sugar and sprinkles. One bite gave you your monthly sugar intake, and I almost never finished my donut, because by the second bite, I was already disgusted with the very taste of those saccharine monstrosities. Looking back on it now, I can easily see that my mum was in her element in all that chaos. Though she'd probably disagree, it is my mother's drive and will that drive much of the family forward, and amongst that madness that is an auction, orders to get one item, hand off another, organize this and that and the other, I have no doubt that she handled it with the the same inimitable skill with which she approaches everything else.

Outside the legion, mounted on a hideous concrete pillar, was a fighter jet. At a guess, I'd say it dated from the Korean War, what with it's silver body, reminiscent of an Airstream, and general air of decrepitude. It was the dream of every kid to somehow manage to climb the tower and sit in or on the jet, but I have no idea if anybody ever managed it. From on that jet, you'd have a good view of the surrounding town. At the foothill in front of you, you could see in the distance the long road that led up to the map-marker of Cashtown Corners. On that road sat the town's two gas stations, Shell and a place that I believe was called “Sunny's” or some such. These gas station were within a kilometre of one another, and they were locked in an eternal struggle to take away each other's customers. Behind you rose the edifice of the century old, three story schoolhouse, with its bell tower and ancient maple trees. You could no doubt see the steeples and bell towers of the town's four churches- Anglican, Presbyterian, United, and the sinfully ugly Baptist church, which had to have been built in the fifties. The Catholics had to go outside of town for their religious needs. And right in front of you was the arena (I'm fairly sure I haven't reversed the buildings in my mind).

I never, ever played hockey as a child, but nonetheless memories of that place persist. There was an acrid smelled that filled the air that became quite harsh once you went out onto the ice. I believe that the arena may also have had an equally atrocious snack bar in the observation area, but that may be a false memory. I can recall, with stunning clarity, the helmet that my parents purchased to protect my fragile brain pan. My mother being the economically minded person that she is, purchased it second hand from somewhere or other, and I was required to wear it whenever I went on the ice. Like most things from my boyhood, my head was too small for it, and I looked ridiculous wearing it. It was a black hockey helmet, scuffed somewhat, with a white line going around the circumference at the base. There was a dirty white strap that seemed dangerously thin, and in order to keep the damned thing on my skull it was always so tight as to slightly choked me as the helmet jumped around on my head. I remember walking out to the ice, very careful to walk only on the rubber matting because I had been taught that to step on the concrete would destroy your skates for eternity. I was, at best, a horrible skater, barely past the stage whereby you sort of hobble/walk along the ice. My father was always graceful on the ice, prepared for it by an adolescence of hockey and an adult life of dancing. I was always seized by jealousy, as he would talk to me face to face, effortlessly gliding backwards. I remember too the horror of tying my laces, wrapped twice around in a desperate attempt to get them to somehow fit my tiny feet. It always hurt, afterward, because the side well of the skate had dug into my narrow ankles. I always loved the way the ice looked, slick and wet after the Zamboni had gone over it.

But it is the legion that I remember most clearly. In later years I would deliver a speech there that would be totally panned by by the judges, to which I still remain bitter. It was in that legion that I first joined the cub scouts, of which I'll no doubt return to in some later work. But I often missed that pseudo-pastoral childhood. I still do.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Cold Concrete Floor

As I grow older
And my hearing starts to go
I find that more exchanges remind me of
Cigarette smoke.
Clouds of it.
A childhood in the legion,
Surrounded by the relics of the dead,
While, through grainy mic,
The auctioneer's booming voice
Sings out it's kinetic patter song.
And I sit there,
Trying to breathe.

Dem people from Jersey is brutes.

When I learned
They had killed off
Edith Bunker.
I wept.

And my last certainties
Like that other pink slipper.

As solitary as an oyster

I have often joked to anyone within earshot that I have an auto-didactic classical education. And then I laugh. As the sentence is unusually dense and really not very funny, nobody else ever laughs. The benefits of a classical education used to mean that you could converse with other learned persons on weighty topics of great import. But since no one cares about weighty topics of great import, you're left to make jokes about Blake that no one will ever find funny. And to be fair, I can completely understand why. Acting like a pompous git is never very well liked. But what is it that has caused the decline of classical studies? The phasing out of the study of ancient Greek and Latin no doubt played some part, but the myths and stories of antiquity have been translated into the vernacular for at least two centuries now, and the handy-cap of not reading a text in it's original prose doesn't mean that it's tenants and observations are any less relevant.

Andrea: "Unhappy is the land that breeds no hero."
: "No, Andrea: Unhappy is the land that needs a hero."

The above is a passage from Brecht's
Leben des Galilei. I could make the argument that in this trying time of crisis and universal brouhaha, people have no need of heros, but that simply doesn't match up with historical evidence. In crisis, people like stories of heroes. Today, though, we don't have heroes. We have our celebretatum, for whom we clamour for details of their lives and musical choices, but they are never the sort of people who perform "great deeds". Charitible work not withstanding, our celebrites are not heros of renown, but entertainers: singers, actors, dancers. Bards used to tell the stories of heroes. Now, the focus is on the bards themselves.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Return to the Wasteland Pt. 2

I have returned to my place in the shadows.
I watch the band begin the beguine,
Note who has changed partners,
And who sits out a set.

But for a moment there, I once again
Was blessed enough to take another turn.
A stately waltz, it's steps close held,
Its undertones of eros more evident with every refrain.

I tried.
I really did.

But with every turn, with every pass I saw
At his place by the door,
The mocking grin of the Amaranthine Porter.
It was doomed, as I knew we would be
The moment the band-leader hefted his hand.
The music grew louder,
My steps faltered more,
The spectators voices a deafening roar.

It didn't matter.
As Mollari said,
I had forgotten how to dance.
Like good dancers,
We bore it till the end.
The music ended, and with his skeleton smile,
The Footman made his way through the floor
And to a special few
He gave them back their coats.

Again I was afraid.
And I was right to be.
Shattered by grief, and the madness of heartbreak,
I again found myself in that blighted wasteland.

But I am back now.
I recorded the dances, their partners, the songs and sets.
It is my job, I am a watcher.
Thus, I watch.

It will have to be enough.

Return to the Wasteland

Time has passed.
Wind has worn down the carbon scored stones.
The animals and worms have taken the dead,
And what riches were held within the Walls
Have been stripped.
I had hoped,
I had prayed,
To not return.
Why am I here again?
This open tomb,
Sixty-two square miles of fallen rock and mortar.
For one man's choice, a city died.
For one man's choice, a generation gone.
As for my choice...

I knew the consequences.
Yet I had the gall to hope.

More fool am I.

I think Rand would have been displeased by teflon.

The true purpose of post-modern literary and artistic criticism is to bring the world to a point where it is impossible to say the phrase "I like potatoes" without it being ironic, symbolic of the Irish Potato Famine, Sisyphus, Anglo-Frisian relations, the cold wa, modern technology, sexual feminist re-interpretive Randian values and the rise of teflon waffle irons; and finally to also be a reference to an amusing anecdote about Oscar Wilde, Bette Midler and/or Ron Paul.

See, literary critics are no better than Hollywood producers. They don't want you to read Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird, they want you to read Granville Hicks Presents Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird. They want to remove all of the author's presence from the novel and infuse it with their own self, just like a hermit crab emptying a shell and taking up residence.

Only, you know, different.

Friday, January 16, 2009

I have a new post, but I can't finish it tonight. I will to bed, and post upon the morrow.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Guffin War: Act 1 Scene 1: A country road. A tree

The ground was quite damp; understandable in the muggy heat. Ruxpin simply lay passively. He hadn't slept in over a day, and despite the threat of being shot, he was tempted to simply doze off in the mud. The voice spoke again, harshly.

"Hände hoch oder ich schieße!" Ruxpin didn't speak German. He simply waited for the voice to remember where it was. Eventually, almost apologetically, the voice spoke in English. "If you please, hands where I can see them." Well, that was said, but not how it sounded. Forty years away from Austria had done nothing to remove the harsh, guttural accent, which rendered the phrase as "If hyu pleas, hends vere hy ken see dem". Ruxpin slowly complied. There was silence, accompanied only by birdsong. Ruxpin finally filled it.

"If you'll forgive my impudence, ma'am, there can only be a limited number of six foot bears wearing pants you've ever met. Now what are the odds that you'd be tracked down by one you've never met."

"Still the wit, I see." The voice replied at last. There was more birdsong. Ruxpin realized that he was, in fact, dozing off in the mud. He struggled to pull himself awake.

"You're a hard woman to find, Fräulein."

"Not hard enough, apparently. You still smoke, I smell."

"And you're still Austrian, I hear. It's kind of wet in this mud."

"Yes. I imagine it would be." A foot was removed from his back. With a weary sigh, he rolled over onto his back.

Mollie Halbmond von Possenreißer looked much- no, almost exactly as she did when Ruxpin had first met her in Huế in 1963. Later in life he had gained access to her security files, where he discovered that she looked exactly the same as when she had reached her full growth in 1915. She was short, about four feet in total. It was impossible to describe her features without using the term 'elfin', but she was hardly childlike. The face was smooth and youthful, but lines around the eyes betrayed the maturity of her character. The hair was jet black, and amateurly cut in a style that hadn't been popular since Colleen Moore has starred in Her Wild Oat. On her right hand was a grubby, dirt stained ring, but other than that she wore no adornment. Her clothing was non-descript, worn but serviceable. She still had her sidearm trained on him, a modified Browning M1911A designed to fit her small hand. She was holding it in a deceptively casual manner that Ruxpin knew from experience not to underestimate. Her lithe frame was unnaturally strong,and more than one opponent had been felled through overconfidence.

"What do you want, Major?"

"It's Col- well, it was colonel, anyways." At this, Molly raised an eyebrow.

"You get too mouthy for your own good?" Ruxpin chuckled.

"Sexual deviancy, if you can believe that." Molly smiled.

"Well, it sounds like you." She uncocked the pistol and holstered it. "Why are you here, N'Ruxpin?"

"Well" he sighed "First of all, I need your help to bury a comrade."

Sunday, January 4, 2009

A new post soon, I promise.