Friday, April 29, 2005

The Interview Game

   Yes, I know I have already played, but that was, like, months ago, and it's come around again, and I couldn't resist. It has morphed a little bit since I played it; generated some more specific rules, which I will mention momentarily. I followed it backwards several levels from a couple of AOL journals I read to see if I could trace it back to someone I recognised, but it has obviously travelled far and wide. I most recently read it in Rebecca's journal, where I volunteered to play one more time. Her questions, and my answers follow. But first, the rules.

   If you would like to be interviewed by me, leave me a comment below. The first five to ask (that I didn't interview last time) will receive 5 personalised questions from me. You answer the questions in your journal, and make the offer to interview the first five that ask you. That's all there is to it. I swear. (Well, a link back would be cool, too.)

   And now, with no further ado, I present to you, my interview with Rebecca.

1) A publisher has just handed you a million dollar advance to write a book. What direction would you go? Fiction, nonfiction, love story, mystery, sci-fi, chick lit <ok thats was for humor, but it works for Nicholas Sparks>, adventure, poetry, ok this list could go on and on.......... your sitting at your computer, blank page staring bold and white at you, what would you write to earn your million dollars?

   Well, I must say this. If a publisher were to present a check for one million dollars (picture me holding my baby finger to the corner of my mouth there) to a previously unpublished writer, who had presented them with no draft, chapters, or even ideas, and said, 'go wild,' I would. Straight to Monte Carlo. The fools!
   That's, what
John, about 300 times the industry average advance that might be paid to a previously unpublished writer that showed them a half written, promising looking, piece of work? Four hundred times? I have another strategy I might try.
   I am thinking of dashing off several dozen really, really bad science fiction stories, along with a series of increasingly better written cover letters. Then, I will send them in to a publisher, about one every six weeks, starting with the best (well, least bad) story, attached to the worst cover letter, and working my way through the lot. So every package I send will have a more promising sounding cover letter, and will contain an obviously worse piece of writing. How long do you think it would take before they offered me some amount of money to just go away? The beauty of this scheme, is that no one would ever buy any of the stories, so I would be free to simply move on to the next publisher in line and do it again. No? Don't think it would work?
   I am not answering the question here, am I? Quite frankly, I am tap dancing, because the whole idea of writing something like a book fills me with dread. I currently have no fewer than ten blog articles sitting in my work in progress file that I have put aside to finish later. Some of them are months old.
   A couple of them are just text files with several ideas jotted quickly in them for future development. One or two are articles that are this close (picture me holding up my hand with my thumb and forefinger really close together) to being concluded, except I am no longer sure what my conclusion was.
   They started out like freight trains, but somewhere along the line, my brain threw a switch, and they are no longer going to the destination I had printed on my mental ticket when I started them. I can't decide whether to go back and find the original set of tracks, or to follow the new ones to the altered destination. So they sit on a siding, waiting.
   In another, to start a new metaphor, I know exactly where I want to get to, but I can't remember how I planned to get there. And I'll be damned if I'm going to stop and ask for directions.
   Several of them I just got bored with and never finished.
   And you want me to write a book? One worth a million dollars, no less. Let's just see if I can finish this interview first, shall we?

2) You have a two distinctly different poetry journals. At what age did you discover you enjoyed this form of written expression? Have you ever submitted any work for publication? does NOT count.

   I do not have clearly denoted memories of my younger days. There are images and scenes I can look at, but they are fragments, and I usually cannot place them in an exact context. I know I was a huge fan of the work of Doctor Seuss at a very young age. Heck, I still am.
   Doctor Seuss had a unique system of rhyming. If he couldn't find a word that rhymed,he made one up. Hop On Pop may have been my first exposure to poetry of any form. Many of the Mother Goose fairy tales were in the form of rhyme as well. Patty-cake, patty-cake...
   So, I was exposed to basic poetry at an early age. I don't remember anything about poetry at all again until high school. I am sure there was some study of it at grade school. My mother may actually have some of my old school work around somewhere. I must remember to ask her about it, and look to see if there is anything that resembles poetry in it. In high school, I remember reading Sympathy for the Devil in grade ten English class and thinking how cool it was the teacher was teaching a rock music song as poetry. It was part of a class section on poetry, but that is the only poem I remember.
   Scratch that. That would also have been the first time I ever saw an e.e. cummings poem, and that definitely was an influence on me later. Poetry doesn't have to rhyme.
   I don't remember writing any poetry as a class assignment in school at all. The poetry I do remember writing in high school fell into the category of
doggerel and whimsy. Unfortunately, as I have lamented elsewhere, most of it is lost (like tears in rain [I love that line from Bladerunner]).
   It was in university that I started writing poetry in a more serious tone. Not only did I study it in several creative writing classes, but it was all around me. Universities are a fertile field planted with young, passionate artistes. I hung around the edges a little bit, and a good
friend of mine at the time helped with a cross pollination of ideas. The results are what you have seen in (not cowboy poetry).
Cowboy poetry journal started out as a joke. There was a discussion on the AOL journals message board about people who start a new, holiday themed journal for every holiday that comes along. Someone, who shall remain nameless (ahemme), insinuated, in a rather unsubtle way, that they were simply exercising a strategy to get their journals featured in the weekly AOL Journal Editor's picks on the main journal page.
   I decided that, as a satire, I would start a journal about one of the most obscure and silly holidays I could find, and see if I could get it featured as an Editor's Pick. Someone directed me to a website that recorded every single 'official' holiday it could find, and I somehow stumbled across National Cowboy Poetry Week. I thought it was perfect. I was sure AOL's Journal Editors could not fail to make observance of National Poetry Month in April, and I undertook to get myself featured for Cowboy Poetry. I figured I could just knock off several ditties about cows and boys, and do some linking to other cowboy poetry sites out there, and I was a shoe-in.
   It turns out I had miscalculated on several fronts. First, there is an absolute ton of Cowboy Poetry out there. Do a google search for "cowboy poetry," and you will find about 78,000 related pages (I show up on page four of the results). Second, 'knocking off' a couple of ditties turned out to be more challenging that I expected. Not only does it have a balladic structure, but cowboy poetry has to be about, well cowboys. It is way harder to do than that
silly thing I banged out for Third, and this is the one that knocked my scheme on its ass, AOL's Journal Editor completely ignored National Poetry Month. That surprised me. At time of writing, there is still one weekly Editor's Pick set to come out in April, so we shall see, but I don't have high hopes.
   Fourth, because there is a fourth thing, it turned out I am actually enjoying Cowboy Poetry. I am enjoying reading it, and I am enjoying my own efforts to write it. Who knew?
   Poetry will never be something I expend a significant amount of time doing. It is just something I dabble in forfun. That must be why I am enjoying the whole Cowboy poetry thing. It is fun.
   I have never submitted anything for publication.

3) You seem to be firmly planted on the facts only side of life. Things that are mystical, theories lacking in tangible evidence, spirits and ghost antics seem to get you riled at times. Of course it also provides you with good humor material for your journal, so you have to give it alittle credit. Was this a position you've always had, or was it part of an evolution of time and research into these, sometimes popular mediums people believe in, that turned you away?

   I do not have a good answer for this question. I did not have an experience with the church that turned me away. I have always been an atheist. Sure, I have dabbled in religion. I went to church on and off as a child. I once spent an entire two years in Sunday school. But I have always recognised the fundamental inconsistencies within the Christian religion. I must say, they have got it down, though. The whole there is no evidence because God refuses to let there be evidence, because he wants you to have faith shtick was pretty inspired on someone's part.
   I have never had a bad experience with a psychic or a medium either, because I have never visited a psychic or a medium. Just as I have never visited a snake oil salesman.

   Maybe I have just never had a need. There has never been an empty place inside of me that I needed to go outside of myself to fill up. I have never asked myself, "why am I here." I have always simply been able to accept that I am here, and that there does not have to be a reason why.
   Other forms of the paranormal, or mystical, like astrology, tarot reading, mediumship, etc., are no different from religion in any way. They are just people looking for answers. The thought that we are here, alone, and that there is no reason, no order, no purpose, just scares some people to death. They need for there to be answers.
   And there have always been enterprising souls available to provide those answers. A million years ago, a guy figured out that if he put an old wolf skull on his head, danced around a bit, and said some generally reassuring things, he could get out of the mammoth hunt in the morning. Thus the Shaman was born. Every single practitioner of mysticism is descended from that first tribal medicine man. The Reiki provider has discovered that she can light some candles, play some soft music, let her client lay down and relax for a half hour, say some vaguely scientific sounding things about lines of energy, chakras, and chi,and collect seventy-five bucks. Sure beats working for a living.
   The people who espouse the paranormal, however, (besides religion, because they don't need any evidence), cannot provide any convincing evidence to support their positions. They cannot point to any studies which support their claims. They have never been able to trap a specimen of Bigfoot. They also, wilfully choose to ignore clear evidence that what they do has no efficacy.
   The sad part is that my position, firmly on the facts side of the fence, seems to put me in the minority these days. A rapidly growing segment of the population believes in things for which they can be shown no supporting evidence, and they do not care.
   The Shamans continue to eat well, without having to put their own skins on the line baiting the spiked pit.
   In the end, of course, anything I say here is meaningless, because we are talking about belief, and beliefs cannot be changed. The astrologers, presented with 37 different studies that showed no correlation between birth information and personality traits, continue to practise their craft on the unsuspecting. How do they get away with it? Simple, their clients are perfectly willing to ignore the evidence as well.
   Richard Rockley, in his blog Skeptico, recently quoted one of the major proponents for Intelligent Design theory: "The critical thinking and precision of science began to really affect my ability to just believe something without any tangible evidence."
   I don't know what else to say.

4) What do you appreciate more in a person, a good sense of humor or the ability to hold an intelligent conversation with you?

   Wow, I had several hundred words typed out in answer to this question, and I just deleted them all. It is a tough question to answer because I do not think I agree with the assumptions inherent within it. One certainly does not need to be an Einstein to hold forth in conversation with me. In fact, I know an awful lot of people with whom I just cannot keep up. I am one of those guys whose smarts all come from a good memory. I can regurgitate facts and ideas until the cows come home. It is unlikely that any of them originated with me.
   As for the sense of humour... I like to think I have one. It can be a little dry at times. It can be a little off the wall at times. Most people just plain do not get me. Figure this: I do not think Mel Brooks is even remotely humorous.
   So I don't know. Yes, I like to converse with someone in an intelligent manner. And yes, I like to joke around with people. Can I not just converse with somebody humorously in an intelligent manner? Of course, any intelligent, funny conversation is all that much better if the intelligent, funny person I am conversing with is also a knockout redhead playboy model.

5) I really liked this question Carly had asked in my interview so you get it too. If you were commissioned to create a painting that would best represent your life as a whole, what would it look like, what colors would it be, and to which museum would you allow to display it?

   I am not talented in any way in the visual arts. So, whatever the painting of my life looks like, it is going to be pretty amateurish looking. Unless, of course, we step into fantasy-and...
   Give me a long narrow canvas, about fourteen inches high, and thirty-six inches wide. Give me several thick brushes, maybe some spatulas, and a large variety of shades of brown paint. Say, amber, auburn, bay, beige, bister, brick, bronze, buff, burnt sienna, chestnut, chocolate, cinnamon, cocoa, coffee, copper, drab, dust, ecru, fawn, ginger, hazel, henna, khaki, mahogany, nut, ochre, puce, russet, rust, sepia, snuff-coloured, sorrel, tan, tawny, terra-cotta, toast, and umber. We will end up with a canvas covered with random brush strokes of random shades all jumbled together. From a distance, it will look like a homogenous bar of brown. Up a little closer, it will look chaotic and random. Only at very close range will the continuity of threads of colour interconnected along the entire length of the canvas be apparent. They will call me the next Jackson Pollock. Which might or might not be better than being called the next Rabo Karabekian, depending on your point of view. I will sell it to a local corporate customerfor $18,000. Two years after my death, it will sell to a private collector for $832,000,000.
   I told you we were in fantasy-land...

Saturday, April 23, 2005

For Valerie and Craig

   My wife's friend is getting married today. I bet she is a little bit upset by the fact that it is raining hard with no signs of letting up for the entire weekend. I am sure her mother and all her bridesmaids are all huddled around her, reassuring her that it is good luck for it to rain on your wedding day. For her I have this message:

   Bullshit! It is not good luck for it to rain on your wedding day. They just tell you that to try and stop you from bawling your eyes out all weekend. On the other hand, it is not bad luck for it to rain on your wedding day. It is just rain, after all, and you are getting married today. 
   Nobody else is having as good a day as you are, today. The gardeners are not really unhappy, because the plants need the rain. They would prefer to be out in the garden, though. Instead, they are sitting inside playing tic tac toe, or doing a crossword, or something. And you are getting married today.
   The dog owners are actually quite unhappy. Rain or shine, if they do not take the dog out for a walk, he will be chewing on the sofa by dinner time. If they happen to be going to somebody's wedding tonight, they have to take the dog out for an extra long walk, because he will be alone for five or six hours later. So, they are wet, and cold, and uncomfortable. And the dog is wet, and that means he smells like the skunk he got sprayed by last fall, because that never really goes away, you know. And you are getting married today.
   The golfers are downright miserable. Later in the season, they would be golfing rain or shine. In April, the courses are still too wet, and they close when they get heavy rain. So the golfers are all stuck at home, where their wives are telling them that the basement needs cleaning out, or the garage floor needs repainting. And you are getting married today.
   There are quite few people working today. Think of the garbage men, and the road workers. They are standing out in it, cold water running in rivulets down their faces and under their collars; into their gloves and boots. And you are getting married today.
   So, Valerie, I say to you, let it rain. Let it pour. You and Craig are still having a better day than anyone else you know. You are having the best day of your life. You are getting married today.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

AOL are you listening?

   You know, the most disturbing thing about the ordeal Armand has gone through is not the fact that AOL made a mistake. Everybody makes mistakes, it's called being human.
   It's not even the apparent inability to get the journal back, although that sounds awfully fishy to me. Anybody who has spent a little while working with computers knows that the delete command doesn't actually delete anything. It just tells the File Allocation Table to make that space available for future use. The data stored there isn't actually erased until something else is written over top of it, and that doesn't happen right away. The computer industry coined the term, "undelete." Ignoring that, AOL has huge back-up servers where copies of every piece of user data is kept against the possibility of a massive, catastrophic failure of their primary servers. Armand's journal is still stored somewhere in the bowels of the leviathan that is AOL. If he pushes hard enough, he'll get it all back. (Armand, try the national newspapers).
   No, the most disturbing thing about the whole situation is the way the journal was deleted without any communication with the user. Without any process allowing the user to argue his case. "Oops, we made a mistake. Oh well, you still lose." That is unacceptable from a company the size of AOL.
   What should have happened is this: the user should have received an email notifying him he was in contravention of the Terms Of Service agreement, and giving him a set period of time to rectify the contravention. Or, in the case of Armand, to reply, saying, "what contravention?" That e-mail should have been sent to the screen name responsible for the problem, and the master screen name of the account.
   If this set period of time, perhaps three to five business days, passed without reply or correction on the part of the user, the journal should have been copied to a back-up server specifically dedicated to these kinds of issues. That way, the journal could be taken down, but still be available for restoration should the user reply eventually, and the situation be rectified in the future. Now, AOL should not have to wait forever for the user to reply, but I don't think thirty days is an unreasonable period of time to wait. What if the userhas gone on vacation, and isn't checking his e-mail? What if the user's own computer failed, preventing him from accessing the Internet? There are any number of legitimate reasons why a user might not reply within three to five days.
   I have no problem with AOL weilding the big stick on people who willingly and knowingly break the rules. People who store porn on thier ftp space, or use their journals to promote hatred and discrimination should be dealt with swiftly and strongly. But a user whose journal is reported for a link to something that another user finds offensive cannot just be pulled without a significant amount of deliberation. To me, Armands story says that someone who works for AOL didn't want to spend the time reading through his journal looking for a reported offense. Someone couldn't be bothered, and just pulled the plug, instead of actually doing their job. And that has to never happen again.
   AOL, are you listening?

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Archiving my journal

   After reading Armand's tale of woe about his journal being deleted for an imaginary TOS violation, I decided it was about time to start archiving my older entries. Even without alleged hackers or inept ISP employees, the world is a capricious place. Servers can crash in the most outrageously catastrophic ways. Stuff can be lost. Stuff is lost. Important stuff. Every day. Here's what I'm doing.

   I went back to my very first entry. I clicked and dragged to highlight the entire entry, including the title and date, but not including the headers or footers. If I wanted, I could have included the comments, but I decided not to. Then, at the top left of the AOL window, I clicked where it says Edit, and from the resulting drop down menu I clicked on Copy. This copied the highlighted text to my Windows clipboard, where it will be held until I copy something else, or turn off the computer.
   I then went back to the top left of my AOL window, clicked on File, and from that drop down menu, I hovered my mouse over the word New, and from the sub menu that showed up, I clicked on Text Document. That caused a small text window to open, with the title "Untitled" in, of all places, the Title Bar. Left clicking in the text area, I ran my pointer down the list and clicked on Paste. What do you think happened? Yes! My journal entry appeared in the text window.
   Next, I went back up to that popular spot: the top left corner of the AOL window, and clicked on File again. This time, I selected from the drop down menu Save As... Another little box popped up. This one was the save window. In the spot where it says File Name, I typed a file name. Fancy that! I made it something that would be relevant to reconstructing the journal later. I used the date of the original entry.
   Now, before I clicked on the Save button, I made sure I was saving to a good location; somewhere I could easily find the entries again. In this case, I created a new folder called Archived journal entries. Then I clicked save.
   Next step: move along to the next entry, and do it all over again. Yes, it is time consuming, but worth it, if your journal entries are valuable to you.

   Now, here's an interesting thing that I only just discovered today. The AOL text document is a format called .rtf. That stands for Rich Text File, which is text with some basic html formatting included. What that means, is that if you have any graphics or pictures in an entry, they get saved right along with the words. You will see that another folder, called files, is created, and the pictures are saved there. As long as you don't move that folder, when you use AOL to open that text document, you will see the graphics in your entry as well. Cool!
   After I get a substantial number of entries saved, I will put them on a CD for true archival storage.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Alternative medicine that is ineffective is not harmless.

via Skeptico.

   I have never visited Orac's blog before. I was directed there today in time to help spread a very valuable piece of information. Alternative medicine that is ineffective is not harmless. Orac says it at least four times, but it bears repeating again and again. Alternative medicine that is ineffective is not harmless. Go read Orac's story about The Orange Man.
   I am reminded of  Lisa Melman, whose story we were told in the
ABC News Primetime Live special on faith healer "John of God." Lisa Melman is a Johannesburg, South Africa woman who was diagnosed with breast cancer. She has eshewed surgery and chemotherapy in favour of a visit to the Brazilian village of  Abadiania, where she underwent a "visible surgery." This "healer," John of God, who is not a medical doctor, took a pair of four inch, gauze tipped, steel forceps, dipped them in what he called holy water, shoved them all the way up her nostril and twisted them violently. She left bleeding. When she got back to Johannesburg, her doctor informed her that her breast cancer had not gone away due to something being stuck up her nose, and urged her again to consider surgery. She declined again. She will probably return to Abadiania. She will almost certainly die long before her time.
   So once again, everybody repeat after Orac: alternative medicine that is ineffective is not harmless. It doesn't matter whether it is prayer, therapeutic touch, reiki, crystal therapy, or homeopathy. Alternative medicine that is ineffective is not harmless.

Don't be too proud of this technological terror you've constructed

   The family and I are planning a trip to Italy for late summer. Three weeks in late August/early September will be spent visiting the wife's relatives in rural Sicily. To this end, I have been working on passport applications for all three of us.
   In order to, hopefully, avoid spending days standing in lines at a government office, I am doing as much preparatory work online as possible. The government of Canada website has an online passport application form generator that asks you to enter all of your information, and then prints out a passport application for you, already filled out and ready to be signed. At least that's the idea.
   I know it works, because I have already done it once for my own passport application. Now I want to do the same thing for my wife's app. And let me tell you something. The government of Canada website can kiss my ass. I have never had a more frustrating experience with a website before. It is excruciatingly slow. I click on the link I want to open, then I go make myself a coffee, read some e-mail, play some solitaire, cut my toenails, dust my antique camera collection... Every five minutes or so, I check back in to see if the new page has loaded.
   When it finally does, half of the graphics are little red Xs, which makes figuring out where to click next somewhat of a guessing game. I finally gave up and selected the option of printing out the blank forms, and filling them in myself. Ha!
   The online form feature wouldn't work with my Mozilla Firefox browser originally, so I had to use IE, which I hate because it cost me hours of time reloading Windows after my system became hopelessly infested with spyware several months ago. But opening and downloading the blank .pdf documents wouldn't work in IE, and I had to go back to Firefox for that.
   I don't know how many hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxpayers' money the government spent on developing this website, but couldn't they have spent some of that on actual usability testing? I'm beginning to think I would have saved more time if I had gone down to the passport office and stood in line.

Friday, April 8, 2005

Who's scruffy lookin'?

Preview   I will commonly call Matthew or Shadow by fanciful nicknames. Very early on, Shadow became "Chooch," much to the amusement of my Italian-Canadian wife. Nicknames for Matthew are often simply the first gibberish word to come out of my mouth, with 'head' tacked on to the end of them: geeble-head, kurtch-head, fniggle-head, etc. I never accost my wife with this verbal absurdity. I'm not stupid.
   This morning, as Matthew was leaving for school, we were playing with Shadow for a few minutes. As we finished up, I said to the dog, "OK, that's it, Chupacabra."
   "Dad, that's me!" Matthew objected.
   I looked at him quizically, "you're a chupacabra?"
   He nodded.
   "OK," I asked, "let me get this straight. You are an evil, goat-sucking alien?"
   "Well," he replied, "I'm not an alien."

Thursday, April 7, 2005

Weekend assignment

Weekend Assignment #54: Tell us all a single piece of wisdom you've learned from personal life experience. It can be a small thing, it can be a big thing, a simple tip or trick or the most important thing you've ever learned from life. But whatever it is, you should be able to state it in one sentence. That way people will remember it easier.

Extra Credit: Tell us: Would you have listened to your own bit of advice as a teenager? Be honest, now.

   I haven't participated in John's Weekend assignment very regularly over the last several weeks. Not that I had any objection to the assignments themselves, perish the thought. I have simply not been in an overly creative frame of mind recently. This week's directive, however, prompted me to jump to my keyboard and bang away like a statistically improbable monkey. You see, I very clearly remember the most valuable piece of advice I ever received.
   Eleven years ago, I was a very new father. As is, I'm sure, not uncommon, I was experiencing a considerable amount of trepidation at the prospect of raising a child. I had confided in a co-worker, who had two children of his own, some of my reservations about handling a squirming and squalling little bundle of joy, when he hit me with a basic truism.

   "Don't worry," he said. "They bounce."

   At first, it seemed like a rather flippant thing to say, but underneath, there was wisdom in the words. I took them to heart, and have always attempted to parent with a mind to the underlying adaptability of children. Yes, they don't like to have their routines disrupted, and no you shouldn't do it too often, but if you do, they'll adapt remarkably quickly to whatever new routine you establish. And, if all you do is worry about it, they'll pick up on that, too.
   A couple of years later, I received a second, good piece of advice. My parents were visiting for dinner. Matthew came up to me and asked if he could have...something. I don't even remember what it was. I don't know if I even paid any attention to what it was at the time. I simply said, "no."
   My Mother simply said, "why not?"
  I thought about it for a moment, and couldn't think of any good reason. So I gave him...whatever it was. From that time forward, when he has asked me for something, I have always tried to think about it before I answered. Sometimes, the answer was still no. But, if it was, there was a reason.
   Would I have listened to any of that advice as a teen? Parenting advice? As a teen? Are you nuts?

When you're smiling

   McCain foods has a television commercial currently airing for their Fun Spuds Smiles which shows cute children running around, playing, laughing, and joyfully eating McCain processed food products. In the background, a classic song plays, first popularised by Louis Armstrong in 1929:

When you're smiling, when you're smiling
The whole world smiles with you
When you're laughing, when you're laughing
The sun comes shining through

   Also sung throughout the years by such notables as Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Billie Holiday, it's a pleasing little ditty that perfectly reflects the emotion McCain wants you to feel while thinking about their products. Except...
   Being a Canadian of a certain age, I cannot hear that song without thinking of beer. As far back as I can remember, the song When You're Smiling was used in television commercials for Labatt Blue
. Many in the industry consider it to have been the single most successful advertising campaign in Canadian television history. So, when I see the commercial for McCain Smiles, I think of Labatt Blue. I can't help it. 
   Perhaps McCain thought that enough time had passed. It is possible they thought nobody would make the connection. Maybe whoever is in charge of their advertising is too darn young to remember. I just cannot bring myself to believe that they would have used that song if they knew the immediate associations it would produce in virtually any Canadian over the age of 35, or so.

Click here to hear Louis Armstrong perform When You're Smiling.

Tuesday, April 5, 2005

A little more than kin, and less than kind.

   I can't remember where I found this. It may have been The Pond (<~sorry, AOL only link), or it may have come to me in an e-mail. It is one of the few things I have managed to preserve through three separate computer meltdowns. I think it's almost as good as the original.


To go outside, and there perchance to stay
Or to remain within: that is the question.
Whether 'tis better for a cat to suffer
The cuffs and buffets of inclement weather
That Nature rains on those who roam abroad,

Or take a nap upon a scrap of carpet,
And so by dozing melt the solid hours
That clog the clock's bright gears with sullen time
And stall the dinner bell.

To sit, to stare
Outdoors, and by a stare to seem to state
A wish to venture forth without delay,
Then when the portal's opened up, to stand
As if transfixed by doubt.

To prowl; to sleep;
To choose not knowing when we may once more
Our readmittance gain: aye, there's the hairball;
For if a paw were shaped to turn a knob,
Or work a lock or slip a window catch,
And going out and coming in were made
As simple as the breaking of a bowl,
What cat would bear the household's petty plagues,
The cook's well-practiced kicks, the butlers broom,
The infant's careless pokes, the tickled ears,
The trampled tail, and all the daily shocks
That fur is heir to, when, of his own free will,
He might his exodus or entrance make
With a mere mitten?

Who would spaniels fear,
Or strays trespassing from a neighbours yard,
But that the dread of our unheeded cries
And scratches at a barricaded door
No claw can open up, dispels our nerve
And makes us rather bear our humans' faults
Than run away to unguessed miseries?

Thus caution doth make house cats of us all;
And thus the bristling hair of resolution
Is softened up with the pale brush of thought,
And since our choices hinge on weighty things,
We pause upon the threshold ofdecision.

   Also, I updated the (almost) 100 things about me page today.

Monday, April 4, 2005

MC you better look over your shoulder

   What do Hip Hop, Heavy Metal, Punk, and Dancehall Reggae have in common? Nothing... until now.

   What you are hearing is Skindred: four lads from The UK who are turning the music indutry on its ear. (As this is no longer the lead entry here, I have disabled the auto play feature for the music. Click to hear Nobody, by Skindred) Citing influences as diverse as Guns 'n' Roses, Green Day, The Clash, Bad Company, The Police, System of a Down, Elvis Costello, The Wailers, and Jimi Hendrix, these guys are tearing up the United States, touring with bands like Papa Roach, Sevendust, and Korn. 
   Nobody, the first single from their debut album, Babylon, has captured my imagination recently. Every time it comes on the satellite digital music station I listen to, I crank it up to
eleven. I'm sure the neighbours think I'm insane. And I may be. I know I've gone crazy looking through record stores unsuccessfully for the album. Today I found out it wasn't even released in Canada until March 29th. At least I should be able to find it now.
   To hear a cool (and less heavy metal) dancehall version of this song, visit the
Skindred website. They call what they do "Ragga Metal," and it just may be the next big thing. Of course, I've been listening to Big Sugar for years, who blended Dub Reggae and Classic Guitar Rock successfully. A Canadian band, no less, and it's a damn shame they're gone.
   Yes, I know. For those of you who are techno fans, the only thing in the world worth listening to is ACTIVATE! Go ahead, knock yourselves out.

   We now return control of your computer to you.

Saturday, April 2, 2005

The poop marshes

   Remember that scene in The Two Towers where Gollum is leading Frodo and Sam through the dead marshes, and they can see faces under that water? The other day I was walking the dog over at the local farm property everyone uses as an off-leash dog park, and I was reminded of Frodo looking down at those faces just below the surface. 
   The snow had melted from about half of the field. The other half, where most people had walked all winter, was a large expanse of hard packed ice about four inches thick. Every four or five feet was a small circular pot hole melted in the surface of the ice with a dog turd in it, covered with water. These were not new dog turds, rather they had been preserved under the ice for the entire winter. As we walked farther, and the ice pot holes increased in frequency, it became difficult to pick a safe path through them. One had to carefully avoid them lest they attach themselves to one's boot in a kind of attack of the undead poop. I could only pray that if I slipped, and fell into the morass of fecundity, my dog would be able to pull me out, mumbling something like, "don't follow the smells!"
   Eliot could have written, "April is the cruelest month, breeding dog turds from the dead ground."

   Then again, maybe he couldn't.