Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

It'll Rain A Sunny Day, I Know, Shining Down Like Water

The man is saying that he does not believe in God, that he believes in the usual omelette of evolution theory and The Big Bang, and he says, therefore, that he believes in other galaxies, forms of sentience, an infinite evolution of universes. "Infinite universes?" I say. Exactly. "Don't be foolish," I say. "If the universe is infinite, does it hold infinite possibilities? Are there possible versions of you and I out there?" Certainly a possibility. "Infinite variations?" Yes. "Well, if there is infinite variation, and infinite versions of you and I, and infinite versions of this unprovably best of all possible worlds, then, by the same reasoning, there is a world and an earth created by God. So your belief against God is no more than the argument for the possibility of His existence. You live in a contradictory world, then, a world that both is and is not formed by the God of the Christian faith and of the Jews."

Later, alone, I think that words mean nothing without belief, but that belief cannot fit into simple words. Everything is a contradiction and justification. Everything is belief.

Pig Island + Mo Hayder Not a thriller, not really, this is as close as a book can get to being a horror novel without being filed between Steven King and Lovecraft in that shabby little section half-way to the back of most bookstores. Joe Oakes is one of those reporters who deflates the paranormal for a living. He's good at it, so we—his audience—know he is going to come in for some hard knocks pretty soon, and he does, and so, unfortunately, do we. This book is as full of holes as a rusted-out colander. Thirty-one people are killed on Pig Island but only thirty—dum dum dum—can be identified. Great detail, and comes at a harrowing point in the novel, and nothing is ever heard again about who is really the thirty-first victim. Maybe I missed it, I miss a lot of things. The book holds together fairly well until the final crashing scenes, and everything splinters apart. I found no less than six glaring errors, in addition to the one named previously, which any of the policemen in the novel should have been all over before calling the case closed. But even Joe Oakes himself does not seem to spot them, nor the author, making for a heavily contrived ending. The details in this book are great, the set-up is terrific, Pig Island itself is properly ominous. Bestiality, gory deaths, The Island Of Doctor Moreau, a Satanic cult and extreme self-delusion—I'm disappointed this book was not better. The novel might make a good screen-play, but only if a director as sufficiently talented at distracting as Gore Verbinski—I'm thinking The Ring here—was in charge.

"Have You Ever Seen The Rain?" + Bishop Allen By now we have all seen the rain. Been that way for all my time. This is a good version, nothing special, but it would be hard to do a bad version of this classic. Live, yes, a bit muddy, yes, but the crowd is singing along and sometimes you have to make allowances for that. This cover will never be the iconic revision of John Fogarty's massive single that was Cash's cover of NIN or the charming nod that was Ted Leo's cover of "Since U Been Gone". This cover will never fill seats for fans of Bishop Allen or fans of CCR either. But this cover is good, and full of fun, and makes a good moment last a little bit longer, and who would ask more of a song than that? Also, Bishop Allen, right? Cherish them while they're here.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

I Might Be Killed By A Criminal, Or By An Idiot, At Any Time

That thick mincing pony of a woman returned to her table in the corner of the bistro, twisting the coarse strands of her rusty mane around her fingers as she trotted back. Her nails were painted a gleaming bright blue—Nicole OPI "Blue Lace"—and when her phone buzzed on the glass table, she had trouble picking it up, her blunt nails chattering against the slick plastic flip. She swore and dropped the phone on the floor and bent down to pick it up, her blazer unfolding like origami to reveal most of a rather large pair of heavily-freckled breasts. Her hair dragged across the plain white plate of spanish rice, cold golden grains flecked with spirals of dark green onion and bright halves of cherry tomatoes. She swore, again, and managed to flip the phone open and cursed the number flickering against the luminous display. A few grains of rice glowed against her brassy hair. Her fingers punched a message into the phone and she bent down again—she should really have considered wearing a different jacket, or maybe a blouse underneath, something white and crisp, with more shadows than light, perhaps—and buried her phone in her purse. The woman straightened up quickly, beckoning the waitress over, and ordered a double vodka with water, no, plain, are you listening, no ice, dammit. And when the waitress stumbled on her way back to the bar, stout blacks heels stuttering double-time on the polished slate, the woman looked up with a quick jerk of her strong neck and met my eyes.

Gaelle + "Give It Back" This is the only song I have ever featured twice on this blog. The Windows Media visual projection of this song is a series of shimmering circles, mostly filled with a pale after-midnight aqua, and what more needs to be said? "Longing for / An empty thought / But I seem to think of you instead." A slow-motion song, smooth hands on a black glass of wine. Low-slung couches pushed against a red wall. Many people in a small room, old gold picture-frames high above our heads. The girl with the porcelain collarbone is swinging her shoulders to the music. That couple in the corner, her with the green eyes, him in the white suit, have been together for years. You slowly walk down the narrow stairs, now, and out into the late-night street, a short walk home in the warm summer's night. Tomorrow night will be even better.

Killing Hitler + Roger Moorhouse What matters, I think, in writing history, and especially niche history, is not so much style as tempo, tension, timing. We all know how this book will end. There will be no surprise on the last page of this book. Moorhouse details eight different conspiracies against the infamous Fuhrer and focuses, time and again, not on why the plans failed, but on how close the plans came to succeeding. This constant sense of what-if, combined with sympathetic portrayals of some not-always-so-sympathetic men, including Chamberlain, give this book a page-turning quality not often found in books of historical record. "How could Hitler NOT have been killed?" is the thought constantly in mind. This book explains.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Leave It To Pnin

You are calling my phone again, but you never call twice, and I miss your call. I always seem to miss your call, and when you do not call me, I miss you calling me. The cellphone is flashing again, on the corner of the pale ceramic counter which floats in the shadows on either side of the sink, and I reach for the phone, but I have missed your call again. Call me again. I am standing in line with a loaf of French bread in my hand, a plastic bag of frozen peas, vine-ripe tomatoes, a jug of cranberry juice, I am fumbling for the phone in the pocket of my jeans, but I miss the call. You are calling me. You are calling me from your philosophy class and the labyrinth of the categorical imperative. You are calling me from the sale at the music store in the mall, from a clothes rack at H&M, you are calling me from your car and I am at the bus-stop, it is raining, it is snowing, it is sunshine and blazing, and you are calling me. I spill my thin styrofoam cup of chai, I drop my phone in the gutter by the wheel of the bus, I have missed your call. Call me again, call me, please. Call me, please, again.

"Umbrella" + Scott Simon Searching for illScarlett's version of Rihanna's hit single, I came across this version on some blog or other—and apologies to that blogger, whoever you are, because I can't remember where you are, anymore—the internet is wide. Anyways, this is Rihanna covered by a clean-living lounge singer, a man who has only one white blazer but carefully irons the lapels a couple times a week. He lives alone, in a small brick walk-up, and there are autumn leaves on the cobbled road outside. He waters his one plant, a large Boston fern he has had since he graduated from that university, and all his friends live in different cities very far away. This song, which was her song, he has made into a different song, not better, not worse, piano instead of hi-hat, him instead of her, and wonderful, of course. For when he opens his mouth, some see song, but others hear an intricate and ancient tapestry of rich hearts and longing hands, soul wide open to bare blue sky and the hail of life's clothyard arrows. No matter, the voice keeps singing, not an impersonal singer in some piano bar on the west side of the city, but a human heart full up to the brim with loving intention, lyrics, voice, hands and heart all saying, "I am here."

Vladimir Nabokov + Pnin This book reads like a Wodehouse novel without the shenanigans or the ridiculous demotic. That is, if Wodehouse's plots get a little bit fishy, then this novel's arc is a fish out of water, ill-at ease, a dead perch on the muddy beach of some Algonquin lake, and with about as much life. Of course, I spent years trying to land yellow perch, smallmouth bass, fresh water ling, anything, really, out of those small dark lakes which cut holes through the floor of the forests north of Toronto. And never got one, not even a pike. Which is to say that I appreciate having read this novel, and that I think Nabokov's subtle use of narrative flatness, his concious uniformity of tone, is a wonderful if rather extended exercise in prose. He's got some whistle-bait bits in here, and the required academia-bashing (Nabokov was a professor, after all) is lovely—

Tom thinks that the best method of teaching anything is to rely on discussion in class, which means letting twenty young blockheads and two cocky neurotics discuss for fifty minutes something that neither their teacher nor they know.

This novel was first published in The New Yorker of the 1950's, and if that doesn't tell you what kind of book this is around the gills, nothing will.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

It's Alright, Andy! It's Just Bolognese!

(a) Three hundred years of books and the English language has produced only two perfect novels—Wuthering Heights, yes, and The Good Soldier. I'd like to read something a little more modern, plz.

(b) Baseball was put on television so that people would have a reason to get off the couch and go to work and never complain about anything ever again. Ever.

(c) Nicholas Angel is the best dressed character in a film this year and I'm not talking about him wearing that police uniform, I'm talking about those button-up shirts and that rigorously-focused fashion sense.

(d) "SWAN!"

(e) My brother is maybe getting a big white super-dog, a Great Pyrenees, and what I have to say is that I wish I was getting a dog. That I didn't have to walk twice a day. Or spend $100 a month feeding. And the whole plastic bag clean-up thing. I just remembered why I don't have a dog.

(f) Hockey is great. Let's have it begin sooner. And, John Ferguson, plz, for the good of the greater good, and lest I call in the League Of Shadows on you, resign.

(g) And then there is MINESWEEPER: THE MOVIE.

Mark Twain + No. 44, The Mysterious Stranger This is a hard book to nail down, not least because of its convoluted history. To be precise, this particular story under this particular title concerns the encounter between a young boy who calls himself 44 and the protagonist, a young printer's-devil named August Feldner. 44 turns out to be a bit of an amoral genie-like creature, able to conjure up anything, including breakfast from the Civil War era southern United States. Which is peculiar, because August Feldner lives in the middle of the Middle Ages. As 44's powers are revealed, the novel takes an existentialist turn not normally associated with the work of Mark Twain, and 44 declares himself to be merely the flipside of August Feldner, a sort of duplicate or dream self of the protagonist, a being which can do whatever it wishes, since, in a universe where nothing is real, all experience and objects are equally unreal, equally accessible, equally had, done, and disposed. The book ends with a clanging declaration from 44:

It is true, that which I have revealed to you; there is no God, no universe, no human race, no earthly life, no heaven, no hell. It is all a dream—a grotesque and foolish dream. Nothing exists but you. And you are but a thought—a vagrant thought, a useless thought, a homeless thought, wandering forlorn among the empty eternities!

Which is all very well, but how did the thought among eternities called August Feldner imagine the typical conveniences of the antebellum Old South? The book ends up playing a little fast and loose with its own rules, which is probably why Mark Twain, a stickler for integrity himself, refused to publish it, though he wrote three versions (and one of them wildly divergent) around this theme. No. 44, The Mysterious Stranger reads like an especially bitter redaction of Twain's earlier and masterful (though flawed) A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur's Court. But whereas the dialect of that novel's protagonist served to illustrate his character and create humour and incident, the same dialect in the mouth of August Feldner is jarring at best, and, at worst, nearly inexplicable. Where the older novel successfully attacks religion, but recognizes the need for its replacement in the hearts of men, the newer novella merely dismisses religion and refuses to offer anything in its place. And where the older novel explored a rich if somehwat brutal two-way satirical effect, caustically delineating the negative effects of religion and humanity's mythologizing tendencies AND the short-coming of modern technology and its negative usage, the newer more bitter novel discredits not the teaching of religion, but its clergymen, and the resulting credulousness of the populace. Note, by the way, that while 44's magical activities are always validated, so, too, in the beginning of No. 44 are the either miraculous coincidences or flat-out miracles witnessed by the Church. I get the point that Twain is making, that the miracles are frauds, because nothing is real, and everything is therefore as real as one wishes, but, then, why does such clarification even matter as long as everyone gets whatever reality one wants, including the miraculous? And even getting what one wants does not matter, not, since what one wants is an illusion according to 44 and according to Twain's estimate of religion and the Church. This book is bitter and without true substance, and should probably be read only by hungry English majors in search of a thesis to ground some fairly barren existential observations.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

They Were Careless People

My girlfriend has been making three of my four room-mates uncomfortable. On her lunch hour, twice a week, tops, she comes over to The House when she knows I am not at home and flips through the channels or pets my cat. The three room-mates all have the same complaint—"I'm sitting here, she comes over, starts watching Family Channel." They don't want her in the house when I'm not there. A valid point. I told my room-mates that I had told her she could come over, if she wanted, because her job is five minutes away, and spending time in a house instead of alone in front of a soulless white wall and a microwave seemed like a hospitable idea. Also, I think, a valid point. Theodore Roosevelt once said, "Courtesy is as much a mark of a gentleman as courage." There are other points.

1) If my room-mates didn't really know my girlfriend, I could understand their unease. But two of them have known her for two years, and the third room-mate has known her for three. 2) If my room-mates were unnaccustomed to having non-room-mates show up at the house, I would understand. But the house has a revolving door, and many people, girls, guys, have shown up and had unannounced and extended stays. 3) If my girlfriend was disliked by my room-mates, I might understand, but two of my room-mates are fine with her, while the third, disliking her, has disgraced himself in his dislike and no longer makes much reference to her. 4) If my girlfriend had been slanderous or dismissive of my friends, I would understand them being uncomfortable around her. But she has gone out of her way to be friendly and fair towards them. In turn, she has been viciously slandered and maligned by the room-mate who dislikes her, betrayed (perhaps mistakenly) by the second room-mate, and half-ignored by the third. 5) If my girlfriend had been ungenerous toward my room-mates, stingy in her courtesy, ignoring them, I would understand my room-mates. Three times, however, my room-mates have come up short on either rent or utilities. Three times my girl-friend has come to the aid of The House, and let me borrow from her line of credit. When I reminded my one room-mate of this, he merely responded, "Yes, but did she do it for you, or for me?" Who raised this boy? My girlfriend, by the way, has never mentioned or hinted to my room-mates or myself that she is in any way extraordinary or wonderful for rescuing The House, or that we are in any way obliged to her.

My girlfriend does not come around The House very much, anymore. Although I blame my three room-mates and also blame myself, I blame one room-mate very much more than the rest. I feel that my world, because he is in it, has grown smaller. His small-hearted small-minded selfishness has constricted the behaviour of my girlfriend and myself. He is vain and thus afraid and thus cruel, and his words are often cancer. He is unchristian. He has forced his limitations upon me, and made his limits mine.

In the beginning, before we rented The House, my future room-mates and I agreed on something called The Sixth Key. The Sixth Key, apparently, was a lot of bullshit talk on my room-mates' part. This key was to be particularly for the use of very good friends and girlfriends and boyfriends, for people who could make use of our house even when the pertinent room-mate wasn't there. Ours was to be a welcoming house. But our house is no such thing. The one room-mate has told his girlfriend that she is on no account to be at The House if he is not at The House. I have known his girlfriend longer than I have known him. The other room-mate's girlfriend once showed up at the front door, in the rain, and stood, shivering, refusing to come in, saying she would wait for her boyfriend to come to the door. I nearly had to force her to come inside. There is something wrong at The House, some malady unknown to me, and distressful. The House is a selfish zone, discourteous and divisive. And, for me, quite uncomfortable.

"They’re a rotten crowd," I shouted across the lawn. "You’re worth the whole damn bunch put together."

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Lessons From Things

Some things are not other things. Red, for instance, is not white. Red, however, is definitely pink. Bicycles are not wheels, money is not evil, sin is a joke, but for me its divine, which is a lyric from a song about Crime And Punishment, which is a book, which is a means of travelling, which is bicycles. Although some things are not other things, everything is everything. Which is a song by Lauren Hill. Who happens to be black. And black is every colour, including red, white, pink.

Love this blog.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Shay As In Stadium And Bon As In Bon Jovi

Loving the wind and weather of it, the stubborn death-by-a-thousand-cuts of it, the (why not?) cock-sure nickel-plated refusal of the damn beast. No, I am not loving it. Spring will not leave. Winter and the wolf at the door? Never mind, we have a harlequin spring shuddering on the front steps, hot air and cold air blowing from the same bent-toothed smile every week, I swear. Stop it, spring. What ever happened to global warming, that faithful friend in hard times, that carbon-fueled creature-comfort of all warm-blooded mammals, God excepting those out of Africa for which global warming will be very hard future times? Global warming, that bubbling pot at the end of the super-heated rainbow, is not glittering very brightly in this corner of paradise—that is, the new definition of paradise, where the walls of jasper are replaced with piles of shoddy slush, the casting down of crowns is replaced with atypical road rage, and the sweet hosannas of the angels making perfumed numbers and visible song has been washed out with early advertisements for garden sales and, do not forget, late sales for over-looked Easter chocolate. And it is cold. And it is not cold. And the lawn in front of the steps is ice. And the lawn is an undrained pool of stagnant water and last-year's pine-needles, and, by God, will it never end? It will never end. Things feel like they are never going to—

Wonder Boys + Michael Chabon Reportedly written in seven months, this novel is a minor masterpiece, confident, sure, speaking with deliberate voice and sure-footed pacing. Seven months—but that is a bit misleading, surely. After his brilliant debut, his UC Irvine master's thesis The Mysteries Of Pittsburgh, Chabon's second novel was to be titled The Fountain. After five years, however, Chabon was still writing The Fountain. Advised to move on, he was having trouble dropping the novel, even after it zeppelinned to 1500 pages. Yet his failure to complete his novel becomes the success of his second published novel, Wonder Boys , where the protagonist's similar failure to complete his own seven-year's-in-the-making opus becomes the symbol of the protagonist's failure at life in general. Wonder Boys is the coming of age story of a fifty-plus year old Grady Tripp, a story of how a man's inner doppelganger can pull him down, indeed, perversely delights in pulling him down. Chabon quotes Conrad before the novel begins—"Let them think what they liked, but I didn't mean to drown myself. I meant to swim till I sank—but that's not the same thing"—he could also have used Saint Paul's self analysis: "That which I would not do, I do; that which I would do, I do not do." This is a story of conflicting pairs, even doubles set against doubles. Grady Tripp finds himself, at various points in the novel, opposed or acting against every other person which appears within its pages. And he loses every confrontation, decisively, despairingly. Like a fool, he is tilting at windmills, but the windmills are all of his own construction. Grady Tripp is his own victim, but, victimising himself, he is taking down everyone along with him. He is narcissistic and oblivious, always until too late, of the importance of other people. But Tripp's saving graces are threefold: 1) he's an interesting guy, as self-deprecating as he is narcissistic, and never narcissistic in his self-deprecation—for his novelist's eye allows no mercy towards himself, and thus allows his audience to feel quite merciful toward him; 2) he always receives the ample consequences of his actions—there is no escaping the jury of his peers, nor, apparently, a dog, a snake, or a tuba, all of which come back to haunt him; 3) and, lastly, Grady Tripp resolves to be a better man, to act upon his self-clarity, to not disappoint others, to be worthy of respect. And in all this, where is Grady Tripp different from the average reader of Chabon's novel?

Friday, March 02, 2007

Does Vector Prime Say, "My Way"?

This little kitten makes three! No, not that, please. No baby kittens. I have a little kitten, she is eight months old, white stripes around her eyes, Church-Yard is her name. I love the little beast. What a purr! Disturbingly, about a week before the appointment at the vet, she made serious eye-contact with me, burst into a luscious cackle and purr, and raised her ass as high as it would go. The beast was in heat. Anyways, all that's over, except for a big swollen cut on her belly and a cone around her head. Thing is, the vet gave me some pills, pills for the pain, and these little syringe-like devices for the inflammation. I CANNOT GET HER TO TAKE THE PILLS. She keeps spitting them back out. Pills pop out of her jaws, roll out of her back teeth, spill between her canines. You would not believe what I have to go through. There's the kicking, the grunts, the screams! Plus there's the noises the kitten makes herself, godsake!


"My Way" + Frank Sinatra Sinatra's flagship song, I always disliked it, that one. Humanism, yes, humanity, no. Paul Anka's words always seemed selfish to me. And the singer is so sure, so undoubting, of what he has accomplished, each charted course. His focus is so pure upon his own measure ("To think I did all that"), where is his measure of another man? He favourably compares himself only to those who were unlike him, those who kneeled, those who did not say what they felt. This is the singer's final curtain, the moment of judgement. This is for The Big All Time. And what does his song come down to? Not exactly an I-could-have-done-it-better—"Regrets, I've had a few / But then again, too few to mention / I did what I had to do". More of a Piss-off-then, isn't it? Not exactly an I-wish-I-had-done-more, because "I faced it all". Really there, guy? Everything out there? Nothing smoothed down or not-faced up to? And whenever the singer might have had a doubt or an idea that something different could have been done, well, "When there was doubt /I ate it up and spit it out". This is the boasting and the bragging ("And may I say, not in a shy way"), the anthem of a satisfied god, a being who through refusal to entertain self-doubt or consideration for others, achieves what he clearly considers to be the destiny, the perfection, of a life well-lived. And a lonely life, too. For the singer is singing his own praises, isn't he? No else seems to be around to sing them. This friend he addresses seems to be more of a judge than a companion, more a drawer, it seems, of the final curtain. The song's declared paen is to be true to oneself—"For what is a man, what has he got? / If not himself, then he has naught" but the implied sub-text of the song is that a man who so securely possesses himself possesses little else. Pure onanism.

As for the music itself, there's little wrong with it, certainly not to my untrained ear. If you like souffle and rich cranberry cake, you'll probably like the lush orchestration of this song. Sinatra's voice is strong and confident, of course. Not that he himself thought the song was all that hot.

"My Way" + Aaron Pritchett Saw this guy play at The Rainmaker Rodeo three summers back. Pouring rain, of course, and he sang this song, and it was good. Good not as in subjective—though I won't go so far as to say it was GOOD, as in ultimate truth and goodness—but good as in a well-written song well-sung. Country is not everybody's taste, certainly not acceptable to the indie or hipster crowd, and country like this is not even okay by the alt-country crowd. But that's an entirely different diatribe, isn't it? What I'm saying is that this song is the opposite of the song I wrote about above: this song is not about a man, but about a man worthily loving a worthy woman. Songs like this, on the edge of hot country, are what keep me listening to mainstream radio. Songs like this (did you hear that little bit of organ-sounding-ness, there), with their open hearts and firm handshakes, a strong glance in the street, and people opening umbrellas for each other in the rain, are what keep me favouriting the country song-list on a summer's night or while I do three days of dishes. Good songs, strong songs, unselfish.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Thank You, Joseph O’Callaghan

Slowbear The Great + "Banquet" What a beautiful song. The sincere and somewhat-desperate heart, stripped-down word after stripped-down word, has been cleanly filleted from the larger beast. The original gills and silky-sided stutter are gone. That song was diamond, but this song is also diamond. Merely more like your mother's tear-dropleted bracelet from grey-castled Glesca, than like those sharper flashes in a shiny-wristing Rolex, London, southside. Different glamours, I guess.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Quotes Won't Make Headlines Forever

New Year business still going on—which means that there are three more examples of unexpectedness yet to provide, aren't there? Based, of course, on the tenous image—not metaphor—I used last year, that there would be towers of unknowing in 2006, places (hopefully) of unpredictability. By which I mean not only unpredictable, but unpredictably unpredictable, a Rumsfeldian not-known unknown. The bit about six means nothing, merely a number I had used to tie in the photograph I posted in last year's entry. I don't try to tie the photo into the subject any more. What happens, happens. No more hot air for the sake of hot air, right? Sure.

Most Unexpected Animal: My sister owns a gorgeous grey Persian, a ball of fur which totters around on four pillar legs, a pushed-in face, hair in his eyes like a highland steer. Did I say bright blue eyes? Thing is, my sister also takes care of a bunch of fish, a three-legged dog—a three-legged dog, may I say, which happens to have four paws—a fierce fat orange cat and a white Darth Vader-breathing cat. Also, two little boys and a baby girl. And she's pregnant. The thing about the Persian is that it needs near constant grooming, and because my sister is always busy, the poor thing's fur knots up like an Irishman's stomach in England. So her husband offered me the cat, saying, otherwise, he was going to put the little beast down. I talked to my room-mates, and only one needed persuading, but then, at the last moment, my sister had a stormy change of heart, and the upshot is that the Persian is still trying to groom the sores off its back. But I was so enamoured of having a pet that when my brother told me of his friend looking for a place for five kittens, I rushed down to his friend's acreage and picked up the softest, stripiest, smallest kitten there. Hello, Church-Yard. And that—well—that was unexpected.

Most Unexpected And Ironically-Tinged Burglary: I would have to say that I definitely did NOT expect my girlfriend's car to get broken into—but nobody expects that, right? Least of all, my girlfriend. The thing is, I live in a section of Edmonton pretty close to this-or-that knifing at the bar, this-or-that beating in the street. My girlfriend lives in a calm older suburb a good twenty clicks away. I live in a neighbourhood where you can hear the police sirens almost every night in the summer. My girlfriend lives in a neighbourhood where the sprinklers all click-whoosh at the same time. I live in a neighbourhood where the houses, many of them, are falling into their own foundations, but my girlfriend lives in a neighbourhood where renovation isn't just a hobby, it's a reason to live after retirement. So when C told me that her Sunfire had been popped open on the drivers' side, and all her little brother's mix cd's stolen, and the surface of her car damaged to the extent of a thousand dollars, I was very taken aback. As far as burglaries or break-ins go, that was one I just didn't see coming.

Most Unexpected Re-Appearance Of My Childhood: Not a person, not a return to place, no. What about a toy? What about that trailer for Transformers? I just can't get over it. So ridiculous. The movie will be trash, but we will all be going, right? My favourite toy, of course, was a Transformer, a knock off red-and-white reproduction of Optimus Prime, with a little square black head and unbending red arms. I played with that thing in our gravel driveway in Ontario for two or three solid years, I think. Making little roads in the dust for the robot to transform down. "We'll need to make a special run to Autobot City!"

That's it, then, for unexpected moments, towers of unknowing. Next week, back to the semi-regular notes on music, words about books.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

The Cloud Of Unknowing

Happy New Year, internet. What did you get for Christmas? Nice. What? Oh, a bookshelf, you know, IKEA. Arrested Development and A CAMERA! One of those small silver Elphs, I love it so much. And mince-meat tarts, and so much more, most of it, the best of it, making me smile even now. Now, last year, I wrote that this year would have better things to report. Now, 2005 was all autumn to me, or a ghostly year in God. Or perhaps the year was like looking through the viscuous chlorinated water in the swimming pool, bright colours, muddy shapes, the consonants in my ears eclipsed by brassy pool-side vowels. Sound and speech and act and thought were roughly distorted, slouching toward some unknown crossroads. Well, but nothing sinister happened. 2006 has been a Good Year. Good things happened. Also, some not so good. In 2005, I wrote that 2006 contained a few visible points of mystery, things unknown and sure to come to pass, six pale towers of unknowing. Less divertingly, stuff was going to happen, and I didn't know what the stuff was:

#1: Most Unlooked-For And Excellent Instant In Music: Many contenders, all worthies, most of them found on Camera Obscura's June release, Let's Get Out Of This Country, or, also, anything that Timbaland called a pie and stuck his twinkly finger in. Isn't "Maneater" ridiculous? Anyways, the most ridiculous moment in music is not the music but the picture that underpins the sound, which would be the video for My Chemical Romance, and their single, "The Black Parade". Where was there to go after the sweet sound and sincere follies of "Helena"? Everywhere, everyplace, seemingly. Never have I seen a video so chockful of itself and so mocking of itself, also. The truth is out there—believe the lie. A band like this, embodying every goth/emo visual trope out there, willingly upholding blatant cliché—even if MCR isn't self-aware, even if they aren't in on the joke, they have created a masterpiece, a place where everyone who likes MCR can both love them and laugh at them and laugh, with MCR, at themselves. And I love the opening, the arena-rock of it all, the voice contrapuntal over the piano. Don't you wish Weezer had done this business? We could have been sure of self-awareness, then.

#2: Most Unexpected Conversation Ever: Sometimes, you can feel like a fish out of water—know what I mean? I was privileged to take part of a ridiculous conversation about three wks ago, and here's a sample—one of about ten amazing conversational loops:

Person Who Is Not Orlando: I would like an apology.
Orlando: What do you want an apology for?
PWINO: I want an apology for the hurtful things you said to me.
Orlando: What hurtful things did I say to you?
PWINO: Well, I don't remember.
Orlando: Wait. Hold on. So you want me to apologize to you for something you don't remember?

There was a bit of a pause after that. Then, over the miles of bright telephone cable and plastic sheafs of coloured wire, my laughter.

#3: Most Unexpected Helping Hand What can I say about this one? Out of left field. Ten minutes from my girlfriend's, thirty minutes from the workplace, the clutch on my Galaxie 500 simply dropped. Well, I called up C and she drove me to work, because she always helps me, because that's what she does, because she's the BGE, and it's on her resumé, under "Volunteer" and "Charitable Activities". And she's helped me out so often, it's easy to slip and take her for granted. So, thank-you, C. But, also, others—for granted, that is—are easy to take. I've known S for around five years, now, and he loaned me, unasked, unlooked for, his CAA card for the tow to the mechanic, giving over most of a cold winter's day to helping me out, for no reason at all, really, except, I suppose, general goodness. Saved me a bunch of money, and more of time, and showed himself a good man to know, a friend to keep. Then, when my car broke down, again, in his driveway, let me keep it there, and his girlfriend drove us around. Wonderful.

Oh, hold on: the other three unexpected moments should be expected in the next post. Expect them.