Tuesday, January 31, 2006

My Futile Attempt at Explaining the Canadian Political Landscape

Post-election day, I went in search of a Canadian newspaper. First stop was a Borders bookshop near our hotel. When I asked, the lady at the counter said, "I understand they had an election." That's why I'm looking, I told her. "I also understand the Canadians voted in a conservative government." Yes, I said, they've won a minority. "Well, I'm sorry for you," she said.

I cleared my throat and said that while this wasn't the government I voted for, I was actually quite pleased with the overall election results. "Just don't join us in Iraq," she said. That wasn't likely to happen with a minority government, I told her.

"'Minority government' -- what does that mean?" she asked. I started explaining how the House of Commons was (currently) set up to accomodate three political parties, and though the Conservatives held the most seats, they didn't hold a majority. Thus, if they were keen on, say, sending Maritime boys ... sorry: our troops to Iraq, an election would likely be called and the Conservatives would likely experience a backlash.

"So it's kind of like us," said the lady. "You hold elections every couple of years."

I searched her face for signs of comprehension, then finally closed my mouth, swallowed and said, "Yeah, pretty much."

Friday, January 20, 2006

WP's Canadian Election Predictions Recap

In order of personal significance:

1) Lowest voter turn-out ever.

2) Progressive Conservative minority

3) A very close race, all the way around (addendum: we'll see a few more recounts than we're typically used to).

Until the 23rd, then...

Goin' To California

San Diego, this time. I'll be back on February 1st -- promise. (If at all possible, I'll scuttle into an internet cafe to reveal my oh-so-important thoughts on the Canadian election (looks like this will be the first election I'll have missed since I came of age to vote (not that my (cussedly contrarian) vote counts for much in my riding))).

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Reviewing Movies While Counting Sheep

A couple of nights ago I lay awake, plagued by all manner of dark and gloomy thought. Nothing especially noteworthy about this -- seems to happen every few weeks or so. The pendulum swings, so last night I lay awake, cheerfully contemplating memories that had a silly sort of nitrous-oxide lightness to them.

The craziest movies came to mind. I meditated at length on the missed genius of The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across The Eighth Dimension. As near as I could figure, the guys who put this movie together got just about everything they asked the studio for, except an unlimited budget. Here's a movie with good aliens posing as jumpy Rastafarians, evil aliens with hammy accents and dowdy ill-fitting suits, and a super-cool rock & roll scientist caught in the middle -- with Ellen Barkin! And yet it never quite builds up a proper head of steam, either dramatically or comedically.

It's not for want of trying, though. John Lithgow and Christopher Lloyd are forced to share a cramped screen through most of the movie, and between the two of them it's a wonder there's any scenery left for others to chew. But there is: Jonathan Banks makes a transformation from a leering, mean-spirited orderly in a psych ward to a psychotic alien goon. And Jeff Goldblum shows up with his usual what am I doing here? expression; this time he's outfitted with a cornball cowboy suit that almost explains the look on his face. And everyone is given at least one memorable line, including the now ubiquitous, "Remember, no matter where you go, there you are."

But then we have Peter Weller as the titular hero, and Ellen Barkin as his love interest, Penny Priddy. And that's where the tension completely dissipates. I'm irrationally fond of Ms. Barkin, but as with most actresses, for every steamy role that melts me in my seat, she gets a half-dozen cookie-cutter mishaps that should have been run through the creative mill another time or two. "Penny" is a mishap, which is unfortunate. I could have envisioned a love interest with a dark sense of humour who throws a little fire into the pond of Weller's ethereal cool, but that was not what Ms. Barkin was asked to do. She's a groupie, basically. Thankless.

This was my first exposure to Weller and I liked what I saw, enough to follow him through the next half-dozen or so movies. His (or his agent's) choice of roles is almost always a surprise, and his performances usually retain my interest. Some of his movies should be avoided at all costs (Robocop 2), some can be enjoyed with a gentle word of forewarning (Naked Lunch -- not for the squeamish), and some are absolutely terrific.

In the latter case sits Michael Tolkin's The New Age -- the best movie to harness and exploit yuppie-materialist delusion and desperation. Weller is teamed up with Judy Davis, which seems to be a match made either in heaven or in hell (she showed up earlier as Bill Lee's ill-fated junky wife in Lunch). Either way, when they're together, the viewer is assured of an interesting movie; Tolkin is an intelligent writer, so Davis is given deliciously intelligent lines ("When are you going to get in touch with your inner adult?!"). Throw in "Batman's" Adam West as Weller's skanky swinger father ("How are your morals tonight?"), and you have a movie that delivers dark laughs and a few moments of lucid poignancy.

But as I considered Michael Tolkin, I began to reconsider his movie The Rapture. People either love or hate this movie; I love it, but it is not a film I can give repeated viewing. I think it speaks directly to the sort of dangers that occur when one approaches with a naively open mind The Revelation of St. John The Divine. Alas, one of those dangers is the gloomy and panicked sort of sleeplessness I experienced a few nights back. Some spectres never leave your side....

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Jason & The Scorchers: "Who the heck are these guys?"

" We were truly pioneers. Whether you like the music or not, you can't take away from the fact that Jason and the Scorchers were true pioneers." Jason Ringenberg, interviewed in 1993.

I recently made a mix tape of Jason & The Scorchers favorites for a friend of mine (it was a CD, actually, but "mix tape" is the generation I'm from). It's been quite a while since the Scorchers were last on the scene; unless you're a Nashville resident, it's been just over eight years -- an eternity in music-time. As I listened to this old music, culled from the back pages of 1982 - 1997, I tried to hear how it might sound to new ears, and I tried to remember how it sounded to mine, back in the day.

I'm not sure how well I succeeded in either task. I picked the songs I thought were the best of the best, of course, and left the real clunkers in the back of the vault. To my biased ears, the sound hasn't really aged, because it wasn't a sound that embodied the times that endured them to begin with.

The last time Jason & The Scorchers played Toronto (the fall of 1997, I think, at The Horseshoe), they were billed as "The Godfathers of Cow-Punk!!" "Cow-Punk" gets me wondering just who else lays claim to the genre. Certainly the Scorchers embodied it. The Scorchers' guitarist Warner E. Hodges has said The Sex Pistols were tangentially influential on the band just because they realized, after hearing the Pistols, that sounding "rough" could be a good thing.

The Scorchers live album Midnight Roads and Stages Seen has amusing footage of the Nashville video establishment -- CMT's progenitors -- scratching their industrial coiffs in a state of bewilderment. Are these guys country, or rock? And just who the heck are they, anyway?!

Are they country? It seems to me the Scorchers enjoyed having that accusatory finger pointed at them. The four of them took the stage and embodied four fingers pointing back at the Nashville establishment, asking in effect: Do you honestly think you're country? Just look at the top country songs of 1982: Dolly Parton's soundtrack contributions to The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas and 9-to-5, and Mac Davis's jokey Oh Lord It's Hard To Be Humble (When You're Perfect In Every Way). Parton sounded too polished to be from "the country", and Davis sounded too smarmy to carry off his own punchline.

Jason tore into Nashville too hungry, too angry and too horny to modulate or tell jokes. He wasn't a prototypical "talented young man, eager to break into the scene"; he was the son of an Illinois hog farmer, with nothing to lose and everything to prove. He didn't want to "break into the scene"; he wanted to be the scene. He had no interest in taking things up a notch; he wanted to burn the place to the ground -- right bloody now!

So intensity trumped a polished sound, particularly in the earliest records. The Scorchers also favored sincerity over irony -- another disconnect from the musical ethos that reigned in Nashville. The Nashville music scene, then as now, stuck to tried-and-true formulae, usually incorporating trends from scenes already exhausted by the pop music radio mill. An artist could emote, but nothing too raw. Country "roots" were necessary, of course, but nothing that harkened too closely to the Sawdust Trail of Lefty Frizzell and Hank Williams. That stuff was good in its day, but by the 80's heightened standards it was corn-pone and hick -- strictly Hee-Haw material. Nashville had moved on, and was intent on marketing its own brand of slick and glamorous, a la Glen Campbell's Rhinestone Cowboy.

Jason & The Scorchers ran contrary to industry wisdom. Jason deliberately wore glittering fringed shirts and a bizarre spotted-hyena cowboy hat, while the rest of the Scorchers favored a discomfiting fashion combo informed in equal measure by The Dukes of Hazzard and The New York Dolls. Their costumes were the grand total of their irony: when it came to their live performances, Jason claimed, "I want our music to be like a religious service, only a lot dirtier" -- and he meant it. Bassist Jeff Johnson held the back-end down with his low-slung bass, while drummer Perry Baggs, guitarist Hodges and singer Ringenberg all competed for the most outrageous stage presence possible. Insane things happened, and the performances became legendary. When the Scorchers finally got to London, the NME reviewer assigned to them reverently declared the night to be one of three seminal moments in the London rock scene.

So, no, they weren't "country" -- not by a long stretch. But were they rock? Well, of course they were. And yet, and yet ... not only did they fly in the face of the top country acts of the day, they did so in the face of the top rock acts as well: Journey, Foreigner, Toto (geez, I remember Boston still being a staple of the airwaves!). As if that weren't bad enough, the Scorchers were in the habit of bringing their shows to a screeching halt every 20 minutes or so to drag out a musty chestnut like The Long Black Veil, which capitalized perfectly on Ringenberg's whip-poor-will voice, but hadn't been played on country radio in years. Waaaaay too country to be rock & roll.

JATS was the sort of act you only come across by wild happenstance. A buddy of mine from Bible school had a room-mate who scoured the discount bins at Sam The Record Man and thought he'd gamble three dollars on Fervor. Well, boy-howdy. Snarling odes to blood spilled during the American Civil War, an Old Testament sense of judgment hanging over every lascivious request ... it was as if Jerry Lee Lewis had been given a second chance to reclaim the crown of rock & roll King -- and this time he decided to follow through.

Ah, poor Jerry Lee. We rightly remember him for Great Balls of Fire, of course -- but we really remember him for the conversation recorded prior to that song. "I got the Devil in me!" he tells Sam Philips. "I mean it! I got the Devil in me!" Sam doesn't know what to do, because Lee is scared as fuck, and that isn't good. They go back and forth on the issue, then Lee finally gets down to the business of laying it out for the world to hear.

And that is the key to the Scorchers' lasting influence on me: they were knowingly caught on the wrong side of The Salvation Equation, and they were intent on singing about it in the exact tonal range this condition required. There are times when the lack of irony brings discomfort: if ya don't got irony, ya don't got dignity. But then Country isn't about dignity, it's about the way things are -- or at least, it should be.

Each of the Scorchers found their own way to the other side of the equation (most of them returning to the stage after stints in rehab). Strangely enough, this is the fate Scorcher fans -- to a person -- wanted. The fans genuinely liked the Scorchers as people too much to desire the usual rock & roll carnage. My first live exposure to the Scorchers was their fresh-out-of-rehab appearance at The El Mocombo. They kicked ass: three encores, and the third brought the show to a close only because Jason's voice finally gave out. I hadn't expected anything like what I'd seen, and I staggered home a very satisfied customer.

This summer I got to see Jason solo at the Winnipeg Folk Festival. Having seen the Scorchers twice, I wasn't sure what to expect. When the show was over, I was breathless, wondering why I hadn't expected exactly what I got: a slam-dunk, rock & roll thumping.

Jason recorded a "roots" disc a few years back, which included a song called The Last of the Neon Cowboys. It's a triumphant song about a less-than-triumphant figure who takes to the stage and gives every audience, no matter how big or small, the fabled 110%. It's become Ringenberg's anthem, and his calling card. One skinny guy and a Japanese guitar: it doesn't matter if he opens for Slipknot in Norway ("They're really nice guys, actually, except when they're gambling") or if he stomps the stage on a Sunday morning in Birdshill Park, Manitoba: if he shows up within driving distance, do not miss the chance to let this truly exceptional performer take your breath away.

Jason Ringenberg's official website is here. The official Jason & The Scorchers website is here. Guitarist Warner E. Hodges is doing his musical thing here. This guy makes the salient observation that "Jason and the Scorchers were rock enough not to be country, punk enough not to be rock and metal enough not to be cool." Amen to all of that. This guy has some nifty JATS recollections, and makes the point "If there's one thing the rock audience, and rock performers, have forgotten, it's how to be crazy onstage." True enough, I say, but I lay the blame at the feet of new acts: if you're struggling to make the two-minute mark with every song you write, you aren't allowing yourself any time to be crazy. And finally, if you're wondering what I'm gassing on about but aren't inclined to spend primo bucks on eBay, visit this site and hit refresh a couple of times: you'll get a quick musical sense of what JATS were all about. Excelsior!



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Friday, January 13, 2006

Whoppers vs. Fiction

Two years ago, my wife had this conversation with our younger daughter (5 at the time), in the back of my parents' car as we were driving to Santa Cruz:

Daughter: Mom, did you ever tell lies when you were a little girl?

Mother: Oh, sure.

Daughter: Did you tell a lot of lies?

Mother: No, I don't think I told a lot of lies. I mostly told the truth. I didn't want to get in trouble.

Daughter: I tell lies. I've told hundreds of lies. But don't tell Grandma.

This turned out to be a bit of a watershed moment for my daughter. We knew what was going on, of course. She wasn't much of a liar, actually, because she was less interested in the art of deceit than she was in persuasively conveying the sensational. i.e. She told whoppers. If our older daughter said she'd seen a video in class, our younger daughter inevitably crowed, "Oh, we saw that one too! Only, did you see the part where the chicken chased the farmer into the pond, and when he came out he had poo on his head?" No, she hadn't. What else had she missed? "Oh! There was this part where the farmer got tooken up by a balloon, and he...."

The apple doesn't fall far from the tree, of course. As a kid in grade-school I was also prone to telling whoppers. Here's a typical scene: my mates and I in the playground, discussing television shows (most of which I had no access to). I'd listen to the general plot, pay close attention to the wrap-up, then when everyone said, "Cool!" I'd say, "You mean that's when you got commercials?! Oh, man: not us! You missed the whole part where Pa Cartwright takes this big knife and cuts off the head of the bad guy, and just hucks it into the burning barn!!"

I could probably chart a few seminal moments when I realized that admitting to the actual truth generated a more desireable grade of friendship with my peers. This is the general path of maturity: doing your best to avoid putting on airs, speaking the truth about the things that matter most, speaking plainly and resorting to hyperbole only when you are desirous of an extreme response in your listener.

On the other hand, we don't want to dampen our children's creative spirit. We took great delight in our youngest's fabulist tales; her older sister couldn't get enough of them. What we tried to encourage in our youngest was introducing "the wink" early in the game: be very conscious about admitting at the outset that this is a game, and you will invite the sort of participation that keeps your friends and family coming back for more. This is how you earn people's respect.

This is what I'd most dearly like to believe, of course: the general mill of humanity makes me wonder if I'm not horribly mistaken. A self-aggrandizing yahoo like James Frey peddles 400 pages of whoppers with the tacit approval of his publisher. He forgets to wink, until he's confronted -- then he winks so much, it's hard to tell when he's blinking from nervousness. Meanwhile Oprah holds his hand and tells everyone it's okay because he's written "emotional truth".

I find the spectacle entirely demoralizing. At this rate, Oprah could give her seal of approval to Mike Warnke -- not just a self-proclaimed one-time violent drug-addict, but a former senior Satanist who sacrificed kittens and a baby before he came to know the Lord (wink wink wink, everybody -- "emotional truth", here!).

But maybe there's a bright side to this whole thing. Maybe the "memoir bubble" is finally going to burst, and people will shun reality TV and shocking tell-all memoirs (and church testimonies). A new day will dawn, one in which people will see and acknowledge "the wink" at the outset, and consume fiction and poetry by the bushel, grateful for the motherlode of emotional truth that was silently waiting for them all this time; a day when readers will cheerfully reward the purveyors of this craft for so openly inviting them to come and participate in the art of story.

In the meantime, we'll just have to settle for the emotional truths of our politicians.... (Hat tip to Bookninja for all of the links, except Mike Warnke: that one's mine, and I'll expect gratuities from both Warnke and Oprah when he's booked on her show.)

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Wednesday, January 11, 2006

John Gardner Back In Print (as novelist)


Phil informs me that John Gardner's October Light is back in print, with The Sunlight Dialogues and Nickel Mountain soon to follow, thanks to the industrious attentions of New Directions Publishing. Although OL is not my favorite Gardner novel (Grendel and The Sunlight Dialogues tie for first), I treat this as very good news indeed. God knows there's an ever-growing host of writers inhaling his peerless "instructionals", The Art of Fiction and On Becoming a Novelist: now's their chance to catch up on the prose of their crazed and erudite zazen.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Some miscellaneous post-debate ruminations

Short analysis: I'm sticking with my original forecast of a Tory minority. I think Harper's momentum isn't quite as vulnerable to the sort of savage deflation we saw the last time around. If last night's debate is an indication of how the party leaders are performing for their constituents, then I think we will see a very close race. The Tories are likely to make significant gains, and I think the NDP might well reclaim some seats they've been in the habit of losing to "soft" voters intent on defeating Tory gains.

I'm not sure how to read Gilles Duceppe's performance, or the overall mood of la belle provence. He isn't cagey or evasive, which I would think has to play well. On the other hand, he isn't cagey or evasive about his ultimate goal - separation from the rest of Canada - which won't play well with ambivalent voters.

Overall performances: Harper stuck to his "Let's all take a deep breath and just calm down a bit" approach. His everpresent smile got to be a bit creepy, but I think he communicated his central message ("I'm not as scary as they make me out to be"). Someone needs to tell NDP leader Jack Layton that he doesn't need to open every leading statement with "You know, it's interesting..." Despite these annoying verbal and physical tics (keep those tiny hands off camera, Jack), he managed to nail down the party line: for the last half-year, the other two parties practised a singular politic of convenience over principle.

PM Paul Martin was the surprise revelation. This is a guy with his back to the wall, but rather than looking desperate, he looked invigorated. The man clearly loves a good scrap, and as much as I've loathed his governance and corruption, I've got to say he's a treat to watch.

And finally kudos to host Steve Paikin, who I think is the best interviewer in public television today (contracted exclusively to TVO, to the loss of the rest of Canada).

Friday, January 06, 2006

"Today's noise is tomorrow's hootenanny" - or children's album


The above quote is from DEVO (the truncated form of "de-evolution") circa 1978, when their musical output was considerably noisier than the brightly syncopated mutations that eventually caught public attention. It lodged in my pubescent brain and eminated radio-waves of profound significance, the way such archly "wise" ruminations tend to in young lads of a certain age. I was 13 at the time. Some guys were drawn into the kabuki theatre of KISS; I was drawn to the art-haus theatre (kabuki with irony) of DEVO, precisely because of their penchant for sci-fi pontificating.

The fact that their signature song, at that time, had a time signature of 7/8 only added to my feelings of superiority. It was only a matter of time before they took a knee to 4/4, of course, and my first High Fidelity moment ("They were so much cooler when I was the only one listening to them!") occurred in the winter of 82, when a 16-year-old could get in the family car, turn on the AM radio at any given time and inevitably hear one of three DEVO singles from the New Traditionalists album.

It's been a long, long time since I've given their gleeful perversity a spin on my turntable. The fact that DEVO frontman Mark Mothersbaugh was a hands-on participant in the DEVO/Swiffer ad didn't help (that ad was wrong on so many levels - originally a sneering paean to S&M extremes set to a jaunty minimalist 4-note riff, only to rocket to Billboard Top Ten notoriety, only to become an ad extolling the joys of "Swiffering" in other people's houses(?!) - it almost started to look right after a while). But then, I suppose that's devolution for you.

Now there's news of a DEVO children's album - DEVO 2.0. That almost sounds promising. No, check that: at this point in my life, a DEVO children's album actually sounds like a positive improvement - an evolutionary step forward, as it were. Which leads to the obvious question:

Could this be the end of DEVO?

The official DEVO site is here. And I've got to admit: my first visit to the on-line store nearly had me reaching for my credit card.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Irving Layton, 1912-2006

Two of his poems:

Keine Lazarovitch 1870-1959

When I saw my mother's head on the cold pillow,
Her white waterfalling hair in the cheeks' hollows,
I thought, quietly circling my grief, of how
She had loved God but cursed extravagantly his creatures.

For her final mouth was not water but a curse,
A small black hole, a black rent in the universe,
Which damned the green earth, stars and trees in its stillness
And the inescapable lousiness of growing old.

And I record she was comfortless, vituperative,
Ignorant, glad, and much else besides; I believe
She endlessly praised her black eyebrows, their thick weave,
Till plagiarizing Death leaned down and took them for his mould.

And spoiled a dignity I shall not again find,
And the fury of her stubborn limited mind;
Now none will shake her amber beads and call God blind,
Or wear them upon a breast so radiantly.

O fierce she was, mean and unaccommodating;
But I think now of the toss of her gold earrings,
Their proud carnal assertion, and her youngest sings
While all the rivers of her red veins move into the sea.



And finally, that Ariel Sharon is in critical condition within 24 hours of Irving Layton's death seems to me a coincidence fraught with symobolic significance. To wit:


Israelis

It is themselves they trust and no one else;
Their fighter planes that screech across the sky,
Real, visible as the glorious sun;
Riflesmoke, gunshine, and rumble of tanks.

Man is a fanged wolf, without compassion
Or ruth: Assyrians, Medes, Greeks, Romans,
And devout pagans in Spain and Russia
--Allah's children, most merciful of all.

Where is the Almighty if murder thrives?
He's dead as mutton and they buried him
Decades ago, covered him with their own
Limp bodies in Belsen and Babi Yar.

Let the strong compose hymns and canticles,
Live with the Lord's radiance in their hard skulls
Or make known his great benevolences;
Stare at the heavens and feel glorified

Or humbled and awestruck buckle their knees:
They are done with him now and forever.
Without a whimper from him they returned,
A sign like an open hand in the sky.

The pillar of fire: Their flesh made it;
It burned briefly and died--you all know where.
Now in their own blood they temper the steel,
God being dead and their enemies not.


Irving Layton, 1912-2006

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Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Saved By Technology

With apologies to the fine and knowingly-named Toronto store, from whom this title was cadged.

In the summer of '01, we attended an enormous family gathering in a rustic cottage on the banks of the Rideau. I was diligently applying myself to a manuscript at the time and had made it a habit to wake early in order to do the work -- seven days a week, no ifs, ands or buts. I followed through on this habit, even at the cottage.

My first morning there, I thought it would be swell to try this on the dock. It looks like an ideal environment for the task, after all -- doesn't it? My watch chimed at 5:30. I pulled myself out of bed, retrieved my laptop, and stole down to the dock.

Half-an-hour into my work, a canoe appeared on the river -- some guy out with his Labrador Retriever. They came closer, and it became apparent he was aiming to use the dock. I smiled and said hello. He scowled at my laptop, glanced away and muttered "Yup". As he drew alongside the dock, his Lab jumped out of the boat and into the water. It suddenly occurred to me this mutt was fixing to greet me. I frantically mashed buttons to save-and-quit. The dog clambered to shore and shook himself off. I had a choice to make. I slapped the computer shut and quickly stowed it before the slobbering, dripping cur came and thrust its snout in my lap.

The dog's owner made an unconvincing attempt to restrain her. The damage done (lost data, safe technology), I resigned myself to putting on a good face: this glum canoeist, I reasoned, might be the cottage owner, and our use of the facilities was given to us at quite a bargain.

I admired his canoe -- a strip-wood beauty of some vintage. "Looks like the sort of craft Bill Mason would have used," I said. The guy brightened. Mason was in fact a friend of the family, and spent time caring for their canoes. He took a deep breath, then said, "Those were very different days."

He talked of how the cottage -- or rather, "The Cottage" -- was a place their family went to in order to escape the tyranny of modern life. Electricity came late to The Cottage; radio came some time later, and an old black-and-white TV set was introduced in the 80s. When you weren't swimming, hiking or canoeing, The Cottage was a place where you read, or played cards and board games -- a retreat that served to reinvigorate you for your vocational life.

"Technology has a way of taking that away from you, and levelling everything out," he said. "Just canoeing this morning, I counted seven new cottages, all larger than ours. All but one of them has a satellite dish on the roof."

"If it makes you feel any better," I said, "I was writing fiction." This appeared to have no effect on him whatsoever, so I thanked him for the cottage, and complimented his selection of books (Gibbon's Decline & Fall of the Roman Empire was there in its entirety). We shook hands, then he and his dog left.

Now, my brother and all my code-writing friends will attest to the fact that I'm all but a confirmed Luddite, but I do think we can be good stewards of new technologies. Later that same day I mentioned the incident to my brother-in-law. "Would he have felt any better if I'd been out there with a pad of paper and a ballpoint pen?" I asked.

He thought it over. "Parchment and quill might have been the safest option," he said.

So what gets me casting back to this strange encounter? This weird picture, on the Sympatico.msn.ca homesite:



The picture links to this story. Now, here's my question: given the aforementioned encounter and my endorsement of a book like Full Catastrophe Living, am I entirely out-of-order when I think this picture and story are altogether daft?

Sleeping Queens: a winner of a game


I mentioned this in my other blog, but I want to cover all the bases. We received the Sleeping Queens card game, and our girls (ages 7 and 9) have been having terrific fun with it. It even has some nutritional value (you'll get ahead a little faster if you can do basic arithmetic). If you have any connection to a family in its formative stages, do take the time to check out the Gamewright website: they've clearly got a good thing going.

Monday, January 02, 2006

How about that weather?

It seems that proper blog etiquette requires some sort of summary from the entries of the past year. I took a quick tour down archive lane, and found myself strangely encouraged to see what tickled my muse in the last year: basically, little stuff that caught me by surprise. Hey, that bodes well for the future!

The one thing I didn't comment on was the weather. Strange, really, because it seemed to be freaky no matter where you lived. I saw the worst of it in Winnipeg this summer. Winnipeg's spring was one unrelieved torrential rain storm. When I arrived there in early July, I was astonished to see the Winnipeg floodway filled to capacity. You'll see that in spring -- but July?! One week later, the city was hit with a wind and rain storm that ripped up trees and tore off a few roofs. I was awake for the worst of it, staring out the window at the maelstrom while my wife and daughters slept. I sat and wondered what it would look like if the weather changed from "storm" to "tornado" -- and what would I do? I guess I still don't know the answer to either question.