Entries from December 2001

New section added

Sometimes, when I’m feeling extra self-important and narcissistic, I fancy myself an adequate writer. In a fit of self-delusion (I mean, do you really care?), I’ve acted on these pipe dreams by posting a whack of writing I did when I worked at the hellacious Sympatico-Lycos. Some of it is okay, and some of it is bad. Either way, enjoy, and as always, comments and discouraging words are always welcome.

Writing for the Web

An excellent roundtable has been posted by the folks at the Morning News on writing for the Web. Very much worth checking out.

Why I don’t drive

Dean is usually a pretty damn funny fellow, but this is extra gut-wrenchingly hilarious. Meh.

To The Wedding

coverBy John Berger

Reading Berger's writing has always been an enigmatic, gloriously lyrical experience, and To The Wedding is no exception. Reading it leaves you with a decidedly European feeling; all narrow cobblestone streets, fleeting glances through gossamer curtains, and sly street merchants with secrets to share... beautiful.

If I were a work of art…

Mona LisaIf I were a work of art, I would be Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa.

I am extremely popular and widely known. Although unassuming and unpretentious, my enigmatic smile has charmed millions. I am a mystery, able to be appreciated from afar, but ultimately unknowable and thus intriguing.

Which work of art would you be? The Art Test

The First Snowfall

snowstormIt snowed almost all day Wednesday: 13 centimetres (just over five inches for the folks still in imperial). Blustery, blowing snow so thick at times the trees in the park across the street looked like looming shadows, fuzzy and indistinct but still somehow threatening.

Looking down on the street, I watched people scurry for cover (hopefully somewhere warm and cozy). A street person huddled under what looked like six parkas on a bench, looking miserable.

My friend in Toronto reported that from where he stood, it was 17°C. 17 - in December! "It's too hot and muggy here!" he complained. "I miss snow."

Later on, the snow plows sounded like distant thunder as they rumbled down residential streets, scraping the road raw. The sound of car tires on freshly plowed streets sounded uncannily like miniature jets as they sped by the home office window. A drunk staggered through knee-high snow drifts as a young child, all but sexless under a bulging snowsuit, playfully tossed snowballs at a quickly retreating mother.

Itchy and Scratchy

I'm coming down with something. I can feel it.

I'm still in the midst of dealing with the current situation (all eyedrops, tear-filled mornings, and suspicious glances at the office: "Where the hell have you BEEN for the last two weeks?"), and on the way home today I get the itch.

You know, the ITCH. The you're-on-the-verge-of-getting-a-brutal-throat-cold itch. The "welcome to phlegm-town" itch. The "oh-oh" itch.

So I'm <aheming> and clearing my throat and trying to pretend that no, nothing's wrong, I just swallowed that scalding hot coffee too quickly this morning and scarred the back of my throat. Ice cream will fix what ails me. (Denial is a powerful friend.) But, I know I'm on the verge of illness, and I don't like what I see. Blame it on the winter - that's what all Canadians do.

I'm reading Spalding Gray's Gray's Anatomy at the moment, partially because he makes me laugh out loud on the bus (and thusly incuring the wrath of the rather strange, frizzy-haired woman that rides the 14 bus in the morning), but mostly because in it he also suffers from an eye disorder: a Macula Pucker. It sounds hilariously organic (like some kind of funky, frou-frou mollusk) but it's actually rather serious.

Tip for the forlorn: read about someone more self-centred, neurotic, and self-obsessed than yourself. It makes you feel better.

Still, that doesn't help the itch. <AHEM !>

Electronic Dustbins of History

20 Year Archive now Available on Google Groups: I've never been a huge Usenet user (a post here, a thread there), but Google's gathering of Usenet posting dating back to 1981 is fascinating, historic stuff. Read Tim-Berner Lee's announcement of what became the Web (Aug. 1981), the first thread on AIDS (Dec., 1982), the first mention of Madonna (July, 1983), and many other ground-breaking events!

I especially love how banal and ordinary the first post they have on record is (dated May 12, 1981):

"We have recently installed a Versatec V-80 electrostatic plotter for producing phototypesetter facsimiles. Aside from a couple of hardware problems, we are satisfied with its performance."

schubert’s Nose launches

Renée has made the leap into the wired writing World with the launch of her weblog schubert's Nose, designed by yours truly.

I'm particularily proud of it because it's my first tableless site: it's 100% Cascading Style Sheets and valid XHTML, which is something planned for this site (when time and inspiration allows). I'm also happy because Renée finally has an outlet for all of the great writing she's done in the past (but never shown anyone). Swing on by and say hello.

Digital threads

Another cool blog toy from the folks that brought you blogdex. Now fostering connections and until now unknown friendships from the world over: the social network explorer.

The Great Perusal 2001

The smart and oh-so-dashing fellows who run the Morning News have posted their picks for the best ten books of this year (but not necessarily published this year). I'm game (and yes, there are some of mine that are the same as theirs: they're good books, remember?). In no particular order, the best books I read this year:

» J.D. Salinger: Catcher and the Rye » David Foster Wallace: A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again » John Berger: To The Wedding
» Robert Polito: Savage Art: A Biography of Jim Thompson
» Dav Pilkey: Capitaine Bobette et la Machination Machiavélique du Professeur K.K. Prout [thanks, Maya]
» Anne Carson: Autobiography of Red
» Philip Gourevitch: We wish to inform you that tomorrow we will be killed with our families
» Bruce Chatwin: In Patagonia
» John Kennedy Toole: Confederacy of Dunces
» Octavio Paz: The Collected Poems of Octavio Paz, 1957-1987

What's your picks for the best ten books you read this year? Let me know and I'll post your lists here in a week or so. Also, if you know of a book or author that you think I'd like, post it in the comments.

Other top 10's

Contributed by Niklas Andersson:
"A hard one, but I think my list would be as follows (in no order whatsoever):"
Neil Gaiman: American Gods
Edward Savio: Idiots in the Machine
Wilton Barnhardt: Gospel
Lewis Shiner: Glimpses
Nick Hornby: High Fidelity
Steven Brust: Issola
Jonathan Lethem: Amnesia Moon
Tim Powers: Declare
Jonathan Carroll: Land of Laughs
Graham Chapman: A Liar's Autobiography

Why this is here

Lance Arthur over at glassdog is posting a new entry every day of this month, and then deleting it at day's end. Who cares? Probably noone... but some of his writing is great stuff, indeed.

I normally hate quoting large tracts of other people's thoughts, but he recently posted something that made me say, "yeah."

So I'm gonna quote anyway, and if you don't like it, too bad.

"What's it like to be you?

Truthfully, no one asks this. And even if they did, I wouldn't really know how to answer it. Would you? I think if you know what it's like, you're either very shallow and can therefore easily define yourself for someone else (which, in some ways, in an envious position to be in) or you're lying in order to placate them and make them go away. Maybe the whole point of this entire exercise -- all the writing, all the designing, all the words and music and numbers, the sharing and hiding, the wishing and telling, the remembering and forgetting and imagining and desiring -- maybe it's all an attempt to answer that question. Why else do it? What else is a great yop into the universe for? You want to let someone know you're here.

It doesn't seem to matter who you are or what your situation is, this need to tell comes back and you keep it up and so do I. Others abandon it, finding not satisfaction but rather more of the same that they get out of life. More disappointment, more noise, more ignorance and misunderstanding. I would like to believe in karma, but I don't. I believe in chaos and happenstance. People die for absolutely no reason all the time. Other people go on living for that same absense of sense. There's no rhyme or reason to any of it, other than that you ascribe to it to try to make heads or tails out of it all. You're afraid of what mught happen, and if it does, that you'll be unprepared for it. So now here's this, reems and reems of empty space to fill up. Spill it all like milk on glass, hoping some of it sticks and someone will remember you in the bigger sense. Or maybe not, maybe there's no reason at all for any of it. Which, I must say, I find much more comforting in the end."

Ahem. Go on, now: pop on over for a visit.

Raw fish, literature, and singing Frenchmen

I won't even attempt to encapsulate last evening's events: Renée has it pretty well covered. As I'm trying to drum up interest in her new site, head on over to schubert's Nose while I sit here patiently and whip up some more Christmassy BeatnikPad decorations.

All done? I will add that I'm stupid for sushi and goobbled up all of the rolls, sashimi and monkfish liver in front of me like a true gluttonous idiot. I passed on the complimentary fish head, however; one does have to have their fishy limits. Your food should never have the eyes to look at you.

I've updated The Great Perusal 2001 with a contribution from Swede Nicklas Andersson. Take a peek at his choices for the ten best reads of 2001, and then add your picks to the list. Good books deserved to be shared.

Just indulging in a lazy, couch-riding, television-staring Friday evening, something I don't feel one bit guilty about.

» Raw fish, literature, and singing Frenchmen continues...

Ma Petite Obsession

Tonight, I sat in a room filled with people speaking a language other than English. And I loved it.

As you may have noticed from the little bits of French I toss in here and there, I like the language. Well, actually, that's not quite accurate: I LOVE languages. All of 'em. Even phlegmy-sounding gargle languages like Arabic and German (no offense meant - that just what it sounds like to my uncultured, unattuned ears).

I've always lamented the fact that I don't speak multiple tongues. Even though my background is Chinese, my parents pulled the typical first generation tomfoolery and refused to teach us the language - something about ensuring that we spoke "pure English" or some nonsense like that.

Oh, I tried going to Chinese school, but it was too little, too late. As for French, being part of a purportedly "bilingual nation", we did have French classes in school. The problem is, I went to some of the crappiest public schools ever. The French teacher didn't even speak French - but she was a toothsome, young bathing suit model - so even though enrollment in her class was incredibly high, we learned exactly rien. Well, we learned how to stare, ogle, induldge in flights of pubescent sexual fantasy, and say, "Voulez-vous couchez avec moi?"... but that's another story.

» Ma Petite Obsession continues...

explosions in the sky

coverThose Who Tell the Truth Shall Die, Those who Tell the Truth Shall Live Forever

Bombast, melodrama, and spine-chilling beauty from Austin, Texas. Explosions in the Sky weave walls of sound, hoarfrost-fragile melodies, and heart-rending cacophany into something truly stunning. This is the soundtrack for moody days spent staring out dew-dusted windows - days that crash from melancholic sadness, to explosive anger, to redemptive comtemplation; it is music to accompany cathartic change. Perfect.

Mr. Crumblepants

Today is a bad eye day.

I woke up this morning, put on my glasses, and the first thought through my brain was, "These can't be my glasses," as I peered through a blurry, vaseline-on-the-camera lense haze. I feel like I'm living in a really, really bad Creed video, and I can't get out. I keep half-expecting a cheese-ball Scott Stapp to jump out of the shower, bellowing some half-assed agony line whilst pumping his fist in the air like a mechanized monkey, surrounded by the murky blur of my bathroom...

Ack. And, to top it off, I have a gargantuan-sized cold. Ah well. You didn't come here to listen to me complain like Grandpa Simpson, did you? <SIGH>

A case of Mistaken Identity

Okay. So it took a total of eight days from my first mention of Google's fascinating archive of newsgroup posts, to when I was googling myself. I'm amazed I could hold out so long.

Imagine my horror, however, when I realized that, oh my god! There's another person named "Neil Lee"! And, jimminy jillickers! He's a complete asshole!

Surely this guy takes the cake for being the most obnoxious streak of pelican shit god ever put breath into that has posted here.

Now, I never for once entertained the thought that I could be the only Neil Lee in the world... but why did he have to be a raving "crustie licking poo pusher"? Not only this, but all of the "we hate Neil Lee" posts are the very first results Google pulls up. Feh.

For the record, I and the Internet were not closely acquainted in 1997. Really. View the whole, gory details here.

Special Webby Holiday Hosannas

· Renée: for being the boog, for sharing everything, for the love of whimsy, and for les flamants.
· Barb: for the poetry, the confessions of a peepee-soaked new-media heckhole, and the on-going Brit Lust.
· Dave: for the great, gut-busting stories, and the sparkling sense of humour.
· Natalie: for the Hogtown fellowship, for the love of sushi, and for the unusual dreams.
· Mena and Ben: for creating the brilliance that is Movable Type, and for supporting it with good natured friendliness.
· Everyone on the Webdesign-l mailing list: for constantly reminding me of how much I need to learn, and for helping me get there, and to Steven for being a most excellent list-mom.
· Dean: for the intelligent, jaw-dropping hilarity, for the love of Weimaraners, and for the insights into une vie en France.
· Dooce: for the hilarity, the love of naps and breasts and grapenuts, and the fine musical taste.
· Alison: for the evocative story-telling, the wordsmithery, and the non-parrot.
· Thandi: for the honesty and friendship, and for understanding the mystical <mwah>.
· The folks at Coudal: for Photoshop Tennis, for the MoOM, and for the great linkage.
· Andrew and rosecrans: for being the news / music / pop culture filter of choice, and for the unabashed New York perspective.
· Jeffrey: for the Web Standards organization, for the heartfelt daily report, and for being so damn friendly.
· Tonia: for the great friendship, fellow geekiness, and wily franco-italian charm.
· Dan: for teaching me how to teach myself, and for the unstoppable sense of humour.
· Lance: for being the "Mark Twain of the Internet", for the inspired writing and snappy sense of design.
· You: for reading this entire list, and for coming here in the first place. And, for anyone who has ever linked to the BeatnikPad.

Have a safe, cozy, and happy holiday season!

Praise be Movable Type

This is one of the more compelling reasons why I moved off of blogger and started running my own system (for the record, Movable Type crossed with some back-end shenanigans of my own devising - "toot! toot!" goes my gnarled horn of geekiness <grin>.). I feel bad for a bunch of my friends who run their journals on Blogger - not only are they locked out while Ev tries to fix what was broken... but they'll probably have to change passwords and all that inconvenient stuff.

Still: in the whole scheme of things, rather insignificant. My Christmas was VERY laid back, somewhat sad due to some ongoing personal stuff, and at the same time joyous, laughter-filled, and undeniably comfy. How was yours?

Riding the All-Consuming Wave

Boxing Day is one of those days when I'm convinced the entire world's sanity takes a 90-degree turn just south of common sense and doesn't look back.

I woke up this morning, thinking that I'd go out and do my Happy New Year's present shopping (because that IS the real holiday, in my book), and stare, slack-jawed with wallet at ready, at all of the GREAT DEALS! Because hey! - Boxing Day is the day when all of those corporate, soulless, indiscriminately evil box stores unveil their so - cheap - you - can't refuse - and - oh - well - we - really - could - use - another - plunger prices.

And I am such a sucker.

» Riding the All-Consuming Wave continues...

Is this thing on?

Welcome, Cool Stop readers!

Okay, so is the BeatnikPad loading fairly quickly for you? From my end, things are putt-putting along, and I've been hassling my Web host to check into it for a while. But you can never really know if it's your connection, or your host, or some guy along the ways in South Dakota whose homemade router sucks rocks.

Please, post a comment or let me know if the site is dragging its heels. Thanks!

Television saved my life

I'm the apparently rare breed of person who hasn't watched a lot of television in his life. This was more due to financial contraints than a hipster's disdain for the infamous boob tube - when you've got barely enough money to buy groceries, it's a pretty easy decision. Oh - except for the Simpsons. Man, I love that show.

Perhaps because of this, I'm a complete ignoramus when it comes to television culture. I remember a time when I was lazing about with some folks from work a few years back. They were killing themselves laughing about the exploits of some guy; from the sounds of it, he was just hi-larious. Knee-slapping funny. Stomach-achingly silly.

Interested, I said, "Wow, that sounds funny! Who's this soup nazi fellow?"

They all stopped talking, and simultaneously gave me this look like I had just said, "Jesus? Who the HELL is that?"

No, I've never been well acquainted with the cathode ray tube world of television. That is, until four months ago when I moved back to Winnipeg. Don't get me wrong - there's a lot of things to do in Winnipeg - but in the midst of -30 degrees celsius weather, the last thing you want to do is actually go outside to find them. For the first time since I lived with my parents, televsion became a trusted friend and welcome visitor in my home.

Emeril! Iron Chef! MASH! The Simpsons 24-hours a day! Ancient re-runs of Saturday Night Live! That fucking purple monstrosity, Barney! The pompous Alex Trebek and Jeopardy! LA Law! And, my current favorite, Win Ben Stein's Money.

I love games shows. Always have. Some of my best television moments were spent basking in the warming glow of classic game shows. I learned about the dangers of gluttony from Press Your Luck... got an education in family harmony and cooperation from Family Fued... discovered smart shopping, and my budding heterosexuality from the vixens of The Price Is Right... and dreamed of enlightenment in front of CBC's Reach for the Top. None of these come close to the all-you-can-eat joy of Win Ben Stein's Money.

It's got trivia! Difficult questions! Blatant homo-eroticism! Snarky irreverent behavior! And a cranky old Jewish guy! How could you NOT like it? Ah, yes. Television? Where have you been all my life?

Lambchop : Nixon

Nixon coverNixon is one of those records that I can't listen to enough. It's just (and I normally hate using this word) brilliant. Lead singer / songwriter Kurt Wagner can't seem to do wrong (even though you spend half the time trying to figure out just what the hell he's talking about). It's a lush, country-laced orchestration, infused with a touch of deadpan humour and schizophrenia; perfectly realized chameleon-music for the chronically ironic.

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