Entries from January 2002

New digs

A new year brings yet another new home for the BeatnikPad. After all of the shenannigans with the pokey old Web host, I got impatient and fed up and moved the darn thing. I can be crankly like that. At least my friends think so.

Along with the new, hopefully faster server (it seems to working great for me, now), I've also reorganized the archives. For you, the change will mean nothing. But for those of you surfing in from a Search engine, you'll probably get a 404 or two until Google and company reindex the site. Sorry.

And so, with the giddy excitement of a palindromic year ahead of us, I wish you good health, good eating, and good times in 2002. Skold!


There's something mighty humbling about being linked to. Perhaps in the faceless, virtual world of the Internet it's the closest thing to physical contact that we've got; Web sites joined together by the flimsiest of gossamer...

That being said, being linked to by someone whose work you highly respect is cause for even more shoe-gazing and mumbling. Thank you, Jeffrey, for the linkup, especially to Renée's site - I've been telling her for years that her writing is good. It's incredibly satisfying to finally see others discovering her work.

X marks the Spot

Have I told lately you how much I love the new Mac OS X operating system? It truly is groovy, good-looking, and pretty darn usable.


Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, but I personally find OS X's aqua interface to be quite spiffy. The best thing about it in my book, though, is the fact that I have finally harmonized my development and desktop environments. For the first time I can work in Microsoft Word, do some Photoshopping, and run MySQL and PHP scripts on the local Apache server - all simultaneously, and all on the same machine.

And, if I have the want of Microsoft Windows, I simply start up Virtual PC and keep on working.

Normally I don't do the public ga-ga thing about products, but (and this sounds stupidly geeky) running Mac OS X actually makes working on the computer FUN. I can't believe I just typed that.

I suppose this post could be construed as jumping on the "Let's talk " bandwagon. But, seeing as how mania has exploded in feverish anticipation of Monday's Macworld and the expected announcement of such goodies as a LCD iMac, new iBooks, 1gHz+ PowerMacs, 's cosumer photo manipulation software iPhoto (and heavily rumoured items like an PDA called iWalk, a wireless tablet called iDock, [iEnough already!] and the hard-to-believe rumoured porting of Mac OS X to run on Intel PCs), it's all in context.

I'm not obsessed with (like some are), but boy, they sure make great products.

BeatnikPad: the Definite Guide

oreilly coverI love the O'Reilly book covers a lot, partially because they're such a simple but effective branding and design concept, but also because I'm crazy about 19th Century engravings and woodcuts - how boring is that?

Jay Link put together this equally clever DIY O'Reilly parody, which any discerning Web monkey will enjoy. After a bit of futzing around with it, here's what I came up with. How about you? (Via Acts of Volition.)

Speaking of the fine art of woodcuts and engraving, I love the work of Michael Halbert.

Deadly coincidences?

Okay, today must be a day of deadly coincidences, or there's something else afoot. Five small planes went down today: In the U.S. there was one in Colorado, one in California into a parking lot, and one rammed into a Florida skyscraper. In Britain, a small jet crashed on take off, and in Puerto Rico a small plane went down near the town of Rio Grande. U.S. officials were quick to assuage fears that these accidents had anything to do with terrorism, but the timing is surprising and much too reminiscent of September 11th.

I don't know - maybe this is just a big coincidence, or perhaps the media is starting to report more of them... but it's still unnerving.

Merci, et le monde bizarre de l’internet

Thank you, Laura!

And, for your reading pleasure, some of the stranger search requests people used to find this site this week:

  • sexy ethiopian ladies - is there any other kind? :)
  • moving of living calculator - one left leg forward + one right leg forward = walking
  • nice nicknames - mine is "neilio"
  • where was former president bill clinton on new year's eve 2002 - in my hot tub, playing his saxophone and reading his favorite issue of Maxim magazine, that's where.

More on this later.

The Sweet Smell of Success - 1957

Directed by: Alexander Mackendrick

Written by: Ernest Lehman & Clifford Odets

One Sheet for Sweet Smell of SuccessThis classic film, directed by Alexander Mackendrick, is easily one of the best films of all time. A pretty bold statement, perhaps, until you've actually sat down and soaked in its vicious, chilled vitriol. Burt Lancaster never portrayed calculated maliciousness more convincingly, and baby-faced Tony Curtis literally drips with self-serving viciousness. It is, as Curtis's Sidney Falco proclaims, "a cookie filled with arsenic."

The Sweet Smell of Success is an unflinching exploration of the evil that men are capable of. Lancaster plays J. J. Hunsecker, a newspaper gossip columnist whose poisoned pen can make or break a career, and Curtis's Falco one of his many "press agents". The story follows Hunsecker's attempts to ruin his daughter's marriage to a jazz guitarist by getting Falco to dig up dirt on him. And it is deliciously nasty.

"You're dead, son, " Hunsecker tells Falco at one point, "get yourself buried." Clifford Odet's script for The Sweet Smell of Success is astoundingly good, overflowing with snappy, yet hate-filled one-liners that resonate in the mind long after the film ends. Apparently, Quentin Tarantino based a lot of his dialogue writing style on the rapid-fire delivery heard in this film, and it shows. The banter between any of Tarantino's characters in Pulp Fiction or Reservoir Dogs evokes Odet's uncanny sense of timing; they draw from the same polluted source.

Beautifully shot by cinematographer and Chinese trailblazer James Wong Howe (who was the first Chinese man to work in Hollywood in such a high position), The Sweet Smell of Success is as blackhearted and spellbinding now as it was forty years ago. Highly recommended.

Chinese Propoganda and other distactions

Coudal posted this link today to a whole whack of utterly gorgeous Chinese Propoganda posters, which I'll be adding to the web love collection soon. But, here it is on the front for your enjoyment.

Speaking of enjoyment, take a second to pop on over to Barbara Fletcher's lovingly redesigned journal. It's a tableless delight. Other redesigns of note: Natalie's gone gloriously red with her journal luminescent. Ø Todd Dominey's What do I Know is a wickedly cool tableless site - his Web design shop's site Dominey Design is also quite excellent. Ø Alison's redesigned bluishorange isn't bluish (or orange, for that matter) anymore - it's gone green, and looks amazing.

All of these tableless redesigns make me want to get the lead out and put the BeatnikPad under the plastic surgeon's knife again. Progress waits for no one.

The hazards of bad typography

Wrong fontI don't know about you, but this made me laugh and laugh.

"They should have used a different font." Too funny.

10 things to do when you’re bored.

  1. Start reading that book you've been planning to read for years, but never seemed to get to.
  2. Turn off the computer, pick up the phone, and get in touch with a friend you haven't talked to in a dog's age. A BeatnikPad rule: never, ever regret.
  3. Get an ISSN for your Weblog, so you can truthfully claim that you write for a periodical with international distribution.
  4. Daydream of what will be, what has been, and what could have been.
  5. Start learning a new language, and try to find a native speaker to practice with.
  6. Try to catch 25 grapes in your mouth, one at a time.
  7. Hang out with your cats. (Okay, or dog, or hamster, or iguana, or ferret... )
  8. Alphabetize your spice rack, rotate your CD collection, and lament the passing of space-pop pioneer ¡Esquival!. Long live the Space Age Bachelor Pad!
  9. Go to the library and leave cryptic, passionate notes to a mysterious lover inbetween the pages of books in the Law section. Lawyers need all the help they can get.
  10. Unplug the phone and take a long nap, and then wake up and blow a bunch of time thinking up stupid, inane lists for the Web site.

Come on, folks. What's a fun thing to do when you're bored? Post 'em in the comments.

The glories and tribulations of Being

Life lately has been incredibly stressful. I won't bore you with the gory details, and frankly, some of it is just too personal to be posting willy-nilly in a public place such as this.

Needless to say, there's the usual suspects: work, relationships, life... but other things, too. And that's as much as I'm going to say about it. But, pardon me if I seem strange. As with everything, this too shall pass.

It's been beautiful here the last couple of days, which always helps lift the spirits. I was walking from the office this afternoon and I couldn't believe the sight of everything melting, and the sun brilliantly out. In Winnipeg at this time, it's almost always frigging cold - highs of minus 25 or 30 degrees celsius, sometimes compounded with a deathly wind that drives the temperature even lower. I remember one winter (god, that sounds like such an old man thing to say...) when it was -50°C with the wind factored in.

Of course, that makes the +2°C of the last couple of days seem... eerie. I know it's a typically Canadian thing to talk about the weather, but you have to admit: the weather the last few years has been really, really odd. Hurricanes, tornadoes, horrendous drought in much of North America, massive floods, earthquakes all over the goddamn place, and snow and blizzards in Greece and Italy... it all makes me wonder if the damage we've wrought to the planet is irreversible - as if we're doomed already, like a bit player in a shitty Sylvester Stallone movie, and we just don't know it yet.

Still, all that doomsday musing aside, it really was a glorious day out. Walking along Academy road, by the Academy Bowling Lanes where a huge group of friends and I use to go drink & bowl four years ago, the long rows of trees planted in the 1940's looked palatial and calming. With the sun setting the buildings off in the distance took on a brassy, honeyed glow, as if off in the distance was the Golden city, and I was on the path to quiet salvation.

Why Spam doesn’t pay. And booze.

The story in a nutshell: Stupid idiot sends out a ton of spam e-mail, one of which lands in the inbox of a noted anti-spam crusader. A Web site is posted. Mayhem ensues. Truly, the life of a spammer is an interesting one. I'm still laughing as I type this.

Some excitement for the packaging designers and beer drinkers out there: a lovingly assembled and gigantic beer can collection. Now, if only I wasn't allergic to alcohol...

A Democracy of Photographs

I was planning to use this entry to talk about how I finally got out to indulge in the meme of the moment, Lord of the Rings. This seems more important.

911 hope imageHere is New York, subtitled "a democracy of photographs" is a massive collection of photographs taken during and after September 11th. This online gallery isn't just for viewing, however - all of the photos are for sale to the public, with the proceeds going to the Children's Aid Society WTC Relief Fund, to help support children who lost fathers and/or mothers.

As the subtitle infers, this isn't a closed exhibition. The site allows the public to upload their images to the site, thus opening up the exhibition as a collective experience for all. The photos reflect this openness, organized in categories with names like, "Onlookers", "WTC- immediate damage", "Ground Zero", and "Firemen". Some are beautifully surreal, some disturbing, some seemingly banal - all are overwhelmingly human.

Almost impossible to believe it's been four months. For me, the memories, panic, and sadness had started to fade from the forefront of daily thought. An hour spent looking through this amazing collection, and the sadness and loss are right there again; a wound that never seems to completely heal.

Born on the Year of Natural Platoon Dumbasses

Oliver StoneOf all the stupid, idiotic hacks that have hosed their crappy, boneheaded movies all over the psyche of the modern movie-goer, none come even remotely close to the pretentious, flatulent blowhardedness of Olive Stone. Is there an event that he WON’T piss his ass-headed conspiracies all over? The only person in Hollywood with more conceit and less talent than this guy is that big-haired buffoon Joe Eszterhas. Good lord, don’t get me started.

One down, one to go


This site is now 100% XHTML 1.0 transitional compliant. Look, if you don't believe me, see for yourself.

Next up? Redoing the entire site completely in Cascading Style Sheets. Right now, all of the pretty boxes, form elements, and font styling are being beautified via a global stylesheet, but the structure of the page is held together using tables. All of this will change, given some time.

Why does any of this matter? Here: read this.

Best albums I purchased in 2001

A little bit late, but here's the list of the best albums I purchased in 2001. Not in any particular order, mind you, and again, this list is open to albums released in years other than 2001. Just like my list of the best ten books I read in 2001.


  1. The Pernice Brothers: The World Won't End
  2. Mark Kozelek: What's Next to the Moon
  3. Ryan Adams: Heartbreaker (and yes, not the more recent Gold. which I think is kind of stinky and over-produced.)
  4. Sparklehorse: it's a wonderful life
  5. Femi Kuti: Fight to Win
  6. White Stripes: White Blood Cells
  7. Elvis Costello w/ Burt Bacharach: Painted from Memory
  8. Archer Prewitt: Gerroa Songs
  9. Björk: Vespertine
  10. Neko Case & Her Boyfriends: Furnace Room Lullaby
  11. The Olivia Tremor Control: Music from the unrealized film script Dusk at Cubist Castle
  12. The Strokes: Is This It

How about you? Please, share even a couple of the albums you bought last year that you liked, if only to give me another reason to spend some more money. As if I needed a reason.

More Poster Art

Some really nice gig poster work by the folks at Aesthetic Apparatus.

Designed to help prevent bunching and twisting

I can't believe it.

I'm standing in the aisle in the cavernous white glare of SuperValu (masters of the can't - come - in - and - spend - less - than - $100 - on - groceries supermarket), trying desperately to figure out some mysterious words on the shopping list, and failing miserably. The scrawled words on the shopping list are eloquent in their simplicity. Three words. They say: "Maxi: with wings".

My first assumption is that Maxi is some kind of brand name that's been used so often for so long by everyone that it has transcended its mere brandness. Sure - it's become the generic, catch-all term, I think. I need a Maxi, like "I need a Kleenex" when you mean facial tissue, or "I need some Krazy Glue", when you actually need a highly adhesive bonding agent.

I'm scanning one of two seemingly endless aisles of feminine hygiene products (what, are women normally dirty?), trying to find one with wings. A woman is standing nearby with this look of half embarrassment, half utter contempt scrunched up all over her face, like I've got my penis hanging out of my pants and at any second I'm going to face her and bellow, "Come here, woman, so I can ride you like a country-bred donkey in the hair nets and dandruff treatment aisle!"

Maxi. There's Maxi with wings "long". Maxi without wings "long". Maxi that "now fits size 14!". Maxi in soothingly blue packages. Maxi in environmentally responsible green packages. Maxi in the too-obvious feminine pink packages. Maxi "ultra petite". Maxi "thick". Maxi "thick, with new extensible wings". Maxi "with new SureFresh coversheet" (whatever the hell that is). Every goddamn box has Maxi on it, and at least 75% have "wings", too, by my estimate.

And they're not cheap, either. I can't help thinking about all the money a menstruating woman must spend every month, month in, and month out, on products dedicated to her personal hygiene. I start trying to calculate how much a woman must spend in her entire life on tampons, and pads, and "Maxi: with wings", and new, unstained underwear, and aspirin for the cramps, and medicine for the bloating... and then I try to calculate how much money I've spent on "guy hygiene products", and I'm struck by how little I actually spend on, well, hygiene products, with the exception of soap, shaving cream and razors, and shampoo. Which are all things women have to buy. So they don't count.

I contemplate asking the scrunchy woman, whose still standing there gawking at me like I've got Disgusting - masturbatory - pervert - obsessed - with - the - words - "absorbancy" - and - "heavy flow" on a gigantic, glittery sign around my neck, which one to buy. They all seem the same, and they all seem like they, well, do the same thing. But the woman is obviously too embarrassed and contemptuous to give me a straight answer. Her embarrassment is starting to sink into me through some wacky humiliation-osmosis, like water gushing over the top of a broken dam... and after what seems to be hours, I hastily grab a package that looks like the one I'd buy if I was a woman (blue package, natch), and beat a hasty retreat to the hair dye aisle, my introduction to the unscented, ultra-dry world of woman's sanitary napkins complete.

Next week: Neil goes bra shopping!

Photos updated: Gaudi is my god

The photos section has been (finally!) updated with more photos from a trip to Europe that Renée and I took last year. This update: part one of two from Barcelona. Enjoy!

Alphabet Zoo

After all of the bad news today (more death in the Middle East. more Enron scuttlebutt, another attack in India, and Peggy Lee died)… sometimes you just need something to remind you of the simple, innocence things.

Mental floss on a cold Tuesday night

There must be something in the water. It always ends up being the water. That has to be the reason why nearly every single person I know these days is either teetering on the edge of some earthshattering life moment (birthing cathartis like watermelons shooting out of a garden hose), or deep in the cups of "but, what will I DO with my life?" Welcome to the gloriously dirty thirties.

[A caveat: I'm going to talk about the state of being a certain age, and some of the luggage that I, and/or some people I know have accumulated because of being that particular age. If you could give a flying Swedish karate kick about any of this, feel free to head off and try to find something more exciting to read.

Really, it's okay.] 

» Mental floss on a cold Tuesday night continues...

Life from the bottom of a Roy Rogers

I'm allergic to alcohol.

Whenever I tell people this I almost unanimously get two responses. From the die-hard boozehounds, I get a look of unabashed horror, like I just said, "I have leprosy!" with a big girn on my face. "And it's catching!"

"Oh god," the not-so-closeted beer-hunters will say, "that must be horrible." And then they shudder, cross themselves, and pound back a frosty Pilsner - because they can. Bastards.

And then there's the more mild but still rather shocked, "Wow, really? What happens when you drink?"

To set the record straight, I suffer from a somewhat rare (but more common in Asiatics) high-octane, burnin'-down-on-the-hot-side-of-town-you-dig allergy, where I get a form of anaphylactic shock. The throat swells up like a Brooklyn hot dog in the sun, and I have a lot of trouble breathing. Plus, I get all splotchy and red, like W.C. Field's nose, but all over. It's not pretty. Also, it's an allergy to alcohol in any form: I can't take cold or cough medicine that contains alcohol (so it's Buckley's Cold remedy for this guy), and up to recently I couldn't use mouthwash, or hairspray (due to inhaling the particles)... but that's gotten better with age.

Being allergic to alcohol has its plusses and minuses. A top of the head list:



I've saved a TON of money I've blown it all on pot. Well, used to. ;)
I slowly get to watch a large group of people get drunker and drunker (a fascinating sociological experiment) If I come into a party and everyone is already totally loaded, it's almost impossible to relate to people.
Highly decreased chances of walking up beside someone and not remembering their name. I have absolutely no excuse if I do.
Decreased change of making a complete ass of myself. I do a great job of that without the help of alcohol, and again, noone to blame but sober ol' me.

DrunkThe list goes on and on. It's a strange existence, in some ways. I've come to realize just how much our social lives revolve around the fine art of two-fisting and rampant wine drinking: We go for "Friday drinks" to celebrate making it through another cruddy week at work. We go to the bar to meet and try to cajole the opposite (or same) sex that we're mighty fine examples of studmuffins. We pound a few when they rebuke us, and get some "liquid courage" to try again. We propose toasts to those worthy of such attention, and have wakes for those who have passed on. We start the evening off at the bar before clubbing, or after a movie or the theatre to debrief with friends. We drink at weddings, and drown our sorrows when we've down in the dumps.

I can't help but think of the famous Dean Martin quote at this moment: "I feel sorry for people who don't drink. When they wake up in the morning, that's as good as they're going to feel all day." Well, we didn't end up as a sodden wreck in a bunch of bad Matt Helm movies, either... but, I digress.

Through all of this, I don't actually miss drinking all that much. I used to be able to drink (and boy, did I ever) when I was in high school - after quitting for a while so that I could actually finish off my high school diploma, my allergy popped up: a teensy surprise at the very end of the dark tunnel of chemical changes we call puberty.

What I really miss is the possibility of taste. When I was able to drink, I was a typical "drink to get loaded" type. Who cares if it tastes good - what's the alcoholic percentage? Because of this, I've missed out on fine wine, smokey, high-falutin scotch, manly whiskey drinking, tequila (and the worm), Jack Daniels, creme de menthe, Jägermeister, lime rickeys, and especially all of the actually GOOD beers.

Guinness? Wouldn't know it unless it was prefixed with "Alec". I can just see my friend Trevor, a massive Guinness fan, recoiling in shock. I missed out on all the yummy sounding beers with words like "nutty" and "honey" in them. I missed out on Heineken ("Fuck that shit, man, PABST BLUE RIBBON!"), and Coronas, and... sigh. My beer education consists of Molsom Club (usually found in the sweaty fists of someone with a mullet), Extra Old Stock (for the extra old men), and Labatt's Blue. The words Pee-pee de chat come to mind.

The reality, however, is that I'm 100% used to not drinking. Sure, when it's a hard day, or a really hot summer afternoon, I feel a twinge of desire for a frosty beverage. I think we're programmed to want beer then; it's encoded in our genes. But I don't really miss it at all. I do find that I usually make friends with people based on their personality when they're loaded - happy, smiley drunks are usually a thumbs up, falling over, barfing, easily lost high-maintenance drunks are are a no-no - and really, (here's the thirties thing again), we're at the age now where we just don't put one on as often as we used to, anyway. So life is good.

That is, it's all good until it completely turns to suckitty-suck-suck when I read something like this: Study: Drinking can ward off dementia. SIGH.

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