Entries from August 2002

Chez Nous

Well, I just returned from completely confusing the poor Korean corner store clerk across the street from our apartment. It's hard to switch out of French mode when you've been speaking it for over a week.

Yep, I'm back. It's cool and almost fall-like in Winnipeg, which is nice compared to the sweltering humidity in Montreal. I hate it when it's so muggy just the sensation of skin against linen is enough to turn on the sweat factory. By Wednesday I was nearly trying to contort my body into this strange, almost tantric position to try and avoid touching anything while sleeping. If I could have hovered, I would have.

Besides that, my brain is filled with francophone cultural delights, my belly sated with bagels, stupendous Mexican food, and yummy Quebe&#231ois brunches, and my thighs are toned, tanned, and mighty after walking nearly everywhere. I love pedestrian-friendly cities.

Pardon me while I get caught up on my e-mail and favorite Web sites. I'll post some pictures from my trip soon. (You knew that was coming, didn't you? I'm so predictable.)

P.S. Keeping the art of the postscript alive: this entry was created using Adriaan Tijsseling's new Kung-Log. If you use Mac OS X and Movable Type, go check it out. It's marvy.

Fear dot com

Okay, this wins the "unintentionally funny" award of the month: Check out the trailer for the new Warner Brothers movie Fear Dot Com. It's too much.

It's sad to see the beautiful Natascha McElhone (who was quite good in John Frankenheimer's Ronin) forced to sprout dreck like, "Every one of these victims died two days to the minute after they logged onto the Fear site!"

It's got Stephen Dorff (one of the more unfortunately named Hollywood actors)! It's got the great Udo Kier! It's got people staring in bewilderment at a Toshiba laptop, and lots of shots of people typing away frantically on keyboards! It's got dire pronouncements like, "Promise me one thing - that you won't visit that site." You know I have to see it.

On Smoking

In the summer of 1985, to escape the dullness that being young, bored, and in Winnipeg can evoke, one of my older brothers performed a vanishing act. He went away to Alberta to work.

Then, he was into punk rock and new wave during a time when having your hair short or spiky instantly branded you a "faggot". He got beat up a lot. He also skateboarded, listened to Black Flag and Crass and The Damned and Hüsker Dü, sang in a punk rock band, and smoked. I looked up to him with that sense of little brother awe that only older brothers can rightfully claim. His bedroom was a treasure trove of cool older brother stuff. And he was gone for the whole summer.

In the summer of 1985 I smoked my first cigarette.

» On Smoking continues...

What is Web Culture?

I need your help.

If, as the Oxford English Dictionary defines it, culture is:
1. a. the arts and other manifestations of human intellectual achievement regarded collectively 2.a. the customs, civilization, and achievements of a particular society or group

... what would you say would be included in the idea of the Web's culture?

In other words, academic notions aside, what Web sites would you say represent (in part, of course) the concept of the Web as a cultural medium?

The reason I ask: I'm working on a curriculum for the school on "Digital Culture" (I didn't name the course), and the one thing I'm positive of is that it's impossible for me to know every single interesting / great / thought-provoking / cool / hilarious / artistic Web site out there. So I'm hoping you can help.

Post away in the comments your URLs, and please include a tiny description of what is significant about the site you're mentioning. Anything goes. Be creative. Think outside of the blog. Ask a friend, ask your site visitors - the more, the absolutely merrier. Thank you.

High School Memoirs

It sucked.

It's funny how a few years in one's life can leave such deep, compelling memories. It's even funnier how old I feel now that I've realized that I have now been out of the public school system longer than I ever was in it. That's weird.

This slightly pensive moment was provoked by the CBC's Ian Hanomansing's forum on high school. So, how about it? Was your high school experience a positive or negative one?

And more importantly, did you go to / do you plant to go to your high school reunion?

American Ground

I've been reading The Atlantic Monthly's three part series called American Ground: Unbuilding the World Trade Center, written by William Langewiesche (the writer whose impeccable writing also covered the Egypt Air disaster for the same magazine). It's some of the most compelling, lucid writing I've read in ages and ages.

Unfortunately there's only excerpts available on their site (for Part One: The Inner World, and now Part Two: The Rush to Recover), but there's also an interesting interview with the author, entitled Inside the Ruins, where he says:

The reaction to the collapse of those towers represented the healthiest strains and the strongest strains in the United States. The towers themselves, before they were attacked, represented something else about the United States, and probably not the most attractive thing. They represented Big Brother in the biggest way. They represented Big Organization�the monolithic company or government. They were very much a totalitarian representation of centralized structure and control.

It astounds me to think that we're rapidly approaching the one year anniversary of the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Where did this year go? How did it disappear so quickly?

One thing I know is that date has become a kind of chronometric signpost; by the force of its overwhelming tragedy and irrevocable connection to who we are, it has become part of our collective calendar. To me, it all still feels very close.

Montreal Photos

They're probably not the most exciting photos in the world (and I've posted almost all of them, so friends can see them), but I've finally gotten around to posting my vacation photos from Montreal.

What you'll get to see: lots of Montreal architecture, photos of a few of my Montreal friends, an evening at Le Jardin Tiki, and other various touristy stuff. The photos were taken by both myself and my friend Paul, who gallivanted around town with me for most of the trip. If that sounds interesting to you, go check them out.

One strange thing I noticed is that the focus is soft in most of them. I think this is because of the multiple trips my digital camera made through airport x-ray machines, but I'm not sure. At any rate, enjoy.

Please pull the iron wool over my eyes

You know, as the unlucky winner of a rather annoying eye condition, sometimes I really wish one could just pop their eyes out, drop them in some nice warm water and give them a really good scrubbing.

(Now that I think of it, this would probably be a great ability to have with one's brain, too. Just wash them black and moldy thoughts away with some soothing. emotional soap suds.)

I'm in dire need of an eyeglass perscription update - staring at a computer screen all day (even one as good as this) tends to make one bug-eyed even if they've the benefit of 20/20 vision. I'm seriously thinking of getting a set (my first) of contacts - any eyeglass wears have any comments on the pros / cons of contacts?

For the record, my perscription is really high: -10.25 in the right, -11.0 in the left. For all intensive purposes I'm blind as a bat. I've heard that contacts afford high perscription wearers better vision because they reduce the amount of optical distortion you get with the high indexes. Either way, it's expensive and a real pain in the ass. Maybe I should just get the laser surgery and be done with it...

Bike Riding

It astounds me that it's been over a year now since I moved back to Winnipeg from Toronto. I was thinking about this during a fairly long bike ride that Renée and I went on tonight. The last time I rode my bike was just before we moved.

bike wheelI think it was a couple of days before my flight was leaving Toronto. I'm a nostalgic, sentimental person at the best of times, and so I did what any nostalgic and sentimental guy would do just before he and his sweetie uprooted themselves - I went out and did a kind of Jimmy Stewart, just like he did at the end of It's a Wonderful Life, except I wasn't saying hello. I said good-bye.

"Good-bye horribly overpriced Starbucks at the end of our street that I loathed walking into! See you Cafe Diplomatico with your crappy food and overrated patio! Adieu Royal Cinema, where I spent many an evening with my good buddy Paul watching cheap, good movies!"

I said goodbye to the Green Room, a small hole-in-the-wall cafe / restaurant that always had mouse traps strewn about, and ridiculously inexpensive, tasty meals. I waved so long to my first real employer in Toronto (an independent book store chain that abruptly "laid me off" for some strange reason, which was the best thing that ever happened to my career). I rode through the world-famous Kensington Market and wiped away farewell tears, and biked past some of my favorite restaurants in Chinatown with the sweet sorrow of parting lodged in my throat.

I bid farewell to the stink at the corner of Spadina and Dundas, and blew kisses at the Horseshoe Tavern and the Rivoli. I saluted the place I learned and taught Web design. where I made some of the best friendships of my life. Before turning back I cycled past Gandhi Roti, and taking in the spicy atmosphere, I said good-bye to some of the best butter chicken I've ever had.

Riding my bike tonight with Renée, I remembered all of this and thought wistful, happily evocative thoughts as the dark shadows of trees embraced the road all around us, and the bike's tires slapped a rhythmic staccato on the pavement.

Good intentions

You may notice a slimmed-down navigation for the BeatnikPad: I've done a bit of housecleaning. The old "Cultural Joy" section, while started with an abundance of good intentions, just became an albatross around my neck. The lack of tangible updates there mocked me every time I rebuilt its Movable Type pages, and the last update slipped off of the index page, leaving a big, empty hole.

So, I sent it to the place that Weblogs go when they die, and merged its entries into the main site. I have enough self-inflicted guilt in my life.

Oh, and while I was at it, I killed the moving stories pages, and did a bunch of other small changes. I really do think that moving stories was a great idea, but the response I received was somewhat underwhelming. I guess most of the folks that would have submitted pieces already talked about their move on their own site.

Those of you who did submit, a thousand thank-yous - I still plan to do something related to moving (and stories), so your submission will still be used (that is, unless you don't want it used anymore: if that's the case, Let me know).

I have a lot of good intentions for this site, and increasingly less time. The svelte, newly shorn BeatnikPad will be easier to handle, and help me sleep at night.

My life in point-form


1. Prepare, prepare, prepare! Students start classes next Wednesday. Well good golly.

2. Stress! (But only mild, manageable stress.)

3. Spend time installing the sparkling new Mac OS X operating system on anything that resembles an product. Feel geeky and a bit guilty, but don't care. (Yes, I think the whole animal print kerfluffle is rather idiotic, but that's marketing for you,)

4. Decompress. Watch our favorite show.

5. Rediscover the guilty pleasures of eating hamburgers and drinking fizzy soda pop in the summer. Conveniently forget that I normally don't eat red meat; also forget ever reading this book.

6. Headaches almost every day because of the eye problems. Work is going slow because of this; I need to see a doctor but can't get in until October. Stupid overburdened Canadian medical system.

7. Days are getting shorter. Shudder and start dreading the onslaught of another Winnipeg winter.

Mal à la tête

Today, part way though a rather tedious work-related "retreat" (who the heck retreats to a casino, anyway?), I got a massive throbber of a headache. I think this is now the sixth or seventh day in a row that I've gotten a headache - this one, however, packed more of a punch, and also was the first one I had gotten that wasn't while I was in front of the computer.

So I have to wonder if this was caused by eyestrain, as I usually get headaches after sitting in front of the computer for a while. Still, it could be my glasses as I'm sure my perscription is out. Either way, I'm going to miss the first half of the continuation of the "retreat" (I can't say that word in this context without rabbit-earring it - how silly) to visit the local, fairly competent walk-in doctor.

With all of the concern over west nile virus (not that I think I have it), and just the basic nastiness that can accompany headaches, I think it's better to err on the side of caution. I'm 99.999% positive it's merely a severe case of eyestrain, though, as I never get the headaches in the evening; just during the day.

Still, you don't come here to listen to me complain about my health, do you? I vow more amusing, ailment-free posts are just over the horizon... I'll let you know what the doctor says.

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