Thursday, September 22, 2005

365 photos

Howdy, friends. I just noticed that my moblog has reached the annual number of 365 posts. Check it out for all your unfocused, lo-res, poorly-exposed needs.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

9-21-2005 -- Lookin' out my front door

He can go crazy or stay sane, if he can do it on six feet of chain -- Lee Hazlewood, "Six Feet of Chain"

Guess it's that time again, time for the "seasonal column"... a free pass to just sort of meander and talk about the weather, four times a year -- even more, if we get faked out by a false spring, fake summer, ersatz autumn or sham winter. This, though is pretty much real fall, right on schedule. Yep. You want to know why -- I mean know, in you soul, why -- the green-and-gold livery of the Eskies and the U of A teams should bring tears of joy and pride to your Edmontonian eyes? Go have a beer in RATT in the Students' Union Building. Crammy shitty-logo sports-bar transformation or no, that's still the best damn drinkin' view in town, and the carpet of seasonal interface foliage rolling east under the sun all the way to WEM's ad-bearing beige rollercoaster shed has just enough beauty to fuel your soul through the dreary months of Browntown.

Beauty's everywhere you care to cast your eyes these days, actually; you don't need to ride an elevator to see it. Like, out here on my front porch, Lee Hazlewood's Trouble is a Lonesome Town strumming out through the screen door, a cup of my roommate's good coffee in my hand, the smell of frying onions just barely making it up from the kitchen to mingle with that first breath of honest leaf-decay... damn. Even the long, long line of parking lots stretching all the way out to the hospital, the vehicle-storage alley that allows my west-facing front window the most suntime anyone can expect in the dark months, looks kinda majestic in this clear September light. Lots of fun party times out here on these steps this summer, shooting the shit and filling the unplanted planter with beercans and butts, watching the pretty people go by... as it gets colder that action subsides until it's only smokers briefly huddling there in the Christmas-light glow with whoever's joined them out of sympathy or desire for private words -- but that scene's got its own magic, too.

The best part about fall is the return of fall fashion. Basically, I'd be happy to live in a place where the temperature never went above eighteen and never went below, say, ten. I might have to journey to another planet to find such a climate. Or perhaps my descendants, having gone through generations aboard their gargantuan starship over the decades-long journey across the wastes of space, would be the ones to step out onto this alien world. Either way, humanity would have founded a paradise free from the grotesque excesses of summertime clothing, free from the pinched-off midriff rolls, the exposed fields of man-thatch with their concealed treasure-medallions, the peeking thongs in unnatural synthetic hues and the scuzzy wifebeaters, the boob tubes and the socks-with-sandals. A paradise, I tell you! Cuddly sweaters and well-cut jeans, casual slacks and tweed jackets, cool hoodies and warm flannel, suede sneakers and conservative Docs, this shall be the uniform of the Star People! And woe betide she who sullies the harmony of our extraplanetary streets with the sight of sweat-pants with words stamped across the ass, or he who dares sport the pseudo-urbane travesty of a sleek black "fashion leather" coat! Banished shall they be, to the wilds where the pod-tigers and vampire moss lurk, while we in our earthtoned comfy-casual apparel turn the thermostats of our living-domes down to energy-conserving levels and snuggle up with the Mr. Show DVDs we've carried with us from Mother Earth.

Ah, dreams. This is the beauty a change in the seasons brings. Not just the beauty of watching the world move in its cycles, ancient as the universe yet novel each year, but the beauty of watching your mind and the minds of your friends (and enemies) move into the new idea-spaces created by shifting times and temperatures. For me, it's a dream of voyaging through outer space to a planet where all the girls wear wholesome knit sweaters and curve-hugging Levis and all the boys dress like psychology TAs from the '60s... what's your dream, Edmontonian?

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Life During Wartime, 9/20/05

Life During Wartime was a fairly last-minute choice for a show name, but there it is and here's today's playlist. An OK show, not super-rocking but pretty fun. Tuesdays, 3-5pm MST, CJSR 88.5 FM in Edmonton.

Lee Hazlewood --Six Feet of Chain
Lowell Fulson -- Tramp
God Made Me Funky -- God Made Me Funky
David McCallum -- House of Mirrors
Serge Gainsbourg -- L'hotel particuleur
Carla Bozulich -- Time of the Preacher/Blue Rock Montana/Red Headed Stranger (medley)
Okkervil River -- For the Enemy (live)
Maybellines -- I've Got the Truth
Mayday -- Running Away
Scout Niblett -- Lullaby for Scout in 10 Years
Lil Johnson with Tampa Red -- House Rent Scuffle
The Deadly Snakes -- Debt Collection
The Make Up -- Save Yourself
Booker T & Priscilla -- Maggie's Farm
B52s -- Planet Claire
Clinic -- The Second Line
Old Time Relijun -- Your Mama Used to Dance
Vailhalen -- Girls Fight!
Ray Condo & His Hardrock Goners -- High Voltage
Giant Sand -- Yer Ropes
Agnostic Mountain Gospel Choir -- Not So Bad
Space Mtn -- Hovercraft
The Owls -- Do Ya?
Cagnee & Lacee -- Six Feet of Chain
Meat Puppets -- Coming Down

Monday, September 19, 2005

Mystical Chang

"Chang is a mystical warrior. Chang is somebody who believes in conservative principles, believes in entrepreneurial capitalism, believes in moral values that underpin a free society. ... Chang, this mystical warrior, has never let me down." -- Fla. Governor Jeb Bush. LINK

Monday, September 12, 2005

The Ten Stupidest Utopias

Over at Strange Horizons, Jeremy Adam Smith gives ten Utopian visions a synopsis and a skewering. Fun stuff.
The Republic lives on in the rhetoric of contemporary political movements of both right and left—every elitist and technocratic fantasy of our time has grown from the seed of The Republic. Plato would not have understood the term "dehumanization" as we understand it—he'd never, of course, seen a factory floor or a gas chamber—but when his ideas have been enacted in places like the Soviet Union, Mussolini's Italy, or modern state-capitalist China, they have proven brutally dehumanizing, his apparat of "guardians" thoroughly corrupted by power.
(See also Smith's Ten Sexiest Dystopias)

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Yeehaw. S'up, mutha-fukkas?

I just got back from an overnight camping trip to Yubari. Yubari is a shit-speck town not too far from Chitose. I went with Bill, my American friend. We panned for gold and drank a fuck-load of sweet sake. Needless to say, I was retarded. I love Japan. Seriously, I want to stay here for life. I swam naked in the river near our campsite and drifted with the current until I found myself in Yubari. Not near, but smack-fucking-dab-in-the-middle of town. The locals, who probably never see gaijin, were quite suddenly startled to see a drunk, naked Canadian standing, confused, in the middle of thier quaint farming town. Haha. So, I had to 'portage' my bare ass back to camp.
Now, I am home and going to eat some miso ramen. Yum.
Later, fuckers.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

How they do party

"Took her to Cook County and then Ezzies where we made her do tons of fun stuff as well as drink lots of alchohol!!"

A day in the life of a Mexican and Canadian

Angry Steve

Stephen Notley continues to play the blame game.

The man who cut short his vacation and usurped state authority to extend Terry Schiavo's living corpse for political advantage couldn't bring himself to do either when thousands of American lives were on the line. Classic Bush.

We should all encourage him to do this more often.

Friday, September 09, 2005

09-05-2005 -- A planet overrun by the goddamn Celts

Tips for teens: If you're planning to blow off a whole day playing Civilization, and you're a chronic idiot about saving your game, don't connect your computer to the juice with a bargain-basement Army & Navy extension cord. You'll end up with a double shot of misery, an afternoon of "I'll just expand my front against the Zulus, then I'll quit... I'll just take out the Celtic coastal defenses, then I'll quit... oh, but I've almost got Mobile Warfare! I'll kick out some tanks just so I have them ready next time I play... Shit! The fuckin' Celts stole Mobile Warfare! I'd better build the Manhattan Project before I quit..." leading up to a quick flash to monitor black. The sudden absence of cooling-fan noise is the roar of stupidity.

Ah, but "there goes Gloria Mundy," as they say; the instantaneous and unceremonious elimination, without warning, of the fruits of millenia of empire building... you gotta laugh. And then you gotta stop laughing and go get an extension cord that reliably conducts electricity. First, though, you gotta save your column; editors can only hear equipment-fuckup excuses so many times before they get suspicious. You can extend your window somewhat if you allow your editor to actually see and feel the cracked, wheezing, outdated gear you type your shit on, but eventually that backfires, too, because then the question comes: "Man, why don't you get yourself a new computer?" For a freelance writer that's pretty much the end of the conversation, 'cause the honest answer -- "Because I'm getting paid a rate that would have been low twenty years ago" -- isn't something anybody wants to hear. I mean, poor baby.

Unless you grind like a motherfucker -- which, to my mind, defeats the purpose of choosing a writer's life in the first place -- or pull a straight RIGHT-RIGHT-RIGHT on the place/time/talent slot machine, there's no soul-satisfying way to make this gig pay out attractively... though there are plenty of soul-crushing avenues available to the tasteless, the shameless, and the desperate. So we keep pulling the one-armed bandit, and let me tell you it's just like trancing in front of the VLTs -- it pays out just enough, just often enough, to keep our hopes up, but slowly and surely we're sliding on down, down, down. The fact we're drinking the whole time doesn't help.

"Get out," people say; "you've bought into a sucker's game!" But where's out? A desk, an office, a retail shop, a call centre, a warehouse? Eight years of selling my product rather than renting out my life an hour at a time have ruined me for straight work. There's still enough of the dreamer left in me -- the "realistic" dreamer as opposed to the "what if I could turn invisible and fly" dreamer, who's never once weakened -- that I still believe I can make it work if only I diversify. So here I am, broke and burning out at thirty, picking up a guitar and a paintbrush.

Stupid! I know! I'm trying to hit the trifecta of the three most broke-ass, desperate vocations. But, you know, t'hell with it; I've come this far -- I mean, fuck; half my money comes from playing video games -- why not go the rest of the ridiculous way and see if a writer-painter-musician can belly it across the battlefield where a plain old hack froze up? Anybody worth anything is doing it; the wonderful "arts-city" atmosphere the sponsor-papers like to coo about was built by an army of dilletantes, a legion of something-slash-somethings stretching back in time. There has to be a way to make it work.

Step one in making it work: working. So I guess I owe a big thank-you to Army & Navy for selling me such a shit-ass extension cord; without the gut-dropping shock of seeing the mighty Drunken Empire (capital city: Bowen Island) obliterated in a millisecond of interrupted power I might never have woken from my click-coma to write my way out of depression as I just have. Yeah! And thanks to you, reader, for lending an eye. You know this is all for you, right?

Gaming in the Park

(The following ran as an "Infinite Lives" column in Vue Weekly)

"There were people in the park, playing games in the dark" -- Lionel Richie

Damn, for a videogame column this thing's sure been unplugged lately; maybe I oughtta replace that joystick graphic with a picture of, I dunno, a bowl of chips or something. Between the sin-simple pleasures of Carcassonne, the board-game-based-on-a-video-game-based-on-a-board-game intricacies of Civilization and the majestic return of Dungeons & Dragons to my life, there hasn't been much call to fire up the consoles... though I did spend a big chunk of time with Nintendogs before I had a moment of clarity and sent that spooky pup simulator to live on a farm where it can be happy and have lots of space to run.

Part of the problem: summer sucks for games. It's part of the Christmas-centred marketing tides of this sick industry and there's no way of getting around it. Yeah, there's always something to get into if you must, even if you have to force yourself to pretend you like a third-tear nothing like Fullmetal Alchemist 2 (for example), but why go out of your way? Like, I got a package the other day, the first in weeks since the summer promotional stream is a dry creekbed, and in it, courtesy of Disney, was a stack of Kim Possible, Lizzie Maguire and That's So Raven GBA carts. I mean, fuck it; let's go out to the park and play board games.

I've always been a fan of gaming in public, bringing the hobby out from the basements and into the bars, you know? Some of my best gaming times have been in crowded campus drinkeries. Like this one time, my friend Thor and I were playing Monopoly in RATT when these two first-year grils from Lister came up and... and that's a story for another day. Today, we're talking about a hot, heavy afternoon, clear as a bell and made more precious by its proximity to the chill of autumn. On a day like this, what is there for a bunch of game-crazy kids to do but drag a sofa and a coffee table out into the playground next door, pour a bunch of Lucky Lager into an iced-tea pitcher, and settle down to a whipcrack game of ZOMBIES!!!

A trifle like ZOMBIES!!! is perfect for this kind of gaming. Importantly, it's damned simple... but it looks complicated; once you've built up the map a bit -- it's an emergent board, players adding new map tiles on each turn -- you'll have this very impressive city laid out, covered with dozens of little plastic zombie figures. Through this swarm of PVC undead your little dudes -- the Shotgun Guys -- must fight their way to the escape helicopter. Cards are played, dice are rolled, opposing players are fucked over... a decent afternoon of shouting "fuck you!" to be had. It's no masterpiece of game design -- the event cards are shockingly unbalanced and the endgame can become a tired slog -- but it does the job.

As we play ZOMBIES!!!, our little outdoor livingroom becomes quite the party centre-- we have a big ol' dawg with us, a chocolate Lab, and that never hurts. People walking by give us the thumbs-up, dudes wander past and share their hash with us, pretty girls perch on the arm of the sofa and laugh like angels, two couples decide to break out the bocce balls... and down the street, the cops watch carefully. They don't know what to make of us, with our comfy couch and our huge coffeetable under the tree by the soccer net... is there a law against what we're doing? Watching them circle the block you can feel them wanting to move us along simply 'cause what we're doing is different and weird.

In the end, they decide not to hassle us -- whether because the fuckin' Fringe gave them better things to do or because they figured nobody sitting on such a ridiculous heatscore as a Harvest Gold chesterfield in the middle of a soccer pitch would dare to break open-container and pot-possession laws, I guess I'll never know -- but their attention illustrates the downside of public gaming. It's unusual, and unusual things puzzle people, and puzzled people get angry. Spread out a boardgame of a coffeeshop table, and unless it's an accepted parlor game like cribbage you're gonna get nasty looks, folks are going to demand to know what you're doing. They may insult you; before I got totally, heterosexually laid as a direct result of that RATT Monopoly game, I think I was called "fag" thrice by the chiefs at the next table.

I'll keep at it though; this is a fight we can win, public gamers! We're where breastfeeding was, like, ten years ago; as long as we keep rolling dice and laying down cards, making ourselves known in public spaces, we'll be the norm rather than the exception, and we'll never have to hide in the basement again.