Friday, June 30, 2006

06-27-2006 -- In the labyrinth

This whole area, this weird array of roads and bridges and ramps and lawns and hills on both sides of the river, these car conduits that wind down around the pyramids and the Pope’s giant bird-skeleton altarpiece… it’s like a nightmare maze to me. I’ve never understood it, and I’ve spent a life of automobile passengerhood trying; there’s something unknowable, something occult about it. Just riding through in a car I get turned around and befuddled… now, on foot at 2 a.m., beer-buzzed and worn out from walking, dehydrated dry in nighttime heat, it’s like I’m on some kind of desperate hoser vision quest. Glowing Egyptoid prisms of glass, shining Fairyland city reflected in black water, over and over in a futile fever-dream – and all I want to do is get home and take my damn shoes off.

I really need to get my bike fixed. Hell-trudges like this are fun once in a while, but since moving to the north side – not Deep North, but, you know, central -- the novelty’s worn off along with the crappy soles of my cheap shoes. Edmonton’s a pretty walkable city, but when you’re talking a Capilano-to-Kingsway commute, that’s a job for wheels. Wheels… oh, Lord Wheels… never has your call been so powerful. Slogging across this bleak bridge – didn’t we cross here already?… am I remembering a past life? – your roaring angels blaze and blare at me: a rusted-out Ranger, a shitbox Honda, a yammering musclecar, an unmarked panel-van with its headlights off… look how fast they move! That could be me! Screw walking, screw biking, and screw bus-taking twice. No credit, no problem… ez-payments… drive away today…

Jeez, what’s gotten into me? At least twice an hour, I start daydreaming the most pathetic little driving daydreams: “If I had a car, why, I could… I could drive out to Calmar! I could go to Home Depot!” My nights are filled with astral road-trips, a world filled with friends and strangers and demons and ex-girlfriends, bound together in a web of highway. Screw you, hippie; I want a goddamn CAR!

No! I want a TRUCK! With a camper! And then I’ll skip town and see the country! And I’ll have a dog and a lady and… and a guitar! And I’ll meet hoboes and truckers and I’ll write a novel, and where my truck dies that’s where I’ll homestead and then I’ll find a mountain lion cub with a broken paw and I’ll nurse him back to health and he’ll be my friend and the rusting hulk of my former camper will be his kennel and this filmmaker will find out about it and make a movie and people will cheer and cry and the attention will get to be too much so I’ll get the old truck running again and my lion and wife and dog and me will roll out in the dead of night with nothing but beef jerky, purple gas and Kris Kristofferson tapes…

You know, the more I think about it the more I realize I must’ve got heatstroke while working as a parking-lot drone for the hot-rod show n’ shine in Hawrelak last weekend. Four hundred cherry rides, four hours of direct un-sunscreened sunshine, a constant cloud of chemistry-altering exhaust fumes… I was reprogrammed, rebuilt on a molecular level. Intellectually, I understand what a car would mean to me – i.e. any car I could afford to buy would be a stinking, unreliable, voracious money-hole that’d ruin my life – but emotionally, I’m hooked. I saw all those doughy dudes and their leathery bitches, I saw those twenty-thousand-dollar paintjobs, I heard the rumble and I smelled the burn. I stood half a day roasting in a toxic intersection with nothing but a neon mesh vest between me and everything that’s wasteful, unsustainable, gaudy and wrong… and now I want in. I’ll probably start smoking, too.

A car, a cigarette… those would be two nice things to have, right now. Also, a glass of water. Sun’s been down for hours and it’s still thirty fucking degrees. How long until… wait a minute. Why am I looking at the Pyramids, again? Which way are we walking? OK. Over the bridge. Right. Damn, the city looks pretty, reflected in the water like that…

Life During Wartime, June 27, 2006

After a two-week break, a show notable mainly for a 7-song Rock Block. Something about the 32-degree weather inspired me to shut up and let them records spin.

Shuggie Otis -- Sweet Thing
Shooting at Unarmed Men -- In-flight Instructions Are a Joke, Say I
Pipo Fiasco -- Sanders
Califone -- When Leon Spinx Moved Into Town
Monster Movie -- Return to Yesterday
Sonic Youth -- Pink Stream
Wire -- Strange
Built to Spill -- Goin' Against Your Mind
Frank Black -- Fitzgerald
Z-Rock Hawaii -- Bad to the Bone
Hot Live Guys -- Sock It to Me
Midways -- Night of the Sadist
Warrior Soul -- The Drug
The Last Vegas -- Goddamn Fantastic
The Husbands -- Bar-B-Q
Zoobombs -- Gimme Some Money
Townes Van Zandt -- Why She's Acting This Way
Bonnie "Prince" Billy -- Madeline Mary (live)
Giant Sand -- Swamp Thing
The Slow Break -- Salenum
Tom Verlaine -- From Her Fingers
The Stranglers -- Peaches
Mission of Burma -- That's When I Reach for My Revolver

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Aw, hell...

Wouldn't you know it? I finally upload some photos, and that same night I find out the hosting service is about to screw me over. Started scambling pics off Textamerica and got a very short way into it before the site went down, down, down. Guess lots of TA users got the memo at the same time, which is to say we all got it off BoingBoing.

I know... I shoulda moved everything to flickr like a million years ago...

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Monsters and scrota

Howdy, friends. Lots of things happening, so here we go.

First of all, damn.

Next, the Scrotoss blog is live -- now with only 50 per cent recycled content! Expect more on this super-exciting new/old pastime soon, inculding a glossary and some excellent media from Dwayne Martineau. Check it out; this week's column is there, too. Want to see Steve Notley handling the scrot and looking super-stoned? You can, since the Scrotoss flickr photoset has been seeded.

In other photographic news, my super-neglected celphone photo gallery crossed the 600-image threshold during a long busride the other day. Precious moments, captured in digital amber.

Last but not least, for the update trifecta, there's a new monster up on the Field Guide to Monsters of the World. Scary.

OK! Until next time, may your shaft be always straight and your scrot always hefty!

Photo: D. Martineau

Thursday, June 15, 2006


Sorry about the less-than-WHOO tone of the column below; I was shamefully hedging my bets. Goilers ad eternum.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

06-13-2006 – The nonsmell of unburnt pallets, the silence of unshattered glass

Can you feel the magic in the air? Not the kind of corporate Magic! that sells cruise vacations and vapid “family” movies, and certainly not the kind of magic that fills a town when the home team is winning against all odds… I mean literally magic – spells and shit. As I write this, game four of the Stanlley Cup final has come and gone and left the Oilers down two games, and every cubic inch of normal space -- and every trans-cubic whatsit of theoretical extradimensional space – is saturated with crisscrossing fields of desperate fan sorcery: the astral tides of dueling playoff beards in varying states of mojo trim; brilliant third-eye beams from uncountable enchanted hats, the mystical aroma wafting up to the angels from thousands of lucky garments unwashed since Detroit; all set against a crackling supernatural background radiation of ubiquitous hedge wizardry, folk voodoo, wild ritual, superstition, prayer and good old-fashioned wishing.

I wonder how it all went down? Reading this maybe a week away from me, perhaps you know. From the perspective of last night at the Sidetrack, things didn’t look so good; a central requirement of effective magic is Belief, and the sullen, silent corps of cold-vibrating fandom gawking blank-eyed at each other across the Track’s archaic marble slabs didn’t look like they Believed the sun would rise tomorrow, let alone that the Oilers would find a way to win tomorrow night. All this random, personal magic… so wasteful of psychic resources, so often acting at cross-purposes. What happens when the power from a rabbit’s foot consecrated to airtight defense gets tangled up in the field of a puckhat dedicated to aggressive offense? Anything the goddamn Bad Bounce Gremlins don’t pick up and fuck with dissipates into the ether, and the Oil are left in the uncaring hands of physics, of mere causality. Not a situation they want to be in, most nights.

I must admit, I might have been one of the tens of thousands of culpable Edmontonians whose disregard for even the basics of superstitious hygiene – for example, knocking furiously on the nearest available piece of wood immediately after making any expression of confidence or prediction of success – may have jammed up the Copper n’ Blue hocus-pocus: I thought kind thoughts about the Clarence S. Campbell Bowl.

I couldn’t help it! Riding down the City Centre escalator, I caught a glimpse of it down by the food court, surrounded by fetching red rope and a mini-phalanx of wary rentacops, and before I could stop myself I was thinking, “Damn me, but that’s a nice-looking piece of hardware.” Well, it is! It’s much more pleasantly ornate than the rather plain Stanley Cup, and its wooden base with those gilt-edged winners’ plaques has an old-world charm the Stanley’s cold, mechanical, form-follows-function barrel of rings can’t match. It really is a very attractive trophy… you’d think we’d have learned to love it more than we have. Then again, back in elementary school, my favorite – my only -- hockey cards were the trophy foils, so maybe it's me that has the problem...

So, we get to ladle mescal-spiked sangria from the Campbell Bowl for another year. What other blessings can we now count, in the event the Oilers have… um… not unlost the Anley-stay Up-cay Inal-fay [knock knock knock]? Well, we’ve certainly scored a victory against unlicensed street demonstrations! Two hundred arrests to lay seven charges… that’s what I call taking back the fucking streets, broad-spectrum style. The word is “proactive justice”; it’s very unlikely that a potential troublemaker is going to break any laws while zipcuffed on the floor of a paddywagon. And if these booze bozos – these bad apples, nobody’s brothers and sisters and sons and friends, none of whom are Real Hockey Fans – do manage to somehow commit crimes in custody (ie. first-degree backtalk), well… that’s what tasers are for.

Zing! Ah, I’m just funning you, EPS; we all know the whole damn city could use a night in the klink to sleep it off – to just fucking sleep, period. We’re going to take one last crack at casting the magic spell that’ll get us the (uglier, cheaper-looking, but…) Cup -- many of us have already promised our Dark Masters to sacrifice, in fire and blood, the first-built streets of Edmonton and Strathcona should we blessed with victory – and retire from the field of magickal combat, exhausted win or lose. And lo, we shall bide our time, and we shall charge our Jerseys of Power with fan energy, and cast our lots into the darkness of the Draft Pools, and consult queer (not the gay kind of queer) almanacs, and lay mighty blessings and curses against the day when once again we cry: OILERS!

Monday, June 12, 2006


Polygon counts, processor speeds, motion-sensing, hard discs, custom chipsets, online capabilities, media formats… you know what’s missing from the ongoing/upcoming videogame wars? Buffalo testicles. Portable, cordless buffalo testicles – or at least a rawhide facsimile thereof. Electric society has left us screen-staring, thumb-twiddling, deathmatching and PictoChatting, dumping our disposable dollars into an unending series of gizmos and gizmotic paraphernalia with boredom always minutes away… and all along, all we needed was to reach back to the wisdom of our fur-trapping past for the entertainment miracle that is a tanned, sand-stuffed scrotum and a couple of sticks…

A blindingly brilliant, hotter-than-hell summer day with money in pocket and nowhere to be – even the hardest-dying of videogame addicts can’t argue against all that good gravity pulling them out of unventilated basements and into the bright world of our city’s many cheap-as-free summertime activities. The history and mystery of this place has been much on our minds lately, and so it was that we packed a bowl, a water-bottle and a Honda Civic and rolled on down to that timbered treasure of the river valley, Fort Edmonton park.

We didn’t expect our history-park adventure to turn into a gaming day, but there it was, right off: a two-lobed leather beanbag and a couple of trimmed birch branches, leaning against a wall in the corner of the courtyard of the Fort proper. I don’t even know how we knew those items comprised a playset; Fort Edmonton doesn’t have all kinds of ugly illusion-breaking explanatory signs everywhere, and the costumed interpreter I think was on testicle-stick duty was busy demoing Native beadwork for a workshopful of cooing women. It just seemed right, somehow; we picked up the sticks, and nothing will ever be the same.

Friends, this game with the nutsack and the twigs – it no doubt has an official, historical name but we just call it Scrotoss – is the new frisbee. It’s even easier to learn than Frisbee, if you can believe it, and the minute you start flipping that two-lobed sack back and forth its potential for slick moves and trickshooting – the pick-n-flip, the backhander, the blueball, the teabag tornado -- is wonderfully apparent. I think we must have spent at least half an hour in the courtyard, hogging the scrot. We all got excited when one of our companions found the mother of all scrot-sticks, a beautifully finished hardwood pole with a gently tapering point and an attractive carved handle… and were crushed when an elderly gentleman shouted “That’s mine!” Guy wouldn’t even let us borrow it for a while, but we could imagine how that cane would have handled.

Scrotoss isn’t the only attraction Fort Edmonton holds for game fans. There is, of course, the Tom Thumb mini-golf across the street from the Selkirk Hotel, a non-motorized, non-fibreglass eight-hole layout rife with frustrating fuck-you features... keep your cool on the hole known as “Crazy Dogleg", and watch out for wild-swinging spoiled brats! Further back there’s the old penny arcade which features two rooms, one with a shooting gallery and the other with old dime peep-show film-reel machines. The arcade wasn’t in operation while we were there, but I’ll certainly be back to sample this precursor to modern mainstream videogaming: gun violence and soft-core titillation under one roof! And then there’s the old-timey midway, currently under construction and set to open on Canada Day, with its selection of period carnival games…

But that’s a story for another day, another paycheque. Today, I’m here to spread the gospel of Scrotoss. As I write, I’m looking at this ratty old buckskin coat I have, wondering if I ought to cannibalize it for its leather, make myself my own set of bull hangers. The jacket cost me sixty bucks, but my need to get back to flipping the scrot is almost too great to wait until I can pick up another piece of hide. North Country Fair is this weekend, and if there was ever a game (other than sweet bocce) designed for stoners, hosers and grubby hippies, it’s Scrotoss – yesterday’s game, tomorrow!

Image: D. Martineau's lens captures the animal grace of Bob the Angry Flower creator Steve Notley's Scrotoss style

Friday, June 09, 2006

Life During Wartime -- 666

Quite non-Satanic! I resisted (mostly) my cheese cravings. See if you can pick out the exceptions...

Faster Pussycat -- City Has No Heart
Louis Armstrong -- Shadrack
The Black Keys -- Just Couldn't Tie Me Down
The Slow Break -- The Mistaken Identity of Man
Curse of Horseflesh -- Liberty's Cannonball
Vancougar -- Down On Me
The Creeping Nobodies -- The Sound of Joy
The Fall -- Junk Man
GitoGito Hustler -- Spherical Mass
Mecca Normal -- 1922
Frank Black -- Johnny Barleycorn
Daniel Johnston -- Chord Organ Blues
Tobin Sprout -- In Junky Dives
The Roots -- Star
Spyder D -- Big Apple Rappin'
Mars Ill -- Say So
The Coup -- My Favorite Mutiny
Final Fantasy -- Song Song Song
Experimental Dental School -- Your Tearz Are My Ice Cream
Pere Ubu -- Beach Boys
Quinzy -- Mike! Your House Is On Fire!
Danzig -- 777
Culture Club -- Church of the Poison Mind

Yes! Life During Wartime airs Tuesdays, 3-5pm on CJSR!

Thursday, June 01, 2006

05-27-2006 – Back behind the bonfires

“You want to maybe take it down a bit? I don’t want a fuckin’ riot in here.”

Sue Kiernan, mistress of the Black Dog, has an unusal glimmer of worry in her eyes; outside the window, illuminated by the strobing of fire-engine flashers and cop-car party lights, tens of thousands of de-individualized mob-nodes are hooting, screaming and waving, spilling their psyches into a mass vortex that’ll eventually result in smashing, burning, public sex and hundreds of inches of shocked – shocked! – newspaper editorializing. The steady stream of Metallica, Maiden, AC/DC, Danzig and Slayer I’ve been throwing down no doubt seems a worrying soundtrack.

But, you know… “keep the customer satisfied,” right? When a grinning oilpatch hoser with the twin blazes of stag-party fever and a hometeam Western Conference win burning in his breast slaps a fiver on the faders, straight-up paying for “Master of Puppets”, what’s a responsible DJ to do? “Sorry, buddy; you’ve had too much rocking already. How’s about this chilled-out Herb Alpert remix, instead?”

As it turns out, the fella was down with the Alpert, too. Sue needn’t have worried about her crowd, at least no more than usual (which is kind of a lot); at this improbably, impossibly late stage in the Oilers’ playoff run, the people who stay inside the bars after the horn blows are the mellow ones, the genial partiers. The beerlights are an oasis, a refuge for the people who’ve long since whooed their whoos and just can’t take that street scene anymore – a growing demographic.

Fuck, is this city ever exhausted! Has it only been a month since the miracle of a first-round win over Detroit drove me to manic streaking? It seems like years; this town’s been partying its ass off more-or-less every second night for nearly five weeks, and the strain is showing – what do you all make of the three or four different kinds of cold and flu that’re making the rounds? The Oilers caught it and so did their fans. Overtaxed biosystems, depletion of physical resources… we need this little layoff as much as the team does.

What was spring for us when the Oilers would miss the playoffs or get knocked out in the first round? What did we do with our alternating evenings without hockey games to watch… what did we do with our alternating days without hangovers to nurse? For that matter, what did we do with every evening for half a year while the league was locked out? I kind of don’t remember… I have vague visions of kitchen art-parties and board games, Katamari Damacy and wine-waving walks through twilit alleys; a blur of… not exactly productivity, but not TV-gawking, either. Whatever goes down in the final, I hope it goes down quickly; I want my damn life back.

Just four more wins, eh? Whoo! Alright! The cops are snarling warnings and polishing the truncheons, the Mayor’s calling down the hooligans, Big Georges (thumbs-up for fightin’!) is telling fans to “chill”, and Edmonton’s Nice People and the papers that pander to them are clucking their tongues and shaking their heads, wondering why all these thousands of Bad Apples have to break and burn and such instead of clapping “Yay,” leisurely finishing their second beer, and going home to rest up for another respectable day of making and spending money.

Hey, papers? Here’s a little news item for you to check out next time you moan aloud about Why All The Hooliganism. Look back at years, decades, a century of regularly placing sports above news. Look at fan-goading articles like the Sun’s front-page “Why can’t Edmonton party like Calgary?” piece from early in the Detroit series. Look at the sport-rhetoric of war, battle, combat, victory, legacy, history and fascist tribal pride that fills your pages and pocketbooks. Look at broadcast fireballs, light shows, laser-beams, hard-rock soundtracks and ADD computer graphics. Look at a marketed culture that for years has thrived on turning people into beer-buying, merchandise-hoarding automatons, screaming open wallets. Look at a culture where the Oilers are the most important people on the planet, their success or failure the most important issue facing humanity. Now, you moaning pussies, you tell me where the fuck this mob comes from.
Go, Oilers!