Tuesday, December 14, 2004


I heard voices in my head last. They kept me awake.

It pissed me off, because I was exausted after getting very little sleep on both Saturday and Sunday night (which, I confess, were for somewhat self-inflicted reasons) I was really, really looking forward to having a good night's sleep.

It was weird, because it wasn't like a dream. It was nothing that I was participating in. I was more of an observer. And in some ways, it was as if I was an accidental eavesdropper, as the events just sort of played out inside my skull.

There was a murder investigation. A husband, dead. Someone was trying to pin it on his wife, who was pregnant and hormonal had psychic power and in a burst of careless anger, fried her husband's brain as efficiently as if she'd dropped it into a microwave.

Unsurprisngly, there was a lot of discussion going on, about the murder particularly, but about human rights issues as well. Certain groups were wondering why they didn't as a general rule, lock up psychics behind shielded walls when the became pregnant, to prevent them from lashing out at their husbands.

Of course, others argued that you couldn't lock someone up like that -- particularly a pregnant woman -- even if you were doing it to help prevent someone's death.

I just shouted at them all to shut up, but I don't think they heard me. I suspect that means that they don't exist, which I think is a good thing, because it means I don't have a bunch of little tiny people living inside of my brain.

On the downside, it might mean that I'm insane.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Happy DOOM Day

As much as I feel like I've overdone the blog posting today, I just can't let this slip by without a mention.

Today is the 11th birthday of the release of the Shareware version of DOOM.

I can not let this slip by because DOOM -- and particularly the shareware release -- is the game that turned me into a PC gamer and, in doing so, changed the course of my life forever.

Before DOOM - couldn't imagine playing computer games. After DOOM - couldn't imagine not playing video games.

I actually downloaded the DOOM shareware to show off my superior computer knowledge to a friend of mine. He'd just bought a copy of Wolfenstein 3D for his brother for Christmas and, while I'd never so much as touched Doom, I did know that it was developed by the same people who made Wolfenstein, and was supposed to be leaps and bounds more impressive.

So I downloaded the game, just to show him what a *real* computer game looked like.

And then I started playing it.

And in twenty seconds I was hooked, life changed forever.

Stupid Doom.

Thank you to everyone at id Software, past and present, who have brought titles like Doom, Doom2, Quake, Quake2, Quake3, and, of course, Doom3 into our lives. We're probably not a whole lot better for it, but I know we're a whole lot happier.

Year of the Stick

I'm currently working on a collection of Stick Figure Drama that will run from strip #1 to strip #28. These are being designed and printed so that I have something untraditional to hand out to friends and family members for Christmas.

However, I'm planning to overprint by a few copies that I'll use to test the market for selling a collection of this type.

So here's the deal. "Year of the Stick" will run somewhere between 64 and 72 pages (I don't have exact numbers right now, as it's still being designed) and covers the strips mentioned above -- #1 to #28; "Sometimes Love Dies" to "Sometimes Love Dies: Redux" (which hasn't been posted here yet). Plus, each strip will have an accompany commentary, including descriptions of that week's inspriation, trivia about the strip, or just drunk ramblings from yours truly.

I'm printing 50 copies, and as of this writing I'm not sure how many will be for sale -- probably between 10 and 15, which will make this a very, very, very limited edition. Price is only $9.99 -- not bad for a 60-ish-page limited edition comic strip collection. Y'all try to go buy a Far Side book for that much...

If you want to buy one, it's currently on a first-come, first-serve basis. Drop me an email at todd@caughtinthenet.org if you're interested. Heck, I'm feeling generous -- if you buy one of these intial copies, I'll even sign the thing for ya.

And if you miss out, don't panic. As I said, this is a market test, and if there seems to be enough interest, I'll go back for a second printing. Maybe a third and fourth as well, but something tells me it isn't quite going to come to that.


I just finished today's post-NaNo work on my still unfinished novel. And what I want to know is this: Why doesn't the MS Word dictionary recognize the word "cunt"?

Ugly word? Sure. Nasty word? No doubt about it.

But it's a word. Like it or not.

Stupid Microsoft...


Call out Gouranga be happy!!!
Gouranga Gouranga Gouranga ....
That which brings the highest happiness!!

Ah...yeah. Thanks so much for the email, neateye. Whoever you are.

Monday, December 06, 2004

KING COVERS: Roadwork (1981)

It took me years before I finally read Roadwork. It's a shame, because it's a hell of a good book.

I think most of the reason it took so long is that when I first started reading King, it was because wrote horror, and horror was about monsters and vampires and things that go bump in the night, and those things were cool, because if you liked those things you seemed dark and edgy, and that was also cool.

Roadwork was about a guy going through a bit of a midlife crisis while the city tries to tear down his house. Which wasn't very dark and edgy and was, in fact, kind of boring and middle-aged.

I finally read it a couple years ago when going through the Bachman Books again (mostly as an excuse to reread Rage, which remains one of my all time favourite King novels) and I was incredibly affected by the story of Roadwork. As the story of a man who is desperate to hang on to the things he cares most about, and willing to do whatever it takes to accomplish that, there's something for all of us to relate to, even as we watch him drive headlong to a conclusion that we know will not be a good one.

The original US release -- a paperback, as 4 out of 5 of the Bachman Books were -- has a preety standard, "No name author on the shelf of an airport bookstore" kind of look to it. Guy with gun in the background, house in foreground, impression of standoff given by the imagery. Does its job well enough, but nothing that screams brilliance.

The later US release went for a slightly more understated look, with a creepy, deathly road sign -- an effective image. It loses something for me, though, by attempting to be *too* creepy with all that green fog kinda stuff. Green fog isn't creepy. It's lame.

These covers, both from Sweden, were where I suspect the notion for the creepy, deathly road sign were stolen from. And, in my opinion, this is where they're far more effective. Simple, very eye-catching with the roadsign yellow against the stark black. I pick the version on the left as the top Roadwork cover design -- it edges out the other design from Sweden by having a better font choice.

This UK design borrows mildly from the initial Signet layout -- guy with gun, signs of a showdown, etc. The guy looks like he's wearing a trenchcoat though, which makes the character seem a bit too private dectective like for my tastes.

I only wish I could see a larger version of this cover from Japan, as it's doing something very, very right. The basic design -- with the photo, at the top, taking up only about a third of the whole cover, then just blackness below it, is a definite winner. Unfortunately, I can't quite make out what's going on in the photo. It looks, to my eye, like a road construction crew which, while appropriate, doesn't quite cut it. Which is unfortunate because once again, the Japanese designers have shown a very, very good eye.

And so we go from good to bad, with this cover from Spain, which is apparently about a guy who wants to guard his favourite strip of highway from...something. And is he wearing a California Highway Patrol uniform in that picture? Spain followed this cover up with...

...this one, which appears to imply that the fellow in the California Highway Patrol outfit is now road pizza. It's a better cover than the last one, certainly, but still missing something.

And now we go from bad to worse. I don't even know what to say about this cover from Belgium. Is that a...zombie?

I just...ah, I can't take anymore. Let's get this over with.

On the left we have a cover from Bulgaria which, near as I can tell, has nothing to do with the novel in question and appears to have had its design inspired by the cover of The Stand. On the right a cover from Italy which prompts me to simply say: "Just because it has the word ROAD in the title does not mean you have to show cars on the cover."

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is all I've got to say about that.


I feel simultaneously hungry, yet marked for death.

Second most embarassing moment in the history of Caught in the 'Net

Well, it's probably not, actually, but it's got to be in the top five, easily, and is, at the very least, a really excellent example of stupendously bad timing.

Because who should roll through town on the weekend following my column on Caught in the 'Net's most embarassing moment but the person who had a very integral role in that most embarassing moment -- the wife who I split up with less than a week after writing a Valentine's Day column professing my undying love for her.

She was staying with her parents and I had been invited over to visit, so I decided to pop by, without making any mental connection with the column I had written last week. Until, a little later in the evening, I noticed her pick up and start to flip through a copy of last week's Tribune Weekend. At which point I could only think: Oh...God...

We all had a good laugh, and I even managed to convince her that I wasn't obsessively writing about her every week. Yet, in another strange example of synchronicity, this week's Stick Figure Drama is also about the end of a marriage. Must be something about the holiday season that lifts my spirits and make sme think of happy families. And by "happy" I really mean "tragic and disfunctional".

That particular strip will be up later in the week. For now, eagle-eyed readers will have noticed that the side links to Stick Figure Drama cartoons were updated a few nights back, so you can catch up on a little light reading while you wait for the new edition.

Lastly, coming later tonight or, more likely, tomorrow, a new edition of King Covers, featuring a lesser known title with plenty of really, really crappy covers to choose from.

Monday, November 29, 2004

NaNo: Day Who the fuck cares because this shit is finally over

I am the proud owner of an unfinished but officially verified 50,000 word novel. This actually means a lot to me, as I somehow managed to cross that 50,000 word mark after giving up on this novel not once, but twice.

Seven days ago, I threw it away. I didn't think there was anything salvageable.

Then the part of me that knows better fought back, and I wrote 15,000 words in the last five days.

Like I said, the book isn't done yet, and probably won't be done until the end of December at the earliest, maybe the end of January if I have some trouble with it. I'm gonna try to stick with the daily writing, pushing out something between 1,000 and 1,500 words until I get to type the words "THE END". I've still got a few hurdles to overcome before I get there, but I think I'll make it.

It's been a lot of years since I sat down and spent any amount of time creating something this...unformed. I think a big part of why I was so tempted to give up was because I was scared, scared that I didn't know where the book was going, scared that I didn't know how to steer towards anything, scared that it all felt so out of control.

It's not fun feeling out of control.

But it's exhilerating. When the book went well, I felt a kind of excitement I haven't felt since the last time I wrote a novel by the seat of my pants. And what's surprising, is I don't think last year counts.

Last year I had too good an idea of where I was going. I may not have had an ending, but the middle -- the basic structure of the book -- was there before I started work on it. So it didn't feel like quite as pure a creative process as I went through this year.

No, what I'm reminded of this year was a book I wrote just out of high school called "The Voice of the Raven" -- great title, crappy book, and next to incomprehensible on its own, given that it was intended as part of some psychotic 10 part series.

But we're not talking quality here, are we? We're just talking about creativity, and how the massive random output I've had this month reminds me of a book I wrote twelve years ago, or so.

And how it reminds me of how many books I could have written in those intervening years.

And how it reminds of how fucking depressed that makes me feel.

Friday, November 19, 2004

NaNo: Day Nineteen

My novel is out of control. And I think it's nobody's fault but my own.

When I started, I had a beginning, and a direction for about the next 20 pages. And I had a pretty good -- to abou 75% or so -- idea of what the ending was going to be.

Middle? I dunno. We'll figure it out when we get there.

Those first 20 pages? Well, the initial idea was that those would be the backstory, setting up the character and his history and explaining a bit about how he got to be where he was today. After those 20 pages, we could dig into the real meat of the story.

I'm at page 55 and still working on backstory. At some story "backstory" became "story". Or at least the first half of the "story".

I've got about a chapter and half until that first half is finished, I think, if everything goes more or less the way it seems to be. That'll be, based on previous chapters, somewhere between 15 to 30 pages, putting the first half of the book somewhere in the area of 70 to 85 pages and 40,000 to 50,000 words. Not too shabby.

Except I'm just as confused right now about the second half as I was regarding the first half 30 or 40 pages ago.

I have a rough idea of what's going to happen, but that's mostly because I know the ending that I'm headed towards. Page by page, sentence by sentence, I haven't the foggiest idea what I'm going to do with the second half of my book.

Nothing worth worrying about right now, though, I guess. I've still got the first half to finish. And if all goes well, that'll get me to my 50,000 words for NaNo, leaving me to worry about the second half in December.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

I think I'm in love

I downloaded Mozilla Firefox tonight. I think I'm in love with a browser for the first time since I laid my eyes on Netscape Navigator version 0.9. Firefox freaking rocks.

Get Firefox

Someone mentioned it to me months ago and I kind of poo-poohed the suggestion. That's how locked into my Internet Explorer mindset I was. That was how powerful a grip Microsoft had over my mind, and over my soul.

Thank you, Firefox, for setting me free.

In a weird "just like old times" way, I've included a little promo link on the side of the blog so interested parties can snag their own copy of Firefox. It's odd because it's the first time I've done this since Netscape was king of the hill.

The more things change...blah blah blah.

Friday, November 12, 2004

NaNo: Day Twelve

Saw this link while logging in to blogger today -- a blog listing people who are posting their NaNoWriMo novel on their blogs at http://nanoblogmo.blogspot.com/. It's a tempting thought, to blog your novel and post your nightly writings, get feedback and criticism and the like from readers all over, and I might give it a spin next year. I'd probably have to fire up a new blog just for the novel, though.

In writing news, the novel's gone fairly well in the last couple of days. I didn't get the chance to do any writing on Wednesday night, but I did double-duty last night to catch up on that missing day. The novel is now clocking in at just over 20,000 words, and it's really starting to feel like it's a long way from being done. I'm not sure if it's just turning out to be a long novel, or if I'm trying to pad my word count with extraneous words to make sure I manage my daily word count, but whatever it is I'm fairly sure the book, when finished, will be closer to 75,000 or 100,000 words.

Which, if everything goes well, I'll continue to work on well into December, if necessary.

In other news, I started down the road of learning CSS at work today, and if a few headaches at the start, my brain started to wrap around the idea and it's surprisingly functional and logical. Wish it hadn't taken so long. May actually play at redesigning the ol' blog layout over the Xmas holidays if I get bored.

I also watched a film I'd been waiting 14 years to see, but I'll save my thoughts on that for a night when I'm feeling less tired and don't have 1,600 words of a novel to still get through.

Monday, November 08, 2004

NaNo: Day Eight

Since getting back from Bella Coola, and scrapping the rapidly collapsing end to Chapter One, the novel's been back on track again. The last two days have gone relatively smoothly (though last night, I didn't really find myself "in the zone" until I'd just about hit the 1600 words -- I ended up continuing through for another 300 words, just because it was flowing so well).

I've come to think that my biggest problem with the end of Chapter One is that it involves a car accident, and I've already a car accident once in the past, for a story that didn't have a plot and never actually got one and never went anywhere and is currently unfinished. So now that I'm writing another car accident -- years later and, presumable, as a much better writer -- I feel like I have to surpass that previous car accident scene that I liked so much.

I'm trying to outright myself. And failing.

So I think, come Wednesday or Thursday, while I'm away from work, I'll play at trying to copy and paste chunks of that previous car accident, that I've always loved and never really been able to use anywhere, into my NaNo novel. If it doesn't work, no loss. If it does, I end up with an improved chapter *and* an excuse to finally use a scene I've loved for years but have never been able to find a home for.

I don't know why this didn't occur to me earlier.

And now, I'm off to tackle tonight's 1,600. Should be fun.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

NaNO: Day Six

I'm back from Bella Coola. What a long, ugly drive it was -- 11 hours out of the last 72. Blech.

I managed to NaNo on a borrowed laptop on Thursday night and got through my 1600 words for that day. I probably output a pitiful 400 last night before I was interupted by company and alcoholic beverages.

Today, in retrospect, I'm feeling like the 1,600 I did on Thursday were close to 1,550 really crappy words. The whole sequence I was writing has this feeling of being over-written and incredibly clunky. I'm not sure immediately how to fix it, and I think if I continue on from where I left it, it's only going to get worse. So I'm going to do the only thing I can think of doing at this point.

Move on to Chapter Two.

Knowing exactly how Chapter One ends, even though I'm apparently lacking the words to convey it, should make just giving up on that chapter for the moment and moving on beautifully easy. And hopefully moving on will help the quality of the work, as the area I'm going into now as not quite as plotted out as the end of Chapter One was -- I think the biggest problem I had was that I overthough that sequence, which led directly to the overwriting.

Should try to put out 2,000 words tonight too, to make up for last night's pitiful output.

And that's my update. I'm off to scratch out some words now. Wish me luck.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

NaNo: Day Three

I had the day off today, so I tackled my NaNo pages this afternoon instead of waiting until the evening, as I've still got my column to write this evening. And I sure didn't want to overwork myself in the evening.

I crossed the 1,600 word line today, but I think it's going to get whittled down to 1,500 or 1,450 after I wipe out the last paragraph I wrote today, which just doesn't work for me. I'm going to go back to it post-column and see if I can clean it up and make it better. It's exactly the point I want to end at today, but I just need a couple of hundred more words to make it work. Dammit.

I'm headed to Bella Coola for a few days tomorrow, but I'm bringing a laptop with me to make sure I don't miss any writing opportunities. 5,000 words would be hard to make up after being out of it for three days. Not that it would me that much, given that I had a 5,000 word head-start, but I'd rather save that head-start for when I'm really suffering some blocks. I think the next two or three days will continue fairly smoothly.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

KING COVERS: Firestarter (1980)

Not one of my favourite books, certainly, though it did have all the right elements. People with pyschic powers, an evil off-shoot of the government attempting the capitilize on those psychics, lots and lots of things on fire.

I don't know exactly what it was about Firestarter that never quite worked for me, but it always seemed to be lacking something. It's a pretty brutal story, in some ways, and drifts about as far away from a happiness as a happy ending can get, which is something else I usually like in my novels, and...

And it's been so many years since I read this book, that I really can't remember much of it at all, least of all why it didn't make a lasting impression on me. All I know for sure is that it didn't. That just thway life goes sometimes.

We'll start the festivities tonight with the original Viking hardcover release, a strong contender for design superiority right out of the gate. A striking yet simple image that is burned -- pun not-so-terribly intended -- forever in my mind. When I think Firestarter, this is the image I will always thing of, as this is the image that graced the cover of the book for years, first in hardcover...

...and later in two differently coloured Signet paperback editions.

I think I like the black one better.

You know the one thing that does bug me about this design? From a purely tyopgraphical perspective, what the fuck is a hyphen doing in there? Seriously! Why are hyphenating your title? That looks retarded. Use a more condsensed font or something, and get it on one line!

Lazy typographer bastards...

This later Signet releases manage to maintain the basic look and feel of the earlier paperback cover -- flames, eyes -- while giving it a slight redesign. Unfortunately, it's a redesign that drifts a little too far into "boring" for my tastes.

Another Signet design takes a slightly different approach, though I guess there's only so much you can do with a story about a young girl who lights things on fire. We've got the young girl, and we've got the fire, so that's got all the story's bases covered. Plus we've got smoke! Or maybe clouds. Or, I guess, maybe fog. BUt that doesn't matter, because we've got a young girl and we've got fire!

England goes with proven success of the whole fire and eyeball thing, except they choose to use -- for reasons that their designer will likely take to their grave -- what appear to be photos. Crappy photos. Crappy superimposed photos.

All is not lost, though...

...as the British redeem themselves with this design -- the winning entry. A massive burst of fire fills almost half the book's cover, with a tiny sillouhette in the midst of it all, bringing hom not just the ideas of "fire" and "little girl" but also "lots and lots and lots and lots of fire" which is pretty important to the story, actually.

This cover from Estonia (!) takes a close second, with a rather intriguing and inventive choice of images -- brain scans and a zippo lighter. Unfortunately, I think this cover design would have failed in the U.S. as it likely would have required a few too many steps of putting two and two together before it would make any sense. And thus, a creative design suffers in the hands of the great unwashed. Or something to that effect.

As for this cover from France, I'm really not sure what's going on. A...dragon? A sword? I can't quite make out what it's a picture of, so maybe if it were clearer it would make more sense, but I'm not betting on it.

I absolutely love the look of these two Japenese covers. The simple black and white images are fantastic, and more than any other cover these two pictures capture the loneliess of Charlie McGee's life, on the run from a government agency that wants to harness her powers for their own use. Unfortunately, it's lacking the all-important fire imagery required for a proper cover to a book called "Firestarter". Which is too bad because, once again, these really are incredibly beautiful.

NaNo: Day Two

1,600 words yesterday, plus 2,200 words today, plus the 5,500-ish words that I was already starting with leaves me currently just shy of 9,000 words, almost 1/5 of my NaNo total.

I think, to be fair, I'm going to shoot for 55,000, or maybe even 60,000. Given that I cheated a little bit at the start, with those 5,500 words already there. I don't like cheating. Cheaters are bad. Cheaters are evil.

Cheating or not, though, the novel's rocking so far, and it's looking like my prediction for the length of chapter one (the lengthy backstory chapter) is going to be just about bang-on at 20 pages. I may have to break that into two chapters later, as it might prove to be significantly longer than any other chapter in the book, which I don't like. I'm all about consistency. And liquor. Consistency and liquor. That's me.

I'm expecting this first week to fly by without breaking a sweat or batting an eye. I'm sure I can pump out 1,600 tomorrow with my eyes closed, and the day after that should be just as easy. By Friday, I might start struggling a bit, depending on where I end up, and depending on how much more solid the direction I'm going becomes in the next day or two.

And what d'ya know...I'm finished my writing for the day, still have another two glasses of red wine to get through, and I'm pumped creatively. I think I'm gonna put together the long-delayed and probably-not-so-terribly-anticipated new edition of King Covers. Why? Because I love ya. That's why.

Monday, November 01, 2004

NaNo: Day One

Today is the start of National Novel writing month. Today -- in roughly thirty minutes -- I'll open up MS Word and start struggling with my first 1600 words.

I have to confess. I'm already about 5,000 words into my NaNo novel, and it's not from working on it earlier today. I wrote about 10 pages on it earlier this year, though my intention wasn't to cheat -- honestly! -- my intention was simply to write a short story. When I reached page 10 and realized that I was still stuck on the character's back story, and that the back story was going to continue for at least another ten pages or so, I knew that I wasn't dealing with a short story any longer. I was dealing with a novel.

At which point I promptly dropped the project and set it aside as my NaNo novel.

I'm a little grateful to have those 5,000 words already down, as it will be a bit of a buffer in case I hit any nasty cases of writer's block, or for my 3-4 day work-related trip to Bella Coola later this week (where I may or may not be able to write, depending on whether I can wrestle my dad's laptop away from him for those few days).

Am I actually intending to keep some kind of a record of my NaNo progress here in the blog? Yes. Do I actually think I'll be successful? Well, that's another matter altogether, but it's still worth trying for, I think.

Having said that, though, non-NaNo-related blog postings might become fewer and further between. On the other hand, they may come more frequently, as what was intended to be a quick NaNo update becomes a longer, rambling blog-post.

If anything's almost guaranteed to suffer this month, it's the stick figure dramas and the King Cover reviews -- both of which are in dire need of an update (King Covers are badly needing some linkage over on the right hand side too, I think). If you see either a SFD or a King Covers post anytime in November, it can mean only one thing -- I have a writer's block that I haven't been able to get past, and I'm now working desperately to distract myself by doing *anything* other than thinking about it.

Off to write now. 1600 words today will be easy. Should be able to do it without breaking a sweat.

Of course, tomorrow's 1600 words will be a bit more difficult. And Wednesday's more difficult still.

Better get these 1600 taken care of while they're easy.

Friday, October 29, 2004

Nail-gun + Human Flesh = Bad

SYDNEY (Reuters) - An Australian man building a shed accidentally fired a nail into a major artery near his heart on Wednesday but survived after emergency surgery, medical officials said.

Is it just me, or does there seem to be an awful lot of nail-gun related injuries going on. People shooing themselves in the chest, shooting themselves in the head, shooting themselves in the foot.

People, it's a nail-gun. A NAIL...GUN. Not a nail-relaxing-muscle-massager. Could we all try to treat those nail-guns with a bit more care and not wave them around like they're toys? They're not toys. Unless there are toys that can slam metal spikes through your chest and into your aorta. And if there are, they shouldn't be available to the general public. For God's sake, the general public isn't even allowed to have lawn darts anymore.

More on the story here.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

In case you missed those subtle references the last few weeks...

...I'm going drinking tomorrow. I suppose there's nothing terribly out of the ordinary about my intention of consuming liquor -- I've been known to do that from time to time -- but this is a special occasion. Which I've mentioned, a time or, two in my column.

But, if you've missed those references, here is that special occasion.

Ten years of Caught in the 'Net.

Ten goddamn, motherfucking years of Caught in the 'Net.

Approximately 500 columns.

A longer run than many television shows (*most* television shows -- as was pointed out to me the other night).

Damn-near-exactly one-third of my life.

That's a long time.

I probably won't get a chance to blog between work and liquor tomorrow, so I'm going to take a few minutes now to get out some of my thoughts and feelings on the subject, because I think they need to get out. And I may not have the opportunity to do it in the column proper before year's end.

I was 21 years old when I started writing Caught in the 'Net. I was working for a little newspaper that was, at the time, called the Williams Lake Advocate. I'd been there for quite a few years, working in production in spite of the fact that I'd joined the paper hoping I could somehow use to follow my dream of being a writer.

It didn't work out that way, as I was far to shy at the time to properly conduct interviews, and when I tried to quit the job, disgraced by my own failure, I instead found myself designing ads and laying out a newspaper.

In those days, computers were fairly new to me. I needed someone to remind me, constantly, what it was I had to click on it order to start building the ads -- there were so many pretty little icons on the desktop, it was hard to remember what did which thing.

I bought my first computer not long after. I had actually been shopping for a word-processor, and the one that I was demoing had a little two or three line display that would show you what you were writing, and suppored floppy disks to save your work -- remember, I wanted to be a writer, not a computer geek, and all I wanted to get my hands on was a simple little typewriter replacement.

But when I returned the word-processor to the store that had allowed me to demo it overnight, I saw the most amazing thing -- a personal computer. They had just gotten it in the night before, and had it set-up and on display, the screen flashing through brilliant colour photos that couldn't help attract your attention. It looked far, far better than the simple three line screen on the word processor. And, of course, as a computer, it could be a word processor too, but also oh so much more.

I bought it, of course. It was a 386. It had 4MB of Ram (which I later upgraded to five), a 100MB hard drive, and the video card supported a whopping 256 colours, and it ran Windows 3.1.

And I fell in love with it almost overnight.

A few years later, swapped the machine for a 486-66 with 16MB of RAM, a 256MB hard drive, and -- the one piece of hardware that would seal my fate -- a 14.4K modem.

I used the modem, initially, to call the handful of local bulletin board systems that were running at the time, which satisifed my desire for digital conversation. And yet, there was a sense that there could be more -- that there *was* more, just waiting to be discovered.

That *more* was the Internet.

I first heard about the Internet on the news, probably in 1993. It was just beginning to outgrow its early military and university-based origins, slowly becoming something the generaly public might be interested in. I distinctly remember a news show quoting the e-mail address for the president of the United States -- president@whitehouse.gov.

And I remember looking at the address, mystified by the funny symbols, the odd punctuation. There was something about it that looked wholly digital, that looked somehow 21st century. This was the future. I wasn't sure how I knew it, and if asked at the time, I probably would have denied that I knew it, but it was there, burning in the back of my mind. And one thing was certain: I had to get on this thing they called the "Internet".

So I did.

I found an ad in the back of a computer magazine, promoting something called a FreeNet in Washington.

The idea of a FreeNet was that you could use your modem to dial in and access the Internet completely free of charge. It seems like a funny business model to me, and I'm not sure how they made any money (actually, they likely didn't, explaining the noticeable lack of FreeNets in the modern world) but I didn't care. It was going to get me online for the simple charge of...well, whatever the long distance turned out to be.

For the record, the long distance turned out to be in the area of $500.00 for that month. But it was worth it. My God, was it worth it.

My first experience with the Internet on that FreeNet was through a unix-based shell. There were no pretty pictures on the world wide web, no easy point-and-click interface. You logged into the system and used a series of text commands to steer your way around. It was awkward and clunky, and thank God I had a copy of Internet for Dummies handy to help me find my way around, but what I found -- first in Gopher, and then in Usenet, and later through an attempt to access the web through a text-based browser, wowed me.

As time went on and I read more about this mysterious Internet, I discovered that there were servers that allowed people to access the 'Net using programs that actually ran in Windows -- no more annoying text commands! Not long after I found another freenet service, this one offering exactly that kind of access, and I cheerfully signed up, happily paying the telephone company another $500 in long distance charges so that I could access the online world.

And the day I finally logged in through Windows...it was all over. I was hooked. I could feel the rush move through my body, tingling my brain, glazing my eyes over, bringing a faint but very real smile to my lips. There was more information out there than you could imagine, and it was suddenly oh-so-easy to get at. Point-and click. Point-and-fucking-click, man.

A few months after that, I got word that Internet service was going to be available locally, and I couldn't sign up fast enough. My addiction would have gladly forced me to continue spending $500 each month for 'Net access, but I was grateful to be able to shave off 95% of that bill. I knew I was going to need to buy groceries eventually.

At this point, I pitched the idea of an Internet column to the then editor of the paper, Bal Russell. I thought it would be a brilliant way to merge two of my passions -- writing and the Internet -- and actually get some words published in the paper for a change. I wanted to start the column right away, to get people ready for the Internet a few weeks before it actually arrived in Williams Lake, but Bal vetoed that, and told me that while he'd run the column, it would have to wait until Internet service actually existed in Williams Lake.

Waiting was hell. I spend weeks thinking about the first line for that first column, trying, desperately, to come up with just the right words to draw people into, first the column, and then the wonder, the magic, of the Internet in general.

Ten years ago, I wrote these words:

You've probably heard of it before — the Information Superhighway. These days it's hard to watch the news, read the paper, go to the movies, or do just about anything without hearing about it, and how much its changing the face of communication forever.

It's real name is the Internet, and if you're like a lot of people you're probably wondering how to "get connected."

It's a lot easier than you might think.

And that, my friends, is now officially a piece of history.

The column has gone through a lot of changes in ten years. When I started, my goal was to have it function as a kind of guide-book for people, helping them understand and get the most out of the Internet. I pointed people towards valuable software and wrote reviews of the coolest web sites. During the first year of the column, I held weekly IRC chats, where local readers could come and hang out, and ask question and get advice.

As the years went on, and Internet became increasingly more mainstream, the column didn't need to focus quite as much on being a guide-book. It began to change into more of an opinion-based column, while still focused on the Internet, allowing me to share my thoughts on everything from the Netscape / Internet Explorer rivalry, to the legal and moral issues of using a little program called Napster.

At its peak, it ran in five newspapers. It's been printed in two different papers in Williams Lake, it's run in Quesnel, it's run in Prince George, it's run in Sycamouse, and it even ran illegally in Merritt for a few weeks, when an editor breached copyright law and printed the sample columns I sent him without permission. Which, given the number of songs I've downloaded, is probably more than fair.

I've received fan mail (though never as much as I would have liked) and once inspired someone to mail-bomb me. I can't count the number times I've been out somewhere and had someone say to me, "Hey, you're that computer guy, aren't you?" And I have never once gotten tired of hearing a complete stranger tell me, "I really liked your column last week."

I've been through one girlfriend and then a break-up, and then another girlfriend and then a marriage and then a breakup, all during the run of this column. And outside of a Valentine's Day column that, in retrospect, ended up being more than just a little bit embarassing, almost none of that has had a noticeable impact on my writing from week to week.

The world moves and changes; there are ups and downs; but Caught in the 'Net remains solid.

I've sent column to my editor, not sure it was the best I could do. I've sent column after too many drinks, and have, occassionally, completely forgotten to send columns because I'd had even more drinks.

I've written good ones, bad ones, and far, far too many that were just kind of okay. I even went through a period -- probably five years ago -- when I felt like I was cheating anyone who read the column, because I wasn't putting enough into.

I almost quit the column then. It had somehow stopped being a labour of love, and had, instead, become a chore.

God knows how it turned into a labour of love again, but it did. And I'm glad.

This last year has been an absolute blast for me. Throwing caution to the wind, and writing anything I wanted, whether it connected to the Internet or not, has been a surprisingly freeing experience, and I feel as if I've done some of my best writing -- in any medium -- during these last 300 days. And that makes me, very, very happy.

If I were to die on January 1, 2005, I could go with one fewer regret, knowing that I had put my all into this column, and did everything with it that I could think of and had time to do in that last year.

Unfortunately (or fortunately, I guess, depending on how you look at it) I'm not dying on January 1, 2005, which is what is making this whole thing so goddamn difficult.

I announced last January that I was going to retire the column at the end of 2004, when it reached its 10th anniversary. I decided this for a number of reasons.

The first and most obvious was this: When I realized that the end of 2004 was going to mark the 10th anniversary of the column, I did the math and realized that I'd been writing it for one-third of my life. And if I were to do it for another ten years, then I would reach the point where I had done it for half of my life.

And the little voice in my head, that's desperately afraid of getting old and eventually dying, said this: "Don't ever, ever, ever do anything for half your life."

On top of that, there had been a feeling for the last few years that perhaps the column had run its course. It started as a How-To guide, became a vehicle for my opinion, and then finally turned into a series of ramblings with vague connections to the Internet.

It had been a good run, I thought, but its time was over.

That is still something I feel. The Internet has, in many ways, become like the telephone. It's a tool we use every day, and it's lost a lot of its cool factor. We don't so much "go on" in the Internet as much as the Internet as always kind of there, in the background, waiting to be used.

No one needs a weekly column about the telephone anymore.

On the other hand, there are still television columnists, and maybe that's a more accurate comparison for the Internet. And as long as there's an Internet, there will be issues that some one, and particularly me, will want to sound off about.

People often tell me that they can't believe I've found something new to write about every week for ten years. I usually just smile and try to explain that when you're dealing with a global network, as diverse as the Internet is, most weeks it's not a question of what you're going to write about, but what you're not going to write about.

I'm desperately afraid of ending this column. Can you tell?

After ten years, it's not a responsibility, it's not a nuisance. It's not a joy either. It's just...part of my life. I do it ever week. Wednesday night, there's two hours set aside to browse the 'Net, looking for any late-breaking news I might have missed, followed by madly typing up 300-400 words as I stare out the window at the setting sun (or a pitch-black sky, depending on the season).

I don't know what I'm going to do with those two hours now.

I've had a few people e-mail me, asking me not to end it, telling me they'll miss it, and I appreicate those words, but it's hardly been an outpouring of support for the column. If there was one, I'd probably use that as a perfectly reasonable excuse to not end it.

Instead, at I'm staring at the next two months, realizing that at the end of December I'm going to have to express all of these feelings with some kind of great, wonderful, profound goodbye.

I could change my mind if I wanted to, I know. I'm sure I have that authority. I've never spoken, explicitly, with my editor about the end of the column, and I'm sure he wouldn't mind if I decided to keep it running.

But at the same time, there remains that overwhelming feeling like it's over. The column has done what it set out to do, and has done it for far longer than I ever would have imagined. And closing doors is not something that we should ever be afraid of, because it's something that always leads to opening a new one, and starting out on some great new journey of discovery.

Maybe I *should* go with what my gut says, and let this door close, as terrifying as it might be, wondering what's behind the next door.

Whatever I decide to do, these ten yeras have been great for me. I will take so many fantastic memories with me from this, memories that wouldn't have existed without this column.

And to all of you -- whether you've read ten columns, or 100, or 500 -- you're the ones who've made this worthwhile. It's a funny relationship between a writer and his audience. In theatre (as I learned earlier this year) the relationship is far more intimate. You get to see and hear how people react to what you say and do. With this, there are two days and more than a few miles between when I write my words and when you read them, and as much as I know you're out there, it's still a strangely lonely experience doing the actual writing.

But the point is that I *do* know you're there. Every time I get an email from someone, or someone stops me on the street to tell me they loved last week's column, or someone smiles at me in a bar and says, "Hey, you're that computer guy," and then they shake my hand, I am reminded that my words do have an audience.

So to you, that audience, I say thank you. Thank you for being there, for listening to what I had to say, whether you liked it or not, whether it made any sense or not. You are the vital second half of this strange thing that writing is, and you have always ensured that I wasn't standing alone in a room, screaming at the top of my lungs, at no one except myself.

The doctor pipes in

The question this year is not whether President Bush is acting more and more like the head of a fascist government but if the American people want it that way. That is what this election is all about. We are down to nut-cutting time, and millions of people are angry. They want a Regime Change.

Taken from Hunter S. Thompson's piece on the 2004 US presidential election, over at Rolling Stone.

It's refreshing -- at least to me -- to hear the good doctor's words on the issue, and I think the quote at the top of this post sums it up best.

And God help us all if the American people should decide that they do in fact want another four years of that viscious warmonger.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

More great moments in aerospace.

Sensors to detect deceleration on NASA's Genesis space capsule were installed correctly but had been designed upside down, resulting in the failure to deploy the capsule’s parachutes. The design flaw is the prime suspect for why the capsule, carrying precious solar wind ions, crashed in Utah on 8 September, according to a NASA investigation board.

More on the story here.

Seriously, I've got to know, exactly what sort of qualifications does it take to work at NASA? Do they read the resumes of the people they hire? Do they bother calling their listed references to see if Joe-Bob really is a "rocket scientist"? Because, really, how hard is it to design something right-side up? I've helped put together more newspapers in my day than I could hope to remember, and not once -- not once -- did an ad accidently go to press upside down.


The funny thing in the quote above is how they point out at the sensors had been installed correctly, implying that if they had been installed incorrectly -- say, upside down -- everything would have worked out just fine.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Promised Excerpt

As promised, here's a small chunk of what I wrote tonight. I'm starting to get a wee bit concerned that this story's going to turn out longer than I anticipated and, worse yet, probably won't be finished by the time Nov. 1 hits and I'll have to completely shift gears into something different.

Not a huge worry -- this story and the planned novel both have a very similar tone, so the switch shouldn't be too awkward. Still, it'll be disappointing to have to postpone finishing this one until December.

There were more ways to fill this day than I could possibly hope to choose from. The number of people planning on either hosting or attending an end of the world party-extravaganza was phenomenal, and I knew what likely would have been house-wreckers on any other night would, as the night rolled on, turn into neighbourhood-wreckers at the very least, maybe even town-wreckers.

Of course, there were the people who planned to spend the last few hours of their life in their appropriate places of worship, communing with their gods, asking forgiveness for their transgressions, looking to make some kind of peace with the great beyond before that great beyond swallowed them whole.

Others were planning quiet nights at home, surrounded by family and friends. They might have a few drinks to calm their nerves, but they weren’t looking for an all-out party, just a quiet evening of conversation, introspection, a few laughs and, maybe, a group hug at the end of it all.

As for the crazies…I couldn’t even begin to imagine what they had planned. And I thanked whatever God was behind this that that I wouldn’t have to find out the next morning.

While most of those options struck some chord with me, and seemed appealing in their own, individual ways, I planned to take part in none of those options. I friends to call and say my goodbyes to, but for a life that had seen people around it on most days and nights, I was actually looking forward to spending my final few hours entirely on my own, not making peace with any gods as much as making peace with this life I had led.

I hadn’t led a bad one, really, though you certainly wouldn’t catch me saying that I had lived a particularly good one. It was just sort of average, all around, as I imagine most people were just coming to realize their own lives had been.

That, more than anything else, was what I needed to make peace with, what I needed to focus my thoughts and energies on, more than socialization. I needed to accept the essential averageness of my life, and be able to look back on it not with regret, but with whatever sort of satisfaction I could muster – even if it was a grim one.

Too often, I was beginning to realize, we surround ourselves with people to help drown the essential loneliness of the lives we lead, their essential emptiness, the void we all live with, the void we all live in.

Stupid post.

Looks like I missed yesterday in my attempt to post something each and every day for the remainder of the month in order to justify the stupid purchase of my new keyboard. And though I may have remembered to do it today -- this post is, in fact, it -- it's certainly no post to rant and rave about. Because this is pretty much it.


Okay, I'm off to struggle through a few hundred words on the short story I promised myself I'd write this month to warm up for NaNo. If actually succeed in writing anything, I'll post a little clip here later.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Time flies.

There's only two months plus a bit before the planned demolition of my column. And my good God, I'm not sure I'm going to have the nerve to go through with it.


Finally posted direct links to all current episodes of Stick Figure Drama -- in the right-hand nav-bar area. Under the "Stickage" heading.

It's kind of an ugly mess right now, but I'm not really in the mood to fart with it until it's more attractive. It'll suffice.

No Stick Figure Drama post for this week because I accidently posted the new one on the weekend before it actually appeared in print. Guess I got a little carried away.

I am, however, way overdue for a new episode of KING COVERS. Let's see if I can pull one together in the next day or two.


Why do I write long, rambling, painfully morose posts when I'm drunk?

And also: Why do they still manage to be relatively coherent?


Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Breaking the cycle.

I never expected to be happy.

I never was, really. Two points for my ability to read the future.

If shown an object, in the centre of 100 objects, that was my exact desire, a single thing that would make me happier than I could imagine, and I was asked what I thought I thoguht, out of those 100 objects, I would, I would probably pick something 95 objects away from my heart's desire.

Because I never expected to be happy.

Life, when you get right down to it, isn't much more than a bunch of objects layed before you, waiting for you to choose which you want, which you're going to struggle for.

The things I wanted...well, I never expected to get them, so I picked something else. Not necessarily the closest approximation of what I wanted. Just something that was in the vague vicinity.

Less of a victory, and more of a "thanks for playing, here's a copy of our home game!" version of life.

I've been doing this for so long that I don't know how to stop. I've been doing this for so long that when I pick something that's miles away from what I really want, there's a part of me that believes its actually a desire.

I have a self-perpetuating need to be less than what I can be.

And it's a cycle that's a bitch to break.

I don't want to say that it's an unbreakable cycle -- as much as it might feel that way right now, saying that, admitting that publicly, would be so self-defeating. I can't do that.

Because, in spite of everything else, there is a tiny part of me that is aware of what's going on -- if there wasn't, this post wouldn't exist. And that tiny part believes that identifying the problem is the first step in curing it.

So: Problem identified.

I don't know if there's any cure for it. I hope there is. I pray there is. I can't keep going like this for much longer -- where every choice I make is the wrong one, but it's an acceptible one given the alternatives.

I'm fucking tired of the alternatives.

I'm tired of living a life that's an alternative to happiness.

I'm tired of working a job that's an alternative to satisfaction.

I want to be happy. I want to wake up in the morning with a crazy grin stretching my lips to their capacity. I want to look forward to my day. I want to look forward to my evening. I want to be glad to be alive.

And whatever alternative there might be to that, simply isn't fucking good enough.

Desperate Housewives.

In spite of the fact that it had huge ratings for its premier;

and in spite of the fact that a co-worker told me that it was surprisingly funny,

it took all of five minutes for me to realize that "Desperate Housewives" was an awful television show.

Maybe I'm not the target audience. I hope that's all it is. But then, I'm hardly the target audience for 95% of what's on television. Which is probably why I don't have cable or satellite or anothing other than my DVD player and Gamecube on my television.

Maybe I damaged any potential for enjoyment I could have gotten from "Desperate Housewives" by watching a legitimately brilliant show like "Dead Like Me" first.

Beautifully written, beautifully edited, beautifully acted. The creators of the show understand visual storytelling like some of the greatest filmmakers of our time.

Pacing -- do not underestimate the importance of pacing. That, more than anything else, is what stood out in "Desperate Housewives" -- terrible pacing.

You don't encourage your actors to rush through dialogue like they've got a dentist appointment.

You don't rush through your plot like you want to be earing episode six during episode two.

You take your time.

You let things sink in when they need to sink in.

You use silences when they're appropriate.

And then, when you amp up the pacing for a valid, story-based reason, it's that much more effective.

It's just one little thing, but it makes all the difference in the world when it comes to storytelling and filmmaking.

So, the next time you're thinking of turning on something terrible like "Desperate Hosuewives" -- remind yourself to look up the broadcast schedule of a show like "Dead Like Me."

Or maybe "The Sopranos." That's pretty good too.

[EDIT: In a weak defence of "Houswives" -- Marcia Cross is pretty good. And Teri Hatcher is still pretty hot. Still, it's a crappy show...]

Monday, October 11, 2004

Procrastination: Over

The Manx story is done. Not too shabby either -- managed to do 18" reviewing a concert, which I didn't think I had in me. It started to feel a bit like it was losing steam around 7" which kind of freaked me out, but I just kept going, in-an-almost-stream-of-conscious style, and before I knew it, it was done.

That's usually the way these sorts of things go so I don't know why I'm so inclined to procrastinate, knowing that, most of the time, they're pretty painless to pull off.

I've got a theatre story to write this week -- a preshow article on "Opening Night" -- so I wonder what the chances are I'll procrastinate on that one too, post-interview?

Yeah, odds are pretty damn good, aren't they.


I have a review to write of the Harry Manx show for the paper, which I really need to get started on. Not into right now. Was a good show, without a doubt, I just find it difficult to describe a show like that.

Reviewing a play or a movie is much, much easier, as you can focus in on things like plot development and characterization -- it just seems like there's so much more to write about. When reviewing a concert, what can you say? He came, he played, he rocked. The end.

Blah. Boring review.

So I'm procrastinating. I may be able to procrastinate for another hour, at the most, before I'll have no choice but to either force myself to do it, or simply accept that it's not going to get done, and that's no an option.


off to procrastinate some more, I guess.

And sometimes I despair, the world will never see another man like him.

Christopher Reeve -- best known for portraying Superman in four films, and for a tragic horse-riding accident nearly a decade ago that left him paralyzed, died Sunday of heart failure.

He was 52.

Goddamn if 52 isn't too young to die, particularly for Superman.

While promoting the Superman films years ago, Reeve had this to say on how children should react to the character:

"They should be looking for Superman's qualities courage, determination, modesty, humor in themselves rather than passively sitting back, gaping slack-jawed at this terrific guy in boots."

Rest easy, Christopher.

More on the story here.


A few years ago (and by a few, I mean "probably close to ten") I took a few univeristy psych courses. I wasn't pursuing a degree, or anything, it was just something that interested me.

One of the things we learned about was what was called "Meta-Perspectives."

A meta-perspective is "my perspective of you."

Of course, that's a first generation meta-perspective. It can go a lot further than than. You can have "Your perspective of my perspective of you," and "My perspective of your perspective of my perspective of you." And on and on until your brain explodes.

Well, I had an online experience recently that reminded me of meta-perspectives. Lemme tell you about it.

I used to have a web site. I still do, actually -- it's at http://caughtinthenet.org. Don't go there, there's no point; it's just a far, far less attractive version of this blog.

Anyway, back when I had a legit web site, I kept and archive of my newspaper columns there, so that wierd, obsessive folks could and read the whole run of the column, all the way back to when I couldn't write myself out of a paperbag. It was kind of cool, I must admit, but as time went on, and I became less and less inclined to update the site, I found myself thinking, "Who the fuck cares?" and just, pretty much, threw in the towel. There really wasn't any need on the Internet for an archive of borderline-boring Internet columns, so why bother?

So, while checking out my statcounter logs the other day, I came across an instance of someone hitting this blog from the Williams Lake Tribune site, which made me a little curious.

The Williams Lake Tribune, for those who happen to have gotten here without having any knowledge of it, publishes my weekly Internet column, and has for a good number of years.

Anyway, I followed the link from my referral log back to the Tribune site, to see how people had gotten to my blog from there, and to my surprise, I discovered my column available at their website.

Which was cool. But also weird. Because I always kind of felt like, if my columns were going to be available online, I'd be the one making them available.

And besides, their version of my column was badly formatted -- there were no column breaks, which turns the whole thing into a long, mushy, rambling, ugly mass of text.

Though the links are clickable, which is pretty cool.

The point is, seeing my column on their site was just a bit like their perspective of me. And only discovering the fact that my columns were on their site was because someone visisted me through that site, and I found that visit through my statcounter log...well, that's just one more perspective.

It's all very weird, but in a good way.

Now I have to go before my brain explodes.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Red, Red Wine

I need to drink red wine more often.

I'm not sure what it is about red wine, but I get a very different kind of buzz after a few drinks -- a very creative kind of buzz, like I want to write something, or paint, or drawy crappy stick figure cartoons.

I don't know exactly why it works that way. I know different kinds of alcohols give different kinds of drunks, and red wine just happens to give me a really creative kind of drunk.

Maybe it's because there's just something so wonderfully...pretentious about red wine. And there's nothing more pretentious than creating something.

Well, no, I guess creating something isn't pretentious. Talking about creating something -- that's pretentious. I hate listening to artists talk about their art. I catch myself doing it every now and then, and I start to cringe even though I somehow can't stop myself. It's crazy.

So maybe my desire to create on red wine is to try to act as an anti-pretention agent. Maybe.

Doesn't matter, as it's Vodka I've got in the freezer.

This post has been brought to you by Todd's promise to write something every day this month, to justify buying a stupid $80.00 keyboard. Enjoy.

Saturday, October 09, 2004

Fun with logs #3

On a Yahoo search for "japanese stephen king covers" I am #5.

Looks like my midly-entertaining reviews of Stephen King book covers will eventually prove to be worth something after all. Good for me.

Stickage #17, #18, #19, and yes, #20

Here you go, for the three fans of Stick Figure Drama -- all four missing episodes, bringing y'all up to date.

It's because I love you.


There is a 78.31% chance that tomorrow I'll finally get around to making direct links to the entire Stick Figure Drama archive. Them's almost betting odds!

Friday, October 08, 2004

It was a good day for the blues.

A better night too, I suppose -- blues seems more appropriate after the sun has left the sky. It's not a terribly sunshiney kind of music, and it shouldn't be. The blues makes its own dim light, its own distant warmth, in the sharing of something just a bit morose and sombre.

Yeah, it was a good night for the blues, and Harry Manx put on a hell of a show.

The thing about the blues is, even if you love it, there seems to be a certain mood, a certain frame of mind, that makes you a bit more susceptible to it. I wasn't quite in that mood tonight; probably by tomorrow I would have been.

Yeah, my mood is slipping again. I knew it yesterday, or would have if I'd been paying attention, becuase I could already feel it slipping then. I just assumed I was overtired, a little off kilter and not sure of what to do with two-whole days off after working six days the week before that. I felt acceptable for the first half of the day, but the end of it, as the sun was threatening to sink, my mood started to sink with it.

Which ultimately made for a more satisfying blues show for me, true. But which may not bode quite so well for the days to come -- no more blues shows to take in, sadly.

Someone told me yesterday that they thought I was manic depressive, I just hadn't hit the manic phase yet. I laughed and told them there was another name for someone with those symptoms -- depressed.

The thing is, in spite of the fact that I've never hit the bursting of energy and ideas and passion and drive that, traditionally, comes with the manic phases of people with bi-polar personalities, I'm not stuck in the hole of depression 24-7. When I'm not in it, I'm in some kind of mildly-contended middle-zone, which isn't a bad place to be. Not the best, certainly, but better than the alternative, it seems.

I wouldn't mind getting hit with a sense of mania, just for fun, just to see what it was like -- it'd be so different from anything I've ever felt -- but if it got too exciting, and my heart started pumping too quickly, I'd probably have a panic attack.

Picked up a CD at the Manx concert. Couldn't afford it, really, but I couldn't not pick one up. I was so struck by his unique mixture of blues and indian musical sensibilities that I knew wnated to take a souvenir with me that would last a little longer than memory.

But I couldn't afford it, particularly not after dropping $90 on a new keyboard. Which I'm typing on right now, which I'm growing increasingly happy with (excepting the still-stupid Function Lock key) the more I write with it.

Couldn't afford the keyboard either. Now that I have it, I'm going to write something every day for the next two weeks until I have even a small amount of disposable income again. I bought the fucking thing, might as well get some use out of it. Might as well remind myself each and every day that I just spent almost a hundred-fricking-dollars on the stupid thing, and it's worth it. Better be worth it.

The keys feel good. The click nicely. They sound solid. The feel solid. The feel like they could 50,000 words in a month without breaking a sweat, which is exactly what I need in a keyboard right now.

Not sure if I can do 50,000 words in the month, but the keyboard can, so that's a step in the right direction.

I was thinking earlier tonight, during the Manx show, that in spite of my traditional approach to background music while writing -- which is basically to play instrumental, ambient, industrial, techno kind of stuff -- my work actually needs to have its musical accompaniment decided by the material. Because otherwise, the material ends up decided by the musical accompaniment.

The novel I wrote last year -- tentatively titled "Stealing Time" -- actually needed that kind of instrumental, ambient, industrial, techno kind of stuff. The book I'm prepping for this year doesn't. Nor does the short story I want to work on this month as a warm up.

The novel, I think, needs the blues -- and this, of course, is why the whole idea struck me tonight. I'm not sure about the short story. Almost blues but not quite. It's going to have, I think, a kind of bittersweet flavour to it, as people prepare to watch the world end around them with a sort of, "Well, we had a good run, didn't we?" attitude -- celebrating man's millions of years of history with a party larger than anything in history because, hell, no hangover the next morning, right?

Sitting on the hillside, looking up the stars -- stars that I'm sure would live on for millenia beyond us -- I knew that the end was approaching. I was miles from town, but even out here, embraced by the stillness of the uncivilized world, I could hear the chanting begin, the countdown to oblivion. Thousands of voices, millions, billions, all speaking with a single voice that grew louder with each passing moment until I felt as I was surrounded by the billions, as if I was a tiny speck in a sea of faces.

I remembered, suddenly, the old idea that if every man, woman and child in china lept into the air at the same moment, the combined force of their reconnection with the earth would throw the planet out of its orbit. We had laughed at the notion at the time, but now, hearing these voices grow louder and louder, until the world was blanketed in the sound, I knew that it was true. I knew that we, as a species, as a world, had carried with us the power to move mountains if we had only willed it. And we never did.

And why not? Because some idiot somewhere said, "Don't be ridiculous."

Before I had the chance to think about just how fantastic a tragedy this was, the countdown came to an end, and the world, dwarfed by a deafening roar only a moment before, was suddenly blanketed in silence, and I closed my eyes and waited for the end.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

New Toys (and other miscellaneous musings)

I discovered this morning, quite to my dismay, that my keyboard was nearing the end of its natural lifespan. I had spilled some juice on it last night, which I quickly mopped up and, near as I could tell during the cleanup, none had actually dropped between the keys.

Apparently I was wrong, as the space bar had taken to offering a bit of a delay in its return to natural, neutral position.

Which, on the whole, probably wouldn't be anything to lose sleep over -- a nuisance, certainly, but surviveable. If I wasn't planning on writing 50,000 words next month. Then...it might have an impact.

So I went out today and spent money I couldn't really afford to on a new MS Multimedia Keyboard.

Options were limited, to be honest. Limted to exactly one, in fact, because I refuse to do any more damage to my arms and wrists by using a non-ergnomic keyboard. And wouldn't you know it, between the Microsofts and the Logitechs and the miscellaneous no-name brands available to me, they had exactly one ergonomic keyboard to choose from. The one above. Which now sits on my desk. Which I now type. Which, in some sense, I am testing out for the first time with this post.

Not a bad keyboard, but why are they so goddamn expensive? I mean, if I want to get a cheap piece of shit keyboard for $20.00, sure, that's an option, but what if I want to avoid any great crippling disorders later in life? What if I want to avoid shoving my arms in the face of a doctor decades from now, pleading with him to make the pain go away? Shouldn't there be some kind of discount for ergonomic designs, instead of treating them like they're some kind of trendy, lifestyle choice.

That's the second piece of hardware that's died for me recently, after putting in five years of work, so I guess I can't complain too much. My previous keyboard was one of the first (if not *the* first) of Microsoft's ergonomic designs, and after using it I simply can't type for any length of time on an old-style keyboard without actually, actively feeling the damage I'm doing to my wrist. Thankfully I've been able to arrange for ergonomic keyboards in the last two jobs I've held, otherwise I'd probably have lost my mind. Or at least the feeling in my fingers.

My mouse caved a few months back too, forcing me to invest in another new toy that couldn't really be afforded. The mouse was an even greater issue, though. My keyboard I could have struggled with -- one key was just a little sticky. The mouse was dead. Nonfunctional. Toast. I remember the night it died, I'd had a few drinks, and I found myself banging it as hard as I could against the desk, hoping I could jiggle some component back to where it belonged and get just a few hours more use out of it. No go.

That's what the mouse looks like. Pretty cool actually. It's cordless too, which is even better, though I dread to think about the deadly amount of radiowaves and other miscellaneous beams bouncing around my office. I'm probably nursing a tumour the size of a basketball right now.

In other news, Stick Figure Drama is now officially in a second publication, so my path towards massive syndication has begun. May take awhile, but the things that are most worth doing are often like that.

I'm a few weeks behind on Stick Figure Drama here too, of course, which I really must catch up on in the next day or two, and finally get around to creating those links directly to each of the 19 (holy crap -- 19!) strips that have run so far. I'm also toying with putting together a collection of strips for Xmas, but I don't know if I still have time to get that done. Maybe if I got off my ass and did some work on it for a change...

I'm off to see Harry Manx at the Gibraltar Room on Friday night -- a blues musician, who's incorporated a 19-string indian instrument into his performances. Should be interesting, and the streaming music available at his web site has me convinced that it'll be a good show, to be sure. Not sure exactly when it happened, but I fell in love with the blues a number of years ago, and could, in fact, listen to it almost exclusively. Not that it'd be good for my mood, I imagine. C'est la vie.

Final rankings for the keyboard, at least as of this early date, is definitely good. The keys aren't springy, and click nicely -- one of the things I like. When I type, I like it to sound like I'm typing. As for functionality, it's got the media keys, which is nice for playing and pausing music, adjusting volume, etc. -- even quick buttons for Internet access and E-mail. On the downside, it's got the annoying as fuck Function lock button, that allows you to access your function keys in the way they're designed. And if Function lock isn't pressed, all of a sudden you're opening and closing and getting help files and getting all sorts of other crap that you don't want. Gonna have to try to set Function lock as defaulting to ON.

It's also got the rearranged Home / Delete / End / Page Up / Page Down keys, which is a strike against it, but at least the arrow keys are still designed the way they should -- I'm currently using a keyboard at work with fucked up arrow keys, and it's about enough to drive me to drink. If I wasn't already a filthy drunk to begin with.


It's too early to be up on the day that is, essentially, my equivalent of Sunday. But I dragged myself out of bed to get some laundry done before my morning squash game, then crawled back into bed to relax while the washer spun its cycles. Laying there, though, in the darkness, between dreams and wakefulness, I had a sudden terror that I had forgotten one of the many deadlines that make up my week.

Right. My column. Forgot to write it last night.


So, drag myself back out of bed, climb up the stairs to my office. Write the damn thing. Send it off.

Wrote about National Novel Writing Month and, when I was done, with the web page still running in the background, figured it was as good as any a time to sign up again for this year.

The novel's called "Waiting for a Miracle." At least that's what it's called at the moment. I tend to have working titles, and then finished, proper titles. It takes me forever to title a book.

Come November, as I progress my way through the 50,000 words, I'll likely publish an excerpt now and then here in the blog. Unless I get struck with writer's blog. Then I'll likely just post long strings of profanities.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

The reason we're all here

As Ev Williams, the creator of Blogger, steps down, Tony Pierce disects the importance of his creation far more eloquently than I possibly could. So I won't even bother. Just follow that ol' link up above.

Friday, October 01, 2004

KING COVERS: The Dead Zone (1979)

This book and The Shining are, hands down, the best books of the early King era. In fact, in many interviews at the time, King points to The Dead Zone as his best work; or, at least, he most story driven. And there's no denying that, underneath the surface idea of "What would happen if you could see the future," there are real moral and ethical issues being struggled with here. Not to be a sadist, but I think the greatest writing comes from putting characters into difficult situations to see how they'll cope.

Unfortunately, for such a great book (and haven't I said this a time or two before?) there are some unbearably shitty covers attached to it. I don't know if it's because the graphic artists were feeling particularly uninspired, or if it was because the details of a book like this are hard to express with a simple design, but there are really no covers for The Dead Zone that stick out and scream, "That's BRILLIANT!" to me. Nonetheless, let's look at a few. Shall we?

This original cover, from the Viking hardcover at least trys to work with the material -- the shadowy face, and the wheel of fortune (vital the story, if only in ways that are too complicated to explain here) give the closest taste of the story that was probably possible. Too bad there wasn't some way of just creating a scratch-and-sniff cover that would just fill the potential reader with the sense that this book was too fucking good not to buy. Then marking would be easy.

As much as it's pretty much an exact duplicate of the hardcover, I'm going to give the Signet paperback edition the prize for this entry. The image is pretty much identical, but it's a bit more shadowy, and it's black and white instead of in colour, which just somehow works better for me. Maybe it's in the ironic way that the book deals with how issues are never clearly black and white? Maybe not? Whatever. This is the best of the covers, so if this is what you came here for, you can go to bed now.

(Though, to be fair, I guess this cover gets a few unavoidable bonus points for being the edition I first owned and read. In a case like this, when all the covers are damn near hideous, bonus points can go a long way).

The wheel of fortune theme continues with this later Signet paperback edition. Somehow, though, it seems to be a bit too creepy, which doesn't quite work with the actual content of the story.

Wheel of fortune theme continues again, this time with a skull! Which is even creepier before! It's the wheel of fortune of DEATH! OOOOOOH! SCARY!

There's something that I haven't said before, that I'm going to say now, and get out of the way before there's any further discussion. I hate movie tie-in covers. There are a number of King adaptations that I love (The Dead Zone being one of the) but books are books, and movies are movies, and never the twain shall meet. Or something or other.

Movie tie-in covers have nothing to do with selling the book. It's all about selling the movie. Which has no place in book promotion.

Movie tie-in covers are the work of the devil.



Speaking of evil, what is up with this cover? An image from the cover of Night Shift, based on a short story from Night Shift, which has nothing to do with The Dead Zone (except, maybe, "seeing" the future, but, c'mon, that's stretching it).

And speaking of "what's up with this cover" -- what's up with this cover? A guy tries to cross the street while a truck drives by? This is *not* The Dead Zone, no matter how deeply you look between the lines.

This UK cover gets close to the heart of it, with the image of a carnival (where, of course, you'd find the wheel of fortune) with a storm brewing in the background.

Of all the non-American covers, this gets closest to the heart of the what the book is about, and almost --
almost -- beats the winner. Shaking hands with the devil while the world ends behind you. If that doesn't hit the nail on the head of this particular book, I don't know what does. Unfortunately, I almost think it hits the nail a little too accurately -- there are a few things should be kept as secrets.

We all hate the movie trailers that give away the ending before we even go to see the film, don't we?

Friday, September 24, 2004

Internet vs. internet

The Chicago Manual of Style has a bunch of new rules / suggestions on the proper way to write about the Internet and technology, some of which I was surprised to see.

For example, the suggest using "log in" and "log out" as opposed to the closed up versions that, I would expect, would be more common -- "login" and "logout".

They also cover captilization of URLs (which, contrary to their suggestion, I would never do, although I *do* capitalize when the .com is part of their company's name -- www.expedia.ca vs. Expedia.ca)

I was also under the impression that they were suggesting spelling Internet with a lower case i -- internet -- but I can't actually see that on their page during a quick, cursory look, so maybe I'm wrong. Hope I'm wrong, because I still think it's stupid to use a lower case i. But that's just me.

Why am I telling you all this? I don't have the foggiest idea. Maybe just to get it all out of my system so I don't spend 400 words writing a terribly dull column about it.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

KING COVERS: The Long Walk (1979)

As far as I'm concerned, the four initial novels that King published under the name Richard Backman -- Rage, The Long Walk, Roadwork and The Running Man (nothing, by the way, like the horrible, horrible movie version) -- are some fantastic books. They might not be the kind of stories that King is known for, but they're quick reads, that push strong emotional buttons, and ask important questions.

Thinner, on the other hand, wasn't very good. And The Regulators was less a Bachman book than it was an interesting marketing idea. But I'll get to those in their time.

Collecting the covers for the Long Walk tonight, I was surprised by how many good ones there were, given that wasn't one of King's best known works having come from the Bachman name. I guess it goes to show you that sometimes good book design can come from just a really good book, and not necessarily a really big name. Besides, you can put more work into the design if you don't have to stretch Stephen King's name over 1/3 of the cover.

The book itself takes place in the not-so-distant future, where an annual, national event called the Long Walk pits contestants against each other to see who can...walk the farthest.

If you drop below the minimum speed, you'll be given a warning. After three warnings, if you drop below that minimum speed again, you'll be taken out of the game. Permanently. With a bullet in the head.

You'd think that a story about a bunch of people doing nothing more than just walking might be less than interesting. You'd be wrong. Because of the simplistic setup, and the lack of huge changes in setting or plot, this is a novel that really shows King's ability to paint vibrant, vivid and varied characters. Through the eyes of the main character -- Ray Garraty -- these people come to life on the page, and, somewhat ironically, the more you grow to care about them, the more they tend to be removed, forceably, from the story.

If memory serves me correctly, the book clocks in around 200 pages, so it's a quick read from start to finish, and if you haven't treated yourself to it yet, I highly recommend it.

Now for the covers.

The original US Signet release does a good enough job capturing the facts about what's going on -- with the walkers senn in the distance between the legs of what I assume to be a military man in the foreground. The cover does lose some points for me, as it seems to be focusing more on the end of the story, with what looks an exhausted walker about to cross the finish line. I hate movie trailers that give away too much of the story, and that seems to be, at least in part, what this cover is doing. Although it's better than later US releases...

...like this one, from Democo Media (though Signet had a release with the same cover -- it's just this was a clearer picture).

A country road, travelling by a fence. And on the fence is...a skull.

So this is a book about...what exactly? Farmers trying to scare kids off their property? Nope, sorry, not working for me.

As I've said before, I'm a sucker for minimalist designs, and this is definitely one of those -- a stark black cover with the fluttering white sheeting carrying Ray Garraty's number, 45, with what seems to be a few splatters of blood. The design of the 45 gives the impression of a race of some kind, while the blood, of course, implies a race that perhaps ends violently. This cover has just successfully given enough information to prompt someone to pick up the book. Surprisingly, though, it's not taking the grand prize today. In fact, it's actually tied for second place, with the other cover plays up Ray Garraty's #45.

Courtesy of the Netherlands, this cover shows a series of sports jersies, each with a unique number, each jersey with a big red X mark through it, indicating the players who have been "retired". Something about the red X marks gives the impression that they have not been retired in a friendly way, though, and once again the cover gives two strong, solid impressions -- this has something to with a sport, and something to do with violence -- capturing the content of the book perfectly without giving too much away.

This Spanish cover doesn't do much for me, with a picture that looks more like a guy going out for a stroll at sunset than a guy who's walking to keep himself alive.

These two covers from Germany have two very different images. The one on the left is wrong for similar reasons that the Spanish cover is wrong -- it doesn't feel like it belongs to this story; it looks more like an image that might promote "The Fugutive". The image on the right is closer, with the bloody footprints, but kind of misses the sporting event element of it, and almost looks like it could be the story of a guy who stepped on a piece of glass.

Sometimes the Japanese covers get it right, like they do on the left, with the two kids walking along the road, one of them glancing back nervously over his shoulder. And sometimes they don't, like on the right, with a picture of what appears to be someone out for a leisurely afternoon stroll. Sorry, there's nothing leisurely about the Long Walk.

This Polish cover gets close, with the simple, two colour design and the gun poking out from the left hand side, the crowd of people in the distance clearly the targets. Unfortunately, the walking element gets lost here, and it almost looks like a book about a crazy mass-murder on an office-building killing spree. Let's not count Poland out of the running yet, though...

...because this cover is fucking BRILLIANT. The road, the white traffic lines, the empty and tipped over shoe, the empty shell casings -- this cover sells me on the book more than any other cover we've looked at today. It looks lonely, it looks desperate, it looks painful. Unfortunately, it does miss some of the sporting even / race imagery that worked so well in earlier covers, and it's worth commenting that this image might have worked just a tiny bit better if it had been a sneaker or a running shoe on the cover instead of a hiking boot, but that's a tiny, tiny, tiny, tiny criticism for a cover that all sorts of different flavours of fucking brilliant.

Buy me!

Today marks the release of the 7th and final book in Stephen King's Dark Tower series -- appropriate titled the Dark Tower.

To coincide with the release, and the rare book signings held earlier today, people are already madly trying to sell their signed copies on ebay for a quick couple of hundred dollars. Fuckers.

On the topic of King, the cover criticisms will return shortly. I'm almost feeling human again, as tomorrow's the start of my weekend, I can all but promise that there'll be a new one posted sometime over the course of the day. In fact, if I'm feeling good enough, I might even post two, to make up for lost time. But I'm not making any guarantees.

Monday, September 20, 2004

Stickage #16

Dunno what happened with this stupid cold -- I was starting to feel better by last Monday and Tuesday, then *bam* I'm feeling crappy again by this weekend. Maybe it was the way that feeling better made me think that I could have a few drinks after the "Play in a Day" this weekend. Which, apparently, wasn't a great idea.

Suffice to say, I'm lacking both energy and motivation. Which might explain, in part, why this week's Stick Figure Drama (which will be posted next week) turned out the way it did.

However, today's Stick Figure Drama -- #16 -- brings the happy little story arc known as "Stick Figure Action" to a close in probably the only way it could., leading the way into next week's first installment of "Stick Figure Existentialism."

Don't ask. Just trust me.

This week's strip is actually one of the ones I'm happiest with so far. I think I've finally hit on a almost consistent look for the Really Bitter and Jaded Man / Me character, which is something that was missing from the first 10 or so strips. Plus, I like the way my hand kind of moves around in the panels. Oh, and I always think it's funny to draw myself with really, really big eyes. Damn, that's a hoot.

That is all. Thank you and goodnight.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Chewed Gum = Sex Toy

Driving into work today, listening to the radio, I heard a DJ talking about people buying Britney Spears' gum off of Ebay -- something I heard about before, actually -- for thousands of dollars.

It occurred to me that while most of the people buying the gum were probably just weird fans with too much money to burn, who planned on sticking the gum in a little glass display case, there was probably also one or two people looking to try to eventually harvest DNA from the saliva left on the gum.

Assuming that's probable. I'm not a rocket scientist. Nor am I a DNA-etician. I have no idea how much saliva you need to get cloneable DNA, nor how long that DNA remains viable for use in cloning. Still, I could imagine more than just a few people who'd love to grow their own, personal Britney Spears that they could keep in their basements, chained up and...well, you get the idea, I'm sure.

No Britney gum is currently available on Ebay, sadly, though there is a can of Coke she reportedly drank from (still has lipstick marks!). Don't know how much saliva she left behind, but it might be harvestable, I guess. Either that or you could just close your eyes, lick the can and pretend you're making out with her, as you mix your creepy-stalking-obsessive-fan-saliva with what some get-rich-quick-auctioneer assures you is hers.

Could you imagine spending 19 years growing your own Britney, only to discover that you had spent thousands of dollars on gum that had been chewed by a lonely loser from Minnesota? Could you even get your money back 19 years later? Unlikely. Of course, you could beat the shit out of the clone, I guess, and almost feel like you're kicking the crap out of the guy who sold it to you. Almost.

Oh, and Britney got married this weekend -- second time this year! -- so she's technically off the market. One more reason to start the DNA harvesting, I suppose.

I can't believe I just wrote an entire post about Britney Spears. I have no more to say. If you, however, wish to know more about Ms. Spears, visit Mr. Stereogum. Kid tested, mother approved.