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 --

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 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 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. 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?