Sunday, November 27, 2005

Yeah, but what's it all *mean*?

I've endeavored for many years now to track down the "meaning" -- assuming it can be said to have one -- of life.

This is not to say that I necessarily believe that there is a single, catch-all, explanation of why we are here. An answer that, upon hearing it, would inspire each and every one of us to gasp in shock and amazement, and say, "Ooooooh, now I get it."

Life, for all our attempts to inject meaning into it, is, when left to its own devices, ultimately meaningless. We are here for X number of years between birth and death, and left to fill that void of time in whatever way we choose. Whether we entertain ourselves with television or video games, flex our creative muscles by writing or painting, or perform random acts of selfless kindness, the bottom line is still simply that we are looking for ways to kill time until we die.

Which, when you think about it, is kind of a depressing thought.

Which is why I try to find meaning when and wherever I can.

William Peter Blatty, the author of the Exorcist, has an interesting take on the idea of a God that would put us on this planet, give us free will, and then, for the most part, pretty much just leave us alone. I mean, why not just make us all good people? Why not just wipe away death and sin and greed and all the ugliness, and make everyone happy and perfect?

His idea is that truly honourable traits -- like selflessness, courage, sacrifice -- are not things that can simply be handed to someone. They have to be learned. You can't be courageous without being afraid. You can't have shown courage without first going through something terrifying, something potentially fatal, perhaps even something that *was* fatal.

These are things that have to be learned. Things that have to be earned.

I have a very similar approach to finding *meaning* in life.

Given that there is no all-encompassing answer to the question of why we are here, it is left to us to instead find meaning every single day. To take every event, from the most earth-shattering to the most mind-numbingly mundane, and find within in a lesson that we can learn, or a way to inject a newfound passion into our life, or, at the very least, a way of saying, "Today wasn't entirely pointless."

The best lessons in life aren't the obvious ones. The best lessons are the ones you have to dig for, the ones you have to ask questions to find, because they are stronger and far more profound for the work that you have put into them.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

I'm running out of ways to use "Crap" in my headlines

Okay, so it’s Saturday, which means this is only one day late, which means – technically – that this is a small improvement over last, and weeks previous. Now I’m not expecting you all to send me congratulatory notes or anything, I just thought I’d point that fact out.

  1. Jon Brion – Knock Yourself – A short, folky song from the I Heart Huckabees soundtrack that I completely fell in love with after picking up the DVD and listening to the first few lines, over and over again, in the menu screen for the second disc. Mmmm, existential pop music. Yummy.

  2. Roger Waters – Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door – Waters, to my knowledge, has never been much for cover songs, but his particular voice, as well his musical sensibilities, make him a perfect fit for this song. Another one I’d love to use, somewhere, in a play one day.

  3. REM – Leave (Alternate Version) – Don’t think I’ve heard this one before. That’s the great thing about my music archive – always something new to discover.

  4. Joe Satriani – What Breaks a Heart – Don’t think I’ve heard this one before either, but I’m liking it on a first listen. Some nice, slow, sad guitar work going on here. What does break a heart, anyway? Loss? Death? An icepick?

  5. Roger Waters & Ron Geesin – Hand Dance-Full Evening Dress – From the soundtrack of “The Body” I believe. Downloaded, but never listened to. And I will never understand why.

  6. Michelle Branch – Goodbye to You – I think this was another album that was downloaded, essentially, just to get my hands on a single song, though this one does sound vaguely familiar. I probably heard it at a bar once, somewhere in the background. It has that kind of sound to it…

  7. U2 – Pride (In The Name of Love) – A live version, from somewhere or another. Good song, and a reminder that, as I think I mentioned before, U2 kind of fell apart in the late 90s.

  8. Nine Inch Nails – The Day the World Went Away – A really fantastic song off of “The Fragile”. I’ve got a really spiffy, toned-down, almost mellow version of it kicking around somewhere, but this isn’t that version.

  9. Sivak Drac – Deus Ex Main Title (Piano) – This is an odd little thing I found on a web site for the game Deus Ex – someone performing the main title on a piano. As a fan of both the game, and the game’s music, I couldn’t avoid downloading these acoustic takes on what were highly electronic pieces. These songs, and a really interesting piano-only version of Radiohead’s “Paranoid Android” make interesting reminders of just how much can be done with a piano if you know what you’re doing with it.

  10. The Offspring – LAPD – Is this the third week in a row that The Offspring has shown up in the Random 10? I didn’t think I had that much of their stuff…

  11. Twin Peaks – The Pink Room – Haven’t listened to it much in years, but I always liked the kind of surreal, jazz-esque music from this show. Loved the show too, mind you, which probably helped.

Sunday, November 20, 2005


Wow, just did a check on recent traffic, and it seems to have been a bit busier lately than normal (a special "Hello!" to the fellow who found this site while searching for "men's crotches" -- sorry to disappoint).

Guess I'll have to put up content a bit more regularly now that people some to be coming by to visit now and then.

Crap crap crap crap crap

So, it’s late again. Also, the whole “chronicling the beard” thing has clearly fallen through the cracks. I lost all inspiration after seeing, and subsequently posting, that first dreadful picture of myself. The attempts weren’t improved by the lack of having someone around to snap the picture every day, and my own complete inability to take pictures of myself with my own stupid camera.

On the other hand, at least I’m getting around to doing the Random 10 before more than a week has gone by, which is significant considering how little blogging I’ve done lately (in spite of the absence of a play in my schedule.

0. Mike Oldfield – Resolution – From the “Shade” side of his recent “Light + Shade” release. It’s taken me awhile to warm up to the album, but I’m actually quite fond of it now, though I think I favour the “Shade” side. This is, at least for the moment, my favourite track of both discs.

1. Offspring – Falling – You know, I never actually feel like I’m in the mood for Offspring, but as soon as they pop on, I can’t help but grin and bounce a little bit. Don’t tell anyone, okay?

2. Linkin Park – By Myslf – Whole albums downloaded because I kind of liked one of their songs for about a week. Good Lord, my MP3 folder needs a cleaning. If I had a dollar for every song on my hard drive I’d never listen to, I’d have a whole lot of dollars, let me tell you.

3. The Offspring – Pretty Fly (For a White Guy) – Okay, some Offspring I’m just never really in the mood for. This is one of those songs.

4. Lisa Stansfield – All Woman – And this song’s presence on my hard drive is a completely, bizarre mystery to me. Planted by a virus, maybe.

5. Tori Amos – China – Lovely song, from her first, and arguably, best album.

6. Oingo Boing – War Again – The songs from this album always make a me a little sad, as it was the last album they recorded before making the decision to retire the band. The material on this last release was just different enough that I always think it a bit of a tragedy that we’ll never know where they would have gone musically. Curse you, Danny Elfman!

7. U2 – Sweetest Thing (The Single Mix) – I’ve never been able to warm up to newer U2 stuff – anything past, say, “Achtung Baby” has always just seemed kind of wrong to me somehow. It’s not bad, exactly. And listenable, certainly. But it’s just…I don’t know. It’s like eating at McDonald’s. You know it’s food, but somehow it just seems a little bit like plastic too.

8. They Might Be Giants – New York City (Acoustic) Apparently this is a cover of a song by…well, someone else. Also, apparently, they had to figure out the lyrics themselves from hearing the song on the radio, so their version actually has a wrong lyric in it. Which is kind of weird. Which is also kind of appropriate for TMBG. It’s worth mentioning that the acoustic version contains an accordion, which I think is criminally underused in modern music.

9. Nirvana – Where Did You Sleep Last Night? – I was never a big Nirvana fan, but I have a huge fondness for their Unplugged album, and this is certainly one of the best songs from it, with a really great intensity crescendo.

10. Madonna – You’ll See – I think this is off her greatest hits album, which I downloaded because there are actually a few of her songs that I enjoy, but it doesn’t sound even remotely familiar. Either I completely slept through a Madonna phase – which is far from impossible – or they were really stretching to flesh out the latter half of the hits.

And that’s it for this week. Next week we try, yet again, to get the Random 10 done on time. Anyone placing bets yet?

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Perhaps this crap will be late no more

We won’t know for sure until it actually happens, but with the close of “Arsenic and Old Lace” last weekend, it’s entirely possible that this might be the last late Friday Random 10. Mind you, I’m not making any promises. I’m simply saying that, at this point, the prognosis doesn’t look quite as bad as it used to.

  1. Kidney Thieves – Layers – I spent a few hours one night trying to track down who it was who performed the “NG Resonance” rock songs in Deus Ex: Invisible War, and eventually stumbled upon the Kidney Thieves. They’re kind of like a combination of Evanescence and Nine Inch Nails. This is my favourite of the songs that made an appearance in Invisible War.

  2. They Might Be Giants – Critic Intro – Less of a song, and more of a…I don’t know to call it, exactly. But it’s brilliant. “If you hear only one song this year, there’s something terribly wrong with you – Kitty Carlisle, Easy Riders.” How can you go wrong with a piece that includes a quote like that?

  3. Ani Difranco – Up up up up up up – Live version of a tune that, in spite of being eminently catchy, just never caught my ear.

  4. Alanis Morissette – Flinch – I had a coworker who absolutely refused to listen to Alanis Morissette (occasionally reminding people that our work space was an Alanis-Free-Zone). I never bothered to argue with him, as he was clearly adamant, but I never really figured out what his problem with her was.

  5. Evanescence – October – A song from one of their rarities albums. Nothing brilliant, but then Amy Lee’s voice can make just about anything a winner, if you ask me. Which you didn’t. So, uh, I guess you can forget I said anything.

  6. ????? – The Freshmen – I don’t know who this is, because the artist is listed as “Billboard Top 100 of 1997.” Stupid people and their bad MP3 tags. Though, I suppose it doesn’t much matter, as it sounds like an average, cookie-cutter, mid-90s radio hit. Which is to say that it’s palatable, but doesn’t do much to excite me as a listener.

  7. Pink Floyd – Echoes – Hands down, the best piece from their pre-Dark Side of the Moon discography. I have a strange fascination with epic-length songs, and this is one of the best. “A Saucerful of Secrets” slides in at a close second. Some of the shifts in the song remind me of their later work on “Animals”…

  8. Tori Amos – Upside Down – I wish more songs that I knew actually appeared during my Random 10. Is my playlist really that full of music I’ve never listened to?

  9. Alexander Brandon – Hong Kong Helipad – From the game “Deus Ex” – it’s amazing how one little song from a video game soundtrack can transport you back to those moments in the game itself.

  10. Tragically Hip – New Orleans is Sinking – Live version of a song that now seems eerily prophetic. Not my favourite Hip song, but a good’un nonetheless.

  11. Oingo Boingo – Stay – Live version, from their Farewell CD. I’ve got to track down the DVD of that album some day soon, I think. Ten years after the end of Oingo Boingo, I heard Danny Elfman’s voice performing the Oompah-Loompah songs in “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” the other night, and it was the strangest, surrealist thing. I had to actually watch the credits just to make sure that I hadn’t hallucinated it.

And that’s it for this week’s Random 10. Tune in next week for the answer to the exciting question: Will it damn well be on time for a change?


Today is day two of the return of the beard. Little growth is apparent in the photograph, and can really only be seen if you get really, really close to my face (or, in my case, if I get really, really close to a mirror).

Lessons learned on day two: Push up your glasses before your picture is taken, otherwise your eyes look like they're on the outside of your head. Also, turn off the flash on the camera so you don't end up looking like you're wearing clown makeup.

Also, don't take the picture at 9:30 p.m. when you've only had four hours sleep the night before.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Facial Hair R Us

The last performance of "Arsenic and Old Lace" is tomorrow night. What that means for me, more than anything else, is that I have shaved my goatee for the last time. Starting tonight, the beard is beginning its long, slow journey to eventually return to my face.

And because I am a dork, I will be photographing that process, and posting those photographs here on the blog, so that the entire world can experience the excitement that is me growing a beard.

Tune in tomorrow for Day 1. I promise you won't be disappointed.

Well, I suppose I shouldn't promise that. Because you probably will be. Instead, let me promise you this: at the very least, you shouldn't get leprosy by viewing these photos.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Three hours sleep.

And I felt like crap most of the day.

Well, that's not true. I actually felt pretty good most of the day, except for the whole being tired thing. I drifted off on the sofa a couple of times over the course of the day, A&E making muddy noise on the television in the background.

In spite of the being tired thing, I managed to do two cracks at the NaNo novel over the course of the day, and I crossed the 10,000 word mark just a few minutes ago. I am still surprised by how ridiculously well the novel is going, given that I had given it almost no thought in advance, save for a bit of character defining that was done in the "This is not a prologue" series of blog posts.

I even stumbled across what might be an interesting plot twist in a few chapters, assuming I don't change my mind before I get there.

Next chapter introduces two new characters, which is a moment I'm quite looking forward to, as these two characters will end up creating the primary conflict in the story. I should have the current chapter done by tomorrow, which means I'll be saying hello to these two by Tuesday.

And I can't wait...

More late crap

I’d like to think that once the run of “Arsenic” is over, I might actually get around to doing the Friday “Random 10” on Friday instead of, say, Sunday. I’d also like to think that one day I’ll quite smoking, have eleventy-billion dollars, and rule the world with a  kind but firm hand.

  1. Nine Inch Nails – The Persistence of Loss – From the “Still” limited edition bonus album. The tragedy is that this fantastic song never ended up on a more readily available album. A lament on a love that’s doomed from the get-go. Sad, but oh so…oh, what’s the word…poignant.

  2. Collective Soul – Burning Bridges – I picked up a Collective Soul album some years ago, and thought it was perfectly fine. Thus I’ve taken to downloading their albums when they pop up on Usenet, and promptly never listening to any of them. I assume this is from one of those albums, as I’ve never heard it before.

  3. Dire Straits – Lady Writer – Again, the bane of downloading greatest hits albums from bands you’re not religiously fond of that you never get around to listening to. Never heard this one before either, that I can recall.

  4. Radiohead – I Might Be Wrong – I found Radiohead after finally getting tired of reading the rave reviews for “OK Computer” and just bought the album. I’ve continued to enjoy and respect them since, for their continued attempts to experiment musically. There’s nothing worse than listening to a band do the same exact thing, over and over again, for their entire career. Which, sadly, describes most modern music.

  5. Elton John – Benny and the Jets – Sounds like it’s from some live album or other.

  6. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers – Depending on You – I always thought Tom Petty had kind of annoyingly whiney voice, but a former coworkers used to play his stuff at the office now and then and it kind of grew on me. A little.

  7. Eddy Grant – Electric Avenue – Where did this come from? I must have an 80s collection or two somewhere on my hard drive, I guess…

  8. Roxette – Better Off on her Own – Whee—more fun early-90s cheese. Which is not to say that they didn’t have one or two good songs. Which is also not to say that I don’t enjoy cheese. Mmm, cheese.

  9. They Might Be Giants – Women and Men – You know, one of these Fridays, I’m going to have to do a straight TMBG “Random 10” for no reason beyond the fact that they have so damn much good material. The last time I turned their stuff on at work, I heard a, “Good Lord, what is?” from someone, which is further evidence that TMBG is clearly an acquired taste. And generally acquired by the odd and the twisted. And ridiculous.

  10. Mike Oldfield – Thou Art in Heaven – One of the biggest problems with a random playlist is hearing songs out of the context of their album. Certain songs, while good as stand alone songs, simply belong as part of a larger whole—much of Oldfield’s stuff is like that. From the Tr3s Lunas album, for anyone interested

  11. Kim Mitchell – America – Didn’t this come up last week too? Is my playlist telling me something? Does it have something to do with Canadian semi-rock? With U.S. foreign policy? Is Kim Mitchell really terrorist? Should I stop rambling now before this gets completely out of control?

At least this stupid Random 10 – whether it occurs on Friday or Sunday – is sort of a guarantee that I’ll post something here at least once a week, even when I’m ridiculously busy. Like I’ve been this last few weeks.

On that note, see you next week, at the latest.