Wednesday, December 28, 2011

PURCHASE

While standing in line at the cashier of the drugstore, about to pay for my USB key, and then dashing off with a quick start in the manner of epiphany to fetch some face wash, one could say I forgot something, when in actuality, I remembered something.

Monday, December 26, 2011

DETRITUS

My new laptop is no longer so new. I got it in almost-October and now is almost January. But it feels new because it doesn't yet have the thousands upon thousands of files from my old laptop. It is a laptop without history or character. It is empty, like a five-year-old child who has so far learned nothing.

For three months my new MacBook Pro has been nothing but an advanced internet machine. It has allowed me to do Facebook and Twitter faster. That is all. For work, I've had to return to my old PowerBook G4, a workhorse that I have fed innumerable documents and projects and correspondence since 2005. My old laptop is a wise and frail partner. My new laptop is a sleek fling.

For three months I have put off transferring files from my old laptop to my new laptop because the task bores me. Moreover, the task overwhelms me. I am not simply transferring by bulk the guts and spirit of one computer to the other. No, I am going to clean. I am going to select which files to keep and which to discard into forgottenness. I do not want to clutter my MacBook Pro with unnecessary memories, the weight of refuse. I want to start anew.

You have moved apartments. You have moved furniture, which takes no time at all. You have sat at a banker's box overflowing with folders and papers and bills and contracts and newspaper clippings and letters and documents, trying to keep and trying to discard, which takes forever. Moving the sofa is easy. Curating information is hell.

And hell is now. Thousands of inane e-mails clogging my Sent mailbox where the entire body is simply "Yes" or "Hahaha!" or "Check out this link…". Thousands of files for projects while they were in progress -- Draft 02, Draft 03, Draft 04 -- which I consider valuable because they are records of my development, and which I might re-visit years from now -- which I have done. Thousands of pictures I have found on the internet, and which friends have sent me, because they are interesting and/or funny and/or sexy… But I have no idea where to put them. Everything simply remains. Everything has become "I'll take care of it later." If computers give us the opportunity to be organised more pragmatically and efficiently than ever before, then to that, I might have failed.

I want to be organised. I actually am, as my professional matters are handled swiftly and with great care, but as computers become more analogous to our actual lives, I see the wayside expanding as more and more things in my life have fallen. I absolutely can not keep up with casual correspondence. You will likely not hear back from me in a timely fashion unless you have hired me, or I have hired you, or we are thinking of hiring each other. I would like to change that and respond to everyone. I would like to clean up my life, which is why I would like to start with a clean, new laptop.

Why do I care? Perhaps because I am old enough to know what organisation/life means without the aid of a computer; I started e-mailing late, in my final year of university, and I remember telephoning someone to make plans with no texting as recourse to say one is running late. Perhaps because I prefer old technology to new; I still, and expect to always, use my uncluttered and concise paper Preference Collection daily planner, the same beige-page style I have been devoted to since 1995. Surely I care to have a clean, new laptop to reflect my increasingly ascetic lifestyle, where I am learning to discern what I want versus what I need. I have become quite fond of eating hard-boiled eggs with not one touch of seasoning.

And now… I am sifting through six years of Inbox and Sent and files and JPEGs and screen-captures and notes and vectors and bitmaps and drafts and I am daunted. I understand that my MacBook Pro will eventually get cluttered the same way that every household has a junk drawer full of "I'll take care of it later". I want to keep my virtual junk drawer tiny. I want to answer every e-mail, respond to every Facebook message, to force everything to be pat with a tyrranical fist. But as my laptops have sadly become inseparable with my life, cleaning up six years of my computer could prove to be as futile as cleaning up six years of living.

I wondered if my being overwhelmed is a response to technology. Yes, I believe that today we are over-stimulated and over-obligated, but in the case of feeling defeated by tidying up information, I believe we would be overwhelmed no matter what the technology. My old laptop is indeed a facsimile, a diary, of my past six years, but I can still systematically go through each file and delete. Imagine sorting through the last 2,190 days of actual life, itemising and examining every single memory without the option of deleting.

Perhaps I should accept the fact that the junk will grow and when I get my next new computer I will attempt yet another purge. Perhaps I should embrace the scraps as giving my computer character, the same way that a human is the sum of his and her ramshackle history. The e-mails you never responded to. The draft of the novel you abandoned. The relationship that evaporated without explanation years ago, and whenever you are at the same bar you cannot look each other in the eyes. Matters, though unfinished, remain as complete memories. We will accumulate more and they will make our character. My life is flotsam. Your life is jetsam. Our lives are a collection of detritus.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

BIEBER

Excerpt from an interview on December 2, 2011:

QUESTION:
How has social media changed how people perceive the arts?

ANSWER:
I wanna talk about YouTube. And MySpace and the other things that helped Justin Bieber, Lily Allen, Russell Peters, and others to get noticed. First of all, our attention spans have become nil due to the internet, and we have patience only for snippets. I’ve only recently checked out Chat Roulette, which is very unsexy, but it’s also analogous to how we use the internet. We give everything half-a-second of our attention, realise it’s yet another ugly penis, then click away to an uglier penis…. How do you make someone give you more than half-a-second? Well, on YouTube and MySpace and stuff, you make music or make people laugh. Music and comedy can be instantly engaging, and after you’ve heard one verse or laughed at one punchline, you’re hooked. And then you tell everyone on Facebook and Twitter. And then that musician and comedian and sneezing panda cub go viral. Boom. Celebrity. Social media goes hand-in-hand with music and comedy, and clever stuff, and oooh!-and-aaah! stuff, and weird images, and sexy images, because they are instantly engaging and quickly gratifying. The pay-off comes very fast: three minutes for a pop song, fifteen seconds to tell a joke, one second to look at a cool picture. Social media doesn’t seem to work for long-form narrative drama. How would Rohmer fare on the internet? Narrative drama requires time and investment from the viewer, but the internet is grooming us to crave shorter and shorter. Twitter isn’t helping. 140 characters and everyone’s trying to be the next Oscar Wilde.

For the record, I have absolutely no problem with Bieber, Allen, Peters and others who got noticed from the internet. In fact, I admire them because of their tremendous talent and ability to harness technology. Their careers fascinate me.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

POLITE

Fuck, Canadians, why're you so polite? I'm riding my bike down Queen Street and this 20s-couple, between cars and about to jaywalk, step back to give me space. As I pass them I say, "Thanks" and they say, "Sorry." What're you sorry about? I'm sorry I said thanks.

Fuck off, manners!

Friday, October 28, 2011

CONSTRUCTION

Drills rat-tat-tat as I approach the intersection. Traffic is slowed amid the mild mayhem and I'm just gonna jaywalk this thing but oh shit, there's a cop. I'll wait. This fall morning is too refreshing for conflict. A teen in a toque bounds past me, zipping across the street, zipping by the cop. I don't have his balls. I wait. Green light's mine. I go.

YOUNG COP: Hey, I said hold on. You don't speak English?

I stand in the middle of the street and stare at him. I'm gonna say something... Terrible Cantonese? Gibberish Mandarin? Instead:

ME: I didn't hear you. Yeah I speak English but what if I didn't?

YOUNG COP: I told you to wait.

ME: Not everyone speaks English.

He waves a car past.

YOUNG COP: You might as well go, you're already in the middle of the street...

ME: You can't assume everyone speaks English, my friend.

The bearded hipster passing me smiles in solidarity.

Assuming everyone speaks English is insulting. The tyranny of English is insulting. The cop goes back to his job with outstretched arms. Either I'm not worth his trouble or he gets me. Both. His parents or grandparents probably don't speak English. He looks Portuguese.

I added "my friend" 'cause I'm not in the mood for fisticuffs and handcuffs.

Friday, September 30, 2011

GOO

Just saying. Just saying. Just saying. If I am riding an elevator with you and your baby, do not expect me to devote my attention to the little one. I will neither goo-goo nor coo-coo to your wonderful gift to the world. Why? Because I am a carbon-hearted, misanthropic asshole who finds only adults, pandas, and Jon Stewart amusing. And because my niece and nephew are cuter than your kid, anyway.

Monday, August 8, 2011

ACRE

Aaron's irony is ironic.
When looking over a bustling intersection teeming with cars, condos, cafés, and cyclists, he sweeps his hand and tells us, "I remember when this all used to be farmland."
When standing before a farm, he sweeps his hand and tells us, "I remember when this all used to be farmland."
They are crotchety, curmudgeonly, old-man words, and around-thirty Aaron loves uttering them with faux nostalgia and a grin.
When reclining in the sun room of the cottage, overlooking the trees and the boy in the life jacket cannonballing into the choppy lake, Aaron sweeps his hand still clutching Guinness and tells us, "I remember when this all used to be farmland."
I laugh. I always do. This time, though, it isn't his joke that makes me laugh -- it's the fact that he still tells this joke, again and again, with undiminished gusto and grin. His mere telling of this joke is now funnier to me than the joke itself. The joke has now become meta. Who else but Aaron would pack post-modernism with him to the cottage?

Sunday, July 31, 2011

WE

Burying our dead. Believing in gods. Making fire. Adding to the argument on what separates humans from other animals, I speculate that we are the only beast who is aware of our own beast's presence far away. We know we have a father in India, a cousin in Belgium, a grandmother in Guatemala. Of humans we have not met, we know Obama is in America and Hu Jintao is in China. We might never meet Obama nor Hu, yet we know they exist. We have not met Riel nor Napoleon nor Tutankhamen, yet we know they existed. It is not about the internet or newspaper -- an illiterate blacksmith in Rome could be aware of a Cleopatra in Egypt. Our awareness of the existence of a member of our own species transcends space, time, and technology.

Beyond running-, swimming-, and flying-distance, other animals are not aware of their own. The horse in Yukon does not know of the horse in Argentina, let alone the horse from 1511.

I suspect we are the only beast who creates mythology. Legends and lore that confirm, and disseminate the confirmation of, our existence throughout space and throughout time. History. Fame. Celebrity. Notoriety.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

NERDS

They are fifteen, maybe sixteen, surely not seventeen. The four boys flanking me on both sides of the streetcar, the two Caucasians sporting nifty glasses, the two Chinese strapping knapsacks on their backs. Foreheads riddled with red spots. Voices crossing the rickety bridge back and forth from boy to man.
"So you're saying each pixel is made up of a million parts?" says one.
"I'm talking about invisibility," says another.
"You can't draw what you can't see," says another.
"I want to figure this out," says another, then laughs.
They probably masturbate often. They probably are unaware that girls in their classes find them charming. They probably will do good with their lives. I want to tell them, "Keep it up."

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

KEY

J was a latchkey kid. Yes, he did wear a key on a string 'round his neck. Something was always a bit different about J from the rest of us. He constantly had fresh gear, multiple satin Starter jackets, new Buffalo and Request jeans every few months. Almost every day, for lunch he would buy Chicken McNuggets, all white. That's like $3 a day, $15 a week, $60 a month. On McNuggets. How the hell could he afford that? I always suspected he had some kinda money despite living with his single mom in a bungalow on Victoria Drive near the 7-Eleven where our friend C stabbed a kid with scissors. J was a full-fledged member of the rough crew that I sort-of-maybe-sometimes wanted to be a part of, but I wasn't a fighter, nor was I Italian Greek Portuguese, nor did I wear head-to-toe denim (at that time) while moshing to "Enter Sandman". I'm rap and Chinese, and the only Asians in that posse were Indian, except for E the pale-skinned Chinese boy who seemed to get a lot of sex. J was more Too $hort than Metallica but still managed to be high up in the hierarchy, being a good-looking, funny kid who seemed to get all the ninth-grade girls. He always invited me to join him on his regular 12.10PM trek to McDonald's where I'd watch him drop dollars daily while I munched on my mom-made sandwich. He made me feel like a part of the crew of which I was a hardly-honorary member. He was a popular kid, and rolling with him gave this fourteen-year-old some confidence. I still have the Naughty By Nature self-titled debut that he lent me. He still has my Dre's "The Chronic", the first CD I ever stole from A&B Sound. I'd like it back.

Come to think of it, I too was a latchkey kid, but I kept my key in my pocket.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

'BAGS

Sausage McMuffin. That's what happens when you're walking home at 5.52AM in the drizzle from a friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend's house party, and the joint was full of young Latin people dancing to Latin house shouting "Hey, Macarena!" but I'm not sure if the song was actually a version of "Macarena" but I'm sure they know better than me, and the pound of coleslaw I'm munching from the 24-hour grocery store ain't filling me up near enough, and my night has become morning and the only thing open is McDonald's so I'm gonna get, what else, of course, Sausage McMuffin. I pay the teen my $1.46 and saunter to the side, awaiting my salty fat treat. I glance at the donation box in front of the cash register -- to help kids who need help -- and six pennies are scattered outside the box, their target missed. Now listen: I donate. I donate to earthquakes and tsunamis, public radio and polar bears, cancer and buskers. I give. And here are six rogue copper pieces absent from a child's happiness. I could have dropped those pennies into the box, I should have. I thought about it. But it's 5.52AM and I have a tub of half-eaten coleslaw and I'm too busy contemplating when the teen cashier's (Andrew's) voice will break. So I stand. In comes a gang of douchebags, ostensibly from the after-hours joint up the block. Five 'bags and a girl, rocking dress shoes and Christian Audigier, ordering McThis and McThat, one guy gets apple juice. ...It's all good, so did I, minus the apple juice. One of the dudes, without announcement nor show, casually, as if by habit of kindness, picks up the pennies and donates six times.

Friday, March 18, 2011

STICK

September Saturday and Grade Nine is three weeks old. We're in the parking lot of the Korean church, you know, the one on Gladstone. Playing hockey, not ice. M and me taking a break to chew gum, sitting under a sign that says "Jesus" or "Seoul" or "welcome". The gum's pretty good, kinda small, super mint, popped out of a foil pack, it ain't Hubba-Bubba-grape good but we're growing up. Maybe I should start eating Corn Flakes instead of Froot Loops. M slams his stick onto the pavement and shouts real stressed, "All I wanna do is fuck a girl!"

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

WELFARE

B was on welfare. We weren't sure, but she and her sister were being raised by their single mom, her clothes looked like Value Village specials, and her greasy hair was begging for bathing, so obviously she was on welfare. She was the punchline of all our jokes, both in and out of her presence. She was synonymous with ugly.

"I wouldn't fuck B in a million years!" we'd say when we began to dare swear. And, more damning, "You're gonna have sex with B!". The only proper response to that curse was a punch to the back and tackle.

She was our ultimate butt for years and it didn't help her case that she was silent, never told us to shut up. We were in school together from Grades 4 to 7 and I recall hearing her voice only a few times. I recall she had one friend, or maybe it was none. Probably it was none, otherwise why else would she get on stage solo for Air Band? It's Band. And what the fuck is this hippie-oldies "I Feel the Earth Move" shit that she's doing? -- it ain't The Bangles or DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince or Salt or Pepa. Every time B mouthed "I feel the earth move under my feet" we snickered because, obviously, she was fat. Elementary school kids might not be able to explain irony, but we knew when it was happening.

We did manage to envy B for one thing: she was among the first in our school to get a Sega Genesis. But our "I wish I had a Genesis like B" was matched by "Shouldn't they buy clothes and food first?". The thing about our neighbourhood in East Van is that you fit in the spectrum between poor and working class. Class is structured by who is less poor. We kids would flaunt whatever objects we could to avoid looking poor; if you wore Brooks instead of Nike, you had welfare shoes. We weren't sure that B was actually on welfare, but we wanted to believe that and she never said otherwise when we told her to her unwashed face.

Around the time of Air Band, Nick and I had a secret. We shopped at Value Village. But just for board games like Master Mind and Clue, not for Bugle Boy and Nike because, god, that's so used and so poor. We refused plastic bags because, god, how could we be seen biking down Victoria Drive toting "Value Village" across our handlebars. Walking into a second-hand store gave us the same taboo titillation that we would experience later when we were fifteen and walking into our first strip joint. "Battleship for only a buck!" Nick shouted. The aisle of knick-knacks, games, and National Geographics was our clandestine budget wonderland. We steered clear of the clothes because, even as East Van almost-teens, we couldn't let ourselves look like poverty and there's nothing cool about wearing someone else's jeans.

Now I'm an adult and 80% of my wardrobe is used. I rely on vintage stores for my cowboy boots and jeans that no one else will be wearing, but even that's a bit easy -- I thrill at the challenge of saving coin and finding sweet André Michel jeans at Sally Ann. I wear sneakers that cost ten dollars. The brand: Sportek. Now I'm an adult and I adore Carole King and am proud that I discovered Rhymes & Reasons at Goodwill for only a buck. Among her other albums, I also own Tapestry, but B beat me to it by decades. I recall her dancing on stage without anyone backing her up, sweating through her shirt stenched by her mom's cigarettes, lip-synching with complete concentration "I feel the sky tumbling down" under the dinky strobe, and I understand that B was cooler than all us kids in the gymnasium. We just didn't know it yet.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

BREAK

It's like this. You don't know? It's like this. Spring Break in East Van and what am I gonna do? Wake up at 10, watch The Price is Right and The Monkees. Later, go play hockey in the alley. Naw, not on skates, don't be stupid. This is the inner-city and we don't skate -- we run. School's out for a few, what else'm I gonna do? Play fucking Nintendo at Nick's. That's it. Fuck around, that's it. Now it's summer and school's out for more than a few. What am I gonna do? I just told you: Wake up at 10, watch The Price is Right and The Monkees. Later, go play hockey in the alley. Buy a dilly bar at the Dairy Queen shack up the block. Ride bikes to Trout Lake to fish for toxic fish. Boost some porno mags from C&T at Kingsway and Nanaimo. Nintendo. What else? That's it. Fuck around, that's it. Now it's winter and school's out for a few. What am I gonna do? I just told you already. Same shit. Fuck around, that's it. If it's snowing we're gonna risk our thirteen-year-old limbs by bumper skiing up and down the block. If it ain't snowing we're gonna do Nintendo. Done. That's holiday.

The first day of class in September, woe be unto the naive teacher who says, "Welcome back. Did anyone go anywhere for the holidays?" Don't be clueless, you stupid fuck. You know ain't nobody gonna put up their hand. Maybe one kid, but it's always gonna be like this: "Yeah, my family went to Kelowna." That's just four hours away and that's your vacation? That's all you could afford? Whatever, good on you 'cause the farthest I went was fucking Burnaby.

Spring Break is coming. Ain't no Fort Lauderdale happening in East Van.

Monday, February 7, 2011

PISS

The commercial features mothers voicing their disgust at the video game. If that inspires you to buy the game -- indeed, if any of your actions are motivated solely by a desire to piss off your mother -- then you are a child.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

FORGIVE

I have been humourless for many weeks. I have been brusque with family and friends and always felt guilty because I seemed, I believe, rude. I am not a rude man and if you've met me you would say I am not rude. But I have been lately. I have been gruff. My mind is all distraction and my typical mirth has been replaced by temporary melancholy. My patience has shortened as has my ability to suffer fools and foolishness, jokes, ribbing and barbs, and I will soon talk about aardvarks. Recently a cousin made a joke to me about something I don't care to tell you, and at other times this recurring joke would have lured a polite laugh out of me, but not this time. It's not a hurtful joke, normally -- in fact, it's extremely benign and tremendously insignificant, not dissimilar to an affectionate tug on the cheek. But because I am currently rude and humourless, the remark was met by my frigid frown and a subtext of "shut up" that was hardly sub. I did not want to be rude, I wanted to be polite. But let's say you usually find aardvarks funny. They are odd and begin the English dictionary. Normally you like aardvarks. Usually the subject of aardvarks would not make you rude. But then your friend pulls your leg with an aardvark remark, knowing full well that only last week an aardvark horrifically attacked your mother.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

100%

WOULD I GO THERE ALONE?

Bars: 100%

Sports bar to watch hockey: 100%

Sports bar to watch football (NFL): 0%

Sports bar to watch football (FIFA): 100%

Portuguese sports bar: 13%

Portuguese sports bar with a non-Portuguese friend: 13%

Portuguese sports bar with a Portuguese friend: 100%

Vietnamese karaoke bar: 3%

Korean karaoke bar: 4%

Gay bar because it's open until 3.00AM and every other bar closed at 2.00AM: 100%

Gay bar, period: 100%

Any place that will sell me booze: 100% generally

Dirty bar filled with ex-con alcoholics who arrive at noon and leave when they're dragged out twelve hours later, in Kitchener-Waterloo: 100%

Bar that charges $7 for a pint of beer: Fuck off

After-hours booze-can speakeasy with lots of drugs: 100%

After-hours booze-can speakeasy with no drugs: 100%

After-hours booze-can speakeasy with twelve people, four of whom are on clarinet, trumpet, double-bass, and guitar: 100%

After-hours booze-can speakeasy with people who can stay up later than me: Try me

Club playing X-Ray Spex: 100%

Club playing Taylor Swift: 1%

Club playing any Top 40: 1%

Standing and drinking and looking around at a dance club: 100%

Dancing at a dance club: 98%

Dancing to Joy Division or Duran Duran or Prince or Hall and Oates: 100%

Dancing to Wu-Tang Clan, A Tribe Called Quest, Showbiz and AG, Gangstarr, or Main Source: 0%

Head-nodding to Wu-Tang Clan, A Tribe Called Quest, Showbiz and AG, Gangstarr, or Main Source: 100%

Rapping along with Wu-Tang Clan, A Tribe Called Quest, Showbiz and AG, Gangstarr, or Main Source: 100%

Strip club: 100%

Strip club in Afghanistan: 0%

Afghanistan: 5%

Alabama: 23%

Albany: 100%

Porno shop to buy a thing: 100%

Porno shop to browse: 100%

Porno shop on a busy street at 3.25PM: 3%

Swingers club, to observe: 100%

Swingers club, to fuck: I dunno

Train ride from Vancouver, British Columbia to Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Labrador: 100%

Train ride from Lisbon to Moscow: 100%

Train ride from to Bangalore to Ulaanbaatar: 46%

Drive a car from Vancouver, British Columbia to Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Labrador: 8%

Bicycle ride at 4.14PM: 100%

Bicycle ride at 4.14AM: 100%

Restaurant to eat oysters: 100%

Restaurant to eat pho: 100%

Restaurant at 5.37AM: 100%

Restaurant to eat any meal, any time, alone alone alone: 100%

Dive that serves shit food and shit coffee: 100%

Filthy dive: 100%

Restaurant run by a fancy chef: Depends -- is there a dive nearby?

Starbucks: 0%, but I will meet you there if you insist

Mom-and-pop coffee shop: 100%

Tim Hortons: 100% with double-double hypocrisy, please

Big-chain book store to buy a book: 0%

Big-chain book store to use the urinal: 100%

Independent book store: 100%

Independent record store: 100%

Cinema to watch a film by Bergman: 100%

Cinema to watch a film by Bergman, and a friend wants to come along: Depends on which friend

Cinema to watch a Twilight film for full price: 1%

Cinema to watch a Twilight film for free: 100%

Cinema to watch a Twilight film for half-price: 50%

Art gallery: 100%

Museum: 100%

Theatre: 100%

Dance: 100%

Opera: 100%

Symphony: 100%

Sleater-Kinney concert (pre-2007): 100%

Sleater-Kinney concert (pre-2007), and a friend wants to come along: Depends on which friend

Church: 100%

Mosque: 100%

Temple: 100%

The Other Temple: 100%

The Other Other Temple: 100%

Me becoming religious while visiting the church, mosque, temple: 0% - 1%, but thank You, sincerely, for letting me spend some time with You.