Monday, December 29, 2008


John D. was the man. We were thirteen and he was having sex. Actually, he was fourteen when we were thirteen -- that's how man he was. Failed a grade or two, bouncing from school to school, hanging out at Ray-Cam*, selling drugs, boasting faint 'stache, being all Portuguese and pudgy-faced and polite. That's why he got the girls: he did dangerous manly things while saying "please". He'd hold the door open for a customer coming into the corner store he just shoplifted. John D. was the nicest thug to ever take your sedan for a joy ride.

"...she wiped her mouth and then we fucked," he told me with a shrug of his shoulders and flick of his cigarette.
"No way!"
"You had sex?" I shrieked.
"How long?"
"Like, with making out or actually fucking or when -- "
"Sex sex?"
"Sex sex."
"'Bout twenty minutes..."

*Rough community centre in East Van don't front

Thursday, December 25, 2008


There are experts in the Indian family across the alley. They own a dump truck, a hulking pick-up truck that's too industrial-strength for consumers, and a Bobcat. And they fit them all in a driveway that would normally suit a Corolla and a Civic. Every evening is beeping when they back their giant machines into the squeeze. One of them stands in the alley as the guide, shouting in Hindi. They usually clog up this mid-alley and require some maneuvering in our driveway and another neighbour's, but no one minds because this is East Van and that's what we do. The shouts that I don't understand and the beep beep beep and the roar of diesel go on for five, ten, fifteen minutes... then silence. I look out my back porch and there are two trucks and a Bobcat neatly nestled like loaves at the baker's. The men say some more things in Hindi and I'm sure it's not "Good job veering to the left." They're probably saying, "Did you remember to bring the potatoes?" You see, experts don't need to congratulate each other or draw attention to their expertise -- they dust off their hands and get ready for dinner.

I've been amazed with their skill since they moved across from us about seven years ago. I would watch them do their evening machine exercise regularly as we ate dinner by our big glass patio doors overlooking the alley. Throughout the years and now still, my mom and dad and I like to utter our awe. It's entertaining.

When they first moved in I wasn't sure about them. They seemed to be two families -- linked by brothers -- who lived in one house, grandparents included. They had young children, including a kindergartening boy whose pipes were manly; my mom would footnote his shouting by saying to me, "Wow, that kid's got a mighty voice." The boy would often shout directions over the beeping -- he's got a practical voice. I liked that they were labourers. I liked that they had enormous machines. I liked that they were multi-generational. I liked that they had limited English. ...In this neighbourhood they would be one of us. But they seemed insular at first, as any family would be when moving to a new neighbourhood where we are familiar with each other's crappy underwear drying on laundry lines. And yes, some of those boxers and panties are home-made (or maybe it's just my family). The Indian family kept to themselves and their hard work -- we had little access to their personality and zero access to their history. And one night I called the cops on them. They had been living across from us for only a few months, so we certainly hadn't developed trust. They might have been throwing a party -- maybe it was a house-warming. Their driveway had cars rather than trucks that night, and some male guests were hanging out. Probably in their late-twenties. Probably drunk by the way they were jostling and laughing too loud. It was maybe 1AM and I'm not sure my neighbours -- the ones who lived there -- were in the scrum of men. Hard to tell and I didn't know them yet. Nonetheless, the gang of dudes were representative of my new neighbours. When they started arguing, I turned off all the lights so I could spy without my silhouette. When their laughs transformed into snarls, and jostling grew into shoving, I grabbed the cordless. When one of them waved a black object in the air with his fist, I called the cops. I made sure that our gauzy kitchen curtains didn't quiver when I parted them to peek. I kept a finger over the phone's red "on" light. I was kept on the line to describe what I was seeing: eight to ten men, maybe party, maybe drunk, definitely arguing, definitely about to scrap, definitely thing in man's hand. Most of the men were trying to calm down the adversaries. The operator told me that I would hear a knocking at the front door and then the door knocked. A female cop in plain clothes was there and instructed me to keep the front door unlocked in case they needed access through my house. She disappeared down the stuccoed side of our Vancouver Special to observe. No sirens rang and no cop cars drove into the alley. Pure stealth. The operator told me there were police in the vicinity and she let me get off line. I went back upstairs to spy some more from the patio glass. The men were tense but calmer. Lots of talking. More talking. Then I got bored. I'm not sure the cops ever confronted the men. I'm not sure they did more than keep watch. The men sorted themselves out. Good thing no one got killed.

After that night the family returned to routine and wove their way seamlessly into our neighbourhood's fabric. I moved away before getting to know them, but whenever I was back home I would rejoice that their young children were tricycling and playing basketball in our alley, as I had. Their youth had been missing from our block for years, as all the kids I grew up with traded in hockey sticks and rollerblades for compact cars and degrees. They were the new blood, the kids across the alley, alternating between shouts in English and in Hindi. On one spring visit I recall the boy with the pipes kicking a ball around with my two-year-old nephew. The boy and his little sisters were likely among my nephew's first friends. Every time I visit I find myself standing at the patio glass watching the men's expertise, their beep beep beep signalling to me that I'm home. A few days ago I was watching and my mom said to me, "They're really nice."

Today I saw my neighbour come out of his garage holding a beat-up broom. I wondered what the hell he was gonna do with that dinky thing when our city was completely whited out with impossible snow. Moments later he and two men -- one was probably his brother who lived there -- were digging their monster vehicles out from the snow with diesel pumping and Bobcat scurrying. I had just spent over an hour with my Dad digging out our Sentra -- which I had got stuck only ten metres from our house -- simultaneous to a mini van up the alley that eventually freed itself after thirty minutes of burning rubber. And here were our neighbours, Bobcatting that snow away like my mom parting flour to make cake. Amid our blank white block was this black patch of asphalt that was their driveway. Then the patch of driveable land grew as they cleared the bit of alley that we shared, and then they cleared a neighbour's driveway. The boy with the pipes joined them. He's now thirteen and man-sized. They loaded the Bobcat onto the truck and re-arranged their vehicles back into their de-snowed yard with much beeping, all items once again tidily organised with a white dusting on top like icing sugar. At this point my mom was admiring our alley view and said, "Look at the roofs, so white, so beautiful. Let's take a picture," which of course means a picture with her in it. She darted to her closet to pick out an appropriate hat. She came out with a beret. With glowing smile she chimed, "Make sure you get me with all the rooftops behind." When she got to the patio glass, her smile became mixed with frown and her cheeks hummed red. She slid open the patio door and shouted, "Thank you!" and waved. Our Indian neighbours were clearing our driveway with shovels. My mom turned to me and mused bashfully, "We can't be taking pictures right now. That would be rude."

Monday, December 8, 2008


At the stag last Saturday I found myself standing next to our hostess. She seemed a foot taller than me, was lithe and probably getting her Bachelor's. With her black miniskirt and black boat neck she could have been spraying perfume at The Bay or bringing out my cheekbones at M.A.C.. We stood by the wall outside the washroom, me being drunk, she watching us dudes, making sure our fists were never without an $8.75 bottle of Blue. The dancers pranced in and out of doors, leading dudes by the hand. I glanced at our hostess and noticed a moment of lucidness -- or maybe it was fatigue -- emanating from her blank face. "Do you ever differentiate between being a server or dancer?" I asked upward to her ear. Her blankness crumpled at the brow. "Like, some of my friends who've worked at these clubs, they made a point of like saying, 'I work at For Your Eyes Only. But I'm a server, not a dancer...'"
She paused as a dancer passed. "...Well... I don't have a mortgage and no kids to worry about, so I'm in a different situtation..." Her eyes never left the table of booze and she didn't intend on continuing my interruption. Even in the champagne room, or especially in the champagne room, it's best to never discuss opinions or anything requiring honesty.

Must keep it lite. Ten minutes earlier a Pink look-alike strode up to us dudes on the couch, arms akimbo, announced, "So I heard you're a bunch of rock stars."

Um. Maybe.

Saturday, December 6, 2008


I just saw some photos of hott things in Vancouver. They're wearing lots of flowing silk-sheen fabric, all Gucci and Pucci. Purple explosion. Delicate but ostentatious necklaces that reach their navels.

They're hott. For real. But they're also probably underaged when in America.

I care about fashion. I care about style. I'm certainly not involved in the fashion world but I do keep my eyes open to what people are wearing. And I do advocate impracticality for the sake of looking good -- I got mad blisters from my favourite Rieker boots and split them at the seams 'cause my feet were too wide for these women's boots and yes, they do have a prominent square heel I said too much...

Those hott young things look great, and I applaud them for wearing whatever the hell they want because I believe in wearing clothes with confidence whether or not you are in fashion. Actually, as has been the trend among the youths (I desperately want to say "us youths" but I think my membership has been revoked), the surest way to be in fashion is to look horribly unfashionable. I applaud the youths' attention to clothes (carelessness in dress is a shame because it means laziness) even if they end up looking like the textile version of the opening credits to Saved By the Bell. So, I'm not saying those girls in the photo are unfashionable -- therefore, fashionable -- I'm saying that their influence is so ironic, their source so unexpected, that I want to be the first to encourage them.

I won't show you the photo of the girls because I don't want anyone to mistake me for dissing them. I'm totally not. I like what they're wearing. For you to get a visual understanding of the style I'm talking about, just check out a party photo blog. Or go to any bar where the cool kids are listening to The Cool Kids. Or maybe you already know what I'm talking about, and you've noticed that, recently, 20-year-old girls look like 62-year-old Upper West Side ladies named Lynda and Babz.

In completely related news, I hereby declare that I used to have a hardcore crush-on for Rue McClanahan, god bless.

Friday, December 5, 2008


April 24, 1999
I phoned someone today on the cordless telephone. As soon as the receiver's line rang, I got connected to a conversation between two women. I listened intently, nary breathing aloud (so as not to alarm them), obviously waiting for details of sex. I listened until their conversation ended. Their conversation was quite ordinary.

May 4, 1999
I wonder how many times a day the security controllers, viewing through the cameras in the ante-room of the parking lot elevators in the downtown library, get the middle finger from bored patrons, waiting, for no reason at all.

June 2, 1999
Guy has enormous amount of work to do, but he distracts himself: He eats, finishes eating, and stares at his empty bowls, rather sad. He phones his friend and complains about the amount of work he has. He distracts himself by being on the phone talking about being distracted.

October 20, 1999
Taking one's medicine with Guiness. I mean, Guinness.

January 18, 2000
There is nothing worse for a highschool kid than getting beat up publicly by another kid in a lower grade.

January 30, 2000
Aunt Number Two: "You must marry a Chinese girl. Who are you going to call on when you want to eat a bowl of rice? Who's going to cook for you? Not a white girl. A white girl's not going to cook you rice -- she'll make you a sandwich, or serve you a hot dog."

Monday, December 1, 2008


I used to bite. I tried not to. Maybe I still do. I try not to. In the quest to find our own style, we usually start with someone else. We can't help it. That's how style grows.

I don't mean style like do you rock your knotted shoelace loops on the outside or tuck them behind your tongue -- I mean style as in voice. Authorship. Every time we hear a "fresh new voice" we have to remember that voice came from an earlier place that might now seem stale. And that earlier place? Well, it was also fresh and new in its own time. Voices are echoes. Style is regenerated. Where would Mamet be without Pinter? Interpol without Joy Division-or-The Smiths-let's-not-argue? Picasso without Africa?

We all have to be influenced by another. No idea comes from nowhere. Even when a synapse occurs that seems completely random, say like, I dunno... you see a married couple being violent to each other at Carl's Jr. and you get inspired to make a film about it, what form would best communicate your idea? You could, I dunno... ask yourself, "How would Cassavetes do it?" So you go and jerk the camera around and say you were influenced by Faces. Even if you refuse to admit having watched that film, other people will admit for you and accuse you of biting Cassavetes. Or Lars von Trier. You can't hide. It's okay. That's how you find your voice.

Biting is a rite of passage. It's also a right of passage and you deserve amnesty for being unoriginal. Biting is good when you are young. Biting shows respect for those before you; it shows an understanding of lineage. It shows that you are learning. But A: don't be a Xerox and B: don't do it for too long. If you bite too long you'll commit an unforgiveable sin: being derivative. You'll get accused of being all up on someone's jock and who wants to feed on someone's jock forever? You will suck.

If you are young and biting, you will get dissed. That's okay. You have to get dissed. Welcome the dis. Check it out: Even if you are trying hardcore to be original, you will still get dissed. You can't win. You will be a dis bullseye. Getting dissed builds callouses. If you persevere, the skin of your confidence will become rough, and eventually, you'll be so good at what you do that you will become ruff. And when you become ruff, you will have found your voice. As your newfound ruffness grows, your voice might become the standard. People often say a play's dialogue sounds like Mamet when they could dig a generation earlier in their analogy and just as accurately say the dialogue sounds like Pinter. It's cyclical, the idea of influence: How he did it becomes how I do it becomes how you do it. You too could become influential. Welcome to their club. Prepare to get ripped off.

Style is an amalgamation of many influences, and if the influences are disparate, the resulting voice could be so much stronger. Monarchs learned a long time ago to mix up the blood so their precious heirs don't end up looking like the Prince of Wales. Diversity creates strength and originality. You'd better believe Mad Lib wouldn't re-gift the hott new gamelan album you crate-dug for his birthday. Would David Byrne refuse to listen to a recording of Inuit throat singing? Imagine if Robert LePage experienced no noh. The more diverse your influences, the greater chance that you will be unique -- no one can replicate your complicated alchemy. A singular voice is composed of a Lead Belly song, The Old Man and the Sea, Gangstarr's Hard to Earn, the Koran, Miuccia Prada, pork bone soup, L.A. Gear, Zach Morris, Emilio Estevez, Max von Sydow, Chan-wook Park, Talladega Nights, Bell Biv Devoe, Toblerone, Patti Smith, getting arrested, surviving a divorce, Chrissy Snow, a miscarriage, Chungking Express... If you allow yourself to be influenced by myriad experiences, if you pay attention to how unrelated events shape your sensibilities, if you respect others' tastes as being legitimate and valuable and learn from them, then your voice will become fresh and deserve our attention. You will excite us with your uniqueness because your roots are from everywhere. Hello, Mr. Obama.

In my own lofty quest to paint dope shit on walls (as opposed to becoming President), I used to bite. I looked to older, more experienced graffiti writers as a resource. How should I connect my letters? How can I kink my "S" to give it more flavour? How can I be more avant-garde so I'll get noticed? By studying the work of others. I didn't want to bite, but how else do you learn when you don't have enough of your own experience to adapt? Graffiti writers have a blunt way of calling your bluff and accusing you of biting: they cross you out with "Biter". I stayed committed nonetheless and after four years of being insecure in public (such is the masochistic thrill of painting in the street where you will be judged by everyone), I finally started painting stuff that felt comfortable. A few more years of growing comfort and I finally felt confident enough to say, "Hey, I think I've got my own style now". But the street-life of a graffiti writer is short and the learning curve is quick, so it's common for graffiti writers to find their style well within a decade. I've never heard of a novelist finding her own voice in a mere ten years. [When I started out, I had access to only two graffiti magazine titles and one VHS, and you couldn't talk about modems without saying "baud". I got to witness an international explosion of slippery glossy magazines, innumerable DVDs and websites, and the strange phenomenon of a graffiti industry; we now have over-exposure to the work of graff heads from everywhere. It's no wonder that younger graffiti writers today find their own style in a few years]. After half my life shaking spray paint cans (I admittedly regrettably paint seldom now) I've learned that it isn't even about finding your own style -- style comes to you. If you keep speaking, your voice will find you.

I'm not a biter in graffiti anymore. But to this day, when I grasp for inspiration, I return to the same source I've been relying on since I was thirteen -- opening Subway Art is like stepping back into grammar class -- and I ask myself, "How would Dondi do it? How would Seen flip his 'S'? How would Lee speak politics?"

Biting is the pattern of humanity. How do babies learn to speak? How does an apprentice learn to build a violin? By doing what the mentor does when the mentor says, "Do what I do." Take the mentor's lessons and run. After years of trudging down the path paved by your mentor, your legs will have grown strong enough to veer you off on your own direction, cutting a fresh path in your own gait. And as your calloused feet tread grass that had never before been trampled, as you dash miles upon miles away from where you started, you'll still be able to hear your mentor's voice echo: "Now you're dope!"

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


It's like this:

I was Googling my name to see how Google-able my website is (call it quality assurance) and I discovered that a certain Norman Yeung is blacklisted. National Blacklist Deadbeat Registry: Serving the Escort Community. After some sleuthing I learned that the blacklist website is a directory of bad johns. I tried to check out the New York listings but they don't go as far back as the dates stated on the Google entry. Plus, you gotta be a paid member to read the listings. So I have no idea who that Norman is and what he did. But I do know the following thing:

It ain't me.

During the dates on the Google entry I was being a loving son to my loving family in Vancouver, flying back to Toronto, then getting sun stroke while painting a garage near Queen West and Beaconsfield. Gareth remembers having beers with me. Kathy remembers mopping my vomit. Stay hydrated when it's hot out: the sun is for real.

Am I being paranoid? Yes. Who wants to be mistakenly identified as a blacklisted deadbeat john?

Friday, November 14, 2008


I love using a drink. I love using another drink even more. Drinks are far more useful than any salad. Drinks are far more practical than any soup. Or steak. Or Buddha's Feast. When's the last time you used a salad? Never. "I could have a salad." Maybe even "I could have another salad." But never could you use a salad. Nor could you use a steak. You have a steak.


I could use a drink.

I could use another drink.

Drinks are important. You will make progress while using drinks. They are purposeful, like sleep.

"I could use some sleep."

Yes you could. But only after "I could use another drink."

Saturday, November 1, 2008


Ideally, I'd be living in a concrete box with high ceilings, polished concrete floor (or real hardwood), and enormous windows to let the sun expose with bright exclamation the fact that I own only three pieces of furniture. I want to live in a space that would make Mies van der Rohe complain, "Goddamn it's stark in here." I want to own near nothing. But I am so so far from that goal. I own more furniture than my crib can handle. I've kept a pair of nifty wooden crutches that were left over from a tenant before me. I own four televisions, all of which are in no shape to televise. I own a judy -- or a Judy, depending on how desperately I crave the company of that torso and wish she weren't fabric. But my legs are not broken, I've quadrupled my bad reception, Judy judy is as useful to me as a mannequin of a yam. So why do I keep them? Because they are interesting. I enjoy curios. But curios and clutter are synonymous and contradict my quest for austerity.

Those objects of unfulfilled function belie a greater problem of mine, a problem so deeply psychological yet represented so innocently: I can't get rid of shoes. Many shoes. Many jackets. I have bags and bags and racks and racks of clothes that I have not touched in at least six years. Some, ten years. More. Jeans made for seriously fat men but I wore them in my youth because I was all hip-hop. T-shirts that are XXL, and yes, I proudly wore them like I was drowning in a lake of cotton. Jackets caked with grey dust from lack of movement over years of hanging in a closet without doors. Shoes that cut into my Achilles tendon so I wear them maybe once every leap year. Why do I keep these clothes? Because I might need them later. Because later, if I decide I want to wear my Fila track jacket that is bright and loud and exploding with Italian slogans and would be most appropriate if I had a Kawasaki Ninja between my thighs, I'll be thankful that I had the foresight to keep it. All XXL of it. Even if I hadn't worn that jacket since 2000. I keep things beyond their utility because I might need them in the future. I've cluttered my life in case tomorrow happens.

My problem extends beyond physical flotsam to intellectual jetsam. I'm a dedicated taker of notes. I'm a jotter. Every time I get an idea that is halfway useful, I write it down. My habit got to a point in 1999 where I invested in a small but chubby Mead Five Star notebook into which I would jot down thoughts. Maybe a snatch of conversation I eavesdropped on while riding the Sky Train. A sensation I had while eating a bowl of mint chocolate chip ice cream. A phrase that sounded like a striking title. If it was a thought that was worth exploring, I would record it in my Mead, this poor kid's version of a Moleskine.

That book became books. Jot jot jot. If I had an idea in the living room and was too lazy to go to the bedroom to fetch a notebook, I'd grab whatever scrap paper was next to me and record the note. Or if I was out, I'd write notes on transit transfers, flyers, receipts, whatever paper was within reach. My folder of scraps became folders. It's not that I was bursting with thoughts and ideas -- it's that I had no organisation. I have pieces of ideas in several cities, in several books, in several folders. There's gotta be a better way. Now I write notes in my laptop, but again, they exist in numerous folders in numerous directories and oh my god how the hell am I gonna conglomerate? Right now, next to my laptop, is a torn yellow scrap with notes on Matisse and Dali that I jotted at MoMA (the first note reads: -Matisse, "The Piano Lesson", "The Red Studio": with my characters and composition --> oil, acrylic?). Underneath that yellow scrap is another paper with a doodle of my head with ellipses radiating from the forehead like electrons travelling around the nucleus (it's hard to explain, hence the doodle). And beneath that doodle?: notes about editing this very blog post that I'm writing now... My notes and thoughts are usually not important -- they're mostly superbly stupid -- but seem important enough at the moment that they warrant noting. My mind is in miscellaneous pieces scattered anywhere I sit long enough to form a thought, and I'm losing track. There's gotta be a better way, and that magical way is not different technology or different methodology, but different psychology. I need to clear my head, collect my mental detritus. Call the feral thoughts home for dinner.

It's a hardcore pain in the ass to take notes all the time. I jot down maybe five thoughts per day, sometimes more. I'm at the point now where if I get a semi-interesting thought, I roll my eyes. I'm sick of taking notes; recording ideas has become a chore. I constantly have to interrupt my work to write them down for fear of forgetting. Despite the diligence, I can't say my note-taking is an obsession. Rather, my note-taking is an act of optimism: I have hopes that I can use those notes later.

I do re-visit the notes. They are a resource for whenever I need to perk my mind. A source of inspiration, even. My muse is my Mead. Sometimes, a simple phrase that I jot will evolve into a project in which I invest great care and innumerable hours. Sometimes years will pass between the moment of jotting to the start of a project based on that scribble. The notes have proven fruitful, even if I've actualised only 0.03% of them. The fact that the notes are eventually used is the reason why I keep everything from a portable toy turntable to an enormous football jersey (I am neither enormous nor a grid ironer. File under: hip-hop). In June 2008 I resurrected a pair of Adidas after a five-year hiatus and all I can say is, "Goddamn I'm glad I didn't Smithrite you." I was happily shell-toed all summer long.


Excerpts from my Mead Five Star:

April 10, 1999
Maybe I got fed up. Maybe I smartened up. I think I've gotten more observant, and realised just how much of my experience can be turned into a film, a play, a story, or simply merits recording. Too often have I been on the bus, noticed something wonderful, promised to write it down later... and didn't. All those ideas...
This is my immediate, portable, spontaneous companion to my "Good Ideas" pages at home. This is called "Thoughts".

April 10, 1999
I think I got my first hard-on walking by the store fixtures store on Kingsway. The shelf brackets, the clothes racks. The naked mannequins.

August 15, 2000
Life is like a wet dream. It's all good and pleasurable, then at the end, you realise: "Fuck! What a mess!"

November 26, 2000
My psychologist friend, when she calls things retarded, I'm not sure if she's being colloquial or clinical.

January 21, 2001
I've been interested in perversion since I was a perverted little boy.

April 10, 2003
This is so typical of me:
Last night, before going to bed, I convinced myself to have an erotic dream involving a girl at school I fancy.
And in my dream, I discovered that she has a boyfriend. That was the whole dream.

Saturday, October 18, 2008


I want my $300,000,000 back. That ride totally sucked.

Today feels so October 13.

Not Your Friend,

Norman from Quebec


Friday, October 17, 2008


What have you got against Obama's willingness to meet with the Taliban and al-Qaeda and the Castro boys? Isn't dialogue one of the keys to diplomacy? Or do you think the best strategy is to keep doing what you and your grand ol' party have been doing for five years too many? You and your gang of thugs should stop working harder and start working smarter.

I adapted that line from an Apple campaign some years ago. They're pretty good at communicating ideas to others. Maybe you should give it a try, communicating with language rather than Scuds. ...Whoops! Wrong war!

...OR IS IT?...


You just made me roll on the floor as I laughed my ass off. See: Language. Give it a try.

Speaking of Apple, I'll lend you mine and you can Skype O.b. Laden. I think there's internet over there. Please don't tell me you blew up their 'net too! How're they gonna MSN??????!!!!!!!?!?!??!?!?!?!??!?!?!!?!?!?!!??!

Your Friend (since you insist),

Norman the Plumber

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


Tonight Canada learned that it will have to endure yet another Conservative government. Here's what the New York Times thinks about the event...

Monday, September 29, 2008


Remember when everything was extreme or x-treme? It was around the same time that everything was Max or Maxx or, look out: MAXXX! The x-tra Xs didn't mean hardcore thrusting -- they meant hardcore awesome. It wasn't just rollerblades that were x-treme to the MAXXX!; everything seemed to be awesome beyond belief, from razor blades to cola. I can't recall exxxactly when the world's products became so superior... probably around the time of Zubaz to a few years ago. Let's say the '90s. Well, we're far beyond the '90s and things are noticeably less x-treme nowadays. We're living with never-ending wars, innocent people being blown up every day, kids plotting their massacres on YouTube, economies imploding... It's a grim world and we're too anxious to be MAXXX!. Our world is post-awesome. We've lost our superlative spirit. Instead of watching XFL while drinking Pepsi Max, we're watching military funerals while drinking Diet Pepsi We Have An Oil Crisis Let's Tone Down Our Behaviour 355ml.

Friday, September 26, 2008


She's Gotta Have It (1986)
Dir: Spike Lee


I love the saying "Go make yourself useful." Because it implies that you are useless. And all you have to do to stop being useless is do something. Anything. Like put the cutlery away. Then you are no longer useless. You will be Somebody.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


I often lie in bed thinking about how I've embarrassed myself over the years. Some memories make me cower under my covers, like when I [XXXXXXXXXXXXX]* when I was eighteen. And when I danced [XXXXXXXXXXXXX]** when I was twenty-five. Those embarrassments happened relatively recently so the aftershocks still shudder me. But when I peed in my terry-cloth yellow shorts while singing with my fellow kindergarteners as we stood in front of our moms, and my mom had to scoop me up in mid-song as the puddle grew, and she had to wipe me down in the boys' washroom and an older kid came in to pee in the urinal like an adult and he got weirded out 'cause why's-this-woman-in-the-boys'-washroom and ha-ha-lookit-this-twerp-kid-he's-got-piss-all-over-his-lower-body... I don't feel embarrassed about that any more. By the way, our teacher had treated the kids and moms to free orange-coloured water from McDonald's in a big red plastic cooler and I drank like thirty-three cuplets before singing. By the way, my shorts were yellow to begin with.

I don't mind telling you about that embarrassment. It happened the same year Duran Duran released Seven and the Ragged Tiger. It happened so long ago that I'm totally cool to confess. But I'm not gonna tell you about when I [XXXXXXXXXXXXX]*** in 2004. And I don't even want to think about when I [XXXXXXXXXXXXX]**** without asking her first in 2002. You see, the longer I wait the less embarrassed I'll be. I think. Maybe. Certainly temporal distance gives us emotional distance, but then again, some embarrassments might never be healed. After all, a kindergartener is supposed to piss his pants in front of two dozen moms. It's the thing. But an adult isn't supposed to give [XXXXXXXXXXXXX]***** like I did in 1999. The cause for embarrassment -- whether we had conscious control of the act or not -- must be considered. Embarrassment, like crime, must be judged with mens rea in mind. That must be why remembering my recent embarrassments makes me cover my face: I should have known better. I did know better. I shouldn't have done it. And yes, I'm not exaggerating when I say I cover my face.

BUT WHY? do I still get embarrassed about past embarrassments? Why do I still let those events bother me? I hadn't thought about [XXXXXXXXXXXXX]****** in years, so if my life has been okay in the interim, why let this renegade memory disturb me now while I try to fall asleep? After cowering, I compose myself with this mantra: "No one remembers... no one remembers... no one remembers...". That person and that person and that person and that person -- all who were there during the event -- have likely forgetten. They certainly weren't affected by that event as much as me (unless they were). And they certainly aren't thinking about that event at this moment so stop cowering! I'm the only one thinking about this embarrassment, and all I have to do to kill this embarrassment is stop thinking about it. Memory tends to exaggerate moments, so we overblow our shame. Embarrassment is subjective and feels like a disaster to one while a fleeting guffaw to another. If embarrassment can be both a disaster and guffaw at once, then just let it go. Fleet away.

No one remembers.
No one remembers.
No one remembers.

Unless everyone does remember, in which case keep cowering.

*Clearly I'm too embarrassed to tell you.
**Clearly I'm too embarrassed to tell you.
***Clearly I'm too embarrassed to tell you.
****Clearly I'm too embarrassed to tell you.
*****Clearly I'm too embarrassed to tell you.
******that time in 1996 when I was checking out a high school yearbook with [friend] and we were peeping all the girls' photos, saying "hot" or "nah". I pointed to one picture and said "nah". "That's my sister," said [friend].

Saturday, September 13, 2008


I love Stan Brakhage. But out of his almost 400 films, surely not every one of them can be as influential as Dog Star Man or as revelatory as The Act of Seeing with One's Own Eyes. After watching a handful of his films that did not move me or engage me, I asked myself the same naive questions that I hate hearing from others: "Anyone could've made that film. Why is it special? Why is it worth studying? Simply because it's Brakhage?"

I'm not the type to dismiss the merit of any artwork simply because it looks "easy to do". And as quickly as hundreds of people have looked at a Pollock and said, "I can do that," I'm even quicker to respond, "No you can't." But in the case of Brakhage, I've found some of his films to be not particularly special. And in the case of all artists I admire, I've wondered why some of their lesser known, less special works were worth our attention. Is everything that Picasso ever vomited or shat a groundbreaking piece of art, simply because they're by Picasso? No. Then why do we treat everything he's done as being relevant? Why are so many of Dali's scribbles and notes currently on exhibit at MoMA? I posed these questions -- with Brakhage as the framework -- to my pal Raymond P., a film festival programmer whose opinion of cinema is incredibly credible and trustworthy.

"Because all of his films, good and bad, help complete our understanding of Brakhage as a filmmaker," he said.

Raymond P. told me this a few years ago and I've heeded his words whenever I observed any artwork whose merit I might have debated. His advice pertains to accomplished and "important" artists in particular, whose inclusion in the canon necessitates study of all their works. Every artist is capable of producing stinkers; indeed they should, as they are living and developing human beings whose work evolves. Each individual work gives context for another. And in the case of important artists like Brakhage, in order to understand where The Dante Quartet comes from, we have to watch his unspecial films. In order to connect Underground Fantasy to Red, White and Brown, we should examine Rothko's doodles. In order to appreciate how Ulysses came to be, we should consider Joyce's grocery lists.

[In conclusion, if you feel like you are on a path to importance and would like to facilitate the study of your work, you should consider becoming a pack rat. Or if your friend is going to become important, start saving her scraps. If MoMA doesn't ask to exhibit the detritus, you could always eBay them away...]

Mark Rothko, Underground Fantasy (1940)

Mark Rothko, Red, White and Brown (1957)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


Friends come. Friends go. I place great faith in their return.

The first time I stopped doing rounds was when I was fifteen. I was underaged and experimenting with White Russians and Long Islands at the Starfish Room in Vancouver. It was a hip hop jam and it was packed. I had a lot of friends and acquaintances at that jam. Mostly acquaintances. In my adolescence my ability to socialise was blossoming and my circles of friends started radiating, growing as quickly as I was changing. That's what happens when you're fifteen and all of a sudden brave. You make a lot of acquaintances.

James and I were ready to jet. "Hold on," he shouted, "I'm gonna say 'bye..." As he disappeared into the crush of head-nodders and beats, I sipped the last of my latest alcoholic discovery. I scanned the crowd for cute girls that I didn't have the balls to talk to all night... there she is... there she is... there she is... there's another... I noticed new friends and newer acquaintances scattered throughout the mess of people, uprocking, nodding, rapping along, swigging, chatting up the cute girls that passed me by. Everyone was busy socialising and I was busy crunching my ice, watching them not noticing me. James returned after forever, said, "Yo, you're not gonna do your rounds?"
And we left.

I've tried to replicate that exit for the last fifteen years. It's happened sometimes. But usually I've succumbed to social grace and spent half-an-hour saying goodbye when my actual goodbye should've happened half-an-hour ago. One of my vices, my banes, is my feeling of social obligation. "What will my friends think if I don't say goodbye?" Or worse, "What will my acquaintances think if I don't say goodbye?" Acquaintances might think I'm snubbing them (such horror), but friends... the friendship will survive the lack of goodbye. Friendship, although rarely unconditional, is far more unconditional than acquaintanceship. Friends should remain friends with or without a proper and belaboured goodbye. But be them friends or acquaintances or enemies, no one actually cares whether or not I say goodbye. They are intelligent and will conclude one thing: I went home. Why flit around the room inflicting uncomfortable farewells when I'm gonna see you again soon anyways? I'm almost certainly going to interrupt your conversation with someone I don't know and we're going to hug and I'm going to meekly twinkle my fingers at the patiently awaiting stranger so he doesn't feel left out of the goodbye. Awkward.

I'm not an irrational cynic. It's smart and advisable to let someone know that you're leaving so they don't worry you've been kidnapped. Also, I'd appreciate it if a drunken friend checked in with me -- "Dude, I'm outta here, I don't wanna get towed, I'm so wasted" -- so I could say "Not so fast." And of course in some circumstances you sincerely want to hang on to that person for just one minute longer because they're leaving tomorrow forever for Peru and you want to make sure you have their e-mail, have their Facebook, give them your blessings. Proper goodbyes are thoughtful displays of kindness and appreciation. But in general, for the bulk of things I attend, I'm content to leave the evening pat. Tell a friend or two that I'm leaving. Not everyone. Clean exit. Quiet. It's gratifying to simply disappear.

"She didn't even say goodbye," some people complain like it's a crime. Is it?

I learned something from my father when we went to China in 2004. Over the last thirty years he's been able to see his dear old friends only sporadically, perhaps a decade or longer between some visits. Maybe even thirty years. Maybe more. On one occasion he and his old buddies gathered at the kitchen table to smoke cigarettes and eat lunch and eat dinner and drink tea and talk for twelve hours. No break. That is friendship. I don't know how they handled the first goodbye when my father left China in 1979, but I reckon the "goodbye" was more like "see you later". I now say "I'll see you later" with more sincerity because, indeed, I will.

One of my favourite non-goodbyes was doled out by my mother when I was home some years ago for the winter holiday. I was leaving early next morning back to Toronto and of course my mother wasn't going to the airport -- she never does, nor do I want her to; she taught me pragmatism -- and she shut her bedroom door to go to sleep.
"MOM! What're you doing!"
"Bedtime," she muffled behind the door.
"Aren't you going to say goodbye?"
"'Cause I'm leaving tomorrow! You won't see me for half a year! Can I at least hug you?"
"Why? It'll be summer before you know it. I'll see you later..."
She didn't say goodnight. She didn't say goodbye. She didn't even open the door. Her exits are so clean they're invisible.

It's that unconditional bond I have with my family that I transfer onto some friends. No, I don't take friendship for granted and I've had a few collapse, but I'm finding that the stronger the bond, the less need for goodbye. That's probably why I feel a need to say goodbye to acquaintances: a little prick to remind them to remember me because they've already started forgetting. But my friendships that are full of substance... I'd like to keep them loose, where no ends are tied because there are no ends. Keep things open because our relationship is unfinished business. Instead of chopping up our narrative into pieces of stop and start, I'd rather let it trail out like one long unbroken thread of friendship.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008


Ordet (1955)
Dir: Carl Theodor Dreyer
"I switched my motto, instead of sayin' fuck tomorrow
That buck that bought a bottle could've struck the lotto..."

And that, Nas, is one of the many reasons why you're one of the greatest lyricists ever.

Oh wait, here comes Rakim:

"When I'm writin' I'm trapped in between the lines
I escape when I finish the rhyme
I got soul..."

Sunday, September 7, 2008


The dinner gathering on Friday was lovely, with homegrown vegetables and warm company, a small and caring group celebrating her new job. And then my pee turned red. I stood frozen above the toilet, motionless except for my stream and my alarmed eyes rotating unto themselves probing for answers. I assessed my belly from within -- no lacerations. No pain whatsoever. No reason why the liquid in the bowl was a tepid pink like a gash to the face in the rain.

The next day, after every visit to the loo had been a flow of red or pink, I consulted Dr. Internet. It was the beets. I had beeturia. I have (or had) an issue metabolising betalaine. It affects 10-14% of people. But how can that be when I've been eating copious beets for years in both grated-salad and canned form, and my pee never looked like I had a urethra-swab-gone-tragic at the STD clinic? Because beeturia can come and go, sometimes indicating your level of iron intake at certain periods. Because different beets have different concentrations of pigment, and at the dinner gathering I was inhaling the fresh homegrown sliced beets so good so delicious stained my fingers. Besides the possible indication that one's iron intake should be considered, there's no health hazard to having beeturia, nor should one stop eating beets. Good. 'Cause I love beets. I guess I've just joined a club. For all of you who've suspected me before... you're right. I do belong to a certain 10% of the population.

Friday, September 5, 2008


The American election has me riveted. This has become the most exciting political race I've observed or experienced since I first voted eleven years ago. I'm not yet excited enough about the Canadian election to say anything interesting, but hopefully something will inspire me before long (a digression: during the U.S. primaries I was reminded -- I think by Rick Mercer on his show -- of the contrast between exhilarating American politics and pale Canadian politics. Americans were choosing between a half-black, half-white man who lived in Indonesia and Hawaii and has a Muslim and Kenyan name; a woman who is extremely experienced and powerful; a war veteran who survived years of torture and imprisonment. Canadians have a choice between an old white guy, an old white guy, an old white guy, or an old white guy. Oh, we do have one woman, though!).

"...[S]he has hated me since back in 1996," says Anne Kilkenny about Sarah Palin. And that is why I like Anne Kilkenny. I have a knee-jerk reaction towards Republicans and Conservatives that is often based on prejudice, but knee-jerk reactions are uncontrollable instant reflex responses, and I hope that response extends into my foot and right into the ass of those Right-wing candidates. Woops. Let me explain my prejudice: Whenever I hear the Right criticise or lambast ANYTHING, I immediately embrace that anything. Maybe I know little about the object of their criticism, and I should learn more about what exactly is the object of the Right's ire... but in due time. I'm talking about immediate, uncontrollable, instinctive response, and that is if the Right hates you then I love you.

One example is when I saw a clip of Bill O'Reilly saying The Globe and Mail might as well be called "The Havana Press". I immediately felt something like pride that I was a reader of The Globe and Mail. Yes, that newspaper's political bias is arguable, but the point is that Bill O'Reilly hated The Globe and Mail; therefore my response was to embrace it.

Similarly, as I expressed earlier, whenever I learn that an artist is Right-wing, I immediately turn my back on that artist. I am certainly able to look at an artist's work critically without interference from their politics, but sometimes the work and the politics are inseparable. In any case, learning about the artist's politics gives context to the work, and the politics cannot be dismissed if I am to understand the artist comprehensively. And I'm not saying I can't find value in a Right-wing artist's work, I'm saying that my knee-jerk reaction is to take a massive pee on their character.

I like Anne Kilkenny. I just learned about her on NPR (American National Public Radio). She wrote an open letter to some people that has gone viral. During the radio interview with her, in the span of two minutes her e-mail inbox exploded from around 700 messages to over 1000. She was getting calls from NBC and People Magazine and this n' that. I'm grateful for her personal and first-hand account on the question mark that is Sarah Palin. I like Anne's modesty and pro-active ethic. I'm presuming I like her politics. And if Sarah Palin hates her, then god bless us all, I like Anne Kilkenny.

I was kidding about the god part.

But I certainly don't appreciate Anne Kilkenny simply because Sarah Palin hates her; no, that's far too facile. I genuinely appreciate Anne Kilkenny for writing her letter. Here it is:

[NOTE: Please pardon any strange punctuations. When things go viral I guess HTML code and blah blah blah get messy]

Dear friends,

So many people have asked me about what I know about Sarah Palin in the
last 2 days that I decided to write something up . . .

Basically, Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton have only 2 things in
common: their gender and their good looks. :)

You have my permission to forward this to your friends/email contacts
with my name and email address attached, but please do not post it on
any websites, as there are too many kooks out there . . .



I am a resident of Wasilla, Alaska. I have known Sarah since 1992.
Everyone here knows Sarah, so it is nothing special to say we are on a
first-name basis. Our children have attended the same schools. Her
father was my child's favorite substitute teacher. I also am on a
first name basis with her parents and mother-in-law. I attended more
City Council meetings during her administration than about 99% of the
residents of the city.

She is enormously popular; in every way she�s like the most popular
girl in middle school. Even men who think she is a poor choice and
won't vote for her can't quit smiling when talking about her because
she is a "babe".

It is astonishing and almost scary how well she can keep a secret. She
kept her most recent pregnancy a secret from her children and parents
for seven months.

She is "pro-life". She recently gave birth to a Down's syndrome baby.
There is no cover-up involved, here; Trig is her baby.

She is energetic and hardworking. She regularly worked out at the gym.

She is savvy. She doesn't take positions; she just "puts things out
there" and if they prove to be popular, then she takes credit.

Her husband works a union job on the North Slope for BP and is a
champion snowmobile racer. Todd Palin�s kind of job is highly
sought-after because of the schedule and high pay. He arranges his
work schedule so he can fish for salmon in Bristol Bay for a month or
so in summer, but by no stretch of the imagination is fishing their
major source of income. Nor has her life-style ever been anything
like that of native Alaskans.

Sarah and her whole family are avid hunters.

She's smart.

Her experience is as mayor of a city with a population of about 5,000
(at the time), and less than 2 years as governor of a state with about
670,000 residents.

During her mayoral administration most of the actual work of running
this small city was turned over to an administrator. She had been
pushed to hire this administrator by party power-brokers after she had
gotten herself into some trouble over precipitous firings which had
given rise to a recall campaign.

Sarah campaigned in Wasilla as a �fiscal conservative�. During her 6
years as Mayor, she increased general government expenditures by over
33%. During those same 6 years the amount of taxes collected by the
City increased by 38%. This was during a period of low inflation
(1996-2002). She reduced progressive property taxes and increased a
regressive sales tax which taxed even food. The tax cuts that she
promoted benefited large corporate property owners way more than they
benefited residents.

The huge increases in tax revenues during her mayoral administration
weren�t enough to fund everything on her wish list though, borrowed
money was needed, too. She inherited a city with zero debt, but left it
with indebtedness of over $22 million. What did Mayor Palin encourage
the voters to borrow money for? Was it the infrastructure that she said
she supported? The sewage treatment plant that the city lacked? or a
new library? No. $1m for a park. $15m-plus for construction of a
multi-use sports complex which she rushed through to build on a piece
of property that the City didn�t even have clear title to, that was
still in litigation 7 yrs later--to the delight of the lawyers
involved! The sports complex itself is a nice addition to the
community but a huge money pit, not the profit-generator she claimed it
would be. She also supported bonds for $5.5m for road projects that
could have been done in 5-7 yrs without any borrowing.

While Mayor, City Hall was extensively remodeled and her office
redecorated more than once.

These are small numbers, but Wasilla is a very small city.

As an oil producer, the high price of oil has created a budget surplus
in Alaska. Rather than invest this surplus in technology that will
make us energy independent and increase efficiency, as Governor she
proposed distribution of this surplus to every individual in the state.

In this time of record state revenues and budget surpluses, she
recommended that the state borrow/bond for road projects, even while
she proposed distribution of surplus state revenues: spend today's
surplus, borrow for needs.

She�s not very tolerant of divergent opinions or open to outside ideas
or compromise. As Mayor, she fought ideas that weren�t generated by
her or her staff. Ideas weren�t evaluated on their merits, but on the
basis of who proposed them.

While Sarah was Mayor of Wasilla she tried to fire our highly respected
City Librarian because the Librarian refused to consider removing from
the library some books that Sarah wanted removed. City residents
rallied to the defense of the City Librarian and against Palin's
attempt at out-and-out censorship, so Palin backed down and withdrew
her termination letter. People who fought her attempt to oust the
Librarian are on her enemies list to this day.

Sarah complained about the �old boy�s club� when she first ran for
Mayor, so what did she bring Wasilla? A new set of "old boys". Palin
fired most of the experienced staff she inherited. At the City and as
Governor she hired or elevated new, inexperienced, obscure people,
creating a staff totally dependent on her for their jobs and eternally
grateful and fiercely loyal--loyal to the point of abusing their power
to further her personal agenda, as she has acknowledged happened in the
case of pressuring the State�s top cop (see below).

As Mayor, Sarah fired Wasilla�s Police Chief because he �intimidated�
her, she told the press. As Governor, her recent firing of Alaska's top
cop has the ring of familiarity about it. He served at her pleasure
and she had every legal right to fire him, but it's pretty clear that
an important factor in her decision to fire him was because he wouldn't
fire her sister's ex-husband, a State Trooper. Under investigation
for abuse of power, she has had to admit that more than 2 dozen
contacts were made between her staff and family to the person that she
later fired, pressuring him to fire her ex-brother-in-law. She tried to
replace the man she fired with a man who she knew had been reprimanded
for sexual harassment; when this caused a public furor, she withdrew
her support.

She has bitten the hand of every person who extended theirs to her in
help. The City Council person who personally escorted her around town
introducing her to voters when she first ran for Wasilla City Council
became one of her first targets when she was later elected Mayor. She
abruptly fired her loyal City Administrator; even people who didn�t
like the guy were stunned by this ruthlessness.

Fear of retribution has kept all of these people from saying anything
publicly about her.

When then-Governor Murkowski was handing out political plums, Sarah got
the best, Chair of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission: one
of the few jobs not in Juneau and one of the best paid. She had no
background in oil & gas issues. Within months of scoring this great
job which paid $122,400/yr, she was complaining in the press about the
high salary. I was told that she hated that job: the commute, the
structured hours, the work. Sarah became aware that a member of this
Commission (who was also the State Chair of the Republican Party)
engaged in unethical behavior on the job. In a gutsy move which some
undoubtedly cautioned her could be political suicide, Sarah solved all
her problems in one fell swoop: got out of the job she hated and
garnered gobs of media attention as the patron saint of ethics and as a
gutsy fighter against the �old boys� club� when she dramatically quit,
exposing this man�s ethics violations (for which he was fined).

As Mayor, she had her hand stuck out as far as anyone for pork from
Senator Ted Stevens. Lately, she has castigated his pork-barrel
politics and publicly humiliated him. She only opposed the �bridge to
nowhere� after it became clear that it would be unwise not to.

As Governor, she gave the Legislature no direction and budget
guidelines, then made a big grandstand display of line-item vetoing
projects, calling them pork. Public outcry and further legislative
action restored most of these projects--which had been vetoed simply
because she was not aware of their importance--but with the unobservant
she had gained a reputation as �anti-pork�.

She is solidly Republican: no political maverick. The State party
leaders hate her because she has bit them in the back and humiliated
them. Other members of the party object to her self-description as a
fiscal conservative.

Around Wasilla there are people who went to high school with Sarah.
They call her �Sarah Barracuda� because of her unbridled ambition and
predatory ruthlessness. Before she became so powerful, very ugly
stories circulated around town about shenanigans she pulled to be made
point guard on the high school basketball team. When Sarah's
mother-in-law, a highly respected member of the community and
experienced manager, ran for Mayor, Sarah refused to endorse her.

As Governor, she stepped outside of the box and put together of package
of legislation known as �AGIA� that forced the oil companies to march
to the beat of her drum.

Like most Alaskans, she favors drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife
Refuge. She has questioned if the loss of sea ice is linked to
global warming. She campaigned �as a private citizen� against a state
initiaitive that would have either a) protected salmon streams from
pollution from mines, or b) tied up in the courts all mining in the
state (depending on who you listen to). She has pushed the State�s
lawsuit against the Dept. of the Interior�s decision to list polar
bears as threatened species.

McCain is the oldest person to ever run for President; Sarah will be a
heartbeat away from being President.

There has to be literally millions of Americans who are more
knowledgeable and experienced than she.

However, there�s a lot of people who have underestimated her and are
regretting it.

��Hockey mom�: true for a few years
��PTA mom�: true years ago when her first-born was in elementary
school, not since
��NRA supporter�: absolutely true
�social conservative: mixed. Opposes gay marriage, BUT vetoed a bill
that would have denied benefits to employees in same-sex relationships
(said she did this because it was unconsitutional).
�pro-creationism: mixed. Supports it, BUT did nothing as Governor to
promote it.
��Pro-life�: mixed. Knowingly gave birth to a Down�s syndrome baby
BUT declined to call a special legislative session on some pro-life
��Experienced�: Some high schools have more students than Wasilla has
residents. Many cities have more residents than the state of Alaska.
No legislative experience other than City Council. Little hands-on
supervisory or managerial experience; needed help of a city
administrator to run town of about 5,000.
�political maverick: not at all
�gutsy: absolutely!
�open & transparent: ??? Good at keeping secrets. Not good at
explaining actions.
�has a developed philosophy of public policy: no
��a Greenie�: no. Turned Wasilla into a wasteland of big box stores
and disconnected parking lots. Is pro-drilling off-shore and in ANWR.
�fiscal conservative: not by my definition!
�pro-infrastructure: No. Promoted a sports complex and park in a city
without a sewage treatment plant or storm drainage system. Built
streets to early 20th century standards.
�pro-tax relief: Lowered taxes for businesses, increased tax burden on
�pro-small government: No. Oversaw greatest expansion of city
government in Wasilla�s history.
�pro-labor/pro-union. No. Just because her husband works union
doesn�t make her pro-labor. I have seen nothing to support any claim
that she is pro-labor/pro-union.


First, I have long believed in the importance of being an informed
voter. I am a voter registrar. For 10 years I put on student voting
programs in the schools. If you google my name (Anne Kilkenny +
Alaska), you will find references to my participation in local
government, education, and PTA/parent organizations.

Secondly, I've always operated in the belief that "Bad things happen
when good people stay silent". Few people know as much as I do because
few have gone to as many City Council meetings.

Third, I am just a housewife. I don't have a job she can bump me out
of. I don't belong to any organization that she can hurt. But, I am no
fool; she is immensely popular here, and it is likely that this will
cost me somehow in the future: that�s life.

Fourth, she has hated me since back in 1996, when I was one of the 100
or so people who rallied to support the City Librarian against Sarah's
attempt at censorship.

Fifth, I looked around and realized that everybody else was afraid to
say anything because they were somehow vulnerable.

I am not a statistician. I developed the numbers for the increase in
spending & taxation 2 years ago (when Palin was running for Governor)
from information supplied to me by the Finance Director of the City of
Wasilla, and I can't recall exactly what I adjusted for: did I adjust
for inflation? for population increases? Right now, it is impossible
for a private person to get any info out of City Hall--they are
swamped. So I can't verify my numbers.

You may have noticed that there are various numbers circulating for the
population of Wasilla, ranging from my "about 5,000", up to 9,000. The
day Palin�s selection was announced a city official told me that the
current population is about 7,000. The official 2000 census count was
5,460. I have used about 5,000 because Palin was Mayor from 1996 to
2002, and the city was growing rapidly in the mid-90�s.

Anne Kilkenny
August 31, 2008



Whenever I learn about a performer's politics, I either like them more or start despising them. I begin my personal boycott of a performer whenever I find out they're Republican*.

Sorry Kid Rock, Jessica Simpson, Britney Spears... you've lost a fan and you're gonna have to work real hard to win me back.

Brooks & Dunn, you're next.

* Coincidentally, I never seem to be a fan of Republican artists to begin with, whether or not I knew about their politics. How 'bout you?

Thursday, September 4, 2008


I was on Davie Street in Vancouver in 1996 making a dinky little Super 8 film with my high school friends as actors. I wanted a shot where the character walks by a storefront, and I decided upon a falafel joint. I can't remember why that falafel joint was ideal... probably because its big bay windows were open and I wouldn't get glare, and I could shoot into the space without obstruction of glass. Anyways, I needed a shot of the falafel joint. And quickly -- the sun was starting to set. There was a 30s-couple sitting at the open window eating falafels and I asked them if they wouldn't mind shifting over one seat so I could clear my frame.
"Yes, we do mind," said the guy.
"But it's only one seat over."
"We're eating."
"No no, keep eating. But is it okay if you scooch over just a bit?"
"We're eating. You can wait," he scowled, licked some hummus. His girlfriend munched on pickled beet.
"But I need the light and it'll just be a few minutes..."
"WE'RE EATING. You can wait until we're done." Hummus munch munch chick pea.
My shoulders drooped -- my right one lower from holding the camera. I looked over at the empty seats six inches away from the guy. He took a bite reeeal ssllooooow.

I sat on the sidewalk in front of the falafel joint with my six friends/actors watching the sun waving goodbye. I eavesdropped on the guy and girlfriend to guage their eating progress. They talked about ordinary things like rent, not the "goddamn this falafel is amazing I can't stop scarfing it down aaargh argh arg yum done!" that I was hoping. I tried to think about alternatives to the shot but nothing would work. Also, I was too distracted by my fuming over the guy's refusal. I hate it when people can't be reasonable can't compromise just a little so that everyone can be happy not just him and his falafel, well I'm just as stubborn as him and why can't he accommodate me that goddamn I hope you choke on your uncompromising hummus...

I was ugly. All this negativity was making me ill. I shouldn't be having a conniption so early in my life. This was gross. Only one way to solve it: I stood up, turned to the guy, and stuck out my hand. He stuck out his almost simultaneously.
"Hey man, sorry about that."
"No no, we understand," he said. "You've got work to do. What kind of video is that?"
"It's not. It's Super 8. It's film."
"Cool. Well, we're almost done..."
"No no, take your time."
"No no, just one more bite and we'll get out of your way..." They took their bite and got out of my way. "Good luck with your filming!" They waved and smiled as they left.
"Thanks! Take care!"

My shoulders perked up and I was standing three inches taller. What a delight.

I've kept reminding myself of that scene in recent years when maturity has given more cause for conniption. I'm surrounded by creative people with fragile egos; in our communities insecurity abounds. Envy and competition permeate. Reviews in the paper either crush or confirm one's talent. Whether or not we get a grant determines how many more months we'll serve appetizers. It's a masochistic world, but it's not just artists and musicians etc. who subject their confidence to battery. I've gained insight into the ruthless rivalry in the scientific community, the cutthroat competition of academia, the aggressive ambition of business types. No matter what your career or community, it all stems from sports. In elementary school. At least for me, and probably for most of you. Three of our biggest philosophical dilemmas were exacted upon us before we were seven:

1. Why was I not picked first?
2. Why is someone better than me?
3. Why do I suck so much?

The answer to all those questions is simple: Don't do sports. Stay away from that ball. But we can't stay away from our careers and communities. So what do we do when our application doesn't get accepted, or we get a stank review, or we don't get the teaching position, or our new restaurant gets two stars out of five? What do we do when our colleague gets accepted, or is glorified in the paper, or gets the position before they even finish their Masters, or their bistro gets Zagated all up in that ass? How do you deal with your rival who doesn't even know she's your rival 'cause she's actually a friend but the rivalry arises against your will 'cause you both work in the same field?

The answer is simple: Love your enemy. Be happy for them. Like my encounter with the falafel guy, just vanquish your ill feelings and you'll be refilled with good. Flip it like a switch. Even by wrestling that switch. Even artificially, against your will, and your goodwill might grow to become sincere. Tell yourself -- ideally sincerely -- that your rival/friend/colleague deserves that glowing review/university position/Michelin star because goddamnit, they do good work. They deserve that falafel. I mean good fortune.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008


I love graffiti talk. It rules. It's not about exclusivity 'cause anyone can pick up a copy of Subway Art and start talking about going all city. But still, talking to other graffiti writers in our language is sanctifying, so familiar. Like being lost in Pyongyang and finding an English-speaker. There's comfort in jargon.

Graffiti talk closely resembles hip hop talk but lots of hip hop heads don't know where top-to-bottom begins or ends, or that preferring Germans to New Yorks isn't as bad as it sounds, or that cutting lines have nothing to do with snorting yeyo in queue. If hip hop talk is English English, then graffiti talk is Cockney.

My favourite words are "toy" (inexperienced or incompetent), "rack" (steal), and "kill" (destroy). There are some local ones like "one-shot" that I learned in San Francisco in 1997, which Vancouver writers knew as "force field". Now the jargon is more widespread and interchangeable -- international due to videos and magazines and internet.

I speak graffiti or hip hop as often as I can, which is regrettably less and less nowadays. But I still drop the phrases once in a while with company who have no idea what the hell I'm saying. That usually happens during moments of excitement when I am not minding my speech. But throw me in the mix with graf heads and hip hop heads and we'll start blowin' up the spot with lingo. I'm no longer as heavily immersed in a graffiti or hip hop environment like I was in 1993, so when I speak the talk there's an unmistakable air of nostalgia. I still use archaic words like "represent". I don't even know if heads still represent or keep shit real nowadays. But I don't care -- I'll keep saying those words 'cause they come from a cherished time in my youth.

"Yo son, I peeped the burner you rocked. Shit is sick."
"Hey there man, I saw the high-quality painting you painted. The painting is great."

"Did you bomb with tags or throws?"
"Did you apply paint illegally with your signature or bigger letter forms that are often bubble-like and two colours?"

"Dude, this paint's wack. Mad thin and transparent."
"Chum, this paint is not good. It is very thin and transparent."

1: YO YO YO! (out of breath) Shit son... (catches breath) How'd you get out?...
2: (out of breath) Dude... (catches breath) ...the hole...
1: In the fence?
2: Word. You?
1: Son, I booked it. The bull was chasin' me between two lines -- you know they both ran, right?
2: The BN too?
1: Yeah, and the SP. Peep this yo: I got two lines running on both sides of me and I'm runnin' down waitin' for the line to end, bull's chasin' me...
2: Shit.
1: ...finally the BN ends so I hopped over and took off by the ravine. You?
2: I was doin' an end-to-end, yo...
1: Represent.
2: I just had to finish my 3D, rock a shine, some shout-outs... I was almost done, dude...
1: Word.
2: ...then the SP starts pullin' out and I see the toy cop runnin' at me...
1: He was with the bull.
2: Yeah, so I jetted down the hill, toy cop gaining on me...
1: Oh shit.
2: I lifted up the fence and kept runnin'. He stopped at the fence.
1: Oh snap.
2: Word.
1: Represent.
2: Shit was real, yo.
1: Mad real.
2: I don't even got no flicks of the piece!
1: Me neither.
2: Burner for real.
1: Your hand's bleeding.

1: HEY HEY HEY! (out of breath) Wow man... (catches breath) How'd you get out?...
2: (out of breath) Chum... (catches breath) ...the hole...
1: In the fence?
2: Yes. You?
1: Man, I ran very fast. The train yard worker was chasing me between two lines of trains -- you know they both ran, right?
2: The Burlington Northern too?
1: Yeah, and the Southern Pacific. Imagine hey: I had two lines of trains running on both sides of me and I'm running down waiting for the train line to end, train yard worker's chasing me...
2: Damn.
1: ...finally the Burlington Northern ends so I hopped over and took off by the ravine. You?
2: I was painting from one end of the train car to the other, hey...
1: Good for you.
2: I just had to finish my elements that give the illusion of three dimensions, apply some elements that give the illusion of shine, some acknowledgments... I was almost done, chum...
1: Yes.
2: ...then the Southern Pacific starts moving and I see the security guard running at me...
1: He was with the train yard worker.
2: Yeah, so I ran quickly down the hill, security guard gaining on me...
1: Frightening.
2: I lifted up the fence and kept running. He stopped at the fence.
1: Oh wow.
2: Exactly.
1: Good for you.
2: The situation was not fantasy, hey.
1: Very not fantasy.
2: I don't have any photographs of the painting!
1: Me neither.
2: The painting was very good and I'm not lying.
1: Your hand's bleeding.

A: Yo B, whatchusayin' 'bout the background?
B: I'm sayin' we should rock mad doo-dads.
A: Explosion of doo-dads?
B: Word.
A: Naw, that's wack. Too busy.
B: Whatchusayin'?
A: I'm gonna rock a wildstyle so I want a clean background.
B: But I'm gonna kick some simple old school shit.
A: How we gonna make this production if our pieces don't match?
B: Shit.
A: Shit yo.
B: I can do some characters...
A: Hype.
B: ...between our letters and both sides...
A: Aight aight...
B: Keep our 3Ds in the same direction, bust a -- what -- pink one-shot...
A: Ruff.
B: Arrows in Jungle Green.
A: You don't got Jungle Green.
B: I'm playin' ...rock some white I racked for highlights --
A: Naw, baby blue.
B: My fill-in's gonna be baby blue.
A: This production ain't gonna work.

A: Hey friend, what are your thoughts about the background?
B: I think we should incorporate lots of bits and pieces.
A: Explosion of bits and pieces?
B: Yes.
A: Naw, that's a bad idea. Too much stimulation.
B: What are you saying?
A: I'm gonna paint a complex formation of interlocking letters so I want an uncomplicated background.
B: But I'm gonna attempt some simple letters reminiscent of the Bronx in 1979.
A: How are we going to make this large-scale, comprehensive, collaborative painting if our paintings don't match?
B: Damn.
A: I know. Damn.
B: I can paint some images representing humans or animals...
A: Wonderful.
B: ...between our letters and both sides...
A: Alright alright...
B: Keep our elements that give the illusion of three dimensions in the same direction, in a fit of inspiration execute a -- what -- pink line around the letters that make the letters stand out from the background...
A: Excellent.
B: Arrow-like elements in a fabled shade of green paint that Krylon discontinued decades ago.
A: You don't have any fabled shade of green paint that Krylon discontinued decades ago.
B: I am kidding you ...apply some white paint I stole for accents --
A: Naw, baby blue.
B: The areas within my letter forms that constitute the majority of the letters' colour are gonna be baby blue.
A: This large-scale, comprehensive, collaborative painting ain't gonna work.

C: Oh word.
D: F'real.
C: Knowhamsayin'?
D: Word.
C: Knowhamsayin', he blessed the mic.
D: Killed it.
C: Straight dope, knawmean?
D: Represent.
C: He's the God.
D: I feel you.
C: Let's barbecue.

C: Oh wow.
D: Yes.
C: Know what I'm saying?
D: Yes.
C: Know what I'm saying? He was very good on the microphone.
D: Extremely good.
C: Unadulterated high quality, know what I mean?
D: I agree that he is high quality.
C: Rakim.
D: I agree wholeheartedly.
C: Let's barbecue.

Monday, September 1, 2008





I hope I never hear those shouts again. But I will. It'll always happen. After all, weekends are inevitable.

I live not far from some big clubs. No, they aren't bars. They are clubs. VIP line-ups. Security. Biceps. Super boobs. I'm so self-conscious about this that I don't even wanna name some of those clubs or tell you intersections. Besides, that's all beside the point because I don't wanna talk about clubs -- I wanna talk about "WHOOO-EEEE!".

Douche bags. Frosted tips. Sun-In. Bridge and Tunnel Crossers... You know who I'm sayin' and what's funny is that even if we don't live in the same city, you know who I'm sayin'. This demographic exists seemingly everywhere in Canada and America, and surely in more countries. They're an international breed, I reckon. Why do they always live on the other side of the bridge and tunnel? ...Anyways...

Every Friday and Saturday around 3AM I can expect to be disturbed by "YEEEOW!" outside my window. I've become used to it, but that doesn't make the experience any less perplexing. If I got my club on at Frolic or Menage or Filthy McDirty's like them (I made those names up but I'm sure they exist somewhere), then I'd probably be AAAAOOWWing too, but my social preferences are decidedly more subdued. When I'm not being a misanthropic hermit at home I'm usually getting my crunk on at a bar where you don't VIP line up and people are discussing their upcoming shows or a film they saw at the Cinematheque or how cheap they got their new cardigan from Sally Ann or which Velvet Underground album rules the hardest. Occasionally an American Apparel lamé outfit will appear, but that's cool. Generally. The sometimes-bearded, sometimes-laméd people at these bars don't yell no matter how many Labatt 50s they've downed. ( I am typing two club women outside my window just shrieked something at each other that sounded like two raccoons fighting over a hot dog. My argument is proving itself...) ...Anyways...

I'm not saying the company I feel most comfortable around is free from criticism -- actually, the people at "my bars" are subjected to the fiercest denigration for being snobby, pretentious, ironic, superficial, self-servingly wacky... But I'm not trying to deconstruct the Pitchfork/Williamsburg/Ossington/Main Street/party photo blog identity. I'm trying to figure out why some people go "WHOOO-EEEE!".


I had to consult Kathy M.. She replied with impressive speed. Instantaneously. Let it be known that she is incredibly intelligent and educated and proudly shows me her latest sweet finds from Value Village; I sense her explanation comes less from presumption and more from experience. She said that Pitchfork/Williamsburg/Ossington/Main Street/party photo blog people are nerds. They listen to weird music and enjoy libraries and wear used clothes. They often got shunned in high school 'cause they were odd. What kid listens to Pavement in Grade Nine? On vinyl? They also enjoy being called nerds, which is ironic, which is the whole point.

BUT THE REAL POINT IS that nerds keep to themselves in their maligned cliques, finding strength in their exclusive belonging, clandestinely obsessing over who produced which album. If you don't get it, then you don't belong (hence, the snobbery). Nerds are happy in their own fashionable little worlds being ignored by the mainstream, 'cause if you get accepted by the mainstream then you might no longer belong and you'd be fucked. Nerds are quiet. Nerds don't want to be noticed unless you're [name of influential music blog or label or Bowie]. Nerds just wanna slip on home after the bar so they can decide if they wanna get their Masters.

On the other hand, if you're gonna cross that bridge, if you're gonna bleach those tips, if you're gonna wear those little conch shells 'pon your neck, then you'd better be fucking loud. You'd better own that goddamn "WHOOO-EEEE!" and frighten those oddball nerds now, just like you did in Grade Nine. You'd better show us all that you're The Man and I'll believe you 'cause lord knows I'm not gonna fight you. You eat Creatine. I also sense that "YEEEOW!" is akin to a mating call, and when you're getting mad crunk on Smirnoff Ice while raising Libido Lounge's roof, of course your unbusted nut's gotta get busted somehow. I understand. I'd yelp too after a full night of grinding butt cheeks.

...Kathy M. didn't say all that. I kinda digressed. But she did make a sensible argument about nerds preferring to be quiet. I guess that makes me a nerd then, 'cause although I really have nothing against douche bags, I just wanna ask them all to please stop shouting. They're interrupting my Nietzsche.