Saturday, February 14, 2009


"She's a force of nature."

That is the ultimate sweeping compliment. What about a person warrants the praise of all praises? Her ability to listen? Her generosity? Her charisma that detonates every one of our senses, like a supernova, when she enters a room and offers a mere smile? When we call someone a force of nature, we cannot determine exactly why we compare her to the very state of being, the very idea of being alive. The statement itself glorifies generality: She is beyond definition. Nothing is greater than nature.

It is easier to understand the statement when we remark on someone's physical excellence. Usain Bolt is a force of nature because he is faster than wind. He is a natural phenomenon like tectonic plates shifting three millimeters beneath our feet, and everything, absolutely everything, must succumb. Perhaps all elite athletes are forces of nature because they are stronger, they are healthier, they are more determined, more indestructible than you and me. Everyone else.

Then what about artists whom we describe as forces of nature? Do we praise them on their corporeal achievements, as if Hemingway's ability to type and Pollock's elbow arc are qualities to celebrate? No. Hemingway's words, Pollock's drips, Gehry's forms, Joni Mitchell's lyrics... The things they make are what awe us like Vancouver's backdrop. And when it is Joni's voice -- certainly a bodily wonder -- that moves us, still, we are celebrating the melodies she makes. Forces of nature who are not athletes elevate that compliment to extreme conceit; James Dean may not run faster than the wind, but his performances wrench our insides like cedar snapping in a gale. Ozu may not grapple with the strength of a grizzly, but his films calm us like a lone shrub in the midst of desert. There is specialness to an artist being called a force of nature because we do not usually associate one with the physical and the natural. Artists make things, even intangible things like a moment on stage or an emotion on guitar. When we say one artist is a force of nature, we are saying her work is beyond normal human ability, beyond human manufacture, worthy of being on par with the clouds.

Sunday, February 8, 2009


I am sad
that when I say to kids
born in the 90s,
The Karate Kid*,
they will respond
or more damning:

*This is a multi-purpose poem. To suit mood and taste, like the day of the month advancing in the little window upon an analog watch face, The Karate Kid can be substituted with Alfonso Ribeiro, A.C. Slater, Punky Brewster, "Did I do that?", Brian Orser, import CD, Freedom Williams, encyclopedias, Ramona Quimby, Consumers Distributing, Colgate pump, The Zit Remedy, Danny DeVito, Amiga, Max Headroom (freaked me out), Grace Jones (freaked me out), Launchpad McQuack, Greg Louganis, Arsenio Hall's signature, Bugle Boy, Mike's buddy Boner, Bobby McFerrin, "Don't be ridiculous!" (you wish, Balki), newspaper classifieds, Bo knows everything including your mother, "", Huxtable anything, the Fly Girls, cooking entire meals from scratch with microwave, My Little Pony, VCRs, Kevin Arnold, Jimmy's beef jerky, Rodney King, film developing, Leisure Suit Larry, Jack's buddy Larry, Tom Hanks in prime-time drag, anonymity, Sade, Ikeda overalls, pen pals, pagers, privacy, and ColecoVision.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009


I often got confused when I was sixteen.

"Yeah, so the guy called me a Pun and went into the Sev. So we waited outside, 'round the corner, like, you know, on 37th, waited for the guy to come out. Comes out with a fuckin' Slurpee and we pound him, fucker. I got him like this, right, like this, holding his head down and kneeing him in the face. C. takes out his little scissors, you know the little Chink scissors, folding?, we use for weed... So C. takes 'em out and shanks him. But just a little bit. Few holes. Not too much. Pink Slurpee all over the sidewalk," D. says, rocking his heels while seated on his BMX. "So now C.'s gotta do YDC."

I don't get it: Why would he sign up for Young Drivers of Canada?

D. spits on the grass. "He'll get out in a few months."

Oh. Youth Detention Centre.