Saturday, December 10, 2011

Things Past

A Facebook friend request comes in from Benny Stud. I'm wondering why a gay porn star has decided to 'friend' me out of the blue before that nickname crawls back into my consciousness from junior high school; Benjamin Stuyvesant, referred to briefly as Benny Stud for reasons that were hysterically funny in Grade Eight but have been lost to the ages to all but Benjamin himself. I haven't seen him for decades but he was a decent enough guy in the days of the Reagan administration and I have yet to find somebody to maliciously 'friend' me on Facebook. I chalked it up to nostalgia or networking on his part. I was right about the former: 

Hey Benny - I thought you were a renegade gigolo. How goes?

Yo Mike. Goes fine. What you been doing for 23 years or so?

Just like everyone else; got a job, got married, got a kid, got old. Yourself?

Same deal.

Onto you as to us all, right?

Yeah, like that.

This might read as a lament or something sentimental, but was actually a strangely comforting exchange. Benny could be a wiseass at 12, that might still be the case. I don't even want to remember what I was like at the same stage (although there are no lack of people to remind me) but at least it's the same distance away. That distance provides the perspective to review what mattered, what was simply of it's time, and why none of it matters 20-odd years later.

Friday, November 25, 2011

A meme - 10 most influential books

I try to avoid memes; this one caught my attention because I realized that the 10 most influential books in my life are not the most well-written books I've ever read, nor are they necessarily books I'd force into the hands of anyone asking for 'a good book.' This list consists of the styles or voices that got stuck in my consciousness and acted as a model (or at least a base) for the way I learned to write. I read three of them before I turned 12, four of them in my mid to late teens and three in my late 20s. I've read better and more impressive works than these, but this particular 10 made the most impact on me as a whole.

Most of the authors listed here wouldn't stay in a room with each other voluntarily, so be it. And I'm indifferent to their moral character or politics. Who cares? James Dickey was by all accounts a dreadful human being, but an extraordinarily original poet when he wanted to be. And I don't want to hang out at any political action committee PJ O'Rourke would endorse, but I'd gladly buy him a beer if he'd teach me to be as sharp and snarky as he managed in his prime.

Only a few of these books rest in my shelves at home; most have done their job and left their influence and don't need to be revisited. It's a weird list, take from it what you wish. And feel free to follow the meme.

1. The Collected Poems of Primo Levi

2. One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich - Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

3. Dispatches - Michael Herr

4. The Grapes of Wrath- John Steinbeck

5. Holidays in Hell- PJ O'Rourke

6. The Illustrated Man - Ray Bradbury

7. Dubliners - James Joyce

8. Metropolitan Life - Fran Leibowitz

9. Night- Elie Wiesel

10. The Whole Motion - Collected poems of James Dickey

Honorable Mentions: Darkness Visible by William Styron, Nobody's Perfect by Anthony Lane, Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer, Goodbye to Berlin, Christopher Isherwood, the collected short stories of Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald, the collected poems of Alden Nowlan and Theodore Roethke, Songs of the Doomed by Hunter S. Thompson and 30+ years of Garry Trudeau's Doonesbury.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Overplayed - 'Chess' at the Princess of Wales Theatre


I walked out of Chess feeling delightfully young. It had nothing to do with the cast, staging, direction or those retro tingles that a rousing chorus of One Night in Bangkok inflicts upon select souls who boogied to it at high school dances in their errant youth. I actually felt young because the rest of the audience consisted almost exclusively of men and women of a certain age; I'd put them at late 50s with a few early 60s among the throng, husbands obviously come straight from the office and their spouses wearing casual clothes and one or two pieces of expensive jewelry to give their subscription-series evening a sense of occasion.

I'm 42 with grey in my beard and I still felt positively adolescent by the end of the evening. This might explain why I wasn't one of the walkouts in the first act; I saw at least 10 people discreetly make for the exits before intermission. I might be just young enough to have the patience or simple grim curiosity to sit through a musical that manages to be verbose, complicated, overlong and overpaced, all told with a background of raunchy dancers dressed in campy chesspiece costumes (think Lady Gaga by way of an Elton John yard sale in 1976 or so).

A large segment of the older audience were probably too busy in the 80s to care about the Chess concept album and too old in 2011 to recognize the Strictly Come Dancing choreography. A few of them simply zoned out or politely stepped to the exit in a very Canadian this isn't my kind of play sort of way. Maybe they were expecting Mamma Mia, the other Abba-related evening out. And when you're expecting a singalong version of Dancing Queen and get dancers wearing gold lamé jockstraps in stylized Bangkok fleshpots, perhaps it's best to call it an early night.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Old acquaintance be forgot

The early 1990s. My mid-20s. A New Years Eve I remember little about other than I spent it alone. I had been dating a musician for a long time and was convinced that I had either become very boring or she had become very distant because spending any time alone with her had become pointedly infrequent. And New Years Eve is always too loud and never what you want it to be, but being at a bad party is still being together and the odds of that felt unlikely, even before she proposed something that formalized our separate ways into something that just didn't matter, at least not to her. That could be unfair, but that's how it all felt around a New Year's Eve sometime in the early 90s.
___________________________________________



“Do you want to do something together on New Year’s?” Louise asked over the phone. “Because I have an idea. It’s something we both could do.”

I hadn’t planned anything. There had been a few pub nights years before, and a Solstice party a few weeks earlier and I was looking forward to finding a spot with too many people and doing the 10-9-8 count before midnight and warbling Auld Lang Syne before replacing it with more drink or food or just giving into the ritual  for a few hours. New Year's Even hadn’t always been – ever been, really – anything close to exciting for Louise and I. Our usual routine of heading out to new bands or old bands in out-of-the-way places was always something fun. I thought she was going to offer the back room of yet another a club to see a mutual friend or a friend-of-a-friend for music and wine.

She said “I’ve been asked to sing backup at one of the High Park performances, maybe do some trios. There’s a family night there at first, then some jazz when the kids have all gone home. It’s on a 20 minute cycle, 20 on and 40 off. You could be part of it.”

I imagined a cold night sitting on a cold bench for long stretches while Louise performed. I said “How, exactly?”

Friday, October 21, 2011

Didn't see this coming

The guy beside me on the subway is in his early to mid-20s, wearing a Ralph Steadmanesque t-shirt with Picnic at Hanging Rock printed in the traditional freaky Steadman script (think about the Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas cover). The shirt itself is black, the printed colour something between unhealthy yellow and khaki and there’s a stylized etching of what one assumes is the titular rock with a woman falling/flying/leaping off the top in a Victorian-style dress.

I can say with complete certainty that nobody else in our subway car has the same shirt under their jacket. I really wish I had a photo of it, it would have been worth the Why is this weird man taking pictures of a stranger on the subway? response from the locals. The t-shirt wearing guy himself is a clean cut sort and doesn’t resemble Hunter S. Thompson or Withnail or any of Steadman’s other grotesques, he just looks like a film major en route to class or his shift at a video store or whatever production house awaits his services as an underpaid production assistant.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A hot cup

You're supposed to write 1,000 words a day to be a successful blogger.

Not gonna happen. And I'd like to know that definition of 'successful' anyway.

Been quiet recently.
Haven't had a clear train of thought.

That hasn't...
...stopped me before. I know, I know.

Write about anything that's on your mind.
Nothing other than craving a cup of coffee. And I can't drink coffee anymore.

Write about that.
____________________________________________

A Starbucks morning. “I’d like a cup of tea please. Earl Grey.”

The cashier says “Okay Captain Kirk, would you like a baked good or yogurt with that?”

“No thanks. And I think it was Captain Picard who had a thing for Earl Grey.”

The cashier pauses, rolls her eyes and says “Huh. Geek. That’s $1.27 please.”

She smiles as soon as I do, realizing that I’ve taken it in the spirit in which it was given. I don’t have any particular brand loyalty to Starbucks, it just has the darkest roast of coffee around my office and since I can’t drink coffee anymore, I walk in from time to time simply to inhale. The management (and customers) would probably think it weird for me to stand near the espresso press huffing the drawer for the spent grounds, so I try to limit myself to buying a cup of tea and not looking too wistful.
___________________________________________

I involuntarily stopped drinking coffee around 18 months ago. I don’t have a solid medical rationale for this. Travis suggested it was psychosomatic and I don’t disagree with him, although such low-level psychosis tends to be accompanied by a discernible trigger. But I can’t find it. If I’d been beaten up by a cardboard-cupped double-double or large latte on the way to school as a child and buried the trauma for decades (only to have it sabotage my love of coffee in my early 40s), you’d think it would at least introduce itself at the threshold of my consciousness and explain how the aforementioned cups managed the trick of locomotion and street-fighting.

I’d been drinking black coffee since I was 15, since Robert Mitchum and Lee Marvin and Paul Newman drank it black and therefore I believed I could automatically count myself among their number if I followed suit (this was, admittedly, a stretch). My maternal grandfather reminded me of all of those people and as I child I loved the rich scent of my grandmother’s perked coffee on a gas stove. And my grandfather drank black coffee. I could steal a taste from time to time and, like most coffee, it smelled better than it tasted (especially so for my grandmother’s brew). But the association for me was formed: good coffee, properly appreciated in the right tough-guy fashion, had to be knocked back hotter than hell and black as sin.

This habit continued for 25 years or so, until a Friday afternoon when I realized that every cup of coffee I’d procured from the three local pushers to my office (a Second Cup, a Mmmuffins and a Tim Hortons) was nauseating swill to me. It smelled like coffee at first, but every mouthful of every blend would hang on my palate like coffee-flavouring that had been drowned in salt water or grease. I thought that my handy-dandy environmentally-friendly stainless steel mug was leeching residue from cups that had come before, but it was cleaned every night and stainless steel is usually pretty inert. Drinking from paper cups didn’t improve anything, and the coffee I made at home was worse.


Saturday, September 10, 2011

Decade


"The nearly 3,000 names of the men, women, and children killed in the attacks of September 11, 2001 and February 26, 1993 are inscribed in bronze on parapets surrounding the twin Memorial pools...As part of the 9/11 Memorial’s official names verification process completed in 2009, victims’ next-of-kin made specific requests for names to appear adjacent to their loved one’s name (“adjacency requests”).


Some of these requests were for relatives, friends, and colleagues; others were for loved ones to be listed with people they may have barely known or just met, but with whom intense bonds were quickly formed as a result of shared response. Over 1,200 of these requests were made and all are reflected on the Memorial. In fact, these requests drive the ordering the groupings on around the Memorial pools, the affiliations within them, and in many places, the placement of the names themselves."

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Greener pastures and bodily harm

The further adventures of Ellis, a friend possessed of a dry wit and a healthy sense of the ridiculous. Monday morning’s email missives went like this, more or less verbatim:

Ellis: In the Middle Ages, Monday was usually the day each week when the serfs & bondsmen (i.e., peasants) spent the day working the Lord’s fields instead of their own. So the ‘I hate Mondays’ sentiment is nothing new. On Friday, we found out that Dimitri from Accounting is leaving Exchequer for greener pastures. Today, he shows up with a sprained ankle. Coincidence? You be the judge.

Me: Er…were these ‘greener pastures’ expanded upon by Dimitri, something like “I’m leaving Exchequer to take a new job at Kingston Empire?” Or did the powers that be just encourage him to limp towards the aforementioned greener pastures all by himself? I thought you were supposed to twist somebody’s arm to get them to leave, not their ankle…

Ellis: Nope, no idea where he’s off to; I need to check the HR policies for the bit about them breaking my limbs if I try to leave.

Me: I can see it now, the plotting amongst HR minions:

‘Hey - Ellis got another job.'

‘Competitor, or different industry?’

 ‘Entirely different.’

‘Okay. He’s a decent enough guy. Just in-grow one of his toenails on his last day and send him my best.’

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Overheard at a newsstand



"What do you call a person who pisses towards a funeral procession in broad daylight but won't look the widow in the eye?"

"I don't know. What do you call..."

"You call them a Blatchford."

Aug, 2011

Friday, July 08, 2011

The Burning

Let’s start with The Burger King Incident, which doesn’t really deserve much attention. I’d mentioned it in a Facebook update and Patti suggested that I blog about it. I told her it wasn’t worth blogging. I’ve never met her, although she seems like a nice woman. She’s married to the brother of Jane, a friend from long-ago drama classes and high school and fellow-participant to everything that came with all that.

Patti follows my updates because I'd commented on something that she'd posted, she bounced something back and we read each other's blogs and there's some degree of simpatico in our attitudes. It’s the 21st century equivalent of pen pals and it spurred the impetus behind writing about something that doesn’t really deserve much attention (see above).

I witnessed The Burger King Incident across four lanes of traffic on a recent Wednesday morning at approximately 8:23am. Two Burger King employees in standard uniforms (generic short sleeved shirt, polyester pants, nametag) escorted a guy in a Burger King costume (tunic, freaky mask with built-in crown, burgundy pants, odd yellow boots) out of their restaurant. They didn’t toss him onto the street exactly, but flanked him in such a way that it encouraged his departure from their premises in the universal we can do this easy, or we can do this hard sort of way.

Once the King was ejected, the employees stood shoulder to shoulder in front of the door and stared at him wordlessly. His Highness ignored the surprised passers-by and stood a respectful distance from his former minions to plead his case, perhaps hoping to be welcomed back onto his throne as the once and future king of fast-service dining.

I couldn't hear what he was saying, but the employees were having none of it and after a minute or so the King headed west, maybe to the subway. I know of a Dairy Queen franchise a bit north of there, perhaps he was heading in that direction for solace in alternate regal surroundings.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Father's Day - Light



Good enough for me, too.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Ladies and Gentlemen, Joel West

Joel West is a comedian in Montreal. I've known him for over a decade through a series of mood swings and respectfully report he is a genuinely cracked soul. His audience-participation Facebook updates are hilarious and suggest his followers share the warp. It's only funny for anyone who's imagined the machinations of your average sleazy stripclub lapdance, but isn't that everyone? And it had to be shared:

Worst possible song for a lapdance:

- Taps
- Octopus' Garden
- Teddy Bear's Picnic
- The Monster Mash
- "Put them all together, they spell M-O-T-H-E-R..."
- Kumbaya
- Hava Nagila
- Theme from 'The Edison Twins' (which also might be the _best_ lapdance ever)
- The Chicken Dance
- Mother and Child Reunion
- Wagner's 'Ring' cycle
- "Skinnamarinky, dinky, doo..."
- In The Mood
- Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas

Juvenile. Cheap. In dubious good taste. And I laughed for an hour.


June, 2011

Monday, May 30, 2011

No day is harder than the first


The band is Sixteen Different Minds. I knew somebody in this band a long time ago; I followed the link from the ubiquitous Facebook and have been listening to it all day, thinking that it reminds me of something but I can't tell you what. It's a good something, that's as complex as my awareness can get. There's sweet harmony and simple production to it all, especially in the song Summer's End. I might just be a sucker from the lyric that's the title of this entry, and if so I'm a sucker. It's lovely stuff across the board. If you're reading this, seek it out.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Work for Matthew

My son, who likes soap bubbles and is also very fond of trains.



Follows the original Matthew video from a few years back.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Visitations

I don't remember the source of the theory that I'm blaming for my sore feet and light-headedness. Probably a high-school science textbook; it put forth the proposition that to properly imagine the concept of time, you couldn't simply see it as a roving instance of now that leaves nothing in its wake. It compared the whole of time and all occurrences within to frames on a reel of motion-picture film with an infinite number of frames projecting at an unimaginable rate (the standard 32 frames per second didn't apply).

I won't even consider the size of the projector that this unimaginably long film would require since that wasn't mentioned in the theory, but I'll repeat the central concept that each frame of film contains a 'happening' that is no less 'happening' 5, 10, 15 or 100 frames away from its initial instance; everything is always happening all the time with a loose collection of 'now' moments that add to the total. And if something ain't happened yet, just wait. It'll come.

No past and only a light sprinkling of present all in anticipation of a future that segues into the two previous concepts with almost musical grace and subtlety. The mostly-forgotten theory didn't take all the boring, tangible aspects of time (the stuff we eat, breathe, sleep upon and walk on) into consideration, or at least slid it so far under its theoretical umbrella that it was rendered irrelevant, but the consistently-occurring past and present concept stuck in my head and remains there despite my best efforts to dismantle it. It's the source of my Tuesday night walk from Yonge and Eglinton to Yonge and St. Clair, more or less straight down Yonge St. I spent a lot of time along the corridor, good and bad, and if time is truly concurrent rather than consecutive, it's possible that I might be able to walk past some rendition of myself, maybe say hi, maybe allude to the fact that things work out. Not necessarily for the best, or along the lines of what was anticipated at the start, but they do work out the same.
________________________________________

I can't find my father. He's been dead for almost 8 years by now, and not-finding him isn't really a great shock or a serious disappointment. But some aspect of my psyche will always scan the intersections close to his old office (and close to my present office) expecting him to walk past. This same aspect walked me downstairs into his workshop religiously when visiting my parents house, hoping for a few minutes of solitude away from whatever activities were happening upstairs, hoping that I could at least feel his presence. It's perfectly logical in an utterly misguided way; he spent time there in life, tied to the tools and the scent of sawdust. If he was there at one time, and the room remains the same, he must still be there. I just needed to be in the right corner at the right time, catch the same fall of light from the door where I saw him thousands of times before. He had to be in there, someplace. I just had to wait and look.

He didn't arrive. The room has since become a dusty workshop. T'was ever thus...right?

I start heading south on Yonge when I'm convinced that my father isn't waiting for me at Fran's. Come to think of it, Fran's isn't waiting for me at Fran's. It hasn't been at that intersection for over a decade. I had a friend who worked the bar there for a year or so, he'd drop plates of chicken wings at my table when I was working retail and broke ("Somebody left these in the kitchen, I brought them out here so they'd not bother anybody") and it went a long way. The loss of a greasy spoon doesn't take away too much from this lifetime, but the associations, the lunches, coffees, late night dinners with family are good enough to want the place to be open for a few minutes for some temporal version of the pop-in. I'd be delighted to have a cheeseburger in 1992. For a minute. Just for the fact it wasn't my own cooking (which I was sick of) and I was close enough to walk home to the decidedly ramshackle house I was sharing before the furnace started spewing carbon monoxide and felt like an omen to get the hell out.

Nobody got hurt, but the helpful gas company representative pointed out that the furnace was not only leaking carbon monoxide but methane from it's source pipe. He did this by painting soap solution along the pipe and viewing the resulting bubbles.

"That's not supposed to happen," he said gravely. "Wait here."

Then he left. I was standing in a basement with two gasses that were more than willing to help me die by either slow (albeit painless) asphyxiation or from a good old fashioned explosion. I waited until he came back a very slow 5 minutes later with something I can only describe as a rubber wrench, carefully using it to close the gas valve from the source.

"Call your landlord," he said. "We're not turning this back on until there's a furnace that passes inspection."

It was early March. Our landlords were in Florida. My housemate made the call, she later told me that Landlord #1's first response was "Who told you to call the gas company?" while
#2 was quieter and more concerned with a potential lawsuit. The furnace was fixed but my time there was done. It's a shame. The house was gorgeous and the woman who shared it with me in a platonic sense remains the most agreeable person I ever shared living space with. In the four years I was there, we never had a harsh word about each other.
_________________________________________________

This isn't getting me down Yonge St.

I walk past the overpriced Italian restaurant with the admittedly great food, the one without a name (only a logo) and whose staunch refusal to post a menu was legendary. They've recently condescended to posting a web address for reservations, but the size of the font suggests their hearts weren't into it. Further down, there's a wing and rib place I frequented with a buddy for his company rather than the ribs and wings (both leathery and inedible), the overpriced furniture stores with sulky owners, the spy-tech shop that keeps wandering across the street from location to location, the Thai restaurant that, under previous ownership, sent me into the street when I saw a fat sewer rat calmly walk across the floor, under a table, and into the kitchen. The former oxygen bar which was and remains the most stupid idea for a spa that I'd ever encountered, where they'd wash your left hand with a warm washcloth before putting the oxygen nozzle under your nose (they never explained the hand washing), assuring you that the oxygen was great to get rid of headaches (which I had lots of at the time) and gave you energy and helped you sleep and made you immune from hangovers and I'm sure they would have tossed in some mention of how it was low in trans-fat if they'd had time. I paid for it once out of curiosity, swore never to do it again but was lured off the street a second time with an offer of a free 'treatment' if I filled out a survey about the experience. It was identical to the first time, except the hangover avoidance wasn't mentioned. The space now belongs to a sporting goods establishment. It's a step up.

Reaching Davisville. The condo that never returned my calls and a series of apartments that were wide and well-lit and would have been perfect, but after asking for first and last month's rent, the landlord called us to say sympathetically that she'd forgotten she'd offered the space to somebody else. My wife wept on the phone as she was assured that we'd be the first people called when another apartment came open (we never heard from her again).

The hairdresser I went to for years and still keep in touch with, impossibly long ago. She was actually so nice and engaging that I kept my hair short for years because I'd drop by for a trim whenever I was depressed.

It's a brisk walk, but I haven't run into me, yet. I missed me by a few seconds here or there, finding coffee shops where I remember sitting in various states of employment or financial disrepair wondering How the hell am I going to get out of this one? and if I saw me, I'd at least try to radiate some sense of You'll get through it.

There's not much after Davisville. An office building where I used to work, a pub I frequented where the food was always lousy but the lunch crowd was lively. Further east, there's the untouched Italian restaurant where my sister hung out in high school, occasionally taking me along to sit and watch her boyfriend play pool on something at least one of them wasn't calling a date. If I walked across the railway bridge, I could end up at the brownstone (if that's the phrase; a 1920's 4 story building with original fixtures) where I lived after getting married, or the parking lot of a standard apartment where a good friend lived and I could jump through the hole in the fence to save 5 minutes worth of walking and probably get yet another scar on my wrist from the rusty nail I didn't see.

The last time this happened, it was probably 1997. I'd cut through the parking lot to get to work early and cut myself badly enough I thought I'd need stitches. When the blood stopped, somebody suggested that tetanus, while not a popular malady nowadays, was still pretty unpleasant and maybe I'd like to get checked out. I arrived at my doctor's office shortly thereafter and explained what happened. "That's interesting," he said. "Jumping through a fence. The last person I had here who did the same thing was 9 years old and was pretending he was Batman at the time."
________________________________________

I walk past Mt. Pleasant Cemetery. The dead are still there. They don't get out much.

By the time I get to St. Clair, I don't want to walk, don't want to go home, don't want to eat, don't want to be hungry, don't want to stop, have no particular reason to continue, and am wondering exactly where or what has brought me here. The ghosts around me aren't entirely unpleasant and I'm always free to get on a train and go home, but perhaps the sheer density of them has stopped me in my tracks. I could hit the nice Italian place, splurge on vitello limone and a side of pasta with the alfredo sauce that tastes faintly of walnut oil, but it will remind me of the time I was having lunch with my wife and my father was just heading into chemotherapy and the irrelevant, unpleasant, self-indulgent and downright sad fact that it was one of his favourite restaurants and he can't eat here because he will feel too sick to enjoy it or keep it down just hit me and I collapsed in the wake of it, sick at the thought and unable to explain why it suddenly meant so much, just then, over something as simple as a meal. My wife, lovingly, took me home and made the right noises and used the right logic and I never caved like that again. I could set foot in the place tonight, but wouldn't appreciate it any more than a hot dog at a street corner vendor. I'll wait for another time.

There's not much left before the ending. I find a cybercafe and let all this out in one burst. Lucy told me recently that You should edit yourself less. My wife and my mother in law are home chatting and I have a night alone. It isn't melancholy that brought me here or sat me down, maybe just that initial misguided theory about space and time. I can deal with me, most times. I get sick of me frequently. Occasionally, I want to give me a break. I don't need to return to the past, but maybe something close to ego or just a recognition of the swath of the karmic boomerang lands me in places I remember. You'll get through it, I fire into the night at myself back in whatever day suits the situation.

Then I just go home to the now. Now is always best.


May, 2010

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

343


Bin Laden is dead. 9/11 is 10 years ago but not over. Posturing around it has always been easy. Everyone has a perspective, some from close up.

"...no less an authority than the CBC, in an article entitled 'Bin Laden’s Death Cheered by Americans,' claims 'the crowd [at Ground Zero] included people who live nearby, emergency workers, and survivors of the attacks....everyday New Yorkers.' So I guess it’s irrelevant that all of the media coverage I watched, well into the wee hours of the morning, showed hordes of college-age kids doing the yelling and the cheering.

Every once in a while a reporter would snare an actual grownup who’d lived through the attack--a retired firefighter with lung disease from working on the pile, for example--but the grownups weren’t screaming and yelling. They were talking about, for instance, 'remembering my 343 brothers' (those would be the firefighters who died in the attack, fyi). So the reporters? Not so interested in what the grownups had to say.

The kids made much better TV."

- From Alice in Newyorkland's blog.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

G'bye, Sid


"The real rift between Lumet and Kael came on 'a very difficult evening' when the two of them got involved in one of those boring conversations about the function of a critic. 'There were two other people present,' Lumet recalls, 'and she said to them, 'My job is to show him' -- pointing to me -- 'which direction to go in.' I looked at her and said, 'You've got to be kidding.' She said, 'No, I'm not.' I said, 'In other words, you want the creative experience without the creative risk.' And that was it. She's never written a good word about me since."

- From Sidney Lumet - The Reluctant Auteur in American Film, 1982


Fail Safe.

Bye Bye Braverman
(pitch-black and ahead of its time)

The Verdict.

Prince of the City.

The Seagull.
(a noble failure)

The Pawnbroker.

The Hill.

Long Day's Journey Into Night.

Serpico.

Daniel
(the irrelevance of history for the kids left behind)

The Offence.

Dog Day Afternoon.

1921-2011. Rest in Peace.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

This week's rundown of cheap shots


Harper now says ‘no’ to one-on-one debate with Ignatieff
From the National Post. It sounds a bit better than:

Harper ‘backing out’ of one-on-one debate, Ignatieff says
from the Toronto Star. In sadder news, the Globe and Mail points out that:

PM makes his regrets official on royal wedding
Rumour has it that somebody told Harper that the ceremony might degrade into a one-on-one debate and he didn't want to take the chance. On that topic, the Globe continues with:

Canada won’t put boots on the ground in Libya, Harper says
Why not? Did they invite us to a series of one-on-one debates? We can't get Harper's opinion on that because, as the Star tells us:

Harper taking only five questions per day from media
Five questions full stop, not debatable. At least the Post sees where the sun sets and suggests that:

In the West, the debate is Layton versus Harper
Until recently, at least. It possible that the east is looking a lot more accessible since at least they're avoiding the D word as not to offend somebody's delicate sensitivities.

March 31, 2011

Friday, March 25, 2011

For Printing


Now that it's all happening, feel free to print this Gilles Duceppe quote (collected from CTV News) on a small piece of paper and hand it to the person of your choice when they start Conservative talking points about coalitions:


The alarmist Conservative talk was scoffed at by Bloc Leader Gilles Duceppe, who has pointedly noted that Harper proposed defeating Paul Martin's minority Liberal government on its throne speech in 2004 and replacing it, with NDP and Bloc backing.

Duceppe revelled in the details this week, describing the Delta Hotel on Maissonneuve Boulevard in Montreal where Harper convened the conspirators.

"He was coming in my office saying, 'If Martin is going to lose confidence, what do you want in the throne speech? What would you like in the budget?"' Duceppe recalled.

April's going to be horrible.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Destruction

Poster created by James White, on sale at Signalnoise.
All profits will be donated to Japanese disaster relief.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Dear Doctor George - Lukewarm Dead

Dear Doctor George –

I’m a guy in his early fort...er...I mean I’m a guy north of thirty-eight who leads a pretty normal life except for the fact that I appear to have a medical problem. Every time I drink 3/4s of a bottle of Vinho Verde and eat around a two cups of heavily salted and buttered popcorn (popped in a pot, none of that microwave kibble) while watching The Walking Dead until 1:00am, I wake up and hate the universe due to the great pain in my skull. Could the wine or popcorn be poisoning me? Could I catch the Zombie plague from the TV?

Deeply concerned, Migranious
______________________________________

Dear Migranious-

This is a most unusual condition that you have presented. For the past several years, my colleague and spouse Dr. Jonie Falk and I have conducted extensive clinical studies, both laboratory-based and in the field, to determine the existence of a positive correlation between the consumption of Vinho Verde and post REM headaches. Our research findings (as published in the journal Imbibing Academics - Special Edition: Iberia Vol. 4.2) determined that the consumption of said beverage demonstrates only a statistically insignificant positive correlation. Given the rather large sample used to derive these findings, I can say with certainty that the cause of your malaise a tête is due to some external variable.

Please allow me to dabble in my professional hobby, popular-psychology, and posit the following notion: Your headache was actually caused by the voluminous and repetitive consumption of sub-standard visual media commonly referred to as Zombie Melodramaticus. You may not have noticed the initial symptoms such as snickering at poorly written dialogue, eye-rolling at patently unoriginal characterizations or even making sarcastic comments at laughable plotting such as the choice to have a character saw through his own wrist - rather then the 3/4 inch pipe he was handcuffed to - with a metal hacksaw.

I humbly suggest that you refrain from extended bouts of consuming this or similar media in the future and allow moderation to be your guide.

All the best, Doctor G

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Continuations


Souza worked with me at two different departments in a past job. She brought me tins of Portuguese olive oil upon request and kept candy in a clear dish at her desk for passers by. She was out of town when I stopped working that job and called me when she found out I was gone. "It is what it is, right?" I told her, careful not to violate a confidentiality agreement. "But everything was resolved fairly and there's no bad blood with anyone at the company."


It didn't explain a lot (including my side of that particular story), but it was a factually accurate statement and was exactly the kind of thing to say after things have been agreed upon and papers signed. Souza was a nice woman who knew enough to understand that you didn't ask for other details. She said she wanted to keep in touch, and we do. I didn't tell her about that base instinct (the one that I don't want to trust on any intellectual level) that was telling me You don't have to worry about losing your job in a straightforward but still not-quite reassuring way. When I was interviewing and networking and hit with the standard worries - money, career, future, self-worth or absolute lack thereof - the instinct would return with You REALLY don't have to worry about this while sounding like the advice of somebody in the know.

I was optimistic, but didn't quite trust it. Then I landed a good job with far less angst than I'd expected. It's a good fit. Occasionally, I even think I know what I'm doing. It's patchy. But it happens from time to time.
___________________________________

I get to work on a Thursday and have three and a half hours to get things done before heading to a seminar about managing Social Intranets. In the time before I go, I manage to create profiles for new hires, write some news messages and arrange some security settings. I track what I'm doing move-by-move and occasionally write down new procedures to eventually establish best practices. I time the complicated, boring set-up stuff to see if I can get it down to a science and be able to plot out how long I'll take to finish a project. It's not exactly exciting or creative; I've not been asked to translate bullet-point lists into articles and write précis based on two or three different pieces. It's meat and potatoes communication and web administration, but it's a straight line of work that I can do and record and build into measurable results.

I leave the office at noon. An out-of-office message refers calls to my cell. I've got a stack of business cards to distribute if I'm introduced to anybody interesting. I walk to the subway past the intersection at Yonge and Eglinton where my father walked to his office for over 20 years (only a few blocks away from my own) and I'm listening to ancient National Lampoon Radio Hour broadcasts on a bluetooth headset. I'm amused at the fact that, in the office, I'm paid to work, to tinker with HTML code and security settings and intranet communications and embedded video and communication plans. Out of the office, asked to attend a seminar, I'm being paid to think on behalf of my company, to assess information and see what we can use for business. It's a good sensation. I get out at St. Patrick station to walk to the hotel feeling like a grown-up, a turn of phrase I've loathed since I was a kid. Even then, I knew it was juvenile. But it's the only honest one that comes to mind, right now.
___________________________________

The first symptom of realizing one's age; you can't walk around your city without flashbacks. 90% of them are benign and carry no more weight than simple recognition. 5% strike a chord that lasts for a few minutes, or days, but won't bring you down. The remaining 5% are part of a crapshoot as to whether they will inspire you or open an old would. In practice, they simply reinforce the fact you never forget the things which change you.
___________________________________

I'm walking from the subway to the hotel that's holding the seminar. I pass an intersection where I took a few days of classes on a web authoring tool for my former job, delighted and mildly surprised that they felt I should attend. It felt good being downtown for a change of pace, rather than in the far west end. Then that job was drawn to a close and I was downtown a lot, interviewing, feeling put-out but still hearing that same You don't have to worry about this statement from somewhere indefinable. That might just be another crapshoot on the part of my psyche - a few hormones to the left or right and I could have spent the same time hearing the voice tell me I was doomed and to invest in canned food and shotguns. But it didn't - I carried on. That's where the prologue becomes irrelevant, at least for this instance.

On the street leading to the hotel, there's a tall condo. I had two friends living together there when they were happy. Something happened to that happiness and they moved out. She eventually married in the conventional way and had two children. He found somebody and they declared themselves married without the usual trappings and it worked for them so who is the rest of the world to judge? All of it meant a lot at the time; it turned into past-history so gradually that the initial impact of it all has faded from most people, except maybe from the two friends themselves. Less irrelevant than my prologue. You can always trace where you are from where you came.
__________________________________

I am navigating by very old charts. The hotel that's holding the seminar used to be a Holiday Inn (I think) behind Nathan Phillips Square. I used to play a grand piano there when I was 14 or so, on Saturday afternoons when there weren't a lot of people around and nobody seemed to mind. Every so often some employee would figure out I wasn't a guest and suggest that it was time to stop and I'd leave. I met a moviestar there, a tough guy who was sitting with an even bigger, tough guy to his right on a couch in that lounge. I approached him and told him he was a great actor, especially in that movie where he wore the mohawk and carried the gun. He didn't look impressed at first, then smiled, introduced me to his (I assume) bodyguard and told me he was always happy to meet somebody who appreciated what he did. I eventually stopped camping out there on Saturday afternoons, I can't remember why. It was a distant memory by the time I was 16 and a better pianist.

The hotel is now part of U of T and appears to be doing double duty as some kind of student meeting centre. It feels like a dorm, despite the meeting rooms and good carpeting. It has always been a weirdly laid out hotel, with escalators dropped in unexpected places and long walks down hallways devoid of doors. I find the meeting room and spend 90 minutes listening to theories about managing a decent social intranet. You can Google the term yourself, but the session was interesting for the faithful and I reconnected briefly with a guy named Geoff who I met in a networking session between jobs. We'd talked about his idea for being a Social Media consultant for people who don't have the time or inclination to leverage the medium for their own business or publicity; over a business lunch it became obvious that we were looking at the idea from two very different angles that didn't quite jibe, but we parted believing that the other person was a decent enough guy and did know his stuff, maybe something could come together at another time.

Maybe it did- I chatted with Geoff for a few minutes about his new job and mine and agreed to compare some notes about what we're both doing. I'm mentioning it here because the notion of networking always made my skin crawl - I spent a few awkward evenings at so-called parties where people handed out business cards and acted like it was desperately important to learn everything they could about me for future use. That wasn't the case with Geoff, or with this seminar, and it felt good being paid to be in a room with people on the same wavelength. Some of the points I made in the interview for my present job came out of my discussions with Geoff, and I told him so. Credit where credit is due, and all. And a nod to the whole networking idea; sometimes the system works.
___________________________________________

I also remembered doing very stupid in that hotel. I had attended a Parents Against Drugs seminar there when I was 18 or so, not as a speaker but as sort of a participant- I'd taken part in an anti-drug play in my last months of high school and that play had been filmed. Three cast members were invited to answer questions about it (the three who our drama teacher had been able to reach on short notice) and I was part of that lucky number.

By that time of the year, we were all sick of that particular teacher, of high school as a concept, and very sick of the show itself. So we arrived decidedly buzzed on a bottle of red wine that somebody had procured with their sister's driver's license. We weren't fall-down drunk by that point and had entered the headachey, this-wasn't-a-good-idea stage of coming down, nothing that a dark room with a video playing and lots of black coffee couldn't take care of.

I ended up being seated with the parents of a child - I think he was 14 - who dropped something mind-expanding after a concert and walked into heavy traffic to be hit by a car and killed instantly. It had garnered a lot of attention and everyone I knew seemed to know somebody who'd known this kid. I didn't intend any disrespect for the child or his parents, I was just buzzed and sitting at their table, wondering how this had happened and when were they going to start the video?

The child's mother had become a crusader for the drug-awareness cause. She was friendly, surprisingly lively and very actively working the table to see who was there and why. She moved past the other cast members and I rather quickly, offering sincere thanks for our efforts and letting us know that the show was groundbreaking. We weren't so sure, but we'd been doing it for months and were pretty much immune to any effect it might have on an audience. I was looking for coffee when the child's father spoke to me out of nowhere and quietly, not-sentimentally asked "Has my son's death made a difference?"

I don't know if anyone else heard it. He didn't look like this question was his conversation-starter, his wife was doing a very good job keeping the flame and he'd been rather quiet until that point. It was a valid question. I wasn't a good person to answer it. I wanted him to ask it to some kind of social worker in the room, somebody who'd give him an answer with statistics and interviews and case studies. I was very aware of the fact I was 17 and coming off a cheap-wine buzz and that I didn't come into the room expecting to be in front of that question. I didn't feel like my conduct was radiating the respect the situation deserved. It wasn't shame that hit me exactly (although it's here now) but a great sense of impropriety. I couldn't say We're here for a goof and to back up our teacher and didn't expect to find something so real, I'm sorry to a man who lost his son to the kind of dumb thing most kids do at that age. I wasn't the person he should have spoken to. I would gladly have confessed all and changed places on short notice if I could have thought of a better person to answer.

I was honest. I said "I think it's made a difference. I know a lot of people who are more careful now." I mentioned the people I knew who'd known or almost-known his son, how sorry they were. He nodded, not emotionally but thoughtfully. The lights dimmed and the video played. The child's mother spoke for a few minutes when it was over, and the cast and I answered a few questions about how it was workshopped, and it was done.

I have a son now, and the hotel brought it back. I did a few other truly dumb things in my adolescence (later to be supplanted by the dumb things of the early 20s), most of them only self-wounding. But that particular event convinced me I never wanted to be in that kind of position again, suddenly close to genuine tragedy after coming in expecting a quiet, we-got-away-with-it lark. Decades later, no disrespect was intended. That sentiment wouldn't have mattered when faced with a drunk teen, but it went under the radar. Mea Culpa.
___________________________________________

I walked out of the hotel and towards Holy Trinity Church beside the Eaton's Centre. I was married there eleven years before and wanted to walk in for a few minutes. The doors were locked, which I attributed to the clearly marked hours of operation on the door rather than some divine statement, and thought about my wedding. My wife and I are still speaking to around 98% of the people who attended, an above-average ratio for such things in some quarters. There's been a lot of deaths - two grandmothers, my father, an aunt and an uncle and family friends. My mother's bout with cancer actually began almost a month to the day after the ceremony, and I can track the events after that with striking clarity. I try not to focus on it on the train ride home. Things were good at the wedding. It's enough to hold onto that on bad days.
____________________________________________

I get to work the next day and am hit by the location again. I lived at Yonge and Eglinton, had friends who worked there, spent an inordinate amount of money at used CD chops there and visited my father for lunch there for before he took a job further downtown. I walked around the area in shock for the first few days, not unpleasantly but heavily. I've seen the store change for decades now. I still look for Edwards bookstore or Fran's. I had a girlfriend with an apartment and a pool nearby, I remember the route I'd take late at night sheepishly looking for the last bus home. When I told Travis where I was working, he said "That place is like the Mafia, isn't it? Just when you think you're out, they keep draaaaaaging you back in..." and he's not without a point.

I can't find anywhere I lunched with my father. Restaurants in Toronto turn over frequently enough that almost anywhere I think of as comforting and holding memories of him is long gone. One exception; the Granite Brewery on Mt. Pleasant and I can't set foot in it without wondering if he was nearby, maybe have a beer and a Caesar salad, a steak sandwich. I'd rather remember than be reminded.

There's better stuff too, of course. My son's afternoon school is at St. Clair and Yonge. I can meet my wife for a quick lunch or cup of tea after she drops him off. I called her from my cell on my first week at work around 1:30pm.

She said, "I'm just dropping off Matthew."

I said, "I'm looking down Yonge St."

She said "I'm on Yonge St."

She was two subway stations and around 4km away at the top of a hill, invisible to the naked eye. But I said "I can see you" and felt a great wave of relief. The interal voice said You'll be okay, as things past and present shape themselves into the foundation I stand on. And as stated earlier, sometimes I even think I know what I'm doing. It doesn't last. But I do.



March, 2011

Friday, March 04, 2011

Spalding, Gone - 'And Everything Is Going Fine'



Most documentaries - even the good ones - will have a few moments of backstory in a formal ahem we're going to be exploring something here people sort of way to set up the next 90 minutes of programming. There's nothing wrong with that, and when properly applied it provides the context required to give the story it's due.

You have to be brave, utterly self-involved and indifferent to questioning masses to break that particular mold and it makes perfect sense that Steven Soderbergh has taken that approach to his Spalding Gray documentary And Everything Is Going Fine. Gray was brave, self-involved and indifferent to conventional audience expectations to his work (a few film ventures aside- he showed up in Beaches briefly, Garry Marshall being about as far from the Wooster Group as Bette Midler was from August Strindberg). I loved every frame of Soderbergh's film while not knowing if I can recommend it to anyone who's not familiar with Gray's life. It's all there, if you know how rather than where, to look; the Christian Scientist mother and WASPy upbringing in Providence, Rhode Island, the flailing of a young actor and the formation of the monologues that became his forum. It wouldn't be fair to call them his trademark; there are lots of monologists, few have ever nailed the form as honestly (often to a fault) as Spalding Gray.

If you need a précis, the film might not be for you. This doesn't mean that Soderbergh hasn't tried to make you welcome, it just means that the big finish occurs offscreen and it's that big finish that breaks the heart of every Gray afficinado who watches the film through watering eyes. The journey's more important than the increasingly inevitable destination; Gray's eventual fate was a motif that ran through all of his work, and seeing him succumbing to a not-quite-defined something near the end of the film is wrenching for everyone who knows how it comes to a close. Those in the know, know it. Those who aren't won't hear it from me.

If this all reads as overly cryptic, it's intended with respect. Soderbergh's tactic is to catch Gray at different points in his career through grainy video, shaky archival recordings and glossy network profiles that show him addressing the same points and memories from his life at different times in his life. Spalding in the early 80s might discuss his childhood backed up by a clip from Spalding in 2004 just after his accident in Ireland. It plays without the standard intro or narration or any additional context for those who don't know the basics, but even the uninitiated will be able to appreciate the wit and imagination of a born storyteller who transcended that particular cliché. By the time the clips become more recent and unrelentingly telling about his state of mind, it's impossible not to be struck with a sense of loss. Gray had a lot to give, a great deal of it screamingly funny and quietly, wrenchingly sad. It didn't have to end the way it did, but it's impossible to say that the seeds weren't planted a very long time ago.

I'm the perfect audience for And Everything is Going Fine. I was an actor when I saw Gray's first filmed monologue Swimming to Cambodia back in the 80s, I followed every cinematic and printed work he ever produced. A paramour in university told me once that I carried myself like Gray when I was acting and I took it as a great compliment, rather than worrying about the fact that I should be, you know, acting, rather than riffing on Spalding Gray. I knew everything before sitting down to watch Soderbergh's take on it all and still found myself in tears by the ending. I had an irrational, gut-response to it, not knowing if I wanted to horde every copy and distribute only to the Gray-faithful, or to hand it out at streetcorners along with copies of Swimming to Cambodia, Monster in a Box and Sex & Death to the Age 14.

I've decided to take a third option: if you don't know Spalding Gray from a hole in the ground, see the film and Google him after the fact. If you're a Gray admirer, watch it and prepare to see it all melt away again. Detractors are as welcome as well- you'll get to see the worst of Gray displayed alongside the best without a narrator or talking heads trying to justify it all. Viewers of all stripes are welcome to take away from it what they will. For my part, I simply felt shaken. Come back Spalding. All's forgiven. We miss you.


- March, 2011

Dear Doctor G - Charlie and the Squirrels

Dear Doctor G-

I’m not a follower of network TV, especially not Two and a Half Men which is a favourite of my 10yr old neighbor and my aunt in her mid-60s, thus representing the demographics so deeply desired by the producers. But the recent meltdown, weird self-aggrandizing and spectacularly unwise ramblings of the soon-to-be-bankrupt-or-institutionalized Charlie Sheen are not entirely dissimilar to those of a borderline sociopath I once knew (who I only believed to be eccentric, despite warnings from more perceptive souls) and the parallels are striking. At what point in one’s development is one supposed to stop believing that any level of karmic redress for past wrongs is past due? And does this have anything to do with the recent and exceedingly juvenile foundation of something referred to as Ford Nation by local enthusiasts, not to mention one’s recent discovery that a small family of squirrels have taken up residence in one’s attic, perhaps requiring an extension ladder, rat poison and application of chicken wire, putting yours truly into a lousy, put-upon mood? If one’s health is alright, one's child is developing at a steady rate, one's wife is happy with her job and one will be receiving a decent tax return, should one not stop flashing back to past exhibits of self-indulgent gonzo spurred by Charlie Sheen’s ramblings and delusions of grandeur?

Sincerely,
Boats Beating Ceaselessly Into the Past, in Toronto

____________________________________________________


Dear Boats Beating Ceaselessly Into the Past-

I fear that what you are experiencing has resulted from a trigger of sorts that, when pulled, fires a load of jagged memories from a wide-muzzled, psychological musket into the liquid, Narnia-like mirror that is your individual, pathos-laden, recollection or interpretation of people, places, and events, from a time when your future was, as penned and sung by the late and great Dr. Strummer of Drochaid a' Bhanna, unwritten.

Given the above, relatively simple diagnosis, my prognosis is for you to forego the application of poison within your domicile and seek out the services of a humane animal control professional who will gently remove the Tree-Ratticus With Good PR and relocate them to a more suitable environment. Conversely, you may initiate contact with a long lost misguided shooting enthusiast via a request to have him dispatch the family of squirrels with a borrowed pellet gun. Furthermore, I encourage you to put pen to keyboard and document this communiqué and resultant fallout in some sort of a public forum, perhaps a brochure or coloured pamphlet.

Yours in science and logic,

Doctor G

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Record (or why Bev Oda should lose her job)


Bev Oda. Darling Bev, I'm sure, to the fortunate few. Pride of Durham. And on December 9th, 2010, she was...well, let's avoid the lawyers and just say she was inaccurate in front of a standing committee. But don't take my word for it...

From the 'Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development'

John McKay questioning Bev Oda about the appearance of the word 'not' on a CIDA document that appeared to encourage funding for Kairos.

Hon. John McKay (Scarborough—Guildwood, Lib.): Madam Minister, you've just said that you signed off. You were the one--

Hon. Bev Oda (Minister of International Cooperation): I sign off on all of the documents.

McKay: Yes, and you were the one who wrote the “not”.

Oda: I did not say I was the one who wrote the “not”.

McKay: Who did, then?

Oda: I do not know.

McKay: You don't know?

Oda: I do not know.

Later in the same interview, she says:


Oda: I cannot say who wrote the “not”. However, I will tell you the ultimate decision reflects the decision of the minister and the government.

Ah, December. Now, from February 14th's Globe and Mail:

"International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda rose in the House of Commons Monday to admit that it was on her order that the word 'not' was inserted in a memo drafted by senior public servants recommending she approve new funding for the church-backed aid group Kairos.

Ms. Oda...merely reiterated her original response. 'I did not agree with the recommendation of the department. I have always acknowledged that it was my responsibility. I made the decision,' she said. 'I would never mislead this House.'"

The Post's coverage on the 15th gives a little more context:

Margaret Biggs, CIDA president, and Naresh Singh, the other CIDA official, both signed off on the positive recommendation for KAIROS before it was sent to Oda for approval and subsequently changed.

“The ‘not’ was inserted at my direction,”Oda said in the House of Commons Monday afternoon. “Given the way the document was formatted, allowing only for concurrence, this was the only way to reflect my decision.”

Oda said she was sorry if some were led to conclude that she and the department agreed on the funding decision. She also said the way the case has been handled, “including by myself, has been unfortunate.”

I'm obviously not a lawyer. I'm just trying to figure out what kind of legal advice she got before framing this as a "I never meant to..." situation. And I have three questions:

1. Technically, was she misleading the Committee, not the House proper, so she can get away with saying she'd 'never mislead this House?'

2. Since she said in so many words, "I do not know" in December when asked who wrote 'not' on the document, she has just come out as somebody who did not reveal the truth. Is "I do not know" different in legal terms than 'I didn't do it?' And if so, how can she exploit this?

3. Why does this woman still hold a cabinet position?

I'm indifferent to Kairos. I actually respect the idea that the government can fund who they want to as long as they are upfront about it. They're free to add/pull financing as long as they take the hit. But pulling this kind of stunt without censure or without somebody having the common decency to call it unacceptable or the sheer gall to say 'Yeah, she did it, so what?' is depressing to me. It's tantamount to having a free ride - the idea that you can mislead or outright lie to a committee and call it, somehow, a misunderstanding, while surrounded by people who shrug it off and change the subject. We do what we want, enjoy it or suck it up is somehow more fair than It never happened. At least you see it coming.

If Ignatieff and Layton and even freakin' Duceppe don't call this out as an atrocity, I'm voting for Harper out of sheer spite. Better the devil you know then the devil who can't be bothered to phone it in.


Feb, 2011.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Diplomacy

Where have you been?

Launching an intranet in a new job. Complicated, but not impossible. Just not the kind of thing where I want to come home and spend more time on a computer.

Isn't that what you've always done? So write about intranets.

Who'd want to read it?

That's stopped you, previously?

Point taken.

Write about something that sticks in your head.

__________________________________


Just the one thing tonight, something dropped by Rick (aka the DI) a long time ago when I was talking about holding a grudge. "That's one hell of a long tail to drag around waiting for somebody to step on, my friend."

Indeed. I was having lunch with Walter, a co-worker from a past job. He was looking to start a fight with somebody we'd both worked with in the past and I wouldn't take the bait. The somebody in question wasn't in that pub with us having a second pint of Stella, and I didn't feel like stabbing him in the back when his back was already just something to be glimpsed in a rear-view mirror.

"I think you could have been treated better," said Walter, "whether it's because you didn't stand up for yourself or if you were being screwed, I don't know. But you're smart. People appear to like you, damned if I know why. So you were screwed. Why not admit you were screwed and let him hav it, it's not like you're going to lose anything."

It wouldn't gain anything, either; I don't buy into somebody else's low-level discontent, even when it's skewed in my direction (Walter's a decent guy and his concern was genuine). I finally told him this: I answered to two managers that past job, at different times in different departments. On two occasions, there was a sudden death in my family. The first manager literally said "Go home. Call us when it's settled, take your time. I'm sorry for your loss."

The second manager was no less concerned on a personal level, but ran by the book. I told him about the death and he said "Do you know when the funeral is? Are you going to be heading out of town? You might want to call Richard to see if he can watch things for you. And maybe Carol on the West coast. Will it be more than two days? I think we can arrange something. Will you be gone tomorrow, or is the funeral later this week? I've got your mobile number and look forward to seeing you on Thursday, of course if something comes up I'm..."

Neither party was unsympathetic. Both acted within the confines of the terms and conditions of that job. Both offered a professional response. I simply know which one I appreciated more, which one made the experience easier for me. I won't praise one or call the other callous because it doesn't matter; it was two interpretations of the rules. For that matter, I won't absolve the one that didn't help as much simply because he was following orders, I just won't blame him for it. One approach made an already tense situation more tense. The other made it easier. Full stop. I can't change my response but it isn't worth complaining since we all knew the rules when we walked in.

Walter wanted a complaint voiced, processed and buried, but it wouldn't help. Not now. For me, its nothing more than a situation that was handled differently by two people. And, in every sense, it is over and done.

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