December 31, 2005

There are always lessons to be learned

You know, when Nadia's here, I'm the healthful one; I insist on salads with dinner, organic foods, lots of water, and homemade lunches. While she's been in Mexico, for some reason, I've been a complete hog: takeout dinners, snacks and way too much coffee.

Last night it was the inevitable pit at the bottom of the downward dietary spiral: I ate a dinner of, of all things, Sun Chips and M&Ms. I had some treats in my grocery bag, and inadvertantly ate too many of 'em on the way home -- when I arrived, I found I wasn't hungry.

Granola and banana breakfast this morning didn't help. I feel rather, well, gross.

Happy new year!

December 26, 2005

Te extraño, mi amorcito...

My wife is visiting family in Monterrey for the holidays.

We have a typical relationship in that she's the one who likes to keep things in the apartment neat and orderly, and I have a slovenly side. So I was looking forward to relaxing on the military efficiency that normally governs our cleaning schedule. I never let the kitchen get out of hand -- food odours have always disgusted me. A newspaper on the sofa, however, does not drive me crazy. Where my backpack and shoes land after coming home is up to fate. Making the bed is not now, nor will it ever be, a priority.

In short, I approached the visit with a slice of sophomoric anticipation: of course I would miss her, but I was looking forward to having the apartment to myself for a few days.

It's been what, four days since she departed. Two of those days I spent with my family celebrating Christmas Eve and the Big Day itself. I've been home a total of 24 hours since her plane departed, 16 of those sleeping. Damned if I don't miss her markedly, already. And embarrassingly, the apartment has also managed to become a disaster in a very short time.

It hasn't devloved into high school style slobbery, but the order I've become used to has definitely suffered some. Clothes on the floor, books strewn everywhere, and the first signs of chaos are taking hold. I was planning on a day's cleaning on the eve of Nadia's return; I find myself thinking of a general clean instead of the opening game of the World Juniors. What the hell is up with that?

December 12, 2005

December 11, 2005

Dental woes (plural)

I recently had my first root canal -- while it wasn't all the painful hell I'd expected, it was far from pleasant. What I didn't know was, the entire content of a tooth's pulp getting cleaned out and replaced by plastic rods wasn't The Worst Part (TM). That lucky title comes several appointments later, and goes to the preparation for placing the crown upon said tooth.

Apparently, in about 25% of cases, there needs to be something called crown lengthening. Some people, like the young lady featured in the before and after pictures of this link, have crown lengthening performed on many teeth at once for esthetic reasons. I, like many root canal patients, needed it to prepare for crown placement.

You see, when I was a lad, I had many amalgam fillings placed in my molars. Of course, in the last ten years, they've posited that the mercury content in run-of-the-mill amalgam is cause for everything from kidney failure to parapsychotic episodes. (My wife, luckily, doesn't read Scientific American, or she'd probably be able to use all that silver in my mouth as grounds for divorce.)

Anyway, what they do is, they scalpel the meat perpendicular to the gumline for a few millimetres, the peel it away from the tooth. If that weren't enough, they then shave the jawbone to meet the contour of the tooth. After all of this, they sew the gum back together, minus that millimetre or two of flesh. Probably the most disconcerting parts of the procedure itself were aural: the sounds produced by the grinder and suction taking away bits of jaw-meat are nothing less than gruesome.

Here's a pretty extreme look at what I had done -- mine was only the width of one or two molars, with a single stitch to close it up. Still, under the bubble-gum pack that acts as a mouthal bandaid, this is what I have goin' on to the immediate stage right of my tongue.



Yay me!

December 3, 2005

Talented, but he was a mean little man

While I've never been much of a poetry aficionado, the life stories of these classic poets are almost all as fascinating as stink.

Alexander Pope (21 May 1688 - 21 May 1744)

As far as being a successful writer goes, Pope was born to all kinds of disadvantage. His father was a cloth merchant in London; although the family was certainly not poor, Pope was always ashamed of his family's lack of gentility -- reports differ as to his father's status, with some saying he was merely a salesman.

In an England of extreme anti-Catholic sentiment, both Pope's parents were Catholic -- this meant substandard schooling for the most part. Pope was taught to read by an aunt, and given lessons in both Greek and Latin by Taverner, a Romish priest. Catholic schools were allowed to exist in some places; At Twyford, where he wrote his first vicious satire, about the school master, he was summarily "whipped and ill-used", and thus only lasted a year. Around 1700, when Pope was still a pre-teen, a statute forbade Catholics from living in or near London or Westminster. The Popes moved to Binfield in Berkshire, from whence Pope became self-taught.

As well, he suffered from health problems, including a form of TB that deformed his spine and made him a physical pariah as well. He never exceeded 1.4 m (about 4'6"), nor did he ever marry. He was wracked with migraines for most of his life.

Despite his youth, he was introduced to the London literary set around 1704 by William Wycherley, a well-connected but only somewhat successful poet of the day. His first public accolades stemmed from Pastorals, published in 1709. In 1711, An Essay on Criticism brought him a lot of attention, and The Rape of the Lock, his most popular and enduring work, was published the following year.

He was exceedingly nasty in his work, and along with Jonathan Swift was considered to be the primary critical eye of his time. Pope regularly slammed people publicly, as often naming them explicitly as using pseudonyms. The most interesting work in my opinion was 1728's The Dunciad, a piece written as a what he called a "satire on Dulness", that very powerfully blasted many popular writers. He extended his metaphor -- of dull conversation, writing and thought at battle with reason and intelligence -- into a parody of the Aenid (which itself is the Latin answer to the Greek Odyssey).

Like in those classical epics, a great contest is held to find the greatest hero -- in this case, the writer who can urinate most powerfully. Eliza Haywood, who enjoys a resurgence of respect today, but was considered by "real" writers to be pedestrian at best, is offered as a prize: The winner will receive Eliza ". . . a Juno of majestic size / With cow-like-udders, and with ox-like eyes" (II 155-6). Some have suggested her treatment by Pope led to a reduction in her creative output; still others have postulated his rough hand was inspired by a crush of sorts. Either way, he seems a petty little man to me. Full portents of The Dunciad

Pope's fame was secured by his translations of The Odyssey and The Iliad -- he was reportedly the first British poet able to survive on royalties alone (with no prince or earl necessary to keep, sponsor or employ him).

In about 1713, Pope formed the Scriblerus Club with Swift, John Gay, John Arbuthnot and Thomas Parnell. I'd like to read more about them -- they sound like an interesting bunch, sort of a precursor to Dorothy Parker's Vicious Circle. They wrote a piece or two under the collaborative pseudonym Martinus Scriblerus.

Pope lived and worked in Twickenham for the last 27 years of his life. He continued to publish until his death in 1744; he died on his 56th birthday.

November 25, 2005

An Ode to Ms Mitchell

Here I am, trying to do the last paper for my English Lit course -- of course, I do so at Tree's on Granville -- and just when I was about to quit in frustration, the mic stand & speakers go up and it's acoustic singer girls!

Annie Becker comes up first, typical coffee shop singer-songwriter, Feist-esque vocals and understated guitar -- she opens with a bouncy version of The Way You Look Tonight. Nicely done, I think; I don't usually hear versions of that one that aren't mostly melancholy.

They haven't started yet, but Carly Jepsen and Che Dorval are up next. Nothing gets me out of a funk like a gal and a guitar. :D I need to go home and play me some Joni Mitchell.

November 19, 2005

Mandatory Potter geek-out

Okay, okay. I've mentioned my Potterhead status before. I'm not proud of it, but there it is.

Keeping in line with it, then, the wife and I hit Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire tonight. Here's what I thought:

spoiler alert

I've been less than impressed with the first three installments, so tonight's viewing of Goblet of Fire came as a pleasant surprise. Thanks to a useful change of director, improved acting chops in our group of child actors, and some merciful edits to keep JK Rowling's many rabid fans on their toes, it's by far the most entertaining of the series.

Case in point: The opening 20 minutes of the film wisely leave out a lot of the detail that deserves to be "book only" material. The book's playful approach to the Quidditch World Cup, for example, would have been pointless on film; better to give that screen time to the darker stuff to come.

Ditto, the elimination of the house elf liberation thing. In the book, Hermione spends a lot of time and effort trying to free Hogwart's many house elves from servitude. Director Mike Newell and screenwriter Steve Kloves, recognising that globe-eyed Dobby was the Jar Jar Binks of Potter movie number three, cleverly decided to write that entire storyline out, using another of this book’s shady characters to pick up the mysterious slack.

One addition to the first task in the tournament is especially likeable. Chase scenes are easier to do on celluloid than paper, and this is no different. As the Hungarian Horntail claws his way to Harry, many in the cinema were joyfully on the edges of their seats. This picture also answers a question many readers have had since book four came out: how can the tournament spectators see the contestants when they're under water or in a giant hedge maze? (The answer: they can't. Wizard spectator sports seem strangely to lean toward large gatherings of people just hanging out until a winner pops up out of the ground.)

The bad guys have precious little to do in this film, but shine when they get the spotlight. Ralph Fiennes, as He Who Must Not Be Named himself, hisses with glee during his closeup scene with Radcliffe. He’s appropriately nasty, and obviously had a tonne of fun despite acting with only a serpent’s slits in place of his nose. Radcliffe, for his part, holds fairly well with the Oscar-winner. (If only Michael Gambon was as up to snuff, now that the original Dumbledore, Richard Harris, has passed on. Gambon is too twitchy to pull off the master wizard, who for all his outward bumbling should seem unflappable.)

The biggest beef is just that; there's too much beef! These 14-year-old boys sure have big arms! They'd better make the next two films pretty quick-like if they want to get Harry through his sixth year before a full beard sets in.

November 13, 2005

Walmart -- devil's advocation vs blind optimism

My positionally waffling comment on Briana's Walmart post was so long I decided to post it here, too.

Background: Briana, as always, spots the best blog stuff. She got this via Susie Bright: Walmart has fired an employee named Kirby for his reply to a right-wing Christian woman's complaint over the company's change from "Merry Christmas" to "Happy Holidays".

Kirby took the time to write this Bible-thumper a response that explained, rightly, how the Christian holiday was originally a mishmash of other faiths' traditions:

"The colors associated with Christmas red-and-white are actually a representation of the amanita muscaria mushroom," he wrote her. "Santa is borrowed from the Caucuses, mistletoe from the Celts, yule log from the Goths, the time from the Visigoth and the tree from the worship of Baal. It is a wide, wide world."

There are some interesting comments on both Susie's and Briana's blogsites. Most of them label Walmart as pure evil; I share the sentiment, but have a few bits of 'for the sake of argument' opinion to share, too.

First, my court-mandated Devil’s Advocate work. Walmart makes a big effort to employ those who can’t gete decent work elsewhere: mentally and physically challenged, seniors, teens. Also, from what I understand, their starting wages are higher than, say, Subway or McDonald’s (which, to be fair, also offers some people half-decent career opportunities, should they stay on past the typical high school years-tour). There's a young gentleman I've worked with at Douglas College who is, for lack of nicer terms, a little bit slow. He's nice enough, but due to a congenital condition, his social skills are left a little bit wanting, and his appearance is best described as "a defeated sigh, personified". This young man was slowly cycling deeper and deeper into a clinical depression until he got a job at Walmart -- for the first time in his life, he was given responsibility, a chance to challenge himself, and the structure within which he could achieve some career aspirations. Walmart, to risk trite exaggeration, probably saved his life.

As for big box stores taking away from community, I wholeheartedly agree — they’re a special sickness that people in future classes will scoff at when they study our times. However, I feel the same way about shopping malls, and those proliferate like cockroaches throughout the downtown area. When I walk through a shopping mall, I get jittery fluorescent lighting, ceaseless marketing stimuli, and the same stores selling the same stuff regardless of which mall I visit.

Here lies the great hypocrisy of the “upward-thinking” academics who eschew Walmart. They scoff at fast-food franchises and turn their nose from Walmart or Zellers. On the other hand, they make regular trips to Pacific Centre or one of its sister facilities. Why not boycott shopping malls, strip malls, and while we're at it, the upscale chain restaurants, too?

I honestly feel that the biggest crime these big companies commit — usually American, although working for a Korean-owned company I see it’s not limited to the Yanks — is that they have a complete lack of human compassion involved in their treatment of employees, the community and, I know it sounds strange, the competition.

Sure, I talked about the less-fortunate getting jobs; however, it seems this is a business ploy rather than a genuine attempt to help the community. Think about it -- who would appreciate a repetitive job for years at a time (thus reducing training budgets) at a relatively low long-term wage more than mentally challenged people? Just going from studies here, seniors are often just happy to have a job that gets them out of the house and in contact with others. Employers who hire people from marginalised groups get government handouts to do so -- not to mention the tax benefits of being involved in these communities.

Back to the inspiration for all of this discussion: This person who wrote about Christmas got fired, not for speaking the truth, but for not towing the company line. However, what this person actually did was use their studies to justify a marketing call. From what I can see, the response wasn’t rude or condescending, so much as educated and explanatory. Walmart let the employee go for being well-versed enough to explain their corporate strategy in a way that wasn’t dumbed down — Walmart’s reason is just, “to bring all cultures into the store.” This guy was actually trying to share something Walmart doesn’t want employees, and most important, customers, to have: knowledge.

Customers seem to get a good deal, at first. As one person has suggested, Walmart offers quality brand names at discounted prices. They offer free RV parking, discounted pharmaceuticals to seniors, even some regionally made goods to a wider audience. Until, that is, the competition shuts down.

The pattern is well-documented: a Walmart builds in a location (most often a smaller community) amid local furore and dispute. A short period of boycott is ended when shoppers discover the deeply slashed prices and “special treatment”. Local stores are driven out of business by Walmart’s sheer volume and deep pockets. (The big box store, in fact, utilises many loss leaders — that is, products sold below the store’s cost — to bring customers through the door; small shops just can’t compete.) Once all comers have been dispatched, Walmart starts to increase their prices and decrease their special services. With no other stores in operation, and none likely to risk head-to-head competition in the future, Walmart is now free to do what they will with their now-captive consumer base.

The consumers, of course, have no recourse. They’ve dug their own grave: they’ve ruined their own local economy and lost the option of competitive pricing by turning away their loyalty from the old, smaller shops; they’ve essentially aided the corporate giant in establishing a monopoly, and now must pay for it, literally, through higher prices and limited choices.

(For those of you who don't feel like doing the reading or social activism necessary to get more information, there's now a convenient, left-wing movie you can watch! Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Prices is available on DVD for $13 US, or, hilariously, you can attend a screening hosted by the same COPE-majority Vancouver city council, for the low price of $20 Cdn!!!)

As for East Vancouver, I’m of a split mind on this one: while city council delivered a blow to Walmart (which companies like this need once in a while, methinks), they did so at the cost of the giant’s concessions. The new big box would have been the most ecologically-friendly Walmart in the chain, and a blueprint for future, better-designed stores. If only all the shopping malls were green-roofed and charity-supporting, for example. Also, as Briana suggests, East Van could use a few more jobs for locals.

And what many people aren’t asking: if Walmart couldn’t get approval, why is the biggest Costco in Canada being built in Yaletown?

November 10, 2005

Root canal, yay!

Today I had my first root canal.

The process itself wasn't exactly painful -- they shot my lower jaw up with about sixty-eight needles -- but now I'm nursing a horrible migraine trying to get through my classical studies lecture.

Yowza, does taking a work hoe to the pulp of a tooth ever smite a guy!

November 6, 2005

Apotropaicism unleashed!

A while ago, largely due to my full-fledged double membership in the Word Nerd Club (TM) and Grammar Geek Association (TM), I started referring to my word power as Old Man River.

Okay, maybe a little background is necessary here. I teach English to foreign students, and many of them seem to think that if they work hard enough, they'll simply memorise enough words to become fluent. They come to Canada, lists of words clutched tightly in their fists, desperately trying to access vocabulary in their brains, computer style, to devise wholly incomprehensible sentences.

Asian students, especially, are taught foreign languages in their public school systems the same way they're taught mathematics. They insist upon formulae, beg for repetition, find solace in rote. It's like the method my secondary school used for French -- which by the way failed miserably: the only thing I can say is, "Les pamplemousses sont sur la table," and trust me, you just don't have a lot of true, contextual opportunities to work "The grapefruit are on the table" into conversation. Rote is almost completely eschewed in favour of more natural, conversational methods nowadays.

All the things we don't do to learn our native tongues, for some reason, have almost total sway in English as a Foreign Language study overseas today.

So I try to explain to my students that language acquisition isn't formulaic at all. It's organic, unpredictable, even sporadic. It's reliant upon experience rather than repetition; it thrives in a varying environment, rather than a stale, predictable one.

I give them examples of my own situation. I'm a native speaker, a writer, a wordsmith. Still, I encounter new phrases, idiomatic expressions and jargon on a daily basis. I'm a stickler for appropriate usage, and hate to see lazy spelling and incorrect punctuation. I can't stand it when people mix up affect and effect, confuse its and it's, or misspell definitely. (There is NOT an 'a' in that word, okay? It comes from finite, not finate!!!) Anyway, I ask my students, do these things mean I can spell diarrhoea without a dictionary? Most definitely not. (See? No 'a' anywhere in there!)

Case in point: I came across the word apotropaic the other day, and could only guess what it meant: "While many people focus on the ancient Greeks offering animals to the gods for apotropaic reasons, few realise that the bits offered for sacrifice were in fact the worst cuts of meat."

Turns out it's an adjective (okay, I guessed that) that according to better dictionaries means, "designed to ward off, or deter, evil; giving the owner or bearer good luck." So anyone with a favourite sweater, first date underwear, or a particularly sentimental piece of jewellery: they've in their hands an item with apotropaic properties.

So, Old Man River, you ask? What does a barrel-chested black man singing slowly have to do with this post? Well, my vocabularly is a little like Old Man River; no matter how many words I get, there's always another to conquer. There's no standing still here folks; you gotta keep on keepin' on, right? Thus, with the addition of things like apotropaic, my word power, here poorly equated to the Showboat showstopper, just keeps rollin' along.

Pronunciation: ah-paw-tro-PAY-ic -- enjoy, my friends, and I hope you will, literally, spread the word!

November 2, 2005

I'm so predictable

Okay, I admit it: I've got a thing for the Sterling Shoe girl. There's something about the catlike construction of her face, or maybe the fact that she's plastered all over every bus in the city. Either way, it's as embarrassing as a massive zit on the end of your nose the day of a big date, or crying out the wrong name at just the wrong moment.

October 26, 2005

Agamemnon, Iphigenaeia and Klytemnestra, oh my!

I've just finished reading Agamemnon, an ancient Greek text (well, the text I read was translated into English but you get the idea), for a class at UBC.

It's not got the same creepy quality as some texts we've covered (like, say, Oedipus the King), but it's heavy stuff.

Agamemnon, on his way to the Trojan War, sacrificed his daughter Iphigenaeia while asea to appease the gods and receive favourable winds for his ships. Ten years and horrible losses later, he returned home to a hate-filled marriage -- in fact, his "long-suffering wife" (Klytemnestra) had long-since shacked up with a lesser man (Aegisthus). She promptly knifed Agamemnon as soon as he got home. The chorus (you know, the omnipresent group of old men that speaks as a group in Greek drama) spends most of the time bemoaning the circle of revenge, asking "when does it end?"

While we didn't have to read further, the sequel to this play has their son, Orestes, come home to avenge his father's death by killing both the murderous wife and her lover.

Anyway, add this to the Iliad of Homer that I'm currently halfway through, and there's a lot of bloodletting, bronze-tipped spears splitting lips, and gilded armour clattering around falling bodies of late.

Anyone suggest a good comedy?

October 19, 2005

Unsure what to feel

I got mugged of all things on Sunday night.

A street guy with screwdriver in hand and a red hoody over his face steered me off the sidewalk as I was on my way to the bank to make a small deposit. (Only $100, so I'm not out much cash...) It all took about twelve seconds, but I've spent three days repeating my story to a couple of different police officers. Needless to say, I've been asked about it a million times at work, too.

No injuries or wounds to report, thankfully -- the police specifically asked, "Are you injured?" -- "No." -- "Wounded. Are you wounded?" -- "No."

When you've just reported an assault, what would the technical difference be between the two of them, do you think? If I had been wounded, wouldn't I have mentioned that upon answering the injury question? "I didn't mention the large, bloody stab wound 'cos you only asked if I was injured."

Sheesh.

October 2, 2005

Leacock rocks

Going through some papers, and found some scraps worth sharing before they hit the recycle bin. The first are some notes I took this summer when I was contemplating my return to school. As mentioned here, I have since re-enrolled at UBC; sadly, I'm only enjoying one of my two courses.

Stephen Leacock, Canadian humourist extraordinaire, continues to amaze even 61 years after his passing. No wonder our award for work in funny, capital L literature bears his name.

Two bits of brilliance from the preface of Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town, the main text of which is largely considered to be:

I was what is called a distinguished graduate, and, as such, I took to school teaching as the only trade I could find that needs neither experience nor intellect.

Many of my friends are under the impression that I write these humorous nothings in idle moments when the wearied brain is unable to perform the serious labours of the economist. My own experience is exactly the other way. The writing of solid, instructive stuff fortified by facts and figures is easy enough. There is no trouble in writing a scientific treatise on the folk-lore of Central China, or a statistical enquiry into the declining population of Prince Edward Island. But to write something out of one's own mind, worth reading for its own sake, is an arduous contrivance to be achieved in fortunate moments, few and far between. Personally, i would sooner have written 'Alice in Wonderland' than the whole Encyclopaedia Britannica

September 30, 2005

100 things... part I

I know there are a lot of memes out there; normally I eschew involvement in a desperate, ritualistic attempt to lower my position as yet another social sheep. However, this post has shown me the error of my ways. If this interesting, intelligent and world-wary woman can do it, dammit, I can too.

So here goes: 100 things about Jason Kurylo

1. I like cheese.
2. I teach English.
3. I'm also a writer.
4. I live in Yaletown, Vancouver, BC.
5. I'm fiercely proud to be Canadian.
6. I, with my ex, placed a little girl for adoption in 1996.
7. I was born in 1971.
8. I've been to Japan, many parts of Canada, several parts of the United States, and Mexico.
9. I own approximately 983 CDs.
10. For two years in my early 20s I did standup comedy. (I even got paid for it a few times.)
11. Despite (or possibly because of) a frightening amount of pop culture knowledge, I've been embarrassingly underexposed to classic literature, art and music.
12. Because my cranium has been used in this manner, I can name every one of the regular characters from The Facts of Life.
13. Sadly, I can also name the actors who portrayed them.
14. My favourite film (at the moment) is Fight Club.
15. My paternal grandparents came to Canada from Ukraine in 1928.
16. My maternal grandfather was born in Southey, to Austrian parents; my maternal grandmother was from Walsall, England.
17. My father was born in Mannville, Alberta; he was one-third of the first triplets ever born there.
18. I was born in the Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster, BC. This is the same hospital where my mother was born.
19. I prefer cats to dogs.
20. I like candy coffee.
21. I'm a vigilant anti-smoker (not just a non-smoker; I actually consider myself a bit of a crusader in this matter.
22. I have been known to melt when faced with blue eyes under dark hair.
23. In 2005, I hiked the West Coast Trail; this was a lifelong dream come true.
24. I can't swim worth a damn.
25. I can't skate worth a damn.
26. I can't ski or snowboard worth a damn.
27. I have (honestly) never cheated on my wife.
28. I have a long history of not finishing my....
29. My favourite song, at the moment, is 1942's Don't Get Around Much Anymore, which was written by Bob Russel and composed by Duke Ellington.
30. My favourite coffee shop is Trees on Granville Street.
31. My friend Jamie and I have a half-finished musical comedy eternally bubbling on the back burner.
32. My Spanish is atrocious, but I'm learning.
33. The only sentence I feel comfortable uttering in French translates as 'The grapefruit is on the table.'
34. I have been able to use the aforementioned French sentence once in context.
35. I was ecstatic for days afterward.
36. I hate when people confuse its and it's.
37. Ditto, they're, their and there
38. I have only recently learned to control impulse spending.
39. Remaining lifelong dream #378: trekking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu.
40. I don't believe in fate.
41. I closely resemble my mother's brother, Brian.
42. My favourite book, today anyway, is The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood.
43. I have frequently been compared, physically, to Keifer Sutherland.
44. I moonlight as the announcer for the Douglas College Royals basketball and volleyball teams.
45. My wife is from Monterrey, Mexico.
46. My super power of choice would be invisibility.
47. While I'm not a big fan of feces, the word 'poop' fascinates me.
48. In response to the corporate BS that transpired last year, I am on strike as a pro hockey fan. I will not buy a ticket, souvenir or otherwise spend a single dime supporting the NHL this season. This rule stays in effect no matter how far the Canucks go in the playoffs.
49. I will, however, go to university, amateur and junior games; I hate the bastards who have turned the NHL into little more than a series of annual reports, but I still love the game.
50. It will probably take me six months to sit down and complete the second half of this list.

September 22, 2005

Comment spam

Okay, so I've now figured out how to prevent comment spam -- how annoying is it that the few people who might read my blog will now have to type in a verification word to say hi -- but I don't know how to go back and delete the old pieces of unwanted shite on my last post.

Got advice?

September 21, 2005

Damned memes. At least this one's book-related.

Briana tagged me. I hate memes as a rule, but like both books and Briana.

# of Books I Own:
Eternally more than I can read but fewer than I'd like to have on hand. Enough to overflow two bookshelves, fill up three corners of the bedroom, and fill my work supply area and classroom supply cabinet to the gills.

Last Book I Bought:
Like the goddess Briana, I rarely leave a bookshop with a single tome in my hands. The last visit garnered The Odyssey by Homer (translated by the unfortunate-last-named Robert Fagles, which I'm ebarrassed to admit I've not read before (in verse or prose). I also walked out with two essays, one by a philosopher, the other by a historical linguist: the former, a brilliant treatise on the formation of politically correct, craptastic politeness, On Bullshit by Henry Frankfurt.

The latter,The Solid Form of Language by Robert Bringhurst, starts out strong, equating a single spoken word to a pebble dropped in still water. Concentric ripples of definition move outward, challenging a listener to instantaneously interpret these spreading waves and determine individual meaning before witnessing and calculating the exponentially-increasing interactions between this single word and the whirlpools of wake caused by its simultaneously-uttered brethren. Considering how we take our daily conversations for granted, the vision of everyday speech as whitecapped pond of confusion in which we somehow divine meaning is an eye opener.

Unfortunately, this promising, almost poetic start proceeds to deliquesce into a fair-to-middlin' history of the written word. Lingual topics fascinate me, but continual lists of fact with minimal observation or metaphor mire the central text deep down the Academic So What river. I'm only impressed with your research skills if you can give me continued reason to listen to you show off. Still, the first part, anyway, is well worth the read.

5 Books That Mean(t) A Lot To Me:
On any given day, I might remember this list a little differently, but each of these had a profound effect on me at the time I read 'em.

Watership Down - Richard Adams
Strangely, I didn't read this until after my 30th birthday; still, I felt like a wee lad from the time I cracked the spine 'til the time I insisted my friend Denise give it a try. Amazing how Adams so successfully created not just a story involving rabbits, but a fully believable set of cultures, including varying beliefs regarding family, community, theology and fate. The levels at which the tale works are singularly impressive.

The Dark Knight Returns - Frank Miller
Miller (probably known best at this time for his Sin Citygraphic novel-cum-storyboards) single-handedly revitatlised a tired comic book industry with his 1980s Batman revamp. This mini-series was anything but mini, as he led a veritable attack on what old-school comics writers and artists had done to the stock characters young boys had come to know and love. Batman started nearly 75 years ago as a dark, mysterious, psychopathic vigilante. In the 60s and 70s he was softened and lampooned by writers trying to escape the serious issues of the day (Human Rights, Vietnam, Cold War, etc.), not to mention mediocre pencils and overly bright inks. Batman had become a joke, a self-referential caricature -- "Holy Scriptures, Batman!" -- and the Dark Knight came along and tore it all down. In a nutshell, Frank Miller came along and re-invented the English comic medium.

A Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood
In my youth I read everything I could get my hands on. High school proceeded to beat that instinct out of me -- irrelevant texts, even more irrelevant teachers, and, to be honest, the discovery of girls all conspired to tear me away from the printed page for nigh on five or six years. It was Atwood's outstanding tale of a woman trapped in a nightmarish post-apocalyptic patriarchy that brought me back into the fold. Bookworms unite!

Et Tu, Babe? - Mark Leyner
I've long considered my sense of humour to be equal parts silliness, stupidity, absurdity and triviality. This was a source of self-doubt for a long time (and continues to vex in one way: why can't I remember what Eli Whitney did -- well, okay, he invented the cotton gin, but who the hell knows what that is? -- but I have at my disposal all the names of the Facts of Life girls, and the actresses who played them?) That said, Leyner's absolute disregard for linear storytelling is something I admire more than a large, stately respectable thing. Pop cultured academia married clever turn of phrase, and begat trivial, nonsensical roadmaps of double entendre. At one point, the main character instigates a highly militarised breakin at the Smithsonian Institute for the sole purpose of stealing a vial of Abraham Lincoln's morning breath -- due, of course, to its renown as the single most intense hallucinogenic substance in the known universe. Brilliant.

Five People I Now Name As 'Tagged'
As I've always hated memes, I've never felt comfortable tagging people. Still, I suppose it's part of the gig, yeah? Should these folks read this, they are now downtown Tagville. To hit city limts sooner than later, I recommend the E Street bus.

Rob ert
Sharon (Hola Miss Twiss!)
Erin-go-blog
Amanda (I love the smell of napalm in the mourning.)
Paul (I don't care if he is in Costa Rica -- the bastard)

September 12, 2005

West Coast Trail: Preamble

Jamie and I recently completed a 10-day hike of the West Coast Trail: a 75-kilometre stretch of beach and inland trail on the -- wait for it -- west coast of Vancouver Island. Inspired by the WCT Mudhounds, I thought I'd keep a daily journal and post each day to the blog upon my return. Photos will follow as soon as I can get a CD burned; Jamie's got almost 300 high res pictures on his digicam, but we haven't hooked up since we got back the day before Labour Day. Until I can get our ugly mugs online, check out this very well-done page of WCT photography: Blue Peak Travel Photography.

It was an amazing trek, one that I'd repeat in a heartbeat. Spectacular landscapes, from tide pools and wild sandstone sculpted by decades of the Pacific Ocean's constant pounding, to miles of mud and muck held together by knotted root systems to make Tolkien proud. Impressive manmade structures continually reminded us that the Trail isn't quite wilderness, from ingeniously designed ladders, swing bridges and cable cars to remnants of the nigh on 100 shipwrecks that have met a watery grave along this treacherous bit of coast.

I spent over $700 on my kit prior to going, as the last few jaunts I’ve made have involved borrowed gear and second-rate clothes. Still, I wasn’t happy with my preparation for the rain; I was lucky we only had four days of precip during our trek. It rained on six or seven of our ten nights, but Jamie's tent held out nicely. We agreed heartily, Mother Nature was welcome to piss on our tent fly any night she wanted as long as she stayed asleep during the day -- for most of the trip, she obliged kindly.

Obligatory warning: While it wasn’t exactly as hard as I’d anticipated, this was not an easy hike in the woods. I highly recommend anyone with an eye for scenery and an appreciation for Mother Nature consider doing the Trail. However, if you’re thinking of the WCT at all, please make sure you are in good physical condition and properly decked out in clothing, shelter, food and safety equipment.

We saw a lot of people who weren’t physically, psychologically, or logistically prepared for what they’d gotten themselves into. Between 70 and 130 emergency evacuations take place on the WCT every year, ranging in severity from a seriously sprained ankle to damaged vertebrae and broken necks. You will not find much sympathy for being cold, wet or blistered if you get yourself in over your head. Be prepared!

Within the next few days, I'll start posting my daily Trail diary. Hopefully there will be a few pictures in accompaniment, if not sooner, then later.

Until then, adieu!

September 8, 2005

Literally two minutes away...

I'm back from 10 days hiking the West Coast Trail, and am literally two minutes away from starting my first class at UBC since 1990. That's right: fifteen years away from the university experience, and I'm jumping into a *grunt* first year Classical Studies class.

I'm not the oldest in the room. Two or three folks look to be taking advantage of the free tuition for seniors rule; most of the rest are looking very young. Should be interesting, albeit trying at times. I suppose it depends on how much I put the blinders on for others' lack of life experience.

Any way I look at it, it should be interesting to finally look at some classical literature and culture.

August 5, 2005

20 minutes into the future...

For some reason I've had Max Headroom on my mind of late.



Anyone know if and when this great sci-fi show (about a short-sighted, mostly evil television station; ironically the real show was cancelled by the short-sighted, mostly evil TV station that commissioned it) will be released on DVD?

July 18, 2005

Mr T will never go out of style

This is nothing short of priceless: Mr T - Treat Your Mother Right. (Link courtesy of growabrain.)

Even better than the atrocious song itself, or Mr T's pained I-can't-believe-my-15-minutes-is-up-this-quickly expression? Those tight, camoflage shorts.

Ahhhhh, the 80s were fuuuuuun.

July 12, 2005

Okay, I'm a Potterhead

Look, I'm not proud of it, okay?

I'm one of the bazillion people who's already paid for the next in JK Rowling's series of uber-sellers about underage wizards. It's not child pornography, but the lengths to which Potterheads will go in predicting the contents of book number six seem to border on the obscene if you ask me.

Today's headlines about a handful of books being sold prematurely from a grocery store in Coquitlam bothered me. Not because this minor event garnered front page press around the globe when those behind the bombings in London haven't been unmasked just yet. Nope. I was upset because I'm jealous of those 14 lucky S.O.B.s who got grubby paws on The Half-Blood Prince.

As you can see from my reading list on the right of this page, a good deal of my spare time of late has been spent revisiting young Mr Potter and his magical training. I've already paid for and expect to pick up Friday night after taking the wife to a late movie -- and I'm steaming because I didn't happen to win some consumer lottery to learn the next fictional exploits of The Boy Who Lived a full three days earlier than the rest of the world.

This, despite the fact that I have approximately 100 books on my shelf that have never been so much as inspected, let alone cracked or, gods forbid, perused. This, despite the dozen or so borrowed volumes that dot my apartment, promises of return burning into my conscience like guilt-sewn scarlet letters upon my soul.

This, despite the fact that I'm barely halfway done several freelance assignments, including a major design job that I was hoping to complete weeks ago.

Wracked with bouts of semi-bridled anticipation, I'm almost embarrassed at how closely I'm counting the hours until Friday midnight.

Between Harry Potter VI and visions of Johnny Depp as Willy Wonka, I'm barely sleeping these days. Somebody give me a good dose of reality, please? Aren't there famines, terrorists and scary diseases out there to worry about?

June 26, 2005

Is Collagen Sushi Far Behind?

Hollywood has brought us laughter, tears and the occasional provocation of thought. But it took over 100 years of Tinseltown to give us a new species of fish. I can't wait for collagen nigiri, coming to a high-end sushi bar near you!

Elisita's blog is a funny 20-something's commentary on the cult of personality. (I recommend checking out her comments on Bradgelina -- especially the Kung Fu link.)

The original post came from here. (Product Endorsement of the Week: Renee Zellweger Extremely Sour Lemon Candy.)

June 19, 2005

left or right, brain?

Despite my status as a confirmed word nerd, I've been readmitted to UBC based on my ages-old status as a Physics Major. I'm undecided if I should pursue this again, as it would require waking long-dormant parts of the cerebrum. Frankly I went into slight convulsions when I cracked open my old first-year calculus book; should I take this as a challenge or a sign?

Considering my work as an editor, writer and teacher of English, further study in linguistics, language acquisition and pedagogy would probably be better use of my classroom time. On the other hand, there's a little thing called balance...

Thoughts?

June 10, 2005

goin' back to school

I've gone and done it. I'm all applied, paid up and awaiting my UBC registration date.

Strange for a teacher to say this, but I'm nervous as hell to be going back to school.

Wish me luck.

June 5, 2005

Calling Webster

Lax Western education, worldwide ESL courses and the ubiquity of the modern keyboard have resulted in some very interesting mistakes being made; many are in blogs and messenger windows, but the sad truth is an increasing number are found in business correspondence, building signage and even text books.

I've decided that the "harmless" typo is no longer something to be ignored. I consider myself to be the research scientist going after the cure for the common cold. How many millions of dollars in corporate resources, consumer budgets and even sufferers' lives are wasted on coughing, sneezing and snot production? I suggest that typos are, indeed, the common cold of communication, and the sooner we eradicate them the better.

My solution? I'm going to come up with definitions for words my friends, coworkers and colleagues accidentally slip into conversation, chats or communiqués. To wit, fifference.

fifference: (adjective) -- unable to play music at the same speed or pitch as others in an organised group of musicians; when able to play at the same pitch or speed, unable to begin playing at the proper time.

He looks good with that cello, but he's so fifferent from the rest of the orchestra he'll be asked to leave by the conductor.

related words: fiffer (verb: to be fifferent); fifference (noun: the quality of being fifferent), infifferent (adjective: without care regarding the presence or absence of fifference), infifference (noun: the quality of feeling infifferent).

June 3, 2005

A chat with Sparrow

The following was written for The Neighbourhood, a collaborative fiction effort started by my good friend Briana:

A chat with Sparrow

I sat nervously at the table, nursing a latté and admiring her honey-coloured hair. Her eyes sparkled tentatively, hesitant freckles dotting the bridge of her nose.

It was an hour before I realised, she spoke without pause, seeming not even to draw breath. Those eyes, that nose – they were the only shy things about her.

“Everyone keeps talking about this ‘SkyTrain.’ I was like, ‘I haven’t seen it, and I drive,’ you know, like, ‘where is it? I see the sky, sure, like, but y’know, where’s this train you speak of, dude?’”

It was like those Tibetan throat singers who chant continually, using mystical, alternative breath control to keep a constant, droning tone for 30 minutes.

“I turned off the stove, you know, like totally turned it off, and everything, and went to watch this completely hilarious show on TV, that I like never miss, and by the time the show was like, half-finished, the fire alarm went off, and I was like, ‘what is that?’ You know, totally ‘Am I hearing something?’ because we’ve like never had like a practice drill or anything, so I went downstairs, totally to the street corner and everything and I was utterly freezing for like an hour before the fire department decided it was time they came and like wouldn’t let us back in until around like four a.m. or something like that and they like asked to speak to me, like, oh my god, I was like, ‘Like I’d date a fireman,’ y’know, and my roommate was like, ‘Like a fireman would date you,’ and she’s such a bitch sometimes, and like it was hilarious, you know, cos the cookies kept cooking even though the oven was totally off, you know?”

Constant, droning tone.

Like bagpipes.

“Spooky, don’tcha think?”

It had been so long since I’d been invited to take part in the conversation, I’d forgotten how to speak altogether. My larynx had devolved into a vestigial organ, without use or purpose. Teams of scientists had formed committees, written papers and wasted millions in government grants trying to establish the biological function of what remained of my voice box. The sternocleidomastoid muscles – the ones that wrap forward from the base of the jaw to the front of the sternum – had atrophied so dramatically that moving my head from side to side took both hands and nearly all of my effort.

At one point, what had once been my vocal cords had become little more than nerve ganglia – they inflamed and threatened to burst; a top ear, nose and throat surgeon had to be flown in from Bavaria to perform the tricky operation, cleverly transposed from a text book appendectomy. Through weeks of intense physiotherapy, however, I’d learned to communicate using a complex system of hand gestures, clicking noises and knuckle cracking; while I’d waited several lifetimes for her question, she didn’t have to wait long for a response.

Click crick wave, snappity crack clap.

“That’s so sweet!”

Shake click.

“That reminds me of this vacuum cleaner I had a while back, like, so worthless, you know...”

And that, Sparrow, is how I met your mother.

Have bio, will travel

... or more precisedly, will teach.

My work is an ESL school in Vancouver called Worldwide Language Institute. We were asked this week to type up a biography of ourselves for the website, which is both a self-flattering and slightly embarrassing experience. Considering I'm writing for an English as a not-native language audience, the content has to be both fun and easy to understand.

Here's mine:

Hi! I was born in Vancovuer, and have been at WLI since it opened. Right now I teach conversation and Cambridge test preparation courses. In my spare time, I like to hike and camp in the mountains. When I'm here in the city, though, I like to watch movies and hang out at my favourite coffee shop.

I have a long history with the English language; before I became an English teacher, I was a freelance writer and editor -- I've been published in 47 different newspapers and magazines, including the WestEnder, the Vancouver Sun and even CBC Radio! I've helped native speakers improve their writing and spelling, and taught pure beginners with their first, "Hello!" No matter what your level is, I'd love to help you improve!

May 30, 2005

Jason Kurylo, photographer

Currently have the "cover shot" of the Vancouver User Guide.

Jason Kurylo, photographer.

How does that sound, baby?

Will the circle be unbroken?

First there was Trekkies, a 1997documentary about extreme Star Trek fans. The film was made by Denise Crosby, herself an actor most famous for playing a character on Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Now there's The New Voyages, which kinda takes the opposite tack. It's an internet-based series made by fans of the original show, which of course was cancelled after just three seasons before becoming the cult hit that spawned a million badly designed bedrooms. Well, these folks are such big fans, they're making "the fourth season," using uncannily reproduced sets and costumes.

The first couple of scripts are a little rough, but hey, so were the originals! The actors aren't the best in the world, but has anyone ever accused Leonard Nimoy of threatening in an Oscar race?

Anyway, since they webcast the first two episodes, some heavyweights have come on board. The family of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry have given their stamp of approval, and original series writer DC Fontana, who's also done work on Dallas, Bonanza, The Six Million Dollar Man and numerous successful animated series, has agreed to pen an upcoming episode. That has inspired Pavel Chekov himself, Walter Koenig, to join the net series for a guest shot.

I first got the info from this story on the CBC website.

Fan fiction based on a cult TV favourite, written by the original show's writer and featuring one of the original actors.

I'm torn. On one hand, I wonder if I could recreate 80s excess soap operaFalcon Crest to get Mexican-born hottieAna Alicia Ortiz to canoodle with me on camera. On the other, I want to ask, "Old star reused on recycled net-based show. Can an eBay-sold, reconstituted breakfast cereal tie-in be far behind?"

May 27, 2005

Running outta gas

Just don't have a lot of pep the last few days. Everyone says, "I love four-day weeks," but it seems I lack energy after a long weekend. That extra day off drags me out of the routine, or something, and I don't recover until a regular weekend passes.

Oddment, n'est-ce pas?

May 21, 2005

The horror!

I did City Chase Vancouver on the weekend of the 14th after a recommendation from Rob & Sandra. It was sort of like The Amazing Race, where couples (in this case my friend Denise and I were one of 270 such duos) run around the place -- public transit and foot power the only accepted methods of transport -- finding the answers to silly clues and/or performing ridiculous stunts and challenges.

Between 10 and 5 on Saturday, Denise and I were at Metrotown asking octogenarians to pose for pictures with their dentures in hand; at Nat Bailey Stadium firing paintball pellets at each other's asses; in Almond Park balancing on an exercise ball while tossing water balloons back and forth; at UBC following obtuse orienteering maps to find hidden windsocks; but it was at Kits Beach that I faced the most terrifying moment of my sappy little life.

I'm hydrophobic. That means I have an irrational fear of water. Okay, I don't run screaming from a bottle of Evian; I actually quite enjoy an hour in a jacuzzi. Should water in the pool be deeper than a metre and a half, however, I start getting nervous. Throw me in a natural body of water, most of which are two or more metres deep, then, and I'll go into an apeshit blind panic on your nasty ass.



So it was surprising that in the final moments of City Chase, I found myself on a frickin' surfboard about 40 metres off the shore of Kits Beach. Paddling frantically and hyperventilating, it turns out, don't go well together. (I'm getting tightness in my breathing just typing about it.) I had to stop three or four times to calm myself down -- I put my forehead to the board, tried not to feel the motion of the water, and took ten deep breaths -- it felt like I was out there for a full year.

There was a short triangular route we had to follow, with the choice to go together on one board, or to go separately relay-style. The photo above is of another team going together; me, I couldn't wrap my head around that, so it was eight minutes -- did I mention it felt like a year? -- of solo torture before I collapsed on the beach and let Denise bring it home.

The event as a whole was tons of fun, and we met a few great people during the day. We'll definitely be back next year. I dunno if I'll get my sorry white ass back on one of those boards, but maybe we can plan to skip any challenges based beachside.

May 19, 2005

The power of porn

Ah, the psyche of the human male.

Okay, that's a stretch -- some of the people I'll talk about now could be human females.

Ever since I published the post on Tuesday about Belinda Stronach, I've had a handful of hits on the site from people searching for information about her crossing the floor and joining the Liberal Party.

I've also had some hits from people searching for -- I kid you not -- "Stronach pics", "Belinda Stronach porn", "Stronach nice rack", and my personal favourite, "Stronach knockers naked nude blow job".

Hey, Belinda's an attractive woman. I remember Hilary Clinton had some similar attention when hubby Bill first got into office. But, come on. Stronach knockers naked nude blow job?

Poor Peter McKay.

May 17, 2005

All this, and scruples, too?

Belinda Stronach has crossed the floor to join the Liberals -- BCers take note, the federal bastards are much less frightening than their provincial counterparts. While Stronach's politics and my own don't parallel on everything, I think this is the best thing to happen to Canadian politics since Trudeau gave protesters an unapologetic middle finger in front of a glut of photographers.

News from Ottawa is often so insular and, frankly, boring, that it leaves people across the country longing for yet another article describing what hasn't happened between negotiators in the NHL lockout.

Stronach's obviously adult decision, and Harper's obviously playground reaction, on the other hand, are giving the Canadian public something as rare and valuable as coloured diamonds: clear, unsullied personality from politicians.

The carefully choreographed press junkets, so often used by Conservatives to soften their socially damaging views with well-written soundbites, have thus far been left out of the equation. In this particular instance, for once, we've seen a genuine action by Stronach, who believes Harper is dangerous and selfish; we've seen a genuine action by Harper, who's whining like a kid left off the guest list to a former friend's birthday party.

In this case, Stronach's difficult decision was made seemingly without advancement in mind. The Liberal Party is reeling, possibly on the verge of collapse; she's not likely to see any immediate positives out of her move. Harper, on the other hand, has lost one of his superstars. By sniping at her for actually *gasp* standing up for her beliefs, Harper looks altogether like a moping child. He strikes me today as the bully who fades as soon as the other kids hit the growth spurt he was lucky to come across a little bit early.

I applaud Ms Stronach for her courage today. It can't be easy for a high-profile politician to show conviction, especially that which is unpopular. For her to do this deserves a second look -- Canada, take notice. This is a woman to watch in the future.

A quick aside here: does anyone have a copy of that famous flip of the bird? I haven't seen the Trudeau Salute picture in a long time, no matter how many times it appears on Wikipedia as a throwaway definition of "The Finger."

May 7, 2005

Good drinks, table manners, and the BC Sex Party

Every day after work, I head to my favourite coffeeshop to read, write or just hang out a little before heading home for dinner. I have a running challenge with some of the baristas there; I give them no boundaries, and they make me something different to surprise me.

Today I was just reading the paper, back to the wall, reclining and sipping a marvelous concoction involving peppermint tea, skim milk and Belgian chocolate. All in all, a great way to end the day.

You read the paper, you've got to turn the page, right? I had just finished reading about The BC Sex Party's platform, and went to move along to the next page. As I did so, I glanced to my left, and a gentleman sitting at the far corner table seemed just a little too comfortable in staring at his laptop connected to the store's WIFI service. He noticed my head turn out of the corner of his eye, and quickly adjusted his computer so I couldn't see the screen any more. This would't have bothered me had he not been staring at hardcore porn.

Now I'm no prude. In fact, I have a few naughty pictures on my hard drive, myself. I don't, however, view them in public places. Hell, most of the time I don't even look at 'em when the wife's home.

If that weren't all good enough for jazz, buddy packed up his computer about five minutes later and made his way from the table -- wait for it -- to the washroom, where he proceeded to lock himself in the can for a good twenty minutes.

Needless to say, he came out a little flushed and slightly glossy.

I'm sorry, but again I'm going to play the "not a prude" card. That said, I think going to the can for a wank with your dirty picture slideshow is a little over the line, ain't it? I mean really, am I out of line in being a little disgusted here?

It can't be something unique to Tree's. I see lots of laptops -- heck, backpacks that could easily hold decades of porn subscriptions -- at coffee shops, restaurants and retail shops across the city. Surely this is happening pretty much everywhere at any given moment. Should, then, I be surprised when I witness such a thing?

At any rate, it sure reinforced my habit of giving public toilets a good wipedown and tissue placement before any s(h)itting goes on.

April 29, 2005

Media synergy sucks

I'm fed up with media synergy.

When I first became interested in sports media, I was fascinated by the words of those who covered the events and personalities coveted by a sports-mad public. As I learned more about it, I was further impressed by the professionalism -- even the specialised knowledge and skills -- displayed by various sportswriters and broadcasters.

Foster Hewitt was perfect as the play-by-play guy, as was Jim Robson after him. Howard Cosell was a brilliant broadcaster; not much of a writer, but a great on-air guy and interviewer. I don't know their names but the guys who do the radio stuff for the Seattle Mariners are great at what they do. There are many men and women just like 'em, too, following a ton of different matches on pitches, fields, rinks and courts around the globe. I watch, read and listen to talented people like this with a joy that almost surpasses my appreciation of the athletes they cover.

What I'm subjected to sports "coverage" like Mike Toth's latest online whinge about Todd Bertuzzi, however, makes me want to take it all back.

First of all, there are just too many outlets nowadays. TSN. SportsNet. The Score. ESPN. ESPN2. The Golf Network. That's not including regional networks, individual shows on cable stations, magazines, newspapers, internet sites, club newsletters and radio shows. You can't possibly find enough people with talent to staff places like this.

And herein lies the cyclically worse danger of media synergy. Not only are growing numbers of TV hacks beaming and printing their way into our homes, but they normally get to be hacks in all the other media as well. Hence my rant to Mike Toth, perhaps the least talented blowhard on TV this side of Squire Barnes. Toth is such a lame duck his own network can't assign him to one sport. No specialty here; he's listed as "Misc."

He writes in his online column,

In the NHL this week, we've had two perfect examples. Tuesday, Todd Bertuzzi asked Commissioner Gary Bettman for permission to play again after being suspended for attacking Steve Moore. No one can blame Bertuzzi for wanting to come back. However, it's clear that he's using his superstar status to try and sway the jury. A few weeks ago, Bertuzzi was one of the celebrities who were busy shaking hands, kissing babies and shooting pucks at an outdoor charity game in Hamilton. Most of the other members of the high-priced country club, also known as the NHL Players' Association, welcomed Bertuzzi back with open arms.

But Steve Moore?

He was nowhere to be found. Personally, I would have preferred to see Bertuzzi stay at home while Moore was introduced to the cheering crowd.

Who knows?

Maybe it would have given Moore an emotional lift as he attempts to recover from his career-threatening injuries. However, because he's not a big name on the NHL scene, the majority of people couldn't care less about his hockey future. Instead, most of the focus has been on Bertuzzi.

"I think he should be reinstated," Bertuzzi's Vancouver Canuck teammate, Brendan Morrison, told The Canadian Press. "It's not to take anything away from Steve Moore. Obviously, he's suffered a lot. But to start the healing process for Todd, the best thing is to reinstate him."

And while the players have spoken, so too, have the people. Monday night, on our Sportsnetnews Power Poll, 70 per cent of our audience voted in favour of lifting Bertuzzi's suspension.

"Who cares about Steve Moore?" they seemed to be saying. "When the NHL comes back, I wanna draft Big Bert in my hockey pool!"


Mike, your comments might fly in an on-air broadcast, where your audience is half-paying attention and waiting for the next highlight package. The fact is, Mr Toth, your logic just doesn't hold water -- put it in a permanent forum like the written word, and even less-than-discerning audience members can review and pick it apart.

Todd Bertuzzi's elongated suspension doesn't do anything to heal Steve Moore from his tragic injury, nor does it give hockey any chance for positive press. Bert coming back and playing his heinie off in the world championships, and doing so with clean hockey, would have gone a long way to ease everyone's pain over this ordeal.

I have two bones to pick over this one, neither of which have been given their due just yet:

What part did Colorado coach Tony Granato play in this whole thing? I mean, what the heck was Steve Moore doing on the ice at that point in the game anyway? Everyone knew the Canucks wanted blood for Naslund's earlier injury. The game wasn't even close, and Moore was serving no purpose by being on the ice in the dying minutes. The only thing Granato could possibly gain by throwing this guy on the ice is bragging rights that he had thrown it in the face of Marc Crawford & Company. Bert's piledriver was uncalled for, but wouldn't have been possible had Granato been a gracious winner in a blowout contest.

Secondly, how much responsibility do the media need to bear in this incident? Okay, Bertuzzi shouldn't have gone after Moore the way he did. But does anyone think we'd still be talking about this if eternal nice guy Trevor Linden had swung that right hook? I highly doubt current Team Canada forward Brendan Morrison would still be suspended by now had he done the deed. Even enforcer Brad May would have been skating by now had he opened that can of neck-crack on Mr Moore.

The fact is, Bertuzzi's superstar status is the whole reason overstretched media "personalities" like Mike Toth are still harping on the story. Regular folks, the ones who are hungry for real sports news, have considered this issue dead for a long time. Perhaps the sports media could give some precious ink to, say, the London Knights? Hell, the Chilliwack Bruins!

A message to the media: Get over Bertuzzi. Get over Steve Moore. Most of all, Mike Toth, get over yourself.

April 24, 2005

Gaze, Navel. Navel, Gaze.

Does the realisation that you're mediocre in and of itself raise you above mediocrity? If so, does your initial realisation then become forfeit? If so, does that fact negate your epiphany or raise the philosophical bar even further?

I seem to be a product of sitcoms and movies. Every time there's a problem, I expect others to resolve it in an all-too perfect way. Is it really so wrong to want resolution after 22 minutes and a few commercial breaks?

I don't want to be unreasonable, but I think my friends, family and lovers need better writers.

Me, I need a better director. I think I have good material, and even a little talent; I just can't seem to put the right emotions into the right scenes. A top-flight production team -- props, special effects, hair and wardrobe are all thus far cheap and amateurish -- is definitely in order as well.

Oh, the humanity...

The 2010 Winter Olympic Games released its official logo yesterday. It's atrocious.


My response was this letter, sent to the 2010 Winter Games organisational committee.

April 24, 2005

To Whom It May Concern:

Count me out.

Hey, I'm as excited as the next guy about the 2010 Winter Games coming to Vancouver. I was one of the first people to sign up in support of the bid, talked about it incessantly with friends and family around the world, and centred lesson plans around the Olympic bid & win once we got the games.

Alas, the new logo sucks.

Sure, the Inukshuk (Inuksuk, in Inuktitut language, for "stone man that points the way") is an indelible symbol of a part of the Canadian identity. Key word here? PART. The weirdest thing is, it's not even this part.

The games aren't in Inuvik, unfortunately for the good Inuit people -- to be honest, I think that would be an amazing venue for a Winter Games -- so how about using a symbol which means something to all Canadians? Can you imagine a games in Nova Scotia built around a fleur-de-lis, sans maple leaf? The inukshuk used here doesn't give even a passing nod to the western venue in which it will be showcased.

As a teacher, I understand the pressure of having all eyes on you. Often, the burden of feeling that you have to please everyone is that you please no one. I hope this is the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games' growing pains showing through. I pray this is a minor mistake made in lieu of later, larger ones. Your choice for the official logo is a brave and thoughtful one; it's also wholly inappropriate.

April 16, 2005

Where's my 15 minutes?

According to reliable sources, there has never been a famous Kurylo.

For those in the don't know, that's my family name.

Now, I can either take that as a sign, like it or lump it, and just live out the rest of my life in mediocrity and anonymity. Or I can correct that fact somehow, and hobnob 'til the nobs can't be hobbed n'more.

I wonder; how many families never have anyone do much of consequence? How many of us are happy to trudge through our lives with nought but our closest friends aware of our accomplishments?

And does public notice really mean accomplishment, anyway?

March 6, 2005

Sorry, Lefty...

Okay, it's sad but sometimes you can't help yourself.

I'm a fan of southpaw golfer Phil Mickelson; I love that he finally won a Masters title last year, and it kills me that this guy just can't seem to get over his psychological demons. Today he lost again to Tiger Woods, who hasn't been too solid himself of late. But see if you can caption this photo without a trite sexual reference:

February 19, 2005

Friends of friends

One of the best ways to measure a person's worth is by examining their friends. Well, I'm pleased to say that the friends of my friends continue to impress. Check out Mr Blink's rant on Ben Affleck and Sisqo.

Unleash the dragon indeed.

February 16, 2005

Minimalism

Sometimes a little says a lot. This link says it all for me today.

Why is 'abbreviation' such a long word?

February 6, 2005

Faux couture

I just read a remarkable lecture that was given in 1954 by the man who would later become the presenter of the BBC series Civilisation. His name was Kenneth Clark, and he's largely considered to have been one of Britain's greatest art historians.

While I am woefully under-read when it comes to poetry, and even less adept in talking painting, I found Clark's take on inspiration, well, inspiring. After defining a moment of vision -- that precise instant when the ordinary, the unimpressive, the common thing we witness every day, suddenly jumps out and demands attention -- he observes,

"The visual experiences of original artists control, to a large extent, not only our imaginations but also our direct perceptions... Even those least responsive to art have at the backs of their minds a large untidy store of pictorial images, and three-quarters of what they call beautiful in nature appeals to them because it is the reflection of some forgotten painting."

I've always thought it interesting that we can hike for days, fording rivers and climbing mountains, and the only way to describe the visual mastery of nature when we return consists of words like picturesque. Pictures are supposed to document reality; call a photograph 'natural', however, and it's hardly a compliment that will make the owner blush. Straddle Black Tusk, and all you can say is, "Well that's as pretty as a postcard." Witness Aphrodite herself walk down Granville Street and you'd swear she was the most 'statuesque' woman you've seen in your life.

Clark continues, hitting on something that surely explains our ridiculous obsession with popular culture: "We hunger for the visible definition of our conceepts, and turn avidly (and rather shamefacedly) to the illustrations of a book. Yet we know that the more convincing they are -- Alice in Wonderland or Sherlock Holmes -- the more closely they confine us."

Okay, Clark was talking about fine art, himself riffing academically on the classic quote that 'every poet is a thief'. But is the current infatuation with faux couture any different? We're trapped in an endless cycle of in-jokes and referential material. How is it possible to keep up with the connections? Once you start, there's no stopping.

In one aside from a second-season episode, Family Guy, a brilliant but frenetic animated comedy built atop the before-its-time sitcom All in the Family, spoofs Seinfeld, which paid homage to Woody Allen, who borrowed from Charlie Chaplin, who owed a great deal to vaudeville, which was borne out of pantomime, which often parodies William Shakespeare, who stole from everyone. The viewer is supposed to get all that from a measly seven seconds of a Seinfeld characature that mysteriously appears behind a closet door.

The references on that show fly at the audience, fast and furiously, sometimes subtly but mostly not. Within a ten-second span, you'll need to access the neurons associated with Star Trek, roller derby, Bill Clinton, Andy Kaufman, Michaelangelo, Creutzfeld-Jacobs (mad cow) disease, and the Old Testament. The speed with which a viewer has to switch gears is astounding. Couch potato, my ass. The pop culture connoisseur must be mentally dextrous in ways that past visionaries never dreamed.

It all begs the question: would Leonardo da Vinci have been that brilliant if he had the theme song to Diff'rent Strokes lodged in his head?

February 4, 2005

Americans

I was reading a blog recently which reminded me of a story.

An ex of mine worked at the border between Washington state and British Columbia; she worked on the Canadian side, welcoming a lot of US-born visitors who had little to no knowledge about the country they were about to enter. Case in point:

A normal-looking family drove up, and she asked them the usual questions: Where are you going? How long are you planning to stay? etc. The answers? Alaska, they said. For the day.

They were completely unaware that Alaska lies a good 3,500 kilometres (about 2,200 miles) north of the border. They even offered up their daughter's school atlas, which proudly showed the continental US, with Canada completely obliterated from view -- Alaska sat just north of the Washington border, and Hawaii lay about 100 km (60 miles) off the California shoreline!

My ex suggested they drive to Vancouver, which she suggested was a very nice place to have lunch, as it's only about 40 minutes north of the border crossing. They could buy a city map and perhaps learn a little about their northern neighbours.

Well, the otherwise sane-looking family drove about 30 metres (100 feet) past the booth, and despite the August heat, proceeded to bundle up in parkas and other winter gear. It seems their TV weather station had displayed Fahrenheit temperatures south of the border, and Celsius temperatures north of the border -- because the number for Seattle said "100" and the number less than a 3-hour drive north said "35", they honestly thought the air was going to plunge 70 degrees in a matter of kilometres, so they'd better keep warm to avoid serious illness.

I know there are many, many well-educated, well-travelled and well-read Americans out there. But considering certain election results and the sheer number of incidents which point to cultural isolationism, it's amazing to me that the US is still as powerful around the world as it is.

Can someone explain to me how an entire nation can be so utterly ignorant of its closest neighbour? Sure we've not the biggest population, but our two countries do more trade per day than any other two nations in the world. It's beyond me how Americans could possibly live so close but know so little.

January 27, 2005

I'm ranked...

My name is ranked 6,810th on wordcount's list of the top words in the English language. Over 85K words have been ranked by usage by Jonathan Harris, and there I am, right between differing and athelstan. 'Athelstan,' you say? That's what I said.

According to the Canadian Oxford Dictionary, Athelstan was "the king of Wessex and Mercia for 15 years beginning in 924 AD. One of the most successful of England's Anglo-Saxon monarchs, he invaded both Scotland and Wales and inflicted heavy defeat on an invading Danish army."

Apparently, it's also a city in Iowa, population 31. Ooh, and a mountain here in BC.

So how the heck does 'athelstan' outrank words like 'troubled,' 'choir' or 'sweater'? Sure, there are plenty of history geeks around, but enough to vault His Grace's moniker 10,000 places over 'cinemas'? The answer, my friends, is that there are plenty of people out there who got better grades in history class than you did; google 'athelstan' and you get more than just rumours that Athelstan was actually a bastard, born to Edward the Elder before becoming England's first proper king. You'll find out that the man was responsible for the development of social order in Britain, and fostered international relations by marrying his half-sisters (bastard alert!) to various European nobles.

Oh, and check out The Athelstan Arms Pub and Athelstan Publications -- if naming an online bookseller or small town pub after an obscure regent isn't enough for you, how about your firstborn? According to this page about baby names, your son Athelstan will either be 'a natural leader,' an 'eccentric, introverted thinker' or 'artistic, social and cheerful.' Jeez, hedge your bets much? "Your kid'll either be tallish, shortish or kinda fair to middlin'-ish."

Anyway, back to the point. I'm ranked.

January 24, 2005

Exploration

This Saturday I'm hosting a Bohemian Night party: black sweaters, pretentious berets, angst-ridden poetry and communal paint canvases. It's firmly tongue in cheek -- check out the trays of obscenely small crackers under potluck blocks of cheese -- while still holding true to the values that exploration and loose morals are the bastions of creation.

In the same vein, I'm seriously thinking of hitting this mask-making workshop on Monday, February 7th. Anyone want to join me?

January 23, 2005

I love potatoes!

There's nothing like a silly, pot-inspired goof come true. How about a potato that travels the world?



Man I love it when people actually follow through with the crazy-ass things they come up with.

January 19, 2005

Purity. Bah.

Who needs it?




Your Ultimate Purity Score Is...
You are 39% pure
Average Score: 72.7%
CategoryYour Score Average
Self-Lovin'16%
Don't shake hands
65.1%
Shamelessness42%
Puts 'em on the glass
79.3%
Sex Drive 13%
Humps fire hydrants when nobody's looking
77.7%
Straightness0%
Knows the other body type like a map
44.6%
Gayness 71%
Had that experience at camp
83.8%
Fucking Sick72%
Dipped into depravity
90%
You are 39% pure
Average Score: 72.7%

Non sequitur

"Pariah!" she screamed, tugging at his hair with one hand and scritch scritch scritching at her rump with the other.

"Ja?" he queried, thumping his leg ecstatically in a fast, syncopated rhythm. "I love it when you talk dirty to me."

Me, I just sat there, hands on my hips, desperate for a Tylenol. It doesn't make me a bad person.

January 16, 2005

Film thoughts: Young Adam

I just finished watching Young Adam, a small-budget Scottish film starring noneother than Obie Wan himself, Ewen McGregor.

Okay, he's done some big budget schlock, his turn as the great Jedi included. But between this film, Shallow Grave and The Pillow Book, he's done some damned fine small film work. Throw in his role in Trainspotting (which in my opinion doesn't cast the slightest shadow next to Irvine Welsh's book, but gets heaps of praise from a lot of otherwise intelligent filmgoers), and he's a helluva lot more than just a pretty Scottish face.

The film itself is a sparse, bleak look at life on a Scottish barge in the 1950s. The brooding Joe (McGregor) is employed by Les (Peter Mullan), a greying, drinking older chap) and Ella (Tilda Swinton), a hard-nosed, plain-faced woman clearly unhappy with her lot in life. The setup is slow and intriguing, but doesn't last long. Joe soon jumps into bed with Ella and splits the barge couple up.

Swinton steals this picture. She's harsh; her tongue lashes out at the men in her life with all the passion she's been lacking in the bedroom. She portrays Ella's frustration beautifully; like Ralph Fiennes in The English Patient, she burns deeply but shows little. Even when she's lovemaking, or weeping openly, she's never fully bared to those around her. A wonderful performance that deserves to be seen.

Here she is:



We're treated to flashbacks about Joe's more comely ex, Cathie (Emily Mortimer), which is when we see his true colours. A failed writer, he's more failed than writer; he's more pathetic than brooding.

It's by no means a romance, and by even less a thriller. But there is a body, some intrigue, and loads of character study. From a cinematography perspective, director David Mackenzie does a wonderful job of translating the claustrophobic confines of life on the water. His use of light (or lack thereof) is marvelous, and I'm quite looking forward to checking out some of his other work. He also wrote the screenplay for this film, based on a book by the late Scottish writer, Alexander Trocchi.

Getcher red-hot book here!

Okay, so I've finally finished it. A Game of Thrones, the first of the Song of Ice and Fire series, is quite an enjoyable read after the first 150 pages or so are done. That time is spent bringing out every stock character and cliché relationship in the fantasy universe. Once he's done with introductions, however, George R.R. Martin does a good job of moving and manipulating the players. It's a sweeping tale, with more families, houses, kingdoms, banners, etc than I could possibly remember. That said, it's a gripping drama that I'm glad to have read.

If only the ending were a true ending. Fortunately for types who appreciate this kind of thing fully (and unfortunately for people like me who only dabble in genre fiction), this is merely a prelude to at least three more books. He's only finished two more after A Game of Thrones, and there are apparently going to be several more of these 900-page monsters before it's finished.

Anyway, I'm lending it to my friend Laura, but after that it's up for grabs. Anyone have a paperback they want to trade for it?

January 15, 2005

Who the HELL do you think you are?

I've been informed that my blog needs more focus on quantity, and less on quality. Henceforth, I aim to post three or four times per week, regardless of whether I've got anything to say or not.

My friend Briana has been lending me the Family Guy dvds lately, and despite myself I'm absolutely addicted to baby Stewie.

Predictable, I know -- everyone seems to love this character -- but dammit, the lengths to which they take his deviance is priceless.

"Bring me ice cream -- with NO SPRINKLES! For every sprinkle I find, I will kill you."

To his mother, Lois: "Ever since I escaped from that cursed ovarian Bastille of yours, I've been plotting your demise."

And my favourite, when Lois tries to feed him with the tried and true, Brocolli's good for you, now open up for the plane... (insert plane noise here): "Damn you, damn brocolli, and damn the Wright Brothers!"

Brilliant.

Other things I've been watching lately:
Arrested Development (Season One)
Law & Order (Season One)

Things I'm reading at the moment:
Game of Thrones, by George R.R. Martin
The Fellowship of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Map of Your Mind: Journeys into Creative Expression, by Maureen Jennings
The Art of Indian Head Massage, by Mary Atkinson