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!)
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.