Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Flying pigs and other strange phenomena

I woke up at 6:00 AM today. I hadn’t slept particularly well, but I had slept, so my day began where it usually ends—in the quiet moments before sunrise.

Disoriented, I drank my morning cup of tea and wondered what to do with myself. I decided to go for an early-bird breakfast at the neighbourhood diner: two eggs, bacon, toast, home fries, fruit, coffee, and juice, all for $3.45 plus tip. I lingered over my free refill and read the newspaper, which reminded me that the reins of power will soon be handed over to the Conservative Party.

I am, obviously, not a Tory supporter, so I am not exactly enthralled with our new government. Having said this, I am optimistic about one thing. For the first time in a long time, there is a very faint possibility that clear positions will be expressed on the Canadian political stage. With luck, there might even be a conversation, however heated or unproductive, between a right and a left, as opposed to the monotonous drone of an illusory centre.

Admittedly, a minority government of any stripe is less likely to stand firmly on political principle, but Harper does have a conservative base to appease, so he will have to throw them a bone once in a while. When he does, the other parties, all of which are to the left of the Tories, will have an opportunity to challenge his political agenda, and to explain why it should be challenged. Wouldn’t that be something?

On a completely unrelated note, this is the best picture ever. Seriously.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Happy Friday

I woke up early again today, and was delighted to find myself squinting against the mid-morning sun. I lay in bed for a long time, luxuriating in light, then decided that I wouldn’t do any of the things I had planned to do today. It was absolutely the right call.

After tea and breakfast, I went for a long walk through the neighbourhood. I picked up cigarettes, milk, and a couple of tomatoes along the way, then headed down to the bagel shop. When I approached the counter, the newest of the employees remarked, “Wow! I’ve never seen you in daylight!” I laughed, thinking, “No, dude, you probably haven’t.”

From there, I made my way down to the post office. I received a delivery notice for a parcel several days ago, but I couldn’t for the life of me make out the name that was scrawled across it. I couldn’t think of anyone who would have reason to send me an unsolicited parcel, or what it might contain. I was still mystified, and slightly apprehensive, as I waited my turn in line.

As I eventually discovered, the parcel had come from New Zealand and contained a calendar of photographs taken by a certain Iso G. Ages ago, he mentioned that he was thinking about putting one together and asked for my mailing address, but I had completely forgotten about this until today.

The pictures are quite extraordinary, as you’ll see from the example above. I once told G, who is a scholar of steadily increasing renown, that he really should be a photographer when he grows up. Looking at his work again, I am even more convinced of this, and of the fact that at least half of the academics I know are misplaced artists. Frankly, the world is poorer for it.

On my way home, I splurged on a large café au lait, which I am drinking as I write this. In the days ahead, I will try to catch up on some of the blog posts I didn’t write while I was working on my synth paper. Then again, maybe I won’t. Maybe I’ll just write whatever I feel like writing, which would be a welcome change. For the moment, all I am certain of is that I will finish my coffee, eat a fresh bagel, and find a spot for my new calendar.

Thanks, G.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

A new day

Sleep. Sunlight. Dinner. Friends. Beer.

These are all very good things.

Definitely.

Promise?

Virgo Week Ahead - Saturday, 21st January 2006

Shall we discuss the number of unfair and impossible tasks that you are now being expected to perform? Shall we worry about what's likely to prove difficult? Shall we wonder why other people seem to lead much easier lives? Or shall we just trust that you are not in your current position by mistake. You have made a brave choice. You are now coping with the inevitable consequences of this decision. You may become stretched, but you will not break. You may find yourself 'out of your depth' but you will not end up totally submerged. Somehow, you will be helped and you will make exactly the right kind of deeply satisfying progress.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Impact

It’s done. I don’t feel good about it, but it’s done.

I wanted this to be a moment of triumph. Fanfare, fireworks. Maybe a ticker-tape parade.

It isn’t that. Right now, it isn’t really anything at all.

I shouldn’t write more about this until I have slept. I’ll feel better tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

The home stretch

I am not allowed to blog about the election. I am also not allowed to eat, sleep, or think about anything other than sound theory for the next twenty-four hours. I am, however, allowed to chainsmoke and to glance fearfully at the clock at regular intervals.

(Sighs.)

Please don't fuck this one up, Vila...

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Did you know. . .

. . . that Canadian television networks agreed to a request by federal politicians not to release debate footage to satirists?*

. . . that Conservative Party strategists have admitted to keeping socially conservative candidates away from the media for fear of “derailing” the campaign?

. . . that students at UCLA are being offered $100 per lecture by a conservative alumni group to expose “radical” professors?

. . . that NYU graduate students have entered the third month of their strike?

. . . that the Quebec government has filed a motion to have CAGE’s legal challenge to the provincial smoking ban dismissed?

. . . that I am this close to deciding that I will spoil my ballot on Monday?


* Additional research provided by James.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Crunch

The paper is two thirds done. I am, now, in the final frantic phase of writing, when the rest of life scurries away in the face of a looming deadline.

I am close enough that I almost believe it’s possible.

Earlier today, I took an especially long walk and remembered to buy beer on the way home, which I promised myself I could drink if I wrote enough. I realize that I everything I do has become a Pavlovian strategy: write three pages and you’ll get a beer; write three more and you’re allowed to blog; finish the damn paper and you can clean your apartment.

Yes, I am actually looking forward to cleaning my apartment. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

If I write three pages tomorrow, I’ll let myself do laundry.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Headlines

The Bad News...

I couldn't get to sleep last night.

My apartment is a sty.

There are two large rocks where my shoulders used to be.

My library books are overdue.

The weather sucks beyond belief.

The Conservatives are eighteen points ahead in the polls.

I am late for work.

The Good News...

I am halfway there.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Progress

As of tonight, I have completed one-third of my synthesis paper. I am trying not to hate everything I have written, or to think about how much I still have to write, or to worry about how little time is left. I am trying to feel good about making it this far. Scotch helps.

I spent some time today re-reading the introduction to Glenn Gould’s radio play, “The Idea of North.” He writes:

[T]here are probably people living in the heart of Manhattan who can manage every bit as independent and hermitlike an existence as a prospector tramping the sort of lichen-covered tundra that A.Y. Jackson was so fond of painting north of Great Bear Lake.

If not in Manhattan, then certainly in Montreal.

There is sun behind a thin husk of clouds, which is the first I’ve seen in days. I’d take a walk, which my legs are aching to do, but it is much too cold. I suppose I could bundle up, but it wouldn’t be quite the same.

I think about my bicycle, which is encased in two feet of glassy snow. A car crunches past my living room window.

I wonder how many pages I’ll manage to write tomorrow?

Friday, January 13, 2006

Free fall

I am writing. I am actually writing. Already, the world feels different than it did before.

The process has been more difficult than I secretly hoped it would be. There are good days and bad days, and the latter have been slightly more numerous than the former. Every day is a new cliff, and on bad days, I am as full of fear as I have ever been.

But on good days, I can write three pages at a sitting, with parenthetical directions to sources I need to cite and notes on where I ought to write next. On good days, I almost enjoy doing it. Today was a good day.

It isn’t normal yet, this writing. It’s too fragile. I still think that it could disappear at any moment, which I suspect is how I feel about everything that matters to me. Nevertheless, each finished page makes the cliff a little bit smaller, which is something.

I’ve been thinking a lot about a horoscope I read the other day, which outlined my astrological influences for the year ahead. Virtually everything in it resonated with me, but especially this:

Perfection is not a value. Indeed, it is most often a trap, a temptation, and the worst kind at that. Because it's the kind of trap that feels virtuous, it can be a particularly difficult one to escape. And why would you want to escape? Unlike most other forms of escapism, so you can be free. Free is clearly what you are trying to be. Free is making itself known to you. Free is calling your name. Free is showing up in your life, your dreams, and rattling your planet.

The opposite of free is perfect.

Um. Yeah.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Please make them stop

I watched the second English-language leaders’ debate tonight, and I have come to this conclusion: I hate them all. Honestly, not one of the men assembled on that stage possesses an ounce of charisma, intelligence, or passion, and not one of them deserves the job of Prime Minister. I am left feeling suddenly nostalgic for the politicians of my youth: Ed Broadbent, Pierre Trudeau, René Lévesque. They were assholes, to be sure, but at least you had the sense that they actually gave a shit about something other than scoring political advantage.

What’s a voter to do, except rant? Wait your turn, boys...

Jack Layton: Shut up! Shut up! SHUT UP!! Stop talking to me like a TV commercial! Stop looking directly into the camera and saying things like “You can make that change” at the end of every statement you make, and please fucking stop with the “more women in Parliament will make everything better” talking point, already! (See previous rant.) There are fourteen days left in the campaign, which is just about enough time for you to pull the handlers out of your ass and start talking to the voting public as though you’re not a mindless robot. Get moving!

Stephen Harper: You don’t want my vote and you’re not even trying, so kudos to you for that. Still, hear this: keep your crackdown on crime and your property rights and your tax cuts and your family values and your obsession with gay marriage and your defense of guns and your thinly veiled Christian conservative agenda the hell away from me!

Paul Martin: You dirty, rotten bastard. How dare you stand before the Canadian public and proclaim your commitment to post-secondary education when it was you as Finance Minister who gutted public education in this country and balanced your goddamn books on the backs of me and all of my friends. (See previous rant.) How kind of you to pledge to give every Canadian undergraduate student $3000 per year to help pay for their tuition, and how feeling of you to pronounce that “we can’t allow students to graduate with such a burden of debt.” Well, where was my $3000 a year, you prick, which, incidentally, would have cut my student loan debt load in half? Oh, yeah, you took it away, at exactly the same time that you were heaping tax breaks upon corporations like the one you yourself own! And hey, wasn’t it you who cut transfer payments to the provinces, which they, in turn, deducted from their education budgets? And wasn’t it also you who handed over responsibility for student financial assistance to Canada’s major banks with virtually no strings attached, banks which now turn a tidy profit from the educational aspirations of low-income students? Fuck you, Mr. Martin—I wouldn’t vote for you if you were the last politician on earth.

Gilles Duceppe: I’d vote for you. Really, I would. If I believed for a second that you were authentically committed to the social principles you espouse, that you’d protect minority rights in a sovereign Quebec, and that you weren’t a political opportunist at heart, I’d march into my polling station on January 23rd and vote for the Bloc. But I don’t trust you as far as I could spit, Monsieur Duceppe, so it ain’t gonna happen. Sorry.

That leaves the Green Party, the Marxist-Leninist Party, the Progressive Canadian Party, and four independent candidates, one of whom is a former squeegee punk. So far, it’s his election to lose.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Corruption for dummies

Who is Jack Abramoff and why should you care?

What is political lobbying?

Who took money, who's keeping it, and who's giving it away?

Which industry does the most lobbying? (Hint: It isn't Big Tobacco, Big Unions, or Defence.)

What does God think?

Who can you trust?

Thursday, January 05, 2006

There was Irving Layton, and then there was the rest of us

On the Metroblog: Swingers, smokers, and perhaps, a solution

[I thought this one was worth a cross-post... V.]

While we were all gearing up for the holidays, the Supreme Court of Canada issued a landmark ruling on the legality of two Montreal-based swingers’ clubs, L’Orage and Couer a Corps. In essence, the court ruled that consensual sexual activity which takes place on the premises of a private club does not harm the greater society, and therefore should not be criminalized. In the words of Chief Justice Beverly McLachlin, “Consensual conduct behind code-locked doors can hardly be supposed to jeopardize a society as vigorous and tolerant as Canadian society.”

In an article in today’s Montreal Gazette, the president of Citizens Against Government Encroachment (CAGE), Daniel Romano, suggests that the Supreme Court ruling may also provide a legal alternative to Quebec’s Bill 112, which will ban smoking in virtually all commercial establishments including private clubs. As the article notes:

Bill 112, which kicks down the closed doors of private clubs to make them smoke-free as well, seems to be a legal contradiction in the making. On one hand, consensual group sex is considered none of the government's business, while consensual group smoking is not. Arguments over the health risks inherent in both pursuits can and probably will be made before the year ends.

In fact, Bill 112 already contains the seeds of this contradiction, since it allows one exemption to the province-wide ban: namely, cigar rooms, in which the smoking of cigars and pipe tobacco (but, curiously, not cigarettes) is expressly permitted. Leaving aside the obviously class-based distinction the Quebec government makes between different forms of tobacco use (though you’ll permit me to wonder what Jean Charest smokes after a rough day at the office), the bill leaves itself wide open to the court challenge that CAGE and the Corporation des Bars, Brasseries et Tavernes du Québec have already launched.

If the Quebec government has any sense at all--and I’m not sure that it does-- it will quietly amend Bill 112 to permit smoking in private clubs; else, it runs the very real risk that the law will eventually be struck down. The move would also lessen the possibility of mass non-compliance, which, given the abysmal lack of government inspectors currently employed by the province (cutbacks, remember?), is not unlikely.

Think of it as a word to the wise—but you didn’t hear it from me.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Time out

The day before Christmas, I bought myself a bottle of Glenlivet. I did so knowing that there would be a night like this, when the momentum would come to a full stop and there would be nothing to do but breathe through it.

So, I am drinking a glass of scotch and breathing through it.

Earlier today, I told my brother that I can’t write to him that often right now. I wonder if he is able to understand this. He seems desperate for contact with me, or perhaps with anyone, and he is consumed by questions about personae, interaction, fitting in. He wants to understand why it is I can get along in the world and he can’t. Why, indeed.

Behind me, CNN has realized its mistake and is announcing that the twelve miners it had initially reported had survived a mine explosion have, in fact, perished. As distraught family members drive away from the scene, they lean out their car windows and scream “Liars!” at the cameras. “You’re all liars!”

The miner story has eclipsed an earlier report about a major Washington corruption sting which may see as many as twenty congressmen brought up on bribery charges. I have the sense that America is seething under its surface as the whole, rotten enterprise that politics has become comes apart like a cheap dress.

At least I’ve got a bottle of scotch.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Drum roll, please...

Now that my hangover has subsided, my New Year’s resolutions:

  • I will not diet or take up yoga in 2006, nor will I make a feeble effort to learn a new language.
  • I will, however, bone up on my French by reading ni.vu.ni.connu regularly.
  • I plan to consume more or less the same amount of alcohol in 2006 as I did in 2005, although I could stand to drink slightly more coffee.
  • I have absolutely no intention of quitting smoking.
  • I will not read In Search of Lost Time or Finnegan’s Wake this year, and I almost certainly will not read anything by Tolstoy.
  • I will update my blogroll. Eventually.
  • I will produce a porn zine with Alice, which will take this year’s Expozine by storm.
  • I will have at least one tawdry affair in 2006, and this time I will blog about it.
  • I will not find my soul mate, my life path, or my calling, but I will find a nice pair of shoes.
  • I will finish my synthesis paper, and then I will kiss everyone I know.