Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Exclusive Preview

Last week I finished an essay about suburbia entitled "The New Geographers" for Descant, a Canadian literary journal with a circulation of at least 35. It will be published eventually. Until then, here are the first two paragraphs:

It’s nearly 3 p.m., and I’ve been sitting on a green nylon weave lawnchair outside the Brampton home of Rohinton Mistry for the past five hours. His publicist thinks I’m a lunatic, his children refuse to make eye contact, and his wife worries what the neighbours will think of the gangly young man trying to coax passersby into picket fence conversation.

So far, only the plastic pink flamingos seem willing to keep me company. And our one-way discussions long ago became tiresome. But I remain perched on the front edge of Mistry’s manicured lawn, trying to understand suburbia. Or at least Mistry’s little patch. Herbert Gans, the sociologist and author of
The Levittowners spent a year living in the suburbs back in the 1960s. The least I can do is spend the day.

The current issue of eye has an editorial about the suburbs, which is the flimsy explanation for why I’m offering a teaser for my article. Stay tuned for a behind-the-scenes look into the making of the essay, coming soon.

Monday, February 23, 2004

Political Chum

This excerpt is taken from the February 19, 2004 edition of Terminal City. I’d offer the actual story link, but the article will disappear in less than a week. Anyway, here’s Brian Salmi, head of the Gnu Democratic Rhino Reform Party (a party under whose proud banner I ran in two elections) talking about the Federal NDP:

Several months back, I opined that the provincial NDP was a lost cause, a mad cow of a political party, staggering around waiting for someone to put it out of its misery. Well, as former Prime Minister of Bumblefuck Harold Wilson so astutely pointed out, a week is a long time in politics, and I must, for the moment, retract my bold projection. However, my retraction has nothing to do with any great leap forward by the provincial NDP. The hopes of the provincial NDP lie with federal Leader Jackie Layton’s ability to make the party relevant again.

Jackie Layton has done an amazing job of bringing the socialists back from the grave. Under the stewardship of Alexa McDonough and Audrey McLaughlin, the NDP all but disappeared. But Jackie Layton has changed all that.

Jackie Layton is smart, articulate, politically savvy and charismatic, and that counts for heaps in politics. Paul Martin, on the other hand, is smart and articulate, but is completely devoid of charisma, and, as we’re seeing right now with the Pay Pal scandal, not as politically savvy as many had thought

Did you catch that? No? Allow me to repeat it: Pay Pal scandal. In a more just world, that is what the media would dub the current buffoonery.

Friday, February 20, 2004

I Like to Make Fuck Berserker

What is that cocksmoker Kevin Smith thinking? There’s a sizable ad in the new issue of Now weekly (motto: 25 percent shriller than eye, guaranteed) advertising Smith’s upcoming lecture at Roy Thomson Hall (Friday, March 12). He’s asking $47.50 for the pleasure of his company.

Kevin Smith is very wealthy. If he were not rich, then I could perhaps-maybe understand the ridiculous fee, but what are you thinking man? Do you realize the extent to which you are alienating your fanbase by charging that kind of money? I say that despite the small print that offers "student priced tickets" available through student unions. As much as I have enjoyed some of his films, there is nothing he is capable of saying that will be worth $47.50. And don’t get me started on the inevitable service charge (or "convenience fee" as they like to call it now) that will be added upon the base rate.

Speaking of service charges, tickets for the Winnipeg date of the Pixies tour go on sale tomorrow morning. Wish me luck. Imagine: the greatest band in the world, ever, is charging only $30 to see them perform. Did you hear that Kevin Smith? Thirty measly bucks.

In other news:

* I am still very busy, meaning weekly or bi-weekly blog updates are the best I can do.

* Last Saturday I was on the streetcar, heading eastbound, and I noticed some strange stenciled graffiti on the Gerrard street bridge that spans the DVP. All it said was "Heinz Kuck" in blue letters, a spraypaint appliqué on the concrete wall. I saw about four or five repetitions of the name before I realized what was going on, and it was brilliant: Staff Sergeant Heinz Kuck is the Coordinator of the Graffiti Eradication Program here in Toronto. Whoever came up with that little bit of nose-tweaking is one clever little bomber. Unless Kuck lost his mind and decided to start tagging.

* In my haste last Saturday, I forgot about some more anti-mushy chestnuts. Don’t like someone you’ve just met? Give them the rejection phone number. (Yes, an oldie, but a goodie). There are also two new books on the topic of love, or lack therein. The first will be relegated to a quick death Quirkyalone and so will the equally doomed www.betweenboyfriends.com. I referenced this particular gem in a recent National Post essay, but here it is again: personal ads from the London Review of Books. And, finally, the genius of Barry Yourgrau. I fear Yourgrau had his moment a few years back (I base this partially on the fact that I’ve found two of his books recently remaindered), but his collection, The Sadness of Sex, is a classic. Check this out:

I get a job at a hospital. It’s for victims of love. The wards are dingy and ill furnished, and the sufferings of the stricken in their squalor are truly heartrending. I’m overwhelmed. I have to stuff my ears with bathroom tissue to try to shut out the moans of anguish, the cries of longing, the desperate monologues into imaginary telephones that are never answered, never connected. Even semibuffered so, the tears often drip down my chin as I ply my mop sluggishly up and down the worn, crumbling corridors.

Saturday, February 14, 2004

Some Suggestions

First "borrow" a copy of the song E-mail by the Pet Shop Boys. It’s surprisingly wonderful. Then ponder the following article about assisted online breakups from the Boston Globe (Elizabeth Manus, 2/8/2004):

Breakupservice.com, founded in 2002, offers a range of options for heartbreakers who have $50 but not, as cofounder and president Ren Thompson puts it, "the nerve, or the know-how," to write their own good-byes. According to Thompson, between 1,200 and 1,500 men and women annually turn to the Dublin, Calif.-based company for a custom-tailored "Dear John" or "Dear Jane" letter with that special admixture of grace, verve, tact, and distance.

For the less old-fashioned, Thompson or one of his six breakup representatives also break the news by means of a "Happy Ending counseling call" lasting roughly 15 minutes on average. The conversation doesn't always begin on a happy note. The most common reactions, Thompson says, are "Is this some kind of joke?" or "Are you recording this?" But once people get over the skepticism, Thompson says, it's a learning experience. "They have an inkling there's a problem. Now they have some real closure with real answers. We try to help them look at it as a new beginning."

Starting afresh is also behind the philosophy at LadyLoveWriter.com and its male-oriented counterpart LoveWriter.com. For $89, New Jersey-based scribe Erica Klein (who works by day as a direct-mail copywriter) will conduct a telephone consultation and compose "The Gentle Breakup Letter," which she e-mails to the client to write out in his or her own handwriting. Would-be heartbreakers answer eight key informational questions on the order form and then choose from three "emotional styles": "Light and Casual," "Straightforward But From the Heart," or "Super-Romantic" (though Klein can't recall any client opting for the latter)

If that isn’t terrible enough, here is Chris Gray writing in the Philadelphia Inquirer (9/24/2003):

Dawn Capone thought instant-messaging would be a good way to "talk" with her boyfriend of six months when his cell-phone battery died.

Wrong. On their first IM "date," the man - a 36-year-old computer consultant from West Philadelphia - made Capone a victim of the latest form of commitment-phobia haunting singles: the Internet dump.

"I am breaking up with you," the boyfriend typed, as Capone watched aghast at the keyboard at her home in Blackwood.

"We are no longer a couple."

"I am logging off" - and he was gone.

It's the downside of dating in the age of the Internet. With the emergence of electronic cads and e-mail teases, breaking up means never having to say you're sorry - in person

Next, I give you Rescue Rings courtesy of Virgin Mobile:

We've all been there. Stuck in a nightmare blind date, meeting, class, or conversation with no way out. We've got your back. Just set up a Rescue Ring for a pre-determined time and your phone will ring. Pretend to have a conversation and take it from there.

Let’s follow that up with another kind of telecommunication, from Nerve’s Guide to Sex Etiquette for Ladies and Gentlemen by Em & Lo:

When to Make the Call
* The gentleman or lady never makes a booty call more than a day in advance. An hour or two is considered foreplay, any longer and something better might present itself. A booty call is meant to scratch a fairly immediate itch.

* Unless otherwise agreed upon, after midnight on a school night is too late to call. On weekends, all calls should be made at least five minutes before closing time.

* If you do not desire an overnight guest, it is elegant to make the booty call before sundown. After sundown, we must recommend that you resign yourself to the possibility of entertaining all night long — unless you have express rules to the contrary, it is the only polite thing to do.

How to Make the Call
* It is prudent to treat one's booty call contact information like that of one's dealer: Stored in a cellphone but never memorized, in case one wishes at some point to delete it permanently. Some elegant ladies and gentlemen prefer to rely on locations instead of digits, choosing a certain local spot where merely showing up after a certain hour is an indicator that one is in the mood

And -- hey! – Happy Valentine’s Day…

Thursday, February 12, 2004

We Were Rich Once / Before Your Head Exploded (Kim Deal) Vs. Standing in the Light / You’re so Congratulatory / So I Guess You Have the Right / to be so Masturbatory (Frank Black)

As you have probably heard, the greatest band in the history of the world has reformed, and will be touring Western Canada, beginning in April. I have seen the Pixies live once (the first night of what became their final two concerts of their first incantation at the Commodore, in Vancouver, after opening for U2 the night previous) and I must admit, they weren’t mind-blowing. That said, I am semi-seriously contemplating flying to Winnipeg on April 14 to see them live. All depends on what WestJet can do for me.

According to MTV.com, they are also contemplating recording an album. To save you the trouble of wondering for unending months about whether or not a reunited Pixies will create great music, the answer is no. It will suck. Very much so. Yet I will still buy anything they press onto a CD.

My worst fear is that they write a terrible song that somehow becomes a huge hit, creating a pod of newbie Pixies fans who like the band for all the wrong reasons. Actually, given the fact that Frank Black basically stopped writing decent music after Teenager of the Year, the chances are better than average such a scenario might actually materialize.

I am listening to the Pixies best-of as I type this…

Monday, February 09, 2004

Give Me One Good Reason

I’m getting very close to completing some brand new actual Bigge Ideas. In the meantime, here is Nick Gillespie, editor of Reason magazine, in a mediabistro interview from November of last year:

One of the ways that I look at magazines or news publications is that they are kind of like parties. A good magazine or a good publication is like a really good party, where you go there and you wander around and there's a lot of different rooms you can move in and out of and have a lot of different conversations, some are serious, some are funny, some are totally offbeat and weird. You get into a couple of arguments and start shouting and screaming at each other, you also get into a clinch or two with people and then hopefully you go home before you get too sloppy drunk and make an ass out of yourself.

Thursday, February 05, 2004


There is a new kind of Pocky. It is called Pocky G. It is "Hard&Rich" which means it’s crunchy and coated in dark chocolate. I bought some a few weeks ago, and I must say, it could overtake Men’s Pocky as my favourite.

Searing insight will return by the end of this week, I promise.