Answering Machines and Their Uses

Answering machines are for when one can't, or won't, answer the phone. They take a message from an incoming caller. That's it. An answering machine is not a vehicle for comedy. There are people in the world who are very well paid to be funny, and I imagine they do not have the bad taste to record a sketch and then not answer the phone so people can hear how funny they are. Also, an answering machine is not a venue to showcase the tooth-grating pitch and pronunciation of children. Some folks think it's cute that their offspring can talk. It's not. People have been talking for millennia. The puling of your brat does not impress.

Those are my two main complaints about answering machines. Hear me, world, and change!

Retail Economics 101

This whole issue has pissed me off enough that now I'm posting on my weblog about it. I feel like an angst-ridden teenager. Anyway. At least one in every three customers (suckers, chumps, marks, rubes, gulls, whatever appellation you feel is appropriate) who come in to the shop want to ask about the American price. Some popular questions include, but are not limited to; Can I pay in US dollars?, So what's the deal with the price difference?, Are you offering any discounts because of the dollar?, and so on.

Now I have what I like to think of as a grade-school understanding of economics. But even this appears to eclipse the understanding that most of the rest of the population is labouring under. For starters, and I cannot emphasize this enough, our economy is not some amazing powerhouse. Our dollar has not been pelted by gamma rays, and transformed into a trademarked Marvel product.

This has not happened.

The US economy, however, has been pelted by gamma rays (in the form of an ill-advised land war in Asia) but this has not had the desired result. Instead, the US is going down the tubes. This means that our dollar, which hasn't been thrown into arms manufacture and support for foreign governments, is comparatively stronger on the world stage. This does not mean that you can buy more stuff for less money at your local retail outlet. If I was the kind of person who used blink tags, that last sentence would be flashing. And maybe in a different colour.

You don't like the price? Don't buy it. Books are a luxury item. They have some cultural currency, and some people would have you believe that buying them is tantamount to donating to a charity, but they are there, by and large, for entertainment. If there is a book you can't live without, go to the library. They have free books. You borrow them for a couple of weeks, then you take them back and other people can do the same thing. This is one of the wonderful things that our taxes pay for. We also have health care, but I digress.

Yes, in many cases, you can buy the exact same product for a substantially lower price by going to a different country. I have also heard that alcohol and tobacco are cheaper if you buy them in different countries. This kind of thing happens because different countries and governments have different attitudes towards trade, and set up regulatory bodies to take care of this sort of thing.

If you are the kind of person who quibbles over a five dollar difference in price, I suggest you vote with your feet. Go to Wal-mart. Go to Chapters. Go to the States. You'll save your five dollars. Forgive me my bombast, but in ten years when you want to go down to your local book store and talk to the staff about Canadian literature or some such ephemera, don't be surprised when they're not there. The decline of the independent is so well known that it has been rendered a cliche, but this does not make it untrue. Book stores, or at least book stores that will be successful, will be huge, department store-like affairs where none of the underpaid and unappreciated staff have read Shakespeare, or Austen, or a hundred other authors. And when that happens, to the five dollar quibblers out there, I will have one thing to say.

I hope you're happy.

But is it Art?

The first time was at the Winnipeg Art Gallery with the Dream Machine. I got hypnotized by the damn thing, I swear. One minute I'm peacefully standing around appreciating art, and the next minute there's two security guards hauling me down the stairs. After that happened I didn't go down to look at art until my hair and beard grew out.

Oh, I went around all the little galleries, but it was all crap. Except for this one show of comics, there was a ton of erotic stuff. Julie Doucet had a piece where these girls trap some guy in her apartment and they all take turns until he's so exhausted the girls tie a shoelace around the base of his penis as a makeshift cock ring. Then Julie bites it off. It was during that show that I realized I had a thing for art. Not like a thing where I'd put up a Le Chat Noir poster, more like a thing where I'd keep the latest BorderCrossings hidden between my mattress and my box spring. I know I didn't have to, who would think a great collection of art magazines was really a great (for me) collection of something else entirely? It was just better that way. That wasn't until much later though, when I'd sorted out some art history and gotten into it pretty heavily.

So there I am, back at the WAG looking at paintings. This is shortly after the comic show and I've decided I look different enough that they won't kick me out on sight. I go through the whole gallery, and nothing. Which is weird, there was some great art on the walls, I can't remember who but I remember wondering why none of it was getting to me. I'd be standing there admiring brush strokes and just kind of expecting something, even just a twinge. Warm hands, maybe. After an hour of this I start thinking about packing up, when all of a sudden it's on. I'm standing in front of a mediocre landscape painting, like something you'd find in a cabin somewhere. I kind of freaked out a bit. I guess it's one thing to find out you get happy from art, and quite another to think you get happy from bad art. So as I'm standing there freaking out about that, I realize there's some people in the next room. I can hear sneakers squeaking and low voices, and all of a sudden I'm really freaked out. I don't want to get caught again, you know? Bad enough to get booted once for conduct unbecoming, I think twice would have put me in jail for the night at least. So I ran through a few times tables in my head to cool things off and got out of there before I did anything stupid.

Later on at home I'm flipping through a monograph of William Turner when it hit me. Delayed, I know, but then my thought processes weren't exactly razor sharp at the scene. At first I kind of thought it was an exhibitionist thing, where I had to be around other people to get into it. That would have been pretty rough going as I'm sure most of the better galleries have a policy about that sort of behaviour. Thankfully that's not the case. Now don't ask me how this works, I've never gone for any sort of conclusive tests or anything, but basically the more people have gotten all beamy eyed at a painting, the more I get out of it. So Mona Lisa, if I looked at the original in the Louvre, would cause an international incident. So would The Persistence of Memory, or The Harvesters.

Don't bother looking around online to see if there's a community of folks like me, I'll tell you. There is, you just won't find it. The whole place has gotten a little chilly for me lately as a result of this post. I had to promise I wouldn't give out the name of our group, or any sort of contact information, even to people who said they were looking for others and thought they'd be alone and misunderstood their entire lives. It really sticks in my craw, but if I want to maintain my membership, and I do, I have to keep that promise. I understand the overall reticence from the community though. None of us want to be hounded and made into a laughingstock like the shape changing people or the furs.

In closing, I'd just like to advise everyone to leave that person alone. You know the one I mean, the one who went to the big show alone and didn't talk to anyone, just went right up to a painting and stayed there for way too long, probably blocked your view and maybe mumbled a bit. Yeah, they probably just said "I love you" to a painting, but it's none of your business is it?

Some Days Just Suck

I've tried a few different sentences to start this post, but there's just no graceful way to initiate a story with "So there I was browsing pornography on the interent." That didn't even work. I'm now questioning my judgement in writing about this, but once more unto the breach and all that. So I happen across a threesome video and I'm thinking, Hey this looks pretty good, one of the girls there is actually attractive, not bad not bad wait a minute I know that guy! What the fuck?

That's it. One minute into it and now I'll probably never trust porno again. Basically in any pornographic material, I don't really want to see any identifying features on the dude. You know, so I can pretend it's me. The shots of the guy's face, presumably there to show that he's really having a good time here, are off-putting. This pales, absolutely fucking pales, in comparison to seeing a guy I know in said material.

Joe Matt has a fairly new graphic novel about his addiction to pornography where he dedicates a lot of pages to his editing of porn. Essentially he cuts out all the male roles except for the money shot. It's called Spent, go read it.

A Picture I Drew, with Apologies to xkcd

A transcription of the text, for those of poor eyesight:

-Let's get more booze!
-That is a good idea.

barf ->
<- cutaway of kitchen sink

The Person Who is Hardest on You is Yourself, Including Massage Parlour Employees

I'd give you the shirt off my back
just not this one
I'd show you the formula
and no method

I'd be in your musical revue
but I'd lip-sync
I'd act in your one act play
as a tree

When you get right down to it
I'm no good

I'd make you coffee
from crystals
I'd pass you the cream
it's Coffee MateTM

I'd give you cocaine
just one line
I'd wash your feet
with spit

When you get right down to it
I'm no good

No happy ending

Punish the Evil Merchant

The clan had had no choice but to take the job, the flood had wiped out any hope of a harvest. Oda Haruki had been sent out to the world that he might punish an evil merchant, Echigoya. The clan was being paid by a group of women from a village close by the network of caves they called home. He knew that the old man had taken too much from the villagers, but he did not know the details, and did not wish to know. All that he knew was encompassed in farming and silence.

Haruki crouched under the merchant's window, contemplating his plan. He had chosen a good night for bad work. It was raining hard, and he had not seen anyone nor been seen. The catch on the merchant's window had snapped off easily. The merchant was drinking and gambling with his cronies, his braying laugh audible even through the pounding rain. Echigoya was winning. All that he had to do now was wait for the evil man and his companions to drink themselves to stupefaction on rice wine and stumble to their beds.

Haruki heard the sharp voice of dissent from below his feet and knew the game was finished for the night. He listened as the merchant made his way to his room and prepared for sleep, and waited until he heard the stertorous breath of alcoholic slumber from inside. Haruki readied himself for his attack, emptying his mind. He slipped open the window and lifted himself through. After a scan of the room, he drew his sword and took two quick steps to Echigoya's bedside and set it on the floor. He shook his scabbard out into his hand, retrieving the cord. Then Oda Haruki garroted Echigoya and vanished into the night, leaving the corpse of the evil merchant as it was, one hand reaching for his neck and the other for his gold.

Yes, I am Familiar With the Band You're Thinking of

your diesel VW so quiet
like a riot
muffled so safely
can't chase me

truffles in dreams
experts in schemes
you best believe

The Golden Furnace

I need you to be
as police must have crime
fresco secco and lime
or ears and a falling tree

I yearn for your soul
like Moloch waits for sin
can opener and tin
or a pauper and the dole

I miss what I never had
a deaf man dreams of Handel
a blind man, light from a candle
a mute screams of his scandal
I am all three and love-mad

I wait for your look
like shoots follow the sun
zero and number one
or glasses and an old book

I want you to rise
as the bird on the pyre
summer and wood smoke fire
or a picnic and the flies

What a Little Less Gaming Can Do-ooo

This post is all about taking a quick break away from what I bashfully refer to as poetry. Today, we talk food. I've recently given up on a multiplayer online role playing game, so that's freed up some time for me to cook. When you read some time, think massive understatement.

The first real cooking I had done in a long time was to fire up some savoury pies the other day. The flavour I was looking for was the classic chicken pot pie, only good. It was pretty much like you would imagine, except that I added about two tablespoons of miso to the veggie mix, and substituted smoked tofu for chicken. Chicken is gross. The veggie mix was onions, garlic, carrots, broccoli, mushrooms, and peas. Though you could put anything in there really. It had been a while since I made pie crust but that worked out as planned, flaky and golden.

I have a couple pies in the works, a Mexican themed one which will excuse a huge portion of sour cream, and a Greek themed one containing mostly feta and olives. On top of the cooking I've redecorated my apartment, set up my television as a second monitor for my pc, and put new tires on my bike. Maybe massive understatement was a bit of an understatement.

Family Resemblance

I used to think
I had only two brothers
no sisters
bound together in darkness
the same mother
born of flesh
from the void
sightless frailty a commonality
remorseless beginning

I know better now.


lithium sleek I play in sleep
over unminded children blow
aid them in their grateful leap
bait the hook and know

a red blood meal lies ahead
only grown for the long wait
kept dark and human-fed
grief and pride will fill my plate

on a table built of appetite
I serve a starving pest
unaware it chews their light
all the wonder they confessed

I will catch them on my line
and spear them with hope's serrated tine

Say Goodnight

I'm one of those people who just up and leave. Especially when there's a huge fun party going on, I'd much rather everyone just continue to have a good time. If you notice me trying to ninja my way out the door, I'd appreciate it if you leave me to it. Maybe just wink, or wave if you have to. Not enough people wink.