Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Monday, September 07, 2009

The Heat

It's finally hot in LA. It seemed to take forever this year. Overcast and lukewarm every day week after week.

But no, it's hot, in that slight-emergency way. Sleeping with an ice pack. All the windows down in the car. Maggots in the garbage.

On Friday night I drove all the way from my house to downtown on 3rd in Labor Day weekend Friday evening traffic. Everyone was out on the streets, walking up and down the sidewalks, sitting on front stairs, sitting on bikes, Grandmas holding ice cream cones for babies. Music. Why would anyone ever wear anything other than a tank top, ever? I went swimming in the ocean yesterday, diving under big waves, popping through the glassy ones just before they broke. Apart from finding sand in my ears the next day, I'm wondering: why don't I do this every Saturday?

Yesterday I rode my bike to the Larchmont Farmers market to buy tiny strawberries and baba ganoush. By the time I rode back, it was noon and so blindingly hot. I passed some side yards with trees and bushes and flowers and damp moss and the smell was of heaven and I thought about swimming in rivers the rest of the way until I got home and had a drink of water.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Bug Life

Maggots in the trash can again, it's like they follow me.

And the crickets that jump inside the apartment and then sing their loud evening cricket song, right next to the wall by the corner of the couch, loud. It's only when they pause for stretching that you realize: how loud!

It's a distinct time of year, these days when summer is ready to collapse into fall, wringing out the last of our energy with its heat, not sharp heat like July, more a dull boring heat like a mole in a hill and I'm thinking about being another year older again.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

More Volvo Love

I drove a rental car for the last two days because my car was in the shop having failed the smog test. It got to have a sleepover with the other Volvos.

The rental car I drove was a Nissan Sentra. It was red, at least. And not (sorry American car makers) American. But I felt like I was driving a kleenex box with power windows around. Who can stand to drive this car all the time? It's got no weight to it, is boxy as all get out and the bars (I'm sure there's a technical term for it, I don't know what it is) on either side of the windshield could not have been more huge or more totally in the way of seeing the road. It was zippy to drive and I enjoyed not having to be a total precious wimp about going over potholes, but how zippy do you really want an enormous kleenex box to be, really?

The radio does not work in my car, so I was listening to the radio in some horrible 405 morning commute traffic (who can do that every day? It must kill part of your soul) and here's what I've been missing:

1) shite RnB song about "ooo, ooh, in the hotel room, the hotel room, yeah girl, in the hotel room, mm, mm, here come the egg whites"
2) talk radio with Ashton Kutcher talking about doing a sex scene with an actress but finding her feet to be gross and talking at length about how gross they were and how he asked people to cover them up in the scene.
3) talk radio about how Brad Pitt was spotted getting McDonald's drive-through and it was the second time in as many weeks

Finally I found a station playing Fleetwood Mac. The next song isn't bad either. The station ID comes on: it's the oldies station.

Here's the thing that I realized bugged me the most though: I didn't like driving that car because it wasn't cool. The Volvo may not be a Porsche, but that car has character and style. It is distinctive in parking lots. I feel cool when I'm driving it. I even feel cool having a tape collection. As cars go, that's like have a record player in your automobile. I like the heaviness of the Volvo and the low slung seats and when I drive it, I have perfect zen with what it can do as a machine and the space it takes up because I've been driving it for eleven years.

Anyway, nice try Sentra, I'll be driving the Volvo into the ground.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Rules of Thumb

Possibly everything you ever need to know.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

A photograph plus a photograph plus a photograph is life.

I think everyone with a digital camera has to come to terms with how many photos you end up taking because of how easy it is to keep snapping away.

It creates organizational problems, but it also makes for this woman's work. Also the idea for what kind of photograph you take of what kind of thing.

Also, there are crotch shots.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Goodwill, July 25th, 2009

High-waisted houndstooth wool pencil skirt from Banana Republic, $4.99.

Still mourning the violently purple pencil skirt that was a mite too small. God, it was beautiful.

T Hanks

Do you guys kind of miss when it was the 80s?

Nightdriving, California

A Stroke


Along the Galloping Goose bike path in Victoria.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

We both agree that it's delicious and healthy

Say what you will about Bruno, it did set me off on a hummus kick.

Monday, July 20, 2009

You Built A Time Machine Out of a Car

When I was a teenager I went to a drama festival and the head adjudicator was this really wonderful stage actor Scott Bellis. I can't even remember what play we put up, or maybe I was just watching a friend's play. Anyway, when he got up at the end of the festival to talk about the plays, he stood there on the empty black box stage and walked around a bit and said, "You can do anything up here". And I had one of those profound moments when you are a teenager where that information suddenly seems like the newest piece of insight ever at the same time that it's something that you've know all along, and a whole world opens up.

I was already really into theatre, but thinking of the revelation of that moment made me return again and again to loving plays and how they create whole worlds in infinite succession on a tired old piece of black stage. Because it wasn't just that he said that, but also that he made it true the moment he said it.

And when I find things like this online, I feel that way all over again.

Because holy shit, this guy is amazing! Do people help him? His friends from high school? Does he work in a pay parking booth and write all the music at work (by the way, strongly recommend working in a pay parking booth if you need to get some desk work done)?

I love the internet for letting this guy make this stuff and letting us all see it. It's the best kind of nonsense, just like movies and plays and Van Gogh and Rolling Stone lyrics and the bible.

Monday, July 06, 2009

The Tragically Hip, June 10th at the Troubadour

Sarah and I got there, having scored choice street parking (which was available because in typical LA fashion, we had to spend five minutes deciphering the logic problem of the six parking regulation signs to figure out if it was legal or not). To the wiliest go the parking spoils.

We got drinks, the place was pretty full, we looked around at all the other people in LA who would come out to a Hip show. At one point someone barely grazed my elbow from behind and immediately said, “Sorry” (Soh-ree, not saw-ree). A few minutes later, I stepped back to put my empty glass on the bar and someone leaning against the bar took it out of my hands and put it there for me. In that moment I knew: I was amongst more Canadians in one place than I had probably ever been outside of Canada.

The Troubadour is known for promptness and sure enough, they did not dilly-dally when it came to getting the show on stage. I and my day job appreciated that a lot. No one opened: no one needed to.

Now, I haven’t been following these guys lately. The last album I bought was Music At Work, which I didn’t really listen to much. I hadn’t listened to Phantom Power for ages; I didn’t even have it on my computer. Trouble At the Henhouse (apart from being one of my favorite album titles (Dongs of Sevotion being a close contender)) I’d listen to occasionally. In high school we all listened to Day For Night exhaustively, and Fully Completely got the most radio play. Once, on a road trip from Vancouver to Prince George in which everyone forgot to bring music, I purchased the cassette tape of Up To Here in 100 Mile House, which we then listened to from there to PG and all the way back to Vancouver on a loop until we couldn’t take it anymore.

All this to say that I haven’t heard their new stuff. And it’s a tour; they have to play a lot of the new stuff to keep the people happy/buying albums, I get that. The new stuff was a little too happy and mellow and dreamy for me. But they are dads now and stuff, so they, like Joni Mitchell, have looked at clouds from both sides now.

Mr. Gord Downie is still the most creative person on stage that I’ve ever seen. Bob Dylan takes the prize for most outrageous reinvention of his own songs on stage, but he can’t hold a candle to Gord’s physical imaginationings. It’s like when he’s making music something else takes over and it’s kind of dance and kind of performance art and it’s a little silly at times, but it always actually makes sense. His head is shaved bald and he had a white towel for wiping it. He’d go through a towel ever couple of minutes – the used ones would get tossed into the crowd (hm) and then a roadie offstage would toss him a fresh one. Are there eight million ways to catch a towel that’s being tossed to you? I now think that there are. Are there four hundred million ways to wipe your sweaty head? Indefinitely. Including singing whole songs with the towel covering your face.

Yes, they played: Grace, Too (with the “Well I’m tragically hip” lyric swapped in), Locked In The Trunk of a Car, Gift Shop, Ahead By A Century, Springtime In Vienna, Poets, Thompson Girl (so pretty). They played Bobcaygeon, which I never liked as much before, partly cause on the album there’s a bit of a easy-listening feel to it, flutes or something. They played it as straight up rock, a little harsh, and it was more beautiful than I’d ever noticed before. It was the musical equivalent of the plain girl in the movie who takes off her glasses and reveals herself as gorgeous. “Coulda been the Willie Nelson, coulda been the wine.”

And they played Nautical Disaster, which even if everything else was crap, would have made the night worthwhile. There is something about the years I was 17, 18, 19 contained in that song, some kind of worldview that it has. The fingernails on the hull. The kind of logic that will get you hated.

Yes, the Canadianness is a big part of it for me, especially now. And there’s a nostalgia element involved. But the Hip have this acuteness in their lyrics that you hardly ever find in music, especially popular music. I wonder how much of the magic of the line: “Maybe a prostitute/Could teach you/How to take a compliment” lands for their more meathead fanbase. Or “Sleepwalk/So fast asleep/In the motel/That has the lay of home”. Setting the scene with “Sled dogs after dinner/Close their eyes on the howling waste/Kurt Cobain reincarnated/Sighs and licks his face”. It’s possible Gord is right about “A generation so much dumber than its parents/Came crashing through the window”.

Have fallen in love with Fireworks:

If there’s a goal that everyone remembers
It was back in ol’ 72
We all squeezed the stick and we all pulled the trigger
And all I remember is sitting beside you.
You said you didn’t give a fuck about hockey
Well I never saw someone say that before
You held my hand and we walked home the long way
You were loosening my grip on Bobby Orr.

Never read his book of poems, and it’s possible it may not be as good when it’s not sung out with guitars and drums and the ziiiing feeling of a solid pop hook, but when you add that stuff it’s pretty intoxicating.

And then they signed off and we filed out into the night, sweaty and with a tinnitus ring: souvenirs of a good night.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Tonight You Belong To Me

When my old roommate Rebecca moved off to Jordan, she left a lot of stuff in the house for me to use, including one of her ukuleles. I played guitar a bit when I was a kid so it wasn't hard to pick it up and thanks to the internet, it's not hard to learn the basic adjustments of uke versus guitar. I played a song to my mom over the phone, which she complained about, because I played it really badly. But when I was up in Vancouver recently, she asked me why I don't play that song from The Jerk.

On looking for it, I found this girl, who is hopefully no longer posting stuff on YouTube because she's working on an album, because wowie geez is her voice pretty. Pretty song too. Now I just have to learn this tune and find a fellow who plays the trumpet to walk along the beach with me.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Proposal, or: The Worst Possible Way to Stay In The Country

How excited am I for this movie? A Canadian played by an American forces an American played by a Canadian to marry her so she can stay in America. And don't pretend the casting isn't part of the joke: for me the casting is the whole joke, expecially when RR starts making dumb American jokes about Canada. Directed by a choreograher.

Also, I would see any movie with Sandra Bullock.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Trustifarians Eating Ramen

This is from a while ago, but I can’t not post it, because I think it’s too hilarious.

Did none of these people read into the moral lessons behind Charlie and the Chocolate Factory? I’m all for parents helping their struggling kids out and it being hard to be a young person struggling to get ahead, but give me a freaking break. If you’re twentysomething and you want to break into the [pretentious career] industry, be a scrapper and do it! Don’t take summers off, don’t spend all your money on ridiculous shoes and twenty dollar martinis (NYC can be an asshole about that) and then balk at working a shit job for 8 hours in a row. If you are the parent of such a person, cut them off.

The film industry, for one, is full of people who are trying to work in it or who do work in it who don’t care that much about movies and aren’t really interested in shutting up, working hard, and getting the job done. Of course, there are people who DO care about movies, who DO shut up and work hard and get the job done and those people are freaking DIAMONDS. And they do not spend very long working shitty jobs. Getting ahead in film is like a zen paradox: love washing the coffee cups and then you won’t have to do it for very long.


Now that I've been working this job for over a year, I've gotten pretty good at my routines. I work about 12 hours a day, Monday to Friday, not including commute (30 minutes in the morning, 15 at night). I try to spend one weeknight a week socializing, two weeknights a week at the gym and Monday nights I usually give myself the night off (I'm usually a little jetlagged from the weekend hours).

This means one weekend day is (at least partly) taken up with chores: laundry, grocery shopping, cleaning up the kitchen, cleaning the house, because I don’t have time to do it during the week. I try to make myself a week’s worth of lunches for the week ahead too. This doesn’t always happen.

I have my behaviour pretty much set into a pattern that works really well. I’m missing writing time. So far, I still haven’t been able to figure out where to fit that in, apart from some 3 hour stints on the weekends. What’s hard is getting my head out of office mode and into writing mode. I’ve gotten really good at sensing what time it is, or how much time has passed. The other thing I’ve learned from work is a certain kind of split attention. I have real conversations at the same time that I’m listening to a phone conversation in my other ear at the same time I’m having an IM conversation. I monitor multiple email inboxes. I have a hard time reading a two page article all the way through without flipping through other windows, checking other information streams. It’s not a lack of concentration; it’s just broad concentration instead of deep concentration.

I’m looking forward to a future phase of my life in which I will be able to foster deep concentration once again.

Here are some famous people and their patterns. Often striking for their weirdness, which is great: to make great things, sometimes you have build your life around your own peculiarities, even if it’s not that healthy.

WH Auden:

He swallowed Benzedrine every morning for twenty years, from 1938 onward, balancing its effect with the barbiturate Seconal when he wanted to sleep. (He also kept a glass of vodka by the bed, to swig if he woke up during the night.) He took a pragmatic attitude toward amphetamines, regarding them as a "labor-saving device" in the "mental kitchen," with the important proviso that "these mechanisms are very crude, liable to injure the cook, and constantly breaking down."

Winston Churchill:

He awoke about 7:30 a.m. and remained in bed for a substantial breakfast and reading of mail and all the national newspapers. For the next couple of hours, still in bed, he worked, dictating to his secretaries. At 11:00 a.m., he arose, bathed, and perhaps took a walk around the garden, and took a weak whisky and soda to his study.

Mr. Rogers:

Mister Rogers weighed 143 pounds because he has weighed 143 pounds as long as he has been Mister Rogers, because once upon a time, around thirty-one years ago, Mister Rogers stepped on a scale, and the scale told him that Mister Rogers weighs 143 pounds. No, not that he weighed 143 pounds, but that he weighs 143 pounds.... And so, every day, Mister Rogers refuses to do anything that would make his weight change--he neither drinks, nor smokes, nor eats flesh of any kind, nor goes to bed late at night, nor sleeps late in the morning, nor even watches television--and every morning, when he swims, he steps on a scale in his bathing suit and his bathing cap and his goggles, and the scale tells him he weighs 143 pounds. This has happened so many times that Mister Rogers has come to see that number as a gift, as a destiny fulfilled, because, as he says, "the number 143 means `I love you.' It takes one letter to say 'I' and four letters to say `love' and three letters to say `you.' One hundred and forty-three. `I love you.' Isn't that wonderful?"

Pro-Ahmadinejad + Photoshop = Love

Looks like the photoshopping skills of Iranian powers that be have not improved with practice and experience.

Homeless in the Sims

I played the Sims a while back. It was boring. I couldn't deal with computer characters that took 45-minute-long showers in the mornings and then kept missing their carpools. As if the irritating details of real life aren't bad enough.

Maybe the key is giving your Sims some kind of actual, serious conflict, like making them homeless with an abusive parent. This makes the game seem actually interesting.

What Do You Call A Bad Tattoo Gone Bad?

So this 18-year-old girl went to get a small ugly facial tattoo and ended up with a big ugly facial tattoo.

Couple of things:

Who falls asleep while getting a tattoo? Was she on morphine?

Facial tattoos at 18? You want to wear a badge of dumb for the rest of your life?

Who gives facial tattoos to a teenager? Oh, it's this guy:

So I guess if you ask this guy to start drawing on you with permanent ink, you get what you deserve. I hope my little cousin sees this.

Friday, June 12, 2009

So Get Off Your Ath, Let's Do Some Math, Math Math Math Math Math

So I have a massive pile of receipts that I need to reconcile with my bank statements so that I can figure out how much I’ve been spending and on what. Not the most fun thing ever.

But look, here’s an excuse for continued laziness: you can use this checksum technique on your restaurant bills to mathematically “lock” your total so servers don’t give themselves tips off your credit card that you didn’t authorize, no receipt-checking required. Clever.

Is this paranoid? Yes, but so is tearing my name and address out of all junk mail I receive and taking it to work for shredding. A month ago I spotted a hobo going through my recycling bin looking not for bottles but for paper, specifically mail. Creepy.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Thursday, June 04, 2009


Every photograph of Vladmir Putin cracks me up. And scares the shit out of me. He’s like a sad clown that is thinking very seriously about how your eyeballs will taste when he rips them out of your face and eats them.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009


I really like reading the news and I recently discovered this feature the Boston Globe has called The Big Picture, which is just that: news stories, told mostly by photograph, but really high-resolution, big photos that take up your whole browser screen. It's amazing how sometimes it feels much more informative than just reading an article.

Sometimes it is on big news stories that are already leading, but often the subject is stuff I've never heard of before, like... Gloucester Cheese Rolling!

Monday, June 01, 2009

The Verge

I am still someone who has not thrown up from running too hard. I am also, but just barely, someone who has not thrown up from a traumatic emotional experience.

I am, however, someone who has thrown up in the car after eating half a bag of corn chips before driving down the Whistler highway. I am almost someone who has thrown up from eating Kentucky Fried Chicken.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Two-Fact Review of Angels and Demons

1)When the usher announced the total run time of the movie, everyone groaned.

2)When Stellan Skarsgard was talking about why a mysterious sect was trying to murder the papal candidates, my thought was, “Hey we have the same kind of paper cups in our office.”

Sunday, May 17, 2009


Why did I ever stop shopping at secondhand stores for clothes?

I survived on thrift stores for a long time. By the time I was 20, at least half of the items in my closet and most of my favorites were from secondhand stores. I may have depended on them too heavily: I think ideally one should have 20 - 30% secondhand stuff, only because inevitably the secondhand stuff I come home with tends to be a bit on the outlandish side and you have to mix the outlandish with more conventional basics to really set them off.

This is what I realized I missed about second hand shopping: it is to retail store shopping as hand-to-hand combat is to machine gun warfare. There is no other size or different color. You have to understand fabrics. 100% polyester will smell like someone's armpits and if not, it will smell like your own soon enough. 50-50 poly cotton blend t-shirts, on the other hand, will be thin and soft and hang great. Not everything has tags, so you have to be able to feel the difference between fabrics. Acetate lining or silk lining? It matters. Sometimes the store smells bad. But if you walk out with a Hill Street Blues shirt that strangers then ask to buy off you about once every year, it's worth it. You will never find good jeans (so don't waste time looking). You should be able to tell the difference between good cutting and shitty cutting, hopefully without trying it on. Sometimes the best finds are in the scarf section and the belt section. It can help your retail shopping too: one look at the state of the 100% cotton sweaters and you will never buy one new again.

Also, these clothes have history. Some people are creeped out by the idea of dead people's clothes, but I like to think of the people who wore the clothes before, what they did in them, if they loved that sweater or jacket as much as I do.

Permit me a brief philosophical sidebar to say: I love clothes so much. I love how they make people look different, how they make people move differently and feel differently about themselves. I love color and texture and putting things together that shouldn't go but do. It's possible this is a result of a couple of years of wearing uniforms for school and work, but I love waking up and deciding how I feel and dressing towards that. Because then I get to wear how I feel all day. I loved that speech in Devil Wears Prada where Nigel says:

Don't you know that you are working at the place that published some of the greatest artists of the century? Halston, Lagerfeld, de la Renta. And what they did, what they created was greater than art because you live your life in it.

When I started realizing how often I moved house, I began taking pictures of my bedroom before packing, to remember. I also take pictures of my closet, to remember the clothes I had at that point in my life. I love seeing the closet of a close friend for the first time: all those garments that you know from knowing that person hanging there.

To that end, a huge Goodwill opened down the street last weekend. The suede coat with the fur collar (recycled fur is okay, right?) was $10. The blazer was $6. The moment of trying both of these things on was the best possible moment of thrift store shopping: finding something interesting and gorgeous and well-made and trying it on, having it fit perfectly and know it's now become of part of you.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

The Difficulties of Everyday Life

In the last few weeks, I have fixed two things that weren't broken and broken them in the fixing.

One was the shower drain. I felt very pious, from a housekeeping point of view, cleaning the bottom of the shower and pulling the drain cover out and cleaning all the weird guck that was clotted around there. I'm sorry if this information disgusts you, unless you are a stranger that stumbled upon this randomly, you should know that I'm sorta into gross things. Anyway, turns out that guck was the thing that was preventing hair from getting washed down the drain, so now it's going down the drain and forming yet another big scary clot instead of piling up nicely on the drain cover for me to whisk away. When I was a little kid, my mom and I had some serious battles over hair-brushing. Once when we driving over the Lion's Gate bridge we were discussing the fact that it was a suspension bridge and my mom said that she bet if they got enough of my hair, it would be stronger than the metal cables that held the bridge up in the same way that spider webs, if you had enough of them, would be stronger than steel. Sorry, shower drain, here we go again.

The second thing was I washed my car and decided to be very thorough and clean all the dirty metal that you see when the doors are open. It was very dirty and really satisfying to clean. Then I got into my car to park it back in the driveway and the car started dinging like the driver's door was open, but it wasn't. That was two weeks ago. Despite a lot of research and experimenting, I haven't figured out how to fix it. If I could notch filter that shit, I would. Mechanic will be next week when my boss is out of town, but until now, here's what I've been doing:

New Pornographers, especially Mass Romantic. Great wall-to-wall sound
Spoon, GaGaGaGaGa
The Riff Randells have been pretty good
Stephen Malkmus has been okay, some songs not so much
David Bryne has been perfect
White Stripes, Icky Thump has worked pretty well
I'll bet more recent U2 would work well, but I haven't tried it yet
Cat Stevens: not at all.

Thanks Thom Holman for the lesson about masking a quieter sound with a louder sound.


So, lest life get too boring and staid, I have set up a grocery store rule for myself. Basically I always buy the same things at the grocery store and therefore I always eat the same things and it gets pretty dull. But there are lots of things out there to dine on and why should I always get the same kind of yogurt? Why? Because I really really like it? Stupid reason.

So the rule is: go to the grocery store and don't buy anything that I have ever bought before. Technicality is the key here. Sure, I've bought 2% milk before, but not the 2 litre (or whatever, I still think of everything in metric, by the way, vive le Canada) from Trader Joe's. This seems like kind of an easy rule, but then you get to the grocery store and stand in front of all the milk and it's a little challenging.

Findings: skim milk is gross, who would live their life like that? The olives with jalapenos are great, of course. It's hard to find vegetables that I don't usually get. Mini heirloom tomatoes! Genius! And snap peas. The second week of this rule is harder than the first. And I have a lot of food in my cupboards already. Before this phase, I was trying to buy as little food as possible so I'd eat the food I already have. Turns out it's pretty uninteresting. I'll save it for the apocalypse. (Yes, I am trying to reference the apocalypse as often as 30 Rock has been mentioning farts lately -- so about once an episode)

On Monday when I discovered a new kind of trail mix that is peanuts and almonds and golden raisins and wasabi peas (spectacular, I recommend) the cashier man and I had a chat. I told him about my rule-based buying. He told me that the first time he had wasabi, he thought it was guacamole and took an enormous scoop and suffered much.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

All We Need Is Here On Earth (About Every Other Day)

This weekend I went away to the mountains for a ski trip. It's a five-hour drive to get up there, which is good, because then you don't go unless you really mean to, and once you are up there, you are far away from many things.

The problem with a totally unplugged weekend is also the point: my mind downshifts into this really pleasurable grade of slow and there is time to look at the way the ice has melted itself off a rock or stand in bare feet on the porch (sunny spots only) and try to spot the jay in the pines.

The thing with skiing that I figured out somewhere around age 22 is that to do it well, you have to concentrate on it and use your whole body. There's a lot of observing: figuring out what's around you, gauging the surface of the snow, timing. But all that information is funneled into an effort that is purely physical, instinctual and rhythmic. It's the complete opposite of a computer screen. And then on the chair you float above the world on a little shelf with your friends, ahhhhh.

On the way back down in the car in the sunshine between changing CDs, the radio came on for five seconds and told us that North Korea had fired their first test missile and someone in New York had shot a whole bunch of people.

O to live in the country,
With some chickens and those other things.
Take a wife and no paper,
Never again to wonder,
Did that rapper rape her?

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Christmas in Vancouver

The Red River Valley

As a result of constantly seeing news updates on the flooding in Fargo, this song has been in my head for the past few days. It is in the same category for me as "Stewball", an old and pretty song which made me feel so very very sad when I was a little kid. Partly because of the words, but maybe because the simplicity and prettiness of the tune made the words so much sadder. I remember singing it in grade four or five and getting all snuffly at my desk. It still makes me sad. "They say you are taking the sunshine".

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Depression Breakfast

Ever since I read How To Cook A Wolf earlier this year, I've been more and more interested in this cooking to survive idea.

I guess I also made a movie about this too.

But cooking is kind of magical -- you take these elements that on their own are pretty inert or at least uninteresting (handful of flour: not delicious) and the way you combine them in what ratios and what temperatures brings this new thing into the world that is nourishing and pleasurable. No wonder there's this child chef thing going on right now.

I think Depression-era cooking is particularly magical because you can take the most cast-off and dull tidbits of edibles and work this same magic.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Tent City in Sacramento

Most significant (and alarming) are the regular folk and how much this looks like the dust bowl.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Apocalypse Skills

I'm very interested in this idea of acquiring more and more skills with the intent of preparing for doomsday scenarios.

Here's an excellent example. (Please respond with your observations as to how the Ikea setting is appropriate when thinking about doomsday scenarios)

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Sunday, March 01, 2009

West LA Baby

Yesterday I went to MILK to make friends with a strawberry milkshake. The couple at the table next to me said to their infant son: "You can be gay as long as you are not a Republican".

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Table

Those of you who have been over to my house in the last year or so know that it's a pretty adult place, and those of you who know me well know it's the most adult place I've had thus far in my adult life.

But the card table in the dining room with the plastic tablecloth didn't really work for this.

So after many Fridays of scouring Craigslist for something wooden, not tacky and relatively cheap, I found this:

And there was much rejoicing.

But the top was a little roughed up and needed work.  Blistered.  A little unloved.

So I got my dad to send me instructions, which he did. At the beginning of the instructions was that because the panels were placed in such a way that the grain runs in different directions meant that I needed to tape off the sections and sand with the grain ONLY.

Wet sanding is the key here.  Water and some very fine grit sandpaper bring up a weird paste that is the finish that was on the table before.

Sanded in one direction.  The leaf was particularly blistered and I had to sand right down to the wood.


Sanding the other direction. This direction-switching thing took a while.

But I sanded. I sanded my little heart out.

To match the stain to the current color, I hauled the leaf into the hardware store and the clerk (cute) helped me hold it up to the samples to figure out which stain to pick.

We picked the right color.

Then comes 6 layers of polyurethane with light sanding between each layer. It's like a cake except how the smell of it kills your brain cells.

After that came furniture wax, which was difficult to apply and didn't really work the way I wanted it to.

But then, then I had a beautiful table, a table people could leave a wet glass on for a week and nothing would happen to it. $150 secondhand, $80 of refinishing gear, one weekend of work and one minor flare-up of tendonitis. Come on over for dinner.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Eating Bugs

From the NYT:

"In case you’re curious: you’re probably ingesting one to two pounds of flies, maggots and mites each year without knowing it, a quantity of insects that clearly does not cut the mustard, even as insects may well be in the mustard."

I like the idea that you'll, as they say, eat a peck of dirt before you're dead. But when I think of that, I think of, like, soil or sand or something. Clean dirt. Not so much fly eggs and rodent hair that the FDA is like, well, yeah, what are you gonna do?

Gross. Though, rich in protein!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Trough of No Value

Hello Everyone

Do you ever think about acid-washed jeans? Or your Kriss Kross tapes?

I do. And wood paneling, and dulcimers, and weird crochet vests, and curly shoelaces, and those couches with the weird pouchy pillowy blobs for the backrest part, and chunky Mary Janes, VCRs, frosted lipstick,

They live in the Trough of No Value.

The Trough is getting smaller and smaller, however. I look forward to the future day when something can go out of fashion at the same moment that it is in fashion once again.

Monday, January 19, 2009

In Praise of Usefulness

I spent the weekend refinishing a table that I bought on Craigslist.

My dad gave me a one-and-half-page list of instructions for the job, including half a page of things to buy. Buying the stuff seemed like the least exciting part of the exercise as all the stuff was really specific and I kind of didn't know what I was doing. But I found a really good local hardware store. If you've been in a really good hardware store, you know what this means: incredibly narrow aisles with stuff stacked to the rafters, people there to help you who have bifocals and the creased, hardened fingers of workers, and a lot of built-in grime (at my BC Ferries job, our old terminal building before they knocked it down had an amazing amount of built-in grime -- counters with the laminate worn down to the wood and everything so smooth and dirt worked into all the crevices -- I liked that building a lot better than the new one they built).

There is no substitute for a good hardware store: it has no aesthetic other than sheer utility, which becomes its own aesthetic. This hardware store was in the middle of West Hollywood too, so that's saying something. I walked past a very old man who could hardly stand up wearing a store apron who shouted out hello. His store?

I had to go way in the back to see the guy about screws for the arms of one of the chairs. The screw expert guy was so satisfyingly expert that he spent 25 minutes focused on figuring out how the hell the screws would work for the arms (and was not distracted by his coworkers' repeated requests to "explain Groundhog Day") and then sold me two pieces of hardware at the total cost of a dollar and ten cents. And said, "Bring in one of the other chairs and I'll have a look at it and we'll figure it out."

I had a closer look at the chairs when I got home: the puzzle is that they are designed for a long screw to go in one direction that has two holes through it for other screws to screw into perpendicularly. Seems weird. But I'll bet they have that piece of hardware somewhere in a creased cardboard drawer with a masking tape label ten feet up the wall.


So the other day I met the woman who used to live in my apartment.

I've been checking in on my upstairs neighbor, who was AWOL for a while and I thought maybe deceased? until she was back again after I got back to LA. My upstairs neighbor is old enough to talk about the plans she and her husband made when they got out of the concentration camps and these days is back from hospital but still poorly, so I fetch her mail and visit. My angelic good neighborliness has kind of backfired on me as I have been entirely unsuccessful in diverting our conversations away from the sole discussion topic of how crappy she feels and the unsaid implication of "and soon I will die". I feel like a shit for even complaining about this, but man it's a downer, plus there are very few ways to resuscitate (so to speak) the conversation at that point.

Anyway, last week, she had visitors and one of them was the woman who used to live in my place. As much as this neighborhood is full of orthodox jewish people, I haven't really talked to any of them besides my neighbor, so talking to her was an exercise in mediating my curiosity about her (she's got to be my age and has three kids-- is that a wig? does she have to wear that skirt?) while trying to have a normal conversation. She was very bubbly and sarcastic and friendly and translated the occasional yiddish phrases for me.

In a reciprocal curiosity exchange, I invite her in to look around my apartment and see how different it was. Our shower still has a glitter sticker of birds that I left up because I like to look at it in the mornings. She was on the phone to her oldest daughter describing the place as she walked through and the daughter said she got the sticker from her ballet recital. It's interesting to think of what a place that means so much to me means to someone else, not to mention all the other someone elses who have lived here for the past 80-odd years.

When I was sixteen, I got a baby-sitting job from people who had moved into the house I grew up in. I put the kids to bed and then wandered around in the house. I probably spent about ten minutes in each room.

Now, sometimes when I can't fall asleep at night, I imagine walking through my old house, what the rooms looked like, what kind of carpet, where the lightswitches were, the sound the cabinet doors made when you closed them. They tore that house down last summer.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Snow Day


While in Vancouver, next year's Olympics were a frequent topic of discussion. With only a few variations, here's how the conversations went:

Discussion topic #1: Did you get tickets? We put in for tickets in the draw and got only biathlon.

Discussion topic #2: The IOC is so stupid that they threw down with Cirque de Soleil about creative control of the opening ceremonies and now Cirque is outie.

Discussion topic #3: Are you renting your house out?

Applause to Stacie's husband Darryl for the most illuminating suggestion re: topic #2 -- "Okay, so the lights are down in the stadium and you hear a rhythmic "crunch, crunch, crunch, crunch" and then the lights slowly come up and the stadium is full of two thousand and ten guys in perfect formation crushing beer cans against their heads" After this suggestion, we laughed very hard and then talked about Neil Young for half an hour. I know, eh?

Street Opera (In Three Acts)

This weekend, I was walking out of my house and I noticed this big black BMW SUV parked blocking the building's driveway. Not a little; a lot -- half the car was hanging out into the driveway. Someone had written "asshole" in the dust of the back window.

When I got home, a tow truck was backing up, angling its bar under the rear wheels of the BMW.

Later, as I was washing my car in the back courtyard, I heard an anguished scream and yelling and swearing from the street.


Joining the Milk Line

I went to the grocery store last Monday night because I, like everyone else in the entire city, just got back from holiday and needed milk. It was around 8:40 at night. The company line from the staff was that they were doing inventory, but I went to the milk fridge and there wasn't any milk there.

Well, to be totally accurate, there were four cartons of organic unseparated milk, but who's going to gag that down? No milk. Also, no bread. People were wandering the aisles in a daze. It felt like communist Russia.

Was this a shipping problem? Did the huge demand for post-holiday perishable essentials take the city by storm? Does this have to do with the economy? Is there more of this to come?