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11/11: Two poems by Siegfried Sassoon [Nov. 11th, 2009|11:39 am]
(November 1918)

When you are standing at your hero's grave,
Or near some homeless village where he died,
Remember, through your heart's rekindling pride,
The German soldiers who were loyal and brave.

Men fought like brutes; and hideous things were done;
And you have nourished hatred harsh and blind.
But in that Golgotha perhaps you'll find
The mothers of the men who killed your son.


On Passing the new Menin Gate

Who will remember, passing through this Gate,
The unheroic Dead who fed the guns?
Who shall absolve the foulness of their fate,—
Those doomed, conscripted, unvictorious ones?

Crudely renewed, the Salient holds its own.
Paid are its dim defenders by this pomp;
Paid, with a pile of peace-complacent stone,
The armies who endured that sullen swamp.

Here was the world’s worst wound. And here with pride
‘Their name liveth for ever,’ the Gateway claims.
Was ever an immolation so belied
As these intolerably nameless names?
Well might the Dead who struggled in the slime
Rise and deride this sepulchre of crime.
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Quoting from Steph/Walter: [Aug. 19th, 2009|04:30 pm]
Not that you give a shit, but if you post twitters, I'm scrolling right past and not reading.
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Lament. [Jul. 6th, 2009|11:41 pm]
Previous post, or two posts ago, saw Yama (threepunchstuff ) and I discuss the decline of LJ, in which I admit I've participated by dropping off in posting myself. He said the following:

LJ is definitely a beautifully designed social networking platform. The simultaneous sense of community and privacy hasn't been duplicated.

But I think the idea that defection is LJ's only problem needs to be examined. It seems to me more likely that defection is the consequence of structural failings. The purpose of all of these platforms is instrumental, not aesthetic. An abacus that no one wants to use probably isn't the best abacus. Popularity alone doesn't validate art, but I think usage does validate tools.

I also don't think it's true that LJ lends itself to better writing than Facebook or Twitter. I was especially skeptical of the latter for a long time, but now I think my Twitter feed is the most consistently engrossing thing I read.

What I do think is true is that LJ lends itself to particular kinds of content and community that are falling out of favor, for various reasons. It's not just the perceived laziness or faddishness of Twitter. There's something about brevity, immediacy, and transparency that make for a good social networking tool. And there's something about halfway-cloaked identity and an emphasis on self-analytical writing over other types of content that attracts cobwebs and little else right now.

I'm not too sad about the dwindling of this space, because it served its purpose. And I won't assume that there's never going to be another place where people can comfortably confess, solicit sympathy, or think out loud about themselves. Maybe that place won't be online. And maybe it shouldn't be. I'm going to keep using it, happily, for now.

Generally, I see the sense in this. However, the thing that troubles me about this trend is that, like virtually every other internet shift in the past decade, it's a move toward saying less. When I began moving to messageboards from usenet about ten years ago, what weirded me out then was how short every post was expected to be, and how people were ridiculed for trying to say things that were complicated or took any explanation at all. In time, I followed friends to messageboards as the same friends drifted away from usenet, and a while later I ended up here, the same way I ended up on friendster, myspace, facebook, etc.

Each of these platforms offers something interesting enough to me that it inspires me to sign up, so obviously there's something of draw in each. And, as Yama says of himself, I will also eventually most likely drift away from LJ as other people defect, and my behaviour over the last year is probably an indicator of that. However what troubles me is that the decline of this platform is a decline in what I see as communication-- far more so than straight blogging, or Twitter, both of which are much more about speaking into the void of the perceived public. Facebook is more about the presentation of the self as a character punctuated again by short, pithy remarks (and as such limits responses to posted items, etc.). It provides the option of allowing users to post longer notes, but doesn't allow long responses to them. And Twitter, of course, is an exercise in sloganeering that's amusing for its pith but depressing to those who want to see a thought sustained on into a paragraph.

What I like about LJ, and what I have liked about it, is that it's always been a platform through which I could communicate with a large group of people keep up with them, argue with them, agree angrily with them, see what's catching their attention these days, and so on. Despite its public accessibility, I've never imagined anyone reading this whom I hadn't invited to read it or who was otherwise not a friend of a friend or some such thing. That way, it's always seemed to me like a large dinner party with a variety of ongoing conversations, some of which were very involved, others more succinct and amusing. That coupling of variety and community has always been a great thing and I feel that we'll suffer for the loss of it.

It's true that we need to take these things off the internet and out into the world, but at the same time I don't feel that the internet should be for flash video games and viral marketing alone. It has the power to provide people with deep, comfortable communication-- as LJ has done-- and I feel like in losing this particular platform, we'll lose some of the best of what the internet has offered groups of friends in far-away places.

But then again, when enough people leave, I'll leave too. So it's hardly my place to judge.
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Anyone can be the King of Pesto. [Jul. 5th, 2009|05:04 pm]
And I mean King in a gender neutral sense, in part because I'm reading Jayne County's Man Enough to Be A Woman right now and I truly feel that ANYONE can be the King of Pesto.

I am presently the King of Pesto, however.

Several factors entered into this. Chief among them were two: Ang received a food processor from my folks for her birthday (belatedly) on Friday. A week ago, Ang was saying that we should really get a food processor and roughly ten minutes later my mom emailed me and said, "Do you think Angie would like a food processor as a birthday gift?" Before we had a blender, but the oiliness of the pesto tended to make it leak like a mofo. The advent of a food processor made pesto a distinct possibility (pestobility?).

Also, we have a gigantic balcony garden going this year. It's almost entirely Ang's doing, but I'm finally learning how to do all this stuff. Three big things of mixed lettuce greens that have gone so far off the hook that we've had to have salad as a major-if-not-central part of every dinner for about the last two weeks. Also, we have too many things of Swiss Chard going just now, but Angie likes it so that's her business. We have three gigantic tomato plants (not grown from seed) plus two smaller green pepper plants, one of which seems a bit ill. They're on their way to bearing fruit but aren't there yet. Then there are the herbs, of which we have zillions-- oregano, thyme, lavender, cilantro (hisss! Angie eats the vile stuff, though), dill, rosemary, sage, and finally all kinds of basil, which is my responsibility. I planted it and made it live myself, which is pretty rad. This exists chiefly in the form of Basil World, a large tub with red basil, green basil (revived from a plant I bought from the grocery store then mostly killed), and an utterly monstrous Thai Mother Basil plant that's taking the fuck over.

Thus: food processor, Basil World: ergo Pesto sum! Not to mention we got male garlic (single giant garlic bulbs) from the Jean Talon market.

But like I said, anyone can be the King of Pesto, provided one has access to a food processor and a HELL of a lot of basil. I pretty much literally decimated Basil World (taking easily one in ten leaves from all the plants)-- it took a surprisingly long time to get two loosely packed cups of basil leaves. But once that's done, basically you just put the ingredients into a food processor:

2 cups loosely packed basil leaves
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup fresh grated parmesan
1 clove of garlic (or one giant male garlic if you wish to share this joy with your friends)
2 tablespoons pine nuts

Then you turn the food processor on, and you too are the King of Pesto.

Interesting thing about this recipe, beyond its being more delicious than any pesto ever, is that the high concentration of pine nuts (which have an appetite supressant in their oil) make it very difficult to eat a lot of it. Ang and I each had standard servings of linguini with this last night and neither of us could get through more than half of our plates. We both loved it, but were stuffed by halfway in. This ends in my favour, since I had some for lunch today and will bring the rest for lunch tomorrow.

Next time, we're going to try roasting the garlic, and I'm thinking about adding some oregano or rosemary to see how it changes it. But first, I need to let the basil grow back a while.
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Oh hey, world. I never forgot you. [Jul. 4th, 2009|04:16 pm]
[music |Afrobaby: The Evolution of the Afro Sound in Nigeria, 1970-79 (!!!!!!!)]

The truth is that I'm too easily entranced by this facebook business. That coupled with the steady defection of LJ-pals from LJ-land and the events that occurred last year (described a few posts back) involving the discovery of the abhorrent secret life a formerly close friend who was one of the reasons I joined LJ in the first place have left me feeling a little weird about this as a medium-- as though I'm speaking to a steadily emptying room, where I'm left in part with a crowd I'm not sure about. But that's just absurd, right? Many great people are still on here and I keep reading, so I might as well try to write from time to time.

I gave notice at the college again last week. Those who've been following the events of my life in the longer-term sense might have noticed that this time last year I said I was quitting college teaching for good and that I intended never to return to classroom teaching. I was right then, but as of the end of May, at which time my contract as a communications drone at McGill ended, I needed income quick and thus returned. A mistake, but one that I'm at least learning to identify. Like many things, teaching seems to be something I care enough about that I need to leave it a few times to be sure I'm doing the right thing. I am.

Of course I'm going to need work post-haste. I suppose I'm going to be trolling for freelance editing and writing jobs from McGill mosty, but also need to update my portfolios of speeches, articles, and various communications writings so I can try to find work doing al of those with people I don't yet know. I'm sort of hoping for an election this fall so I can try to cram my way into writing a speech or two for the NDP (Gurg? You will help me, yes?) to offset the inevitability of having to write speeches for corporate dinkuses (dinki?). All that's later, though-- there's still plenty of prep and marking to do.

Yesterday Ang and I rented a communauto car and drove to Ottawa for the afternoon to do Ang's taxes (I know. Ask her how this came about: long story) and select pieces of furniture from my Gran's house. She moved into a semi-assisted-living apartment building earlier this year where she's doing pretty well. About three years ago, she moved from the townhouse where she (and my late grandfather) had lived since about 1980 into a one-floor apartment, but given her medication requirements and (mild) memory lapses, the new place is better for her. So after liquidating a large number of her belongings three years ago, her things are being even more pared down now. We will be inheriting a bunch of her antique pine stuff-- an ancient, battle-scarred kitchen table (including iron-shaped welt burned 1/2-inch deep into the wood), several large washstands, and end tables. Plus we're taking her stained-glass dining room light, made for my grandparents by my father when he was still married to my mom, and a bunch of other bits and pieces (including a fantastic large panorama photo of Montreal from the mountain that's at least 100 to 150 years old-- we brought that home yesterday and hung it today in our stairwell!).

The reason why this is important is so much clearer to me now following so many years of therapy: after my folks split and my family became a bitterly contested volleyball match in which I was the ball, I spent a LOT of time with my grandparents. On my mom's side, I spent many, many nights at my Gran & Grampa Haig's in Ottawa, and I spent weeks or months staying with them during the summer at Caribou Lake during the summer when my folks were at work. Their home was the only constant for me during that time and for that reason has retained in my memories an aura of warmth, comfort, safety, and inviolability to me. Being able to take things from that home into my own home-- hoping their smell will carry here and become a part of the smell of my house, and that the memories of calm that I associate with the smell of old pine will manifest themseves once more in my life-- is a great comfort to me and I'm very happy about it.

That's what's been up lately with me. School's finished the 14th of June. The 15th, I move the various pine things from Ottawa to here and mark finals. After that I've got an article to finish and a novel to edit into a finished third draft. I'm rather excited for almost all of this.

How've you all been, eh?
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Internet pyschoanalysis corner! [Apr. 29th, 2009|02:15 pm]
Hot on the heels of one great dream, another: last night, after a delightful 15km run with Ang, I arrived home to an exciting email from a writer I very much admire (and whom I hope may help my writing career) about an article I wrote. He had a few suggestions, but over all said, “It’s a very good story, and very, very well written.” Cool. Feeling nice, I relaxed on the sofa surrounded by books, thinking how much I love reading and how I look forward to reading the many books I own.

So I went to bed and dreamed that, instead of that, he said it was garbage, then I came home to discover, finally, the response I’d been waiting for from the literary agency to whom I sent some of my short story collection back in March and they rejected it. Then my house caught on fire, starting with my books and my records.

It ended okay, somehow—some things got damaged, as in our actual fire, but most things survived. But like the last dream, I feel like this is trying to indicate something to me.
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(no subject) [Apr. 28th, 2009|05:17 pm]
Somehow this dream I had last night seems important:

Some friends and I go to some kind of cut-rate casino, like the kind of place that has video-lotto terminals, except they actually have slot machines and that's the whole leitmotif of the establishment, except also selling drinks.

I'm reticent to gamble, but they have nickel machines, so I change two dollars into nickels and sit by the machine. After about three nickels, there's this payoff of quarters. I keep playing, win some more quarters, and move up to a quarter machine. Then the payoff starts coming in loonies and twonies, and then some $20s (in American bills!).

I gather them all up, figuring, "I've won some, so now I'd better quit before I start losing some," which is probably how it would go in real life. Only then do I look carefully and realize that the "American" money is house money meant to look like American bills (but smaller), and the loonies, twonies, and even the quarters are the wrong colour. When I inspect them I realize that the coins-- all the money-- is marked with the icon of the gambling establishment.

I go from machine to machine, looking for a place to change it into real money, and there isn't one, but there also isn't any kind exchange system where I can use the money in return for prizes. I can only, I realize, use the money to gamble more in the hopes of winning more money with which to gamble more.

Somewhere around then the dream ended, though not before a feeling of weird, spiralling panic.
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"X" [Apr. 21st, 2009|10:18 pm]
I had another dream about X the other night.

In early August, I found out that X, a former old and dear friend to me, had been found in possession of child pornography, some of which included photographs of his daughter. Also found in his possession were chat logs in which he and a friend of his planned to drug and rape one of his daughters.

X was not my closest friend, and had not been so in many years. However, he was a good friend to me long ago, and, as an older punk rocker, he played a crucial role in my adolescence. For better or for worse, he introduced me to some key concepts that shaped my understanding of interpersonal, social, and sexual politics. Obviously, when I heard the news this summer, I had plenty of cause to reflect on that.

I have the luxury of not having to think about this all the time, the way his family has to. In some ways I felt as though I'd kind of dealt with it, though puzzled by what I felt, confused about how my feelings and psyche absorbed it. Except I keep having these dreams.

A friend told me X was seen at a show in Montreal (where he doesn't live), and that a mutual friend approached him and demanded he explain himself. X said nothing. Later, X attended a show where he was seen by his daughter, whom he is expressly (by law) forbidden to be close to. Her shock, I imagine, was fairly acute.

I can't remember if the dreams started before or after I heard that, but I notice I've been having them more and more. At first I'd dream that I was someplace where I usually went, and X showed up. I'd chase him out, hysterically running after him, shouting "I'm going to fucking kill you! You stay the fuck away!" Then I dreamed several times that I ran into him at random.

Always there's the shock of recognition in these dreams. In a few, I've spent time talking with X as though we were friends before suddenly remembering and beginning to shout and chase him. In some dreams I punch him in the face and head as he run away. I almost always feel weak with the shock, and chase him weakly but driven by the rage.

More recently I've begun to dream that I have a crowbar.

I started thinking about the crowbar few days after I heard the full breadth of the news; after I'd been to the family's house to help X's partner get rid of his vile belongings. Returning on the bus that night I listened to Negative Approach and Black Flag and felt I understood for the first time the full breadth of the rage that music expresses.

My fantasies of revenge at first involved X's partner Y, the man with whom he planned to rape his daughter. Y was a gutless piece of shit whom I never liked, not from the moment I laid eyes on him seventeen years ago. He was a creep, a sociopath, a disgusting insect of a human being, and when I found out he was involved in this I pictured myself breaking his arms at the elbows and crushing his skull with a crowbar. Back then-- still early-- my fantasies of revenge involved Y, whom I'd always despised, but for some reason not X. It was far easier to hate Y completely, without the process of extrication from loving memories that hatred for X required.

For a long time I couldn't figure out even what my emotions for X were. I had to ask the close friends from our circle what they were feeling; explain that I didn't know what I felt, that I knew I felt something but couldn't put a name on it. Eventually I began to see the edges of the emotion enough that I could pull at it, lift it a bit, and get a feeling for what it was.

It's been long enough now for me to hate X. The dream two nights ago, I tracked him like an animal to the apartment where he was staying, lured him outside, and began to beat him with the crowbar, screaming, "This is just a warning! If you ever go near those girls I'll fucking murder you!"

I have a hard time with violence. It disgusts me. In most dreams where I have to fight, I pull my punches at the last second-- I can't bring myself to. Life is just the same. Hurting people disgusts me. But in these dreams the violence is uncontrollable: it's the outlet of rage, of betrayal, of disgust, abhorrence, and inhumanity that I'd never find in life.

X, if you're reading this-- in violation of the terms of your bail --understand that you are now and will forever remain dead to me. If you ever came near your daughters in my presence I'd do whatever I had to do hurt you badly enough that you'd never do it again.

I hope that in writing this I can free myself of these nightmares. They don't belong to me: they belong only to X, who I hope will absorb them and grow sick with them.

Hey: [Mar. 25th, 2009|01:19 pm]
I totally still read this thing, at least every two or three days. I've been meaning to post something of consequence but never quite sure what to say. So I'll just say that I'm still around, and I'm watching every one of you. So no funny stuff.
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Jesus, not again: [Dec. 11th, 2008|03:09 pm]
Police surround Montreal university building after gunshot-like sounds heard


Last Updated: Thursday, December 11, 2008 | 2:56 PM ET
Gunshot-like sounds were heard inside a downtown Montreal university Thursday afternoon.

Half a dozen police cars have surrounded the education pavilion at the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQÀM) campus, where the shot-like sounds were heard by eyewitnesses.

Police say they received a 911 call from the school around 1:45 p.m.

Early reports suggest an armed man is inside the Thérèse-Casgrain Pavilion at the corner of René Lévesque Boulevard and St. Denis Street.

But UQÀM spokeswoman Francine Jacques said no injuries have been reported.

Thousands of students are inside the pavilion and have been asked to stay inside their classrooms.

The university is communicating with students via a voice message system and "we're keeping people inside up to date with any developments," Jacques said.
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