Saturday, October 01, 2016

Imitation Games

He looked nothing like himself. 

He wore the simple light sports jacket we’d found for him at Value Village, clean trousers and a striped collared shirt handed down from another volunteer on Grandpa Munster’s little roster, which, by dumb luck, tied the outfit together perfectly. He looked like a proper gentleman with hands and face properly washed and hair slicked back sans baseball cap.

It wasn’t my priority that he look so dapper. I only mentioned, ever so diplomatically, a couple days prior as we parked beside the coffee drive-through, that his birthday was going to be a special day and we should both be sure to shower and dress spiffy. All I cared about really was that he shower. It would be a long day.

Mission accomplished.

At The Joker we splurged on omelettes for breakfast instead of the $4.99 breakfast. We wrapped up the errand-running quickly and checked out the movies. Sully looked interesting enough to me and contained just enough action to keep Munster interested. His reviews were positive. I’ve watched so many based-on-true-story films that the compromises are immediately obvious. All the little tid-bits which you know never happened like that but which convey the heart of the story – or at least someone’s version of it, or vision of it – in a film-friendly theatrical way. Good enough. It’s entertainment; not research.

At the steakhouse we splurged on a 20 oz steak for him and the monster 24 oz prime rib for me! The only thing in the room thicker was the charm which the waiter laid on. We seemed to make such a connection; surprisingly having so much in common. Or did we? Of course his banter was exactly the right material to elicit the best possible tip. Which I did surrender and not begrudgingly. I realize he is surely like most people and imagines himself squeaking by and needing every penny he can get to keep himself stocked in his proper necessities.

For me I know the dinner is the highlight. The golden oldies performance we’re about to witness is the highlight gift for Munster (though for him, getting to drive my car to Etobicoke may have been the actual highlight). Keys surrendered, I enjoy as much excellent wine as it takes to properly lubricate a 24 oz steak – which turns out to be 40 ounces of McManis Syrah (the best I’ve had since that variety peaked in California just into the millennium, by the way). The resulting buzz, very unusual for me, prompted the sudden corrupt notion that the Elvis show might be a little more enjoyable paired with a little artificial joy and so I added a double snort of cognac for dessert, which put me almost there.

Getting to the giant Woodbine grounds was easy. Finding the Woodbine Concert Hall specifically, was most certainly not. Despite the illusions they paint all over the internet and feed to Ticketmaster, there is no such thing as a Woodbine Concert Hall.

Eventually we happen on a string of conveniently spaced staff who happily point the way throughout the odyssey which takes us along hallways and escalators to some sort of Upper Utilitarian Causeway where banquet chairs, mobile lights, mobile concession tables, bar, and mini-stage components have all been hustled together in such a way that the performers will hopefully not scrape their heads on the low ceiling tiles.

I then complete my noble transformation with a pair of Coronas in fake tall-boy cans which looked promising through the bar fridge window but which yielded the standard 355 ml. Those and a fountainized Coke for Gramps ran $20 which seemed a small horror at the moment but in hindsight cost only twice the price of two medium pops at the Cineplex’s crap stand; the world champion of rip-offs.

Steve Michaels: International
award-winning Elvis tribute artist
So the Elvis guy is fake of course. The real Elvis died early, from drugs I should mention. I’m not against “recreational” drugs in any simple-minded blanket way but I certainly realize that there is often a slippery slope between useful experimentation and harmful dependency and that a lot of users don’t actually have a realistic plan for how to stay off of that slope before it’s too late, so that’s something worth thinking about; eh?

But this particular fake Elvis is good; not that that can be discerned through the basement rec room quality acoustics of the great Woodbine Ersatz Concert Hallway, but because he was once crowned so by the official in-the-know Elvis aficionados of Memphis Tennessee. So there.

He waves his hand at his fake guitar (the backing band is authentic and decent) and I dutifully issue fake applause but I’m authentically happy for Gramps who is clearly living the dream along with a slew of other fine folk who probably have nothing in common with me whatsoever.

With a couple rollicking hits to go (surely Suspicious Minds, right?) I can no longer manage to pretend I’m not falling asleep which I don’t want Gramps to see, so I duck into the conveniently located men’s room where the Excel Extra-Excelotron Hand Dryer of Doom (or some such mechtraption) has only been miring the show and turning confused Elvis fans’ heads with its semi-alarming Hurricane Katrina impersonations about twice per song, there to perhaps doze off on the throne (these ones the tiniest low-rider models ever!) and I suppose I did doze off because I become lucid with the Suspicious Minds (nailed it!) crescendo fading away, replaced by the sounds of the auto-flusher gushing in repeat-mode and the cleanest testicles in history, and with Gramps’ distant voice shouting, “Hey, you in here!”

Good times.

Good times, says me. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Friday, September 16, 2016

In Which Mother Nature Ruthlessly Attacks Me

It was about two-thirty in the morning when I came walking around the corner of the building in the gloom of sparse exterior lighting and a full moon, the waves of Lake Ontario crashing audibly just beyond the tall hedges.

Yet I heard the rustling sound from the shadows and halted to peer at the little animal I assumed would be revealed a rabbit. For they are the most common nocturnal beasts on these grounds. The distance between us was in the bubble range; any farther and it would surely have remained frozen; any closer, it would surely flee. I know their routine. We're all practically on a first-name basis.

It did bolt, but to my shock, not away, but straight at me! And then I saw its true black nature! And the white stripes! I was immediately bathed in a sweet symphony of panic.

I don't - oh I really don't - like skunks.

Immediately I heard myself screaming at it. The words were not of my conscious choosing and are not fit for print. Miraculously it came at once to an abrupt stop, about three and a half feet from me; face to face.

I turned and ran.


I hadn't ran a step in years! I haven't even walked fast in years! Somehow my legs did not break and somehow I did not have a heart attack. I turned to see that the skunk had not followed. I waved my pass at the nearest card reader and stumbled in through the door.

Why on earth did he run straight at me? Did he take me for his mother and then realize his mistake upon hearing my shrieking voice?

I don't mind the rabbits, raccoons, robins, squirrels, foxes or even the occasional coyote. And I don't even mind the red-winged blackbirds when they're not in human-head-pecking attack season. But skunks I cannot abide! Their spray just about makes me vomit. I know they're unlikely to spray but hey - they're supposed to be unlikely to charge you! What would I do if he sprayed me? I would not go back in the school. Or to my home, Or in my car. I guess I would just walk into the lake and sit in it up to my neck and say, oh well, it was a nice life. I shall wait here to die.

Of all the poor creatures; the thousands of species we horrible humans have killed off, why oh why did we not start with skunks and end it there? How did we let them slip through our fingers?


Thursday, September 15, 2016

Meet Bonez!

This is one of my newer buddies from the crowd that brought us Neo, the Earnest Chef and of course Senegal Astroturf (one of the coolest bands ever). Bonez is also a musician in a band but their music is a bit too scary for me. It's her comedy that I dig.

She came to Scooterville last night to perform at the weekly Yuk Yuk's amateur night. The show had its moments but it was unfortunately a very small crowd and little energy was produced, prompting too little laughter for the comedians comfort.

I wonder if comedians generally understand the causality around laughter, if they simply perceive that certain triggers will - or should - prompt laughter from "the crowd" or else fail - rather than properly perceiving that the crowd is made of individuals?

It seems to me that an average comedy viewer will laugh out loud on occasion, according, not just to their unique sense of humour, but to their personal internal rhythms as well.

The bigger the crowd, the more often someone will be laughing. The smaller the crowd the more often no one will be laughing. It's just math. If one is not conscious of that, they will just interpret that the smaller crowd is not as amused, when in general, that might not at all be so.

Unfortunately the stretches without laughter last night, made the comedians uncomfortable and so the pattern of quietness became an item of spontaneous material within their banter. It felt like they were trying to guilt us into laughing more. The problem then, is that sensitive viewers will pick up on their underlying discomfort and are themselves infected by it. Now we feel under pressure to laugh for them and that pressure kills the mood even more. I think it became a vicious circle.

If I may be indulgent, I am beginning to interpret that there may be a lot of emotional hardships of different ilk among the comedian crowd. I gather there may be a high rate of alcohol and drug use among them, and suspect that issues of self-esteem may be generally common in the community; perhaps a need for acceptance or even attention, and that this may lie near the root of last night's awkwardness.

Even Bonez, who is a lovely person and who has survived a lot that life has thrown at her, and who won the night at the previous (competitive) show I saw her at, did not seem in top form last night.

So perhaps its for the best I have no video of last night's performance and an excuse to present this brief file footage from a past show which I much enjoyed:

Sunday, August 14, 2016

E-musing EPUC

Wow, that last post seems kind of harsh, doesn't it? Here's something a little lighter from the Eat Poop U Cat gang.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

No more slugs!

Do you remember when little girls were made of sugar and spice and everything nice? And little boys were made of slugs and snails and puppy dog's tails? (And maybe some kids were the other way around?)

Well, no more worries!

Now we have cell phones. And we're all made of wires.

Sunday, August 07, 2016

The end of the search

"I couldn't possibly join the search party," I said to my guests. "I walked 11 KM last night at work. I'm a wreck." Indeed they had witnessed my slow painful descent on the staircase.

When we broke for dinner, off to pick up something cheap, the giant police van was still there, down the lane, and the mounted police and the crowd, and the ambulance crew still waiting around hopefully, the stretcher all ready to go, laden with life-saving gear, piled on it and hanging off of it with just enough room left upon it for an undersized twelve year-old; just 60 pounds worth, should one turn up.

The boy had health issues, an under-developed mentality and a penchant for hiding. He'd limped away without shoes and without his medications. He couldn't have gone far, everyone said. We'd all checked our garages and backyards and even our closets. And later we checked them again.

When darkness came I checked the internet, sure he must have been found. "I'm sorry," I told my guests. "I'm really at loose ends." They understood. We called it a night.

The crowd had dwindled down to a few. The officer said, "I'm sorry, we can't suggest what you should do. After dark it's not safe. We can't ask anything of the public after dark."

"Look," I said, knowing I was about to be profoundly lame: "I'm a Commissionaire. I have training. I know safety; first-aid. I've worked in corrections. I've worked with sex offenders. Trust me. Be indulgent. Tell me where you need someone looking."

He smiled painfully. shook his head and shook my hand. "Anywhere."

People had been searching all day. What was I going to accomplish by following their tracks in the dark? Was there a really any chance at all I could save someone or was this just about comforting myself?"

Still willing to act like a fool I called an old friend who believed she was psychic; who'd dreamed of missing children before and believed in the visions; who'd once told me that my writer's blocks were nothing but fear. But I could not reach her on the phone.

I stared at the Google map and all my intuition pointed at the golf course.

A golf course is a dark dark alien world at night, the ground invisible and treacherously hilly; the greens and ponds indistinguishable at a distance. A sky full of stars that portend nothing. I'd expected to run into other hopefuls there but there were none.

I had to be sparing with the flashlight batteries. A discarded shopping bag; a lost towel, things like these became a white Special Olympics t-shirt in the dark and I fumbled to turn on the beam with hope and dread. "What the fuck am I doing here?" I kept asking. And why aren't my legs hurting? What's up with that?

The route I had planned went out the window the moment I left the parking lot. I had no clue where I was and it didn't matter. I was pretty sure I'd twist and ankle soon and roll down a hill and in the morning some golfers - or searchers - would find me instead of the boy and I'd have to apologize for their disappointment.

In the morning I talked to neighbors. I could not share their optimism. Abductions are very rare, I know, but nothing else made sense at this point. He was small and walked with a limp. Yet again I thought of his parents and yet again I had to push the thought away. I cannot imagine. It's unimaginable.

This afternoon the phone rang but I could not get it because I was busy holding the roommate's ancient shadow of a dog in an ersatz standing position so she could drink from her bowl; an accomplishment too rare to dare interrupt.

The message was from a friend. "They found him! I don't know any details but they found him!"

"Yes!" I shouted at the ceiling. "Yes! Yes!" I squeezed into shoes and bustled outside. "They found him?" I asked at the first gathering. They had. He'd gone in precisely the opposite direction as the golf course. All along he'd been a few dozen yards away from my own backyard in some kind of drainage tunnel. So close! How had they missed him again and again?

"Is he okay?"

None were eager to answer. "I don't think so," said the man.

"He's pretty sick?"

"The paramedics didn't go to the boy," said the woman. "They went to the mother."

Monday, August 01, 2016

Cosmic reference changes course in a hurry

Another telephone-pictionary creation from my Eat Poop U Cat club:

Monday, July 18, 2016

Hey look, it's me

Hello there. Sloth here.

I don’t know that I should apologize for my long absence here. I don’t presume that my writings here are doing anyone any great favours.

I seem to have stumbled into some major aversion to writing of late which is kind of ridiculous since I basically gave up a decent career in order to write (in essence) and doubly so given this is a camp NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing) month and I have a goal to reach and I’m barely 15% of the way there.

I’ve been bloody lazy frankly and it’s no surprise to me because I haven’t been sleeping well for a long time now and when I’m tired I make nothing but lame, short-sighted decisions.

Sleeping is a very complicated thing for me due to shift work and a serious sleep apnea condition which is treated by a CPAP machine which requires regular care in order to perform well. There are actually a lot of little things I need to proactively do in order to make good sleep possible and many of them I am not doing nearly enough due to laziness and poor decision-making... due to lack of sleep. Vicious circle, see?

There are a few more reasons why it’s odd timing for this falling out of love with writing but I will bother you with only this one: I started a new novel which is literally the fifth different attempt to basically try to express the same set of core ideas. The first four all derailed for various reasons but they were learning experiences which I think was really the main goal.

This time I seem to be right on the mark. The first few chapters look great. And the weird thing is: I think that makes me afraid. And perhaps I’ll figure out how to properly explain that sometime soon.

Anyways… I’m trying to get back on the bandwagon. I’m vowing to get busy attending to my sleep issues and to get back to this blog very regularly. But I’ll be trying to keep the posts short.

This was a lame post, I know. They’ll get better. I’m just happy to hear my fingers tapping. Baby steps.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

100 Must-See Films! -- Travolta

“I'm from a working-class family. We didn't have a lot, but we had the arts. You're talking to a guy who is making a living at doing what he loves doing - acting, singing and dancing. So any career ups and downs were not that significant to me; the only things that really powerfully impinged on me were my losses, and there were many in my life.”—John Travolta, undoubtedly thinking of his first child, Jett, who died at age sixteen following a seizure.

“I don't think I'm very cool as a person. I'm just better than anyone else at acting cool.”

The heart is a lonely hunter…

74. A Love Song for Bobby Long (2004, USA)
Scarlett Johansson, John Travolta, Gabriel Macht

This is a warm earthy film with rich dialogue and much to say on the fragile nature of relationships: friendship, family, pseudo-family and self.

Roger Ebert explains it well: "What can be said is that the three actors inhabit this material with ease and gratitude: It is good to act on a simmer sometimes, instead of at a fast boil. It's unusual to find an American movie that takes its time. It's remarkable to listen to dialogue that assumes the audience is well-read. It is refreshing to hear literate conversation. These are modest pleasures, but real enough."

Said Carina Chocano of the L. A. Times: "…deep-down, a redemptive makeover story drenched in alcohol, Southern literature and the damp romanticism of the bohemian lush life in New Orleans. A lovely noble rot pervades the film in much the same way that it does the city, a longtime repository of lost-cause romanticism. If there's something a little bit moldy about the setup (drunken literary types, hope on the doorstep, healing from beyond the grave), the movie is no less charming or involving for it, and it's no less pleasant to succumb to its wayward allure and wastrel lyricism.”

The ending might be accused of being predictable, but so what? The story is legitimate and like any other, should not be perverted for the sake of surprise.

Writers: Ronald Everett Capps, Shainee Gabel
Director: Shainee Gabel (Anthem)
Budget: unknown
IMDB rating: 7.2

75. Michael (1996, USA)
John Travolta, Andie McDowell, William Hurt, Jean Stapleton, Robert Pastorelli

Here Travolta’s capacity for bold presence is put to work as a heavenly angel with some very down-to-earth habits; a sort of divine mind with very human urges. If categorized a comedy, it is one of depth. I found it delightful and amusing though critics seemed not to know what to make if it. Nonetheless it was a box office hit, ranking in the year’s top twenty.

Writers: Peter Dexter (Mulholland Falls), Jim Quinlan
Director: Nora Ephron (Julie & Julia, Lucky Numbers)
Budget: $46,000,000
IMDB rating: 5.6

76. Phenomenon (1996, USA)
John Travolta, Kyra Sedgwick, Forest Whitaker, Robert Duvall

Oddly, Travolta starred in a second 1996 fantasy-drama box office hit, also about a character with extraordinary powers put to work in rather altruistic aid of those around him; but here an everyman turned genius by some apparently supernatural event.

This story is more serious; more of romantic bent than comedic and touches the heart a little deeper.

The film and its principle actors earned attention from a variety of awards including MTV wins for best kiss (Travolta/Sedgwick) and Eric Clapton’s song Change the World.

Writer: Gerald Di Pego (Instinct)
Director: Jon Turtletaub (National Treasure)
Budget: $32,000,000
IMDB rating: 6.4

Sunday, June 05, 2016

The Tallest Bridges art Nearest to Heaven

Should you figure you linger at a stopping ground;
Your real home a gift yet received,
Then oughtn’t you quit your farting around
And pack your bags and leave?

Thursday, June 02, 2016

Why Trump is ahead of his time

If cats have nine lives, how many lives does capitalism have?

Nobody ever builds or buys corporations in order to maintain their wealth; but only to increase it. The wealthiest of Western society keep getting wealthier, yet money doesn’t grow on trees. Money is still just points on a ledger; a share in a finite system. The rich can only get richer through growth within a limited pool. Capitalism is a pyramid scheme and the base of that pyramid maxed out the realm of North American productivity a long time ago, when our particular manifestation of capitalism (be it pure or perverted) should have asphyxiated.

Yet this ghost of capitalism keeps feeding the elite.

What are these bonus lives which keep money flowing uphill? I see it as this:

1 – Waste. Though the workers of society cannot collectively afford to purchase all the products they collectively produce, we keep on producing too much, and we stockpile shelves and warehouses and destroy “non-fresh” food and imperfect-looking produce and breed billions of livestock to eat far more food quantity than what they eventually return to us in meat. We advertise everything to death which addresses no consumer need, which convinces our dull brains to buy outrageous shit we don’t need (and which in fact harm us) and redundantly pits brands against each other for no greater purpose but just to fight one another in the pursuit of growing faster than the other guy grows. And best of all, we produce enormous volumes of weapons, ammunition and war machines and outrageously phony excuses to declare enemies and blow things up so as to then have to manufacture them again, along with all the pretty coffins.

2 – Globalization. We drag poorer nations into the capitalism game by lording power over them, inflicting world trade conditions upon them in drag as charity and forcing them to bid for the privilege of being our slaves and producing our groovy swag at the lowest possible cost, thus unavoidable: child labor, slave labor, compromises in safety, compromises in environmental protection. A lovely boon: we outsource our pollution and divert blame for global warming when truly it is squarely ours.

3 – Oil. We destroy critical components of the biosphere in order to dig up millions of years worth of liquid sunshine (and other fossil fuels), releasing those toxins into the air and powering machines, the sub-slaves which give we elite slaves; you and me, a privileged life. For as long as oil lasts (a mere blip of time by any real perspective) it is the machines harnessed to the grindstone instead of us.

4 – Matricide. North American natives have always understood Mother Earth; have always known that it is she who gives us life. We feed the Western Imperialist machine beyond the capacity of our own labour by mortgaging the Earth with no means to repay. Already we’ve destroyed more than half of fresh water sources, more than half of the world’s topsoil and more than half of the critical wetlands and rain forests. We have literally crippled the biosphere to the point that it is no longer a game of rampant subtraction. We are into exponents now because we have triggered massive feedback loops in the system. We have drawn down the Earth’s capacity to support life to the point that it is already tail-spinning.

5. Financial buggery. When the pros from various financial corners try to explain their little vistas of the ever-increasing complexities around the thousand-and-one ways we’ve concocted for money to change hands without any product or value of any kind materializing, I quickly run into acronyms or jargon which I do not understand and I wonder if there is a human being anywhere who has a handle on the whole entire picture? I suspect there is not one. It’s just becoming clear that our capitalist system of the rich skimming off the labour of the not-rich is growing and complexifying to allow greater means and layers of skimming and re-skimming.

6. Population explosion. Do I need to explain why seven-point-something billion people on a planet with as limited a biosphere as ours is an obscene perversion? I am going to assume that I do not need to explain why seven-point-something billion people on a planet with as limited a biosphere as ours is an obscene perversion.

7. And here I will concede. I’m not going to get to nine. Winner: cats.

The obvious problem with all of these bonus lives is that they are all very swiftly drying up. Oil reserves, all other natural resources, opportunities for global imperialist frontiers; all of it is currently maxing out as we speak. We’re heading into crash mode.

And as everything crashes; water, food, social stability, the viability of individual nations and the U.N., unraveling slowly at first and gathering momentum, the global hatred toward Europe and North America and (fairly or unfairly) especially toward the United States of America, will rapidly increase, not just out of blame but from desperation, as elite nations (generally the least affected by climate disaster thanks in part to wealth and in part to geographical irony) maintain slower depletion of privileges, as other societies descend more swiftly into unavoidable hunger and violence.  

As America draws even more hatred and is targeted for its rarefying assets, it will require more and more justification for privilege and exclusion and militancy and will need more and more delusional reasons to hate back. Hate, however deluded, will literally become the essential ingredient to the new dwindling version of the American Dream/Nightmare.

I don’t presume that Trump understands this or that perhaps his people do; his elite cohorts who usher him down this path. More likely, I suspect, understanding only exists in the collective insanity of their instinctive minds. In any event Trump is serving as a shock absorber. Just as gas prices spiked hugely in the early millennium, taming our reaction, soothing our outrage, falling back down before soon migrating upwards again, Trump is normalizing hatred of the other and getting killed by the backlash that some of us are still capable of.

Trump won’t win this presidency, I suggest, because it’s still too early for hate to overtly and unapologetically rule, but later, when the essential wave of hatred must roll into the realm of normal, it will not be so noticeable. And the media will be bored of it. Perhaps Trump is a martyr to his people, perhaps a sacrificial lamb.

He may be scum. But at least he’s taking one for his team.

Friday, May 06, 2016

Rules and boundaries do not apply!

In a very special town the laws of nature are bending wildly to spectacular effect just as the "rules" of literature have moved aside to clear the path for this unique story of intimate neighbors in an infinite landscape, delivered by a voice of rare grace and presence. It is perhaps a fairy tale; one of immediate warmth, gathering momentum and a glimpse of cosmic joy; a resonant celebration of life and a rare celebration of narrative!