Wednesday, January 30, 2008


Not sure what I was searching for when I ended up on by mistake.

But I saw that they were awarding prize money for a poetry contest and there was no fee to enter. So I thought - what the hell. Threw a poem in called Blinding the Mind of the Beholder and then promptly forgot all about it.

Next thing you know I'm getting emails galore from Howard Ely, editor of and the International Library of Poetry in Maryland, U.S.A. and they're just falling all over themselves with praise for Blinding.

Well golly gee, I've been awarded the Editor's Choice Award! Hoo haw! And look - I can purchase an editor's choice award medal!

Um. No thanks.

Oh, look, I'm a semi-finalist!

Ooh! Now I'm a finalist!

Oh and now Blinding is being published in a prestigious anthology and I can pre-order a copy for $60.00! Oh or I can buy it on a CD or mounted on a plaque! And I can choose to have an about-the-author blurb added for a mere $25 fee.

Um. No thanks, no thanks, no thanks and no thanks. No way in hell I'm paying someone else for the privilege of publishing me. They can damn well pay me.

So I looked them up on Wikipedia and sure enough - they're predators. Aparently they publish roughly fifty anthologies a year - each around 500 pages containing six poems per page.

That's 150,000 poems per year! Yeah. Real prestigious. What an honor. Even if they milk just one copy of the book per poet on average - without the sales of medals, plaques etcetera - that's nine million dollars in earnings right there. Their payout in prizes? One thousand per month as far as I can see.

I wasn't able to remove the poem from the 'contest' but I was able to edit it. Blinding the Mind of the Beholder has now become Blinding the Mind of the Scammers.

I urge you to go to my contest page and vote for it!

And in case they got wise and removed it by now. Here it is:

Blinding the Mind of the Scammers

money grubbers money grubbers
I hope you choke on pencil rubbers
you ugly scamming bichbasterds

at poetree dot com

cheaters cheaters punkin eaters
ten fer ten on the scumbag meter
you filthy little criminals

at poetree dot com

Maryland's a fairy land
Full of imps with hairy hands
My pterodactyl's commin ta kill you all

at poo-tree dot com

Brilliant I know - but hold your applause.


Friday, January 25, 2008

Children Underground

Just watched Children Underground; a Docurama production. A film crew of three took up residence in a Bucharest subway station, as houseguests of a group of five Romanian street kids for – I forget how long. Long enough to contract tuberculosis, lice and scabies from them, anyway.

My first observation was, “Wow. What an ugly bunch of kids.” They looked downright misshapen. Three of them, in fact, were girls so uncomely that I had to learn one by one, amid confusion, that they were in fact girls and not boys.

I sense a lot of integrity and sacrifice went into this project. And did it ever pack a punch.

They adapted a non-interference policy, which I can understand is necessary if you want the film to be effective and serve as a catalyst for societal change. But they broke that directive on at least one occasion. A boy bearing a strange feature – a heavily lined, scarlet-red left forearm suddenly demonstrated the reason for it; a habit of self-mutilation. When his companions failed to restrain him the crew stepped in and desperately tried to calm him as he attacked himself with his own bloody fingernails. Of course, I only caught glimpses of all this. It was too much for me to watch.

My capacity for pity seems to be growing and growing these days. I can’t hear a horror story without feeling deeply compelled to act out against it; to take some action. But in each case it’s really hard to find a way to make a meaningful difference. It’s not like a poor uninsured family’s home has burnt down and a finite sum of donations will rebuild it. The problem is – the capacity for humans to hurt other humans is not at all finite. It’s not me these kids need help from.

They need help from the older boys who extort younger ones into begging for cash. They need them to help by not throwing them off the second floor of a construction site when they fail to return with enough.

They need help from the subway station worker who is sick and tired of listening to a young girl constantly crying. He can help her by declining to kick and punch her. Apparently a good kick in the ribs is not an effective way to ease a young girl’s tears. Who knew?

They need help from the father who says he can’t imagine why his small son would say he won’t come home because he’s terrified of him; who can’t understand why his son would run away from home with a collar and chain around his neck. He could help by not shackling the boy to a radiator. Oh, and maybe see a psychiatrist too.

They need help from all the passers-by who blame the kids for their own circumstance and huff at their disgusting paint-sniffing habit. They could help by asking why they do it.
And finding out that that’s the only thing that makes them dream that they’re not hungry.

I know how I’d like to help. I’d like to gather the whole goddam population of earth on my doorstep and say, HEY! Here’s the fucking rules, people. Love your kids. Keep them safe. Don’t beat them up. Okay? Got it? We're all in agreement?

By the end of the film the kids didn’t seem at all ugly to me anymore. They looked like pretty beautiful creatures by then. What a difference an hour and a half makes. If only more people would give them that much time – and see for themselves.


Saturday, January 19, 2008

Meet the Steve-o

Random quotes from the roommate. Songs in italics:

Nobody likes you, Winter.
Except for penguins and polar bears. And things that flourish in the cold.

Midgets! The world is being taken over by crazy midgets, biting the heads off chickens.

Who’s got the funk?
Steve’s got the funk!
Who’s got the funk?
Radulov’s got the funk!
The Mexicans…
The Mexicans are coming…

That doucher. I should have dropped a biscuit in his purse.

I like this parking lot. It’s not like our parking lot. DUM DUM DUMMMM! The parking lot of doom!

No. Don’t worry. I won’t drop you any purse biscuits.

Scotch scotch scotch
I love scotch
Scotch scotch scotch
I love scotch…

What’s with that cashier? Did you hear her freak out on that guy? “SIR! SIR! You don’t have to put both cases on the belt! Just one, please! My arms are getting bigger than my husband’s! I squeezed his dick right off! Popped it open like a Pez dispenser!”


Welcome to Doctor Youseff’s Biopsy Buffet. Get two meals for the price of one.

What do you mean, ‘Could I please be marginally less disgusting during the dinner hour’? You ask too much of me.

The preceding sentiments are not endorsed by FWG or anyone with taste. No artificial cadavers were harmed in the making of this article.

Monday, January 14, 2008


One of the core purposes of my existence in the world is to watch every heroic adventure/fantasy movie ever made; as insufferably bad as most of them are. Yet somehow I've managed to miss this one for the entire twenty-two years since its release. Until now.

There's very little you need to know. Here it is:

1. The soundtrack is seventies porn/disco.

2. Matthew Broderick does his own stunts. Which mostly consists of him running around waving his arms like a little girl.

3. Dustin Hoffman and Mary-Lou Retton play the king and queen.

4. I'm kidding. Dustin Hoffman and Mary-Lou Rhetton do not play the king and Queen. But they could have. In fact it would have been just the thing to to lift this flick from just-plain-bad to cult shtick. Well. That and if they got rid of the horses and banged empty halves of coconuts together instead.

5. I'm sitting here blogging instead of paying close attention to it. What does that tell you?

6. Broderick and Michelle Pfeiffer are showing no signs that they're going to get it on. There's still an hour or so to go but honestly - I haven't even seen a nipple so far. From either of them.

7. Even if you wanted to see this for some bizarre reason - you'd probably never find it at your local video store. I found this VHS copy at the library where old movies go to die.

Random dialogue:

"I fell in a hole and followed my nose."

"Serves me right for getting involved in this nightmare. Nightmare? Daymare. And then a night without day. A day without night. What's that supposed to mean? Makes about as much sense as the rest of it."

"Looks like a big one, Captain. We're gonna get soaked."

"Do you know that wolves and hawks mate for life?" [Editor's note: Presumably not with each other.]

"This hole's not big enough for the two of us."

"Damn you! Damn you to hell!"

Oh thank goodness. It's over. Some random credits:

Attiene Navarre: Rutger Hauer
Bishop's secretary: Venantino Venantini

Italian Horse Wrangler: Sergio Casedei
Stand-by Painter: Romolo Siani
Italian Unit Runner: Marco Pugini
In Loving Memory of: "Little Pasta"

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Evil trinity of… malevolent interlopers… of evil… portent… or something…

Day 65

They lurk over there.

There. In the Corner of Doom.

I don’t know how or why they arrived here last autumn. I know not their vile purpose.

I have tried moving them to the rarely-used hallway; that other magnet for evil in the otherwise pleasant Grotto. But soon after they appeared again in the Corner of Doom. I moved them to the kitchen counter. They appeared instead on my nice chair in the dining room – by the back entrance.

There they sat and glared their unholy glare at all who entered the Grotto. I moved them back to the kitchen counter. Again they vanished and appeared instead in the Corner of Doom once again.

They are some unholy trinity. Not the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future. No. Not the evil trio from Krypton who followed Superman to the planet Earth.


They are Orvil Reddenbacher Popcorn, Lipton Powdered Chicken Noodle Soup and Tim Horton’s English Toffee Cappucino in a can.

Every day I glare at them as if to say, “This is my house!”

And every day they glare back at me as if to say, “Come play with us Fwig! Come play with us… Forever!”

I presume they are responsible for Sylvie Ruel’s tragic disappearance.

Whatever they are – beneath their insidious disguises of common household food products – they are evil and powerful. Steve-o is completely under their malevolent spell. He dares not confront them.

I’ve tried to locate that little witch from the Poltergeist movie to see if she can help me but no luck.

I presume it is only a short time before they drive me to utter madness.

God have mercy on my soul.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Me and David

Had one of my epic dreams last night. It’s been a while. This one lacked the common Bradbury/Orwellian atmosphere and was much less surreal then usual but It was sinister and it dragged on forever.

So as not to bore the rare brave soul who hasn’t already bolted from this post – I shall note only the brief highlights:

I’m in some building after hours and stumble upon some sophisticated crime in progress (I’m hazy on the details). Being a witness, I’m to be killed but I do some quick talking and am led to ‘the boss’ where I pretend to have intentionally sought him out, seeking employment.

The boss is none other than David Bowie. In my dream world he looks and sounds the same but is not a famous musician; just a plain old crime lord.

He takes me on as one of his henchmen but is very sly and mistrusting of me and constantly tests me and promises I will die if I fail to carry out any of his orders successfully. It seems as though he intentionally orchestrates my failure through sabotage or through separate orders that ultimately conflict. I’m a resident (prisoner) of his compound and always accompanied on my criminal excursions by other lackeys who clearly hate me and look for an excuse to off me. Somehow I find tricky ways to pass these tests, complete my jobs and survive.

Fast-forward – We’re in a new and bigger compound and I have climbed in rank to Bowie’s right-hand man. We behave as confidants but there are sinister undertones to his intimate gestures. The others are diplomatically friendly and respectful but I sense that underneath, everyone would rather I was dead. I’m still biding my time, looking for a way to escape the whole mess.

Bowie makes startling confessions to me as he is changing his clothes in his palatial bedroom. I’m watching, confused, suddenly unsure whether he is actually a man or a woman (I’m not making this up, I swear)! This concerns me because I’m beginning to sense he (or she) has some (gulp) romantic interest in me, which might even be fueling the repressed hatred that I detect. His confessions concern some kind of substance addictions for which he desires treatment and his wish to end his life of crime. In essence he wishes to be captured by authorities but without warfare. He cannot admit this to the others and risk a lethal mutiny.

He sends me on a mission to deliver a thick envelope bearing confessions, evidence and a plan for his surrender to the authorities. Apparently there is no phone or internet in my dream world! But as I leave the compound I’m detected and an entourage is forced upon me – ostensibly for my own protection because I’m such a big-shot now.

As we drive away in some SUV limo or something I begin to panic. I realize that the package I’m carrying will make it look like I’m a traitor acting against Bowie. I’m convinced that I’m trapped and will be killed by my own men and am left wondering whether this was Bowie’s plan all along when I awaken to the alarm clock.

If anyone subscribes to dream theories I’m curious what you think this means. And if it means that I’m a psychopath or sex pervert then by all means – let’s hear it!

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Novel: The Road

(2007) Cormac McCarthy

I was up until 3:30 AM last night - a work night, finishing this book because I couldn’t put it down. Stupid of me, I know. The novel is haunting and moving, concerning a father and small son clinging to survival in a world apparently post-apocalyptic.

I was initially irked at the style. It’s almost free-verse with dialogue lacking quotes and usually lacking attribution; and it’s front-loaded with seemingly gratuitous creation of new, or rather altered, words. But you quickly discover that it all works very well. Rules are made to be broken only when the perpetrator fully grasps the necessity and formula behind the rule and derives the same results through a route not only different but superior given the context.

Here, the dialogue is so clear and its characters possessing such unique voices and the story so gently told that such standard dialogue baggage is not only optional but downright unwarranted.

As for the new words – let’s take “burntlooking” for example. Though widely treated as literary fiction I assume, the piece is in essence SF; Speculative Fiction; the modern and much more useful genre classification formerly divided into Sci-Fi and Fantasy. As such, it’s entirely proper to alter language within the dialogue to support the author’s vision of a world different from the one we (think we) know. In McCarthy’s speculative world in which so much of the environment, both natural and man made, looks burnt, ‘burntlooking’ might be a common word. To use this right in the narrative though, is contrary to the FWG School of Good Storytelling because the reader lives in this world. But I can’t say it was a problem here. It served to make it seem as if the book itself was written within such a charred world.

The characters are wonderfully built drawing deep empathy. The subtlety factor is flawless. This is a story you can fall right into.

The imagery is superb. McCarthy clearly envisions the landscape and delivers it expertly with description and metaphors that fire on all cylinders.

In one sense it’s a nice easy read that will invoke emotion and linger in your memory. In another sense it bears the strength and usefulness of good SF; not particularly for its capacity as a well-researched cautionary tale, but for its rare connection to the veiled realities of the human species.

I may add this to my list of all-time favorite books after I give it some time to digest.

I especially recommend this to any fathers of young sons. Don’t let its inclusion in Oprah’s book club scare you off.


Saturday, January 05, 2008


Apparently the National Novel Writing Month Contest (NaNoWriMo) isn't the only game in town. While Nano is the boss, there's a host of minor gigs on it's coattails; enough to tie up the entire calendar apparently.

Jano is customizable. Many wRitErs use it as incentive to complete their unfinished Nano novels. Sounds good to me. I'm taking a casual approach. 30,000 words is the target. Five days into the festival I'm at zero. Ahem. How's that for casual?

Friday, January 04, 2008

World Junior Semi-Finals

Time for another world junior hockey medal-game simulcast! And while I’m at the office of course. Luckily my boss is a sports fan.

It’s the semi finals. U.S. earned a bye to get here. Canada fell to Sweden earlier and defeated Finland in a quarter-final contest to qualify. Today’s winner plays Sweden for gold; the loser for the bronze against Russia. Let’s face it – neither Canada or U.S. are interested in Bronze medals.

First period:

EE-Gads! First shift – all U.S. How didn’t they score? They were all over us. Swarming like bees.

Let me say – I despise tribalism of all kinds. It’s the inevitable preoccupation of humans, granted. I understand that but I wish we’d hurry up and evolve beyond it. But though nations don’t exist in my view of the world I can’t help but get excited and cheer for hockey teams that wear the red maple leaf. It’s a habit formed at an early age. I’m not fully evolved, you see. I’m not a saint just yet.

Canada with some pressure in the second shift. That’s good.

Pierre McGuire’s on board, doing the colour commentary. Thank goodness I skipped lunch. He rattles the digestion process, that bitch.

15:00 to play. U.S. gets the first power-play. They’re dangerous. Possibly the sharpest offense in the tournament. But Canada may have the best defense. And the best goalie.

They kill the penalty.

Canada’s Matthias hits the post!

I wonder if Kats is watching the game?

Oops. Replay from another angle. Hit the side of the net. Not the post. Perspective is everything. That’s why refs are so beat upon. The average sports fan doesn’t grasp the severe variability of perspective. Life is three dimensional yet we see in two dimensions. And every person or camera's view is unique.

Oops. Boss caught me with the game on. He showed me how to enlarge the video image to full-screen! Nice workplace eh?

0:05 to play. Been an exciting period. Fast. Plenty of scoring chances at both ends but no score.

Period Two:

Again, U.S. with the first major opportunity. Mason makes the save.

Ouch! Canada’s Kyle Touris fans on the shot with a wide open net!

What an exciting game. If only the NHL were half this entertaining – like it was in the eighties.

Oh! Scores! Shawn Matthias! His third of the tournament. He worked hard for that one. Good boy, Shawn!

13:00 to play. Another U.S. power play. Can’t allow too many or we’ll get burned for sure.

10:00. Canada’s turn on the power play. Scores! Karl Alzner! Blast from the point! 2-0.

Speaking of 2-0, the score in other affairs is Sidewalk 2, FWG 0. I took another spill yesterday. Slipped on the ice and went down in a bad way. The right knee is particularly sore.

“Oh,” said Pops (the step-dad), “You came down with a case of knee-monia!” He cracks himself up, the lovable little lunatic that he is.

More great chances for the Americans. Mason keeps making saves but we won’t keep them off the scoreboard forever. Don’t get complacent, boys!

Yikes. So much offense in this game at both ends. A two-goal lead isn’t so big in a wide-open game like this.

6:00. Canada on the power play again. Big chances. A three-goal lead would be significant. Oh my. Geoffrion takes another penalty for U.S. Forty-one seconds with a two-man advantage.

Chances galore! U.S. holding on. They kill the first penalty. Still down a man.

If I may return to the unpleasant subject of tribalism once again – There’s a variety store in the retail level below the ‘grotto’. We’ll call it… Luke’s Milk. I don’t shop there because ‘Luke’ is a dickhead and tries to bully people into leaving the parking spot right behind his backdoor open for him at all times. He acts as if he owns the spot which he doesn’t. We all pay for shared parking and when it’s the only spot available I damn well take it. It’s my right. He gets snotty about it.

So I was in the variety store in the complex next door to ours which is run by a very nice lady – who, I must mention, is of Asian descent. Her grasp of the English language is far from complete but certainly eclipses my grasp of Chinese or Korean or whatever is applicable. And English is a bitch to learn so kudos to her.

The other day she moved to bag my coffee cream and cheese slices and I said, “No bag, thanks. I just live next door.”

“Oh. Next door?” she said.

“Yes. Above Luke’s Milk. But I don’t like him so I shop here instead.”

“Ah, yes,” she said, nodding knowingly. “He is Paki.”


I just looked at her for a moment, trying to figure out what the heck she was trying to say. And then I figured she must have said just what she meant to say.

“Okay, well, good-bye then. Thank you.”

“You’re welcome,” she said.

1:00 to play. Yanks on the power-play again. A late goal would be huge. Canada with a short-handed break. Smith stops it.

Period Three:

16:00 to go. Oh dear. Another too-many-men penalty for the U.S. You can’t be doing that, fellas. Great passing on the power-play. Smith is keeping his team in the game. They survive the penalty.

13:00. Let’s not forget. U.S. has come from behind to close a two–goal third-period deficit before in World Junior play against Canada. And they went on to win. Oh! Scores! Gillies on the rush. His first goal of the tournament. 3-0. Huge lead.

Scores! Brad Marchand! Two goals only 30 seconds or so apart. 4-0. Wow. That should pretty much do it.

Also in the Cute-things-that-store-cashiers-say department: I was in the 24-hour Dominion grocery store the other night just after midnight. It’s always the same cashier at the single open till every time I’m there at night. She always has eye-opening things to say. I really should ask her to do a regular piece on this blog. It would be interesting. She was in her usual form the other night. A fellow in front of me asked if they carried hair colour for men.

“How would I know!” she barked. “That’s not my department!” She looks about sixty and has a very deep 90-cigarette-per-day-habit type voice. Very Gravelly. “There’s no one here in that department at this time of night!” She really snapped at him. No kidding.

7:00. Give the U.S. credit. They’re not giving up. They’re playing strong.

Oh dear. Replay shows that the Gillies rush was very slightly off-side. The third Canada goal should have been disallowed. We’ll see if it matters.

Oh god, McGuire, please shut up and go away.

Americans crashing the net. Where’s the puck? In the net! They score. 4-1.

5:00. Americans desperate for another goal. They’re pressing. Taking risks.

Breakaway Canada! That’s what happens. Smith stops him.

So anyway, it’s my turn before the Dominion cashier and I ask, because I’m in the mood for a movie, if she knows of any 24-hour video store around. I pretty much know I’m asking for trouble but what the heck.

“No!” she says, pausing to glare at me. “You people need to learn to do your business during the day!”

I smiled and nodded. I’m always appreciative when good Samaritans try to help out us people with their friendly advice. But I decide to be a tad cheeky. “I guess you’d like to get off the night shift, eh?”

“Hey, I have seniority here! I can work whatever shift I choose! I like the night shift!”

So if I understand her position correctly, she prefers to work the night shift but would prefer that no customers come… and that Dominion continue to stay open 24-hours and employ her anyway… to come to work… and not do anything. I guess that’s not too much to ask.

I’ll have to continue to visit Dominion Lady on the night shift and maybe bait her a little. She’s always got something fun to say. I should have been writing stuff down all along.

2:00. U.S. on the power play. They’re the only undefeated team in the tournament but they’ll need a miracle now.

I wonder if Claudia Supermom has some perspective on the Dominion Lady situation. She’s in the grocery industry. But she has far more useful things to say than Dominion Lady.

40 seconds to go. Another Canada penalty. Two-man advantage. Yanks need two lightening-fast goals. Won’t get them. Canada icing the puck. They win. Off to the gold-medal game! Hurrah!

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Novel: The Five People You Meet In Heaven

(2003) Another puff-packaged novella from Mitch Albom.

Oddly, I went from a river world heaven environment in To Your Scattered Bodies Go to this book that climaxes in a river world heaven. This piece is short and sweet. Went through it in a week just reading at the red lights while driving to and from work each day, and over
a couple lunch break sessions.

I was dismayed initially at the very primary language but soon accepted that the simple style worked well given the piece is in essence a sort of fairy tale for grownups – or young adults too, for that matter.

The very tidy plot involves a series of life lessons. Were this book touted as a manual for living a good life I would be unimpressed. While the lessons laid out are laudable and may be found quite useful to many in the sense that they offer avenues for peace to our typically chaotic lives, it personally all flies under my radar. From my perspective these answers are innocently yet treacherously in league with the very chaos they purport to soothe.

But let’s not take this as a manual for living a good life. Albom states up front that this is just one idea of what heaven might be like. So lets just take this work at face value; as a story. And as a story I applaud it fully. It’s engaging and moving and rich in character.

I heartily recommend it. There’s a good chance you’ll enjoy it and a good chance you’ll take something useful away from it. And if not – it’s such a quick read you’ve got nothing to lose.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Agh! Backwards! Backwards!

One year ago I vowed to quit dicking around; to either put up or shut up; to either conquer my laziness with regards to productivity (writing) and health (weight loss) or just give up and accept the flawed creature I am and the limits thereof.

It’s report-card time.

I eventually lost 30 lbs, gained 18 back, developed some dietary discipline but crashed headlong into the calorie behemoth that is the Christmas season. Oh, and I joined a gym finally.

Started logging the writing projects and scheduling my writing time. Joined the National Novel Writing Month contest and forged a watchdog partnership with other writers on the Hamilton team. But haven’t significantly boosted productivity so far. The Nano project crashed when Peter Pan had his breakdown and I turned full-time caregiver for a week.

Decision: inconclusive.

The results are not good enough but the new structures are in place and I’m feeling motivated. Therefore – I extend the project. I need to be down another 50 lbs and up 350,000 words by this time next year.

As Doctor Lock would say… ONWARD!