february 2002

click here for permalink February 24, 2002

Vancouver is awash in the feverish afterglow of victory tonight after Canada beats the U.S. Olympic team (5-2) to win the gold medal in men's hockey. It's the Canadian team's first gold medal in exactly 50 years.

The outpouring of drunken, giddy patriotism that ensued after game's end was (and, as of this moment, still is) audible from every apartment, storefront and sports bar in the city, with revellers cruising through the streets screaming from open windows and waving full-sized Canadian flags to the cheering, shouting crowds who filtered out into the streets to join in the celebration.

I was on my way to the local secondhand junk store when the frenzy seemed to be hitting its peak; all the main streets and intersections were packed with cars moving at a parade's pace, full of hockey fans leaning out of windows and standing up through open sunroofs.

I couldn't help thinking, who knew so many Vancouverites owned a flag?? Do all Canadians keep the ol' 4x6 maple leaf under the passenger's seat just in case an occasion should arise that calls for a full-on display of gonzo patriotism? Were the sports bars perhaps giving them away with every fourth pitcher of beer?

This isn't the first time I've witnessed surprising evidence of Canadian patriotism, though; the first time was last year when I had a couple of friends over and we somehow got onto the topic of tattoos which led to the revelation that they both, coincidentally, had one tiny maple leaf permanently inked onto their bodies, which I thought was odds-defyingly bizarre. They were unimpressed; then they asked me if I'd ever seen an American with an eagle tattoo.

Point taken, but the thing about Canadian patriotism versus the American brand is that, when you do see it, it is never inopportune or lacking in sincerity — well, maybe just the one time when they rioted after losing a hockey game to an American team... bygones.

But it's "underdog" patriotism — which, as we know from every high school sports movie ever made, is the very best kind. Vice magazine made an interesting point about patriotism in the wake of September 11th; while nothing could have been less cool than "old glory" a year ago, the terrorist attacks have turned flag-waving into a "rooting for the underdog" statement, signifying our scrappy unity and solidarity.

So, after over an hour of rummaging through a maze of dusty shelves, I approached the counter with an armload of scavenged books and other knick-knacks. The cashier, a scruffy, long-haired volunteer with puppy-dog eyes, smiled widely as soon as he saw me and offered me a beer... "No thanks, I've gotta get home," I declined, thanking him and indicating my unpriced armful of trash. "How much?"

He looked disappointed as he frowned thoughtfully at my collected items, "Well, throw somethin' out there," he said, tossing a wrench into the customary haggling process. I mumbled apologies for the "no" on the beer, hesitated, then respectfully ventured, "twelve dollars?" "Naah..!" he waved his arm at the pile, "ten's fine." I happily paid him and apologized yet again, smiling and leaving as he muttered about my not accepting the invitation of a beer "for the occasion."

On my way home, the streets were nearly as packed and celebratory as they had been an hour before, with cars slowing to a crawl so that drivers could high-five each other across the dotted yellow line and trade victory hollers with clusters of people lining the sidewalks and saluting with beer glasses from their balconies. Three such gentlemen were screaming "CANADAAAAAA!!" at the top of their lungs as I passed on the opposite side of the street. A motherly-looking woman was watching the commotion from my side of the street, her arms folded across a fushia-and-tourquise windbreaker; we made eye contact as I passed, prompting her to comment "they're just like little boys, eh?"

Heh... Canadians make eye contact. So, congrats, Canada... I'm off to watch the MTV Europe somethingorother Awards.

click here for permalink February 23, 2002

Big news in Vancouver today as police finally make an official arrest in the case of a local pig farmer whose property has been the site of a massive search operation over the last three weeks.

The search began in January as an extension of the ongoing investigation into 50 presumably linked cases of women missing from Vancouver's east side, a neighborhood not known for its neighborly treatment of women.

The brothers living at the pig farm (insert "Snatch" joke here — unless you haven't seen it, in which case you can ignore this entire sentence and parenthetical) managed to evade suspicion for years until the police received a lead and began asking questions of their neighbors, all of whom suddenly had fragments of information that added up to a great deal of incriminating, if circumstantial, evidence.

After two weeks, the "inch by inch" search of the pig farm has turned up two of the missing women's IDs, and more that they're not disclosing at the moment, which was enough to warrant an arrest. I imagine there are 50 families out there right now experiencing an unbelievable combination of relief, anxiety, disappointment and rage... too bad Canada doesn't have the death penalty... and all of y'all who have seen "Snatch," know what method of execution I'm thinkin' of...

On another morbidly fascinating topic, a company called Timeless Mail has gone and made an earnest attempt to earn a living doing what The Dead Letter already does better, for free. If you don't find it at all depressing, risky, exploitative or crass, you can pay Timeless Mail an annual fee to store one or more letters to be delivered to your loved ones after you've, shall we say, uploaded to that server in the sky.

...On the other hand, any time you feel like you have something to say to the living, you can compose your thoughts and submit them to the growing database at The Dead Letter for the world to see. I didn't expect much when I first stumbled in, via a link from a web log I've since forgotten, but I swiftly became addicted, hitting the anonymous and inviting "Read Another Letter" button at the bottom of each letter until I had been at it for hours.

They are as widely varied as the people who sign their names to them, covering the literary extremes between brevity and exhaustive detail, biting sarcasm and eloquent, tear-jerking sincerity... I know, it sounds dreadful and phony and contrived, but if you're in the right mood, it's better than West Wing.

click here for permalink February 20, 2002

For what it's worth, today's date makes a perfect palindrome, meaning that the complete date is the same when read backwards as forwards — if you put the day before the month, like the British. And at 8:02PM or, 20:02, using military time, it will be 20:02 20/02/2002 which is... well, it's even more of a palindrome, I guess.

I find it even more interesting, given the cultural contortions present in accepting the evidence of today's date as historic landmark, that this is the first day since 08/28/888 that has consisted solely of even digits. The recent "odds only" date, 11/19/1999, was noted as the last of its kind until 1/1/3111.

Of course, none of this really matters in the Big Picture, especially when you consider that the next "Palindrome Date" on the calendar, December 21, 2112, falls exactly 100 years to the day after the Mayans et al predict the world will end. But that's nit-picking. Some people take this kind of thing very seriously, so don't let a little thing like cultural time standards or relevance dull your excitement over this historic — or, at the very least — numeric, oddity.

click here for permalink February 17, 2002

Now that it's had a few days to sink in, the Oscar nominations are really starting to piss me off... mainly the "Best Actor" category... or should we just skip ahead and call it "Best Actor in a Movie Starring Russell Crowe?"

First of all, Tom Wilkinson? Please. Let's stop pretending this is anything other than an American popularity contest, shall we? History bears me out on this; it's a wasted nomination — besides, he won the Golden Globe already and most North Americans still don't know who the hell he is.

Second, what the hell is Sean Penn doing in there? Great actor, no question... for a solid performance in "Dead Man Walking" and countless depressing war movies, he deserves a stack of Oscars; for playing himself a little too well in "Hurly Burly," he deserves to be duct-taped to a flagpole, so I guess it balances out...

Anyway, "I Am Sam" is getting horrid reviews from everyone, even that demented G.I. Joe doll who sits next to Roger Ebert now. I'm sure Sean Penn was the best thing about this bad movie but you don't see Nicholas Cage getting an Oscar nod for "Family Man," do you? We all know Russell Crowe is going to win anyway so why not throw a nomination to some of the most daring and original performances of the year and let them smile and clap when the Gladiator robs them on Oscar night?

I'm talking, of course, about Ewan McGregor (for "Moulin Rouge") Guy Pierce (for "Memento") — not that he had a chance but he was fucking great — and Billy Bob Thornton who was double dissed for "Monster's Ball" and "The Man Who Wasn't There." Did they figure it was only fair since he got that double nomination last month at the Golden Globes? And gets to sleep with Angelina Jolie and carry a vial of her blood around his neck...? Got a point there — he might be a little too charmed for his own good right now.

All the other Oscar categories look fine to me... You know, it makes me think, though... I really should get out and actually see a movie once in a while.

Okay? Who likes Personality Tests? I thought so... This has to be the easiest one around and, while I've only seen my results and those of my partner-in-crime, Mr. Pink, it's got my endorsement as a half-decent character assessment tool... but that could just be because it told me I have "considerable personal charm."

And here's a belated Valentine's Day present for you (now you can't say I never gave you nothin'). Will someone please reassure me that I'm not deranged for thinking this is some really funny shit? ...Anyone who watched "Keeping the Faith" a second time just for the "Jesse's Girl" scene knows what I'm talking about...

click here for permalink February 14, 2002

Happy Valentine's Day, everyone! Is there any other day of the year that evokes such mixed emotions? Granted, the Christmas season boasts more suicides, but it's Valentine's Day that cynics and sentimentalists alike hail as the single the most commercialized, corrupted and generally crammed down our throats of all the Hallmark holidays.

So, enough about Valentine's Day... I want to know what in the hell are they doing, noisily and without pause, to the beach across the street from my apartment? Even though I can count on one hand the number of times I've actually been down there in the last year, the mystery is driving me nuts. One lane of the street is ripped up and cordoned off and the wide strip of beach along the bike trail has been bulldozed into a peak, ten feet high, that runs half a mile along the trail, for no discernible reason.

Not that it's unusual to see random strips of downtown Vancouver and outlaying areas ripped up and bulldozed for no discernible reason... every few blocks, on any given day, there's a stretch of pipeline being torn up or laid down, a high rise apartment building springing up what seems like overnight, or several city blocks being taken over for weeks at a time for the filming of some Fox drama or straight-to-video that didn't have the money to shoot in New York.

In fact, the architectural marvel that is our downtown library has been off-limits to all but those with a backstage pass for almost a week now, which I wouldn't have even noticed if not for the fact that I've been on a borrowing binge since Christmas. Now that I think about it, I may just owe this week's recent outburst of prolific web logging to the fact that I've had no books to bury myself in...

If only, by the same token, the view of those enigmatic sand trenches from my balcony were enough to send me into a jogging/biking/roller blading frenzy... now that would be something.

Officially, by the end of this post, it's the 15th. More importantly, it's Friday, and I know we can all agree on celebrating that.

click here for permalink February 13, 2002

Two weeks ago, we were pounded by snow; now it's sunny, warm... good walking weather. For a city where pets are only a few degrees above sex offenders in the eyes of the landlord, I've seen an awful lot of people with dogs.

Have you heard the theory that the distinction between "dog people" and "cat people" is analagous to the difference between sadists and masochists? There are interesting parallels... starting with the obvious, look at the "gear" involved. Dog people invariably invest in, at the very least, collars to mark the the dog as their property and leashes to keep them from running away.

The restraints and ornamentations for dog owners get more and more comparable to S&M gear from there; harnesses, choke chains, collars with studs, little doggie outfits — leather for the kinky, knitted for the elderly and a simple, bright bandana around the neck for that rugged, rakish type. And let's not forget all those toys.

Dog owners have not only the bondage end of sadism covered, but also the discipline end; from the simplest command to "sit" or "stay" to the elaborate rituals of K-9 police teams and the circus-employed, a dog's life is lived in constant pursuit of rewards for good performance and avoidance of the punishment that comes with failure to please one's master.

Cat owners, on the other hand, have only to think back to their first kitten to see the parallel that links them to the pain-loving masochists of the world. That fluffy, angelic face, all wide hazel eyes and adoration; that angora-soft belly beckoning to be touched; the tiny paws, a fragile web of toothpick-thin bones and tendons...

You pick her up, squealing childishly, awash in the sudden knowledge that love at first sight does exist and when it hits you, you can't bear to live for another second without possessing the object of your affections, and you clutch the tiny beast to your heart, burying your face in her silky, clean-smelling fur.

She purrs ecstatically and you beam with pride, glowing inside at the knowledge that you, in turn, have made her happy; made her love you. You stroke her head and smooth all the rough fur under her neck as she rumbles contentedly away in your arms. It's bliss, this symbiotic relationship between human and feline; this perfect, parental bond that spans the species.

And then, suddenly... your rythmic smoothing of the downy fur under her neck must have skipped a beat — or you moved your fingers infinitesimally to the right — because suddenly the living incarnation of your love has transformed into a blur of whirling, razor-sharp claws that lash through flesh and cloth like a knife through butter.

Before you can think to let go, which you surely would if she were still in your arms, the Tasmanian Devil that was once your little ball of joy has left four papercut-thin, red welts on each of your arms and several little nicks, of varying length and depth, on your hands, chest, legs and, somehow, face, which is burning even redder with anger.

Boiling with the rage of pain, you storm through the house in search of the little scavenging, rat-eating fleabag that did this to you, the sweet taste of revenge whetting your appetite for inter-species violence. When you find her, finally, the first emotion you feel is relief; she's okay. She is cowering under your bed, her tiny body crammed into the corner where you can see her sides expand and contract with each panting breath.

You can see the fear in her wide, luminous eyes and you know, as surely as you know there is no topical medical marvel under the sun that will soothe the stinging of your filleted appendages, there will be no revenge exacted today. You coax her out from under the bed with soft, beseeching tones until she begins to move slowly along the wall, arching her back up so high that it grazes the box spring, and rubs her face roughly against your outstretched fingers.

Did you know that cats mark their territory by rubbing their faces, which house the scent glands, against objects that they consider their property?

Carrying her away from her hiding place, you coo into her pointed, furry ears that you'll try to be more careful next time. To seal the promise with a bribe, you give her a treat of milk and some scraps of lunch meat you were saving for a sandwich tomorrow.

You set her down in front of the dish, carefully avoiding those thorny, claw-tipped arms and legs which are splayed out stiffly in all directions to ensure a soft landing, in the unlikely event that you drop her. Seeing this, you vow to gain back her trust. Now then, you think, time to go make sure that litter box is extra clean. You don't want to make her do something to teach you a lesson about hygiene — even though you know that those little lessons must hurt her more than they hurt you.

Me? I like both... but the maternal urge that grips me like a vice when I see a commercial for Kitten Chow tells me that the last kitten to rake its initials into my flesh must have marked me more deeply than I thought.

click here for permalink February 12, 2002

For reasons to boring to relay to you all, I just finished retrieving three months worth of email messages to my accounts on this site (including requests for advice so please forgive me and be patient while I read them all!)...

There were two hundred and ninety fucking five of them; many virus-infected, a few from "long lost," and now perhaps re-lost, acquaintances, but most were junk mail. For the record, I'd like to start by thanking Norton and all the blessed programmers who toil in thankless anonymity for creating, and updating with fanatical persistence, the software that quarantined and deleted the offending viruses.

Also, for the record, I'd like to state my complete and utter lack of interest in, or desire to purchase, the following: Teenage porn
stock tips
domain names
credit cards
credit tips
credit reports
methods of cheating my credit report
weight loss drugs
ski vacations
cruise vacations
discount airline tickets
tax software
any other kind of overpriced, shitty software
"bulk" magazine subscriptions
... and, most especially and emphatically, I do NOT need: to look 20 years younger or
have anything to do with a penis enlargement.

And finally, to all you scum-sucking direct-mail marketing maggots who have nothing better to do with your empty, sexless, decaffienated little lives but sit in a florescent green cubicle and compose pathetic, grammatically incorrect, rainbow-colored entreaties to "multiple recipients," I'd like to say:

Enjoy it while you can... but know that you are racking up a gargantuan debt on the Karma credit card. One day, when the soft, warm arms of death carry you off to the reincarnation chamber to be spat out onto the earth in one of McDonalds' South American rainforest-turned-force-feeding pens to await slaughter and eventual sale to the billions of fat American consumers you plagued mercilessly in a previous incarnation, somehow... I'll know. And I'll be laughing.