and I quote

july 2011

click for permalink July 31, 2011

So June escaped me completely and I wasn't about to let July do the same. These summer months are wily, slippery things, especially here in Vancouver where they often pass by unremarked, masquerading as a never-ending spring, only to arrive in late August, breathless and overheated, just as everyone has resigned themselves to the imminence of autumn, and overstaying their welcome by a few weeks, rendering their inevitable departure a desperate, clingy, codependant affair.

So, what have I been up to besides working and bitching about the weather... Well, I discovered two Firefox add-ons that I don't know how I ever lived without: TinEye Reverse Image Search and Craigslist Image Prefetcher. If you ever search for stuff on Craigslist (other than jobs and people looking to barter with "massage," that is), you need this add-on. You need it badly and you don't even know it. You're one click away from understanding just how much your entire Craigslist career up to this point has been a mind-numbing suckfest. Install this add-on — you don't have to think about it, just do it — and you will thank me. Between Mr. Pink and I, if we pooled all the time we've saved since installing this add-on, we could buy back the last 6 months of 2010 and do it over again — or the first six weeks of 2000, if we were up to it (of course, neither of us is in shape for that).

Another Firefox add-on that I haven't installed (only because I've no need for such things) is nonetheless very timely; it alerts users when they are in danger of exposure to Rupert Murdoch's corrupting influence:

Murdoch AlertMurdochAlert warns you whenever you visit one of the 100+ Murdoch Family-controlled websites... handy for identifying news sources controlled by the Murdoch Family."

My favorite comment so far on the whole Murdoch media empire scandal has probably been this observation by The Last Psychiatrist after multiple viewings of the thwarted shaving cream pie attack:

[Rupert Murdoch's wife Wendi Deng] acted swiftly and selflessly, a characteristic one might wish for in a Prime Minister, but since Wendi can't run you have to scan the room for another pick... Who is able to stare potential annihilation in the face, gauge with perfect accuracy perceived vs. actual threat, trust his subordinates... and maintain the long, seen-it-all-before, ouroboros worldview? You want the guy seated at the far right."

Murdoch attack

I highly recommend watching the video and keeping your eye on the guy circled in red. His complete absence of any discernible reaction is quite remarkable. In the (also highly recommended) comments that follow, a member of the Partial Objects community offers this explanation: "That would be the Rt. Hon. Jim Sheridan (Labour, Paisley & Renfrewshire North) — being a Glaswegian he's probably seen a few punch-ups in his time."

Other random things that have been going on this summer... We watched Battle: Los Angeles, which I had seen the preview for six months ago and remembered thinking, damn, that's probably the biggest piece of shit movie but it's a hell of a preview. It didn't look particularly original, borrowing heavily from almost all the top-grossing alien invasion and war movies of the last 30 years — that much was obvious from the preview. But, in a world where most of the big-budget science fiction being produced for the big screen is churned out by the lowest common denominator machine known as Michael Bay, I figured why not. Unfortunately, the preview doesn't seem quite as brilliant to me now as it did before, but there's probably nothing with a plot, thin or derivative though it might be, that could hope to compete with the wordless, eerie ambiance of the preview.

(Okay, you know what? I just watched this preview again and you should completely ignore that last statement because it still kicks ass. The brain is a funny, funny thing. I bet you if I watch it again tomorrow, I'll feel slightly differently all over again... and if that happens, you can rest assured I will keep it to myself.)

Funny thing about this movie. About a week after we watched it, it suddenly hit me. It's Black Hawk Down. Only this time, the Americans are the Somalis; hopelessly outgunned, fighting street-by-street against a faceless invader whose vastly superior technology all but guarantees their victory.

Manufacturing DepressionSo I've also been reading a fantastic book called Manufacturing Depression: The Secret History of a Modern Disease by Gary Greenberg (and yes, as a matter of fact, he did have me at a nod to Noam Chomsky). I wasn't sure but I thought the author's name sounded familiar, and a few minutes in, he explained why. It turns out he also wrote — and in fact, his first piece of published writing, was — one of my favorite articles of all time. In the Kingdom of the Unabomber was published in 1999 in an issue of McSweeney's that I happened to find in a used book store a few years later.

Until that moment I had been completely unaware of McSweeney's as a publication; I only knew it as a bookmark on my computer, filed under "reading material" along with The Onion and The Brunching Shuttlecocks. It was the home of Open Letters to People or Entities Who Are Unlikely to Respond, which I shared with a friend one day after work and it catapulted us into helpless hysterics for the next few hours. Finally, cautiously, we ventured outside and bravely attempted to drive home, only to find ourselves seized by a relapse of paralyzing laughter at the most inopportune moment, stranded in the middle of an intersection in late rush hour traffic, at the entrance to an on-ramp to a bridge we had no desire to cross.

Somehow, she managed to pull herself together enough to extricate the car from the inexorable flow and backed off the on-ramp. We observed the strictest silence for the remainder of the drive, and eye contact was completely out of the question, lest we cause an accident that neither of us would be able to explain to a police officer with a straight face. I stared out the passenger side window with my hand clamped firmly over my mouth until the car was safely parked outside my building.

All that being said, McSweeney's wasn't the name that made me zero in on that very used volume in the bookstore; it was The Unabomber. I had followed the tale of Ted Kaczynski a few years earlier as it unfolded like a Philip K. Dick novel. I remembered reading, riveted, the full text of his manifesto (Industrial Society And Its Future) when it was published in its unedited, uncorrected entirety on the front page of The New York Times and I tried to learn as much as at the time as the mainstream media would allow.

I felt an inexplicable, irresistible empathy for the man. I remember quoting him in one of my articles for the Vancouver Sun (before every psycho started doing it) and wanting to know more about him. But after he was sentenced to life in prison, the media was only too happy to close the book on him and wash their hands, which suddenly seemed to need it. The mystery had been solved, after all — and as for the human enigma at the center of it, well, in the end, who really knew why anyone did anything? Chalk it up to mental illness — a high-functioning but maladjusted sociopath — and the rest of the world was satisfied to let everything fall into the memory hole.

cabinEverything, that is, except for that shack in the woods, the indelible image of which we happily adopted into our alphabet of archetypes, a stand-in for all the complexity and conflictedness we couldn't assimilate, about the man whose ideas it cartoonishly came to symbolize.

Amazingly, Gary Greenberg's article seemed to address all of that — whether through some uncanny affinity shared between the author and myself — or more likely, through his remarkable skill, training and some instinctual affinity for storytelling. I came away from the article with the feeling that, given the same circumstances, this is exactly what I would have written. (I'm not entirely sure this isn't what we secretly love about all our favorite writers.) An early passage beautifully encapsulates much of what I found — and I hesitate to use this word even now — endearing in the passages of the Unabomber's Manifesto:

Kaczynski's grammar and syntax are as precise as his handwriting. His carefully unbroken infinitives and faithfully maintained parallel structures read like examples from Strunk and White... In his letters, Kaczynski is sometimes pedantic and other times argumentative. But leavening them throughout, in addition to his unfailing politeness and moderation of tone, is a sense of humor that stops just short of wise ass. In this, he reminds me of a very smart adolescent boy whose sharp intellect and way with words can, if only momentarily, put his insecurity out of mind. In a word, Kaczynski's letters are jaunty, a quality that I don't have to quote in order to show. I just have to tell you that when he signs his name, he often underlines it with a scrawled "Z" that looks, for all the world, like the mark of Zorro." — Gary Greenberg, In the Kingdom of the Unabomber