For you, the dress code is casual.

Thursday, March 31, 2005

The Holy Watch Begins

The Pope
Originally uploaded by scribecalledsteff.
The Pope has been administered his viaticum.

Viaticum, for those who don't know, comes from an Ancient Greek term for something which was given to aid or strengthen those setting out on a journey. For Catholics, it's a last communion given when death is imminent.

As a child, I was a huge John Paul II fan. I even won a letter-writing contest to go see him give Papal Mass. It was one of my childhood high points when I saw him in 1984 at BC Place Stadium, where he cruised the football field in his PopeMobile and administered Mass to 65,000.

But that was a long, long time ago. I've since become embittered toward the man for his hardcore fundamentalist beliefs, since he's as Roman Catholic as they come, bordering on Jesuit. He has a strange legacy of declaring speeding a sin, requesting women to forsake careers so they can better morally imprint their children through quality time and company, among other rather backdated moral values he's sought to reinstate. I don't really fault him for those beliefs, but for the damning of those who don't share them, which far too many religious persons do. Life's hard enough without bringing more intolerance into it, right?

His legacy won't be the moralistic tone he had, though. It'll be his political acumen and his ability to control the international perception of right and wrong, resulting in his influence on inspiring the Polish rebellion that gave way to the downfall of Communism in the late 1980s.

The papal strengthening began before John Paul ascended to power, though. Not too long before, but long enough that there was a bit of momentum when the Polish Pope took the stage. In John Paul II's time at the helm, the papacy has become infinitely stronger than it has been in many, many decades. As a result, the Vatican now has an influential diplomatic network in 172 countries around the world. It's a greater international infiltration of diplomats than the United States has managed.

What the Catholic Church has become is powerful. Very damned powerful, and much of that is owed to the charm and appeal John Paul II had when speaking to issues. He may have been God's main man, but he hit it off good with the commoners, too.

For all the things I dislike about John Paul II's reign, I'm saddened to see him in the shape he's been in. He was once one of the most amiable, admirable men in the world. Now he's just a sad and frail old man.

I wish he would have lasted longer in his prime, regardless of his beliefs. Admirable people aren't in great supply. I also wish he'd never been shot. And I wish he didn't have to go in such a drawn-out and unpleasant way.

I wish him well on his journey, that he goes with God.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Schiavo: R.I.P.

Terri died this morning.

Last night, I'd seen that another fabulous bloggy posted the link to Terri Schiavo's blog.

It's black as hell comedy, people, so if you're easily offended, avert them eyes.

Glad to see it's over for her. Nothing like turning suffering into a political platform, huh? All those bastards who got involved in this deserve pain. Lots and lots of pain.

RIP, Terri. And if there's a heaven, may you spend enternity using actual cutlery again.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

The Kills: The Day After

The only thing better than seeing a great band is seeing one with a great opening band before it.

Enter the Kills with trusty sidekicks The Sights.

The Sights are clearly everything Detroit rock brings to the table. They've got the grit'n'groove feel that bands like Detroit Cobras pull off so well-- vocal finesse, super-polished geetar, and a bitchin' cool application of organs. The band's totally, totally tight. There were moments of being able to pick out the influences like Creedence Clearwater, Led Zeppelin, and the Rolling Stones.

The Sights'll be back to town with the Donnas, soon, so that could be fun, but I'd love to see them as a headliner. I dig their energetic chaos they throw together on the stage. The lead guy and the organist/harpiscordist have this ongoing drinking game throughout their set where they swill back beer with abandon, simultaneously, and often.

Just good fun.

* * * * * *

The Kills... every bit as edgy, raw, and hot as they were last time. In short? Again, they've fought their way into probably the top ten concerts I've ever seen. That's two of their gigs now in my top ten.

They fed off the crowd, who I suspect were largely surprised at the ferocity of the gig, despite the Georgia Straight's article saying that was exactly what made it worth seeing. It was clear a lot first timers were in the crowd 'cos it was "the gig to see" this week, but had had no exposure to the band. My hearing loss enables me to read lips and it was amusing scanning the crowd from time to time, seeing strange faces mouthing,"This is fucking awesome." "Jesus! Look at him!" "How the fuck did we miss this till now?" "Oh, my... God." "Fucking A!"

They really ripped into their crowd-pleasing favourites--Black Rooster, No Wow, Love is a Deserter, Dead Road 7, Kissy Kissy (oooh...), Fuck the People (their encore), Superstition, and more. They played for about 55 minutes, but I found myself every bit as spent as I was the last time through, so we were fine with that.

Hotel, the guitar genius behind the Kills, was Lou Reed at his finest last night. One of my companions shouted "The guy's a fucking robot!" The way he wields his guitar like a weapon, man, I could totally imagine him plodding through a rice paddy with an AK-47 in 'Nam. He'd find a fixed person in the audience and he'd play to them for 20, 30 seconds at a time, just glaring, unblinking, as his body throbbed with the bassy chords he was ripping up. Just glaring, glaring...

It was so damned hot to watch. This time around, Hotel did more stage stealing, but VV was in on it, bowing out and giving him his credit when due. An incredibly respectful, tight, and gracious duo -- enshrouded in inuendo, angst, and sex. Excellent.

Alison Mosshart, VV, was just as frickin' hot and saucy as the last time, evoking Janis Joplin and PJ Harvey and Patti Smith every time she opened her mouth.

They ended in a whirl of sexual chaos during Love Is A Deserter, with Hotel pounding through his chords, his guitar inches from VV's crotch as she arched all the way to the floor, her face hanging towards the audience, and her drained of energy, bordering on feverished ecstasy as Hotel pounded out the last few riffs in the track, after which she collapsed to the floor and he dropped his spent arms, his body going limp. And then they stumbled out in exhaustion, having left it all onstage. When the Kills end a show, man, you know it's done.

And the good news? I now remove my expiration-date doomed prophecies on the Kills as heroin junkies. Our beloved tour gods have seemed to have kicked the evil drug--they've both gained 15-20 pounds and have colour in their faces. A beautiful thing. I love this band and have honestly never seen many performers with this kind of craftmanship, chemistry, and style...

Seeing them in concert is a sight to behold and I consider myself fortunate to have seen them twice in only five months. I don't, though, want to become one of those people with bragging rights on seeing a hot band just before one of the principles takes a midnight swim in the Mississippi to never be heard from again. I honestly thought the Kills looked like they were on the losing end of a hypodermic syringe. They look awesome this time around, and the prognosis looks good, my friends.

And oh, God, I'm spent today after too much drinking and too much dope, and get to do it again in eight hours. Bloc Party! Oh, lordy, lordy, lordy.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Vansterdam: A Socio/Political Primer

Originally uploaded by scribecalledsteff.
Vancouver finds itself in an interesting position--literally. Situated as the gateway to the Far East, Vancouver is the main entry port to North America, and is considered by drug dealers to be the landing place of choice.

Canada governs itself in a much more European manner than the United States. As a result, our personal freedoms are more protected, in every way, and this leads us to a more lenient stance on drug enforcement as a whole, but particularly in regards to recreational soft-core drugs like marijuana. While we’re not kind to our heavy dealers, we do have one thing the United States doesn’t, and that’s the lack of a “three-strikes” law, as Clinton enacted.

As a result of Vancouver’s geography and due to no “three strikes,” as well as the large amount of heroin produced in East Asia, Vancouver finds itself as a heroin hotbed.

The heroin problem in Vancouver is one of legion. It’s an insanely long and brutal history with the drug, resulting in a 30-square block area that’s home to some of the worst poverty in North America and one of the highest urban AIDS rates in the western world, thanks to the unsafe use of needles.

That heroin problem also contributes to the second-highest, if not the highest personal property crime rates in North America--higher than New York City.

That said, the cops have their hands full. In their dealings with the fall-out of heroin, as well as crystal meth of late, the police in Vancouver have seen what drug use can really do to a person. While our cops get their flack as much as any urban police force does, the degree of sensitivity towards those hardened drug users can be remarkably sympathetic at times. I, for one, admire it.

But because they’ve seen what real addiction is and the depravity and depths to which one can sink, the cops realize that marijuana’s not even worth the effort to fight. They think their time is better spent trying to help those fully ensnared by hardcore drugs... and they’re right.

Vancouver is hounded by the American government for our inability to stem the heroin trade (and the marijuana trafficking, but that’s another story). They fail to see the immensity of the problem from our perspective.

This city gets 1.5 million containers (a minimum of 20-foot lengths, if not longer) coming through our ports every year, from all around the world. In 2003, 2,600 foreign freighters came through these ports with 66.7 million tonnes of goods, all on its way via air, ground, and sea to other parts of the world. All you need is a pound of cocaine or a kilo of heroin tucked somewhere in that 147 billion pounds of goods. (I own a calculator, ergo am a Math God.)

New York City would have difficulty enforcing searches of that many containers, but in a city the size of Vancouver--a quarter the population of New York (totalling about 2 million Vancouverites)--the logistics are mind-numbing and the possibility of effective control? Next to nil. And we know it.

Our customs officers and police officers are stretched to the max trying to keep heroin off the streets. It’s the greatest bane this city has known, and none of us citizens are proud to know we’re home to one of the world’s worst heroin scenes. We’re all concerned. It’s the biggest issue every time we have an election. But it’s hard to solve that problem, and the governments from the nations in which the drugs originate, they deserve a great deal of the blame.

But it’s due to the chaos of the heroin situation that our civic and provincial governments are almost completely hands-off when it comes to recreational indulgence in marijuana.

As a result, Vancouver, British Columbia has become one of the top places in the world to not only smoke dope, but to grow it. A great deal of our dope is grown indoors in hydroponic labs, but you can still get the real-deal forest-yield, too. Our local growers have developed some of the finest growth techniques in the world, resulting marijuana that consistently wins as the world’s best in the annual “Cannabis Cup” held by that legendary mag High Times.

That’s just some of how Vancouver got to be how it is when it comes to the dance with Mary-Jane. I’ll talk soon about the culture of Vancouver and how its love affair with the leaf has come to colour the entire Lotus Land lifestyle. It’s a beautiful thing.

To Pipe or Not to Pipe

Originally uploaded by scribecalledsteff.
There's a longstanding division in the world of cannabis connaisseurs. Roll it, bong it, or pipe it?

Every dope-smoking fiend has a preference. There are those who have the old romantic perceptions of a nice fatty. They like the precision and the craft of making a finely rolled joint.

There are those who prefer the bongs. True bong-smokers will tell you that a bong affords the most delectable and varied of pot-smoking experiences. A bong, if you don't know, is any vessel that holds liquid, with a pot-stashing unit atop the vessel, and a separate intake area where you inhale your drug of choice. The smoke travels through the liquid, is cooled down, and apparently allows you to inhale more in a single toke since it has been "treated." It also apparently cleans the smoke a little, making it theoretically less damaging to your lungs.

In fact, the true bong connaisseur will tell you that you can "flavour" your dope by changing out the liquid. I had an aunt who was partial to putting red wine and port in her bong. I've tried it, and while it does offer a bit of flavour, I'm just not wild about inhaling through rather disgusting liquid (because inevitably, you're bound to overshoot your mark and accidentally inhale liquid--I'd rather not).

And anyone who's tried cleaning their bong--and I'm neurotic about clean paraphenalia--will tell you it's a bit of a chore. Break out the pipecleaners and boiling water, my friends.

One other category of smoker would be the blunt fan. Myself, I've never even seen a blunt, let alone smoked one. Since I'm going on third-party information and just don't care enough to look into it, I'm told a blunt is when you carve out a bit of a cigar and stuff your dope in there, and fix it back into a one-piece cigar again.

Now, that, I've never understood. I guess hating stinky cigar smoke is part of the reason, even though I've smoked 'em before. I also respect marijuana far too much to mix it with tobacco. Apparently mixing dope with tobacco is big in England, but maybe that's because it's too hard to come across, and too expensive.

The final class of dope-smoking fiend is the class in which you'll find me. The pipe-lover. I actually collect pipes--some from San Francisco, Vancouver Island, and beyond. Many pipes are convenient and come with a lid atop the bowl so you can pack it in advance and carry it to wherever event you think having atmospherics might enable you to better enjoy yourself. But the ultimate in pipe-owning luxury is the ProtoPipe, as seen above.

I've had trouble finding the history of the ProtoPipe, but it has apparently been around for decades. What makes it stand out is that the unit, as seen above, contains: A poker, a removeable bottom segment that allows for thorough cleaning of all innards, a chamber in which up to five bowls of dope can be stored, and a handy lid for the bowl which also doubles as a snuffer so you don't burn more than you need to ('cause it just ain't cheap). The great thing about the poker is it's also the key to open the removeable bottom but is additionally designed to be the perfect width and length to clean out the airway through which you inhale, which always clogs with tar. It's actually designed to arrest the tar's progress so you're not inhaling too much of it, so that cleanability is a very important factor.

I know there are going to be people who think I'm a falt-out pothead, and that's fine by me. Whatever gets you to sleep at night, you know? We all have our vices. At least I admit mine. That we somehow think drinking is less addictive or troubling is naivete at its finest... or the American way--brainwashing.

I wouldn't go so far as to say that dope is to Vancouver what wine is to France, but I don't think it'd be too much a stretch to suggest that. I do know it certainly contributes to the lax lifestyle we have in this town, and whether you smoke or not, that lifestyle is something to love.

And there's your pot-apparatus 101.

Thursday, March 24, 2005


It's that time of year again. Everything's coming to life, and that unmistakeable scent lingers in the streets, bringing with it the realization that spring truly is upon this fine, fine city.

No, not lilac, cherry blossoms, or those pretty yellow flowers on the bush by my apartment. I'm saying that sweet smell of ganja.

In Vancouver, spring has sprung when you smell dope lingering in the air again. Today, nearly every block I rode through had someone smoking up somewhere.

It accounts for that easy vibe that people seemed to have. It's that vibe that makes this town what it is when summer comes 'round. Easy, casual... Lazy.

God, the notion of easy, casual, and lazy just turns me right on. But like most things in my life right now, it's merely fantasy. The reality is, work's picking up, and the better half of my department's fucking abandoning me for three weeks. You know what this means, don't you? I'll actually have to work for a living. Jesus. The horror.

The horror!

Oh, well. Fortunately I'll be financially compensated for my extra time. God knows I love the way I live, three days off and all, but the lifestyle isn't lucrative by any means. Working a little more from time to time keeps me afloat. Then I can retreat to my life of slack I love so much.

Besides, getting stuck indoors a lot and in crappy lighting will be just the thing to light a fire under my ass and make me fall in love with cycling again. Opression brings revolt. I give myself three weeks before I crack.

[Back in the before-30 day, I'd go six weeks! But I'm more selfish, now, too, and that's figuring in. Fuck the man.]

But for now, it may actually be fun. I like the product I work on for this fickle wench of a client. They bring us retro shows coming out on DVD, the likes of which I'm not at liberty to divulge, but suffice to say that much of the content is the basis of my formative years. It's a pretty interesting experience being able to put my touches on something that put its touches on me a long time ago. And I get paid for it.

But outside of work, it's spring in one of the most gorgeous cities I've ever seen, and the temperatures are picking up already. Life's on the up and up, and for a time, I'll actually have money to enjoy it. Yin/yang, right?

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

An Old Quote

Back in the day, we had a sign posted in our journalism lab in college. I had occasion to remember the sign twice now this week, so:

"Management regrets to inform you that, due to the current fiscal restraints, the light at the end of the tunnel will be turned off until further notice."

[And now I have to confess that the blackout has left me wanting to listen to OMD--"The lights are going out, one by one..."--and I'm gonna fight that frickin' urge with everything I've got. I need no aural bubblegum today...]

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Alone in the Dark

It's a blackout night. Power went out awhile ago. I like a good outtage now and then. It makes the world go away for a little while. I’d love to be in one of those all-out monstrous metropolitan BLACKouts sometime. It’d be freaky, but you know what? Who cares. It’s all about chalking another notch on the wall, isn’t it? “And I did THAT, too.”

I was attempting to write on my balcony before this, seeing as I've got a laptop and it was the perfect time to both make use of it and show off. I was out there listening to tunes, checkin’ out the moon and stars. The air’s rich tonight. There’s a faint waft of rosemary from my herbs, which makes it seem a little less the urban overlook that it really is, but then there’s the apartment block across the way, and that always brings home the brutal reality that I just ain’t got a stitch of privacy.

There’s a guy across the way who’s a really nice dude, 42, a friend of a friend of a friend sort of thing, but he’s also the guy I affectionately refer to as “Hairy-Backed Artist.” He’s kind of my “Naked Fat Guy,” like the infamous character in Friends, and my friends and I all discuss both the artist and the oh-so-'80s abstract art he creates (and of which Bill Gates owns at least one original, as of last June).

HBA and I have encountered each other at parties and such and it’s always awkward on my end since this is a guy who probably has a pretty intimate knowledge about my life, considering he looks down from half a floor above and 60 feet away into my crazy little hovel, and considering I enjoy actual sunlight and open my curtains all the time.

So it was only natural that HBA should shout out to me from his balcony when he saw me during the blackout. (Oddly, my building goes out and the four southwest apartments [including his] in HBA’s building go out, but the rest of the street is fine.)

Unfortunately, the endless drone of cars amping up for the freeway via Oak was at its finest, and I could barely hear HBA. We agreed to kind of ignore each other and go back to our respective things. I took a seat in my director’s chair, got into my laptop, and suddenly dude decides he’s going to garden. (He had been cleaning his apartment up.)

Now, there I was: A guy standing on a deck in front of me in near-zero temperatures, wearing only a wifebeater, with tufts of hair all over his upperbody visible from 60 feet away in street/moonlight, as he pruned his little potted plants by flashlight.

Yeah. It was a little weird. So, I’m indoors now. Still liking the outtage, though.

(The power’s been out 2 hours now and I just saw the Hydro truck pull up in the alley. Nice. But then again, I never phoned it in. Serves me right, yeah?)

Monday, March 21, 2005


Google Groups has a group called "BC Recreational Goldpanners." It has nine members. And it's restricted!

Now, when did goldpanning get so elitist? Huh? I ask you. When? What, are they expecting a rush?

See, I've panned for gold. I know you don't believe me, but it's true. Not only have I done it, but I've done it successfully.

I found gold. I lost it right after that, but I had a witness for the finding. That's all that counts.

Of course, he's vanished since, but I don't think the witness protection program has anything to do with it.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

The "Right" and the Wrong: On Dying

Originally uploaded by scribecalledsteff.
This photo led off CNN's homepage today. I'll direct your attention to the placard in the back and the quote on it, "Auschwitz--Pinellas Park Region."

There are a great number of things about this case that upset me, but that placard is at the top of the list.

How dare they compare a husband who doesn't want to see his wife lying in a persistently vegetative state to a systematic slaughtering of hundreds and thousands of Jews?

And this is what so irks me about the far too-vocal religious right in the United States right now. As long as it somehow props up their moral pretenses, they don't care what they argue.

The reality is, this woman's been in a coma for more than 14 years. She is, as they say, a "vegetable." She has no ability to speak or act. It's arguable that she can even think.

The problem here is that her mother and her family have an inability to accept reality--that their daughter, for all intents and purposes, no longer exists. We all know the miraculous happens sometimes, but Miss Schiavo's odds are stacked against her.

More importantly, there's the issue of the sacred wedded trust. Her husband claims she has said she would never want to be kept on life-sustaining machines. She wanted nature to take its course. Who are we to question that?

After eight years of waiting for her to snap out of it, her husband Michael petitioned the courts to remove her feeding tube. That was 1998. In 2000, the courts ruled in his favour. A year later, the tube was removed. Two days later, a court ruled it should be reinserted. Another judge ruled in 2003 that the tube once again should be removed. Again, stays and appeals derailed that decision. And here we are.

For whom is this life sacred? For her mother? Obviously. As painful as it is, though, Mary Schindler, her mother, has to let go. For Terri, this life has long since lost its sanctity. Some lives are not meant to be lived, and I would think that a life imprisoned behind four walls and surrounded by wires and monitors is probably something none of us would embrace.

Is it so ludicrous to imagine a woman of 26 years telling her husband late at night that if time ever came for her to be kept alive on a feeding tube that he should do the hard thing and end it? I know it's how I'd feel.

I was one of those kids who loved Ayn Rand in college, and though my naivete on her philosophies has long since left me, I still hold on to one quote of hers: "Man's greatest failure is his inability to realize that avoiding death does not equal living life."

Schiavo is avoiding death, and not on her wishes, but it's not the wishmakers who have to endure that vacuous existence. Schiavo hasn't really been alive since 1990. If death is what she has wanted, then just imagine this living hell of hers.

The ironic thing about this all is it's precisely the religious right who believe in an afterlife, yet they're so insistent on hanging onto this lifetime. And people like Schiavo get to pay the price. Poor damned woman.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Die, week, die!

My week, it seems, has come to a close. I am going to smoke dope and listen to music and just enjoy the demise of the Bad/Exhausting Week. Hey, it sucked for Julius Caesar, too, man. (The Ides of March, 23 stab wounds, "Et tu, Brutus?" etc.)

I'm wishing I had Stevie Ray Vaughn's "Little Wing" somewhere right now, but I don't--I don't think. And I don't feel like downloading it this minute. For some reason, all day long, I kept remembering when I drove back alone from Whistler a couple years ago, on a hot summer night, pulled off to the side of the highway overlooking the water, and listened to Little Wing while stargazing and smoking a joint for the better part of an hour in the early morning. Gotta love that "repeat" option, yeah?

I guess that, right now, I can't really think of anything that'd sooth my soul a little more than a long, long roadtrip. There's something really purifying about a well-paced scenic road and a good stereo loaded with music. I really, really miss that about a car. I did a lot of roadtrips to a lot of places in my time--from the Mexican border to Alaska, the Northwest Territories, Manitoba, and everything in between.

Being confined to the city is really frustrating sometimes. It's kind of hard to forget your place in the world when you're constantly at home. Lost out there in the world is a good place to be. Honestly, I'd love a life as a nomad. Gimme a yurt and a Coleman stove, man, and I'll do just fine. Actually, hostels are more my bag, but one should always seize the opportunity to use the word "yurt." [Not quite the double-wide trailer type? You too can live close to nature in all the comforts of a made-in-BC yurt. Of course, there's something to be said for a rustic Mongolian yurt, but it seems the Mongolian yurtmakers haven't flocked to internet technology just yet. Baffling.]

I guess any two-bit shrink could tell you why I'm fixating on a roadtrip: Subliminal desire to actually possess control over my direction in life, and a mad wish to run like the wind from my life.

Yep. Sounds like a plan.

But what's with the yurt fascination, apart from the flaming fear of commitment? [Okay, now I've checked out the photos section on Yurtco's site, and geez, man, now I want one--and a plot of land in the mountains. For 10-grand? Awesome.]

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Now that you mention it...

I was watching Letterman before work this morning. Dave, having a rough start, looks at the camera and asks, "Do you ever have those weeks where you just want to wander off into the ocean?"

And I think Dave's encapsulated my week. I'm five seconds away from wishing I had some snorkeling gear, or at least a good life insurance policy. Fortunately, today's my Friday. Unfortunately, I've pissed a few people off and my weekend's looking dodgy. I think I'll be cancelling on some folk in order to conjure some semblance of sanity. I don't melt down very often, but this, this is meltdown week, indeed.

Tonight, I have guests staying over, but it's one of those stranger scenarios since I've never met either of 'em. They're 23-yr-old kids, one's my stepmom's grandkid. It'll be kind of neat hanging, but I wish I wasn't so maxed out from work this week. Each day has been 9+ hours, and my slacker lifestyle doesn't accommodate O/T too well. I kind of forgot about the guests coming yesterday, and not only worked 9.5 hours, but travelled by bus. Needless to say, I didn't get much cleaning done last night. Tonight, I'll have cancelled my acupuncture, which I'm sad about, but I'll get the place spiffed before the kids come.

And they're from -- I think-- either southern Illinois/northern Kentucky, or else I'm completely wrong and they're from Indiana. I know they want to go clubbing, so I think I'll try to get them into some gay clubs. That'd be a fun travel story for the middle America kids to tell. I somehow doubt the gay scene's all that happening at the University of Indiana. I think I'll be bringing my digital camera.

I'm sure I'll have amusing anecdotes to tell--if I can stay awake!

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

"But wait, there's more!"

Ask yourself this: Could you ever befriend a person who sold things on The Shopping Channel? This is that good-looking dude with the cheery, enthusiastic disposition, who happens to think it's perfectly logical that he should be selling you incredibly useless things through the television in your living room.

Now, all right, if you have a friend and they become that perfect salesperson for the network and you choose to remain their friend, well, that I can understand. But if I met someone at a party that worked for TSC, I'd stay and talk with them for a bit with that same sort of curiosity that causes you to slow down and peer at a potentially bad vehicle accident. Fascination and horror.

Really. They prey on little old ladies who wind up dead on mysteries, with storerooms full of unopened shopping network goods. I mean, these people can lie about how satisfied they are with this new brand of astroturf. Or worse yet, they're shallow enough that all this crap matters to them.

Either way, I'd stay long enough for my drink to hit me, I'd smile, walk on, and never revisit it. It's hard enough trusting people in everyday non-threatening jobs, but trusting someone who's a fraud for a living? C'mon.

So, listen up, kids. This is why you need to keep your career paths open. Maybe just wholeheartedly chasing after, say, "acting" as a career could prove to be a questionable choice.


There's a press conference with George Bush on television right now. I should be heading to work, but I can't yet see the bottom of my coffee mug.

Just watching Bushy, though, it strikes me that I haven't bitched about politics in awhile. I found myself wondering why.

I'd like to say I've gotten over the fact that Bush is in office until 2008/9, but I haven't. I'm still pretty disillusioned about it all. Even moreso since Hunter Thompson's death, not that Hunter has anything to do with it, but because I've read a little of his classic election tome, On the Campaign Trail '72, and it strikes me just how little the US has changed... but how that's only the case because of the amount of regression done of late.

I absolutely loathe the religious right. I think it's abhorrent to legislate morality. I think it's unforgiveable to be intolerant of other people's beliefs just because they don't mesh with yours. I think it's laughable that the US administration is currently practicing nearly every single thing at home that they loathe in Middle Eastern countries--ruling based on religion, enforcing their narrow perception of what "morality" is--yet they seem to think it's justifiable simply because their faith supports that.

My silence on the issue should in no way suggest I somehow feel things have improved just because Bush and his cronies are pretending to make nice on the world circuit. I'm sure the "hangover" will subside and I'll start paying attention to American politics again, but it's rough when every time you look at a newspaper you get that disgusted feeling in the pit of your stomach.

It's just sad. I believe in freedom being our most valuable possession. I love the variety and spice brought to life by all the cultures and faiths that are found in my city and my nation. And I deplore the judgmental, exclusionist approach to freedom I see embraced by the in-power Republicans right now. I think it's a cruel, cruel lie, and I think it's unfortunate a (albeit slight) majority of the American people are swallowing it, and I believe the media is still at fault. And I don't know what else to say.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Lollipop, lollipop, oh, lolli-lolli...

Now, I like bananas, too, but really--$750 US for a print of this?

I work in Yaletown, a high-falutin', pompous-as-hell part of town, and this screen can be found at a gallery not spitting distance from my office.

Sigh. Yep. I've nothing against erotic art, or even porn for that matter, but this one's not even erotic, just kind of cheesy.

"My, what a big banana you have."

Of course, if you just buy art to fuel your dinner party conversations, have I got a canvas for you.]

My Evil Bad Monday

I'm an ass. Not intentionally, mind you, but it's turning out that way.

Last Thursday, I had thought a hearing aid was shorting out. Snap, crackle, pop. That kind of thing. It's essentially like hearing everything through the worst car speaker you've ever blown. Distortion is all you hear.

But you can't turn the speaker off, 'cos then you're down to hearing only 25% of whatever's to be heard. It's better to forge through, deal with the bad noise, and hope you can decipher something meaningful amidst it all.

That was my workday on Thursday afternoon. It never occured to me that it might not be the source of my problems, despite how I could take my headphones off and hear just fine. I had the same kind of thing happen in February with another hearing aid, 'cept it was when I was riding my scooter. If I was riding, the hearing aid would work. When I stopped, it would malfunction and completely short.

I just assumed it was more of the same. Saw a tech on Friday and they gave it a once over, the most that could be done in-office before shipping it to Ontario and inconveniencing me for weeks. We thought it was fine.

Went into work today--snap, crackle, pop. The slightly amusing thing was, it seemed almost ballast-controlled. I'd contort my neck into near-sideways positions, and it would be all right for, say, five or six seconds.

It wasn't until much later that all of a sudden I was getting bass reverb in my right ear... I thought, "Oh, crap. The other one's going?"

But a stupid frickin' lightbulb came on: It's the headphones. Sure enough, tried another pair, they were all right, to a degree--I was getting a lot of feedback from the dub I had to watch. Figuring it was the dub, I plowed on through...

Only to find out at the end of my -- (insert pity here for the telemarketer that just called here and ran into the wrong end of my mood) -- show that yes, the SECOND pair of headphones was also toast!

So, I essentially suffered through an eight-hour tour of hellish grumbling when I probably could have nicked the problem by 9:30 a.m.

Fortunately, my friend (and you know who you are) left FOUR beers in the fridge by accident last night. My sanity thanks you, dear friend. And now I shall have a beer. I'm sure I technically owe you one or two (or three or four) but semantics, my man.

Only one encore?

Matt Ward, when I first heard him, I thought he had an awful lot of live promise.

Some performers are made for jams, not production. Ward's one of them.

The gig was so, so, so worth losing sleep over. There is nothing so fine as watching a well-tuned machine plow through challenging music. That Ward had never played with his backing band live before tonight was something that made me laugh aloud. Phenomenal jams.

The guy evokes the Tom Waits of many years ago, but the jams are rocking in a roots/blues kind of way, and a lot more edgier than I've heard Waits doing. I couldn't believe how much more aggressive and developed Ward was onstage.

Some artists are defined by their production (U2, Radiohead, and from the "now" scene, Bloc Party) while others are destroyed by the overthought process that's inflicted on them by well-intentioned but narrow-viewed producers. Ward, live, is a thing to marvel at: a relentless strummer with his very own picking style--a curious, curious style of picking I could watch all night long. Straight-up virtuosity.

I swear to God, the dude is double-jointed on his right hand. He may have even been wearing false fingernails. I couldn't quite tell. Hey, don't knock it, it's done by some strummers, y'know.

As for his singing, I've mentioned the Waits reference, but what I love is his strained raspy voice. Although he's got that Waits sound going on, he's definitely got a bit more range. He's got great phrasing and rhythmic change-ups.

I'm thinking it's time to hunt down some of the bootleg performances that I can only hope are kicking around.

[PS: Ward's a hottie, the kind who exudes sexuality but never cockiness. Got that oh-so-not metrosexual thing going with the battered jeans, little bit stretched mustardy sweater, slightly unkempt but not-too-long curly dark hair, and the always-sexy soulpatch. Too bad about the ballcap. I think he's one of those performers who likes to "watch" his audience, so he tugs the cap down low over his eyes, and you never once see 'em during the show. Then again, that's kinda hot.]

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Den o' Slack No Mo'

Den o' Slack No Mo'
Originally uploaded by scribecalledsteff.
It's still a spring-cleaning day. I've got tunes spinning in the living room, which now looks like the photo right there-->.

Just last week, it looked like a crackhouse. The problem is--and you can't see it all--that I have too much crap. I'm pretty clean, but I ain't tidy.

I inherited a lot of stuff. Really, it's all about inheriting from people with good tastes, isn't it?

Mom had good taste. I think she'd approve of what I've done with the remnants of it. I like being 31 and having cool furniture around me in my retro 1952 pad. It's a corner unit with a fair amount of windows and hardwood throughout. Nice lines, an open design. I dig it.

And I've clearly put a lot of work into my place. I think it represents me well. I find it very upsetting when it's messy, and though I can clean it up like nobody's business, I can also let it get somethin' awful.

Like it has been of late.

But at least it always has style, man. It baffles me how people move into a place and simply "put furniture places." I mean, c'mon, it's your home. Life's too short to surround yourself with the average, isn't it? Colour inspires us. We're a people with a sense of aesthetic--you gotta feed that.

When my place is clean, I love being at home. I invite friends in, I entertain. I'm proud of my home, and I like to share it with the people around me. I think I've made an interesting place that fuels conversation but also allows people to feel at ease through comfort, coziness, and good lighting.

My place ain't clean yet. I've got some more tidying to do, and I don't have high hopes for my bedroom this weekend. Soon, though. It's not as bad as it looks, anyhow.

How to Make Sound

I wear hearing aids.

I was born with a genetic hearing loss and have had hearing instruments since I can remember. I believe I was approximately two when I was fitted with my first aids.

As a child, my rather profound hearing loss provided me with a number of challenges, but the greatest of those was my speech. I saw video footage of myself at about three, once, running circles around my Uncle Joe, who was taping me. I kept shouting playfully, "Unnle Hoe! Unnle Hoe!" But it wasn't what I was saying that was playful, just my demeanour. "Unnle Hoe" was the best I could say the words. I spoke like a fully deaf child with nearly no hard, defined sounds.

I spent three years in speech therapy. One afternoon per week I'd be in a therapist's office, getting taught how sounds are made with our mouths. I disinctly remember the occasion on which I was taught my greatest vocal nemesis: The word "ax."

I slogged through the better part of an hour trying to pronounce the word. "Ask." "Ach." "Ak." I finally was able to sputter, "Ax," and I tell you, I still remember the relief I felt.

The year after my therapy ended and I was deemed "fit to speak," I had the dreaded Mrs. Potschka as my grade four teacher. Mrs. Potschka was famous for her hard-ass approach to the Christmas Pantomine, and when she was casting the characters for our class play, she'd have us speaking aloud at the back of the class. [Insert Nazi personality traits here.] "No, no, no. You're not speaking cle-ar-ly enough. You must e-nun-ci-ate. You must pro-nounce your vow-wels and con-so-nants."

Since then, I have enunciated. I speak clearly, loudly, and I daresay I've been known to boom. It's the combination of parents from the east and my years dealing with a speech defect that have left me with a bit of a huskier female voice and a nearly Bostonian twang to my tone. But I no longer have any audible vocal problems. In fact, it's the opposite. I'm very, very well-spoken in my old age (in my humble opinion).

Speaking of old age, I consider myself fortunate in one way with my present job, in that I help create the closed captioning for quality television programming that other persons with hearing loss will be using to try to add to their quality of life. It makes me feel good.

But even though I work with pretty enlightened people, it's amazing how often something will be said or done unconsciously that is almost an insult or belittling of the loss. There's still a lot of ignorance in the world towards what a hearing loss entails. I've dealt with discrimination and harassment in many jobs and "real" life situations. You get so that it doesn't bother you anymore, but it'd be nice if the world understood a bit more about it and the problems it causes.

I think I'd like to continue with a few more posts over the weekend or next week on the nature of a hearing loss. For some reason, it's not something a lot of people know about. I've found myself getting into detailed conversations about losses with many of the people in my life, and every one of them has had additional questions and has wanted to know more.

So, expect more. I'll write next about the fit of a hearing aid and the problems a poorly fitted one can cause not only in physical and practical situations, but in social and professional settings. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Driving: What You're Doing Wrong

Originally uploaded by scribecalledsteff.
Sometimes you'll see these things on the road: Two wheels, metal in between them, and what vaguely looks like a human controlling the direction in which this "thing" travels.

Some of us call them "bikes." They can be propelled by human power. There are bigger "bikes" that even have engines and are powered by fossil fuels.

These bike-type things have one thing in common with your vehicle: They serve as transportation. But it's there that the similarity ends.

We bike-type riders are considerably more vulnerable than you cage-driving types. Sadly, we're often victims in the making, despite choosing to ride.

While we do our best to not be victimized, the reality is, you control a lot of what our fate will be.

That region between your sideview mirror and about five feet behind your vehicle is called a "blind spot." Why? Because you can't freakin' see what the hell's there unless you shoulder check. So, shoulder check. Is it really that hard?

Blind spots are probably the most hated reality of cyclists. Far too often I've had to veer away because some putz hasn't checked if anyone's at their side. The beauty of the bike is that there's additional reaction room, but I'm sick of reacting.

* * * *

And if you're one of those types who's going to point out that I've used the verb "choose," save it, Sherlock. Yeah, it's a choice. And it's a right.

By choosing to ride, I do my bit to not only reduce traffic congestion, but also the amount of greenhouse gases being emitted. Sure, I still pollute with my scooter, but I pollute less than you. And since most cars are driven by only one person, I suspect that even remedial math skills will let you figure out who's being the more responsible citizen here.

* * * *

Motorcyclists, scooterists, and regular cyclists all face far too much dangerous behaviour on the part of car drivers. All car drivers -- ALL -- are too inattentive, and many are flat-out ignorant. As a result, far too many two-wheeled commuters are taken out of action every year.

And if you're a two-wheeler in an accident with a vehicle, you ain't gonna be winning that one.

* * * *

And Mr. SUV Driver from Arbutus and 49th: That was my lane, you mouth-breathing moron.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Fuck(ing) the People

Kills "No Wow"
Originally uploaded by scribecalledsteff.
I'm being a bad little music pirater and am downloading The Kills' No Wow. I'm spinning "Dead Road 7" right now, and this dirty little bassline is burrowing right into me.

The album's in stores Wednesday. I'll be buying it, but have these little groupie fantasies of buying it at the concert and scoring an autograph. With these guys? Never going to happen.

Nonetheless, I have a big ol' mushy soft spot for the Kills. They got me loving music again.

I have no freaking idea how I managed to download their anthemic "Fuck the People," but it somehow invaded my harddrive, and then made the all-important auto-sync jump into my bad little 'POD.

How long it languished there, unheard, is beyond me. But I remember when the languishing ended.

It was a November day: bitter wind, relentless rain. People's faces were as pissy as the weather. It wasn't a day for people. Just for burying them. Funereal.

I don't recall exactly what I'd been thinking. Probably wondering why I'd never seen a "death by umbrella" on the big screen. Maybe wondering if I should begin popularizing the act then and there with my own umbrella and the so-called innocent bystanders.

And then up spun "Fuck the People." Thus began a very happy consort.

I don't know what else to say. I dig the dirty lo-fi sexuality that is the Kills. I don't see a lot of it pulled off so tenaciously in music. I totally think they're posers, as much as I love 'em, with their whole bad-ass, too-cool-for-you vibe, but that's as old as rock'n'roll and when it's done well, man, it's a thing of beauty. For now, they're awesome and fun.

Eventually it'll wear off for me. But they'll probably be dead by then. That's the flipside to the apathetic fuck-you mentality they clasp onto: They might just mean it. If they do, and if they are the raving heroin addicts I suspect they are, I think their use-by date won't last a decade.

And that would suck, but really, what can you do? It is what it is. Just cover the track marks for the concert, and I'll be fine. Bring on the gig.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Martha: Back in Biz.

Originally uploaded by scribecalledsteff.
Martha Stewart's been allowed to fly the coop. She looks better than ever after a few months in the Big House, and now she's set to make the world her bitch.

Face it: Martha was the sacrificial lamb for rich folk everywhere in the debacle that was Imclone/Enron/Et al.

I'm all for rich people screwing the pooch from time to time. It's good for their souls, and God knows they need a little more soul (and I ain't talkin' James Brown)--but this was all wrong.

Martha Stewart Living-Omnimedia was not, by any stretch of the imagination, a private company. It had shareholders, like little Aunt Grace in Nebraska. All those good folk with all their money squirrelled away in the big ol' corporation in the hopes that America would embrace domestic goodness and buy a little bit of Martha for their homes. Companies like this were a boon for mutual funds and retirement plans, and an easy sell for the agents doing the hocking.

The case was a crock. Most people think Martha went down for insider trading, but on that charge, they never made the case. Nope. Stewart bit the big one for the always-popular fallback charge of "obstruction."

The problem isn't that they made the rich guy pay finally, but that they picked someone who was the heart and soul of a publically traded company, and when she took the fall, so did thousands of innocent folks--in their stock portfolios. You can go ahead and blame Martha for having bad judgment, but the DA deserves to be painted with that brush, too.

I mean, really, an insider trading charge on $50K of Imclone stock when she's the only woman in America that can even dream of competing with Oprah? Seriously. Trading stock is like playing cards for rich people--a conscience isn't really a prerequisite, just some cash and a trading house lackey at your disposal.

Here's hoping some of the little people bought low, 'cos Martha's on the verge of something crazy.

(I'm thrilled she's been butched up a bit. She needed it. Let's see where it takes her--a couple scrapes on the exterior, but the engine's still good, man.)

In Martha's honour: The Old-Fashioned. Martha would advise going heavy on the bourbon.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

The Petri Continent

Also on BBC's site today is a story on AIDS in Africa.

In the next 20 years, the UN warns the infection rates among Africans could skyrocket to 10% of the continent's population, or 90 million people. That's three times Canada's population.

Most signs indicate that AIDS started in Africa. Who knows? Maybe they're our canary in the gold mine. Do we really want to wait and see what happens to the canary?

Where then hell is the West on this issue? Are we really doing all we can? Most folks say nay.

AIDS ain't gonna stay there, people. There is transportation. They can get off their island, so to speak. It's time we stepped in, not only for them, but for our sakes, too.

It's just freakin' time.

* * * * * *

From the article on the BBC, in regards to the current levels of assistance provided to Africa from the world:

"...the UN offers hope that the effective use of resources could eventually end the AIDS epidemic in Africa.

At the same time, it warns that current levels of action could see the disease bring the entire continent to its knees."

I'll take two and a side of irony, please.

Researchers in the UK have discovered that ecstasy has been shown to cause depression in its users. This depression aspect, though, only occured in certain genetic makeups.

Of course, ecstasy's like eating your rose-coloured glasses. There's a reason it's called ecstasy, folks, but only while you're up, it seems.

Nice to know that your happy pill is really just a dose of irony.

* * * * * *

But if herb's your game, then the game's still on.

Turns out no genetic groups of dope smokin' fiends suffered depressive side effects from the drug use.

I've made a mental note of that. Ahem.