30 November 2005

and the winner is

a collection of the dumbest answers ever given on british game shows and call-ins. sort of destroys any notion of intellectual superiority the english might have been clinging to.

29 November 2005

the importance of culture


"Git yer haggis, right here. Chopped hart n' lungs. Boiled in a wee sheeps' stomach. Taste's as good as it sounds."
- groundskeeper willie

28 November 2005

random acts of intimidation

according to the associated press, the miami police will be staging random acts of force to make terrorists aware of their ongoing presence.

call me crazy, but i'm guessing that whatever terrorist cells they have populating miami at the moment have probably been advised by their shadowy higher-ups that there are, in fact, police patrolling miami. they do not need to go swarming old ladies headed into the bank to cash their old age security cheques (while the government is still writing them) in order to show that they are there.

if they want to find real criminals, perhaps they might consider staking out the local republican headquarters.

26 November 2005

good hair day


those of you who know me know that i've basically had the same hairstyle for about the last hundred and fifty years, with very few exceptions. a few of you may also be aware that the last time i tried doing something different with my hair, it basically backfired and scared me out of changing it for a long time. well, i went to see sergio today and made a change. he's a hair genius, so i pretty much knew that there wouldn't be any "what have i done?" moments... et voila... kate with bangs...

people have pointed out that i generally like to hide in my hair. now i can do so all the time. and it's even cut so it shows my favoured eyebrow. (yes, i have a favourite one.)

25 November 2005

your secret inner self revealed

this site is both an archive of music history (guess that's why it's called "this day in music") and a sort of reverse prophet. on it, you can look up the song that was number one on the music charts on the day you were born, as well as what they call your life's theme song- which is apparently the song that was number one on the charts on the day you turned 18. here are my results.

birthday song (u.s./ u.k.): baby don't get hooked on me- mac davis/ how can i be sure?- david cassidy
life theme song (u.s./ u.k.): can't live without your love and affection- nelson/ show me heaven- maria mckee

as far as i can tell, these songs have one thing in common: i've never heard any of them. apparently, i started out in life ignoring pop music and precious little has changed in the intervening years.

thanks again, bill


in honour of the holiday (one day late) to the south of us, here's william s burrough's thanksgiving prayer, courtesy of reality studio. they also have a video of him reading it, but the site received so many hits in the last two days that it crashed...

Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 28, 1986
William S. Burroughs
For John Dillinger
In hope he is still alive

Thanks for the wild turkey and the Passenger Pigeons, destined to be shit out through wholesome American guts —

thanks for a Continent to despoil and poison —

thanks for Indians to provide a modicum of challenge and danger —

thanks for vast herds of bison to kill and skin, leaving the carcass to rot —

thanks for bounties on wolves and coyotes —

thanks for the AMERICAN DREAM to vulgarize and falsify until the bare lies shine through —

thanks for the KKK, for nigger-killing lawmen feeling their notches, for decent church-going women with their mean, pinched, bitter, evil faces —

thanks for "Kill a Queer for Christ" stickers —

thanks for laboratory AIDS —

thanks for Prohibition and the War Against Drugs —

thanks for a country where nobody is allowed to mind his own business —

thanks for a nation of finks — yes,

thanks for all the memories... all right, let's see your arms... you always were a headache and you always were a bore —

thanks for the last and greatest betrayal of the last and greatest of human dreams.


"Thanksgiving Day" first appeared in the chapbook Tornado Alley, with illustrations by S. Clay Wilson. Gus Van Sant then made a short film of Burroughs reading the text, which you can view in RealityStudio's multimedia section. There are numerous variants of "Thanksgiving Day" floating around the internet, but RealityStudio took pains to correct them, copying this directly from the original printed text.

24 November 2005

in the right light, he's really adorable


pedigreed chinese crested sam, three times selected as the world's ugliest dog passed away today as a result of heart failure. i would venture to say that a few hearts have failed when they laid eyes on him as well... nonetheless, proof that there's enough love in the world for everybody, even if your beauty is well beyond skin deep.

23 November 2005

i'm thankful i don't have to eat it


as if elizabeth hicock's scale model of san francisco cast in jello weren't enough, here's an appetizing (?) thanksgiving non-dinner made from, you guessed it, jello. personally, i find jello creepy at the best of times (i think it has to do with the way it moves... food should not jiggle), and it's a toss-up whether i find it more unnerving as a food-like substance or a sculptural medium.

courtesy of boing boing

22 November 2005

SUCCESS!!!!!!

i guess sometimes, complaining about things just helps you get them sorted out.

bit(torrent) by bit(torrent)

i'm trying to get the hang of bittorrent (with a significant amount of help from dave). all i can say is, for the amount of frustration i'm having appending their little text blah and creating the files, this had better give me access to the controls of the universe.

the ultimate purpose of this is to provide nice little mixes of things for people to listen to and, possibly, to read. now i'm spending quality time trying to make the music files and the text file get along and then trying to get everything else in the sequence to recognise that the files are there and that they have a right to exist.

i've finally found something that makes waiting in the queue at slsk seem like fun.

20 November 2005

blast from the past, part 2

went out to see front 242 friday, a stone's throw away from where i'd seen bauhaus two nights earlier. this is another band who were a real influence on me in my younger years. they weren't as dear to my heart as bauhaus, and i had actually seen them before, but they put on a pretty good show. their stuff is still superior to the cookie-cutter ebm (a genre they basically invented) that's put out now.

unfortunately, for the second show in a row, my favourite track got left off the song list, which was a little bit of a disappointment. (to be honest, it was more of a disappointment with bauhaus, since i was kind of expecting lagartija nick and it was one of the only singles they didn't hit in their set. i wasn't really expecting 242 to play rerun time, since it's a) old and b) not very well known.)

as far as electronic shows go, 242 put on a pretty energetic one (it helps when you have two band members unencumbered by keyboards). they're exceptionally tight, which is both good (music like that loses its effect if it's less than pristine) and bad (i could close my eyes and be convinced i was listening to "commando" on a really loud stereo, because it sounded exactly the same).

the audience in general seemed more energetic at this one than at the bauhaus show. i guess it's more energetic music and the crowd (not me) was a little younger, but i have to say bauhaus was definitely the superior show.

all the same, it's sort of gratifying to see a a band of that vintage showing why other groups in the genre are still playing catch-up with what they were doing 20 years ago.

and at least no one spilled beer in my vicinity for this one.

17 November 2005

like a fine old world wine

some things really do get better with age. apparently, contrary to what i might have thought, bands can be among them.

i took in the bauhaus show at koolhaus (that's way too close to rhyming for comfort) last night, figuring that at the least, i could say that i'd seen them, rather than pouting over the fact that by the time i'd even heard them for the first time, they'd already broken up. and i figured that at the least, they'd sound like a decent bauhaus cover band.

how very wrong.

if anything, the band has gotten better and tighter with time and their live show, while not what you'd call energetic, was captivating. everything about their preseentation reeked of cool precision, from the perfectly controlled feedback to the monochromatic lights. peter murphy, looking kind of like a cross between lenin and vincent price (but still not bad), is as spot on as his old recordings, even on the trickiest parts of their undead anthem bela lugosi's dead.

seeing them reminded me of what an original band they were, as well as what those who followed in their footsteps have lacked. for starters, their songs were smart (if often self-consciously arty) rather than emotionally overwrought. put their lyrics next to those of any latter day goth band (or the sisters of mercy for that matter) and you'll see the difference. second, they were influenced not just by rock and post-punk, but by dub and reggae. listen to their basslines and the influence is incredibly obvious, it's probably one of the most distinctive elements of their sound, although one that not a lot of people pay attention to.

their disaffected cool seems completely unforced and, for a band that has a pretty melodramatic "aura" around them, they are decidedly subtle and untheatrical.

check them out if they pass through your city. it's rare to see a band of that era who still seem to be in their prime.

ps- one thing i did NOT enjoy about the show was the fact that i got to spend most of it stuck to the floor because some idiot dropped her beer before the band went on. if you're going to drink, be careful. if you're going to giggle and push and act like a tool, stay home in the trailer park where you belong.

15 November 2005

recommended viewing


ok, i can't really recommend it, because i haven't seen it yet, but i will venture out on a limb and say that wal-mart: the high cost of low price is probably going to be worth the time it takes to sit down and be utterly horrified at the machinations of the world's largest corporation (yeah, that's right, not merely the largest retailer, but the largest corporation).

there are plenty of sites detailing the ravages of wal-mart on the world. i won't bother to recap them here. have a look around and see what you can turn up for yourself. it'll be far better than anything that i could say anyway.

i will tell you that i have had the joyous experience of working for a supplier of wal-mart and will be happy to go through the rest of my life never repeating the experience. it's a very hard game to win. once you start down the slippery wal-mart slope, you are locked into a cycle of providing them with "more for the same or the same for less" every year. that means that every year you do business with them, you have to find a way to lower your price (whether by dropping the price or by including more at the same price). this is very tricky because, as most people know, prices have a tendency to go up, not down.

make yourself aware of what this corporate giant is doing. in the long run, you're not getting much value for your money.

13 November 2005

in memoriam


jhonn balance 16 february 1962-13 november 2004

note to self


i will not let the hand washing pile up.
i will not let the hand washing pile up.
i will not let the hand washing pile up.
i will not let the hand washing pile up.
i will not let the hand washing pile up.
i will not let the hand washing pile up.
i will not let the hand washing pile up.
i will not let the hand washing pile up.
i will not let the hand washing pile up.
i will not let the hand washing pile up.
i will not let the hand washing pile up.
i will not let the hand washing pile up.
i will not let the hand washing pile up.
i will not let the hand washing pile up.
i will not let the hand washing pile up.
i will not let the hand washing pile up.

better left unsaid?


walter benjamin wrote that before we had the capability to create copies en masse, that an original work of art maintained an aura because of its status as the unique and singular piece and that the ability to reproduce art and distribuute it eroded the status of the original.

i mention this because i went to see a book launch for canadian artist floria sigismondi and i'm convinced that you could develop a parallel theory about artists. sigismondi's work, even the pop music videos she's produced, has a dark and dusturbing quality to it, without being overt, that appeals to me. seeing her speak, however, seems to undermine this.

for starters, her speaking voice, both in tone and inflection, is almost a dead ringer for madonna's. it's a comparison i couldn't get out of my head the entire time i was listening to her. i kept thinking she was going to start plugging her new album...

secondly, her answers, while honest, are strikingly ordinary. which is probabaly the case with any artist, when asked about what inspires them or how they work. the fact is that there is probably no way of defining the mysterious quality that makes a piece of art appealing and anyone who attempts to do so is going to sound either a) pretentious or b) like they're talking about something that really isn't that special.

if i thought about it, i could probably produce a list of artists who are capable of speaking about their work while at the same time maintaining their aura of mystery, but they're few and far between.

i'm happy to go and see exhibitions by any number of artists, but i may think twice about hearing them speak about it. somehow, i'm happier thinking of people who produce this type of thing as being a little detached from the rest of us.

09 November 2005

sale of rare religious artifact


all proceeds go to charity.

say your prayers every night before bed


Our spaghetti
Who art in the colander
Hallowed be thy sauce
Thy serving come
Thy strands be wrung
On forks as they are on spoons
Give us this day our daily meatball
And forgive us our starchiness
As we forgive those who are starchy against us
And lead us not into Kraft parmessan
But deliver us from Chef Boy Ardee
For thine is the garlic
And the onion and the bay leaves
For ever and ever.
Ramen

thanks to james for that one

**for those of you who are unaware, last night's round of elections dealt a serious blow to the campaign to teach the theories of the flying spaghetti monster's creation of the world in american public schools. voters in pittsburgh defeated their school board, who wanted to force teachers to include the theory of intelligent design as an option equivalent to evolution and replaced them with candidates who do not favour its inclusion in school curriculum.

07 November 2005

if george says it, it must be true

the more i read the words that come out of his mouth, the more i become convinced that george w bush might be losing his mind. i've passed a certain threshold, because it's no longer even the incoherent, inadvertently hilarious stuff that catches my attention. what concerns me now is what i think he really is saying, where he's not making mistakes.

the cbc today ran a piece on his comments in reaction to a story that the cia is running secret military prisons and refusing to give highly suspect organisations like the red cross access to them, so that the public can rest assured that there is nothing shameful taking place.

you can read the whole story, but i thought that i would treat you to my favourite line (inserts mine):

"Anything we do to that end [protecting the american people from terrorists] in this effort, any activity we conduct, is within the law. We do not torture."

there is no evidence given, no attempt at even a modest amount of openness, we're just supposed to trust him. i have just one question:

why?

what on earth has george w bush done to win my trust or anyone else's? am i supposed to believe him because he claims to be a good christian? right, because no one has ever claimed to be a principled, religious person and then gone on to do something horrible.

senior members of his administration are being arrested and indicted, popular support for the war he started for reasons that turned out to be specious is dropping daily, he won't actually let an independent test verify what he's saying, but trust him. he couldn't be elected president and be a liar after all.

06 November 2005

the only way to commit suicide


according to the helpful folks at energy fiend, it would take a little over 60 cups of coffee to kill me. unfortunately, it doesn't specify over how long a period of time and i am not really at a point where i'm ready to play around until i get it right.

of course, given my usual intake, 60 cups doesn't even seem like too great a stretch. a stretch, yes, but not an impossibility.

i feel like i should be up to the challenge, given that i apparently once drank what should have been a lethal dose of verveine tea without realising what i was doing. (as a testimony to exactly how anxious i was, the tea didn't even put me to sleep. come to think of it, it was probably my massive regular intake of coffee that saved my life.)

05 November 2005

believe the hype


Go see Jarhead.

Go see it at the next available opportunity, don’t waste time thinking about it. That’s an order.

I didn’t actually go out with the intention of seeing jarhead tonight. I had meant to go see Good Night and Good Luck, which I still intend on doing. As it happens, I made a typically lazy decision. Good Night wasn’t playing at a theatre convenient to where I was at that specific moment in time, so I opted to go see the other movie I was interested in, Sam Mendes’ Jarhead. It wasn’t really a close second, because I tend to find movies about being in the army a little alienating. It’s like watching a room full of the people I used to hate in high school from the safe side of one-way glass. Kind of entertaining, but the people inside still seem vaguely dangerous to someone like me.

I guess this change in plans is what one would call providence, because Jarhead is one of the best movies I’ve seen in years. I am going to have to see it again, because I’m still marveling at what a masterful, controlled piece it is.

Based on the memoirs of a real-life Gulf War vet (the first one), Jarhead is one of the only army films that doesn’t rely on predictable caricatures of military types to connect you to a larger story being told by the director. The story in this case is the soldiers- wide-eyed, stupidly courageous, openly vulnerable boys thrown in a situation that is completely foreign to both their civilian lives and their army training.

Don’t believe the comparisons that you here between Jarhead and other war movies, because it simply isn’t like most other war movies. There’s no war, for starters. When most people think of recent movies about war, they think about the preponderance of films about Vietnam, films that showed the full horror of war, the battles, the massacres of civilians, the gory injuries. The soldiers in Jarhead don’t see battle. They see accidents and aftermath, but the war is as bloodless as the parched desert landscape.

Because the first Gulf War, from the perspective of those of us who watched it from our sofas, was surgical, quick, painless, there is a tendency to dismiss it in comparison with the debacle that was Vietnam. The war was fought with overwhelming popular support (although some of us still walked in the streets and screamed “no blood for oil” to deaf ears), it was over quickly and it was a victory. It lacked the cultural impact of Vietnam (something which is touched on with particular finesse in the movie) and as a result, the soldiers were simply expected to come home and go back to regular life. The point the film makes, very eloquently, is that this is an impossibility. The gun, as the narrator points out, is the soldier’s phantom limb, no matter what war he has been through. It’s what he always reaches for.

In the same way that the first Gulf War was different than the Vietnam war. Jarhead is very different from films about the Vietnam war. This is no Platoon or Full Metal Jacket. It could be compared to the Deer Hunter, but the most apt comparison, in terms of war films, is to the 1930 masterpiece All Quiet on the Western Front, a film that (for different reasons) managed to get inside the mind of an average soldier in a way more unsettling than any number of scenes drenched in blood.

03 November 2005

the sky is falling the sky is falling

most of you kow that i'm not what you'd call a fan of microsoft corporation, but what can i say? they're finally (belatedly) trying to use their power for some good.

so, while there's more work to be done, good on ya, microsoft, for (belatedly) getting the proverbial ball rolling.

i feel unclean even typing that.

you did a heck of a job, indeed


if former fema director michael brown wasn't acting like such a pompous ass, i think i would be starting to feel sorry for him.

today new orleans congressional representative charlie melancon published a number of emails sent by brown during the crisis following hurricane katrina in order to illustrate exactly how much of a tool the guy is. the emails are stupid and boorish, with him asking questions about the appropriate attire for his television appearances and how he could "tweak" his organisation's disastrous response.

the emails are very effective in proving that brown was tragically wrong for the position, although they hardly do a better job of discrediting him than he's done himself. here's the issue that i have with publishing them, though: most of us occasionally say and do things that are inappropriate. if we're smart, we keep these comments off email, but even spoken comments can be overheard. i like to think for myself, and for others, that we have some inborn instinct that will stop us precisely at the point when we are about to cross the line into purely offensive, but even assuming that is mostly true, we sometimes cross the line without meaning to. some people don't have that instinct at all. calling brown out for his admittedly insensitive comments doesn't prove he's worse than most of us, although they may prove that he's not the brightest candle on the birthday cake for sending these brain farts out for others to read and preserve for use against him.

by concentrating on the failures of michael brown, i'm worried that the larger point will be lost. a man like him has no business being at the head of an emergency response organisation, because that is precisely where it is going to be important to have someone who is smart and sympathetic and focused in a crisis. what happened in new orleans is sad but rather than looking to blame the guy who resigned, there should be an effort to analyse the process by which a professionally and personally inappropriate candidate ends up in a position of such importance.
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