Everything is bleak.

Everything is bleak.
It’s the middle of the night.
You’re all alone and
the dummies might be right.
You feel like a jerk.
My music at work.
My music at work.
– My Music At Work – The Tragically Hip

Here Be Dragons…err Metablogging

Here Be Dragons Metablogging

I was thinking today (‘oh crap, run! He’s been thinking again!’) about both the neologism weblog (as in the phrase ‘web log’) and the blogthread that AKMA and David Weinberger and others have recently been pursuing about new metaphors for the web. Non-spatial metaphors, verbs rather than nouns.
Well, this one is still spatial, and it’s a noun too, but hell, I’m not all that clever, really. Note that I don’t mean to imply that I’ve actually been reading that blogthread per se, but I’ve read about it, and I’m lazier than a dead beaver, and damn it, I’m not going to pretend otherwise. So, onward.
My thoughts were jinking back and forth between the phrases ‘web log’ and ‘ship’s log’ as I walked to the acupuncturist this afternoon. Years ago, I spent about 6 or 8 madcap months sailing off the Pacific coast of Mexico (a tale for another time perhaps), and one thing that was done, no matter how altered our states might have been by the end of the day, was the Updating of The Log. And the ship’s log, though it may have had a few asides about things not nautical (‘those German girls, oh dear lord’), was primarily about minutiae, about new ports, new anchorages, new sights, new sites.
Sites. Like websites, geddit? (Didn’t telegraph that much, did I?) So, connecting the dots, I’m calling the net the ocean. Big-ass sites like Metafilter or Yahoo are ports, smaller ones are anchorages, bloggers are sailboats, and their web logs are their ship’s logs. We meet, raft up, party down, separate and go on our merry wandering ways. We record where we’ve been. We talk about what those places have meant to us. There are living things swimming around down there, deep in the darkness. There are the IP plankton packets that are the very lifeblood of the sea. A whole ecosystem down there. There are submarines and sailboats, there are ocean liners skirting the Tropic of Cancer, there are freighters plying the trade routes, planes occasionally passing overhead, and the odd dot-com Titanic, lying in pieces on the ocean floor far beneath, slowly decomposing.
I like this metaphor because I love the sea, and sailing on it.
It also resonates pretty damn well with the oft-repeated (at least in the early days of the blog) complaint that a weblog should be about links (those memorable ports and anchorages we visit in our wanderings), and is not, according to some, supposed to be a diary. I personally think the focus-power-grasshopper balance lies in the careful juxtaposition of the pedestrian details of your journeys around the ocean with your thoughts and feelings and all that personal-journally crap. The best ship’s logs I’ve read were ones that had both GPS readings and Wacky Tales. The most interesting weblogs, too.
I am a sailboat. Ride me. So saith the wonderchicken.

Sky of blue and sea of green? comments.


Well, I talk about it,
Talk about it,
Talk about it,
Talk about it,
Talk about, talk about,
Talk about movin,
Gotta move on.
Gotta move on.
Gotta move on.
Won’t you take me to
Won’t you take me to
Won’t you take me to
Won’t you take me to

''Better to die"

”Better to die than to live like this,” Jang Gil Su, now 17, writes of a public firing-squad execution he saw in North Korea. By adulthood, many North Koreans have witnessed one; sometimes the charge is as minor as stealing food.
Fresh fruit is a rarity to most North Koreans; electric fences surround some orchards. At 15, Jang saw a couple be electrocuted while trying to steal some grapes. ”We never get a chance to taste an apple or grapes,” Jang explains.

Captions from a slideshow of drawings made by a young North Korean refugee, whose family was given safe haven in South Korea last summer after escaping from the north and taking refuge in U.N. offices in Beijing. Here. [Thanks again, Lia!]

In the twilight

In the twilight of the Cold War, the United States spent millions of dollars to supply Afghan schoolchildren with textbooks filled with violent images and militant Islamic teachings, part of covert attempts to spur resistance to the Soviet occupation.
The primers, which were filled with talk of jihad and featured drawings of guns, bullets, soldiers and mines, have served since then as the Afghan school system’s core curriculum. Even the Taliban used the American-produced books, though the radical movement scratched out human faces in keeping with its strict fundamentalist code.

This, via this worthwhile Metafilter thread. Funny old world.
And while I’m at it, via American Samizdat : the Hall of Shame. Not really surprising, is it, how those who raise their fists and call for war so often seem to be those who’ve never actually seen it?

“In Dr. Johnson’s famous dictionary patriotism is defined as the last resort of a scoundrel. With all due respect to an enlightened but inferior lexicographer I beg to submit that it is the first.”
– Ambrose Bierce

And for good measure, how about this?

MECCA, March 22, 2005 — President Osama B. Laden today called for a “regime change” in the United States, saying the military dictatorship led by unelected strongman George Walker Bush “is an ever-present threat to world peace.”
Speaking in Mecca at a rally marking his first year in power, the Saudi president said that “issues of national sovereignty are beside the point when the civilized world is faced with the possibility of untold carnage. Bush has long been developing weapons of mass destruction. He has announced his willingness to use them. He refuses to abide by international treaties to curtail these tools of evil. I will not wait on events while dangers gather. We must act.” [more…]

Eulogy for Rob

It’s just not possible to trace the fractal-chain of cause-and-effect back to a single Prime Mover moment in your life, usually. Trace the branches back, navigate around the random events, the decisions made or just taken, and hope to find any kind of actual reason for the way you are today, the way you think, and you’ll drive yourself f–king mad with might-have-beens.
Decades ago, Rob Beitel introduced me to a few of the chemicals I’ve enjoyed in my long and bumpy history of self-medication, ones of which, along with all the rest, I no longer partake. I haven’t seen him in nearly two decades. He was found dead recently, in the snow, within sight of his home in Northern BC, half a world away from here, a couple hours away from the town we grew up in. I talked about it a bit on my buddyblog with the Bearman, who knew Rob as well, way back when. Mirrored here because I’m drunker than hell, and sentimental, and having a little one-man wake for Rob tonight.

Rob Beitel’s dead.
It’s odd that that should deflate me the way it does. I barely knew the guy, to be honest. He got me mind-crogglingly stoned a few times, provided me with a few stories I could regale people with, and have, at bars in far flung corners of the planet, I think he f–ked an ex-girlfriend of mine before she actually became an ex, he was a shaggy, bearded, small-town Lizard King with mirror shades and a fast motorcycle.
I wonder if he ever realized what an influence he had on my life. In a small town populated with a vast array of losers and wanna-be’s, he was damn near the Real Thing. Meaning, of course, that he wasn’t anything like the Real Thing, but when I was young and unschooled in the ways of the world, he seemed near enough to me, damn it. Dissociated, vague, cool.
I remember an evening when I was still a teenager, the Bearman and I at Rob’s girlfriend’s apartment (she of the Trans-Am, which may or may not have had a large, glam-rock flame appliqué on the hood, but that’s the way I remember it), smoking. More than ever before, and probably more than ever since. It may have been the first time I took more than a toke or two. There was rye whiskey, of course, which was all Bearman and I would drink when we were teenagers, and there was an insanely large, complicated, twisty glass bong. There were hash brownies. We smoked and drank and smoked and nibbled. We sang songs. After what may have been minutes or hours, I had gotten to the point where, when I moved my head, my eyes would track to follow a second or two later. This I found uproariously funny, and Rob seemed to take some pride in this cherry-breaking drug-induced first. I don’t know if Zeppelin IV was playing, but it should have been. The next thing I remember was staggering around, alone and drooling, on the road to the elementary school, which had inexplicably developed a 45 degree list. I think I slept in a ditch for a while. Good thing it was summer, I guess.
Another time, again the Bearman, Rob and I. A cold night in the city of Prince George, at Rob’s aunt’s house I believe. One of those nights where you’re not quite sure where the hell you are, but glad at least to be inside. There was fungal psilocybin, a lot of it. Rob and I sitting up all night, while Bearman tried in vain to sleep, cackling joyfully, tripping. My jaws were sore, and tears streaming from my eyes, and it was one of the most purely enjoyable chemical experiences in my life.
Yet another time, Barry and I driving that Trans-Am for some reason, Rob following us on the bike. (In hindsight, I suspect there was probably a kilo or two in the trunk, and plausable deniability was the order of the day. What the hell did we know?) He pulled a wheelie somewhere just outside Fort Saint James, and as we approached Vanderhoof, nearly 50 kilometres later, he was still up on one wheel. We shook our heads in dude-respect, took a drink, and mumbled ‘crazy bastard’ to one another in admiration.
He was a f–king legend in my mind, at least, was Rob Beitel. I haven’t seen him in half a lifetime, and now I never will. Drugs took him, it would seem, which was probably what was expected. Sad and pitiful to die in the snow, freezing slowly, it might be said, but at least in character, and maybe that’s what Rob would’ve wanted. Burn out, don’t fade away.
Rock on, you crazy motherf–ker, wherever the hell you are. Rock on.

Comments? comments.

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Red Sky All Day

“Experts warned that the dust storms carry harmful chemicals, such as sulfate, as well as compounds containing cadmium, aluminum, lead, nickel, copper and arsenic. To protect themselves from the sandy winds, people are advised to stay indoors and keep windows closed, especially the elderly and children. While outdoors, they should carry umbrellas, and after returning home, they must wash themselves and gargle, because the particles in the wind could trigger irritations in the eyes, skin and respiratory organs.”

Seoul is enshrouded, enfolded, entombed, in a choking cloud of dust from the growing deserts of Northern China, the Hoang-sa, the Yellow Sand. This, to put it bluntly, sucks major ass. As if the clouds of reeking industrial effluent weren’t enough, now we’re left squinting through veils of yellowish dust to boot. Elementary and middle schools are closed, parents are being warned to keep their children in the house, old people are being advised not to breathe for a few days. My nose, as I sit here, is streaming, as it has been all day, my eyes red, throat afire. If the swirling clouds weren’t so irritating to my mucous membranes, I might enjoy them, in the same shivery, mock-fearful way that I enjoyed fog banks as a child, staring into them, alive to the potential mystery and the sheer strange wonder of it all.
But I’m old, and cranky, and I just want it to go away. Now. But at least my students were amused when I stopped at 15 minute intervals in most of my classes today, shook a mock-tragic, operatic Shatnerian fist at the sky, and roundly cursed China for even existing.
They just said on MBC news that’s it’s going to be worse tomorrow. Thrillsville, daddy-o.

Ah Korea…

Ah Korea. Even though the constant parade of Really Weird sh-t™ continues apace, I find that I’m so inured to it that any response rarely reaches the level in my mind of being consciously noticed. My mental DJ, enjoying his perpetual party up there in the locked-off booth at the top of my skull, is usually busy playing a Mojo Nixon song, or some half-remembered one hit wonder from the 80’s, drowning out the hacksaw sniff-backhaul-and-hork of the Throat Oyster Launchers, like some nauseating avian mating cry call-and-response, that surrounds me as I walk the dirty streets to the University and back.
I really need an mp3 player.
One thing that did stick with me yesterday was a new advertising campaign on the subway. Korea, you see, is owned, lock-stock-and-two-horking-barrels, by the chaebols (similar in some ways to the Japanese keiretsu). Samsung, LG, Daewoo, Hyundai and perhaps a score of others own everything. I live in an LG apartment building. Our TV is a Samsung. LG makes the blank CD’s on my desk, here, and the soap that my wife is currently using in the shower, as well as the grocery store where we buy our food. Subsidiaries are responsible for the production and distribution of that food. Daewoo made the elevators in my building, and the steel comes from Hyundai steelworks. The huge new apartment beehive going up next door is a Daewoo buidling, and is being built by Daewoo Construction, with Hyundai machinery, mostly. All the cars and buses on the streets are Korean-made, of course, by one of the chaebol. Electronics are sold in LG shops, or Samsung shops, depending on who made them. Pretty much everything you touch or see during your day was either grown, processed, created, built, shipped, imported, sold or in some other way touched by one or more of the chaebol. Each chaebol also has an array of banking interests, and a staggering array of credit cards on offer to the public. When I say that they own this country, I actually mean that literally. It could be forgiven to think that they own the people, as well, but this might be arguable. There are pockets of dissent.
So, me, on the subway. A shiny new plastic proto-banner-ad above my head is touting the Samsung Christian Card. Big black letters emblazoned across a golden Visa card, bigger even than the Samsung logo, saying “CHRISTIAN“. In the soft-focus panorama, the card lies beside a wooden crucifix, atop an open Bible. The tableau is somehow as erotically charged as the close-up food-porn fried chicken ad beside it.
Now, even though I do groove on their funky metaphors of death and rebirth and all that, I’m not especially Xian. Still, that ad struck me as deeply f–ked up. Like hardcore porn performed by people in full clown make-up, complete with big red noses and fright wigs. Like the voice of Henry Kissinger coming out of my wife’s mouth : “Richart, Richart, you’re drahnk agayn.” Like a Friday evening without any delicious beverages at all. Just plain wrong.
Somehow brings to mind one of my responses back in University to the ‘Jesus saves!’ grafitti that was everywhere around Vancouver at the time : ‘Buddha spends!’

Jesus Saves! comments.

Famous last words

Famous last words : In the spirit of refusing to get involved (as I have nothing to add) in all the gonads and strife floating around lately (eek! floating gonads!), and striving for a laugh or two, I present to you the dying words of two great poets :

Walt Whitman : “Hold me up; I want to sh-t.”
Dylan Thomas : “I’ve had eighteen straight whiskeys. I think that’s the record.”

I can but hope, in my terminal moments, as I lie (-in a feather bed, on pure white linen, surrounded by my loved ones / drunk and drooling, unnoticed on a barroom floor, in a puddle of my own urine-) that I can come up with a legacy for the world as touching, as illuminating, as perfectly revealing of the deeper nature of our existence on this planet.
[via this amusing Metafilter thread]

Your famous last words? comments.

SPACE GHOST: King like that

SPACE GHOST: King like that don’t need hair. Speaking of hair, what’s up with your ‘do?
GEORGE CLINTON: Oh, my ‘do. Well, what comes around, went that way. And I can get around, you know what I’m sayin’?
SPACE GHOST: No. I wear a hood.
GEORGE CLINTON: You wear a ‘hood? I, I live in a ‘hood. You have a ‘hood, yeah, but how would I wear a ‘hood?
SPACE GHOST: It’s not hard. I take an entire neighborhood, put it on my head and dance around where the neighborhood used to be. The people who live in the neighborhood are terrified by my hopping, and some of them fall off my head and are trampled. It is then that the dance becomes a dance of sadness.
GEORGE CLINTON: Why are you tellin’ me this?
SPACE GHOST: Because I care about the innocent victims of my ill-advised dance of joy.
SPACE GHOST: Fries don’t come with that deadly shake.

That is all.

Dopey bastards

“There were people out the back in the parking lot smoking pot all the time,” said the editor, who also asked to remain anonymous. “The IBM PC was created by people who drank alcohol. The Mac was created by people who smoked pot.”

Guess that would explain the whole one-mouse-button thing, eh?

Spiking The GooglePunch

Jeff at Visible Darkness led me through to this piece about the Dark Side of Blogging. (Insert “Use the blog, Luke!” and related unfunniness here) Questions about how marvellous and whiz-bang this new medium really is, and indeed how “stupid and repellent, sometimes crypto-genocidal” some warblogs can be, for example. Pushing back against utopian paeans to the organic growth of communities that even I, surly wonderchicken, have been guilty of propagating :

But when I suggested that there was something inherently suspicious about online “community,” I had in mind a radical thought experiment that forces its way across this divide. Something like: suppose we took warblogs, or even stormfront.org and its satellites, as the model of a weblog “community.” Should the kinder and gentler blogrings find that thought sobering? Don’t dismiss the comparison too quickly, not if you want a real assessment of the medium in all its potentialities.
Community vs. “strength”: Maybe I meant that there should there be more consideration of how to seek individual autonomy through community. That task might be different both from the mindset that one sees in the attack blogs and from the communal sociology of the more benign “clusters” and dialogic blogrings.
Or maybe I could put it differently this way: it’s not so much that I disagree with the celebration of the positive, even the wondrous qualities of weblogs. It’s just that I suspect they’re living on borrowed time.

So it's a cliche. Sue me.My only addition at this point is to tangentially woolgather : is it only a matter of time until Hollywood starts regularly hiring hundreds of blogtemps to fire up new weblogs, post furiously and praise to the skies the latest piece of crap opus by Jerry Bruckheimer or some other purveyor of soul-destroying cinematic garbage, interlink to themselves and a few ‘a-listers’, start offering large cash incentives to Kottke and Rageboy and other high-traffic blognodes to link back to the rent-a-bloggers, and watch the Google rank for their new Product soar? Or record companies to promote their wares? Or governments? Are recent, highly-successful experiments in spiking the GooglePunch like the recent one by Matt Haughey the tip of the iceberg? How soon before big business catches on, before the Office of Strategic Mind Control realizes the subtle power (if they haven’t already) of the interconnectedness of blogs and begins working blogspace like the infopimps they strive to be? Before this ‘place’, too, becomes branded and corporatized? (Forget the stone-knives-and-bearskins, bandwidth-wasting crudity of banner ads – savvy marketers will work the medium, pimp the actual hyperlinks, and tickle Google till it quivers, moans, and page-ranks, gratefully. Linkwhoring could become a serious business. Perhaps we could form a mafia, a Blogga Nostra, and skim a little of that corporate cream off the top, broker linkage deals, extort flame-protection money.)
Of course it may become moot, if Google fine-tunes their page ranking system for blogs. For now, though, please hold my hand. I’m a little scared.
(Edit : I see that Doc talked about this, recently, grumpily, kinda. Whoops.)

This blog entry has been brought to you by the new film from Tom Green : “Somebody Kill Me Now”. In theatres next week! comments.