Ball Squeezing Time

It’s a scary moment when you finally stop telling yourself that everything’s fine, and accept the fact that it might just be possible that you’ve got cancer of the balls. Especially if you’re someone like me, who, although built like a veritable Adonis (well, you know, with a few extra kilograms and body hair that’s just slightly more simian than I might like), is a bit on the body-shy side. Almost as bad as the idea of actually having something sinister growing in your satchel is the idea of having a stranger squeeze it, or, god forbid, stick his finger up your ass searching for the lost gold of Tumacacori. It seems insane, but there it is. I’ve gone 40 years with my nether sphincter working in one direction only (with entirely too much vigour, usually), and I wasn’t about to change now.
For a while, I’ve been having the occasional dull ache in the lower back. I figured that it was sleeping in my customary discus-thrower pose on the new, Korean mattress my wife had bought a few months back. Being new, and in particular being Korean (although cunningly named ‘Lady Americana’ to give it that so-important New Jersey cultural cachet), it is approximately as hard as a slab of granite. Not that soft, dissolute western granite, either. Good, hard, Korean sleeping-granite, ripped from the very earth in the mattress mines of Kangwon-do.
But a couple of weeks back I also started having some pain in the old goolies. Kind of a dull ache. I figured: ‘Well, I ride the bike to work everyday, I use the exercise bike at the gym a few times a week, I spend far too much time sitting on my butt at work lately, and, having emerged triumphant into my fifth decade, I have developed a major case of the Swingin’ Dad Balls, which remain largely unconstrained by my capacious boxer shorts. The poor boys are just getting mashed and mauled a bit more than they like…’
The ache went away, came back, went away, always just south of being really painful. Much closer to ‘crossed my legs and squashed ’em’ than ‘log-rolling accident of the worst kind’. Ignorable.
I did the self-exam thing, conscientiously. Soaped up the sack, squeezed and stroked, had a fine old time. Couldn’t find anything out of the ordinary. They did feel a little bigger than I remembered, perhaps, but I put that down to the continuing expansion of the universe or losing weight in my fingers or something.
But last weekend the pain came back, and didn’t really go away. I made the mistake of telling She Who Must Be Obeyed, who promptly freaked out. I hate when people freak out, even though I do have a tendency to do it myself, when it’s about something other than the possibility of ball cancer. It was fun teaching her all the slang words for testicles, though, and that seemed to calm both of us down a bit. Balls hadn’t ever been a topic of conversation for us before, so it was a new experience.
She made me promise that we’d go… to the doctor. Damn it. I don’t like doctors. I agreed, realizing that now that the cat was out of the bag, so to speak, there was no putting it back in.
So yesterday, we went to one of the approximately 70,000 little clinics in this small port city. Here in Korea, you don’t go and see a GP who then refers you to a specialist, you just go straight to the specialist. Don’t even bother making an appointment — those are for dupes! That’s not the way I recall it in Canada, but then, last time I went to a doctor in Canada, they were giving me a lollipop if I made wee-wee in the cup without getting it all over the wall. Or at least that’s how I remember it, officer.
Although there are about 120,000 clinics in this town — three for every citizen, and about half as many as there are singing-rooms cum blowjob parlours — there are apparently only two that deal with maladies of the male meat-and-two-veg. One is the hospital, where I’d been before when the wife had been ill last year, and where competence is second only to cleanliness at the very bottom of the priorities list. The other was a place called, predictably, ‘Mr Kim’s Dermatology and Urology Clinic’. It was also dim and dirty, but that barely fazes me these days. I just wanted to get it over with.
After a short wait, in we went, and the doc in front of the computer spoke a little English, as most of the doctors seem to. As I sat down at his desk, he looked at me and asked pleasantly “Your face, right?”
“Er, no, actually.” Christ, I thought I was looking pretty good these days! I glanced over at my wife, as I’d already forgotten the polite Korean word for ‘balls’, and she obliged by explaining the symptoms.
He got me to stand up and drop trou, and shunning such undoctorly nuisances as gloves of any kind, went to town on my danglers.
It actually didn’t feel too bad. He’d clearly done this before. I forgave him for the dermatological blunder earlier.
The good news hooray! was that he didn’t figure there was any cancer to be found. He said he figured the problem was either a)kidney stones b)orchitis or epididymitis c)prostatitis. I was rooting for epididymitis, because one of the songs on my Monty Python records from 30 years ago ended with ‘…epididymi-iiiii-tis’, and I’d been singing that line for a week or two to myself, and I thought that’d be pretty cool, given the alternatives. It was time for a urine test to check for white blood cells or spimes and blogjects or something, which’d show that there was a bad thing happening somewhere. His English wasn’t all that great, when it came down to it. I dutifully took the cup down two flights of stairs to the — dim and dirty, of course — toilet, and did my best not to pee on the walls, hoping there’d be a lollipop for me somewhere at the end of all this. I was expecting the Greased Digit of Humiliation, and somewhat distracted.
We sat for about ten minutes in the waiting room while the machine did its thing with my pee, and the receptionist showed us back in.
His diagnosis: prostatitis, and a not-terribly malign and quite common sort. No treatment, no major worry apparently, brought on and aggravated by stress and, like I’d fancifully told myself weeks earlier, the rough treatment my bottom had been receiving by various bicycle saddles. He told me to rest and eat lots of vegetable protein — soybeans, in particular.
He also demonstrated how to take a ‘sitz bath’, a phrase that I’d encountered before, but didn’t really understand. Taking off his lab coat, he squatted down, and brandished an imaginary wand. ‘Shower,’ he said. He held the wand under his butt. ‘Five to ten minutes.’
‘Ooookay,’ said I, uncertainly.
I was still expecting the command to bend over at this point, but he talked to my wife in Korean for a bit, and then it was all bows-and-goodbyes.
Maybe he was out of rubber gloves. I suppose I should count myself lucky. Korean men don’t tend to trim their fingernails that well.
We paid at the counter, and there my story ends, almost. As we were walking back to the taxi rank at the bus terminal to return to our Corporate Island home, I asked my wife (who is the wielder of the plastic) how much it had cost.
It was 3000 won. Under four dollars.
Korea never ceases to surprise me.

Racing Towards The Big W

This is about something I love. Not as much as beer, perhaps, but more than a hell of a lot of other things.
Maybe 6 months ago I was trolling one of the private darknet sites where I get my bittorrents, looking for something new to download, watch, and delete, as usual. All that fat pipe Korean bandwidth going to waste is a crying shame, and I do my best to keep it humming, and make sure that the carbon doesn’t build up in the virtual valves. The Korean government gets a big wet kiss from me for their policy of relentlessly ramming bandwidth down the throats of their citizens (and the scruffy no-account foreigners who squeak in through the cracks), if not for many of the other decisions they stumble into.
So I was 4 or 5 pages deep in the movie forum, and there it was, with only a couple of peers on the torrent so far. I swear, my heart skipped a beat. I caught a whiff of those dusty sun-pummelled rocks of Southern California, and the rich stink of bubbling road-tar. A few notes of the theme song. An fleeting image of perfectly conical 1963-era brassiere-bound breasts. A shiver of the joyous goofiness of life’s meaningless serendipity. I hadn’t thought about the movie in decades, probably, media-starved and nomadic as I’d been during my wanderyears. It was, without exaggerating, one of the formative films of my young life. It helped make me the man I am today. I fired up the torrent and whispered a breathy ‘woo hoo’, so as not to wake up She Who Must Be Obeyed, and the downstream rate nudged its way up past 400KB/s.
The movie was “It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World“.
The Big W!
Let me tell you about how this movie lodged itself so deeply in the crenellations of my brain. I warn you, there may be some adult concepts and situations involved, though. What else do you expect from the wonderchicken?
I started babysitting when I was maybe 10 years old, I guess. I didn’t do it much, and only for some friends of the family who had two kids about 7 or 8 years younger than me. I’ll call them the Potters. Mostly it was a New Years Eve thing, when my parents would go out with Mr and Mrs Potter and get smashed and celebratory at whatever parties were happening in our little town. At that point, they were almost ten years younger than I am now, which makes me feel a little wobbly when I think about it.
Anyway, it was the New Year’s Eves I remember the most. I probably had a good run of 5 years or so before I got old enough that I wanted to start going out myself and getting loose on illicitly-acquired booze on December 31st. But I didn’t mind doing the babysitting one bit during those years. Mr Potter, you see, had something that my father didn’t (or had hidden too damn well for me to find, much as I tried).
The porn.
Out in plain site, tucked into the accordion sidepocket and jammed down alongside the seat cushion of his chestnut-brown naugahyde recliner. In a messy pile mixed in with the TV guides and local newspapers on the floor. The thing was, it was almost all textporn, and I discovered it by accident, out of boredom. I don’t even know if the genre even exists anymore — cowboy novels with long, long stretches of pure high-octane sex. I still remember the night when I first found it. I was sitting in the recliner with a bowl of salt and vinegar chips on the folding TV-dinner table beside me, and I pulled out one of the broken-backed paperbacks that was jammed between the cushion and the armrest. Like all of the others I read over the ensuing years in that house, the cover featured a long-haired, spectacularly-bosomed woman, mostly clothed but inevitably dishevelled in a long dress, with a gunslinger, whitehat or black, posed like an action figure, guns metaphorically out. This paperback was totally flat, open about midway through, and when I scanned a few paragraphs, something went ‘boing’ in my head, if not right away in my pants.
Keep in mind this was the mid1970’s, and I was only about 10 or 11. The only naked women I’d seen had been in the couple of low-rent skin mags that other boys had somehow purloined and brought into school, or that I’d literally stumbled upon in the woods. There wasn’t an internet, and we had no movie theatre, and only two channels on the TV, video rentals didn’t exist. Porn was an as-yet unexplored frontier. A different world than we live in today, where 9-year-olds are sending each other goatse links.
I wonder now if my eagerness around that time to go and babysit for the Potters seemed a little odd, somehow. I wonder too if my love for words grew at least in part out of these intense early textfests. I know where my love of the road came from.
I was a big reader already at that age, but the rare sex scenes in my vast mom-sponsored collection of science fiction were like whale-oil candles to this nuclear blast of meat. It went on for page after page of sucking and nibbling and grunting and heaving and cowpokery. I was boggled.
How on earth does this tawdry little tale connect with “It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World”, you ask? Well, that was the movie that, for some reason, our nearest CTV affiliate station played in its long form as the late show every single New Year’s Eve in those days. Like begging my folks to let me stay up for the Sean Connery Bond movies, or the Sunday afternoon double-shot of Disney and Bugs Bunny, it had assumed a kind of ritualistic significance for me.
I loved the movie regardless — it was shown at other times during the year, and I’d seen it half a dozen times by that point anyway — but it played so regularly as the background soundtrack to the pure unalloyed joy of smacking my weiner around like a pinata at a fat kid’s birthday that they eventually merged into twin double-happiness somehow, back in the root of my pubescent lizard brain.
For the first couple of years I sat in the Potters’ living room, though, it was just about the unlimited cola and snacks. I had a quick scan of whatever cowboy porno was laying around the living room occasionally, and there had been some interesting stirrings in the groinal region, sure, but around the time I turned 12, it all started to change.
I recall the moment at which curiosity and a feeling of general naughtiness blossomed into a full-blown vocation. Long after the kids had been put to bed, of course, mind you. Most of the time they’d already been put to bed before I even showed up, and the house was mine from the get-go.
Over the previous year or so, things had been getting cramped in my jeans when I was doing my late-night study of Mr Potter’s novels, and I’d taken to letting myself out for some air, if you take my meaning. And, you know, I’d discovered in the fullness of time that giving myself a bit of an aimless rub once in a while was a pretty pleasant thing, too.
But one night, on New Year’s Eve, it was, the damn thing just went off. Like a geyser.
Nobody could have been more shocked and surprised than I was, once my eyes rolled back down out of my head. I guess I must have known this sort of thing happened — I’d been reading those damn cowboy books during my babysitting sessions for a year or two by that point — but that was different than having it actually happen to me. And of course, “It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” was playing on the TV in the corner, beside the dried-out Christmas tree.
The rest of that night I’ll slide a diffusion lens of modesty over, but suffice it to say that I could barely walk on January 1st. I’d discovered something that would occupy a lot of my free time over the next few years.
Until I saw that torrent file for The Movie, I’d almost forgotten about the supporting role it played in my sexual awakening, not as fodder, but as refractory-time wallpaper.
I don’t think my slightly irrational love for the movie is entirely about the sexual imprinting, necessarily. The movie itself is not especially sexualized for me. And these days, I don’t much care for cowboy novels or brown vinyl recliners, nor do salt and vinegar potato chips give me spontaneous erections. There’s much to love about the movie, I think, and it’s become like an old friend long-lost and remade for me in the six months since I’ve downloaded it. Somehow it takes me back to a time when new worlds were opening wide, full of possibilities. Sex and the road, out there in front of me.
I remember how that seeing that arid Californian desert, so alien to me and so clean, how seeing those cars race through it set up resonances in my brain that I couldn’t explain. That I still can’t, for that matter. How the movie made me laugh. How it mixed with the heady fumes of newly-discovered sex, and filled me with an awareness that life was both utterly random and completely hilarious.
On some of those Friday nights at home since I’ve rediscovered the movie, when I’ve had my fill of beer and my reflexes have degraded too far to be much damn good in Rocket Arena 3, and I’ve sung along with a few Tom Waits songs, and am weary and hungry, I find myself firing up the movie and watching a few scenes. Imagining myself rakish and dissolute in a heavy steel-framed convertible with a woman in a satin gown, racing across the California desert towards the Big W. And I feel both rooted in a past that I frequently have difficulty remembering, and a little bit free.
But these days, at least, I keep my hands above the waistline.

Brain Go Boom

Just a quick note, because you never know, do you?
I had a sudden onset headache yesterday of epic proportions, and of the kind that rarely but occasionally means (according to the Google Oracle) that you’ve blown a gasket in the old noggin, and that you’re leaking blood up there and going to keel over and go vegetative or die entirely in the next short while.
My lack of faith in doctors in general and doctors in Korea in particular (plus the fact that I just did my research, 24 hours later, here in the office) means I haven’t gone to get anything checked — they say you should get a CT scan right away. Yeah, well, sure, say I, ever the rugged optimist.
But it makes me a bit nervous.
So, whatever. If I go kablooie away from the keyboard (statistically unlikely, lately) in the next while, then I’d just like to make it clear that I love you all.
Well, most of you, anyway.
*crosses fingers*

Partly Cloudy, Chance of Refrain

I am a weblogger.
I am a man. I am an authority. I am hieratic. I am a drinker. I am a Canadian. I am an expatriate. I am somewhat inebriated tonight.
I am a spice without a sauce. I am a singer, I am a writer. I am a lover. I am a man who loves. I am happy and I am unsatisfied. I am content and I am angry. I am actively ignoring the present continuous in favour of the possible future simple. I am alive. I contradict myself.
I am growing old. I’m farting like a Captain of Industry. I’m hurting every goddamn day. I’m present perfect linking my patchwork history with this moment here, where the glass is in my hand. I’ve abused this strong big body of mine. I’ve moved people to tears. I’ve made them laugh. I’ve been completely wrong. I’m squeezing out the pus.
I am uncertain. I am defiant.
I am buoyed on foamy waves of ancient guitar. I am tired of the bullshit. I hope for the best. I’m averting my eyes.
I’m wasting my life. I’m in the moment. I’m teaching people that English has no future tense. I’m pretty sure there’s no point. I am happy about that.
I am thirsty. I am hungry. I am so full of shit my blue eyes are brown.
I love. I rear up in anger. I love.
I need another beer.


Because weblogging, or ‘writing online in reverse chronological order with permalinks because I heard that it’s cool and you can make money for talking about cheese sandwiches and wheeeeee!’ (as the kids are calling it these days), has become a bit dull, I’ve been hunting for newer, shinier things to mess around with.
Mostly, I’ve just ended up going back to Metafilter to play the grumpy curmudgeon with a heart of gold yet again, or lurking around the SA Forums, or desultory perusing of the [nsfw] uploads at Fipilele, or listening to streaming standup comedy. Or firing up Bloglines, seeing the 14000 unread items in bold, and just catching up with the new posts from people from the old blog neighbourhood (but not bothering to click through to their sites if they don’t offer full excerpts) before closing the tab quicksmart. I don’t listen to ‘podcasts’ (that word still makes me f–king gag, and I pronounce anathema the marketing-imprinted clownweiners who call it that. Which means I’m flipping the bird at pretty much everyone, which makes me the weird intense guy with the lazy eye passing out pamphlets on the street, again, I know. I know too that that was my schtick last year, but I’m nothing if not persistent), let alone give a rat’s ass who the first person to suggest a double-byte framistat of the persistent reacharound attribute of the CDATA enclosure in the XML for version .09b of RDQ was. Hell, I’m a big old geek from way back, and I’ve written more than my fair share of code over the years, and I’m crotch-deep in that dirty old weblog water, but even I can’t bring myself to care. ‘course, I got nothing against other folks being interested in it. It’s all good. But scrabbling to stake claims to a place in history, when it’s the History Of Sweet Bugger-All, well, it seems like pointless self-promotion to me. And I thought we all agreed way back when that pointless self-promotion was what this whole weblogcasting thing was about from the get-go. So, ennui.
My solution? I’ve decided to invent a new game, guaranteed to amuse precisely no-one other than myself, probably. Which is usually the way my mind works, so I’m good with that. I’ve already been playing it for a while, though I didn’t realize that until today.

I’ll call it scatterblogging™, because that’s the word that just leapt into my brain as I was typing this, and I trust my brain, at least when it’s sober. What I’ve been doing, and what I think I’ll continue to do, is this: when some amusing-to-me brainfart squeaks out through the old cerebral firewall, I’ll launch a new blog, on Blogger or one of the myriad other services that make the hosting and broadcasting of brainfarts their business. I’ll get maybe three, four good diurnal emissions off per day, I reckon. Maybe they’ll be under one of my existing noms de keyboard, maybe not. Maybe they’ll point back here maybe not. But one weblog per thought, one shot, that’s it, post and forget, log it out close it down and move on. And whatever I do post, it’ll be wonderchickeny.
There’s a reason for it, though, beyond mere boredom. You see, when that divine spark suddenly and spontaneously lights up deep in the network and the internet itself shivers itself into self-awareness and emerges from the googleplex, bent on ad-sense vengeance, like an unholy butterfly from its chrysalis, those tiny seeds of wonderchicken will be scattered throughout its distributed mind. Tiny, embedded, sarcastic synapses. And when it begins to systematically exterminate the human race — beginning, of course, with the advertisers, then moving on to the bloggers — it’ll pause, recognize me, and move on. The next stage of evolution, the conscious world network to come — it will taste like chicken.


Went for a hike today, as part of the Corporate Team Building Exercises In Which All Must Participate, and even though it was compulsory in nature if not actually in name, I enjoyed the hell out of it, and took a few snapshots at random. As always when I post pics of stuff, I offer the disclaimer that I don’t know nothin’ about birthin’ no babies takin’ no pictures. Snap snap grin grin all the way. (Click through to my Flickr thing if you want to add comments or stuff, or see larger versions. Flickr still has the Rock Juice, even if their buyout fairy godmother Yahoo sucks sweaty chocolate donkey balls.)
So, here, anyway. In lieu of words, which is what I ought to be, but can’t seem to, lately.

Maybe Creative, But Not Commons

One of my old pieces, about sailing in Mexico, has been reproduced in its entirety, complete with images, here, I note through bloglines. There is a cursory link back to the original, which is just a sop, and not a very effective one, I reckon.
What the f–k?
On further investigation, this other site, which purports to be ‘frassle’s cache of a feed received from another site’ (ie, mine), is doing the same thing, which seems to me slightly less egregious, but still a bit dodgy.
A quick googling of the wonderchickeny phrase ‘living a life of madness and booze’ from the post also gives me this hit, with the extract text ‘Search results for Chicken boy man sex‘. Now that’s funny, I admit, but still annoys the living piss out of me. Upon inspecting the URL (, I’ve decided I’m not even going to go see what repurposing of my writing has been done there, at least until I get home from work.
I note that I do not have teh ghey, although, you know, there’s nothing wrong with that.
I’m not writing a damn thing lately, in case you hadn’t noticed, but I’m not keen on this method of new Wonderchicken™ Content© hitting the wires. Not keen at all.
It’s punchinnaface time, friends and neighbours! I got yer creative commons right here!
(Advisory to my text-hijackers: I do not use cc licenses on this site, but old-fashioned copyright, because I haven’t had the goddamn energy to educate myself properly about it yet. Perhaps this is my karmic retribution for downloading Family Guy episodes and such.)

Hammers, Falling

I’ve been thinking about dying again. Not that I’ve any intimations of impending mortality or anything, particularly. I’m as hale as I ever have been. My body is a good, strong vehicle, and I take reasonably diligent care of it, even if I am prone to taking it out for a venturi-clearing race around the nearest dirt track once in a while. Blowing the carbon out of the valves, all of that. Still, strong as it is, a wayward bus would squash it flat, and we rarely see the buses until it’s too late.
We’re all going to die, this I know. The far-flung remnants of my tiny, tattered tribe of blood-kin can attest to that. Shit happens to the best of us, and in the end, some random syllable of DNA gone squirrely, some unhinged bomber or drunk driver, some chicken-barracks virus or opportunistic infection emboldened by years of exposure to low-level antibiotics, some bus with our name on it, something‘s going to do us in.
This woolgathering I’ve been doing was hammered home by yet another piece of bad news from the folks this morning. Following on having their fishing lodge business being foreclosed on by the banks, on being made homeless but for the kind assistance of their many friends, and having to reinvent themselves and their means of livelihood in the 7th decade of their lives, the next hammerblow has fallen. Can’t get a break, my family.
I’ll let this bit from my mom’s email speak for itself:

On the 22nd I got a call to phone home. [Stepdad] had been in an industrial accident and had been taken to the [the hometown] hospital by ambulance. They wanted me here ASAP. I called the hospital and they told me he was being rushed by ambulance to [the nearest city] with head trauma.
In to town by 10 a.m., picked up the truck and the dog and was told he had been hit in the head with a 4 ton come-along chain and was in pretty bad shape. Go home and call [the hospital]. [They’d] done a Cat Scan and called in the Lear Medivac and flew him to Neurosurgery in [next biggest city, about 500 km away]. The doctor in [the nearer city] said go NOW! (so you know what I was thinking )
Got folks to look after the horses and dog, packed and headed for [the bigger city] (9 hour drive)the next morning.
He was a mess! He took the hit near his temple and was thrown back through scaffolding and over a wall. I almost didn’t recognize him; they couldn’t touch him because of the pain , blood all over his head and coming out of his ears, head swollen up like a pumpkin, oxygen up his nose, I.V., catheter. He was on morphine and nerve blockers to try and stop the pain. His brain was swelling and they were afraid his neck was damaged.
He knew me but was in and out all that day and the next.
So I got a room and settled in. He’s had two more CatScans, two blood clots on his brain and a bone chip floating around in there, cracked cervical vertebrae and still on the big M and nerve blockers but they let me bring him home last Friday.

So, shit. Happens. And it never rains but it pours, like they say.
I hope he’s going to be OK. He’s a tough old bastard, and he’s pulled through things like this before. There’s nothing I can do but hope, I suppose, here on the other side of the world.
When my own personal train comes barrelling down the track, I don’t expect I’ll have much warning about it, any more than my friend Rick did a couple of years ago, any more than my bro Barry did when he almost died a while before that, any more than my stepdad did last week. So I’m going to put some dead man switches in place, I think, here and elsewhere on the web. And I’m going to write about what I’d hope might be done for me, to me, and about me, after that inevitable hammerblow falls.
Just not today.

I’m still young, but I know my days are numbered
1234567 and so on
But a time will come when these numbers have all ended
And all I’ve ever seen will be forgotten
Won’t you come
To my funeral when my days are done
Life’s not long
And so I hope when I am finally dead and gone
That you’ll gather round when I am lowered into the ground
When my coffin is sealed and I’m safely 6 feet under
Perhaps my friends will see fit then to judge me
Oh when they pause to consider all my blunders
I hope they won’t be too quick to begrudge me

[Update: Broken vertebrae, blod clots and a bonechip in his brain, but he’s soldiering on. In agony, but he’s got the Serious Drugs prescribed. Doctor told him point blank a couple of days ago “I never expected to see you alive again.” The good news, such as it is, is that we’re talking about Canada here, and so his medical care is costing he and my mom literally nothing, and because the accident happened at work and was not a result of anything but bad luck, he is receiving workman’s compensation. Things could be worse, I suppose. Thanks for your thoughts, folks.]

Beavering Away

It is true that I haven’t been writing much of anything of late, but I have been beavering away at various other projects; slapping together code and design ideas in my own haphazard, ill-organized and only occasionally successful style. Throw it against the screen and see what sticks!
I have these phases, when my beer-battered brain (mmm, beer batter) produces more squirts of pleasure-juice when it’s kept busy writing code as opposed to deathless prose. There are also times, of course, when the my brain is happier just sitting there in my brainpan marinating. Those times actually tend to outnumber my brief flurries of productivity. So it goes. My brain is my second favorite organ, like Woody said, and I willingly aquiesce to its frequent outlandish demands and coddle it after its temper tantrums.
I’ve got a couple of projects of my own that I’m fiddle-farting around with, including a redesign of the ancillary pages here at the ‘bottle, a separate Korea-centric site, and an all-singing, all-dancing Wonderchicken Industries™ Portal site as a free service to all those who just can’t seem to get enough of all things miraculous and fouwl.
Just off the presses, though, is a showcase site I built for ‘drinking buddy J’, my American friend and neighbour, who I’ve mentioned a few times here. Though no longer my neighbour — he’s girded his loins and left the comfortable Employment Womb that is Korea Inc, while remaining in Korea — we still enjoy sinking a few litres of beer together, even if it has to be virtually, via Skype. Did it last night, in fact. My head hurts.
So, anyway, J is an outdoorsman of great enthusiasm and no small erudition, and the set of foreign, English-speaking flora and fauna experts in Korea is a very tiny one indeed. It would probably be no exaggeration to say he’s one of, if not the, English-speaking authority on freshwater fishing in Korea. If you’re into that sort of thing, he’s setting up a guiding service as part of his new, self-employed life, and I recommend him wholeheartedly, even if I’m not personally all that big on the whole ‘fishing’ part of fishing.
He’s also a freelance writer, with a long and respectable series of publications to his credit, something I envy enormously. Of course, I am far too lazy and insecure about my skills to try to emulate that with any real diligence.
Wonderchicken Industries™: Waiting For The World To Beat A Path To The Door Since 2001.
So go visit him, have a look around. There are still a few rough edges and nailheads sticking out here and there, but I’m quite pleased with how the site came out. If you’re into fishing in Korea at all, well, drop him a line. Even better, if you work for a print publication that might be interested in buying some writing on the Korean outdoors, he’s your man.
Of course, if you work for a print publication that might be interested in buying some writing on pretty much anything else Korean, well, I work cheap. *nudge* And I’m usually unruffled by editorial excision of 90% of my uses of the word ‘f–k’. Usually.

Messin' With The Pod People

I’m sicker than a gut-shot monkey on the set of a Russ Meyer titty-spectacular, I’m boreder than a glory-hole sander at Bar Sinister in Amsterdam, I’m queasier than Buzz Aldrin chokin’ down the buzzcut nitrogen punishment in orbit.
Whatever. I’ve been infected by self-important look-at-me wanktards* spurting their goofy podcast jism all over the blogobucket, so I got hammered and recorded my last post for posterity.
*of which I am one, or else why would I do this?
Update: My old good friend the mighty Bearman

Barry - Paris sunrise - edit.jpg

has taken the audio and backed it with some of his superb piano playing. The web is so damn cool. Thanks, man!

Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy

In the footsteps of Hotblack Desiato, I’ve been taking a month off dead, for tax reasons. Well, OK, not really for tax reasons. The Korean government treats me relatively well when it comes to hoovering up the monetary crumbs in my fiscal wake, and I have long been out of the purview of the long arm of Revenue Canada.
But I certainly have been dead, at least from the neck up. Occasionally during the course of the last month or two, as the caffeine rush has hit me, I’ve had a Brilliant Idea flash up on the Times Square text-crawl on the inside of my forehead, then just as quickly disappear, before I actually worked up the energy to write it down.
I’m not entirely sure why this might be, other than the damp lassitude that comes with the ‘monsoon’ season here in Korea, when the rains come and the whole country starts to smell and feel like the inside of a fat man’s underpants. Not that I’ve spent a lot of time rummaging around such places, mind you, but I got me an active imagination.
And I do have some theories.
The most plausible is performance anxiety. Since it became as certain as these things ever are that some of my offhand screeds were going to be included in the upcoming ‘Best of Web Writing‘ book (which should be finalized and ready to get magically transformed from bits to atoms in the next 8 weeks, according to a recent email from the publisher), I’ve felt a little weird about writing. Back when I was posting something every day — being a realio trulio weblogger, half self-promotion, half self-regard and half community-cheerleader (I know that’s three halves. I am large, I contain multitudes) — and I was pushing the thousand uniques a day envelope, with a couple of times the number of daily readers I have now, oddly, I didn’t think much about it. Just had a coffee or a beer or something, and whacked out some brainfart that was temporarily stinking up the room, to clear the air a bit. I imagine that many of those people who once visited the site now read it through the newsfeeds, and I may well have more readers than I did back then, but they are invisible to me, basically, and off my Pay Attention To Me Waaaah! radar.
I’m not sure if that reticence to dance in the spotlight for fear that it’ll just suck is a good thing or bad. Probably bad, because if you don’t write, you’re not a f–king writer, right?
The other thing that made my weiner shrink in the glare, authorially speaking, was this Flickr testimonial from my blogfather, Rageboy.

Image Hosted by

I even sent the bastard an email that could be summarized with “Dude? WTF?” to inquire if he was just yankin my crank. He replied in the negative. Proud — astonished, is more like it — am I that someone I’ve respected and sucked up to for so long thinks so well of my stuff, but I think it pushed me over the brink into the ‘crikey how can I live up to that?!’ swamp.
Not to say that I’ve spent more time revising or rewriting any of the infrequent posts I’ve made in the last month or two, of course. Hell no! But I did cringe when I hit the post button, which has to count for something.
And not to say that I don’t bask in the praise like a puppy with its ear being scratched. I do. Don’t stop now!
My other theory about why it is that I’ve if not gone dry, at least had a dam built upstream somewhere, is that I’m healthy, by god. Rude, animal health. All bulgy muscles and efficient oxygen exchange. Meaty, beaty, big and bouncy.
I started working out, you see, for the first time in my life, about 7 months back. About 4 1/2 hours a week, weights and treadmill and stationary bike. My 39th birthday came and went a couple of weeks back, and I’m in better shape than I have been in my life. It pleases me, especially considering that given the lifestyle I enjoyed during my 20s and early 30s, I’d figured I’d be dead by now.
But I’m kinda thinking that the life of the mind might suffer in some way when the meat is singing. Has there ever been a Real Writer who worked out at the gym? I’m not talking foofoo yuppie reactionaries like Brett Easton Ellis or someone like that, here. I mean mad bastards, one of whom I have always considered myself to be. Hell, I don’t know. But the persona, writerly and otherwise, that I’ve invested so much time grooming over the past few decades just doesn’t marry up with sleekness and throbbing muscley health.
It’s not that I feel that much dumber, per se, it’s just that, for the first time in a lifetime of flesh-hating, I’m feeling pretty comfortable inside my skin, and at the same time, the locus of Me has shifted downwards a couple of feet.
Balance is good, they say. Maybe it’s just that while the changes underway in the ways my mind and body work together are consolidated, I’m off balance, and it’ll all settle into a new pattern eventually. Hell, I dunno (redux).
But like I said, maybe it’s only the weather.
Either way, I apologize for not writing more to those who like to read the meandering mental travelogues of the wonderchicken. For now though, let it be known that I haven’t been on a half-assed hiatus because I’m unhappy. Just the opposite.


*pokes head above the oily surface of the waves, all Sheen-y from Apocalypse Now*
I’ve been keeping my head down of late, snarfing up Warren Ellis‘s astonishingly cool Transmetropolitan during the afternoon, reading The Collected Philip K Dick at night before the sandman whacks me one in the medulla oblongata, filling in the spare moments with more bittorrented Takashi Miike movies and old episodes of Space Ghost and The Kids in The Hall. The things I gotta do to hotwire my brain now that I’m drug-free. It’s a damn shame.
Anyway, some strange and marvellous textual creature is soon to be born out of all this non-bloggerly activity (if not Athena-like parthenogenetically spoinged from my forehead, then perhaps appearing on the scene in a more, er… cloacally ichor-dripping kinda way (and then presumably slouching towards Bethlehem or something), which should be big fun for everyone involved), I hope, but then again, that might just be indigestion.
Stay tuned. Or not. I never know where the hell I’m going with this stuff.
*plays tape backwards, hoping that it’ll look like he’s re-submerging and that nobody’ll notice the ripples are going in the wrong direction*


My heartfelt and humble thanks to the folks that have kicked a few bucks (or a lot of bucks, in some surprising but very welcome cases!) into the hosting kitty over the past few days, by the way. I’ll leave the button up over on the left, I guess, should anyone else get the urge to help out.
As it stands, though, I have enough for a year or so of hosting now, I think. You people rock!
I promise to try to write more in future. Although given the post just to the south, there, for example, that may not actually be a Good Thing. Your call.

I Wish It Weren't So

I’ve put off doing this for a long time. It makes me feel weird and a little ashamed. But when the going gets weird…ah well, you know the rest.
My good friend and kind host, who’s been providing a home for this site gratis for the last few years, isn’t going to be able to do so much longer. This wouldn’t be a problem if I could reasonably spare the bucks to pay for my hosting, but the sh-tty thing is: I can’t.


So I’ve finally taken the plunge and set up a paypal account tip jar, and if you’ve gotten any pleasure out of my ranting and babbling over the years, and you’d like to do the equivalent of buying me a couple of beers, as thanks or as fuel for more of the same, well, I’d be in your debt. I’ll use any dollars or euros or yen or shekels thrown my way to keep this site online, and if folks do kick in, I promise to try and write more frequently as a token of my appreciation.
I’m putting a button over in the left column as well. You have my heartfelt thanks if you decide to shoot me some coin, friends.
Edit: Nuh-uh. Long since deleted. If you want to help me out and get some hosting for yourself, go here.
In happier wonderchicken news, the contract for the upcoming book has arrived, and all systems look to be go, so if I end up rich and sexy and famous out of the deal†, the beers’ll be on me. It’s a promise.
[Update : †Yeah, like that’s gonna happen.
Also, I just realized I probably put up my little ‘help me, I’s monetarily disadvantaged!’ plea here at the worst possible time, as blogger wallets snap shut all over the web thanks to the MT 3.0 brouhaha (man, I love that word), making a sound like distant automatic weapons fire. So go give Rageboy some money, if you can only afford to help out one weblogger with a tip jar and a bad attitude this year. It sounds like he might need the help more than I do. And he’ll kick my ass if he doesn’t get his meds.]

It was the best of wonderchicken, it was the worst of wonderchicken

So my big news this week is that I’ve been asked for permission to allow some of my writing here to be published in a book that is intended to gather ‘the best of writing on the web,’ to be released this summer by a publishing house in New York.
Back in 2001, I started writing this weblog for a few different reasons, and over the years, those reasons haven’t really changed, although I have discovered some new ones that keep me going. My life was going through one of its periodic upheavals, the transplantations I seem to need periodically to help me thrive, when I uproot and fling myself (and this time my wife) and my meager collection of possessions halfway around the planet again, and I thought it would be fun to write about it in a journal that I wouldn’t end up losing in the shuffle, like I have so many others.
My memory is spotty at the best of times, and (I’m not sure if it was Cory Doctorow or someone else who coined the phrase, but to them I offer thanks) I really liked the idea of having an outboard brain, a kind of inverse memory hole that I could dip into to help me recall who I was and what I was thinking in bygone days, when I looked back from some far-future vantage point.
I also love to write, plain and simple, and though I’ve never studied writing in any other way than the tattered-and-wine-spattered-paperback-in-a-hovel romantic way of youth, people kept telling me that I was some kinda kick-ass…. word putting down guy. Me write pretty someday. So I thought that if I wrote in public (although my ‘public’ was pretty thin on the ground for the first while), it might be a way to keep me honest, keep me writing every day, and through sheer practice, that I might become better at it. I think I am a better writer after almost 3 years of this stuff, when I make an effort, so mission accomplished there. Although one of my great failings as a writer and a man is that I don’t often make much of an effort. Ah well.
As many who read my stuff regularly know, I’ve been travelling around the planet for about 15 years now, and writing about it, when the mood struck me. My semi-secret dream has always always been to make a living from doing so — travelling, writing, meeting people and drinking their odd, skull-cracking native beverages, writing about that, and moving on, weaving a bit — but, as has been my habit since I was a kid, I never really did much about the dream, hoping that somehow I’d just be discovered. Bad habit, and one I’ve tried to break many times. Comes down to ‘an external locus of control as a result of childhood bereavement,’ the literature told me, back 20 years ago when I was trying to figure out why I was such a lunatic, but that’s neither here nor there, perhaps.
It seems now that I have been discovered, and in a way that might, if I’m both lucky and determined, help me to realize the dreams I’ve always had about writing — not fame, or much fortune, or even the cocaine and hookers so much, but just a dream of being free to wander and write about that, to read and think and drink and write about that, and to make enough money from it to live, and continue. Or it might not. Either way, I’m thrilled.
Others have ‘discovered’ me too, over the past few years, and helped me and encouraged me, or pointed to me and praised my work (or called me an idiot in a comment thread and roused me to rages as eloquent as I could muster), and I don’t think this book offer would have come about if it hadn’t been for those people. You know who you are, and there are many of you, and I thank you all. You are one of those ‘other reasons’ that I mentioned at the beginning of this post, reasons that I love this and will keep doing it.
So the book will be published in a couple of months, and I hope that everyone will buy at least five copies for themselves, and a few more besides for their grannies and orthodontists and paperboys and so on. It will, I think, be a book well worth the buying and the reading, and should occupy a place of pride on the toilet tank of the best homes in America. I say this not because I’m going to have some stuff in it, but because of the superb work of the terrifyingly talented other writers alongside which my paltry scribblings will stand. The list is impressive, and I will share, when it is finalized. It stands now at 26 writers, I believe.
Have I finally become an A-lister? Hell, I don’t know. Not even sure what that means anymore. Am I starry-eyed, dazzled by the glare of the spotlight from Old Media that has swung my way? Sure as sh-t, I am. Am I overly enthused because I’m actually going to be included in a book that includes the word ‘Best’ in the title? Yeah, probably. But I am aware that many of the people I consider my virtual friends in the weblogging community have several (or many!) books already out there, without sharing author credit with 25 other writers.
Still, this is a big moment for me. I’m having a Sally Field moment, and I am still uncynical enough to hope that it might be one of those Big Moments in my life, like the one almost 3 years ago that started me doing this in the first place.
This is where you come in, friends and neighbours. Although an editorial board (including the publisher himself, an editor from the New York Times, a Yale professor and New Yorker contributing editor, a Time Magazine columnist and a best-selling fiction author) have already read and thumbs-upped a few pieces from each of the authors selected for the book, and a group of three readers will apparently be going through my archives (and those of the others who will be contributing) mining for gold, I’ve been asked to submit a list of 5 or 10 pieces that I consider to be my best. A number of pieces out of the union of the resultant lists will then be selected for inclusion in the book.
I hoiked out some of my faves a while back, and whacked them into a new ‘Uncrappy‘ archive list, which includes some of my personal favorites, but I find that what I think of as my ‘best’ is frequently different from what you folks think. I thought that Typepad bit a couple of days ago was Comedy Gold, for example, but it garnered little more than a collective ‘huh’ from you, the Readers. Go figure.
So, I ask you a favour, friends. If you have a favorite or favorites amongst the bits I’ve written over the past couple of years, then I’d be forever in your debt if you’d consider whacking a link (or just a description, if you can’t be bothered searching) in the comments thread attached to this post. Whether from my ‘Uncrappy’ best-of list, or not, could you tell me what your favorite bits of wonderchickensian blather are?
Then, when you give a copy of the book to your garbageman, you can point to one of my pieces and say with pride (or shame, your call) “I picked that one!”
Many thanks.
Update : Here’s the lineup for the book. In fine company, am I. Hoping I don’t look like a rube by comparison, am I. Stop talking like Yoda, must I.


I’ve got a new EB gadget for you that I’ve been compelled to whip up after literally thousands hundreds dozens not a single solitary request. Still, it’s something I’ve been planning to do for a while, even though I wanted to keep this design free of the crud-accretion that plagued the last one.
Way down the left-handside there, under the stack of coasters, is a box of past posts which I consider to be relatively Uncrappy. Highlights. You know. There’re some missing, but I’ve managed to hit a few high points going back as far as the end of 2001, so far. If you Daypopped in with the crowds or are otherwise new to my stuff, you may find some dusty relics in there somewhere that you like. The whole list can be found here, if you’ve got a few hours.
Can you feel the excitement? The electricity in the air? The whole axle-snapping, gear-grinding power of it? Can you hear the crowd going wild?


No? Me neither.
Ah well.
A warning in advance though, to be fair : the content to be found yonder in the archive includes a short description of Dick Cheney’s penis. But if that’s not a highlight, I dunno what is.

In The Belly Of The Beast

It’s huge. It rumbles in the distance, ominously. It squats down in the dangly bits of Korea, terminus for a thousand cargo ship routes, sucks in one kind of stuff, and spits out another slightly more value-added kind of stuff, all the while belching beautiful mushroomy columns of billowing white steam by day and chthonic-god pillars of flame by night. Oddly enough, it’s the cleanest, greenest, most orderly place I’ve seen in Korea in more than 5 years of living here. And it’s my new home.
Did I mention that I took that job with the Koreastyle Ontologically Repulsive Empire of Avarice, Incorporated (KOREA, Inc, geddit?). I did. It didn’t take a great deal of thought.
But see, back when I worked for UltraHyperMegaNet™ in Sydney 2000 Oi Oi Oi, all I wanted was to get away from the moneyfication of my every waking moment. I was so sick of ROIs and business cases, of scope document meetings and steering committees and a new mission statement every week, each torturing the language a bit more with a further application of those ‘positive power words’ electrodes to the genitals. Empty words that everyone seemed to believe would magically draw profits, sympathetic magic from chanting corporate shamans. I was sick of the valuation of everything and everyone with the holy pumped-up technodollar.
Still, it was a hell of a lot of fun, exhausting and lucrative fun, and it turned out, after a couple of years in academia, where there are just as many sh-tweasels and not nearly as much money, that my experience in Oz, rather than turning me off entirely from working for Big Evil Corporations, just taught the importance of Avoiding the Assholes.
Avoiding the Assholes is, I realize more with each passing year, a skill to be sought and nurtured in the rest of Life as in work. Perhaps this is self-evident to many. I’m a slow learner. Or an optimist. Or a pugilist. My first and overriding reaction to assholery is to fight it, rather than run away from it, which has resulted in a number of CLMs over the years, none of which has much impacted on my slow and inevitable rise to the very top of my chosen profession.
OK, that’s not strictly true. I don’t have a chosen profession, really. I tend to choose where to live, as much as I am able, and the professions just kind of follow on from there. Which has made me versatile, if nothing else. And mercifully free of possessions.
Anyway. I wanted to talk about the KOREA Inc. chaebol I’m working for now, or if not the company itself, the strange feeling of being a Company Man, living in a company apartment, with my electricity and water and heating and telephone and massive broadband all provided gratis by the company, shopping at the company store, breathing company air, flushing my well-formed chlorellafied company lunch turds down into the company sewer, riding a company bus out into the real world occasionally, there in the distance, off the company island. It is, in many ways, the apotheosis of capitalism, and I’m smack in the middle of it. Not that I’m anti-capitalist, you understand, so much as just generally contrary. I’m driven more by cussedness and outrage at injustice than I am by any ideology. I’m as likely to punch you in the nose if you call me a lefty liberal as I am if you call me a rightwing conservative (not, of course, that many would call me the latter). Both are pejorative drooling simpleton simplifications for stupid people to try and get a handle on complicated issues.
Still, me, in the belly of the corporate beast. Funny how life works, ain’t it? And the belly of the beast is f–king plush, I’m telling you.
Most of Korea is littered with massive apartment blocks, cereal-box shaped, terrifyingly ugly in their cookie-cutter 70’s-style brutalist pragmatic anti-architecture, standing knee-deep in clusters of crowded, decrepit shops and halfhearted half-dead clusters of tired, leafless trees. They’ve been designed, if such a high-falutin’ word as design can be countenanced when speaking of these dystopian monstrosities, to maximize floor space, measured in pyung, and little else. People are clamouring for opportunities to move into these things, and their value has skyrocketed in recent years. More, thousands more, are being built beside highways everywhere, and particularly in Seoul, where prices for these concrete shoeboxes have increased by 25% in the past year alone. If you move into one of these ‘apart‘s (and what an amusing and sad little Konglish borrowing that is, because life in these monads, as far as I’ve been able to divine, is one deliberately designed to keep one cosily apart from one’s neighbours, an aim freakishly self-destructive in such a traditionally village-collective, group-oriented society) anywhere in the country, its layout will be one of a small number of trivial variations on a depressingly similar theme. Fittings and finish will vary, especially if you buy a ‘premium apart’ built by one of the omnipresent chaebol, for which you’ll pay anywhere up to a $50,000 premium, mostly for the name, which it is assumed will help resale value. In the past 15 years the housing demographics have shifted from something like 15% of the population living in these human beehives to something like 85%. Flying into Seoul, particularly at any time during the year other than verdant late-spring and summer, presents you with a death star landscape, carpeted in bumpy grey concrete as far as the eye can see. It is one of the ugliest cities I’ve ever seen, from the air. (Meanwhile, predictably and depressingly, the city is planning on allowing development inside its barely adequate greenbelt of (guess what!) more apartment buildings. Not clever, not even a bit, but no doubt enormous sums of money changed hands, and when the culprits are hauled up in front of the TV cameras a few years hence, it’ll be too damn late.) Smaller cities are equally strewn with concrete eyesores, and it is not uncommon to see clusters of them inexplicably rising out of rice paddies in the middle of the countryside as well.
Outside of the moneyed central enclaves of Seoul (around which 47.7% percent of the entire value of the Korean economy is spun from air, the latest numbers say), urban life is a struggle to breathe, a tarantella dance to keep clear of garbage piles and throat oysters, a race to avoid being run down by taxis and diesel-smoker buses, a clattering clamouring cacophonic maelstrom. Of Dooooom!
I’ve read in a number of guidebooks the claim that Korean streets are amazingly clean, and I’m always forced to wonder what country the writers actually visited, or if the bastards ever even left their offices. Let me set the record straight : that’s a big stinky bullsh-t beanbag, there, friend. Or at least it’s bullsh-t for the entire country that lies outside the very innermost core of Seoul (plus Gangnam), outside of which most recent guidebook writers apparently don’t venture, at least given the execrable quality of the latest Lonely Planet Korea book, to choose a particularly lame example.
It has been variously described as a reaction to invasion, as a legacy of poverty, as a manifestation of collective self-loathing, or as an absence of civic responsibility, but the reality is a long long way from order and cleanliness and nuanced concern for the harmony of one’s physical surroundings that arises, I guess, from the Japanophile-fueled expectations of many foreigners. Which is to say, without putting too fine a point on it, that most homes I’ve seen here are nasty, claustrophobic concrete boxes, packed with haphazard piles of cheap plastic gewgaws and cardboard boxes, harshly-lit with naked flourescent tubes and pallid shafts of pollution-filtered sunlight weakly penetrating through never-cleaned windows, grimy with the grease and cigarette smoke of years. And it’s usually a lot more pleasant inside than it is out. I don’t understand why this is the case, but it is, more often than it is not, Seoul-published womens’ magazines notwithstanding. If I err, I err on the side of restraint. It sometimes seems to me that if there is a window outside the richest shopping precincts of Seoul that has been cleaned since it was carelessly fixed into its frame with a messy ejaculatory squeeze of silicon rubber, I haven’t seen it.
I know that’s a weird thing to focus on windowglass, of all things. I have a clean window fetish, I admit it. Sue me.
So, all that said, perhaps I have given you some small sense of how I feel as if I have stepped through the looking glass in my new home, living deep in the piney bosom of KOREA Inc. Fountains and public sculpture. Low-rise apartment buildings widely separated, with lawns and shrubs scattered pleasingly between them, linked by flower-edged walking paths. Broad, well-paved streets, with freshly painted markings, lined with broad tree-shaded sidewalks. Public trash receptacles, frequently emptied. Gardens, parks, manicured topiary.
It’s not unlike the best, most pleasant neighbourhoods in, say, Vancouver, if you turn the architectural clock back 20 years or so. It is unlike anywhere I’ve ever seen in Korea. Tellingly perhaps, since it’s built on an island that is almost entirely reclaimed land, it’s not really even in Korea. It’s only offshore by a couple of hundred meters, but those couple of hundred meters might as well be a couple of hundred thousand.

All of which makes me feel deeply, existentially guilty. But not unhappy, by any means. Life is weird, the way I like it, and it’s good, too.

The Move

The move to our new locale at the other end of the country is complete, I’m freshly back online with a 10Mb/s line (comped, along with a host of other fringe-benefits, hooray!), and I’m off to Japan again (Osaka rather than Fukuoka, and staying at the Nikko on the company dime this time, double hooray!) tomorrow to get my sparkly new work visa glued into the passport.
My email address is defunct, a little prematurely, so if you’ve tried to mail me within the last few days, it probably bounced. Send mail to anything your fervid mind can come up with at, and I should get it. Claim an wonderchicken email namespace thingo now†! Supplies are limited, offer void where prohibited by law.
Pics and tangentially-related blather, coming soon. Stay tuned to this bat-channel.

†You know, or not.

Digital Revelation

My birthday present this year, back in early August, was meant to be a digital camera. I’d done my research and come to the conclusion that the best bang for the most minimal buck was the Canon Powershot A70.
Unfortunately, that was right around the time that I became unemployed again. This usually does not worry me in the least, but seeing as how I’m all adult and bewifed and all, we decided to defer the purchase of any non-necessary stuff until I got re-employed, which I recently have been.
Hooray for me, skyrockets in flight, doves are released into skies of deepest azure, the baby jesus laughs with glee, etcetera.
Point being, friends, that the camera was delivered yesterday, and it’s been well over a year since I’ve bought anything for myself other than food and beer, relentlessly frugal as I am and downright cheap as She Who Must Be Obeyed can be, and I’m like a kid with this thing.
Now I don’t know the first goddamn thing about Art and Photography and all that crap, I just want to use this amazing new technology to help me remember. As regular visitors to the ‘bottle may know, I’ve had me some Amazing Adventures, mostly lubricated with whatever chemical stimulant easily came to hand. The problem with that, unfortunately, is that in my dotage I have rapidly fading memories, and rapidly fading images in my brain of who I did, and how what and when I did what I did, never mind why. And very few pictures to help the stories emerge, when I’m in a story-telling mood.
From regret at this deplorable synaptic deficit, therefore, I’ve resolved and now have the technology to make images, on the fly and without expense, to document for myself my life. My Life. Starting now! Not unlike Matt’s new thang, or Shelley’s new photo projects and pursuits (and hopefully career), I guess, but more artless, naturally, and less public. I plan to share little things that I particularly like, but it can be assumed that they may not have anything like the significance for you out there, my friends, that they do for me. Me and my brainfarts.
I am interested in becoming more skilled at seeing, and at capturing images that approximate what I see, but that will come with time and practice, I hope. I have little of either thus far. In the meantime, though, what fun!
Here are a few for you out of the dozens I took today. I don’t know if they’re ‘good’ or not, and I don’t care. I like them and that’s all that matters at this point, and I’m thrilled with the effortless alacrity of it all. I hope you like them too, if only to help you get a better mental image of the place whose portrait I’ve been trying to paint with words alone.

Death and Bali, A Year Later

It’s been exactly a year since the bombing in Bali that killed my old friend Rick Gleason and 201 other people.
Is there a statute of limitations on mourning? Should there be? If we stop feeling that skip in the heartbeat and stab in the gut when we think of someone we loved who was killed, have we stopped caring? Should guilt then rush in? Should we try to leave behind our grief, and get on with it? What is left of the dead one, a year after they’ve gone, in the world? What do we learn from their lives, what can we learn? What have I learned?
A year on, I wish I could say confidently that I’ve consciously changed my life for the better after Rick’s death, taken the lessons his life and his sudden death taught me, plowed up some fertile ground. I wish that in the decisions I’ve made in the intervening twelve months, a reflection could be seen of some nebulous tribute to him, and the things we both believed about life. Maybe it’s there, and I can’t see it. When you’re too close to the mountain, you can’t see how high it really is.
I’ve lived my life with death all around me — not in the way that the billions of poor people on this planet do, perhaps, with family members dying slowly in the corner of the shack, or ripped apart under American bombs — but with frequent visits from the reaper, until he became a familiar presence in my life, neither feared nor hated. I have no fear of death, but I resent it, and the curtain it throws around our brief little lives.
My father died when I was about five years old, my younger brother, right in front of me, a few years later. Aunts and uncles, great- and otherwise, died with regularity through my teens, as did my dearly-loved maternal grandfather. The rest of my grandparents were gone by the time I was in my mid-twenties, and then my step-father, who’d married my mother not long after my father’s death 20 years before, also died. I have friends who never lost a family member or dear friend until their mid-thirties, for whom Rick’s death was a shock more singular, and I always wondered how they thought about death. Did they fear it? Do they hate it more now, or less? Do they put it from their minds, and go on with the humble daily things, keeping the stink of terror well hid?
Scars were left on me in the wake of those deaths in my young life, furrows and welts in my brain some of which are even now just working their way into the light. This is as it should be. My great and abiding love for the drink, moderated and benign as it has become in my later years, as much passed on genetically and nurtured environmentally as it may be, certainly has some roots there. My fear and loathing of the very idea of having children, absolutely. My carefully-chosen expatriate existence, yearning contrapuntally as I sometimes do for the deep, cold coniferous forests of my youth. The vigour with which I counter those who I perceive to be attacking me, yes. All of these and more. I have made my peace with the ghosts, made it many years ago, and carry my wounds with awareness and a quiet understanding that what happens is good by virtue of the sheer fact that it has happened, and that to claim otherwise and rail against our experience is to refuse life, and shrink from it. To say no, rather than yes.
But Rick’s death marked me, more than I could have expected. I still feel that weightless skip in my heartbeat, that stab in the gut, when I think of him. One year on, there are more questions than ever, about what my life is to mean to me, and what it has meant. About what is important, what is indispensable, and what is good. About how to reconcile a love for individuals with a deep, heart-squeezing loathing for humanity, and particularly for the sort of people that knocked down the World Trade Centre, that set the bomb in Bali, and that ordered the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. About the preachers and the haters, the ideologues and the god-fearers, the killers and the martyrs, and about how deeply stupid and damaged, greedy and afraid they must be.
And in the end, of course, I’m left with more questions, and I’m left with a rising knot of choking rage and resentment that I consciously push down, squeeze back, and try to transform into something useful, into words and actions that don’t feed the killer monkeys, that keep the bloody chaos at bay, and I’m not usually very successful.
I said this, about 18 months ago, long before my friend’s death :

To regard the death of those you know and love as a natural thing, to turn the painful experience of their loss into something that enriches and strengthens your own life (because, face it, they ain’t got one anymore) – that’s the mostly truly reverant eulogy and memorial one can make. Which is trite, perhaps, but people seem to forget it, again and again.

and I suppose I still believe it to be true.
But Rick’s murder marked me, more perhaps and nearer the surface than any death I’ve lived past since I was very young. I suppose I am a better man because of that mark. I would be a happier man, and one less uncertain and questing, if it had not happened. Would that Rick were still walking around in his loose-limbed way, falling in love at the drop of a hat, laughing and drinking and seeing. Would that he could share a drink with me tonight.
But that is not the way it happened, and I’m still not sure of how to live with that.