The Den of Ubiquity

Friday, May 31, 2002:

Let It Keep On Changing Hands

When I was in Calgary I started playing "Chip's Challenge" again from the beginning, because a lot of the early levels really were quite fun. But I recalled at some point it stopped being fun and started being hard. When was that? I wondered. Well, now I know. It is precisely at Level 87, "Cityblock". Before that point I could go through two or three levels a night, if I wanted to, and rarely had to consult the notes to complete a level. But now, two weeks later, I'm still having trouble with Level 89, "Block Buster". It requires what seems to be a feat of superhuman timing, and, what is more annoying, it requires you to get through half the level to get to that point. It drives me nuts. But I persevere, even though I know I can(since I have gotten further in the past)just skip forward to the next level any time I want. Why? Because now it's a matter of honour. I will complete this damned level or have to turn in my Guy card.

Right now I'm supposed to be at a bar helping my uncle celebrate his 50th birthday. Something more elaborate was supposed to be planned, but apparently nobody actually got around to doing the planning. My dad is in town, and called last night...he said he would call again today to give me more details, but true to form, did not do so. And neither Nicole and I are sure we can remember the name of the bar it was supposed to be in.

Quite frankly, I'm just as happy not to be there. I mean, it's not like I was there for any of my other uncle's 50th birthdays, or even my dad's, so I can't be accused of snubbing one person in particular. Admittedly, he lives closer to me than any of my other relatives, but still. Going to bar on a Friday that happens to be the last day of a month, too, when I would stereotypically expect more losers with money to be out getting drunk, also doesn't hold much appeal. Even if I knew which one. And it's entirely possible that some people that I don't like are going to be there.

Though it might be fun if I got to do karaoke, which is definitely on my list of things I would like to do again sometime. Once we can get a better selection, though my ideal selection would include "Shout" by Tears For Fears, "Greetings To The New Brunette" by Billy Bragg, and "Through The Barricades" by Spandau Ballet, three of my favourite songs to sing. Previously I've only gotten to do things like "Let It Be", "Blue Suede Shoes", and "Jessie's Girl"(which Nicole and I both screwed up because we didn't remember how the lyrics scanned).

I don't know if I've mentioned(perhaps in that old list of 100 facts), but I've never gotten drunk, or ever had more than three drinks at a time(if I've even managed that many). It's not on my list of things to do at all.

I'm just hoping that my dad doesn't call to find out where I am and get me to come out there.

I am a bit tired tonight, anyway. I haven't been doing too good on the dieting part of my desultory weight-loss scheme, so I thought I should try some exercise. My bicycle experiences last fall were pretty humiliating, so tonight I decided just to go for a walk. Nicole and Simon came with me for the first part; we went past the playground that is currently in the process of being renovated--new equipment was originally supposed to be installed this weekend, but apparently that's been moved back a couple of weeks. Then we went down into the Mill Creek Ravine.

Mill Creek at this point is pretty pitiful--only about ten feet wide, and couldn't be more than a few inches deep. It's part of where "Millwoods" gets its name, I imagine. There probably was a mill on it at some point, or so I've always figured. The ravine proper is about the only place where there's real "woods" in Millwoods, though, apart from the names given to some of the neighbourhoods. The bugs weren't too bad yet, but there were some, which is practically more than I've seen at all this spring.

We went a little way down the gravel path into the woods to where we could see the creek and a small bridge. Then Simon wanted to go back, so he and Nicole did so, and I went on. I wanted to get some real exercise, and with Simon you can't really walk enough to get your heart rate up very high, which I gather is half the point of exercising in the first place. I like the idea of getting my metabolism going faster so I can do a little bit of exercise and then veg out, secure in the knowledge that my body is burning off calories while I do so.

I actually got ahead of Nicole and Simon, too, even though I went deeper into the woods before finding a path that doubled back and up out of the ravine, and then walked across the park next to the playground. There was a man and boy(presumably his son, but who knows, eh?)flying a kite. That was a skill I never really mastered, but I suppose some day I'll have to let Simon try it or something. Maybe my dad knows how, or Nicole's dad.

My legs are a little bit sore right now, but that means that I accomplished something, right? Killed off a few billion muscle cells so they can be replaced by tougher ones, or however that works?

I'm getting to the point where I really want an exercise bike. I don't know if we have the space for it right now, but you know, it would be a piece of exercise equipment I could tolerate. I could build up my stamina for real riding again, and best of all not have to do it outside where I have to risk running into cars and inhaling bugs. Exercising without going outside--now that's my ideal. Of course I could just do pushups and situps, but frankly those bore me to tears.

I used to go into the Bear Creek ravine when I was in Grande Prairie. Bear Creek is practically a river, certainly much bigger than Mill Creek, and is probably the primary source of water for the city. They dam it up for a reservoir near the College.

It was when we moved to Cedarwood Park condominiums, after my parents got divorced and my mom sold the house, that I started exploring the ravine. That was the spring of 1985, also when I started discovering music, so the two are linked in my mind. I can picture coming back into the condo, turning on MuchMusic, and seeing the video for "Tokyo Rose" by Idle Eyes. At first I just went among the trees and on some small paths; in the spring there wasn't much undergrowth yet, so it was fairly easy. I found several patches of wild roses--at least I think that's what those incredibly prickly plants were--and learned to avoid them.

Once I went down there with my son of a guy my mom was dating. He was the one who gave my Duran Duran's "Rio" in exchange for the Twisted Sister album my grandmother misguidedly got me for my birthday. At one point he talked me into trying to cross the creek on a floating log, but we both got our pantlegs totally soaked in the attempt. And on the other side was mostly wild roses. He wanted to go back across, but I persevered and finally found a path to lead us back to civilization.

They had paved bike paths along the ravine, too, which I used to use as a kind of shortcut going to school. Well, really, going to Jeremy's house. Jeremy lived a block away from the high school, and from there it was a few blocks and then across the reservoir to get to the college when we went there. Back then I had great stamina and probably mildly impressive legs. I prided myself on being able to ride my back up some of the steeper hills on the bike paths without having to dismount and push, or even shift down. Heh. Those days are long past.

That was when I first started using a Walkman, I think. I would ride along listening to my music and singing along(see, I even had breath to sing while riding!), and only years later did it strike me how ludicrous I might have sounded. I was totally unself-conscious about it at the time, though.

Okay, enough nostalgia for now. I may have had a better body then, but I'm so much cleverer now.

I finished reading A Paradigm of Earth last night. It was an interesting book, but I don't know if I'm really the right reader for it. It evoked Ursula Le Guin at times, which I hope Candas would take as a compliment. The book was more about the healing of the main character than it was about her humanizing the tabula rasa the aliens had left for a few years to learn about earth, so in some ways the SF elements were almost peripheral to the story. As in, it seems to me that it could have been rewritten as a mainstream with only minor changes to the plot. It would be a different book, true, but not as much as if you rewrote, say, Hyperion as a mainstream.

Candas also did a lot of near-future extrapolation into, for instance, the systematic persecution of homosexuals, which I found sadly plausible. Though I wasn't quite sure of the precise date and whether it would fit into the Generations cycle or not.

Now I've started reading Technogenesis by Syne Mitchell, from the paperback racks at the library. Nicole and I both read her Murphy's Gambit a while ago, mostly as a result of having seen a review of it...on a sheet of paper photocopied from a book review magazine which also had a review of one of Nicole's, which was why we had it. So strictly because Luiken and Murphy were sufficiently close in the alphabet to go onto one page. I don't remember right now precisely what Murphy's Gambit was about, but it was a decent read, and this one is starting out promising.

Actually, I liked the first part of the book a lot, but now it's taking a turn I don't like as much. It's like the plot is moving faster than I'd hoped, and something I thought would run throughout the entire book has almost been resolved. And what's replaced it isn't quite as interesting yet. The conflict has dissipated somewhat, so some more better come along fast. Or I'll spend the weekend going back to my name list from A Game of Thrones.

CDs? Well, I haven't had as much due back to the library this week, so I've slacked off a little. I listened to Melissa Etheridge's "Skin" a few days ago, and it was okay. I've reached the point of diminishing returns with her, I think, where getting another album would be almost redundant. I've already got her first five. This one was better then "Breakdown", though, I think. It had a really great song, "The Different", which may be Melissa's best since "2001".

Right now I'm listening to Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds' "No More Shall We Part". I really, really liked his "Murder Ballads", which was delightfully morbid but still musical; I was not nearly as enamoured of the other ones I tried, "From Her To Eternity" and "The Boatman's Call". So far this album is so slow and dirgelike as to be almost monotonous, but it has its moments of intensity as well. I'm still undecided on it. It has a song called "Hallelujah" on it, but I was pleased to note that it was not another Leonard Cohen cover.*

Over the last week or so I was listening to a "P-R" tapecase, which is to say that it had a lot of Prince, a lot of REM, and a lot of The Pursuit of Happiness, among other things. A lot of stuff that I wasn't always sure I should be playing at work, in case Edna, in her office right next door, happens to hear some objectionable material. I have no idea what the repercussions of that would be, but probably nothing good. Oh, and also one Red Hot Chili Peppers album("Blood Sugar Sex Magik")and one Rheostatics("Whale Music"), both also containing some nasty stuff("Sir Psycho Sexy", anyone?).

Now I'm into a shelf of CDs(M-N-O). Today I had "Ting" by the Nits, which I just don't enjoy as much as some of their other work. "In The Dutch Mountains" was a great song, and "Da Da Da" had some great songs on it as well. But "Ting"...well, it's mostly a piano album, and without the energy that Ben Folds brings to it. Then an eponymous album by Nearly God, who is apparently really Tricky under another name. I first picked it up because Terry Hall is listed on several tracks, and I like him a lot from The Coloufield, though you'd barely notice him on this album. The best songs mostly feature Martine Topley Bird, whoever she is, especially "Black Coffee", which I swear features samples of the piano section from Elvis Costello's "Pills & Soap", even though that's not credited. It may be just a coincidence, but the similarity is uncanny. My copy of the CD, which I got from the library, is badly scratched, and even in my computer's CD drive tried to skip a couple of times. Either I should rip the MP3s off of it in case it gets any worse, or I should see if I can find one of those CD repair kits that's supposed to fix all that stuff. That and fix the jewel case so that it actually holds the CD in place; the "spindle" in the middle is barely there, either, and that can't help.

What else...Natalie Imbruglia's "Left of The Middle", which I still like a lot--have to check out her newer stuff sometime. Meryn Cadell's "6 Blocks", which I still haven't gotten into, except for the first track, "Slippery", mostly because my CD player always skips in the middle of it. Neil Finn's "Try Whistling This", which always sounds good, but I have trouble retaining the tracks from it. Well, when it comes right down to it I've probably only listened to it three or four times over as many years, as with most of my CDs. And Meredith Brooks' "Blurring The Edges", which wasn't as good as I remember, but then Dick and Edna were having an argument in the office right next door while I was listening to it, so it wasn't a congenial environment.

I wanted to talk about The Box for some reason; I was listening to the tapecase that had them in it a while ago. They're a Canadian band, actually a Québecois band singing in English, but still with a noticeable accent. I haven't heard anything from them for ten years, but they were fairly big in the late 80's.

The only song I really know from the first, self-titled album was "Must I Always Remember", which is a very arresting new-wave type song; I listened to the rest of the album once, just enough to satisfy myself that I wasn't missing anything else.

Their second album, "All The Time, All The Time, All The Time..." brought them to prominence mostly because of the arresting song and video for "L'Affaire Dumoutier(Say To Me)". It was actually mostly spoken in a clinical manner by Jean-Marc(the lead vocalist), with a repeating verse probably sung by Sass Jordan(who got her start singing with them)alternating with Jean-Marc's heartfelt refrain. It's a story of the murder of Elisabeth Dumoutier, by a fellow named Austin who turns out to be a multiple personality. On the album, too, it's bracketed by the tender song "For The First And Very Last" and the energetic "Evil In Me", which I only gradually realized form a trilogy. It casts a whole new light on the first song, about anticipating a first date, and I only tumbled to it because of the explicit use of the name "Austin" in one line. The rest of the album doesn't always measure up to it, but it's a decent listen.

Then came "Closer Together", when they really hit big, especially with the title track, featuring not only Sass Jordan, but also well-known Québecois chanteuse Martine St. Clair, who has a truly fabulous voice and could probably have been bigger than Celine if she had wanted an English music career, and "Ordinary People", a song that basically recapitulated(and even outright alluded to)Sting's "Russians". It also featured a few others that suffered from gratuitous overuse of spoken word, perhaps from the idea that that was what had made "L'Affaire Dumoutier" so effective; they ranged from the downright silly "Front Cover Lovers" to the moody "I'm Back". But the best song on the album was probably "Crying Out Loud For Love", a bittersweet song that showed Jean-Marc at his best.

Finally there was "The Pleasure & The Pain", which features the anthemic "Carry On" and the sultry and powerful "Temptation". But the rest of the album wasn't as distinguished. "Closer Together" had still been experimenting, but "The Pleasure & The Pain" felt a bit too much like those paths had been closed off. They were recording in England at the time, and perhaps that affected them. Anyway, like I said, I haven't heard anything of them since then. They might have gone on to big careers in French for all I know, or just retired to other careers.

I often wonder where people go after their music career fails. Some of them go on to other bands, or into session work(Mr. Mister, anyone?), but some must just go back to their day jobs or something. I seem to recall that the lead singer from The Waitresses("I Know What Boys Like")became an A&R person, so there may be other options as well...

Sometimes I wonder if I'd like to be in a band. Probably not; I can't think of too many(musical)people I could stand spending that much time with. Maybe my brother. I'd like to drum and/or sing, though I don't think I'd be much of a songwriter, at least not lyrics. And I don't have the first idea how to go about writing music, either. One day maybe I'll noodle around on the computer or on a synthesizer or something. But I don't expect it to come to very much.

Still, sometimes I like to think of alternate paths. I'd like a little simulator to say, what would my life have been like if I had done X? Or, how would my life have had to be different for X to have happened to me? Like becoming a movie star, for instance. If I could manipulate all the variables as necessary, would I still need to end up going down to Hollywood to make it? I mean, eventually, but would have to spend ten years like Joey Tribbiani before I get my big break? Maybe I could have played that geeky kid on Star Trek:TNG!* It's interesting, if impractical, to contemplate.

Well, I've rambled on for long enough tonight, let's do the countdown and then I can do something else:

486. Kate Bush: Lily

Practically the only redeeming feature of the otherwise lackluster "The Red Shoes"(and it's been nine years since we even got that)is this powerful song about seeking protection using the power of the angels. I like the melody and bassline to this one, and I confess that reading Katherine Kurtz's Deryni books made me fond of the invocation of the four archangels.

485. Bruce Cockburn: The Gift

I didn't like this song at all when I first got "Big Circumstance", but gradually it grew on me. The whole song is underlain with a continuous guitar loop, and Cockburn's lyrics, which have something to do with celebrating life, are clever and inspirational. It's the guitar loop I like best, though. (Not as frantic as, say, Susan Aglukark's "Hina Na Ho"--now that's some fast guitar playing.)

A large fawn jumped quickly over white zinc boxes.

Aaron // 10:10 p.m. Clix me!

Wednesday, May 29, 2002:

When You Feel You've Had Too Much

The Cult of Pain meeting was last night, and it lived up to its name a bit more this time, since I was one of the victims. Unfortunately the person who went first didn't like "Delta City" at all, though the last two said some really nice things about it. The consensus was that Alfvaen was too emotionally removed and either shouldn't be the main character at all, or should at least be affected somewhat by what was happening. And very few people picked up on the fact that while they might have been in early adolescence at the beginning of the story, that a few years passed in the middle. Yes, if they were thirteen they perhaps shouldn't be sexually active, should they?

Barb lives on the thirteenth floor of an apartment building on Saskatchewan Drive, which goes right along the top of the south side of the river valley. It made me realize that it's been a while since I've been that high in a building. I never went up in the Calgary Tower when I was taking the course--you probably had to pay for it, and the restaurants up there were doubtless way overpriced. My brother had an apartment on the tenth floor of The Palisades, on the north side of the river halfway down into the valley, but that was quite a while ago and he wasn't there for very long. No, I can't recall the last time I was that high off the ground(and still in a building).

Darren and Bohdana live about a block away, so we thought maybe they could babysit if they were back in Edmonton. We phoned on Monday(yes, that's us, procrastinators who give people little notice), but Bohdana said it would be okay. We went out to KFC for supper, Nicole not feeling like cooking, and then went over there. We tried to phone them on the way, but they weren't in; apparently they had just stepped out for some groceries. Darren said they were going to Montreal the next day, and needed a few things. He is also being kept on in Red Deer, which may mean that they will move down there completely; not sure about that.

Anyway, Simon had skipped his nap and then fallen asleep in the car again, so he was a bit quiet when we got to Darren's. When we went to leave, he almost had a fit, but Darren lured him away with a promise of a chess set, so all seemed fine. But it was not to be. We'd been at Barb's for about half an hour when the cell phone rang. Simon was crying and mostly incoherent, but he wanted Mommy and Daddy. So I went back over(glad it was only a block away)and brought him back to Barb's. He was mostly better by that point, but I guess we had just not given him enough time to settle in before we left him alone. And let's face it, not everyone shows up at the meeting by 7:00. In fact, most people don't. But somehow we feel we have to be there. Well, next time we'll know better.

And we have actually been bringing him to most of the last few meetings, though it means we either have to leave early or keep him up late. We would've put him to bed at 8:30 since he had that nap in the car, but it was closer to 10:30 before he fell asleep. We didn't even try to put him in his pajamas when we got home, to avoid waking him up.

Oh, yeah, I forgot about the Harry Potter slash. I forgot to write any; for the record, it would have involved Harry and Draco Malfoy. Kevin did an elaborate one involving Hermione and Professor McGonigal, watching the entire male student body at "Wand Practice". I'm glad that Simon didn't have any idea what he was talking about. Anyway, I confess that I can't really understand the whole "slash" phenomenon; must be a chick thing.

One thing I forgot to mention, when we were watching "The Whole Nine Yards", was the running joke about putting mayonnaise on hamburgers. Now I didn't realize this was actually predominantly a Canadian thing; I thought I'd arrived at the idea independently, through eliminating ketchup and relish and other potential burger condiments. It's just the only thing I like on my hamburger. But then, I just think that ketchup is vastly overrated.

And one thing I forgot to mention about "Panic Room" was that the guy selling the house at the beginning was the same actor as played Richard "Dick" Tremaine on Twin Peaks. I can't remember his name, even after just seeing that movie, either. He was a hoot, and livened up some of the sillier Twin Peaks second-season subplots considerably. And I will always remember him from the first episode of the abortive Lynch/Frost comedy "On The Air", swinging back and forth upside down doing the dog food commercial.

I was reading through my blogs tonight and at the ever-reliable
Zannah's /usr/bin/girl, she had an interesting link to a site called whatsbetter?. Basically, you are presented with two random images, and you have to choose which one is better. You are given no criteria on which to base this, so just whatever picture you like better or which one has better connotations or whatever you want. I was presented with choices like "Martha Stewart" vs. "Jay Leno" and "HAL 9000" vs. "Inigo Montoya", as well as some images I just didn't recognize. The hardest one, perhaps, was "Jar Jar Binks" vs. "Islamic Terrorists". I waffled on that one for a while until Nicole pointed out that Jar Jar is merely annoying, not life-threatening. It also tells you how that particular pair ranks, both together(if anyone has happened to compare them before)or separately. Apparently "Jar Jar Binks" has lost a few more comparisons than "Islamic Terrorists".

It also provides overall rankings, with "Osama Bin Laden", "Hitler", and "KKK" at the bottom, and "Christina Ricci Wet" and "Alyson Hennigan" at the top. Not sure how often they turn over, if ever. It seems that they have some kind of weighted ranking scheme, too.

But man, it's addictive. And not just because I want to see Christina Ricci wet.*

Running out of steam here, so on to the countdown:

488. They Might Be Giants: Dig My Grave

The opener of their album "Apollo 18", a noisy song with distorted vocals and maybe two verses, but somehow kinda catchy.

487. REM: Everybody Hurts

"Automatic For The People" is probably my favourite REM album for their most successful period. I like the coda of this song the most, when, I confess it, the big violins swoop in and in the video everyone starts getting out of their cars.

Kiss them for me; I may be delayed --Siouxsie & The Banshees

Aaron // 10:39 p.m. Clix me!

Monday, May 27, 2002:

It's All A Part of Being Relieved

Yes, I know I did an entry just yesterday, but the next Cult of Pain meeting is tomorrow night, as I keep forgetting, and last night's entry was a little bit short anyway, so I thought I'd do another quick one tonight while I put off critiquing Barb's story. Well, not really, but I just read it, and I like to take a little time between reading and critiquing. It's short, anyway. Nicole also has to critique "Delta City", too.

It's officially TV rerun season now, which means that sometime soon I should get off my butt and start looking at The Shadow And The Flame with a view to rewriting. I have no idea how to go about rewriting a novel, so I guess I'll be learning as I go. Heh.

It looks like Darren & Bohdana may be back in town for a little while, at least; they live near Barb's place, where the meeting is being held, so I called them up tonight and Bohdana said it should be okay to leave Simon over there. That'll be great, if so. I wonder if and when our D&D game will start up again...I can't remember whether or not some of the players may be out of the country or something. Well, some of them have moved out of the country, but Leo might just be visiting his wife & child in Austria. ...Darren's friends tend to be very international, when it comes right down to it.

But first, let me talk a little about "The Whole Nine Yards". I remember wanting to watch it when it first came out, because it had Matthew Perry and Bruce Willis in it, and say what you will, I like both those guys a lot. Now Matthew Perry didn't stretch his acting muscles much in this one, playing a very Chandler-like character, but then I like Chandler, and I recall Fran Drescher saying that when you start to get(back)into movies after TV, you should play characters close to your small-screen roles so your TV viewers won't be disappointed. The problem is always when to start branching out. Perry's already done this movie, "Three To Tango" and "Fools Rush In", so maybe it's time for him to get a little edgier or something.

Bruce Willis probably didn't stretch his muscles that much either, but this was a decent comedy turn for him. Better than "Blind Date", and arguably better than "Death Becomes Her". I was always a big "Hudson Hawk" fan, though I haven't watched it in a few years. Well, this is nowhere near that gonzo--he's pretty restrained here, or perhaps laid-back is a better word.

Rosanna Arquette, as Perry's wife, was trying much too hard to look like Sarah Michelle Gellar(who is a few years her junior, by this point--wasn't Rosanna playing a thirtyish housewife in "Desperately Seeking Susan" in 1985, and inspiring Toto a few years before that?), and I don't know if her French accent would have passed muster with real Montrealers. I'm not sure why the movie was set in Montreal, or if there was a good reason for it besides possibly making the movie cheaper to shoot. Arquette and her character's mother were the only ones who really had French accents, which is okay because Montreal is not completely Francophone by any stretch, but I know that French accents and Quebecois accents are probably as different as British and Australian. I'm betting there were a few Quebecois wincing if they heard this one.

Natasha Henstridge didn't win any Oscars either, but I have to say she may be the best actress to come out of Fort MacMurray, Alberta. If you're curious, an IMDB search reveals that Michael J. Fox, Rae Dawn Chong(and her brother Tommy), Jill Hennessy, Lisa Ryder(from "Andromeda"), and Catherine Mary Stewart were all born in Edmonton, and Erika Eleniak and Elisha Cuthbert in Calgary. I've left out a few people there, but suffice it to say that when it comes to film people, Edmonton has it all over Calgary. Oh, and of course Alex Zahara(from the new Babylon 5 series, which I hope to be able to watch someday)is from Grande Prairie.

What else? Well, there were a few plot holes--there was no real reason for that one guy to be a cop, and that's probably another place they made big research errors, though I could be wrong. Similarly...I don't know, but when they talked about the big 10 million dollar prize, it almost felt like in the second Austin Powers movie when Dr. Evil was going to hold someone hostage for a million dollars, only to be told that their front company already made more than that in a year. Maybe 10 million dollars is big money for people like us, but would it be for big-time gangsters? I guess I just don't know any more. Too many movies have confused me as to the real value of a megabuck.

Oh, and Amanda Peet as Perry's assistant, and contract killer wannabe, was a hoot. She stole most of the scenes she was in. I have to say that it makes me more willing to see "Saving Silverman"...

I finished Leaping To The Stars after the movie last night, and there should definitely be at least another book in the series because they're nowhere near the colony they were headed for. Good book in its own right, though I do wonder a little bit about the inclusion of evangelical religious types as unsympathetic characters. None of the main characters seem to be religious in any way, so the impression here is that religion is bad, and Gerrold doesn't care who knows he thinks so. While I can see his point, I wouldn't go as far as he does. But then, Gerrold has a few extreme claims which I don't necessarily agree with, either.

By the way, if anyone else is wondering, the Whitlaw who turns up briefly in Leaping To The Stars is in fact the same guy as a the Social Ethics teacher who shows up in flashbacks in A Matter For Men, another solid bit of evidence that this is taking place around the time of the Chtorr series. There was a toss-off reference in the first book, Jumping Off The Planet, to a girl who saw a big pink caterpillar in her back yard, but this cements it a bit more firmly in my mind. I didn't do an exhaustive search, but I do wonder if Whitlaw's fate was ever discussed in the Chtorr books. If not, there's a good reason why--he left the planet.

Now I've started Candas Jane Dorsey's A Paradigm of Earth, which as you may recall I bought from her and got signed last fall sometime. I meant to read it then, but I read her short story collection Vanilla instead, and then I didn't want to read her for a while. But now I'm back into it, and while the beginning was a little slow, luckily I was reading it at lunch at work where I had little to distract me from it, so I might have already made it into the interesting part, where the main character meets the aliens. Candas is also from Edmonton, and it looks like the book will be set there this time, which is always nice.

Now on to the countdown so I can critique Barb's story:

490. The Jam: Smithers-Jones

This is an excellent song from "Setting Sons", a bit of a change from some of the album because it's entirely backed by strings(real or synthesized). It's a sympathetic story of the title character, a quiet British businessman who comes in to work one day and gets laid off, none the less powerful for its subdued accompaniment.

489. Wazmo Nariz: Lips

Okay, I know absolutely nothing about this band, zilch, nothing at all. If I had to guess I'd say they were German or something, but I don't know. I got this song from a sampler, I think from IRS Records, I don't recall. Anyway, it's a great slice of new wave, with a compelling minor-key melody and a worldless singalong chorus.

You don't make order from order, you make order from chaos. --discord

Aaron // 10:22 p.m. Clix me!

Sunday, May 26, 2002:

A Train That Stops At Every Station

We did end up going to see "Panic Room" last night. Simon skipped his nap so we got to Sharna's promptly at 5:00, and we were probably all done supper by 6:00. So there was no problem making a 7:00 show.

I don't know if I've mentioned, but Sharna & Nick's house is not in the greatest neighbourhood in the world--it's close to the city centre and so full of old houses mostly in disrepair. I know they're intending to do some fixing up, but I don't know how much. I worry about the kind of people who might be living in that area, but I'm sure they'll be all right. The real "inner city" of Edmonton is further to the south of them, east of downtown, close to Chinatown. They've got steep narrow staircases, and a tiny main-floor bathroom. But this is the house they could afford to buy, even while Sharna was going to school, so now that she's back in Edmonton and working, they can afford to do a lot to it if they want to. Though they have sublet some of the others rooms, and still have at least one girl living there still, who we met briefly after supper.

Nick gave us a ride down to the Paramount, since it was reasonably close by but parking downtown on a Saturday night would not be straightforward. Edmonton doesn't have a real raging downtown night life, like some cities; Whyte Avenue tends to be much busier. People keep saying that they want people to spend time downtown, but it just doesn't happen.

The Paramount may have once been the largest theatre in Edmonton, and may still be, though some of the newer complexes may have larger ones. One of my earliest memories of Edmonton was staying in a hotel room across from the Paramount(there's no hotel there anymore--it might be A-Channel headquarters now)and seeing "Eyes of Laura Mars" on the marquee. If I cared to look it up, that could date the memory fairly reliably for me. It might have been the place I first saw "Return of The Jedi", too. I always remember it as having massive lineups, sometimes going down the block and around the corner. Nicole and I saw "The Fugitive" there, and they probably couldn't have fit that many people in there after us--to sit together, at least, we had to sit right against the back wall underneath the balcony. (I always find it amazing how thoroughly you can tune out the effects of bad seating while you're actually watching the movie.)

Last night, though, we showed up at 6:45, the box office had just opened, and there was nobody standing in front of the theatre, or even inside it, except for the staff. The kid at the box office was in a particular awkward stage of adolescence, I think, and had bad teeth to boot. I felt sorry for him. And I think that, at best, there may have been a dozen people in the entire theatre. For a Saturday night. "Panic Room" had already been out for at least a week, though, I suppose. Why wasn't there a newer movie in there, maybe one of those "Memorial Day" films? I imagine it probably didn't have the technology for "Attack of The Clones", but what about "Spider-Man"? It's really sad, to see the theatre so fallen. The seats were roomy, at least, but definitely getting old. The little loop that they always play in theatres before the movie these days was shortened or something--they didn't give the answer to the trivia question they posed, for instance, and only seemed to have about eight or ten frames. And when they played the previews, they were all vertically squashed, like they didn't have the proper lens to use for the projector to display them correctly. I was vastly relieved when the studio logo for the main feature showed up and looked like it was the right proportion. But the kids in the "Hey Arnold!" movie preview looked even less human than usual.

The credits for "Panic Room" were great, and I'd vote for them for "Best Credits" at any award show you care to name. It looked like they were all constructed about in letters twenty feet high and attached to buildings all over what I presume was New York. With today's computer technology, I can't tell if they were for real or not, but I don't consider it impossible either way. It was very striking.

As for the movie itself, it was pretty damn good. The beginning was a little bit slow, but it picked up as soon as Forest Whitaker showed up. There were a few annoying cinematography tricks, shots going through the handle of a coffeepot or the bars of a stair railing, that just made me think, "Show-off." And constantly, constantly, going through walls and ceilings. Which got less annoying as the movie went on and it actually became relevant what was in the middle of the wall, for instance. The plot was not too predictable, just enough that from time to time you could know that a particular object would be important later, and sure enough it was.

I could totally not have recognized Dwight Yoakam as Raoul if his name hadn't been so prominently featured in the credits, either. I have him in my head as that skinny guy in cowboy boots and hat, which may be fifteen years ago now, so he can be forgiven for having a receding hairline and putting on a few pounds. Great acting job, then, not just playing on his former pin-up boy status. Forest Whitaker was great too, though what was up with his eye? He had a perpetual squint on one side.

On the way home we took the LRT; the Paramount was a short walk away from the Bay LRT station, which my brother once described as being "inside a Christmas ornament". It's certainly very shiny. From there it was only three stops to the Stadium station, one stop earlier than the Colosseum I had always been used to, and then only a few blocks around the side of the Stadium to get to Sharna's place. Pleasant weather for a walk, too.

I finished Heartfire yesterday, and have since started Leaping To The Stars. I was sort of planning on reading another non-library book in between, because after rereading the Jinian trilogy I felt like I was falling behind on reading books that actually count against my "books read" total, and rereads and borrowed books don't count. (Unless I later acquire the borrowed books for myself, of course, but at the time they don't count, and sometimes I don't want to buy them later.) But then we picked up a few more library books on Saturday. Simon was sitting in front of one of their Kids' Stations having "Green Eggs & Ham" read to him, and they put some paperback racks right there, so I ended up grabbing Syne Mitchell's newest(Murphy's Gambit having been a fairly good read)and the sequel to K-PAX as well. Have to schedule those in somewhere, I guess.

I also grabbed half a dozen CDs at random off the racks, and had three holds waiting for me as well, so that'll give me something to listen to over the next few weeks. Some of the CDs I picked up were what looked like followup albums by potential one-hit wonders, like Eagle-Eye Cherry. I didn't think much of his first album, but I thought I'd try the second anyway. Sometimes I grab these things just because I want to enter them into my song title duplication list, though I usually manage to listen to them anyway.

Now going up to watch "The Whole Nine Yards", I do confess it(well, in another fifteen minutes, anyway), so here goes another installment of that crazy, wacky, zany, far outtasite countdown:

492. Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble: Couldn't Stand The Weather

No idea what album this is from--I don't have it. But I always loved the video for this song, and Stevie Ray may not have been clean at the time, but he could still rock out. 'Cause this was really more rock than blues, wasn't it?

491. Tom Cochrane & Red Rider: Big League

From the "Victory Day" album(the last one to co-credit Red Rider, I think, unless they did that live one with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra afterwards), this is the story of a boy trying to get out of his backwoods town by becoming a hockey star, only to get hit by a truck. Yeah, he makes it sound better than that, I promise, and I get shivers whenever I hear him sing "Ice meets metal".

Prufrock's Aphasia: the inability to speak for fear of being misinterpreted.

Aaron // 8:44 p.m. Clix me!

Friday, May 24, 2002:

Did I Win Or Did I Lose?

I check my sitemeter stats every night, because, like most people, I'm curious as to who stumbles upon my site, and why, and how many. I currently average 12 hits a day, though I was at 11 for a long time; usually more during the week and less on the weekend.

Last night, when I checked, there were 41! And today 24! Would you like to know what the source of all these extra hits was? It was people who, like me, watched the season finale of "The West Wing" on Wednesday and were trying to find out who was singing that version of "Hallelujah". Most of them probably didn't find the information they were looking for here. So let me see if I can help anyone who is still searching and decides to come back.

Leonard Cohen wrote a song called "Hallelujah" and recorded it on his album "Various Positions". It wasn't a particularly great version, actually. (Though that album does have the great song "Dance Me To The End of Love".) It has, though, been widely covered. And it's not what they played on "The West Wing".

John Cale did a version of "Hallelujah" which may have appeared on one of his albums, and certainly appeared on the more "alternative" Leonard Cohen tribute album, "I'm Your Fan". It was just him and his piano, and he did a stellar job, filling it with more emotion than Cohen himself could muster. This is my favourite version. It is also the version you will hear if you watch the movie "Shrek". And it's not what they played on "The West Wing".

If you get the soundtrack of the movie "Shrek", though, you will get the Rufus Wainwright version of "Hallelujah". I only heard it once, while listening to the soundtrack from the library, and I didn't like it as much. Other people's mileage has varied, so far be it from me to be the universal arbiter of taste. And it's not what they played on "The West Wing". At least, I don't think so, but I don't have it to compare.

On the less "alternative" Leonard Cohen tribute album(featuring people like Billy Joel and Elton John and Sting as opposed to REM and James and Nick Cave), "Tower of Song", Bono did a very weird "Zooropa"-style version of "Hallelujah" with a mixture of spoken vocals and "Lemon"-style falsetto over subdued synth background music. And it's not what they played on "The West Wing".

Finally--not necessarily in a chronological sense--there's the late Jeff Buckley, who recorded a version of "Hallelujah" on his album "Grace". I just listened to it, and I'm reasonably satisfied(though it has been a couple of days)that it is in fact the song that was played on "The West Wing".

Jeff Buckley was the son of Tim Buckley, a mildly successful and wildly experimental vocalist in the late 60's and early 70's, most famous perhaps for his "Song To The Siren", which was covered by This Mortal Coil and there ably sung by Elisabeth Fraser of the Cocteau Twins. I have his "Starsailor" album, which contains "Siren", and frankly I like TMC's version better. He died of a heroin overdose in 1975.

So as Tim's son, Jeff Buckley had a lot to live up to. I picked up "Grace" solely on the basis of good reviews(and because I was getting a whole bunch of free CDs for rejoining Columbia House at the time), and it hasn't particularly grown on me. It received a lot of acclaim, and Buckley was working on his followup album, "My Sweetheart The Drunk", when he drowned trying to swim in the Mississippi River in 1997. So a tragic family history there. And that's everything I know about Jeff Buckley, pretty much, and a lot of that I had to confirm at
The All-Music Guide.

So all you West Wing fans may now breathe a sigh of relief as your curiosity is satisfied. Now, in return, you should leave a comment, Clix me, sign my guestbook, or at least tell me who the hell sings that "It's what's inside that counts" song.

Not that much else going on, really. Oh, I did finally write up, HTMLify, and upload my Top & Bottom Books of 2001 list, for anyone that's interested. I was actually planning to watch "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" and then go to bed early, because I was so tired yesterday, but that was derailed. I went to catalogue the books we'd bought at Indigo a few days ago, and saw the bottop2001 file sitting there, so I did that as well.

Why didn't I watch "Whose Line?", you ask? Well, it's complicated. See, A-Channel plays movies in primetime most nights of the week, and last night they were playing "A Midsummer Night's Dream", the version with Kevin Kline and Michelle Pfeiffer and Stanley Tucci and all that. I wanted to watch it, but not particularly spend all Thursday evening on it, so I set it up to tape. Then we discovered that Channel 2, which would normally show "Whose Line?", was showing "CSI" reruns instead, though Channel 46(which is where CBS ends up going on our cable provider)was. Our TV is an older model(dating back to at least 1990), which doesn't go about Channel 36; if we want to watch anything higher than that, we have to use the VCR...but the VCR was already in use and committed to A-Channel(Channel 7).

Only later did it occur to us that we could have watched "Whose Line?", because we finally found the remote control for the other VCR. Yes, that's right! I thought I'd blogged about this before, but perhaps not; basically, we had lost the remote control for our VCR at some point, which proved to be extremely crucial to resetting the VCR to cable after a power failure. (It was a wedding present, so dates from around 1991...) So we bought another VCR, since we were time-shifting a lot of our shows at the time. We couldn't figure out where the old VCR's remote had gone to, though. It had disappeared around the time we built our United Furniture Warehouse entertainment centre, but it didn't seem to be in there, or under it, or anything. Or in the couch, or the loveseat, or under them, or anywhere we could find. It was a real puzzle, because, as George Carlin says, "Where is it?"

Then last week sometime I put my bookmark on the arm of the couch, and it fell down and beside the couch cushion. I tried to grab it, but it got pushed further in, underneath the arm of the couch. And when I stuck my hand in after it, guess what I found? Yes, that's right, the old remote control. It had gone into some secret storage compartment under the arm of the couch, which is barely noticeable from outside. Great place to hide...well, things you want to keep hidden from a casual search, I guess. Until someone's bookmark(or some other small object for people that don't frequently use bookmarks)slides down into it.

So anyway, we could have set up the other VCR to watch Channel 46, but it didn't occur to us until later. With our cable reduced to Basic level, we don't often watch above 36 anyway. But it would be nice to have a new TV sometimes, something a bit bigger perhaps. Not that our current one is particularly malfunctional or anything--it has never given us trouble that way. It's just the channel 36 thing, and the fact that I wouldn't mind us having an extra TV so I could try to drag one down to the basement(with the spare VCR)and watch "South Park". If we got the Comedy Network again, of course.

It's the weekend again, though since last weekend was long for Canadians and short(well, regular-length)for Americans, this one is short for Canadians and long for Americans. That's alright, because there was a short(four-day, not regular-length)week after the long weekend. That's always nice, to get both at once.

Tomorrow is Nicole's birthday, so feel free to send her email if you get the urge. Her email address you can probably find through the "N.M. Luiken" page on the sidebar; I won't post it here because so far she's remained free of spam, and I don't want to jinx it by posting it here. I'm not sure why it hasn't showed up on spam address CDs already, but I guess this one's so bad because I first had it like four or five years ago, even though I didn't have it for a year or two in the middle there. I get lots of Spanish spam, so it's even made it down to Mexico. So if you want to get in touch with me, for god's sake don't put "Viagra" or "debt reduction" in your subject line, or I just won't read it.

I use Outlook Express for email, mostly out of laziness, and I've grown reluctant to "handle" spam emails, selecting them with the mouse to drag them to the garbage folder or just "delete" them. So I hit upon a reasonably clean way to do this. I sent an email to myself, and generally keep it as the bottom message in my Inbox. It remains the current message while I download new messages; then I reply to it, and send myself another email, check the mail, and it comes in. Now I can select(using Shift-Click)the range of both messages, which contains all the junk mail inside it, without having to handle it myself. I Ctrl-Click to deselect any non-spam-looking messages(I confess that sometimes spam ones fool me, or at least make me curious enough to check and see if they're real), and the new one I just sent myself, and delete the rest. (I also keep all the text in my replies, indentation and old headers and everything, just because.)

But I was talking about Nicole's birthday.

I already got her her present, the Bujold book(and the Feintuch one too, since I would have bought that for her as well), so there won't be much to the festivities in that sense. Sharna & Nick are having us over for dinner, and will barbecue and bake cake and all that, so no problem there. I'm sure I can take a few extra shifts of Simon and Nicole will be happy. And then we will try to take in a movie in the evening while Auntie Sharna & Uncle Nick watch Simon.

Which movie, is the question. We're not sure we can make a 7:00-ish show, and a 9:00-ish show is getting a bit late to be keeping Simon out. And an annoying number of theatres persist in showing only those times. If we can make a 7:00 show(which depends on the timing of supper, which may depend on whether Simon has a nap or not, and how early if so), then we can go see "Panic Room" at the Paramount, which is a huge theatre, though it is downtown and presents some parking problems, especially on a Saturday night. Otherwise we're looking at either "Spider-Man" at 7:40, or possibly a cheap-theatre viewing of "The Time Machine" at 7:30. "Attack of the Clones" is too long, and most theatres have it at 6:45/10:00. Oh, well. I'm content to wait a while on that one; I have heard so many conflicting opinions of it. But I've mostly heard good things about "Spider-Man", and while I never read the comic faithfully, I know the gist of what goes on, I know who the Green Goblin and Mary Jane are. I know Aunt May, I know J. Jonah Jameson, and I can even name a few other characters if pressed. And I remember the cheesy animated one, too. ("Gotta think, Spidey!") So I'm looking forward to it, but Nicole would prefer "Panic Room" if she has a choice, and since it's her birthday she has final say.

Oh, and "The Whole Nine Yards" is on A-Channel on Sunday night, another movie I really want to see. Should I try to tape that one too, or watch it real-time, or what? We have an appalling tendency to never get around to watching the movies we tape. We have a copy of "November Sky" that my dad got for us for Christmas a couple of years ago by now, still unwatched, though we did make it through the others("The Runaway Bride" and "Patch Adams" that we hadn't seen--there are several more which we had seen and haven't rewatched). A few years ago we taped the Godfather movies with the intent of watching them(Nicole was working on a Mafia-related book at the time, too), but eventually we gave up and taped over them.

There are just not enough hours in a day, and even Ferra's solution wouldn't help that.

Still working my way through Heartfire, but the action has picked up slightly. I always get angry reading scenes like the one where Purity is talking to a witch-finder. This is where the whole "witch-hunt" thing comes from--there is nothing you can say that cannot be construed as either an admission of guilt, or a denial of it, which of course means you're guilty because a guilty person would deny their guilt, wouldn't they? People you just want to pound and pound with a shovel. I'm looking forward to Alvin Maker getting the best of that one, or one of his friends, at least.

Library CDs? Well, yesterday I listened to "End Is Forever" by the Ataris, mostly because I saw it on Wil Wheaton's website and hadn't heard of them before. I was not impressed. It's just a bunch of neo-punk crap, and while it may have interesting lyrics, I couldn't bear to have it turned up loud enough to be able to make them out. My tolerance for this stuff has gone way down. Today I listened to "Mass Romantic" by The New Pornographers, a sort of Vancouver-area indie supergroup. It was a bit uneven, because of its supergroupness, I think, but one or two songs were kind of neat. Not an album I would really want to add to my collection as a whole, though.

Now, to continue the countdown of my 750 favourite songs:

494. Cowboy Junkies: Murder, Tonight, In The Trailer Park

My friend Lorne, when I was in Grande Prairie working at Terranet(which was owned by his brother)lent me a bunch of Cowboy Junkies albums. I'd lost track of them after "The Caution Horses", but they had had like three or four others since then. I'm still not 100% sold on them, but this song stood out for me, perhaps because of its rhythm section being a bit more energetic than the usual languid Cowboy Junkies song. It's just what it says, a story of murder in a trailer park, though each verse shows how the murder touches, or doesn't touch, a different person related to it. A very effective bit of...well, not quite storytelling, but sketching a scene. I can't quite remember which album it's from, though, because I listened to them all so close together. I'll just check the All-Music Guide again...ah, it seems to be from "Black-Eyed Man".

493. Moxy Früvous: My Baby Loves A Bunch of Authors

I have two different versions of this song, the one from their self-titled demo tape, and the one from "Bargainville". The latter has some cleverer rhymes, that they obviously hadn't thought of yet for the demo tape, but the demo tape sounds a bit more spontaneous and less forced. (The contrast is not quite so marked as "King of Spain", which is practically lifeless on the album.) I like them both pretty much equally, to be honest. It's basically just a lightweight novelty song, but it's charming, and they do great harmony, coming from an a cappella background. And hey, songs about reading are few enough, even if they do concentrate a bit too much on "litrachoor", but then I'm a bit of an SF snob, so take that with as much salt as necessary.

I'm writing a novel; I've got the page numbers done...

Aaron // 10:04 p.m. Clix me!

Wednesday, May 22, 2002:

Don't Take Time To Wonder

Last night when I got home we couldn't think of anything that Nicole wanted to cook and we both wanted to eat, so we took the easy way out and decided to go out to a restaurant. That's one thing that's nice about having a decent amount of money in the bank, and coming in, is being able to just decide to do that. I overdosed on restaurants a bit in Calgary, but I guess I'm mostly recovered now.

We decided to go to the Cheesecake Cafe. We often go there, not necessarily for the desserts, but because they have a varied and diverse menu, many pages long, where you can always find something you want to eat. Nicole had made a trifle recipe on the weekend, which she had found in an issue of Canadian Living(which my mom got her a subscription to as a gift--is this too many digressions?), and it was very good, so we weren't even thinking of dessert. I'm supposedly on a sort of diet anyway. So we were going to just eat supper there, then come home for trifle.

There's two Cheesecake Cafes in Edmonton, apparently. One is on 170th Street on the west end, near West Edmonton Mall and where we used to live in Lessard. A bit far afield from Millwoods, but still doable in a fairly reasonable amount of time via Whitemud Drive. The other one, much closer to us, is on Calgary Trail and 51st Avenue. So we go up Gateway Boulevard(formerly named "Calgary Trail North", until some people decided that it was silly to call it that when it did not go to Calgary, so now the former "Calgary Trail South" is Calgary Trail--they're right next to each other, anyway), and turn on 51st Street.'s gone!

It was raining, so we didn't actually get out to take a close look, but there was a sign posted on the front of the building(which had the Cheesecake Cafe logo removed and "For Sale"-type signs in the windows)to the effect that this restaurant had closed sometime in early May, and the 170th Street one was still open. No clue as to what had happened. It's a complete puzzle, because it had always seemed busy enough when we were in there, which admittedly was only once every few months.

Anyway, we then had to find another place to eat. We eventually settled on The White Spot, which was between Calgary Trail and Gateway Boulevard("between Calgary Trails", we still say), as were a number of large stores and restaurants and things. The White Spot, if I have not written about it before, is a relatively recent import; we saw a number of them in Vancouver and its suburbs on our honeymoon ten years ago, but only in the last year or so have they started showing up here, and only recently did we actually end up visiting it. So we went to the White Spot, and I had some chicken quesadillas(which were not quite as yummy as the ones I had from Moxie's, probably a bit too much tomato, but they were still good). Nicole had some noodle dish with "edible chopsticks"--basically, chopstick-length sticks that reminded me most of long pretzels.

Then, Nicole talked me into going to Indigo, where she had put a copy of Diplomatic Immunity on hold. She had phoned around, and apparently several Chapters branches had ordered in some copies which they were already sold out of. I hate it when they underestimate the demand like that. This is why people turn to online stores, you know?

Indigo is a big-store bookstore like Chapters, and in fact they bought out Chapters a little while ago. Chapters had apparently had some kind of fiduciary mismanagement(I'm not 100% sure what that means, but I like the way it sounds--anyway, somebody goofed and they went belly-up). And Chapters was already a sort of merger of Coles and Smithbooks, so in effect Indigo owns all the chain bookstores in town, because that's pretty much all there is. There are still a few independents, but everything else is an Indigo subsidiary. Which is good in some ways, because now our old Coles "Avid Reader" card has become an "iRewards" card that is good at any of the various stores.

This particular Indigo is in South Edmonton Common, another big-store place(Wal-Mart, Home Depot, etc.)on the south end of Edmonton(go figure!). They have a big pricy Cineplex Odeon complex there which we often go to, and we had to dodge a lot of moviegoer or movieleaver traffic to get into the parking lot. For some reason the Indigo store has no carpeting in it, not sure why. We'd been there once before, just after it opened, took a brief look around, pronounced it "no better than Chapters", and hadn't been back since. Chapters and Indigo both have the same drawback, in our eyes--for a store that has increased its area severalfold, and its shelf space probably less than that but still considerably, the growth has generally occurred in areas we are not ourselves often concerned with--viz., non-fiction. The SF/fantasy sections(which are actually separate in Indigo, which is a bit disorienting at first)are more comprehensive than a mall bookstore like Coles, but they are not proportionately large to the store. Do people really read that much nonfiction? I like it once in a while, but not as a steady diet...

Anyway, they did have a few interesting books there, some that I hadn't seen before, but maybe just because different stores stock different things. I found The Singing Sword by Jack Whyte, sequel to The Skystone, finally--it seems like Coles has every book in the series but that one. I also found Jumping Off The Planet by David Gerrold in paperback, the first time I'd seen it; we heard about the book before it was released and requested it, and in turns its two sequels(Jumping Off The Stars, the third, is on my shelf as I type), but never saw them on the shelf in Coles. Maybe they were marketed as YA or something. There was also the third David Feintuch book, though we weren't sure if it was third for a while because the books, annoyingly, did none of them list the books in order. (Is this all-too-common practice an attempt by publishers to get people to buy more of a series than they intend to? Sometimes I wonder.) And, of course, Diplomatic Immunity.

So the evening wasn't a total blowout.

Then there was the "24" finale, with that unexpected twist at the end. The lack of real closure makes me think it more likely that the show will come back next year, and perhaps close to this year's in time. I remember them talking about doing something further back in time, like showing Jack rooting out the corrupt people and alienating a bunch of his colleagues because of it, but I think at this point it would work better if they pick it up not the next day(because all the characters will be sleeping all day, if they have any sense), but say a week or a month later. Jack and Kim will still be adjusting to their loss(pardon any spoilers, but if you cared enough you would have watched it already--my apologies to those who have it on tape waiting for the weekend or something), Nina will still be in custody, Palmer will still be campaigning, and maybe we'll see some more of Rick as well. If we go too far in the future, then we might end up after the presidential elections, so either Palmer will be President and we'll be running into "West Wing" territory, or he won't be any more. (If he ran for President and failed would he still be a Senator? Likely he'd have to resign his post either way, wouldn't he? Because all the elections go at the same time, and he couldn't run for Senator and President at once.) So yeah, we could see Sherry trying to sabotage David's career, the kids torn in the middle, and so on. Palmer's financial backers might still be trying to get to him, though without revealing themselves, of course. I think they left enough plot threads to make it work, and hopefully that's what will happen.

I've finished rereading Sheri S. Tepper's Jinian books. It's true that Jinian Footseer is by far the best of the lot, but the others are decent as well, and suffer mostly in not containing 100% pure Jinian but adulterating it with Peter and Queynt and other stuff. Somehow I pictured everything in my head differently this time--sort of the same way the Harry Potter movie had everything mirror-imaged from my mental picture of the book. I could still call up mental images from the last time I read Jinian Star-Eye, for instance, that didn't match what I had on this read. A weird experience.

One central issue of the series, which I imagine Tepper herself feels strongly about, is that of "soul", or "bao" as it's called in the book, perhaps to be a less loaded word. Basically, out of any given race, some of them are born with bao and some without. Those who lack it will never gain it, but some who have it will lose it. Those without bao are "soulless", or basically lacking in empathy and possibly sociopathic. In the books there are Midwives, who can sense whether a newborn child has bao and kill it if it does not. Needless to say, they are not very popular, and as a result a lot of baoless people are running around. Jinian eventually comes to realize that if someone does not have bao, then they will not learn from punishment, so the best thing to do it kill them quickly and painlessly.

Now what does this imply about our world? Similar issues have come up in others of her books, so I think I'm fairly justified in saying that Tepper would approve of swift euthanasia of sociopaths. And it is a tempting idea, but it is based on the certainty that they will not learn from punishment, that they cannot be rehabilitated. If we had a good way to tell for sure, if we had Midwives, then I'd say, go for it. But, sad to say, we do not, so it remains a risky idea.

Anyway, I've gone on to Heartfire by Orson Scott Card, but I'm having trouble getting into the mood for it. It may be a bit slow going. It's been a while since I read the other Alvin Maker books, and maybe I would have preferred something a bit more different in surface texture--something more modern or futuristic, in other words. Maybe there's just a Jinian afterimage on my mind that I will have to get rid of. Odd how it feels like more reading as a trilogy as opposed to one book.

I'm starting to get too many books on my to-be-read shelf. Maybe next month should be dealing with some of the hardcovers, though I did want to leave the next George R.R. Martin, A Storm of Swords, until July. But I've got Leaping To The Stars, Robert Ludlum's Bourne Ultimatum, Candas Jane Dorsey's A Paradigm of Earth, and Anne McCaffrey's Moreta: Dragonlady of Pern. Voyager by Diana Gabaldon isn't much help, being a paperback but still pretty damn thick. And I just keep thinking of more books to put on the shelf, too. Just tonight I was thinking I should grab the next Lois McMaster Bujold for me to read, probably Mirror Dance And I've wondered about that one since the 1994 Hugos, when I read all the other nominees but that one, and it won. I thought John Barnes' Mother of Storms was a great book, so I was a bit annoyed when this book I hadn't read won. But now I'm just curious to see if it's really that good. It has a lot to live up to...

I was listening to "The Best of Morrissey" on CD(another library pick), and I actually liked a lot of it. I never listened much to Morrissey, and I certainly don't think, like the writer of the liner notes, that he is second only to Shakespeare in importance as an English writer. But then you know my stance on lyrics vs. music. The Smiths were occasionally tuneful, but in general I can take them or leave them, and the same with Morrissey. But I hit a good cluster of songs on this album, and then a number of indifferent ones. "November Spawned A Monster" I'd always liked as a title, and the song was good too, and I also liked "Sing Your Life", "The Last of The Famous International Playboys", and "Disappointed". But I noticed that most of them are on early albums like "Bona Drag" and "Kill Uncle". And I already have "Suedehead", "The More You Ignore Me The Closer I Get", and "Now My Heart Is Full". So maybe I just need to listen to some more of his earlier albums.

Another library pick was "Astoria" by Sonicism, a six-song EP from what is apparently a local Edmonton band. They're not incredibly remarkable, I have to say, but they're interesting in a post-grunge way, somewhere between Garbage and Alice In Chains. The last song, "No Easy Way Out", is very good in a Jar-of-Flies subdued kind of way. They supposedly have a web site, but when I went there it was just a generic page, so they must not have kept it up, or something.

And then there's "Lizard" by King Crimson, the early art-rock King Crimson. I was pretty much unimpressed by that one--"side-long" suites are generally not better than single songs, and the one song I thought I might like, "Happy Family", I didn't. The lyrics, which are about the breakup of the Beatles, are interesting, but the music does everything it can to make them unintelligible and be generally unappealing in the meantime.

One of my own tapes that I was listening to today, "Outskirts" by Blue Rodeo(their first album), has one song called "Floating" which I almost like. And every time I start listening to it I think to myself that I must be misremembering how bad it gets. The beginning is quite nice, a subdued bass and guitar line, and it's mostly a mordant little Greg Keelor composition, but for some reason they decided to let Bobby Wiseman torture his organ to death, not once but twice, before the end of the song. If they took that out it might be one of my favourites of their songs, but as it is it's almost unlistenable.

I do in general like Greg Keelor's Blue Rodeo songs better than Jim Cuddy's. Cuddy has a more "country" voice, and so his songs end up sounding a little more country; Greg Keelor's is more nasal and less gifted, but he can use it to good effect. So it's a pity that Keelor's solo album "Gone" that I listened to was so dull. It was barely audible for most of it, sort of like latter-day Talk Talk or something. Was this the music he really wanted to make, and only the pressure from the rest of the band gave him the kind of decent musical support he had on songs like "Diamond Mine" and "Outskirts" and "Hasn't Hit Me Yet"? I wonder about people sometimes.

And now it's almost time for "The West Wing", last new TV of the season for me, so on with the counting-down process:

496. Happy Rhodes: Ecto

A fellow from the Internet was kind enough to send me a sampler of Happy Rhodes, along with several other female singers, at some point when I expressed curiosity. I had only heard the name, probably on Kate Bush fan newsgroup), and it sounded unlikely, but I was willing to give her a try. Well, she turned out to be very interesting, with a bizarre voice that could go between low tenor and tremulous alto, as if she had a falsetto. The higher voice sounded very like Kate Bush, but the lower was a thing to itself.

"Ecto" was my favourite of the songs on that sampler tape, from an album of the same name which I have never managed to acquire. I don't know if Aural Gratification still exists as a record label to order it from; I'm pretty sure that Rhodes no longer records with them. Anyway, this song basically discusses the possibility of afterlife as a ghost, in keeping with Rhodes' gothic topical inclination I've observed elsewhere, and also has a compelling bassline underneath it.

495. Carmel: It's All In The Game

This song, from the "She's Having A Baby" soundtrack, is pretty much on here for the harmonies which are wondrously beautiful. So if you like female harmony singing, you will probably like this song, otherwise you won't. The only other Carmel song I've heard wasn't much like this, so I don't know if this is representative or not. But ah, what a sweet song to leave as a legacy...

I'm drowning in a bowl of Cheerios --None of The Above, "Hamster In Your Hair"

Aaron // 9:50 p.m. Clix me!

Monday, May 20, 2002:

I Do Not Catch The Spark

It's been nice to have a long weekend, it really has. Yes, today is a holiday up here in Canada; we have Victoria Day the week before Americans have Memorial Day, apparently. It really annoys me when we get movie trailers that say "Memorial Day" on them. Do they think that we have nothing better to do than keep track of American holidays? Of course, they are printed on most of our calendars(and I'll bet none of yours have Victoria Day), but that's irrelevant. It's just another example of American cultural centrism and arrogance, or so it comes across. For the Canadian trailers, could they maybe put the actual date, to avoid annoying us?

I've been doing a lot of reading this weekend--I started To The Hilt by Dick Francis on Saturday, finished it Sunday morning, and then started and finished a reread of Jinian Footseer by Sheri S. Tepper this morning. It was so captivating--I love that book!--that I immediately went on to a reread of Dervish Daughter, the next in the series. It's not as good, but still not bad. This is almost unprecedented behaviour for me, by the way. I excuse it by saying that these days Sheri S. Tepper would probably have done the True Game series as three larger books, or even one(which would be humongous, rivaling To Green Angel Tower), instead of nine small books.

This is a great series, by the way, but then I may be thinking that because I just read my favourite book from it. Jinian is a marvelous character, resourceful and clever and generally level-headed, but never lacking in emotional depth. Probably Tepper's best-drawn character. And while there are lots of tantalizing questions raised and enigmatic clues given in the earlier books, they are peripheral to the plot until we got to the sixth book, The Search of Mavin Manyshaped, and only in the final three Jinian books do they become central. If she were writing it as a novel today, then, she might skip a lot of the first three Peter books and just concentrate on the central plot. Or take out the whole Flight of Mavin Manyshaped thing, which is only tangential to the overall plot, it seems to me. Is it better the way it is? It's hard to say.

I'm not sure if this is a better or worse reason to considering naming a child "Jinian". It's just over the border into unusual, I think, because it's not "Virginia" and it's not "Jillian" and it's not "Jennifer". But it has always been a strong contender. Maybe for a middle name. No, we still haven't decided that. Well, it should give us something to do if we have to wait for hours for Nicole to be induced again.

The rest of Sunday, in case you were wondering, I was working on a list of characters from George R.R. Martin's A Game of Thrones. Just like I was doing for Robert Jordan a while ago, though that has trailed off now that I've found much better and more comprehensive lists online; still, it did give an excuse to read through the books again. With the Martin books, I was impelled by having made a few rough estimates as to the proportion of characters introduced that were dead by the end of A Clash of Kings. I'm wavering between 1/3 and 1/2 right now, but I would like a confirmed number. Though there may be some characters who die but we just never see dead, some of the Stark men in King's Landing, for instance.

What is the total death toll in Robert Jordan, I wonder? Probably only a few dozen. It's a different kind of series, though. We are actually considering planning to buy Crossroads of Twilight(the next Jordan book)in hardcover. We managed to get in early on the waiting list at the library for Winter's Heart, but I don't know if we want to go to so much trouble again. Ditto for Harry Potter & The Order of The Phoenix. We can make an exception or two for books like this, in series where we are eagerly awaiting the next book, and so are thousands of others. For someone like Steven Brust, where there's less competition, we can wait for the library hardcover.

Oh, and now I want to make a list of names in Jinian Footseer, but mostly because they are such great names, a little bit silly-sounding sometimes(like Bartelmy, Joramal Trandle, Cat Candleshy, Murzemire...), but they had a good resonance to them.

Speaking of buying hardcovers... It's Nicole's birthday on Saturday, and she has specifically requested Diplomatic Immunity by Lois McMaster Bujold, which is apparently due out in hardcover in May. On Sunday it was raining when she and Simon were about to go to church, so she requested that I drop her off and then pick them up, because the parking is highly inadequate(the church will be moving sometime in the foreseeable future because of this issue). I thought this would be a perfect time to sneak off and buy the book. I'd already asked about it at Coles on Saturday, but they didn't even seem to have it on order.

I got to Chapters at about 10:30, at which point I discovered that it wasn't open until 11:00 on Sunday. Damn. Well, there's an A&B Sound across Calgary Trail, which was fairly nearby and not impossible to cross on foot, but it, too, wasn't open until 11:00. Nicole figured the church service would end at about 11:35. Well, with every Chapters there's a Starbucks, and that was open, so I went in there(probably for the first time), and ended up ordering a Caramel Apple Cider. It was a bit chilly outside, but the rain had slackened off, so I hadn't gotten too wet in my excursions. The cider was not too bad, so I now have an option if I ever go to a Starbucks. It was still only about 10:45 when I finished it, and I hadn't brought my current book(To The Hilt, at the time)because I thought Nicole would ask why I needed a book when I was supposedly going back home right away. I was at least past the climax and into the denouement, but I still wanted to finish it. But it was at home, and I was not. I got up because there were few tables and other people needed to sit down, and just waited until they finally opened up the metal curtain and let us into the store.

And the book was not there.

So I got home in time to finish reading To The Hilt and still get to the church on time. I eventually told Nicole about it, because, well, it wasn't a bit surprise what she was getting anyway. And I needed to tell somebody, you know? Otherwise of course I couldn't have posted it here until next weekend. I just hope it comes out in time for her birthday. Probably the day before or something, so we can make a birthday excursion to Chapters, perhaps.

I was trying to googlewhack yesterday, but Internet Explorer kept crashing. It was very annoying. Six or seven searches on google, then boom, down it went. I did get one that I thought would work, with "cheroot" and another word which escapes me, but it was a wordlist page and thus apparently ineligible. But "cheroot" is probably good word to start with.

I was also trying to find this song that I caught a snippet of on the radio, which they claim is from the 80's(because it was a "Mix 96 All-80's Long Weekend"), but I don't remember at all. It sounded like it should be called "It's What's Inside That Counts", or possibly "It Doesn't Matter", but neither name brought up much--well, actually, the second brought up too much, that just didn't sound right. Google brought up one page that looked like it had the lyrics, but it was a text file with no external links, and the root page was a bunch of Final Fantasy crap with built-in MIDIs(I hate those), so I was little the wiser. One offhand reference made it sound like it was from a beer commercial, which may be why it sounded vaguely familiar. If anyone has any info, let me know, because it's driving me mad.

Nicole just came downstairs and said that she had to close the windows(it was mildly warm this afternoon, and there was a lot of baking and cooking going on, so they were open most of the day)because it was getting so smoky. Yes, it's into forest fire season in sunny Alberta, which global warming and changing weather patterns is probably going to try to make into a grasslands or desert area rather than mixed forest. At least, that's what it's seemed like the last few years, with so little rain or snow coming down(well, we got a lot in April, but not enough, apparently). I'm not sure where the fire is, because information is maddeningly elusive, but it could be quite a ways away and still hit the city with a lot of smoke if the wind is right, as apparently it now is.

The smoke seems a bit sweeter-smelling than I generally remember wood smoke being, but I could be imagining it.

So we haven't managed to get out and see any movies for a little while--no "Spiderman", no "Attack of The Clones", no "Panic Room". We debated renting something this weekend, but I just decided that I wanted a little bit of extra time to fritter away instead.

What have I done? Mostly played Chip's Challenge and read books. Time well spent, though I keep thinking I should do some Lorenai stuff or play Sims instead. I even had a few stray writing thoughts, though I haven't acted on them.

Oh, damn. I just remembered I keep meaning to reformat the notebook I borrowed for the Calgary trip. Edna said there's a "recovery CD" I can use, since they're just planning to resell it anyway. So if anyone in the Edmonton area wants to buy a's pretty decent, 3G hard drive, Windows 98, and a 56K modem comes with it. Don't know processor speed, too lazy to check, but it's at least a Pentium...* Email me here and I'll pass it on.

And I forgot to renew some library CDs on Saturday, too. Well, that's only 50 cents each... I don't have many out right now; I haven't had time to browse the racks for a few weeks, and my request list seems mostly full of items with long waiting lists and items that just never seem to come back.

Time to wrap this up, with another installment of the countdown, now into the Top 500:

498. Indigo Girls: Prince of Darkness

It was my friend Marie who first got me into the Indigo Girls, sending me a copy of "Strange Fire" and generally talking them up. I picked up "Nomads--Indians--Saints", and then the self-titled album, whence this song comes. I probably got to like this song more from the live album "Back On The Bus, Y'All", though. It's got harmonies and interweaving vocal lines, which are both good things, excellent use of Amy and Emily's different vocal styles, and penetrating lyrics for the icing as well.

497. Gordon Lightfoot: Summertime Dream

Gordon Lightfoot has been around forever, it seems, though his musical glory days are long past. This is a perky song from the album of the same name, a bit more country/folk than rock, but it's a lot of fun.

I must have a rapier wit; everyone keeps parrying.

Aaron // 10:14 p.m. Clix me!

Saturday, May 18, 2002:

By Dropping Hot Wax Into Water

It's time for another round of the Blogger Insider. I was half-expecting an email to show up on the Monday I was in Calgary(which I wouldn't see until Saturday), but apparently things did not move quite so quickly, for which I am grateful. My co-participant this time, who is in for his first round, is Tom Johnson of

1. I notice you have an interest in finding new music, using the library as your source. When did you begin randomly picking out music like this, and why?

When I first started getting seriously interested in music, I was in high school and it was possible to get an FM simulcast of MuchMusic, the Canadian video channel, which I listened to(and taped from shamelessly)almost constantly. That was from 1985-1988. I fell out of touch for a year or two after I moved to Edmonton, and then got back into it again, the same deal. My usual rule was that if I heard two good songs, or one really great song, from an album, then I would buy it. It served me fairly well.

At some point after getting married(early 90's, then), I was watching MuchMusic less, and I started going to the public library on a regular basis. I spent several years in Edmonton before getting a library card, because I had so many books of my own. And it wasn't long before I discovered they had music there as well. It was mostly vinyl still at that point, with some tapes and CDs, so that was what I mostly took out. I worked my way through the "Rock/Pop" section alphabetically, with occasional forays into "Male/Female Vocalist", or "Instrumental", or "Soundtrack", or "Spoken Word/Comedy". I discovered Janis Ian and Nicolette Larson from random picking, as well as the Firesign Theatre, though I had heard of them before. Later they moved more into tapes(and CDs, but I still couldn't listen to those), and started stocking more of those, so I checked those out as well.

But on moving back from Grande Prairie in 1997, I was seriously into CDs, and we were within walking distance of the Lessard branch of the library, so I went over there frequently. I had big lists of people I wanted to look for, from the Billboard charts as well as some of the music guides I was starting to collect, but sometimes I would just walk in and pick things off the racks. The selection was generally more eclectic and less comprehensive than the main branch library I had been going to before, and after a while I had to wait for new things to come in, but I found some neat stuff there, too.

I am committed to finding, eventually, all the music that I like. I am getting quicker to dismiss something than I used to be, because I just can't keep up anymore, but I will try it at least once.

2. Do you have any unusual skills or abilities?

It's hard to say. I have a very good auditory memory, so that, for instance, if I listen to a song taped off MuchMusic and there's a tiny bit of the next song on the end of it, I can usually say what the next song was. I would probably clean up at "Name That Tune". When I'm in a play, then I will usually end up memorizing everyone else's lines(in my scenes, at least)at the same time I memorize mine, because the whole thing will get recorded in my brain. It fades, of course, but even two or three years after I could still recite large chunks of "Noises Off".

I like to flatter myself that I may, if I exposed myself to more languages, be a polyglot, able to learn any language throughout my life the way we all learn our native language(s) in childhood, but secretly I doubt it. Still, I think I'm better at it than some people. And the recent quiz on I Am Frequently Asked Questions showed that I am pretty good at recognizing foreign alphabets.

I'm also pretty good at math and logic and that stuff. Enough to get me to a B.Sc. in Physics, anyway.

No physical skills or abilities that I know of. I can snap my fingers, which my wife can't, but I can't roll my tongue, wiggle my ears, bend my fingertips forward, cross my eyes, blow bubbles in gum, or whistle with two fingers in my mouth. Let alone anything athletic.

3. You, like I, have a very wide-ranging interest in music. I'm curious what is the common element among all the music you love, what is the thing that hooks you?

There's so much music that I love that I don't think I could find one common element to join it all, but I can think of several.

A lot of them are rhythmic--I like things like a 3/3/2 beat over 8, or a 3/3/3/3/4 over 16. A well-done 5/4 or 7/4, like in "Solsbury Hill", is also good. I like a slow 2/2 beat with a faster rhythm over top of it. Or a couple of heavy beats out of a measure, like in Barenaked Ladies' "The Old Apartment" or the opening of Chantal Kreviazuk's "God Made Me". Even just syncopation is nice. A nice heavy intricate bassline can't hurt. I loved the trend in the late 90's to putting techno or hip-hop beats behind everything, like in Madonna's "Ray of Light", or(but this was much earlier)Sinéad O'Connor's version of "I Am Stretched On Your Grave".

I also like the intertwining of vocal lines, like in T'Pau's "Heart & Soul" or the end of the Eurythmics' "Put The Blame On Me". I like harmonies, like on The Bangles' "More Than Meets The Eye" or the chorus of "Fat Bottomed Girls". Minor-key melodies better than major-key.

Lyrics I also sometimes notice, though the music needs to be there first. But they can provide the icing on the cake, and let's face it, who doesn't like icing better than the rest of the cake anyway? But I won't eat chocolate cake even with cream cheese icing on it, because I don't like chocolate cake. (Strained enough metaphor for ya?)

4. What is the meaning of life?

To quote Bill & Ted, "Be excellent to each other!" I don't believe in teleology, so I don't believe there is an externally-imposed purpose to existence, so I figure that rather than be nihilistic and declare that everything is meaningless, you should give life its own meaning. Which is probably what most people do, if they're really honest about it. Maybe "the pursuit of happiness" is the best way to put it. Within societal bounds, of course--if what makes you happy is killing people and eating them, then you're in the wrong society. But apart from that, do what makes you happy.

This may be why I resent having to work, doing things that I'm mostly pretty good at but that I don't necessarily enjoy doing, when I'd rather be doing fun things.

5. You seem to be involved in writing quite a bit, with your involvement in writing workshops and all, but I don't see any mention of pursuing it as a career. Has the thought ever crossed your mind?

It hasn't done so that regularly, but with actually having completed the first draft of a novel last year, it has started to seep up again. I've known for a while that it is not possible right now to make a living as a short story writer--it may have been when Isaac Asimov and Robert Heinlein were starting out, but not now by any means, because magazine payment rates have barely risen since then, while the actual worth of a cent a word has dropped spectacularly over the last sixty years or so.

So novels are definitely the way to go. If you're writing science fiction, it does help to build up your following with short stories first, but with fantasy having a big long series may be the only requirement. So I keep thinking I should write a big long fantasy series, because I love reading them, and I've done that kind of writing before, so why not?

My personal dedication to writing is pathetic, though, so that would need to change somehow. I haven't done anything since I finished "Delta City" in mid-April, and even that was part of a spectacular burst of work. Maybe I should try doing writing in the time period soon to be vacated by "24" and "The West Wing".

6. What is your favorite condiment?

It's hard to pick just one! I don't like ketchup, though, never really have, so that's definitely not it. Other ones I like in specialized environments--I've gotten into mustard in recent years on ham or corned beef sandwiches, for instance. Mayonnaise is all I put on my hamburgers, and it's almost the best part of a KFC Big Crunch as well. Cheez Whiz is what goes on my hot dogs. I never really got into horseradish, and I've fallen out of using relish.

We are talking "condiments" not "spices", right? I'm fond of garlic, in moderation at least, and of course I like salt(which isn't even a spice, it's a seasoning). Pepper is only for turkey/chicken sandwiches(with mayonnaise, of course).

So on balance I'd have to say mayonnaise, but it's not universal by any means. Oh, does cream cheese count? Or cream cheese icing? Mmmm.

7. What got you involved in writing workshops?

The fateful ConText '89, the SF convention where I also met my wife. There was an ad there for an SF writing workshop at the Black Cat Guest Ranch near Hinton(which is near Jasper, so west of Edmonton and quite near, if not actually in, the Rockies). At the time I really couldn't afford it, but I went anyway, that fall, and met several other writers. One of them, Sharon Grant, started up a writing group that winter, and she started with the group who had been at Black Cat.

And that's the short version. The group, now mostly called The Cult of Pain, has been meeting regularly for over twelve years now, though I'm still not convinced they did much the two years Nicole and I were in Grande Prairie. I'd almost have to say that we're the backbone of the group, because we try very hard, by god, to make it to every meeting.

Why did I get involved in the first place? Well, it was good encouragement, and probably taught me a lot of stuff; my writing has, at the very least, improved since the story I brought to that first Black Cat workshop. (We went to a few others, before we decided that we weren't really getting that much more than we did from the group, and for free. Rocky Mountain landscape did not hold that much attraction for us.)

8. What are your pet peeves?

What, all of them? Well, the abysmal state of drivers today, who constantly speed and tailgate, change lanes rather than slow down to the speed limit, and then don't even signal most of the time. People who act like English is the One True Language and show no comprehension that other languages might be different. Favourite products that you buy regularly and then disappear off the shelves because apparently nobody else was. Hidden tracks on CDs that only come up after 14 minutes of silence in the last track(or, supposedly, on shuffle play). And don't get me started on shuffle play, until you can show me a CD player that will guarantee you to play every track once before it plays the next one. I never use it myself.

The current state of the software industry gripes my butt too, but that's more complex than a simple peeve, I think.

Oh, and people who use "phase" when they should use "faze", and "loose" when they mean "lose", and "breath" when they mean "breathe". Oddly enough, not every language misuse bothers me--I think that "data" and "media" have mostly lost their plural noun status, and have become "mass" nouns, like "mud" or "snow" or "water", an indefinable substance which can be divided down into a single constituent part, but it mostly encountered in greater quantity than that.

9. What is it about science fiction that attracts your attention?

Dunno, really. I've been reading it for a long time, and mostly interchangeably with fantasy, so I'd hazard a guess that it's a Sense of Wonder thing. My favourite SF(which I will use to mean Science Fiction, and not Speculative Fiction, my usual expansion, for the remainder of this response)books are often things like Dan Simmons' "Hyperion" series, or David Brin's Uplift series, where the happenings are of such epic scope, and the battles so intricately complex(or vice versa), that you can't help but feel a stirring somewhere within you when you read them. In that sense, what I like is the best of "space opera". But a good thrill-ride is good too.

I'm not against SF that makes you think...but it's nice if it makes you feel as well, and makes your pulse pound a time or two as well.

10. Assume that nothing else would change that was necessary: you will never have to worry about money, insurance, etc, for the rest of your life - what job/career/hobby/time-consuming thing would you choose?

I would be a list-maker, undoubtedly. I have myriad started and never-finished projects which basically boil down to that. I would accumulate data and organize it, so that I could tell you(eventually)if there was a set of six or more actrons who had all been in different movies together(matched pairwise), or what proportion of all musical bands were all-male(I hazard a guess that it's quite high). I would have(or work toward)a complete list which would tell you at a glance whether a given name was a real-world person, historical figure, geographical location, or fictional place or person, and where from. I would have a powerful computer that would keep all this data, and would be able to correlate it however you wished. It would also be able to run high-quality simulations of a number of real-world phenomena.

I would also try very hard to read everything worth reading and listen to everything worth listening to; if I had some time left over(you never mentioned my having an unlimited amount of time, unfortunately), I might try getting caught up on some of those worthwhile movies and TV shows people say are out there, but they're a much lower priority.

11. Can you pick out a favorite book? And why?

Can I? I can pick out several, depending on my mood. I don't have one single criterion for judging a book, so different books can make it to the top on different criteria. Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay, The Sun, The Moon & The Stars by Steven Brust, and Watership Down by Richard Adams have all made it up there, and there are others as well. Furthermore, there are a number of series which are deserving, in whole or in part, but which I couldn't really recommend on their own.

12. Do you force yourself to read through a whole book even if you've already decided you don't like it that much?

Often enough that I can probably remember every book I have stopped in the middle. Tidewater Tales by John Barth and The Moon's Fire-Eating Daughter by John Myers Myers leap immediately to mind, at least. Oh, and Zane Grey's The Spirit of The Border. That's three out of how many? About a hundred a year, so let's say a thousand.

It takes me a lot to admit I really don't like a book. My rule of thumb is that if I haven't made it halfway through after a week, and it's not a Les Miséreables-sized epic, I'm not interested in finishing it. These days, my reading schedule is arranged so that I am more willing to assign myself books to read that I know I will enjoy more. Other books I will read dutifully, and usually not actually dislike reading them, but still find them slower going than the easier reads I indulge myself with.

13. Favorite 750 songs?! How did this begin? And how can you remember enough individual songs to be able to rank them?

It began because on some other blog site(I don't even remember which one, now)they were doing some kind of a song countdown as well, and I thought it would be a good idea. I have been making up tapes of my favourite songs for a few years now, and since I got my car tape deck have been playing them there almost exclusively. It takes me a few weeks to go through them all by this point, since I have about forty of them made up(and in some ways I'm getting a bit more generous in my selection criteria by this point), but they cycle through fairly regularly. And don't forget that auditory memory I have, which makes it fairly easy to play at least a snippet of many songs in my collection on request. This is why I've been putting "Song In My Head" into my tagline for several years now. (I do still have to update it manually, though, which is annoying in those rare cases when I can't figure out what song it actually is...)

14. What album or band have you discovered through your library borrowing that you might not have otherwise cared about *and* which has proven to be an important part of your life?

Hmmm. Well, I didn't even like it much on first listen, but The Jam's "Setting Sons" has grown on me through repeated listens and contributed several songs to the list of favourites. An important part of my life? That's a bit tricker. That would imply something that made it at least into my favourite 100 albums, which has been a fairly static list in recent years, penetrated only by the likes of the Barenaked Ladies and Alanis Morissette, both of which I heard of through more normal means. I will have to abandon the top of my head and do more focused research.

Ah, of course. Godley & Creme's "Ismism". I had heard their "History Mix Volume 1"(with the song "Golden Boy", a strong contender for the #1 spot on my song countdown), and "Goodbye Blue Sky", and a few other oddments, but until I picked that one up from the library(and listened to it a few times)I still thought of them as a bit uneven. I still do, actually, but "Ismism" proved they could produce phenomenal music for an entire album. It led me to search out others of their back catalogue eventually, and acquired them on eBay. That even led me, indirectly(through the bizarre absence of the song "Freeze Frame" from the eponymous album), to Napster and the MP3 revolution.

Other phenomenal albums/artists I discovered through the library would include Danielle Dax's "Dark Adapted Eye", Loudon Wainwright III(well, I'd seen his video for "This Song Don't Have A Video", but remembered little besides his name and his quirky sense of humour, immediately evident), Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds' "Murder Ballads"(again I had heard of them, and his song on the "Until The End of The World Soundtrack", but wasn't expecting what I found), Ween, and Jenifer Smith's "Code Mesa". Those are just ones whom I had(with one or two exceptions)never heard of before trying them off the shelves. And this is just looking at my actual collection; there may be a few others that I haven't bought yet. And if you added the ones where I only knew the name of the band before I went in, there would be a few more as well.

On the whole it's pretty Sturgeoned--that is, 90% of it is crap.

15. "I could care less" or "I couldn't care less." Which do you say?

Frankly, I could care less.

We're going to try to barbecue tonight, so I will have to cut this short and do more counting down, through the fateful 500 and onward and upward!

500. MC 900 Ft. Jesus With DJ Zero: Too Bad

MC 900 Ft. Jesus is really quite weird; on his first album, with DJ Zero(whoever that might be), "Hell With The Lid Off", he had a lot of nasally narration over trip-hop/techno kind of music. This one features vocals mixed fairly well down under the music, a propulsive techno beat, but if you listen to them it's a pretty nasty story of a psychotic stalker. But it's appealing, in a morbid sort of way--and didn't I just say I liked Nick Cave's "Murder Ballads"?

499. Suzanne Vega: Predictions

The first song I heard from "Days of Open Hand" was "Book of Dreams", which was, and still is, a total suckfest. I loved Vega's first album, but was discouraged by some weak songs on "Solitude Standing", so I gave this one a miss entirely. Until "Blood Makes Noise" came out, and "99.9 F", and I got interested again. Then I heard this song, and I was sold.

It's really just a list of ways people have tried to prophesy in the past, some of which are quite bizarre, but it's fascinating, and the musical backing is assured as she dispassionately recites the bizarre list, and then concludes, "One of these things will tell us something."

The devil damn thee black, thou cream-faced loon!

Aaron // 5:19 p.m. Clix me!

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