Sunday, July 31, 2005

Wine (Part II)

Not really wine this time; more of a combination of other intoxicants. New impressions from wonderful wonderful Toronto "scenes", whatever the fuck that's supposed to indicate. A corner? A particular club? A generalizable "I plan to die at the age of twenty-seven" ethic? Anyway, from our well-lit crumbling marble edifice fast-food joint to the cavernous bowels of the tavern it's all the same and all similarly generalizable. A preacher tried to save our souls and one man mercilessly mocked him. That's what we need more of: easily refutable alternatives to solidify our own "positions". Tonight's musical entertainment: guitar timbres that could only be described as "filthy"; walls of waveforms and their bvarious Fourier transformations acting pretty much like earwigs; impish phrases solidly thrashing along the ceiling beams carrying the weight of a thousand people; human meat thrashing and sweating; beards lifted in ecstasy; jeans shredded at the knees, at the edges polka-dotted in sweat; haze of actual drosophila scattering (an aside is in oerder to explain this one. You know how when you leave a banana open out for a day, you get huge globs of fruit flies, and then they scatter in this almost powder-like puff when you shake the banana in disgust? Well, that, but fruit flies equals body heat and banana equals the patina of hipster dress and bodily features/modifications. Loud droning, loud interference patterns. Everything about it was big: big gestures, huge buildups, only the hugest arms extended making the sign of the "rawk". At the bar, more intoxicants. I wondered who believed what. Minds begin to wander after the sixth song of captivity. I like to watch, not participate. I participate only insofar it informs my watching, so that I'll know what to look for. So it goes for moshing. I can notice the power-stances, the loose pacts among friends, the balance verticals and horizontals lined up, the lack of glasses and tearables. What would the preacher think of the inside? For a while, lead singer appears as some freedom-loving pagan, but sinks back to an ape looking for sex. Outside: cigarette clouds that momentarily look like the Indian subcontinent; free condoms and movie passes; hubbub overshadowed by exclamations of approval directed at the studios. I got movie passes. I'm being realistic. Wit wasn't working quickly enough. Accidentally rubbed past the pyramidal breasts of a potential love of my life; I had to remind myself that I believe in nothing. I needed the intoxicants. I can't run with these kids otherwise; too much enerrgy: hollering and beeping people, accidentally overturnign catatonic store shelves. At the fast food joint an old lady disapproved of our language (phrases like "so then I fucked his asshole"); I almost leaned in close and screamed "I don't have to explain to you the way I live!". But I do. The secret faery queen on my shoulder makes me fight God and fight the old lady, but also fight the moshers and the flailing locks of hair containing razor blades come to cut my marrow from my bones.

Consider: " was the Law of the Sea, they said. Civilization ends at the waterline. Beyond that, we all enter the food chain, and not always right at the top."

Friday, July 29, 2005


Sometimes, I'm the silly old man: voice droning on about some meaninglessly involved conceptual play, laughter but not concern crossing my features for fears of the eternal cliches, endless song choruses looping in my head when I should be focusing on social cognition. I fail to remember people's names because I consider them meaningless. (Sure, at one time they had meaning, but having someone try to understand or--worse even--live up to the demands of their name is an antiquated notion, like the State legislating morality or the sacredness of wedding vows.) So, here goes my attempt to cleanse my head of needless clutter and pierce through the veils over my eyes with a finely tempered and sharpened blade. Apologies to the friends that shared this moment. I know it's not a real hokku. Poetic forms have never been my strength. But it's hokku-esque, in intent if not in form:

Sunlight reflects on
The yellow ukulele
In the fruit market

It's the beginning of the end! He's begun to post poetry! Gods below, this can lead to no good.

Consider: "Where love rules, there is no will to power; and where power predominates, there love is lacking. The one is the shadow of the other."

Tuesday, July 26, 2005


I lost no time pointing out the sheer cliche-ness of the experience: the moonlight glinting off the waters of the lake in the night. But I suppose there is a reason cliches are cliches. Despite never being able to put those words to paper seriously again, one is still allowed to experience it and take something away. Here's what I got out of it:

Nietzche's Abyss was the first thought. How, when I am lying prone on my back looking at the surprisingly rich canopy of stars, am I to find "up"? Up and down don't exist. So am I just hanging on the bottom, hoping not to drop off into the endless nameless something below? How does it feel to know that past the top of my head, not a single solid object exists until the "end of the universe"? Dark waters have always terrified me as a child. Once, I put my hand into a tank whose bottom I could not see or feel. The revulsion I felt was physically very demanding on my body. That is what I thought of the lake at this time. You could see the curvature of the Earth, and with that seeing, the inquiring mind manages to circumscribe the largest immensity it has right to speak of. Now I know I don't always need alcohol to feel fucked up. I know altered mind-states produce an impression that is different, but not fundamentally different--whatever that means.

I know, I know. I'm really milking this in a sort of unwarranted way. Maybe I should spend a month writing nothing but hokkus. That'd fix me.

Cons-: "Part of the inhumanity of the computer is that, once it is competently programmed and working smoothly, it is completely honest."

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Bay window (Part III)

Nighttime in the neighbourhood. I want to give you an impression of the people that live here. As usual, that impression comes as a single image. I was walking down the street, when from across I heard a ruckus. It was a biker jurling strings of obsenities at an SUV driver. Poor little lady had no idea what to do. The biker was determined; since traffic was frustatingly stop-and-go, he managed to follow her for several blocks, shouting. The content of what he was saying will remain a mystery, but it points to an interesting ambiguity. Was he the environmentally conscious crusader, righeously bitching out this urban engine of greenhouse gas production, this engine of distant oil wars? Or was he just an asshole who could not afford a car shouting out his otherwise mute rage at "society"? Such is the character of this neigbourhood: we are comprised of idealists in minimalist livign conditions intermingled with assholes and burnouts in cheap housing. Sometimes this intermingling occurs within a single person. Are you cheap because you're on a budget or is it a front to hide the fat bank account which, in this neighbourhood, might as well be a bludgeon waiting to drop. I'm cheap. I don't pretend to have squared away my own reasons.

Additionally: festering garbage odours waft in through the window; soon the porch will be filled with the bassist, singer and guitarist of an up-and-coming (read: unknown) band. They will be talking, their conversation a curious mixture of the above-mentioned ambiguity.

Consider: "We've arranged a civilization in which most crucial elements profoundly depend on science and technology. We have also arranged things so that almost no one understands science and technology. This is a prescription for disaster. We might get away with it for awhile, but sooner or later this combustible mixture of ignorance and power is going to blow up in our faces."

Sunday, July 17, 2005


They say wine drunkenness can lift you over the rooftops. Who says that? It could, I don't know. All I know is that last night I lay my tired bones down on the street, flirting with homelessness, flirting with the sky above and the monolithic office towers to the side. Feasting my rods (photoreceptors) on their flashing lights, I was. Computers and adding machines rain down on my head. I shout at the vast stone of war but the drift of driving 4/4 beats from the block I left behind is more than my voice. The beat machine can strike more overtones, both above and below the average pitch of my voice (somewhere around G2 to C3, if that means anything to you). I smack my had into a bus shelter. Why do people's actions rarely mesh with their words? Yes, I am an unsuccessful, frustrated male. If I had my way, I'd rather discuss cognitive science outisde the nightclub than likc walls of sweat in searing 40 degree heat inside, where conversation is impossible and only the powerful but imprecise language of bodyu motion and desire matters. Nobody ever taught me that language. So, is that it? You speak the duckspeak of committment and then jack up the random encounters and the jealousies. Or is it part of your design, some grand God's-eye-view scheme? I didn't spend the night on the street. I smiled later. I would laugh again. And if only the rain were cold, I wouldhave spun in it. Who said AI was flawed? AI is the love of my cognitive life, my neocortex reaching out and touching the unbending metal. Sometimes rods get confused with phalluses and I have to put in a disambiguating word in parentheses. But there is no disambiguating parenthtical statement for that writing wall of sweat they call a good time.

Consider: "(1S-cis)-4-(3,4-dichlorophenyl)-1,2,3,4-tetrahydro-N-methyl-1-naphthalenamine hydrochloride."

Friday, July 15, 2005

Tales of the subway, part 1

I guess it comes down to how you feel about mundane events. Are they just little statistical inevitabilities which we should rightly pay little, if any, attention to? Or are each and every one of them instantiations of the common themes of all humanity which should be treated with equal, if not greater, respect in art and science? Your opinion on this matter will colour the following reading appropriately. Strange drama or not drama at all?

The following is taken from about ten minutes of commuting time. I tried to be the fly on the wall. I realize the names I give the characters are hopeless first-impression synopses. But what else is there? I originally wanted to call this "Lanky scrap metal collector--iPod hipster guy--Bracelet guy & surfer girl--"Allen Ginsberg"--Strategy man--"Ryuji Yamamoto"--Old grasping woman--Compsci grad student--Potential love of my life", but that is too unwieldy and a formatting nightmare. The one thing I regret is that there was little interaction between these characters, all ordinary people caught in a metal tube-induced still life. Anyway, enough preamble to what will probably be a short entry.

Lanky Scrap-metal Collector: looks like someone dredeged him up from a river. Some sort of shapeless clothes hiding a skeleton. Leathery face you try to imagine as your own and shudder inwardly. Baseball cap from some ancient roadside beer tent or steakhouse or diner grand opening or discounted baseball game. He ambled down the car and sat down directly next to the Potential Love of my Life, which irked her, but she did not let it show except through microexpressions. I'll get to her later. I never got up close to Lanky Scrap-Metal Collector to smell him, but I imagine he smelled of sardines. Old sardines. Dumpster sardines?

iPod Hipster Guy: they're not uncommon by a long shot. The iPods, I mean. This dude was the epitome of one tuning out: music blaring, sunglasses hiding the direction of his gaze (I was convinced he was staring at me the entire time). Rolled-up jeans and a skateboard acting as temporary footrest. I've always categorically refused to listen to portable music. It would ruin experiences such as these which, while I admit not very entertaining to read, stimulate something. He was immobile for the whole ride, off on a soma-vacation to which I can reasonably conclude involved crashing cymbals and the rising overtones of electric guitars. His novelty dogtags vibrated in happiness.

Bracelet Guy: jeans & t-shirt. Obviously, a bracelet. A touch of accent in his voice. Something eastern European, something melancholic. He has tattoos down the back of one arm. Cuneiform? Runes? I don't know. I bet he doesn't know either. But they are energizing symbols, so he chose well. I'll bet he knows art. (The italics here signify the peculiar combination of reverence and condescension that have to be thrown into the word: reverence for the concept "art", which the artist has dedicated life & limb to, and condescension to the layman to utter the Sacred Syllable.) He's an animated one. The type that draws the rest of the riders to eavesdrop on him. But I couldn't hear what he was so animatedly discussing with...

Surfer Girl: this was my first impression of her. The schema I have just induced in your mind, the vague but definitely present abstract superstructure of what it means to be a surfer girl, is wrong. In light of subsequent information I found out that: she likes tattoos (in keeping with the earlier schema) and she talekd abotu choreography as something she's studying/doing (which does not fit the schema and is major enough to throw it into disarray. This schema-shattering would probably have happened for every person I chose to profile if I heard them speak or followed them around, but we all have to make some assumptions to start off. And statistically they are valid. But I digress. She wore lots of bracelets: ankle bracelets, wrist bracelets of enough variety to make each general area around the carpals unique. Her bracelet virus probalby rubbed off on Bracelet Guy when they met, which I feel must have been fairly recently.

"Allen Ginsberg": the man practically rode his bike into the car. He then became fascinated with one of the "Poetry on the Way" signs. After finishing the poem (I think it was something to do with this), he began scrutinizing the rest of the ads, his facial expression radiating approval or disapproval. He had a beard, like the man he is named after. Scruffy clothes and a bicycle, like I mentioned. He was lacking the Uncle Sam hat or the academic glasses, but we shall forgive.

Strategy Man: reading a book. The title had something to do with strategy. He, like the iPod dude, was tuned out for the duration of our time together on Actual Earth. He sat close enough so that I could read the paragraph headings. But I desisted, imagining someone reading over my shoulder in the same way.

"Ryuji Yamamoto": as you might imagine, not his actual name. He has the shortest description: Japanese hepcat. He interfaced with his girlfriend. But he only stayed on for one stop, much like the hepcats in my life. And just when I was working up a proper interest level.

Old Grasping Woman: grasping her Metropass the entire time. Afraid: of vultures?, of students?, of terrorists?, of iPods, of bracelets?, of the heat wave?, of her children?, of the wrinkles on her face?, of her guttural breathing?, of the conductor?, of the tunnels?, of UV rays?, barbituates?, caffeine?, Alzheimer's?, varicose veins?, horrible accidents? Enough! There is enough to fear, but what makes me think I can understand the extend of the elderly human's fear? I can't. Not yet.

Comp(uter) Sci(ence) Grad(uate) Student: looked very milky-skinned (for a brown person) and delicate. Educated, obviously. The stare was intelligent and focused. But he was brown. I don't know how many wathced suspiciously, thinking: "he looks different from me, therefore he has a bomb in that backpack. He wants to destroy everything our liberal free educated peaceful kind loving peaceful free peaceful kind country has ever worked for, and replace it with his totalitarian fundamentalist woman-hating fundamentalist theocracy of fundamentalist woman-hating fundamentalism". None. It didn;t occurr ot me to write this until now. On that car, we were all just a little too busy with our own thoughts (even if those thoughts were non-self-directed) to listen to clean-cut officials who, while making a valid point, are one step cloest to authoritarian jackassness. If we die, we die. If we are mauled by shrapnel or paralyzed, so it goes.

The Potential Love of my Life: it's bullshit of course. In fading memory, she is looking more and more average, more and more like putty. But she had curls you could get lost in, tied up and suffocating. Pouting mouth delivering the stern "fuck you" to the wall, the floor, my wandering gaze, Lanky Scrap-metal Collector while appearing to remain motionless. I bet she's a mathematician or something schema-shattering like that. Her potential for sharing my life to the fullest is equal to the potential of all other people there. Except maybe for "Ryuji Yamamoto". I would have told those eyes anything. But he left so quickly.

Setting: Bloor-Danforth Line, early afternoon.

Consider: "...homosexuality in Russia is a crime and the punishment is seven years in prison, locked up with the other men. There is a three year waiting list.

Thursday, July 14, 2005


Sweat drops are concentrated little diamonds of discomfort, the physical discomfort becoming a seed crystal for all kinds of psychological discomfort. Such strange ideas emerge while working outiside in the sun. (For those who have not caught on, Canadians love to complain about the heat, something which the national character is utterly unprepared. Here ends the shameless nationalistic plug from someone who tries to respect his country while adamantly insisting on the breakdown of all borders. But please bear with this simplification.)

Escape from winter is part of our collective human memory. Winter: images of gathering around a hearth, bundling close with those close to one, hiding in a welcome enclosure, outside is a struggle, it is active and every moment you live in the cold is a small victory, there is only one defeat: death as it has come to millions who died of exposure. Cold steels the resolve, even if fruitless. Cold stokes the appetite, making food hearty and meaningful. It is hard, but in ways we can understand.

However, summer: endless bludgeoning, endless enclosures which may turn up the heat, (naturally, the air conditioner does not feature as an archetype, having been extant for a historical blink of an eye), escape from enclosures does not bring relief or struggle. The fight against heat is formless, enemyless, not at all suited for the quirks of human psychology. Summer is the death-pasture for the old. Summer is the erosive force.

There is a reason that so many literary works featuring private existential hells are set during heat waves. Camus' Etranger committed his murder in a haze. Gomez toasted endlessly to the fall of the Reich, ironically undoing himself as the streets of New York shimmered. Raskolnikov told us all how much he hated St. Petersburg in the summer. (And if Canadians find summer heat strange, imagine how much more the Russians must be puzzled.)

My apologies to all those whose lives are dictated by cycles of wet-dry, not cycles of hot-cold.

Consider: "...all that was great in the past was ridiculed, condemned, combatted, suppressed—only to emerge all the more powerfully, all the more triumphantly from the struggle."

Wednesday, July 06, 2005


I was struck this morning. [Note: this was first jotted down a few weeks ago. June 24, for the record,] I realize I'm always being struck, beginning many entries with something to that effect, reflecting on how amazing it is without getting into the specifics, or to the meat of the issue. Well, I doubt today will be a drastic change from that pattern; I have my style that changes only slowly toward some hoped-for approximation of The Good.

Today: I saw a bunch of people lining up for the streetcar in the subway. What was slighly unusual was that, at the height of rush hour, the line was at least twice as long as the room, so it was forced to bend and curl, sometimes almost iinto itself. Crowds coming off the trains poured through this line in several points, random passers-by squeezed where there were no holes. Yet the line persisted. New arrivals joined at their designated spot at the back.

So, what is so amazing? ...

[Note: after typing this sentence, I gave in. All evening, something had been haunting me: depression?, emptiness?, torpor?. I'm not tyring to be melodramatic. I have never been so close to a walking, joyless, energy-less pile of bones. It was some sort of sucking hole, to use a perfectly worn-through phrase. I don't remember what I did, in fact, find so amazing in the streetcar line, because I set myself on my bed, thinking about how miserable I was. A kind of passive registering of the tremors running through me, or the absence of tremors, or the absence of pleasure in my usual activities. Nothing had brought this on. It was most likely chemical in nature. The echo of the feeling-state of my body at that time is enough to provoke anxiety. I've talked it through, though. I hope it helps. It hasn't come back since. Sorry about the self-confession.]

Consider: "...the Here and Now."

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Mouse lemur

Indulge me for a moment, friends, for what follows is another little foray into pretentiousness. (Like: the little mouse lemur building rock burrows which lightning always topples--indirectly of course; like: that Yates poem which pretty much says the same thing; like: the Eels ("the elephant won't forget / what it's like inside his cage...")).

I've lost it: the little spark that comes with an outsider's persspective. I've written before about people watching. What I probably didn't mention was that it was one of the finest moments of my life to make up wild stories about the semi-wild people walking the intersection (the Russian chemist, the closeted gay hipster dating the closted fag-hag, the mountain man--actually, I probably did mention it). It probably attests to the lack of proper video games or hobbies or parties or sex in my life.

How do I write about the scenery when I have melted into it? (O! What a statement! How fucking melodramatic!) When I have become, with my hat and thick glasses and messenger bag, exactly the same as everyone else: one of the minor "characters", the "flavour" of this "hipster enclave"? When I have taken on the functional significance of the fire hydrant or awning over the untold little family-owned vegetable stores?

Of course, is the loss of the outside-in outweighed by the greater detail I can bring to bear? Maybe actually living the midnight drum circles by the light of torches in trash cans in the back-alley parkettes will spice up the routine of "look: a person; nay, a living force of nature; how I wish I were (s)he!".

Long Stolen Passage: "It has taken our species thousands of years of communication and investigation to begin to find the keys to our own identities. Our newfound capacity for long-distance knowledge gives us powers that dwarf those of all the rest of the life on Earth. It has been estimated that ten thousand years ago, the human population comprised a small fraction of 1% of the mass of vertebrate life on land; today, we, together with our livestock and pets, make up about 98% of that total. We exploit an ever increasing share of the planet’s resources, but we do offer something in return. Now, for the first time in its billions of years of history, our planet is protected by far-seeing sentinels, able to anticipate danger from the distant future—an asteroid on a collision course, or global warming—and devise schemes for doing something about it. The planet has finally grown its own nervous system: us. We are responsible for the future of life on the planet, in a way no other species could ever be."

Monday, July 04, 2005


Let's run a second from rage in all its forms, from irksomeness, from weariness and focus on games. Like the games of children. Not the stupid children, not the clumsy children that are more like automata than complex streamlined biological machines. But the children that have the capacity to soak up knowledge like sponges.

I wanted to write this entry because I noticed that Sudoku, which has been sweeping every newspaper leisure section, is similar to minesweeper. Not in the sense that they are both grids and involve numbers. They seem to resemble each other in some abstract superstructure, like a problem space or strategy space, something like that. I'm not a mathematician. If I were, I'd be able to better clarify what I mean to say. So I cannot communicate this without great effort. And if there's anyhting I run from, it's effort. But there is an abstract, profound something behind both these things, and maybe behind puzzles in general. They are my building blocks (building blocks: in the actual sense, not in the abstract sense). They are shapes you learn to manipulate until they become mundane, regularized, automatic. Of course, these shapes are inside our heads, and thus interest me greatly. I will never understand these shapes from an outside-in perspective. Our understanding of brains and matrices of neuronal activity is where our understanding of biology was about 400 years ago. But I assert that we will know the brain's activity from a relatively simple theoretical framework within the next while. Maybe the next century, or maybe two centuries, maximum. The silver snake that is understanding, so repugnant to some, is a versatile creature. No amount of "well, science is not the only way of knowing" will make it so; I think that there are definitely funner ways of knowing (astrology, transcendental meditation, ESP, religious visions, and other aspects of the sordid mess), but why do we think that nature is here to maximize our fun? But understanding is satisfying whether it's fun or not. And we've been pretty good at it. So, to wrap this up, it's not just Sudoku and minesweeper that are connected; they share something with our process of inquiry.

Consider: "If you hide your ignorance, no one will hit you and you'll never learn."