Thursday, June 30, 2005

Rob Williams’ Musings - Good News?

So last week i got an email from my agent who had finished my story collection.

if you're just tuning in, or if you forgot, I sent my short story collection to my agent the first week of June. This is an agent i've had for a few years. She signed me when I was still in grad school and has been very patient with me while I worked on my collection, often e-mailing me to ask how it was going, to offer encouragement, little reminders that she was eager to read more when i was ready. She also read stories periodically as I finished them, and offered advice, feedback.

She even sent a few stories out to some of the bigwigs: New Yorker, Harpers. We did receive an amazingly encouraging letter from the New Yorker, saying that the submitted story wasn't right for them at the time, but asking for more.

She's been great, waiting waiting waiting while I wrote. She was one of the first to suggest that I strengthen the ties and connections between the stories-- to make them more interconnected; increase the crossover of characters and plots.

Finally, at the end of May I realized I should just send what I have and see what she has to say. Plus, Ted said he wouldn't marry me until I sent my manuscript to my agent. So, with the fear of being an old maid with a cat for the rest of my life I sent it off to the agent.

This is an excerpt of her email sent to me last week after she finished reading the collection:

I love the writing but the collection as a whole seems like it wants to be a novel (maybe a young adult coming of age novel??).  I say this because most of the main characters in the various stories seem like the same character.

Soooo. Shit. She found me out. All this time I've been posing as a short story writer when I'm really a novelist. Sigh.

You know, I've heard this comment before--that many of the stories either sound like the same boy (his voice) or that the voice is similar enough in each story that it stands out.  But for some reason I've been denying that it could be the same character.

Why denying? I dunno. Maybe I've been afraid of writing a novel. It just seemed like too big a task. Too big of a commitment.  I was comfortable writing my little stories. But the other thing is-- I also have trouble wrapping up stories. My endings are sometimes awkward, or ambiguous, or unresolved... like the chapters in a novel... perhaps?

Also, I think that i've been worried that if I write just about one character--a 15 year-old boy in southern California--that folks will think it's really me I'm writing about. Or that this is a memoir in disguise (a la Running With Scissors). Which it isn't. I mean, yes, there are parts of this character that are parts of me, but as a whole it's not the story of my life. I'm not really ready to tell that story. That's why I wanted this to be about a bunch of different boys; each one with a different life, a different quirk, different family. Or so I thought. But apparently no matter how many brothers and sisters I added or subtracted, no matter that I changed the names of the boys, no matter that one was a movie buff, one was a soccer player, one was a theatre geek, one was a veterinarian wannabe... they all have the same voice.

The email also said the collection...


(Which, I think she meant to say The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime)

And then,

the thumbnail sketch for the novel looked promising indeed...

(which made me feel better)

So I made an appointment to meet with the agent and then spent a week tossing and turning at night, obsessing over the agent’s email during the day, reading it over and over, looking at my collection, wondering if I could do it-- turn the collection into a novel. and wondering --should I do it? How difficult will this be? Will this sell better? Will editors/publishers find it more appealing? Is this really what I should have been doing all along? Have I been kidding myself (and thus wasting a ton of writing time)? Why did I ignore all of the signs and advice from friends, readers, the agent, about the strong similarities in the voices?

Needless to say, I was a bit cranky and nervous the whole week.

To be continued...
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Mike’s Musings: Relative Humidity

I've never needed a cold can of beer so badly.

I hate to be the type to complain about weather, but cripes man, it's stickier than a mousetrap covered in tree sap.

Muggier than... a .. guy getting mugged.

It's humid.
and I am Count Sweat'n'stein.

The walk from mid-Quinpool to Smith St. is not a long one, but between the tepid, vaporous air, the exceptional dryness of the inside of my mouth and the fact that my clothes felt like microwaved cling-wrap, it was an ordeal.
Around the halfway home point I could feel a small rock lodged in the grippy pattern on the underside of my sneaker.

When I tried to jostle it free I realized there was something else on the bottom of my sneaker.
Something squishy that was now smeared on my right hand.
Too uncomfortable to confirm what it was, I brushed it off on my jeans, assuming it was gum or a dropped piece of food.

A block or so later, when scratching my nose, I realized it was dog shit.
Most non-triumphant.

I thought to myself, I hope this isn't one of those nights where I randomly bump into a mysterious stranger, or an old friend, or my future self having travelled back through time to give me an important message, because this menagerie of unpleasant odours radiating furiously from my body is repulsive.

I needed beer now more than ever.
More than that time I was at that bar.
And home was still six, seven minutes away.

When I reached the unusually quiet Robie St./Spring Garden Road intersection, I stopped.
There I was.
At the crossroads.
Waiting for the Devil to appear.
My soul for an icy can of imported beer?
Hell yeah. Take my watch too.
I waited, but he never showed.

He probably doesn't like the smell of dog shit either.

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Tuesday, June 28, 2005

San Diego's hottest brunch spot? Cafe 222. By: Becks & Posh

Here is a picture of the line of people waiting to eat brunch af San Diego's hottest brunch spot, Cafe 222, as well as my order of pancakes.

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Reservations are not possible and the wait for a table is well over an hour. We investigated to see if the hype surrounding this popular Cafe is to be believed.

Cafe 222, opened in 1991 by Terryl Garve has won several gold medallion awards for Best breakfast.
We are finally seated inside, although we would have preferred a sunny sidewalk table. The decor displays some cute quirky touches that bring a smile to my face.

I ask for a bowl of fruit. Sorry, they tell me, we don't have any left. This strikes me as slightly peculiar since I am seated opposite a glass cabinet packed with fresh oranges, melons and bananas.

The cup of Earl Grey tea I ordered arrives. It's served with a bag in a glass mug. Nothing so refined as a teapot can be found here. Once it has cooled down enough for me to taste it, I am perplexed yet again. It doesn't display the slightest hint of bergamot. Thinking that maybe they made a mistake and gave me the wrong tea, I ask for a replacement. This time my server brings me the box to show me. The tea is awful. Hmmm. I wonder how come, if Cafe 222 allegedly serves the best breakfast in San Diego, they can't even source an Earl Grey tea that tastes like Earl Grey should?

Normally an Eggs benedict kind of girl, on this occasion I am foolishly tempted by the sweet sound of the orange pecan pancakes instead. A stack of three arrive at the table. They are just ok. For me, one would have been enough, particularly as the overpowering flavour is cinnamon, a fact not cited on the menu and a spice I don't particularly care for. Although I can see they have use flecks of rind in the batter, I can't actually taste any orange flavour, unless that little quarter slice of fruit on the edge of the plate is supposed to be it. You would think that the best breakfast place in town might include real maple syrup as a matter of fact. But no. You have to pay extra if you want the real stuff.

Fred asks for some sparkling water but they don't have that either so he goes without a drink. His order of scrambled eggs with toast and griddle potatoes is perfectly competent. The potatoes are good and crispy. But after a 90 minute wait he had expected an experience that was perhaps a little more memorable.

Cafe 222's Pumpkin Waffles were featured in Gourmet magazine, a fact that appears to have intensified its popularity. Me? I am just not buying it. It is nothing more than an adequate little breakfast place that doesn't quite live up to its grand reputation.

The Architecture of Arthur Erickson: By Lezah

Arthur Erickson recently submitted a proposal to the City of Vancouver for the design of what looks to be an absolutely exquisite building. If approved, it will be the second tallest building in the city, and boasts a unique three-sided twist. The structure will be built on a series of parabolas, each which rotates slightly, creating the appearance of movement.

Erickson himself was originally inspired to become an architect by the work of Frank Lloyd Wright, and was then discouraged from going into the field by leading modernist architect at the time, Richard Neutra. Fortunately, he ignored Neutra's advice.

Erickson has been described as Canada's most imaginative and articulate architect, and is currently one of Canada's best known architects. His work can be seen and has been recognized internationally.

However, maybe more important than the recognition for his international work are the changes he has brought to the face of Vancouver. An integral corridor in Vancouver's downtown core is the two-block Robson Square Courthouse Complex, which involved the melding of the pre-existing Art Gallery ( the former courthouse) with the new Courthouse Complex. With what could easily have become a jarring clash of styles, Erickson managed to fuse the complex into a pleasing community space: gardens and waterfalls camouflage the law courts and offices close to the road, and then the structure rises to an airy glass courthouse. A pedestal pathway leads the public underneath Robson Street to the ice arena, which is, unfortunately, no longer in operation.

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There are many other notable Erickson buildings in and around Vancouver proper. Erickson has stated that "the building isn't as important as the relationship between the building and the site", and this is certainly true in the case of both Simon Fraser University and UBC's Museum of Anthropology. Simon Fraser University was a competition that Erickson's firm won - it's what first 'put them on the map', so to speak, gaining them international recognition and making the front cover of many architectural magazines at the time. Set on top of Burnaby Mountain, SFU echoes the plateaus and multi-levels found in the surrounding landscape. Likewise, UBC's Museum of Anthropology both literally and figuratively reflects the waterfront near which it sits.

Other well known buildings by Erickson include the Canadian Chancery in Washington, DC, McGill University in Montreal, the San Diego Convention Centre, and The Museum of Glass in Washington.

Les Paul: by Lezah

Jazz guitarist Les Paul is legendary for a number of reasons: a well-respected musician and inventor, Les Paul recently turned 90 and still plays weekly sold out gigs at the Iridium Jazz Club with his trio.

On June 19/05 Paul was honoured at Carnegie Hall. PBS has spent the last year creating a documentary about Paul, and he has two new CDs coming out soon, his first release since 1978. One is a re-issue of his 'Best of' recordings that were done with his former wife Mary Ford, while the second is an all-star recording featuring friends such as Eric Clapton, Peter Frampton, and Joss Stone.

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In addition to being a five-time Grammy winner and being in three different halls of fame (the Rock and Roll HoF, the National Inventors HoF, and the Songwriters HoF), Paul is also a household name for inventing the Les Paul solid-body electric guitar, as well as many other musical innovations.

Life has not been without its challenges for Paul. He is a survivor of both quintuple bypass surgery, and a near fatal 1948 car accident where doctors had to set his right arm into a permanent guitar-playing position. Paul also now suffers from degenerative arthritis in his hands, and is forced to wear two hearing aids since he has lost most of his hearing.

But nothing stops him from playing! He says, "That car accident forced me to learn how to play a better way. Only a fool would try to do something impossible. But if I can reach for a star, I'll go for it."

Monday, June 27, 2005

And So There Are Three Swing Justices : By The Political Heretic

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Yesterday, the Supreme Court released its opinions concerning two controversial Ten Commandment displays - one in the Texas court yard near the capitol, and one in a Kentucky court room. The Court last heard a challenge to the Ten Commandment display in 1980, when it was struck down as an unconstitutional display in public schools, but yesterday's two rulings should come of no surprise considering the court's legal jurisprudence on religious holiday displays. Some in which the Court upheld government sponsored displays that included some religious references as a part of a more general secular message, whilst striking down those displays that exclusively dwelt on religious messages.

I am nevertheless surprised by the vote, considering that Clinton-appointee Stephen Breyer, and not Sondra Day O'Connor, provided the key swing vote in both cases. Justice O'Connor voted to strike down both displays as unconstitutional, aligning herself with the majority in the Kentucky case and the minority in the Texas case, but Mr. Breyer voted to uphold one display and strike down the other as unconstitutional.

The press considers Justices Anthony Kennedy and Sandra Day O'Connor as the key swing justices in the court. We all know of Justice O'Connor’s and Kennedy's independent streaks. O'Connor has written narrow middle-of-the-road opinions that are not designed to shift our understanding of constitutional principles. She voted to uphold one religious holiday display and strike down the other. She cast the deciding vote overturning Alabama's "moment of silence" law but left the door open for other "moment of silence" laws enacted in other states. She upheld one affirmative action program but struck down the other. She voted to strike a Texas sodomy law down as unconstitutional, but on a narrower equal protection grounds, she voted to reaffirm abortion rights whilst upholding most restrictions against them. As well, she voted to grant American war combatants some legal rights to representation, while not granting them full trial court rights.

For his part, Justice Kennedy has written broad opinions reflecting changes in legal jurisprudence. He cast the decisive vote overturning Bowers v. Hardwick to overturn the Texas sodomy statute. He broadened the meaning ot "coercion" to forbid school-sponsored prayer ceremonies at high school graduations, and then joined in Justice Steven's ruling applying same principle at high school sports events. He reversed a ruling he joined earlier and voted to strike down (as unconstitutional) the execution of convicted criminals who are mentally challenged, or minors. He wrote the "Mystery of Human Life passage" which Justice Scalis ridicules for having, in his view, no place in constitutional jurisprudence. Even when Kennedy joined in Justice O'Connor's narrow compromise ruling on American war combatants, he undermined the decision with his own concurring opinion in Rasul, opting to set an unofficial time limit on the president's war detention policies.

But yesterday's ‘Ten Commandments’ ruling proves there is a third regular swing justice in the court - Justice Breyer. The Clinton-appointee surprised almost everybody when he joined Justice O'Connor in a narrow concurrence, upholding Louisiana's state education funding program (even though it included funding for computers and other non-sectarian equipment at parochial schools), voted to give porn less Free Speech protections than other types of speech. Also, on at least two occasions, he joined in O'Connor's American war combatant policy, and just recently voted to uphold a ‘Ten Commandments’ display on narrow grounds.

Justice Breyer is proving to be the O'Connor of the left. He generally votes with his ideological partners, but every now and then aligns with those on the other side - along narrower grounds.

Just goes to show that presidents cannot plan for everything when they appoint court judges.

Good Friday, followed by slow weekend: By Andrew Hoshkiw

Friday night I attended the St. John Baptiste Day mini-festival in Whitehorse. It went really well. Met five more bands and interviewed them all.

Only one was from beyond Whitehorse, a Montreal group called Dobacaracol. Two very cute girls singing and playing drums, backed by a couple of guitars.

It was a good night. Met up with lots of people I've met since being here. And since it was also a Solstice party, it went on quite late.

Saturday and Sunday though have been quite quiet. All I've done is stay at home, eat, write, sleep and walk around a bit.

This place I call home is very unusual for the Yukon. There are hardly any mosquitos, and I find I can even sit outside and write, without being pestered by them. Everywhere else has been bad; Watson Lake, Haines Junction, Dawson City, Atlin. But not here.

They say the site of the next festival, Faro, is especially bad for mosquitos. That one is on this coming weekend. The plan is to leave town right after work on Thursday (Friday's a holiday) and get there before dark. Faro is about 400 km away.

I wrote most of the article for that fest today. All I have to go on is a schedule of the bands, so I wrote what I could about them. Tomorrow I'll call the organizers and get a few more details, then hand the story in on Tuesday.

The two main acts are Canadian bands from the 70s, neither of which had I heard of before this: The Stampeders and Sweeney Todd.

I must say though, if it hasn't already been said, I'm really loving it this time in Whitehorse. If only I had a car and had been more sociable the first time I was here, I might never have left.

There's just so much for me in the way of opportunities here. I never could've had it this good in Rupert - even if I had been writing more there, the editors had dibs on all the good stories.

Speaking of which, I've counted and I've written 10 stories so far this month. With two more coming this week, and a total of 14 published photos, my freelancing has added up to $810 for June. That has me feeling pretty good.

You know, as a designer, I'll always earn more than if I were a reporter. Maybe by being both like this will for now be the best option.

I should really think about it. If the offer from Ryerson does come, maybe I should consider not going, but rather staying, working and earning real experience. Then, rather than spend that ton of money on schooling, save it and, when the time is right, go travelling on a grand adventure around the world...

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"At four o'clock the normal world seems very, very far away" : By: Andrew Hoshkiw

Wise words from a band called Pulp. Go listen to the song. It's a good description, on a grander scale, of what the night in Dawson was like.

So today I went on a mini-shopping spree. Groceries, rechargeable batteries, a battery charger and a set a funky wine glasses. Oh, and also a candy jar and a bag of candy, to put on my desk at work.

Not for me, mind you, but because I'm evil. Just something to draw more people over to my desk when I'm working. All the women at work will complain saying it'll make them fat, but they'll still all come over.

I never did get into what the weekend trip was like.

Drove down to Skagway on the Alaskan coast after work on Friday. I drove fast, wanting to get there before dark (ha ha!) and only stopped once... not to look at the sights or take photos, but to stick my head under a mountain waterfalls.

It was very hot and dry last week. I hate it when it's dry here, which is most of the time. It makes me thirsty constantly.

Skagway though was hot and humid and beautiful.

But that and the drive were the only pleasant aspects of Skagway. This time it seemed like a flimsy, fake tourist town.

Of course, the first time I went there I was in the company of a beautiful Swiss lass named Beatrice. Maybe that helped put things in a different light back then.

I even went to the pub where we got drunk on Alaskan beer and had a few pints, but it just wasn't the same. This time I was just lonely.

Driving out of town Saturday morning (after purchasing a bottle of Wild Turkey), I turned down a dirt road and followed the coast for about 20 km to the ghost town of Dyea.

It was like driving on the Sea to Sky Highway, with towering mountains on one side, and a ragged coastline on the other.

Dyea was nice. There wasn't much left, but if felt real.

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I took lots of pictures, hiked and explored a little, and then drove to Atlin.

This time I drove slow and made lots of stops. It's amazing how I can take seven hours to drive 250 km, and yet the drive to Dawson was 550 km in four and a half hours.

In Atlin I didn't linger. I drove around and looked at the sights, and out of curiosity checked the liquor store to see if they stocked Wild Turkey, but then drove south along the lake to the warm springs.

There I turned onto a tiny dirt road, and after putting my car through hell, found myself at the backwoods cabin of Stephen Badhwar.

Cabin probably isn't the best word. Estate would be better. It's a large plot on a hill with a majestic view overlooking the lake.

Stephen is sort of a hippy, but not really. An interesting character who likes to recite poetry and, for the last several years, has been running the local music festival.

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Image taken by Stephen Badhwar

He has several cabins, a large greenhouse (which I watched him expand while I was there). There's no electricity or phone and the water comes from the springs. He has a sauna, an outdoors kitchen and an organic farming business.

It's like a youth hostel too, as there are international travellers who come and work on the farm in exchange for food and a place to sleep (in a big teepee)

I spent a good night there and on Sunday drove back to Whitehorse.

This weekend I have no plans beyond staying at home and recovering my strength. Perhaps I'll work a bit on articles for upcoming festivals: Faro is next weekend and Atlin the week after.

Oh and there's a French Solstice/Saint-John Baptiste Day celebration in the park tonight. That could be interesting...

Comics 5/22/2005 : By Kenn

Yes, it's back. The weekly list. Here's everything I picked up this week.

Hellboy - The Island #1
Powerpuff Girls #63
Astro City - The Dark Age #1
Black Panther #5
Shojo Beat Vol 1 #1
Powers Vol 2 #11
Girls #2
Queen & Country - Declassified #1
Molly & Poo
Wanted Hardcover Collection

Reviews to follow.

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Sunday, June 26, 2005

Becks & Posh’s Featured Blogger

This week's featured Bay Area Blogger, Rae, is a 'swegan'. Apparently, a Swegan is mostly a vegan who sometimes loses control of all-vegetable principles when it comes to dessert, oh, and pizza. Unlike the majority of food bloggers who have one blog for everything they write, Rae has made what might be a smart move by creating two separate blogs. Bunny Foot is the mostly vegan blog which specializes in home cooking. I love the look of Rae's most recent recipe for Agedashi Tofu pictured here and am in two minds to try it soon. I used to be a vegan myself, in the late 80s, and I've had a soft spot for tofu ever since.

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Rae's other blog is simply titled SF City Eats and is all about dining out. Rae's restaurant reviews span beyond the confines of the City bringing us information about places in the South Bay too. And if you are a vegan, have more vegetarian tendencies, or are entertaining guests who don't eat meat, Rae's new blog specializing in animal-free fodder should be high on your list of websites to check out for Bay Area information.

Rock Star Go Home: By Christine Albrecht

I am going to admit some ol’ favourite singers/albums of mine. I know some of you will groan, but for me, these singers gave me what I needed, at the time I needed it, and I am forever indebted to them. So, in no particular order...

1. Marc Bolan of T-Rex (The Slider)
2. Neil Young (After the Goldrush)
3 David Bowie... everything
4 Lou Reed - (Berlin)
5. Iggy Pop - (Soldier)
6 The Clash - (London Calling)
7. Siousxie & the Banshees (A Kiss in the Dreamhouse)
8. Bauhaus (Press the Eject...)
9. Concrete Blonde (Johnette is the Janis Joplin of our time - brilliant)
10. Kurt Cobain - (Nevermind)
11 Fine Young Cannibals (everything, especially Roland Gift)
21. Sinead O’Connor (The Lion & the Cobra)
12. Placebo (everything)
and (drum roll please ..)
13. Michael K Hutchence (absolutely everything!)

Michael had been much maligned during his career, but I never understood why. I loved his voice, his charisma, his moves, his energy and I even had an ongoing agreement with my loved one that if Michael knocked on my door, my loved one had to leave for the day as I would be ‘busy’. When Michael died, I was devastated. Others didn’t understand my grief; INXS was just a pop group and besides, what a sordid way to go.

Well, I still play his music and wonder... what road was he heading down? Who cannot listen to ‘By My Side’ and not question his inner turmoil? I miss him and consider him irreplaceable.

Then low and behold, reality TV pounced on INXS. Yes, the band probably would like to keep playing, but without Michael... well, who are they?

Anyway, back to the TV show. Starting July 11th, a new show entitled “Rock Star Go Home” will air. The premise behind the show is to ”replace” Michael Hutchence as INXS’ lead singer. I am appalled at the thought, yet I will admit that I will be watching every episode (and probably crying, thinking what the Hell would Michael think?) Hopefully he’s laughing at the lot of us... just so long as he’s laughing...

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Street Angel Volume One - Jim Rugg and Brian Maruca : By Kenn

Reasons to buy Street Angel - Volume One:

Nice art by Rugg. Very reminiscent of David Lapham's Stray Bullet's. Rugg's art is a little looser on the backgrounds and a bit crisper on the characters, but definitely in the same vein.

Witty and entertaining, if somewhat bizarre, writing by Rugg and Maruca.

Bizarre writing by Rugg and Maruca.

Jesse Sanchez - the Street Angel. A homeless orphan, she uses her Kung Fu and phat skateboarding skills to protect Wilksborough from ninjas, drugs, nepotism and pre-algebra.

Cosmick - the Irish astronaut

Time travel.

Doctor Pangea - master of the Dark arts of Geology

A special guest appearance by Jesus Christ.

Reasons not to buy Street Angel - Volume One

You are an uptight religious fanatic with no room for humor in your life.

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C'mon, God'll never find us in here... : By Mike

I detest the menial things in life.
Chores and maintenance. things like laundry, clipping fingernails, feeding Bone Jovi, cooking delicious turkey dinners, etc. etc. etc.
The 'everyday' tasks bother me.
Especially getting showers.
It's boring.
In an effort to alleviate the drudgery I've started listening to music while I shower, courtesy of my ghettoblaster (that I've had since I was seven), which is strategically placed on the back of Le Toilet right next to the shower.

For the first week and a half I listened to Def Leppard's 'Hysteria' album (which I also got when I was seven). I immediately found showering more enjoyable, but quickly tired of the sickeningly overpolished vocal harmonies. So for the next week I relied on the twitchy pop genius of Elvis Costello (via 'Armed Forces').
It worked like gangbusters.
(Better than Suicidal Tendencies, which only lasted a day or two)

I look forward to showering now, and I think I'm actually getting cleaner because of my need to scrub rhythmically with the music.
So i decided to make a special 'Shower Mix.'
(While making it I realized I haven't made a mixtape for myself since high school. I've made dozens and dozens of tapes for other people, but none for me personally. So believe me when I say that this little bugger is a Rock and Roll Grizzly Bear of a tape.)
Scrub wit me.

side A:
-Van Halen - eruption
-Van Halen - ain't talkin' bout love
-Stephen Malkmus - pencil rot
-The Hives - abra cadaver
-Public Enemy - war at 33 1/3
-Holiday Snaps - diamond ring
-Tenacious D - explosive
-RHCP - if you want me to stay
-Butthole Surfers - LA
-Sonic Youth - hot wire my heart
-Iron Maiden - the solo from 'Powerslave'
-Miles Davis - excerpts from 'On The Corner'

side B:
-Beck - sexx laws (Malibu remix)
-Jon Spencer Blues Explosion - brenda
-MF Doom - kookies
-North of America - central port of equal times
-DFA 1979 - turn it out
-DFA 1979 - romantic rights
-Sleater-Kinney - entertain
-Sleater-Kinney - rollercoaster
-Burdocks - pop cult

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Saturday, June 25, 2005

Yoga that's Hot - Literally and Figuratively: By Lezah

One of the most popular forms of yoga these days is Hot Yoga (also known as Bikram Yoga). Hot Yoga is so named because practitioners work on a series of 26 poses (asanas) and two breathing exercises (pranayamas) while in a room where the temperature is anywhere from 100 to 105 degrees F.

Hot Yoga is said to provide all the benefits of regular yoga, and the addition of heat intensifies one's results by increasing flexibility, stretching and strengthening while concurrently reducing the rate of injury; accelerating results and calorie burn; increasing cardio-vascular activity; and detoxifying the body and increasing oxygenation.

Photo courtesy of bikram brighton photo

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Smilla's Sense of Snow: By Lezah

"I'm not perfect. I think more highly of snow and ice than love. It's easier for me to be interested in mathematics than to have affection for my fellow human beings. But I am anchored to something in life that is constant. You can call it a sense of orientation; you can call it woman's intuition; you can call it whatever you like. I'm standing on a foundation and have no farther to fall. It could be that I haven't managed to organize my life very well. But I always have a grip - with at least one finger at a time - on Absolute Space.

That's why there's a limit to how far the world can twist out of joint, and to how badly things can go before I find out. I know now, without a shadow of a doubt, that something is wrong."

Where else but from the land of Hamlet could we find words conveying such a prevailing sense of tragedy?   

About four years ago, I read Peter Hoeg's international bestseller 'Smilla's Sense of Snow'; recently I picked it up and started re-reading it, and am finding it as fresh the second time around as I did the first.

This elegant novel is set in both Denmark and Greenland, and is equal parts psychological study, murder mystery and serious fiction. The protagonist is an incredibly strong female character, the grittily tough scientist Smilla Jasperson who is herself the product of a union between a Danish doctor and a native Greenlander. Smilla's mother disappeared while out hunting when Smilla was only six, and young Smilla was then sent to Denmark to live with her rich, cold doctor father, who immediately packed her off to boarding school.

This background information turns out to be quite significant, since at the introduction of the novel we find Smilla as an adult, returning to her apartment building one day only to find the police there investigating a young boy's death. The boy, Isaiah, was her neighbour and a native Greenlander. He was six, around the same age as Smilla when she arrived from Greenland. Like Smilla, Isaiah was also neglected by a parent - in his case, his alcoholic widowed mother. Smilla had, in spite of her claims that she hated children, taken this young boy in and cared for him much of the time. Her reaction to his death appears to be, initially, little more than clinical. But the more she thinks about it, the bigger everything becomes - herself included.  

Smilla is a Greenlander. Smilla is a woman. Smilla is a scientist. These three aspects of her character are brought together for the first time by Isaiah's death. Previously, she had compartmentalized all aspects of her life - but now she is a whole. Smilla realizes that Isaiah's death is no accident - contrary to what the authorities believe.  

This book is highly symbolic. Isaiah's footprints in the snow lead Smilla on a journey that unites her Greenlander side (which represents the natural world) with her Danish side (which represents the worlds of math, science and reason/logic) in a fight against the Danes (who represent bureaucracy) over the value of Isaiah's life (who in turn represents indigenous people everywhere who become marginalized by contact with invading societies). Smilla's journey across the water to Greenland represents her return to her mother, her people, and the culture she has lost. While in Greenland, the book takes another shift into high intrigue and ends in a James Bondian rush.

I loved this book, especially particular aspects like the juxtaposition of the scientific high-level technical information versus the innate wisdom and knowledge of the Greenlanders regarding snow. The insight into the peculiar relationship that exists between Greenlanders and the Danes was also very eye-opening. Finally, I loved how Hoeg painted the city in a cold, bleak, dark light, while Greenland was bathed in a crystal-like pure light.  
This book was translated from Danish, was released in the UK as ''Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow', was named book of the year (1993) by Time, People and Entertainment Weekly, and was also turned into a major motion picture starring Gabriel Byrne and Julia Ormond. So, whatever version you can get your hands on - I recommend it.

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Proportion and Scale in Decorating: By Lezah

Have you ever walked into someone's house, looked at the furniture and thought to yourself, something's just not right here - but you can't put your finger on what is so displeasing to the eye.

If you have had that experience, chances are you were looking at someone who had a problem with scale and proportion - often one of the most difficult of all design challenges.  Here are some quick and easy rules to apply next time you are out shopping for furniture or other home decor items:

        coffee tables - the rule of thumb with coffee tables it that they should be 1/2 to 2/3 the span of the sofa - no more, no less.
        end tables - the height of end tables should be about 2 inches below the arm of the chair or sofa
        wall art (paintings, etc.): art work should be the same height as the sofa, and 1/2 to 2/3 the length
        chandelier - the width (diameter) of any chandelier should be about 2 feet narrower than the length of the table over which it is suspended.

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Thursday, June 23, 2005

Gay Pride Post: By Rob Williams

Since it's gay pride this weekend (in NYC), as well as official Gay Pride Month I thought I would devote this blog to all things Gay and literary.

Ted recently brought home (remember he lives with me now!!) the fabulous (a very gay term) book: When I Knew edited by Robert Trachtenberg

This terrific coffee table book is filled with anecdotes (and the greatest photos and graphics ever) about when various gay and lesbian folks 'knew' that they were gay.

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Among the contributors: Kevin Williamson (of Scream/Dawson's Creek fame), Judy Gold, Dan Butler (of Frasier), Tammy Lynn Michaels (Mrs. Melissa Etheridge), blogger Andy Towle, Chad Allen (of 'Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman'), Jim Provenzano, Marc Shaiman, BD Wong (Law and Order: SVU-- and 'Broadway'), etc.

Here's a sample:

1969--My father was watching the evening news. the announcer said that Judy Garland had died. I fainted. i was nine.  --- Andrew Freedman

And this:

As a kid, I became obsessed with the man on the Doan's Pills box. His back was so sexy. When my mom's supply ran out and she threw the box away, I went to the drug store and stole another. I stuffed it down my pants, where it's been ever since.  ---Jon Kinnally (writer/exec. producer Will & Grace)


I went to Choate Prep School. All the boys in my hall got Sports Illustrated. I seemed to be the only one with a subscription to Women's Wear Daily.  --- Michael Shulman 

Check it out, what better than a great book to curl up with after a day out at the parade or dancing at the pier?  aAd here's a few more:

Queer Stories for Boys
True Stories from the Gay Men's Storytelling Workshop

The Haunted Hillbilly-- Derek McCormack

You Can Say You Knew Me When-- K.M. Soehnlein

Cities of Weather: Stories-- Matthew Fox (yet another reason to love Canada-- and he's reading in NYC Monday at McNally Robinson bookstore 50 Prince Street).

One of These Things is Not Like the Other-- D. Travers Scott

The Beautifully Worthless-- Ali Liebegott

Breakfast With Tiffany: An Uncle's Memoir by Edwin John Wintle

Ok. so I guess I could give my own anecdote about 'when i knew' but I've done enough of that in my blogs already (and will continue to do so). Instead i'm going to give an anecdote about 'you know you're about to be married to your boyfriend when':

After realizing you are both off from work on Friday you think to yourself, in all seriousness and genuine enthusiasm: oh, great, I can make us chicken salad sandwiches for lunch!

Private Property Rights Lost in Court Today The Political HereticPrivate Property Rights Lost in Court Today: By The Political Heretic

"... the Court today significantly expands the meaning of public use. It holds that the sovereign may take private property currently put to ordinary private use, and give it over for new, ordinary private use, so long as the new use is predicted to generate some secondary benefit for the public–such as increased tax revenue, more jobs, maybe even aesthetic pleasure. But nearly any lawful use of real private property can be said to generate some incidental benefit to the public. Thus, if predicted (or even guaranteed) positive side-effects are enough to render transfer from one private party to another constitutional, then the words “for public use” do not realistically exclude any takings, and thus do not exert any constraint on the eminent domain power. ...

Today nearly all real property is susceptible to condemnation on the Court’s theory. In the prescient words of a dissenter from the infamous decision in Poletown, “[n]ow that we have authorized local legislative bodies to decide that a different commercial or industrial use of property will produce greater public benefits than its present use, no homeowner’s, merchant’s or manufacturer’s property, however productive or valuable to its owner, is immune from condemnation for the benefit of other private interests that will put it to a ‘higher’ use.” 410 Mich., at 644—645, 304 N. W. 2d, at 464 (opinion of Fitzgerald, J.). This is why economic development takings “seriously jeopardize[e] the security of all private property ownership.” Id., at 645, 304 N. W. 2d, at 465 (Ryan, J., dissenting).

Any property may now be taken for the benefit of another private party, but the fallout from this decision will not be random. The beneficiaries are likely to be those citizens with disproportionate influence and power in the political process, including large corporations and development firms. As for the victims, the government now has license to transfer property from those with fewer resources to those with more. The Founders cannot have intended this perverse result. “[T]hat alone is a just government,” wrote James Madison, “which impartially secures to every man, whatever is his own.” For the National Gazette, Property, (Mar. 29, 1792), reprinted in 14 Papers of James Madison 266 (R. Rutland et al. eds. 1983)." Justice Sandra Day O'Connor in Kelo v. New London

I really don't have anything to add. This was a disappointing verdict that only helps wealthy political contributors who want to make some money. As Justice O'Connor said in her dissenting opinion, any big corporation can make the claim that it will bring jobs into a given community, thereby negating any distinction in principle and practice between takings for "public" and "private" use. Get ready for political donations.

So what do we do now? Call your assemblymen and senators now and let them know that we want stronger legislation protecting our property, particularly when the taking involves the very places we live in. The Court said there is not Fifth Amendment right for higher protection, but that doesn't mean a state cannot by law grant that kind of protection.

Of Birthdays and TIME: By Sashi

Just a couple of things, since I know no one's gonna be reading this because they'll be at the bash...

I read somewhere (for some reason, I've lost the link - if you know of the site in question, let me know) that probability-wise, when in a group of 23 people, the odds that at least 2 people will share the same birthday (just date and month, not year) is very good (over 50%).

Since there'd be quite a number of people at Charlie's Place tonight, I wonder if anybody out there reading this and going there will indulge me in performing this little experiment. You know, just ask around and see if any two birthdays match up. Thanks...

The other thing is that TIME magazine have published their 50 Coolest Websites list. Check it out and see if you agree. They even have a section on Blogs too...

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<a href=''>The Progression of Home Decorating  Shows: By Christine Albrecht</a>
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First there was ‘Trading Places’, ‘While  you were Out’ and Debbie Travis’ ‘Facelift’. Reality TV then progressed to ’‘Designed to Sell' and ‘Buy this House’. But now reality renovation shows have moved on to a more ambitious angle: ‘The Million dollar project’, and Australia’s ‘The Block’.  I am totally addicted to ‘The Block’ (on the Home & Garden channel).  The premise is that four couples take a run down (and I do mean run down) four-plex in the Bondi area (very desirable as it is on the beach) and completely re-gut and renovate it. The couples each receive a unit and must totally renovate their individual apartment ($40,000 budget) with the hopes of selling their new space for the highest market price. They are now down to selecting realtors and putting their units on the market.  I find the characters creative, entertaining, and thoroughly likable. Tomorrow night (June 23 @ 7:00 PMT) determines the end  result.  Tune in - it should be very entertaining.<br /><br /><img alt=

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Bread from the Avoca Cafe Cook Book : By Becks & Posh

Not too long ago, I wrote about my most recent visit to Avoca, my favourite retail/cafe experience in Ireland. My sister, Beccy, usually does her Christmas shopping there which is behaviour I wholeheartedly encourage. After a conversation we had recently had on the phone I think she, her husband Jools and my nephews and niece, Dillon, Ben and Mollie were inspired to send me the Avoca Café Cookbook as a birthday present. Thank you guys and gals!

The recipe that most grabbed my attention was the White Yeast Bread. It just looked so delicious and light and crumbly and crusty. My mouth watering because of the vision in front of me, I felt utterly compelled to make a couple of loaves as soon as I had a few hours to spare. Years and years had passed since I last made bread by hand. The result, unfortunately, attested to my lack of experience. I have to practice a little more, methinks, before I entertain any ideas of opening Boulangerie de Breach.

I was already at the kneading stage (with a little assistance from the Kitchen Aid) when I realized what I kneeded most was a loaf tin. Luckily my recipe informed me I could make a plaited loaf instead. So I did that, as well as forming the other half into a crusty Bloomer. On the outside, my bread looked good. It was not lacking any salt, and the crust was superb. (How can a crust that requires the glaze to be made from a mixture of egg yolk and cream possibly fail?) The only thing wrong with my bread was its density. I dreamt of light and fluffy but what I created was almost as dense as a brick.

Dearest bread makers amongst my readers, if you have any tips on how to make my next loaf of bread have more feather-like qualities, please do let me know. And if you are going to scold me for having used a packet of dry yeast 8 months past the sell-by-date, instead of the recommended fresh yeast, then so be it...

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Mike's Musings - Carwash 2005

I'm tellin' ya, there's nothing quite like watching a man vomit into his own hands and angrily hurl it into rush hour traffic.

It's summertime in Halifax again.

Mike's Musings - The Super Happy Pee Explosion

Thank you, little Asian girl, for taking the time to pee on the floor in the lobby of my workplace.

Just a few hours earlier I was thinking, man! what a beautiful day. I’d love to mop up a small golden puddle of fresh urine.

Oops, watch your sandals ma'am... that's urine.

And your mother, who knew full well what you were doing, when I looked up at her and she smiled at me, that just made my day. Really.

I'm glad you have a parent who allows you the freedom to spray piss wherever and whenever you feel like it.

I didn't have those opportunitites as a child; my parents would keep me in one of those little 'harnesses with the leash' deals when we went to public places.

But you, you're one happy little girl.
It's always superhappy-fun-pee-time for you!
Your mommy was even nice enough to laugh at me on her way out.
Hahaha. bye now. Haha.

I need a f**king raise in salary.

And a Swiffer.

And maybe an assistant.

Fashion and Reality (TV, That Is): By Lezah

There have long been fashion-related shows on TV - 'Fashion Files', with host Tim Blanks, is one very good long-running show that springs to mind. However, it was the introduction of 'America's Next Top Model' a few seasons ago that burst the whole fashion/reality TV- thing wide open. Tyra Bank's dream child spawned shows about swim suit model competitions, male model competitions, and fashion designer competitions.

In fact, this Monday night was the two hour finale of 'Project Runway', a show where each week, a group of designers are presented with different design challenges. Last week the judges picked the finalists: 29 year old vintage store owner Jay and experienced LA-based designer Kara Saun were a given, and then for the third finalist the judges made the surprising decision to keep the unpopular Wendy Pepper rather than the flamboyant Austin. Separately, the three then created their own collections for a runway show held during New York Fashion Week.

In the end, Jay ended up being the winner with his haute couture collection. With lots of emphasis on textures and with a variety of colour palettes used, Jay bested Kara Saun's aviator/technology collection which was very heavy on the fur and leather and leaned too heavily toward a Gucci-inspired look. As well, two of Kara Saun's dresses made walking very difficult for the models, a clear case of form before function. Unfortunately, Wendy Pepper's beautifully tailored collection was seen as little more than bass couture and was never considered to be in the running by the judges. Personally, I preferred a number of her pieces (especially the red dress) over anything Kara Saun presented.

Another show I've been following recently is Supermodels, a Canadian-based show chronicling the Canadian segment of the Supermodel competitions sponsored by Ford Models of New York. The Ford Supermodel Competition is long established and has produced models/actresses/celebrities like Monikka Schnarre.

Last week's episode saw five girls cut from the remaining ten. This next week, five advance toward their final goal: a contract with Ford Models and a contract with an internationally known cosmetics giant. On at 6 am Sundays on channel 11(locally). Why am I up at that time? Don't ask...

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Soul Asylum Bassist Dies: By Lezah

Soul Asylum's bassist and founder Karl Mueller died Friday, June 17, of throat cancer. He was 41. Formed in 1984, Soul Asylum is best known for their hits 'Runaway Train' and 'Somebody to Shove'.

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Reality TV: By Lezah

There's been a lot of talk over the last year or so about the future of Reality TV. Pundits have been predicting the demise of reality TV in the near future as there is little-to-no rerun value in these shows - essentially, they're a one-shot deal Just last week, however, I heard a producer of a new local reality TV show stating that reality TV will be around for a long, long time. Of course, he's got a vested interest in this and consequently it's to his benefit for this prediction to be true. However, he had some valid points.

He stated that:
        - reality TV shows are much cheaper to make than sitcoms, as they don't require any fees for either writers or actors
        - production on the shows is a lot more 'bare bones', thereby keeping costs down
        - companies are often willing to sponsor prizes in exchange for advertising/ product placement.

This particular fellow is producing a show based on home heating efficiency, of all things. But the more I heard, the more interested I became. Basically, four families are chosen, and each family is given $50,000 to improve the heat efficiency of their house: new roof, insulation, windows and doors, furnace, what have you. The efficiency of each house is measured before and after renovations are done, and the family whose house shows the most improvement wins, among other things, a Smart Car.

So, just over $200,000, give or take, for a whole season of shows. Not bad, when you think of it. Now, if only I could figure out where I sign up for this one...

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Monday, June 20, 2005

Mike's Musings - Friday + Jager = carnage!

I love it when a seemingly normal Friday night spirals out of control and mutates into a full blown orgy of blood and hilarity.

Things were fine at the bar, everything you'd come to expect from an evening on the town; punk rock, babes, Jagermeister, pushing. It's what transpired the moment we left the bar that made it such a memorable night.

I don't remember exactly how it started, but an exchange of profanities began between Graeme and some hoods across the street. It escalated until one of them decided to run over and confront us. Turns out this man was far too intoxicated to be running. About halfway across the street he tripped over his own feet, was airborn for about half a second, and did a high speed nosedive into the road. I've never seen a human face hit pavement with such velocity In all my life. his face was literally flattened. Mangled. I will never be able to erase this image from my head.

And the noise it made.
Gives me the f**king willies.

On to happier, yet no less bloody, terrain.

Shortly after that incident we moved right along to (what's left of) the old infirmary. I know now that it is impossible for me to walk past an abandoned building while drunk without trespassing.
Over the fence we go.
Into the hospital we go.
The usual wandering and hurling bricks at windows ensues.

As most of you know, abandoned, half torn down buildings are dangerous places to be, especially while drunk. but what's even more dangerous are the massive fields of debris and twisted scrap metal that surround such buildings.
Walking was treacherous.
Especially for Graeme, who kept falling down on sharp things.
A lot.

By the time we decided to retreat he had suffered a twisted ankle, a head wound, torn jeans and massive hand lacerations. His right hand was bleeding profusely all over his jeans and shoes. (And since the blood was mostly concentrated to the area of his jeans that was badly ripped, it gave his leg the appearance of having been hacked with a machete.)

It was around this time that a friendly Security Guard cautioned us that the Police had been called because of the disturbance at the old hospital (ie: us). He gave us a hand getting a bloodied Graeme over the fence, and since the authorities had been called, now was as good a time as any to duck into ye olde pizza shoppe.

Upon entering we were greeted with gasps and cries of concern. This made sense, because once he was in the light Graeme looked as if he'd been mauled by a cranky, robotic Grizzly Bear.

A slice of The Works would surely help.

At home, exhausted, we passed out watching Harvey Birdman outwit the insidious Vulturo in a dazzling display of legal agility and courtroom know-how.

Fast forward to the next afternoon.
Our superintendent gives a knock knock on the door. He's with two young ladies here to view the apartment for September.
I immediately apologize for the mess, as there are beer cans and potato chips strewn about the living room.
They were only in our place for a few minutes before leaving.
I wonder if they liked it?
Probably not.

It wasn't until after they left that we realized some of our walls and doorways had inadvertently been decorated with large smears and spatters of fresh blood.

Poor girls.
I can assure you that we're good, sensible people.
Just not on weekends.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Bloggers in The Star By Sashi

The Star's Star Two section has an article on four of our more popular bloggers today.

In Malaysia, there are at least 10,000 bloggers, according to Aizuddin Danian, 29, co-founder of Project Petaling Street ( or PPS as it is fondly known, a “blogtal” (blog-portal) that allows Malaysian bloggers to post updates on their latest posts, and also serves as a directory.

StarTwo takes a look at four popular Malaysian bloggers to catch a glimpse of the real person behind the blog, and to see how blogging has changed their lives.

The four bloggers are Peter Tan, Minishorts, Kenny Sia and Suanie (whose pretty face is gracing the cover of Star Two).

Things I did not know about these bloggers that I do now:

* I did not know Peter Tan was a former Hong Kong Cantonese serial addict. Glad you're now a blog addict instead, Peter.. ;)
* I did not know Minishort's real name. And her age. And that her eyes are so damn sexy...
* I did not know Kenny has yet to update his 'About Kenny' page
* I did not know Suanie's full name. And that she's 24. And that she's a *gasp* management student! (Ok, that's just me trying to inject a bit of drama...)

Congratulations, guys and gals!

Majulah Blog Untuk Negara!

p.s. Do we even have a Malay word for blog? And I don't mean journal...

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Amazing and Unsettling: By Christine Albrecht

I came across this site, then also noticed that berlinbear at tblog had written about it as well. It's very upsetting to think that most of the images we are bombarded with daily have been doctored in some way.


Mother Inc - Fashion’s New Music: By Christine Albrecht

Providing the background music of recent fashion shows (ie: Imitation of Christ) is New York’s darlings of the moment, Mother Inc.

Yvonne Force Villareal and Sandra Hamburg make up the act whose first big song “Megacolon” was about constipation. They began in the mid 1980s, but it has been of late that the fashion crowd has taken up their electro-pop cause.

They combine clever lyrics with a steady electronic beat and poke fun at all the needy celebrities, who in turn seem to embrace them with open arms. Silvia Venturini Fendi decided to sponsor the band as an art project and allowed the duo access to Fendi’s ready-to-wear collection.

The band has no plans of stopping their social-commentary ditties, and are in the midst of a six city tour. To purchase their cd from go to:

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The Art of Michael Dunn: By Christine Albrecht

I came across an interesting art website and decided to contact the owner, Michael Dunn, to find out more.

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First of all, the website is called The moniker is appropriate as his studio has a creek entitled Enchanted Creek running through his property. His studio is also located on top of a few large boulders that overlook one of the creek’s small waterfalls.

Michael has lived there for over twenty years, working the land, building the studio, and creating his art.

He is the only artist to be profiled on his website, and he feels that overall, business is great. The last few years have been slow, probably due to the economical and political scene, but Dunn is confident things will pick up.

Michael feels that online art can only get better. Artists can sell their art directly to the clients at half the price the galleries would charge, and a larger audience can be reached. Another perk is that he can interact one to one with a client, thus creating a more customized piece.

Dunn’s site provides a variety of mediums to choose from: sculpture. jewellery. 2-D, photography, etc. The pieces profiled on his site are his personal favourites. Then he determines which items people are generally interested in, and showcases these pieces accordingly.

All in all, a good idea! There are many talented artists out there and I feel that online art shows make a lot of sense (in appealing to a larger clientele). The only downfall would be the client’s personal sensation of seeing a wonderful piece firsthand; observing it from every angle and determining the amount of detail involved. There’s always that little thrill that accompanies seeing outstanding art. However, this way of presenting art allows more people to own art, thus, being able to enjoy it at their leisure.

To see Michael’s work - go to:

Friday, June 17, 2005

The Nothing Book: By Rob Williams

Does anyone remember 'The Nothing Book'? This was a blank book, a journal, that was sold in the late 1970s and early 80s. It was hard cover, and had a book jacket with a blank cover that just said, simply "The Nothing Book: Wanna Make Something of it?" It turns out they still sell them on!!

It was incredibly cheesy, but I think it might have been the first journal I ever owned. I can't remember if I bought it myself or if my mother might have bought it for me. The inside flap had a few quotes that used the word ‘nothing’ in them, like "I’ve got plenty of nothing" or "Nothing comes of nothing" or something like that.

I used to take this book with me everywhere. I would write little notes, ideas, character sketches (remember dear readers, this was when I was, like, 11 years old!). One day I decided I would write a novel in it. 

We used to get these magazines in grade school, like Dynamite and Highlights only they were more news-oriented (but news for kids). One issue told a story of this island off the coast of Nova Scotia called 'Sable Island.' I remember the article said that Sable Island is famous for its wild horses and that also Sable Island was surrounded by treacherous reefs where hundreds of ships had crashed while trying to come to the island.

So I began to write a novel about a young girl living on the island who discovers a wild horse and tries to tame it. In addition, her father works on a ship that comes and goes from the island, and naturally he is killed in a shipwreck. This was my second novel, actually, the first was called 'It Aint Easy Being a Sunflower Seed' and I wrote it when I was seven or eight. It detailed a day in the life of a sunflower seed named Sylvester (how he gets picked one day to be roasted and placed into a bag of sunflowers--something he's dreamed about all his life--until he realizes it means he's going to be eaten, so he escapes and starts a new life--but that's another blog).

Anyway. I titled my second book "The Magic of Sable Island"-- can you tell I had just finished reading "Island of the Blue Dolphins"? and I took the book with me to 6th grade camp-- Camp Cuyamaca, just outside San Diego. 

Now,I was quite a sensitive kid growing up, as you can well imagine. I was not much of a sportsman let alone a mountain man (though my family did camp a lot). For the first few days at Camp Cuyamaca I was quite miserable.  The other boys were having a blast wrestling each other, exploring caves, sharpening their buck-knives, building fires, but I wanted to pick daisies and braid beads into my hair (which was unusually long and feathered at this particular time in my life-- it was the late 70s/early 80s after all) and instead of building a campfire I wanted to sing songs around one and hold a tambourine. This was also about the time that some of my buddies were beginning to discover girls, and being away from home seemed to fuel their hormones, so everyone kept talking about 'the end of the week dance.'  I wanted to crawl into my sleeping bag and zip it shut.

And then one day someone saw me, sitting up on my bunk bed, writing in my journal.

Some kid with greasy hair and a dumb squint asked me what I was doing. I told him I was writing a novel. Pretty soon the entire cabin was surrounding me, asking to look at my book. Kids who had previously laughed at me, for screaming during dodgeball or making tea out of manzanita bark or for fashioning a brooch out of a geode, now they wanted to be my friend, they wanted to know what my book was about, they wanted to be IN the book. I became a minor celebrity at the camp from that day on (well, me and the guy who snuck into the girls' cabin and stole 10 pairs of underwear). I even took down my fellow cabin mates' names-- wrote them in the inside flap of my book, and told them I would contact them when the book came out.  (If you look closely you can see the names... Doug Wilson wrote, "your friend," and someone named Lamont wrote, "have a nice year").

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This is one of the earliest memories I have of feeling aware and maybe more important-- proud-- that I was "creative." And that it was not something to hide or be afraid of, but something that would make me unique and interesting. I mean, I knew I was different; you don't memorize all the lines, songs, and choreography of 'The Harvey Girls' by age 10 and expect to be treated as if you were normal.

It is a memory I hold dear to this day. 

As you can see, I still have 'The Nothing Book,' though the paper cover is gone and now it's just a brown hardback book with worn edges. The novel, "The Magic of Sable Island" is not there; all that's left are the torn remains of its 25 pages (it was more of a novella, I guess). iIm not sure why I got rid of it.  Maybe I somehow knew that it wasn't the story I needed to write. That there would be other, better, greater stories to come.

This is the Last F**king Time... By Mike

.. that I rename my fish.
I do it far too often and I have to buck up and just finalize it before he goes and dies of starvation.
He's approximately one year old and it's time to settle on something.
If he actually had a mind and a memory, and if I actually talked to him, he'd probably have a complex by now.
Some of his previous monikers were:
-Neil Young
-Doctor Spock
-F Dot
-Cats Pee Pee
-The Juggernaut
-Delicious Thanksgiving Turkey
But no more of that nonsense.
I've come to a decision.
His final and official name is Bone Jovi.
Say hello everyone.
But don't you touch him, or I swear...

For more of Mike’s Musings go to

Robson Arms:By Lezah

There is a new 13 episode show premiering on CTV tonight (Friday, June 17). Called Robson Arms, this 1/2 drama/comedy is set in a 'once grand low rise' apartment building situated in Vancouver's eclectic West End.  Altogether, there are 22 tenants in the building; each episode delves into the lives of particular individuals in building, with the Snider-like (remember the '70s 'One Day at a Time') apartment manager Yuri being the thread that connects everything together.

 With a strong cast, including Mark McKinney (Kids in the Hall), Megan Follows (Anne of Green Gables), William B. Davis (The X-Files), and Margot Kidder (Superman) to name but a few, the show is also introduced each week by 'The Troubadours' who fill us in on that week's characters with musical rendition akin to that at the beginning of certain other TV shows from the early '70s (think Gilligan's Island or The Brady Bunch).

With strong writing and an excellent cast, this one promises to be a good one!

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Interview With Sam Breach from San Fransico

Sam Breach is from Becks & Posh online food critique

Originally posted by Emily

Summer time and easy living wouldn't be complete without baseball and good eats. We've incorporated a crew of new SFist contributors to guide you through the good life in coming months.

Foodies! As we've been interviewing the new crop of SFist foodies we've noticed a foodie trend: they don't like burritos. We can't cite a systemic cause for foodie disdain of an SF staple, but we think Sam Breach's disdain might be attributed to her love of Marmite. That's right Marmite, the tasty yeasty distillation of meatiliciousness that is beloved by no one. Except those who carry a British passport.

Jokes about English food aside, Sam Breach has demonstrated that her love of Marmite has not totally addled her taste buds. As she leads the charge of eating through the city "A to Zed" (that's Z for those who aren't Anglophiles), Sam has proven that there may in fact be more to life than a good burrito. But not much.

Sam Breach

Introduce yourself in one sentence
A little piece of England displaced to California.

Age and Occupation
Hmm. By the time you read this, a momentous Birthday will have just snuck by. That would be my last birthday ever to begin with the figure 3. But I am not even going to start worrying about how old I am until I stop getting carded. I have the glamorous-sounding job of creating visual FX for major Hollywood Motion Pictures, but in reality I sit behind a computer and push buttons. (that's a very creative pushing of buttons, of course)

Home Town
Bristol, England, incidentally the birthplace of other cool things like Portishead , Massive Attack, Aardman, Cary Grant, imdb and Concorde.

How long have you lived in the Bay Area and Where?
How long do I have for this question? Total length of time in the USA four-and-a-half years divided like so: Starting in Terra Linda - because I had no choice (put up in provided corporate housing on arrival in the US), quickly moving to North Beach because, I hated Marin living and, hey, I was only one step up from a tourist. Next abode was closer to Polk because I liked the neighbourhood feel. Then, a move to the Mission was a disaster that only lasted 6 weeks before the hurried renting of a friend's perfect SoMa loft saved us from homelessness. 12 months later our SoMa bliss-bubble burst, when our landlord was made a whopping offer that he couldn't refuse on the apartment . So, again, we had to move on. Our current resting place is Dog Patch. I think I like it, plus it is within stumbling distance of The Ramp. Don't Drink and Drive.

BEST story EVER on SFist
Jim Leff pouncing on Ced's post about The Chowhound Guide to the Bay Area. I thought Ced held is own against the Big Dog with grace, style and cool-headedness.

BEST Picture on SFist
That one of Pamela Anderson, her charms covered by a dog? Maybe Pammie's hound is Jim Leff in disguise?

I wanted to be an SFist contributor because (besides the obvious fame and glory that would be mine):
Because jackson asked me so nicely, plus it was an interesting challenge for me to try and write upbeat restaurants reviews, in a prescribed style, without being my usual, negative self.

You should read my SFist posts because
Sometimes they can be quite delicious. On second thoughts, you probably actually shouldn't read them if you are hungry.

Favorite website
Google takes me just about every where I want to go plus they own my personal favourite and free time-wasting software: as well as Picasa.

Favorite dot com or local business
Again, Google for bringing me Blogger The Fatted Calf for a totally delicious, great local business.

What I'm currently Reading
Mistress Bradstreet, about America's first poet. It makes a change from a recipe book, but I am not sure if I am ready for something without any pictures of food just yet.

Best Deal in San Francisco
Darbar's Seekh Kebab at $2

Favorite mode of transportation
Luxor Cab . Don't drink and Drive.

Best Band or Musician to come out of the Bay Area
My friend Tori is crazy good at karaoke. I am pretty sure she was born in SF.

Favorite local hangout
Belden Lane. Outside dining all year round. Drink. Friends. Laughter. Atmosphere.

SF has the BEST:
collection of wonderful Food and WIne Bloggers in the whole, wide world. I am bummed I couldn't fit all of my favourites into this sentence. Visit Becks & Posh for a blog roll that includes all the others.

You've never lived in SF until:
You face up to the fact there is nowhere to hide. You can't go anywhere, in this village without bumping into someone you know.

Favorite Bay area politician of past or present:
It is not cuturally easy for me to undestand American politics. I am learning, slowly, very slowly, but the nuances often go over my head. It took me a while before I had enough guts to even admit I didn't have the foggiest what GOP stood for. Despite initial resistance from me towards him, I have to accept, Gavin appears to have some convictions. On the surface, at least. I sincerely hope they are more than skin deep. I think he's alright.

You can tell someone is a local here IF:
They call Luxor instead of Yellow.

SF would be soooo much better if only:
The cool English restaurant I have a vision for in my head actually existed, with me as its creative manager.

Best Burrito:
I don't like Burritos. They are too big for even me to put in my mouth. (And I can fit my whole fist in my gob, so that's saying something).

Best Restaurant:
Who knows? I simply can not declare a 'best' restaurant although I have a few personal favourites for different reasons. Ti Couz for a Crepe Complete, Oola for their sinful Ribs or Tabla in Larkspur for soups and salad. There are many more reasons I love many more other restaurants in the area although I simply can not bestow upon any of them the title of overall 'best'.

Best movie scene filmed in or about SF:
Just about anything Harold & Maude.

Favorite artist to come out of the bay area:
I bought a painting from this cute little art gallery on Folsom and 23rd. I am not sure if it is still there. It is a funky little place that has great live music on weekends and tango classes, too, I think. The painting, which was hanging for sale in their restroom, is called Vertical Chicken and is by an artist called Todd. I really love it.

Favorite author to come out of the bay area:
Please stop asking me these difficult cultural questions. I don't know.

Place you always tell visitors to check out:
Despite the dissenters, The Ferry Building and Farmer's Market. Sure, it's pricey, but most of my own guests are here with thick wedge of Sterling-flavoured lolly and to them everything is cheap, even a steak at Boulevard.

Favorite Bridge in the area:
The one that crosses the 280 on 18th. Whenever I'm on it, it means I am almost home and I can't wait to get there.

You have two hours and $15 bucks to kill in SF, what are you going to do?
Eat. Drink. Pretend to read. But really watch people.

I have found/sold/bought the following on craigslist:
I have bought a dining table , 5 grey, ex-military (?) chairs, and a scuffed up old stool which I love. I think that's it.

I want all the SFists out there to know:
English food isn't all bad.

Tell us a San Francisco Story:
I have an embarrassing story about being stuck in my pants. It happened when I was on vacation here in the late 90's, before I ever knew I'd actually be living here one day. You can read it here.

Question you'd ask if you were doing this interview:
Why do you prefer Luxor to Yellow?
Luxor are polite, friendly and mostly reliable, Yellow are rude, bad mannered and tardier than tardy.

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Blogging Stats; By Lezah

I believe it was Benjamin Disraeli who said there are three kinds of lies - lies, damned lies, and statistics. Back when I was in university, I enrolled in a stats class and the prof said, on the first day, never trust anyone who quotes statistics because statistics can be so easily manipulated to suit the person/group quoting the stats. Needless to say, I dropped the course - who needs to learn about something like that!

But, that being said, here are some interesting stats I heard this morning (for what it's worth!): 8 million adults in America now have blogs, and that number is expected to increase to 10 million by next year. 26 million currently read blogs, a 58% increase since 2004.

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Hollywood: The Dream Factory: By Lezah

        "A unique trait of modern life is the manipulation of people through mass communication." (Hortense Powdermaker)

We picked up a book in a used book store a little while ago. Inside the front cover the bookseller had written '$10 - RARE - my only copy in 12 3/4 years'. The book was anthropologist Hortense Powdermaker's classic 1950 book 'Hollywood: The Dream Factory', which is from a study she did of Hollywood in 1948 and 1949.

Following publication of the book, aspects of it were much maligned and Powdermaker admitted that certain of her own prejudices were introduced into the book. However, this book is historically and culturally important in a number of ways: it was, at that time, the first anthropological study ever done of the Hollywood movie machine; it was written by a woman (and a well educated, well respected one at that), not a common thing back then; and, it has stood the test of time - the book is still used in university film and media studies classes today, simply because much of what was observed and reported by Powdermaker remains true, in spite of what critics at the time claimed.

In the introduction, Powdermaker states that her "hypothesis was that the social system in which they (movies) are made significantly influences their content and meaning." She said that her

        'questions were concerned with what aspects of the system of production and which individuals most influenced movies. The answers were found in a study of the locus of power and its exercise, in the taboos which circumscribe all production, in the values as represented in goals, in historical and economic factors, and in the introduction of new technology and new ideas with resulting conflicts between new and old.'

Powdermaker was already an established and experienced anthropologist by the time she undertook this study, having spent time studying cultures in both Mississippi and on an island in the South Pacific. She discusses her choice of Hollywood and contrasts the Hollywood movie industry to that existing in other major cities in the Western world. She states that

        'Obviously, no anthropologist could study Hollywood as an isolated phenomenon. It is part of the United States. But Hollywood is no mirror like reflection of our society, which is characterized by a large number of conflicting patterns of behavior and values. Hollywood has emphasized some, to the exclusion of others. It is the particular elaboration and underplay which is important for this study.'

Where Powdermaker ran into problems was in how the 'front office' was portrayed. She states in the introduction that, "The level of frustration was high, and frustrated people love to talk." She conceded later that some of the information she gained from these sources was probably exaggerated. Likewise, the chapter on taboos has not stood the test of time, as the following are no longer considered 'taboo' in our more permissive new millennial society: the portrayal of sex (especially outside of marriage) or childbirth; a realistic portrayal of pregnancy; vulgarity (burping, swearing, interjections); and the mention of toilets, homosexuality, adultery, or bigamy.

However, many other points Powdermaker makes are still extremely valid today. For instance, consider these quotes:

        "Movies meet, wisely or unwisely, man's need for escape from his anxieties; they help assuage his loneliness, they give him vicarious experiences beyond his own activities; they portray solutions to problems; they provide models for human relationships, a set of values and new folk heroes."

        "Hollywood is engaged in the mass production of prefabricated daydreams."

        "It is part of man's nature to try and find answers to his problems and, in Hollywood as in any society, the answers are conditioned by the culture."

        "The really important people in the development and growth of the movies, as a popular art form and as a profitable industry, are the small group of artists who continue to struggle to function as such, and the occasional executive who appreciates their goals because they are partly or wholly his own."

        "But more important than other changes is the loss of homogeneity in the movie audience. ... Hollywood has been slow to catch on to this new audience, which asks for something more than movement and excitement."

        "In Hollywood the concept of a business civilization has been carried to an extreme. Property is far more important than man and human values have to struggle hard to exist at all. But, while the heroes in Hollywood are those with the most money, in the movies we find the opposite extreme."

        "The way in which Hollywood has mechanized creativity and taken away most of its human characteristics again exaggerates the prevailing culture pattern, which gives little prestige to creativity not technological."

        "Hollywood represents totalitarianism."

And finally, she finishes the book with these thoughts:

        "Hollywood has the elaborated totalitarian elements we have described: the concept of people as property and as objects to be manipulated, highly concentrated and personalized power for power's sake, an amorality, and an atmosphere of breaks, continuous anxiety and crises."

The book's final sentence is as follows:

        "The real difficult question to answer is, Can Hollywood change its ways of thinking and its values, so that the democratic concept of man becomes more important than a totalitarian one?"

I would have to say no; no because little about the Hollywood movie machine has changed in the last fifty years, obviously. The system of stars being contracted to studios is gone (that's a positive). The culture of societal taboos has changed - we've just exchanged old taboos for new ones. But really, little else has changed.

I will leave you with this final quote (keep in mind it was written 55 years ago, and other than the names of the wars, is absolutely true for today):

        "The present generation has known two world wars and is worried about the possibility of a third, even more devastating. We won the last war and are probably the strongest nation, and yet we are insecure in our relations with former enemies and allies. Our country is prosperous and we have demonstrated an enormous capacity for production, but we are worried about a possible recession and unemployment. We live in a fast changing world but have lost faith in our belief that change is always for the better, and that progress is inevitable. We are not so sure of the happy ending."


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Hit Me Baby One More Time: By Lezah

The season finale of the summer's unexpected hit reality TV show ’Hit Me Baby One More Time'airs tonight on NBC.

Based on a successful British show and hosted by Vernon Kay (who is very, very tall!), 'Hit Me Baby One More Time' had only two episodes prior to wrapping up in tonight's final episode. Week one saw one-hit-wonders, has-been and old classic rock hit singers/bands: A Flock of Seagulls, Arrested Development, Cece Peniston, Loverboy and Tiffany (who was a winner of the UK show).

In week two, they had my personal faves The Knack along with Haddaway, Tommy Tutone, Vanilla Ice and The Motels.

Tonight's performance features Cameo, Howard Jones, Irene Cara, Sophie B. Hawkins, and Wang Chung.

For what it's worth, a couple of things occur to me when looking at those lists:

        1. many of these artists were from the '80s (which I consider a good thing)
        2. week two offered the best acts (again, a good thing)
        3. week three, the season finale, offers the weakest acts (not a good thing).

I'm guessing NBC didn't expect this show to be such a hit, or else they would have pulled together a few more episodes. This week I already saw week one in re-runs.

But, ultimately, it's all for a good cause. The winner of each episode gets $20,000 donated to the charity of his/her choice.

Again, the final episode is Thursday, June 12, on NBC 9/8 pm.

Top Ten Online Community Trends - Submitted by Christine Albrecht

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An article by Jim Cashelon, submitted by Christine

While surfing the web, I came across this interesting article by Jim Cashelon about trends for online communities. I have slightly edited the lengthy article so follow the link below to view the full report.

There are a few online communities that will fare well because they are catering to online niches.

Ten important trends to watch:

1) Search Communities ie: CEO Michael Schutzler reported a current revenue rate of $30 million annually.  Dating community also measures annual revenue in the tens of millions of dollars. Jobs community site measures annual revenue in the hundreds of millions of dollars. What do these communities have in common?  All three are search sites: users visit not simply to chat, but to find something (classmate, soul mate, workmate).  Users are willing to pay for search. 

2) Trading Communities ie: eBay ($600 million in revenue, $18 billion market cap).  In addition to successful auction sites, there are numerous new services and information based trading communities such as and that show promising revenue growth.

3) Education Communities: Online education is booming. Consumers understand the concept of e-learning, and are clearly willing to pay.

4) Scheduled Events Communities: Corporations increasingly are holding gatherings online: conferences, annual meetings, analyst calls, and working meetings. Online events firm Webex boasts revenue of over $50 million.

5) Subscriber-based Communities: While most online communities have struggled mightily with generating subscriber income, a few very large sites are showing some encouraging signs.  ezboard is probably the largest freestanding online community site (10m unique users / 500m monthly page views).  Its subscriber fees are in the six figures per month and growing. and others are speaking publicly of early success, but we'll need to watch to identify the strongest initiatives.

6) Community Consulting Firms ie: announced revenue of $8m. 

7) E-mail-based Communities: People spend more time on their email than surfing the web.  However, few community sites have yet exploited the power of e-mail.  The clear exception is Yahoo Groups with its tens of millions of users and billions of e-mail messages each month

8) Advocacy Communities: Many online communities aren’t looking to become rich.  They have other goals in mind like advocacy, education, politics.  Advocacy communities are growing quickly in sophistication, thanks in part to new, powerful tools designed specifically for their needs. 

9) Customer Relationship Management Communities: Corporations spend billions of dollars annually on Customer Relationship Management (CRM) programs.  Sophisticated online efforts are increasingly involving message boards, Q&A areas, and other community applications.  Prospero and others have reoriented strongly in this direction.  Despite the promise, however, there has yet to be overwhelming evidence that corporations are willing to spend significantly for online community services within this niche .

10) M&A Activities: M&A activities involving online communities have nearly come to a standstill.  That said, communities continue to grow larger, more effective, and better managed.  As M&A activities across the Internet landscape normalize, the community sector will show somewhat of a renaissance.

Jim can be reached at .

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Student with Migraine Problems Sues for Getting an "F": By The Political Heretic

I don't know about the merits of her argument but I’ve never heard of a lawsuit in which you sue your professor for giving you an "F" after flunking a test while having a migraine headache. Wow. I'll have to read up on the case, found (PDF file as usual).

The law student suffers from "intractable migraine syndrome" for which she takes medication. She had a severe migraine at the time she was taking the test and asked for an extended period of time to finish it. She was denied, complained to her teacher, and exhausted her appeals with no success. After publicly criticizing appeals procedures, she was offered a second chance to re-take the examination and was told she could take it in June, but was e-mailed in May 17, 2003 that she would have to take the test on May 21 (three days later) or forfeit her chance to re-take the test. She refused, and reminded them of their promise to let her take it in June and the rest is history. She sued, claiming they were trying to punish her for exercising her free speech rights and discriminating against her because she has a disability.

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the district court which dismissed the case. The summary is found on pages 3-5 and the opinion basically takes up the rest). I'll read it when I have more time.

In the meantime, enjoy.

The Political Heretic

Why do I still put faith in the "buy local" philosophy?: by Andrew Hoshkiw

16 days ago I ordered an iPod.

If I had ordered it direct from Apple, I would've had to pay about $15 for shipping, but would've have it within three days.

But no, I ordered it through a local retailer. No shipping charge, and they said it'd take about a week.

I guess with the long days the weeks are a lot longer here as well. That's the only way I can think of explaining it.

People wonder why the big stores are taking over and the little businesses are going out of business? Anyhow, I'm fed up with this garbage. If it's not here by the end of the day, I'm cancelling the order and doing what I should have done in the first place.

A couple of things....By Sashi


Why in hell is the online edition of The Star In-Tech section soooo slow to update? The print edition is out today (Thursday, 16th June), but on the website the latest news is still a day old lah (as at 9.00 am)....


The Light & Easy Ultimate Ear Test. The cash prize now stands at a whopping RM 2900! When you consider the fact that the contest is held every weekday (Mon - Fri) from 8 am to 8.30 am, and that the prize money is incremented by RM 50 at the end of each day if the prize is not won, then you should get an understanding of the length of time that has gone by without anyone having gotten the right answer. But then again, most of the time I keep hearing people giving the same answers like hammer hitting nail on wood, etc.

RM 2900. I could do a lot with that, ya know....

Third. (ok, so it's not exactly a 'couple' of things anymore...)

Rio Ferdinand is still undecided about signing a new contract with Glazer's-the-Man United. Now I hear Cristiano Ronaldo's agent is angling for an improved contract too. The agent even dropped some hints about other big name clubs being interested in the Portuguese star. Is this a sign of things to come? Will the younger stars of the Red Devils, worried about the future stability and success of their club, begin considering a move to another team? No one wants to end up stuck in a Leeds United kind of situation, and maybe players might be forgiven for looking at other possibilities in case the Old Trafford dream caves in on them.


Manchester’s Badge Contest : By Sashi

MGFC: Malcolm Glazer Football Club

Saw this funny little contest on The Guardian recently. The paper invited people to send in their ideas for a new badge for the "under-new-management" Manchester United.,8555,1491847,00.html

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

My Legendary Girlfriend - Book Review by Lezah

'My Legendary Girlfriend' was London-based Mike Gayle's first novel; he quickly followed up his debut l with the highly acclaimed 'Mr. Commitment', 'Turning Thirty' and 'Dinner for Two'.

'My Legendary Girlfriend' could easily get slotted into the 'chicklit' category; it could be seen merely as a Bridget Jones-type book written from a male perspective. And perhaps that's all it is. I haven't read 'Mr. Commitment', but everything I've heard is that it is far superior to 'My Legendary Girlfriend'. And yet, in spite of that somewhat negative introduction, I just want to say that I really liked 'My Legendary Girlfriend' - so much so that I've just finished re-reading it after lending it out numerous times to friends. And the fact that I picked my particular hardcover copy up in a bargain bin for $2? That just makes it even better in my eyes! A witty and charming book that I don't have to re-mortgage my house to buy - I'm all for it!

Whereas 'Turning Thirty' is about (obviously) turning thirty, 'My Legendary Girlfriend' parachutes us into the life of a young man reaching another of life's milestones: our protagonist, Will, is turning 26 and he realizes that for the first time in his life, he will be closer to 30 than he is to 20. His birthday is also an anniversary, of sorts: Will's birthday coincides with the third anniversary of the day his 'legendary' girlfriend, Aggi, unceremoniously and unexpectedly dumped him following a three year relationship.

Will looks at his friends' lives - people who are making a successful transition into adulthood, with careers, relationships, and dreams achieved, and contrasts that with his own life: after much time spent on the dole, he has finally finished teacher training and landed a position in London at a comprehensive school, where after only two weeks on the job the students have already pegged him as a 'twat'. He's had to move into a "glorified studio flat, minus the glory, on the second floor of a decrepit Edwardian house in crappy Archway". He spends his birthday weekend alone in the flat, scrounging cigarettes, burning his lunch and then ignoring the fire alarm (and consequently upsetting his neighbours), shoplifting from a convenience store, mooning over the long-departed Aggi, lying to friends and family over the phone about his social life, and developing a relationship over the phone with the flat's former tenant, a young woman he has never met.

"My Legendary Girlfriend' is very funny in that self-deprecating British way. Gayle's observations on living and loving ring true regardless of what age you are, but are especially poignant for those stepping into adulthood. He juxtaposes characters' reactions to the same event, clearly illustrating how something can be insignificant to one character, while at the same time be a life altering event that shapes the entire existence of someone else.

Gayle is currently being hailed as one of the foremost contemporary black British authors. I think his writing transcends that, and I believe he is currently one of the top British writers. Period.   

Monday, June 13, 2005

Back from the Junction: by Andrew Hoshkiw

My second festival weekend was amazing.

I think I'll have to spread out the experience over several entries, each being a glimpse into some aspect of what happened.

For the first one, I'll talk about the partying.

I was really doubtful going into the weekend that I'd have anywhere near as much fun as I did in Watson Lake. My impression was this weekend was going to be aimed more at an older crowd, and people with families, than the rowdy, crazy youth that dominated Watson Lake

As far as I knew, none of the bands qualified as punk or hard rock. And in fact, with half the experience being a bluegrass festival, I half expected to be falling asleep in my seat.

And, in this regard, Friday was pretty mellow for both festivals. In fact I went to sleep early, around midnight.

Saturday was looking pretty much the same, until about five in the afternoon, when I encountered at the main Alsek stage, a band calling themselves The Whiskeydicks.

I'd say the best description for this band would be Celtic rock with punk and gypsy overtones. Loud, crazy and at times completely out of control.

In an environment where other bands were getting a lukewarm reaction from the audience, with some clapping and the occasional lone dancer, these guys (five boys and one girl) by the end of their set had a hundred people dancing in front of the stage and everyone else up out of their seats

If the crowd had been a little bit deeper, I swear there would have been moshing and crowd surfing.

It was completely amazing. Two fiddles, two guitars, an upright bass and a set of drums. They played all original tunes with an energy I haven't seen on stage since Gob. And even though that was only three weeks ago, with these festivals I've seen a lot of music since then.

After their performance, I mentioned to one of them, a very cute fiddle player named Zoe, that I'd like to interview them at some point. She seemed all right with the idea but not terribly enthused.

So I went away, did some other things. Went back to camp, had some food, had a nap, then went and checked out more of the bluegrass fest.

Got back to the Alsek fest about 11:00 p.m.

As soon as I got there, I encountered one of the band members at the gate. It's as if he was there on duty waiting for me.

He quickly gathered up the band, and then together we went to the hospitality tent to do an interview.

By this point in time they were already well on their way to intoxication, and because there was an imbalance between them and me, they started the interview by filling me with liquor.

We talked for about an hour. I really won't get into it here. Some of it was quite interesting though. This time I had the foresight to remember my minidisc and record the conversation.

It was definitely a great talk. Some of it might even be printable, and if I can extract enough information, I should be able to write an article just on them as this up-and-coming band who will (I have no doubt) be big within a few years.

That is, if they can devote a little less energy to drinking, and a little more to promotion and getting a CD out.

Anyhow, after the interview the group of us split up and I went to watch the bands that were playing. More than once throughout the evening I encountered various Whiskeydicks, who would give me more booze.

They've been together since September, and they said this was the first major interview they've done. I get the impression they really think I'm going to write great things about them, and I am, for sure, but I don't know how far my words will go.

It'll be a big feature article with lots of pictures, and everyone here will read it, or at least see it, but I doubt that'll go very far in their social scene of Vancouver.

Anyhow, at the end of the show, when everyone was leaving, I decided to go for a walk. There were a lot of people who arrived late and couldn't get into the campgrounds, and so they camped in a field next to the festival site. After the show, this is where a party of about a hundred people developed.

As I was walking around, I encountered them again, and again they gave me more alcohol.

And then, they decided to play some more music, and out came a guitar and a fiddle. It was wonderful. It's amazing how they can play.

It went on for hours, and when I finally dragged myself away, exhausted, about half past five in the morning, they were still playing.

whisky dicks contact:

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