‘The Denton Affair’

Still reeling from the loss of Lou, I had planned on jumping back into the blogging swing of things in earnest with a hard-hitting rant about the continuation of the Senate nonsense (still looking for a response from the PMO that sounds remotely authentic) or the ongoing battles at City Hall (now that I am using the TTC every single morning rather than just occasionally I have even more of a vested interest, and Mayor McCheese is already talking about his re-election campaignShudder), or actually writing something about mythology or religion or something like that but…

‘Tis the season.

First television viewing of Rocky Horror the other night.  I own the DVD (and the VHS) version(s), of course, but I just can’t not watch it when it comes on the telly- which it does frequently at this time of year (it’s not unlike Ghostbusters I and II, in that respect- I also own both of those, yet tend to watch them if I happen to run across them while channel surfing).

I love the film.  I missed the heyday of midnight participatory showings (although I did sneak in one night manymany moons ago with a friend when it was playing at the Roxy here in town- was quite an eye-opening experience, for a neophyte), but I have loveloveloved everything about it since I first experienced it at a birthday party decades ago.  The enduring songs are a big part of that (I wrote about The Time Warp a little while ago), but as I’ve matured and learned some stuff about some stuff, its value as a retelling of an archetypal myth has resonated and increased my appreciation of the genius of Richard O’Brien.  The connections to his love of classic (B-) movies and old Hollywood are obvious, but there a whole lot of mythological thinking going on there too…

(Hey wait.  This post IS going to be about mythology!  Yay, me!)

Many years ago, while I was completely caught up in the preparation for my comps, the annual RHPS-fest caught my eye and became a welcome source of procrastination well-deserved break.  Since I was in that altered state that tends to overtake me when I’m veryvery focused on something, I noticed something for the first time.

Frank is the demiurge.

The movie is riddled with gnostic mythology.  RIDDLED I tell you!  Everything about the story fused with the stuff I was working on and, like an illegitimate act of creation in the pleroma, brought one of the staples of popular culture together with my fave mythological system.  BAM.  Realization.  Richard O’Brien is even more a genius than I previously acknowledged.

I have yet to find anything that suggests he has any background in gnostic mythology (or Jungian psychology- Jung loved the dualists), just like I’ve never found proof that he was specifically influenced by that crazy B-Movie Spider Baby, but the language and the themes are so VERYVERY gnostic, I can’t get over it.  So much so, I used the film to finish the term when I got to teach a class on gnosticism a few years back.

How had I missed it before?

Gnostic mythology (very generally speaking- since there are LOTS of varietals of dualistic beliefs in the literature of antiquity- and those gnostic imaginings that came after) holds that there is a singular, unknown and unknowable deity out there somewhere- Bythos or the Abyss- which is the source of all things.  From him (yes, the originating principle was male) emanated a series of heavenly beings- the archons/aeons- who came forth in pairings of male and female and existed with the awareness of the Unknowable First Principle.  One of the archons- Sophia/Wisdom, usually- so loved and missed the FP that she sought to ‘know’ him, independently of her rightly-ordered partner.  As a result of this lapse the demiurge came into being.

This singularity (often named Ialdabaoth) sought, in his turn, to make an attempt at creation- outside of the proper order of the pleroma and the plan of the FP.  The result was the material universe/world and humanity.  The demiurge is variously seen as either stupid/incompetent or downright evil, depending on the source mythology.  Since the material is outside of the original plan, it is BAD.  Old Bythos felt sorry for those of us now trapped in materiality, so he allowed for a little piece of himself to be implanted in each of us who has the misfortune to be born into this realm of the physical.

This spark allows for the potential of knowledge/remembrance of the FP and the awareness of the negativity of our current lot in life, and through this gnosis we can eventually seek a return/reconnection/reunion with Bythos, at which time all will be good and properly ordered again.  From the gnostic perspective, we are to spend the entirety of our earthly lives seeking this reunion through learning and understanding the nature of the world and the pleroma beyond.

Some of the gnostics of the early centuries CE ran afoul of the more ‘orthodox’ (for lack of a better term- there really wasn’t much consensus of belief at the time) Christians, since the demiurge was associated with the creator god of the OT- who made humanity and was considered a pretty good fellow (mass extinctions and the like notwithstanding), so gnostic claims of idiocy and/or badness didn’t go over all that well.  Stuff like that led to them being labeled ‘heretics’ and having to bury their stories in jars in the desert (which was a very good thing for those of us who are interested in their worldview) in order to keep out of trouble.

I love my gnostics.  They were the focus of my academic life for, what seems like, eons.  They are representative of the reality of syncretism in the formation of belief systems, and the Christian gnostics were pivotal in the formation of the early Church.  Without them acting as an antithesis, the early Church Fathers wouldn’t have had to work so hard and so fast to codify just what WOULD make up the doctrine and dogma of the developing institution.  Plus they’re fun- and some of them liked to party waaaaaay more than those self-righteous martyrs and the like.


With that thumbnail sketch in mind…

Dr. Frankenfurter, a transvestite, bisexual alien, goes against the properly ordered universe and creates- in seven days– a man.  He IS Ialdabaoth.  Through his hubris, and acting outside of any kind of correct, archonic pairing, he finds the spark that allows for the creation of life.

There are harbingers from the get-go.  Brad and Janet (a male/female archonic pairing) see the light, in the distance, and seek its sanctuary and aid.  But, as Riff sings, it is a false light- of a false god- and really the dreams and darkness associated with Morpheus rather than the sun and light of the true, unknowable First Principle.

The servants are hostile and suspicious of the new creation, and plot against the demiurge while practicing small acts of insubordination- to Frank’s intense frustration.

Even Eddie/Meat Loaf talks about the suspicious influence of the false creator:

It don’t seem the same since cosmic light
Came into my life, I thought I was divine…

(How can you NOT dance to that song?!)

After Eddie’s untimely death, the rest of the group participates in a ritually-cannibalistic dinner.  During the Floorshow, Frank waxes melancholic about his longing to return home- back to the source (Transsexual Transylvania, in this case), especially since the whole creation thing hasn’t gone exactly as planned.  As other mythological creator gods have discovered, creatures with free will seldom follow the desires or mapped out plans of their creator.

Riff Raff and Magenta (properly, gnostically, paired as male/female/brother/sister) restore the order of the pleroma (as the archons ‘Christ’ and ‘Church’ are called upon to do in some gnostic Christian myths) by returning Frank- and his creature- to nothingness.

Like other artistic creations that use the language and themes of myth (Frankenstein and stuff about Prometheus comes to mind), The Rocky Horror Picture Show presents cultural constructs in a way that exposes their short-comings while playing with elements that are tangibly familiar.  Whether we consciously acknowledge it or not, we somehow know the story- and know that it isn’t going to favour the one who messes with the proper way of doing things.  Not because of the alternative lifestyles/sexuality/gender roles that it demonstrates and celebrates (which were, at the time, pretty out there for the mainstream culture), but because Frank’s act of creation goes against the mandated order of things.

Riff and Magenta, for example, have a relationship that (seemingly) violates at least one major taboo, yet they come out of the situation ahead of the game- and they are allowed to return to their longed-for source- because they were instrumental in restoring the proper order.  They may have committed all kinds of other crimes to do so, but the means is seen as justifying the end.

This is something else our stories tend to do- they support the status quo (or doctrinal/dogmatic rules/laws/commandments) at whatever cost.  Even when they are tarted up (in a good way, in this example) as a musically delicious romp stomp all over cultural mores and ‘traditional’ values.

Something to keep in mind.  Especially when our government(s) seem hell-bent on continually doing (or suborning) things that are faaaaaar scarier and potentially dangerous than most Hallowe’en haunts.

We can’t escape it.  Myth is all around us.  And it isn’t always used for/by the forces of good.

Happy Hallowe’en, boys and girls.  Keep safe out there.  The veil is thinning and the creatures of myth are trying to return to our world…


‘Looking for Satellite(s) of Love’

Getting back to writing after a hiatus- brief though it may have been- should be easy.  Ideas and things to write about just keep popping into my head (sometimes they pop out again pretty quickly- a function of sleep deprivation, but these things happen) so there is SO much to draw from.  I have even more just-started drafts in the dashboard than I did a few weeks ago, and I’m feeling a little bit like I’ve come down with a case of the distractions.

Which isn’t good.

Not on the eve of NaNoWriMo (I’m going to attempt to divide my focus and get some work done on the fiction, in addition to keeping up with my peeps here at the WordPress.  Might be overly-ambitious, but never know ’til you try and all that) and not when I have a newly-minted-and-purchased novel by one of my fave mystery authors (Elizabeth George, if you’re curious) which is just perfectly timed for curling up away from the Autumn chill with a cup of tea and just getting lost with Lynley and Barbara for a bit.

So.  Where to start?

Amid all the chaos of the move, it was a FABULOUS period of music/reminiscing, this week just past.  There was the reunion with Simple Minds last Tuesday, and then on Saturday one of my best buds took me to see David Bowie Is at the AGO.  Phenomenal.

In the way that everything seems to be connected (that synchronicity thing again), after wandering through the wonder-and-constant-innovation-that-is-Bowie all afternoon Saturday, I caught Iggy Pop on the radio (I rarely listen to the radio these days- too much commercial crap IMHO) not once, but twice.

While taking a breather from the packing/unpacking I started a post lauding all that Mr. Jones has contributed to the world- ripples (and sometimes tsunamis) of influence that have shaped our (popular) culture as we know it.  The characters, the costumes, the bending and breaking of rules of identity/gender/art… the beautifully curated exhibit really brought home just how important the Thin White Duke remains.

And man, can the guy write songs.

Once upon a time a veryveryvery long time ago, I wrote a stream of consciousness piece called ‘Talking to Ziggy’, about a protagonist who is in constant contact with the spirit of Ziggy Stardust.  It was about what happens to a fictional character who becomes fully realized and then left to fade as newer characters take priority.  Might have to try to find that…  In any case, Bowie has been an everywhere influence in my life.  It was wonderful to reconnect with him in my hometown art gallery.

But my loving chat about Bowie- and the characters that have become parts of our contemporary mythology- will have to wait for another time, because Sunday night another one of those connections showed up, and this one broke my heart a little…

Lou Reed.

Two days later, I’m still kind of at a loss for words.  He’s always been part of the fabric of the background soundtrack of my life.  Not necessarily the song that opens the film or plays as the credits are rolling on a particular period of my life, but a voice that is continually popping up here and there when the action is about angst, or disillusionment, or visiting NYC… and his underlying influence reaches even further into the music that constantly surrounds me.

Simple Minds did a cover version of Street Hassle (Waltzing Matilda/Slipaway) on Sparkle in the Rain.

Emily Haines, from our local wonder of a band, Metric, had some incredible things to say about the man and his influence on her own music.

He contributed his distinctive voice to Little Stevie’s movement against apartheid in South Africa.

He was a poet/novelist all his life- his writing was set to music rather than bound up as ink and paper.  His words remain at once timeless in way that is seldom seen any longer and pictures of specific periods in history that inform about experiences and mores and the evolving technologies that changed the way we perceive and appreciate art and music.

Lou Reed and David Bowie overlap so often it’s almost ridiculous.  Andy Warhol.  All the co-productions/cross-productions/collaborations over the years.  Bowie was London to Lou’s NYC.  They were all about experimentation and pushing the boundaries of discourse.

The three dudes in the pic up there ^^^ have always been interconnected in my brain (admittedly, in part, because of Velvet Goldmine, but I digress…)

Iggy’s Lust for Life (written and produced by Bowie) is like Lou’s Walk on the Wild Side.  Story songs about people- living on the edge and doing the best they can while dealing with demons and changes and societal conflicts.

Bowie’s Looking for Satellites (from Earthling– his first self-produced album since Diamond Dogs in 1974) is like Satellite of Lovefrom Lou’s Transformer album.  Bowie produced and provided the background vocals.

Neil Gaiman, with his wonderful way with words sums things up in a way that completely resonates with my own feelings (as is so often the case):

“His songs were the soundtrack to my life: a quavering New York voice with little range singing songs of alienation and despair, with flashes of impossible hope and of those tiny, perfect days and nights we want to last for ever, important because they are so finite and so few; songs filled with people, some named, some anonymous, who strut and stagger and flit and shimmy and hitch-hike into the limelight and out again.

It was all about stories. The songs implied more than they told: they made me want to know more, to imagine, to tell those stories myself. Some of the stories were impossible to unpack, others, like The Gift, were classically constructed short stories. Each of the albums had a personality. Each of the stories had a narrative voice: often detached, numb, without judgment.”

If there were ever two exemplars of the point that I am constantly trying to make here at colemining about the importance of story and the many ways it impacts all aspects of our lives, as human beings with card-carrying memberships in communities, David Bowie and Lou Reed are the winners and still champions.

In the fog/fugue state of packing, I squirrelled away all my CD sets into storage- including Bowie’s Sound + Vision, and my boxed set retrospective of pretty much everything Lou Reed has ever done.  Right now I’m wishing I’d labelled the boxes better so I’d have some kind of idea where they might have ended up.  Will have to settle for the YouTube and those songs in the iTunes library/on the Shuffle Daemon to take me through this newest period of reflection and remembrance.

Travel safe, Mr. Reed.  Somehow I thought you’d always be here.

I’m out of words right now, and ‘thank you’ seems overwhelmingly inadequate, but I’ll say it anyway.

Oh, it’s such a perfect day

I’m glad I spent it with you

Oh, such a perfect day

You just keep me hanging on.


Well.  I’m not sure if it’s the residual exhaustion from the not-yet-completed move, or the fact that it’s turned cold here all of a sudden (I HATE the cold and tend toward hibernation mode when the temperatures drop), but I’ve had a hell of time trying to get my brain functioning well enough to offer up a reflection on the other night that might be in any way worthy.

Still, here goes…


In a word.

We started with dinner at Mr. Greenjeans in the Eaton Centre.  Since one of our crew is a born-and-bred 905-er, it seemed appropriate to let him have the entirety of the suburbanite-coming-into-the-big-town experience.  Mr. Greenjeans used to be THE go-to place for birthday parties in (junior) high school (they have a giant, share-with-the-whole-table, sundae called ‘Hats off to the Party’- it comes in a clear plastic top hat), complete with Emporium off to the side in which you could buy all kinds of crazy crap.  Artie was pleased with the nod to his youth, and the evening was off to a great start. 

(Despite its position as a fixture in the mall- 34 years!- the place has done a good job of keeping up with current food trends.  I had a great seared tuna sandwich- with a side of their buffalo chips, and a GIANT freakin’ beer.  I’ll go back if in the neighbourhood and jonesin’ for some homey food- even if the Emporium is long gone).

Then it was across the street to the Grande Dame that is Massey Hall.  Fletch and Mar took their seats on the floor, and Artie and I made the looooooong climb up to the second balcony, but we were more than happy with the great view of the stage as the place quickly filled.  One of the nice things about MH is its feeling of intimacy.  For all that it holds 2500+ people, the lines of sight allowed me to pick out and wave to friends who were scattered around the joint before the lights went down.

And when they did…

The Boys from Glasgow opened the show with Broken Glass Park, one of two new songs off their multidisc offering Celebrate: The Greatest Hits+.  A strong song, and one that will bear a further listen or two in days to come.

Then came the instantly recognizable opening notes of an oldie-and-oh-so-goodie, and the excitement level around us skyrocketed.

Jim was not only in fantastic voice, his ambitious stage moves (and singular dance style- I say ‘singular’, but as Artie pointed out, more than once, ‘Jim dances like Fletch’) suggest that he has spent at least part of the ten+ years since the band last toured North America in a yoga studio.  Pretty flexible for an older dude.  Gotta say.  I was impressed.

As many friends commented, it was refreshing to see a performance that was completely without airs or pretension or attitude.  The whole band was there to put on a great show and hang with a welcoming crowd.  They seemed happy to be back in TO- as evidenced even the day before their return to MH- in a shining article in the Toronto Star.  They certainly didn’t disappoint their loyal fan base.

After a packed first set- which included great songs from the vault- they ended with New Gold Dream (81-82-83-84) before taking a break.  Artie was beyond thrilled with the instrumental version of Speed Your Love to Me that started off set two- one of his favourites, and not one he thought to hear performed live.  Charlie (who has retained a REMARKABLE amount of hair) and Mel (who has not) led the band through the loops and whorls of an engaging arrangement of the tune and got the energy level back up and running after the trip to the bar and the merch table (and, in our case, the walk back up all those flights of stairs).

Then Jim retook the stage for I Travel, and Someone Somewhere in Summertime, one of my personal faves (referenced before here).  Other incredibly solid offerings followed, until one tune blew all the wonder that had come before completely out of the water.

Love the manpurse in that video, Jim.

I think I came close to tears a couple of times as they played their Glaswegian hearts out and held the crowd in the palms of their hands for a those minutes.

See the Lights was followed by ‘that song’ (Don’t You (Forget About Me), which, although it may be their most enduringly popular hit- and the only one to really make it big in the US market, isn’t really a Simple Minds song.  I don’t have the same level of hate-on for it that some purists do- it’s a solid and now-iconic tune which evokes John Hughes-80s goodness- but it isn’t top of my list, for sure) which brought the entirety of the crowd to its collective feet.  Which was fantastic since the follow up song, that ended the second set, was Promised You a Miracle.  Artie and I re-enacted Guid’s now-patented charades move in an act of sincere homage.  Miss you, Guid.

Fletch was most impressed by their first encore- Theme for Great Cities– which never received a whole lot of airplay over here but is one of the songs that started his enduring love affair with the band.  Next up:

Never one of my go-to SM tunes, but I think Tuesday’s performance might have changed that a little.

They ended a stellar night with, appropriately,

They sure are.  They are back, in a big way.  And Toronto still loves them (despite some murmurings about the crowd being somewhat ‘lame’- we were all about the high energy groove up in the second balc).

It has been a week (and more) of dealing with the mundane- the job/job search, the packing, the moving, the unpacking, the commuting, the packing, the cleaning, the trips to the storage space…  Having something so out of the ordinary- something extraordinary in every way- happen in the midst of the chaos was a breath of fresh air that was most definitely needed.  I think I might actually manage to make it through the rest of the move now.

SO many thanks to Fletch, the founder of the fun, for getting the tickets, and to Artie and Mar (and everyone else who made it out to the show- even if we only managed a wave in passing) for contributing to a fantastic night.

And to the band… well.  Welcome back boys.  I didn’t realize just how much I’d missed you.  Thanks for showing us one HELL of a great time.  You.  Were.  Magical.  In that way that old friends keep on bringing the magic into life.

Happy weekend, my friends.  Old and new.

Promised you a Miracle

So.  Been away for a bit.  Got most of the place packed up and moved over the weekend (note I say most) despite a badly sprained ankle, largely because of our AMAZING helpers, who lifted and organized and- perhaps most importantly- kept my optimism and sanity at reasonable levels.  Good friends are wicked awesome.  To an heroic degree sometimes.

This was one of those times.

The  new place is shaping up and feeling like home, and there’s really only one more medium-sized load of stuff to get to storage, and I still have 9 days until the end of the month, so I’m taking a bit of a break and resting the ankle (and other assorted muscle aches and bruises.  I am waaaaaay too old for this moving stuff.  There WILL be professional movers next time.  I think my hair actually hurts) and rebuilding the energy levels somewhat.

What better way to chill out and relax and recoup than to go, with some old friends, to visit with some old friends at that grand old barn we call Massey Hall.

Simple Minds are here tonight.

Simple.  Minds.

I saw them at Massey Hall in 1984.  Sparkle in the Rain Tour.  Then Maple Leaf Gardens in 1985.

And now they’re back.  On a ‘greatest hits’ tour.  Playing relatively small venues- hence the Massey Hall location again- that old timey concert hall, one of the most comfortable venues in town (as in, it feel like you’re in your living room- if it was a living room that hold 2500 people), and the starting place and storehouse of some of my most memorable concert-going experiences.


Since they are keeping this tour small- and since the promoters obviously underestimated the strength of Toronto fandom when it comes to a band like Simple Minds- what few tickets remain are selling for exorbitant prices.  Not quite the secret-Arcade-Fire-in-Brooklyn-show prices (apparently someone was selling tickets to those shows for $5000– THAT’S insanity), but steep nonetheless.

I’m going because one of those amazing friends I was just mentioning got me a ticket as a birthday present months ago.  With the craziness of the move and all I had sort of forgotten about it.  Not that it was happening- too psyched for that- but the when of it sort of left the conscious part of my brain.

It’s back.  I’m getting no work done today- just eagerly anticipating hanging with Jim and Charlie and the boys- and those of my peeps who managed to score tickets to the show.

I have promised another not-so-lucky bud that I will provide a full review post-show, so I will keep this one brief and less-gushy than it might otherwise have been.


Promised You a Miracle.

Miracles are an interesting phenomenon.  Ascribable to the supernatural, they are events that are filled with wonder and most religions see them as divine intervention in the lives of us human-type people.  The mythological systems of the religions of the world have many examples of stories of the miraculous: communications with the deity (burning bushes and the like), revelations through human vessels, icons weeping blood, the taming of wild beasts… Myriad are the tales and the means through which the divine deigns to speak with and guide his/her/their creation.

My favourite biblical story of the miraculous?  Hard to choose, but I think the story of Balaam and the talking donkey in Numbers is right up there among the crazy amazing tales of the supernatural interfering in the real world.

MY main memory of Promised You a Miracle dates back a number of decades, and isn’t really about the song itself.  We were on a camp out- a whole crowd of us.  And, as part of the silliness of the day, we were playing a somewhat manic game of charades.  Guido (nicknamed for the killer pimp in Risky Business, despite the fact that he looked disturbingly like Eddie Haskell from Leave it to Beaver) was up, and furiously acting his great heart out- trying SO hard to MAKE us guess the clue.


4 Words.

But really, all he kept doing was making the sign of the cross and looking heavenward.  Over and over again.  As the clock was about to run out someone finally yelled out the correct answer.  Not coincidentally the person who got it is also my benefactor for the show tonight.  And one of the other peeps from that particular camp out will also be joining us at the concert.

We laughed for a long time about the repetitive nature of the clue.  Guid made us laugh a whole lot- on that cookout and so many other times over the years.  He was my first sailing teacher- he taught me to love the sport for itself and for the lessons that controlling a small boat on a big lake can teach you.  Lessons I spoke about here.

He died, in a freak skiing accident, the following winter.  But I still picture him, looking all Haskell-esque while emphatically gazing skyward (when he wasn’t glaring at us for our obvious idiocy), whenever I hear that song.  Which I will tonight.  Surrounded by friends and memories of concerts past.  And with one missing friend who yet remains in the forefront of my mind at certain specific times.  When certain specific songs are played.

I’d like to think he’s with us, somehow.

‘Belief is a beauty thing.’

Have a great evening.

I’ll get back to you when I recover from celebrating with the Boys in the Band.

It’s the Principle of the Thing…

I have a friend who is in a pretty significant state-of-life quandary at the moment (and who, if I am diligent in my constant haranguing, will start a blog all her own one day) .  She is extremely well-educated and experienced in a number of different areas, but, like me and a number of others I could name, is cursed with under-employment as a result of the economic downturn.  Which remains a real and present issue here in Canada, despite what the Harper government might want us to believe.

As I have mentioned before, under-employment can be soul-sucking in and of itself.  When you spend most of your waking life in the same place, with the same people, it would be ideal if said job was both challenging and in an environment that promotes learning and professional development of some kind.  This is not remotely the situation for my friend.

To describe her work atmosphere as ‘toxic’ is to massively understate the case.  As an educated, worldly and open-minded individual, she has been exposed to all kinds of different people from all kinds of different backgrounds, and views such exposure as a means of understanding her fellow human beings.

Not so her immediate supervisor.  That person is, in a word, a bigot.  And that person’s prejudices run the gamut of race, religion and sexual orientation.  Views which that person is not afraid to vocalize.  Pretty much all the time.  In a place of business.

Think Archie Bunker, but without the charm and redeeming qualities.

Although my friend has repeatedly attempted to inform her superior that the voicing of such views- not to mention the views themselves- is inappropriate in a business environment and something that makes her increasingly uncomfortable, her requests have gone unheeded over the years.  The opinions have, if anything, become more frequently expressed- in an attempt to goad my friend into defending her perspective on why her ‘superior’s’ attitudes are incorrect.  Not out of any attempt at self-improvement or interest in changing those views- but because it has become a form of bear-baiting that the boss seems to find amusing.

My friend very much feels that she is completely without recourse at the moment.  She has examined the anti-harassment rules and regulations for the Province (not to mention those for the company where she works- which she helped to draft), and has contacted someone at the Human Rights Commission, only to be told that the degree of her complaint is not great enough to warrant action or likely to achieve vindication in any real form.

Have I mentioned that she can’t just quit this job?

Despite regularly applying for positions (in this, as in other things she has my complete sympathy AND empathy) she seems to be falling through the cracks of ‘over-qualification’ for some of the positions she is looking at as a means of progressing in her chosen career direction, and being viewed as ‘not experienced enough’ for more senior positions, since much (but certainly not all) of her writing, editing and research experience stems from her work in the academic realm.  She has maximized her networks, seen career counsellors, HR people, life coaches and attempted to exploit any sort of nepotism that might be in the offing.


Yet she keeps at it.

She is, by nature and by upbringing, someone who is inclined to see the best in people- ALL people- and to give them the benefit of the doubt whenever possible.  She has attempted to speak with her boss and to provide some insights as to why the comments that are made are inappropriate and just plain wrong, only to be labeled a ‘bleeding heart’ and ‘left-wing socialist.’  Which are, to the boss, faaaaaar more offensive descriptors than the other epithets that are thrown around on a regular basis.

Any number of people have suggested that she ‘just quit’- since the atmosphere is so patently toxic and because the job is just that- a job– without any potential for advancement or acknowledgement of the good work that she does.

But she can’t.

No matter how against her principles it is to work for a bigot and remain silent (to a degree, anyway) when offensive, ill-informed and inflammatory rhetoric is spewed on a regular basis, she needs the paycheque.  There are loans to repay- related to her educational expenses and as a result of a bad divorce that left her holding the bag on some joint credit accounts- and a roof to keep over her head.  As utility rates continue to rise…

She is between the proverbial rock and a hard place.  The Devil and the deep blue sea.  On the horns of a dilemma.

Between Scylla and Charybdis.

There’s the mythological reference.  They have been sorely lacking lately, I realize.  Kind of lost the plot of the blog for a bit there.  But here I am, back in the saddle again with more mythic sea monsters in tow.  Sea monsters are fun.

See?  Fun!

According to Homer (not Simpson), Odysseus had to choose which of the dangers was the lesser in order to continue his journey.  Scylla was described a rock shoal/six-headed monster and Charbydis as a deadly whirlpool, located on opposite sides of the Strait of Messina between Siciliy and the Italian mainland.  Idiomatically, they have become synonymous with choosing between the lesser of two evils in order to move on through the turbulent waters of life.

Sting used his previous life as a school teacher to imbue his lyrics with all kinds of literary allusions- and Synchronicity has more than a few (as I mentioned here).  Wrapped Around Your Finger uses the mythological idiom as a metaphor for a dangerous relationship- one that is imbalanced in its division of power.  Although the person that he is singing about- the one he has come to learn from- is not, exactly, Faustian in providence (‘Mephistopheles is not your name’) he feels trapped and disempowered by the relationship.

Until the lessons are learned and the tables are turned once the ‘Devil and the deep blue sea’ are behind him.

Principles are necessary.  Without principles, based in our upbringing and cultural context, we descend into anarchy.  Greed and cronyism run rampant and overshadow the good works that some among us are attempting to accomplish as we try to demonstrate that there is something worth salvaging in this material-driven society of ours.

According to the Wikipedia, principles ‘represent a set of values that orient and rule the conduct of a concrete society. The law establishes an obligation in the individual’s conscience that belongs to the cultural field in which such values are accepted. It supposes the liberty of the individual as cause, that acts without external coercion, through a process of socialization.’

Unfortunately, principles are often expensive– especially at times when our elected leaders are content to maintain their own interests above those of the people who elected them.  Times when any job is thought to be a good job.  When people are told that to ‘rock the boat’ is irresponsible and dangerous.  When people have to work multiple, low-paying jobs to make ends meet, meaning that the time they have in which to explore the underpinnings of principles is lessened to a distressing degree.

In addition to the stress associated with the constant job search and day-to-day dealings with the toxicity of her co-worker, my friend also feels a deeply fundamental guilt and as if she is somehow complicit in the bigotry that surrounds her 45 hours a week.

But her choices- and resources- are few.

The fields of Eden
Are full of trash
And if we beg and we borrow and steal
We’ll never get it back
People are hungry
They crowd around
And the city gets bigger as the country comes begging to town
We’re stuck between a rock
And a hard place
Between a rock and a hard place
This talk of freedom
And human rights
Means bullying and private wars and chucking all the dust into our eyes
And peasant people
Poorer than dirt
Who are caught in the crossfire with nothing to lose but their shirts
Stuck between a rock
And a hard place

Tomorrow our Governor General will deliver the Speech from the Throne on behalf of the federal Conservatives (our federal leaders are finally deigning to get the hell back to work- my sympathy to those of you in the US who are still waiting for that to happen.  The prorogation of Parliament might have been a heavily politicized pain in the ass, but at least it didn’t shut down everything).  My friend and I will both be listening intently to see what the Conservatives have to say about the jobs they have created under their Action Plan.

I don’t believe that the situation has improved- overall- as much as they continue to claim.  Not according to my own experience and the experience of friends.  I know too many people who remain in jobs that violate their principles and damage their psyches on a daily basis- at least five days a week.  The Wall Street Journal doesn’t seem terribly optimistic either…

And yet THESE guys have well-paying jobs that actually affect the lives of millions of people.

I’ve been studying humanity for the entirety of my adult life, but some days I just reallyreally don’t get people.

At all.

This seems to be one of those days.

At least I have some great people keeping me company.

Trying to make some sense of it all,
But I can see that it makes no sense at all,
Is it cool to go to sleep on the floor,
‘Cause I don’t think that I can take anymore
Clowns to the left of me, Jokers to the right,
Here I am, stuck in the middle with you.

P.S.  STILL needing convincing that sea serpents are cool?  Check THIS out.  Synchronicity… or something.

Giving Thanks, Canadian Style

There I was, all exhausted with the tilting and complaining and angst and concerns about the direction of this here world and us humans who are managing to keep messing it all up.  And the packing.  Always with the packing.  And the job search- while dealing with the current day job…

Then… Surprise!  Honest to goodness GOODNESS shows up out of nowhere.

What a wonderful way to start the day.  Yesterday morning Heather Hiscox was practically dancing with excitement on the CBC News Network.  I have to admit that I came close to a tear or two of happiness my own self.

Alice Munro has been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.  She is the first Canadian- and only the 13th woman- to do so.

(Saul Bellow, who won in 1976, was born in Canada but raised in the US- so he’s harder to claim and the US leapt all over calling them theirs anyway.  Not so our Alice.  She’s as Canadian as maple syrup and poutine).

The pride.

Alice has a particular way with characterization and definition of place that is astounding.  The more so since she manages to convey the people and places she writes about in short story format.  No wasted words- just succinctly beautiful stories about small town Ontario and the people that live there.

She has not been overlooked for well-deserved accolades in the past, having received three Governor General’s Awards for fiction and the Man Booker International Prize for her body of work, but the Nobel Prize… Wow.

I think most Canadian students are exposed to her work at one stage or another.  High School English classes like to support the CanCon wherever possible, and Alice, along with Maggie Atwood, are two of our literary staples.  But I’m not sure that I really began to appreciate Alice’s stories until I re-encountered her in the university classroom in a course on 20th Century Literature (it actually was still the 20th century when I took the class).

Alongside the Yeats (and you know I love that guy), the Beckett, the cummings and the Morrison was Alice’s 1990 collection Friend of My Youth, which reemphasizes her recurring view of a world that is not shaped by faith or reason, but by chance or fate.  Her stories offer snapshots of particular times in small town Ontario, as the characters (mainly women) of the farming communities come to terms with changing mores and expectations.  She is not afraid to write about the darkness of the human condition as it is expressed in the day-to-day lives of ‘regular’ people, at different times in history.

I have tried to write short stories- without much success.  Not because I’m overly verbose (although I am, admittedly, at times, long winded.  The other day I got a text from a friend who kindly follows my blog and is diligent about keeping up with those things I decide to rant about.  He had been on holiday- so was catching up with the posts he’d missed.  He asked that I try to keep them under 5000 words.  He was being facetious- I do try hard to keep them around 1000 at most, but sometimes I do get a little carried away.  Particularly with long asides.  Like this one…), but because I just can’t seem to effectively convey what I’m trying to convey in so few pages.

(Which is somewhat odd- since my professors- throughout my undergrad and graduate schooling- uniformly lauded my ability to succinctly discuss the things I was looking to discuss, without wasting words or paper.  Seems like I’ve lost that ability.  At least here at colemining.) 

Alice beautifully conveys entireties– of characters, emotions, events, thoughts, actions- in very few pages.  It’s an enviable skill- and she has very much raised the bar on what defines successful storytelling.  I compare her to those rare (these days) storytellers I was privileged to see, as a child, every now and again.  In a short interlude of time they were able to spin tales of wonder that left me enchanted or wondering or questioning a closely-held certainty.

Alice’s stories do that too.  Although I love novels, the ability to completely devour a slice of life on a lunch break or subway trip, or drift away into another reality without completely messing with the schedule of things that need to be done (I have a habit of just forgetting about anything else- people, work, food- when caught up in an engaging story) makes a well-written short story appealing.

Alice Munro ‘does’ the short story like no one else.

And she now has the Nobel Prize in Literature, so people all over the world will get to know and love her, the way we’ve been able to do here at home for decades.

Her books are flying off the shelves.  As suspicious as I can be about the commercialization of literature, the exposure of the Nobel will introduce new readers to both Alice and parts of our home and native land.

(She’ll show the world that we aren’t just about our horrible mayors and imported filibustering junior GOP Senators, for example).

It’s the Friday of a long weekend (phew!) as we Canadians prepare to celebrate our Thanksgiving on Monday.  It’s our last long weekend of the year- and the last stat holiday until the Christmas season rolls around.  It was a beautiful day today and the sun and warmth should stay with us at least through tomorrow.

The folks south of our border have a long weekend too- celebrating an evil villain of history (at least according to The Oatmeal– who knew you could learn so much history on the facebook?  Love that guy.  He’s some funny!)- while we up here will be giving thanks for those things we sometimes take for granted over turkey and all the trimmings.

I’ve complained somewhat over-much about the goings on here at home lately.  I’m frustrated with the current political and social situations we’ve created for ourselves.  So I needed the reminder that we remain a pretty spectacular country, with some pretty spectacular citizens who contribute to the continuing betterment of the world and our culture.

Alice has been recognized for doing so in a reallyreally big way this week.  She is one among a whole crowd of Canadians who bring positive creativity into the world.

So this weekend’s playlist on the Shuffle Daemon (as I continue finish the packing and organizing) is all about the CanCon.

Metric.  Emily just has one of those voices…

Talk like an open book
Sign me up

USS- or Ubiquitous Synergy Seeker.  A great band name (always seeking synergy, me), playing a song with an equally great title (‘Hollowpoint Sniper Hyperbole’)– which contains lyrics from that Newfoundlander traditional folk tune, ‘I’se the B’y’ (CanCon²).  

Bowie singing backup to Arcade Fire.  What can be better than that?  (Going to see the the Bowie exhibit at the AGO in a couple of weeks- can’t wait).  I don’t think I could love this song more.  And lyrics in both langues officielles (CanCon², again).

Entre la nuit, la nuit et l’aurore.
Entre les voyants, les vivants et les morts.

And now from the vaults…

Lovely song.  And all that hair!  The song was produced by another fairly popular Canadian dude by the name of Tom Cochrane (that’s him singing backup.  He had a bunch o’ memorable tunes himself).  (2X the Canada in that one too.)

BNL singing a classic Bruce Cockburn song while driving around Toronto in the back of a truck (well, Scarborough, to be precise).  So, that’s actually CanCon³.  (A friend and I were out for dinner last night and recalling a stretch of time when Steven Page seemed to be everywhere she was.  We decided he was stalking her.  But in a friendly, Torontonian sort of way.)

You’ve got to kick at the darkness ’til it bleeds daylight.

The Hip- singing about coming home on the last American exit.  For all those road-tripping home to see the family.  This was the first Hip song I ever heard (Gord had SO much hair) and it remains my sentimental favourite.  All of their songs are Canada, somehow.

In case anyone is planning on spending the long weekend over-imbibing, a cautionary tale from Spirit of the West.

Since this post has grown to monumental proportions (verifying my friend’s earlier complaint about my ‘wordiness’), just one last offering to close the evening while opening the weekend of celebrating.  From our very own bard of Montreal.  About a little tavern in Toronto (CanCon²).

…and I lift my glass to the Awful Truth
which you can’t reveal to the Ears of Youth
except to say it isn’t worth a dime
And the whole damn place goes crazy twice
and it’s once for the devil and once for Christ
but the Boss don’t like these dizzy heights
we’re busted in the blinding lights,

of closing time

Have a fantastic weekend!

P.S.  There are so many songs that could have/should have made the Shuffle Daemon.  I think this post will require a musical sequel (or more) down the road.  Canada Rocks.  We just do.


The News is bad.

I know our neighbours to the south are dealing with an inexplicable situation at their highest levels of government and I honestly don’t get how it can even be happening.  I don’t know enough about how the system works- certainly not enough to understand how federal employees can be thrown out of work when a minority of extremists shut down the business of government based on even more inexplicable attitudes about points of policy that the electorate seems to favour- and, to be honest, I have neither the time nor the heart to research the situation in any depth right now.

I have read various takes on the insanity by some of my fellow bloggers- who, as Americans, know way more about it all than I would ever claim.  The most I can take personal issue with is SNL’s (hilarious as always) Weekend Update examination of the sitch- which blamed us here in the Great White North for the whole thing.  While you all were distracted by Iran and North Korea, a Canadian shut down the US government.

Please.  We don’t lay any claim to that Senator Cruz guy.  Even if we wanted to, you’d have to convince me that the majority political/ideological ideals out of Calgary are representative of Canadian political sensibilities in the rest of the country as a whole.  They certainly aren’t representative of mine.  That Harper guy spent his adult years there (I don’t count his early childhood in Toronto.  Would rather forget we hail from the same neighbourhood, actually) and represents the city in Parliament.  Their current mayor (who is AWESOME) notwithstanding, Albertan politics are faaaaaar more right-leaning than I am remotely comfortable with.

Cruz seems fairly intent on playing down any Canadian-ness anyway.  He wants to be President, so the ‘natural born citizen’ thing necessitates distancing himself from us.  Which, given his 21+hour performance in the Senate a few weeks back, is okay with me (and most of the people I know here at home).

We have enough insane politicians of our own.

More than enough.

The local 6 o’clock news started off by telling us the actual dollar figure that the taxpayers of Ontario are paying as a result of the Liberal government’s decision to cancel the contracts for a couple of gas plants in advance of the last provincial election- in a bid to guarantee two (yes TWO) seats.  1.1 billion (yes BILLION) dollars.  And if they’d just held off and let the proposal expire, it would have cost NOthing.

All in the name of political expediency.

Story number two?  City council back to the fighting board regarding the idiocy about the Scarborough subway– and how to pay for it.  I especially love how the Brothers Ford attacked Paul Ainslie- who actually represents Scarborough- for suggesting that a subway isn’t the most cost-effective solution to the need for public transit in the city’s east end.  He’s FROM Scarborough.  What could he possibly know about his constituency?  The Bros from the ‘Coke (on the opposite suburban side of town), as usual, know best.

Number three?  One of those same Senators who have been all over the news lately for wrongly claimed expenses?  He apparently paid a friend $65,000 (of taxpayers’ money) to do, well, nothing.

I guess I am either completely naive and clueless- or maybe just not quite cynical enough- but I honestly was of the opinion that people went into public service- as bureaucrats, policy makers and, most certainly, elected officials- in order to benefit society with the skills and perspectives they have to offer the general population.

Needs of the many over the greed and expediency of the few, as it were.

Not feeling like there is anything like truth in that particular belief these days.

Those who are drawn to public service lately seem to be attracted solely by the benefits and stability of government jobs- and those who run for office cannot possibly be considered altruistic in their motivations or actions anymore.  Maybe they never could.  I’d like to think that we have had public leaders who actually care about the public.  But whether or not history can back me up on that, the currently reality says it is now otherwise.

Big time.

Don Quixote, that pivotal, incredible staple of the Western Canon, tells the story of the idealistic and noble-of-spirit Man of La Mancha, who set out to perform acts of chivalry- those tenets of knighthood that focused on gallantry and service to others- in the face of constant deception and humiliating criticism.

Under the influence of Medieval tales about chivalry- and its lost values- Alonso Quijano remakes himself as Don Quixote and sets out to return the ideals he admires to a world that has ceased to value such things.

Miguel de Cervantes’ novel is so rich with characters and wonder and meaning that interpretations of his masterpiece are diverse and often disparate.

To me, the character of Don Quixote demonstrates- repeatedly- that individuals can be right while the larger society is wrong.  Unfortunately, like Don Quixote, such individuals are all too often viewed as ineffectual- if not completely crazy.  Ultimately his idealism is defeated by mundane realities- and by the grasping greed of those around him.  Even his patient squire, Sancho, tricks Don Quixote and earns himself a governorship (albeit a false one), in Part 2.

Don Quixote serves as social commentary and a satirical view of orthodoxy, nationalism and the pitfalls of slavish conformity to ideas of ‘truth’.  The putative knight sees his idealism dashed and finally- upon his deathbed and return to ‘sanity’- he renounces his attempts to restore the moral system of chivalry and apologizes for the trouble he caused.

This recanting is the real tragedy of Don Quixote.

Among other things, the chivalric code stated that its followers must protect those who cannot protect themselves- including children, widows and the elderly.  Chivalrous knights were all about honour- and respecting and protecting the honour of women.  They persevered and saw all tasks through to their conclusion.  And they despised pecuniary rewards.

Neither Don Quixote nor the knights he emulated were in it for the power or the money.  They did these things because they believed that they were the right things to do.  Yet such examples became ideals to be mocked in the face of the common reality.

To be quixotic is to be ‘overly’ ideal- that is, to subscribe to lofty or romantic ideas without regard to practicality.  To be quixotic is to be naive or impulsive.  I think that Don Quixote has gotten an historical bad rap.

In the context of the novel, those who tilt at windmills are perceived to be vainly fighting against an imagined enemy based on misinterpreted idealistic justifications.  But it can also be used to describe engagement in a fight in which the imbalance is pronounced- a lone man on a horse with a jousting lance against the power of the wind that causes the blades to continue turning.  Even if he is the underdog, the idealist sees the battle as one that must be met.

The Wikipedia notes that while playing pinball, ‘skillful players can influence the movement of the ball by nudging or bumping the pinball machine, a technique known as “nudging.” There are tilt mechanisms which guard against excessive manipulation of this sort… When one of these sensors is activated, the game registers a “tilt” and locks out, disabling solenoids for the flippers and other playfield systems so that the ball can do nothing other than roll down the playfield to the drain. A tilt will usually result in the loss of bonus points earned by the player during that ball. Older games would immediately end the ball in play on a tilt. Modern games give tilt warnings before sacrificing the ball in play.’

I don’t think that the adversaries are imagined.  I think our elected leaders have lost all sense of the honour that must, of necessity and design, come with public service.  I might be an idealist, but I think that my expectations of those who we choose to be put in charge are justified and in no way unreasonable.

I also think that those sensors that alert us to excessive manipulation are firing in a big way.  We have hit the tilt warning and it’s past time to stabilize the pinball machine of governance.  Our leaders must be held accountable and lose all those bonus points that were not earned through real skill or the honourable playing of the game.

Forty winks in the lobby, make mine a G&T
Then to our favorite hobby, searching for an enemy
Here in our paper houses, stretching for miles and miles
Old men in stripy trousers, rule the world with plastic smiles

Good or bad, like it or not
It’s the only one we’ve got

I won’t let the sun go down on me
I won’t let the sun go down
I won’t let the sun go down on me
I won’t let the sun go down

Mother nature, isn’t in it, three hundred million years
Goodbye in just a minute, gone forever, no more tears
Pinball man, power glutton, vacuum inside his head
Forefinger on the button, is he blue or is he red?

Nik Kershaw’s 1983 song was written in the context of the Cold War, the threat of nuclear annihilation, and politicians and politics in the US and USSR.  More than a little depressing that the themes are still applicable, 30 years later.

Break your silence if you would
Before the sun goes down for good

Think I’ll go fight me some windmills…

Your procrastination station…

It’s Saturday (always a good thing) and I’m a right mess (not such a good thing).  I seem to have reached an impasse.  It’s an impasse of my own making to be sure, but one that is messing up the day’s schedule in a big way.

It started last night.  The existential angst and attempts to overcome said existential angst over the course of the week wiped me out emotionally and physically.  Enough so that I took an unplanned nap on the couch.  For two and a half hours.  When I woke up- at 1 in the AM- I had no idea what day it was or how long I’d been asleep.  It was that kind of nap.  Felt like I’d slept for days/weeks/years.

All good- since I obviously needed the snooze- but making like Rip Van Winkle (Washington Irving has popped up on the radar a couple of times lately) so early meant that sleep- never a sure thing for me anyway- wasn’t about to make a return visit anytime soon.

I half-heartedly filled some boxes and sorted through some more papers (the shredder will be busy- I really have to cut down on the paper consumption.  I really do like and appreciate trees.  Not that you’d know it what with the amount of recycling that’s been leaving the house lately) but really didn’t accomplish much to speak of.

The claustrophobia and chaos-induced anxiety is starting to build as the number of boxes increases.  I’ve made good headway– well over halfway done with a couple of weeks to go- but today I hit the wall.

Partly because I’m running on fumes and coffee, sure.  But, being honest, it’s mainly because, when my reserves get low, I tap into my Master’s degree in procrastination.  It’s really not tooting my horn to insist that I’m veryvery good at it.  Procrastinating, I mean.

You would think that as the number of things to pack decreases it would be easier to figure out where to start.  Nope.

I managed to get some flattened pieces of cardboard made into actual boxes (which, since they haven’t been filled with anything, have become playgrounds for my feline roommates), some research done for a freelance article I’m working on and… well.  Nothing else really.  Not enough to put any kind of dent in the to-do list.  Which is growing longer by the day.

The enthusiasm lagged early in the day.  I took a walk down to the local Tim Hortons for a doughnut (not for the coffee.  NEVER for the coffee.  Unlike most of the rest of my fellow-citizens, I find their coffee undrinkable except in the most desperate of circumstances.  And I have good coffee in my house.  But the doughnuts are worth the walk when one is jonesin’ for something to rein in the sweet tooth) thinking the sugar rush from a Canadian Maple might get the motor running.

It’s like a Boston cream but with maple flavoured icing.  Mmmm.

Haven’t gone back to the packing.  But I do have a touch of a sugar-induced headache.

(I just Googled ‘doughnut’ to find out something about the etymology of the word- my procrastination knows no bounds today- and found THIS on the Wikipedia: The earliest known recorded usage of the term dates to an 1808 short story describing a spread of “fire-cakes and dough-nuts.” WASHINGTON IRVING’S  (emphasis most DEFINITELY mine) reference to “doughnuts” in 1809 in his History of New York is more commonly cited as the first written recording of the term. Irving described “balls of sweetened dough, fried in hog’s fat, and called doughnuts, or olykoeks.”These “nuts” of fried dough might now be called doughnut holes. Doughnut is the more traditional spelling, and still dominates outside the US.  At present, doughnut and the shortened form donut are both pervasive in American English.”  AGAIN with the Washington Irving!)

Anyhoo.  Weird coinkidinks (or examples of synchronicity) aside…

The television is also seemingly conspiring to ensure that I get nothing of substance accomplished.  There’s a free preview going on right now of one of those channels that plays shows from back in the day.  All of these are shows that I’ve seen before, of course.  But somehow checking in with Archie and Edith, Jack, Janet and Chrissy, Dorothy, Blanche, Rose and Sophia, Klinger, Radar, Hawkeye and BJ, and etc. has become more of a priority than packing or being otherwise productive.

And the day ticks on by…

It really is astounding, just how time is fleeting… (‘Hey Riff- show us your mother!’)

In addition to being one of the key tunes from the brilliant and cutting edge cult classic Rocky Horror (Picture) Show, a time warp is ‘a hypothetical discontinuity or distortion occurring in the flow of time that would move events from one time period to another or suspend the passage of time.’

(Richard O’Brien’s 1975 film of his musical stage play (first presented in 1973) is a loving tribute to horror films and B movies (there are direct echoes of the awesomely bad 1964 Lon Chaney, Jr. film, Spider Baby, for example).  The film plays with the concepts of space and time- and nostalgia for the heyday of films and fashion.  It has become a source of nostalgia itself- between the midnight showings in old-timey theatres (those that remain in this age of multiplexes) and stage revivals- there’s one going on here in town right now- it remains an enduring piece of cinematic wonder.  And relative innocence, even if the subject matter was somewhat risqué when it first appeared.

While I’ve never seen an interview in which he admits to it, Richard O’Brien HAS to have had some exposure to either gnostic mythology or Jungian uses of gnostic and dualistic archetypes and mythemes.  I’ve actually used the film in classes as an illustration of gnostic language as used in popular culture.  Frank is certainly a demiurge, seeking to out-create the ineffable originator of the universe… This derailment of the train of thought- further evidence of today’s masterful procrastination- has gone on long enough but brings to light a topic that might require some revisiting.  Perhaps in a Hallowe’en post?)

Getting back on track… time is something we often take for granted- and I am frequently guilty of squandering it when I can least afford to do so.  Suspending the passage of time- while not currently possible (as far as I know, anyway) is an attractive potentiality.

The movement of events from one time period to another is a popular device used in storytelling- to illustrate differences in mores and highlight developments in technology and the like.  For example, Sleepy Hollow, that new tv show I’ve mentioned a time or two, uses the time warp- to bring Ichabod into the 21st century, and to allow him to communicate with his wife and draw upon the information she has about the Horseman.

We would love to think we have some control over time, but short of actually using our time effectively rather than making excuses and finding other things that will eat into the time we have, there really isn’t anything we can do to in any way affect its passage.

But as the sun goes down on Toronto this evening, the city will make a good fist of playing with the way we generally structure time.

Once a year, Nuit Blanche lights up the town.  Office buildings, museums, hidden subway stations, gardens and usually busy streetscapes play host to art and light installations from sunset to sunrise.  People who wouldn’t normally venture out for late nights can be found down darkened alleys watching tennis games, or ducking the searchlights of helicopters flying low over courtyards between buildings in the financial heart of the core.

‘Night’ is remade, and experiences that are generally confined to regular business hours are let out of their framework as the dark becomes the background for people to come together.  Children are allowed up loooong past normal bedtimes, night owls are in their element, and morning people set their alarms even earlier to catch the last few hours of the displays before the sun comes up.

If I’m going to procrastinate, Nuit Blanche is a pretty good place to do so.  It’s kind of like a time warp.  Once a year the distortion of the normal flow of events transforms our downtown and reinforces the reality that time is a construct.  A necessary construct but one that we can play with and seem to suspend for a little while.

Best get moving so I can join my fellow Torontonians as we head out into the night and ‘do the Time Warp again.’

Connect 4

Once upon a time, back when TLC actually was about LEARNING stuff (rather than ‘reality’ programming focused on people who are willing to live their lives in front of the camera and/or shows that follow women as they buy wedding dresses and plan ostentatious parties) there used to be this show…

Connections² and Connections³ were shown on TLC in North America in 1994 and 1997, based on the original 1978 series from the BBC.  The Man Who Makes the Connections is James Burke.

He.  Is.  Awesome.

As a science historian and broadcaster he linked science and world events and demonstrated the continuity and development of humans and all those cool things that we’ve managed to create.  All these things are interconnected, and through historical reenactments, working models and James’ inimitable and enthusiastic delivery every episode both illuminated and reassured.

James maintained that the world as we now know it is a web of interconnected events that drive history and innovation.  These seemingly, at first glance, isolated events- that happened for reasons of religion, curiosity, profit or power- led us to where we are now, with the technology we have and the promise of more to come in the future.

His examples demonstrated that those who started the chain- with the singular event enacted for their particular benefit- could not possibly have seen forward to the place where a simple act might lead.  Time and progress work in inexplicable ways.  In demonstrating this, James suggested that we, likewise, have no real way of predicting where technology might end up.  There are many possible factors- shifts, synergistic interactions and random innovations- as we move through the loops and whorls of time.

As history progresses the potential for connections increases, which causes the processes of innovation to accelerate.  New technology comes at us faster and faster- becoming de rigueur for a moment and then rapidly thrown into obsolescence.  It’s hard for the regular people (people who aren’t James Burke) to keep up.  Which is why we need to be as awake and aware of the connections and the changes as we can- or risk being left far behind.

I love James Burke.  He’s a man after my own heart (I tend to see links between things that may be less than obvious).  All is connected- no vacuums hereabouts- and our history, scientific and otherwise, is what has led us to this very point in time and space.  The whole ‘science historian’ thing is very groovy.  My youthful love affair with science sort of petered out after my OSCOTT club days at the Science Centre.  James revivified it.  And reminded us that human history is the story of our creativity (not always good creative- but creative nonetheless)- in the arts and the sciences.

Between the original Connections and Connections², he presented another series- The Day the Universe Changed (1985), which focused on the philosophical reactions to scientific change in western civilization. The perfect melding of the scientific and the metaphysical innovations of the western world.

At the end of that series he postulated that computer technology and innovations in communication would permit the instantaneous exchange of ideas.  As I write this on my laptop after finishing the day’s email replies and having had a chat with a friend on the Facebook, I have to admit that he was pretty bang on predicting the trajectory of computer innovations and their effect on the way we interact with one another.

He’s spooky.  Spooky smart and spooky engaging.  You can find him on YouTube.  Watch him.


I got all reminisce-y about my old buddy James because I’ve had ‘connections’ on the brain this week.  Since I haven’t yet succumbed to the lure of Doktor Snake in the whole job searching thing (but only just barely), I’ve been attempting to ‘work my networks’ and search for ways of maximizing existing connections.

It really is a small world- and a small town (largest city in Canada notwithstanding- it’s really a village)- so I’ve been attempting to get into the six degrees of Kevin Bacon frame of mind in an attempt to find referrals and leads.


And synergy.  From the Greek for ‘working together’.

Hoping that some solid synergy will lead to some synchronicity.  I’ll take all the meaningful, if seemingly unrelated, connectivity I can get at this point.

A connecting principle,
Linked to the invisible
Almost imperceptible
Something inexpressible.
Science insusceptible
Logic so inflexible
Causally connectible
Yet nothing is invincible.

I am a Police fan from waaaaay back. Been there, still have the cheesy buttons/tour t-shirts.  They were my favourite band for many moons and still rank way up there among the oft-repeated tunes on the Shuffle Daemon.  Even the huge egos and childish spats didn’t detract from their greatness.

I rarely travel far for concerts anymore, but the reunion tour a few years back more than warranted the road trip to Montreal.  (Especially since Sting’s kid’s band opened the show- Fiction Plane.  Solid band)  They rocked.  Hard.  And Sting didn’t even bring out the damn mandolin.

My love and hero worship of the band aside, they have a couple of songs that are all about the connections- random or orchestrated- that have been on my mind lately.

The album Synchronicity was bittersweet.  It was the brilliant swansong that marked the end of the Police.  It is one of those albums that I listened to all the way through.  Repeatedly.  It wasn’t a concept album, but the songs/stories remain linked in my memories and the two Synchronicitys (Synchronicities?) made an impact long before I really understood the complexities of the word.

Years of study- that included Jungian theories about religion- and the definition as it appears in the Wikipedia (‘the experience of two or more events as meaningfully related, whereas they are unlikely to be causally related. The subject sees it as a meaningful coincidence, although the events need not be exactly simultaneous in time. The concept does not question, or compete with, the notion of causality.  Instead, it maintains that just as events may be connected by a causal line, they may also be connected by meaning. A grouping of events by meaning need not have an explanation in terms of cause and effect’)– clarified the subject somewhat.

S1 describes it as a ‘connecting principle’.

(This is good.  Need the connecting right about now.  And there have been subtle connections happening- like the correspondence/collision of two of my recent posts the other day).

S1 also references Spiritus Mundi– W.B. Yeats’ ‘spirit of the world’- the belief that all human minds are linked to a single vast intelligence that causes universal symbols to pop up in each individual’s consciousness (also very gnostic and very Jungian- Bythos and archetypes- loving these connections).

Yeats mentions this prophecy-providing principle in The Second Coming, his post-WW1 poem that uses imagery of the Christian Apocalypse to describe the confusion of the years following the War.  The vision he experienced was not one of comfort- not the ‘second coming’ of Christ in glory, but a ‘rough beast’ slouching ‘toward Bethlehem to be born.’

As things fall apart (‘the centre cannot hold’), the beast awakens after a 2000 year slumber and returns to a world that has lost its innocence.

I love Yeats.  I’ve mentioned that a couple of times before.  His words, like James Burke’s, remain timeless and uncannily prophetic- based as they were in a particular context of time and place. 

(Not unlike the biblical prophets- who spoke about their own times in the same way- but that’s a discussion for another day)

That which has been done- and learned and employed- cannot be undone.  The lost innocence of which Yeats spoke included the advent of such things as chemical warfare- something that proved increasingly ineffectual over the course of WW1 as soldiers were schooled to carry gas masks- and so became a weapon that was later used against civilian populations.  This lead to the establishment of the Geneva Protocol which banned the use (but not the stockpiling) of chemical weapons.  And that little bit of history served as the justification/imperative that almost lead to an American retaliatory attack in Syria a few weeks back.


S1 and S2 are linked by this Yeats-based idea of synchronicity- the concept that the events in one part of the world (Europe) set in motion events that are happening elsewhere (the second coming/reckoning with the beast).

S2- my personal fave- suggests that the mundanity and daily drudgery of the suburban life is somehow connected with a disturbance in ‘a dark Scottish loch’.  The realities of life (in the 80s) causes the Loch Ness Monster to rise from the lake and creep up to that unsuspecting cottage on the shore.

Yeats spoke about the chaos after a war unlike any other in history.  S2 told of social anomie in the pursuit of the material at the expense of things of substance and real import.

Can’t say that the Police (or Sting, anyway) aren’t book smart.

The connections are there.  All around us.  We may not see the causality yet we can sense the synchronicity.

James Burke knows.  Yeats knew.  The Police definitely are aware.  Even I can feel it in the air this week.

Gotta get it working for me, is all.

But right now I really have to get back to the packing.

Happy weekend everyone.

Nessie found a new vocation- surely I can too…

When posts collide

It seems our illustrious mayor is taking it on the road again.  At his own expense, it must be noted.

We have been informed (here in the National Post for example) that Ford is very concerned with the fact that we just don’t seem to be maximizing our potential in attracting bands here to TO. He seems to be (randomly and bizarrely) tweeting about it as well.

(I’m thinking that whoever is in charge of his Twitter account just needs a little more practice.  Can hardly blame the person- they are likely new to the job- since Robbie can’t seem to keep staff around for long)

This will be remedied by the Austin-Toronto Music City Alliance Agreement which will make us ‘twin cities’ in music appreciation and development.

No one seems to be saying much about how such a plan seemingly comes into conflict with the foreign workers fee imposed, beginning in July, by the Harper government.

As I wrote about here, this tax may well inhibit those very indie bands that NXNE (modeled on the original SXSW that began in Austin in 1987) attracts to town every June.  Although the festival/conference has grown in the 18 years we’ve had it here, indie bands- and those that fly outside of the more commercial radar- still make up a large percentage of the festivities, playing small venues and exposing new audiences to international flavours and the diversity of the music scene.  And those that need to cross the border might not be wanting to pay the fee.

I’m all for supporting and encouraging anything that is going to help support our local musicians and attract new people from all over the place to come and see us here in TO.

We have some fantastic venues (the small and medium-sized places anyway- can’t say I’m a fan of shows at the ACC) and a good community of citizens who love to support new music.

This is all good.  I actually believe that making this connection with a town with as storied a musical history as Austin is something worth doing.

I’m just really not sure about the timing of it all.

As Matt Elliott wrote here:

“…the reality is that, as mayor, Ford has been more ineffective than terrible. He’s had a lot of questionable ideas, sure, but he’s not particularly good at implementing them. He’s got no real aptitude for building a consensus with his colleagues and has never really learned the art of the compromise.

Meanwhile, when councillors have worked together to oppose Ford, they’ve managed to avoid many service cuts, rewrite Ford’s budgets, take major transit decisions out of the mayor’s hands and push forward with some really progressive work on issues like electoral reform.

Yes, local politics has gotten messy over the last couple of years, but it’s not always had much to do with Ford. He was barely more than an observer through much of the Scarborough subway fight, standing on the sidelines as TTC chair Karen Stintz and Transportation Minister Glen Murray ran roughshod. And on previous issues like the silly debate over the nickle charge for a plastic bag, Ford merely stood by and watched as councillors squabbled, ultimately getting his way purely by accident — stumbling into success.”

He really does seem to move haltingly from one agenda item to the next, regardless of situations that may be more imperative or requiring of attention.  If it’s something that he wants dealt with, it gets addressed.  This is politics at its most ineffectual.  It’s small town, ‘put up the stop light or don’t put up the stoplight’ kind of stuff.

Not the stuff of the largest, most multicultural city in Canada.

Elliott continued his assessment of our current reality:

“Having a new mayor who is both better at getting things done and has a more coherent vision of Toronto is a worthwhile goal. But it can’t be the only goal. Ford didn’t create the political landscape that led to his election — he just capitalized on it. Just as a Ford reelection doesn’t automatically spell doom and gloom, knocking the mayor out of office won’t change nearly as much as some people might think. As a strategy for building a better Toronto goes, there’s got to be more to it.”

He’s absolutely correct.  Ford did NOT create this climate and approach to politics.

Has he capitalized on the localized specificity of partisanship?  Most definitely.  Does he pander to his suburban base at the expense of the integrity of the urban core and its infrastructure.  He does.  Is he a walking embarrassment to us all?  That one should go without saying.

But he is not unlike most other politicians these days- at least as far as those first two points are concerned.

We need to be looking to rework the municipal political situation in Toronto- and we have approximately a year to do so.  This means electing councillors and leaders who are concerned about the good of the city as a whole.  And not laying all the blame for the myriad issues in the city on the incompetency of this particular mayor.

I admit that I am guilty of that last bit.


Fastball was one of Austin’s exports in the 1990’s, apparently they’re still around, but this single, from 1998, is the only one that pops up on the Shuffle Daemon every once in a while.

And it could be about Mayor McCheese and his missionaries of musical migration.

They made up their minds
And they started packing
They left before the sun came up that day
An exit to eternal summer slacking
But where were they going without ever knowing the way?

They drank up the wine
And they got to talking
They now had more important things to say
And when the car broke down they started walking
Where were they going without ever knowing the way?

Anyone could see the road that they walk on is paved in gold
And it’s always summer, they’ll never get cold
They’ll never get hungry
They’ll never get old and gray
You can see their shadows wandering off somewhere
They wont make it home
But they really don’t care
They wanted the highway
They’re happy there today, today

Given the fact that his close friend and ‘sometime driver’ was arrested on drug charges yesterday, maybe Mayor McCheese will decide to stay in Austin.

Fingers crossed.

P.S. My personal apologies (in advance) to the City of Austin.  We’re not all like that.  Really.  And I don’t actually wish him upon you permanently.  I just reallyreally don’t want him back.