Wednesday, March 31, 2004


I had a Kafka moment at work yesterday. Well, rather longer than a moment, actually: the whole eight hour shift was rather Kafka-esque, featuring heavily one in[s]ane question after another. Interestingly, this real life bout of surrealism was foreshadowed by the few pages that I read on the streetcar on my way there: there's a brilliant scene in Amerika that finds its protagonist, Karl Rossmann, observing the intricate workings of the information desk at The Hotel Occidental. What is essentially described is a library reference desk set up in the lobby of an uber-busy New York hotel. Those individuals providing information are the so-called under-porters, each of which is accompanied by a boy that fetches various sources of written information at the request of the very exacting under-porter. If the wrong resource is retrieved, the item is simply backhanded onto the floor. In this particularly busy information sector, time is of the essence:

These two providers of information... had always at least ten enquiring faces before them in the window opening. Among these ten, who were continually changing, there was often a perfect babel of tongues, as if each were an emissary from a different country. There were always several making enquiries at the same time, while others again carried on a conversation with each other...

While I am neither a librarian nor a hotel employee, the situation I found myself in had my co-worker serving a long line-up of individuals at the 'drop-off' counter, and me serving another long line-up of individuals at the 'pick-up' counter. Question upon question upon question precluded any possibility of actual work getting done. Why are people so inquisitive? Why can't they rely upon search engines and consumer health websites a little more often? And does it look like I know where the ant-traps are kept?

I suspect that tomorrow's dreaded shift will also have a literary connection: Dante's Inferno. These days hell finds itself in the environs of that hotbed of brewing violence, North York.

Sunday, March 21, 2004


In theory, philosophical counselling is a good idea, though I'm not sure Lou Marinoff's approach to it is exactly the way to go about things. It seems as though the interdisciplinary approach of marrying the fields of philosophy and psychology is more sensible. Indeed, the latter pre-dates Marinoff's A.P.P.A. [which interestingly uses dot.edu as a suffix, as opposed to the A.S.P.C.P's dot.org]. Just the idea that a three day workshop qualifies someone to be a certified philosophical counsellor takes away from the legitimacy of this burgeoning field.

It would be nice to see doctors begin to prescribe therapeutic regimens of philosophical counselling instead of grabbing for the pen and pad to write a prescription for Paxil. People's problem's don't always stem from imbalance of neurotransmitters, but rather, from trying to reconcile earthly concerns with a personal ethos, and failing.

But that doesn't stop me from occasionally thinking, maybe drugs are the answer...


Coffee's gone cold, maybe the draft from the window had something to with it. Second day of spring with a temperature of minus six. Listening to Badly Drawn Boy after watching a Sunday newsmagazine: learned about the new conservative leader of Canada [who's trying awfully hard to be charismatic], a slaughterhouse extraordinaire in Alberta where 74 languages are spoken, the overindulgent spending habits of one Mrs. John Ralston Saul, and the dud late-night talk show scene in Canada. Now I must face a task that I do not relish: the embellishment of a "learning portfolio" in preparation for a bi-yearly employee evaluation, during which time, I have decided, I may just give my notice. Thoughts of loading up a backpack and making for the open road, indeed, the open skies, pervade my mind on this cold but sunny Sunday afternoon. In the meantime, I just want to write, but no inspiration comes in light of many circumstances that preclude the manifestation of words put in a meaningful order. Maybe I need a muse to melt this lexical frigidity.

Time to put some lies on paper so that I can smile proudly about my ambitions and accomplishments tomorrow.

Friday, March 19, 2004


It is fortuitous that Anthony Bourdain's A Cook's Tour can be comfortably held in one hand. Even more fortuitous to have the tall sinewy form of him on the television screen, visibly revelling in the pleasure of one culinary sampling after another. Who ever thought that watching another person eat could be so hot?

The San Sebastian episode of A Cook's Tour comes to mind. Tony is taken from one tapas bar to the next by a small group of local women who are obviously enjoying his company, and by the time they have left the third or fourth establishment, I am half expecting one or more of these women to be inviting Tony back to their place for more Riojan wine and finger food [wink nudge].

As an aside, it was sort of an interesting move on the part of The Food Network to air an episode revolving around and lauding the culture of the Basque people, a mere three days after the bombing in Madrid. Planned or purely co-incidental, I wonder? More than likely the latter.


Well, it turns out that there's a reason that we sometimes hold our book in one hand while keeping the other hand free for, er, other activities. Or so I've learned from the review of Solitary Sex in the latest NYRB. Funny, too, that the hallmarks that characterize an avid reader can also be applied to the act that dare not speak its name: privacy, fantasy, and insatiability.

Must get back to my book now.

Thursday, March 18, 2004


Alberto Manguel always manages to present the most interesting topics to his readers. The man has his finger on the pulse of all manner of literary curiosity, such things as imaginary places, the history of reading, and how to glean a story from a picture on a wall. And does this man know how to anthologize?! Well, yes, he does: fantastic fiction, gay fiction, political fiction, erotic fiction [and that's just a few genres that come to mind]. He's also a regular contributor to Geist magazine. And he's also a translator. Oh, and did I mention that, as a teenager in Buenos Aires, he spent evenings reading to the increasingly blind Jorge Luis Borges?

This is the subject of his latest book, With Borges [or Reading to Borges, as it's listed on amazon.ca]. I'm ashamed to say I have not read a substantial amount of Borges, but will be relying on this secondary source to lead me into the labyrinth.

Other intriguing Borges links: The Garden of Forking Paths at The Modern Word; The Secret Books, a lovely photographic flash site; and The Borgesian Cyclopaedia, "being a virtual reference to the world of Jorge Luis Borges".

And here's the library that always reminds me of the Library of Babel. When I sat in the subdued light of its reading room measuring chain lines and identifying watermarks, breathing in red rot, and cursing the necessity to transcribe in quasi-facsimile format, I felt as though I could have died happy there and then [of course, I wouldn't have admitted to it at the time]. And as long as I'm on the topic, there is currently an exhibition of note on display at Fisher: Philosophy & Bibliophily is showing until April 30th.


Achtung Deutschen! Watching The Passion of the Christ may re-kindle feelings of latent anti-Semitism that may be simmering just below the surface of the collective German psyche, ostensibly having been this way since putting its tail between its legs sixty years ago.

Germans are being told to be careful not to let the anti-Semitic overtones of the Gibson flick affect them, otherwise who knows what crazy shit could happen! Puh-leeze!


A great deal of amusement has been [unintentionally] afforded by the impressive Iraq on the Record database that California representative Henry A. Waxman has compiled, which revolves around lies and the lying liars that tell them: the usual suspects are Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Powell, and Condy Rice.This is a veritable greatest hits collection of all sorts of examples of double talk and lies that have been spewed forth regarding Iraq, Saddam, WMDs, imminent threats, ties to Al Qaeda, etc... there are 237 quotes in all, a drop in the bucket when considering the immeasurable instances of spinformation that have been heard since the "war" began one year ago, and of course, long before that as well.

Speaking of double talk, there is a choice piece of footage of Rummy over at MoveOn.org, wherein he is caught in his own web of deception, denying that he ever uttered that Iraq posed an imminent threat to the US, and then being presented with two quotes that provide evidence to the contrary. First time I've ever seen Rummy at a loss for words. Hope it doesn't affect his future output of profundity.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004


"I'll meet you at the corner of City Centre Drive and Rodeo Drive" Thus spake Ashley.

"That neighbourhood is so yesterday," came Brandon's disinterested reply.

"Do you have a better idea?" Suggesting an alternate locale was an affront to Ashley's self-imagined sense of what passed for hip and what didn't. If there was a more happening nabe than City Centre & Rodeo, she didn't know about it.

"We should go to Absolute City Centre. There's a scene starting up there that I wanna catch a ride on."

"Isn't that just south of Centreville?"

"Yes, but at the same time, it's so far removed from Centreville that it might as well be in Etobicoke. You know, on a whole other spiritual plane."

"Yeah, because I was gonna say, Centreville is even more yesterday than C.C. & R."

"Oh, so you're admitting that it's not what it used to be?"

"You know I follow your lead in these matters, Brandon. But why haven't I heard of the Absolute City Centre scene?"

"Well, it's all very underground at the moment. Hush-hush like. The scene, at its core, is chthonic, very experimental, very progressive..."

"Really? In what regard?"

"In the regard that no Heartland scene has even attempted to do what Absolute C.C. is doing."

"I'm so excited to be a part of a new movement like this! Your insight into the nuances of social reality are inspirational." Ashley paused to collect herself, a tear rolling down her cheek as she tried to swallow the lump in her throat.

"So we're meeting at the newly built condo at the corner of Hurontario and Zenith... walk into the lobby and make an immediate right. There'll be a door marked 'janitor'." Brandon chuckles knowingly. "I suppose I don't have to tell you it's not really a janitor's supply closet."

"No, of course not... but what is behind the door?"

"A flight of stairs."

"Do I go up or down the stairs?"

"Silly, you go down, of course."

"And then what?"

"There'll be an impossibly long corridor, at the end of which will be another door, which you'll recognize by the doorknocker made to resemble a gargoyle. You'll need to give the password when it's opened."

"What's the password?"

"Illusory urbanity."

Saturday, March 13, 2004


I wonder if Mel Gibson considered using this actor to play the role of The Christ. It might have been good for his fading celebrity, especially after the critical rejection of The Brown Bunny, which he wrote, directed, edited, and produced [akin to vanity publishing in the literary world]. Lord knows the man has The Passion. All you have to do is look at the leopard print trunks and the clinging baby tee with its encouraging message: Yes!

Given the option of viewing T.P.O.T.C or Brown Bunny, I'd have to say the latter seems more appealing, if only because of this picture of Chloe and Vincent.

Tuesday, March 09, 2004


What kind of sick hybrid of nepotism is this? If it's gonna get the boytoy a two book deal, is it any wonder that they went public with their couplehood?

Monday, March 08, 2004


The Library of Congress subject heading for Nat Tate, an American Artist: 1928-1960 is Literary forgeries and mystifications. I love a good literary forgery as much as the next bibliophile, but I think, when considering the mystifying case of Nat Tate, a more apt subject heading might be Modern art--hoaxes.

Admittedly, the subject heading issue is less interesting than the manner in which William Boyd tricked the New York art world into believing that Nat Tate was a real, living, breathing wunderkind of an artist whose brief and explosive career was prematurely extinguished, and that the revival of interest in his work, as well as its celebration, was necessary and overdue. Nat Tate, of course, didn't exist. Well, he did, but he wasn't who everybody thought he was. Boyd, with the help of Gore Vidal, David Bowie, and Picasso's biographer, convinced art critics that the biography of the abstract expressionist was nothing but genuine, to the degree that some of them made this claim: "Yes, I 've heard of him".

Logan Mountstuart [the protagonist in Boyd's Any Human Heart] has also heard of him. Indeed, Mountstuart owned several works by Tate, which were taken back by the artist on the pretense that he was going to revise them. What he really did with them was set them ablaze, along with all of his other works [procured in the same manner]. The next day he killed himself, jumping from the Staten Island Ferry to his watery death.

All fiction, of course. Except the part about Nat Tate taking the New York art world by storm. He did do that, if only for a very short while. Not bad for someone who, in the words of Gore Vidal, was "drunk with nothing to say". Tate's biographer, on the other hand, has plenty to say. Those art critics never had a chance, presumably not knowing about Boyd's penchant for dropping the names of all manner of literary and artistic cognoscenti, both real and imagined [my single frame of reference is Any Human Heart].

And in case you're wondering what Nat looked like, here he is as he appeared on the cover of the biography, ironically standing before what was to become his watery grave. Eerie.

Sunday, March 07, 2004


Neil's Saturday radio concert came and went, and brought with it a memory of his concert on a cold, rainy February night, one year or so ago, at the Phoenix. This is because it was a broadcast of the very same concert. Neil, at his most personable and charismatic best, also commented on his previous visit to Toronto, which he claims was the hottest he's ever been while performing. Having also been there, I can attest to that claim... no fresh breeze came off the lake that night... But the most memorable performance that Neil has given in Toronto found him on an outdoor stage at Harbourfront: the breeze coming off the lake that night just added to the overall ambience and magic of the evening. The great thing about Neil is that he loves Toronto, so we, by which I mean all of his adoring fans, know that he'll be back on his next tour, which is likely to be soon, as he and brother Tim are releasing an album this year. To see the two of them perform together is a truly astonishing thing, as they are in remarkable sync with one another, effortlessly moving from one instrument to the next, often exchanging them between songs... no surprise, really, as they have been playing music together since they were boys in Te Awamutu, in the pre-Enz days... I guess I shouldn't even get started on the incomparable phenom known as Split Enz, as I could gush on for much longer...

Until we get our next fix of all things Finn, have some interactive fun over at nilfun.com


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