Monday, March 31, 2008

Virtual Vacation: San Francisco - There's No Place Like Home


In the end a three-day virtual vacation was a little more than I could handle; in planning it out, I never took into account how long it would take to actually write the thing, especially while alternately writhing in pain and gooned on Advil. Still, I did get a magical day out of it (even though it took three slightly less than magical days to write). So I came home, humbled once again by how much bigger my ambition is than my talent; waking up, I was no longer in room 1220 of the St. Francis Hotel, but in the equally magical (if more sorely in need of housekeeping) Pop Culture Institute.

I won't promise I'll never do it again - after all, I got four comments out of it, which is four more than I ever get out of writing about the minutiae of life at the court of Elizabeth I - but if I do it again, I'll be better prepared ahead of time. Someone once said (I forget just who) "It takes a big man to admit when he's beaten"; right at this moment I feel like Rodney King, but I'm not going to let failure stop me, but simply learn from it what I can and move on.

Now without any further ado, I've got two days of catching up to do in just under three hours...
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Virtual Vacation: San Francisco - A Pilgrimage To Grace


Although it had been my original intention to walk back to the hotel after returning from Alcatraz, all the reverie and fresh air had left me unexpectedly fatigued - which is especially surprising, since it's only a virtual vacation. So I decided to take the cable car from Powell & Bay to the Nob Hill crossing; after all, what trip to San Francisco (even a virtual one) would be complete without a ride on a cable car? I decided, though, to resist the urge to make myself Rice-A-Roni, although by now I'd decided there were certain other "San Francisco treats" I thought I might enjoy while on my sojourn.

At the spot where the Powell-Mason line crosses California Street atop Nob Hill I disembarked with the same casual insouciance with which I'd jumped on at Fisherman's Wharf, and walked the two blocks to Grace Cathedral, yet another of the sites made memorable by Armistead Maupin, in this case in the well-named sequel to Tales of the City, More Tales of the City. Along the way I passed the Pacific-Union Club and the Fairmont, another of the city's iconic hotels - featured in Alfred Hitchcock's 1958 film Vertigo.

Although in the novel a cult of Episcopalian cannibals was practicing their predilection on a walkway high above the central aisle, there was no such ghoulish transubstantiation on offer today; instead, I walked the Labyrinth, looking for the meditative state it promised. I would have stayed to see more - there's an altarpiece in the AIDS chapel designed by Keith Haring - but as will happen all of a sudden I came on all tired.

Five blocks south on Taylor and two blocks east on Geary and I was back at the St. Francis Hotel; passing the famous clock in the lobby I got my key from the desk. The concierge on duty reminded me that my delivery had arrived from earlier, and I slid him a twenty with a weary smile. Upstairs, I barely had time to notice the sumptuousness of the room before falling onto the bed and into a dream as surreal as the day I'd just had.
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Virtual Vacation: San Francisco - Alcatraz


As the boat pulled away from Pier 33 I felt the same shiver that thousands of prisoners must have gotten arriving for the first time, staring down the incontrovertible prospect of coming here; its imminence imbues the moment with immanence, as what seems like a tiny speck out in the water grows ever larger, until suddenly its cliffs loom above you, letting you know who is the more powerful in no uncertain terms. Yet as big as the rock is, even as big as is the sea, the sky is even more so; after a day of witnessing it in slivers, I am suddenly aware only of its size. For as big as we imagine ourselves to be, the smallest mountain is bigger than our biggest building, and even the mightiest mountain is but a speck of dust beneath the sky.

Following a brief orientation at the visitor's centre (to help further put me in my place) we are free to explore what we can by ourselves, so I decide to make the obligatory trek uphill to the cell block, snapping pictures as I go. Being here - predictably, I guess - has me thinking about the prisons in which we find ourselves. Mine (like those of many others, I suspect) is a voluntary incarceration, no matter how externally imposed it may feel. In some ways, this may be another reason why we travel, since when we do we are both out of our comfort zone as well as out of our routine; it's not too outlandish to suggest using a vacation as a means to escape from our various mental prisons as well.

The fact that I had to come to a penitentiary for that insight is not lost on me as I reach the bleak building at the windswept top of a place they call The Rock, leaving me - not for the first time - literally between a rock and a hard place. While peering into the tiny cells I'm aware only of the cramped space I've prepared for myself by my own self-loathing, and looking into the even darker cells of solitary confinement I get a horrifying glimpse of what my life might be like if I dared to risk flouting the authority that I've imagined has put me there.

Like the sea around this virtually impregnable fortress, all kinds of forces larger than I am seem to conspire to keep me incarcerated: swirling eddies of doubt, riptides of prejudice, and choppy currents of culture. It's just not that easy to make a run for it, as those men who'd tried to escape this place discovered, to their peril - none of them were ever seen again. As well there are the jailers who while, in my case at least, are entirely imaginary are no less menacing for it. So completely have I swallowed the necessary bunkum about what it means to be a gay man that I've forgotten what's more important: the necessary truth about what it means to be a human. So well have I imagined not only their tyranny but the hold I've given it over me that it never occurs to me how easy it might be to throw off my shackles; after all, since I put them on myself it wouldn't be physically possible for me to lock them as well.

When your life is at an end, it doesn't matter what your BMI was or how chiselled your features were; what matters is that you were kind to people, what you managed to learn, and how much of what you learned you were able to impart. The body of Gyllenhaal is downright dangerous if it's paired with the social skills of Ted Bundy; so too is the brain of Einstein when paired with the thoughts of Charles Manson.

It's not lost on me that for my first virtual vacation I came to what - for many - represents the capital city of gay, one of the first places gay men were able to come in droves to throw off their own shackles, in this case of heterosexism and religious dogma. My own difficult life among my fellow gay men - gleaned from a preponderance of bad experiences first in Kelowna and then in Vancouver - all comes down to me, and how badly I handled them when they occurred, how willing I was to turn an unfair insult into a home truth. My escape from them, then, ought to be as easy as my submission to them was in the first place.

After three hours of exploring (both the site and the psyche) and with a fresh perspective on both myself and the city I returned to the jetty, made the obligatory pass through the gift shop, and caught a few more images of the birds who are the island's only inhabitants now. I find it amusing that Nature's most free creatures now inhabit a place once deemed fit only for her least free. Images and insights from my lunch with Marc are still swirling about in my head as I begin to endlessly nitpick my earlier performance: Was I charming enough? Was I too negative? Did I interrupt him? Fortunately I'm able to keep my hands busy as the boat returns to the city, which action generally succeeds in calming my mind. One phase of my virtual vacation now virtually over, I turn my mind to the next destination, the only one which seems logical now...
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Virtual Vacation: San Francisco - Fisherman's Wharf


In Tales of the City, Mary Ann Singleton was standing in Aquatic Park looking at San Francisco Bay when she made her fateful (if fictional) decision to never return to Cleveland. So that seemed to be the most sensible place for me to go to next; besides, I figured I'd be safe, since my visit was only going to be three days long and I wasn't actually going to be there in person. Plus, it gave me a chance to walk Lombard Street on the way; as these things go, one couldn't ask for a lovelier garden path down which to be led.

I couldn't stay at Aquatic Park long though - certainly not long enough to visit Aquatic Park Historic District (gotta save something for my next visit!) - because virtual vacation or no I had a schedule to keep.

I'd made arrangements to go for lunch at Fisherman's Wharf with one of my virtual friends, in keeping with the theme of the trip; thanks to Facebook I have many such virtual friends in actual cities all over the world. When the time comes that I'm able to visit these places in person - hopefully as a roving photojournalist for the Pop Culture Institute - I'm looking forward to meeting these people in person, so they won't merely be virtual friends anymore.

The friend I met is Marc Smolowitz, a guy who (in my current incarnation) I wouldn't have the nerve to go anywhere near but who, in my virtual guise with the body of Jake Gyllenhaal, I could approach with unmitigated calm. For the complete pop culture experience I chose the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., even though I knew Marc is Jewish going in (and thus may not be able to eat shellfish); I'm kind of like that - sensitive after the fact, always a little too late. Also, I'd dragged him into the tourist trap of Fisherman's Wharf, where no red-blooded resident would be seen dead. Plus I didn't really care for the movie Forrest Gump, although you'd think I would. Still, what kind of blogger would I be if I wasn't self-absorbed in the extreme?

Having never had lunch with an Academy Award nominee before, I was full of questions; by the end of the meal I was also full of shrimp, which my virtual abs crushed like the bugs they are in a way my actual abs never would have. We digested by watching buskers on the pier, and while I shopped for tacky souvenirs we discussed issues raised by the documentary The Weather Underground, for which he nearly earned himself the coveted Hollywood dildo. I'd recently blogged about their March 1971 bombing of the US Capitol as part of my continuing push to remind people that terrorism in America didn't begin on September 11th, 2001 - no matter what the Republican Party would have you think - so I was eager to talk with someone who knew a little bit more about the subject.

Marc was also involved in the 2001 documentary Trembling Before G-d which - as a Jew queen myself - I found very enlightening and entertaining, in the best tradition of enlightertainment here at the Pop Culture Institute.

Before I could drag him into the Museum of the City of San Francisco, though, Marc begged off, and so I toured the exhibits by myself, after which I lavished out even more virtual cash (since its supply is virtually limitless) in the gift shop. Now suitably laden down I entrusted my purchases to a cab driver then called the concierge at the St. Francis Hotel to keep an eye out for them, and would he be a dear and put them in my room with my luggage? Such a delight to flirt with; I made a mental note to remember his name, so I could give him a nice big tip later. Leaving the museum I ambled (albeit purposefully) through The Cannery, determined to drink in the atmosphere but not buy anything until my next adventure.

On the way to Pier 33 I made a point of waving at the Holiday Inn - the hotel Mary Ann herself fictionally stayed in during her visit, and the one I could more probably afford if I was to ever go there in person - and with a suitably Gyllenhaalian elan to cover my vestigial trepidation I dashed along Bay Street toward Embarcadero with glimpses of my next destination lurking in the silver blue bay ahead of me.
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Virtual Vacation: San Francisco - In Search of Barbary Lane


Given that part of the reason I chose San Francisco for my first virtual vacation is my enduring affection for the 1979 novel Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin, I've decided that my first order of business should be to go in search of 28 Barbary Lane, described in the book as being "off Leavenworth between Union and Filbert". Now, I'm not a total loony; I know the street is fictional, but it gives me an excuse to ramble zig-zaggedly through Chinatown and Telegraph Hill before making my way to Russian Hill on my little pilgrimage. The image, by the way, is from the Tales miniseries, and looks just the way it's described in the book.

Setting out from the hotel eastward on Geary Street, I take a blocklong diagonal on Market Street, before turning north onto Montgomery Street craning my neck all along the way like some kind of tourist (although, to be fair, I do this at home too).

I decide to take in the viewing platform at the Transamerica Pyramid before continuing on; the views looking north from the 27th floor are as breathtaking as I'd expected. The other reason I'd like to travel is to take as many pictures as possible, which is also why I'd be traveling alone; this habit of mine invariably become irksome to even the most patient of companions. Using my Eyewitness Guide as a, well, as a guide, I take several photographs of Russian Hill, as there are no suitable ones on the Internet.

Leaving that building I decide to check out Jackson Square, which is where the offices of Halcyon Communications were in Tales. This charming bit of old San Francisco makes it stand out from the rest of the downtown, which is fairly Manhattan-ized; I grab a bench and try to see if I can spot some latter-day Mary Ann Singleton or Beauchamp Day among the crowds.

That bit of reverie done with, I make my way along Columbus Avenue as far as Washington Square in the North Beach neighbourhood; after taking a look at the ornate twin spires of Sts. Peter and Paul Church (and taking a few pictures) it's just four blocks west on Union Street, a right turn onto Leavenworth, and at the mid-point of the block I'm in the actual heart of the fictional place that first stole my heart so many years before.
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Virtual Vacation: San Francisco - Checking In


One notable benefit to the virtual vacation is the ability to stay in places I could never normally afford; such is the case with the uber-posh St. Francis Hotel, at Union Square. Yet for a pop culture junkie like me, where else would I stay? Built just before the earthquake it remains the largest hotel in the city, was the site of the scandal that brought down Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle, and has been featured as a location in numerous films as well.

The hotel also employs a historian, whom I might treat to breakfast upon my arrival - say, in The Oak Room - to get the low-down on the high and the mighty who've stayed under their roof. My own room, 1220, is one of those in which the death of Virginia Rappe was played out. Ghoulish, maybe, but then it's not like I'm planning to buy a Ouija board and have seance or anything.

Breakfast over, it's still too early to check in, so I leave my luggage with the porter and decide to go out sight-seeing while I wait. Seeing as this is a virtual vacation the weather is lovely and warm. Being an inveterate walker (when not laid up with one of the occasional injuries which plagues me - like the one I have now - since I'm also accident-prone) I'll be doing as much of it as possible on this trip. Also, since it's virtual, there are no hills too steep for me to drag my Jabba-esque bulk up them; still, I've also decided to travel in my virtual body, which resembles that of Jake Gylenhaal. Turns out a virtual vacation is more fun than I'd expected, and I've only been at it an hour.
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Virtual Vacation: San Francisco


As much as I long to travel, and visit those parts of the world I've (until now) only read about, I must admit that - like most fruits - I don't travel well.

First there's the the stress of being out of my routine, accompanied by the inevitable disruption in my finely tuned homeostasis, both of which are, after all, the point of travel but neither of which, I must admit, I particularly enjoy. Then there's the prospect of having some minimum wage flunky from the Department of Homeland Security spelunking in my rectum, looking for Osama bin Laden and/or a portable nuclear device, neither of which would fit up there unless they're smaller than a suppository. Although I have been known to keep toxic gas up there on occasion, it's never enough to kill more than a bird or maybe a medium-sized houseplant, making me less of a threat to the United States than Taco Bell.

There are two possible solutions to the conundrum: the first is to travel for long periods of time, and the second is to harness the vast power of my imagination to make the trip. Since I cannot presently afford the first option, the second will have to do for now. In the fullness of time - not to mention given the cooperation of the Internet gods and/or the advent of several good miracles - I will hopefully be able to accomplish the former as well. Given that I have three days off a week, that seems the ideal duration for this, the first of my virtual vacations.

It's an experiment, writing these posts; I may well invent an entirely new form of travel writing, or else my flight of fancy may crash and burn. Either way, I won't know until I've tried, so here goes who knows what... Nothing? Something? Only time will tell.

This first virtual vacation is sponsored by - no, sponsored by implies financial support - has been made possible by (that's more like it) the good people at Dorling Kindersley, whose Eyewitness Travel Guides have been fueling my dreams of world travel since I picked up my first one in 1995. Alas, I can't afford to constantly update them, so the copy I'm using is from 1996; the current guide was updated in 2006. By way of a shameless plug can I just say that Eyewitness Travel Guides are the guides that show you what others only tell you.

So, without any further hoo-hah, off we go!
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Friday, March 28, 2008

Madame Sarko Causes UK Stir


After a decade of contending with the vision of loveliness that is Cherie Blair, the British public can be forgiven for being more than a little smitten with Carla Bruni, the newly-minted Dame Premiere de France; Bruni accompanied her husband Nicolas Sarkozy on a two-day visit to the UK this past week, where according to pundits one and all she comported herself with more than enough grace, despite this having been her first visit to London as a matter of state.

Even the French have taken to her, accustomed as they are to Presidential wives who look not unlike Madame Edith Artois - then again, Bruni is a Pirelli heiress, was educated at Swiss boarding schools, in addition to being a model and an old hand at the trans-Atlantic lifestyle, having previously dated such notables as Mick Jagger, Eric Clapton, and Donald Trump. Naturally she'd be poised; still, the French Press on this occasion couldn't help but sniping that when she met the Queen her curtsey was too low, and her small-talk too gushy for their liking.

Arriving at Heathrow in an outfit reminiscent of another famous First Lady - namely Jacqueline Kennedy - she also wore flat shoes in order to accomodate the diminutive stature of her husband, a tip of her tiny hat to another gone-but-not-forgotten lady of fashion, the Princess of Wales.

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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

D. B. Cooper: New Evidence?


More than 36 years after the fact an unidentified man in Clark County, Washington, may have accidentally uncovered the first credible evidence concerning whatever became of notorious hijacker D. B. Cooper while grading a road on his property, near Amboy.

FBI are investigating a parachute found buried in the remote rural area which appears to be consistent with the one used by Cooper when he bailed out of Northwest Orient Airlines Flight 305 over the heavily wooded Washington/Oregon border at approximately 10:15 PM on the day before Thanksgiving in November 1971 with $200,000 in $20 bills strapped to his waist.

No trace of Cooper or the money has ever been recovered despite an 18-day manhunt conducted by 400 troops in the days following his disappearance. Due to the daring of his escape and the fact that neither he nor his remains have ever been found, Cooper is something of a folk hero; a 1981 film entitled The Pursuit of D. B. Cooper starred Treat Williams as the man himself.
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Saturday, March 22, 2008

Sara Jane Olson Mistakenly Paroled

Sara Jane Olson, formerly a member of the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA) - famed for its February 1974 kidnap and brainwash of newspaper heiress Patty Hearst - was mistakenly released from the Central California Women's Correctional Centre in Chowchilla one year early on March 17. She has since been apprehended without incident and returned to jail.

PhotobucketAlthough initially indicted along with other SLA members in February 1976, Olson (born Kathleen Soliah) went on the lam for 23 years, until she was captured in June 1999 following a profile of her on the television program America's Most Wanted which had aired the previous month.

According to Hearst, Olson was guilty of kicking a pregnant bank teller in the stomach (resulting in miscarriage) during the SLA's most famous robbery, of the Crocker National Bank, in April 1975 (at which Hearst served as the getaway driver); Olson was also implicit in the murder of Myrna Opsahl in the same heist, plus the attempted bombing of the LAPD in August 1975.

Following her recapture, Olson agreed to a plea bargain, copping to the explosives charges while the murder and attempted murder charges were dropped.

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Friday, March 21, 2008

Information: How Much Is Too Much

Generally speaking, the Situation Desk at the Pop Culture Institute is - like everything else at the Pop Culture Institute - dusty and covered in crap.

Despite my every effort to drum up controversy and thereby make myself famous (or at least Internet famous) my own good nature often gets the better of me. Oh, I've been known to be mouthy on occasion, and since my readers also tend to be mouthy there have been little scraps here and there along the way; since I am also famously touchy, though, I don't care to have my delicate sensibilities wounded any more than simply being awake in the 21st Century already wounds them, so I generally do what I must to avoid trouble. It's a fine line I walk, not unlike the famous Blondin, although I better resemble one of the hippos in Fantasia than a pillar of French muscles when I'm doing it.

So it is with a heavy heart that I clear away the crap and flick the feather duster at the Situation Desk to deal with the first genuine situation I've encountered since I called San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom a spoiled rotten pretty boy 13 months ago (a opinion, by the way, I still hold, despite the insistence of others to the contrary).

It seems in a recent post celebrating the birthday of Queen Latifah I included some biographical detail which may have inadvertantly provided the dreaded TMI (too much information) for a regular commenter, The Question Man. Now, knowing him as I do, my first reaction to this was that he likened the post to reading about a sibling's sex life - a perennial and, in my opinion, valid case of TMI; he left a comment to this effect.

I responded to that comment in my typical fashion - that is, with a pithy if pompous bit of boilerplate about how there was no such thing as too much information, seeing as we are, after all, living in The Information Age; I mean, did neolithic Europeans ever complain about Too Much Bronze? I doubt it. Anyway, I thought that was the end of the story. Well, I've been wrong before, but never wronger than now.

Mr. Gagne - occasional commenter and sometime contributor - proceeded to get his boxers in a wad and go off on a wacko jag. Now, I have no doubt in my mind this was a good natured jag, as he only wants for me what I want - which is a million readers and money by the bushel - but often his efforts to drum up controversy are met with a hollow echo and the chirping of crickets.

Having made a study of scandal my whole life the one thing I know for sure about the subject is that it can't be forced - it has to happen organically. I have every faith that I will, before my career is out, be called to testify before a Commons committee for having called the Prime Minister a neo-fascist thug. Hell, I'll even buy a new suit, and nothing would give me more pleasure than repeating those words into a microphone, where they will be transcribed into Hansard and lovingly stored at the Library of Parliament for all time.

In the meantime, though, I simply cannot allow even humourous animosity to exist between the few readers I have, sniping at each other in the comment roll. What do you think this is, Joe.My.God or something?

In summation, I can only say that I hope I've clarified the misunderstanding; either that or muddied it beyond the point of apathy. Mr. Gagne's witty and literate post about dealing with conversational homophobia (written in over-reaction to Question Man's original comment) is to follow - not because it's relevant in this instance, but merely because it's relevant generally, and thus needs to be said. That, and everything he writes takes a tiny bit of the burden off me to continually have to come up with this stuff.
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"Situation" by Alison Moyet

In what may be the most brilliant segueway in the history of this august organization, the Pop Culture Institute will be shortly dealing with a situation (get it? pretty neato, huh?); in the meantime, please enjoy this awesome acoustic version of the 1982 song Situation, from Yazoo's debut album Upstairs at Eric's, as sung by the duo's former lead singer, Alison Moyet.
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Saturday, March 15, 2008

A Few Words About Impatience


I've been meaning to write to you about impatience, an issue which (as some of you may know) is near and dear to my heart, for some time now. I would have written sooner, but procrastination got the better of me - more about that later; in fact, much later. Don't hold your breath, though, waiting for me to explain how both of these seemingly contradictory impulses manage to reside in me, because even I don't know that and it's going on inside my own head even as I'm writing this.

Impatience is a scourge in the life of anyone who suffers from it. It causes frustration (the leading cause of death amongst electronics in my house), exacerbates high blood pressure (which will, in all likelihood, be the cause of my death - if, that is, such an event occurs naturally), and frankly drives my friends crazy, even though I am extra careful to choose them for their patience, knowing from the outset what I'll be putting them through in the course of our relationship.

Partly it's a result of the high standard I set for myself, a standard which I feel ought to be universally held but isn't; mainly, though, it's because I am acutely aware of the hot breath of my own mortality on my neck, and I am driven to do as much as possible before it sinks its teeth in. Occasionally when the massive work load I've assigned to myself in the admittedly limited time I have left on Earth is thwarted - or even appears to be thwarted, however temporarily - I can usually be counted on to react in an anti-social manner. This usually involves impugning the circumstances of birth, IQ, and personal habits of those responsible for said thwarting, be they the employees of Blogspot or the volunteers of Wikipedia or what have you.

While the stress involved in spending every minute of the day either writing or thinking about writing is, by and large, entirely enjoyable to me, it is stress all the same; I seem to spend those moments when I'm not in the flow of writing worrying about whether or not the last thing I wrote is the last thing I'll ever write. Imagine, then, a nightmare scenario in which I find myself in a writing flow when any number of machines and or software applications refuse to cooperate, especially since I have always placed a high premium on cooperation, having been raised by Sesame Street.

The Pop Culture Institute has always been intended as a helpmate for those in need of it, starting with myself; I am hard at work as we speak (and making great progress, too) on a cure for Writer's Block, and now, additionally, Impatience. Despite what Big Pharma might tell you, not everything can be cured with a pill, and such is the way with this; in the end, whatever cures Impatience will not have the side effect of causing anal leakage, not if I have anything to say about it. Utilizing the most up-to-date Cognitive Behavioural methods in conjunction with a rigourous regimen of relaxation techniques designed to help me "get the fuck over myself"*, I feel certain that this grievous condition can be remedied.

A cure is right around the corner; I can feel it.

In the meantime, please accept my deepest apologies if I've ever gone mental on you, made you the victim of my venting (which, while it helps me, does nothing good for those at whom I've just vented) or exposed you in anyway to my affliction during the course of treatment. Rest assured, an end is in sight; in this case I can safely say the light at the end of the tunnel is not an oncoming train.


michael sean morris
Blogmaster of Ceremonies

*Actual Clinical Term

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Thursday, March 13, 2008

Dreamscapes - March 13th

Last night, I had a particularly long and convoluted dream; it went a little something like this...

The first thing I remember, I'm the age I am now, lying on my sofa, feeling sick. There's no one around - no one in my apartment building, no one on the street. I leave my building, which is in Vancouver, and suddenly I'm walking along Lakeshore Boulevard in Kelowna, the street my mother lives on, where I haven't lived for a decade. I'm walking to her house - trudging is more like it - and the farther I go the farther away it seems. It's an overcast day, near dusk.

When I'm almost there I remember that I parked my car near her place a long time ago; this would be easy to forget as I have never owned a car. I turn a corner and see the car parked on the side of the road near the cafe where I used to hang out. The car is the red Datsun F150 we owned in Regina in 1982; when I get up to it I just know there's going to be a ticket on it, since I remember parking it there two months earlier. Sure enough the ticket is for $500.78, which bums me out even more, since how the Hell am I gonna afford to pay that on top of all the other money I owe? Plus, it's a City of Vancouver ticket.

I get to my mother's house, which is not the house she lives in now but the house she lived in in Ottawa two decades ago - the basement of a wee cottage, with eccentric walls and an Escher-like floor. I go down the stairs and knock, then just let myself in.

Inside it's not my mother's house in Ottawa but my friend Doug's current apartment, only two or three times the size, only lit like the house he and I shared five years ago. My mother isn't there, but Doug and Seumas are. I say hello and then fall onto their sofa, which looks suspiciously like my sofa. There is some desultory small-talk; Seumas is trying to cheer me up, sitting in the chair my grandmother used to own, an enormous orange number we all called the Great Pumpkin. Doug is cleaning up, but unnecessarily, since the apartment is immaculate. This is incongruous in many ways, but consistent with the dream.

When he finally gets around to the part of the room I'm in he pushes against me and says (more brusquely than he ever would in real-life) that I need to move because I smell, so I get up and leave; as I'm leaving I hear Seumas tutting, but can't tell if it's at me or at him. Outside I'm on the street my mother's house was on in Ottawa, whereas when I came in her Ottawa house was where her Kelowna house is now. I notice my car is gone (as it would be since I've somehow switched cities) and before I can react I hear a siren.

I turn to see where it's coming from, and wake up with a start; there is an ambulance going past my building, and my alarm clock is ringing. I begin my day with a profound sense of dread, when I remember it's payday, which temporarily lifts the dread, until I remember how broke I am. I take an extra long shower, after which I feel much better.

Typically, I dream opposite to life; the dreams seem to burn off any residual emotion or anxiety I may be feeling. If I'm having a test, the night before I may dream of failure - that sort of thing. It's been a long time since I've had such a vivid and prolonged dream; I thought I'd share it with you now for no other reason than it was so vivid the best way to keep myself from dwelling on it is to express it. ~ MSM
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Monday, March 10, 2008

Queen's Message To The Commonwealth, 2008


Last year, Commonwealth Heads of Government met in Uganda on the edge of Lake Victoria and agreed to an Action Plan for tackling climate change. It was an appropriate place to do so: from there, the waters of the River Nile begin a three-month journey to the Mediterranean.

The Nile, throughout history, has served humankind in many ways. But for all its impressive size and importance, this river is a fragile ecosystem; and its vulnerability grows with the number of people dependent upon it, so that a single incident of pollution upstream may affect the lives of countless numbers downstream.

The example of the Nile illustrates many of the challenges facing the global environment as a whole which cannot alone sustain our lives as once it did. The competition for fresh water by a growing population is itself becoming a source of potential conflict. Our own attitudes to the environment, and the use we put it to, may have consequences for people on every continent and for every ocean and sea.

The impact of pollution falls unequally: it is often those who pollute the least – notably in the world’s least-developed nations – who are closest to the razor’s edge: most affected by the impact of climate change and least equipped to cope with it.

And it is important to remember that the environmental choices available in some countries may not be an option for others. In some parts of the world, for example, fossil fuels can be used more sparingly and buildings can be made of more efficient, sustainable materials; but it is far harder to expect someone to adapt if he or she relies on the trees of a local forest for fuel, shelter and livelihood. If we recognize the interests and needs of the people who are most affected, we can work with them to bring about lasting change. Happily, this approach has always been a strength of the Commonwealth, and awareness of environmental issues is now widespread, with a determination that future generations should enjoy clean air, sufficient fresh water and energy without risking damage to the planet. Few are more aware or energetic in confronting climate change than young people, and we should support them.

In the Commonwealth, governments, businesses, communities and individuals should each strive to match words and good intentions with deeds. Every contribution has its part to play. Whatever we do, wherever we live, our actions in defense of the environment can have a real and positive effect upon the lives of others, today and into the future.

[2007 Message]
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Saturday, March 01, 2008

Jimmy Kimmel Is Fucking Ben Affleck

The kind of plotzing I'm doing from this is the kind that tends to leave one permanently plotzed; considering that it first aired on Jimmy Kimmel Live earlier this week (February 24th, after the Oscars), in its first five days on YouTube this video was viewed more than 3.3 million times. At least 2 million of those views had to be someone other than me, making this some of the most popular footage in the world right now, even outside of my apartment.

All I can say about it is that Jimmy Kimmel is one lucky motherfucker; also, if Ben Affleck isn't any pickier than this at least I'm in with a chance, which is the best news I've had all day.

Enjoy it, if you're into this sort of thing; if you're not, lighten the Hell up.
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March: A Surefire Cure For The February Blahs

I had every intention of making February a fun-filled month at the Pop Culture Institute; it is, after all, Black History Month and I have always been the proud poster boy for White Guilt.

The only hitch (although it's a major one) is that I'm no fan of this particular month; I get the distinct feeling after this year it feels the same about me. I got sick, I got depressed, I took a little too much medication (which, fortunately, was the kind that has no fatal dose); nevertheless, even though the amount I took spared me it nearly killed this blog. The long and the short of it is that this year - as in years past - February was kind of a non-starter for me. The best thing about it is that even in a Leap Year it's still the shortest month.

Well, we're done with all that now. Over the course of the next eleven months, should I find myself with a glimmer of inspiration (HA!) and a spare moment (double HA!), I will be going back and filling in what turned out to be a very scanty February indeed. Not that you, my regular readers, need to worry about that until the next one comes along, when you can read it all for yourselves as if it were new. This will also allow me a bit of a cushion when, in 337 days' time, I am once again overtaken by the combination of a Canadian winter and the consumerist orgy which is all that remains of the Feast of the Lupercalia, resulting in an overwhelming desire to hide.

Rather than continuing to excoriate myself for my own deficiencies now (having been brought up on the notion that illness is weakness) I will instead endeavour to move forward and continue attempting the quality product I have always envisioned providing, doing my utmost to attract the inevitable vast readership such a quality product ought to strive for, and yes, even the cult of personality it's going to take to unite the two.

I mean, really... It's the least I can do.
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