Monday, October 02, 2006 

Salt the earth

This blog is dead.

Once I figure out how to back it up (i.e. have five minutes to look it up and however long it'll take to do it), I'm deleting it. I'll probably start a research blog (more along the lines of Warren Ellis' than of an online journal).

I've had a rough couple months. I've just figured out how to explain it a few days ago.

Anyone already familiar with the Schrodinger's cat thought experiment will have to bear with me as I briefly sum it up and then bastardize it as an analogy that is only metaphorically useful in describing my current state.

Imagine a cat in a box with an attached poison gas delivery mechanism that the cat can in no way mess with. The mechanism will be triggered if an atomic nucleus decays. The experiment is set up so that there's exactly a 50 per cent chance of this happening after an hour. An hour passes. Is the cat alive or dead?

It's got to be one or the other, right? Maybe not.

According to Schrodinger (and my memory... forgive me if I get it a little wrong), the cat is both alive and dead until someone opens up the box and looks in. Then the part of the 'wavefunction' that represents one of the states (live cat or dead cat) will collapse and the cat will either be dead or alive.

That's where I'm leaving Schrodinger's work behind. From here on out I'm just using the language metaphorically to get across an idea.

My identity is built up of three different wavefunctions. They've been a part of me since before University. They are what I refer to when I say 'me'.

The first is the one that represents what I'm trying (painstakingly slowly) to do as far as reporting on criminology as a science goes. At first it took the form of 'criminologist' and gradually morphed into 'journalist'. My current job is a stepping stone, selected primarily because of what I'll learn from it. I very carefully trained my production staff this spring (they're very talented to begin with, I just provided a bit of industry standards). We've been getting all kinds of positive feedback. Our ad manager told me just now that she's got messages today from seven new companies who want to advertise with us ("It's unprecedented," she said) and she thinks it's because of how great the paper looks. The 'journalist' wavefunction is off to a good start.

The second is 'fiction writer'. Short fiction primarily, but eventually novels.

The third is 'martial artist'.

I haven't written fiction on any kind of regular basis for years. I don't know if any talent remains, but there was at least a kernel of it to begin with. Every short story I wrote through high school received a perfect grade, or damn close. In second year I wrote a story that I entered in an online contest that 2,000 people around the world had entered and took first place. (The prize was $50 US, so I'm not making any claims about the quality of the competition.) I wrote a bunch of short fiction after that one over the next two years but never did anything with it. It's all still on a hard-drive at my parents' house. I started a novel the summer I graduated, but it died on the vine when I started at the Ontarion as a section editor that fall and stopped prioritizing it. That was the end.

I haven't been a martial artist since I graduated high school. The skills are still there. I've nurtured them back to fairly high levels a few times since high school. But it's not just about skill. It's about training with people. There are things - like timing - that you cannot develop fully without working on it with other people. So any time I worked on the rest of the skills, it always felt like I was pretending. The moral and philosophical elements are just as present as the skill, but without the complete package, it's not real. I could have started training with a new club, but everything else I was always doing (school, work, paying rent, etc.) was always a higher priority. This may seem like a piddly thing to anyone who has never been a student of the martial arts. The biggest thing to understand is that when you're doing it right it's not just something you do, it's something you are. I'm not anymore, and admitting that was agony.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Back to Schrodinger.

I graduated from Humber's journalism program this spring. I started as the Ontarion's editor in chief. A high school friend of Christa's died and I started examining my life. I started to open the box. I feel like two of the three wavefunctions of my identity have collapsed and that parts of me are dying.

I can either let them die or change my life.

The first thing that's going is this blog.

Thursday, September 14, 2006 

Welcome to the suck

No, I'm not comparing my current situation to a war. (Kudos to anybody who gets the reference though.) That's just the best way to sum up my feelings about it.

My week started early Sunday morning. I had drank an obscene amount the night before and I woke up feeling fine. I just couldn't get back to sleep. So I got up and spent the next hour reading a novel that a friend wrote and self-published. It's really bloody good.

I was at a cottage by Parry Sound and in the depths of despair. Even despite the picturesque surroundings, the presence of good friends and any number of positive things.

Later that day I asked Christa if she'd ever felt like she had to "explode her life." She said she didn't know what I meant. I responded that I didn't really either.

Monday I got to work at about 9 a.m. At about 4 p.m. I got news that my great uncle was dead. We'd been expecting it (cancer), but he'd been lucid up until the day before. Based on all of my grandparents, I'd expected him to still be around for a little while yet. Stupid me.

I took a twenty minute break to clear my head, then went back to work. Mocking up a newspaper with 36 pages of content that needs to stretch to 40 pages because of colour ads with promised placement is not fun. I could rant for a long time about that but it's better that I don't. An excess of froth would fall on the keyboard and break it. Let's leave it at this: I'm pissed.

I finished at 4:30 a.m. I drove home, went to bed and 'woke up' a short time later to Christa and a cup of coffee.

I shouted something after she had gone back out to the kitchen and before I actually woke up.

"It's too bad this machine won't make me breakfast," I said.

The shouting actually woke me up the rest of the way. I remember that the machine I was referring to was a laptop. Don't ask me to explain anything else.

The coffee, the coaxing and the hot shower had me feeling less like a corpse pretty quickly. I was in the office for 9:30 a.m.

I left the office at 7:45 p.m. because I wanted to watch House and I wasn't sure I could stay coherent long enough to keep working.

I came in this morning at 9:30 a.m. and worked all day without a break or lunch. We blew deadline by a few hours, finishing at 7:30 p.m.

The production staff and I ate on the company credit card after finishing (totally legit; there's a small line item in the budget that allows for it every so often), then Ian came back and we watched the first story (in six parts) of a great 1970s BBC sci-fi series called Saphire & Steel. Ian had read great things about it from someone he respects and ordered the complete series from Amazon.

Now, I can't sleep. The funeral is tomorrow. It's in my hometown. I'll make it back just in time for the editorial meeting that kicks off the next production cycle.

I'm trying to figure out whether to grieve or not.

Why is it that we seem to have this idea that bathing ourselves in our pain so that we can then go on with our lives is a good thing? Why not just go on anyway?

I know all the stock answers, or at least I think I do. I even kind of agree with them. But I think they're kind of bullshit at the same time.

Sunday, September 03, 2006 

Feral Cities

I've always been fascinated by post-apocalyptic landscapes and post-collapse environments. When I came across the term 'feral city' from Ian before reading Warren Ellis' excellent Fell, it was no surprise that I was intrigued.

I just found this article from the Naval War College Review and I'm totally engrossed, but need to go take photos of the pep rally. This post is basically a bookmark plus a chance to share the article with anybody who is interested.



Image Hosted by

Since the teeny tiny picture of the pictograph in the previous post was too small on my screen, I figure it was on yours too. My bad.


Bon Echo (1 of 3): The Rock

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Christa and I went camping to Bon Echo Provincial Park last week.

We left somewhere around 11 a.m. and arrived somewhere around 5 p.m. We did have a very brief stopover in Mississauga to pick up some extra groundsheets from her parents though.

The park is named after the rock pictured above. On our first full day there we took a tour boat along the base of the cliff to see some of the over 200 pictographs. Before we got to the base, they stopped the boat and we all shouted 'Mitch' - one of the other tour boat passengers - at the cliff.

Two or three seconds later, the cliff shouted it back. The echo is so perfect that it sounded as if they had planted a group of people at the top to shout names back at us.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usThis is one of the pictographs. They were painted by natives on vision quests.

Estimates of how hold they are range from 300 to 1,000 years.

Just think about that for a second. This image was painted using natural substances more than 300 years ago. Isn't that cool?

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usThe young turkey vulture to the right was pointed out to us by the tourguide. My eyes must have been on the fritz because it took me forever to spot him.

Clearly he wasn't actually posing, but it almost seemed as if he was because as soon as I snapped this picture he brought his wings in to his sides.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usThe next day Christa and I rented a canoe for the day and went across the lake to hike along the Bon Echo rock trail. The steps that were there were steep enough, but look at what had been bolted to the rocks until the mid-70s. Christa's posing beside one of the old ladders that had been put in back when the rock was the focal point for an inn on the other side of the lake.

Men used to climb that wearing full black suits and top hats. Women wore corsets and dresses and carried umbrellas to block the sun. As they climbed things like that. It boggles the mind.

The last is my favourite picture from the top of the rock.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usThis little bird drove Christa crazy because it hadn't stayed still long enough for her to identify it; I just barely snapped this picture. That coupled with the fact that she'd left her bird book in the car had her talking to herself for a while.

After getting back to the canoe we went to look at the pictographs for ourselves, which was pretty damn cool.


Test (for other blog)

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usSo, I'm testing out an element that I'll be using regularly over at Understanding Crime. Let's see if I remember how to do this.

[Edit 1: Well, not quite the effect I was looking for... Let's see how it looks this time...]

[Edit 2: Yes, that worked out just as I wanted. Now I can get going on my camping post for this blog.]

Saturday, September 02, 2006 

"What? You haven't peaked yet?"

Rocky Balboa.

Can't fucking wait.


Clouds across the sky

The opening shot of a field with clouds speeding across the sky is simply beautiful in the trailer for The Assassination of Jesse James. The rest of it is a bit of a let down after that.

I'll still see the flick though.


All day

I could watch movie trailers all day.

This one, about a new Brad Pitt/Cate Blanchett film called Babel hooked me from the first second.

The music, cinematography, pacing, voice over and editing all came together beautifully.

Is anybody aware of any sites that deal in trailer criticism? That would be interesting.


New Blog

Understanding Crime is now up.

This new blog will not replace the one you're currently reading from, so don't stop visiting here.

Friday, August 25, 2006 

Global anger

The premise: Global Frequency is an international rescue operation that answers to no government. There are a thousand and one ordinary people scattered across the world who are a part of the organization. Each is an expert in some field.

And each is willing to drop whatever it is they're doing to help rescue strangers from, for example, the end result of some almost forgotten cold war plot that's been activated by mistake.

"The whole planet is an unexploded bomb," says Miranda Zero, the mastermind behind the conspiracy. "That's why we're here."

Ian introduced me to this excellent comic by Warren Ellis recently. I consumed all 12 issues as quickly as I could. Today we watched a copy of the - illegally - downloaded pilot episode for the television show that died on the table.

Think the best episode of The X-Files (except better) and you have an idea of what we're talking about here.

This fucking thing had me tearing up in places. And not because it was sweet or sad. It was mind-numbingly hardcore. But it was so inspiring and that's what touched me. It's about regular people deciding in an instant that they will help because they're needed. Even if it's dangerous. Even if they might die.

Through Ian, I've been reading Kung Fu Monkey lately. He (John Rogers) was involved in making the pilot. This post (which I see that Ian has linked to already today) about making the pilot is just astounding. Can you imagine someone working on a television show breaking out in tears at the mere IDEA of something like this being real? Read this post and you'll start to understand.

And they had the writing team behind Angel onboard!

I'm so fucking angry.

Monday, August 21, 2006 

For those who've all but given up checking...

Christa has posted again.

Monday, August 14, 2006 

Google just blew my mind. Again.

Google Spreadsheets.


One more

This one didn't count as random since I sought it out.

"Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win." - Sun-tzu, The Art of War. Strategic Assessments


Fun meme

From Ian: Go here and look through random quotes until you find 5 that reflect who you are or what you believe.

"A man cannot be comfortable without his own approval." - Mark Twain (1835 - 1910)

"There is no security on this earth, there is only opportunity." - General Douglas MacArthur (1880 - 1964)

"A synonym is a word you use when you can't spell the word you first thought of." - Burt Bacharach (1928 - )

"Politicians should read science fiction, not westerns and detective stories." - Arthur C. Clarke (1917 - )

"Ideals are like stars: you will not succeed in touching them with your hands, but like the seafaring man on the ocean desert of waters, you choose them as your guides, and following them, you reach your destiny." - Carl Schurz (1829 - 1906)

Other quotations I found along the way that I like:

"The creative person basically has two kinds of jobs: One is the sexy, creative kind. Second is the kind that pays the bills. Sometimes the task in hand covers both bases, but not often. This tense duality will always play center stage. It will never be transcended." - Hugh Macleod, How To Be Creative: 7. Keep your day job., 08-22-04

"If you don't know where you are going, any road will take you there." - Lewis Carroll (1832 - 1898)

"In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock." - Thomas Jefferson (1743 - 1826)

"If this was easy it wouldn't be so hard." - Yogi Berra (1925 - )

"Learning is not attained by chance, it must be sought for with ardor and attended to with diligence." - Abigail Adams (1744 - 1818), 1780