30 January 2009

Nightlife in Illinoise

Not long ago I posted about the latest Jay-Z mash up: Jaydiohead. Listened. Enjoyed. Filed it under "hip-hop plus something unlikely."

Thanks to my man Shaun, I can now freshen and fatten that file with Metermaids NYC's: Nightlife in Illinoise. The Metermaids took beats and accapellas from their well-regarded Nightlife album and dropped a little science on multi-instrumentalist/folkster Surfjan Steven's critically acclaimed Illinoise.

The result is fresh, fantastic and free. Do your ears a favour: download here.

(I haven't heard either original album, but I think I'll just stick to the combo anyway; since they go so well together, I haven't been eating alot of my peanut butter sandwiches without jam).


29 January 2009

Spam Poem II -Optima collosus - analyzed


Reader Richard writes, in the comment section to Today's Spam Poem - Atomic Kazoo - analyzed,"analyze this, its in the same kind of language. But differs a lot. I don´t understand it but I got it. Please help me out with this."

Here is the poem

optima drummond boyhood? wallboard, priori perspicuous.
sentiment priori colossus optima hewn narcotic, citywide
droll eke priori aubrey brookline.

terre immigrate atomic
hewn sentiment ingratiate? necromantic, hrothgar headlight.
plus windy category vanderpoel necromantic teakwood, arose
plus aviatrix ingratiate brookline wallboard.

necromantic vanderpoel headlight

gad cryptanalyze extricable? category, cupidity cryptanalyze.

drummond bette.

A deeper look,

Optima colossus is a work of some stylistic beauty. However, the theme of despair and lost love has been dealt with by many prior poets, and often to greater effect. Though the style is beautiful, it never quite reaches the lofty heights of Bond’s earlier work, particularly Atomic Kazoo. Though uncredited, Optima is immediately recognizable, not just as a poem by the gifted and cryptic Chase Bond, but also as part of the same cycle of poetry as (the far superior) Atomic Kazoo. The theme of boyhood, of innocence lost and hungered for, runs through both like a Stygian plea for the sweet release of death.

However, the tone here is darker – dark to the point of near-opacity. As the wallboards close in “priori perspicuous”, the narrator reaches out, but no longer to the sweetness of boyhood memory , here he reaches out to the “narcotic, citywide,” as if, in ingesting massive quantities of opiates, he will unlock the mysteries that haunt him. Or at least take a hallucinatory respite from his troubles. As pleasant as that prospect may be, he dismisses it out of hand, to instead stare down the “necromantic, hrothgar headlight.”

The “Hrothgar headlight” is a reference to the legendary 6th Century Danish king, immortalized in the narrative poem Beowulf. In this instance, the just and wise old king offers necromantic overtures to entice our narrator to the ‘great sleep’. By personifying death as the sagacious Hrothgar, Bond offers us a view of Death not as a fearsome thing, but rather a reward for penance served (see harassment at the hands of Grendel in the epic poem ‘Beowulf’).

It is at this point in the work that the narrator prepares to ‘immigrate atomic’. For those unfamiliar with 1960’s beatnik prisoner slang from Kansas City, to ‘immigrate atomic’ means to commit suicide. This spells out, in no uncertain terms, the authors slide into a deepening depression.

Immediately; when the depression is darkest, the consequences of haste a moments breadth from being brought to bear, the artists twin instincts for preservation and self-deprecation kick in. ‘Hewn sentiment, ingratiate’. Both a challenge, and a condescension, this dramatic rhetorical question plunges us into the last half of the poem, where he struggles, Hamlet-like, in the grips of mournful indecision. Ultimately, the question hangs, like a noose, in the space where prepositions and conjunctions should be.

Syntactically speaking, the poem fits snugly in Bond’s anti-grammatical style. Unfortunately, the effect – once refreshing – here has become strident and stale, if not outright hackneyed. It’s not that the viewer can’t or doesn’t empathize with the despair, more that the repetition and familiarity have bred a measure of contempt. “Plus windy category vanderpoel” expresses a poignant and severe observation of the variable nature of the human form, and the detrimental effects of aging. But it doesn’t express it with the same gravitas as in previous outings.

The glimmer of hope: for the poem, for the narrator, and for the reader, comes right at the end. “drummond bette”, says he, plainly and plaintively. To summon his lost love with the solitary purpose of the beating of his heart.

The hope here for the reader is that Bond will follow Hrothgar’s headlight, not by slipping Letheward into atomic immigration, but rather to continue to push the bounds of his art and expression. Either by further idiosyncratic anti-syntactic poetry that shows artistic evolution blessed by the sagacity that time affords, or alternately by heeding the clarion call of Hrothgar, and the dramatic possibilities therein.


27 January 2009

What's up, Santa?


Kind of a shitty day in the workshop today. When Santa's in a bad mood, Watch Out!

If he's had too much eggnog the night before, that's one thing. That's fine. We work hard, all of us. And we all like to hit the nog pretty hard. But when he does, it affects everybody.

But it's no big deal: we pad around the workshop a little softer, and don't do any hammering until he steps out of his office, coffee in hand, and tells us a dirty joke.

But more and more I've noticed him being in a foul and uncommunicative mood. It's really starting to bum us all out. Hard to get in the Christmas spirit when Santa Claus is being a fucking prick.

Today is the worst, and there's no end in sight, I'm afraid.

This morning he stalks in, late as usual. Looks around the workshop, and then looks right at Winky, and asks her, in front of everybody, "Are you pregnant?"

The fact that she's pregnant and doesn't know who the father is has been an open secret for months. Surely one of his consiglieres has mentioned that to him.

Of course Winky bursts into tears. Yes, she's a slut. You could argue that. That she has made her bed (so to speak), but still, this close to Christmas, with all the overtime and such, a boss needs to watch morale. That was not good for morale.

Anyway, things cooled back down and were fine until after lunch.

We had a whole bunch of gingerbread sandwiches in the canteen, as usual, and then a couple of us got into Candy Land. Most of us drifted back to the 'shop in time to start the afternoon shift, but a couple stayed to finish. They were late. Ten minutes, tops.

Bingles was one of the unlucky ones to stay behind. When he returned to his station Mr Claus (Sir!) picks up the bike he had been working on, and threw it at him. Bingles caught it - he's very athletic for an elf. There was this heavy moment of shocked silence. And then we all carried on, as if nothing had happened. He and Bingles made a game out of it. Tossing the unfinished bike back and forth. But when Santa first threw it, it was definitely 'at' and not 'to', Bingles. Things are tense, to say the least.

To make matters worse, there are whispers of a revolt. The whispers are getting louder too. It happened before, it could conceivably happen again. Santa's approval ratings are at an all-time low. I worry about the effect of a coup, the choosing of a successor, the inevitable rescheduling of Christmas... but mostly I worry about the Big Guy. He's clearly lost touch of the bond with us elves, and that scares me. The reindeer say the exact same thing.


24 January 2009

Veggie dogs!

Today for lunch, for the first time in many many years, we are having veggie dogs. Nature's perfect food.

That makes this weekend already a banner, tickertape, red letter one!

Things just went from good to better.


20 January 2009

PSA: Beards

Hey Beardy, Look out!

Classic Kids in the Hall.

Rewatching this, and other KITH sketches, I'm reminded how much of not just my comedy, but my daily speech, are based on these guys. Influenced.

Do yourself a favor, spend some quality youtube time in classic Canadian sketchcomedy Valhalla.


19 January 2009

Bye Bye Bush, Hello Barack

I've been sitting on a couple of pics which I now post, in honor of the Change we can finally Believe in, because it's happening today.

For the incomer:
Under. New. Management... Contented sigh.

Still feeling hopeful, despite the heady, Hopey-Changey days of the campaign becoming tethered to real life, war, debt, and practicality? Me too.

And to the old. We baked you a cake. Here it is:

Don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out, retard.

A note: It's becoming clear that this new Prez probably isn't Black Jesus of the Second Coming. Rather, he's a really (really) good politician. But he is a politician, at the end of the day. That's kinda disappointing, because I think we all got pretty swept up in that election campaign and were hoping that during his inauguration, to the strains of Louie Armstrong's 'What a Wonderful World', a laser beam of light would shoot out of his face and turn a crumbling financial system, urban decay, and chokelevels of pollution into jobs, doves, and absolute bliss for every man, woman, and child. But that now seems unlikely.

However, replacing incompetence with competence is never a bad move: Way to go America.


16 January 2009

Improv this weekend

Last weekend was a successful set of improvisation workshops. Round two starts tomorrow and builds up to the performance on Sunday. I sure would like to be doing this alot more often, and if it could somehow also include me doing improvisation, then so much the better!

This workshop series for beginners, devised and taught by Ryan Millar, is constantly evolving. The focus has shifted slightly, some activities are used more than others, and the order has changed slightly. It has kept it fresh for me, and allowed for a better (and more rapid) progression. We'll see how scenic stories develop and resolve themselves tomorrow, and if the students are able to let this happen. If their instructor has been any good, than it will unfold as it should.


15 January 2009

Downsizing, or FREE STUFF!

Some of the excellent office detritus I've been forced to part with, due to downsizing

Here’s a list of things I’m giving away, free, no strings attached, now that I’ve moved into an open plan office space and have unpacked the boxes into which I threw all the contents of my previous office furniture (acquired by myself and previous occupants):

o Seven Dictaphone tapes, in handy carrying case (possibly used, possibly not)
o Three Cyprus travel guides (two French, 1 English)
o Box of dry erase markers. BONUS: bottle of whiteboard cleaning fluid!
o CDs: Slovenian Christmas music, assorted unlabelled unrewritable discs (possibly blank)
o Season 1 of Jericho on 6 DVDs (first option is to Shane, who lent them to me)
o The offical ETSI Deliverables 4Q 2006 on DVD-ROM, unopened
o Grab-bag of highlighters (various colours) and ballpoint pens. Includes a measuring tape and one set of disposable chopsticks (unused)
o Commemorative shoulder-bag from European Business Summit, 2007 with unused blank day planner
o Small box of highlighters, and dry erase markers, including one ballpoint pen and a set of mini-tongs
o Assorted A4 plastic sleeves
o 2 padded envelopes, A4 size
o Two glass paperweights, one square the other circular (set)
o Post-it notes
o Paperclips: 10 small, 2 large
o Heavy ornamental knick-knack for hanging or use as giant keychain
o Assorted other 'mystery gifts' (limit 10 per person)

Just swing on by my desk and help yourself, or leave a comment and I'll get back to you.

UPDATE: Sorry commenters, after sending out this as a tongue-in-cheek intraoffice email I received an overwhelming (and very surprising positive response). There were many colleagues who came by and to whom I managed to pawn off an awful lot of stuff. It's true what they say about 'One man's junk being another's treasure'. The offical ETSI Deliverables 4Q 2006 on DVD-ROM, unopened, is however still available.
(I still think I could probably find a couple ballpoint pens for though Birdie. And there's definitely some highlighters).
NB: It's interesting how another persons interest in your junk can spur on a sudden attachment to that piece of junk. My ego's resistance to this Buddhist exercise, I suppose.


14 January 2009

Jaydiohead vs The Grey Album

Remember the Grey Album? When Danger Mouse took Jay-Z's Black Album and The Beatles White Album, poured them into his computer, and recorded the results? It was awesome. Still is.

Now comes Jaydiohead, NYC DJ Minty Fresh Beats' sound collage of Jay-Z and Radiohead.

I sense a trend...
Anyway, let's put these mash-ups head-to-head and find a winner:

  • Band: Grey Album (Call me a curmudgeonly fuddy-duddy, but I think the Beatles edge Radiohead)
  • Clever title: Grey Album (That's literally actually what happens when you mix black and white)
  • Jay-Z: Tie (That's kinda the fucking point)
  • Cover Art: Jaydiohead (Call me a dick, but the greyness of the Grey Album was a little obvious).
  • Downloadable: Jaydiohead
  • Winner: Us. (Did I mention Jaydiohead is a free download. And awesome. Go get it, and place your bets on who Jay-Z pairs up with next. Put your guesses in the comments.


13 January 2009

You know what they say about a guy with a long ring finger...

...He makes fat stacks of cash on the financial markets!

According to a study by John Coates, Mark Gurnell and Aldo Rustichini, (and subject of a front page article in today’s Financial Times, and also quoted by the CBC) a long ring finger on the right hand is a strong indicator that that person was exposed to high levels of prenatal androgenic steroids.

Whoa, you may be saying, what does 'prenatal' or 'steroids' (let alone 'androgenic') have to do with someones ability to be a successful financial trader? I'm glad you asked.

Apparently, these prenatal ‘roids somehow (insert science here) makes a person better suited to be a successful ‘high-frequency trader'. How successful? well, those with the longest and most elegant fingers had an average annual income of £680,000, which is 11 times more than those traders with short, stubby ring fingers.

This particular study didn’t, uh, 'study' the fingers of long-term investors, bank managers, or other financiers, so we’re limited to short-term traders - but what we know is pretty enlightening, and perhaps life-changing.

Take me, for example: I have a pretty long ring-finger. OK, sure. Maybe it's not £680k long, but it's pretty fucking long, like, say, £200-300k long, easy.

That's awesome! I mean, I don't know thing one about financial whatevers, but say we lowball that estimate to £200k, and say I only trade like once a week, or even just a couple days a month, and even take into account that the global economy is right in the pooper - that's still... I don't know exactly, but a whole lot of pound sterling! I could be kind of rich. The only problem is: I have no idea what to do next.

So thank you science, for providing this valuable insight, but fuck you science, for not giving me simple, clear instructions on how to parlay my finger length into financial well-offness.


09 January 2009

Officework 2009

I'm back. I'm back in the office. Our new premises are different and disorienting. One big change is that now, rather than having my own office, I have a desk in the hallway. I would feel a little hard-done-by for this, but almost everybody has a desk in our new 'Open Plan' hallway.

Fortunately, despite the repeated assurances of my colleagues that I 'look really tired', I actually feel pretty well-rested. Sure, yesterday's transit from Seattle was an ordeal, but I managed to sleep for almost three of the 18 hours it took to get home.

Now, it just remains for me to get through these office hours, go home and buy some food for our barren fridge, eat some of it, and then prepare for a full day of improv workshop teachings tomorrow. I'm hoping I don't suffer the 'second day back jetlag-whiplash' that can sometimes occur after trans-timezone travel, because I've got to whip these newbies into improvisational fighting shape.

I'm armed with some new exercises, some fresh ideas, and plenty of piss and vinegar. I'm hoping for some big things and good times. I'm also hoping this general plan - one day at the office followed by two days of workshops - augurs well for 2009 - a little bit of office jerkwork, and a whole lot of improvisation/writing/creative outpouring.


07 January 2009


We arrived at Sea-Tac in the cold, and made it to the Ace Hotel just in time to enjoy the whiteout from our hotelbed. Once we awoke, we slid around Seattle for days like so many soon-to-be decomissioned city busses.

Victoria was a soft white snowtown. Relentlessly. A journey up island finished with digging my dad out of the driveway. We built a snowfort on Christmas Eve.

Vancouver, the third portion of our journey was also snowtastic. And then again it snowed, only this time the City of Vancouver said 'We already spent alot of money on snow removal, so we're not going to remove this snow.' Then the precipitation turned to rain and the snow turned to slush and my shoes turned to sog. Then it snowed again.

Needless to say, we're looking forward to leaving this extreme (and extremely unusual) winter weather behind and head back to the comparatively sane climate of Belgium.

WHERE IT'S CURRENTLY 14DEGREES BELOW ZERO!!?! The coldest temperatures there in almost a decade. Fucking lovely.

Score yet another point for 'Climate Change', subtract two points from 'Global Warming' in the battle to be the most accurate term to describe weather trends.


On the train

Train travel in Europe is efficient and frequent. In North America it is a novel and kinda slow. Our train covers the 2 hour journey from Vancouver to Seattle in four hours. It is also two hours behind schedule. While this is inconvenient, the train staff did bring around some snacks and small bottles of water, so it’s a wash.
Seattle was our first port of call, and it is our last point of interest, as we depart tomorrow. The trip has been action-packed with awesome highlights. Plenty of visiting with friends and their babies, a little bit of music, a little bit of hockey, and a whole lot of sushi. The only missing aspect was live theatre and/or improv. We learned a week and change is time too short for all the people and things we wanted to do, so we just let come what may, and it did, and it was good.
Now, from home back to the real world.