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love in the time of gonorrhoea July 18, 2009

Posted by eatnorthamerica in farcical review bullshit, things that are not quite things we know, verbiage clusterfuck.
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Everybody is reading that book about the pickup artist, Neil Strauss.

More than a mack textbook, it is a memoir, a study of the ins and outs of the social condition. The man who wrote it wrote also for the New York Times. Make of that what you will.

The book’s prevailing mantra is: Attraction is not a choice, and you and I and we can have everyone via hamfisted palmistry, spoon bending and ESP.

It’s not too hard to see why people buy into the mystique. We pretend to be a collection of on/off switches, unanalogue, discrete.

What a beautiful conceit, that you can reduce seduction into a set of techniques that will guarantee you entry into anyone in the world. Are we waves and tremors, or sticks and holes? There is nothing absolute about being human, about neocortical impulses that feed our hearts to head.

There is nothing human in the objectification of an adversary; the gaudy prizes of bars and clubs are just ticks on a list, 8s, 9s, 10s, 11s. The more you play the game,  the more you realise the game means nothing. Strauss has no small dose of pity and revulsion for the creepers trapped in their own webs, not least himself. These are some of the unhappiest men you’ll meet.

Isn’t it strange, that certain truisms apply to all fields? Those who blindly follow preset routes rarely achieve greatness; he who only learns by rote never grasps the whole.

Seduction, one supposes, is all very well. Then comes a point where one thinks hard and long of love, in the time of gonorrhoea.

Not much has changed since we sat in school and wondered why some lead, and others follow. We make our way through life and find the game never changes; we want what we are denied.

To those who believe we can bypass the random variance of the human heart, note this and note it well: in the end, the only woman who stole Strauss’s heart was the one he could not snare with strings of theory. He played the game. She played him better.

Along Burrard after dinner, I watched a girl pose for a man, silhouetted by the splash of fountain spray. He said something that made her laugh; in the binary light of the camera, his smile seemed real. He blushed, or the red focus stung his skin. I didn’t know.

It’s for all of us to turn things over and around. The oldest friend comes out with the newest things; maybe we’re too fast to fix an image in our heads. Now I understand Cubism as never before; I see Picasso struggling, presented with the problem of presenting all sides all at once.

Irrational people do rational things, rational people do irrational things. All people are unknown quantities, now and forever.

Sitting in the semi-dark, bathed in the soft penumbra of the screen, I close the game and shut my eyes. I chase the awkward beauty that only exists when we race toward a goal, unscripted, unfettered, unaware.

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cat shit prolix beauty October 4, 2008

Posted by eatnorthamerica in things that are not quite things we know, verbiage clusterfuck.
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If everything in our heads were laid out in the open, would the world be a better place? Nobody would be able to inveigle or obfuscate. Yeah, people will always come up with creative ways to take advantage of others, but surely the opportunity for them to do so would be drastically reduced.

Even if the entire concept makes me shudder, I can’t help thinking it would be more beneficial than not, since if that were how the world worked we wouldn’t have any hangups about being open. We would just be. And there would be nothing wrong with being.

I’m drunk on Shirley Temples, and intoxicated by proxy.


I do not often weep, but I wept when I first viewed a certain scene from American Beauty. A plastic bag floats over the dust on nothing but wind, transfigured into more than it never dreamt of being. It became cinema as cinema only sometimes dreams of being, of elevating the jejune to genius. Some genius set that scene up with transcendentally beautiful cleverness because they understood both beauty and cleverness, set it to music scored to machinate a tender and lingering tristesse, and I said why not, and let them take the tears from me.

Nothing to do with anything in particular, everything to do with everything in general.

It’s not too often that I get the feeling I can say absolutely anything I want to someone. This has absolutely nothing to do with establishing bonds of friendship; it’s more like a detached celebration of banter. Bantering is a fine art. Some people wear self-confidence in such a manner that I pretty much know nothing I say is going to bring them down; some people, I think, like banter because they either understand it as a game, or because in a way it’s a form of acceptance, or acknowledgement.

I don’t know that banter necessarily brings me closer to people; it’s more a mental gambit where all the players are intent on playing at being dicktrees to each other. The trick, I guess, is to get away with pretending to be as much of an asshole as you can without actually being an asshole. (If you’re not just pretending to be an asshole, it’s not banter, it’s war.)

Banter is possibly only good in small, measured doses. I’m not sure how good it is for the soul.

Last night we were meant to be going to a colleague’s leaving dance. There have been far too many of these things lately. Let’s not get into that, it’s depressing as hell. We got to the venue and discovered that bouncers are dicktrees. You can’t even banter with them! Who knew! I didn’t care for the seamy glimpses I caught through their steamy windows, so!

Under the glass forest canopy we were reduced to …what? Animals, quailing from the rain. My animal friends and I went for crepes instead and talked about bullshit like existentialism.

I am high as hell on sugar.

I slept at 4 and woke at 9.30; morning comes too quickly these days. I lay indolent beneath cotton sheets and stared at a spiral of hair on my pillow, and played with the focus of my eyes. We have the latent power to do all this trippy shit we don’t usually bother thinking about. It’s as trippy as thinking about what it really means that light is just a wave (or a particle, yeah), or trying to imagine an eighth colour.

I popped different parts of the hair formation in and out of focus and then I realised; there’s the summation of my life at present. I can’t hold it all in focus all at once. Something must give.

Beauty is realising I’m only two minutes late for lunch.

Now here we are, sitting in the food court at the mall.

To my left I keep hearing snippets of the most boring conversation in the world. It makes me wince. I don’t think I need to describe it to you; we’ve all had our share of banal conversations. Perhaps all conversations start off as boring because they are rooted in the concrete; of this too, I’m often guilty.

Mired in concrete, people are unified only by the same interests; without commonality you’re regally fucked. Comparatively, a shared interest in abstraction is often enough to make topics cohere.

There’s an art to triggering viewpoints from other people, and it’s not always easy. Bringing a conversation round to an abstract bent usually requires some self-sacrifice on the part of the contributors. Concretions are safe, solid things that only exist and are; abstractions are often personal and revealing. We’re not talking facts anymore, we’re talking opinions. Those start wars, you know. Maybe we should just bring it all back to banter.

Onward, to duty. Tick tocks the clock, tick, tick tock, the lamp greens the light, and I go.

Now here we are in the time of rain, out in the open and from under the forest, and I ask you — what would you say the chances were of two raindrops hitting you in both eyes both at once? Here I am, in the lift, having a throwaway conversation with two strangers about how it’s the worst thing when the rain catches you naked and umbrellaless and lost, and then I realise my umbrella was with me all along, that it was always there.

at bay September 30, 2008

Posted by eatnorthamerica in onanistic bullshit, things that are not quite things we know, verbiage clusterfuck.
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Home is how I keep the outside world at bay. My doors are almost never all the way open, save to a minute group of people who don’t have to read this to know who they are.

One of those people was over at my place this weekend; I’ve known her since we were 9, and hadn’t seen her for a couple of years. It’s a rare thing, being around someone who knows you for all that you are and accepts you in your entirety. I savour the novelty of not having to be a novelty.

It’s funny how you can not really talk to someone for intervals of months and years, and never need to; yet when you come together again, it’s all you do.

She arrived at noon on Friday; I did hardly any work from 12 onward:

a) I was ahead of schedule
b) so fuck it. see
a)
c)
we were having an extended conversation about life, the universe and everything
d) this conversation ran from 1.45 pm to 1.45 am in the morning
e) she lost her voice.

f) all of it.

It takes a different perspective to put your life into perspective. From her viewpoint my workplace was a haven of cushiness. I think it’s all too easy to assume that everyone has the right to a job that’s at least 60% enjoyable. Meaning: we all bitch too much about shit. At least we’re not working 8-2. Yet.

 

Sunday, it was Sunday. She was gone. I was standing on the peninsular Vancouver shore, filming my friends filming my germphobic friend crawling through hypodermic sand. One of them used to be a pornographer. They’re making a zombie movie, or something. I was there for the humanity of watching people around them watch them.

“I think I have AIDS,” my friend said, throwing his weight from foot to foot, sloughing the beach detritus from his skin. In his youth he was fed a diet of rice saturated with orange pop. Why any grandmother would do that to her grandchild, I don’t know.

I watched the watchers. You can surround yourself with all the people in the world and still not understand what it means to be known; to never know what people know about themselves, to only know that people will never know what you know about yourself. Sometimes we need to be known; sometimes we don’t.

Holding a camera that wasn’t mine, I pushed the trigger again, again. I stopped carrying my own camera around a while ago. It was too tempting to turn life into a series of beautiful, bastardised pictures that show everything and say nothing. Or show nothing and say everything. Either way. The camera is broken, anyway, or I am. I could never make it say what I wanted it to say, that in a picture of a hazy sky was a certain feeling I had about the world that day.

 

Nighttime. I lie umber and mellow on yielding cushions and think about that very small cluster of people that I hardly ever think about. I don’t need to. Some doors are always open to some people, even through this veiled impermanence called life. We don’t write, or call, or look, and yet our lives are always open to each other.

Sometimes you only ever need to know that you can choose not to be alone.

I’m only lying here, tossing out cheap phrases like “you can choose not to be alone” and murmuring to you that Google only knows two other people who chose to say “you can choose not to be alone”, that not till now did Google choose to know anyone who chose to say “you can choose to not be alone”, and now you are here, and I am gone.

preachers in the street September 25, 2008

Posted by eatnorthamerica in onanistic bullshit, things that are not quite things we know, verbiage clusterfuck.
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Fifteen years ago, fifteen years from then, I thought I would be standing on a stage like the band that played tonight, night after night into the longest night. It was something I thought I knew would happen, but never did. I was fifteen and my heart sang starstricken dreams as I stood, arms uplifted, a player on a slumbering stage, and waited for the world. I thought I knew all things about time and god and love and death. The world never came to me; I went to it. I met people I wish I’d not. I became, briefly, whom I wished I had not. I learned about truth and life and love and other trite things that stubbornly resonate, like empty vessels under electric storms. And if there was one song, my song, it waxed crazy and dumb and young, and dreamt stages glowing gold and dark.

You could have asked me if I understood, then, what I would come to understand now, and I would have told you that I did, and not been able to do anything but tell that lie, without ever knowing why. I couldn’t tell you now what at fifteen I would have done. I would have laughed. I should have laughed. I, now, would have reached out, put a finger on that unweary cheek, told you it was okay. And now I laugh.

Today the mirror says, look away from what is past, into dreams long-extirpated, into bliss, into a patient accretion of all that gentled you — that asks but what did you regret? and what did you expect? and I pause and say nothing, everything, and briefly, I realise it is true.

And looking at the face I grew into, I shut my eyes and find myself finally able to say; yes, it was me. Yes, I am, I am, a different dream.

The sun on my skin, the wind in my hair, here it is — gold, in October, the honied homecoming scent, red cedar. And the song has changed, as all songs do. Or my ears have, or the world has, or all of us, or just me, and you.

synaesthesia September 20, 2008

Posted by eatnorthamerica in pseudo-informative bullshit, things that are not quite things we know, verbiage clusterfuck.
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You’re a subtitle in my head.

You might have heard of the oddity known as synaesthesia, the merging of two or more senses. Some synaesthetes see colours when they hear sounds. I see you talking in monochrome text. The colour/sound association is such an archetype of the condition that I hadn’t realised what I experience is classifiably synaesthetic (not least because it seems prosaic to me, compared to gustatory synaesthetes who taste lemon when they hear ‘k’).

Well, I’ve finally found someone else who sees everything they hear in text.

http://blogs.warwick.ac.uk/acronick/entry/how_do_you/

…which is top Google search for ‘when I hear people speaking I see subtitles’.

The trigger for this query stemmed from a joke my colleagues were running in the kitchen at work; they were getting passersby to ‘help them work out a code problem’ by saying it out loud and having them write down (there was a bit more to this) p, 3, n, 1 and 5. Most people get it after completing the word; some canny individuals get it after writing the p3.

“‘Penis’?” I said the moment I heard the sequence, and didn’t understand their surprise. I didn’t get why the joke would possibly work on anyone until I remembered that most people get direct aural input from speech. It wasn’t until late high school that I realised that having subtitles in your head isn’t a universal experience.

I know there are plenty of other people who are quite capable of converting the letters; but for me the association between sound and text is inexorable. I will see letters/numbers in print somewhere in my head. Usually in Arial, Helvetica or Times New Roman, white floating on a black field.

Perhaps another way of explaining it is that most people read by converting text to sound; for them reading is double the effort of listening. For me it’s the exact opposite.

There are some odd aspects to all this, like how it’s really hard for me to make out song lyrics (I’m fine with the actual pitches, just not with the speech aspect — most of the time the words don’t even exist to me), or how I used to have the worst trouble in school spelling the simplest words out loud. ‘C-A-T’ is a struggle. Breaking a word into letter sounds is an alien concept. Soldier is [soldier]. Cat is [cat]. It is what it is. Every word is visual gestalt, an indivisible conglomerate.

I have heard Japanese is processed similarly by fluent readers. Not because the characters are pictures — very few have any remaining pictorial root — but because of their necessary visual chunkiness.

I read by processing huge chunks of text rather than going word by word. I don’t remember ever not knowing how to read, so maybe this oddness is a function of that.

I had the most horrible time maintaining concentration in classes because extended amounts of speech are unbearably arduous for me to process while maintaining focus (too slow. Being impatient doesn’t help).  I have to focus pretty hard on conversations to figure out what people are saying, especially if they have accents or are speaking softly.

I can’t play games with very slow text output, either. It’s unbearably frustrating to have to wait for word/sentence/paragraph chunks to drip onto my screen. It’s like having a conversation with someone who spells every single word to you instead of saying it. Somebody tell me how t-h-i-s i-s a-t a-l-l t-o-l-e-r-a-b-l-e.

Often I pronounce words the way they’re spelled (eg, salmon), which has led to my having gotten a lot of stick over the years. I’m still filled with a child-like pride when I remember how to pronounce a word that is phonetically counterintuitive. If I hear foreign words, I have to know their spelling system or it’s almost impossible for me to remember the words I’m learning. I ask people to spell out confusing names for me so that I can chunk the letters into meaningful units and then remember their appearances.

There’s only one word I’ve ever had serious trouble with, and it’s bizarre. It looks ‘wrong’ no matter how I look at it. I have no idea why. I know how to spell it, but I don’t know how to spell it. It doesn’t exist as a natural [word unit]; it gives me a queasy feeling. Sometimes, if I concentrate hard enough, words start to look like text patterns rather than ‘words’; that’s how bizarre looks to me.

I don’t have eidetic memory, but I do have good general visual memory.

This isn’t exactly the same condition that the blogger linked above does; she can’t hear voices, pitches or accents in her head, but those aren’t an issue for me. I have a decent grasp of scansion in text and have no problems with music. Just speech. I often have trouble recognising voices on the phone (possibly due to aurally-triggered cognisance anxiety). No, my hearing is neither damaged nor abnormal, and if anything is better than average when it comes to aural tests like micropitch differentiation, etc etc.

Is it useful? It’s not great that I have trouble with lexical-auditory functions, but I process text very easily; it’s just the way I’m wired. Hell, I don’t know any better.

See what I’m saying?

I glossed over the mainstays of synaesthesia because I didn’t want to tarry too far beyond my personal experience with it. Here are some links for additional pursuit:

http://otherthings.com/uw/syn/ <- a fascinating representation of the most commonly-known type of synaesthesia (or synesthesia if you must). Check out the flash demonstration at http://otherthings.com/uw/syn/flash/syn25.html. I definitely don’t experience that. Seems as though his synaesthesia doesn’t involve letters as text but as flashes of colour sensation.

http://www.mindhacks.com/blog/2005/03/test_your_synaesthes.html
http://icanhascheezburger.files.wordpress.com/2008/09/funny-pictures-one-in-every-five-kittens-can-see-captions.jpg <– a waggish take on the issue
and a recent anecdote: I went to the dentist and had a new hygienist assigned to me, who had an unusual name (to me). I transliterated it to ‘Aneece’, but not knowing how to spell it (the timing was off and I missed my window to ask) made me so uncertain that I couldn’t say it until after I received my invoice and saw his name spelled ‘Aneez’ (though it did sound more like Aneece with ‘standard’ English pronunciation). Until I know how something’s spelled, it’s not quite tangible.

wind, growth, bus August 14, 2008

Posted by eatnorthamerica in onanistic bullshit, things that are not quite things we know, verbiage clusterfuck.
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We (in this place, at this time) live in a time and place where being considered liberal and open-minded has become a tenet to aspire to. Yeah, it would be nice if people would actually stop talking about being open-minded and just fucking be open-minded. Or just stump up some integrity and stop wasting my time. It’s taxing, dealing with some miasmic melange of the two; viz: “I’m open-minded, but only about things I’m not narrow-minded about.”

I’d rather hear the words people aren’t saying when they say something they don’t really want to say. Maybe we just don’t always want to hear the truth even when it’s something we should hear. Well shit, you run, you hide, you lose your life. You could get hit by a bus. Keep staring into the sun; don’t flinch, don’t look away.

Spit and shake. I see you never; we can be professional about our mutual disregard. Let’s be polite. Let’s be honest. Is it more polite to be honest, or dishonest?

Sometimes I want to stand before the wind and hear what the wind shouts back.

What two people say to each other doesn’t necessarily make sense. It’s like a matching game; sometimes we learn to speak in pulses, with fluency. You keep stumbling along, keep guessing, and one day you strike the right notes. It’s all about congruency; hit counterpoint, pause, stop, unfurl the patchwork harmonies of the heart. The beats aren’t always what you thought they were. Better adapt before the melody breaks. You know it’s going to end someday. Better make the best of it.

Earlier this week I was walking for the sake of feeling the ground beneath my feet; across the street a man sobbed and wailed, a cadenza of rage that split the heavy black sky. I don’t know what the wind told him.

Perhaps the spectators standing by were looking for the same; perhaps we were just waiting for something to lurch us along, all of us overwhelmed by our own rhythm. Perhaps we were waiting for a conductor, waiting for a baton, for a wave to unify. Warbling alone, meandering along, looking for someone to syncopate the breaks in our souls, singing hello, hello, I loved you, goodbye.

On a different day, on a different coast, I opened up my mouth. Lungs filled with fragments, I flew emotion into the wind. The wind shrieked back; she took my words and twisted them and turned them into words I never knew were there.

There I was, and here I am.

Autumn was coming. Autumn was coming, sweeping last remnants of summer away, sweeping us into the dark. It was never about the getting; it was about the giving-up.

Night crackled, white sparks flared, blazing storefronts shuttered into sleep. The bus came battering down the road, hurtling, honking, reeking metal bolts and limits breaking, crashing forward with a great steel groan. I smelled the sharp acrid rage of it. I smelled it coming. A foot from losing skin and cartilage and life, I stood there and let the wind shred my face. And I didn’t bat an eye.

space: a cat, in a box July 17, 2008

Posted by eatnorthamerica in things that are not quite things we know, verbiage clusterfuck.
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The way we dress the spaces we choose to inhabit says all we need to say about ourselves, in less time than it takes to take off our shoes.

What’s in your box? I keep a rug, a chair, a few cushions. It starts to feel crowded. I like it like a hollow shell.

Space, it’s relative; 12 Brazilian students crammed themselves into a one bed flat before they got booted out and I came. I can’t fathom this tub being large enough for two. 535 square feet for 12 people; that’s 45 square feet per person. I stand 5ft 1 and take up 535 square feet of living space. It seems a reasonable amount to me. I say that I don’t feel a need to have more space than this, but perhaps one day I will. In the style of Schrodinger I vacillate; yes or no, yes or no, and who can tell until the moment comes?

On a plane, someone takes up 200 dollars’ worth of your 600 dollar seat, and suddenly inches are a matter of insufferable magnitude.

Back to personal space; you’re not paying me any rent, so here’s an eviction notice.

My landlord drops in from New Zealand to take a look at my apartment. He’s thinking about finding a job in Vancouver. Either I find a new flat or I bring down the entire Vancouver VFX industry. 

Webworked cells, blind windows. This is living, ant-style. A foot of wall, that’s all that spares me the indignity of shared rooming. I value my personal space enough to fight you for it, in a cage surrounded by half a million strangers.

You come into my parlour and you’re that much closer to me, threading through the cloistered chambers of my heart. You come into my closet and leave yellow leaking down the side of my lavatory bowl — what should we call that?

My landlord leaves. I slip on new shoes and teeter to the door. And I, five inches taller, pause.

At my height, I don’t see the dust on the top of my refrigerator, nor on the tops of doorways.

At 6ft 2 my landlord sees things I should have cleaned, had I realised space exists outside of my band of sight.

My cat, who inhabits my flat at 0ft 9, looks up and sees the dust that lies beneath.

 

It’s all relative, like with those Brazilians. They sat on a crate with wings for a few hours, then piled their mattresses into an even smaller box. You gotta envy that kind of gumption. You gotta wonder where they went. I gotta wonder where you’d go.

Writhing down wormholes, surfing past singularities, breaking time and space to get to where we want to be. Space, she’s a hard lover. I loved once but would not stay; continents always drift away.

Don’t, don’t think of that; today is here, today is now, skimming the sweet salt susurrus of sea, snow peaks slumbering by your sail, six knots in a lazy haze.

As you said first, as you said best. We were too different, though at our end I loved you, either way.

Wind rises, earth turns, sun sleeps. A speck on a speck in a deep blue sky, I stare hard at the night. The stars are smaller than I can see; summer fades to fall debris.

 

Kiss me before flying, baby. I’ll see you on the other side.

years later December 10, 2007

Posted by eatnorthamerica in things that are not quite things we know, verbiage clusterfuck.
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years ago, you were rattling down the railway with possibly one of the most beautiful people on the planet and the way the sun hit their face through the dust-smeared window told you, told you that all the proportional possibility of golden curves and judicious symmetry sat quivering on the gently-fraying seat before you; there it was, an ineffable display of human construction.

and then years later you met them again and realised that years later makes a difference, because time, time has a tendency to pass.

it’s exactly what facebook’s doing right now; throwing up pictures of people you never saw after the day you walked out of the gates of school, and maybe making you realise you never knew how old you really were until you saw how old everyone else really was.