peaks and troughs and tweaks and prods

There is a theory of evolution that argues that, rather than evolutionary change happening at a constant rate over a long time, changes happen quickly – remoulding the population at a relatively quick pace – then followed by a long period of stasis. Visualize the path from single-cell organism to human being as a set of stairs rather than a long, sloping ramp. I’ve always thought of the development of one’s self, one’s personality, as analogous to evolution. Certain traits are selected for and developed – education, love, humour – while other traits simply still exist because there was no strong enough force selecting against – neuroses, bitterness, etc. Just like evolution, there is no divinely prescribed endgame. You’re not working towards anything. You die out when you die out. You don’t always get more complex, although that’s the pattern these things tend to follow. But you’re not the same person at the end of your life as at the beginning. And these things just happen fairly randomly. You can’t really control who you are, can you?

I thought of this today, as I thought about my current social attitude. The stepped model of evolution fits me because I seem to go through phases where I am constantly pushing myself out, testing new boundaries, picking up new habits, making new friends, trying new experiences, learning new information. Who parts of who I am, while still part of the same fundamental organism, rapidly mutate. My worldview altered slightly, my perspective newly rooted. After this I fall into a period of stasis, such as the one I am in right now. While, much like the economy, I usually am happier in my growth periods, these personal recessions do give me a chance to hole up and reflect. Like a mental hibernation. I spend a lot of time at home. I read books that are intellectually numbing (Twilight, anyone?) or books that I’ve read a million times (Hitchhiker’s, naturally). I watch films and television that I know and love. I spend time with family, roommates and close friends only. Meet new people? Nah, not today. I’m not in the right frame of mind to try to make someone like me. I’ll just go with the tried and true. The people who beyond all comprehensibility already like me (or at least pretend to). I spend lots of time with my cat.

I retreat into myself. I venture into my own headspace; thinking, reflecting, imagining. Living within my head rather than in the world. Perhaps this is a psychological need to fully sort out everything I’ve absorbed in the last while. Consequently, I get a lot of writing done. All this information, all these emotions, expressions and eccentricities merge together and form new symbolic and allegorical patterns in my mind. I’m an abstract-random thinker, so there’s nothing concrete or systematic about this. I think that’s part of why I write. Reiterating information and feeling as artwork is my way of processing the world. It’s how I deal. I’m in one of those periods now. I don’t know if it is healthy or if I am just trying to rationalize things. Objectively, I know that the better way to live is to grow, to expand, to test new waters. I know that I need balance, though. Mental downtime. I can accept this knowing that this too shall pass. The pure creative output has made this not only worth it, but desired. I’ve been wanting to write this obsessively for months, even years. It’s worth anything. Don’t expect me to be a laugh a minute, but I will come out of this with something to show for it.

all day i dream about… tea

I think my tea has arrived. I got home yesterday at approximately seven-thirty-eight post meridian, to find a “sorry, asshole, you weren’t home” slip from the postie. “My tea!” I exclaimed, the blood rushing to parts of my body it has previously ignored. I ran up to the post office, only to find it closed. The slip said “available after 5.00 pm,” while the post office closes at six. That’s a rather narrow little window of time, isn’t it? Freakishly narrow. Perhaps just enough time to get a DeLorean up to 88 mph. I will speed home, dodging traffic like a friggin’ X-Wing, abandon my car at the side of the road when traffic gets too bad and proceed on foot. I will get there. I will get my tea. At least I’m assuming it’s my tea. It could be any number of things I’ve ordered. Westway to the World? Screener DVDs? Zines? I’m banking on tea, because that little bit of hope is all I have as I sit here, alone in the office on a Friday watching the clock tick down.

grandma

So we visited my grandma yesterday, as I said we would. It was not as bad as I thought. From our last visit (my first since she was in the new place), I was worried she wouldn’t remember moving in there and that this explaining things to her would be a permanment loop; Groundhog Day as a Greek tragedy. Yet, she remembered. She recognized Bri and I, and she knows us as her grandchildren, even if not by name. She seemed a bit more contented. Less confused. She laughed a little, too. My previous worries still stand, but perhaps now, rather than sit anxiety-ridden and fretting for her well-being, I can enjoy her company again – at least for a little while.

alzheimer’s…

This is a rather sombre post on my part. I think it’s something that I desperately wish I could write about, but I’m just not there yet. All that I really think I can manage is those brief little snippets that somehow cut to the heart of the issue. Bri and I are going to visit my grandmother (paternal) after work today. She has just been moved into a home. Well, she was in a home before, but that was more of an assisted living facility, one where she had a bit of her own dignity. Her cat was with her, she had some privacy. Now, the place she is in is heartbreaking. I realize that she needs to be there because she can’t take care of herself alone anymore. I know this, I do. I just wish it weren’t so. She shares a room now with someone else, and this new place is just so much like a… hospital. No one feels comfortable in a hospital. The entire essence of a hospital is unfeeling. Residents are patients, not people. Patients are commodities, work stations. At least that’s the feeling you can’t help but have. It’s hard to feel optimistic. Without being able to resist the urge to use a geeky analogy, it feels as if the place is haunted by Dementors – sucking all the happiness out of everyone and everything.

I hate seeing my grandmother in such a place. Perhaps I’m not entirely ready to deal with accepting her disease, so I’ve projected my frustrations onto the environment. It’s even more difficult when she doesn’t remember moving into this place and keeps thinking she’s going home at some point. What’s even more difficult than that is trying to explain this all to her every five or ten minutes, explaining that this is her home now. I can’t comprehend the confusion and sadness on her face. It’s like watching a baby or a pet, and seeing their eyes as they process a thought – and being completely incapable of communicating what’s going on in their head. I feel guilty for saying this, for infantilizing her or dehumanizing her… but I guess that’s exactly what Alzheimer’s does. It robs you of your dignity and your adulthood. And I sincerely hope not your humanity. Nothing can take that from her… right?

I find it rather fitting (but earth-shatteringly heart-breaking) to compare images of an Alzheimer’s brain (left) and a healthy brain (right). It seems the perfect, terrifying visualization of what you feel is happening. I think this is why I very nearly broke down in tears when I saw one at the Body Worlds exhibit at Science World a few years ago. Anyway, I know I will have to deal with this at some point, but I just can’t yet.

obsessive compulsive sunburns and other hazards of writing outdoors in july

FADE INTO:

EXT. RAJALA FAMILY HOME – TEN AM, SATURDAY.

ASHLEIGH has woken up at her sister’s place. BRIANNE having already left for work, she is sleeping off a late night spent watching random Michael Cera movies. That theme was accidental, not planned, total coincidence (but Nick and Norah is still ASHLEIGH’S favourite, even though he will always be George Michael Bluth to her). She tells herself she will have a cup of coffee outside in the sunshine, feed the cats, then be on her way. She has some errands to run, chores to do, a barbeque to be at later – this should a normal midsummer’s afternoon. While she sits with her coffee, she starts zoning out, thinking about a film premise that Jason and her had tossed into discussion a few years ago and relegated to the One-Day-We-Will-Expand-On-This Pile. So she grabs a single sheet of folscap paper and thinks she will jot down her one or two silly ideas.

CUT TO:

INT. RAJALA FAMILY LIVING ROOM – THREE AM, SUNDAY

BRIANNE has returned home for the last time that day, having gone to the barbeque-turned-Balderdash tournament without her sister. ASHLEIGH is sitting on the couch, using a Physics textbook for a lapdesk, piles of papers and drawings and notes stacked on the coffee table in front of her. Wired on coffee, sunburned across one half of her body from sitting at the patio table in the bright sun all day, right hand aching but powering through the cramps, (Fanboys on for the second time as background noise), literally and utterly unable to stop writing. She is possessed by some sort of demonic muse, surely. When she wakes the next morning the outside of her right pinkie’s knuckles will be swollen from being pressed against the table all day. Hands covered in smudged ink….

It was glorious. If only I can keep this up.

tea with my sister: fangirls over fanboys, twilight, and something about a half-assed prince?

So I just spent twenty minutes talking on the phone with my sister. I love having a sister, and having Bri as my sister is especially nice. We can talk about any, any, ANY sort of shit. My mind is very ‘in the moment’ right now, which is to say the closest I come to having ADD – Oh, I just realized the internet radio station is playing “Celluloid Heroes” by the KinksCelluloid Heroes is also the name of a new zine I am half-way through starting, and the Kinks is where I got the name – yeah, see? Random and irrelevant.

Anyway, back to the random narrative at hand: the phone call was premeditated by the fact that I was about to log into facebook to message her some Very Important Information, and she happened to call me. I actually can’t remember why, but it worked out in the end. When we were in Seattle a few weeks ago for Father’s Day (we took our dad to a Mariner’s game), we found this AMAZING TEA at Pike Place Market. Neither of us are what you might refer to tea coinnosseurs, but we are definitely appreciative of tea’s ability to either caffeinate or calm. This tea is unlike anything I have ever consumed. To paraphrase Edward Cullen (more about that later), it’s like my own personal brand of heroin. I am growing desperate as I have realized that I only have one tea bag left and no prospect of a trip to Seattle anytime soon (even though I actually considered it, by looking at my calendar to see when I had a free Saturday).

I feel like Charlie in the first season of Lost when he only has that one small baggie of heroin left. I’ve been increasingly reusing the tea bags, trying to squeeze as many cups as possible out of each one. It doesn’t work. That first strong cup is magical. So magical I actually fear it turning me into some sort of small amphibious creature. So magical that its pet white tiger is about to maul it to within an inch of its life. Oh Market Spice tea, what will I do without you?

So I googled it. Yes, the answer for any 21st Century predicament. I am glad I did. I’m sure this little Pike Place store had complaints from tourists all over the world, raving and scratching at their own skin to get more, that the company now sells it through Amazon. I just ordered package of 50 bags for $12.95 USD, plus $6 shipping. So worth it. Even if more expensive than the street stuff. But you just never know what that’s laced with.

I realize that this post is rather ridiculous, but that’s the beauty of the internet. Blogs are just shit. The ravings of lunatics given the guise of validity. If you’ve had that tea, you would understand. Still not sure if it’s caffeinated, but starting to think “yes.” That magical, magical tea. Just go to Seattle, find the store, and sample the tea. They have free samples, you know! That’s how they getcha. It’s like what my mom said when warning me about drugs in junior high, “The first one’s always free. Then they jack up the price.” I’m sure she speaks from experience.

I was initially worried that this post would become an exercise in randomness through the ADD-mangled, brain patterns that I’m currently experiencing due to the fact that I’ve had three cups of this miracle tea and it’s only one o’clock. It is definitely caffeinated. Despite this previous concerns, it seems that this post has become very, very obsessive. I originally intended it to be a tribute to my sister and the wonderful closeness we occasionally share over the strangest of things, but she somehow hit the cutting room floor.

Bri and I have been hanging out a lot lately, due to several reasons: 1. I’ve moved out and I miss her, like I knew that I would, 2. Our parents are on holiday, so she’s alone in the house and quite bored and lonely, 3. The crazy pace of my life has slowed for a couple of weeks, which is nice, but also boring, and 4. We both just discovered Twilight.

Oh, Twilight. It’s so, so, SO terrible. Utter, utter shite. Really, it is. Bella is probably the worst female role model I could imagine this side of Warren Jeffs’ favourite wife. We both even hated Titanic. So why the hell are we obsessing like 14-year-old fangirls? Ugh. I don’t know. I really can’t explain it. People have dodged murder raps with clearer-headed temporary insanity. Perhaps Robert Pattinson has something to do with it. Or a lot to do with it. We were both in denial for I don’t know how long. Desperate not to admit we each thought him extremely gorgeous, we feared being labelled one of THOSE girls. But, fuck, we are. Stamp it on our foreheads. I feel the years slipping back. It was good while it lasted, these last few years. I realized how much I was growing up. In the good way. I’ve matured a lot. Felt like an ‘old soul.’ Fuck. Now I’m thirteen again. My age has spontaneously halved.

Twilight is the most perfect example of cognitive dissonance to which I can relate. Cognitive Dissonance: the uncomfortable – or otherwise brain-splitting – feeling caused by holding two contradictory beliefs simultaneously. I know that Twilight is bad. I know that there is so much wrong with it. It contains so many things that I just utterly dislike. Yet I like it. I can’t reconcile this dichotomy. How can something this discontinuous exist within my own head? I don’t understand. I think it comes down to a battle between emotion and education; between those forces of A) all the things you were indoctrinated with during your formative years, such as traditional gender roles, acceptance of authority, and so on – housed in the inner layers of your mind and are now referred to interchangeably as “common sense,” “emotional response,” “implicit ideology,” or any number of things; and B) all the things you’ve learned since your malleable childlike brain hardened, things like the mechanics of psychology, the historical context of contemporary society, and critical thinking – the stuff that lingers as explicit knowledge, analytical judgement, an intellectual response rather than emotional, reason and logic, science over faith, questioning over acceptance. Far too complicated a train of thought for something as trivial as Twilight, one reckons. Oh well, it is Bri that has the “I *heart* Boys Who Sparkle” button, not me.

We did rent Fanboys on Saturday, too. We both like Star Wars. I really like Star Wars. Like an endearing roommate that you desperately can’t stand living with, despite the fact that you care about them deeply. I love Star Wars… but I’m not in love with it. And I know far, far too much about it. In fact, I was able to answer a good 75% of the questions the titular fanboys were asked in the film regarding The Trilogy. I have seen the films a lot, but I attribute all of this knowledge to having many, many fanboy friends, dating fanboys, living with a fanboy for almost three years, and thus being subjected to Star Wars Trivial Pursuit, RPGs, and other wookiee-filled discussions. (I even knew that wookiee is spelt with two E’s. Isn’t that ridiculous?) For those three years, my flat was also home to Star Wars cookbooks, trading cards, collectable miniatures, and everything but the Darth Vader voice-changing mask (I shouldn’t even know that exists).

I got so into the Extended Universe through discussion and exposition (and being made to read the Thrawn Trilogy – again, shouldn’t know) that just knowing all this information, and talking about it, was better than actually watching the films. Because let’s face it, it’s the Star Wars Universe that makes them interesting. The films (with exception of The Empire Strikes Back) are really just slightly better-than-average action films. Don’t get me started on George Lucas’s writing/directing skills. Okay, I’ll start a little: Give the job to a fifteen-year-old with some Super 8 skills and she’ll probably do better. At least she would have realized that rolling around in the grass is simply the most unacceptable love story cliché of all time.

So, thus, Fanboys really got me. Especially Kristen Bell’s character. Yes, the token girl. Volumes of issues relating to feminism aside, the only aspect in which she differed from my 19-year-old self was the fact that I have neither broke into the Lucas Ranch nor flashed my boobs in a comic book store (… I think…). Everything else is frighteningly accurate. Yes, the film was flawed. But it was exactly what it intended to be: a love letter to the Star Wars Universe. Bri and I watched it twice, and all the special features. It is now two days overdue from Blockbuster. Our twenty-minute tea conversation ended with an “Oh, crap. I still need to return that. If I see Fanboys for sale, I’m totally buying it. Did you want me to grab you a copy?” Yes please. We can watch it again before we go see Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince at midnight tonight.

What’s the deal with fandoms? I’ve been toeing the edges of a million all week. I’ve neglected to mention until now that I’ve been rewatching Lost with my roommates. We’ll save that for later. It is something to do with finding instant common ground with other people in a lonely world? Is it relishing in the idea that you’re not alone in this escapist fantasy? I don’t normally participate in fandoms. If anything, they find me. I read up, engage in the odd geek-out, but I’m not a convention-goer, or a fanfic writer, or a fandom webmaster or anything. I draw the line at buying posters, too. The geekiest poster I own is a Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy one that I got for free working at a bookstore. Somehow I deem this geeky, but my Casablanca poster is not. My Clash posters are quite extensive, but they’re punk rock, so it’s not geeky, it’s just obsessive (I put them all up in one room and realized exactly how much Joe Strummer that was). I think the feeling of being part of something pulls us towards fandoms. It is the feeling of belonging to something, somewhere, which means a lot in this aforementioned lonely world. I’m still not sure what there is beyond escapism for the solitary geek like me. I hypothesize that it is like any appreciation for art, but with a lot more of that adolescent emotional side and a little less of the intellectual adult. Same source but the balance is slightly skewed. Perhaps I will need either a Phd or pre-school to sort this all out.

I have no idea how I will cope tomorrow morning at work with no sleep and with no Market Spice tea.

Aw, fuck.

Caffeine Update – 1.46pm. Our weekend also included a longer-than-sane discussion of Lord of the Rings. That wins the argument for being “The Trilogy” in our family. Ten bucks if you can guess how many times Bri and I saw Fellowship in theatre.

Caffeine Update – 2.15pm. Have realized that I am indeed highly, highly, HIGHLY caffeinated.

Caffeine Update – 3.04pm. Caffeine levels approaching normal. Have reviewed the post with level of near-sobriety. Revised with reasonable commentary. Also took out the phrase “tea bag” a few times. Six times was too much to mention “tea bag” without being a porn site.

Caffeine Update – 3.50pm. Crashing… burning… losing will to….

‘dirty king’? yeah, it’s kinda like that

I spent about a week procrastinating and finding a million others things to do than write this review. (When I finally did it just now, it only took ten minutes.) I was supposed to have it done awhile ago. The album was out June 23. God damn it. Why do I say ‘yes’ to things so quickly? It always ends with me pissing someone off and feeling guilty and as full of shame like a doughnut is full of jelly. Horrible analogy, I know, but let me indulge: The shame, like that jelly, is so bad for it almost gives you cancer at first bite, yet so, so, so good. But no, it’s not good, is it? It’s quite sickly and very untrustworthy. YET WHY DO YOU GIVE INTO IT? Why do I do these things to myself?

I think the answer is I am far too spontaneous. Sometimes this is fun, most of the time this is fun. In fact, the pros would whip the cons in a Celebrity Death Match, but still, I get myself in trouble a lot. Spontaneity is what caused me to suddenly plan a four-month trip to Europe, and spontaneity is what got me through most of it.Yet Spontaneity is what made me realize the NIGHT BEFORE I flew to Paris that I hadn’t got my line of credit signed off. Spontaneity got me wandering drunk through a Bavarian forest at midnight (true story). Spontaneity even got me laid a few times. Okay, several times. I do regret about 78% of those, however. Kidding. Kidding…. sort of.

Spontaneity is also what made me apply for film school, and get in. Spontaneity got me my job right now. Spontaneity made me start a zine distro. Spontaneity made me jump of a bridge. Spontaneity made me say ‘yes’ to starting a film company, to starting a magazine, to end up living where I am. I make decisions at the drop of a hat. On the turn of a screw. On the flip of a coin. Usually, however, they are something that has been flitting through my mind for awhile, the way we consider all life’s possiblities in that near-dreamlike state, until something triggers them, giving me the opportunity. I usually pounce at it before I realize exactly the magnitude of what I’ve done.

Sure, I regret some things I’ve done. But they are all frivolous regrets. Nothing worth turning back the clock on. The only few serious regrets I have are all of inaction. Isn’t it better to regret things you’ve done rather than regret things you haven’t done? Especially, of course, if the thing you haven’t done is write that review on time.

THE CLIKS – DIRTY KING (2009) (Warner Music Canada)

I feel lucky enough to say that I picked up The Cliks’ Dirty King back in May when they opened for the New York Dolls at Richard’s on Richards in Vancouver. The third album by the Canadian band, Dirty King is a deeper, richer, more diverse effort, that shows the band, and especially songwriter Lucas Silveira’s true coming-of-age. While the band has received plenty of attention due to Silveira’s status as a transman, this might appear unjust, as it truly is the music that deserves to be heard.

It is far to easy to listen to the album with the theme of sexual identity running through one’s mind, but that would be selling it short. Musically, Silveira’s work treads emo water, especially on tracks like Career Suicide and We Are the Wolverines; treads, yet transcends. Other tracks, like the eponymous Dirty King and Henry are simply great rock songs. These ones pull you in. Slower, deeper efforts like Not Your Boy and Henry keep you there. The only song I found myself skipping when I had the CD on repeat was Love Gun, which isn’t really that bad, but I just couldn’t get over the inherent cheesiness of the title. Alas, nothing’s perfect.

Despite this, I found Dirty King to be one of those elusive, yet wonderful things. One of those albums where (almost) each track stands on its own, but the album as a whole is a powerful combination. Having to live up to the reputation of being compared to everyone from the likes of David Bowie to the White Stripes to Chrissy Hynde, The Cliks have a style that is at once unique and familiar. They fit well into the fabric of contemporary rock, not too “indie” sounding, not too bland, and thus should be able to find a wide audience with this decent release.

TRACK LISTING
1. “Haunted”
2. “Dirty King”
3. “Not Your Boy”
4. “Red and Blue”
5. “Henry”
6. “Emily”
7. “Career Suicide”
8. “Love Gun”
9. “We Are the Wolverines”
10. “Falling Overboard”
11. “Animal Farm”