ed_rex: (1980)

Back in grades seven and eight, I was bullied in a pretty big way. Death threats (however rhetorical) were a more or less daily occurrence. Elbows in the hall happened regularly, and actual assaults on school property (inside the school itself, more than once) were, if not frequent, were not exactly rare.

And deciding which route to take home was a matter of balancing my desire to get home quickly vs the odds of being attacked by the thugs who had decided I was the one they would pick on.

Probably my biggest moment of shame and pride happened in (I think) grade eight, when the halls were full with students streaming from one class to another.

I was attacked by three or four guys, who took me to the floor and got in a few shots, then, laughing in triumph, took their leave. At which point I got to my feet and leapt upon the leader — Terry Scovron was his name, I'm pretty sure — and got in a few licks of my own.

Naturally, his thugs came to his aid and I was once again put down, but I felt a certain amount of satisfaction in having gotten in a few of my own.

What rankled, though, was hearing later, that word had gotten 'round that Scovron had beaten me up, no mention of his three or four henchmen.

Anyway, I digress.

I was actually friendly with one member of that gang. He was a nice enough kid, I guess. He hung with the bullies to protect himself, I think. They'd abuse him — mock him and hit him, but not too hard, and in exchange he had their protection and, presumably, some measure of prestige.

Anyway, one day after a test, when we had some free time in the same class-room, I asked him, "Why? Why don't they just leave me alone?"

"They're scared of you," he said. And when, baffled, I asked him how they could possibly be scared of me, he told me that it was because I didn't play their game. I just wanted to be left alone. He said (and I paraphrase; it's been a few years, and he didn't use the kind of vocabulary I'm gifting him with now) if I would just accept their dominance, they'd let me be. But because I kept fighting back, they had to keep putting me down. And because I didn't seem to care about their barnyard strutting, they had to keep putting me down. So that I would care about the grade seven, then eight, pecking order.

(This shit went on for two fucking years; and yes, the constant worry that I might be attacked for no good reason did do some long-term damage. Although, on the other hand, I think it's given me a little more empathy for how women feel when walking a dark street, or navigating a mostly-male workplace, than a lot of men have.)

Anyway, flash-forward to the present. The boss' mother (and titular owner) aside, my workplace is entirely male. Many of them immigrants, almost of us working class. Some, like me, with book-larnin, most without much of it.

I don't have a regular shift there, but get a new schedule every two weeks. And further, if I am going to be driving a crew out of town, I get an email with the specifics of time and (sometimes) of which vehicle I'll be driving.

A few days before Christmas I got one of those emails, with a note about the weather: you'd better come in at least 15 minutes early, so you can scrape the ice off the windows.

I texted back, "Thanks for the heads' up. And if [R] is fretting, tell him I'm already on the bus."

Fretting. I guess I should have known better.

R has made a point of using the word, fretting, every god damned time I've been in the office at the same time as him ever since.

Unlike grade school, it's okay. Instead of punches, my co-workers throw jokes. They tease, "the way men do".

One of the nice things about being a grown up, is that other people (usually) grow up too, at least to some extent. Where once my eccentricities elicited violence, now they are an identifying trait, not a threat. I'm weird, but I'm okay, I'm liked.

Which is a really nice change, even after all these years, let me tell you!

But even so, I think I'm going to get pretty damned sick of the word fretting before too long.

ed_rex: (Default)

When I was a kid, a teenager (and beyond, in fact), I played the guitar and I hitch-hiked quite a lot. As a grubby-looking, long-haired guy, that latter activity meant I spent a lot of time standing by the side of the road, day-dreaming. And a recurring day-dream was that I would master the guitar to the point where I might find myself someday sharing a stage with Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead, noodling away like a 'head from the Haight.

Obviously, it never happened. I didn't have the drive to become a good guitarist nor, I suspect, did (or do) I have the innate talent. Sometimes biology is destiny.

But last night, I happened on a video of a very recent concert by Dead & Company, a band made up of former members of the Grateful Dead and others, younger players.

I don't expect many (or even, probably, any) of you to watch the video — it's more than 3 hours long, but who knows? Maybe someone's trippin' ...

Anyway, listening to it and (sometimes) watching it and it hit me: John Mayer, the lead guitarist (whose name but not work rings a bell with me), though 12 years my junior, is doing something I fantasized I might do on those long, dusty days with my thumb out waiting for a ride.

No wonder he bounces. No wonder he looks so happy. He's jamming with the Dead, man!

Dead & Company is a nostalgia act, sure, but there's still some creative life in the old bones, if only through the input of young(ish) blood. The Rolling Stones could take a lesson.

ed_rex: (Default)

Speaking ill of the dead

Elisabeth Sladen: the autobiography

Elisabeth Sladen the autobiography cover plus link to amazon.ca

Like many North American of a certain age, my introduction to Doctor Who was haphazard at best. The first episode I remember seeing was Robots of Death, in which Louise Jameson's Leela was the companion, not Elisabeth Sladen's Sarah Jane Smith.

Nevertheless, TV Ontario sooner or later broadcast at least a few of the Sarah Jane serials, and the buttoned-down young journalist joined the half-naked savage as my favourites among the Doctor's companions.

So I was very much part of the target audience when Sarah Jane returned to Doctor Who in the (revived) series' second season episode, "School Reunion". That production managed to please both old fans and new, so much so that Sladen's return spawned a spin-off, The Sarah Jane Adventures, a children's program that often managed to be quite a bit better than its big brother.

The Sarah Jane Adventures featured Sladen as its alien-fighting principal, a woman in her seventh decade who was nevertheless forever running down corridors, hopping fences and facing down monsters, even as she played reluctant mentor and den mother to her teenage co-stars. Sarah Jane Smith was so credible as a paragon of courage and intelligence that one longed to believe those traits reflected the performer as much as they did her writers.

Fan of both Sarah Jane Smith's first and third incarnations (even Sladen quite rightly acknowledges the failure of her second, in the early 1980s), I am clearly also part of the target audience for Sladen's memoir. And so it was I impatiently waited for a Canadian release of Sladen's autobiography, completed just a few months before her surprising and terribly untimely death from cancer in 2011.

Sadly, the contents between the frankly dated and cheap-looking covers pretty accurately reflect the contents of the book itself.

Though the autobiography does not stoop to gossip or cheap score-settling, neither does it offer much insight into acting; into what it was like being a feminist icon of sorts; or into Sladen's life. Those hoping for more than some amusing anecdotes about working with Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker will find in this book some tasty snacks, but nothing remotely like a full meal.

My full review is at my site, ed-rex.com.

ed_rex: (dhalgren)

"I too was disapointed [sic] in Neil's concert... I wished I had stayed home and watched one of his old DVD's.. I personally thought he had lost his mind!! Really a song that carries on for 15 minutes with the only lyrics "You're a F*&&up?" I put my coat on and left.."
     — Commentator Mrsopinionated on a message board at the Ottawa Sun.

Trawling the web after seeing Neil Young and Crazy Horse on the last Saturday in November, I came across quite a few complaints similar to Mrsopinionated's, from people who clearly expected to encounter the folkie troubadour famous for songs like "Helpless" and "Harvest Moon".

Instead of the sensitive folk-singer, they got four old men bent over their instruments like a coven of witches torturing cats to produce an orgy of distortion and feedback, steel strings twisted to breaking in jams pushing half an hour of sonic indulgence.

"I put my coat on and left.." I can empathize, I really can.

I once was Mrsopinionated, or someone a lot like her ...

Some of you may know this story; I've dined out on it at my own expense for years. So, feel free to skip it and go straight to my review. But for those of you still reading ...

Cut to spare your friend's page. But really, you should click the link. )

ed_rex: (Default)

I've almost never been an early adapter. There were long periods during my childhood when we didn't have a telephone, and a couple of years when what electricity we had came via about half-a-kilometre of taped together extension cords laid on the ground between my grandmother's house and ours (the result powered two light-bulbs, possibly a radio and an enormous old black and white television set that took about two minutes to warm up when turned on; also, we had no running water and I shat in an out-house even at -40).

(I would add that I walked 40 miles to school — uphill both ways — but everything in paragraph one is true.)

Anyway. I didn't own a colour television until the late 1980s and it wasn't until about 1990 or 1991 that I started to catch up — a little — when I bought my first computer. An IBM-compatible 368 that came with 2MB (yes, mega-bites!) of RAM and a 40 (count 'em!) 40MB hard-drive. The beast came with Windows 3.1 but I quickly realized it was a useless piece of crap and just stuck with DOS programs, text-only all the way.

That was the internet to me until the mid-1990s, or later. Green words on a black screen, and when an early version of Commander Keen got installed, the colour and movement were pretty damned awesome.

Anyway ...

As the '90s segued into the 'oughts and I found myself somehow working in the tech field rather than toiling in what is now known as Administration but which I called just being a secretary, people I knew started wearing belts, and sporting on these strange devices something similar to a holster for a six-shooter, as one might have seen in Texas in 1882. Only these guys (and they were, mostly, guys) were sporting telephones, not pistols, but — beyond being able to let someone know you'd be late for beers, I couldn't see the point of paying for toys, for Christ's sake.

But come the turn of that benighted decade, I repossed a cell-phone I'd bought for my (soon-to-be ex) and decided — what the hell — that there might be something to being able to let someone know I'd be late for beers. That I could do it via text-message was even better.

But game consoles? Even if they'd play pretty awesome-looking videos? Please. I had a computer, as well as a VCR that played both DVDs and VHS tapes! And what did I need a camera for? I had a camera, with 4 megapixels, baby!

When I moved to Ottawa now three years ago, my phone gave up the ghost, so I switched providers and got another. I had a full qwerty keyboard, when was nice for texting and a cheapo camera, which was slow and took only low-resolution images. My camera itself — which had a 4 megapixel resolution and which had cost 500 bucks or so when I'd bought it four or five years before, died during the move as well, so the idea of getting something better for picture-taking nagged at me from then 'till now.

But I didn't need a camera, not really. And neither did I need a "better" phone.

But. Butbutbut ... But time marches on, and friends show off their handsome Blackberries, and every pilot and flight attendant I drive around has some sort of high-fallutin' beast that does everything but give blow-jobs, or so it seems.

Long story short, the idea of being able to check email while on the road, or maybe post a tweet, or whatever, has been working on me, a phantom syren whose once-shrill song has slowly turned nightingale sweet.

Today, I yielded. Intending only to brunch on dim sum with Raven, and then to pick up some greens at the local Chinese market, we stopped in at a Wind outlet on a whim. And after probably close to an hour, I came away with the New Devil in hand.

Yes, a smartphone, with internet access, an Android operating system and a camera that provides eight megapixels. It also shoots video in "HD" (Aightch-Dee? Wat dat, Paw?) and gives me the current temperature and weather conditions as soon as I power it up. I can check email and browse the web (videos look ridiculously good; seriously, the screen resolution is awesome!) and god only knows what else. Presumably, I can even make phone calls with the beast.

I might no more, but Raven took it away from me as soon as we got home and I very nearly had to resort to fisticuffs to pry it from her delicate fingers.

Anyway. Here I am, now armed with a smart-phone, a technology that would have given just about anyone fits of incredulity even 20 years ago (and maybe 10). To paraphrase a recent post by Warren Ellis, we are living in Science Fiction and I have just been jolted into remembering it.

Do I need a "smartphone"? Of course I don't. Will I need in a year, or a month, or maybe even in as little as a week? I rather suspect I will.

I also rather suspect the exploration of its capabilities will lead to more specifically tech-related posts from me than all of my computers and other bits of the recent future ever have.

ed_rex: (ace)

An ode to empty hands and an empty mouth

I knew the anniversary was coming up fast; I didn't realize I'd over-shot by nearly a fort-night, until I checked the review I posted last year — as it turns out, exactly one year ago today.

If the chronology in that piece is to be trusted, it has now been 376 days since I butted my final cigarette.

I'm really not an especially superstitious man; going strictly by my head I'm not superstitious at all. But in my gut, I have a few savage superstitions I find it difficult to shake.

One of them is predicting success for myself, lest I "jynx" my prospects, by angering the gods or whatever it is that causes Old Ma Fate to kick you in the ass.

Neither lows nor highs have changed my course — so click the cut to read on! )
ed_rex: (Default)

Feet of clay, head in the stars

ETA: Speaking of feet (not to mention brains) of clay, today is the anniversary of Lennon's birth, not of his death. Consider me suitably embarassed.

I can only infer where I was when I first heard John Lennon was shot: at home, listening to something on CBC Radio.

I was shocked, I was saddened. Lennon was to me first and foremost not just a (former) Beatle, but the political Beatle. I wouldn't have braved the glare of the check-out woman at the drug-store to buy my first issue of Playboy magazine; between my adolescent embarrassment about sex and my nascent feminist consciousness, it was an excrutiating moment.

But the interview itself (now miraculously online here) was well-worth any amount of embarrassment. Who doesn't want to learn that one of the closest things one has to a hero is intelligent, thoughtful and (best of all) has come through fire to find happiness?

At least, that's how I remember it; I don't expect I'll be reading what's posted at the link above, or pulling out my ragged, coverless copy of the original magazine to confirm those impressions any time soon. When you're older than your hero was when he was murdered, there seems little point in re-living those last days of his life.

My Beatle's dead: click here for a naked buttocks and one of the best songs ever written.

ed_rex: (Default)

21. Do any of your characters have children? How well do you write them?

The perils of not taking a sneak-peek ahead: Yesterday's entry, and especially the extensive excerpt from The Valley of Shabathawan would have served as a pretty conclusive reply to both questions.

But in case you didn't read Question 20A then or don't want to now, I'll sum it up by saying, "Yes" and "Quite well, thank you."

Still, that's not quite all. The question itself strikes me as a little weird, and not in a good sense. I'm tempted to go in for some armchair psychoanalysis of the meme's creator, but I'll just note it instead.

"Do any of your characters have children? How well do you write them?"

The presumption that children are not characters in and of themselves vexes me the more I look at it. I don't know about other writers, but when I write children, they are characters (mewling and puking babes in arms notwithstanding, perhaps).

I said I don't want to get into any armchair psychoanalysis, but armchair sociology isn't quite the same thing. Click for more! )

Click to see all the questions )

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