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I appear to be growing more nerdly by the day as this new year begins. Yesterday, I awoke with what I thought - on awakening, at least; sadly, I didn't write it down - was both a concise and accurate account (as it were) of inflation in a capitalist society, its causes and its solutions.

The account was provided, ghod help me, by Doctor Who (tenth, I believe).

More to the point, said account was but a digression in a much longer narrative, akin in some small way, to the final hundred pages of War and Peace only less annoying and much less long.

Completely to the point, since I've been writing (as opposed to blogging, or talking about writing; as of yesterday, the word-count stands at 19,057 - or 18,046, it you don't count the HTML encoding), my dreams have been growing increasingly complex, increasingly coherent, and consistently sillier, whimsical even, despite their linear narrative qualities.

I won't go into details about this morning's dream, both because one's dreams tend to bore the shit out of other people and especially because writing the above four paragraphs has driven most of the details from my mind. Suffice it to say, the elements included my mother as a secret agent-like figure, all competence and clever ploys; the pleasures of cycling in Toronto's Junction; shopping at No Frills; Dalek's - and a new CAR!

Dreams are madness, I tell you. Madness! But so much fun sometimes.

But I digress. I have a theory about the lightness of my dreams lately and how their recent happy nature may be tied up with the fact I have been writing again.

Oh. You want to hear about the theory? Well, why not.

It occurred to me, as I was typing the first few paragraphs above, and in so doing, driving out the details of my dream, that although I have had long moments of unhappiness and powerful feelings of loneliness recently, those feelings have all sprung from tangible causes. I.e., I've been lonely because I've been single for too long and because I haven't been making much of an effort to spend time with friends, those feelings hitting particularly emphasized over the holidays.

However, I haven't been suffering particularly for neurotic reasons, nor have I been "self-medicating" myself into a zombie stupor each and every night.

And so, being left without negative fuel, without neurotic misery to process, my dreams' only function (on the surface, at least; let's leave possible bio-chemical causes to one side) has lately been to entertain me while I slumber - and they've been doing a bang-up job.

Thank you, subconscious.

* * *


On another note entirely, it was with great, nerdly pleasure that I learned when I was last visiting my brother, that my brilliant and beautiful blond-haired niece has also become obsessed with the Good Doctor (Doctor Who, you fools, not Asimov!). So it was to me a wondrous joy to be able to provide her with a copy of this year's Christmas Special, and just as pleasurable to spend a couple of hours last night burning her the first two series of the "new" episodes.

As a bonus, I was able to include a four-parter from 1978 or 1979, "The Pirate Planet" staring Tom Baker and written by Douglas Adams! Much to my pleasure, it featured a battle between the Doctor's ridiculous mechanical dog, K-9, and a villains mechanical parrot.

It is through such sweet silliness that we are distinguished from the rest of the animal kingdom.

That is all.

Well no, it's not. I trust you all noted my previous entry, in which I correctly called the outcome of last night's Iowa Caucases.

Just crowin', that's all.
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I was already in bed and drifting towards sleep when I heard my mother's scream. Instantly awake, I clambered down from my bunk as fast as I could and ran towards the sound, knowing only that I had never before heard her make such a sound.

I ran through the playroom and into the main section of the house - which was illuminated by a waving orange glow. The kitchen was on fire, flames licking up the walls. My mother was standing in the centre of the small space, throwing water at the flames.

I don't remember whether I acted from instinct or some half-remembered instruction, or whether my mother had shouted an order, by I do know I ran back to my room and returned with an armful of blankets, which we used to smother the flames.

The inner walls of the little house were made of a very soft partical board called tentest, which was great for accepting thumbtacks and which made for even better kindling. They looked like hell by the time the fire was out, but I looked on the damage with a lot of pride. In a real emergency, I had acted, not panicked, and I knew that most eight year-olds would not have done the same.

Despite this near-disaster, fire was and would long remain an old friend and a faithful servant to me. My folks had pulled up stakes from our home in suburban town of Two Mountains outside of Montreal and moved us to the outskirts of Sudbury, where my great-uncle Ray and my father put up a small house after clearing a big enough space out of the forest. Money was tight, so we did without such bourgeois luxuries as running water and electricity.

The structure was shaped like a fat ell. At the far end of the narrower section were three cells, deliberately designed without internal load-bearing walls, for easy conversion into a single room at a later date. They were about six by six feet square, each one outfitted with a lower and an upper bunk, the upper perpendicular to the bottom.

I was already a reader and had no choice but engage in that pastime by the light of candles and oil lamps. In my hand, matches were a tool, not a toy, needed the for light, for heat, and for igniting the Coleman camp-stove we used for all of our cooking. (It's really quite amazing how much one can do with a two-burner stove and no oven.)

Not that I was introduced to fire only when we moved to the country. In fact, the first time I remember making a fire, we had only recently moved to the town of Two Mountains (now called Deux Montagnes), which would have made me five or six years old.

My parents were unusual in many ways, not least of which was the condidence they had in their own judgement, rather than in rules or experts. And so it was I was permitted to wander in the woods on my own when I was three, my younger brother was an expert cyclist when he reached that age, and I first drove on the 401 at the age of twelve.

Similarly, when I got curious about fire and matches, rather than sternly forbidding me to play with them, my father instead found a big ash-tray and a few of packs of matches and sat down with me. He showed me how to light a match, explained the consequences of not putting one out, and let me at it. Never one to forbid fruit, he instead believed that, when he judged his child was ready to learn (which usually meant, when that child expressed an interest), the best policy was to teach, rather than to forbid.

And so it was, one spring or summer day, that there came a rather panicked knocking on our front door. I think it was my mother who answered it.

"Yes?" she said to the frightened-looking neighbour who stood on her stoop.

"There's a small boy, making a fire next to your house," he said.

"Oh," said my mum, "that's Geoffrey. He's just experimenting."

"'Experimenting!?!'"

"Yes," said my mum, but the neighbour's fear convinced her she should check on the progress of my experiment, just to be on the safe side.

And so she found me, happily feeding twigs into an impressive blaze, which I had built against the concrete side of the house. The flames licked a couple of feet into the air and - much to my dismay - she decided this particular investigation into the nature of fire had gone quite far enough and so extinguished it.

I was outraged, of course. I had been very careful and believed (and still do!) that I had everything was under control. I explained as much, but my mother was firm. "Experimenting" was all fine and good, but the results had to be kept to a certain size.

I often look back with not a little awe at the things my parents let me do when I was a small child. Lord knows, I'm not sure I will be able to do the same if ever I have the privilege to be a father. And yet, I am glad they did what they did - or rather, that they permitted me to do the things I did. From allowing me wander forests on my own or make fires, to letting me take the wheel of the car, to making firm noises at concerned librarians ("Of course Geoffrey can take out Gibbons' Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire! Geoffrey may only be nine, but he has my permission to borrow any book in this library that interests him!" (As it turned out, Gibbons was more than I could chew; I returned the (abridged) version to the library some time later having read only the first chapter . But I digress.

I'm glad my folks had the confidence in their own judgement necessary to allow them to let me learn at my own pace, to experiment and to grow, when I was ready to do so.
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Maybe I'm getting too old for online debates. Or maybe I'm just out of practice. Or maybe I should have found some kind of debating society back when I was in high school. I always dismissed formal debating as kind of silly, because it seemed to me that the whole point of a formal debate was to win the debate rather than to discover what was actually true. What I didn't really accept, though, is that I was (and still) am, very unusual in that I would (really!) rather lose an argument if I am in fact wrong, than win it simply through the quality of my rhetoric.

Perhaps my puratinism was a mistake; being able to skillfully defend one's position does not of necessity imply one must therefore forget how to say, "Oh. You're right. I hadn't thought of that."

Yesterday, one of you guys posted some comments about Naomi Klein's latest book, The Shock Doctrine. I disagreed with his analysis and said so. One of his his friends took up the battle and I found myself in one of those meandering debates, where each rebuttal seems to somehow stray further and further from the initial topic, without the latter having been resolved.

Anyway, my interlocutor at one point included a line to the effect that, the Arabs are not ready for democracy - too tribal, too clannish, etc. I ignored it as an irrelevance to the what we were ostensibly discussing (Klein's book and her thesis) but awoke this morning with possible rebuttals running through my slowly-rousing mind like so many cars on a foggy freeway at the start of rush-hour.

Worse, I felt that I had betrayed my own principles by ignoring what was, in fact, an essentially racist slur in the guise of cultural analysis. (Note that I am not suggesting my antagonist is "a racist", but rather that his analysis has been slanted by over-exposure to "our" propaganda and by the natural preference for assuming that one's own side is the good side. How much more comforting it is to assert that "they" are not capable of running their own countries than it is to accept that "we" have never let them try.

It wasn't so very long ago at all that similar things were said about women, about the Irish, about blacks, about (North American) Indians, about the Jews, &cetera (though with the latter also usually came a paradoxical soupçon of fear; but I digress). In short, a justification that invariably accompanies oppression - "Maybe we're oppressing them, but only because they're incapable of ruling themselves."

Long story short, through my desire to keep the discussion on-topic, I ignored the proverbial elephant in the corner and in so doing tacitly allowed him to subtly change the subject. Which means I need to back and call him on it. Sigh.
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My mostly random exploration of British television via the medium of my local video stores continues and I continue to be struck by a number of elements which contrast so strongly against the American network television mind-set.

First, in the British tradition, there is a lot of room for experimental and often limited-run productions. John Cleese and Connie Booth's classic series, Fawlty Towers being perhaps the best-known example on this side of the pond.

For those of you unfortunate enough to have not encountered this seminal example of cringe comedy (bust a gut laughing out loud so hard tears my spring free from your eyes cring comedy at that), note that only 12 episodes were made and the show's writers are given pride of place in the credits, rather than the stars (although, and this often seems to be the case, particularly with comedy, the writers are the stars, or two of them), let alone the producers or the networks, get the credit.

Despite long-running franchises such as Doctor Who or Coronation Street, making shows with a deliberately limited run seems - at least from my limited perspective - seems to be the rule on the other side of the pond, and very a good rule it is, too.

Which brings me to my latest video-store discovery, The League of Gentlemen, possibly the strangest sit-com it has ever been my pleasure to stumble across.

Set in the small, very isolated town of Royston Vasey, somewhere in the north of England, The League of Gentlemen takes the old conceit of small-town excentrics to new and sometimes creepy extremes. Imagine SCTV's Mellonville fleshed-out and given much greater depth, along with that cast's brilliance at playing multiple characters, combined with The Kids In the Hall's ability to play female roles in drag while making of them real characters. Add a touch of Stephen King and you'll have some idea of the sort of thing you'll be getting into when you pop the first DVD into your player.

You see, the folks of Royston Vassey are not just eccentrics, they are almost without exception, utterly insane. And therein lies the humour. These people include cannibals, killers, urine drinkers and general sadists, just for starters. There are moments of shocking violence to go with the surrealism and, basically, the show constantly surprises the viewers expectations.

Many of the characters obviously come from The League of Gentlemen's sketch comedy days, but they have been fleshed out for these series, given emotional pathos to go along with the voyeuristic freak-show elements.

Next time you host a video-night, do yourself a favour and rent it.
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... I'm damned if I'm not going to try to figure last night's out.

My sweet subconscious served up a veritable pot-pourri of unrelated cultural and personal detritus this morning before the cat's pitiful yet piercing cries for food managed to bring me to consciousness. Read more. )
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I won't go into dream-detail this time around. Suffice it to say that making coffee, of all things, at least twice played an important role in the proceedings. First time, when I found myself for some reason working once again for my former employer; second when I was part of Control (yes, oldsters, that "Control"). Neither 86 nor 99 put in an appearance, but the waiting room was quite full of evil doers, all apparently patiently waiting their turn to wreak KAOS-style havoc.

The machine itself was of an unfamiliar design and I more than once found myself irritated by the fact that the measurements were all in metric, leaving me quite at sea when it came to grinding the beans: though I think in kilometres and degrees celsius by default, when it comes to making coffee it's still table-spoons for me.

* * *

It seems I will probably not be hosting the African Diaspora this week after all. My cousins mother-in-law (and entourage) has instead arranged for a couple of rooms in the home of a retired couple - whether of there acquaintance or simply found via the internet, I am not sure. However, the ladies are elderly, and the place is in Thornhill, apparently quite a long walk from the nearest bus-stop. God knows, if I were in their place, I would prefer the cramped quarters on offer downtown over the windy desolation of suburbia any day.

But I am not them, so who knows? And besides - especially given that I haven't met the woman for some 18 years (though she knows well who I am - "That's Carl's oldest son, isn't it?" she asked my cousin when my offer had been transmitted. She and my dad get along quite well), it may be they feel the imposition would be simply a little too much.

Naturally I am in truth relieved; my place is only a one-bedroom apartment (with sun-room/office). But I am also disappointed. It would have been an interesting week, whatever the inconveniences that would have accompanied it.

Nevertheless, my nightly orgies can continue without let-up after all. Unless they change their minds and telephone me to say they are coming after all.

* * *

I'm afraid I have been neglecting the keyboard these past few days. I have bogged-down on "The Adventures of Ashera" and will not likely be getting back to it today; though she hasn't confirmed, I am tentatively committed to helping Siya move into her new place today. And tomorrow, I have an appointment about which I can say nothing - now or ever! - but that much of my day is spoken for (yes! suffer Gentle Readers! Suffer!).

* * *

My continuing quest for pre-sleep comfort-reading led me to pull off my shelf a 30 year-old issue of the excellent (I had remarkable taste as a kid, I tells ya!) old fanzine, Algol. It contained an article by Poul Anderson. Never one of my favourite SF writers, he was nevertheless a craftsman of the higher orders and I have enjoyed his work and even own a collection of his stroies.

His piece was a meandering one. Having been asked to provide some sort of memoir, he instead discussed mostly his methods and habits when it came to writing (3,000 words a day, the son-of-a-bitch!). What most struck me was when he quoted a descriptive passage from one of his own stories as an example of a "rule" he strove to follow when doing such things.

Namely, that a description should not only be visual, but should encompass all of the senses, alluding to what things feel and smell like, etc, as well as to what things look like.

Good advice, which I shall endeavour to remember. I suspect that my own descriptive passages have not been thin only - as I had thought - because my powers of visual observation are, in life, rather limited (I don't just forget names, I forget faces, too).

In fact, maybe some practice is in order.

It was a cool and quiet morning. The morning light through the dirty, stained windows of his office was bright but thin, hinting strongly at the anaemic winter sun that was soon to come. The yard beyond the glass was unkempt, an large patch of green in the midst of the city that allowed the man to imagine he was beyond the urban borders, if he squinted a little. The leaves drooped, looking tired, nearing the end of a lot and hot summer. There was little movement. Only the nearest leaves indicated the air was moving at all.

Shit. That sucks, doesn't it? Well, one must practice.
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Woke up this morning leaving my job at the high-rise offices of no less a publishing empire than Playboy magazine itself. What precisely I did was and remains unclear, but my duties were of editorial nature and, as such - though he did not make an appearance - ones that brought me into regular, if not frequent, contact with "Hef" himself. Were I an average North American of (ahem) a Certain Age, it might be noteworthy that I did not even once come into contact with one of the famous Bunnies. But I am not and never have been an average North American and even as a callow adolescent, the Playboy Bunny never much appealed to me as an example of male sexuality (what? ya thought that bourgeois version of Neverland was an example of female sexuality? Puh-lease!).

Meanwhile, I worked with a woman I was once very close to, but with whom I long ago had a major falling-out, culminating in one of my infamous, multi-page letters, to which (in life) she replied with a brief note that said something like, "Fuck you. Then I'll get new friends."

Many years later, we had a reconciliation of sorts, brought on mostly by the scouring of the winds of time, rather than any real change of mind or heart on either of our parts.

Nevertheless, in the dream, the wounds were still raw and bloody and I awoke as we stormed off in different directions.

But what I find kind of delightful, from an amateur of cheap psychoanalysis, is my guess as to why Playboy should have figured in the dream at all. In short, it was Henry Kuttner's fault.

Y'see, while briefly conscious yesterday (I think I managed 8 hours), I pulled from my shelf a 35 year-old copy of The Best of Henry Kuttner, who under such names as Lewis Padgett (when writing with his wife, C.L. Moore) and Lawrence O'Donnell, among many others as well as his own, was one of the best pulp and post-pulp short story writers in the business. He (and Moore, as I recall, though her name is nowhere to be found in the volume at hand) wrote the marvelous story, "Mimsy Were the Borogoves", to which I have elsewhere alluded from time to time. But I digress.

I was getting to the mysterious workings of dream-consciousness.

Now, Kuttner died in 1958 and to my knowledge never made an appearance in the pages of Playboy. But the volume from which I read last night contains an introduction by Ray Bradbury, whose prose has graced those slick (and oft-slickened - ahem) pages. Indeed, one such appearance was the primary reason I bought my 2nd (of 4, in total) issue of that magazine, many years ago.

Though why my former friend should also have put in an appearance is a less-clear example of workings of my unconscious. The origins of that strand in the web remain a mystery to me.

But onwards.

Bradbury praised Kuttner as the man who told him (Bradbury) to "shut up", to stop talking about the stories he wanted to write and to sit down and actually write them. Bradbury claimed he thenceforth wrote a story a week and so reminded me that my own biggest problem is my continuing lack of discipline.

And so, having mostly emerged from my brief illness (the cough is still there but no longer painful, the nose barely running; thanks for asking) and feeling re-energized from sleeping 16 hours out of 24 over the past few days, I feel once again inspired to "shut up" and "just do it".

And so, I'm off. Exercise, breakfast, then some serious time behind the keyboard.
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Such dreams and such a night (and) morning of dreaming! Though my readings in Natural Philosophy suggest it is impossible for REM sleep to occupy more than a small fraction of a night's slumber, yet I attest that last night's repose felt indeed as if I my eyes moved rapidly beneath their lids all the live long night.

Which is another way of saying, folks, that this entry will almost certainly be about as dull as dull can be. But click away if you're interested. )

On the health front, my chest seems a little less rheumy, but my head feels stuffed and my eyes crusty and slightly painful. I will endeavour to catch up upon my correspondence today, but I don't expect to do any real writing before tomorrow at the earliest. Indeed, the urge to return to my bed after only 40 minutes awake is already a strong temptation.

Exeunt
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It's all marnina's fault.

The running nose. The harsh pain when I breathe. The really harsh pain when I cough ...

You see, the marvelous Marnina got me out of the apartment on Friday and saw me *gasp* socializing, not just with one new person but with six! (Or was it five? Whatever.) One of whom invited me to a party on Saturday, which meant that I socialized with new people for two nights in a row.

And one of those bastards obviously saw fit to somehow pass along this filthy chest-cold, which explains why this Morning Pages entry is being typed at 12:55 P.M.

Not that I'm complaining, not really.

I had an awful lot of fun on Friday, despite my misanthropic tendencies. Hell, I even danced and enjoyed myself while so doing and no matter that I fear I resembled Seinfeld's Elaine engaged in the same activity.

It was good to be reminded that I can socialize with more than one or two people at a time. Even better, Marnie and her friend Vanessa especially are people I want to see again.

But still, I'm paying for my sins (venal as they were - delicious Chinese food at 3:00 A.M. surely doesn't necessitate the debilitation I am suffering now, does it?

Well. "Man is born to suffer as the sparks fly upward."

* * *

The cold came on remarkably fast.

My mum called me last night, wanting to discuss my recent rant about vile Michael Ignatief. Somewhat to my surprise (insecurity breeds like vermin when one doesn't regularly practice one's ostensible craft, I fear), my mum (retired journalist and so one well-qualified to offer a professional opinion) thought it a very good rant and further suggested that with some tweeking - a tighter focus: why does it matter that Iggy lies to us? - it maybe be saleable to The Walrus or some similar publication.

Encouraging words, I must say, but I digress.

The cold. That was what I was talking about. I must have spoken with my mum for an hour and a half or so. I felt the first tickle at the back of my throat maybe 10 minutes in and by the time I hung up it was full on me, the pack of wild microbes pouncing like a billion tiny hyenas.

* * *

The god damned air show is starting again. No matter that my eyes are crusty and lungs scratchy, there'll be no afternoon nap for the ailing Young Geoffrey this day. Living as close to the water as I do, I suppose I could take myself out into the sun, walk the single block to the bridge over the Lakeshore and watch those winged noise-makers.

But airplanes flying in formation just don't interest me very much, unless one of them decides to fall out of the sky upon my apartment building.

And that's it. A fever has started up (again?) and I can't force myself to type any more.

exeunt
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Screw that. I just deleted two lines of text, explaining how I was going to alter the rules this morning and not extemporaneously share with all you lucky, lucky people something that occurred to me last night, while going through my remaining pile of unread newspapers. But that will have to come later, in some other, "real" entry; cheating is a lousy way to develop self-discipline. And so, onwards! Gentle Readers, onwards, if you dare to click! )
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I give up. No matter my best intentions, without the external discipline of a job, rising with the sun no longer seems a realistic goal. And - waking this morning a little after 11:00, having twice slept through the alarm - I asked myself: does it matter? Haven't you read that the human body's natural rhythm is closer to 25 hours than to 24?

And so we'll try that - let Young Geoffrey sleep when he may.

Meanwhile, if you care to read on, this morning's entry seems to be the start of a story. )
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Dreams sure are funny things. As a fer'instance, Laura has been making cameo appearances in mine lately, maybe for the past month-and-half; prior to that (and, of course, only to the best of my recollection), she showed up only once or twice in the 10 or so months since the break-up.

But that's peculiar funny, and I really meant ha-ha funny. )
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It's way too soon to draw any conclusions, of course. But I sure as hell feel - already - that Dorothy Brande knew whereof she typed.

Following this "morning's" post (that's right, only some of you saw it; for what it's worth, most of those of you who didn't would be just as glad), and after answering a few emails and sending a cheque to tyskkvinna I decided to celebrate Cheque Day by stopping off at Rhino's for a point.

And scribbled some 14 manuscript pages in my notebook, which I believe will become, tomorrow, an open letter to the Liberal Party of Canada, in response to Michael Ignatief's pusillanimous essay in the New York Times Magazine back on the weekend before last.

Somehow, typing that random garbage earlier today, seems to have freed my literary fingers from their long hibernation, and I am feeling pretty damned good about it.

Of course, if you, you Gentle Readers, don't see a real post tomorrow, you'll know that my feelings had no bearing on reality.

But for the nonce, I'm a convert. I wasn't working on the novel, but I was writing, and it (still) feels good!

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