Saturday, April 30, 2005

Rant of the Week: Les Sports Extremes

When I took up skateboarding again, about four years ago, I brought my new board with me to a mid-sized burg in northern Quebec for a French immersion program. The program was pretty intense. For five weeks one was not allowed to speak a word of English, or they would ship one's ass back to Angloville. I was living with a host family, who were lovely people, if a little difficult to comprehend due to their thick, Quebecoise accents. There were perhaps one hundred students in the program, from all different parts of this vast country of ours, as well as a mother and son from New Mexico who had paid the several thousand dollar fee it cost for non-Canadian citizens to attend. Our classes were held at a local univeristy facility, but because it was late spring, and between the winter and summer sessions, there were few other students or faculty present. I was the only skateboarder on campus, and people became familiarized with the sound of my wheels echoing across the pavement of the parking lot on lunches and breaks.

I don't remember if it was my teacher, one of the peppy animatrices, or one of the members of my extended host family (there were four generations of them living on the same property), who made the comment, but I was startled one day to hear said of myself, 'Monsieur fait toujours les sports extrêmes'. I was taken aback. Les sports extrêmes. Moi? I had to double check the meaning in my ever handy Roberts & Collins 'poche'.

You see, I have never considered myself an extreme sort of person. I like to think of myself as a follower of the Middle Path, the Golden Mean, the Wu Wei. I am a firm believer in the Heraclitean-by way of Jung-principle of enantodromia, the idea that when a system is given energy so as to push it in a certain direction, it will eventually recoil with an equal force in the opposite dirction, thus maintaining an overall state of equalibrium. All of these philosophies and theories propound that the best widom is to hold fast, as much as is possible, to the centre of things, in order to avoid what inevidably become painful attachments to extreme positions.

I think there is great wisdom in this insight. As a node or limit in a system of tensions, an extreme can only ever be one part of a greater whole. Spiritual health would dicated that while extremes are necessary in defining the world of our perception, our allegiance should ultimately be paid to an holistic vision of the totality. Sounds nice, but how is one to attain such a view in this warped and partisian age? I believe that the totality is best revealed to us through art and philosophy. Artists and philosophers, one hopes, have courted the muses, sacrificing personal interest in the pursuit of beauty and truth. They may be flawed and twisted like the rest of us, but they are the best crack we have at getting a glimpse of a god's-eye-view of the world. Read novels and essays. Recite poems. Watch movies and 'films' even. Get to know a painting or two. Listen to the music of the ages. An image of the whole will start to form, probably without your even noticing, in your soul.

The image is not difinitive. It is never completed, but constantly under construction. We can keep it, like Plato's republic, as an abstract vision of justice in our imaginations, where everything under the sun has its rightful place and can be seen exactly for what it is; but it can never be, as that ancient Greek prototype was, a closed and completed system. We can do all of this imaginative work in the abstract realm of ideas, but what is more difficult--perhaps impossible--as finite corporeal beings is to embody the whole personally. As individual people we are bound to time and its vicissitudes, its oscillations, its movement from one extreme to another. This is why, while the Apollonian dictem of Everything in moderation sounds reasonable, the Blakean proverb that The path of excess leads to the Palace of Wisdom elicits sparks of recognition from the heart. As creatures of time, we are sometimes given to excess, to extremes, but these too, through the infernal wisdom of divine immanence, may ultimately lead to the palace of wisdom.

We need to be shown extremes in art in order to construct in our imaginations the image of the whole that leads to wisdom. I believe that this process is the root of the spiritual pleasure we experience in being exposed, through art, to things that in real life would likely cause us to recoil. I'm not trying to defend gratuitous extremism in art here. I didn't enjoy the movie Sin City very much, not because it depicted extremes, but because it did so in a juvenile and superficial way. What worked in comic book format, under the pen of a master illustrator and storyteller, was transfromed by a run through the Hollywood dream machinery into cheap thrills. No great surprise there. I did enjoy the movie Constantine because I thought it depicted something of the precarious postition humanity inhabits in the Chain of Being: suspended somewhere between the angels, idealistic and insane, and the devils with their frightening appetites. The movie also seemed to suggest that there is a mysterious sort of Grace moving through the universe; a transcendent power that makes use of both the divine and infernal energies to bring about a greater, and unexpected--I won't say goodness--but at least at the end of the film humanity, in the figure of Constantine, is allowed to continue on.

So what do all these musings have to do with extreme sports? If Fakiegrind seems a little extreme in its delivery, it is only trying to mirror the energy of the activity that gave it birth. We do so not to shock or titillate, but to entertain and educate; to help in the ongoing project of building, in the souls of readers, an image of the whole that will hopefully aid us in navigating through the world, filled as it is with the energies of the angelic, the demonic, and the human.

Friday, April 29, 2005

"Just Old" Newsletter

Due to the 0 requests we have received on the matter, we soon will be mailing out the first issue of "Just Old", the official Fakiegrind Newsletter, to everybody on the mailing list. What? You haven't signed onto the mailing list? No problem. Our advanced spyware allows us to gather all the information we need to track your movements for the rest of your natural lifespan. Simply being loosely associated with someone who has even so much as been in the same room when someone else has ventured into Fakiegrind blogspace makes you eligible for a lifetime subscription to the Newsletter. [No sales associate will call. Newsletter subject to radical transformation without proir notice.] It's our way of saying, "Hey, we may not all see eye to eye on major socio-political issues, nor on which one (or more) of the Spice Girls we'd most like to marry, but we're all equal when it comes to junkmail recipiency".

In the Newsletter you will find articles that the blogger format has made impossible for us to publish, like exclusive interviews with west coast scene shakers like Kill-Joy, and directions for bulding your own Danny Way style mondo jump ramp out of lumber scrap ripped-off from your neighbour's tool shed. Our first issue will also feature a photospread of the Flatlander doing the world's first 900 flatground ollie over twelve fondu pots of molten dipping sauce (correctly identify the brand of dipping sauce and win a free used sharpie marker signed by Kill-Joy!). As an added bonus we will also be giving you the personal phone numbers of celebrity pro skaters like Tony Hawk and Omar Wiggfield -not to mention the nude photos of Natas Kaupas we've managed to dig up for the inaugural issue!

So keep your eyes glued to your mailboxes [Fakiegrind is not liable for personal injuries incurred by metaphorically challenged individuals who attempt adhering or afixing any part of their own or someone else's body to any box, cannister, tub or similar receptical specifically designed for the retaining of posted materials]. Please note, however, that due to the government heat we've been recieving lately, any Fakiegrind materials we might attempt to send through the post would almost certainly be confiscated, opened, read, reread, puzzled over, cast away in disgust, picked up agian in morbid fascination, misquoted in reports, misunderstood in Parlaiment, questioned, quarrentined, quartered, abused, manhandled, mangled, subjected to structural, forensic, literary, post-structural, and quantum analysis, spat upon, scorned, spurned, stoned, subpoenaed, sent to rehab, applauded, anointed, annotated, wined, dined, courted, cornered, converted, dated, tracked, trailed and tagged before making it to your doorstep. To avoid this incursion upon the private life of information, Fakiegrind technicians down at Special Ops. have encoded the Newsletter in such a way as to make it appear as any number of common junkmail flyers. You can identify your Fakiegrind newsletters from regular houshold junkmail by looking for the keywords, "Sale!" and "Special Event" displayed prominantly anywhere on the front of the flyer. In order to actually read your Newsletter, you must do the following: 1) Purchase a quality pair of 3-D glasses from any large and reputable 3-D movie paraphernalia outfitter. 2) Dilute one part translucent blue toothpaste (such as Aim) in three parts ethyl alcohol. 4) Apply the tincture to the lenses of your 3-D glasses using a (clean) Q-Tip brand Q-tip. 4) Let the solution dry overnight under the light of a full moon (Earth variety). Presto! Your new glasses should allow you complete access to the wonders that are to be found in the ever topical, ever lovin', ever elusive Fakiegrind Newsletter.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

The Place where Memes Come to Die -Part One

One of the nice things about where I live is that you can follow the railway tracks from behind my house out into the eastern badlands of scrapyards and smeltering plants. This is the region in which the technological and mechanical artefacts of civilization lie dismantled and sorted into piles; some of them silvery, some rusty, some magpie and mottled, all of them waiting to be melted down into slag and turned, eventually, into new and useful--but still more or less disposable--items.

Yesterday I walked the tracks a little farther than I had ever gone, and I stumbled upon a strange and wonderous seemingly forgotten depot hidden in behind a used tire lot: the fabled Meme Graveyard. It is in this place that all those cultural units of manufactured meaning come to rest when they have outlived their shelf life in the Zeitgeist. I could see them all lying there in piles and nobody had seemed to take the time to sort them into any kind of order. Some appeared to have completely expried, while others--perhaps more recently deposited--twtiched and sputtered in the open air. The combined susurrations of the still active memes created an eerie, very faint kind of music, and I was unable to stop myself from leaving the main path, pushing my way through the intervening brush and clambering over the rusty old fence into the scrapyard.

My God but the place was much larger than it appeared from the trail! Mounds of muttering memes seemed to stretch for acres into the distance. Venturing a short ways into the yard I was suddenly surrounded by legions of wilted slogans, dented catchphrases, unhinged fads and outmoded theories, the cumulative effect of which was so overwhelming I almost swooned from the nostalgic pathos of it all. Bending an ear, I could pick out some individual signals from the cacophonic conglomeration. Rubic's Cubes were conversing with Mr. T's haircut. Boxes of discontinued breakfast cereal were broadcasting their merits to an audience of emaciated Smurfs. The continual lullaby of hashed advertisements, forgotten miracle diets, street slang and canned laughter almost sent me into a kind of stupor. I was kept alert, though, by the fear that if I lost consciousness in that strange place I might never awaken, but rather drift into eternity on a dreamlike tide of forgotten culture.

I searched my pockets for a rag or Kleenex with which I might stop my ears against the siren song of the scrapyard. Empty. Empty save for a Battlestar Galactica figurine I had found earlier at a thrift shop and spent the last of my change on. In the darkness of my pocket my fingers charted the contours of Commander Adama's miniature visage. A rare find, to be sure, and worth the fifty cents I paid for him. Suddenly I heard a muffled voice. It sounded like...could it be? Was that Lorne Greene?! Could he too have fallen victem to the truncated attention spans of our information ravaged new millenium? It was hard enough seeing Micheal Jackson's sequined glove quivering there in the sunlight, but Lorne Greene?! I was about to run from the place in terror when I realized that the voice was coming from the action figure in my pocket. Of course! I laughed to myself. It wasn't unreasonalbe that in such an environment action figures should talk. After all, wasn't that a Pee Wee Herman doll sitting atop yonder scrap mound, holding court with a family of Care Bares and a box of Milk Duds? I took the tiny commander out of my pocket so that his voice could ring out in all its polished mahogany tone.

"By the Prophets, lad! You've wandered into a viper's pit. Better plug your ears before you loose your senses!" I held the action figure, with its painted white hair and blue uniform, in the palm of my hand. His marching band arms and legs remained stiff, jointed only at the shoulders and hips, but his mouth had a sort of animation to it as he talked, and his tiny eyes seemed to roll from side to side in his head as if surveying the surroundings. The effect was unsettling so I avoided looking at him/it for too long.

"Er...Mr. Greene, sir... it's a real pleasure. I loved your work in Gunsmoke." Talking to an action figure seemed surprisingly natural, after the first few awkward moments wore off.

"Call me Adama," the weird little eyes were locked on me, "Greene was the name they gave my earthly host body. No time for pleasantries, son. You'd better get something in those ears or neither of us will be walking out of here anytime soon. What's in that satchel of yours?" I had forgotten about my shoulder bag--some of my friends call it a "man purse"--I take it everywhere, but there was nothing ear-stuffworthy to be found in it.

"Look there!" The figurine moved one of its tiny stick arms with startling celerity in the direction of a nearby bolster display pack. It appeared to be full of small plastic eggs. Silly Putty! That would do. I snatched up an egg and squeezed so as to pop open the two ovoid hemispheres and release the pliable, flesh coloured gum inside. Pinching off two small waxy wads I stuffed my ears--and not a moment too soon as I was really starting to loose my thoughts to the stream of auditory detritus that was continually broadcasting from the surrounding mountains of lost small step for you're softening in it, one giant leap for I bought the company! brought to you by Heisenberg's uncertainty principle in the beginning was the loose weight today!...suddenly everything went quiet and I could hear the texture of my own thinking agian.

Wow. Was that the power of the cyber/media morass in which we spend so much of our time? I was starting to understand the mass appeal of sport utility vehicles; they're like mobile isolation tanks--a wrapper of glass and steel to put between yourself and the maelstrom of signals that constantly bombard one in the open air. But how many SUVs don't have raidos? Maybe one could devise a new kind of media damper device, something small and portable...Adama's voice suddenly intruded upon my thoughtstream.

"Feel better?" His voice, louder now, sent a pleasant shiver down my spine. So melodius! But how could I still hear him with the putty in my ears?
"Telepathic Signalling Resonace. TSR for short. Like a cellular cell phone."
"Wow! So you can, like..."
"Read your thoughts like a teleprompter, yes. Now listen. Our meeting was not coincidence. We have a mission to perform. Take the rest of those eggs of Silly Putty and put them in your manpurse. They might come in handy later. A cultural nexus portal is about to collapse and we don't have much time." be continued

Warning to Readers

Since Kill-Joy's posting of the Fakiegrind T-shirt offer yesterday, cases of Pepsi have been arriving constatly at Central Command--which is strange because we have never published our mailing address on the site. I think it must be The Feds. I'm pretty sure they are breeding a Clone Army of Fakiegrind wannabees who will flood the cities, sporting their T-shirts and acting like freaks, thereby ruining the street cred that we have been so carefully building up these past months. So we're posting this warning to all true Fakiegrinders out there: DON'T BE FOOLED BY IMITATORS. If you see someone tooling down the sidewalk in a Fakiegrind shirt, throwing fistfulls of Cheetos at strangers and singing the theme song from Eight is Enough , make sure you look for the official FG endorsement tag lovingly sewn into the hem of each garment at our Indonesian offices. Failing that, ask for the official FG handshake. If they even so much as reach for your paw set phazers to "lame" because there isn't an official FG handshake. Hah! Joke's on you Fed flunkies. Get a life first, before you go start trying to act all "old". Anyway, we're working on a new Fakiegrind theme song that you can sing in the shower, or on the subway even:

You take the good
You take the bad
You take it all
And there you have
Fakiegrind, weblog of Champions!
(secret password goes here)

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Richard's Return (AAAGH!!)

Wow! It's great to hear that there is skateboard activity going on in the wooded backstreets of Salmon Arm, BC. Trust Kill-Joy to ferret out a jump ramp and slider box in the least likely of places! Good luck with the renovations; I'm sure the kids will appreciate it. Just goes to show that sometimes the coolest scenes are right across the street. Like last night, my neighbour, Arnie, invited me over to look at some records he had in the basement. He had mentioned them to me last week when we were out collecting scrap, and I found my record player. The records, he said, had been sitting in his basement since he had moved into the house, about twenty years ago. The stack was all covered in dust and grit, and after some forensic examination it seemed to be composed of three separate collections. There were about twenty Polish sing-along, folk and Christmas records that my Polish housemate got a pretty big kick out of seeing; there was a small collection of classical music, including a boxed set of Prokofiev records from Time/Life books; and then there was somebody's collection of classic rock from the late sixties. These records were all scratched, but Arnie gave me the whole lot, and when I got home they played all right. The set includes some great stuff, like Iron Butterfly and Jefferson Airplane, and several bands I have never heard of. One record, however, surprised me in that it doesn't really fit with any of the groupings. When I was living in Victoria I found a Richard Simmons exercise album at a junk sale. Don't ask me why I'm fascinated with this dancercise guru--I guess he has the ability to move the crowd in his own special way, and I respect that. The record album sleeve was pinned to the wall of the living room for a while, and I think it drove my girlfriend crazy, because she threw it out when I moved back to Ontario. Well, last night I found another copy of this rare gem in my neigbour's basement, right in between the Jimmy Hendrix and Bob Dylan disks. It wasn't even scratched up like the other records and, unlike the Victoria copy, this one has the instructional booklet included! All I can say is that the Lord really does move in mysterious ways (one more time--now work those thighs!!).

Monday, April 25, 2005

Calling all Cars!

Fakiegrind co-conspirator and hip-hop reviewer Kil-Joy seems to have fallen off the face of the earth! Maybe he's on a top secret mission out there in Salmon Arm and must maintain bandwidth slience for the sake of homeland security. Or maybe it's just that we haven't sent him any new Canadian hip-hop for the past few months and he is holed up in some dismal basement with Buck 65 on continual playback, weathering a nasty case of beat withdrawl . Rest assured, KJ, there is a shiny new pirate copy of funky fresh payload here at Central Command, ready to be shipped out to you just as soon as funds for postage become available in the nearly non-existant Fakiegrind budget. I hope you can make it through 'till then. Drop us a line and show some vital signs, then press "rewind" on your discomind. Peace.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Memory Lane, Alley and Parking Lot

Next week I'm hoping to head back to my hometown in the north of Ontario for an afternoon excursion. Sometime after I left town, a pretty decent skatepark was built. It's kind of like a fenced-in pit with embankments and ledges around the parimeter, and an open space in the middle. It's usually overrun by kids, but if I go during the afternoon it might be relatively quiet there. Often, during afterschool hours, suburban parents will bring their brood to the downtown park, set up lawnchairs against the surrounding fence, and watch their kids thrashing around. It makes the place seem more like a daycare centre than a skatepark, but it's still a pretty nice facility.

Back in the day when my friends and I ran wild in the downtown streets, before the installation of the skatepark and of numerous "No Skateboarding" signs on the streetcorners, we used to frequent various parking lots and public squares. City hall had sturdy wooden benches that we liked to beat to a pulp with the trucks of our boards. The vandalism wasn't intentional; we just wanted to practise bonelessess and ollies, and the benches were a suitable obstacle on which to land. The parking lots we skated are still there, but the once smooth black asphalt has turned grey and pitted with the passing of seasons. The wax has been weathered off the tops of the parking blocks we used to like to slide and grind, and new curbs have been waxed up in new locations by succeeding generations of skateboarders.

Last summer, on another visit, I had the pleasure of doing the downhill run through a pleasant series of neighbourhood sidestreets, from my old highschool to the road leading past the beach to downtown. At my old school, the shuffleboard court outside a flaking recreation centre was still there, but the two or three yellow painted parking block curbs my friends and I had dragged there had been long since removed. The school and rec centre tolerated skaters at that spot, and we used to make all kinds of different arrangements of the curbs--stacking them on top of each other for hight, or on angles for faster slides, or putting three all in a row to see who could do the longest grind or boardslide. Remeber the 50-50 grind to boardslide? That was a cutting edge move back in the mid-eighties.

Anyways, everything changes and comes back again in new forms. This particular skater is feeling a little long in tooth and weak in knee, but he's still greatful to have made it as far as he did. I quit skating in the early nineties and resumed again near the turnover to the new millenium. I can't keep up with all the new flip tricks that kids are busting out with these days, and no one has ever caught me trying to navigate a handrail or ten set of stairs. This second time around I have basically learned how to do all my old tricks, only backwards. Hence the Fakiegrind, my favourite inversion from the list. My recent backwards skating lends a nice symmetry to my career. I'm not really progressing so much as going backwards through time; reliving all the tricks I learned in highschool, but in the opposite direction. It may come to pass that this retrograde motion of mine will soon reach its limit, my skateboard will magically turn into a walking stick with which I will limp into whatever future is awaiting. I guess I will see all or you in the skater's retirement home, where we can reminisce about the glory days, and berate the new generation with all their bravado technical wizardry. Maybe I'm already there.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

A Message from the Unsponsored

Fakiegrind readers (all three of them -ed) should be warned that the blog seems to have been infiltrated by a stealthy and serruptitious ROGUE EDITOR who leaves snide comments (ouch! that hurt -Severin) under various editorial pseudonyms. I suppose I should stop telling my password to strangers on the subway, but until I manage to kick that nasty little habit (don't knock it until you try it -Splif) there doesn't seem much I can do about the matter. The Fakiegrind team is working on new firewall and password encrypting technology, but we have reason to believe that the roots of this problem go pretty deep. We could be talking about a government conspiracy, backed by the cattle farmer's union, to undermine skateblogs and make us appear as a bunch of illiterate thrill-seekers (easiest assignment of my career -Dr. Evil). So until we get the situation under control, please ignore all bracketed commentary (at your peril -Flash) and focus on the ever illuminating bons mots of officially sanctioned Fakiegrind transmissions (and eat ground beef, heartily and often -Ronald).

Friday, April 22, 2005


Went skating last night, which explains my needing the winch to get out of bed this morning (are you sure you mean "winch" and not "wench"?-ed). I tend to overexert myself some, a trait which I blame on my Nordic blood. I also have a weakness for limmericks for which I blame my Irish grandpa.

I once knew a lad from steeltown
Whose talent it was to fall down
His wrist he would sprain
But he'd get up again
And spin like a pizza around

(OK bud, you're busted! -rhyme police) When I was a kid my parents signed me up for Judo classes at the YMCA. I was a shy and retiring lad, in contrast to the charismatic and outgoing ladies man I have become (are you sure you don't mean "laddies man"?-ed), and so the class was a bit of an ordeal for me. I went only once, in fact. I arrived with my father, late, and the other kids were already kneeling around the parimeter of the matted room, listening respectfully to the gruff, heavyset Judo Master. The assistant Judo Master, a tall lanky fellow, quickly ushered me to a spot allong the wall. After a short preamble and demonstration we were all made to stand in a line and, one by one, practise the moves we had been shown. These involved throwing yourself to the mat, rolling over your shoulder, and simultaneously slapping the mat with one of your hands; the force of which slap would assist one in rolling back onto one's feet. After a few practise runs we were all made to perform the roll under the stern gaze--and nose--of the Master. Unfortunately for him my mother had made her wonderful meatloaf dinner that night, and the mixture of ground beef, tomato sauce, HP, peas and potato mash (sounds tasty, what's your mom's number? -ed.) was still colluding in my stomach. All of the rolling and mat-slapping must have massaged my innards in such a way as to ease a packet of gas through my entrails, for as I was in mid roll at the foot of the Judo Master the room was startled by a ripping relase of compressed air from my bowels. I can only imagine that there must have been suppressed giggles and sour expressions circulating the dojo; I was too embarrassed to look. Blushing furiously I hastily took my place against the wall while the rest of the class completed their rolls.

Such was my embarrassment over the incident that I never went back to Judo class again (Judowuss!-ed). The brief training I received, however, has served me well in my skateboarding career (so that's what you call it -coach Z). The principle of rolling to absorb the energy of a fall has likely saved me many a sprain and dislocation; and I have never--knock on 7-ply--broken or fractured a bone. Anyways, yesterday at the skatepark I had many opportunities to practise my Judo falls. Often, I can go a whole session without hitting the dirt, but yesterday I was both a little rusty and trying some new moves; simple stuff like half-cab to manuel, but new to me. I skated pretty well for the first twenty minutes or so, but then fatigue set in and I couldn't seem to land anything. Managed to pull a trick I have been working on for a while, though: a little flatland move called the "nose wheely-shove-it-to tail wheelie" (nobody calls them "wheelies" anymore, they're "manuals"-Dr. Who). When you do that little sneaky foot manouver it looks just like magic! (in your dreams -ed).

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Wake Up and Smell the Heavy Metals

There are lots of things that I love about Hamilton. The downtown is a living architectural museum, the people are friendly and down to earth, it is home to one of Canada's oldest skateparks, the rent is cheap and unemployed persons like myself don't feel like second class citizens the way you might in a larger city like Toronto. But the one drawback that keeps me from setting down permanent roots--the reason why most of my possesions are packed up in boxes in my friend's storage room-- is that everyone who lives here is at the mercy of the wind. My notions of geography are a little confused, so I couldn't tell you the best direction for the wind to be blowing from, but for most of the summer it seems to ge generated by giant fans that must be stationed right behind the metal smeltering plants, the soyabean factory, and the beer brewery, all of which are located just down the street from us. No doubt we get a good deal of pollution coming across Lake Ontario from the States as well, and Toronto's presence to the north is made known by a yellowish smear that can be seen over the treeline beyond the harbour on a clear day. Perhaps it sounds romantic in a kind of idustrial, post-apocalyptic Mad Max sort of way, but after a few days of smog laden respiration I get all kinds of strange symptoms. My head gets cloudy, joints start to ache, I'm hungry but when I eat my stomach feels all sour and unhappy. I feel lethargic and weak like I have a cold or something. On a really bad day your eyes and nose start to burn, and I don't even like to go outside. I've been living here, off and on, for a couple of years now, and I've just started to get to know some people and feel like less of a stranger. And yet the thought of spending another summer here fills me with a kind of despair. Like a canary in a coal mine, I'm worried I'll drop dead from the fumes. Someday Hamilton might have clean air again, and if the city takes care to preserve its historical heritage then it will truly be an amazing place to live. The problem is, I can't wait that long. I need my lungs for other things. The wheels of my skateboard are itching for new terrain, and the needle of the compass is blowing in the wind.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Wheels of Recylced Steel

Yesterday was oversize garbage collection day in the North End--the day when the city will pick up anything smaller than a car and weighing under 50 LBs. For a recycling enthusiast like myself this amounts to a neighbourhood-wide garage sale where everything on display is free and up for grabs. Sure, I feel a little like a scavenger rummaging through the crubside mounds, navigating between old sofas and bundled wood scraps for that discarded gem, that overlooked kitsch trophy or cultural artefact, but in the North End people understand Einstien's Principle of the Relativity of Waste: it's only truly garbage if the sanitation engineers get to it before you do.

Arnold lives across the street from me. He's a stout, cheerful guy in his fifties who moved here from the east coast a couple decades ago. Arnold and his wife have a dog named Dizzie Daisy Duke, after the Dukes of Hazard bombshell. Arnie also has a pick-up truck and an ability to spot steel, tin or aluminum from the driver's seat at a range of fifty metres. Aluminum items are worth the most to the scrap yards, then tin and steel. Discarded propane BBQs are the Holy Grail of scrap colleting, followed by aluminum doors and metal lawnchairs. The yards will also take computer monitors, old VCRs and stereo systems, from which they extract the circuit boards. Televisions, however, get left by the curb (unless they look like they might work). I know all this because two nights ago Arnie and I combed the neighbourhood together in his truck. We made three runs in all, and by midnight we had filled up Arnie's front yard with metal scrap, unloading it with velveteen stealth so as not to incure the wrath of the woman who lives next door and has to get up at 4 AM for work.

Arn offered to pay me for my help, but all I really wanted was a share of the loot. This included a tin garbage can, with lid (for the yard); an old reel-to-reel voice recorder with mic; two Robin's Donuts plastic portable drink containers (Robin's Donuts is the Canadian underdog barrista--the Burger King, to Tim Horton's McDonalds); a couple JVC speakers; a dusty hard shell Samsonite attache case; a 20 LB one-handed dumbell; an old, LP-sized milk crate and, most miraculously, a functioning 70's style turntable, complete with working needle, speakers and transparent plastic canopy!

I've been collecting records for the past year or so, from thrift shops and garage sales, but I haven't had a working turntable on which to spin the wax. Now my little room in the North End is complete with stereophonic sound! I went to sleep listening to Kraftwerk's "We are the Robots" and awoke to ZZ Top's "Sleeping Bag". I can put my speaker in the window, sit in the back yard and give the floozies in the flophouse across the street a dose of Vintage Vinyl to combat the ill effects that the top-40 dance music they like to blare is having on my friend's two year old kid. Thank you, to the City of Hamilton Waste Disposal, and to Arnie and his truck for bringing the gift of music back into my life!

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Haiku U

Sunday morning babysitting my friend's kid.
George Shrinks on TV. Laundry in the washer.
If it's sunny later I'll put it on the line.

Soon the air will start to stink from the factories down the road. Crosswinds change in summer to make your head explode. The kids at the skatepark smoke drugs in the shade. The morning after skating, feels like I broke a leg. Or two. What's a guy supposed to do? Blog in rhyme to pass the time, and keep from turning blue. They're building a new ramp right next to the copshop with video surveillance for all the kids playing hopscotch with spraypaint cans decorating the stands writing tags in drag with dishpan hands.

Saturday, April 16, 2005


It was summer warm today. I went to the skatepark and overdid it agian. Almost snapped my brand new Hogtown shop deck. I think the thing is a little old and dried out. The guy with dreadlocks whom everyone calls "Newfie" was there, and I skated with him a little because he likes the freestyle moves. Busted another shoelace practicing caspers. On my way home I stopped at a friend's house to pick up a cookie tray I had left there. I was in a rush to get home, and decided to try to skate over the railway tracks behind my can usually just pop the wheels over the grooves...but I must have been going too fast so I bailed. The cookie tray went clattering to the ground and I flipped onto my back while the B-ball players snickered from the nearby court. Luckily there were no trains coming. I guess I just like feeling like a ninja, or Jackie Chan. Doing my own stunts, no stand-in for landing. Running with the runts, grunts signal understanding. Like a future primitive, leaking rhymes like a sieve. Best wisdom to live is forget and forgive. Keep one eye on the prize and the other on the door. Jet streams dissect the skies while tremors shake the floor. When warm winds blow I'm given to roam. Most accidents, they say, happen closer to home.

There and Back Again

Boy-oh-boy! It's nice to go somewhere but it's good to be back home again. Home. I never thought I would use that word in association with old Hamil-tone. Most people drive by on their way south from Toronto; you climb the majestic Skyway bridge and come down on the other side in the midst of some kind of Blade Runner fantasy gone awry. The steel mills and factories are sprawled out beside the grey waters of Lake Ontario, the smokestacks spewing fumes and plumes into the atmosphere, and the city proper lies almost concealed in a hazy cloud beyond the sci-fi badlands of lights and steel. I would pass through this scenery on my way to university in St. Catharines and think to myself how amazing it was that people actually live in the midst of all the industrial carnage. Now, as fate would have it, I'm one of the citizens of this fair berg...and I actaually like it! I've got my homies down at the Bease park who accept my oldschool ways, and my friend Maryna and her little boy with his crazy dreadlocks with whom I share a living space. You have your ups and downs everywhere you go, but Hamilton has turned out to be a pretty fine backdrop for life's little dramas. Who would have thunk it?

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Yoda Ears

I've been in the nation's capital the past few days, visiting my folks. The weather here is cool and sunny despite the heat being generated by the Gommery inquiry. Saw the trailer for the new Star Wars film yesterday and got excited about it for the first time. Sure, Lucasfilm has become a major marketing franchise--like Disney with lightsabers--but the birth of Darth Vadar is a tale too tantalizing to miss. I won't be lining up weeks before the opening just to get a ticket for the first screening, but you can bet I'll be there a day or two later, with or without my Yoda ears.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Welcome Back K-J!!!

A big WELCOME BACK, to Kill-Joy! The land of the brave and the home of the beaver has missed him since he left for Australia. I hope that we can hook up sometime over the summer for some skating and transcendendal meditation.

It's cold and rainy in Smogtown today. I packed up my video game system and relegated it to the storage room. Last night I breached 99 999 on Mrs. Pac Man, but instead of rolling the score back to zero, as happens in Space Invaders, the counter kept going into the 100 000's! This means that to roll it one would have to play all night long, propping one's eyelids up with toothpicks and crazy glue into the wee hours of the morn. If I were going to do that I would get sponsers and make a marathon out of it - the "help buy Flatlander a new skate deck foundation" - and since this would take more orginizing than I have ambition for, I decided it was time to hide the video games away and focus my energy on the pile of half-read books at my bedside.

These include: "The Lathe of Heaven" by Ursula LeGuin. This is a sci-fi story in which a man discovers that he has the power to change reality with his dreams. When he wakes up after dreaming about something, the world has changed but only he remembers the way reality was before his dream changed it. The guy ends up going to a psychiatrist who realizes that he's not just some crazy chump, but that he really has the power to change the world through dreaming. So the doctor starts to hypnotize the dreaming guy, getting him to change the world according to the doctor's vision of how to make the world a better place. Of course, each change has unexpected reprecussions, and the reader begins to wonder if maybe the world wouldn't have been better in its original, untampered version. It's a neat book, well written and poetic, but also kind of dry and hard to get through. I want to see how it ends.

I'm also reading "The Metamorphosis" by Kafka, about a guy who wakes up to find he's turned into a cockroach. It's such an amazing story; part fable, part horror tale, somehow encapsulating all the axiety and alienation of modern life in a single, fantastic image of man-turned-cockroach. David Chronenberg eat your twisted little heart out.

Also by my bed: "The Other Bible", a collection of writings from the first few centuries before and after Christ -basically a smattering of all the stuff that didn't make it into the Bible, but touching on the same themes and mythologies. You get your Gnostics, Jewish Mystics, Essenes and other various and sundry religious enthusiasts from the time when time itself seemed like it was about to end. Reading these writings, many of which surfaced only this last century - burried for 1800 years in clay pots to avoid destruction at the hands of zealous Christians who couldn't tolerate the idea that not just Jesus, but everyone on God's green earth has a portion of the indestructible divine nature within them - makes one realize that for most of western history theology has been orchestrated by the "winners" in a battle in which the winners were actually a bunch of uptight creeps.

So that's the reading that I'm catching up on now that Mrs. Pac Man and the ghosts have been banished to the closet. Next week I'm going on a little road trip with my dad, so I won't likely be doing too much blogging. I guess that means that concerning this little Fakiegrind tag-team operation, Kill-Joy, newly installed on the west coast, is "IT".

Youth Culture Killed My Blog

Now that I no longer live in Toronto, it is hard for me to get copies of Vice magazine. Vice is a free monthly publication that started in Montreal in 1994, and now has offices and editions in New York, Sydney, Tokyo, and everywhere else that it is cool and hip to publish an edgy, irreverant youth oriented journal from. The magazine can be gross and candid, but that is part of it's charm. Each issue has a theme, and my favourite one so far has been the 80's issue they did a couple of years ago. There is a kind of relentless "coolness" about the rag. As with skateboard culture, there is a tension in Vice between being individualistic and iconoclastic, and trying to fit in to a mold of undefined but real behavioural parametres. Nowhere is this more evident in Vice than in one of its most consistently amusing regular features: it's Do's and Don'ts section. This is generally two pages of small candid photographs accompanied by ironic commentary about why the person in the photo is or isn't, well, cool. The feature shows you how to avoid ridicule by following the gestalt of the stylists on the "Do's" page, and allows you to feel in on the joke as the editors lambaste the poor schmucks caught on the "Don'ts" page. What I have yet to see in the magazine is a Do's and Don'ts feature in which they use the same photos for both categories, merely changing the spin of the accompanying blurbs. This would lay bare the subjective and whimsical nature of "coolness", and would also undermine the primary marketing hook of the magazine: that some people are hip or "with it" while other people just miss the point. I'm not sure if being hip is a worthy ideal to strive for or not. Like a well-performed skateboard move it is probably something most perfectly achieved by not trying to achieve it; but every skateboarder knows how much effort and failure is necessary before one finally brings a certain manouver into focus to the point that it appears effortless. At any rate, you can check out Vice in the Fakiegrind links.