You've reached the LiveJournal of Rowan Lipkovits, renaissance man of letters about town. I don't maintain A Homepage (typically in its place leaving a link to a Google search of my unique name combination) (to say nothing of its frequent misspelled permutation), but this LJ most likely is the closest I get.
Someone asked me
recently in the Fall of 2006) "what I do" (with that weighty implied subtext for a living), and I had to take a few moments to ponder my various cultural (mis-)adventures, literary and musical, through inception, promotion, production, and performance. Finally, I remarked that while I do a number of things, their sum never seemed to quite pay the rent1. "Ah, then you must be an artist." I don't know about that, but I'm certainly no businessman.
First and foremost these days, consider me a musician. It's been a long and winding road that's delivered me back here (video games -> ANSI art on BBSes -> poetry slams -> event production -> Britney Spears on the accordion) but if you see me about town, there's a good chance I'm heading to a rehearsal or gig of
a) the Joey Only Outlaw Band or b) Trev's "Good Rockin' Tonite" for the '80s at 8 the Creaking Planks, the jug band of the damned. (Truth be known, the majority of my performances are solo guerrilla mindbombs on the accordion, but how tacky does it look to be hyping yourself on your journal? Hey guys, you've gotta come visit my website! It's ... uh, oh, you're already at it. Never mind, then.) My performance adventures have taken me to hundreds of stages across three countries, six provinces, one territory, two states and the District of Columbia, and I've also recorded and performed in a backup capacity with Sight Unseen, the Devils With Blue Dresses On, Leah Abramson, Shane Koyczan's Dangling Participle (with Jaron Freeman-Fox and Jess Hill -- what a dream team!), That's My Brain... And You're Killing It!, da Bjorkman, Monsterdinosaur, Adriane Lake, David Roy Parsons, Bobby Richards, Peppersprey, Gunshae (... and informally with dozens more.) One of my medium-term goals (of admittedly mixed value) is to become personally synonymous with accordion use in Vancouver -- a stiff row to hoe in the home turf of Geoff Berner! (First step accomplished: now one half of the proud team behind the weekly Accordion Noir radio show, 2-3 am 9:30-10:30 pm Fridays NOW 10-11 pm Wednesday nights! on CO-OP 102.7 fm (or at your leisure via podcast!) Update! Now also the host of the Main Squeeze monthly accordion circle 2nd Tuesdays 1st Thursdays at the Little Mountain Studios the Salt Spring Coffee Co. at Main + 27th also Spartacus Books!!) Please note, as of Jan 2011, I am now taking students to follow in my idiosyncratic accordion footsteps, about which more can be learned at the no-surprises url http://accordionteacher.blogspot.com (and see also the music portfolio at eastvanaccordion.blogspot.com) On the third After a 5-year run, 57 Varieties is on hiatus. (In addition to my various roles at the Butchershop (I like the title "mascot"), I also enjoyed a long stint as performer coordinator for the Living Closet. I spent a spell helping to run the Vancouver Song Slam at Cafe Deux Soleils with Trevor Spilchen, was the Vancouver agent for the Perpetual Motion Roadshow, and also helped to produce Jeff Younger's Alternative Worlds series of improvised music. I had hopes to get together some like-minded people and do more, more, much more in 2007. But 2008 may just have to do.) ('09? Okay, '10 for sure!) [har har] Friday now Tuesday of every month I host(ed) the long-running unplugged "57 Varieties" open stage / variety show, 8-10 pm at Spartacus Books
I write, have written and will write, for among other places the Capilano Courier, Terminal City, Momentum Magazine, the Columbia Journal, everything2, MobyGames, and BeyondRobson. It started with poems but thank goodness seems to have settled into the self-indulgent (vestiges of the poetry background) essay style known as "creative non-fiction." (Most recently up
06-02-12: dig my cover story on the B:C:Clettes in the Dec/Jan issue of Momentum 07-01: review of Reading the Riot Act in the Columbia Journal!) 07-04-12: a survey of homelessness as played in videogames up at the Cultural Gutter!) 07-05-31: a history of speedrunning, also at the Gutter! (more to come from there) (edit: -- or not!) 07-06: Piece on UNARC's Tipping Point potlucks in the Tooth and Dagger to complement my T.Paul obit the previous issue! Not quite at my goal of a published piece per month, but I have a good chunk of the year to try to even out that disparity. Two more pieces just sitting in the queue! (And, it seems, stubbornly stuck in that hopper. So much for that resolution!) Somehow clattering back into motion I snuck in the end of 2008 with a profile on Trike in the Dec edition of BC Musician magazine and you can find my memories on Rusl + Jane's bike wedding in the January 2009 edition of Momentum! And now in Jul/Aug 2010, you can find me penning a review of Joanna Chapman-Smith's "latest" album again in BC Musician, and then another review of Scotty Dunbar's double album in the Sept/Oct issue.
2012: Well, my print publishing career withered on the vine (writing: more fun than pitching to editors is), but presently I have two blogging projects elsewhere (you may have noticed things are a little sparse here these days): analysis of video games scanned from old comic books at videogamecomicads.blogspot.com and wholesale choose-your-own-adventure HTML conversion at turntopage4.blogspot.com! One more trip around the publication gauntlet once again, January 2nd 2013 interviewing Jim Munroe for the Society for the Promotion of Adventure Games.
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I rid(e) my bike most everywhere I can (2007-2008: that's a big fat lie), and in the interest of being reachable by anyone who might want to find me (why hide from opportunity?), have similarly (all right, not so similarly) strewn the internet with half-completed profiles and half-baked presences on as many sites as I can -- Wikipedia, FaceBook, Twitter, Flickr, LinkedIn, MySpace, Last.fm, Tribe.net, Orkut, Nexopia, Tagged, Buzznet, hi5, Hyves, Bebo, Plaxo, FotoLog, OKCupid, 43things, Deviantart, SITO ... etc. Mashable seems to do a half-decent job of consolidating those furtive scatterings, if you're a lumper and not a splitter, or the distressingly-titled Profilactic if you prefer.
... and so, if you would like to, uh, connect to me in some fashion... please feel free to. (Stalkers... start your engines!) Historical nicknames include Cthulu, Pseudo_Intellectual, UnwashedMass, Rasputin and, well, a plethora of others. I was one of three charter members of the Work Less Party, and sit on the board (albeit nominally) of the Vancouver Poetry House! (mascot, again.)
(anything you need to know about this journal? the short answer is: heck no! It's all available to the public (this is what I mean by "extimacy") and you certainly don't need to justify your existence or qualify your appearance to me. You want to read what I have to say? Great: I want to talk to interested people.) (Doesn't hurt when they're interesting, too, but don't let your doubts hold you back -- I can judge that for myself well enough 8)
That'll have to do for now! (oh, "that's all")
(follow-up: the livejournal name and quote; then the potted bio explication.)
( Would you believe he's using footnotes now?Collapse )
In the meantime, we will comparison-test some flavours of free website traffic counters.
Setting aside for the moment the travails of work/lessness and parenthood as typically populate this blog (OK, there is never anything typical about the population of any LiveJournal) I'd like to revisit some territory we saw back in April (hm, not all that long ago actually in LJ-post time), when I was hatching with Jen's benificent guidance a plot for a retro video game party. It was big fun, and we had the thought that maybe we should do it again. Quarterly! Well, that might be too much. Twice a year seemed like a good start however and October was just about at that sweet spot. In deference to Mr Putter's travel availability (and perhaps with some strange cosmic connection to the TABNet 20th anniversary), I'd like to propose a second evening of Old Video Games On Old Equipment On Many Screens Including A Big Projection, in my living room again, with some new (to me) systems and an ever-growing game library...
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We were looking at Saturday, November 9th. Does that work for interested parties? Last time we ran something like 4-10 pm officially but actually stretching on to 1 in the morning; I work at a Unitarian Church Sunday mornings so that acts as a built-in event terminus of sorts (hit pause on the joystick, head to church... no, just kidding, unsurprisingly a good night's sleep beforehand is very useful for challenging the sleeping-during-sermon cliche.) Maybe we will get things started a little earlier; maybe I will confer with my next-door neighbours about setting up a few machines over there for afterparty chill-out. (Oh, this is the Sega house; Nintendo games are across the way.) To accommodate the surprising demand, instead of running later we may start earlier.
I have ... a pile of games. Well over 600. So many that it is difficult just to locate a specific game to play. (And now, thanks to the reviled MobyGames redesign, it is difficult even to look at the catalogue.) After the apocalypse and I hole up in a root cellar with a wind turbine to wait out the zombie plague, my entertainment needs will be well-satisfied. In the meantime, I get to play these with you a couple of times a year. (I entertain notions of being the coolest Dad in Grade 3, but I maintain no illusions that kids expecting a PlayStation 5 won't be disappointed by my big pixels.)
Of course, I have that particular pile of games, and you might have at your disposal better games -- The Games We Kept, instead of my pile of thrift store, garage sale and pawn shop finds -- and if you'd like to ice the cake of my collection with your Games We Wanted, not just the Games We Found that I ended up with, then you're encouraged to bring them along. Just don't forget to keep tabs on them and pack them along when you leave! (Of course, donations of games and peripherals, especially working Xbox and GameCube joysticks for multiplayer chaos, are always welcome. But never required. I already have too much.)
Working machines with modest libraries of at least, say, a dozen games we expect to be in attendance include a Microsoft Xbox, a Nintendo 64, a Nintendo Gamecube, a Super Nintendo (that also hypothetically plays Game Boy games through its adaptor), icecreamemperor's original Nintendo Entertainment System we hope to help us hit that sweet spot of genuine retro-ness without needing to go so far back that the games aren't fun to play, a Sega Genesis, a Sega Dreamcast, and a Sony PlayStation 2 (which, of course, plays PlayStation 1 games by the bucketload.) There is an Atari Flashback and a few "TV game" consoles-on-joystick, if we end up with surplus displays. Also on tap but perhaps unlikely to be hooked up without expression of special interest are a gameless 3DO, a Commodore VIC-20, C64 (sans disk drives), and Amiga (if someone wishes to curate some Psygnosis on floppy), a Nintendo DS, a Sega Game Gear (small screens for group enjoyment), my latest find a gameless Sega Master System, and a Sega Saturn. Also there's the MS-DOS laptop, an old Mac, etc... there are only so many power outlets. (Edit: tlf has suggested his ColecoVision could be available for the party if only we had some games for it. I believe I have one.)
You may feel: you don't know me well enough to attend this party. Some people ran up against that social barrier last time, when we were celebrating my birthday. This time, we are celebrating enjoying old games. Basically if you're interested in the retro gaming experience and are reading my LiveJournal, I'm satisfied that you know me Well Enough to attend. If you need further details, write me and I can let you know eg. where I live as a kind of RSVP.
Historically some interesting things have happened very shortly following the Accordion Noir festival, whose 6th annual instalment wrapped last night. One year, I departed the morning after to Europe. Last year, I began my Sterile Supply training.
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This has me more or less on track with my hopes for the year; the fest ran with relatively little involvement from me, our choose-your-own-adventure song indeed was debuted, if not entirely finished, my daughter is an endless source of wonderment and getting on a second casual line at the same facility, in the field for which I trained, has kept me working regular hours full-time through the summer, singlehandedly earning enough to support my family of three. How did I ever achieve that situation?
But the pessimist is ever anticipating zigs and zags in the road ahead. Junior casual = vacation relief in the summer, and now that vacation season is wrapping up (after hilariously offering me unfeasible overtime shifts just about every day of the festival), the calls from my portfolio clerk are suggesting that my current job situation is going to instead look like "sporadic graveyard shifts", which I can hack but have concern over its impact on my home life (Jen at home with Clara all night while I'm at work, then at home with Clara all day while I'm passed out -- when does Jen get her break?)
We'll see what we'll see, and we'll do what we have to. Plans and aspirations and zigs and zags are afoot on all sides, from Jen's career ambitions to arranging things to accommodate the two of us commuting to jobs at very different places, simultaneously, to family childcare provision complicated by health problems. It's a roller coaster, and there's no hump without another hump behind it, but the ride continues unabated and it's a thrill regardless.
Because I'm trying to maintain only one major upcoming project at a time these days, now that we've "wrapped" the hard part of the Planks' interactive song (still lots of work to be done, but it's plenty of "easy" work for the kid who couldn't stop stringing couplets together into sonnets while waiting for busses), I should start strategizing my next retro videogame console party -- we're thinking of perhaps hosting two annually, at six-month intervals. There will be a couple further (and retro-er) machines on the menu this time around, plus, as always, more games. I'm thinking of Saturday, October 19th, the week after the big annual Portland party (which, I am happy to report, my family will be attending in defiance of my dry spell over the past few years.) I can't have it all, but I can discriminatingly pick a few highs and then we can just plan and strategise to make them happen. It's work, but satisfying.
Only three weeks delayed -- the official report: icecreamemperor, you missed out. Things got off to a good start with large-scale Katamari Damacy. I got to subject my bandmate Heather to Wizard Games' outstanding simulator Rockstar on the MS-DOS laptop, before my old roommate Travish hacked away on it playing Barneysplat (You could be, I told him, the only person other than myself to have played this game in the last 15 years), Scorched Earth (singleplayer!) and Avoid the Noid, then moving on to see what Goldeneye on the N64 really warranted with only one controller. (It is not really renowned for its singleplayer campaign.) Chris #2 got Sonic the Hedgehog 2 running (!) on the Sega Genesis, which also impressed Big Sandwich dev Cory with the huge levels of its Aladdin platformer... though he was ultimately sucked back into Amplitude on the projector. (Or, I joked, we could play Bully...)
After a righteous bout of Marvel Super Heroes, for a long time the projector was being stunk up with Simpsons Road Rash (or: Diluted Crazy Taxi), while Chris #3 and I nipped around the corner to try some multiplayer games on other machines -- From Russia With Love with the hilariously septuagenarian Sean Connery reprising Bond's voice, Crimson Skies: High Road to Revenge (an interesting wrong turn for FASA) and Goblin Commander, before we returned to commandeer the projector for an epic spree (primarily epic in the quantity of player deaths) of Eric Chahi's beautiful but brutal forgotten follow-up to Another World, Heart of Darkness, which we determined... was scratched, and didn't want to save to the PS1 cart in the PS2. But we had to progress to the scratch three times to determine this conclusively. It was a real spectator sport. I shouted an expletive (but the good kind) when I saw Mike had gotten Space Channel 5 beaming live from the Dreamcast, which he appeared to have gotten going. There was something for everyone: Chris #2 from #3 (er, it's complicated) enjoyed a Buffy Xbox game until the vampire slayer got caught halfway through a wall, and Monica managed to get some mileage out of Mario Golf: Toadstool Tour and Yoshi's Story, so there pretty much was something for everyone. And a good time was had by all.
And here is where I tried to embed Chris #2's excellent in-a-nutshell Vine video report of the party, unsuccessfully.
The good news is: much to Josh's dismay, I have plenty of eminently worthwhile games (and even a substantial subset of them suitable for arena play, not just 350-hr RPGs to grind through in solitude!) and all the hardware we tried seemed to still be in good working condition. Setting up the equipment wasn't as much work as anticipated (putting it away fully, on the other hand, is an ongoing project) and we got really good results with the projector and the band's PA system powering the sound effects. I look forward to setting up some outdoor gaming against the neighbours' wall when the evenings get a bit warmer. There was even speculation of packing the hardware along to Portland for Horace Phair, though of course the gear assuredly already is present there. (They're having a vintage gaming fair the weekend before HP!) Also, probably it is no coincidence that previous parties there have been videogame-free. (But is that really so different from three rooms of M:TG?)
Unfortunately, because my collecting has been largely angled toward solitary enjoyment of forgotten lore (it really never occurred to me that this hobby could conceivably be of any interest to anyone else), I'm lacking in controllers for same-machine simultaneous multiplayer gaming. I could use more (and more reliable) ones for the Xbox, Nintendo 64 and Gamecube. There was a time when I could find these cheapie at thrift stores and garage sales, but now you only ever see them as part of a package deal with a complete boxed console with three games you don't want for $40. If you have one, or find one, or have a friend who is taking theirs out of storage to throw into the dumpster, please consider sitting on it for me for my next games party.
(And when will that be? Definitely for my next birthday, but now that I realise that some of this can be appreciated by others, especially ones essentially on-tap who can visit without having to put on shoes, can I bear waiting so long? Should I put these on quarterly? (Jen might say: oh, let's not.) mrputter, I suggested I might take a machine or two out of deep freeze in the event of your visiting town -- which itself appeared to be on ice, but now it seems is on again? Feel free to look us up here if you want to meet a cat and a baby and a dog and probably several cats and a few other dogs and perhaps play a game or two and who knows, maybe line up some company for a trip to the Po Kong.)
It turns out that most of my viable gaming equipment, with the exception of a handful of winners for the Genesis, hits the sweet spot from the Playstation 1 / N64 era (circa '95) through to the Xbox / Gamecube / Playstation 2 era. I have older games, and one or two working older machines, but nothing of that vintage is actually of compelling play value to visitors. The big pixels and "arcade classics" are all part of the basic identity iconography, but largely we appeared to be playing games from 10 years ago which aren't actually part of our specific nostalgia. Curious.
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Sometime around age 1994, a business opened up on Arbutus just south of 41st avenue. Named "Good Nintentions", it was akin to a library for video games. Rather than just renting games out for overnight play as Blockbuster Video would, they had consoles on-site and you could simply rent the use of a gaming station and sample from their extensive library. I only went once, tasting Populous and Moonwalker on a Sega Genesis, but it left its mark on me.
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Over the years it became apparent to me that if I wanted to read an old book, I could go to a library, and if I wanted to see an old movie, I could go to a video rental store, but if I wanted to play an old video game I'd missed, I was up a creek without a paddle, and so in the early '00s, after experiencing impressive retro Atari 2600 collections in New York and Toronto, I began picking up old consoles (often piecemeal) and their media at garage sales and thrift stores when they could be found at a good price. This pathology could be characterised as an aggressive form of nostalgia except that I never had access to a game console when growing up: this was rather instead my opportunity to hypothetically "catch up" some day, and enshrine access to this category of leisure culture into the future -- perhaps a post-apocalyptic future in which such digital culture is no longer produced and can only be operated while pedaling an exercise bike/generator, or a chronic illness future that confines me to bed rest indefinitely, or just a pessimistic and lonely future where thousands and thousands of hours of long-past-their-shelf-life video games are the only companions in the killing of my free time.
Can you tell yet that this is lead-in to a party invitation? My partner Jen has suggested that in honour of my birthday this year, I exhume some of the curious entertainment machines from their living death in our basement and set them up for retro nerdy fun with such friends as would have any interest in such pursuits. There's a wide variety of options -- strong representation of the Dreamcast / Gamecube / Xbox 1 / PlayStation 2 generation (and plenty of games -- ~250 -- from those last two on tap), plus earlier machines such as the Segas Saturn and Genesis and a softwareless 3DO. Old computers we also have a-plenty, including a VIC-20, Commodore 64, and Amiga 2000, plus a neat little MS-DOS laptop (even if you're waiting for a turn at the Xbox, you can always take a turn in the Scorched Earth arena) and a classic Mac desktop machine from 1994.
This is a chance to break in our projector; generally we're going to be low on displays and outlets on noncompeting circuits, so if you'd like to enhance the fun by packing along a screen of some sort and maybe an extension cord and power bar to poach sweet gamer juice off our neighbours' grids, that could be handy. Of course, if you have other esoteric devices or unusual games to demonstrate, please feel free to pack them along.
We're looking at hosting this weird function from 3-10 pm on Saturday, April 6th. We haven't figured out snacks yet -- potato chips and J0lt cola would be period-appropriate, but who wants to handle greasy gamepads? Probably we'll organize some variety of mass take-out order from Tandoori Palace up on the Drive. RSVP? Then you might even get my address!
Everyone knows Etsy. And many of us know Regretsy. Once a year, I go and shake the site down to produce one post of ... Accordionetsy. That website belongs to my Accordion Noir radio co-host Bruce (the one with the accordion music collection, who doesn't actually play squeezebox himself) and is intended for entertaining tangents and digressions he can't pass up but doesn't know if he can include in the course of his research into The Accordion History Book. Probably soon I will join him there, sharing minimal commentary on hilarious album artwork from accordion records released during that 50-year dead zone for the squeezebox.
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The other day I came up with another "excellent" video game idea, a typing speed challenge. Here's how it works -- the full text of William Gibson's "Agrippa" gradually displays on one side of the screen, just as it did in its original 1992 Macintosh program, and players try to keep up with it, reproducing it character for character, line for line. Then when it reaches the end it catches its breath and does its notorious little trick, deleting itself, and the player also must reach the end of the course and then undo their steps. First one there and back wins. Players can be rated as what speed of modem they would personally be able to fill in as if they had a time machine and were pressed into service as a human hardware replacement. Somewhere I currently have a tabulation of my varied game ideas over the years (like, dating back to '89) and may be starting another blog (likely on Wordpress) where I, one by one, flesh out their designs. Ultimately, one or two of the sixty-odd may find themselves actually implemented. One thing I've found with Turn to Page 4 is that re-implementing the designs of others is enough work that I might be better served just making and sharing original games there.
Why is our place so hot? We'd hoped that the installation of the new windows last winter would help this summer, and I suppose they did, but only so much. We catsat next door and determined that it was so much cooler there we hung out there for a while longer than was entirely necessary. Why would this be? The leading hypothesis is that as an end unit on a row of townhouses, we present two faces to the sun for broiling while our neighbours have only one at a time in the line of flare. (You win some, you lose some: that's the con to the pro of us having only one shared wall.)
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Anyhow, talking about the weather is boring. This is just setup: to escape the heat, we set up lawn chairs in the shared yard out front and decamped with baby and dog to a shady patch of grass, where we took turns reading passages out loud from Leah Hager Cohen's 199x book Glass, Paper, Beans: Revelations on the Nature and Value of Ordinary Things, a volume that lends itself extraordinarily well to recitation, which we haven't done much of in these parts since trailing off from Tim Richardson's splendidly tangent-chasing Sweets: A History of Candy -- a topic near and dear to hearts here. I'm terribly guilty of being primarily a screen-reader these days (after years of being primarily a newsprint-reader -- one lonely step above illiteracy here in Vancouver) and having a good book before you reveals that they're really just fundamentally different animals.
(And now, for no apparent reason but to break up the text, a photo taken in the same place a day before, of a happy baby and a growler of 49th Parallel watermelon beer -- not related.)
Packing prose with lists of things is a flaw I've often found in my own work, a trait celebratedly exaggerated in eg. Bok's Eunoia, but admittedly as this work is entirely occupied with reveling in the meaning of material objects, it places them tastefully in context, even in bulk, and makes the most of them. I can't remember finding so many details about nouns on a per-page basis since bpNichol's 1982 3-Day-Novel Contest winner Still, where the real story told is one of what is conspicuously absent from the account, just barely beginning to leak through in the closing sentences.
It makes me feel good about perhaps writing again someday (not just journaling: obviously they're the same business, but obviously different also) and I had a feeling that icecreamemperor would enjoy it, though I have no idea what his literary backlog is looking like at the moment.
Now that we have succeeded at installing two sets of excellent friends in the units immediately adjacent to ours, even sharing a front yard, we are preparing to move. To where, we don't know yet. Under the basic premise that even market-priced co-operative housing rentals can give us more bang for our back (or at least an equivalent bang for fewer bucks) we've thrown our hats in the ring for placement at several co-ops.
This can take a while. It can take years. That's all right, I'm patient to a fault. I've only just gotten notice that I'll be coming out the other end of the educational wait list I've been on for over a year and a half for training for the hospital work. That meant it was time to take my leave from my prior job, which I've been merrily tweeting about, and just this week I surprised my co-workers by handing out cake on the occasion of my last day there. None of them knew it was my last day there, and they kept wishing me happy birthday. I set them straight and ensured that a few dozen people I'll never see again, if only for scheduling reasons, will have fond memories of me. And along the way I managed to clear a cake-shaped space in the freezer to help stow 30 pounds of fresh organic blueberries to enjoy in January.
Jen's mother kindly prepared for us all manner of pre-cooked food courses prior to the birth, under the premise that with a squalling newborn training us with brainwashing techniques (sleep deprivation, etc.) we might not have it quite together enough to have the wherewithal to serve three nutritious squares a day. But somehow, due to some dietary Brazil Nut Effect, what we ended up with was a freezer full of desserts. Ah, but I digress -- from my digression!
The basement freezer is not the only area where we are trying to make room. Anywhere there is fat to trim is eyed as suspect, and nothing is sacrosanct. Since moving in with Jen I've amassed a couple of unusual collections piecemeal at thrift stores and garage sales (as part of her tribe's unusual initiation rituals), and as a consequence now I have an enormous collection of choose-your-own-adventure style gamebooks (anyone want some of my duplicates? If so, turn to page 4...) and last-generation home video games. But these need to be beaten back with a weed wacker, because (and he comes around full circle) we are preparing to move.
The books can only be shrunk down so far, but Jen devised a strategy to save us some space where the games' keep cases are concerned -- removing the discs and cover artwork (because I'm just that kind of archivist) for separate storage, junking the jewel cases and keep cases and filing the contents away in thin paper sleeves, in stylish cardboard boxes. Knowing that I was being thrown a life line by even having the option of keeping the games at all, I humoured her attempts to nickel and dime us into having more room available now (for eg. baby paraphernalia: what is it they say about childish things?), with less total volume for later packing and transporting for our someday move. Even though we only save a relatively small amount of space per repacking, when you multiply it by ~600, it adds up. And so that is how we spent my first unemployed day. (Well, that plus I played a very nice outdoor Creaking Planks concert at Trout Lake.)
We were really quite surprised by the space savings. Before (colossal nerd included for scale. The shirt was chosen due to its ressemblance to video game imagery; apparently it's actually a piece of reviled Invader Zim merchandise, but that has not prevented the colossal nerd from someday pledging to incorporate the artwork, which looks as though it belongs in a video game, into a video game):
(Was I really that happy? Well, maybe not.)
And all it cost us was several dozen dollars in materials and two man-days. And thanks to this work, even in my next residence I'll continue to be able to "enjoy" playing horrible PlayStation 1 games, should I ever find the time or inclination to do so.
Jen compared the process to husking ears of corn; I thought of it somewhat like shucking oysters. Because you will never hear it until you are in a similar circumstance, I have captured for you the wholly unique sound of a whole stack of mostly-closed keep cases being fully-closed. The whole stack finds itself depressed several cm. (The worried dialogue at the end of the recording is a reaction to the now-compressed stack beginning to fall over.)
We went through all of my disc-based media: PS1, PS2, Xbox, Saturn and Gamecube games, plus some PC CD-ROMs and the most bizarre extension of my collecting, the game-based movies on DVD. (Well no, the most bizarre extension would be the "music from the Carmen Sandiego TV show" CD. Or maybe the Q-Bert board game? In any case, we're still looking (OK, I confess: "we" is shorthand for "just me") for a cheap copy of the Super Mario Bros. movie, at which point we can mount the most terrible film festival in the world.) Then we went through all of Jen's CDs -- formerly stored in an album of little pockets, requiring alphabetical re-sorting of the entire collection every time a new album was bought (unless, as I pointed out, she bought her new albums four at a time). In the end, we went through all 900 of the paper sleeves we ordered and we have been left with three garbage bags of bulky and empty jewel and keep cases and this optimistic Craigslist ad.
Friends! Do you love small plastic boxes? If so you're welcome to hundreds of ours http://vancouver.en.craigslist.ca/van/zip/3177082626.html(now gone, read: "Over 300 Free DVD /Playstation Xbox Cases. Also have over 100 CD jewel cases you can take as well. Great for storing ... cd and dvds, obviously... also crafts! Come and get 'em!" Surprisingly, after determining that we'd have to travel to North Vancouver in order to recycle them, some homeless man did come and get 'em... from our dumpster, in three precariously piled garbage bags.)
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security-style luggage tags
No longer can someone sneak a peek at your name and address as you await your turn at the check-in counter when leaving for vacation, only to return from vacation to find your house has been ransacked.
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In the refrigerated dairy section at work, there is a special set of trays for fancy cheeses -- everyday hoi polloi organic cheese sits on the shelves with the milk and yogurt and acai kambucha and anyone who indicates that they want a piece on their invoice gets an undifferentiated hunk of it placed in their Rubbermaid tub before it rolls on down the line. But extraordinary orders demand extraordinary artisinal cheeses, which are ordered in precisely by the middleman warehouse to fit particular orders, and each is labelled with the name (well, hilarious customer code) and pack number of the customer.
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The pack number denotes on which van that particular cheese will be departing that day (each van following a route serving a different territory daily) and by eyeballing the special cheese racks you can glean a bit of information not otherwise shared with the blue-collar warehouse labourers: how many packs will be sent out that day. Some days are busier than others, following factors such as the weather and the day of the week. Days with lower quantities of packs send workers home early, while days with lots of packs are more likely to incur overtime -- so knowing the daily pack numbers can help with financial and schedule planning also. (Some packs also are larger than others.)
It's an inexact science; sometimes the first piece of fancy cheese isn't sent out until pack 4, but generally speaking if the cheeses (sorted numberically by pack) only go up to pack 13 there won't be four cheeseless ghost packs following -- it gives you a vague map, as if drawn from memory, of the territory of the work day ahead. Because of its lurching pace it's not entirely useful except to amorphously describe the proportion of the work completed that day -- like the notorious Microsoft progress bars (installed much MS-DOS lately?) which would read 5% complete after 5 minutes, 9% complete after 10 minutes, 9% complete after a half-hour, then suddenly jump to 98% complete after three hours -- but still on breaks staff members will ask each other about what time the "cheese clock" is reading.
The very concept of a (or indeed any) "cheese clock" is very satisfyingly absurd, opening the doors to varying uses of cheese to conduct measurements in all the sciences. I would like to live my life going through the seasons according to the dictates of a veritable cheese calendar. Mostly I like to think of it in French: l'horloge du fromage.
Here's one I've been sitting on since the first week, meaning to post but never quite having the time or wherewithal to collect my thoughts and put them into words. During labour, we used one of several competing free iPod apps to time Jen's contractions, and later, used another one of several similar free apps to time the newborn's nursing frequency (and, well, its inevitable outcome) for the first few days. I was confused on a couple of levels here. First, hackers from what I know of them are essentially lazy, and prefer to write programs to help automate what they anticipate to be repeat activities. Timing an activity once is some work, timing it ten times is ten times the work, and writing a program to time it is a vague substantial n amount of work... and over time, if the amount of work to time the full set of something is expected to exceed n, then the hacker writes the program and, eventually, saves work. But contractions only happen for a few days at most, and are only timed an hour here, an hour there. The work saved by automating that task is minimal, since by the time you've finished writing your program, the baby is already born and you don't even get to field-test it for another 10 months at least. (Or the programming to make the application is so slight that even though the work is small, automating it reduces a splinter to a sliver?)
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Admittedly the small work involved in timing contractions is both important and likely to take place when you are not at your sharpest, so perhaps the usefulness factor is amplified even though the tool isn't anticipated to see a great deal of use. (Timing nursings is quite similar: for a few days it's important to force them on the infant every three hours (whether the baby wants to feed or not, it's a bit funny shocking them to suckle with a cold cloth like some kind of bad guy, and no I'm not a sadist this was the midwife's direct order to me!), noting which side the feeding is on, how much number 1 and number 2 result, etc. -- but then after you have collected enough data to convince a public health nurse that your team has learned how to latch effectively and the baby isn't losing weight precipitously, you can make like the Harper Government and throw the data collection out the window... again, likely not to be tracked again for at least 10 months.)
So what motivated numerous iOS developers to bring these contaction / nursing timing apps through to fruition? Plenty of free ones means only chumps would opt to pay for one (I can't really imagine what kind of extraneous luxury features the paid apps offer) and the fundamental laziness suggests that it would be easier to use an existing free app rather than to make your own. (Of course, I know that hackers have obsessive and irrational holy wars to uphold also: yes, this program exists in Perl, but it doesn't exist in Python yet! That version isn't open under the GNU Public License!) Maybe they just think that they can do it better: one app author gave me a somewhat cold reception upon asking what made his redundant iOS port of Crowther & Woods' ADVENTURE so different from another, previously existing one.
In conclusion: I am not a software developer, though I am endlessly baffled and bemused by the programs they choose to write.
Nuggets: too long for tweets, too apropos of nothing for Facebook status updates.
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In the Commodore 64 computer lab at Kerrisdale Elementary (grades 4-5), I would write flashing, beeping and scrolling alarm programs in BASIC designed to alarm teachers, specifically that the machines' HARD DRIVES were BEING FORMATTED. I didn't know what a hard drive was but I knew that formatting it was a dire fate. (N.B. -- Commodore 64s being what they were, of course they had no hard drives.)
Later, at General Gordon, the librarians were quick to finger us whenever anything went awry with their equipment, but we were not hackers; our worst trespass was playing national anthems on PC Globe repeatedly, a gambit deflated of its hilarity after the canny librarians drew up a new policy requiring all library patrons to stand up and salute until an anthem had finished playing through.
What we were doing on the library lab was playing the splendid survival text adventure adaptation of Swiss Family Robinson, where the player needs to hunt and gather enough provisions for his shipwrecked family to survive the storm season. I imagined that cast away myself on a desert isle, I would fashion for myself a replica keyboard of sea shells and coconut fragments, that I could keep my touch-typing skills sharp. Imagine Rowan Crusoe being rescued from his remote exile after two decades to find everyone barking commands to Siri!
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Clara Anne Lipkovits Efting, June 2. Forget that nonsense about late May. Labour was what could be expected -- it was the protracted pre-labour that surprised us.
The conservative "Clara" won out over Ida, Maizie, and Oona in the "name of a future Chief Justice of the Supreme Court" department. Like KISS, she wants to rock and roll all night.
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Greetings, mass snail mail for which my mother subscribed me without my authorization. I see that, like many stereotypes of older, less computer-literate people, you appear to be writing in all caps.
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Increasingly since December, the upstairs neighbours across our shared yard had demonstrated a growing propensity for developing into party people. What started as people who enjoyed making regular use of their balcony turned into daily aromatic 4:20 celebrations as Spring pawed at the door. They began throwing parties every weekend, culminating a couple of weeks ago in one where the windows were blacked out and floodlights installed in the back yard, with people coming and going at all hours of the day and night.
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A recent visit from our mutual landlord recently set the story straight: the upstairs was apparently inhabited by film students. Their term project: shooting a short film taking place at a bitchin' party. (Work with what you've got!) The lead-up: practice parties, to gather material. (I gather they are students of The Method.) Even if an irate neighbour called the police to break them up, it would have provided great and realistic footage to add some drama to their piece of cinema verite.
The film shot, their project edited and submitted, their lease is up and they're moving out. But before they did, last weekend they threw their film's wrap party, the final holdouts still holding court on the patio (hilariously, judging from the cackling) during Pickles' first morning walk. Pre-production for a sequel?
Thanks for your support, everyone! The numbers came in and the Creaking Planks progressed to the 3rd round, down to the top 25 of 300. Next will come the top 10, and then ?three? popularity contest winners get to travel along with a half-dozen nepotism bands who never had to compete at all, about whom the less said perhaps the better.
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The unusual interest and unexpected enthusiasm from our supporters is bittersweet in a sense; after all this time keeping the flame going now that it seems our favors are finally being called in for a big reward (admittedly, an exciting opportunity to play unpaid gigs for a week and then find our own way home out of pocket from halfway across the continent) but even as unexpected victory dangles near our hands I understand that should we somehow win, I can't in good faith partake in this payoff. My child should be only a couple of weeks old when the train departs and musicianing off like that, despite the circumstances of my initial courting of Jen, would be just a little too deadbeat-ly cliched. Her family already is scratching their heads over my efforts to recruit strangers into helping me get as far away from my newborn as possible.
Of course, we can't count on winning yet -- in a very real sense we are underdogs, albeit ones with a large membership and a very plugged-in fanbase. Abstractly it never occurred to me that I even might be going, just that I needed to string things along and try to take this contest as far as it could go, in hopes of raising general interest in and awareness of our ensemble (Facebook Insights report current interest in our activities is 100 times its average) in hopes that it might boost our exposure and yield further opportunities for us down the line even if we didn't win. (And, who knows: maybe the band can go without me.) So really, I can't go along if we win, but I can still campaign like hell! The link to click on, until noon PST Tues May 1st, is cbc.polldaddy.com/s/new-survey-4
On a whim, a month ago the relief (and what a relief she has been!) uke player in the Creaking Planks, devon8, entered our ensemble into a contest, with 300 other Canadian bands, to bring three musical acts across Canada by train to Toronto (with a few stops en route) and the NXNE festival. We snickered at the improbable chances and casually shared a couple of links across various social media, inviting people to vote for us. Last week, to our surprise we discovered that we'd risen to the top sixth of the pack, the most highly-voted 50 bands of 300, and made it into the second round of voting. Since then we've been hyping our chances extensively and I've been watching our Facebook group's "insights" like a high priest drunk on offerings, rising from a standard of "44 people reached" (when it's just me talking about our affairs there) to our new high-water mark of "2,398 people reached" (unbelievably achievable when, y'know, other band members also talk up our business a bit. We have a lot of members.)
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To sweeten the promotion a bit and lessen the blow of being repetitively asked by me for votes every day, I came up with a whimsical daily series of creative photocollages showing the Creaking Planks' success (er, or lack thereof) in train-related ventures throughout history (which is why we need your help to do it right this time!), which you can currently enjoy up at creakingplanks.com
Also to stir up interest in Planking affairs we were able to rustle up a few videos of recent band performances, most interestingly a live soundtrack/sound effect foley number we did two weeks ago at the Rio Theatre on top of a silent, black and white 1928 Felix the Cat cartoon, which I will embed at the bottom of this post. It's rough, but I think we made a good choice and worked out some good ideas for it.
Anyhow, the second round of voting ends tomorrow, on Tuesday, at noon; supporters get one vote per round (per web browser, apparently) and so today approaches my last opportunity to hustle you kind LiveJournal readers for your vote of support to send me and my crew to make heads scratch in Toronto, which you can lodge at cbc.polldaddy.com/s/new-survey-3 ... actually you get to nominate three bands for the traveling honours, but I can hardly tell you who to spend your other two votes on. (You can find us down in the "T" section, for The Creaking Planks.)
If we're lucky, we'll make it to the top 25 in the third round, at which point our campaigning will grow a little more crazy and you'll no doubt be hearing about it. Thanks to everybody who has already supported us and please don't forget, even if you voted for us back in the first round, we can use your vote again in this, the second!
I'm not just randomly spamming you with stuff I came across, however, but rather I'm entrenching a few further online extrusions of myself.
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a) So as to put myself in a better position to intercept potential paid accordion work if and when it comes up, I opened a little music portfolio site. It isn't yet touching on the elements of my repertoire that make me stand out from the crowd, but while my cover of Psycho Killer may win me top honors at the DiSCORDER Talent Show at the Astoria, I don't know if it'll land me that vaunted spot playing for pay at the Rhododendron Festival. My biggest kick was digging up choice excerpts from recordings I've played on. (Naturally, all of my bigger recording clients never cut me in on copies of the final product. But typically there I'm quite low in the mix anyhow 8)
b) I just made public my contribution to the Glorious Trainwrecks GDC Pirate Kart, an enormous compilation of over a thousand very hastily-assembled and poorly-considered sketchy game prototypes, demonstrated in a kiosk at that game conference in San Francisco last month. After getting up to speed with the Twine engine on the train ride back from Portland, I used it here to whimsically elaborate on an idea I'd once floated with my radio show co-host, of using a series of questions of dubious taxonomical value to determine what kind of instrument you have before you. To mix it up I plunged deep into sub-Borat broken English and imaginary Iron Curtain web design sensibilities, plus inserted a lethal cameo (hidden through Babelfishian retranslation) from the monstrous subject of everyone's favorite Czech folk song!
c) Because portions of our house are soon to be designated to store supplies for a new human being, I am liquidating the most expendable of my nerdy nostalgia stockpile. That being, the comic book collection -- or at least, those portions of it not essential to retain as reference material for side-by-side comparison with ANSI art conversions of their contents, at my someday exhibition you have heard me pontificate about so many times. But because I am an inveterate nerd with interests that would be well past boring for most human beings, before I give them up I am scanning all of the old video game ads from their pages... and am gradually posting their contents with commentary on a bizarre new blog.
It's cool to crack open a magazine and unexpectedly find a photo of yourself staring back. This is on page 8 of the latest (Jan/Feb '12) BC Musician, from a performance back on Oct 21st of last year at Trees.
Sadly, I'm characterised as "[S]omeone who has performed several times at Trees over the six years I've been hosting the music nights. He's good but he doesn't have a draw" ... a fair enough summation of my failure even to get out more than one accompanist from my band's floating membership of a dozen to join me there. (We did give 'er, and however slippery we may be in getting people to actually come out and see us, I do like to believe that we manage to entertain anyone whose path inadvertently crosses ours.)
However, if you don't read closely, you see a photo of me rocking out and my name is even spelled correctly! (Apparently it's harder than that sounds...)
I haven't yet entirely come to terms with being beardless Rowan, but when I see myself like that, captured comfortably in my milieu, it feels a bit more like me.
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Okay, we're back from Portland. Yes, as the howling mobs in the comments section of my last post noticed, I was talking around big news (after all, it would foolishly be to the detriment of my anniversary concert's promotion for me to overtly confuse the main message of the post.)
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If you've seen Jen lately you don't need to be told; that said, most of you (who is "you"? Most of you are gone, old friends-I-signed-up-on-LJ-to-keep-up-with, but I can say: most of the remainder at least) are not seeing us anything near frequently. (And then many of you I will never meet at all! Plus my activity here has become so sporadic the name "Jen" may not have made much of an impact on my regular readers. Pish tosh, I must have mentioned her a dozen times since July '08, and I must have made barely a dozen posts in that time. A person you rarely see mentioning a name on a quarterly basis. Surely the significance must sink in, albeit perhaps subliminally.)
So anyhow, Jen and I are having a baby at the end of May. Nobody saw that one coming! Rowan, 2008, certainly didn't see that one coming. You never heard me say "I really want to be a dad someday", as to this chronic catastrophist setting any hopes higher than not being alone, forever, seemed perhaps an unrealistic aspiration that would only lead to disappointment. I have more explicitly come around to the idea of having a child, though I'd never seriously considered parenthood (typically shrugging and mouthing some poorly-considered platitudes about overpopulation) as I never expected to be in a position to responsibly contribute to the upbringing of another human being. It turns out that (as with many things, like being employed or knowing how to drive, that latter another new development hopefully in service of the former) if you don't explicitly plan to be in that position, you don't end up in it by accident. Fortunately, Jen doesn't need (would definitely LIKE, but not need) my act to be together in order to get the ball rolling (which is good, as fertility treatments in our 60s, when my act might finally start coming together, would probably be very costly).
(I don't think that overuse of parenthetical asides is a sign of anxiety, or else I've spent a lot more time chronically anxious than I'd ever imagined.)
Unlike many of my open-ended creative projects, this new one is on a fixed deadline, and many things need to get done and make way for the future, swelling more grandly with every passing day. I need to get rid of a lot of things -- paradoxically, things associated with the nostalgic memories of my childhood -- in order to clear the path for a new childhood to establish very different memories. I have a lot of learning to do, about meconium and colostrum and cord blood, about perineal massage and about breast pumps. (And that's just for the first week!)
Jen has been very studious about many of the bewildering and costly supplies required to rear an infant, but having navigated the morass of cloth diapers, strollers and car seats, in a nod toward equal shouldering of the burdens of getting up to speed, the breast pump decision has indeed been left to me, that I don't get an early lead on becoming the tragically clueless and alienated dude described in TV commercials and in momblog forums: an ignorant, indifferent incompetent. (Q: Who likes velcro fasteners on cloth diapers? A: Dads. Q: Who leaves the spoon in the peanut butter jar? A: Dads. Q: Who mixed up a shirt with a pair of pants and got trapped while getting dressed looking for the head hole? A: Your toddler, who picked it up from their Dad.) I hope the momblog forum denizens are prepared to discuss their lactation experiences with J. Random Dude, because I'm on the beat.
I think that I will be an attentive and supportive parent, and I think that my child will have fun with me. Even my pessimism can't tarnish that! Also, it equips me well for my upcoming role as a sleepless diaper launderer.
In conclusion: things are going to get real. (But I most likely still will play the accordion, so an occasional strain of surreality will still run through things.)