Never mind the mess...

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 (and see also the music portfolio at Also out of date; the teaching practice is on ice while we juggle raising a couple of kids while holding down regular day jobs.

On the third 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 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]
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 (now basically sunsetted in favour of Pixel Pompeii) and wholesale choose-your-own-adventure HTML conversion at! One more trip around the publication gauntlet once again, January 2nd 2013 interviewing Jim Munroe for the Society for the Promotion of Adventure Games, AND, IMPROBABLY, ANOTHER providing the cover story for the Sept, 2014 labour-themed issue of Memory Insufficient with an article about the 1980 BASIC program Shop Steward Simulator. 2015: the lethargic writing sideline continues apace, with an article about the decline of bleepy & bloopy video game music in the April 2015 Memory Insufficient and another piece in SPAG, a profile of the Active Fiction Project, both the same week! ... this thread pretty much wrapped up, but apparently an article I wrote about the chipmusic scene was published in a summer festival guide in 2019.

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,,, 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.)

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In the meantime, we will comparison-test some flavours of free website traffic counters.
web stats script Simple counter

My strange proposal to celebrate a very old website

Yes, yes, I know, RIP LiveJournal. I tried to post this on Tumblr (which, same problem, only different) but it choked on the IRC log formatting. In a way it is most appropriate to celebrate a defunct Web 1.0 institution on a defunct Web 1.0 institution.) OK, here we go:

Note: if you are part of the current administration and very rump community of users currently over at everything2, you may want to skip over this or risk having a surprise ruined. Alternately, you may wish to scrutinize it carefully, so as to gird your loins and best prepare to weather the ruined surprise.

*** p_i has joined #everything

(p_i): I know, it's been a while.

(porkcube): huh
(porkcube): CowbotNeal: seen pseudo_intellectual

(CowbotNeal): pseudo_intellectual was last seen on #everything 16 years, 5 days, 22 hours, 39 minutes and 41 seconds ago, saying: now for a field trip we're going to visit a regular public high school and get swirlies [Mon Jul 28 10:36:23 2003]

(porkcube): NEW HIGH SCORE
(Kurin): wow there's a... what was he famous for
(Kurin): most people who drop away, you know, they pooped themselves, or were really bad at a party, or were kit_lo

(p_i): As some of you on the Horace Phair Slack might know, I've been having little thinks about the 20th anniversary of the E1-)E2 import coming up on Nov 13, 2019.
(p_i): I haven't been anything remotely resembling a regular user of the site for over 15 years, something which I expect could likely safely describe everyone here also
(p_i): all the same I appreciate the magic power of a round numbered anniversary to bring back hazy but fuzzily pleasant memories
(p_i): I was thinking it would be fun to round up fled users from the site and, on the occasion of that anniversary, bum rush the stage in a coordinated fashion
(p_i): basically conducting a virtual flash mob
(p_i): and give it a taste for one day of what was everyday activity there 20 years ago
(p_i): the goods and the bads
(p_i): to demonstrate to the current administration what had been lost
(since memory is fallible, and all the primary historical materials are gathering dust in node heaven) when the site changed direction and began its long long looooong decline.
(p_i): and basically, throw the question in their face: so, you opted for quality over quantity... how's that been working out for you?

(Kurin): feels like a long time to hold a grudge

(p_i): well yes, it's not purely a grudge. it's a grudgy celebration of sorts.

(Eraser_): Spite, the most valuable of commodities

(p_i): I mean, everyone left for different reasons, but the important part is that virtually they all left, and might it not be fun if they could be brought back together even if just for a day
(p_i): I feel that any website that survives 20 years deserves some kind of acknowledgement, as it is truly a extraordinary achievement. my particular slant is just necessarily flavoured by my experiences there.
(p_i): Could be a fun opportunity to look back 20 years and touch base with the person that we were, what was going on in our lives then, how we've grown, who and what we miss from that period, etc.

(Kurin): okay now I need to reread the letter to the guy about the party, because I've forgotten all the details

(p_i): I appreciate it's a hard sell, especially inasmuch as the denizens of the channel here were never even all that into using the site in the first place -- why would you need it when you have a perfectly good IRC channel here? -- but I'm doing my rounds pitching my idea to fled noders and this is one place I could reasonably expect to locate a pack of 'em.
(p_i): If the idea piques you at all, well you don't need any details about where and when. If you'd like to participate, I might suggest that you just dash off a few sloppy essays on subjects pertinent to yourself, one every couple of months, stockpile them in preparation for bombing the site with them when the time comes and enjoying the confusion in the catbox
(p_i): when they find the site compromised by invaders from the year 1999
(p_i): It's a fun idea. It happening is fun, actually doing it may be less fun, but there's only one way to find out.
(p_i): Anyhow, thanks for listening to my TED talk


The conversation continued a little over on Twitter (where people were a little more interested), which amounted to me saying "if this interests you at all, please spread the word to any other e2 alumni you are still in touch with."

If I come up with anything else more specific, if people have requests or questions, I will track them here -- or redirect to a more suitable host! Thanks!

Mistigris artpack call for submissions

Friends... arty friends! (That includes the vast majority of you.) I want you to share some of your art with me. (For the sake of this punchy appeal, "art" definitely includes images, sounds and writing of all kinds, though my interests range beyond those. If in doubt, assume I'm interested.) Haven't made any art recently? I don't care. Make some -- or share some old stuff. It's not old to me! (Or if it is -- it's "classic"!)

I can't pay you to share your art with me, but I would love the chance to share it with a wider audience. (If my sharing your art with the world would interfere with your ability to be paid for it, please find a less marketable piece of art to share with me 8) Probably few people are more aware than I that artists die of "exposure", but at the same time I am attempting to build community and cross-pollenate, which should at least... delay that death or make it more gentle.

In the 1990s I shared "artpacks" of computer art over modems to the early Internet with my art group Mistigris; at the turn of the century I presented opportunities to demonstrate hitherto unknown creative talents at The Living Closet and my 57 Varieties open stage series. The LC and 57V are still deep in torpor, but to commemorate the 20th anniversary of its establishment, I spun Mistigris back into operation as of 2014. Since then, we have been releasing artpacks again.

I would like your art to put into an artpack this October! An artpack is exactly what it sounds like, a digital collection of marvelous and varied creative expressions, which can be browsed and enjoyed through a virtual art gallery of sorts; to demonstrate, you can see, hear & enjoy the contents of last year's artpack at

Due to our historical roots, there is representation (perhaps over-representation) of sights and sounds as they might have been experienced on old computers 20 years ago, but in burgeoning attempts to catch up to the present day, we have also been happily including works of more traditional artforms such as calligraphy, textiles, painting and photography. (And in attempts to explore the question of what constitutes "computer art" in 2016, we may be seeing selections touching on such novel developments as emoji and Minecraft.)

I would like to release the artpack near the end of October, so I would like to establish a formal submission deadling of Oct 15th. The initial call for submissions went out 6 months in advance (if you like, you can read it -- it is much the same as this appeal -- at; we are now halfway through that period, and I've resolved to do a better job of coming to the public directly with the appeal rather than waiting for you to come petition at my feet. (With this posted, I will now actually begin knocking on the virtual front doors of probably quite a lot of you.)

I have no intention of monetizing any artpack submissions without the consent and involvement of the creators; a gallery exhibition might be in the works someday (a pipe dream since 2004, but I think the pipe is shorter now than it was then), and I also explore individual submissions in deeper detail on social media, notably on the Mistigris Tumblr account.

If you have any questions (eg. "how do you propose I would translate this work of choreography into a computer-understandable format?") I would be only too happy to chat, scheme, strategise and clarify.

wedding liner notes

So, Jen and I got married. Some of you were invited, and to others this may come as surprising news. (We were surprised perhaps most of all: eight-odd years into a relationship between two individuals, neither of whom believe in the BS medieval patriarchical property ritual of marriage, after having two kids and long after moving in and starting up the joint chequing account -- what precisely did we have to gain by getting married at this point? Well, it was a chance to let everyone know that we had ended up this way on purpose rather than just having simply allowed inertia to deliver us here, an assertion that we have chosen this.) Left to our druthers, we would have invited twice as many people as we did (heck, why cap it -- just have open mic tribute to our love all day!) but we ran right up against the pesky legal capacity of our dream venue, which took care of many aspects of the function in-house, and upgrading would have made things exponentially more complicated. (Really: the line was drawn at aunts and uncles, no room for cousins! If you're somehow closer to us than that, then you may have legitimate grounds for grumbling.)

The ceremony was private, as close to "signing papers at City Hall" as can be done in this jurisdiction -- an officiant, two witnesses, and our daughters. So you didn't miss much on that front.

Many thanks to the incomparable Caelie Frampton for this photo and the other wedding pics in the slideshow!

I was particularly happy with the playlist we came up with to fill nearly three hours of reception with. I don't know if every couple micro-manages these particular kinds of details for their function themselves, but as we're both certified radio DJs with broad and particular musical tastes, I couldn't imagine leaving such a key element of the event to someone else. (It's a little funny for me, specifically, after playing so many gigs providing music for the weddings of others, to see how I felt about being on the business end of that playlist.) After we both made our short lists of essential tunes to include, I had the auspicious opportunity to basically throw away my list because Jen had already picked all the songs that were on it, proving that, if nothing else, we are highly compatible for long car rides together.

I was so pleased with the playlist that I felt that sharing it only once was a bit of a shame, so ***here it is*** (that's a link, you can actually hear the songs) for the enjoyment of the rest of you. If you find yourself planning a wedding, please avail yourselves of it! I have even spared you the one oversight that troubled me on my special day: the songs have even been volume-normalized now. Many of the songs resonate on a contextual level, not just being great tunes but also heavy with memories of good times with friends.
Andrews Sisters - Bei Mir Bist Du Schon
Ray Charles - I Can't Stop Loving You
Nellie McKay - I Wanna Get Married
Kate & Anna McGarrigle - Heartbeats Accelerating
Nick Lowe - I Knew The Bride (When She Used To Rock 'n' Roll)
Veda Hille - the Williamsburg Bridge
Colin Meloy (after The Smiths) - Ask
John Prine - In Spite Of Ourselves
Ewan MacColl & Peggy Seeger - The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face
Stefanie Roy (after Hawksley Workman) - You And The Candles
Ewan MacColl & Peggy Seeger - What The Poet Called Her
Bruce Cockburn - Lovers In A Dangerous Time
Brother Ali - Fresh Air
John Prine - We're Not The Jet Set
Dolly Parton & Kenny Rogers - Islands In The Stream
Stevie Wonder - Living For the City
Veda Hille - A Peculiar Value
Billy Bragg & Wilco - Way Over Yonder In The Minor Key
Be Good Tanyas (after Geoff Berner) - Keep It Light Enough To Travel
Bonnie Prince Billy - I See A Darkness (2012)
Talking Heads - Once In A Lifetime
Ruth Moody (after Bruce Springsteen) - Dancing In The Dark
Lyle Lovett - If I Had A Boat
Simon & Garfunkel - El Condor Pasa (If I Could)
Rufus Wainwright (after Leonard Cohen) - Everybody Knows
Salt-N-Pepa - Shoop
Kim Barlow - Old Woman
Raghu Lokanathan - Ramona
Karan Casey (after Leon Rosselson) - The Diggers Song
Bob Marley (after Peter Tosh) - You Can't Blame The Youth
Talking Heads - Take Me To The River
Cat Stevens - Peace Train
Tracy Chapman - Talkin' Bout A Revolution
The Clash - Know Your Rights
Nick Lowe - (What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding
Nina Simone - I Sing Just To Know I'm Alive
Lou Reed - Perfect Day
Rick Keating - The Only Things Worth Having Are The Things You Cannot Own
Bruce Springsteen - Glory Days
Stevie Wonder - Isn't She Lovely
Duplex - Dog With A Sweater On
It gives me great pleasure to note that "Once In A Lifetime" was our first dance. This playlist, however, wasn't the entire program -- in addition to some nominal toasting and the like, we ran a slideshow of our respective lives to date, up to and including the papers signed that afternoon. For the benefit of those who weren't able to attend, I've fortified it a bit with some pictures from the wedding reception itself.

And finally, there was the activity book, a collection of fun pages involving our household's denizens, intended to serve as a distraction for the little kids in attendance, and which many of the adult attendees overlooked entirely. Every wedding deserves a zine! (Click on the front cover to download a complete PDF.)

Thanks again to everyone who was able to make it, and again, apologies to everyone who was left out due to space limitations. At least you can enjoy these delightful artefacts!

A busy week

Rather, I should say, a week of great virality for me! Many things for me to hype, and many of them have reached many people -- but not quite so many that I'm not going to bother listing them here:
  1. One week ago, October 31st, better known to most as Hallowe'en, I officially launched the 21st anniversary artpack of my '90s computer art collective Mistigris. Exploring new territory for artpacks, we expanded the scope by pressing out into several related but new-to-artpacks creative fields: in addition to ANSI art (including works by hsifyppah) there were works in other textmode mediums such as teletext, PETSCII (the character set of the Commodore 64), Shift JIS, and even typewriter art. (Also, some machine-generated ASCII art silkscreened on to oil-painted canvases!) We also pushed out into hitherto artscene-untapped realms of visual art, including paintings, photographs, sculpture and ... textile. Writing, in the best Mistigris tradition, is given a nominal representation, and as for music... there is an hour and a half of it, some of which is truly great. Also there is some great digital video (about which more later) presented as part of the artpack, though externally hosted online for file size reasons. Though representation from traditional Mistigris members is slim (quite a bit more so than last year's 20th anniversary artpack) we do feature a number of guest appearances from luminaries historic and current, including works from members of ACiD and Blocktronics, and while most of the work is of a recent vintage, we also host some historical works that were never released, forgotten about, then rediscovered, to demonstrate just how things were done back then on eg. the Amiga -- four pieces date to the early '90s (pre-dating Mistigris' establishment) and one goes back to the late '80s, at which moment in time the phrase "computer art" was really aspirational.

    There are three ways you can experience the art contained in this archive:
    1. If you don't want to commit to wading through a monster download, we have a promo reel up at YouTube walking viewers through a selection of the pack's images and songs.
    2. There is of course full download of the (200+ meg) artpack through its hosting over at the new
    3. And also you can experience most of the pack's contents (images, words, music) through its web gallery over at

  2. At least one piece from the MIST1015 artpack has broken free and taken on a life of its own -- Whazzit's surprise animated ANSI music video for a solo performance of me singing and playing Al Mader's Dead Man's Pants. I never thought that I'd see ANSI art of a skeleton playing an accordion, but there it is.

  3. Last but not least, just prior to pack release my jug band of the damned The Creaking Planks sat down for our first practice under our new mission: cover song rapid prototyping for a YouTube audience, basically having fun learning lots of songs on a regular basis upon request. We got up two good takes on songs that probably aren't going to set the world on fire, and on a lark also recorded an acoustic rendition of Underworld's "Born Slippy", which you probably remember from the Trainspotting soundtrack. It is a suprisingly good fit for our instrumentation! Sadly, though, the batteries ran out in the cameras partway through, so you will have to imagine what we look like furrowing brows with concentration jamming through a new song.

call for submissions

Ever since the BBS scene went belly-up and my days coordinating the artgroup Mistigris went kaput (circa 1998), in all my travels through arty circumstances through my adult life, I'd hit on splendid creative doings and think to myself, "Dag, if I was still putting artpacks together, I would most definitely ask to throw that in the mix." (Here on LJ, that could be embodied by, eg., the MSPaint group, now nearly totally bitrotted away and its artists completely unreachable.)

Last October, as you may recall, I celebrated the 20th anniversary of the first Mistigris artpack release by rounding up some of its alumni and ... releasing a new artpack. That was fun, and I resolved to do it again at the same time the following year. Well here we are, a month away, and I've been visiting my old haunts, systematically hitting up all of my major stops since 1998, letting people know that not only are they part of my fondly-remembered past, but that I'd like to fold them into another aspect of my still more-fondly-remembered further-distant past. And now that quest has brought me even here to LiveJournal, where I need to annouce the MIST1015 artpack's call for submissions, whose deadline is now a mere month away. Please consider submitting some creative work visual, musical, written and/or programmed! It doesn't have to be new and exclusive, I just have to have permission to throw it in.

Thanks for your time, ghosts of LiveJournal!

Shaggy dog rhymes

C was given a complete, authoritative (and apparently totally public domain) Mother Goose collection, including all kinds of Dickensian nastiness I would never subject my 21st century toddler to. She presses me ever onward to read "just one more" poem, and I of course love the sound of my own voice (which, by the end of the session, has taken on a Gruffalo-esque brogue), so it's not uncommon for me to go through the entire volume -- or at least a highlights reel of it.

For reasons I cannot completely articulate (perhaps because, overfamiliar now, they bore this big toddler?), I skip over most of the "canonical" rhymes -- the Jack and Jills, Little Bo Peeps, Hickory Dickory Docks -- in favour of a fascinating body of just-so or pithy rhymes I'd never heard before: A swarm of bees in May, Ride a cock-horse to Banbury Cross, For Every Evil, Doctor Foster, The Girl In The Lane, There was an old woman tossed in a basket, Coffee and Tea, Candle-Saving, The Quarrel... OK, there are lots. (Who knew there were so many riddles in Mother Goose? Well, probably Nick Montfort.) This makes me a bit of a bad dad, feeding her brain with all cutting-room scraps and without any of what society decided were the good bits.

My favorites of the new-to-mes are a series of poems that play at setting up a story, and then cut and run. At their most complete they are poetic tautologies, but in more fragmentary form it just seems a kind of Victorian trolling. Do they appeal to me due to a playfully postmodern relationship to that old ball and chain, "plot"?
There was an old woman
Lived under a hill;
And if she's not gone,
She lives there still.
Three wise men of Gotham
Went to sea in a bowl;
If the bowl had been stronger
My song had been longer.
(That one's illustration is hilarious.)
I'll tell you a story
About Jack-a-Nory:
And now my story's begun.
I'll tell you another
About his brother:
And now my story is done.
There was an old woman sat spinning,
And that's the first beginning;

She had a calf,
And that's half;

She took it by the tail,
And threw it over the wall,
And that's all!

--Edited to add: one more...
There was an old crow
Sat upon a clod;
That's the end of my song.
-- That's odd.
(Is "A Difficult Rhyme" the origin of the "rhymes with orange" conundrum? If so, there's not much conundrum, as it also solves it. I was wondering if "Man in the Wilderness" might be the origin of the phrase "red herring", but apparently its use goes back a little earlier.)

What I really want to know is why the word "south" is always rhymed with someone burning their mouth -- on something cold! What's the deal, you perverse Victorians? (Hm, 1700s... quite a bit earlier.)

Sorry, no complete thoughts here: I've just been reading poems so you don't have to!

the end of a chapter

(LiveJournal post started, from the looks of things, in January, and incrementally added to over months of coffee breaks without ever getting any closer to being "finished" -- likely because, as an arbitrary dip into the stream of consciousness with no beginning and no end, it didn't need to be said at all. (But I like writing it, the same way Chinese engineers like all-you-can-eat salad bars.) I need to post it now because a) six months? it's about time, already, and b) this is full of aimless historical mind-wandering, and very shortly my posts should take a focused, grounded, here-and-now angle when our second child arrives. (Congratulations, we'll get it out of the way: the happy news content buried in this pile of words. You win! Quick, quit while you're ahead! I must confess, I hadn't thought I'd need to be prioritizing its mention 6 months ago when I started writing this post, but here we are, half a week from our due date.) Posting this after that development would be a gross misrepresentation of my frame of mind at that point and detract from the hard work put in by everyone involved -- especially the baby. So I either have to post this or throw it out.)

So, the opinion no one needed shared at the location where no one will see it. (And what more fitting fate for the obscure than obscurity?) Everyone's been wondering (admit it!) what were my thoughts at the announcement of the closure of the downtown branch of the Chapters megachain bookstore (now closed 3 days ago, June 7th) -- a brand for which I have no love lost. Nonetheless, I do have several fond (or, at least, poignant) memories associated with the place -- though largely the fondness only relates to the Chapters itself at an arms'-length second-degree distance of abstraction, more a thinking back to how my life was and what the state of the world was like at such times as my paths very sporadically crossed with that store.

(It's important for me to remain in the habit of putting my thoughts down in words. These are swiping, tapping times, optimised for the passive consumption of someone else's creative endeavours, but keeping these output channels in working condition, this antiquated custom of the perblog, in the event that I someday find I have something to say that people need to hear... is important to me.) (Of course, sharing my hypothetical 10 thousand word essay on Tumblr -- or... wherever are the people at these days, anyhow? -- would only baffle today's cyber-flaneurs. I guess the place the readers are is Reddit, but I haven't managed to come to terms yet with its unrulier elements.)

Sarah-Jane, who cold-called me via ICQ looking for a friendly stranger near the landing pad before relocating from New Brunswick to Vancouver (and took up with my roommate following my failure to read between the H-game-sharing lines and hit on her), found the building's showboating architecture ostentatious, an opinion informing my own ongoing characterization of the construction as earthquake-bait. (Last I heard a decade back, with nothing but gumption and direction -- knowing where she wanted to be, and having some idea of how to get there -- she had successfully re-invented her re-invented self into a self-sustaining paying career in the arts, which is more than I ever managed.)

During the Vancouver Poetry Slam's many years in the wilderness, shambling from marginal venue to marginal venue and failing to find its groove before landing at Cafe Deux Soleils and exploding into a bona fide phenomenon, they did at least one public-outreach "slam" at Chapters, for prizes and acclaim but no standing in the season's league rankings. This was my nearest-to-triumphant performance poetry success... in years at the hungry inception of the local poetry slam scene, I'd milled around fecklessly, read endlessly at open mics and drunk in countless slams without ever qualifying to progress to the second round. (Sometimes circumstances had to contort quite a bit to lock me out: on one occasion, short one poet for a full slate, the owner of the late Old Times Cafe at Pender & Homer -- the slam's first home -- was drafted at the last minute to round out the roster, ultimately edging me out of progression by a fraction of a point with an improvised poem. I know -- what, let it go? He sure as heck has no memory of me! And yet my mastery over the petty and trivial may be the one area in which I've ever demonstrated unquestionable supremacy! Just kidding -- it was the profound irony felt at the time that stayed with me all these years, where triumphs would have blurred together and been forgotten in a muddy glow of warm fuzzy feelings. Every failure, conversely, is intensely recalled as a distinct sharp stab of despair! As I've noted elsewhere, this makes travelling through my home town a problem, because everywhere I go I am stung with resentment when passing the sites of businesses by the bushel that once declined to hire me.)

My poems could be appreciated by your run of the mill poetry fan (and indeed, I was received very graciously at Seattle open mics I visited during the 2001 slam championships in that city, which I haunted the audiences of) but they were never calculated to appeal along the same lines that slam relied on -- what I might characterise as broad strokes and emotional appeals, bereft of challenging approaches or complicated subjects. (Especially, I loved to make obscure references, quotations and echoes -- as Al Mader might say, "You don't understand? Look it up!", but his bold delivery of baffling lines enjoyed better reception than my clandestine utterances. After all, if your verses are worth being confident about, why not yell all of them?)

In this case (back at Chapters now, remember?), Vincent "Vincy" Kamberk, another artsy weirdo at the fringes of the local performance poetry scene, beamed down on a rainbow and snatched my crown away at the last minute with material that, like mine, had no real case for winning a poetry slam except among non-slam poets. (As best as I can tell, it is his only poem, a party trick of sorts. "There was a-wax all ah-hover the place!") I don't remember what the unwon first prize was -- probably a small pot of cash or in-store credit, lucky for me to avoid winning so as to be given a promising sign encouraging further travel down the treacherous and unsustainable route of literature -- but fortunately for me I was really able to appreciate the consolation prize: the album Dopamine by Mitchell Froom (you know, the guy who was married to Suzanne Vega for a while?) In a show of poor sportsmanship I didn't want to take it home at the time, but after monkeypudding gushed a bit over the hip sounds of this unknown-to-me producer, I managed to bring it back and even enjoy it extensively, each track featuring a different "guest star", really samplings from a varied array of artists he'd produced. I listened to it dozens of times and reconciled myself to the notion of my art at least garnering me further art, a breakeven exchange. (I won out, actually: Dopamine was superior art to mine.)

On another occasion I returned to Chapters for a "magnetic poetry slam" (how early was it that the label "reading" had been supplanted by "slam" entirely, regardless of appropriateness? all poetry performance now is a slam the same way that all Internet use is Facebooking), featuring the inventor of Magnetic Poetry discussing his curious journey. An "is someone writing this down?" moment elapsed, which I dutifully documented over at everything2, subsequently reconceiving of my reportage as a kind of found poetry, including it as "accident in the intersection of art and commerce" for my portfolio application to the Creative Writing department at UBC.

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(My application was not approved, and I didn't get into the program, though I was cleared to attend individual creative writing classes in such intriguing esoteric specialties as translation and radio plays. But I could not attend any classes at UBC without being approved to major in some other department elsewhere on campus, and putting all my eggs in one basket it had never even occurred to me to apply anywhere else (which with my trampoline GPA was not really in the cards in any event. I had never made any life plans that didn't revolve around my becoming a verbal golden god, a literary rising star destined to challenge the national discourse with his inspired word-experiments.) With final exam nightmare logic I always fear there is some remote possibility that I was actually cleared to attend and registered for CW classes at UBC that I just failed to attend... my actual understanding of departmental bureaucracy at the post-secondary level was always vague at best, and my well-intentioned parents -- unwilling to allow something as important as my university education be undermined by my unpragmatic vagueness -- muddied the waters with appeals to outdated admission and enrolment standards from their time in university quite a bit earlier. My friends were too tied up with their own confusing journeys to help much, though I recall icecreamemperor actually registering me for my first set of college courses, and my institutional allergy (reasoning to self: can any knot this Gordian actually be worth straightening out?) precluded it even occurring to me to seek guidance through academic counsellors on staff. And of course it has now been well over a decade since my sporadic academic career last twitched. One must assume any remaining transcripts would actually have spontaneously composted by now, were they not so imbued with the sheer toxicity of their contents.)

In the Crooked Chapters (no value judgement -- just a description of its ostentatious architecture, remember. But hey, remember that classic Simpsons episode? Bart: "Behold the horrors of the slanty shanty! See the twisted creatures that dwell within! Meet Cue Ball, The Man with No Hair!") I was once shocked to encounter master drummer Shawn Killaly in a staff uniform, excited to bump into some hep cats and jar the monotony of the grind of working there. This was not shocking due to the terrifying expressions he's been known to make (basically: he can't stop making) during face-melting drum solos, nor due to concern that his pride in performing for General Suharto during APEC '97 (note to self: post WRASTAJAM story somewhere sometime) Collapse ) might make him a dangerous character to associate with... it was shocking because, well, think of it this way: imagine the most talented person you know with a plain and marketable aptitude for an obvious-to-apply trade. Then bump into him working at Chapters. If he wasn't equipped to live the dream, what was the point of dreaming at all, really? I figure my shock at encountering Shawn at Chapters was an analogous foreshadowing of the dismay a group of my thirsty '90s friends displayed, many years later (actually, though it's hard to imagine, that was only 4 years ago), when finally encountering me vending lemonade at Nat Bailey Stadium after I'd managed to notice and duck them for nearly the entire baseball game.

(Chapters was not a wholesale sausage-grinder of broken dreams: I know that harrysheep logged some hours in the Chapters mines between stints at Yogen Früz and Raincoast Books, mellowing into... the official social media presence for Vancouver Opera, to the best of my memory! jokrack used it as a rung in her own ladder climbing up the publishing industry. But I doubt it did anything for Shawn beyond paying the rent for a couple of months.)

One further fond and utterly profane Chapters association -- old schoolmate (and now: maternal cottage industry) Yolande had similar sour feelings regarding Chapters as mine, only amplified: her rule was that it was fine to patronize the establishment, but only for emergency bathroom use while passing through the neighbourhood. And then, to harsh the mellow of folks who had drunk the Chapters Kool-Aid and shock them out of their lotos-eating stupour... don't flush. (In this bold new post-Upper Decker era, such a relatively genteel form of protest seems almost antiquated -- quiet, impotent, but impossible to ignore.

And the final disappointment: mhalachai loved mystery novels, so for her birthday I already knew what to get her. But my complicated life left me no options beyond selecting from Chapters' offerings en route to her birthday party. I knew the perfect middle ground between my interests and hers, and was confident she would enjoy a copy of Umberto Eco's In The Name Of The Rose or Foucault's Pendulum. (no wait, that was the Granville and Broadway Chapters, on the site of the old Risty -- like the Kingsgate Mall, on VSB-owned land, apparently -- itself up on the chopping block, awaiting rebranding as an Indigo with an American Girl doll salon.) For what then this enormous building if not to stock the books one might want to purchase? Both volumes would surely be available at any used bookstore or library branch in far smaller buildings. I guess I failed to appreciate that what a bookstore sells are first-run books that are still in print. This failure (and my failure to accommodate a Plan B gift-acquisition on my way to the party) drove an awkward wedge into our already-awkward relationship. (When in doubt, blame the bookstore!)

With a serious bookseller like Pulp Fiction still in full effect, there's no need to miss a monolith like Chapters or all the stepping stones it squashed on its way to the top and over the cliff: this is one case I think where the Darwinian rules of the free market have endowed the local literary ecosystem with an efficient solution to its needs. (But I do miss Sophia Books and the Granville Book Company.) The megastores ate the big ones up -- when the dust settled after the Bollum's, Duthies, Chapters all fell ... I can't entirely blame Amazon, can I? The industry was overextended overall. Somehow Lawrence's Books down at Dunbar and 41st still manages to keep on keeping on, on expensive (but presumably owned outright) Vancouver real estate, filled with dead books no one is ever going to want to buy. (This also makes me ponder the ongoing fates of downtown used bookstores Albion, which has some books one might want to read, vs. Macleod's, which does not despite maintaining a higher profile.)

I never wrote a poem for Chapters (which, to be fair, deserves none -- maybe only a spreadsheet), but here's one I wrote on the occasion of the much-earlier passing of a far more beloved local bookstore:

a far cry / from stargazing

where, to observe free from the hegemony
of those more luminous stars
one must focus upon a patch of seemingly dim space
to permit the appearance
in peripheral vision
of those subtler stars
glimmering, glowering, guttering
more coal than candle
- no less brilliant, mind you,
merely perplexed in penetration
of the observer's polluted atmosphere;
only phantoms visible out of the corner of your eye -
look at them and they're not there

instead, burning among the chapbooks
front and centre
you might be fortunate enough
to have your attention wrested for a few brief eternities
by a rope of language, words woven tight
and strong. Your concentration slowly drawn into the poet
you could fix your gaze in surrender
as all other sights would fade to nothing
your universe reducing to a few perfect worlds / in a few perfect words
and those perfect mouths what called them into being

the skeptics among us might have credited the cosmic flickering
to old wiring, fickle and perverse,
and imps of inconstant sparks
but we knew better.

One cannot know that which is not
onetime knowledge reduced to mere memory
the captivating creators consigned to fairy tales,
stories and the apocryphal annals of folklore and fable,
scattered to the vagaries of anecdote like so much divine dust.

Come - the boldest stars swing now overhead,
constellations whirling above us, needing no namers,
my eyes and mouth grow dry, beard hanging heavily upon me / and I grow weary;

we have made our myth; now we must sleep in it.


For some future post, as this one is assuredly over-done already: an examination of my curious urge -- why write to such an extent somewhere that (statistically) no one will see? Is there some connection to the presumed small-audience scrivening of (well, Live-, duh)journaling, diari(landi)zing, & corresponding? Writing for a presumed audience of greater than one (even a third of the surviving copies of first editions of James Joyce's books were never opened, never had their pages cut, by their recipients) is so historically anomalous a privilege it's easy to overlook how we can "broadcast" today and assume that people will be tuned in in mass quantities. (In fact, it can be difficult to know or prove that it isn't!) But I'm obviously not going to be able to get into this at all at this moment, so I'll just pose it as an open question of sorts.

And one final fragment from my notepad: "writing and then eventually posting weeks or months after the lion's share is written, vs. never posting, writing for nobody or just to keep in practice." I'm sure I've gone through at least a dozen mega-posts described by the latter situation: processing or working through things by putting them in words. But always the intention was to "share" them to whoever stopped by this ghost town.

Friday, February the 13th

As I guess a given date has a one in seven chance of happening on a particular day of the week, it's probably been a multiple-of-seven years since I wrote this story in high school. The introduction of my recurring 3-day-novel hero Clark Ingledew (named after two brands of shoe), it was published (by myself, its editor) in the school paper, The Ideograph, and serialized in the Kithe e-mag.

And here it is again, for one more kick at the can!

        Clark Ingledew stepped out of the office into the unusually muggy
February heat. His wrinkle-free suit was wrinkled, his briefcase was being
held together with an elastic band; the water cooler had vented its
contents all over his new Italian suede shoes; he had narrowly avoided being
run over by a rampant malfunctioning photocopier; he had a growth of 5 'o
clock shadow and it was only noon; and, to top it all off, looking down, he
discovered, to his dismay, that he had just stepped right in the middle of
something glowing and unpleasant. He could almost hear the water-logged
leather being eaten away. Friday the 13th of ANY month had NOTHING on this
day, Friday, the 14th of February.

        But nothing else could go wrong today. He had left work 5 hours 
early so that he would have a leisurely six hours to reach the dining 
destination where he had arranged to meet Heather, his estranged fiance, for
the first time since he had forgotten their anniversary. And tonight, he
would definitely give her a surprise, he thought appreciatively, patting the
form of the box through the fabric of his thigh pocket which held the ring
which he would use to propose to her tonight. As long as he could make it
to the restaurant, he could handle whatever else life could rummage up and
throw in his path.

        Except, as it turned out, penguins.

        As he approached his rocking car, he could hear their devilish 
jibbering and jabbering.

        "Oh God... Not the penguins AGAIN..." he muttered under his breath 
as he stormed up to the car. The stereo was blaring at full blast, playing a 
tape of what sounded like "The Chipmunks go Disco," the windshield wipers 
were flopping drunkenly, and intermittent blurts of the horn sounded as the 
infernal birds took turns jumping on the front seat. He thought that this 
problem had been fixed at his last tune-up, but the sight of his 
Penguin-B-Gone strip flying out the sunroof along with a dozen herring heads 
dispelled that illusion rather quickly. He pocketed the useless strip and
rifled through his broken briefcase for what had been last resort emergency 
devices which had fortunately never been needed. Extracting a large fistful 
of rubber bands from the case, he wielded his keys bravely and made a lunge 
for the car door, opening it in one swift fluid motion.

        He was right. It WAS "The Chipmunks go Disco."

        Like the wind, he stealthily and efficiently rubber-banded the beaks 
and flipper-like wings of all save the most aggressive penguins, who bit 
viciously through their bonds. No matter. He tossed them all in the back 
seat, and rolled the windows down, to clear the herring smell from the air. A 
flasing light on the dashboard confirmed his initial suspicion: the words 
PENGUIN VALVE JAMMED cheerily winked at him. Cursing his luck at having 
broken this previously unheard-of component of his car, he decided to return 
the penguins to the zoo. After all, he couldn't afford to let them ruin his 
date, and he had a few hours to spare. With an eye to caution, he tossed an 
old blanket over the heap of struggling birds to minimalise the distraction 
they would otherwise pose to his driving skills.


        "What do you MEAN you haven't lost any penguins?" 

        Clark had been forced to attempt to jam a defective parking meter
full of several dollars in change before he realized that it was out of
order. Impatient and unhappy with the zoo staff, who had kept him waiting
outside the monkey house, much to the amusement of zoo visitors, he wanted
to get rid of the damned birds so he could get on with the rest of his life.
The birds (on a leash as proof of his otherwise outlandish story) just seemed
to want to make a lot of noise.

        "I'm sorry, sir, but all 27 of our zoo's penguins are accounted for. 
Wherever you got these ones from, it wasn't here." 

        The receptionist at the zoo's main complaint office was used to
dealing with wackos, but this one was unusually well-groomed. His story
seemed to be truthful, too, but the zoo already had all of its famous
penguins, and they lacked the facilities to house any more.

        "If you fill out this form, we might be able to help you, depending
on how many more weeks Mr. Wiltbloom decides to stay on vacation."

        "No, thank you. I'll just find something to do with these penguins 
MYSELF. You haven't been of any help. Good-bye."

        Clark felt very cold toward the woman, who seemed to have been
exceptionally bureaucratic toward him. That, or it was the largish piece of
spinach that had been wedged betwixt his upper front teeth. "Five hours and
eighteen minutes 'till the reservation," he thought to himself, as he walked
to the car, leading a train of waddling penguins. When he arrived at the
parking lot, he noticed that he was having a rather large amount of difficulty 
finding his car. The fact that it simply wasn't there probably contributed 
to this situation. Of course, he didn't discover that fact immediately. He 
deduced it after wandering for an hour and a half backtracking the 
footprints of his little webfooted compatriots. Even by then, the only clue 
tipping him off to his car's absentee status was the policeman posting the 
"Out of Order" sign on the parking meter which had previously greedily 
guzzled all of his change. Flustered and confused, he sat dejectedly on the 
curb and looked at his watch. Three and a half hours left. Still more than 
enough time to bus to the restaurant and freshen up before dining. He could 
find out what happened to the car later... after all, he had an appointment 
with his destiny.

        The penguin's squawks aroused him from his daydream. He had three and
a half hours left and not a second to spare! Boldly, he dived into his jacket
pocket to withdraw his wallet and bus pass. Sheepishly, he fumbled around 
the pocket looking for them. Frantically, he got on all fours and, with a 
rather undignified air, looked for the wallet. Yet it was nowhere to be seen.
Rather violent thoughts involving the penguins entered his head, and, as he 
turned around to enact his gruesome fantasies, he saw them all lined up on 
the wall, playing catch with his wallet. THOSE DAMNED BIRDS HAD PICKPOCKETED 
HIM!!! With a vicious jerk on the leash, all of the penguins came tumbling 
down onto the pavement, wallet bouncing into range. He glanced from side to 
side, as if expecting someone to go for it, and, seeing that the coast was 
clear, reached out to slowly take it back.

        Almost there, he raised his glance forward to see a penguin mimicing 
his actions. The penguin was closer to the wallet. With a lunge, they both 
grabbed an end of the wallet and started pulling. While Clark had much more 
mass than the puny penguin, the little bird had the aid of several of his 
companions. With a heave and a ho, and a crack like thunder, the wallet flew 
apart, credit cards and photos of Heather drifting away into the bear pit on
the breeze. Clark discovered, to his dismay, that he held clenched in his 
hand, one torn half of a bus pass. He followed the movements of the other 
half drifting errantly on the wind until it ended up as a monkey's 
breakfast. This was most certainly not good. He salvaged what he could of 
the credit cards and pictures, stuffing them into his pocket, and stared 
forlornly at his watch. Three hours, fourteen minutes. At a breakneck run, 
he could make it to the restaurant in four hours, tops. It was worth a 
try... the alternative was to sit there and cry on the penguins, and he was 
far too great a man to stoop to such levels. Determined to rid his life of 
these pests, he carefully tied the lead leash to a post with a knot worthy 
of a Boy Scout University graduate and started in the right direction.

        "'Scuse me, sir, but do you know that there's a law again litterin' 
in this town?"

        The sign-posting policeman tapped on his back and had a ticket pad

        "Officer, you must be mistaken; these aren't my penguins, they..."

        "I hear a lot of that, y'know." The rather robust lawman looked up 
at the sky and chuckled to himself. "You 'spect me to believe that after I 
saw you tie 'em up right there? Now listen, just pick them up, and carry 'em
with yer person until you can find the proper receptacle, and I'll let you 
go this time."

        Clark began to protest, but, looking at his watch, realized that 
there was no way around it: he was stuck with the damned critters. As if in 
realization, one of them waddled up to his leg and lay down on his foot. The 
officer grinned a smelly grin and hefted himself back to the defective 
meter, where he tried to look important. "I just need a few minutes to 
concentrate," thought Clark. Sitting down on the pavement, he closed his 
eyes and tried to focus on the matter at hand. Noises of the zoo, animal 
noises, people noises, and heavy machinery noises (?) passed through his 
head. Smells of the zoo, animal smells, people smells, and ... other smells 
drifted in one nostril and out the other. His concentration was absolute. 
Nothing could rouse him from his meditiation. Except when the skater tried 
to do a jump over that weird sitting guy and didn't quite clear it.

        Clark awoke to a bright light and loud noises. And quite a lot of 
blood. As his eyes refocused, he made out the shapes of a flock of 
concerned-looking penguins and a pair of grungy looking youths looking down
at him.

        "Heeey, Stu!," one of them hollered to the other, "I guess I owe ya 
five bucks! The old dude isn't dead!"

        Stu looked more concerned, whether for Clark's well-being or about 
the blood stains on his skateboard. "Hey, old dude, are you all right?"

        Clark sat up, and blacked out again.

        He awoke several minutes later, and said, "How much would you sell 
that skateboard for?

        Stu looked confused, then his eyes lit up with the fires of greed. 
"What ya got?"

        Clark carefully probed inside his pocket, drawing a single thin 
piece of plastic with the measured ease of a motion often performed. "It's 
platinum. No limits."

        Stu looked at his friend in awe, eyes bugging out, and bellowed, 
"Radical!" They performed a surprisingly uncoordinated hi-five, and ran off 
toward the nearest Westbeach. Reading his watch, Clark noted that he had a 
mere two hours and 53 minutes left, and decided that it was time to take 
charge. He carefully tourniquetted his gaping head wound with one of the
rubber bands, and tested his balance on his new possession. Finding it
easier than it looked, he took off his belt. No, this is not the eagerly
anticipated sex scene. Getting a good grip on the penguin harnesses, a good
balance on the board, and a good final whiff of that wholesome zoo air, he
cracked his belt at the penguins. And they were off!


        Clark, having watched one too many arctic sagas on late night TV, 
navigated his way through the wilds of downtown, being forced to move onto 
the road after an unfortunate accident involving a glass window being moved, 
a carton of watermelons and a shipment of chickens, and doing eighty-five in a
thirty zone. Fortunately, the traffic cops could see what a hurry he was in,
and he arrived at the restaurant exactly two hours and forty-eight minutes
later, with a windblown hairdo and a troupe of tired penguins. Stepping off
the board, he noticed that their irregular route had inextricably entwined his
hand in the loop end of the leash. He'd have to do something about that in
the gent's room. But first, to confirm the reservations. He casually 
strolled into the entrance of the restaurant, pretending that he didn't have 
a horde of birds attatched to his hand.

        "Table for two for Clark Ingledew, " he exclaimed nonchalantly.

        "M'sieur, zee table ees redy, but zere are NO pets allowed in zees
restaurant! Revovez zem at once, s'il-vous-plait!"

        "Can I just.."

        "No, M'sieur! No penguins in zee building! Can't you see zee sign?
Now get zem OUT!"

        Clark, unwilling to withstand any more of that incredibly bad accent,
stormed out of the building, and re-entered, bird-free, but with a 
suspiciously lumpy and noisy jacket. He also noted the peculiar sign on his
way in the second time: No Penguins Allowed in Building, by order of the
Minister of Food Services.

        "Ah, M'sieur as returned! Weethout hees penguins. Bon."

        {SQUAWK!} went the jacket. The maitre 'd eyeballed Clark

        "Squawk, squawk. Ahem. I'm just getting over a cold... people tell me
that my cough sounds like a penguin squawking. SQUAWK. Excuse me."

        He then doubled over in a faked coughing fit, throwing some squawks 
in here and there to add validity to his story. The maitre 'd looked
unconvinced, but, doubtlessly impressed by Clark's formidable improvisational
skills, led him to the table. Where Heather was waiting for him.

        Clark gulped, and grimaced as a sharp beak gave retribution for the 
sudden movement. She was gorgeous. He was, well, lumpy.

        "Clark, you're here on time, for once. I've been waiting to see you 
for a long time, you know." She smiled, revealing a glittering full set of 
teeth. In Clark's eyes, the most perfect teeth in the world. Clark would 
have smiled, but he was in too much pain. One of the penguins had started to 
slide down his pant leg.

        "I don't mean to be rude, but I really have to... er... go to the
bathroom. I hope you understand. I'll be right out." Clark, making this
social faux pas, ran off to the men's room and tried to take off his jacket.
But it wouldn't go. The penguins had settled in there and had gotten nice
and comfy, and, after that deal with the skateboard, weren't going to move
for ANYBODY. Buttoning the thing back up, puffing and panting from the
exertion of his attempt, he re-entered the restaurant. He nearly spitted
himself as he passed a waiter bearing a trayful of shishkabob skewers, but
narrowly avoided disaster, and instead just landed heavily on his chair and
spilled his water.

        "Clark, why don't you take your jacket off? You must be getting
awefully hot in there...?"

        "No, I'm fine, really, I am." Clark seemed rather insincere, panting
like that and the way he kept loosening his collar.

        "Listen, Clark, I've been thinking a lot lately, and I think that I
made the wrong decision when we stopped seeing each other... I overreacted,

        "No, YOU listen, Heather. I was a lovestruck fool with a bad memory,
and still am. Will you... er... will you... just a sec..." Searching his
pockets frantically, he couldn't find the box holding the ring. Remembering
that it was in his THIGH pocket, he relievedly took the box out of his
pocket. To his astonished horror, the ring was no longer in it! This was just
too much.

        "Clark? Were you going to say something?"

        "Where is it, goddammit? Answer me!"

        Clark was ripping his shirt off, talking to the lumps in his jacket.
Taking a salad fork, with a wild gleam in his eyes, he savagely jabbed his
poor coat several times. Squeaks emitted, and he peeled back the coat
revealing a huddled mass of penguins! From across the room, the maitre 'd
gaped in horror, and Clark began alternately throttling and tossing aside
penguin after penguin, demanding where "it" was. Various shocked cries of,
"My eyes! My eyes!", "Waiter, there is a penguin in my soup!", and "To
dishonor the flag in such a manner. Disgraceful!" echoed across the room,
and customers began leaving in droves. Finally, Clark reached the bottom of
the heap, where a miserable looking snivelling penguin huddled, face turned
away, thrusting a simple ring towards Clark.

        "THANK YOU. Now, where was I... oh yes. Heather, will you marry me?"

        Heather looked shocked, then startled, then sick. "You BRUTE! You
PERVERT! I don't even want to know what were you doing with penguins in your
suit. You must have seen the sign in front, you knew it was against the
rules. Now you've ruined this dinner for everyone here. Clark Ingledew, I
never want to speak to you again!" With that, she walked out of the
restaurant, and out of his life, forever.

        Clark looked surprised, mouth gaping, ring outstretched limply. Then
he closed his eyes and bawled like a baby. Alone in the building, his tragic
cries echoed throughout the hallowed walls. Remembering the shishkabob
skewers, he contemplated putting an end to it all, all the pain, all the
suffering. But he was brought back to reality by a nudge on his foot. The
last penguin had gotten up and was trying to eat his shoelaces.

        With a new look of hope and determination in his eyes, Clark picked
up the flightless bird, and said passionately, through tear-streaked eyes,
"At least we still have each other."

        And they walked, hand in wing, into the sunset, of a NEW future,

        This story will now end before it breaches the boundaries of good
taste any more than it does already.


"The Bells of Yule" infofile, Dec 17, 2014

This one was initially released in December of 1994, then became lost and unobtainable circa 1998. It's back in circulation now, re-mastered, and hopefully remains that way this time around. For the first time I enjoyed the strange privilege of the bandwidth cap of my ad hoc web hosting being exceeded to due too much interest -- it crapped out after about 4 gigs in a 24 hr period, but with a filesize of 182 megs, 4 gigs gets burned through pretty fast.

In keeping with my recent activity here (and so, well, you can see where the writing has been going), here's its infofile, greatly expanded:

                        .                       .                         .   
      .        .           MiSTiGRiS PROUDLY PRESENTS:       .                
                     _________|`\  ____,___|`\_|   |___33                    .
               *     __, __, __, `\(____-  ,_,'_, _______                     
                     #|'  |'  |'  |'   ,\__,  `|' _|'  |#          .     *
           .         @|___,___,____-__(____,__,'___,__,'@                     
                     (mistigris) (music disk #1) (12/14)  .                   
                     .the bells of yule .1 hr 45 minutes.          *       .  
     *               .of new and vintage computer musics.     .               
                .    . 2014   20th anniversary re-issue .                     
               _(_      _Y_      _Y_      _Y_      _Y_      _)_
              [___]    [___]    [___]    [___]    [___]    [___]
              /:' \    /:' \    /:' \    /:' \    /:' \    /:' \
             |::   |  |::   |  |::   |  |::   |  |::   |  |::   |
             \::.  /  \::.  /  \::.  /  \::.  /  \::.  /  \::.  /
         jgs  \::./    \::./    \::./    \::./    \::./    \::./
               '='      '='      '='      '='      '='      '='

        In late 1994, we at Mistigris were posed with a formidable proposition
from the fine folks at Digitallusions: here is a 5-piece suite of original
instrumental holiday music, in turns joyous and upbeat, moody, melancholic and
modal, and at times downright grim and eerie -- in short, a corpus appropriate
for summarizing the time of year when things are at their bleakest nadir out on
the blasted, lightless heath... but in brightly-lit rooms, fragile human bodies
congregate to reject and refute this physical reality with a merry rebellion,
filling their cold darkness with warmth and light, hoping that in some magical
way it makes the sun come back.
        Would we like to distribute this music?
        Releasing it in an artpack would be unthinkable due to the filesize-
bloating effects of large quantities of sample-based computer music on 1994-era
modem transmission speeds.  And yet clearly not releasing it simply wasn't an
option.  And so we went for a Third Way, the poorly-understood option of the
Music Disk.
        Just how did a music disk differ from an artpack, anyhow?  In short,
the latter was expected to be packed with visual computer creativity, while the
former would of course be touting audio digital creations instead.  Outfits
that really had their act together would present their music disks alongside
executable music player software in which to experience the tunes, skinned with
visual art of their own creation and offering commentary and visualization
options informed by the longstanding demoscene traditions of loaders, intros
and cracktros.
        Our outfit could not really be described as having its act together.
Though its members would eventually achieve all kinds of greatness, at that
point by and large we were flying by the seat of our pants, faking it until we
made it and making it up as we went along.  So the Mistigris music disk was an
archive consisting of a pile of .MODs thrown together, along with a recycled
FILE_ID.DIZ and a painfully uninformative infofile -- this 15-year-old's fourth
crack at writing one up, not quite there yet.
        We shopped the highly seasonal collection of music around to the best
of our ability, by which I mean: we spent several hours uploading the archive
to a few BBSes, in the hopes that it might find its way to other area codes
courtesy of some independently wealthy long distance caller.  Who knows, if we
could get it on something called an FTP site, it might really find an
international audience on the InterNet.
        But the early '90s were lean, mean times and while the art was given
freely, storage and bandwidth came at a premium.  The Mistigris crew
disadvantageously straddled two worlds uneasily, too close to the pirate
wareZ-associated ANSI art scene for our music disk to be hosted by upright,
decent and legitimate demoscene music resources, yet too modem-breakingly large
(weighing in at a kingly 1.47 megs -- this alleged music "disk" wouldn't even
fit on a 1.44 inch floppy diskette!) for it to be hosted by ANSI art mirrors
-- at least, not without a heck of a lot more visual appeal than we wrapped it
in. So the archive bumped around local BBSes in the 604 area code for three or
four years, and then when the last of those went down circa 1998, suddenly it
became unobtainable... at least, until now.
        Computers can greatly streamline and facilitate creative activity, but
for longevity, the methods of the 19th century have got it lapped.  Paint your
image on a canvas, write your words in a notebook, commit the notes of your
song to sheet music, and it can live on for centuries -- write your opus magnum
on a computer and you've got maybe a 10-year window of opportunity before
backward compatibility with your genius goes out the window and all you have
left are the memories.  Maybe the greatest piece of computer art to emerge from
Vancouver in the '90s was William Gibson's Agrippa for the Apple Macintosh, but
how are you going to prove it?  But I digress.
        The point is: for reasons I can't adequately explain, to anyone else
and perhaps least of all to myself, I hung on to it -- all of it, or at least
as much of it as possible.  I desperately clutched at the high points, to hold
close to my heart, and the faux pas, to remind myself not to repeat my
mistakes.  (This music disk I like to believe is one of the former.)  On
hundreds of rotting floppies and miles of useless magnetic tape and through the
Russian doll backup approach of recursive hard drive upgrades, I kept it near.
I hung on to work that was released and work that never was, work that was
complete and work that was unfinished, work by people whose real names I never
knew and whose faces I'd never seen, because such was the unwritten compact of
our onetime interactions: you be creative, I will try to get it out there.  But
we did not anticipate that creative work, once released out there, would ever
cease to remain out there.  Here lies one whose name was writ on Geocities.
        Bafflingly, I hung on to prime work that had cost me only the time of
downloading it when its creators, who had devoted countless nonrefundable
hours of their lives to making the work, no longer had copies of it.  Did they
all suffer calamitous hard drive crashes?  I could not accept the historically
traitorous shrugged implication: that what we were up to back then was
unimportant, and besides nobody could prove otherwise.
        To make a long story short (OK, to keep a long story from getting even
longer), here I am, proving otherwise.  This is a formidable music disk -- the
original eight songs more-than-doubled, bolstered by a bonus nine more -- to
help keep your igloo or server room chill with vintage holiday sounds.  We
hope you enjoy these tunes -- some of you for the first time with some of
them, and others for the first time in 15 years -- and remember:

        please don't party like it's 1999... 
                that's nowhere near far enough back.

             - Cthulu, Mistigris founder, Nov 20 2014.
HB-BELLS.MOD  1.44 mins Carol of the Bells  Hero Bob / Poison
FRQ-BLKN.S3M  3.04 mins Black Noise         Freaq / Independent

        Both appearing in the original, 1994, run of this music disk, Freaq is
nothing less than the musician that Hero Bob would mature into.  The first
file is a 4-channel rock arrangement of the traditional Christmas carol,
dating back to an earlier 1991 release, while the second is a season-agnostic,
but chawesome, original tune intended for a demo by Sonic Equinox that was not
ultimately to be, despite Leslie's sultry vocals.  As best as we could find, 
it was never re-issued anywhere else, so to ensure access to and posterity of
the plucky l'il file, we were obligated to include it here once again despite
its lack of obvious Christmas appeal.  (Blasting tracks on the Winter
Solstice, the longest night of the year, == "Black Noise"?  I'm stretching

ONX-GIAB.S3M  3.19 mins Grinch in a Blender Onyx / MiST
ONX-SOFT.S3M  2.22 mins Soft Crystal	    Onyx / MiST 
        Two further contributions by a supporting composer, the prolific (to
damn with faint praise) Onyx included GIAB and its techno remixings of the
holiday cartoon's musical themes in the original, 1994 release of this music
disk after composing it on Christmas Eve of that year.  The bonus track, Soft
Crystal, is intended to evoke a somber mood of snowfall, and is folded in here
due to thematic resonance despite remaining available in its original
Mistigris artpack release of December 1997 (that one composed Christmas Eve
YULEBEL1.MOD  9.27 mins The Bells of Yule 1 Admiral Skuttlebutt/Digitallusions
YULEBEL2.MOD 10.23 mins The Bells of Yule 2 Admiral Skuttlebutt/Digitallusions
YULEBEL3.MOD 10.00 mins The Bells of Yule 3 Admiral Skuttlebutt/Digitallusions
YULEBEL4.MOD  9.58 mins The Bells of Yule 4 Admiral Skuttlebutt/Digitallusions
YULEBEL5.MOD 12.47 mins The Bells of Yule 5 Admiral Skuttlebutt/Digitallusions
        The centrepiece of the original music disk, lending it their name and
serving as its raison d'être, this epic suite remains as striking in December
2014 as it was 20 years prior.  Basically you won't find another song cycle
comparable to this in the wide and varied annals of computer music history.
Their original blurb remains very apt:

        "A fantastic voyage through the ranges and depths of sound and emotion,
these five tracks deserve to give the disk its name.  Each one is a masterpiece
in its own.  Listen and enjoy!"

        As a bonus, the original composer Melody has digitally remastered all
of the original Bells of Yule files with digital production techniques
unavailable to the Atari ST hobbyist in 1994, included here as mp3s attributed
to her current Empress Play imprint still today pumping out tunes on the
regular at
CT-W.S3M      2.05 mins Winter Eyes         Cthulu / MiST
        Originally released December of 1997 alongside Soft Crystal and The
Xmas Rave (see below), this peculiar serving of classical music was composed
the night of Cthulu's first great shearing, to settle a disturbance in this 
sensitive character in response to a colossal dispute between himself and his
landlo-- parents.  (The second great shearing was in 2010, in front of an
entire northern village, and it seems to have stuck.)  A theme and variations
type exercise iterating through styles of blues progressions, Mike Oldfield
(ah, but I repeat myself) and J.S. Bach, its original release was hampered by
unintended dissonance in the ice bell samples; it has been nominally
remastered to switch out one variety of dissonance with another one, amidst a
burying blanket of cold Sputnik beepings.  Think of it, if you will, as a
rewrapped, regifted, unwanted holiday fruitcake.  Eventually it will be to
someone's taste!

XMASRAVE.MOD  3.19 mins The Xmas Rave       Admiral Skuttlebutt/Digitallusions
        Also first appearing in December 1997, this later piece is
thematically consistent with the Yulebells of three years prior -- and also
enjoys a complementary MP3 remastering at Melodia's expert hands, included in
the archive.  (And to prove that the composer is not a one-holiday specialist,
keep your eyes and ears open for remastered editions of the original and
remixed versions of their New Year's hit "1995: A Rave", a couple of weeks shy
of its own 20th anniversary.)

Bells of Yule 2014 Reprise              5.03 mins Melody / Empress Play
Christmas in Marioland                  7.29 mins Melody / Empress Play
Jingle All The Way (To The Dance Floor) 4.27 mins Melody / Empress Play
The Christmas Santa Was Murdered        5.42 mins Melody / Empress Play
The War On Christmas                    8.16 mins Melody / Empress Play

        Rounding out this disk, just prior to release we discovered that
Melody had been working on more Christmas music.  Quite a bit more.  Indeed a
full five more to meet and match the original five compositions in the first
release of the Bells of Yule.  And since the disk had always been conceived of
as a testament to the singular vision of her bold musical demiurge, it made a
lot more sense to include these new tunes rather than trying to stifle and sit
on fresh compositions for perhaps some companion music disk to be released in
Christmas 2015.  (If there's one lesson I can impart upon the reader gained
from my keeping the music disk's original files on life support in a cold and
uncaring world for 20 years, it's this: never release tomorrow what you could
release today.)

        Including one more (final?) return to drinking at the Bells of Yule
well, exploring some alternate takes on themes from the original suite, these
new offerings hold true to the earlier songs in offering approaches to both of
the winter moods: bleak despair and defiant hope.

        And I couldn't ask for a better note than that to close on!

               _(_      _Y_      _Y_      _Y_      _Y_      _)_
              [___]    [___]    [___]    [___]    [___]    [___]
              /:' \    /:' \    /:' \    /:' \    /:' \    /:' \
             |::   |  |::   |  |::   |  |::   |  |::   |  |::   |
             \::.  /  \::.  /  \::.  /  \::.  /  \::.  /  \::.  /
         jgs  \::./    \::./    \::./    \::./    \::./    \::./
               '='      '='      '='      '='      '='      '='

        Music by:
           Admiral Skuttlebutt of Digitallusions and Melody of Empress Play
           Hero Bob of Poison and Freaq
           Onyx of Mistigris
           Cthulu of Mistigris
        Infofile by:                                               _[_]_
           Cthulu of Mistigris                                      (")
                                                                `--( : )--'
        ASCII art stolen from:                                    (  :  )
           jgs.  I didn't even ask permission, I just took. jgs ""`-...-'"" 
           Look!  There, I'm doing it again!  At least I    
           preserved the signatures and extended proper credit.
           recycled from our first artpack with permission courtesy of Eerie
           (who in 12/94 was affiliated "Relic/Mist/Union/Shiver".  Too much
           talent to be contained in just one group!)
        Greets go out to the old New Media Productions crews from around the
604: EuphoniX, The Immortal Syndicate, Trideja, Radiance, Sonic Equinox, and
Happy Fetus Records, who we were never quite able to get on board, as well as
the other, "lost", Radiance -- Fire's music division -- whose disappeared
music disk on the Mistigris World Tour we should be re-releasing soon as part
of our spree of archival liberation -- and ACiD's music division, pHluid.
                "MiST... more bite for your... er... byte."