fawny.org: Le «blog personnel» de Joe Clark

November 2000 to June 2001 archives

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Toujours de retour

I am still working on documenting the New England trip. So far I have written 5,000 words, and that covers only one day. I would counsel patience.

Also, a few small redesigns are coming now that I have ImageReady and can commit proper typography.


De retour

I’m back.

All the Access Money Can Buy” is my latest eyeglazer over at A List Apart. I am quite hurt by the reader comments. That is, I am very hurt by remarks that I am a lousy Web designer (an assertion not only never in question, but explicitly avowed at joeclark.org) and a Jakob Nielsen manqué.

A very large article recapping my world tour will emerge shortly after I cheer up a bit, restock the pantry shelves, and figure out how to do an astonishing payload of laundry.


The Kapshun Kween™ World Tour

Unaccountably, I am being flown down to cosmopolitan Kingston, Rhode Island for the Ethics & the Sports Media conference on Thursday the 21st, where I will be part of a panel addressing the musical question (show tunes, shurely?!):


Is there a legitimate story in reporting an athlete’s sexual orientation? How does the absence of a homosexual perspective in the press corps affect coverage? What standards are used in covering homosexuality? What is machismo’s effect on these issues?

It is believed I will travel, in extreme comfort, by rail, to New York and/or Boston on the 24th or 25th, the latter to lay waste, Patty Hearst–style, to WGBH.

Approved persons may meet me.


Intimations of rejoining human civilisation

Tea, if not crumpets, was enjoyed on Saturday with James Seamus McNally, the Consolation Champ. The silly man got off the eetcarstray right alongside me and failed to pick me out, despite my having complied with blind-date protocol by wearing exactly what I said I would.

I don’t understand how sweeties manage to survive in the corrosive atmosphere of the province of Toronto, with beggars and Starbucks tempting corruption at every streetcorner. James is surely one of the more vanilla lads you’d find walking down the street carrying DVDs of Requiem for a Dream and Sid & Nancy (“I look like fucking Stevie Nicks!”). But I did just write a pitch to cover the full photojournalistic implications of Boring Postcards; it is not as though I do not recognize that Dull is the new Interesting.

How deterministic. Just this week, in the same neighbourhood, “Dumb” by Nirvana played on autorepeat in my mind. (It happens. Some guys have wet dreams; my subconscious gives me a running soundtrack. Who’s better off?) The brazen gimmick of foreground cello solo acts as stunningly effective counterpoint to the lyric “I think I’m dumb, or maybe just happy.” I seem to recall my Grade 12 English teacher, a New Yorker reader even in the backwaters of New Brunswick, asking us if we’d prefer to be as we are now or “dumb and happy.”

I think plainness has a lot to be said for itself. Ostentatious plainness, of the Wallpaper<asterisk> Modernist sort, does tend to annoy, but conscientious and earnest plainness has some advantages. Unless you can’t afford anything else; if so, welcome to the big city.

(My idea of plain is unadorned walls. Except they have to be in colour. Prison is a white room.)

Today, while enjoying my only indulgence not involving leather bars, a daily double espresso, I noted that the couple ostentatiously reading every alternative newsweekly or newsfortnightly at the adjoining table were more than just inverts. They were certainly the odd couple de l’instant. The wifey role was embodied by a notably average man in his 30s who must have been called fag a few too many times growing up. The lily of his dramatic eyeglasses was gilded, in true homosexualist style, through the choice of off-tortoiseshell-coloured frames, which he later used as a pointer to track down showtimes for Swordfish in the paper.

I presumed he and the man of the house were hot on that star vehicle due to the presence of Hugh “Huge” Jackman, gigantic, strapping, jolly Australian quintessence that he is. I don’t know why wifey bothered, since the man of the house was as jackmanesque as you’re gonna find here in the real world. The facts of the matter unfurled themselves slowly as I noticed first the gigantic homosexualist biceps, but then the unexpected gigantic triceps (the differentiator between serious and casual when it comes to arm development) and what are simply the most astounding forearms ever witnessed, ending in hands like a polar-bear paw. Shoulders, a chest, lats, legs, and an arse to match. My height and a third again my body weight. Firmly packed.

And of course his own dramatic eyeglasses, in a tasteful black, to match his aggressively postmodern and ravishingly impressive segmented black nylon cargo pants. Wealth was indicated by his expensive teal ribbed T-shirt and au courant square-toed shoes. Two of three ideally-desirable extras were on offer: A substantial basket and an Italian accent.

What’s a guy like this doing with a guy like that?

They love each other. You can tell. You’re supposed to tell, if only by the way they sweep their knuckles past each other’s noses on spontaneous respective occasions. And by the man of the household’s walking down the street with his arm clenched in loving tightness across wifey’s milquetoast shoulders.

Certainly I can see what a guy like that is doing with a guy like this. He hit the jackpot.

What’s in it for the man of the house?

I guess the answer is that the Beautiful People often do not in fact demand a mirror image. That may well be what you expect from the fast-living circuit-party crowd (half of whom are former editors of the New Republic), but the lesson to take away is that there are sweeties among us.

I suppose this happenstance served as evidence that this neighbourhood is not so bad. After all, it can support Italian fags in love.

An anecdote from a forbidden period will now be recounted.

The knock against invert couples isn't just their inevitable tendency to increased bourgeoisie (if they were middle-class to begin with) or increased vulgarity (if they were working-class to begin with). The knock is the same-name relationship. Yes, it is imaginable for breeders to find themselves a pair of Pats or Chrises or, heaven help us, Danas or Leslies, but two guys named Butch are just too much.

One of the Butches is yet another of these sweetie types. (They are today’s theme, if you had not noticed.) An open, happy, smiling, and lovable man, and reasonably handsome. So lovable he is actively loved by otherButch, who’s built like the tallest dancer you’ve ever seen: 6′4½″, no bodyfat, bandy visible muscles and a giraffe’s neck with a clean-cut, freshly-barbered hairline.

He recognizes me immediately. You used to be in Queer Nation, right? Hmm; an old-timer. And you went to the Y?

You mean someone noticed I was at the Y for two hours a day for the better part of a decade? He weighs a good two-twenty and I never saw him before?

Yes, I replied, wondering what gave. Here is what gave. It was an Eyes Wide Shut moment: otherButch would have traded in his boyfriend for me right on the spot. It only got better. He’s a lawyer with a recent high-profile case, where he was simply denied standing. He was surprised and impressed that I knew, only strengthening his wish to chuck it all for me.

This truly happened.

But it lasted the length of our conversation, which took place under the very nose of bf Butch and someone mutually known.


I Am Fukt

Book is stalled, summer is here, I’m not getting any younger, and none of my Web sites has been remotely amusing or valuable – since when? ever? I wrote better when I barely had enough money to live and little evident reason to.

Still, after years of inchoate thoughts in the back of the mind, I finally can put form to a thought here: When all else has failed, the single word in the English language that always carries with it a guaranteed hit of joy is disco.


Double half-cap Dalmation latte for here, please

Certain Amerikanski suburbs have now been infiltrated with Apple Stores®. A contributor to the Macintouch You Are There! page suggests an upgrade:

Airport-based Internet access and coffee bars in the Apple stores, I just wanted to second the idea.... [S]ome sort of Airport enabled lounge would be an incredible feature to offer to customers and I hope that it’s incorporated into at least some of the stores. Talk about creating community, I think Mac fans would love to have one place where they could go and feel like they belong.

And the margins on coffee and related pastries, etc. are probably far higher than they are for Macs.

“Schwing,” as they say.



...sucks faces!

...sucks ASP!

Never have the cousins Comic Sans and Comic Chat sacrificed so much for so many. (Pee-wee: “Magic Johnson! What are you doing here?” “Oh, I just came by to visit my cousin, Magic Screen.”)

Wait. We’re not done yet. Let’s invert the format!

I Am Primed and Ready for Gayness


Dream man

OK, point number one. I used to be funny (never here), but I cannot keep up with the Allen kids, Dean and Josh (separated at birth?). And their sites at least look twentieth-century.

Point one point five: I now own Photoshop (legitimately), and GoLivé, so design improvements are inevitable. You can’t imagine how embarrassing it is to be a design queen with an ugly, primitive site. I guess I will just have to be ashamed.

The real point:

“Let me ask an impertinent question,” the frequent visitor’s vaguely-accented voice stated from behind my head. Right away, what dotted and dashed down the telegraph was “Accusation of reclusive, misanthropic reject status comin’ right up.”

And we’re on the money: “What percentage of your social life do my visits account for?” he asked impertinently. I invisibly rolled my eyes. This, I would later see, was a Witness to the League of Blond Hiphop Dancers moment, where every utterance (overdone, in that book’s pages) was analyzed and categorized as a kind of bitchy, throwing-shade call and response.

“A lot,” I said with barely a trace of irritation. “Ten years ago, I had so many friends I had to choose what I’d do every night,” failing to mention the miserable day job and dilapidated house with roommates. And now?

“What you need to do,” he says, and I figure an “is get out more” moment is imminent. But no: It’s an “is join the gym” moment. I immediately envisioned any of several lifelong enemies walking out of the shower as I’m walking in. It happened a lot when they weren’t enemies. It’s really gonna happen now.

I gave the whole spiel of my former daily gym routine, done on bike nine times out of ten, even in the winter, and with the regular minor summertime coup of riding straight up the hill on the west side of Riverdale Park without so much as a dab. Not bad for the old girl. My many battles with the Why – culminating in my single-handedly rewriting the branch’s so-called membership assistance program, whose system-wide manual I would later, by coincidence, edit – I kept to myself. As I did my love for Why’s physical plant and the well-screened staff.

What the in-demand frequent visitor, who has received hi-come-on-over telephone calls for dinner dates in my very presence, manifestly fails to understand is that I never made any friends at the gym after ten years. People I met elsewhere and also saw at the gym, yes. But it was never the source. Every approach was taken: Chatting up, being chatted up, obliviousness, solicitousness, steady routine, varied schedule, specific locker, catch-as-catch-can locker, eyes front, cruise mode, caring, and finally not, with equivalent results across the board.

And of course I am reclusive, writing the damn book. (Wouldn’t it be far worse, far more incriminating, to drag my Windows laptop to a Starfux, pretend to write, and be alone around other people?) Misanthropic, no. A reject, self-evidently. The Black Eagle, I told my Black Eagle acquaintance the other week, is like Iceland: Björk explained on television that if you break yourselves up, you had better be on speaking terms, because you are going to run into each other five times a week for the rest of your lives. In this very big city, I now run in strangely Icelandesque circles. I can’t track down the men I’m looking for (there’s a shortlist) and I keep running into everyone I’m trying to avoid, ticking names off the longlist at a rate approaching one per day.

There’s another list. I rode past man number one, walking his dog, smoking a fag, hating the world and looking implausibly steel-blond, on Saturday, while today I was barely acknowledged by man number two. These boys were lodged at the top of the food chain all year without their so much as giving a damn and they are still putting little dents, as with the ball of a hammer, into my heart-shaped tin. (The exact mental image.) One I can’t talk to on the phone and never run into despite living down the street, while the other is a fink who will be alone even unto his 50s, still deathly afraid of catching the big A, which he avoids by having the worst sex possible with the widest rank and file. For him, a pattern has been established. A phenomenon by no means applicable here, of course.

As far as the frequent visitor is concerned, I am absolutely his dream man, from alpha to omega. If I’m that good, who gives a fuck about the rest of my social life?

Now you can believe me when I say I used to be funny.

ObWeblogLink: The first frozen-in-time autobiographical site I have liked to any extent at all comes from a skinhead Scot living in Kansas. Surely a picoiyeresque combination. I would like to meet him someday.


Stone cold busted

The Story of the One That Got Away©

The neighbourhood is home to a dozen Modernist furniture stores and antique shops, sitting cheek by jowl with fish-’n’-chips restaurants, taverns, a Value Village that’s no good whatsoever, and teeming masses of rumpled, soiled, desiccated and despairing indigents living in beautiful lowrise housing developments.

Then there’s the “second-hand store.” I was looking for a lamp. By God, there it was: Stainless steel, two heads in one base (like the vultures of Bugs Bunny), a plausible fire hazard. Fifteen bucks. Exactly what I had on me. What about tax? Ah, but the Woman’s Intuition, yet again, said “No problem. Go and hand her the fifteen bucks.” Then the Evil Fred Flintstone (distantly related to the vultures) chimed in. “No, no, no. Then you won’t be able to afford a double espresso without a pit stop at a bank machine.” I was allegedly en route to the drugstore anyway, and who’s gonna scoop up this well-hidden lamp in this almost-invisible store, which I had first noticed only today?

On the walk back, with more cash in pocket, I buy the lamp, handing the Vietnamese woman (we had a nice chat about the Chinese-Vietnamese and who really speaks French in Vietnam) a twenty. A five-dollar bill comes back right away. Aha.


On the first visit, on the way out, I had noticed a kitchen table. The old kind, ringed with ridged steel. But the top wasn’t Formica or any of the other kitsch materials conventionally adored by Wallpaper<asterisk>-habitué yuppies. It appeared to be stone. Not marble, but some kind of stone. The two halves mismatched noticeably, but the table’s leaf was right there. The Woman’s Intuition was going apeshit.

Ask how much it is. Ask about it. Ask. Ask. Ask. Fred Flintstone opened his big yap and yelled “Nah! It’s too low for Girl Power. You’re supposed to be getting an Ikea table. It’s not good enough in the first place. The wrong kind of Maritime.”

I walked out the first time having done nothing. Walking out the second time, I notice a big empty space. “Where’s the table?” “Oh. I sold it,” said the woman.

In the space of forty minutes?

Yup. In the space of forty minutes. From the invisible second-hand store.

It is driving me crazy. Missing out on strapping 200-pound butch numbers I can handle. Why is missing a jeezly table killing me? I don’t know how much it cost. It probably was too low, but the Woman’s Intuition visualized a list of ways to remedy the problem. (Too low is better than too high. Ever sat with your feet on a phone book and tried to get any work done?) I couldn’t have gotten it home without superhuman effort even though the place is literally around the corner.

It’s eating me alive. A stone table. Stone cold busted.

Well, fuck me.


I’ve got an Æron, and you don’t

At last weekend’s Parliamentary Press Gallery Dinner,

Adrienne Clarkson, the Governor-General, who is travelling in South America, sent in a video in which she made light of criticism of her wardrobe. Dressed in a pink cleaning lady’s outfit, Ms. Clarkson pretended to call the Prime Minister and suggest that he convert the cricket patch at Rideau Hall into a nine-hole golf course.

In this video, it is revealed that Her Excellency’s majestic office, decorated with valuable artworks and resplendent in burnished wood, comes equipped with an actual Æron chair for Her Excellency’s use.

As if we need another reason to hate her.

At a previous Press Gallery Dinner, she gave a stellar performance as a frazzled, kimono-clad frump – dispelling in one brief skit most of the sniping and media hostility that had accompanied her appointment. There’s hardly been a reference to that famous Double Exposure line, ‘I’m Adrienne Clarkson and you’re not,’ since her original star turn.” I’ve got an Æron and I’m gonna use it.

Watch for yourself on CPAC: May 12, 1300 hours; May 13, 0200 and 2300; May 15, 0300. Does the Pellicle mesh clash with Her pearls?


A Weblog,

If this is a Weblog, where are the links to the rest of the world?

I’ve been saving them up.

  1. “As a tomboy whose Amazonian craze was always for swords and spears, I...”: “A Brief Autobiography of Camille Paglia, as Told through Introductory Appositive Phrases in Her Online Column.” My list?
    1. As a frustrated trialsinist organizer incapable of so much as bunny-hopping a curb, which a fellow I know can do with his wheelchair, I...
    2. As a resident of a “developing” neighbourhood who is already fully grown, I...
    3. As the superannuated and anglophone writer of a fan page for a French-language youth television program, I...
    4. As an admirer of expert skaters whose feet naturally point at ten minutes to two, I...
    5. As a widely-reviled, seldom-read Internet commentator, I...
    6. As a journalist of a decade’s standing who is now the subject of an upcoming magazine profile, I...
    7. As an accused shameless self-promoter/egotist, I...
    8. As an authority on a range of practices never actually engaged in, I...
    9. As Toronto’s most hirsute Caucasoid (non-Armenian), I...
    10. As a veganist leather-bar habitué, I...
    11. As a long-suffering defender of intellectual-property rights, I...
    12. As a lapsed Maritimer, I...
    13. As an argumentative know-it-all, I...
    14. As a readily-charmed sentimentalist, I...
    15. As a man who has relied on the kindness of strangers, I...
    16. As a perennial critic of the hyperleftist turbodykes still unaccountably in control of the Toronto lesbiana demimonde, I...
    17. As someone often accused of, or credited with, being the most left-wing person they know, I...
    18. As an adult of 36 years for whom most everything before age 28 is shrouded in font fog, I...
    19. As a lifetime nonsmoker, teetotaler, and avoider of drugs stronger than double espresso, I...
    20. As a product of the lower orders who defends them (sic) on principle but would rather not commingle, I...
    21. As someone perpetually underdressed, I...
    22. As an on-paper failure amidst an homosexualist body culture who only started seeing some action when he let his gym membership lapse, I...
    23. As a man hated on first sight one-fifth of the time but never quite loved on first sight even that often, I...
    24. As an economic refugee in the province of Toronto, I...
    25. As a scold in writing and a comedian in person, I...
    26. As a man regularly complimented on his “dark” complexion who is sun-sensitive enough to wear hats to protect a balding head, I...
  2. The editor of the old science section at the Economist was the formidable Oliver Morton. I had pitched myself the standard way: Here is a story idea; here are my clips; think about it and I’ll call you. Two weeks later, I received a letter calmly stating he was awaiting my call. Well more than a year of steady work later, after I had almost assimilated the process of language translation that is writing in the Economist argot, it was determined that the man with the Oxbridge name and the RP accent was younger than I was. Tons o’ fun working with him, particularly on the gay-speech article, which will re-emerge shortly.

    Oliver complained one day about rockist British music magazines, which would bore us to tears with 13-page stories on the importance of Steely Dan.

    A mere six years later, what does Curt Cloninger go and write about? Dry your tears, Oliver. Curt has pulled an Étant John Malkovich out of an impossible topic.

  3. The kids at Popped, both locals, seem to have packed it in. It appears there thrives an underground of Web sites dedicated to rock (sic) criticism. RockCritics’ disco-critics symposium reminded me how old, overdetermined, impenetrable and unfun the leading music writers are. Except the chick and the guy who name-drops Montreal and Quebec. Them I can at least understand. I became melancholy for my four-year journey in failure as a music writer, the literary task most readily comparable to swimming upstream through tabasco sauce. It kills you, and why did you sign up for it anyway?

    There. That is exactly how the big-name rock critics write. Seductive, this argot.

  4. Forget the cranes: “The Lost Language of Polari” tracks the British male homosexualist argot over a laughably broad diachronic period, 1750–1996.

    Polari, as the language came to be known, was a collection of words which, when strung together by those most proficient at it, were incomprehensible to those who didn’t understand it. It was mainly used for conversations that were high in gay “content,” so if you wanted to point out to your friend that the man on the tube train next to you seemed to be particularly well-developed in the “menswear” department, you could say “vada the bona cartes on the ommee ajax” and your friend would know what you meant. If the man with the big “cartes” was also gay, he’d know what you were talking about too, and Polari would serve as an “introduction” which could lead to “other things.”

    Polari, then, is merely a very old and obscure form of gay slang, of historical significance because it dates from a time of overt repression, but merely one of a stretch of invert speech codes throughout history. However, the researcher’s termination date of 1996 now makes sense: Gay kids have no reason to speak in code, so the skill of Polari will simply die; as the gay kids become gay grownups, they will come to speak “camp” as an unlived relic dialect. And actually, I’d say my generation was the first to place camp squarely in the realm of history. It is perhaps inevitable but somewhat rueful to lose idiosyncratic registers and dialects merely because a people’s lives improve.

  5. Way back when, I covered a scientific paper for Oliver at the Economist. Straight and gay subjects were able to detect which of several speakers on tape recordings were or were not homosexualist, but the exact cues they used could not be pinned down. A shortlist of cues was identified, but that wasn’t specific enough to explain the uncanny accuracy.

    I just now tried to dig up the article, and found to my absolute terror that it had not transferred from the jalopy to Girl Power. I reconnected various cables and found the fucker. I suppose I should turn this into a freestanding document.

    Sounding gay

    At first blush, schoolyard taunts might not seem a fruitful source of truisms about the human condition, but the epithet “it takes one to know one” does have some basis in reality, at least for gays and lesbians, who are often attuned to the special somethings that subtly and covertly distinguish gay from straight. In gay vernacular, the ability to identify who is gay and who isn’t is termed gay radar, or gaydar. But exactly which signals does gaydar pick up? And what differentiates the signals given off by gays and straights?

    The voice offers a few clues. Though popular stereotype holds that gay men lisp, lisping is quite rare and is often evidence of a diagnosable speech impediment. The most famous lisper alive today, boxer and convicted rapist Mike Tyson, hardly fits into the “gay” category. But the lisping stereotype is not altogether removed from reality: In fact, some North American gay males do pronounce sibilants (s, z, sh, and the like) in a distinctive way – by adding more sibilation, hissing, or stridency, a phenomenon phonologists call assibilation.

    Here, of course, the dangers of stereotypes become apparent. Gay men are not the only group whose members sometimes speak with assibilation. A habit of assibilating “stops” like t and d is a prominent feature of Quebec French, for example, and the source of much derision from national French speakers. A word like térébentine (“turpentine”) in certain Quebec French dialects is pronounced something like tsérébentsine. Many New Yorkers of all persuasions, and some American Jews, also assibilate in ways similar to Quebec French or stereotypical gay speech. Moreover, gay men who speak with what a North American newsreader would consider an “accent” – such as British, Australian, or even Texan gays – rarely assibilate at all. Nailing down just what makes a gay voice gay is as vague and slippery as human sexuality itself.

    That’s not to say the problem hasn’t been studied. In one experiment, Rudolf Gaudio, an openly-gay linguistics student at Stanford University, asked four gay and four straight men to read two passages into a tape recorder. The first text was a dry excerpt from an accounting volume, the second a dramatic passage from Harvey Fierstein’s play about gay life, Torch Song Trilogy. A group of 13 subjects of both sexes listened to selected snippets of those recorded passages and ranked each one according to a “semantic differential” technique, i.e., on a seven-position scale between opposite terms: straight and gay, effeminate and masculine, reserved and emotional, affected and ordinary.

    As Gaudio noted, “listeners’ guesses about speakers’ sexual orientation were largely accurate: with ‘straight’ at the left pole of the continuum and ‘gay’ at the right pole, all the straight speakers rated on the ‘straight’ side, and all the gay speakers were to their right (i.e., sounded ‘more gay’).” That pattern held true for both the accounting and dramatic passages.

    Gaudio’s research was not concerned with gaydar per se; rather, his interest was in correlating pitch measurements with the listeners’ ratings. Oddly, though, in a range of pitch measurements taken from the actual sound waves of the four gay and four straight men’s voices, there was no significant correlation with the listeners’ judgements. The experiment, then, could provide no quantifiable reason why the listeners’ perceptions about gay and straight speakers were correct.

    Gaudio explains this anomaly by noting that his experiment considered only a narrow range of measurements; gay and straight men’s speech might well differ according to criteria Gaudio did not measure. A leading openly-gay linguist, Arnold Zwicky of Ohio State University, echoes that interpretation and adds that gay men’s speech can differ from straight in a number of ways; listeners might pick up on only one or some combination of those factors – and not necessarily the ones Gaudio measured. Still, the likelihood of further research in this area, according to Gaudio and Zwicky, is remote due to the political touchiness of studying gay speech.

    Economist, 1995

  6. Haiku movie reviews: “Punk-tual misfit. ¶ She can solve any problem. ¶ Third time’s the charm.”

  7. Self-incrimination from steel-balled Thatcherite taskmistress<slash>new-economy “pioneer” Isabel Hoffman, who drove her company, Nikolai.com, into the ground. The woman coasted on an early CD-ROM, Nikolai’s Trains, through a dozen tech lifecycles. But wait – what was the name of the company she founded again?

    Dear kids, parents, friends and children of all ages,

    Sadly, I must tell you that Nikolia.com has been forced to close its doors today. Why did Nikolai.com close? Well among the various reasons that have forced us into making this decision, perhaps the most fundamental one of all is that we live in a society which has forgotten how to care about the well fare of its children. The education of our children, their emotional and formative development, have become overshadowed by the vested interests of media giants who are not looking at supporting content that will inspire children into patterns of critical thinking, but only at inundating children with activities that support consumerism and homogeneity. Education, edutainment, exploratory entertainment and activities which provoke a sense of individualism, pride, and self-worth within a diverse social fabric, are all pushed aside to allow for content and activities that offer little in the way of self-exploration and critical thinking.

    From this auspicious beginning, Nikolai’s train charges headlong into a privatized school bus.

  8. In the olden days, when the whistling of locomotives named Nikolai could be heard across the horizon, I made use of over 140 cassettes, many in original shrinkwrap, as a monitor stand. Worked like a charm. (Graft from record labels.) But that’s so twentieth-century. This time, I want Lego.


Da bomb!

Superspecial transcript now available!

Tectonic plates engage in heated frottage in the access business:

So what is the problem? I made another important “intervention” (not in the pop-psychology sense) to the CRTC yesterday. By “teleconference,” the Hull-bureaucrat euphemism for speakerphone.

And that was the problem: My disembodied voice talking into the wind. Speakerphones are half-duplex: Either you listen or you talk, but not both at once. So if you’re on the listening end, the speaker gets no auditory feedback apart from the sidetone of the telephone earpiece. It is the equivalent of a sensory-deprivation chamber. The tiny auditory cues of understanding and verbal coöperation, so well-known in linguistics, are never more apparent than in talking at a speakerphone.

It’s like a comedian facing a tough room. You think to yourself: I’m dying up here. So you try to be more winsome. You don’t allow natural pauses, particuarly between sentences.

I turn from a top into a bottom. It ain’t pretty, let me tell you.

(Oddly, this emulates one of AudioVision’s deficiencies: Narrators record their descriptions without watching the video, completely divorced from the visual and auditory flow of what they’re describing. Every description is a new audition for the part. Every utterance is astonishing and remarkable. Every utterance is short-term memory loss, a life disconnected from previous life.)

Whenever I’m on, for broadcast or whatever (I was a regular on TV and radio for a while), it takes me ten minutes to calm down, after which point I am in total command of the room. (Ted Koppel claimed if you hooked him up to an EKG before and after the camera’s red light came on, you’d see no difference in heartrate. After my warmup period, I return to normal vital signs, and saliva makes a dramatic comeback to my mouth.)

But this took ten minutes and that was it; in fact, as the chairperson was thanking me, the line went dead. So I was all rushed and ended up sounding like Mel fucking Gibson in Conspiracy Theory.

What do I do about this? I still deal with self-recrimination. I tell myself I will sound more sensible in transcript, which will eventually be posted.

(I do sound all right in the transcript, though my eternal role as bête noire of the access business is thereby reinforced.)

I should really upload what happened when I visited AudioVision a few weeks ago. They still do shit work, but I no longer hate them personally. In fact, Bob Trimbee and I had another nice chat today.

The forthcoming profile of me in the Atlantic Monthly by Michael Erard will be entitled “The King of Closed Captions.” I am to take this as a promotion.

I suppose this is all further evidence that my ship is slowly coming in. But jeez, I wish I had been in better form in the teleconference. I have too many people considering me a crank as it is.


Geez Louise, Li’l Kim!

Pimp me, Li’l Kim updated with superpiquant response from some kid named Geez Louise.



Bookblog now up and running.


No longer nameless

The book now has an official working title, however oxymoronic that may sound: Building Accessible Websites. Yes, Websites as one word. I feel unclean.

Domain problem: www.BuildingAccessibleWebsites.com is a hell of a lot of characters to type, even by Finnish standards. Which alternadomain should I go for? BAW.nu? .cx? .cc? .gg?

Apparently, the lucrative contract to do Important Accessibility Work™ with a Major Canadian Broadcaster® is going ahead. Apparently. If it works, it’ll be a worldwide first.


Flaming pilgrimage

Shocking news: One of the toxic industrial dumps in the neighbourhood goes up in flames. (Why couldn’t it be the Toolbox down the street?) I counted the neighbourhood lucky that the adajcent disused smelter didn’t burn: It’s a studio now, but toxic chemicals remain. Everywhere you turn it’s toxic chemicals.

I already live in the district with the densest concentrations of heavy metals and persistent pollutants in the city and an admixture of yuppies, fags, artistes, and the dirt-poor that makes me grind my teeth. But we aren’t safe yet: The burning building, it turns out, was a tannery from 1852 to 2000. Rather a long time to build up a few poisons.

What is the raw material for a tannery, again? Where does it come from?

Government air and water samples were within safety limits. We’ve heard that before. A flaming tannery a century and a half old is South Riverdale’s own Chernobyl.

Firefighters worked for about a day and a half, which is par for the course by my reading. Much worry that a front wall would collapse on power wires, causing blackouts. It didn’t, and they knocked in the wall today. So why has power cut out repeatedly anyway? It gets in the way of procrastination.

Still, having read every single book of real-life firefighter experiences in the library system, respect for this elemental force is in order. I’ve also lived through two fires. Spreading flames are like hypothermia: You vaguely notice something amiss but get more and more comfortable with it. Everyone knows about the instant destructive force of fire; few are aware of its guile.

If yuppies, fags, artistes, and the dirt-poor are part of the neighbourhood, along with a pawn shop, a dozen Modernist furniture boutiques, and the entirety of Ontario’s studio district, then the burnt-out shell has to be part of it, too. The transformation was so spectacular that we need to show it some respect. Fire opted for brute force, not guile. So hey, it got our attention. Give it some credit.

After a while, we’ll just accept the burnt-out shell as our own kind of Harlem in Riverdale. But for now I make daily pilgrimages to the pyre. And I try not to think of burning animals.



I realized today that I have exhibited every classical symptom of denial. The mammalian holocaust in Europe, which will shortly and inevitably spread worldwide in some jetliner, is creeping up on me. Even this realization is a form of denial: Slaughterhouses are far worse, and they were why I went veg. It took only a small nudge a few years later (a single article on human resistance caused by antibiotics in cow’s milk) for me to go veeg. What the hell is this épizootie de fiève aphteuse (the beautiful French cushions the reality) gonna do to me?

Indications that something big is coming down the pike: Unusual pleasure in having the upstairs cats for a visit. Anomalous, undirectedly hostile, seemingly disconnected musings along the lines of “Violence against women is not more important than violence against men, boys, girls, or animals,” with stress on the last, as though I were in some kind of debate. Apparently I am.

Where is the Bookblog, you ask?


Since the acronym WTF? for “What the fuck?” has achieved wide frequency online, joining the usual suspects of online short forms like imho and AFAIK, shouldn’t we extend the brand a little?

Why can’t we also write HTF or HowTF, YTF or WhyTF, WhereTF, WhoTF, or WhenTF? (Too bad so many of them begin with W.) In other words, “TF” can become a suffix all to its own.

HowTF’s that for an idea?


Elsewhere on this neglected site: “X OS X: The first straightedge operating system” and “Apple design faux pas.”

Bookblog coming. With all-stylesheets design. I’ve got something like six chapters done already. On this damned jalopy. Give me some credit.

OS X release:
Shitloads of fuck-all

I spent quite a bit of time today schlepping around Apple dealers, curious to be part of an historic day: The actual release of Mac OS X. (Not the first straightedge operating system, shurely?! – Ed.) I expected crowds. I found deserted stores. I found shitloads of fuck-all.

CPUsed, where I am persona non grata despite their posting two of my articles about the store on their walls
One customer intently reading every character of the daily price list as though it were the Koran and he were on acid; three machines with X loaded, including a Cube with Cinema Display (looks no better than on Flower Power iMac, a significant surprise). Another customer kibbitzing after buying a TiBook, grasped with elaborate casualness by its tidy box’s carrying handle. Three hangers-on. And that’s it.
One female customer being lectured at by the same guy who, when chatted up on the topic of Newtons a month ago, talked to me without eye contact, as if cruising guys at Woody’s: “No. You want ‘I point, I click, it works.’ ” ¶ Woman: “And I get it without the keyboard and mouse,” uttered as half a question. Go buy a clone from a chop shop, honey, and get the fuck out of my sight.
Apple kiosk in Eaton Centre

This perverse inactivity, this enervation, this absence of buzz, this Monday-morning business on the biggest Saturday of the springtime fell on the heels of another visit to North Star this week. I was again entirely ignored. A loud salesman complained loudly in response to a request for a TiBook. We can’t get any, he griped loudly. “I get 200 people a day coming in here asking to see one, but the stupid bastards send us like one every two weeks.”

Memo to Apple: You are officially deemed “stupid bastards” by one of your dealers. Simple acknowledgement of reality, fighting words, or termination offense?

Further: An Apple apologist was seen demonstrating “Eks” on television this week. A pudgy, moustachioed, polo-shirted apologist, glib, barely articulate, lacking in showmanship, visually indiscernible from a Windows tinkerer-geek, a lower form of life. Where is the statuesque, olive-skinned, diffident, vaguely hostile model-calibre dreamboat Willi Powell of yore when you need him? ¶ In demonstrating an operating system whose appeal is visual, don’t send a slob to do a sophistiqué’s job.

Locally, the X release was a complete bust. We expect nothing less, I suppose. Can someone suggest a viable platform for a collaborative Weblog on Apple dealer atrocities? We need one.


Pimp me, Li’l Kim!

...now has its own page.


All your book are belong to us!

Update: The book now has an official working title, however oxymoronic that may sound: Building Accessible Websites. Yes, Websites as one word. I feel unclean.

Finally, some good news. (Aren’t you quite tired of the other kind? I sure am.) I have signed on the dotted line with New Riders Publishing and will write a book on the topic of Web accessibility. Finally. At last.

My approach is entirely new and much more realistic and usable than the other two books on the subject, Universal Web Design by Crystal Waters, now out of print, and Mike Paciello’s new Web Accessibility for People with Disabilities. (My claim of superiority is bluster to some degree. I own Waters’s book but have not looked at it in years; I won’t read Paciello’s book. My volume has to be, and will be, entirely original.)

Expect a rather cheeky book, but one that any Web developer, of any expertise and with any budget, can actually learn from and use.

It was a long courtship. I tell you I’m writing a book on Web technology and the first word that pops to mind is of course O’Reilly. No, thank you, but not for lack of trying. I was stuck with an editor who couldn’t read. Still at the proposal stage, I had to tell her the same thing up to three different times. Further, her superiors displayed “resistance” to the entire topic, which was merely projection of geek disdain for the requirement to type so much as an ALT text. (Had these superiors had the honesty to actually say “I don’t think accessibility is important,” I would have had an easier time dealing with them. Don’t piss in my ear and tell me you fail to see a market for the book.)

I especially loved it when a superior editor later described me as “antagonistic.” Yeah, I am – when dealing with twits. Further, the O’Reilly contract process would have resulted in roughly half the money I’m getting from New Riders, and was ludicrously protracted as it was, with months and months of further delays guaranteed.

David Pogue swears by O’Reilly, and indeed got into bed with them for the valuable, well-executed Missing Manual series. I guess things work better for superstar technical feature writers–cum–jugglers than for unheralded authors like me.

Moreover, O’Reilly has spent too much time coaxing parsable English prose out of programmer–geeks. They have no understanding of how to deal with an actual writer. I don’t need to be handheld, and don’t even think of condescending to me.

The next gentleman caller was Apress, whose contract is an ultimatum in drag. I have no confidence whatsoever in their understanding of books and the fallible, illogical human beings called authors. In dealing with Apress, I kept thinking of the little anecdote in Michael Wolff’s Burn Rate: He schleps out to Long Island to swing a deal with CMP, a trade-magazine publisher. CMP executives consider Manhattan a far-off and frightening netherworld, and here was an emissary from across the event horizon sitting in their office.

Wolff mentions publishing – the publishing of books. “You mean like Howard Stern’s book?” he is asked. It occurs to Wolff that such may be the only book the CMP executives have ever bought.

That’s the degree of sophistication down at Apress. They know programming, and they’ve heard of books, and, indeed, Apress “editors” unaccountably sit at the top of an org chart that, when energized, results in something similar to a book, but who’s to say they can actually read, or have any kind of taste or point of view whatsoever? It’s along the same lines of that disagreeable habit of music-industry publicists, referring to record albums as product.

The hamhanded unsophistication of Apress (starting with its rank misuse of Thesis Mono, which they’re so chuffed at having discovered) rankles far more than even the tawdriest outposts of book publishing, like movie tie-ins or those off-name books on Janet Jackson, Siamese cats, or old Jaguars that you find piled high in dollar stores. Joel on Software, Dave Weiner, and the like, with their own unsophistication, naturally fall for Apress’s hollow charms. With Apress and its acolytes, there is a misconception that the ability to actuate a computer keyboard and produce visible words genuinely equates with publishing.

It may come as a surprise to some, but computer books are literature; they are more than instruction manuals. No shame in producing instruction manuals: I’ve written and edited them myself and have gone so far as to review the White Pages. Usable information is a pressing need, and in any event, J.G. Ballard claims instruction manuals form part of the true (“invisible”) literature of the 20th century, “filled with words but empty of content.” Of course, the 20th century is now history. Computer-book publishing must extend its reach beyond utilitarianism. Instruction manuals must cease to be invisible.

On the other hand, I’ve been treated like an absolute prince by New Riders, in the person of Michael Nolan. The “initiative” of which my book will be a part (Mikey the N forbids me from calling it a series) comprises books by Jeffy the Z, Curtis the C, Stevie the K, and His Royal Highness Richard Saul Wurman, parmi d’autres.

Mikey the N has gotten me pretty much everything I asked for, within the boundaries of corporate publishing, where, rather like Hollywood or the yakuza, certain requests are unthinkable.

“No, you take her!”

In celebration of my marriage to Pearson (New Riders’s distant British parent who looms over the Indianapolis house like a William Gibson remix of Malcolm Muggeridge), I went out to Lily and got shitfaced on sushi. It was a bit of a letdown. What with visible snowflakes in the air, nobody was going out, so the place was nearly empty, and extended periods of idle chitchat with the tencho, Aoki Lu, were a bit of a strain. (Is he the only vegetarian sushi chef in town? Probably. Could be why he treats me so well. The marinated eggplant and the avocado nigiri are particularly decadent.)

At a nearby seat (I always insist on the counter: I need to see the chef in action), one noted a middle-aged movie-executive type dressed in an extra-large version of my beloved mustard-coloured shirt. He was accompanied by a nine-year-old girl, who enjoyed a taste of the beer Aoki-san offered on the house. I immediately thought “alternate-weekend child visitation”: “No way, Bruce. You are taking her this weekend. I’m getting away to Muskoka. Yes, with him. My cottage, you mean. Check the fine print. Oh, give it a rest. Just get her after school Friday. I want a head start on the 401.”

Fun fact from Aoki: Newfoundlanders love mackerel and uni! How Canadian an image that is: Newfoundlanders escaping to the mainland as economic refugees then find themselves the only Torontonians sufficiently untwee as to tolerate the kind of food Japanese schoolkids eat for lunch.

Newfoundlanders eating sushi in Toronto. God bless the Dominion of Canada.


With the likelihood of earning more in the next six months than in the last three years put together, one’s thoughts drift toward replacing the jalopy, A boy cannot write a 350-page book on a wheezing cœlecanth of a 7100 with less than 20 MB of free disc space and a wide selection of browsers that crash up to three times a day.

(And – adding to the fun! – I do not have a single reliable word processor anymore. Even the rock-solid WordPerfect 3.5.4 now crashes when I simply type. So does Clarice. When ClarisWorks won’t even stay up for five minutes, you know you’ve got trouble. I may be stuck writing the fucking book in HTML in BBEdit. That alone will add a week to the purely practical timespan of typing it up.)

I surprised myself by finding the Blue Dalmation shade of the new iMac not unacceptable. This in itself is a shock. iMacs are simply too small of screen for real-world use. Except now the fucking things are miniature supercomputers, complete with rewritable CD. But I am a multiple-monitor fetishist and cannot imagine life with fewer than 1,093,632 pixels. Three monitors wouldn’t be excessive. The Apple Cinema Display, at $4,500 (down from $6,400), is worth the money. But I would run it alongside my existing monitors, bringing me up to a tidy 2,732,032 pixels. (In other words, a Canadian secretary’s salary expressed in yen.)

The problem? Both my screens are AV and require Apple Desktop Bus to function. (Well, the 1710AV does. The AudioVision is dumb enough to work without the connection, but the speakers on that thing are so strong they could rock an automotive dealer showroom, and they only work with ADB.) My three keyboards are ADB, and I cannot stand any of the USB keyboards. (Any of them. However, I have found the only remaining source of collapsing- or buckling-spring keyboards, à la the old IBM PS/2 clackety-clack battleships. There’s a PS/2-to-USB adapter one could use that maps left-side Alt and Ctrl to Command and Option.)

With these constraints, and with his fondness for blue plastic, and despite his disdain for the gigantic Helvetica Black moulded into the case, one immediately thinks “Blue & White G3,” which compassionately, if not hermaphroditically, provides both ADB and USB. They’re hard to find, and usually overpriced. A new stripper G4 runs you $2,500, but I’ve seen Blue & Whites for $1,600. That was their price, in American dollars, when they were introduced in 1997. I don’t think so.

So for some reason the idea of a cutesy iMac in addition to the jalopy was appealing. After weeks of waiting, I finally found a dealer with the new machines on display. But the Blue Dalmation design has green spread diffusely and randomly over some of the blue parts. Green! It looks like a mistake.

I discovered this after traipsing into North Star Computing, in the location of the failed Elm Street, former home to class-based “analysts” who counseled me to buy a 6100 years ago (when they were new, and when 8100s were available) because all I needed was word processing. (They saw me not as a writer but as a secretary.) The place is as much of a dump as in its previous lifetime, and the help are just as ignorant and peevish.

I walk in and a raver kid in a grey piqué sweatshirt and black toque flashes me a smile surrounded by two days of beard growth. I knock the case of the new iMacs a bit. My God, the Flower Power actually looks better, though I had thought it was too girly even for me. The raver kid switches off his smile and ignores me. The manager pulls threads from the fraying carpet and installs a can of air freshener into the vacuum cleaner. Naw, go ahead, said another staffmember. We got no customers. Soon the dump was alive with the sound of Hoover. Nobody here but us working stiffs.

I get this fellow’s attention. He’s about 27, 6’3", black, and struggling with the weight of a chip on his shoulder. I get his attention by standing behind him for almost ten seconds and then giving up.

– Can I ask you a question?

He shrugs. I lead him to the new machines.

– Since the case is still somewhat translucent, does the green look to you like the monitor tube inside?

– I don’t understand. Are you asking a question?

I repeat it verbatim.

– No. I knew it was silkscreened. See?

He points to that machine’s onscreen desktop pattern. Lo and behold, green tint.

– When we first got them, we noticed it right away, and we knew it was like intentional.

– Well, don’t you think it looks like a mistake?

This he agreed with. He also volunteered that the Flower Power designs weren’t vivid enough.

– You see where they silkscreen them inside here. So if they coulda silkscreened these colours they coulda used something brighter. I just think it looks too faded.

I kept thinking of the abomination known as the key lime iBook, one of which was actually seen in that dealership a week ago. (Imagine the cheapest children’s beach ball available at Zellers. Now imagine that same plastic on a $2,500 computer. My God!) I tried to make nice with the guy, dressed as badly as the raver kid and leering down at me with annoyance. I had interrupted his quiet time. I had dared to enter a retail store during normal business hours. But there has to be more than one customer in a store in order for any of them to be taken seriously.

(You know the feeling if you’ve worked a boring job. You spend so much time being bored that it becomes an intrusion when work comes along. Instead of being grateful for having something to do, you feel resentment at the interruption of your cherished tedium.)

– Well, yeah. Remember the ruby iMac? That was intense.

– Mm. And people said the iMacs in colours wouldn’t sell.

– Yeah. So they’re giving us warning here that other patterns are coming down the pike.

I had to repeat that, too.

I walked around a while more and fingered various other equipment. The manager quit his vacuuming and ignored me. The raver kid busied himself with a sales invoice, ignoring me. The black guy disappeared into thin air.

This encounter follows the previous key-lime visit, where a question about former-generation iMacs that weren’t DV models was answered exclusively in terms of DV models. By the second person I had to ask.

Unfortunately, the new iMacs are too expensive (at $1,850 for a base CD-RW model), and for that money I’m buying yet another monitor that is too small and blurry. A maxed-out G4 with DVD Superdrive is $5,200, and a TiBook is even more than that (though the display is operatic); a TiBook will, however, drive a good-sized monitor in extended-desktop mode.

I will have to replace the jalopy to finish the book, but it would be nice to buy a new new computer rather than a new used computer for the first time since 1984.

What do I do?

Colour trend of the Aughties

Is chocolate brown the new key lime?

Take that, Vagina fucking Monologues

To the delight of dozens, the other day The Late Late Show with [the lovely and talented] Craig Kilborn flew Scorpion over from Germany (“on Lufthansa. Coach”) to reprise their star turn of a year before.

Yes, the balding, addled yesterday’s-Menschen of cock rock, expiring prostates throbbing deep inside their leather trousers, treated dampened-pantied spectators to an energizing rendition of...


“Rock You (Like a Hurricane)”!

...as a trio of pitounes straight out of a PTA meeting gyrated as if alluringly. And the haircuts! (Especially the drummer’s!)

All I could think of was: “Danger Zone aime Spécial Volt”!

“My kitty’s purring and scratching my skin. So what is wrong with a night of sin? The bitch is hungry. She needs to tell. So give her inches! and feed her well.”

“Here I am,” indeed.



I either will or will not get a shockingly lucrative contract to do Important Accessibility Work™ with a Major Canadian Broadcaster®.

In other news, an intricate téléroman on Radio-Canada, Omertà: Le dernier des hommes d’honneur, now airs on CBC. Rather predating The Sopranos but with an entirely serious tone, the show focuses on a young man in the Mob. The Mafia is treated as an hereditary inevitability, and our hero, Nicky Balsamo, spends little time bemoaning his fate under “the law of silence.” It is simply his way of life.

The show is without a doubt the most complex access case I’ve ever seen. Dialogue is in Italian, English, and French, itself a radical acknowledgement of linguistic reality in Montreal that the separatists have attempted to deny for 20 years. And there is also dialogue in Spanish, though not while Nicky is in Montreal.

In the original show, anything not in French is subtitled and all the French is captioned. The English dubbed version (a very good rendition) has no captions but retains subtitles for French and Italian segments. Yes, some segments remain in French, particularly if Italian is also spoken in the same conversation (but not always). Further, segments in English in the original remain in English in the dubbed version, meaning the show takes after Italian cinema and uses English dubbing actors to dub English into English. (In effect, the English version elides one channel of dialogue from the original.)

Yet it all works. I remain vaguely amazed.

But these are Italians, and when they’re not drinking espresso and eating well (and modeling lovely olive complexions), they’re dealing with the elder generation. Nicky’s lovely wife, having told him more or less to get lost for having an affair in Italy, comes home to find her mother crying. “I’m so lonely,” she says. “No one comes to visit anymore.”

Very believable. Murders and deals be damned. Grandma needs more company. As an avowed sentimentalist, Omertà won me over even more. Imagine how this would be played on The Sopranos: For laughs. I’m sorry, but loneliness isn’t funny.

Here’s to olive complexions.



With the clock ticking, I underwent an insane expérience métamédiatique. While reading a mention of myself on Scripting News (by Lawrence Lee), I heard my name dropped by Marc Bishop on Volt, for which I run the fan site.

In other words, I was simultaneously name-checked online and on TV.

I exclaimed volubly. But not girlishly.

(Just wait till Dave Winer notices what I wrote about Apress contracts!)


I lost the Bloggies, but who cares? What’s more important, so did Rebecca Blood.



To my immeasurable surprise, I am nominated for two Bloggie Awards, or, more accurately, one point five: Best Article or Essay About Weblogs and half a point for Best Meme (A-list). I did not coin the term, but was first to use it in a Weblog context on Metafilter on 2000.05.01. And the term has of course gained a life of its own, as memes must. The exact rationale for my nomination (actually, it is an anomynation, if not abomination: I am not cited) in this case is perhaps less salutary, but any port in a storm.

Pick hit for the main category of nomination: Rebecca Blood (not Mead). Her treatise may stand the test of time; my “deconstruction,” which makes no sense without reading a parallel text, may not.

And in a notable recapitulation of the Weblog style, “You’ve Got Blog” is itself nominated, even though authoress Rebecca Mead does not maintain a Weblog. Her post and my riposte share equivalent status, mimicking the simulacrum of conversation found when Webloggers talk at each other.

Meanwhile, I am quite simply gobsmacked. You’d think nothing would surprise me. Nothing bad does. Good news is what kills me.

It’s because I am sentimental, not to mention oversensitive. It came up again just this week. I continue to be surprised and impressed by the subtlety, modulation, depth, and complexity of the performance of Jeri Ryan in the role of Seven of Nine, the Vulcan/android manquée on Star Trek: Voyager (and a Camille Paglia favourite). She’s only the third woman I’ve ever found remotely attractive (joining Jamie Lee Curtis and Vanessa Williams). Ryan, moreover, appears able to act credibly in any kind of persona (she undergoes personality changes as a plot gimmick on the show).

And, in another typical Star Trek gimmick, she sings. What she sings is simplistic: “You Are My Sunshine.” It’s so trite, and I’m so sophisticated. I’m so sophisticated I like Cabaret Voltaire.

Jeri Ryan, the magnificent, statuesque, fair-skinned blonde with the best tits in the history of science fiction, killed me dead with what amounts to a nursery rhyme. “You make me happy when skies are grey.” The almost emotionless delivery of “happy” heightened the emotion, rather after the manner of the Pet Shop Boys.

Sweeties. They’re a fascinating species. They make me a better man. I’ve worked with a few and known a few, like Vito back in Montreal, an Italian scientist with the perfect body, hence my immediate nickname for him, Vito Sexualis. In fact, he was shy (genuinely so; the word is overused) and generous, and is quite probably dead right now, because that is how things work out.

“That Vito,” my friend Costa would say, shaking his fist at the wonderment. “He is so nice,” filling the words with novellas of meaning: Too nice to live. So nice its source cannot be understood. Not by creatures like us.

Vito would invite us out. He would invite me out. You know how few boys do this?

Another Italian with the perfect body (this one olive-skinned and hairier), named Guirino, also treated me like a king, even while standing right next to me in the shower at the Y. (You want a matter/antimatter combination? You want to be a sitting duck for ridicule? Try washing off your perspiration alongside a Roman statue, who carries on a conversation as if nothing were unusual.) Guirino was mistreated by his crowd, which, ironically, was the Toronto queer A-list, as it was populated late in the previous century. All of them remain alive.

When I find myself around sweeties, my savage breast is soothed. And it doesn’t take much.

Sentimentality. It will be my undoing. From this same wellspring comes the fact that, to reconfigure the old chestnut, kindness kills me. I am taken aback that there even exist enough people in the world willing to nominate me for an award.

I’m really touched. This is the nicest thing to happen to me in three years. The integer part of the 1.5 nominations, at least.

Oh, and here is what the much-vaunted “programmer’s publisher” – praised to the skies on the geekiest Weblogs for its stock options and its excellent treatment of authors, the publisher that breaks the mould of mainstream houses – had to say in response to my first round of remarks on its contract:

Joe, I think you would be best off with a more traditional publisher. While I am willing to make changes in our contract to clarify our meaning, we don’t “negotiate” contracts like a more traditional publisher.

A contract without negotiation is an ultimatum. I react rather less well to demands made at legal gunpoint than, say, characters in Pulp Fiction. I also have a habit of enduring any necessary degree of hardship to protest unfair contracts, a principle not a single person I know supports.

Is everyone really sure this is the publisher to beat?

The old farts are looking better by the second.


Dear Joe

I know this fellow. Heterosexualist, but one does not hold that against him (or for him, or in any other way: I treat all varieties exactly the same). I knew he was finding me a bit much (quelle surprise), and left him alone over the so-called holidays. I got a surprise snatchmail from him last weekend, and rang him twice this week to catch up.

An unexpected female voice answered both times, on the second occasion acting like a Hollywood press agent defending a starlet against a tabloid stringer.

What falls with a wet, messy plop into my snatchbox today?

My girlfriend has informed me that you have called a couple of time this week to chat. I must apologize that I have not returned those calls but my life has become very busy of late. The truth is that I also have come to believe that you have different expectations about the nature of our relationship than myself, and as such I would ask that you do not call again. My life is very full and I do not feel that I have room for another close friend. In fact, I do feel a little uncomfortable with the way our communications have progressed so I am looking to end them here. I have found you interesting to talk to at times but feel that I cannot be the kind of friend you are looking for. It has been a pleasure making your acquaintance and I hope you find happiness in 2001.

What kind of friend was I looking for, I wonder? I’d never actually given it much thought. He, apparently, had.

In other news, while I managed not to be scandalized by the impropriety of casting beautiful lesbiana Anne Heche as a Touretter on a leading American seriocomedy, latent Tourette’s seems to be emerging with me this week, since nearly every single stimulus and stray thought elicits this response, never actually spoken out loud: “Fuck you.”


In a previous lifetime, I wrote about social issues in sports. Yet I never found spectating worth my while. I chalked it up to unfamiliarity based on growing up with no interest in any silly reindeer games, plus a televisual attention span that militated against following a prolonged sporting match.

Over the years, though, I developed expertise and a certain taste, and I can now knowledgeably watch, understand, and enjoy the following:

  1. Men’s floor exercise in gymnastics.
  2. Bicycle trials: I used to run the only club in Canada, again in a previous lifetime. (All links to that period are removed, but very dedicated Web searches will elicit cached files. I have, however, retained an experiment in hyperlinks, with over 240 of them.) It was a happy ship for the first while. I got us on TV a couple of times, and would have splashed us across newspaper pages and prestige television and radio shows had everything not crumbled.
  3. Any kind of wheelchair racing. Indeed, I complained to the CBC about their use of track commentators, who not only knew nothing about the sport but were manifestly uncomfortable calling the events, which combine running and cycling and involve imperfect bodies piloting $7,000 wheelchairs. Absolutely the most fascinating event of all? 4 x 400 m relay, because, unlike runners, each leg starts from a standstill and there’s no baton. (You tag the next wheelie on the shoulder.) It’s at the point where I can guess at the disability class within three strokes of the pushrim. (Did you know paraplegics and quadriplegics push their chairs differently? And that nondisabled actors invariably flub this detail in films, save for Eric Stoltz in The Waterdance?)
  4. Bobsleigh. There’s much to like about quartets of 200-pound Europeans wearing the vulnerable combination of nylon longjohns and Adidas cleats with dozens of needle-sharp spikes. (Ripping your own calves to hamburger happens from time to time.) The American high-tech sleds and thickly-padded body-armour skinsuits are gaudy and brutish. The wymmynz bobsleigh also fascinates, but for sociological reasons. Everyone but the driver really is ballast between peak and valley, but drivers actually do drive, fending off G-forces all the way. Bobsleigh is significantly hazardous, crushingly expensive, and in large measure left up to the laws of physics. It is also pointless: You might think sluicing down an ice cube barely qualifies as a sport. It is this very impracticality that attracts me. Why do we slide down a mountain? Because it’s there.
  5. Wrestling. Not for the expected reasons, which I covered elsewhere. Inverts get all moist over the so-called “power dynamics” of wrestling. Oh, I suppose. Wrestlers have to be seen to be believed. But, for reasons I don’t understand, I have preconscious comprehension of roughly half the rules and procedures of wrestling. I watch it and know exactly what happened half the time, and I call fouls correctly half the time. Big deal, you say? But I don’t actually think about it. It resides at the level of pure thought. It doesn’t even get turned into words. It borders on the instinctual. How did that happen?
  6. Lacrosse. We actually have a semipro league in Ontario and a few northern States. (The Toronto Rock alone has three redheads. Still don’t believe in the Redhead Cluster Phenomenon?) The Web presence is so skimpy I won’t even bother with links. I’ve never seen an actual ugly lacrosse player in the league, though there may be one or two, possibly the natives. A natural selection process at work here, perhaps. Legs appear tiny and horselike inside garish nylon shorts (worn in midwinter), competing against the heavy visual imbalance of shoulder pads, jersey, and full-head protection. The tiny, horselike legs run like fuck for an hour and a half, giving the illusion of extra speed by virtue of the thinness of the limbs, like daddy-longlegs spiders. Catching the ball is like snatching a fly out of the air. The combination, then, is one of unremitting speed and snappy pinpoint precision. The lads beat the shit out of each other with their sticks. But it’s nearly all legal, and no one really gets hurt, unlike the sexual politics of hockey.

I believe I would be a good ref. I am calm in other people’s emergencies, and resolutely fair, as long as it does not involve me. The problem: Refs are hated. Been there already, thank you.

Whom do I go for as publisher of the accessibility book?

  1. A leading name in computer publishing, with rigourous standards and an unparalleled reputation among geeks. Degree of ill-advisedness in publisher’s typographic choices: 3 of 5. Currently in editorial limbo; meeting with nontrivial “resistance.” Have had to say the same thing up to three times before it is registered, let alone understood.
  2. An imprint of one of the conglomerates, branching out into a new line of Web books by authors who are actually somewhat famous online and/or who actually, genuinely master the topic, showing voice and good taste. The editor is the sentimental favourite aforementioned. Currently out for tech review, which is rather sticky because the editor for the series hates my guts. (And I’m not even a ref yet.)
  3. A programmer-run upstart, with backing by a European scientific-publishing juggernaut, where one imagines Alec Baldwin worked in Prelude to a Kiss. Degree of ill-advisedness in publisher’s typographic choices: 4 of 5, despite using a face I deploy daily (seen on this very page) and whose designer I am Close Personal Friends™ with. (Contract already in hand.)



Things are shitty. Thanks for asking.


What happened to the blog?

If you, my faithful readership, are wondering just WTF happened to the one! the only! Fawny: Le «blog personnel» de Joe Clark, the politic answer is “The worth of personal Weblogging is presently in dispute.”

I quite clearly explained, in “Deconstructing ‘You’ve Got Blog,’ ” that I would confer full support on our dear Weblogging friends in the A-list if even a little bit of condensation from the New Economy “boom” would trickle down my way. I guess my sentences are too complicated for some readers, who failed to understand this very plain declaration, which required more humility than I can usually muster.

Only a rank idiot and cynic would conclude that I somehow want to be part of the A-list. What malarkey. All I want is to make a living. If that happens, you kids over at Melrose Place can do whatever you want and I won’t care either way. As it is, you engender class hatred.

I was subject to a good deal of unfair criticism, which I am getting accustomed to, because, like stink offa Pepé Le Pew or a dustcloud around Pig Pen, my vast, thoroughgoing personal unpopularity precedes me. If I said two plus two equals four, I’d get arseholes over on Metafilter cursing me for promoting my own mathematical skills. The only thing that will satisfy the chattering class is for people like me to stop mumbling in the background.

I am now thinking that, if I cannot write something in the form of a free-standing file, I should not bother posting it to fawny.org. (That is already the practice at joeclark.org; contenu.nu exists merely as a superstructure for the NUblog.) I have quite a few humourous little autobiographical anecdotes I could be producing. (My fave is “I Rock the Mike,” a history of the litany of Michaels who have led me astray – but I guess, like a movie trailer, I’ve pretty much blown my wad on that one right there.)

But a longstanding malaise is at work. What’s keeping me from pursuing a range of possible empires also holds me back here: Stability.

The year 2000 was a disaster. Its sole saving grace was being moderately less of a disaster than 1999. I have only the flimsiest hopes that 2001 will be better.

A force, similar to the Woman’s Intuition but stronger and felt more rarely, prompted me to re-watch The Silence of the Lambs, the renowned homophobic misogynist cannibalism thriller. Let’s play Spot the Quote: “Good nutrition has given you some length of bone, but you’re not more than one generation from poor white trash, are you, Agent Starling?”

Let’s play again: “You can never go home again, but the truth is you can never leave home, so it’s all right.”

How do I defeat the bogeyman that, like someone else’s multiple sclerosis, flares up from time to time and reminds me that, despite my skills, accomplishments, and dreams, I am nothing more than poor white trash from New Brunswick? This bogey has his finger on the remote control. He has zapped me back to the future one more time.

The question “Does the New Economy need a benevolent society?” is rhetorical. It does. We do. I do.

Kudos to the gainfully-employed New Economy jetset and your recherché, clever, mutual-admiration-society Weblogs. Congratulations also on your regular salaries, your retro Mission apartments, your vast social networks, your brunch dates and sparkling electronic trinkets. You don’t want people like me bringing down your property values.

Still, morality comes into play here. You have a choice: You can root for things to improve for me (and for all of us who are barely making a go of it), but to do so would bring me and my lot perilously close to your rarefied social circle, which, like pulling up to a red light in a bad neighbourhood with your doors unlocked, might set you rather on edge.

Or, through disinterest and the kind of active scorn that a quickie Google search will readily turn up, you can lobby for my continued decay, which, according to popular opinion, is what people like me deserve anyway. You’re all at least as successful as you deserve, but I am not even half as unsuccessful as I deserve.

What’ll it be, Webloggers?


The worth of personal Weblogging is increasingly in dispute. It serves only as a simulacrum of a conversation. As explained elsewhere, in which I pretty much give up the game anyway, we use Weblogs to talk at each other.

  1. King and Victoria. Traffic cop on motorcycle, very corpulent, holds us up. Two cars round the corner, then a truck hauling a trailer containing half a “New York” taxicab bearing two starlets in fake fur, a diffuser screen, lights, and two crewmembers. Four more vehicles and another bike.

    – You’re stopping us for a movie shoot? I bellow.

    – Hollywood, mutters the handsome cyclist to my right, vaguely reminiscent.

  2. IntrinsicallyBoringMan advises a pal of his on the phone to go home “and listen to the dulcet sounds of Everything You Can’t Leave Behind.” A night out for him involves rounding up his buddies for a few decalitres at the Irish-pub-from-a-kit, located near the intersection of two highways in the 905. Or bringing the gf unit out to a leading Hollywood movie. Or staying out late seeing the band represented by one of his clients.

    He was pleased to catch the 5:19 after a grueling day of ensuring the entertainment industry suffers no losses. (What’s that about a “misplaced” envelope of money on a fiddler’s tour, and a comedy quartet’s documentary with legal problems over a skit with a robot dog?) Echt-heterosexualist in his telephone mannerisms: “Talk to ye.” “He-e-ey!” (rather like the Fonz, or any Finn saying hello, if jolted with 5,000 volts). Much is made up for by addressing one of his friends – “Hey, you” – in a way that actually shows feeling.

    He is what’s wrong with the mainstream. It is too easily mistaken for actual culture, and liking it for actual personality.

  3. “I’m sure you’ll find something else,” says the woman across the broadloom carpet, who earlier had expertly ignored a knock on her VFP, addressing her by name, and asking a question. “Eventually.”

  4. It’s supposed to be one of those ain’t-life-unexpectedly-grand? moments that fleetingly assuage the suffering. On the truck to my left are the letters ons, though they look like part of a French word like sous upside-down and sideways. Presumably the other half of the massive fiberglas sign reads eat. The type is white, the background... aubergine. I’m sposta be able to tell my grandchildren I saw then drive the Eaton’s sign to the flagship store before the big re-opening. But if I did that, I would be IntrinsicallyBoringMan.

  5. The sexy owner of a coffee franchise is upset with me for decrying his “crimes against Novarese” in the printed grand-opening invitation he offered me. (Electronically condensed and expanded, and a miserable attempt at grey using halftones.) And, he asks heatedly, would fixing all the copy errors and errors of typography (as distinct from “typographic errors”) in his catering menu actually earn him more money and enable him to crush the world under his boot? In all good conscience, I could not offer such assurance. I’m not in the assurance business. That’s someone else. And, no matter how wealthy and personable and fit and shaven-headed he might be, I am not in a rush to aid and abet anyone with a jackboot fetish.


Love at the Box

Love can be found at only one Toronto fagbar: the Toolbox.

Not lovin’, love. The place is located at an isolated, post-industrial streetcorner miles and miles from the ghetto. You have to want to go there. And on the unofficial queer Holiday, Hallowe’en, you have to really want to go there, or at least want to avoid the crush of the conventional fags downtown.

I walk in and think the place is empty. Then I notice the sombre decorations – panels that were always dark and translucent now black and opaque, licorice-coloured balloons, streamers and cobwebs. Makes the place feel cozy.

At the pool table, a 6'3" dyke with an two-foot foam headdress, allegedly resembling the CN Tower in totum, shoots the worst game of pool ever seen. Some Chinese nerd guy (I stopped myself from asking “What’s the most hit points you’ve ever rolled?” and “What colour is Lara Croft’s hair?”) sat alongside some typical queen with the gayest voice since Paul Lynde, noshing on chips. Free food. We like.

The typical fag wondered if I had “a butt.” “So I’ve been told,” I replied. Walking around, I noted a substantial crowd – rivaling post–Naked Night Thursdays. Then I saw the bleachers. The Toolbox, a brick building, is covered with ivy, adding to its camouflage. Trimmings from the ivy hung from the ceiling over the bleachers, which in turn were strewn with autumn leaves.

Bringing Hallowe’en back to nature.

Ah, but it was a costume contest, with substantial cash prizes that could not possibly be made up by bar receipts. Lad in UPS uniform – apparently his own; was the chocolatey delivery truck parked outside? – came in fourth of four. “Second runner-up” was a lounge lizard with an actual rug on his chest (quite convincing, but too downtown a feel for the Box). The dyke was robbed, claiming runner-up. Some habitué dressed as Melba toast took home the gold.

Free chicken wings. (How disgusting. Quite literally.) Drinks for a buck. Glenn looking strangely natural in his red makeup and horns. (No one has sharper, more intense eyes, particularly in profile. This man is capable of changing the world, or crushing it under his boot. Why isn’t he?)

The owners were of good cheer. Chuck the very severe bartender, whose costume covered his face completely (more so than a chador) and evoked Ewoks and an unkilled Kenny, smiled, laughed, and actually spoke to me, when not gesturing obscenely in his hood. All in good fun. From Chuck, whose back reads YARDBOY.

The feel was like an idealized country tavern (the kind with no local competition, the only place to go, a one-horse town), but at the country tavern that particular night, no one minded. It was almost Christmassy and heartwarming. The owners seem to love us. And all this, one finds out today, in the shadow of harassing police charges for alleged liquor violations, part of the ongoing anti-gay repression overseen by Julian Fantino.

It’s not just the local bar. It’s the best one. And I should know, having been around.

So why was that Italian lad trying to get himself tied up and spanked that night? He had to go and ruin it.


“So, when you’re near me,
darling, can’t you hear me?”

Down on rue Commissioners, at one of the few traffic lights in that exurban American-style dystopian landscape, big rigs were on either side. Rumble of diesel. Warble of stereo system through lowered windows. What was that? Could it be?

Coming from a big rig? On Commissioners Street?

The light changed and the truck on the left made the corner, trailing sacred, immortal music: Yes, the driver of a huge city recycling dumptruck was blasting “S.O.S.” by Abba.


Gay Sports Media Roundup updated. Archives cleaned up. Printable versions now available.

Glib twits have steady jobs

I run into this sort of thing a couple of times a year. Some respected journalist will write an entire series about deafness for the Toronto Star and flub every detail about television captioning despite having a deaf daughter and presumably watching it for years. An idjut posts nonsense about copyright to a mailing list.

In these cases, you could spend your life correcting the errors. Janelle Brown carries on this hallowed tradition in reviewing Mac OS X (“muh *koh* six”). What’s wrong, exactly?

  1. “The first thing you'll notice with the new desktop is a marvelous little thing called the ‘dock,’ a small, semitranslucent tool bar that perches at the bottom of the desktop and never disappears (unless you want it to). In the dock are icons for all your favorite applications, open documents, basic system preferences and search functions. It is difficult to exaggerate how useful this little navigational bar is.” Yeah, because it’s a disaster, as ArsTechnica proved. The icons are unlabelled and indistinguishable. Element position changes every time you add a new element (unlike the Control Strip, or at least in a different and quite inappropriate way). It’s too big. It’s unrelocatable, unlike the Control Strip, which you can place anywhere you want (it’s at the bottom left of my second monitor: try that with the dock).; “All the icons are now detailed three-dimensional pictures,” meaning they are no longer icons. They’re photographs. “The search icon is a detective hat with magnifying glass; the E-mail icon is a postmarked stamp; the trash can is a steel mesh designer version.... (And in case you’re confused by those icons in the dock, a simple mouseover tells you what programs they represent.)” If they need tooltips, they fail as icons. As I we wrote over on the NUblog:

    Anyway, isn’t this issue re-emerging in the complaints about the photorealistic icons in Mac OS X? They aren’t icons anymore; they’re pictures. Apple human-interface guidelines for OS X (available in PDF) go through a convoluted song and dance to describe the new functions of the sexy icons (applications, utilities, and documents all look different now, and not at all in obvious ways), but they don’t look like icons.
  2. “The default font is a graceful Helvetica with a soft blur reminiscent of the printed page.” For gosh sakes.
    1. The “soft blur” is the oft-annoying phenomenon of antialiasing.
    2. OS X uses a new font called Lucida Grande (otherwise called simply System Font). Of course, to the typographically illiterate, any font that doesn’t obviously look like Times New Roman is Helvetica. (Brown does mention her significant conversion to Windows, and Windoids know nothing whatsoever about typography.) ¶ “A graceful Helvetica.” The face is many things, but graceful it isn’t; if you want graceful, order up old Bookman swash from Photo-Lettering Inc. (Think “opening credits of Hill Street Blues.”) Does she mean “a graceful version of Helvetica”? Then how exactly is it still Helvetica? Perhaps she’d like to order up a blond Denzel Washington or a Manx cat with a beautiful fluffy tail.

Some fact-checking, and reading of the better-informed online critics, and basic reference to freely-available official documentation, might have been in order. In the New Journalism, expediency apparently rules. It’s easy for the established, esteemed technology journo to churn out a factually inaccurate review than to get things right.

Very preachy of me. But in my own technical journalism, I got things wrong. In one case, an entire article about the Multicast Backbone was incorrect virtually from start to finish even after I spent hours interviewing experts. I ate it and tried to get a corrected version to run (no dice, unfortunately). But I never wrote as carelessly as Brown did.

Given her ready recourse to overzealous scenery-chewing, should Janelle Brown ever manage to get fired from Salon in the next round of layoffs (everyone’s fantasy, shurely?!), she would fare well writing descriptions for the hams at AudioVision Canada.

“Macs in Russia” makes things sound even better for Macintosh users than things actually are, based on what I’ve heard. One of the many estimable legacies Apple has blown altogether is localization. Even British English has been hacked and mangled, let alone Russian. We cringe at the prospect of a single variant each of English, French, Spanish, and German in the Mac OS.

Interestingly, the WordPerfect for Macintosh mailing list (from a technical standpoint, the list is a miserable failure, but it’s all we’ve got) is run out of Siberia.


Weekend update

A benevolent society?” updated and renamed. Now includes FAQ and printable version.

Also considerable updates to the NUblog, three days in the making.

At the Eagle:

  1. After a pleasant conversation with a very sharp so-called farmer from Guelph in a RyeHigh æronautical-engineering jacket, who played me almost as well as Roy of yore, this John, his deaf friend, and John II decide to head to some other bar to disco-dance.

    – Would it be presumptuous to arrange some other rendez-vous in the future?

    – Yes.

    With the insecure sysadmin queen for whom my personality outweighs my... other abilities:

    – The window of opportunity for me to do anything more with you is closing, you know.

    – OK.

Not even the impromptu spinning of “Army of Me” and the presence of a gallivanting shirtless Mark Leduc made up for those. And I produced a disabling blister the size of a vitamin E capsule on my left little toe.

Further evidence of the idealistic, sentimental core of curmudgeons:

En route back from the library, I regularly pass by a cat who likes to sleep on top of cars. In one famous case, on the broken-up convertible top of a windowless Miata. A very female, white-with-calico-markings long-haired cat, luxuriant, who gets up to say hello taking big quivery stretches with her eyes still blissfully closed. I keep thinking to myself, What kind of a life am I leading without a cat like this? as I give her a nice scratch behind the ears. It tends to cheer me up. In fact, I turn into a Disney motion picture, with the involuntary grin and the warm feelings. The universe grinds to a halt as I pat the cat. It would be embarrassing if I were, say, cynical or jaded. I am not. I am merely curmudgeonly.

The pattern is unsurprising. The documentary Ayn Rand: A Sense of Life describes how the noted “emotionalist” (Sky Gilbert’s phrase) left an apartment rather than give up her beloved cat.