Relics(15 Oct 2005)
Being ruthless is the key to clearing out the clutter from your home, I was recently advised. And so I faced down an attic full of boxes today, armed with an attitude that had no room for ruth, and yet, it was a slip of paper that stopped me cold.
Toronto Trek 2005(20 Jul 2005)
Another year, another Toronto Trek convention slips into history. Some assorted thoughts on this year's outing, and how World War II saved the life of Barry Morse.
Links to older articles.
15 Oct 2005
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|The office of The Front Page are collapsing under a mass of
clutter. There is what one could call "ordinary" clutter --
credit card receipts, phone messages, the prospectus from some mutual fund
that was purchased in the last year. Like the bacteria that causes tooth
decay, most people have this. And then there's the sort of clutter that
merits the label "extraordinary": a collection of felt-tipped
pens I swiped from my first full-time job in 1985 (many of which still
work.) A collection of paperback books I read when I was a young
lad, circa 1974. A stuffed dog called "Flowerpower", made
for me, by hand, by my mother in the early 1970s. The first model
dinosaur I ever made (Corythosaurus). And the last. And every one in
It's a museum in the attic, and I'm the exhibition. Unfortunately, I'm also the curator. There's never enough room to display everything in the collection, and so some of it has got to go. Casting my eyes about I spied an old cardboard box which hasn't been opened in years. Surely it can't contain anything worth keeping -- you know the rule: If you haven't opened a box in 5 years, you should just throw it out without looking inside. Any attempt to sort through its contents can only lead to endless maudlin reminiscing and another 5 years of attachment. Break the while of suffering, and pitch the damn thing now. That's what I'd do if I was smart.
Opening the box, I found my stash of BYTE magazine, the Small Systems Journal. If you're not a propeller-head yourself, this name probably doesn't mean much. In the late 70s/early 80s, it was a magazine for the computer hobbyist, the person who built or just customized their own computer. This was from the day when building your own computer didn't mean that you selected a case, a power supply, and a motherboard -- it meant you actually designed and built all of that yourself, out of discrete components and integrated circuits. In a word, that kind of person was me. That's what I did in my teenage years for fun.
Picking at random, I flipped through an issue. Ads. Lots of ads. Most of the products are long gone. All have been superseded by something shinier, something faster. One editorial speculated that the effect of the video (tape) had not yet been fully felt, and that it would only be in later years when we could see how it would change our social habits. Another article shows you how to build a real-time clock for your computer. And then there's the sneak preview of the new IBM Personal Computer. But the thing that caught my eye was slipped between pages 276 and 277 of the April 1983 issue: a pristine receipt from a grocery store, used as a book mark. (There's a picture of it at the start of this this article.)
The astounding thing about this is that it looks as fresh and smooth as if it had been made this morning. And that it has lain in this magazine since I put it there, 22 years ago. There's me, in my teens, probably closing the magazine with some annoyance, marking the page. And then there's me, drawing it out. You don't need a machine to travel through time. You just need lucky accidents like this.
Let's see what the receipt can tell us. It's from a Dominion store at Lambton Mall. That's in Sarnia. The Dominion store is long gone, but in 1983, on April 18th, it was still in operation. Newly renovated, if memory serves. And newly open after 6:00. This I remember. In the fog of that was the 1970s, nothing seemed to be open after 6:00 pm except for movie theatres. And if it was a Sunday, heaven help you . Of course now, everything's open until 9:00, and the Lord's Day is no impediment for commerce.
In all likelihood, the grocery list was for my mother and me. Looks like we were going to have hot dogs for supper. And lots of milk. And orange juice. It's been ages since I've drank either in any quantity, and even longer since I have bought margarine. Twelve items: total cost of $16.64. The price alone is enough to bring me back to the present.
A half-hour has passed, and I'm still looking down at a scrap of paper from the past, asking the usual questions: Where did the intervening years go? What did I accomplish? Why am I unable to part with these relics? Why this feeling in my chest that I have somehow missed something, that I've overslept only to wake up after the party's over and everyone has gone home.
What the hell ever happened to me?
The only answer is in the ticking of the clock over my desk. I can only do so much attic cleaning per day; there is only so much existential angst I can take without collapsing in a heap of inactivity. And so: the grocery receipt goes back in the magazine. The magazine goes back into its box. And the box gets stowed in the place in the attic. For another couple of years, the genie sleeps.
20 Jul 2005
|For the last couple of years, I have been
going to the Toronto Trek convention. "What is that?" I hear you
cry. It's ostensibly a "Star Trek" convention, though it's not
limited to the Trek franchise by any means. Fans of many shows science-fictiional
turn up -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly, Dr. Who, Stargate,
Earth Final Conflict, Harry Potter were all on the radar this go round.
And by "fans", I should really write "Fans"; if you
refer to a show's creator by his first name, or if you know what else
they've written, and can tell you more about the stars on the show than
they themselves can in a 30 second elevator ride, then you're definitely a
"Fan". Everyone else is Couch Potato.
Here are the highlights of a weekend that passed in a blur:
|Barry Morse. You might remember him from such television programs as "The Fugitive", "Space 1999", or "The Starlost" (though it might be better if you didn't). Morse ascended the stage to tumultuous applause, sat down in a wingback chair, and said something like: "I'm not sure what we will talk about, but I'm sure if I start, something will come to mind." And with that, he launched into a 50 minute monologue about attending the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in the 1920's, about meeting with George Bernard Shaw (who was one of the Academy's governors), working in repertory theatre companies in England, the early days of televison at the BBC, and the charming way in which he met his wife Sydney Sturgess. All this without a beat of hestitation, delivered so smoothly, with such grace and skill that you hardly felt the passing of time.|
|René Auberjonois. A couple years ago, he was in the Star Trek spinoff "Deep Space 9", a show so snoozy that I regularly replaced the word "Space" with "Sleep". And so I was delighted to find him friendly, chatty, and a normal sort of fellow who was happy to talk to fans and who had the good manners to thank people for their questions when it came to the Q&A portion of their hour on stage. The very best question came from a boy who asked: "Is there anything you wanted Odo to do that he didn't do?" The answer: Yes. Morph into other people. "I would have liked to morph into Quark, and to cause him all sorts of trouble by going around the station, giving away money, and doing good deeds". He also put in a plug for Medecin Sans Frontiers, the charity to which he donates the money he collects signing autographs. It's nice to see someone living their life well, and letting others in on the secret.|
|Robert Godwin. Not a science fiction figure per-se, Godwin is the publisher of the NASA Mission Reports, and a growing number of volumes from Apogee Books. We talked about the Mission Reports, the state of the NASA archives, the holography demonstration at the Arthur C. Clarke gala in 2001. And being a chronic space book hound, we filled a suitcase with the latest volumes|
Bon Voyage, Jazzmaster (11 Apr 2005)
Nostalgia 1971 (14 Jun 2003)
Where Have I Been? (03 Oct 2002)
The Lists (06 Apr 2002)
Who Can Turn The World On With Her Smile? (06 Apr 2002)
New Books Section (06 Apr 2002)
World Ends In Whimper (06 Apr 2002)
Photograph (06 Apr 2002)
The Pool Is Closed (06 Apr 2002)
Distractions (06 Apr 2002)
Remains Of The Day (06 Apr 2002)
The New Deal (06 Apr 2002)
1999 Toronto Film Festival (06 Apr 2002)
Cold And Loathing At The Front Page (06 Apr 2002)
The Best Thing I've Read Today (06 Apr 2002)
Dominion Day 1999 (06 Apr 2002)
And Finally... (06 Apr 2002)
Forgetting Fraggle Rock (06 Apr 2002)
Dominion Day 2000 (06 Apr 2002)
The List (06 Apr 2002)
The Pool (06 Apr 2002)