2 Sep
          After a week of meetings, I sat at the table with a dozen or so pages of doodles and scribbles in front of me. One of my co-workers commented that they looked like Sanskrit, or hieroglyphics, and jokingly asked what I was writing. 
          "All work and no play make Steve a dull boy," I answered. 
Oddly enough, no one bothered me for the rest of the day.

3 Sep
          Pen abandoned me left yesterday for L.A. to visit her friend for eight days, so I guess I'm a celibate bachelor again. She made sure to leave the house stocked with groceries, which is nice, but it somehow makes me feel like a spoiled housecat who couldn't survive in the wild. Trust me, I'm perfectly capable of hunting my own food--or at least ordering it.
          And, if you haven't seen Shaolin Soccer or Kung Fu Hustle, starring, written and directed by Stephen Chow, I highly recommend you do. It's some of the funniest, most creative, kick-assed stuff I've ever seen. Roger Ebert describes Kung Fu Hustle thus: "Imagine a film in which Jackie Chan and Buster Keaton meet Quentin Tarantino and Bugs Bunny."
          I couldn't have said it better. (Which is why I quoted Roger Ebert--sheesh!)

5 Sep
          The entertainment moguls are bemoaning a drop in box office receipts this year, wondering what went wrong. Many are blaming it on alternate forms of entertainment like video games. Some say it's because ticket prices are too high, or that you can wait a few months,rent the movie on DVD, and watch it in the privacy and comfort of your home, at your leisure. What with the new crop of big screen, high definition surround sound TVs, many home theatre systems rival the movie going experience down at the Mega Plex. And you don't have to listen to annoying cell phones, or teenagers, or old people, or take out a second mortgage to pay for that keg 'o coke and the Rubbermaid garbage can full of popcorn (free refills).
          But in my opinion, the real reason attendance is down is because there really hasn't been that much worth seeing. I'm a big fan of going to the movies. I love the whole movie going experience, and I'm not exactly the most discriminating viewer. (I liked Riddick, Van Helsing, and A Sound of Thunder.) I'll go to the movies a few times a week if there's something I want to see--and the bank approves my credit application. I'd say I'm exactly the kind of viewer the industry thrives on. But this summer there were weeks where we didn't go to the theatre once, because there was nothing we wanted to see. 
          I wanted to go to the movies. I had the money in my hand and everything, but there was nothing worth watching. If they couldn't drag a movie junkie like me into the theatre, what chance did they hope to have with the likes of you? 
          So there it is; no big secret. You want attendance to go up--make better movies. 
   (If I were a Hollywood type someone would have paid me several million for that bit of research.)

6 Sep
          I was bitten by a spider yesterday. I don't think it was a radioactive spider either, because when I jumped off the roof to test my newfound powers, the two-story drop hurt like the dickens. Not only that, but when Bernie at work hit me in the back of the head with a spit ball, my spidey senses never tingled once. 
          That's the last time I fall for any of that super hero mythology. As soon as I get home I'm calling Homeland Security to report that baby that crashed his spaceship into my backyard. 
          And I'm keeping the red cape, too.

7 Sep
          Oh yeah, I forgot to mention the military finally issued us our Cad Pat clothing. (Digital patterned camouflage combats--our new dress of the day for the Air Force.) I can't believe I didn't mention it as I've whinedcomplained mentioned it several times over the years. 
          When we went for our fittings back in June, they said we should see them sometime around October-ish, and yet here it was only Aug 31 (a paltry 5 years from when the program went into effect) and voila! (Yes, the Francophones--Canada speak for French people--got theirs too.) 
          Of course we still don't have the blue T-shirts (which you can purchase at our own expense if simply can't wait for the issue--and I couldn't) or the new footwear, but hey, it's a start.
          And my boss thought he had trouble finding me before.

8 Sep
          My current job is as a member of a team that is totally redesigning the Avionics Technician Course for the Air Force. Right now we're in the media analysis phase, which means we're trying to decide which training aids would be most appropriate. Of course, training aids cost money--especially if that training aid is a simulator that has to be built from the ground up, or an actual aircraft itself. As you can imagine, the upper echelon is very interested in what we're doing, and are constantly dragging us off to meetings to "discuss our progress." Our last meeting went something like this:

Me: Sir, these meetings are pointless.
Maj: Why do you say that?
Me: Because lately all that happens is that we tell you what we want, and you tell us why we can't have it.
Maj: Well, what is it that you want now?
Me: We don't know.
Maj: Why not?
Me: Because we don't know what we're going to get.
Maj: Huh?
Me: We won't know what we want until you tell us what we have.
Maj: But I can't tell you what you have unless you tell me what you want?
Me: Exactly. As soon as we know what we have, we'll tell you what we want. And then you can tell us why we can't have it.
Maj: (Rubbing his temples) The scary thing is, I think I understood that.

If I keep this up, they'll stop inviting me to the meetings--so it's not all bad.

          Oh, yeah: I've been meaning to mention this for a while, but I'm an idiot, so I haven't, but--I saw a copy of Charlie's A Democracy of Trolls in Chapters! For you Americans, Chapters is our big chain bookstore, which in my feeble mind equates to success. (I know when the Devil finally gets around to honoring our pact and I get a major publishing deal, I hope to see my book in Chapters.)
          There was only one copy, which is good, but it wasn't very prominently displayed. (Notice the use of the past tense wasn't.)
          Way to go, Charlie!

9 Sep
          So I was halfway through my nightly torture session run when I saw this old guy running towards me, (consider the source--that's how old he was) and I couldn't help but wonder if running hurt him as much as it hurt me. Highly doubtful, I decided, since he was one of those long, lean stick-figure types who would have felt right at home with Simon in the Land of Chalk Drawings. I've heard that muscular types like me have a harder time of it (mostly from other whiny muscular types.) 
          Oh, and try this next time you're out running, and you pass one of those joggers wearing a headset: Smile and say, "Hey, Nancy Boy." They can't hear you anyway, and the smile fakes them out so they usually just smile back and say "hi" or "how's it go'in?" Of course, I recommend you don't try this on one of those cranky, muscular types--just in case.
          BTW, today is my brother's birthday, so:


          He's a cop, so you can blame everything on him if you like.

12 Sep
          Today I feel old, fat and ugly. My wife assures me that I am in fact none of those, but then she sees me through love-goggles, which have been know to distort reality with ten times the power of beer-goggles. I wouldn't put it past her to lie, either.
          Of course even if I'm not old, fat, or ugly, that's how I feel--and that's all that matters. Did I mention failure? 
          What do you mean you're not supposed to suffer from mid-life crisis just because other people are having birthdays?

15 Sep
          In the little Personality Cocktail yesterday, one of my "ingredients" was 3 Parts Joy to which barbarienne commented that I haven't seemed very joyous lately. She's probably right, but here's the thing. I would say that left to my own devices, I'm a naturally happy person--quite silly, actually. It's only when the world conspires to piss me off (and it does so quite often) that I get snarky. But no matter how crappy a hand I've been dealt, leave me alone for a bit (e.g. Don't drop a safe/piano on my head etc.) and I return to a naturally happy state. 
          I know other people whose natural state is downright cranky. They start out unpleasant and rarely experience joy unless they're the beneficiaries of extraordinary good luck--which is rare and doesn't last long.
          Others are a null, and can go either way, depending on what's going on in their life at the moment.
          So here's the question: Which are you? Joyous, Cranky, or Null?

Here's a quick question to help you decide:

When life hands you lemmons you:
a. make lemmonade (Joyous)
b. Lemmons? What good are lemmons? What's wrong with oranges, or pinapple..(Cranky)
c. see what you can get for them on Ebay. (Null)

16 Sep
          I dreamt I was in school. I was off sick the day before, and the teacher told me I had a thesis due the next day. I realised I already had a thesis due, so this made two. Plus I had to have my shoes ready for parade the next day (and this wasn't even a military school) so I bought a pair of red boots and red polish. I was bummed because I had to stay up all night writing, and then polishing my boots, and just as dawn approached it dawned on me that military footwear is black, and I'd spent all night working on these boots for nothing.
          The worst part is, when I finally woke up, I was tired from dreaming I was awake all night. Argh!!

You can only work too hard for so long to get nowhere before coming to the realisation that you can arrive at the same destination by doing absolutely nothing.

20 Sep
          Once upon a time there was a Golden Age of Science Fiction. (It was the golden age of Fantasy too, but for some reason no one ever mentions that.) Sure, the audience consisted mostly of 13-year-old boys, but those boys eventually grew up to be men who never grew out of their love affair with the genre of their youth. 
          Writing was different then. No one cared about Conan's motivation for the deeds he did, or how he felt about being an orphan, or how it affected his spiritual growth. All that mattered was that he was the baddest of the bad in a fantastical world most of us would have given our eyeteeth to be a part of.
          Unfortunately all the other writers made fun of us, saying sci-fi and fantasy wasn't real writing, real literature, and it hurt our grubby little feelings. So we changed the way we wrote in an effort to be more respectable. Our characters developed depth. They had to grow as people. We learned to use symbolism and metaphors and write a novel in one long sentence with no punctuation. 
          In many ways the writing improved, but often form became more important than content or ideas, and we lost our audience. The 13-year-old boys couldn't care less about that stuff; they wanted deeds and daring do and bright, shiny ideas--not psychoanalysis, or pretty passages that didn't really say anything. They turned to easier media for their guilty pleasures, most notably video games. Sure, we picked up a few 13-year-old girls, but the numbers just weren't the same.
          The trick, of course, is to write both: great ideas and great adventures with well thought out and developed characters, and pretty prose. Some of you might argue that that's what we're doing now, but if that's true, why is it that I constantly hear readers complain that they only liked one or two stories out of the current mag they just bought? And no two readers seem to like the same one or two stories.
          I personally think it's because most stories aren't a meld of ideas or adventure, and technique. Most are still doing one or the other, so no one mag can please both types of readers.
          Of course, as usual, I could be wrong.
          (It's a good think I left out the part about how half the editors now are women, and are getting girl cooties all over Sci-Fi and Fantasy. That was close!)

22 Sep
     I have to agree that the new episode of Lost was pretty cool, but I guess I'm not as easily impressed as others. I mean, I kind of suspected that they might find what they did down the hatch. And the Doc's story line (and most of the others, for that matter) seems really neat the way they all interconnect. And all the freaky stuff with the polar bears, the French Woman, the Others, and the BSM (Big Scary Monster) seem inspired.
          But ultimately whether any of this is great genre will depend on the final answers to the mysteries they've set up. Anyone can write cool, random yet seemingly connected events and quirky cosmic coincidence if they don't have to explain how it all ties together. It's the payoff that defines whether the writing was brilliant, or schlock. (Think Stephen King and the Giant Spider from Space at the end of It.)
          That said, Lost is one of my favourite shows, and if in the end it all makes plausible sense I will bow to their genius.

23 Sep
          Sometimes you hear an expression and you just have to wonder what they were thinking when they came up with it. A common one you hear in the military is "Screwing the pooch," although you most often hear it in its more vulgar phrasing: "Fucking the dog." It basically means that you're not doing anything, or even more accurately, wasting time, accomplishing nothing. 
          Thus a person who is constantly fucking the dog becomes known as a dog fucker. So you often hear conversations along the lines of:
          "Hey, Bob, what're you up to?"
          "Nothing, just fucking the dog."
          "What's up you dog fucker?"
          The thing is, I have a hard time believing that one day a co-worker walked in on another in the midst of having canine sexual relations, and thought, "Wow, he must have a lot of time on his hands."
          Nowadays he'd be slapped with a sexual harassment suit, at the least.

          Next week we're scheduled for Readiness Training, which is Air Force speak for refresher Army Training. That's right, someone's going to teach me all about firing the C-7, Map and Compass work, and how to wear a gas mask. Can you say waste of time? Still, like I keep telling all the folks here who are bitching commenting about the futility of teaching Air Force personnel this stuff, it's fun when you only have to do it a week out of the year. It sucks when you have to do it every day for a living.

Darling du jour: The air smelled of pine needles and brimstone, as if someone had tried to disinfect Hell.

24 Sep
          We were talking about foods we like at work the other day, and I mentioned how I'm not a big fan of lobster or crab, the main reason being that I generally don't like to eat anything that looks like it would eat me first if it had a chance. The fact that it's a carrion eater doesn't exactly put it at the top of my yummy-to-eat list either.
          Someone else mentioned how they liked liver, and while I don't mind it, I can't help thinking, Why would you want to eat an organ that filters out all the stuff that would normally kill you in the first place? It's kind of like saying you wouldn't drink the oil in your car, but the mmm....oil filter.

Darling du jour: Rancid demons unearthed themselves to stand at Azrael's side as he summoned them one after another, commanding them in ancient Sumerian, or Hittite, or...aw hell, it could have been Portuguese for all I know. I'm pretty confident it wasn't French though, as I never once heard him summon a Jacques, or Pierre.

26 Sep
          So we started our Refresher Training with map and compass work today. They took us out to a big honking field in the middle of nowhere--no trees, hills, ravines...nothing--and had us plot our position on a map, and march to a set of coordinates they gave us. We did this four times, and each leg was about a little over a km long. I could practical see the next destination from the one we were at. 
          It was pointless, but a nice walk, and our new camo rain gear is much better than the old stuff, which was just this side of being a Hefty Bag with holes cut in it for your head and arms. If they really wanted to test a bunch of Canadian soldier's proficiency with a map and compass they should have had us plot our way from one Tim Horton's to the next. At least they're only about 500 meters apart.

Darling du Jour: 
"That's just plain evil."
"I have chocolate and strawberry evil if you prefer."

28 Sep
          Today was the last day of Refresher Training. The military spared no expense, as usual, transporting us about in old yellow school buses. It was kind of like a school trip, except instead of going to a farm or a chocolate factory we went to the gas chamber. (Oops, sorry, that's gas hut. Apparently gas chamber has negative connotations.) 
          That, and our school uniforms really suck.

Darling du Jour:

"Where ever there is darkness, I will be there...bumping into shit and tripping over the shoes in the hallway."