metablog

my web empire extends by an inch

Everybody what's out there! I am now a weekly contributor to MamaPop, a site written with a women-centric take on pop culture. I have to fake it because I've never actually met a woman in person, but I hear they have the same needs, fears and desires as men, except the majority of them want to have sex with us. Why this is I'm not sure - I mean, have you seen the condition we keep ourselves in? But the world is built on miracle and bluff.

Even though I post every Tuesday at 2:00 pm Eastern time, I strongly recommend that you visit every single waking moment of your days. The writing team, headed up by Sweetney and Amalah, is an exceptionally strong and funny bunch of pop culture addicts. Including my Schmutzie-wife!

Go now and go often. My inaugural post is called The Greatest Trick Joaquin Phoenix Ever Pulled Was Convincing the World He Didn't Exist. Feel free to leave comments, insult my insensitivity to celebrities, whatever you like. See you there.

forging through nablopomo

Nablopomo, gentle mutant offspring of NanoWriMo, that group project which requires its members to post one item per day, every day, throughout the rapidly dimming month of November.

I am of it. That is why you are seeing today's message.

In the meantime, please entertain yourselves with this video of barn owls having sex. It looks like about as much fun as any grade nine dance at my old high school. Try watching this video while blasting Toto on your stereo.

five years and two months

On January 23, 2003, I started keeping a weblog on Diaryland, which I called The Palinode. I kept it up for a year and a half until frustrations over Diaryland prompted a move to Blogger. This year I hit my five-year blogging mark.

I have friends who, though they seem like genuinely nice and normal people, from time to time go to a hotel or the middle of a field somewhere and dress up as vampires or medieval knights. It’s a full-body immersion in gameplay.

Given the ubiquity of live action role playing games and cosplay, I was thinking the fundamental appeal lies not in the specific world you enter, but the notion of being able to enter another world by force of will, to inhabit an artificial place where you have the privilege of being able to commit to certain of its aspects but retain the best parts of the bland 21st century technotopia from which you’ve stepped away. Members of the SCA may look foolish to outsiders, but within their gated community of the spirit, they get to exist in multiple timeframes at once. It’s an experience that permits play and power simultaneously.

Therefore I’m starting my own live action role playing game. I call the game Afternoons of Palinode, in which a married speechwriter in a western Canadian city gets up every day, goes to work at a downtown office, makes soup in the evenings and watches The Wire on his computer. He’s married to a woman who’s bending the iron rod of identity blogging into a professional configuration. He makes good soup. He makes perfect paragraphs, organic and rounded as a honeydew melon.

One thing he is not making is literature. He’s not making literature for a variety of reasons, but part of the reason is his weblog. It is a limited form that claims a disproportionate amount of his energy. At first, when Palinode was writing on Diaryland, he felt free to experiment. Now he has assumed an identity, and that identity is too close to who he is. Unable to step outside of himself, encased in his identity, he has found that he has become estranged from his imagination. He is tired of that estrangement.

Part of the problem is that, in the years that weblogs have been around, a standard has been generated for web writing. That standard demands concision, clarity, liveliness, and strategically deployed vernacular. It is highly opinionated, endlessly entertaining, and usually designed for rapid consumption and response.

My imagination adheres to a very different standard. My imagination is a cartoon nightmare with musical numbers. And a weblog, which always bends to the rational even as it rages, cannot contain something as irrational as the junk that jumps around in my head. Literature is still a rational container, but it’s much more elastic.

I’m not talking about giving up on this weblog. I’m talking about opening things up a bit. I’m talking about doing more with my imagination than 500-word squirts of text. I’m going to play my live action role playing game and see what a little dislocation can do for me.

the blurst of palinode

Ah man, I'm blocked. Who likes to hear about writer's block on a weblog? You do, or so I'm hoping. Maybe you prefer my tireless efforts at bringing you fresh metaphors through comedy, but with blogs, you take this stuff with that stuff. I could talk about the new season of The Wire, or how I spent today in the apartment, walking around in only a beltless bathrobe and a Toronto Blue Jays T-shirt,* but do you really want to know that? How I ate sardines on triscuits and kept waiting for something exciting to show up in my RSS reader? God I need to go back to work.

Fortunately, I'm starting work next week. The joys of medical leave have all but evaporated, leaving behind the furtive filmy residue of idleness. Alas. Anyway, in order to break the block and come to the aid of youse guys, I'm distilling a Best Of category. It will also have the benefit of extending my tyranny over your tastes just a little bit. Note: this entry will not be included.

UPDATE: My Best of 2004-2005 is up and available for all the lookie-loos. Link on the sidebar.

*I was careful not to pass by the windows, lest the ladies see me and try to break in to the apartment, all crazed with the lust. Seriously, it's like a sexy 28 Days Later with me and the ladies.

very very sleepy

Astute folk will notice that my posting has slowed down over the last week. Why? Am I busy? On vacation in the Amazon? Working hard in the Amazon? Closing my eyes and screaming "I'm in the AMAZON, damnit!" whenever someone asks me a question?

No, nothing so exciting as screaming Amazon at people. The truth is, I've been tired. As I recover from surgery, I'm gradually able to be more active, but the cost of activity is fatigue. Today I did dishes and mopped the floor, and it felt like I'd gone on a 48-hour speed binge. If someone had told me when I was young that doing speed was as much fun as mopping the floor, I'd have thrown away my life on crystal meth in high school.

Anyway. Until I'm on my feet a bit more, updates to this site may be sporadic. Thanks for your understanding and continued Amazon.

PS. Today we had an early Christmas. I won't go into why, or what all I got, but I can tell you that I have 100% more pinhole camera kit, a sharp increase in insulated steel french presses, and a radical uptick in T-shirts with this image:

travels with greg

For those of you who remember the glory days, I've gone back to Travels With Greg, my memoir of a 2004 six-week documentary shoot through western Europe. I'm going to be focusing more attention on the project over the next few months, so you can expect more frequent updates from now on. This is not a guarantee. So don't accuse me of being a blogtease.

In today`s update, I wander sleep-deprived through Heathrow like a drunk and wake up my producer at home for no reason.

Travels With Greg

Table of Contents

Latest Entry

oh domainity, oh doctors

DOMAIN

Look up. At the address bar. You see that? You see what I'm seeing when I look where you're looking? It's my own custom domain, www.thepalinode.com.

So far I don't know what to make of it. It looks a bit funny. A bit lumpy. Schmutzie said that she felt an instant of blog importance when she switched to a custom domain, but I feel like I'm wearing an oversize shirt or a hairstyle that demands more of me than I'm willing to give. In a few days that feeling will fade, and the new address will shrink to fit my sensibilities.

One thing I do know: aside from a few notable exceptions, blogs with custom domains are automatically taken more seriously than the blogspots and diarylands and typepads and livejournals of the blogosphere. Therefore I will take advantage of my new badge of authority to make all kinds of unfounded pronouncements/accusations/dicta on the terrible state of live-action furry fantasy role-playing conventions society.

Don't ask me if I checked out www.palinode.com, because I have, and someone is standing on it.

DOCTOR

As many of you know, my back has been messed up most of 2007. Last April I was referred to a neurosurgeon with a waitlist so long that by August I hadn't even been called for an appointment. Dave, my chiropractor, arranged to have me see another neurosurgeon. It took a total of two appointments, x-rays and CT scans over six weeks to have neurosurgeon B agree that I needed surgery. On September 28, I signed the forms in the expectation that I would be under the knife in six to eight weeks max.

After three weeks' silence from the hospital, I phoned the surgery hotline and found out that the six to eight weeks that neurosurgeon B had promised guesstimated was off by three to four months. So I took six months' leave from work. I'd be damned if I was going to keep showing up at the office, my body screaming in pain and my mind diluted by morphine. I could do all that in bed, thank you very much.

On Monday, Dave phoned me again. It turned out that my surgery had been deemed elective, which meant that as far the health care system in my province was concerned, I could sit and rot. He summed up my situation with the kind of concision that the rest of the health care system seemed unable to match: You can't work, Aidan, and that's not good. When you've reached the point that you can't work you should be considered a priority.

Exactly.

He said he'd make some phone calls.

Yesterday I got a call from the hospital. My chiropractor had spoken with another neurosurgeon, one who seemed willing to take my problem seriously. Would I be able to see neurosurgeon C on Thursday afternoon for a consultation? Um, yes.

I phoned Dave to let him know that his efforts had paid off. Dave said: You're seeing him in the afternoon?

Yes, I said.

Okay, then. Don't eat lunch.If his schedule is open and he thinks your problem is as serious as I know it is, he may be able to operate on you immediately. It's happened with two of my patients.

Tomorrow afternoon, folks. Maybe. Wish me luck.

domain change stuff

If all goes as planned, the URL for my weblog will soon be switching from a blogspot host to www.thepalinode.com. I'll probably be changing over on Monday, which means that my site will be unavailable for anywhere between ten minutes and twenty-four hours.

I tried to make this happen back in February, but for a series of ridiculous reasons that I still don't understand but may be related to my own stupidity, it didn't work. I'm hoping that everything goes smoothly, and that come this time next week, you'll be reading this at a swanky .com address. Update yer bookmarks and all that.

Carry on!

the bad blogging habit

One of the most annoying things that can happen to a blog is to have it reduced, bit by it, to a pointer. The blogger starts branching out into other projects, maybe starts a band or goes into professional writing, and the blog itself starts to lose its personality, become slighter and increasingly ghostly. Eventually the enterprise is reduced to periodic entries apologizing for the paucity of posts, and links to the other things that the blogger is doing. The entries ususally look like this:

Hey guys, sorry about the lack of posting around here. But between the baby and my e-commerce portal I've been so busy that I never get the time to sit down and write a really good entry. By the way, I'm hosting a Poetry Slam at Kickajama's next Thursday, if you're in town you should check it out.
And that's all you get.

All this is by way of saying that I've written another entry for Travels With Greg, my exhaustive account of a six-week documentary shoot throughout Europe.

other postings, other places

I've decided to turn one of my other weblogs into a project. I'm writing a day-by-day account of my six-week documentary shoot in Western Europe in 2004. Some days were harrowingly dull, others harrowingly exciting. There was always some harrowing going on. For those of you with an interest in this kind of thing, this blood-spattered love letter to the European Union, you can check it out here, or click on my sidebar link (palinode's sunny time ledger).

crazy-style template change-a-roo

Hello, sports racers people who read. The design art stylings of Schmutzie have reworked my template. In unrelated news, my sidebar content has vanished. I'm rebuilding it from memory. If there's anything I'm forgetting, drop me a comment. In the meantime, please comment in praise of Schmutzie's design eye.

holy holy damn new domain hell

Well, hiya. If you're reading this, then I haven't utterly completely torpedoed my blog. Instead I've got my own domain now: http://thepalinode.com. Feels good. Do what Jesus told us all to do way back when the internet was born in 14 A.D.* and update yer bookmarks.

On the other hand, if you're not reading this, and instead you're looking at an obnoxious Godaddy page, then I'm still pissed off and getting tired of waiting to see if I followed the switchover instructions correctly. Quick note: buying a domain and switching your site over is not easy when you're stumbling home drunk at 4 AM** and trying to follow the monstrously inadequate instructions that Google Apps Help drops for your convenience.

So why is my site called thepalinode.com, and not the snappier and funkier palinode.com? Because some pisshead out there guy named David Jones is sitting on my nom de blogue. Yeah, that'll sell real soon. Lots of classical scholars out there just waiting to plunk down the big bucks for a novel way to sell palinode-composition tips to hungry poets. Seriously, aside from sessional lecturers and myself, who wants that domain name? Argh.

Anyway, this domain name change marks my new foray into blog professionalism. Now everyone must take my blog seriously, because I've got my own domain. If you don't, I will smite you with my mighty custom domain powers, which I understand give me the capability to set children's heads on fire.

*Yeah, I know it's CE now and not AD, I took Hebrew classes in university and learned all about it, okay? Okay? Oy.

**Yes, I know it's BPM now and not AM, I took Clock classes at the community centre, okay?

Update: Godaddy is only asking about twenty bucks per year for palinode.com, which isn't oh so bad. But I'm keeping my bad-tempered rant, because bad-tempered rants are like World of Warcraft gold. Except WoW gold is actually worth something.

More update: Never mind. I can't get it to work. Curse da internet.

monday

Last night I barely slept. I never do on Sunday nights. Friday and Saturday I push my waking hours to three or four in the morning, and by Sunday I've tilted my circadian rhythms over. Monday to Thursday is repair time. I reset my clock back to something approximating normal business hours, and then Friday I bugger it all up. I knew I'd be too tired tonight to write a proper post for NaBloPoMo, so I put down two entries late Sunday, one on either side of midnight. I thought that would give me a reprieve and let me sleep early tonight.

Unfortunately, daily posting has started to become habitual. More to the point, it's finally prodded my long-dormant compulsion to write. Maybe I've said it on this weblog or maybe elsewhere, but I find writing of any kind extremely tortuous and painful. I lead with jokes to get through the painful part, and then I'm off, but still picking through each sentence and pushing words around (to quote Philip Roth, who pushed them around for a living). Today was a slow day at work so I took out a tablet of paper and started filling it with blue ink, line by line. Only when I'd flipped the paper over twice did I realize how much I'd written in a fairly short period of time. I used to write like that in highschool, but what I wrote back then was all Ginsbergian nonsense and fever dream. Usually it was just words for the sake of sounding impressive, grand cosmic themes and pantheistic pronouncements. Today I wrote five pages on video games and O.J. Simpson, and I hate both of those things. Better yet, what I wrote in haste was clear and uncluttered when I read it back, which, let me tell you, is exceedingly rare. Usually my sentences are multiclausal disasters, phrase propped up on phrase until paragraphs look like pick-up sticks. What you get here is often the result of periods and commas dropped judiciously into the mess.

I don't know if it's NaBloPoMo and its demand for content that have spurred this on, but in the absence of other factors, I give full credit to Fussy for offering up this idea. Many thanks. And good night.

how to get rid of the navbar in your blogspot blog, yo

First things first: All thanks and love to Schmutzie, who showed me how to do this fix. If you want to thank someone for this, thank her. I'm the messenger.

Hey friends (you are my friends, right? You're not going to do that thing where you walk up all friendly and then stick me in the back of the neck for the mob money, are you? Because mob justice - that's not okay. Not in my book. Not between friends.). Do you walk around hating the navbar at the top of a blogspot blog? Does it make you grind your teeth and strangle wildlife? Maybe something like that? All I know is, I get to thinking about the navbar and suddenly all the geese and deer in the park are dead.

I'm not sure if this constitutes a gross violation of Blogger's terms of use - I am way too lazy to go look - but here's a handy way to remove the navigation bar from your site. This particular method works for the beta blogs only, but there's an easy fix for old blogspot blogs.

1. In order to do this, you need to start poking around in the HTML. Get some gloves first. Okay, got the gloves, that's good. Click on the Template tab and choose 'Edit HTML'. If you're the nervous kind, with the sweats and shivers and the rolling rheumy eyes, you may want to download your template just in case.

2. In the template, find the body, near the top of the page. Here's what mine looks like:

body {
background:$bgcolor;
margin:0;
color:$textcolor;
font:x-small Georgia Serif;
font-size/* */:/**/small;
font-size: /**/small;
text-align: center;
}
a:link {
color:$linkcolor;
text-decoration:none;
}
a:visited {
color:$visitedlinkcolor;
text-decoration:none;
}
a:hover {
color:$titlecolor;
text-decoration:underline;
}
a img {
border-width:0;
}
3. After the image attributes, insert the following code:
#navbar-iframe {
height:0px;
visibility:hidden;
display:none
}
That should do the trick. For old skool blogspot blogs, the navbar is not an iframe element (as far as I know), so you should be able to get away with inserting the same code but removing the "-iframe" bit.

Now you are free of all your navbar troubles. No more hitting the 'next' button and finding yourself at some crazed right-wing blog, or a fourteen year old Filipino girl writing about her kooky friends, or a spamlog offering stock tips or herbal Vuhz@gra. You're one step closer to never having to experience anything ever again unexpected or in any way discomfiting.

Speaking of which, go read PWOT's article on the subject.

beloved old template on notice

I'm going to be trying out the upgraded Blogger templates for a bit. The objective here is to reproduce my old template as closely as possible while taking advantage of all the new nubbly bits that bloggah-bayduh has to offer. Bear with me. I'm not like Schmutzie, who thinks nothing of taking apart her entire site and reassembling it into something strange and new. I'm an internets fuddy-duddy.

You'd be amazed at how often the Firefox spellcheck flags my posts.

Update: Actually, I'm liking the white right now. Let's stay with simple for the moment.

some kind of bloggerful

This post was written for the online journal Reconstruction as part of an issue on blogging.

Blogging in Theory and Practice

*written with Big Star blasting on the stereo and a poster of Heart on the wall. The poster is there for verisimilitude.*

I.
Around Christmas of 1993 my roommate brought home a state-of-the-art computer, an IBM-compatible 386 PC with a 66 Mhz processor and 256 megabytes of RAM. I don't recall any other stats, which is good, because surely it would destroy my mind to summon up all the details of that machine at once. Best of all, though, we had ourselves an internal modem and a dial-up internet connection. It may not have been much, but we could play Doom with our friends. We could talk with pale malformed weirdos on our local electronic bulletin board. And we could surf the web.

My favourite web site at the time was called Uroulette. It was an image of a roulette wheel that would, when clicked on, spit you out onto a random spot on the web. The sense of discovery was intoxicating at first, even if there wasn't a whole lot to see. An academic paper on rice-growing here, a scanned-in passport photo of some bearded guy there, and pages that were nothing but links to academic papers on rice-growing. We spent so much time roaming around the internet that we developed a game, which we would have called Circling the Web if we'd been the naming sort. The rules were simple: start at a random spot and head out, going link to link, constantly moving forward, until we found ourselves back at the site where we'd started. We were always surprised how short the journeys were. The web was tiny at the time, with all the familiar forms present but embryonic, curled up in watery cyberslumber.

That game would get boring incredibly quickly if played today. The web was smaller and sparser in 1994, but it was exciting to follow a hyperlink to another web page, even if it was just a resume for some computer science nerd, or a page of half-baked ideas in an ugly lemon-yellow Times New Roman centred on a background of blinking stars. It was still really cool. Even Netscape 2.0 was cool. A friend of ours had his very own webpage called "Chaos Vortex," which featured a few links to pages about computers and gaming. It was ugly and self-important and the bright red background was an abuse of HTML, but it still rocked our casbahs. It was also the first weblog I'd ever seen, a proto-blog, years before the term was coined, nearly a decade before I started one of my own.

II.
My first weblog, a mostly abandoned mine tunnel bored into cyberspace, was started in 2003 primarly as a way of relieving the pressure and boredom of my job. I worked at an independent production company as a researcher for a show on 20th century disasters, which meant that I had to phone rescuers, witnesses, survivors, and the families of the dead. If you enjoy calling people up cold and coaxing out the worst memories of their lives on a random Wednesday afternoon, then you're - well, you're just like me.

Against this daily flood of pain, loss, remorse and recrimination, I found myself needing more and more to build something to stanch or divert what I was experiencing, a counterstructure, a wall of good old goofiness. I started writing about the crappy twenty-four hour restaurant up the block from my office. My entries were usually written at work, in little bursts between phone calls. I wrote down conversations with my wife, wrote about the changing weather, gathered trivia from everywhere. I may have intended to build a wall, but it was shaping up more like a tower of trash. Like a great number of weblog authors, I had started a mental recycling project.

III.
It is my firm belief that blogs, like books of poetry or really good jokes, are useless. I mean that in the best sense of the word. Weblogs may hone your writing and debating skills. Some blogs advertise products and make money for their authors, some provide information for professionals, and it's said that the entirety of Web 2.0 is blog-based. I suppose that weblogs in the aggregate recapitulate the basic architecture of the web - small pieces loosely joined - and are therefore a useful object of thought and experiment, but I think of blogs chiefly as a literary form, a kind of refined speech that falls somewhere between the private and the published. Anyone who's posted a conversation or an anecdote on a blog knows how easy it is to reshape facts on the fly and produce a piece of instant lit.*

In fact, if weblogs have done anything, they've provided an astonishing volume of new literature, much of it an indistinguishable blend of memoir and fiction (It's no surprise that established journalists have been suspicious of weblogs - how can you compete with the speed and immediacy of a blog posting? How do you combat the inspired bullshit of bloggers?). Success in literary blogging is still measured by the book deal, but there are other markers of success, such as Heather Armstrong's ability to support her family via blogging.

At this point I'm sure someone is going to think, "Sure Mr. Node, but have you noticed how much of this 'new literature' is total crap? Goths of Livejournal, goths of Xanga, spinning out fantasies of self-absorption and adolescent triumph?" To which I say, Yup. Almost all of it is crap. The elements of blogging, as far as I'm concerned, are already junk. Our lives, our entire world, form a heap of trivia and disaster. To some degree we're stuck in the tragic position of Klee's "Angelus Novus", unable to reach back and mend the catastrophe of history. What we do have is memory and language, which, along with a high-speed connection, is all you need to reshape it, hold it up for your readers, plunge your hand in and rip out the joke. It fixes nothing, changes nothing: a completely useless task. But I can't stop doing it.

*By way of example, I really am listening to Big Star as I write this. But the poster of Heart exists only in my imagination.

site update bidness

I have moved my weblog from the old Blogger to the burning new Blogger Beta. According to the people who created, designed and marketed Blogger Beta, this is a good thing. We shall see. That fucking navbar is back atop my blog, which burns me some, but otherwise all looks well.

What does this mean for you folks out there? Well. It really only affects the elite few who leave comments. If you currently leave comments under your Blogger account, you will need to either switch the Blogger Beta or leave remarks under the "Other" or "Anonymous" options. Mind you, I'm no great fan of anonymous comments, mostly because I like to follow the commenter back and read his or her weblog.

The best part of the new Blogger is the tag function, which they insist on calling "labels". Possibly because they're two years behind the curve on this one.

Also, as far as I can tell, they haven't implemented label functionality yet. Or perhaps they have, but have shoved it into a closet somewhere and said "Shhhhhh!"

Update: The labeling function only works if you forsake your current template for one of Blogger's new drag-n-drop templates, which are all, down to the last one, uggly-buggly and do not come with my Chris Ware background image. I imagine they'll figure out a way to add labels to custom templates soon.