Well, since my last post, I’ve been a busy lad, working hard on the novel-in-progress, kicking PayPal’s ass and—
What’s that? I haven’t mentioned my on-going dispute with those lovely folks at PayPal/eBay, have I? Here’s the poop:
Three years ago I filed a formal complaint with the Privacy Commission of Canada. PayPal brusquely informed me that my on-line transactions had reached a certain (arbitrary) limit and I could no longer use their services until I allowed them to link to my bank account. Ahem. Anyone who knows me will tell you that I am touchy about my security and privacy almost to the point of paranoia. There was no way I was going to give those corporate scum-suckers that kind of potential access to my personal banking information.
So I ratted PayPal out to the Privacy Commissioner. Insisted that I was being denied services and my rights as a private citizen were being violated.
After several years of investigations and submissions from both parties, the Privacy Commissioner has concluded that my complaint was “well-founded” and I have had my PayPal account fully restored. Not only that, Paypal has agreed to change its practices and fully implement the Privacy Commission’s recommendations regarding on-line transactions by November 30, 2014. These “corrective measures” will provide PayPal clients with more information and an “alternative solution”, other than the illegal and unwarranted collection of personal banking information.
My thanks to the folks at the Privacy Commission for pursuing such a lengthy and complex case and for holding PayPal’s feet to the fire until they were forced to acknowledge the legitimacy of my concerns.
Vindication! This is what happens when you refuse to be one of the dull-witted, simple-minded “sheeple”. As consumers and citizens of a free country we have rights and must make every effort to ensure our private data isn’t being collected/mined or our financial security rendered vulnerable by greedhead corporations and/or overly nosy, inquisitive government agencies.
So stay vigilant.
What else? The novel…ah, yes, the novel. What can I tell you—very little really. It progresses, slowly but surely. Still anticipating an early 2015 release date…other than that, I have nothing to add. Cautiously optimistic but unwilling to go any further. How’s that for unhelpful?
When I’ve not been writing or editing, I’ve been watching a number of good movies, some of which I’ve reviewed over on my film blog. You did know I had a film site, right? Oh, for Heaven’s sake…well, you’ll find it here. I post infrequently (surprise, surprise) and refuse to have anything to do with silly popcorn movies, rom-coms or abominations by the likes of Michael Bay, JJ Abrams, Zack Snyder or (saving the loudest retch for last) James Cameron. I try to champion obscure or forgotten movies, doing my bit to enlighten contemporary cinema-goers, many of whom haven’t seen anything older than “Jaws”. Hands down, the best film I’ve seen so far in 2014 is a Czech film Sherron gave me for Christmas called “Marketa Lazarova”. Nothing else has come close. Set in the Medieval era, complications involving two warring clans…strong intimations of Bergman’s “Virgin Spring” and Kurasawa’s “Throne of Blood”. I intend to watch it again before I sit down and write my review. So much to take in—there is greatness in that film.
March 8th, Sherron and I attended a performance by the Saskatoon Symphony. Not a regular occurrence, I’m shame-faced to admit, but this time around the bill was too good to resist, featuring two of my favorite 20th Century composers, Benjamin Britten and Ralph Vaughan Williams. After the intermission, three different choirs filed out and added their voices to Vaughan Williams’ “Sea Symphony” (the text derived from poems by Walt Whitman). Two solo vocalists, Monica Huisman and Peter McGillivray, were also highlighted and the evening concluded, as conductor Victor Sawa promised in his pre-concert chat, not with a huge flourish, but a gentle exhortation to sail on, ever onward, risking everything, abandoning safe anchorages and familiar stars:
“O my brave soul!
O farther farther sail!
O daring joy, but safe! are they not all the seas of God?
O farther, farther, farther sail! …”
Lots of reading and music in the past few weeks—some titles that stand out, Nicholson Baker’s Human Smoke (recommended by Penn Gillete on one of his “Penn Point” podcasts), Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth (Reza Aslan), as well as lots of poetry by the likes of Ted Kooser, Tom Hennen, Donald Hall and W.S. Merwin. In terms of tunes, I’ve been enjoying everything from a compilation of Simply Saucer songs I picked up in a thrift shop, to the Foo Fighters, Airbag, Radio Moscow, Bob Mould, Hayes Carll, Spiritualized…how am I doing?
And I want to take a moment to give a shout out to some individuals deserving of special mention, this month’s Roll Call of Honor:
First of all, a huge “Thank You” to Jason Brock for surprising the hell out of me with a couple of first edition Richard Matheson books. Gifts that arrived from out of the blue (an act of generosity I’ll remember a long time).
A big hug to my sister, Colleen, who recently retired from her longtime position with Viterra and, I hope, will now sit back and smell the roses for awhile—God knows, you deserve it, gal!
And, finally, a sad but fond farewell to a man who often represented the conscience of his nation, Tony Benn. One of my colleagues on LibraryThing posted the following quote, which sums the man up perfectly:
“Ask the powerful five questions:
What power have you got?
Where did you get it from?
In whose interests do you exercise it?
To whom are you accountable?
How can we get rid of you?”
Tony Benn (1925-2014)
Yoko Ono is right, there are a lot of lonely people out there.
Yup…and a lot of weird ones too.
And a site like mine is bound to attract its fair share of strange individuals. I mean, I use the occasional multi-syllabic swear word when expressing my somewhat hyperbolic views on matters of interest to me and I’ve written books with titles like Sex & Other Acts of the Imagination. So when people are tapping in key words for salacious subjects near and dear to their perverse little hearts, some might just bring them to Beautiful Desolation.
Poor dears. Go searching for good whacking material and instead get sent to me.
The thing is, thanks to the people here at WordPress I can actually view the search words and “tags” people are using when they get steered to my site. Some of them are hilarious, some disturbing, others are out and out surreal. I’ve written down the best of them so far and will now take this opportunity to share my “Top Ten” list with you (hopefully the folks involved won’t be too embarrassed). You type in the following terms and, somehow, you will be directed to a blog devoted to the scabrous scribblings of some Canadian nutter:
10. “stupid editors at publishing house” (okay, that one I understand)
9. “male masturbation hobbyists”
8. “words that rhyme with forget”
7. “fantasy invisibility sex stories”
6. “man is not born a thief but circumstance”
5. “stories about wrestling action figures”
4. “pissing snap on mouth”
3. “will short child be short adult”
2. “opinions are like assholes”
–and, at numero uno, easily the most fucked up turn of phrase that people used to find my blog: “self pissing for pleasure”.
And Sherron wonders why I’m a ball of nerves every time the kids are out of my sight even for a second.
Well, keep ’em coming, folks. Reading through that “Top 10” list fills me with joy at the sheer diversity of people out there and also a rather smug sense of satisfaction because it has always been a central tenet of my worldview that there’s no such thing as an ordinary, normal human being. “The sane are madder than we realize,” the great Anthony Storr has noted and he’s a guy whose opinion should carry some weight.
I think the internet grants timid souls the anonymity they crave so they can explore certain aspects of themselves their innate shyness and squeamishness usually forbid or deny. And I suppose that’s a good thing…but the flip side is that it emboldens creeps and arseholes to seek material to feed their sick fantasies, using cyberspace as the ultimate porn emporium.
Anonymity also allows one to embark upon “flame wars”, harassing and belittling other individuals by employing gutless pseudonyms. These lame fuckheads wouldn’t have the nerve to behave like they do in face to face encounters, they know they’d get the shit knocked out of them. There have been a few people who’ve posted to this site, noses out of joint because not only have I just served up one of their sacred cows to them, I also offer a full range of condiments to enhance their dining pleasure. Some of their remarks are nasty but I promised myself when I started out I would never censor people for their views or offer any kind of public rebuttal (that would be unsporting). Sometimes it’s hard to resist the urge to reach through cyberspace, grab certain twats by their throats and squeeze ’til their fucking eyes pop out but…I manage.
Civility is in short supply, I notice it in on-line forums…but I also see it in supermarket lines. Unsmiling faces, not even a nod of thanks if you surrender your place in line or hold the door open for someone, the cashier looking haggard, refusing to make eye contact. Are the “trolls” popping up all over the internet a manifestation of the deep sense of anger and unhappiness people are feeling? There’s a disconnect out there, the global villagers locked in private houses, browsing for internet porn or arguing over the latest film remake of a bad TV show instead of meeting in the market square for shopping and socialization. Or maybe that browbeaten cashier is just counting the minutes until she can go home and get on-line and switch to her other identify, an avatar known only as “Coquette”, courtesan and spy in a digital community with the virtual population of a medium-sized country. Tens of millions of people assuming the personalities and lives of nonexistent alter egos…and pining for those invisible realms when they’re away from them for any period of time.
We just signed up so we can read our own utility meters and pay our bills on-line. No longer any need for the friendly, neighbourhood lady from SaskEnergy to pop by in the afternoons to check my meter or any necessity to wait in line at the bank, chat with the cashier, pay my bills, crack a few jokes.
All of this bringing to mind my tale “New World Man”, a family isolated within individual rooms of a house, locked in their own private worlds, largely oblivious to each other. Is that where we’re headed? Is that how you want to live?
* * * *
Progress on the novella: it’s coming along slow and steady. No big breakthroughs. Because I was having some trouble getting started I made the choice early on to write the novella out of sequence…a decision I may come to regret. This approach presents some special difficulties, coming up with segues and links, for example. The natural “flow” of the story mustn’t be inhibited by its episodic structure (God I love writer talk).
Plenty of music keeping the office rocking. Recent arrivals include new Foo Fighters and Radiohead (thanks, Jess), as well as Modest Mouse’s latest release, “We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank” (courtesy Elaine). Still enamoured with Interpol (I slam on “Heinrich Maneuver” to get things started in the morning) and “The Fountain” soundtrack (Mogwai and the Kronos Quartet collaborating) provides great atmosphere, as does Schubert, Jeff Beck, Aqualung, music from “Black Hawk Down”, Jesus and Mary Chain…
Last night I decided to unwind with an old movie and went down to my basement and dug out a VHS copy of “Dark Star”. It was late and after a long day tapping away in the office I was too tired to really give it my full attention. But it was fun, a trip down memory lane. “Dark Star” was made around 1974 and has managed to garner that much-sought after designation as a “cult” favorite, largely because it was John Carpenter’s directorial debut and features Dan O’Bannon in a variety of gigs (including supporting actor–er, don’t give up the day job, Dan). It’s fun stuff. Made me want to haul out my old Super 8 movie camera, string up a model on fishing line (just like the old days, eh, Brent?) and waste an afternoon making magic.
Hmmm…but not today.
There’s magic to be made, all right, but it’ll happen upstairs, first room on the left. The novella awaiting my attention, the house to myself until tomorrow afternoon, no excuses or distractions. Hoping that this morning I’ll feel inspired, the tumblers falling into place. Not oppressed by pride or envy, working with courage and perseverance. Waiting in anticipation of my muse seizing hold, watching with growing wonder and awe as the story unfolds before my eyes, the process still as mysterious as it ever was: a lovely bit of misdirection, a sleight of hand I must’ve seen a thousand times and have yet to figure out the trick…