Friday, August 12, 2005

A Study In Canadian Obnoxiousness

Canadian culture is a funny thing. On one hand we're rich with a plethora of genuinely stimulating artists and works. And on the other hand we're rich with Canadian Tire commercials. For those of you among my readership who don't live in Canada you'll probably be unfamiliar with Canadian Tire. It's a chain of hardware and household goods stores. I believe they call it Canadian Tire because it is, in fact, Canadian, but don't hold me to that until my team of researchers get back to me from their laboratory. I also believe it is called Canadian Tire because no matter which Canadian Tire store you walk through, it's guaranteed to smell like Tires. But what I really want to talk about here right now is not so much the Canadian Tire stores, god bless them, but rather the Canadian Tire couple.

"The Canadian Tire couple?" you say?

The Canadian Tire couple is this married couple featured in most of the major Canadian Tire advertising. They're in all the television commercials and they can sometimes be seen in the catalogues and in the mailout flyers. They're all over the place in Canada. I'm even tempted enough to say that they are quite possibly Canadian icons. How fucking sad is that? A whole nation of generally bright, gifted people represented to the world by two fictitious characters from a series of television commercials. But more on that later.

Here's what really bugs me about the Canadian Tire couple and you just knew that something was going to have to bug me about these asshats. What bugs me most is that they are quite possibly the most obnoxiously smug couple on the face of the earth. Seriously. I suppose it was destiny that two people so vain would somehow get past their self-love and coalesce into some sort of freakish superpower of self-admiration and verbal masturbation.

Here's what happens in every Canadian Tire commercial that ever gets to air...

1.) Canadian Tire couple invites a neighbor over to their house.
2.) Canadian Tire couple proceeds to show off some new gadget available exclusively at Canadian Tire that makes life infinitely more convenient.
3.) Canadian Tire couple ends with some fucking joke or prank that they find mildly amusing.
4.) I vomit through my eye sockets.

And there's always one point in each commercial where one of them, depending on who is showing the new product off says to the neighbor, "Oh Tom, or whatever the fuck your name is, you lead a life of so many complications while I Canadian Tire couple member can go about my normal business of polluting the broadcast signals thanks to this ever-so-fucking handy new gadget available exclusively at Canadian Tire stores and online at Why you don't just kill yourself faced with all the inconveniences that you face on a daily basis is beyond me." Every fucking commercial is just like that.

Ask yourself what you would do if you were constantly talked to like that by one of your neighbors. After a while you'd probably snap and and impale them on a couple of rakes. I wouldn't blame you. And why Tom, or whatever the fuck his name is, keeps going over to that house to be talked down to like that is beyond me. He must be a glutton for punishment or he's slowly compiling a list of reasons for him to slit his own throat from ear to ear and leave a suicide note that reads:

I didn't have the new Motomaster Mechanical Dildo Caddy. I'm just not good enough. Good-bye world.

And really, a lot of the products that are featured are essentially nothing more than mechanical dildo caddies anyway. I remember watching them expound on the virtues of a fucking portable DVD player for 35 minutes once. A portable fucking DVD player! We're not talking about essential technology here. And it's so convenient too! You can hang it from the ceiling of your car and keep children amused and it folds right up for ease of storage! Available exclusively at Canadian Tire stores or shop for it online.

You see, when I start talking like that you wish there was an internet technology that allowed you to punch me in the nuts. I thank god that you don't have the technology for that yet.

And now to get back to this whole Canadian identity thing. Isn't it sick that we, as Canadians can look to the Canadian Tire couple as pseudo-cultural icons? How fucking strapped for icons are we in this country that we would let a couple of condescending jerks represent us in the eyes of the world.

"Gee, world, you wouldn't have the problems that you do if you would have purchased the Motomaster Mechanical Dildo Caddy available exclusively at Canadian Tire stores or shop for it online. I guess you're up shit creek, you fucking morons."

I suppose if there is any solace that can be taken in all of this it's that we're not the only country in the world that sometimes gets perceived as being a bunch of smug assholes once in a while. It's funny how the actions of a few can dictate the image of the whole.

And of course it just occurred to me that most of you in the world outside of Canada probably aren't aware of who the Canadian Tire couple is. If this is the case please let me know so that I can create an army to wipe out the scourge of these pissflaps before they become an international epidemic of mediocrity. There may yet be hope.

A Sucker Is Born Every Minute

First off, let me apologize to those of you who happened across this same piece, or at least a piece that I wrote that is remarkably similar to this on my MySpace blog. I posted what is about to follow there, but for some reason I couldn't see it published after I finished posting it and so it may very well be lost. Maybe it'll surface later. It's impossible to say at this point. I did want somebody to read this, though. So I'm going to try to rewrite it now from my memory. Enjoy.

Yesterday, I got my very first cell phone!

"Wow, Michael, welcome to the 21st century, retard. The rest of us have had cell phones for years. Why bother bragging?"

Well, I'm not really bragging. It's just nice to finally be part of the contemporary world of cell phone users I suppose.

I must admit that pushing myself just a little bit closer and a little bit closer to a brain tumor has so far proven to be fun. I can almost feel the cancer cells hatching!

Anyway, not all has been perfect with the whole cell phone ownership experience so far. The one thing that I've become readily aware of has been how the service providers really like to gouge their customers.

"Wow, you really are a fucking genius, Michael. We've been getting gouged for years and you're just figuring out that the customers are getting gouged now? We are in the presence of genius, sheer genius."

Sarcasm is such an ugly color on you. But seriously, there's something more that I want to get at. I do have a point that I want to make.

Like many cell phone users in the modern day world, I like music. I like a lot of things in fact, but for the purposes of this little tirade I really like music. Some of you who know me have probably noticed me listening to music at some point, talking about music at some point, or just generally dancing like a madman even though there's no music playing and I don't seem to have any pants on (forget that you ever saw me doing that). Anyway, as a fan of music I thought that it would be fucking balls if I bought myself a ringtone off the cute, little internet connection that my cell phone enjoys.

My choice of ringtone? Snoop Dogg's "Drop It Like It's Hot". Some of you have probably heard of this song. Some of you may even like this song. Some of you may have even downloaded this song for your own ringtone (I salute you, my "Drop It Like It's Hot" ringtone brothers and sisters!). When I got to the download screen on my cell phone they had a screen that said you are about to download this song and it'll cost you three dollars plus a service fee for files of a certain size. I figure, sure, why not? I like the song and it would sound pretty fucking cool playing every time somebody calls me on my cell because who could ever get sick of that song? Don't answer that. It's a rhetorical question.

So I agreed to the charge and started my download. I was quite excited to have on my phone this pimped-out song that I could impress total strangers in crowded movie theaters, sold out concerts, hospital rooms, and all these other places where cell phones are not only welcome, but openly encouraged. The song downloaded and I played it for the first time.

And you want to know something? I didn't get "Drop It Like It's Hot", I got the chorus of "Drop It Like It's Hot" not nearly as "Drop It Like It's Hot" as the cell phone internet led me to believe. Let me clarify that a little. I paid three dollars not for the song "Drop It Like It's Hot" but for the chorus to "Drop It Like It's Hot", thirty seconds of "Drop It Like It's Hot".

"So the fuck what?" you're probably asking out loud, maybe shaking your fist at your computer screen in frustration at my pettiness.

Well, when I am on my computer logging onto the big people's internet I can download "Drop It Like It's Hot" for about a dollar or two at most. And you know what? It would be the whole song! Think about it. I could spend two dollars and get the whole song off the internet on my desktop computer or I could spend three dollars to get thirty seconds of that same song on my cell phone. What a fucking bargain!

There is, indeed, a sucker born every minute as the old adage goes.

And you just know there's some guy sitting by a pool somewhere in California right now and he has a computer that just keeps track of how many times poor saps around the world click yes to agree to download "Drop It Like It's Hot" for three dollars because it makes him three dollars richer. Right now that man is smiling because he just got my money! That bastard!

The worst part of this whole life lesson is that I probably still haven't learned my lesson. No wait, scratch that, the worst part is that I'm still such a newbie when it comes to cell phones that I haven't figured out how to change my ringtone in the first place and so I'm stuck with the default ringtone until i can figure out how to annoy people with the chorus to "Drop It Like It's Hot" over and over again while people phone me more and more. It's amazing how popular I am.

Corpses And Their Jewelry

I have a beef. Those of you who knew me before I started this here blog know that sometimes I like to rant about things. The beef I have today has to do with internet spam.

"Oh great, you're going to rant about spam. Way to challenge yourself, you fucking idiot."

Yes, I'm going to rant about spam, but please hear me out before you pass down judgment.

Back in the infancy of the internet, back when Al Gore, the only man who had the gonads to claim responsibility for inventing the internet, invented the fucking internet, it was really no secret that at some point in time this new technology would be utilized as a means of commerce. There were tons of new spaces for advertising. Email was a new avenue of communication with customers on an individual basis. And honest to god kilobytes of porn could be paid for with a credit card! Now that the internet has been around for a while and has had some time to evolve for me to start bitching about the evil commercial side of it all is about as intelligent as smashing my testicles in with a ball-pean hammer (ha ha, get the pun? I'm so fucking clever!). I could see the commercial dominance coming one day. That's what the business world does; it looks for ways to best suffocate new technology with consumerism. You can't fault the tiger for being a tiger. And you can't fault the whore for being a whore.

What I can find fault with though is ignorance.

Case in point. Today, I received an email that was designated as spam by my ISP. Big fucking deal, right? Not really. But, what I found rather intriguing about this one piece of spam that was sent to me was the subject line. It read:

"Tupac prefers Rolex and Cartier"

I'll let the sink in for a second.

For those of you who aren't in the know on who Tupac is, or was, click here. Basically, he was a prominent rapper of the late 20th century if you're a bit too lazy to read the wikipedia thing right now. What's important to note, though, is that he was a murder victim. That means that he's dead. One might argue that the large volume of posthumous album releases by Tupac Shakur suggests that he is, in fact, still alive, but for the purposes of my argument, and as it is generally accepted by the whole world, he is dead.

Now, if you read that subject line from the piece of spam that I received again you might notice what I noticed first. The wording of it isn't Tupac preferred, but rather Tupac prefers, which means, if my calculations are correct, that somebody has dug up Tupac's corpse to find out which brands of watch it recommends. This, my dear readers, is how fucking sick and twisted the advertising world has become.

That's right, folks! We here at Bling Bling Emporium have spared no expense in exhuming the remains of late great rapper and poet Tupac Shakur to see which Bling is best for you! After numerous hours of getting the maggot-infested carcass to try on different brands and styles, we found that it responded most favorably to Rolex and Cartier! That means, folks, we're having our first ever Tupac Shakur Rolex and Cartier Summer Blowout! Stop by our website for these amazing deals! But hurry, once the maggots and bacteria finish decomposing the body this sale is over!

Okay, okay. So that's probably not what happened. At least I hope it isn't. I have a lot of respect for the work that Tupac did and the fame he was able to secure himself in his lifetime, so it's definitely best to let the dead have some rest, don't you think? The alternative, though, is just as disconcerting to me, though.

I can accept the fact that I'm going to be bombarded with advertising all over the internet. As a human being living in the developed world I have learn to come to terms with the fact that everywhere I go and everything that I do will be linked to some sort of corporate entity always. I'm okay with that. No use fighting.

But come on! Couldn't you lazy fucks at least do some fact checking before you try to hawk your goods to me? I mean, this isn't even a case of Tupac being recently deceased just before the spam was sent to me. He's been gone nine fucking years! That's almost a decade! I mean, hey, if you really want my money that badly at least inspire me to want to give you my money because you are selling quality products endorsed by celebrities who don't have earthworms tunneling through their eye sockets right now, not because I pity you and your obvious mental retardation. I mean is it so hard to find a living breathing celebrity willing enough to whore himself or herself out for Rolex of Cartier watches? Apparently it is. If you're going for the whole pity dollar approach at least find a way to use the technology we have to turn the 'R' in 'Rolex' backwards and maybe the 'e' as well, you know so you can work with that whole dumb kid with a lemonade stand vibe. Then, at least, you'd really look like mental dwarves instead of incompetent jackasses.

Also, keep sending me some more offers for penis enlarging pills, morons, they really work! I mean seriously, have you actually counted the number of different people trying to sell bigger dicks in an average day's spam? There are 13 million different things that you can try to sell on the internet, 12.999 million of those things are penis enlarging pills.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

The Difference Between Performance Poetry And Written Poetry

So earlier tonight I was at the Iron Horse to take part in the latest poetry reading by the Raving Poets. The last time that I was in front of an audience was late June. I was really excited to have another chance to perform because opportunities to have captive ears are fewer and farther between than they used to be.

Now, if you remember back to my last post I was commenting how I want to get away from censoring myself as a poet. The sad part for me about tonight's performance was that it was very much a regression for me and after it was over I felt bad. Why was it a regression, you ask? Well, the poem I read for the crowd at the Iron Horse was from the Sometimes Sinister series I mentioned last post.

I guess that first off I should delve a little bit into what Sometimes Sinister is about. The series of poems that I am working on revolve around a clean cut man who falls in love with a woman who has substance abuse problems and a lifestyle that is, for all intents and purposes, bent on self-destruction. The man still goes forth with his courtship of this woman on the belief that he can turn her life around and change her ways. However, as the relationship blossoms the protagonist finds himself struggling to hold onto his own sanity and sanctity, finding himself getting into fights with her friends, doing everything in his power to protect his lover, and generally having delusions of grandeur. Without giving away the whole story I thought that it would be pertinent to give you a synopsis of what I am working with here.

But back to tonight's performance.

The poem I read was titled "Question" and it will have a place later on in the plotline. In the poem, the protagonist and his lover are holed up in the bathroom of his house because he has become quite paranoid of her friends who don't seem to ever leave. In the poem the lover asks our hero if he would marry her and the poem focuses on the hero's thoughts regarding the marriage proposal. So to get myself back on topic with regards to the regression in my work, I actually omitted a stanza from the poem consciously as I reading it for the audience. In essence I censored myself and what made it doubly bad is that I had almost just finished posting on my blog that I wanted to stop censoring myself, or that this whole exercise in being sinister with my work was an attempt at freeing myself as a poet. I felt very hypocritical after I sat down again. I really don't know how to explain it.

Maybe I should post the poem here so you can see what I did. It might better illustrate my point.

Maybe the whole moral of the story
is that nobody is meant to be saved,
nobody is meant to be changed;
we’re all more static than we’re willing to admit.

Superheroes don’t exist in the real world.

The comic book writers failed us in that regard.

With you laying in the bathtub beside me,
sheltered by my duvet,
nesting on layers of blankets
to make fiberglass just a little more hospitable,
I can’t tell if you’re talking in your sleep
or if you’re gripped by drug-induced hallucinations
or if you’re talking from some other subconscious place
when you say:

Will you marry me?

And when I whisper to you, “yes.”
it seems too loud in these shitty bathroom acoustics.

But you say nothing else after that.

Maybe you are asleep.

I can almost sense the way your body is positioned;
in my mind I see you draping your arm over the side of the tub,
reaching out for me in the pitch, trying to touch me.
Giving up, you slump back down.
I hope.
Or I see with my bat’s sense of sonar.

And I bide my time sitting on the toilet
in the dark facing the one point of entry into this,
the safest room lately,
by carving K.H. + T.C. in an arrowed heart
on the front grip of ole Double Barreled Redeemer
with the tip of a bowie knife.

I wonder if it’s all subconscious really, your question
And I wonder if my answer is just as illusionary.
I wonder if the real us is somewhere far off,
picket fences and wildly fertilized lawn
that needs mowing twice a week.
If we’re hammock naps and picnics in the park,
parents of happy children who are as bright as they are beautiful
instead of shotgun bathrooms and withdrawal jitters.

-Michael Appleby
August, 2005

So, then, the part that I omitted was the stanza that starts "And I bide my time sitting on the toilet". I suppose I did that because I was really worried about the audience reaction to the implied violence inherent in the imagery of the double barreled shotgun. Before I started reading this poem I did throw out a bit of a disclaimer that it was all strictly fiction, but I found myself really worried about what taking this poem out of the context of the whole plot of the series of poems would mean for the presence of a shotgun and a bowie knife. So I omitted that part. I think it took one of the more sinister images I have planned for the whole series and I think that's kind of why I feel as badly as I do about my reading tonight. The whole point was to be sinister and I couldn't bring myself to do that in front of tonight's audience, even after a disclaimer. Ugh. That's bad.

For those of you reading this and wondering about the specifics of the poem you can ask me anything you want. I will tell you this right off the start though, this is still an early draft and I do intend to tinker with it some more. The only other thing that I can offer you before I go hang my head in shame is that I can't quite remember what I have the characters named, but that when I drafted it I gave them the initials K.H. and T.C. arbitrarily. So if you know people with those initials and you're about to give me an earful of your verbal vengence save yourself the effort because I haven't actually given them names just yet.

But I'll leave you with that for now. Feel free to berate me in the comments all you want for being a great big hypocrite. I deserve it.

Monday, August 08, 2005

About "Sometimes Sinister"

Sometimes Sinister is the tentative title of the longer poetry project that I am working on. It's a series of poems that is designed to tell a story. My goal with these poems is not necessarily to explore each second of the plot in great detail, but rather to poetically explore the thoughts of the protagonist as the plot winds on. I am making some significant progress, though it is hard to gauge exactly how many poems I still need before I am done the series because I have not been writing the poems in a linear manner. That is to say that I have been writing poems and deciding after they are written whereabouts on the plotline they belong. As I have accumulated more and more poems for the series I have found myself wanting to explore certain points in the plotline with the poems a bit more.

I won't give away the plot just yet, but what I do want to talk about is how the series of poems itself is an attempt on my part at writing something darker and more sinister than what I have typically written and performed for audiences in the past. That's part of the reason why I have tentatively titled the series Sometimes Sinister. The title descibes the plot line of the poems, especially the nature of the relationship between the protagonist and the woman he loves and at the same time it wants to describe my body of work as a whole.

The idea for attempting a project such as this came to me earlier this year. I attribute it to the culture that I have surrounded myself with and I think it might be pertinent to talk about some of my strongest influences.

1.) Nunt by: Mingus Tourette - This collection of poetry really taught me a lot as I was reading it. First and foremost I learned that there is no need to censor one's self when it comes to writing poetry. Really, I was probably saying that a long time before I ever read Nunt, but as much as I said that there was always a degree of restraint that I exercised for fear of alienating my audience. Nunt really put the whole idea of restraint into perspective. Tourette's brutality and his stark images created something that was truly beautiful, something that brutality and stark images shouldn't create, but there you have it. That's just what he did. He took grit and made jewelry of it. Secondly, there was a narrative style to the poems in Nunt that got through a lot and didn't get muddled with too much flowery language, making for a book of poetry that didn't alienate me as a reader. There definitely needs to be more books like Nunt

2.) Johnny The Homicidal Maniac by: Jhonen Vasquez - The antihero of Jhonen Vasquez's graphic novel (is this considered a graphic novel) is to be lauded, at least by me for the purposes of Sometimes Sinister. What Vasquez has done is create a protagonist who is as violent as he is complex. I wish I could do half as much with my protagonist with poetry as Vasquez did with Johnny The Homicidal Maniac in panels. I should be that fortunate.

3.) Fight Club by: Chuck Palahniuk - Anybody who knows me knows that I'm a huge Chuck Palahniuk fan, having turned a lot of my friends on to his writing over the years. In actuality I could have probably named any one of his works as an influence and I'm sure that most, if not all, have influenced me here in some small way, but Fight Club deserves special designation here because what I culled from my multiple readings of the book and multiple viewings of the movie is a lyrical style that can be graceful while it's being gritty. Chuck Palahniuk has an attention to detail that is almost clinical and it makes for a vivid reading experience. I would love to be able to use refrain like Palahniuk can use refrain.

Those are my primary literary influences. Certainly I could have extended this list to include a great number of other books. Who knows? Maybe I'll post this and just remember another title or two that absolutely has to be included here and I'll have to go back and redraft the post to incorporate them. I'm going to call this a post for now and when I get one done I will post a mix of songs that I listen to to get me in the mood for writing the poems in the series. There is one song that sort of triggered me to sit down and start writing that goes by the name "Someone's In The Wolf" by Queens of the Stone Age if you want one track to check out right now. There are other songs, though, and I'll get back to you with those.

My intention is for this to be the first of a series of updates on my progress with the project. Hopefully, this will give me incentive to stick with it and not let it fall by the wayside like I do with so many other things in my life.

For now, though, good night and I'll post for you again soon.