Sunday, April 29, 2007

THE MASTER--Exurban Canadian Gothic

The countryside was hilly and in bloom. It was spring in Riverdrive Park where a neat white cottage was almost hiddent behind a screen of Australian pines. The house number, in its brass calligraphy, read 410. Same as a shotgun.
The Australian pines almost obscured a huge Williamsburg picture window, but you could not see inside, some kind of tinting through which you could see out, but outsiders could not see in.

Inside, a beautiful woman was preparing breakfast for somebody, certainly not her husband. She was especially beautiful because she had made herself up for the stranger. She was very fair, roundfaced, lots of blue on her eyelids, the look of a woman who wanted out, who was attracting somebody, anybody who would rescue her out of her trap.
Trapped indeed she had been, with her Dracula of a husband, lab worker, in fact, who had a penchant for making her drink her own tears and his bestiality in what may be called bed. Then too, there was the complicated accommodation she had to make to arouse the Master's sleeping and complicated sexuality. But to trace the convoluted links of the Master's passion, to also involve his male lover, took some doing, and frankly, she was exasperated by it all, though in her own involved way, she loved the Master all the same.

There was this supreme power he had over her.
The Master had some modern twists. There was that business with the VCR, where afterwards they had watched their romp, and at one point in the replay there was no image of the Master at all, merely some sort of electric
outline as if from some monster out of a vintage B movie like Forbidden Planet. She'd had the first horrid intimation that the Master may not be from this world at all.
It was not the first time she had felt this way.
Kara had been married to Frank for fourteen years. Fourteen years it took her to realize that the world was not at all the way she was compelled to see it through Frank's eyes. Oh yes. Those eyes. Dark. Hypnotic. One night, when the curtains blew, she had had the hollowest, emptiest feeling that she was totally artificial, a total creation of Frank, that she was Frank's novel, Frank's VCR project.
She recalled playing the tapes on her day off, with Frank away at the laboratory. She was examining Frank from all angles. Yes, yes, he was extremely tall, much taller than she. He had a soft voice and a gentle manner. Handsome, a Simon Cowell if Simon Cowell could be made up to be handsome, the same black tee shirts, the confident manner. Quite a catch it had been for her, herself so fine, the envy of the campus.
Until you realized what Frank did for a living. Torturing animals in a laboratory where they ran tests for smear-proof mascara, day after day, the rabbits, the white rats, the monkeys with their eyes red a bleeding.
Come to think of it, she was having trouble with her own eyes lately--she had always had trouble with here eyes, and now tith this thing building up between her and the newfound "friend", her eyes were irritated all the more.

"You can't get everything from one person." Where had she heard this before? Why from Frank, of course. Frank with the dark sensitive eyes who would bring his gay friends to bed with them, here in this neat white cottage, this White Hotel, from out of a book she was reading, this white hotel where everybody was welcome, especially stray men with no obvious family connections, where nobody was selfish "in bed" and where a paradox of life was revealed: That which can be truly possessed was that which was to be shared.

That which you share. How did I ever get these atttitudes? Good God. I am a book keeper and an accountant. I have a regular job like everybody else in my set. Frank works in the laboratory. We are the ideal exurban couple. We are the young professionals, the house the mortgage, my car, Frank's SUV. How did I involve myself in this style of life with Frank, the mammoth parties, the drugs and satanism--all these "friends."

She thought of a couple of the "Friends", their questionable sexuality, their elegance, sometimes one of them disappearing. And that Hungarian gardener Frank had hired. Always trimming the edge of the lawn with what must certainly have been an axe.
The drug den downstairs.

The friend in the kitchen, for whom she was making a very labored and time-consuming breakfast (opening the oven door, sensing that the eggs benedict wer still lukewarm, the toaster seeming to not work at all)--was becoming a little restless and she caught him out of the corner of her irritated eye twiddling with the FM radio on the kitchen table.

...CHARGED WITH KEEPING A COMMON BAWDY HOUSE WAS FRANK...Did she hear that right? Must have been her imagination.
The friend, a touch silver-haired, a very open man, something of a poet, kept twirling the knob until a song came on, an older one by the Eagles, out of California.

She's got a lot of pretty boys

that she calls her friends.

He kept playing with the radio until he settled on some strain of elevator music, all the while lighting a cigarette, his third one since she had begun making breakfast. She had another look at him.
An elegant-appearing chap all right, from the way he held his cigarette, almost European-fashion, with the slim fingers extended, but there was a hint of strength in the hands, the leftovers of hard work, of mines and wars and of other people with hard hands. He came from the aristocracy of war and famine and that was a real aristocracy, Kara knew, perhaps the the only viable aristocracy in this crazy, sexy and druggy age. His eyes were green, and had the tendency to take on the shade of whatever dominant colour was around, and now they were reflecting a read-and-whie tablecloth, a bistro colour, which she had strangely selected this morning.
The tablecloth did not go at all with the danish blond and grey decor of the house with its white walls, its picture groupings of Cezanne and Monet prints, of all the yellow wood.

Yet it seemed somehow fitting for this man, this "Friend".

Through the large front window, Kara caugh a glimpse of the Hungarian with the axe. " I can not have this man murdered. I love him."
The "friend" seemed to have almost heard her.

The radio was now playing the soundtrack of an old movie called "The Collector".

"I have come to collect you, the friend's eyes seemed to say. "Frank sent you to 'collect' me.

"But I will 'collect' you.

"I will rescue you."

She finished making the coffee at last and picked up two cups, one for herself and the other for the Friend.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Catch-40. The big Wham!

How crazy we are at forty, and how strangely lucky.

Forty. The Big Catch -40.

Here you were bulletproof, making a large media splash that welled all the way to New York, meeting Toronto's Ed Mirvish, smart rich guy by his own labours and Mirvish delving into Hollywood; I ride Ed's coattails by writing about him and he rewards me by plastering my writings all over the Royal Elexandra Theatre in Toronto's entertainment district.

"Did you have to bend over?" some jealous wag hissed, but I said no, I did it all by myself.

I liked Ed. Everybody did. He had the most interesting homilies, as an old grocery man: "Don't ever, ever, buy green bananas.
"Look to your corner barbershop. People aren't in there just for haircuts."

How right he was. I bought green bananas and got the runs.

I once set up a campaign office atop a barbershop in Newmarket. Da Mob knew I was up to something. I could hear them whispering in a language familiar to me. I know the sounds of many tribes.

First effort didn't work. They set fire to my back porch. I phoned the fire deparment then rushed downstairs through the flames.

Second time they did a real pro job Cutting the phone line.. Back porch going Whoosh as the gasoline ignited.

No sense of humour, those Newmarket politicians at the time.

The encumbent is standing downstairs.

I said, "What Mr. Mayor, no foreplay?"

"No foreplay, Ivan," he yelled up. "This is the way the game is played.."

Sanctimonius fornication!

I did a swan dive from the second floor and almost landed on the mayor.

I thought I saw a Glock automatic pointed at me, thought it was all over, but it was a fireman calmly looking for core heat in the blazing house with some sort of instrument that sure looked a lot like a Glock.

What did the fireman have for breakfast that morning?

What was the fireman thinking when he knew there was a man in the burning house?

There he was, calmly using his heat seeker, while I was standing beside him, my shirtsleeves still a little smoky. I could have lit up the instrument all by myself.

There had not even been the hint of a siren as the firetrucks sidled by. It was the one with no ladder or pump.

Who invented my life?

Why did I ever run for office?

Why did I pick this Italian landlord?

Happily, I had a job at the time, and media connections. I made sure my reporter friends wrote the whole thing up.
One Madrechingado way to make the front page.

I thought back of what Mr. Mirvish had told me. "All advertising is good advertising."

I sold more of my novel that year than any other.

Even the mayor, whom I swear I heard saying, "why you slippery little rat" when I had escaped, stood up in council after my impressive book sales and declared me a town treasure.

Stangely, we became friends. If you can't fight 'em, join them, I suppose.

Word got out that the mayor and I were running the town together.

No longer did the incumbent look at me sideways, as if to say, "Is he stronger than me?
"Smarter than me?
"Less queer?"

But I remained a journalist. I began taking potshots at my newfound "friend". I had studied some anthropology, and began, in print, to call him " Australopithecus Paisan", after Leaky's "Australopihthecus Boisson."

Still, the bizzarre friendship held.

"You like me, Ivan," said the mayor. "You once said all renaissances were started by homosexuals. Newmarket is going through a renaissance from a bedroom community to a growing industrial concern.
"You had a lot to do with that.

"I think you're a homo, Ivan."

So I went to the newspaer office and quoted him. And I added the next quote, where he said all my journalistic kind were homosexuals as well.

Wham. Lawsuit.

Egad. First the attempt at my life and now my job.

Retraction from the paper. Ivan let go at the paper.

Suddenly, no job, no apartment, my wife living with some redneck who beat her often...In resentment, I suppose for the time I'd beat up on him. Banty rooster. I jumped up in the air and hit him.

I wasn't feeling especially lucky during this really bad period.

"The sweetest sound I can hear, " yells the mayor as he splashes me in his car, "Is a GO bus leaving town and you in it.

I was fast losing my sense of humour.

I went to the Attorney- General and the Chief of police.

They soon made short work of local corruption. I had made my point.

But then I ran for mayor again, against somebody else and lost anyway.

I did have a Jewish mother-in-law and I was starting to feel as if I was in the middle of some Old Testament temple crumbling.

So I moved to the New Testament.
St. Paul: When they shit on you in one city, move to another city.

And so I did. Retreated to my roots. Started to see Ed Mirvish again. "Do you want me to set you up?" He was serious. Ed was well known for giving artists storefronts and back-room apartments.

Ed's work? I went to the Toronto Star and plied my trade again.

Success. Women on the phone.

Always the women. It was probably why I had gotten to be the way I had gotten to be. Coddled by women, thinking you were King Kong . But things tend to fall apart at age forty. Classic midlife crisis!

And the smalltown mayor had long arms, and soon I was unemployed again.

I prayed to God.

The mayor died.

Well, back in town again. Back on Boogie Street.

But then my friend, the chief of police, realizing there was always a stir around me, said, "You're kind of a big fish in a small pond here. Wouldn't you be happier in a bigger place, like Toronto?"

Oh oh.

I immediately got a haircut (not the same barber shop), put on a suit and told the chielf of police I wanted to be a detective.
He humoured me, and we actually worked on a couple of cases. No more hints to get out of town.

And then my other novel came out, I got a front page review--and television time.

Lived happily ever after.


Monday, April 23, 2007

We shall not cease from all our explorations

We are, all of us "quarks", on the same frequency.

Even the non-quarks, like fellow-blogger Erik.

We had all at one time or other, arrived at Dante's beginning:

In the middle of the journey of our lives, I came to myself in a dark wood.
For it seems that the straight way was lost.

And how lost the straight way, sometimes for forty years and more.
Or fifty.
Until the short story we had read, in another language perhaps as children barely beyond the age of reason, comes to our eyes again, old eyes, dim, to feel again like a nine-year-old child, the precocious child we had been, made of stardust, golden.
But we may have landed on this earth in the middle of a Depression or a world war.

Not enough to eat, bare feet worrying the earth floor. Slaves to a cruel and capricious master.

And yet we had read this story, the story that had exactly echoed our plight, The Star Child, still remembering the cyryllic script, and "by Oskar Vaild,"

This was our little flash of genius, shared by the outlaw, the leper, the homosexual. the mother raven convinced her son is the most beautiful thing in the forest, and how could the woodcutter miss seeing such a wonder.

Joni Mitchell:

Through the windless wells of wonder
By the throbbing light machine
In a tea leaf trance or under
Orders from the king and queen
Songs to aging children come
Aging children, I am one

We strike out on this life, once being beautiful and radiant, to a whole series of adventures and misadventure, fatherhood, motherhood, riches, rags, sin, soul, selfishness resulting in a dimming of our beauty, and the scorchment of a Dante, who was known to be very dark, and people would say he was so because he had been to hell. Aging children, I am one
"Some come dark and strange like dying
Crows and ravens whistling
Lines of weeping, strings of crying
So much said in listening
Songs to aging children come
Aging children, I am one

"Does the moon play only silver
When it strums the galaxy
Dying roses will they will their
Perfumed rhapsodies to me
Songs to aging children came
This is one"

Ah, we "quarks" in the brotherhood and sisterhood of blogland.

This wan't the way it was supposed to be, was it.
"The Spirit of the School," as the kindly nuns had termed you.

The sneering at their A's and their assessments, telling them all that they were boring and stupid. And ugly.
The running off to a technical school, to follow your friends, and here the teachers were indeed boring, stupid and ugly. Sold your birthright for a mess of pottage. Kept your light under a bushel. Among the immoral, you too immoral.
Among the filthy, filthy too.

Until one day the mentor and the guide. Get thee to a university!

Well, the university leads to commies and communes and Communist's daughters and soon the money comes(All Communists are economists) and the children come, and yet you are not ready, you are never ready, you had never been 30 before.

And so you surrender the vows, give up the commies, the golden factories, to find out who you might be and the strange, beautiful woman on your bed, catching you at a weak moment, "Finding out about yourself, lover?"
Finding out about oneself as ugly inside. "Pretty people are bad," your wise mother had said.

Pretty people are indeed bad.

And so to the durable T. S. Eliot

We shall never cease from exploration. And at the end of all our exploring Will be to arrive where we started. And know the place for the first time. .

That place had been you as the nine-year-old precocious child, thrown into Depression, into war. And yet you read. You read the best.
Someone had bothered to translate the old masters into the language you had been born into. Somebody had bought you a violin.

The ones around you had not been as selfish as you.

We come to a strange ending in Wilde's "The Star Child." After the star child, turned into something like a Cane Toad, realized that kindness, even to strangers, was everything, and only thus could he come to his former self.

"Yet ruled he not long, so great had been his suffering, and so bitter the fire of his testing, for after the space of three years, he died. And he who came after him ruled evilly."

Well, it's not quite like that.

It is a long life.

And if you stay with the wreck long enough, there will be rescue.

From within, or without.

Don't leave the wreck!

Ah, we quarks.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Can a bumblebee survive Al Gore?

My intention was to show off the spiffy AntiQuark logo my techie has so wonderfully put up. But I guess I have to write something, some of it depressing, some of it not, my final essay on Springime 2007.

It is finally spring.

The trees are bright and silver. And fuzzy.

The early part of this April might as well have been an ice age here in Ontario.

Reports from Baffin Island say it is the coldest April yet. And Baffin Island just a few hundred miles from the North Pole!

On April 1, I could just see Al Gore walking around in shorts and a tee shirt. "Warm eh? Oh, don't you love this?"

It was seven below, Celsius.

Right out of touch.

Damn politicians. Have they checked the spiffy new incinerator, the second one they've put up in my lovely town?

Ode to dioxins. And kiddies born with eleven fingers.
But don't light a cigarette!

Today, I am biking. Again. Two homeless guys pass me, also on bikes. They carry cellphones and talk to each other.Like they couldn't just talk?

Small wonder that the UN thinks every Canadian is worth at least $70,000. Even the homeless guys?

The effort of biking has freed us from pedalling against another load, a pushcart fulll of pain that many of us had been pedalling against all this week, this awful feeling that all history is conspiracy. Planes fall out of the sky. NASA gets raided. A brain-addled robot slays 32 aerospace students. Right in the middle of impeachment procedures.
Dostoevsky's demons.

And you know, having been through a world war, that these are bad omens. And there is more murder and mayhem to come...I hope I am wrong.

There is the real hope of a steamer on the horizon--that we shall be rescued from this Raft of the Medusa by a jovial, somehow Germanic sea captain. Santa Claus from the season just gone by. This has certainly been the case in many instances of my life where I have waited for rescue--Never leave the wreck! Rescue does come.

Recovery is miraculous and dramatic. It may come this spring, or it may not. The local Indians will tell you that it is all on the whim of the Creator.

In the meantime, the Indians will tell you to stay away from waterfalls, great confluences of water. And large lakes, like Simcoe, for there is an agepogee in each one, each with its own monster.

I ply this bikepath, along a river, along these aspens, along these larches known in Canada as tamaracks. Tamaracks seem to the greenhorn like so many reddened, discarded Christmas trees, but they are not, for these conifers will regain their needles and will again be bright and bushy.

Hopefully like us

I sidle up to a lady in capri pants and hoodie.

Like me on this sudden and miraculous spring, she is a little whimsical, vulerable and kind of shy. But she is in there pedalling for all she's worth, like an out-of-wedlock teenager pushing a baby carriage. Maybe she does push a baby carriage.

They have stolen the welfare money. Cut off the environment money. First sign of the Mob getting into government.

They have probably taken my riding partner's welfare money. Lazy woman? No.. Decided to work at McDonald's and they have taken away all her benefits. She barely gets eight dollars an hour now and daycare is hard to get.
She gulps air and keeps her beautifully eyebrowed visage straight ahead.

I move to another party.

An entire family, father in tights and shorts. Helmeted mother in ski pants and yellow top. Little ginger-haired daugher in shorts and sandals, doughtily holding up the rear.

We are all pedalling, moving, moving, past the trees, past the bird, pst the pair of discarded horses of green clay and other small bits of rubbish along the Holland River. We seem, along this grey river already dotted with dandelieons, to be already moving toward summer.

There is a huge snapping turtle on the path. Not impressed by us. Moving in that robot-like slowness. But just stick your toe out!
All turtles were once birds.
Like us.

Avoiding alien raptors hurtling down from the sky.

We were told not to be anxious, to live and love, that the pteradactyl was no longer out there.

But it is.

Who knows what strange form is out there.

Thirty-foot horse out of Babylonian clay tablets.
And a crow with teeth, tall as a house.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

My AntiQuark Award

Not for nothing is Roger's Version, by John Updike, my favourite book.

Consider the topic of Quarks.


Quarks are the basic units of matter. They come in colours and flavours and carry positive or negative charges in increments of a third. Quarks come in colours and flavours, and are in fact, inseparable.

Just as my lady correspondents now consider themselves inseparable.

They have chosen to call themselves the Penta-quarks, and I, who was the original "quark" after launching something we call "quarkhood" over here--have been elevated to Anti-quark and the ladies have designed a fitting logo for my exalted state.

What has happened here?

I am certainly no Alistair Crowley, neither do I think that my ladies carry those satanic purses so bandied about in British literature.

I just picked a term out of physics, there were three lady correspondents to my blog on a regular basis, and I deemed them "The three quarks."

A passage out of Updike--no, no, don't even go there!--would offer some illumination:

"Quarks inevitably occur in threes, and cannot be pried apart.

"Think. Three things inseparable."

'Father, Son and Holy Ghost' floats across Dale's field of inner vision, but does not make it to his lips. Nor does Id, Ego, and Superogo. Nor Krieagmans's three daughters..."

My lady bloggers, who now call themselves the Penta-quarks, (they recently became four and I am the fifth), have offered me the award of Anti-quark, since I named them "quarks" to begin with.."

Suddenly my web--and their webs too--
is full of quarks, penta-quarks and anti-quarks.

Heaven forbid there should be a midnight initiation ceremony.

Anyway, Pentaquarks of Ivan's Blog, thank you for the award.

Lucifer is a little crazy and it will take him some time to figure out how to put the award up on a permanent post.

What are we playing with here?


De debbil likes it warm?

"You should start a cult," a dipsy student of mine once suggested.


Monday, April 16, 2007

The Island Grove Press Writing Award

Go ask correspondent Josie about clever young girls who offer literary awards to literary bloggers.

The recipient is at first thrilled, tells the other bloggers, they offer congratulations, make copies of the award avatar--and suddenly a fizzle!

The award is bogus, a marketing ploy, and worse, it'll more often gum up your computer with a virus than not.

Poor pity the striving blogger who is either trying to be the tallest tree on the hill or the prettiest little shrub in the valley.

They get swindled, spammed and jammed and get on telemarket rolls all the same.

It's a dangerous world out there for us literary bloggers, a world full of vanity publishers, ascerbic critics, literary hired guns, frauds, poseurs, bloggers looking for a fight, William Hungs, psychos, snots and other forms of artificial life.

Nobody want her dream shattered; damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead, even if she does write like a sausage and not know it--It's all the publishers' fault, the agents', the critics. "My talent will finally shine, and it'll be between covers, not just up on this here blog."

Those of us who have paid our dues--and still pay them, dammit!--are pretty used to being abused, badly treated and generally shat upon by the established literati--being sent to the address of an agent who doesn't exist, getting a literary grant through a publisher who later welches on the contract, being told to sell pencils when a publishing contract is suddenly taken from you and given to somebody else.

But gee, Wally, there has to be something along the way to keep a confident though thwarted writer going.

A signpost.

A few paragraphs in a newspaper that might resemble an article.

A poem published in a small but but influential little magazine.

Or an award, a real one, even if it is only electronic. You can put the little avatar right up there on your blog on a permanent post--Hey, somebody out there with a bit of brain seems to think I'm all right, that I'm a writer after all, that I have talent.

Some of the logos shine like little stars. They look good. They draw congratulatons, comments.

I do have a publishing company in my hip pocket. It came from publishing a lot of my students and former students in a creative writing class at Seneca College hereabouts.

Well, now that I have been dragged kicking and screaming into the electronic world, I do notice that some--certainly not all--literary bloggers really have the gift.

One of my favourites on the web is e.a. monroe. She has a web page, SHADOWS OF TIME.

I read her memoirs of her youth and said to myself, Hey, this is a little Willa Cather, that lady who wrote about the prairies, and Mesa Verde, and all those places that remind you of who your are, where you live, among whom you move.
You don't have to visit Mesa Verde to speculate about a lost people. You can read e.a. monroe and reminisce over your lost youth...Or is our youth ever really lost?

So while reading Elizabeth's memoirs, not all of them fictional, I said, "Hey, this girl deserves a publishing," and so I published something of hers, and just yesterday, I see that she has produced a brilliant "Op-ed" piece about the bombing in Oklahoma City twelve years ago. I thought her writing deserved some sort of award. You can't hide your light under a bushel forever.

So I sought an award logo for somebody like Liz (A whole coterie of equally talented Liz's seems to be out there!).

My efforts at first were whimsical. A tiny Newfoundland Retriever, with the caption, "Lost Newfie Award".

A picture of the splendid racehorse some angel in Australia had named after me...Hey, that was an award for old Ivan, no kidding!

But finally, after my consulting with a talented lady--shall I name you, J?--we decided to design an award that was professional looking, to the point, and would offer a talented writer some incentive.

So here she be.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

You gotta out-Plate Plato and out-shop Schopenhauer

Serious writing needs serious thought.


No, not just your philosophy.


The love of truth.

All the spadework has been done in the past, but you have to at least know where they'd dug.

It took us a long time to get out of the religious wilderness ( or did we really, as witches warlocks and Scientologists still haunt the suburbs?),

Philosophy cuts through Man, Myth and Magic (Magick?) and places us squarely into the middle of the house. The house of intellect.

Philosophy cuts out the bullshit and de-horns the cattle.

So where do you get this Occam's Razor?

Well, a good university course would help, though there's many a nigh course in it, even in the community colleges and high schools.

Old Ari the Greek used to say, "Let no man ignorant of mathematics enter here." Yet the Greeks were woefully inept at mathemantics, save for geometry.

Geometry. Maybe that's all you needed, since the Brits managed for a long time to rule with "just a little geometry, a little Latin, and a little Greek."

So if you're going to become a writer, you need "a little geometry, a little Latin and a little Greek."

There is a caveat. The wonderful writer Kurt Vonnegut Jr., who died just recently was so bold as to say "all Greek philosophy was "one large".

Says the sage to the student. "The whole is greater than the part. Yes? Q. E.D.?...Now bend over, kid."

But seriously, when you undertake to write, you have to have something like an operating manual, at least for Western thought. If you don't have it, people will find you out and you will make a damfool of yourself with your clumsy scrawls.

The manual goes like this: To Ti?

Ancient Greek for "What is it?"

What is this thing I'm facing. Is it masculine or is it feminine? Is it moving or is it standing still. What is its inner contradiction?--what will make it all fall apart, or at least take a final direction in its movement?

Sounds a bit Marxist, but it's really Hegel, that frustrating metaplhysician. Hegel is best not read in the raw.
This writer has tried and tried, and had to settle for a dumber philosoher, Marx.

Marx goes this way: Forces act on the thing in front of you. From one side comes the thesis, from another the antithesis. These forces come together, but there is an inner contradiction at this juncture and because of this inner contradiction, there is the final direction, or synthesis.

Clear as mud, huh?

Just imagine a tree upside down, the trunk of the tree being the synthesis, or final direction. That's more like the thinking a guy called Feuerbach rather than Marx or Hegel, but you get the idea.

Why am I waxing so philosophical while I really had trouble with algebra in school?

Algebra, is after all the basis of this here computer. We have shot well past the Greeks, but we seem to operate machinery without the foggiest idea of what is the ghost in that machinery. Boolean algebra. All the possible ways that a human can think. Philosopy.

Which is exactly what writing should be about. All the possible ways that a human can think.
At least all the possible ways that a reader can interpret your writing. "Impenetrability, I say," says Humpty-Dumpty to Alice.

Again and again, I see writers getting rejected, awkward screeds bouncing like bullets off mylar.
Awkward screeds because of awkward thinking.
Like my lawyer used to say to me when I tried to interpret standard form. "What'sthe matter. No education?"

Pink Floyd: "We don't need no education..."

But we do, oh yes we do.

You can get it yourself by reading one or two key books. And now we have the Internet and Wikkipedia.

Or you can get it formally.

But to write as if you were a child, in abysmal ignorance, is to almost ask for trouble. People will laugh at you.

...But then there's poetry, for which there are no rules.

Poetry is somehow stronger, deeper and more convincing than prose.

And for that you need genius.

Like the song, "Hey Jude!" Simple enough in chord pattern, but doesn't it have the genius?

I guess what I'm trying to say is that writing is an ancient and honourable profession.

There are suddenly so many of us dipsticks trying to ply that profession.

You need to read a book or two. You need to read a book or two on philosophy, certainly a manual on creative writing by somebody who knows what he's doing, like stephen King.

You gotta "Out-Plate Plato. Out-shop Schopenhauer. Outsmarx Marx.

Then maybe you'll be able to even think about starting a novel.

Pretentious, no?

But probably true.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Dragon Incinerates White Knight

Well, so much for crusading.

Seems I tried to be the white knight in getting a smelly garbage incinerator out of town, the town itself sued for "public nuisance", and the fiery and smelly dragon still won.

My lance is broken.

The dragon has incinerated me. And his belches and farts are still smelling up the town.

Now, he's going to go after my virgins.

The story, which should have run prominently opposite the editorial page, was instead bumped by a McDonald's ad, and what came out ws this drastically reduced bit:

Newmarket won't appeal a judge's ruling granting Halton Recycling Ltd. an indefinite stay.

Instead, the town will continue to work with the province's Environment Ministry to ensure Halton implements its action plan to eliminate odours emanating from the plant.

Councillors ratified the decision yesterday.

"We still strongly disagree with the judge's decision to extend the stay indefinitely," Mayor Tony Van Bynen said in a news release.

"However, council has weighted the options and realizes that an appeal will not accomplish anything for our residents if Halton completes the action plan in time.

Meanwhile, Halton has been ordered to pay the town's court fees incurred during the legal action against the firm.

Superior Court justice A. Bryant issued the ruling today, ordereing Halton to pay $227, 178 resulting from the towns application to have Halton declared a public nuisance in September, 2006.

The town, meanshile, must reimburse $34,604 of Halton's legal fees for Halton's successful March 2 decision to hve the stay period extended...

And so it goes.

You do your part to save the planet

You recycle everything you can, paper and cardboard in one blue box, plastic and glass in the other, food scraps in the green bin.

And the mammoth incinerator at the east end of town spews burnt plastic, arsenic and aerosol.

I once studied politics under David Crombie, a man known in Canada for not only his political acumen, but rising at one time to Mayor of Toronto.

Said Prof. Crombie:

"Well, it's really Plato's Myth of the Cave.

"We are in the cave, able to see only what's projected on the screen (Al Gore? David Suzuki?) while the reality out there is something else."

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The Kibble Beast

Every so often,over the past four years, I have been tempted to act as literary agent.

I discovered on the web a unique writer, another doctor's daughter, who seemed to crack the IQ scale at about 200. I love intelligent women. I hate stupid women, because they are manipulative and myopic.

Her name was Dawn Caplan, and man, could she write.

So I put on my literary agent's hat and had her submit something.

Here is how it went.

Dear Ms. Dann,

Thank you for taking the time to read my submission. Since Ivan Prokopchuk suggested your paper as a venue I have been reading the Facts and Arguments section on-line, and have enjoyed it thoroughly.

Below you will find my address, etc., and a copy of my essay, "The Elusive Kibble Beast". I hope that you enjoy it, and I look forward to hearing from you.

Best Regards,
Dawn Caplan
230 South Railroad Street
Lawton, MI 49065, USA
ph. 269-624-6692

The Elusive Kibble Beast

It was the shoes; the damn shoes were everywhere. They perched on windowsills, side tables, even the dining room table. None of them matched – sometimes in the bathroom she would find a tennis shoe that matched the one on the entertainment center two rooms away. More often they were singles. Sometimes there were socks too, and the odd bit of underwear, or a half eaten page from a book – or perhaps it was a bill.

Hunting, always hunting. Elusive beasts, her tiny prey. The dogs didn’t know where to look, so they stayed home, stalking shoes, socks, and the really smelly bits of underwear she was too forgetful to put away, or wash.

The cat was easier…she went out each morning after pawing her mistress awake, and came in each evening to mouse, or bat about the flotsam and jetsam on the floor. Bits of an insole, a stray underwire, the lower corner of the cover of “The Stand”. And always there was the fur, imaginary bunnies to bat about, until they gathered large and intimidating in the corners and lesser-used parts of the space.

It would have been a satisfying life, if not for the constant hunt. The damn little beasties could be elusive, and it was difficult to capture them in large numbers, which was what her beasties required. What she required. So it was out at daylight, and back long after it was done, with a few meager coupons that could be traded for the meat of the elusive kibble beast. She was too old to hunt, really. Now she hunted for the means to buy the product of the hunt.

She was haunted by the shoes, the half-eaten bits of leather that told her she was not bringing home enough. She was haunted by the days she was gone, when she missed the dogs’ aboriginal joy in shredding the bits of civilization she left carelessly sitting about. She would have happily joined them in shredding the navy-blue high heels, but regretted the loss of the insoles in her brown leather clogs.

She would come home, and place the shoes, socks, and still recognizable bits of underwear out of reach of the dogs. It was a habit. She seldom thought to retrieve them to a more appropriate location…after all, they were safe, sitting on the windowsills, fireplace mantel, and yes, even the dining room table. She considered mounting them above the fireplace as trophies, but decided that she could still use the slightly chewed black pumps in her hunt. The rest, like the swatted mosquitoes she sometimes forgot to wipe off the cupboards, would serve as a reminder that the hunt must go on.

Woman can write, huh?

I don't know what luck Dawn has had. I know her life, like many of the correspondents here has been affected by something of a personal tsunami and she now lives with her parents. Dawn and I have lost contact.

But every so often we are touched with a strange intelligence, not at all like our own.

(I have used Pam's {Sienna's} dog pic, I loved that pic from out of Victoria, Australia. I am sure neither Dawn or Pam will mind if I use it to illustrate the story.


Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Dashing Pierre, head pilot of the Lafayette Escadrille

Forcibly extracted from Canadian taxpayers are the French TV channels--we get at least two, often three of them on our cable. We have to. We are bilingual.

I innocently switch over from Canadian Idol to PBS and what do I get in between?

People are snogging!

I got back one channel.

People are still snogging!

Back another. Oh my god!

Not for nothing are we called bilingual!

I am not saying that all French television is porn--I mean, they really try, comedy for instance, where a fat man wears a woman's wig and they all split their sides--as if all this hadn't already been done on SNL.

The news programs are a real charm: Flashes of unrelated footage, while the announcer is saying something else, news from the Benelux countries, endless news of Quebec from and Ontario-based channel.

I pay a hundred million dollars a year for this.

They have taken survey of our TFO, the Ontario French channel and they have found, in the course of a given day, an audience of one. That's right, one viewer and she is taking French at night.

Don't get me wrong. I love the French and they have certainly loved me.

But it's the haphazard programming. And eight minutes into the programming, somebody will surely get laid.

There is no censorship, no political correctness. The producers can do what they want, and we pay them for it...And then a whack of ads in French, taken from the English version.

I don't mind shovelling out the tax money for this tripe, but come on folks, let's have a litttle cohesion, a little story line. I do speak some French, but the snapped continuity and idiotic cutaways at the wrong times is starting to drive me bonkers.

They're doing it again!

Hands in each other's laps.

Hands in each others' .....

Omigod, he's pouring cognac all over her!

Ah. Bilingualism.

I am finally getting it.

(Probably because I'm not getting it. Heh).

Vive la France!

When Dashing Pierrre of the Lafayette Escadrille goes down, he goes down in flames!

Tony Soprano, you're a gas

My dentist keeps asking me, "Ivan, why do you insist on making a target of yourself around town?...They keep burning down your campaign office. Next time, all you'll hear will be a click and you'll be 'swimming with the fishes'."
"Don't know, Dr. Lightman. Old newspaper instinct. I try to be novelist, but the old ambulance chaser is still in there."

So it was small wonder that anybody vaguely related to the Mob was soon giving Ivan a hard time around town.

You mean bankers and bus drivers are all in it as well?

Yep. And politicians and garbagemen.

Here is what I wrote in the Thursday April 5 issue of the Era-Banner hearabouts.

I've been reading Era-Banner hadlines lately to do with garbage incineration among our beautiful , well treed older subdivisions. Some of the headlines are none too cheerful:




The province's harebrained idea to burn garbage alonside tony subdivisions at the estuaries of superhighways, especially in Newmarket, puts the lie on Al Gore, David Suzuki and all those other one-note wonders with their heads in the clouds and rotting garbage at their feet..

Regional councillors view all those "Amway--style" industrial videos and come back all agog over new garbage-burning technologies.

Talk to someone at Hwy. 404 and Mulock Drive. It doesn't work. Just like liquid shoe polish doesn't work, just like electric shavers and electric toothbrushes don't work...And don't get me started on five blades in one razor.

Some technologies are doomed from the start....Never mind Europe. We are not Europeans.

Sorry, learned friends, landfill is still the best solution.

But to get at the landfill, you have to get past people such as the fictional mob boss Tony Soprano who controls all the garbage incineration. He has even begun to influence poor old Dalton McGillicuddy, our "Ethelred the Unready" premier.

Easy money all around , especially with unelected regional chairmen ( Read third-ward bigwigs).

Bada bing!

So shut up Mr. Gore and put a lid on it Dr. Suzuki. The real Kyoto problems is social polluiton and the bad smell seem to go from the Sopranos all the way up to Queen's Park. You want to do somethng about Global warning? Air pollution?

Go ask Tony.

Well, that was my article, and a lot of people, vaguely Italian, are looking at me "sideways , like goose."
Maybe all I'll really hear at the end is just a click.
So far, it seems like something stupid is still surviving in the jungle.
Here is hoping my writing doesn't go from the abstract to the concrete!

Saturday, April 07, 2007

The exit light just inches from your nose

First the wonderful poem by Janet Harvey that has helped me to produce the chord below it.

The exit just inches from her nose

She’s dancing now;
Having been to hell and back.
Lashes singed from sweltering journey.
She’s travelled the darkest tunnels-
Had been embedded in forbidden furnaces carted over treacherous hills,
Beyond purple dawns of overdose.
Megadoses of chemo- tangle that whole eternity,
that same painful path her father had travelled to the promise land
when it was time to say, no more;
no more poking, or burning my internal demons.
Let go, I am tired
of that same tunnel her brother visualized, could almost taste.
And so it looms:
The family fear.
So many dried roses hanging bat-like in the basement,

So the cards and gift baskets
seem to unfold.
Uttering now the words
As if a stream

Climbing a tower, to be as strong as ocean
Wings lame yet she flies.
Higher than ever ;
What frigid winter lay dormant
in the stream of words
They all ask same question.
Who can fix all those
broken dolls facing upward.
on abandoned fields everywhere.
Why can't scientist save the world-
From boiling rain, and poison beams
--Just band-aids to halt it .
When the exit light is red and cannot hide
It is just inches from your nose.


The exit light, red, and just inches from our nose.

How many times have we been there, this sudden intimation of death, but you too young to notice.

I am in Corpus Christi, Texas. With me is a gorgeous woman, not my wife. The movie we are seeing is the worst remake of King Kong ever; you can see the zippers on the suit, the paper mache towers, the Stearman pursuit planes, the peppering machine guns. All is phoney. You are phoney. The ape is phoney. He is not holding Fay Wray up there high on his tower. He is holding some starlet.
He crumples a Stearman.

There is this exreme fidgetiness . You can't watch the movie any more. The woman senses your restlessness, but she is trying to calm down too. After all, it is you who is constantly trying to get at a telephone--then her restraining hand. You can not phone your wife. Not here. Not in this situation. Not while she can listen. But you should not be in this situation.

There is the red EXIT sign, actually three of them. Which one will lead out, which one will lead to a blank wall, and which one will lead to a cell or pit.
You don't really know what the EXIT signs mean.. You are, after all, only 38, old to some, but actually very young.
You do not yet know the mysteries of relationship, one of these mysteries being EXIT, death itself as a kind of doppelganger. It is Easter.

Fast-forward into time:

You are on a subway. You have your mistress and children with you, the kids have been picked up. Your mistress wants to go shopping. You are totally drained of energy after the confrontation at the house. Damn near killed the live-in. And how pathetic was that, with your mistress waiting in the car.

The innocent children are happy to be with you. They like the mistress. She is beautiful.
She maps out the things we will all do together. "You should marry her, Daddy."
But there is a sudden immobilization. Only staring at the red EXIT sign seems to keep you breathing, which is really all you have to do. "We are at the Yorkdale stop. Let's go shopping!"
Shopping? Here am I, split into a thousand pieces, like Rumpelstiltskin, an Israeli at a pizza parlor, and she wants to go shopping.

Death seems to be in HIDE mode at the next stop. Dundas and Ossington, where suddenly there are fleecy clouds, and some kind of affirmation.
You are a skeet shooter. There will indeed be EXIT, but you're coming in like a Typhoon pilot,
you have to concentrate your fire and wait.

Friday, April 06, 2007

The Island Grove Press Big Foot Award.

We don't think you're so abominable.

At least that's what we planned for our award avatar when Josie said J.R. , one of our correspondents, deserved one.

Island Grove Press, though miniscule, is not an easy place to get awards from.

But here is what we're working on at present.

Well, it is Good Friday.

What a surprise when they roll the rock back.


Thursday, April 05, 2007

Marion--Certainly no Mother Mary!

This is my "I-am-sick-today-so-I-will-give-you-this" piece.


My friend Gary Lautens, over at the at the Star, used to have a column that could always be thrown into the breech when a writer was sick.

So into the breech, the Screech.

The beautiful woman in her paiseley dress wanted to know why I persisted as a teacher of writing.

"Why are you wasting your time at this," Marion Gallagher wanted to know. "You should be writing, not teaching.

"You are a writer. .

"And all you do is teach.

"People are counting on you. You have to go out and do something really fine. Stay out of classrooms.

"If you can't make it, none of us can make it."

This was more than just a challenge.

It was a goad towards sainthood, if novelists could ever be saints. If anything, most novelists are pagans!

I would be Sysipus poised at his rock. Saint Sebastian at the stake, about to be skewered by archers.

Some habitues of the writing schools say all creative wriing instructors are frauds and should be shot. All the better with arrows. More pain.

I don't know how many times I had taken Marion Gallagher's advice seriously, how I'd kept to the vows, produced the book, the short story, the newpaper vignette.

And almost every time, came back with two goats, a staff and a terrible hangover from the writing, and--say it on--plain Dionysian drinking and carrying on.

I don't know if my work was art, but art exacts a terrible price. You lose hair and teeth when writing a novel.

So, back to the classroom again, a shadow of your former self, having paid your pound of flesh to this guy named Art.

Marion kept taking my course, over and over again, as had many others over the years.

I suppose my "support group" of perennial students spoiled me. Certainly energized me.

After the challenge from Marion r Gallaher, I won my own column in Topic Magazine in these parts, and was soon writing essays for the Toronto Sun. My novel, The Black Icon, began to be reviewed in Toronto.

I began to have groupies, but never Eleanor Gallagher. If I did actually have her, I must have blanked her out in my mind--what was left of it. She was My Lady. My Lady challenging the knight. This was courtly love.

Marion Gallagher kept wanting proof of me that I was worthy.

If I could not produce something fine, then
I might as well give up both teaching and writing and go back to the ways of my father, master housebuilder and real estate man, probably a more honest trade in the first place.

"You must go out and write another novel, Ivan.

"Not just a fragment, like last time.

"The real thing."

I don't know why I had allowed a student to act a guide for me.

Maybe she had taken the words right out of my mouth.

Every teacher feels at some point in his/her life that she's a fraud. I was beginning to feel like a fraud.

I had to do a second novel.

Well, I did

After my Light Over Newmarket came out, there were a lot of women on the phone, and I swear one of them was probably Marion Gallagher

I do believe she was Ukrainian, married to a local guy. She had said that her mother had observed that all us Ukies go soft in the head by forty, never complete a project, and in the last count, are no great shakes.
My ethic group is almost characterized by an inability to stick together--there are so many factions, and a predilection toward extreme criticism.

"So why don't you reissue your original novel. I could show it to my mother and prove her wrong."

Her timing was good.

The critical success of my Light Over Newmarket had encouraged the Toronto Public Library and the nearby Aurora Public Library to ask for reprints of my original novel, The Black Icon, and they would pay for the printing.

So out came the book, the reviews, the newspaper articles showing a busy man, certainly at promoting his work.
For a while, I was hot copy.

How do we get into these Rumpelstiltskin situations?

I seemed to be weaving golden thread for Marion Gallagher.

The price for my forays into the wilderness to write all those books got to be almost unpayable.

Loss of home. Loss of job. Loss of spouse. Loss of mind.

Loss, loss, loss
And yet enough love within the loss to almost make it worthwhile.
And proving to Marion Gallagher that I was not entirely a bullshitter.

And yet Ozymandias.

Shattered statue in the desert. Look how great I am.

Could this be what Marion wanted?

Do not the roads to hell start with good intentions?

There was a time when life was simpler, more authentic.

Young man on the make, with beautiful young wife, driving to San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, to write the great Canadian novel.

What was ultimately produced was a fragment, the story of my mother and father. And maybe that may have been enough.

Why did you torment me, Marion Gallagher?

Were you real, or were you something else entirely?
I phoned Marion recently.
An oriental female voice said, "Marion doesn't live here any more."

Sunday, April 01, 2007

The Lost Newfie Award

My intention had been to offer an award to a lady blogger whom I considered a fine writer.
I can offer awards, as I have a publishing company in my back pocket, and I sometimes publish authors who I feel need more exposure.

The roads to hell, of course, are paved with good intentions.

In the first place, I had to design an award.

In the second place, I didn't know how to do it.

Graphics are not my strong suit and I'm farily new to computers.

I went to my raddled techie whom I'd only just enlisted to put up a permanent post for an Honrary Oklahoman award somebody gave me.

The permanent post for the Oklahoma "award" had been a finicky and time consuming job. I had been frustrating this self-same techie for some time. "I don't want to take on any more of these jobs. Too much fiddling and I am busy all over the world. Take a course!"

Which left me wide-open. All I can do is type!

So I enlist a web friend to help with the design of the award avatar I had in mind.

We had intended, tongue somewhat in cheek, to call the prize "The Lost Newfie Award."

It wouldn't be the face of a Newfie-- or Newfoundlander. It would be the face of a Newfoundland dog. Our intention was not to ridicule. We just wanted to put up a picture of a Labrador Retriever dog, Labrador being a part of Newfoundland. Labs--or "Newfies" are a very popular breed of dog.
Well, bigod, my publishing company was something of a writing laboratory for other writers. Yes, a writing laboratory for all the aspiring authors I'd published--a Writing Lab. Heh.
And what better symbol for a Writing Lab than an actual Lab or Newfoundland dog? I thought it was a cute idea.

So the avatare would go: WRITING LAB

Picture of Lab dog here


Well, there was trouble from the start.

My techie, who probably didn't like the idea in the first place, bailed out.

I went to one of my contributors and asked if she could help design and set up the avatar.

She did so, and sent me an example, which I immediately lifted and actually displayed on my blog along with my lady-designer's picture.

The result was disastrous. "No, no, no," the lady had insisted. "Take it down!"

She had just been irritated by a fake award some spammer was sending around as an advertising gimmick; she was not finished with the logo and did not want to be seen displaying a work half-done. "Yours is a real publishing company. We have to show this fake award-awarder how the game is really played. We have to do a good job on this."

Well, we are now awaiting the finished product, which we now have renamed "The Shaggy Dog Award", since
Newfoundlander's may have been a bit miffed at something called the Lost Newfie Award.

We are awaiting completion of our Island Grove Press "Shaggy Dog Award"--for best humor writing.

Hey folks, all I wanted to do was good. I wanted to reward one or two of my finest contributors to Island Grove Press.

Yet for some reason, I seem to be on a road to hell.