on the res

i made it outside!

I dragged myself out for a bike ride.



I burst into tears when i was in a quiet spot looking at the horizon. High plains drifting is my calling, in North America at least. The pandemic put a wrinkle in those plans, and then winter knocked me out completely. I can't wait till i get the vaccine and they reopen the borders.

There were a bunch of cowboys out and about today, riding horses and herding cattle.

A lot of older folks too, taking their dogs out for a hike in the better weather.

I picked up a beer on the way home and sat on a log by the river to drink it in the sun. I missed that so much.
on the res

surprise holiday

After spending the past few months using what little vaccine was available to give to healthcare workers and folks in long-term care facilities, today the BC government opened vaccination to the public. Money quote from the CBC: "There are less than 50,000 people in the province who are 90 and up and 35,000 who are Indigenous people over 65, yet B.C. call agents at vaccination appointment call centres were slammed with one million calls in the first hour on the first day the lines were opened."

The plan is to get over-90s done this week and over-80s by the end of the month. I'm still assuming it'll be July by the time it gets down to over-40s. If it comes earlier, i will be thrilled. I will not be one of the million callers spamming up the lines trying to wangle myself a higher spot on the list.

Today i got a surprise day off from work. It's International Women's Day! When i lived in Berlin this wasn't a holiday, but i did take the pay gap strike. The idea behind pay gap strike is to leave work after whatever percentage of the day equals the pay gap between women and men. So, if women earn 75% of men and you work 9 to 5, leave at 3.

But, it seems since i lived there, International Women's Day is now a holiday for everyone. Because i am waiting for some feedback from my European colleagues before moving ahead with my work, that means there's nothing on today! Wohoo!

I will say, though, that the past week i have slept very poorly. I think i might have fallen into a bit of hypomania, staying up late to read and write and contribute to open source projects instead of getting a normal night's sleep and actually going outside to enjoy the spring weather.

So i have my day off today, but i only got about 4 hours sleep and don't feel able to do much of anything. I feel like i am walking around in a dream world. I'm worried if i try a bike ride i will get myself run over. But also i need to break out of this weird loop. Tomorrow i will be stuck behind the computer again all day.
on the res

rupaul, drag, gays and the fuck

I watch reality shows. That's a thing that i do. I shouldn't have to qualify this, i suppose everyone in this day and age also watches reality shows.

I could talk about Cops, and how that's the proto reality show, and how entertaining it is for me or the sort of folks who paradoxically find themselves or their peers regularly raided by cops, but instead i am going to talk about RuPaul's Drag Race.

In my day, RuPaul was some dude who hung out with the outrageous NYC club kids who showed up on American talk shows (which of course were soap-tastically watched by gays all over the world). He was one of the dudes who could actually string two words together without murdering a bitch, chopping the body up and stuffing the limbs in a bathtub full of ice. So, back in those days, that was called a relatively normal raver. Most of us were slightly less murder-adjacent. Most of us.

Anywho, today the dude is a fucking reality show superstar. He basically made drag mainstream. You can't fault him for that. But also he popularized the most materialistic, commercialized version of drag that could be.

RuPaul promotes a sort of conservative American male-oriented drag which has a history in struggling gay men portraying themselves as beautiful and successful straight women. And it's great! But what often gets missed in these reality shows is that drag wasn't just about gay men parodying or emulating women, it was also an outlet for men or women who were ostracized for their gender nonconformity to express their authentic selves.

There are a lot of men who accidentally ended up in the gay scene because they weren't manly enough men. I was one of them. I decided to transition and become a woman. I'm still not sure if i am a "real" woman, even after getting bottom surgery and publicly living as one for over 20 years. But that doesn't really matter. What matters is that fucking goddamned conservative-ass RuPaul's Drag Race is still a thing that people think is edgy or progressive.

Yo. Welcome to 2021. RuPaul is 1991, at best.

Still. I enjoy his shows. I value his contribution to the scene. All the butthurt lefties who get on his ass for allowing fracking on his Wyoming property, or using the term "she-male", can suck my foot-long trannie dick. (In case it's not obvious, i don't have a physical dick and haven't had one in decades. Also, it was never foot-long.) RuPaul helped us all along. Any trans person who denies that is talking bullshit.

But.

Butt.

Penis.

Butt.

But.

But RuPaul and his production team are really out of the loop. Not just in how they represent the Zoomer/TikTok generation who can explain their funky-ass lifestyles way better than me, but also when it comes to appreciation of classic drag. Which is to say, no spectacularly expensive outfits. No boob or hip forms. Just. Some fucking guy in a sparkly dress performing a goddamn torch song like his life depended on it.

It's sad when people fail on Drag Race because they didn't have enough money to buy a dozen bespoke outfits. God, it was never about the outfits, it was about the sass.

Lordy. I remember the Sportsman Hotel in Spring Hill, Brisbane. It is/was oldskool as fuck. If you don't sing a torch song you can get lost. Velvet curtains. One mic. One stool. I remember being there watching a drag show and i started crying. I had to go outside because i couldn't handle seeing such a beautiful "woman" up there on stage while my body was so manly, and everyone around me was Gay AF. I loved those dudes, as buds, but i would never want to fuck 'em. Or be 'em. I just wanted to be that girl, on the stool, singing Dusty Springfield, you know?


Dusty Springfield - If You Go Away

I guess you don't know, because you're not trans.

But somehow, that's how it feels.
on the res

i am a nerd

I wrote a bit recently about how i am a computer nerd, perhaps despite myself.

My story of becoming a computer programmer is a cautionary tale about why you should never get a job doing something you enjoy.

I have been told by my parents that back in the early 80s, they bought a Sinclair ZX81, which was one of the earliest cheap home computers. Apparently my dad was kind of into modern gadgets at the time. I don't remember this computer, but i definitely remember the next computer they bought - the Amstrad CPC6128.

The CPC was one of the higher end 8-bit personal computers, which meant it was still on the low end of personal computers when it came out in 1985. It had a floppy disk drive (the very rare and indestructable 3" slab of plastic format), and a massive 128kB of RAM.

To understand just how little RAM 128kB is, it is not enough to fit the text of a short novel. It cannot fit even one second of CD-quality audio. And, into that space, the programmers of the day jammed the entire operating system, the application or game you wanted to run, and enough user data that people could still use the device to write full-length novels or compose real music! It was fantastically limited, but it was still lightyears ahead of using a typewriter or hand-writing musical notation.

My first experience using a computer was this era. You turn it on. You get a text prompt that says "Ready". You are now inside BASIC, which is a programming language. Everything you type into the computer is a command in the programming language, whose most recent line is executed when you hit return. If you prefix your line with a number, then instead of executing what you typed, it loads it into memory.

Most people know this:

10 PRINT "HELLO"
20 GOTO 10
RUN

This means: reserve a piece of memory with label "10", and when you get there run the command to print "HELLO" to the screen. Then reserve a piece of memory with label "20", and when you get there, run the command that forwards the processing to label "10". "RUN" tells the computer to go through all the numerical labels in order and execute whatever is there. So this creates an infinite loop of "HELLO".

If you wanted to run a program that was saved on disk, you did RUN "FILENAME", which overwrote the current memory labels with whatever was inside the file, then executed those in order.

It's a bit more complex when it comes to compiled machine code, but this is basically all that programming is - loading a list of commands into memory and telling the computer to run them.

I fell in love with the idea of being able to type stuff into a computer and have it do things. I thought it was so cool that the games i could play were things i could theoretically program all by myself. The credits of computer games back in those days were usually just two guys - the coder (who usually handled graphics as well), and the musician. The end. Writing a piece of software all on your own all felt eminently achievable.

But how to learn?

Back in those days, computer magazines printed pages and pages of code inside the magazine, and readers literally typed in the program line-by-line on their own computers so they could run it themselves. I also raided the 001.6 section at the public library. (Computer science has since been relocated to a different Dewey number.) There were lots of books teaching kids how to program, but every home computer was different, so if you got a book about the BBC Micro, the code would not work on a ZX Spectrum, or a Commodore 64, or any of the other home computers. Of course, as a precocious tween, i wanted to make it work anyway, so i typed them in just to see where they would fail. Through process of trial-and-error, and reading and re-reading the hefty tomes that came with the computer, i sometimes figured out how to make it do something similar to what the books intended.

I remember the first program that i created that was entirely my own was a Dungeons & Dragons character creator. Rolling up the random numbers was easy, but i was proud of the time i had taken to build the piece that generated random fantasy-sounding names. It did things like find consonants and vowels that worked together, and skipped consonants that didn't. Every character got a unique and usually pronounceable name. That was cool, because it was doing something more complex than you could do with a set of dice.

Later on we got an IBM PC XT with DOS and a green screen. Then the big one - a Compaq 486SX with a sound card! A computer that could play Doom and connect to the internet! PC gaming and the internet has changed a lot since the mid 90s, but it's still fairly recognizable. Certainly more recognizable than what was going on in the 8-bit days.

Anyway, the point is, i was playing around with computer programs from under the age of 10, and i never stopped.

It turned out that i didn't have the mathematics skills to become a so-called demoscene coder, who were the true rockstars of home computer programming in the 80s and 90s. They used these incredibly limited machines to build awesome 3D graphics effects and scrolling scenery that often eclipsed what was happening in commercial games of the era - and they gave it all away for free! You'd often see their "intros" on the front of cracked and pirated games.

Yeah, i was never that smart. I was also never smart enough to become an actual hacker, figuring out flaws in operating systems, dialing up random phone numbers and trying to break into governments or banks, crashing fifteen hundred and seven computers in one day, all that.

But i was still adjacent to those scenes. I knew enough to be excited whenever a cool new crack came out, or when a demoscene coder pulled another amazing effect out of their hat. Hobbyist programming back then was a bit counter-culture, often anarchist, sometimes libertarian, sometimes communist, but almost certainly anti-establishment.

Meanwhile in the academic programming arena, things like BSD and Linux were emerging, open source and free software was flourishing, the internet was being built... and then it took over the world! Those guys were perhaps more pragmatic than the teenage sceners i grew up idolizing, but by the end of the 90s i think we'd all found one another online and become part of a loosely-affiliated hacker subculture.

Anyway, fast forward, dot com boom, dot com bust, web 2.0, blah blah blah and here we are. I've been working in software development for over 20 years, i now get paid a lot of money to do the kinds of things i did for fun as a kid. But it's not fun. It fucking sucks. Part of the reason why it sucks is because i don't like feeling obligated to work just to survive. But it also sucks because capitalism is fucking shit and goes against the original hacker ethic. And it even more sucks because programming today means using abstraction layered upon abstraction layered upon abstraction, as each new generation of coders decide that they need to reinvent the wheel, while still leaving the old wheel that was already there underneath it.

Programming is not fun any more.

And it occurred to me the other day, that a large part of it is because a whole shit-ton of people got into this industry who do not really care about it at all.

The lack of care that many of my peers have about writing concise, robust, well-performing code - even in very "high status" companies - is sad. There is no real economic incentive to write good code, you see. Venture capitalists don't care about good code, they care about company valuation. They care about "MAU" (Monthly Active Users), or "YOY" (Year-Over-Year) growth, or whatever the fuck. Most professional software developers don't care about good code either, they only care about going home at the end of the day with a fat wad of cash in their pocket - two or three times the fatness of the wad the majority of people are taking home. They believe they're owed it, because their parents paid to put them through university, which taught them to always act like 10 PRINT "HELLO"; 20 GOTO 10 is some deep and esoteric shit the average person could never possibly understand. Meanwhile there are plenty of "uneducated" blue collar folks who are fully capable of tinkering with Linux in their spare time.

I really hate most of the people in my industry. A nice thing about my current job is that because the company has switched down a gear, most of the career developers left for another job, and the ones who remain are more like me, just putting in a few days a week and dedicating their personal time to other cool stuff.

Every now and then i see some of this cool stuff pop up in the contemporary tech media. One of these rockstar developers builds something nifty, like a completely reverse-engineered and functioning version of Grand Theft Auto 3, constructed by examining the binary machine code and trying to recreate the source code that compiled to it. (This project was promptly shot down and erased off the internet by the publishers of GTA.) Or the incredibly clever example of an executable file format that will run natively on Windows, Mac, Linux and BSD. The exact same file! No need to install any scripting language or virtual machine frameworks! These inspirational stories pop up every few months, reminding us of the spirit of what programming used to be. Simple. Elegant. Curious. Ingenious. Most importantly, free and unencumbered by copyright or corporate influence.

But then you see the reaction to these sorts of stories. The "what's the point?" guy. The "that's illegal!" guy. Or the parade of "oh this reminds me of [insert barely-disguised pitch for current employer's paid solution]". People trying to capitalize on the buzz to shill their startup, or their blog post, or whatever fucking shit. It's disgusting. And yet, these are the majority of people being paid to write software.

And it shows. It shows in the layers and layers of unnecessary cruft that has been developed over the years. It shows in the massive inefficiencies, the lack of craftsmanship, the busywork of rewrites and refactorings, anything to keep the right people employed and amassing ever-greater mountains of wealth.

It's killed any childhood enthusiasm i had for being a programmer.

Not that i was ever much of a hobbyist programmer. Mostly i just mucked around. My most recent "scratch the itch" project was something i did while living in China, a very simple command-line Chinese/English dictionary, which i wrote because it was pissing me off that i didn't have an app on my computer that could do offline translation, especially when a lot of good translation websites are intermittently blocked by the Great Firewall. I'll never be one of those rockstars who can reverse-engineer a AAA game, but i still care very much about writing good software. I recognize it when i see it, and i try to emulate it in my own work. I go back and refine, refine, refine, always trying to simplify and improve, even if it's just to tweak some stylistic bits for consistency.

And it's sad that even just that level of diligence or attention to detail is now considered unusual in the paid software industry.

I guess this is how it goes in every industry. Imagine how disillusioned i'd be with music if i'd pursued that instead! Or academia! In fact, i don't have to imagine, because a lot of my friends have worked in the music industry, and my mom was an academic. The answer is: it's shit. It always turns to shit the moment money gets involved.
on the res

Wordless Wednesday



...

Oh, who am i kidding? I can't make wordless posts. If i could, i wouldn't be on LiveJournal.

This week the mercury rose above freezing and most of the snow is gone, but as you can see the river is still iced over, and all the little waterfalls on the south bank where i live look like mini-glaciers.

I biked up to the Chinese grocery store to buy some red skin peanuts, Lao Gan Ma and noodles. It has been a depressing realization that most grocery stores here do not sell 挂面 or sōmen type noodles, which is pretty much the only noodle i care to eat because you can prepare them just by letting them sit in some hot water for a few minutes. Even though i have access to more kitchen devices here than i have in years, i still only ever use the electric kettle and a single frying pan to prepare everything. I do not have the patience for waiting for something to cook in a saucepan or toaster oven.

Anyway, it was awesome to go outside again and breathe the fresh air. When i sit behind the computer all day i get depressed that i am stuck in small town Canada, because it's cold and empty and i hate the car culture and the influence of American-style "me me me" politics. But then when i can go outside and nod to the hobos walking up the median and exchange greetings with the addicts hanging round the liquor store parking lot, when there's that raggedy-ass Canadian flag hanging limply out front of the trailer park, and the mountains are there, and the sky, then i feel like, yeah, okay, there is a sense of freedom here that only really exists in New World countries. There is some wild romance to having so much space everywhere, it creates its own kind of culture.

But, my fitness level is shot. I almost passed out trying to bike up the (very small) hill to my place. I haven't been outside regularly since October last year. I still imagine myself fairly tight and trim, but conditioned i am the fuck not. I hope this isn't a false spring. I need to get in the habit of heading out every single day, and somehow fitting that into my new work schedule.
on the res

some winter music. maybe.

Some of my long-time readers know that before i joined LiveJournal, way back in the 90s, i used to be a teenager who wrote music. I released the vast majority of it for free online, because information wants to be free, hack the planet etc. Although, back in the day, online wasn't the internet, it was BBSes.

In 1999 i released an indie CD album, mastered by a reasonably well-known personality in the Australian dance music scene. It was my entry point to the techno community, and perhaps i could have gone on to become a serious musician or DJ, but instead i became a computer programmer. Better pay. Sadder life.

I am very the fuck drunk. I rarely listen to my own music, because it just makes me depressed that i pretty much gave up on it.

Here is a song from my teenage years about the winter. Shout out to my Texas people and others who are stuck in the ice. That's what this tune was about.


winter-song.mp4

Can you see it? Can you hear it? If not this will be very meta. I blame iced-up windmills for the lack of MP3s.

This is an experiment.
on the res

a fortnight of nothing

Hello everyone, i am alive, and i have nothing to say.

The past two weeks i have just been working. Work is fine. I am "only" doing about 24 hours a week, so it's less intense than a standard 40, but because i am collaborating with people in Europe i have been logging on hella early, and trying to flick into work mode like that before i even had a coffee is exhausting.

I think emotionally i am doing better than before, because even though i am still not leaving the house, at least i know i am getting paid to not leave the house. And if i have a video call at least i make the effort to have a shower.

It's just treading water, really, through the winter. The past week has been the hardest of the core winter, like -20°C all week. The river is almost completely iced over. The more annoying part is that my downstairs roommates cranked up the heating and it's made the house dry, stuffy and uncomfortable. I really miss having my own apartment where i control the heating. And when i say "control the heating" i mean "never turn on the heating", because i'd rather put on a hoodie and some socks than have my nose spontaneously start bleeding and my skin peel itself off while i toss and turn and cough up all the particulates. Last night it was so bad i slept with the windows wide open, which was a presumably a massive waste of energy, but i was at my wit's end. Central heating is the fucking worst.

Actually, air conditioning is worse than central heating. At least mild central heating is useful to avoid frozen pipes. But they're both pretty awful.

My inner cave man shakes his fist at the lack of fresh air.

I always dream of going into space, of flying way out there in the void, a million miles from anywhere... I think i could deal with the isolation, i could deal with being in a small cabin, but i'm not sure i could deal with the lack of outside air.

Anyway, yes, i have nothing for you guys. I sleep. I work. I read the news. I sleep again.

I am very pleased with my subscription to the The Syllabus, which is pointing me to at least a half dozen great articles to read every week. It makes my brain feel exercised to read the odd journal article and actually follow what they're saying, even though i am not an academic.

Seems like everyone and their dog is getting vaccinated in America and England. I can't figure it out. Noam Chomsky was on Coleman Hughes the other day and pointed an accusatory finger at Canada for buying up more vaccines than we have population, but our timeline here is still July for anyone under 65. We might have the most outstanding bookings per capita, but we're definitely not top of the list for order fulfillment.

I do hope we send our overflow to the Global South, though, if we ever get the first fucking round sorted out.

So, yeah, same old same old. I'm 41 now, and the day was about as eventful as my 40th. Stay inside. Work. Eat. Sleep. It's a holding pattern.
on the res

friday night stream of consciousness

Hello ladies and gents and enbies, it's time for another durnken psot.

I have earned it. For realziez.

This week i started working again.

Basically, i considered this dystopic future that will be 2021 and realized there is at least another 6 months of unvaccinated misery to look forward to.

The BC government officially announced that under-65 vaccines are coming in July/August, which is pretty much what we expected back in December, but now it's confirmed.

The province is holding steady at about 500 new cases and about 15 deaths every day. That's not awful, but not great. The governments - both federal and provincial - are chattering about blocking inter-province travel, or at least doing their best to curb it to workers, and to try mandate quarantine - same as what already exists for international travelers.

(Not that most of these jetsetting, ski holidaying, snowbirding shitheads are actually quarantining for real. Yo. I fucking put in my 14 days at an expensive airport hotel, and i am only upper middle class rich. I did my part. Did you? Join the Mobile Infantry and save the world! Service guarantees citizenship. Also. Stop fucking whining. If you can afford to fly during a pandemic, you can afford to quarantine during a pandemic. Shitheads.)

Anyway, a key point is that in Canada we have universal healthcare, but it's based on province of residence. So it's kinda biased against travelers and homeless people. Fortunately homeless people who are registered in a shelter are up for vaccination straight after long term care, parallel with prisoners and other folks who are stuck in government-mandated co-living situations. I am not that kind of homeless, though. I am a month-to-month vagabond-y richie ditch nomad homeless, so i still gotta wait for July. But if i move provinces in between, i could very well lose my place. So... i'm thinking stay in BC till i get the goods.

But that completely fucks my idea of using the warmer months to see Turtle Island. The border with America won't be open for God knows how long. Sooo. Stay in BC - whether in Kamloops or some other place - long enough to get my vaccine, then... then who knows? Depends on what the world is looking like. Travel across Canada, see my Ontario buddies, maybe hit up America? Or fly over to Europe? I dunno.

All this to say that i was planning to skedaddle around March or April, but now i'm thinking to try stay in-province till July or August. I am lucky to have enough money saved from the past few years of working and living frugal to continue living frugal and not working... But it feels like a waste of my sabbatical, especially over this winter period where i have spent 2-3 months in bed, 23 hours a day (the other hour is cooking a meal), not doing anything with my time besides reading and watching shows. And there's still 2+ months of this depressing winter weather to go.

But in December i got an email from my old boss in Berlin. The one who gave the middle finger to Palantir and blacklisted them from our service when they tried to sign up. The one who never wanted our corporate email hosted by Google or any American company because the NSA tapped Angela Merkel's phone. He's not a German nationalist. He's an anti-authoritarian. And an anti-capitalist. He turned down VC and decided to downsize the company to get out of the rat race. After living in China i am the fuck ready to work for a boss who just wants to serve his customers and not play in the pool with the big boys who have no goals beyond increasing their own personal wealth and power.

Fuck capitalism. Fuck, fuck, fuck capitalism. And fuck this flop-ass "socialism" of China which is basically just a capitalist economy regulated by a single-party dictatorship instead of democratically elected representatives. It's all the same garbage.

But that's the game, and if you don't play it, then you are the one getting stepped on.

So. I am good at what i do, and i am fortunate enough that what i do is worth serious cash money. I earned enough working part-time this week to pay for my rent and food for the whole of next month.

I bought myself a treat. I bought myself two treats.

I bought this album: https://kioskid.bandcamp.com/album/43-katzen-tanzen-aufm-tisch-acidbogen-curated-by-mira - 43 Katzen tanzen auf'm Tisch - Acidbogen.

It is an album that Mira - one of the hottest DJs from my alle favorit nightclub in Berlin, Kater Blau - put together, in the absence of any fucking nightclubs being open last year. Each year she has her birthday party there, or previously at Katerholzig nightclub. The number of cats on the table are her years of age. One of the great things about clubbing in Berlin is that you can go when you are old, and the DJs are the same age as you.

I will be 41 very soon.

Anyway, yeah, so i bought the Acidbogen (= acid rainbow) album, which is the album for the downbeat room at Kater Blau nightclub. There is an accompanying Heinz Hopper album for the upbeat room, but that one i might need to listen through a few songs before buying blind, because anything over 120bpm is rarely my jam in this decrepit geriatric raver day and age.

Anyway. Techno music is brilliant. I fucking love techno. Guitars are shite.

The other thing i bought, which i doubt any of my highbrow fucking journal readers will care about right now because i drunkenly rambled so long, is a subscription to The Syllabus: https://www.the-syllabus.com/

Guys. If any of you highbrow folks are still reading. Get a subscription to The Syllabus. It is expensive, but it is Good. Basically it is a news aggregator, but they include academic papers and books into their weekly mail-out. They have various different focuses that you can sign up for, but all are reported from a Europeanish liberal angle. It is extremely refreshing to read pragmatic liberal ideas that aren't taking their lead from the depressing spiral of postmodern navel-gazing that seems to have gotten a lot of American and British left wingers stuck in the weeds. If you can read other European languages, they report in those too, which is excellent, to get an even better insight into the world outside the Anglosphere.

Anyway. Fuck. That paragraph was way too fucking intelligent for my present drunkenness. I need to misspell something just to prove the BAC.

Fsck.

Hello UNIX nerds who continued to the end.

Ah, my dear LiveJournal friends, i wish i had a great conclusion to this post, something to make the whole reading worthwhile, your well-deserved climax, but there is nothing. I do not have anything interesting to report.

Fucking techno.

I haven't finished listening to my new album even one time through yet, but so far this is my favorite song.


WIDE AWAKE - O [Kiosk I.D.]

Druggy, dubby, slow fucking morning techno. God, i miss going out. Fuck COVID.
on the res

Friday Five for Jan 22, invasion edition

I'm not always inspired by our LJ-local Friday Five meme, but this one (via notte0) from website http://f.riday5.com/ brought up a topic i thought about recently that might be fun to talk about.

1) Who’s the nastiest flavor in the ice cream parlor?

All of them! I don't like icecream. The milky stuff is too thick and creamy and gives me phlegm. Gelato is better, but it still has the cold problem to deal with. And the sweet problem. I won't turn down gelato, but i'd take pretty much any savory snack or room-temperature dessert over it.

2) Which item in the produce aisle is most likely to spoil the party?

As a child i would have answered onion or bell pepper/capsicum for this, but i have slowly become more accepting of those two ingredients by trying to trick my brain into believing they are just watered-down takes on far superior ingredients like garlic and chili. So i would say the worst item i discovered recently is kale.

We don't have many good greens in Canada. Basically there is lettuce and cabbage and spinach and kale, the end. I was hoping kale might be something that could fill the vast chasm in my heart left behind by the abundance of awesome greens available in China, but it so doesn't. It tastes about as interesting as spinach - which is to say not very - and it doesn't wilt properly when it cooks. Eat kale and your throat will not be happy. Smoking a cigarette will leave your esophagus just as miserable, but at least you'll get a nicotine rush out of it. Definitely the most overrated green i ever tasted.

3) What’s the most embarrassing song by your favorite musician or band?

This is the question i wanted to answer, after reading a recent article in The Guardian about Guns'n'Roses. G'n'R aren't my favorite band, but they - much like another top band of my childhood and teen years, Nine Inch Nails - had some overly earnest lyrics that as an adult come across as utterly cringeworthy.

The great taboo song of Guns'n'Roses is a track called One In A Million, where lead singer Axl Rose describes his experience of arriving in the big city. Dude was a juvenile delinquent from an abusive, ultra-religious, mid-west background who moved to LA to try build a new life for himself. Then he penned a raw as fuck song about how alienated he felt in this environment full of black people (using the N word), gay people (using the F word), immigrants and so on. He also lashes out at the police, and organized religion, and basically everyone who isn't exactly like him. It's a song about anger and isolation and feeling overwhelmed. It is, by far, my favorite song in the G'n'R catalog, and the one which i think holds up the best 35 years on. But it was deleted from the box set reissue of their debut album, because it offends the delicate sensibilities of 2018-era record execs and presumably an army of butthurt social justice warriors on Twitter.

That's no new thing. Supposedly Kurt Cobain found the song offensive too, although that might have just been a kayfabe feud put together to sell more records and make David Geffen rich. If it wasn't obvious, at the time i was Team Axl, since Kurt and all those Seattle dweebs basically turned guitar music into a miserable wasteland of tedious, depressing spins on punk rock. Then i got into electronic music and left all these stupid pop star feuds behind.

Anyway, leaving the song out of the recent box set is the kind of censorship that is self-defeating, in my opinion. You wanna understand the Trump voters? You wanna understand how people in small towns get radicalized? This song puts a voice to their fears. It exposes the ugly truth.

If you travel across small towns anywhere in the world - not just in the United States - you hear the same sentiment, over and over. Big cities are scary, they're dangerous, they're full of muggers and grifters and foreigners and weirdos. It's a very pure, basic form of xenophobia, the kind that every human secretly harbors somewhere in their lizard brain. The fear of things that are different, the discomfort around people whose behaviors and values aren't quite what you're used to.

That feeling goes both ways. I also hear it from my city-dwelling peers who are literally terrified of traveling to small towns because of all the phantom Nazis. They are so afraid that they will be targeted because of who they are, they don't even want to give it a chance. There is a misconception that most countryfolk are straight-up murderous bigots, ready to lynch gay people or people of color or even just out-of-towners at the drop of a hat. The reality is far from that extreme. But the fear that it could be... that's just as much a fear of The Other, i think.

Which isn't to say fears are unfounded. As an outsider, or even just a statistical outlier, you do get treated differently. Always with more suspicion or caution. Sometimes in a way that negatively impacts you, occasionally in a way that benefits you. That's part of being a traveler. Some people adapt more quickly than others to their new environment, but there is always a culture shock. I think being able to express those emotions, being allowed to put words to it, that's part of the process of dealing with it, of understanding one another and trying to grow our compassion.

Of course Axl used the most offensive words he could think of to express his emotions, and no doubt that was deliberate, since the controversy was a vital part of his band's image. The whole LA scene was about shock and awe. I suppose today people could read it as the dying gasp of toxic masculinity or the ongoing story of systemic oppression in America or some other grand theory of macropolitics, but reducing it that way is kind of missing the point, which is just as relevant today as it was back then.

I've met a lot of One In A Millions, traveling. Drugged up kids who ran away and don't know how to cope. Most have been taken advantage of at some point or another. They tend to be filled with anger and can be quick to lash out. Some of them work through their emotions, others don't. Some assimilate and adjust, others retreat or radicalize. They're still people. A song like this one speaks honestly to their experience, just as Simon & Garfunkel's America or Bronski Beat's Smalltown Boy or Tracy Chapman's Fast Car speaks to the experience of other demographics who are trying to work it out. Traveling, the pain of leaving or the shock of arriving, the hope and the defeat, it's an evergreen theme.

4) Which part of your body is always in trouble?

As a child and teenager it was my ankles, which i kept rolling. In my 20s it was my knees. I found it extremely uncomfortable to bend them for extended periods, to the point where i avoided traveling in cars. In my 30s i got regular back and arm pains, usually from lying in bed or sitting at a desk too long. Right now my shoulder is hurting. (My fitness-loving friend R helpfully informed me it's my "rotator cuff", which means nothing to me except i have to lie on my other side for a while.)

5) What’s the worst film in your favorite actor’s filmography?

Much like with the band question, i don't really have a favorite actor. But i like this question because most of the actors who i do enjoy are actors who i enjoyed in their "bad" movies. Like Kurt Russell in any of John Carpenter's flicks. Or Angelina Jolie in Hackers. Or Steve Buscemi in Escape From LA. Sam Neill in Event Horizon. Roger Moore in North Sea Hijack. Good actors in bad movies. Give them all to me!
on the res

losing my europeanity

My oma was my last connection to Catholicism.

The Dutch half of my family is Catholic, you see, which might be a surprise for people who know the country as the source of the orange pennants of the UK's most devout Protestants. Mom's family is from way down south of South Holland, practically a stone's throw from Belgium.

I wasn't religious at all, growing up. My father came from a British colonial (and presumably Protestant) family, which greatly upset my oma and opa. I do remember being taught The Lord's Prayer, and reciting it every night before i went to bed. That was just some dumb cultural thing that we were expected to do. I always tacked on a custom prayer at the end asking God to grant me the power of flight. Still waiting on that, God! But, anyway, i pretty much never went to church.

Which isn't to say i never went to a church. On the contrary, churches were one of the most popular destinations for our family when on vacation or visiting new and different cities. Especially in Europe, churches are some of the best-preserved and most historic buildings. And Catholic churches are by far the best churches, dripping with gold and jewels and the sort of finery that common people would never have had the chance to experience before the era of mass production.

Anyway, something neat about the current era - that is, the corona era - is the cyberspacing of what used to be largely meatspace events. Like funerals.

I've only been to one funeral in my life, of a friend of mine who committed suicide. I am a shitty friend because i already forgot her name, despite being one of her bridesmaids, but for fuck's sake, it was over 15 years ago. Most other deaths in my life happened to people on the other side of the world from me, or to people whose conservative families didn't want their kid's drug addicted and/or gay friends to attend the funeral. To be honest, i kinda think funerals are a waste of time and money. I went to one. It was awkward.

Oh, wait, now i'm remembering i went to another one - my ex's grandmother. That was a fucking thing. It was a Jewish funeral, so it was the first and only time i went to a synagogue. All the men over this side, all the women over that side, the segregation was horrifying. Her family was doing the whole sitting down on a low chair thing, being brought food... that was some weird ass shit. Although i suppose Jewish people would consider transubstantiating bread and wine into the literal body and blood of Christ - and then eating it! - to be pretty fucking weird. Anyway, i felt even more awkward there than i did watching a priest shoehorn in some religious shit for my bisexual, atheist, suicidal friend to appease her Bible-bashing parents.

But i digress. My oma died of cancer last week and she had a corona era funeral. Which means very few people could show up to the actual service, but the church livestreamed it for the rest of us.

Dude, Catholics know how to make anything epic. Like. White and purple robes. Giant fucking stave/cross thingy with incense in it. Statues! Gold! Oil! So much opulence. Full blown monkish chanting. In Latin, for fuck's sake! Candles! Stained glass! One of the pall bearers - my holiest aunt - showed up in full nun garb! The church was built in 1394! History all up in your face! I might have enjoyed being there in real life. For the first 15 minutes, at least.

I think i might be a cultural Catholic, even though i never did any of the official Catholic things growing up (confirmation, eucharist, confession etc). I dig the aesthetic. My mother always vowed she'd never get us into Catholicism because it brought back bad memories for her... she was so traumatized that even when i played ambient or techno music with church bells in it, she'd shudder. But she still always took the time to visit cathedrals and light a candle for Maria, Mother of God. Every time i travel, i do the same.

Oh, interesting thing about the funeral, during shout-outs to foreign family, i discovered that my sister has a child. I guess that shows how much contact we have with one another, eh?

So, yeah, the funeral happened. And so my connection to Catholicism, and the Netherlands, is pretty much severed. Some of my aunts and cousins still live there, but with Brexit over and not having any direct bloodline back to the low countries, all i got left is a useless fluency in the language and the childhood memories my aunts talked about and my mother passed on to us - reading fairytales, building blanket forts, playing with Lego, eating bread rolls, enjoying ice cream with an umbrella in the V&D (department store) cafeteria.

Listening to my family talk about my oma helped me to see the cultural things that we had in common. Living free and independent after a divorce is something i am proudly taking into the third generation. Drinking a coffee every morning. Reading the newspaper every day. Playing a musical instrument. This is all from my mom's side.

My dad's side is where the alcoholism, boisterousness and wanderlust comes from.

But, really, this funeral was the Brexit funeral for me. My European heritage disappearing into the ether. I only got my British colonial heritage left now. Funerals ain't all bad. Deze was nodig.

Ugh, fuck fucking Brexit. Truly the worst political event that has happened in my life.

Meanwhile, i spoke with my old boss from Germany yesterday, and agreed to do some freelancing. I don't really want to go back to "real" work, but also with this pandemic stretching out well into 2021, i figure i might as well use the limbo i'm stuck in to earn a bit of cash. I hope it doesn't bust all of my sabbatical dreams. Sif fucking Brexit and the pandemic didn't already do a good enough job.

Bye, oma, voor nu. Dankjewel.