Wednesday, August 28, 1985

As a result of the home improvements I mentioned earlier, I found a 17+-year-old traditional journal I maintained for a while. One paragraph in particular under the Aug. 28/85 entry absolutely kills me because it’s 100 percent true.

Context: Hardluck was my ex. I had just moved back to my hometown of Moncton, where I would be starting my (ill-fated) studies in translation that September. Of course I’m changing all the names below to protect both the innocent and the guilty, but you have to admit that soap opera script writers would have a hard time coming up with a more outrageous story line.

Boys, did Hardluck ever have a lot to tell me when we finally sat down to talk! First, his roommate Alvin tried to commit suicide. Then, he told me about this guy Bob he had met and with whom, after only 2 weeks together, he was already considering moving to T.O. …until Bob went to the “fruit stand” with Hardluck one night and left the joint with some other guy. Aside from that, what about all the rent $ that his current squeeze (Clint) and him had been giving Alvin? Simple: Alvin gambled it all away so they all got evicted from their apartment. So Clint moved out with this other mutual friend while Hardluck stayed somewhere else with Alvin …until Alvin kicked Hardluck out. And oh! Don Devious’s job offer to Hardluck was a fake: the job never existed and it never will so not only does that leave Hardluck without a job, but his pogi ran out and he can’t apply for welfare since he has no fixed address. Therefore, he’s left with no option other than to sell all his stuff away gradually in order to survive and find shelter with friends from one night to the next. So fed up with all of this, Hardluck has decided to go visit a friend in Bumfuck, Nova Scotia for a week or so, after which he’ll be knocking on his parents’ door. But they won’t be taking him in for very long because they’re now on a crusade to “convert” him. Consequently, he plans to move back to Halifax after this so-called visit and see what happens then, and hopefully find ways of saving money — by selling more of his stuff, I guess — and move to T.O. anyway. Needless to say, you can tell Hardluck is a nervous wreck these days just by looking at him. In desperation, he’s even seen himself doing things he’d never normally do, like walking out of Big Department Store with a $60 jacket on his back! It’s all pretty scary stuff, and I feel so helpless. If I still lived and worked in Halifax, he’d have a place to stay and I wouldn’t let him go hungry. But no, I’m in Moncton now and what money I do have — if only I could spare him some! — is all going on books and tuition next week. Anyway, around 2:30 a.m., I walked with him to where he was staying that night in Maniac Square. Knowing how rough this neighbourhood is and even though there wasn’t a cat in sight, he pushed me back when I motioned to kiss him goodnight. Although Hardluck doesn’t always make the wisest choices, I would never question his street savvy and I didn’t insist.

BTW, I had dinner with Hardluck the other night. Resilience is his middle name; he now owns a house on the other side of the harbour.

I Blog, Therefore I Am?

In my first post — I know I’m going overboard with postings since this is all new to me — I mentioned that a documentary on CBC is what finally made me decide to blog. But numerous are the other reasons that have accumulated and finally brought me to doing it myself.

Perhaps one of the most determining moments occurred on Aug. 2, 2002, when xkot posted this brief entry titled “A Sad Loss,” which was about a guy who blogged under the name “Skattieboy” but died very suddenly. Skattieboy was essentially my age and, as I commented in xkot’s blog, he just “woke up dead” one day in late July.

At least that’s what seems to have happened. Neither xkot nor I had even met the guy. In fact, I hadn’t even heard of him until xkot mentioned him. Still, the sudden death of an until-then unknown-to-me Ph.D. candidate in psychology — my age and living in Colorado — just hit a chord in me.

Granted, my headspace in 2002 has been one where the need for change has featured prominently, a situation I attribute in good part to my slightly premature but (I think) well under control midlife crisis. As such, I was perhaps more prone to be touched.

Somehow, and perhaps paradoxically, this event tied into other thoughts I had been having as we were approaching the first anniversary of 9/11. Never one to suffer fools gladly, I was realizing that, for me, 9/11 had eroded any shred of tolerance I ever had towards pettiness and stupidity. On the one hand, I would think about what people quibble about and, on the other, I would reflect on 3,000+ people dead because they were simply reporting to work but happened to be on the wrong side of so much hatred. Why go looking for trouble with squabbles that will do nothing but generate bad feelings? There are enough of those already.

But other factors or occurrences made me think about this whole blogging thing. Back in June, there was this really nasty exchange of comments in a blog, to which I won’t link because I don’t want to bring back a bitchfest that’s thankfully over. That event in particular made me think about responsible blogging, responsible commenting in blogs, the respect bloggers and readers should have towards one another, and the blurring of the distinction between personal and professional relationships. And while I’m not giving you the context of the discussion at the time, I was compelled to make this comment:

I think we’re starting to hit on the notion of freedom itself, in the sense of having real as opposed to illusionary choices. We’re surrounded by so many illusionary choices — a gazillion TV channels, computer terminals that come in different colours, etc. — which are little more than cosmetic variations of the same thing. Could it be that, as a consequence, our sense of what real choices are, hence our understanding of what having the freedom to select and respect different approaches should be, has become numbed to the point that admitting an array of real choices is too destablizing?

A few months earlier, I had had a very intense e-mail exchange with an aspiring local Web designer who had a blog and made some inappropriate comments therein about her client, who just so happened to be a friend of mine. I’ve been around the ‘Net long enough to know that situations can very easily get emotionally charged online. The editor in me always knew that words are very powerful but, somehow, the medium seems to have the ability to alter (corrupt?) that power they hold.

Juxtaposed, these disparate experiences of blogs pushed me to think about whether or not I wanted to do the blogging thing. What are the benefits? What are the risks? And to what extent is it an exercise in communicating with friends and acquaintances, or in creative expression? Or simple exhibitionism or narcissism?

Perhaps it’s a bit of all of those things to a varying degree for various people. I still don’t know what the combination is for me.

The Sending of Good Vibes

Can’t help but be concerned about Kevin. He’s still able to make light of what ails him. But he’s really not well …no pun intended. And all I can do right now is send good vibes his way and hope that, indeed, “they’ll” get to the bottom of it and end his suffering.

Anyone who knows me might think that Kevin is the most unlikely person I’d consider a friend. We “met” when we were both with a horrible Web host and eventually moved to our current host at about the same time. He’s been an employee of our host for over a year now, and an ultra-competent one at that. He’s just a great guy and one of the last persons you’d want something horrible to happen to him.

Can We? Pretty Please?

Cancel Christmas, that is.

If it were up to Poupoune and I, Christmas would be cancelled this year. For reasons very different than my own, she would much rather kick back with good food and Grand Marnier and stay home with her little zoo of furry critters. And I would join her. Gladly.

But neither our families would understand why we’d want to opt out of all their festivities. Not without a valid reason, like work or an impossible January 2 deadline. They would take it personally even though it really weren’t meant as a personal affront.

Somehow if you’re single and have no dependant rugrats, you’re expected to do the Family Thing. And then throw in a pound of guilt, because you can’t deny that the family has been beyond good to you FOREVER, not to mention the last year.

Christmas is a jolly good time for kids. Some of my fondest childhood memories take me back to past Christmases. But Poupoune and I have no kids, don’t intend to have any ever, and feel no sadness over not having any. Seen from this angle, Christmas means very little to us.

Finally Taking the Plunge!

Me: Hi. My name is Maurice and I’m a reluctant blogger.

Chorus: Hi Maurice!

Nearly a year ago, someone by the name of Christine joined the Web hosting service I’ve been using since July 2001. She was a big-time blogger (so I gathered) and piqued the curiosity of a lot of us who hadn’t been bitten by the Blogging Bug. Perhaps the most intrigued among us was CrankyChick, who was almost immediately bitten. Cranky, who went by another moniker at first and whom I’d grown to know as someone who ALWAYS speaks her mind, turned out to be a remarkable blogger — and I say this even though the two of us are known for disagreeing on a lot of things. But those differences are balanced out by a healthy dose of mutual respect, I think.

As for me and blogging?

Well, honestly, I wasn’t convinced. Why would I want to have an online journal? Who would give a flying errr… you know?! And to what extent could I opine on issues — some mundane but some controversial — with complete integrity while not offending my clients who might stumble upon my blog? Could it be done freely, comfortably and responsibly, or would I have to accept some measure of self-censorship? And finally, how much time did I want to spend figuring out Movable Type when I’m already swamped with the development of my own Web content management suite, not to mention a steadly growing client base?

Well, shortly after CrankyChick started blogging, so did someone whom I hold in very high esteem: Annette, co-owner of my Web hosting service, launched The World Ate My Skull. In so doing, she demonstrated that it is possible to strike a balance between a personal weblog and a fantastically busy work life. Moreover, perhaps more than any bloggers, her wide range of interests and the manner in which she expresses her thoughts with that exquisite no-nonsense tone almost never failed to interest me. (I say “almost” only because it’ll take more than Annette to spark in me an interest in ANY sport. 😉 ) At the same time, as much as she invited me to comment as much as I wanted to in her blog (“Mi casa es su casa…”, she urged), I just didn’t feel right about monopolizing her blog — or anyone else’s, for that matter.

Then tonight came the banal event that made me take the plunge.

I was watching The National on CBC tonight. The Journal portion of the show consisted of a documentary by Brian Stewart on “The Bush Doctrine” — essentially the whole notion of the USA exercising what it believes to be its right to strike pre-emptively on what it deems “rogue nations,” such as Iraq. I couldn’t suppress this overwhelming feeling: “That’s the worst possible policy position the US could take because that’s EXACTLY the reaction their enemies expected!” But of course, I’m just this opinionated, proudly leftist editor, former part-time university prof and Web developer living in Canukastan, and that’s exactly the reaction that would be expected of ME…

Be that as it may, it sufficed to get me to turn off the boob tube and download MT. I’ve done very little to configure it just yet; I’ll get around to that as time goes on. But now I can feel comfortable to opine as much as I want without hoarding the comment area of friends and colleagues.

And I can’t help myself from paraphrasing (badly) the closing paragraph of Margaret Laurence’s A Jest of God: “God’s mercy on reluctant bloggers. God’s mercy on fools. God’s mercy on God.”