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Thursday, February 27, 2003

An X-istential Crisis

An X-istential Crisis

I'm starting to get sick of the letter X. Once upon a time, X indicated something strange, mysterious, beyond the norm. The letter X had a proud history: there were the X-Men, of course, and X: The Man With the X-Ray Eyes, The X from Outer Space, The X Files, X-rated movies, the Sesame Street skit featuring Cowboy X, and even American History X. In all these x-amples, the X had a reason to x-ist.

But now pop culture is suffering from an x-treme overdose of X. There's the horrifying superhero tv show Mutant X (or as I like to call it, "Mutant X-Crement"), the grotesque James Bond ripoff xXx, the brain-deadening accident clip show Max X, and all manner of "x-treme" sports shows. And even more maddening, my own generation has been stamped with the letter X. Do any of these things deserve the mysterious X? Bah! Even diapers and ice cream flavours are being rated X.

Let's return our favourite letter to its proud status as a harbinger of the truly weird, mysterious, and dangerous. Let's x-terminate the overuse of our beloved X, before future generations have a reason to x-communicate their foolish ancestors.

Tuesday, February 25, 2003

34 Years Old

Looks like I have some catching up to do. I went out to Pete's birthday party on Saturday night - well, he calls it a "re-birthday," since his real birthday was back in January and this was simply the first chance we've had to celebrate. A dozen or so of us gathered at Hokkaido on 124th street. The food was good - I ordered teriyaki chicken - but I still fail to see the appeal of tempura. Thick, greasy yellow batter surrounding a tiny bit of shrimp or (gak) eggplant or yam. No thanks. Sushi kind of escapes me, too. I have a timid palate.

I caught up on some movies over the weekend...finally saw Sunset Blvd. To me, it's a bizarre mix of Gothic and noir elements, with some old-fashioned melodrama tossed in for good measure. Great film, particularly the opening sequence.

I also watched Undercover Brother, a far less accomplished film, but it was sincere, and had many moments of genuine hilarity. Oh, and my X-Men 1.5 DVD came with a free pass to see Daredevil, so I went to see that, too. Not bad; certainly better than I was expecting.

Hmm - it's February 25th, and now that it's after 7:37 PM, I guess it's my birthday. My 34th birthday, to be precise.

When I was five or six, I saw the Star Trek episode "The Deadly Years" for the first time. In the episode, Kirk, Spock, and McCoy start to age at an accellerated rate, growing old and decrepit before our very eyes. Naturally, Kirk's advancing senility calls his ability to command the Enterprise into question, so the senior crew members call a hearing. An emotional Kirk cries out at one point, in defiance of his condition: "!"

When I watched that episode for the first time, on the CBC up in the tiny northern town of Leaf Rapids, I thought to myself, "One day, I'll be thirty-four, just like Captain Kirk."

That day has come. Captain Kirk isn't thirty-four anymore, of course, except for the 52 minutes of time preserved in "The Deadly Years." Captain Kirk died on a mountaintop a few years ago - or a few centuries from now, depending on how you count these things.

From a very early age, I've always been keenly aware of my own mortality. Maybe that's why I've always been an atheist. The great void waits for each of us, lacking even darkness, for even that would be something...a presence defined by an absence.

Pretentious enough for one evening? Lighter news tomorrow.

Friday, February 21, 2003

Bad News

Yesterday I found out (along with everyone else in Alberta) that my employer (well, one of them), Lieutenant Governor Lois Hole, has abdominal cancer. She seemed hale and hearty when I saw her just a couple of days ago, so the news is pretty shocking. Beyond her value as a human being, I find myself distressed because she's one of the few voices that consistently speaks out for progressive values in this most right-wing of Canadian provinces. I hope that her treatments go well and that she's back on the job soon.

In lighter news, I finally finished watching the last of my Star Trek: The Next Generation DVDs tonight, just in the nick of time; the first season of Deep Space Nine will be released on Tuesday. It was a strange experience, going through all 179 episodes again, squeezing seven years into one, each episode bringing back memories of where I first watched it. When the show premiered in September of 1987, I was just starting university, and I wound up watching the episode over at Jeff Crozier's place in Beaumont. Jeff worked with me on the high school newspaper back at Leduc Composite High School; in fact, I just remembered that he took over as editor after I graduated. There were other people there, too, other newspaper staffers, a couple of girls whose names I can't for the life of me recall. I think that was probably the last time I saw Jeff.

I remember watching "Best of Both Worlds" in the lounge of Main Kelsey, the floor I lived on at Lister Hall. It was the end of my third year, May of 1990, and the episode ended with that great cliffhanger: Captain Picard has been transformed into Locutus, and Commander Riker gives the order to fire on the Borg ship, which will surely kill Picard. Fade to black...and everyone in the lounge screamed, "ARGH!" Because, of course, we'd have to wait until September for the conclusion. And so we spent our summers recovering from the school year, taking low-paying jobs to pay for next semester's tuition, and we gathered again in the lounge when Part II finally aired.

The Next Generation went on for three years after I left the U of A, and the last season, the seventh, aired while I lived at the Bleak House of Blahs. Hmmm...the circle is complete. Until tomorrow...

Wednesday, February 19, 2003

First Post

The Bleak House of Blahs, circa 1992.

Captain's Blahg, Start Date 02/19/03...

Welcome to The Bleak House of Blahgs, the blog of Earl J. Woods. Here you'll find Earl's daily mutterings, from keen insights into the human condition to aimless meanderings that will drive you into hopeless ennui. And to be honest, there's going to be a lot more of the latter than the former.

To begin: what's up with the title of this blog? Well, in the halcyon days after I graduated from the University of Alberta, I moved into a ramshackle grey house on the corner of 118th street and 118 avenue in Edmonton. In the beginning, four intrepid Gen Xers were full of optimism and mirth: myself, and my friends Ron Briscoe, Allan Sampson, and Carrie Humphrey. Carrie moved out after a month, and Ron, Allan and I, bereft of a moderating female influence, were left to carry on.

It was a grim time. Ron was working as a grocery bagger at Safeway, Allan was unemployed, and I was working as a parts driver, hauling camshafts and batteries and engine blocks to garages all over the city. None of us had girlfriends, or lives of any sort, really. Each day oozed mercilessly into the next. As Ron memorably put it, when musing that our lives would make a very dull book: "Chapter 28: More of the Same."

And so we christened our dreary home The Bleak House of Blahs. Three grey souls trapped in a hell of their own making!

Actually, we had a lot of fun. Socially, it was probably the second-best period in my life, right behind the glory days of Lister Hall (the dorm I stayed at during my university years). We had lots of friends, worked on some films, smashed some appliances, and had many cooking adventures. We existed in a kind of purgatory, trapped between hopeless dispair and unbridled hilarity. We only lived in The Bleak House of Blahs for a little over a year, but it was a time none of us will forget.

And so, to honour those memories, I've created this blog - or "blahg." One may argue that my life is more interesting now than it was then, but I couldn't resist the pun. So a blahg this shall be.

As for today, I just dropped off the infamous Bulb book at the lithographers'. Soon, the lust-addled public will at last have the book in their yearning hands. Watch for Lois Hole's Favorite Bulbs: Better Choices, Better Gardens in bookstores everywhere sometime in March...I hope.