The appalling spectacle of Boxing Day

First, here is the quaint definition of Boxing Day as listed at Merriam-Webster Online:

the first weekday after Christmas observed as a legal holiday in parts of the Commonwealth of Nations and marked by the giving of Christmas boxes to service workers (as postal workers)

You can find a more modern definition on wikipedia’s site, which sums it up nicely as:

Contemporary Boxing Day in many countries is now a “shopping holiday” associated with after-Christmas sales.

Normally on Boxing Day I am making my way back home from the island and my only typical exposure to it is joining the crush of people downtown for a bite to eat around 4 p.m. before catching the bus home. Since the snow kept me from traveling, I had all day to enjoy this pseudo-holiday. My plan was simple: catch the #19 downtown around mid-morning, deposit a few paychecks, check out a couple of nearby stores, maybe grab some groceries, then boogie on back home, total exposure to the public maybe two hours, tops.

The first bad sign came from the window. It had started snowing again, dammit. Well, with the forecast calling for the snow later changing to rain, I decide to keep to my plan to avoid the coming slushpocalypse. I bundle up and opt to not wait at the usual bus stop since there is a wall of snow there making the road inaccessible. I go down to the next one and in due time the bus arrives. We head downtown at a somewhat slower pace but it’s not too bad. I deposit my checks then head into Pacific Centre. It’s getting close to lunch so I figure a bite is in order. The place is packed. I check my watch — 11:20 a.m. The food court is totally jammed. I give up. I’l make a sandwich at home, save money, eat healthier and pat myself on the back — all at the same time!

I next mosey over to Future Shop. As I ride the (packed) escalator up, I note the people coming down, about half of them carrying no purchases, just looky-loos out looking because they enjoy feeling like sardines, I guess.

Future Shop, like everywhere else, is packed. After a minute of fighting my way through aisles crowded with consumer zombies, I leave for the London Drugs at the end of the block. It’s also pretty busy but since it sells more practical stuff, it’s not quite packed. Saving big money on a high-def TV motivates people, saving big money on a roll of paper towels, not so much. At LD I realize there is nothing I would be buying anyway so I get the hell out and go to the bus stop. I miss not one, not two but three buses, including one where the driver could have stopped but chose to drive three feet forward to the stop light and not let me on. Ho ho ho.

When I get on the fourth, I am joined by several others, including a street person who asks for $2.50 (I assume this is to cover bus fare, though most drivers will simply wave on those who don’t pay). I say I have no cash on me (I almost never do, in fact, carry any cash on me these days) and she proceeds to ask the other two people. The second is a young man who expresses his displeasure in a loud but not shouting voice. The bus heads off into the snow and the woman wanders about the nearly-empty bus for a bit before she takes the seat in front of me. She turns to me and starts to ask something; I’m not sure what because I’m listening to music by this point. I hear angry young man telling her to bugger off or somesuch. The woman and I make eye contact and she says nothing, I say nothing. She has what almost appears to be a wry smile. After our non-conversation yields no results, she finally moves off and leaves the bus a few stops later.

The rest of the trip is uneventful. I only have one block to walk from the stop to my place but sure enough, I manage to slip. I deftly spread out my hands and catch myself before splatting. Once back home, I make myself a nice cup of tea and vow not to go back outside until June.

While the weather made things worse, I must say the spectacle of all those people out looking for bargains in an atmosphere I can only describe as unpleasant at best and horrible at worst, makes me sad. I don’t expect everyone to be out saving beached whales today or working soup kitchens or even giving cardboard boxes to postal workers, but yeesh, you don’t really need to save 20% off something you don’t really want, anyway. Stay home with your damn family and drink more eggnog!


Merry freaking Christmas!

Here I am in Vancouver for Christmas for the first time ever, thanks to the MegaSnow. I had a nice lunch and pie (mmm, pie) with Tim and family and was accosted as per usual by Barley, the dog who seems to love me as if I were a cut of prime steak or something. Maybe it’s a chocolate lab thing.

It is quiet around here and I’m looking forward to my trip to the island that’s been delayed a week. The weather should be back to its usual cool ‘n rainy by then.

In the meantime, I’ve succumbed and created a spartan Facebook page. If it’s anything like this blog, it’ll be a few years before anything really happens there but all the cool kids have signed up and if I want to have the chance to publicly share my KFC sink as hot tub pics (okay, technically they used MySpace) this may be my best chance.

Hello snow

A week ago we got our first real snow of the season, and it was a bit more than usual for this time of year (if we get snow it usually comes in January).This was just the warm-up for the first official day of winter, though. This was the backyard on December 21st (click to enlarge):

Sadly, the shelter protecting the 1964 Ford Fairlane collapsed under the weight of the snow. Hopefully the car isn’t banged up too much as a result. More snow is forecast (followed by rain, naturally). Ho ho ho.

Deadline: a play with words

Deadline is a one-act play I wrote and co-directed in the 1989 Vancouver Fringe Festival. It was the second (and last) time I worked on the Fringe, having acted in a friend’s play, The Peanut Shell, a year earlier. You can find Deadline in 1980s fiction.

This is the third and final draft that was used in production. Below is the playbill a graphic designer friend made for the show. I think we made the tiniest profit after expenses. I recall a 10 day stretch during rehearsals where I developed a mystery cough. It came out of nowhere and was so maddeningly persistent that I often had to excuse myself so the actors could actually speak their lines. Just as I was about to go to a doctor, the coughing abruptly vanished, never to return.

The actors were all decent enough that we didn’t have any calamities, though one actor backed up a little more than he should have one night, nearly falling off the stage. Breaking the fourth wall, as it were. Reaction to the play was mixed at best (the written text got eviscerated when the director submitted it to another writer for assessment). It’s a nice concept and while it has its moments, the final result was less than satisfying to me. Love the playbill, though!


The Famous Polka

The Famous Polka is an unfinished play I wrote back in 1996 and takes its title from the They Might Be Giants’ song of the same name. While I like the characters and the breezy dialogue, there’s a slim chance I’ll ever finish the play so I figured I may as well put it on the site for perusal. I’ll be adding more unfinished (and finished) works soon. You can find The Famous Polka in the 1990s fiction section.

Here’s a sample from the play:

CHRISTINE: So who do you think in the theater department would be a good match for Eric?

KEVIN: There’s Mark.


ERIC: Is he the one with the blond hair, the bowl cut?


ERIC: Fag!

CHRISTINE: You’re a fag.

ERIC: No, forget it. He’s too gay.


KEVIN: The gradations are fascinating.

Electronic Arts: Cutting costs, increasing bafflegab

Today EA revealed that its previously-announced job reductions are cutting deeper than originally forecast, from about 6% of their workforce to 10%. The local Vancouver studio Black Box is being absorbed into the larger Burnaby facility (which had its expansion canceled). But the best part is this statement as seen on Blue’s News:

EA is implementing a plan to narrow its product portfolio to focus on hit games with higher margin opportunities. The company remains committed to taking creative risks, investing in new games, leading the industry in the growing mobile and online businesses, and delivering high-quality games to consumers.

On the one hand they are going to “narrow its product portfolio to focus on hit games” (ie wall-to-wall Madden and Sims) and yet they remain commited to taking “creative risks”. What does that mean? Turning Madden into an MMO? Putting The Sims onto calculators?

Of Lovecraft, graffiti and churches in the fog

I’ve added a trio of short stories that were written as exercises for WRITE! And yes, it is correct to shout the title of the site, preferably around others to see if it inspires and/or frightens them.

The stories can be found on the new 2000s fiction page. They are:

I’ve also re-organized the way stories are grouped, removing the individual pages and instead dividing them up by decades, resulting in less bloat but the same delicious and nutritious content. Enjoy!

A fresh coat of paint

Whoever said change was as good as a vacation probably took a lot of vacations. But in the spirit of renewal, I have updated the site’s theme to techmania. In looking for a new theme, I wanted something clean and simple, nothing more than that. As I traversed the web in my search I discovered a few things about WordPress themes:

  • there are about a hundred million billion of them out there now
  • most themes are cluttered, garish and often use color choices that make text difficult to read

Fortunately, a few designers still show enough restraint to provide a few reasonable options, which is why I am bothering to highlight techmania in the first place.

In the meantime we are getting our first real dump of snow as winter officially approaches. My bike is stored in the workshop, feeling cold and unloved.