Wednesday, September 9, 2009

From the Murky Depths...

Residents of British Columbia may be familiar with the story of the elusive Ogopogo monster--a sea creature that pre-dates the Loch Ness Monster by 80 years and lives in the depths of Lake Okanagan. However, most are less familiar with reports of another creature, just as mysterious, and perhaps even more difficult to track down. Most of the sighting reports have come from the very WN09 group that I have been following for the past few years and they call it the Hogopogo. Careful research has revealed a number of details about this fascinating apparition, which I will share with you here.

The Hogopogo is a land dwelling relative of the Ogopogo. It seems that sometime in the past the Hogopogo left the watery caves of Lake Okanagan in exchange for the murky depths of East Vancouver. Theories suggest that the dingy, glass strewn streets of this particular area of the city were appealing to the Hogopogo who was used to skimming dirty lake beds for food and shelter. Though fully adapted to living on land the Hogopogo maintains an attraction to water. Rumour has it that he keeps a primitive swimming pool made out of an old bookcase in his backyard and goes for late night dips when sightings are the least likely. His make-shift swimming pool is one of many examples of the Hogopogo's industrious nature. He was recently sighted buying a used Singer sewing machine which he intends to use to fix backpacks and old clothing.

Evidence of the Hogopogo's diet is scarce but some reports suggest that he subsists on a random diet of protein powder shakes and steaks grilled in the dead of night. He has also been known to go long stretches without food and sleep and will attempt to wake himself up in the morning by listening to very loud country music on the radio. He attempts to attract mates by offering them a Hogopogo delicacy of bug infested chocolate sprinkles. This method has been surprisingly successful.

The Hogopogo is an integral myth in the WN09 group. Almost every member of this group claims at least one sighting. At WN09 parties they frequently have a "Hogopogo Pool" where people bet on when or if the Hogopogo will make an appearance. More often than not the Hogopogo appears when people have already had a fair bit to drink which casts some doubt on the validity of these sightings. In the morning people must wonder if the Hogopogo was actually there, carrying a pineapple, or if this was just a figment of collective imagination.

One of the reasons that the Hogopogo is so elusive is that he has a very poor grasp of time. This is through no fault of his own. As a sea dwelling creature he would have kept track of time using cycles of the tide. On land he has no consistent access to the tidal time system which leaves him vaguely disoriented and prone to improperly estimating time values. This makes sightings by the WN09 group even more complicated since even with advance notice of a possible time and locale the Hogopogo may be MIA for long stretches.

As time passes the Hogopogo is becoming more bold in his travels through the city. He has recently been sighted riding a motorcycle, suggesting that he is becoming more acclimatized to life on land. It may be that sightings will become increasingly common and it is best to remain vigilant if you hope to catch a glimpse yourself. If you do see the Hogopogo don't panic! While a bit mysterious the Hogopogo is known to be friendly and well intentioned and is likely to help you move to a new apartment or reformat your hard-drive if you do happen to come upon him.

There are many gaps in the description of the Hogopogo, which I am trying to fill slowly. If anyone has stories or sightings to share please do so here. Thank you for your help with this very important cultural research.

(Apologies to J.H. and please blame M. for all of the above since the initial idea was his!)

Monday, September 7, 2009


Due to the minature nature of my apartment I have been without a craft space for over a year now. M. has also been without a good place to play his guitar and so we both found ourselves without a "room of our own" and frustration was ensuing. We finally decided something had to be done, went to Ikea, bought me a craft table and completely rearranged our living room so that there would be space for it. We then rearranged the bedroom so that M. could play music there and we have both been much happier. I expect that my craft productivity is going to skyrocket, and my first project was an excursion into polymer clay.

I had been wanting to experiement with cane work and decided to do so by making fairly simple coloured panels for a turtle shell. The cane building went well, and it sliced nicely after putting the whole thing in the freezer for a bit to firm up. I created a dome out of waste clay that I built up over a tinfoil core and then started applying the cane slices in a distinctly turtle-shell-like way. But here's the funny thing about polymer creations--they have a life of their own. As soon as you start rolling a piece of clay in your hands a tiny polymer soul enters it and begins to manifest characteristics that you absolutely didn't intend. No matter how I try to bend my creations to my will they maintain the power to morph at spontaneously, developing odd facial expressions, or body postures that were not a product of my own imagination but of the secret will of the clay itself. Or so it seems.

And so it was that my turtle did not want to be a turtle. It quickly became clear that I was not making a turtle shell at all and instead what was developing before my eyes was a rather lovely, earthy, fairy-kissed mushroom cap with a hint of copper glimmer. I tried for a few moments to force it back into a turtle shell, but the clay wasn't having any of it. I eventually caved and began purposeful sculpting to develop the form of the mushroom and things were smoother from there on out. The mushroom asserted itself and I built a knobby stem then later painted it to give it a look of something ancient that has made its home in the damp and mossy earth.

I attach pictures here, two with a snail from a previous polymer adventure who seems to be very much enjoying the mushroom shade. I have this funny feeling that an entire garden will emerge eventually now that I have a place to bring these always surprising polymer creations to life.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

A Treatise on Michael Bolton

I present to you today a literary analysis of Michael Bolton's "When a Man Loves a Woman." You, like me, probably think that this is just a cheesy love song from the 80s played at high school dances but after having an opportunity to scrutinize the lyrics closely I would like to declare it a sickening picture of a twisted and unhealthy relationship between men and women. This is not a love song. In fact, if your relationship with your significant other looks anything like this I suggest you fast as you can...and find someone new.

The full text of the song is here, followed by my analysis.

When a man loves a woman
Can't keep his mind on nothin' else
He'd trade the worldFor a good thing he's found
If she is bad, he can't see it
She can do no wrong
Turn his back on his best friend
If he puts her down

When a man loves a woman
Spend his very last dime
Trying to hold on to what he needs
He'd give up all his comforts
And sleep out in the rain
If she said that's the wayIt ought to be

When a man loves a woman
I give you everything I got (yeah)
Trying to hold on
To your precious love
Baby please don't treat me bad
When a man loves a woman
Deep down in his soul
She can bring him such misery
If she is playing him for a fool
He's the last one to know
Loving eyes can never see

Yes when a man loves a woman
I know exactly how he feels
cause baby, baby, babyI am a man
When a man loves a woman

The song begins by suggesting that love produces a single-minded focus on the object of love that borders on the obsessive. The man in this song is in love with a woman to the point of sickness. He is completely blinded by his obsession so that "if she is bad, he can't se it/She can do no wrong." This sentiment seems romantic on the surface. It's about overlooking people's flaws and accepting them for who they are right? Well, not quite. Overlooking someone's flaws is one thing, but overlooking something truly "bad" in someone is another. I do not feel that it's advisable to overlook cruel, "bad", or destructive behaviour like the poor sap in this song is doing. If someone is causing you pain it shouldn't be overlooked, regardless of how much you love them!

Then there's this issue of forsaking his best friend for putting this girl down. Okay, well consider this: We already know that she can be "bad." We don't know what this "bad" entails, but really bad behaviour in the context of a romantic relationship often involves cheating, emotional or physical abuse, lack of respect for a partner etc. So let's assume that this woman is doing some questionable things to her partner. Perhaps she's been flirting with the best friend and the best friend finally cracks and tells this guy that his girl is acting in an entirely inappropriate way. Okay, so instead of taking the friend at his word, this misguided lover (blind as a newborn kitten in the face of his obsession) "turns his back on his best friend" and ignores what he has to say. Maybe this best friend was onto something! If this girl is as "bad" as the song suggests, then there's a good chance this relationship is not heading in good directions.

The next verse gets even more objectionable. It paints women as vicious, domineering, careless people who are dictators in the relationship. This woman says "spend all your money on me and sleep in the rain, completely destitute, cold and alone, because that's how I want it to be" and the scary thing is that the guy willingly does this in order to hold on to this woman's esteem. Two things--this presents a horrific picture of women as money hungry vampires who are using men to advance their own prestige and then tossing them in the gutters, and it shows men as weak, brainwashed losers, sick with love, grovelling at the feet of their women, destroying themselves for the sake of love. I am here reminded of "La Belle Dam Sans Merci" (The beautiful woman without pity) by Keats, who sucks the life and soul out of a lovesick knight and leaves him wandering the forests as a pale spectre of his previous self. Bolton's woman is a modern twist on "La Belle Dam"--a woman who beats her man down until he is left penniless and exhausted in the dirty alleys of the city. What sort of message is this?! If your partner tells you to spend your "very last dime" on them and "sleep out in the rain" tell this person to F**K off and go find yourself someone new who is actually worthy of your love.

In the third verse there's more of the same: the man is giving away everything he has in order to "hold on/to your precious love." Does this sound at all like Golem from Lord of the Rings to anyone else? If you're gripping on to love like a maniac, trying to keep it from escaping your grasp, begging the object of that love to keep loving you, than you should probably let go completely and move on with your life. Throw that love into the fire of Mount Doom. The final begging line "baby please don't treat me bad" gives me chills of horror. This woman is clearly abusive and this man (living in the gutter at this point) begs her not to hurt him anymore. The rest of the song goes on to reiterate the blindness caused by love and ends with a hint that this man has been hurt by the woman that he's with. Of course there's nothing here that condemns his ridiculous behaviour to begin with. Clearly this guy should have run for the hills ages ago.

So that's why I hate Michael Bolton's "When a Man Loves a Woman." You are probably justified in hating it just because of it's corniness, but if you require a more political reason to hate it, here it is.