Star of Tomorrow

My mother, Angela Huntley Clarke, on TV

Watching a documentary on Judy Garland last night reminded me of my mother.

Angela had her own, yet similar, beauty, musical abilities and insecurities. She loved Wizard of Oz, and, being maybe a half dozen years younger than the famous star, probably identified with Dorothy.

As a young woman, my mother had a beauty that, I think, rivaled Garland or Elizabeth Taylor. I have hundreds of photos of her, and she truly does seem to glow in most of them. Was she actually happy, or was it just a part she played in front of her father's Ricoflex camera?

Angela could play piano and violin, could sing, and acted in productions with the Victoria Gilbert and Sullivan Theatrical Society. It must have been someone's plan for her to break into the performing arts - maybe her own, maybe her Mother's. In 1956, she was a Star of Tomorrow, and had the demo recording to prove it.

"With a little bit o' luck", maybe my Mum might have flamed out gloriously under bright lights and a camera's watching eye, instead of burning out anonymously amidst depression, alcoholism and unfulfilled dreams. I wonder if she resented missing some big break along the way. Maybe she never even got that far.

I can still hear my Dad proudly proclaim "Your mother had a beautiful singing voice. They said she could have sung with the Metropolitan Opera." In my younger years, I would have loved to have had a famous and successful mother - someone in whom we could take pride for her accomplishments. Or maybe it's about wanting to see others be proud of her - to share her with everyone else.

Since becoming an adult, I have had a new wish for Mum: that she was healthy and able, and that she could be there for her husband and her kids - a wife and a mother. It would have been wonderful to get to know her live and in person the same way I knew my Dad or my sister.

Instead, I will posthumously reinvent her through album after album of someone else's dreams of who she was or who she could have been, and then build little shrines to her on the Internet.

February 22, 2004

The Death of Webmonkey!

Bye bye Webmonkey

Webmonkey, Wired's online web reference/tutorial haven, is going offline for good.

This is very sad news for webmeisters like me who have come to enjoy or even rely upon Webmonkey's cool, funny and well-written articles and resources...

I swore by this site, particularly between 1996 and 1998, during the tail-end of the boom in Vancouver. Webmonkey provided helpful articles and tutorials which were easy to read and fast to digest - very important when you have a deadline and some new technology to learn in a hurry.

It's sad to read about the office and the people, and hear how things must "wind down". Having been through four wind-downs myself, it's always painful to realize that an endeavour that you really believed in and into which you invested so much sweat and enthusiasm is coming to and end forever. It actually hurts. I'm sure it hurts for the Webmonkey staff who are now laid off.

I always have suggested Webmonkey to web newbies as well - the beginner articles were also quite excellent.

I sure hope that someone sets up a Webmonkey archive or a tribute site somewhere... It would suck if Wired or Lycos didn't preserve the content somewhere. I think it's still quite useful and relevant for those coming into web development for the first time...

Moments of Awareness...

Last night:
She's asleep. I am staying up to watch a "Babylon 5" DVD. A little time to myself for some escapist indulgence.

It's quiet. I gingerly carry a hot cup of Earl Grey tea, padding across the carpet silently in my warm moccasin slippers. It is quiet time.

* * * * * *

We're in North vancouver, sitting outside a cafe at Lonsdale Quay market. We're eating and sipping coffee. The February air is crisp - touches of winter, with an uncommonly warm sun shining down on my neck as I read the day's news on my PDA. Our mild winter is not quite ready to yield to Spring yet, but it's getting closer.

We look at each other and chuckle as a musician murders a procession of pop tunes in his haltingly twangy, out of tune style. I see a little girl sitting on a white plastic patio chair next to him, and an exhausted-looking dog laying with its head down on the ground. That must be the musician's daughter. Well, everybody's gotta make a living. He's not going to be the next "Canadian Idol", but he does seem to be enjoying himself.

* * * * * *

I think of how lucky I am to have gentle, peaceful moments like this. I'm lucky to have a gentle, peaceful life, and a loving wife with whom I can share them.

I'm just lucky. Things could be so much worse. I'm so damn fortunate.

"Police found dozens of shell casings..."

Last night, there was gunfire in our neighbourhood - just down at the end of my block.

On Thursday night, I was out with some friends at a pub in Gastown. Towards the end of the evening, I phoned my wife at home, and she excitedly told me the following:

She was driving along Eighth avenue near Nanaimo, when a Policeman stopped her. He asked her where she was going, and she asked him what was going on.

"Someone is playing with guns" he replied. She noticed that pedestrians were being stopped and asked to go another way as well.

Near the intersection of Eighth Avenue and Nanaimo, she saw numerous police cars and a paddy wagon. Curious people were milling around, trying to get a look or figure out what was going on.

The cop said he wanted to check her car for any holes. When he had decided she was bullet-free, he said she could go past.

So, she told me to be extra careful coming home. We both knew that I would be walking by the scene on my way home from the Commercial Skytrain station.

When I got to Garden Drive and Broadway (one block west of Nanaimo), I saw two uniformed officers out front of a house on Garden drive, talking to someone, and writing things down. They must have been out there canvassing the neighbourhood for hours.

On the radio news the next morning, the announcer said that there were "dozens of shell casings" on the ground near the incident, and that up to twelve people were involved. Nobody was killed or wounded. Five people were in custody. Few were cooperating with investigators.

The radio report said that the gunfire had happened out front of a chinese restaurant. It was actually a Vietnamese restaurant, next to "V-Net Computers", according to the CTV news photo.

There had also been gunfire reported outside the "Golden Phoenix", a Chinese restaurant across the street a number of months ago. This all must be connected to Asian gangs or something.

Faces in the Street Today...

Today, my "regular guy" (to whom I give my spare change at Stadium Station) was not around. Another man approached me as I entered the shelter of the station. He was a bit shorter than me, had a slightly hunched back and spoke almost meekly, in a gentle and somewhat highly-pitched voice.

He excused himself, called me sir, and asked if I could spare some change, which I was happy to do. His face was covered with small marks and he had two nasty looking red, wet sores across the bridge of his nose.

"What happened to your nose?" I asked him. It looked as though someone had hit him in the face with something hard.

He answered , but I couldn't quite understand his reply - something about skin, allergies, or god-knows-what. I suggested that maybe he should see a Doctor. He told me how he was supposed to see one at VGH, but that he would have to get a ride there.

I felt quite bad for him, and could only tell him to take care of himself, and then say goodbye. Poor bugger.

* * * * * * * *

Exiting Commercial Station, I walked out onto Broadway amidst a loud commotion - some kind of protest or rally at the corner of Broadway and Commercial. Lots of voices were shouting and chanting, and three people were holding up signs which had pictures of the large heads. I was behind them, but guessed correctly that one of them would have to be Gordon Campbell. There are a lot of pissed off people living below the poverty line in Vancouver.

I was starting to drift closer towards the crowd, hoping to hear the chants more clearly and figure out what it was all about, when a man with a clipboard started to approach me. He asked me if I would like to sign a petition against the Premier's Welfare policies. Then he asked if I would buy one of his newspapers ("It's by donation. Maybe a toonie...").

"You're the seventh person to sign today" he told me. I glanced at the short list of names to check. Yup. Damn - that's pretty slim pickins.

"How long have you been out here doing this?" I asked him.

"Since six this morning."

"Oh my god." Talk about commitment! "Here's a toonie."

"It's one of my back issues.

"No problem."

"Thank you very much brother."

"Take care man."

It was indeed a back issue (from January 1996), but how could I not? Christ - this guys was making more of a physical effort at getting his petition signed than I did at my paying job today!

February 15, 2004

The Corporation

This movie is a documentary describing the birth, evolution and impact of large-scale global corporations on the rest of humanity and ecology.

It uses a compelling style that intercuts interviews from people with many different points of view with commercials, cartoons and news stories from various periods over time.

Interviewees include Noam Chomsky, Naomi Klein, Michael Moore, and a host of academicians, activists, lawyers and CEOs. The resulting effect is a kind of kaleidoscope of viewpoints, philosophies, and cultural backgrounds, which provide excellent context.

For me, one of the most significant points made by "The Corporation" is that, while a Corporation is considered to have the same legal rights as a person - it is recognized as a separate legal entity - the actions of many corporations are consistent with psychopathic behaviour. Symptoms include disregard for impacts of actions on others, lack of remorse and personal responsibility, lying and deceitful behaviour, and various forms of callous manipulation. The "personality" of global corporations are analyzed in this light, as are the humans who, in actuality, are responsible for their psychopathic characteristics.

Should corporations have the right to control natural resources, or basic necessities like water supplies? Should they have the right to operate beyond the reach of governments or to play influential roles in social services, or to attempt to manufacture our consent (to paraphrase Noam Chomsky) - to attempt to manipulate us from the cradle to the grave? Should they have the right to own patents on human or animal DNA and claim it as their own intellectual property?

In response to these disturbing questions, you also see examples of activism and man-in-the-street reactions. Bolivian people taking back their water supply infrastructure, or Indian farmers disobeying the law by keeping the seeds from their wheat crops.

The Corporation gives few resolutions to the huge dilemmas presented, and thus, offers lots of opportunities for further discussion after the movie on the drive home.

It's also one of the few documentaries I've watched which received a spontaneous round of applause from the audience at the end. I was clapping. We all were.

February 09, 2004

The Snail's Pace: Rewriting my History

I originally started writing my True Life personal family history project back in 1998. It's now kind of incredible to me that I have managed to keep my True Life web writing project alive for the past six years. Historically, I have had a rather bad tendency to start new projects and then not finish them - a "weakness" that has irritated me whenever I have thought about it.

Maybe it's a mark a new maturity or something that I can now keep a project alive for long periods of time.

It has taken me six years to write about the first eight years of my life. That could mean that writing about another sixteen years of history (to cover me to the age of 24) will take at least 12 years of writing. I'll be almost fifty! I might be too senile or dead to finish it beyond that...

Man - I gotta kick this writing pace  up a notch.