Saturday, February 28, 2009

Review :: Choke

When it came out in 1999, Fight Club seemed like a big deal. I was only 18 at the time, but after seeing that film, and after veraciously reading the Chuck Palahniuk novel upon which it was based, there came over me a sense that this - this schizo-social satire and savagely sardonic examination of masculinity coming out of the raggedy last breaths of a tormented millennium - was important. The film opened up a new world to me, the world of film as art, a world in which big questions could be asked, and maybe answered, on screen.* So I have a bit of a soft spot for that film. However, it struck me then, and it still strikes me now, that Fight Club, perhaps because of David Fincher's direction, perhaps because of the actors (I still can't see Edward Norton without thinking of Jack's smirking revenge), feels better suited to the cinematic medium than to the printed one. Now, nearly 10 years later, another Palahniuk adaptation, Choke, lurches forth and, having already read the novel, the same question swirls about in my head. Does Choke work as a movie? Well, sort of.

Choke, directed be one Clark Gregg, is the story of Victor Mancini (Sam Rockwell), a sex-addict and all around self-involved degenerate. His life is depressing: he and his best friend, a fellow sex-addict and chronic masturbater, Denny (Brad William Henke), work as "historical interpreters" in one of those lousy recreations of an early colonial village, which they both, of course, despise, despite being the default posture in this sorts of situations; his mother, Ida (Anjelica Houston), who apparently raised him while mostly on the run from the police, she being one of those anarchist, pseudo-revolutionary types who spend most of their time pulling mean-spirited pranks, has been hospitalized because of a rapidly deteriorating, and drug-fueled, mental condition and she only occasionally recognizes him; he compulsively has meaningless sex with strangers, though he is, well now this is just awkward, apparently unable to perform with people he might actually like, the self-loathing prick; and, just to top it all off, he and Denny, in a nihilistic tour de force, go from restaurant to restaurant staging chokes: Victor will deliberately choke on his food, you see, and then flail about the place, giving a stranger - preferably a wealthy one, wealthy people generally being the self-hating types who will always give away money in an effort to convince themselves that they are not, in fact, wretched people - the opportunity to "save" him. He is, in other words, hopelessly lost.

If this all sounds a bit overdone, if it sounds a bit like a Slothropian spiral into pointless deviance, that's because it is. Unlike Fight Club, in which deviance was used to treat the societal disease, the deviance being often more tolerable and appealing than the plastic and manufactured norm of a soulless and largely homogenized society, Choke uses deviance as an end unto itself, so that, as with Victor's friend's self-pleasuring addiction, the result is basically potency without creation. All the elements of a satiric roll in the cultural hay are here but none of them feel genuine, as if both Palahniuk and the filmmakers just decided to sit down and manufacture of sort of Thomas Pynchon-lite experience, one that on the surface seems meaningful and important but which is ultimately not much more than a hollow recitation of moral horrors and empty obscenities. If I may make a comparison, the appeal of the Tyler Durden character lay in his refusal to participate in, and his willingness to viciously exploit, the casual shallowness of post-modern society. Fight Club felt like a mythic restructuring of culture at the hands of cultural deviants, and it all appeared teleological - Durden was burning down society but in order to create another one. His actions had an end, a goal. Victor, on the other hand, is a character with no power (even though Rockwell is a powerful actor). He is neither the rallying, messianic figure of a post-modern cultural revolution nor is he an audience surrogate, a stand-in for some sort of shared cultural experiece. If this is some half-addled attempt at satire, it is lost on me because satire requires at least a few points of affinity, some touchstones with which we can say Yes, that's me or Yup, that's true. But there are no touchstones here. It seems too disconnected from ordinary experiance, too outrageous in its pruriance to be meaningful satire.

And yet, even after this heavy mountain of criticism, I'd be lying if I said that there's nothing here to like. Sam Rockwell, for instance, is fantastic. It always seems to me as if he is on the very edge of greatness but always fails to get the recognition he deserves. Also, tonally speaking, this movie is dramatically different than Fight Club, which I appreciated, and which is probably a good thing, both for director Clark Gregg and Palahniuk. (I keep bringing up Fight Club, and I feel bad about that, but that film/book really does cast quite a long and deep shadow over the rest of Palahniuk's work and over all other, but at this point largely hypothetical, Palahniuk adaptations (Edit: oh, I just checked IMDb and I guess another Palahniuk adaptation is on the way)... anyway, but so Fight Club had this iconoclastically epic feel to it, which was appropriate for a film about cultural apocalypse. Here, Gregg wisely steers the project into a much more subdued, and dare I say intimate, direction.) Though, returning to my earlier criticisms, I do think that an unintended, or probably unintended, consequence of this direction is that the film's subversive elements, if there are any here, are undercut by a sense of stylistic mediocrity, as if the movie's style and theme don't quite cooperate with each other.

So out of all of this can I pull a recommendation? Sure. It's not a bad movie. It just isn't great. But coming from Palahniuk, the man who gave us Fight Club, I want greatness, or at least I want meaningfulness. This just feels small, and not in a good way, but as if both he and this film are retreading already well-worn paths, and not treading them nearly as well as others, or as in Chuck's case, as well as he himself, have done in the past. It's satire unhinged, aimed at nothing, and in the end more nihilistic than useful.

Experto Crede: Choke isn't all bad. It's just not all that good either. If you are counter-cultural, or if like me you just enjoy every once in a while adopting a counter-cultural posture, you might like this. You just as likely won't, though.

* This has more to do with my own biography than with any innovation on Fight Club's part. I simply hadn't seen many "important" films at that time in my life.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Upon Closer Inspection :: Part 4

1300. Act III. A still and breathing silence and now is the only time in which you can hear footfalls in the emptiness... Heavy boots and occasional clattering of doggy toes sliding and scampering retreating bouncing barking. Easy calm in this silence... quiet; speech is smooth and relaxed now... but weighted with the expectation of dust and noise. Then: the whooshing roar white noise thick as water and just as wet A totalizing noise rushing out seeping into and filling everything - the noise of a tyrant or priest: demanding all and leaving no room for anything else. The constant inhale of lungs hungry for dust eventually blends effortlessly into the hum of blood Steady and unconscious invisible sound. It is backdrop, canvas. It blurs out of focus for the foreground sounds. A bumblebee mean and angry buzzing in my hand sliding and chattering over rough grain imposing a vision of sound leaving only a smooth trail, an easier surface. Into a deeper, darker sound now. The pure white rrriip of the hungry maw.  Modernity in microcosm. Teeth spinning, patiently ravenous, aggresive, howling, grinding, reducing, an arboreal holocaust producing: a perfect blank, prestine, stripped of the old self, made new, made ready. A conversion of wood. Mathematics - fractions and 16ths - now narrowing, now widening, planes arising and sliding out, the playful imperfections of nature rubbed down into human measurements. This is an act of imagination, human and holy: this sound, this over-bearing, splitting rip. A few decibals to the left now: the shriek. Ripper. Not a buzz but a spinning scream, a circle of knives cutting giant aural swatches through the air, a sound only immitated in grammar by blood veins bursting in the bvvvvvvvvvv of extreme mimesis. Drifting dust whirls, smoke sometimes rises, the hot teeth endlessly cycle. Beside this sound, the gentle swath of a beach in the wind with grains gently sliding. Warm dust floats and permeates, the finely ground atomies of maple and oak. The whisper of thighs on clean sheets. And above it all twining from sound to sound is the constant inhale of those hungry lungs. The suck: a rush of chips and dust, torn bits rattlesnaking up and through the tubes, unwilling, resistent, but compelled by vacuum authority. And it all, all of it, this clattering, shrieking apocalypse, comes from under water, each shriek each scream each groan each howl is muted, their razor's edge dulled, behind the gentle padding, foam and plastic, hugging my head. Inside the noise, I am silent.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Review :: Zack and Miri Make a Porno

What would happen if Boogie Nights knocked up American Pie? I don't know, but it would probably look a little bit like this:

Zack and Miri Make a Porno is Kevin Smith's latest film, following hot on the heels of the under-rated and savagely funny Clerks 2. Platonic roommates and best friends Zack (the very quickly going to wear out his welcome Seth Rogan) and Miri (Elizabeth Banks) are losers. Ahem, I mean slackers. They are both working dead-end jobs and are losing money fast. When their power and water get unexpectedly turned off (unexpected inasmuch as they didn't pay their bills), things begin to look bleak until Zack, brilliant mind that he is, stumbles upon the idea of making a porno together. So, rounding up some View Askew alumni (Jason Mewes and Jeff Anderson), they set out to make a few bucks - the dirty way. What they don't plan for, however, is their personal feelings getting in the way, as they always do in this situations, and they soon find themselves living every "sex is complicated" cliche that romantic comedies have been recycling for the past, oh I don't know... forever.

Now, let's get one thing out and in the open here: I've been a Kevin Smith fan for a while. Not a fanboy, mind you... just a fan. His particular blend of genuine heart, crass humour, and his normally sharp eye for interpersonal maneuvers and dynamics, a blend that was brilliantly delivered in such films as Chasing Amy and Clerks 2, has always appealed to me, even if some of his more over-the-top digressions into vulgarity have left me shaking my head. Zack and Miri, however, just feels empty, like an uninspired retread of material and themes he has developed (and developed much better) in other films. It feels more like we are watching a masturbatory fantasy play out than like a genuine cinematic experience. And that's a problem. It all comes across as adolescent, like school-boys giggling over strong language and naughty pictures. It's hard, in fact, to see much of the Chasing Amy Kevin Smith in here. Example:

(During interviews for the their porno)
Zack: What's your name?
Lester: Lester... Lester the Molester Cockenschtuff
Zack: Wow. That's a great porn name.
Lester: I get to pick a porn name? Then I want to be called... Pete Jones.

In Chasing Amy, the characters talked about dick and fart jokes in a very self-aware, very meta-fiction sort of way; in Zack and Miri, we just get American Pie-style dick and fart jokes with little-to-no awareness or tongue-in-cheek irony. But these aren't just American Pie-style jokes, oh no: they are the straight-to-video American Pie-style jokes, the kind which rely only on out-grossing the already gross. Take the above dialogue. That's a dumb joke. And that's about as clever, or as clean, as any of the jokes get here. Smith seems to think that simply ramping up the explicit and naughty nature of the story will make it funnier and more endearing. It doesn't. In fact, the two moments in the film that I think Smith thought would be the most hilarious and outrageous just feel disingenuous and soulless and very, very pre-pubescent.

(Uh, beware: this is the red band trailer, so it does have naughty language in it. But it gives you an idea of what the film is like.)

So the whole thing is disappointing. I like Kevin Smith. But it seems that for every Dogma or Clerks 2 that we get we also get a Mallrats or Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back.

Experto Crede: while it's not as bad as the Apatow school of comedy, it just doesn't live up to what I know Smith can do.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Upon Closer Inspection :: Part 3

1015. Act II is much like Act I. So is Act III, actually. Try as I might, I'm finding it hard to impose an actual trajectory or arc on any of this. Shop life basically consists of one task after another.

1020. Wait, I suppose I could talk about the life of an order. There's a bit of a trajectory there. A work order comes to us as a list of parts required for a job. If it's a railing order, and most of our orders are railing orders (the other kind of order we take being door orders), the list will look something like this: x feet of rail, x amounts of rail accessories (wall brackets, which hold the rail to the wall; goosenecks, piece of rail curved on one end that allows the rail to change directions vertically; elbows, like a gooseneck but which allows the rail to curve horizontally), x amount of stair accessories, x posts, etc, etc. We take the order, look at what me need to manufacture, and get to work. The first bit of business for nearly every part is grabbing an appropriate piece of wood. Wood comes to us as 10 or 11 foot lengths of various depths: 4/4 (i.e. an inch. Well, technically, about 15/16's of an inch but... whatever, that's a detail), 6/4, or 8/4. We work primarily in hardwoods, maple being the norm, but occasionally we get some more playful types of wood: rustic hickory, alder, beech, cherry, and oak. After we've grabbed the wood and made a nice big pile of it on a cart, we truck that cart over to the jointer (something like this) a-and grind it so that at least one of the edges is straight and smooth, allowing for a quick and easy cut on the tablesaw, which is usually the next step. After it's been sized on the tablesaw, depending on what its destiny is, the piece of wood gets run a few times through the planer (this), a sort of much more aggressive and no-nonsense version of the jointer, a howling banshee of a machine. Now, that sumbitch of a board is much smaller than it started out as and is ready to fulfill it's tree-ish destiny: i.e. it becomes whatever the hell we want it to become. If it's rail, we laminate it together with another piece, making it nice and strong; if it's wallbrackets, the part gets traced onto the board and cut out with a bandsaw; if it's parts for a post it gets sized on the circular saw and has either a male of female dado put into it; if it's... well, you get the point. It's putty in our hands. Hard, splintery, sliver happy, slam-your-fingers-in-it-and-regret-it putty. On their journey towards human convenience and luxury, most parts, not all but most, require routing. A router is essentially a motor with a spinning bit on the end that cuts a profile into a piece of wood. Some routers are small and whiny; some glare at you; others are demon possessed; and the biggest ones are filled with spite and malice and you don't put your hands anywhere near them but allow a power-feeder to do the work for you. So, for instance, with rail we rout the board four times, once on each edge, to create a nice, round (depending on the profile) piece of rail that anyone would want to hold onto and caress. After it's been routed (routered? I'm not all that sure about the verbiage here), it's ready for sanding, which is what I spend most of my time doing. All the above processes are hard on wood, you see. They leave marks, jaggies, tears, scratches, chatter, rips, and sometimes blood on the piece, all of which sanding is supposed to remove. After everything is smooth and ready for the prom, it, like Laura Palmer, gets wrapped in plastic, labelled and then stands around awaiting installation, which isn't our job.

1100. But so, let me tell you the story of my feet. For the past eight years, my feet have lived a comfortable, stress-free life, the extent of the demands leveled against them being nothing more strenuous than carrying me from one sitting position to another. They carried me to desks, chairs, couches, car seats, bus seats, movie theater seats, church pews, and, their favourite, the kitchen table chairs. Theirs was a life lived in innocence. Occasionally, they were forced to stand in a line somewhere, which they resented greatly, but they managed, they coped: their mostly pampered life out-weighed whatever small inconveniences they every so often encountered; they knew they had it made, and had it good, so they kept their mouths shut during those brief stints when actual participation was required. When they carried me out of the university last Christmas, however, they found themselves walking into a very different lifestyle. Now, instead of carrying me from sitting position to sitting position, they carry me from standing position to standing position. This is a terrible thing, I assure you, and they have voiced their protests most vehemently, drawing into their protestations my calves and lower back, all of who feel very put out by this change of affairs. It's a full-body mutiny. Their plan is to incapacitate me.

1130. Their plan may be working. Throughout most of the morning, I feel pretty good. Around 1130, though, which is the mid-point of the day, pain begins to set in. Remember, gentle reader, that I've been a slouch for nearly eight years, a slacker of the highest order. That it takes about four hours for fatigue to start setting in isn't embarrassing - it's an accomplishment.

1200. Lunch is nearly here.

1215. I've noticed that, in writing about the minutiae of my day-to-day life, I've created something of a paradox. In physics (or quantum physics, meta-physics, or something - I can't really recall), there is a law, or at least a principle, or maybe it's only a vague, effervescent notion (I'm talking out of my ass here, I know, but I swear to you I've heard this before... somewhere) that says simply measuring a thing actually changes that thing, so that the very act of observation defeats the purpose of observation, i.e. to see that thing as it really is. In writing about what I do at work, I've created a lovely little meta microcosm because at work I've begun thinking about writing about being at work. What's worse, I am at this moment writing about being at work thinking about writing about being at work. So I've now descended, perhaps irredeemably, into a post-modern miasma of self-consciousness. I've officially spilled over, blurred subject and object into an indistinguishable, indistinct mass of self-aware and rhetorical narcissism. I've kicked loose, lost balance. I've stumbled into a more frightening rabbit hole.

1230. Lunch. Lunch will save me. Now I've got something solid onto which to hold. An empty, grumbling stomach pushes away all those Gordian concerns. Take that, post-modernity.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Upon Closer Inspection :: Part 2

0730. The work day has begun. I work at a small stairs and doors shop that sits, as if trying to avoid the bustle and intrusion of the metropolitan buzz, just outside the city of Saskatoon (a city without much buzz, sure, but the detachment is nice, if sometimes a little awkward), and we specialize in, as the logo says, Curved Stairs & Railing And Custom Doors, a strange little sign - one obviously amended at some point to include "And Custom Doors" - that I guess is geting the job done since business, even in this depression-panicked economy, has been steadily growing. It's a fairly new shop, only a few months old right now, but it's quickly established itself within Saskatoon's industrial milieu. Its production team consists of exactly my father, my brother, and me, and I'm a fairly recent addition at that. In addition to the three of us churning out product there are: three sometimes four installers, of which Boss is one; an office manager-type/customer relations person, Boss's Wife, who is our go-to person when a question comes up; and one very small, very energetic dog, a terrier/chihuahua-looking thing, named Bear, who spends most of his days in the office with Boss's Wife but who, immediately upon release during one of her many quick visits to the back in order to relay information, tears around the whole place, runs up to you, runs away from you, and is generally too adorable to believe. Besides this core team, every once in a while someone else will pop their head into the shop, fiddle around, and disappear, their actual contributions to this whole thing being a mystery to me. (EDIT: Ah now, some clarification: these are not employees that I'm talking about. Nope. An employee's contribution, especially in a business this size, where everyone's work is noticed, is not questionable or mysterious. Naw, I mean the random people, people unknown to me, who occasionally are present and seem to be doing... well, something, I'm not sure what. This happens in every shop I've worked in and seen.) But now so, in the silence before the day's labour of dust and noise begins, a small, impromptu meeting occurs. It's not really a meeting, though I'm sure some executive somewhere would insist on calling it a Power Meeting or something like that but really it is only a few words exchanged between Boss and the three of us to make sure that we are all pulling in the same direction. The factors influencing what work gets done in a day are various, some predictable, some incomprehensible, some occult. A white board calendar hangs over the shop desk, on which the month's schedule is only occasionally sketched out, but this rarely determines the day's actual events. Attempts to impose vision or order upon any of this are almost always futile gestures. Most of the time, the official-looking schedule is abandoned in order to deal with the sundry pressures at hand: railing orders that are suddenly due; orders that were modified are filled incorrectly (rarely our fault, but oh-well); completed orders that have been standing around for weeks, slowly being pirated for parts, all of sudden being demanded, requiring a hasty effort to once again fill in the now-pirated pieces. You see, the construction business is apparently not at all as devoted to schedule as you might imagine. When a half dozen companies or contractors are all involved in, say, putting up a house, a condominium, etc, juggling everyone's activities becomes an exercise best left for fuzzy thinkers and laid-back hippies. The truly anal retentive or highly organized person will quickly lose, or hurt, his or her mind in the confusion, cunning, and compromise involved in staying afloat here. So scheduling is often myopic and changes day-to-day. However, the day's (or at least the next few hours') schedules established, the actual work begins.

0735. I'm sanding. Like I said, I'm fairly new here, only one and half months full-time now, so my role is often that of sander. Nearly all parts produced need sanding, see, and sanding is, in terms of production difficulty, fairly easy and doesn't require a very deep knowledge of a whole lot. You stand in front of a bench for hours, holding a palm-or orbital-sander (think world's worst, and most aggressive, sex aid), running it back and forth over the piece, making sure all machine marks are gone, all chatter marks are removed, all rips smoothed over, etc, and basically making sure the part looks good. I actually like the work. Me, I'm a fairly obsessive guy, with just a hint of perfectionism - not the kind that manifests in odd compulsive behaviour but the kind that demands that I make sure things are done right. Sanding is all about getting it right. During production, parts are man-handled (sexist, I know, but this is the third shop I've worked in and I've only met a few women, okay one, who does this kind of work, so if it isn't politically correct it's at least a well-established commonplace), bumped, dumped, and generally treated like pieces of wood. So I'm left to clean them up and get them ready to ship. It's not quite as mind-numbing as it sounds. Obsessive behaviour aside, the job does require careful attention. Sure, you can doze off, hit automatic for a bit and enter the zone, but then you start to miss things, important little things like cross-grain scratches, or chips in the joints, or holes that should be filled with wood-filler and cleaned up. Basically, at any given moment, there are a half-dozen things for which you should be alert and watching. So, the sorts of things you start thinking of while you're sanding aren't very involved. You start singing to yourself old songs that you like but haven't listened to in months or even years; you begin going over your favourite scenes from movies, imagining yourself within them, striking impressive poses (in your head) and spouting menacing one-liners; you relive moments from you own life with a revisionist sweep - this is what I should have said to That Guy at That Time, or if I had done this then, maybe this would have happened. You know, things like that. None of these thoughts are very important and they blink away the moment something interrupts them, popped like evanescent mental bubbles, only a slight residue, a mental scum, left remaining afterward. A thousand of these thoughts develop and vanish over the course of a day. They are byproducts, really, side-effects of a mind occupied but not entirely occupied.

0845. I'm still sanding.

0900. 0900 is an important hour. It represents a cross-over, a step taken past the first moments of the day into the day proper. It's a mental thing, I guess. When you do the same thing over and over, you establish little goals.

1000. Coffee break. Our work day is divided thusly: 0730-1000, coffee break, 1015-1230, lunch, 1300-1500, coffee break, 1350-1600, home. I've taken to thinking of the day in terms of three acts and an epilogue. Or denouement. Act one is long. Long like a son of a bitch. But each following act is incrementally shorter, meaning that once you've pulled yourself across the threshold of Coffee Break 1, you can tell yourself that you are more or less done for the day and almost believe it. Coffee Break 1 is a good thing. After 2.5 hours of work, depending on what you've been doing (some jobs are less strenuous than others), you are still feeling pretty good. You have that satisfying newly worked feel. Later in the day, that feeling will disappear and be replaced by other, less pleasant feelings. Coffee break with my brother and father is, for the most part, much like breakfast, i.e. quiet. If someone else is in the coffee room, like Boss or Boss's Wife or anyone else, conversation tends either to be politely hollow or filled with minor bits of business. Generally not serious stuff. If it's just the three of us, though, it's mostly quiet. Fruit, yogurt and protein-rich energy bars are eaten; a few pages of books are read (reading a book exclusively during coffee breaks and lunches is unique - it gives you a strangely saturated feeling, like you've been soaking in the book a lot longer than you expected); newspapers are perused and either guffawed or huffed at; walls and ceilings are vacantly observed. Occasionally, a news story is picked up in brief conversation. Even more occasionally, a philosophical or theological query is offered, though the time limitations don't usually afford the kind of treatment any of us like for this sort of thing so usually we leave this for supper (or dinner, if you're an ass), where a full, lively debate can be unleashed. We are a family of debaters. Throughout most of my life, supper time has been a time not only of eating but of higher learning. When I moved away to go to college,* I found that in terms of critical thinking I was better equipped than most people my age. This isn't bragging, just noting. Most people, as you no doubt already know, are very hard to engage in serious conversation. In colleges and universities, where I've spent most of my time for the past eight years, it's not too hard. It's even expected. But outside those temples of thought, serious conversation is difficult. You certainly don't talk about predestination, or the fundamental differences between Left and Right, in the coffee room, so any talk like this usually breaks off, out of polite deference and not embarrassment, whenever someone else walks into the break room. But so anyway, the main thing I'm trying to say is that Coffee Break 1 is usually quiet, a time just to pause. All the machines are off, the dust collector silent, the door closed (installers or Boss might be working on something), and we just sit, eat, and read. It's nice.

1015. Act two begins. I've not yet figured out what sort of play this is. I doubt the metaphor actually works, but I like it.

*Maybe now is the time that I should mention that, yes, I'm living at home at the moment. I moved away for five years to go to college (5 years = two degrees) but then moved back home afterward in order to attend another university (2.5 years = third degree). Canadian student loans being what they are, the Saskatoon housing market being what it is, and me being me and determined to keep my grades up as high as possible, all meant that renting, much less buying, a place was a silly thought. I've only been out of school for two months now, and I plan to enter school again in about seven months, so I'm probably just gonna continue living at home, at least for the next year or two. It's not as bad as you'd think** and pretty damn convenient when three of you work at the same place.

**Sometimes it is.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Upon Closer Inspection :: Part 1

0625. I'm awake. My alarm doesn't go off till 0630, but I'm awake nevertheless. It's not full consciousness that I'm experiencing, just that fuzzy kind that's capable pretty much only of bemoaning the fact that it is stirring and not sleeping, slowly being pulled towards the day. The scattered remnants of the previous night's dreams are still drifting through my head. I'm a dreamer, yes. I don't normally remember my dreams but in the first few minutes of waking life I can still feel their impressions. These impressions will have mostly vanished by the time I'm dressed, fed, and out the door but for now they are there. If a dream has been particularly vivid, I might dwell on it for a moment or two. What makes one dream more vivid or memorable than another is a mystery, I suppose. Like take this one from last night. I dreamed about Aliens. Yup, the movie Aliens. This confuses me because I haven't watched any of those movies in a long while and I can identify no real reason why, seemingly for no reason, I would dream about it. As I lay puzzling about it, perfunctorily waiting for the alarm to sound (I on principle refuse to get up before 0630 even if I'm awake), I notice that I can't recall any of the dream's details. It's like knowing the title of movie but now knowing what happens in it: I know I had the dream but don't know what it was about. Was I Sigourney Weaver (this has happened before - this isn't the first time I've dreamt of Aliens); did the alien kill anyone; was it Aliens canon or an apocryphal tale? Why I remember it at all, why it didn't just roll back down into whatever subconscious vault it broke lose from, is a mystery to me. But it's one I'm not terribly concerned with solving at the moment. At the moment, I'm trying to figure out the best way to avoid 0630. Or, time manipulation options notwithstanding, how to avoid the implications of 0630. I do this everyday. Everyday I'm faced with 0630 and everyday I attempt to negotiate with it. Am I sick? No, not today. Is there any reasonable reason to stay in bed? Doesn't look like it. Can I quit my job? Yes, but I probably shouldn't. 0630 is drawing closer. I roll over, turning my back to the clock in one last, petulant effort to deny the reality before me. I'm warm, snug, but can't quite convince myself that I'm actually ignoring the clock. I'm sadly aware that I must soon face the cold. My house isn't heated by conventional methods, you see, but by a wood-burning furnace, which means that the house is only heated as long as someone is tending the fire, or is awake to start one for that matter. So it's always cold in the morning, which doesn't make 0630 any more appealing. Nevertheless, temperature and clocks and dreams aside, I'm milking every last damn second out of my time in bed.

0630. Negotiations have failed. I must rise. It's cold.

0640. Breakfast. Breakfast usually consists of a bowl of porridge and a ciabatta bun (it's a triangular piece of bread, not quite white, not quite brown, but hefty and filling and good with peanut butter and syrup (a condiment combo I've been eating since I starting eating solid food and still loving very much, thank you) and chicken, jam and cheese and just about anything you'd want, really). Some days I have cereal. I'm particularly partial to Golden Grahams. But since I started working again, and since the time between breakfast and lunch is considerable, I find cereal to be not quite enough, so porridge it is. After breakfast, I prepare my lunch bag, usually another ciabatta bun (today it's a turkey and cheese sandwich), some fruit, yogurt, pudding, and really whatever's at hand. I then grab my coffee and sit down in front of my computer for 10-15 minutes.

0713. I'm out the door. I'm now fully awake - and if I wasn't, the blast of the cold Saskatchewan morning ensures that I am. I drive to work with my brother and father, who I work with. I'm a big guy, but I usually take the back seat in my brother's car, which means that I have to squeeze my way past the folding front seat. Getting in is a pain in the ass but once in it's comfortable enough. In the front, my knees brace uncomfortably against the dash and I can't move my legs at all, one of the only physical sensations that actually has the potential to throw me into a semi-panicked state (for the same reason I can't sleep in a sleeping bag, which is something I discovered my first year as a camp counselor, after the first week of which I switched, with great relief, back to a sheet and blanket, making the rare "sleep out" nights rather interesting), but in the back the padded seat gently presses against them and I'm fine. I'm not one to indulge psychological myth interpretation, finding them too reductive and rather domineering, but, wrapped in winter wear, a scarf secured around my head so that my breath is warm and wet against my face, me folded into the back seat so precisely that a seat belt feels redundant, I'm aware that there may be something vaguely uterine going on here. I've actually thought about this, on the way to work. I haven't thought about it much, or bothered to parse what it means about me, it just crosses my mind every once in a while, more in an ironic and detached way than any other. Anyway. Once we are all in and underway, there is no conversation, just silence. It's the same during breakfast, actually. A few mumbled details about the coming day may escape, but that's about it. The silence isn't awkward or weird but the silence of people who for the most part get along well, already spend their days together, and have nothing much to say at the moment. Wait, that's not right. There may be no conversation in the car, but there sure isn't silence. There's my brother's car. It's nothing special, as far as cars go. It's a Cavalier ('99, I think) but he's done... something to it. We live a few kilometers out of a small town, but people in the small town can hear it. It's a muffler thing; he's very fond of it. But so, in the back of this small car, sitting above what could be the province's loudest after-market muffler for all I know, moving through the dark winter morning along with all the other unfortunate cars carrying people to work, I'm content. It's not a long drive, only about 15 minutes. The shop that we work in is only one town over, so there really is no commute to speak of. The day is going to be long. All the days are long now. But, at the moment, I'm not at work and I'm enjoying these last work-less moments.

0728. We arrive at work and I once again am forced to wrestle with the front seat. It's an inelegant sight. The shop is visible from the highway and I imagine motorists seeing me - legs twisting for footing, the car more birthing me than admitting me - and chuckling at my expense. The thought is more of a reflex than anything else. I've never really being laughed at that I recall but I've imagined through much of my life that someone, somewhere is laughing at me. It's a symptom of being too self-aware, and not the good kind of self-aware. Most of the time, these sorts of thoughts don't even register on a conscious lever but rather manifest as sort of mental tics, like someone (okay, me) constantly pulling at their shirt in an effort not to let it bunch up or tighten in a way that highlights one's (mine) unflattering figure. And so I'm finally out, and I tug at my jacket to get it back into place, that smirking seat having tried, since it couldn't hold me, to at least strip me. I walk into the shop, in which hangs that strange silence that's only found in those places normally cacophonous and aurally dangerous. It's the same kind of silence heard in schools after school and in churches during weekdays, the silence that shouldn't be. In minutes, it will be overwhelmed by a rush of engulfing noise, noise not only heard but felt, sound that moves through as well as around you. I stow my lunch in the small lunch room, and grab my gear. Someone, me or my brother or my father, turns on the dust collector, a sort of vacuum nervous system with arms and tentacles stretching throughout the shop - there is a second in which you can hear the metallic scraping as the motor spins up, the mechanical equivalent of taking a deep breath, and then a whooshing roar, a sort of sonic wave that sweeps through and takes hold of the shop, and the day has begun.