Books I’ve Published – 2013

I already have these books listed on My Book Shelf page, but most of you folks don’t visit that (the numbers don’t lie), so I figured I’d do something I rarely do these days, and actually post a link farm. I apologize for those hoping for a new, proper post from me, but I’m a little out of sorts and not feeling too chatty. Included with these links are the brief summaries I wrote for these books a week or two ago:

THE BACK ROADS OF LIMBO
A series of short stories and novellas about spies, sultans, genies, detectives, bad angels, a man’s best friend, the God of Squirrels, Christmas dinner for two, thieves, sorceresses, lost children, working while you sleep, writer’s block, soul-eating vampires, and a giant squid.
PRINT | KINDLE

TERMINAL MONDAY: a Dream of New York City
A man meets an old girlfriend who convinces him to return to novel writing, but not before his wife leaves him, he gets his old band back together, and suffers a nervous breakdown.
PRINT | KINDLE | KOBO | NOOK | SONY | APPLE | SMASHWORDS

TERMINAL MONDAY: Under Observation
A man has a mental breakdown and wakes up to find himself under observation in a New York City hospital.
KINDLE | KOBO | NOOK | SONY | APPLE | SMASHWORDS

ASHES: Infinite Redress
A scientist becomes infected by a space-borne virus that contains the soul of an alien missionary who bonds with her and draws her into solving the mystery of how the aliens all died.
KOBO | NOOK | SONY | APPLE | SMASHWORDS

The BRIDE of WAR
A knight falls in love with a young woman designated to be sacrificed to a mystical dragon, and undertakes a quest to learn how to defeat the dragon and break the centuries-old pact.
PRINT | KINDLE | KOBO | NOOK | SONY | APPLE | SMASHWORDS

LINKTALES volume one
(excerpts from The Dark Guild) A series of mysterious events lead to the old city of Londonis being invaded by soul-eating vampires.
KINDLE | KOBO | NOOK | SONY | APPLE | SMASHWORDS

You know what I’m asking you to do. Please. Thank you.

Lee.

You Never Give Me Your Money… You Only Give Me Your Funny Paper

STATE of the LIMBO ADDRESS(es):

I write fiction. You can find it in the following places:
KINDLE | KOBO | NOOK | SONY | APPLE | PRINT | SMASHWORDS

I do Graphic Design, cartooning and painting. You can see a gallery of some of my work here:

http://blog.clearvisionstudios.net/about/clearvision-studios/

I also also make music. You can hear it here:

and you can buy some of it here:

http://etceterathesismusic.bandcamp.com/

I can be followed on many social networks. I don’t have a Foursquare account or an Instagram account, but I subscribe to just about everything else. I don’t IM much anymore, so don’t ask.

I post these things for you because I am told people don’t like using mouse buttons. This is alien to me, but I don’t want to alienate any of you aliens, so voilá. Don’t say I never did anything for you. And don’t say I don’t do anything for you now. I already know that.

Lee.

Not Really News

I think it’s about time I said something about the lack of news on this and most other blogs I currently maintain. The thing that has been holding up any news at all has been my mental state, which has been a relatively dark and unfriendly place. If you were to look at my StumbleUpon page, you’d see that all I’ve really posted about in the last month or two has been art with a dash of local politics. I haven’t been able to write much, and I definitely haven’t been able to record much music.

PBW2
But the big news on the horizon is, I haven’t been able to plan much for PBW2, either. This is because I’m not involved in PBW2. The Councillor has other plans, which he has chosen not to share with me. I’d say something plucky like ‘fair enough’, or ‘we’ll see about that’, but to be honest, I no longer see the point. Jay’s gonna do what Jay’s gonna do, and it’s got nothing to do with me or PBHamOnt, such as it is.

Which begs the question, ‘Is it PB if the resident volunteers aren’t involved?’ Well, a number of people got involved in last year’s PBW2 experiment, even though they hadn’t been involved in the first year campaign. As well, a number of us old war horses barged our way into the process last year to prop it up and give it wings (whether we were truly needed or not is another question). So the short answer is ‘No’. Some of our superstars of 2013 dropped out completely because they were alienated by the 2014 process (through no fault of Karen or nathalie, who tried hard to engage us, when they could). Some of us were determined to keep the ship afloat, come what may.

Me? I was an idiot. I thought I was helping to usher in some new age of democratic process to Hamilton. Helping to give average Hamiltonians a say in how their tax money was spent, and how their lives are governed. Of course I was wrong.

And this year’s PBW2 process is almost certainly going to involve more division, more top down control, and far, far less real, meaningful resident and volunteer participation. There will probably be no cross-ward buy-in projects. There will almost certainly be no real continuity with the past two years. There will be no social programs. There probably won’t be much in the way of events (sorry, Chewie). There will be probably no real consensus building exercises. There will almost certainly be no volunteers from the last two years, unless a few decide to step up to the plate and handle whatever neighbourhood level PB process is devised. I encourage them to do so.

And there will be no me. Boo fucking hoo.

ADIOS
I’m done, folks. I didn’t sign up to have my ego stroked, by friends, family, volunteers, or politicians. But I also didn’t sign up to be ignored, either. I’ve been polite. Too polite. I said nothing when I was ASKED not to say anything. The silence has been deafening. So you win again, Jay. You conned me, and I let you do it. That was my mistake. Good show. You’ve really grown into that chair you occupy on Council. Good luck with your oversized condo developments, your infill problems, your growing lack of affordable housing, and your ‘participatory’ budget process. I’m out.

I feel a rant coming on. I have no desire to rant. So I’m gonna go work on a painting or two and forget all about civic engagement and politics and Jason Farr and PBW2, and focus on getting my life back. My career is in the toilet over this bullshit, and for what? There are still PBW2_2013 proposals that haven’t broken ground. Again, that’s probably my fault. Hopefully Dave Stephens will continue to implement those until the backlog of proposals are complete. I believe I’d just be getting in his way, so I’m stepping off that portfolio as well.

2013 Proposal Update Spreadsheet:
2013 Proposal Update

APOLOGIES
To Norman, Karen, Rebecca, Mike, Peggy, Dave, Chewie, Sunil, the entire PB Office/Staff/Mangoes, the NAs, and my wife, I apologize. Obviously I’m not up to the job. Best we get someone else in here who’s more capable of calling bullshit when they see it. I saw it, plain as day, and I still let all of this shit happen. I’m just too fucking nice for this gig. For that, I’m sorry.

I’ll make a much more polite announcement on the PBHamOnt blog in a bit. Mike, Rebecca, I’ll hand over the keys to whomever wants them. Except you, Jay. You clearly don’t need my help, so you won’t get any.

Thank you for reading. Regular posting resumes shortly.

Lee.

Comfort Food For the Soul: A Few Observations About Art

When I was a student, I was subjected to years of art textbooks that tried in vain to explain what art was. They talked at length about the artistic qualities that could be compared from one piece to the next, to in some way quantify what made a piece ‘Art’ as opposed to plain old art. Those qualities do exist in most art, in one form or another, so it seemed a fairly systematic way of breaking things down and figuring out what made them ‘art’.

Except that it’s a load of horse shit.

The thing is, we get caught up in determining the worth of art, and we try to draw hard lines in the sand between High Art (painting, sculpture, architecture, ballet, opera, symphonic composition, and theatre) and low art (everything else that thinks it’s art, but isn’t). We explain that Mondrian and Modigliani and Michelangelo cannot be compared to the rock videos and commercials of Russell Mulcahy, though comparing Russell’s videos can be compared to The Highlander, which is a movie I quite enjoyed (many times).

And that’s the point. Or A point, anyway. Not all art is ‘enjoyable’ in the strictest sense (although there’s always one weirdo who thinks the works of Schiele are beautiful), but all art expresses a concept, state of being, event or action that is not directly connected to the struggle for survival. Even the conveyance of that self-same struggle can be elevated to art (if elevation is an appropriate term) There are no actual divisions. It’s very democratic, even in its unfairness to less popular works of art. it’s only the limits we set on the flights of the imagination that determine whether one product of artistic endeavour is considered worthy, while another is considered substandard. These are very subjective limitations, and come in and out of fashion over time.

Which argues the questions, what is the value of art critique?

Now, I’m not saying all artistic expression is the same. It’s not even really equal. But it has a high value to precisely two people: the creator, and the owner. If that happens to be the same person, that is perhaps even better, for even in their relative ignorance or insecurity, they have at least recognized the value of that piece of work, and don’t regard it as a mere commodity to be exchanged for a Whopper combo.
____________________

I think I have more to say on this subject, but I’m busy doing other stuff, so it’s going to have to wait. I’ll see if I can come back to this tomorrow.

Lee.

The Obligatory Song Lyric Title Withheld As Statement

I’ve been sitting on a big post about PB for about two weeks. Today isn’t going to be the day I post it either. I can’t express how confusing and frustrating it is to know a thing in your heart, but to still be hoping against hope that something good will come before you reach any sad conclusions. Take that for what it almost is.

In other less significant news, I need to invite to invite you all to come see me and a few of my smaller paintings, live and in person, at the Baltimore House on King William, between Hughson and John, on April 8th, starting at 5PM. This is all part of Megan Rae’s Obscured Oddities and Curiosities Art Exhibition, with a handful of other local unestablished artists will be showing. I’ll be the quiet, chubby one in the corner trying not to get hammered and make an ass of himself.
10991626_10155236223320043_5561739395859837746_o

I also believe Dawn (Iwanowski, my wife) and I are going to have a joint show of our art at the Central branch of the Hamilton Public Library in October. More details to follow soon.
InDifferentSpaces Banner 001a

(Which reminds me, I really need to get the promo artwork in today)

I’m open to other curators who want to show our work. Dawn and I are both talking to friends about showing our work at a really nice house here in town, but that’s still tentative. And I hope to have other events to advertise soonish. I don’t know for sure if this is the year that things take off for us, but I do believe the change starts now, however long it will take to transform our career from inspired amateurism to whatever it is professional artists enjoy.

One thing we definitely want to do is start a studio with a photography room, a giclée printer setup and some other facilities, as well as a splatter box area for me to work up larger pieces in. We’re thinking of rolling it all together into a business plan to also do community-based newspaper printing at a discount rate (if not ‘free’, based on whatever deal most of the other community papers have been tapping into; I know our StinZine is in really rough shape, based on the costs of printing and the small staff we’ve been getting by on lately).

Time to do some serious research.

Also time to do some other work. Still have writing and music plans for this year, as well. Thank you for reading. Have a great day.

Lee.

Everybody’s Got The Blues In The Morning Day

I want to apologize for not posting anything new these last handful of days.

I want to, but I won’t.

The fact is, I’ve been feeling depressed and miserable, and haven’t been able to manage a conversation with anyone other than my wife for much of it. I certainly haven’t been able to be as creative as I would like.

So, updates. A few days ago, I started a Patreon account. That may or may not be your thing, but I would like to explain that a lot of what I do is very resource-dependent. I spent thousands of dollars buying musical gear and computer equipment over the last fifteen years, and I also go through paint and such like it’s nobody’s business. Only my writing habit is relatively resource-light, and even that takes hydro, because I can’t stand manual typewriters. Sorry. I used them for two years in highschool, and haven’t looked back once. I also really didn’t care for electric typewriters. I don’t get it, folks. The fascination isn’t there for me. I’ve hand-written manuscripts, but they’re a pain in the ass to edit without winding up with a lot of ink scribbles that take hours to decipher. If I ever get a professional editor, I’ll consider going back to hard copy, but frankly, I prefer editing on my ancient (donated) titanium MacBook G4 (though it’s just about ready to be put out to pasture, I’m afraid).

So, point is, this Creative Engine stuff I do for what I laughingly call ‘a living’ (minus my disability payments, which may go away because they may decide I’m not disabled enough after all) requires that I make stuff pretty regularly just to keep my sanity. That’s not some melodramatic flourish; I’m Bipolar, and I get really miserable and unstable when I’m not creating stuff. But the thing is, while I take great professional pride i my work, not a lot of people know who I am or realize I should be paid to do what I do. Most of my readers (ie YOU) seem to be as poor and easily distracted as me, so I don’t resent that you aren’t buying my work. No, really, I get it. My work is not cheap. Well, okay, my writing is cheapish, but I really did think I would make up for the low prices in higher sales points. Not so much. I seem to sell more books when I buy them myself, sign them, and sell them to my friends in person (of whom I’m running out of; no really, they aren’t returning calls or anything anymore; the honeymoon is SO over, there). So the brilliant writing career I’ve been envisioning hasn’t come to pass yet. The painting career is still in the shop being retooled; I used to paint quite a bit in my teens and twenties, but stopped in my thirties and early forties to pursue music and writing, as well as professional graphic design. Returning to painting, and especially abstract expressionism painting, was pretty much unplanned. The graphic design business is now well and truly in the crapper. I haven’t had a paying client in years. I’ve always said I was a better designer than I am a salesman. Argue for your limitations, and sure enough, voila! And yeah, I still haven’t officially published a comic book or graphic novel, and my rock albums sold in single digits.

So, demonstrably better a Creative than a Businessman.

Patreon might never work for me, either. Hard to say. My luck with these things doesn’t seem to be good. No one really knows who I am, and even when they do get to know me better, most seem to think I don’t need money to keep working. I probably should shoulder the blame for that misunderstanding. It DOES take money to do what I do. And I have very little of it. So, Patreon… it’s a crowdfunding platform, but it’s not like Kickstarter or Indiegogo or whatever other platform you’re familiar with or favour. It’s more of a ‘microfunding’ setup, where you pay pennies or dollars towards small integer goals like, one dollar for one song, or in my case, ten dollars for one collection of songs, although i may nix that, because it doesn’t seem to have traction, and requires a lot of work with little reward. Plus, most folks want to see really, really small numbers in that column, and my ten dollar thing probably puts people off.

Anyway, the page is HERE.

Go take a look at it. support my work if you feel so inclined. I haven’t done much in the way of updates there yet, but I will be shortly. I just have to edit down the size of a video I’ve been working on. soon.

Off to clean at Mom’s, shortly.

Lee.

Innocence

I’ve been thinking about a problem many well-meaning people are having when it comes to raising children and struggling with mandatory sex ed courses.

CAVEAT: I’m NOT a parent. I helped raise a little boy for a couple of years in my twenties, but I’ve never been (to the best of my knowledge) a father myself. To many parents, that automatically invalidates anything I may say that could perhaps impact on the institution of parenthood. Perhaps that’s as it should be. I don’t pretend to be smarter or wiser than anyone else. It’s quite possible that I only see this problem differently because I’m not actively engaged in parenting, which perhaps makes it difficult or even impossible for actual parents to identify the problem.

That said, parents are not unintelligent people, and their takes may be very different from mine. I respect that.

Therefore, if I write anything here that upsets or offends you personally, I apologize unreservedly.

THE POINT
Innocence is a funny state; it is assumed in our society that all things are born into a blissful state of innocence, and that this state is somehow closer to some Divine state of being, and should be preserved as carefully and for as long as possible. Maybe this is true. Maybe it isn’t. As a fairly newly minted Atheist, I don’t see it quite the same, but I recognize the need to protect children from things that can make their lives dark and miserable, like disease, poverty, and physical and sexual abuse.

WHERE I’M COMING FROM
But where I differ is that I see no intrinsic value on this supposed state of innocence. Innocence, to me, is a manufactured concept, based on our hazy memories of a golden childhood and how delightful it seemed, if we enjoyed a ‘happy childhood’, or how lamentable, if we suffered a sad one. I had a bit of a mixed bag. I grew up in a household that saw a fair bit of violence and more than a little drug abuse and criminal activity. It wasn’t all there was to my childhood. Lots of happy memories and fond associations. But there were also fist fights, a battered mother, and a cavalcade of dangerous individuals with addiction problems and, occasionally, access to knives and small firearms. So I had to learn fairly early on how to behave around people who weren’t particularly altruistic or caring about a child’s so-called innocence and well-being.

A STORY
There was also one occasion (which I am reluctant to mention even now, as my memory is fairly faded) where I convinced one of our babysitters, a male, as it happened, not to sexually abuse my brother, by insisting that I wouldn’t leave the bedroom until he did. He did (and never babysat for us again). Not all children have the internal resources to navigate a situation like that successfully. Personally, it’s so muddled in my head that I’m not sure exactly how it all transpired. If someone sat me down and explained that something bad HAD happened that night, I would disappointed, but not entirely surprised.

I don’t tell that story to sound like any sort of hero. I’m not. We all grew up through similar experiences. Close scrapes and could have beens, or in some cases, very real, very bad things that actually did go down, and the years of self-doubt and self-loathing and anger that come from being a helpless victim. I’m not a victim of physical or sexual abuse, but I’ve known and loved several who were, throughout my life, so I know the ghosts they live with. I’ve seen them out of the corners of my eyes, lurking, looking for a new place to haunt, and wondering if they can hurt me, too. And they did, and do. We are all victims, when the ones we love have experienced pain and suffering.

So how can I say all this and still cast aspersions about innocence as a concept? To tell that story, I have to tell another:

GENERATION WHY NOT
An interesting thing happened in the 80s and especially the 90s; parents decided to change the channel on the whole victim cycle, by removing their children from all forms of harm and lack of parental guidance. We went from being latchkey kids to being bubble children, protected by our helicopter parents who would fly in at a moment’s notice to correct any and every little problem set before us that might impact on our ability to grow to be confident, healthy, stable children. In some cases, this seems to have worked out. Like other social experiments of the last century or two, we created a whole new generation of human beings with a completely different outlook on life. Most of us from prior generations can’t help but suspect that such people are deluded into thinking themselves more important than they are. However, I’m a Speculative Fiction writer, so I find myself thinking, that’s how it happens. That’s what real social change looks like. Disappointments and failures and misfires aside, that’s how you rebuild in the midst of the old generations slowly fading out.

INNOCENCE OR GILT?
But the thing is, innocence as we know and define it presently is sort of a fantastical construct we invented in Victorian times to create what we think of as childhood perfected. In the same way, we invented the teenager in the 40s and 50s, to spectacular results in the 60s. Prior to the 20th Century, teenagers were basically young adults being groomed for early marriage, early pregnancy, early employment, early retirement and early death. In the 18th Century, children were little more than young adults in training, with little or no real differentiation, save that they were smaller, and thus able to do things larger humans no longer could. This was the status quo, and only our modern reinterpretations cast a different light on the situation, by our reenactments and retellings of classic tales with modern flourishes. Wendy Darling was the responsible almost-adult of a Victorian children’s fantasy, one with dark magic and dark consequences. Prior to that, children’s stories were all Grimm and moralistic tales about what not to do in bad situations.

These days, we deliberately sugar coat (courtesy of Walt Disney) all of those old fables to preserve our children’s innocence for as long as we can get away with, as if innocence were a priceless commodity that instills a state of grace we all lose the moment we emerge from our cocoons into the ugly, dirty, sweaty, sexual, violent world. Maybe it is. I’m not so sure of that myself, but it might be. But let’s look at that a little more closely.

PARENTHOOD AS WE THINK WE KNOW IT
Our society in the Western World is longer lived and supposedly more enlightened and generous of spirit than it was, and perhaps it is, to some extent. But the thing to take away from this isn’t that children don’t exist; it’s that the qualities we attribute to childhood aren’t necessarily present by their very nature as children, but because we dictate how childhood looks. It’s all prepackaged and indoctrinated through decades of careful shaping and molding of our society. How many of us have watched A Christmas Story and thought that was a great example of how life in the late forties and early fifties was in middle America, and by extension, most of white North America? We know in our hearts that that isn’t the whole story, but it certainly feels ‘truthy’. It’s better than the truth. Except that it’s not the whole truth, and in that, perhaps it’s not even close. So what are we teaching our children? What world are we creating? Are we elevating our children into a new world with less tragedy, or are we setting them up for a dreadful fall when the dirty old world at last pierces the bubble and gets its grubby hands on our children? I honestly don’t know. I believe the jury is still out. But it worries me.

SEXUAL EDUCATION
Now, what, you may ask, does all of this have to do with what my friends are struggling with presently? Simply, it’s the problem of deciding when is too soon to teach our children responsible sexual habits before they do something life-altering like become pregnant or contract AIDS.

Let’s let that one sink in for a minute. Children having children because they didn’t know it was possible. Children contracting deadly venereal diseases because their parents were afraid to tell them the whole story. Children going through their tweens and teen years thinking they are somehow deviant, defective, deranged, all because they are feeling stirrings of desire to couple with their peers, whether of the opposite or the same sex. If parents are prepared to teach children at an appropriately early enough stage what to expect when they are growing curious, a lot of this trouble can probably be avoided.

But the fact is, a goodly number of modern parents fall into the trap of thinking they can stave off impending the teenage years and burgeoning adulthood simply by raising their hand and voice and saying ‘Not in my house’. I think that, if we’re really honest without ourselves, we’ll remember that it didn’t work that way when we were that age, so what int he world makes us think we can change that without tweens and teens?

See, the problem starts long before we want to remember. Many of us see nudity for the first time and are immediately taught to be ashamed or embarrassed about it. The human body is something we are all a little sensitive about, even when we’re pretty hip and institute clothing optional rules int he privacy of our own homes. Public nudity is still frowned upon. And child nudity… OMG don’t even dare to go there. Forget that some of us were hippies and children of hippies trying to make that type of body shame disappear from society. The more prudish of us won that battle and reinforced it in the 80s with the discovery of HIV infection, which was inevitably blamed on the sexual revolution and all of its social ills.

ANOTHER STORY
When I was around seven or eight, in about 1978, I was at a school friend’s house during the lunch hour, getting ready to head back to school, when a tween-aged girl pounced me on the sofa and gave me some very saucy kisses. I was both embarrassed and thrilled (even though I had already been through a childishly kissy phase with Pamela Banyard, a lovely girl I’d been crushing on since we first met in the cloakroom area of Hillsdale Elementary). Kissing girls wasn’t alien to me, but the obvious sexuality of those particular kisses were something of an eye opener. There were other crushes and other experiments in the intervening years. Lots of them. And yet, I didn’t actually lose my virginity until my early twenties. No regrets there, or at least, very few. A few ladies who might actually read this should know, despite my teenaged fumblings with them, I was just as inexperienced and uncertain as they were. And I thank them all for tolerating me, and apologize to the ladies I was a disgusting little twerp to. You didn’t deserve to be the target of my very pathetic sexual advances, and I regret ever mistreating you.

So you see, it’s all a mixed up, muddled bag of goods. But I at least had the advantage of a mother who was pretty frank and fairly prepared to deal with the oncoming sexual awakening with something resembling coherent thoughtfulness and honesty.

INNOCENCE, ANYONE?
I guess the question is, do you really believe in the intrinsic nature of innocence, or, like me, do you suspect that it’s a bit of wish fulfillment and a lot of misplaced expectation?

See, because it’s children’s lives we are playing with when we decide we’re too embarrassed or unprepared to deal with sexual education lessons in our schools. We know on one level that preparedness is needed, but we refuse to let anyone dictate to us when that might be, even if we’re dragging our feet. Perhaps childhood sex ed seems like a terrible idea, but the thing is, we’re trying to reinforce the feeling of non-judgemental security we wish to instill in our children. It seems like the helicopter parent method has produced mixed results, as most parents are incapable of being present 24-7, no matter how much they wish they could be, and children still know their parents will be disappointed if they do things that their parents are unprepared to accept or allow. Under such circumstances, which are still fairly universal, regardless of what your child might tell you to reassure you that there are no problems you need to fix, the smart money is on giving them all the right tools as early as possible. When they master the basics, move on to the more complicated stuff, and hopefully you will have conditioned them to think smartly before they actually become active themselves.

Because the fact is, you’re not going to be there the first time it happens for them, and in many if not most cases, they aren’t going to wait until they’re adult and married to have their first experience, good or bad. I’m sorry. I don’t think that’s changed as much as we’d like to believe. They’re going to learn one way or another. The responsible thing to do is to make sure they learn the right things as early as prudence dictates. That is different for every child, but most are starting to get curious a lot earlier than we like to admit, to ourselves or anyone else.

So if you’re thinking you can stem the tide of puberty by putting your foot down and invoking your authority as a parent, you’d probably be better looking in the mirror long and hard and remembering what it was like when you were a child/tween/teen, and remind yourself that, in most cases, your parents tried as hard as you think you are, whether you respect their efforts now or not. They did try. And they lost, the same way you’re going to lose.

Your job isn’t to protect your child from every eventuality; it’s to PREPARE them to cope and make sound judgements on their own.

That’s the only way it has ever worked. They WILL make mistakes. They WILL break rules. They WILL defy you.

Isn’t it better to make sure they know what they’re getting into?

Okay, that’s enough from this bush league armchair parent. As you were. thanks for reading.

Lee.

My Spec Article on Bus Lanes and LRT

This was the opinion article I wrote back in january, slightly edited to reflect the fact that we lost the bus land vote, which I am reposting here for easier searching:

http://www.thespec.com/opinion-story/5273621-public-transit-knits-city-together/

Jan 26, 2015
Public transit knits city together
Initiatives to improve foot, bike or bus travel should be embraced

Hamilton Spectator
By Lee Edward McIlmoyle
I’d like to say a few things about the state of our relationships between wards in our city, and how it adversely affects us all.

I’m 44 years old, and I’ve been a Hamilton resident for almost all of that time. I grew up in the far east end (Ward 5) in the ’70s, ’80s, and early ’90s, but after a brief residency on King Street near Scott Park/Ivor Wynne Stadium (Ward 3), these days I live just outside the downtown core (Ward 2). For a number of years, I commuted out of town to various jobs, but these days, I spend most of my time within the boundaries of modern Hamilton. On the face of it, I appear to be a pretty consistent and loyal denizen of the core, a proper urbanite, but when you look a little closer, you find that it’s not quite that simple.

For starters, I do most of my meat shopping at either Costco (Ward 12) or at Lococo’s (Ward 5). My wife and I shop for clothing at Pennington’s (Ward 5), Target (soon-to-be-gone in Ward 4) and Walmart at either Centre on Barton (Ward 4) or Centennial (Ward 5). I bought my air conditioner at Home Depot (Ward 5), as well, and various paints and hardware at Canadian Tire on Queenston (Ward 5) or Lowe’s on Barton (Ward 4).

My semi-retired mother lives near Rymal and Upper Gage (Ward 7), where I clean house twice a week on average, and occasionally grab lunch at Wendy’s or dinner at Sobey’s (now a FreshCo; still a nice store; Ward 6). It puts me a stone’s throw away from Ward 11, but I will admit I infrequently pass through or shop there. I used to pass through a fair bit when visiting Grand River Enterprises, way out in Ohsweken, where I did graphic design for a few years.

I DO occasionally shop for books and pet supplies over at Heritage Greene Mall on Stone Church (Ward 9), and my vet’s office is East Mountain Animal Hospital (Ward 6). My wife’s doctor’s office is on Concession (Ward 7), and she also has a therapist in Ward 8.

My psychiatrist is on the border of Wards 1 and 2, and I like to visit Locke Street and Westdale Village on occasion; I shop far too often at Curry’s and Fortinos near Dundurn, and still think the best burger is at Wimpy’s Diner, and the best roast beef sandwich is at Tally Ho (all in Ward 1).

I buy my medication at the Shoppers Drug Mart on Main and Sherman (Ward 3), near where some of my dearest friends live. I also get my Good Food Box at the HARRRP Centre in Ward 3, across from the KFC I’ve been eating at since I was a boy visiting my grandparents on Burris, also in Ward 3.

I don’t get out to Ward 13 as often as I used to, but I used to love singing karaoke Wednesday nights at the Collins Hotel on King Street in Dundas. I also went to the Cactus festival a few times, and occasionally visited one of my oldest, dearest friends, back when she briefly lived with her father near the valley, after moving away from Greenhill Avenue (Ward 5). And of course, though I’ve been vocally critical of it, I’ve visited the Ancaster Fair Grounds (Ward 12) for the Festival of Friends since the year it moved from Gage Park (Ward 3).

I miss out on travelling to or through wards 11, 14 and 15 most of the time these days (though I am a huge supporter of the No Downtown Casino movement, so I like to think I’ve helped Flamborough, too). But I’ve worked in restaurants and factories in Wards 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 9 and 10 over the years.

I know all of that may seem dull and trivial, but consider this: I don’t drive a car. I’ve travelled to all of those locations, day after day, year after year, either by foot, bike or bus, and these days, most often the latter. I know what your public transit woes are, because they are my woes, too. I spend a fair bit of my time and money in almost every ward in this city, and though it’s a meagre amount most of the time, I nevertheless consider myself to be a true citizen of this amalgamated Hamilton. I also refuse to believe I’m the only one.

So in light of all that, how can it be honestly claimed that the downtown core, which used to be the central hub for the entire region, does not or has never contributed to the welfare and local economies of the rest of Hamilton? And in light of that, was it truly fair to vote against an improved public transit initiative simply because the short-term benefits to the rest of the city are not readily apparent?

If you are not in support of public transit improvements (of which the now-cancelled bus lane and LRT are but two), for whatever reason, please consider the needs of that portion of the population that doesn’t drive everywhere, whether they own a car or not, and simply opt to abstain on the issue. We can all move forward better if we find common ground to agree upon, but lacking that, we should at least be able to help each other out, if it’s not really costing us more than it already would have, before the improvements were offered.

Lee Edward McIlmoyle is a local author, artist, songwriter and graphic designer, living in the Stinson neighbourhood with his NYC wife and two cats.

I Look At You All, And See The Love There That’s Sleeping

I have a pretty big announcement I’m holding off on until I’m sure it’s what I want to do. Or not do, as the case may be.

I have art and novels and music to contemplate.

SOME OF MY WORK
I need to make some sales. Money is very tight again this month, and there are still important things that need paying off. So if you’ve been holding off until now, now would be a really nice time to pay me for some of my work. Or if you haven’t, but just feel like being nice to me, I’d very much appreciate you buying some of my work. In fact, just abotu now, I’ll gladly accept money from people who didn’t even realize they wanted to own some of my work. Thank you.

GET ME
I never really wanted to be rich or even famous. Wouldn’t hate it outright, but it’s never been my goal. I think I just always wished I were better understood. At least, I’d always hoped I would be appreciated by more people than I seem to be appreciated by today… which is sort of not a lot. ‘A few’ might even be a stretch.

*sigh* Seems I’m still wrestling with a bout of depression. Please pardon me.

Lee.

We Are Broken

So, I’ve been taking some time off to think about the directions I’ve been being pulled in, and I have to confess that, while I feel a strong sense of responsibility to the people I’ve gotten involved with over the last few years, I am also feeling very strongly the responsibility I have to my wife, and to my impoverished household. I’ve been letting my career/financial situation drift for the last couple of years, doing very little to bring in new money to replace all of the piles of stuff that are breaking down, wearing out, or just generally giving up the ghost.

As well, this time off has really been cathartic for me; even fun, at times. I’m actually enjoying not thinking about all of the stuff that usually bothers me about this city and its government. It’s never too far from my mind, but I’m feeling less anxious about it. And in the meantime, I’ve been getting a sense of fulfillment from working on my writing and art and music, instead; things I’ve been cramming in around the sides for the last couple of years while I’ve been focussing on local politics. The last two or three books? Written during brief breaks in civic activities. No wonder no one bought them.

So, I don’t know if a decision has been made yet. But it’s not looking good for civic engagement, just now. People need to step up and take ownership of the changes they want to see happen in our society. But I’m starting to feel like I can do more privately than I have been able to thus far publicly, if I can only get my career interests in order and start making real money, instead of trying to leverage operating budgets that won’t come, or seeking grants that have more strings attached than flies on you-know-what. And consensus? I haven’t felt the warm glow of true consensus, even amongst my dearest, closest activist friends, for a while now. Support, yes; even gratitude; but consensus, not so much.

It’s been interesting (I won’t say fun; it’s rarely been that) trying to play the big man on the ideological campus of the civic landscape these past few years, and there have been a few lovely milestones, mostly thanks to the efforts of people who are much better at civic engagement than me, but I’m starting to think my time here is running out. Political activism is and has been in my heart for longer than my actual involvement (I was at the Red Hill Valley Rally at City Hall back in the early 90s, as well; that ended well), and I hate to walk away from any challenge, particularly when the cause is just. Direct Democracy IS how things are going to go, in the future; I believe that with all my heart.

But I’m growing tired of feeling like I’m the only one who is willing to carry this particular bag of unwanted goodies to market, and I’m long past wondering if I’m the right person for the job. Few have asked me to do it, some have suggested I shouldn’t, and almost nobody has shown me what I would call a real vote of confidence in my abilities to carry the ball further than I have. I certainly don’t hear anyone telling me I should try harder or be more proactive. I hear ‘build capacities’, which is good and right and true, but also sounds distinctly like ‘get somebody else’. Maybe my lack of proactivity thus far has left some people thinking I can’t do the job. Maybe they’re right. I don’t know. I may never learn the truth. I certainly don’t feel good thinking of walking away. But I feel as if the only way to carry it all off and make it work is to stick my neck further into the noose and abandon all hope. A month ago, I’d have said ‘Hell, Yes’.

But just now, when I haven’t heard from most of the main players on our team (or the Councillor, who admittedly–and somewhat reluctantly–asked me to email him for a follow-up appointment) in the last few weeks (my fault as much as anything, but very telling, nonetheless), I’m left thinking, maybe now is as good a time as any to just let it all go. If someone wants it, they should pick up the ball and run with it. Me? I’m thinking about going out for a burger and a movie. I hear good things about one or two films currently showing at Jackson Square.

Despite all this, I’m STILL deciding. Not sure which way things are going to go. Just saying, right now, it’s blowing me homeward. It would take more encouragement than I’m likely to get any time soon to want to keep carrying this particular ball, especially when I’m going broke and will likely to lose everything if I proceed further. Do I have the political will? Maybe. Maybe not. But I’m feeling pretty lonely, right now, and it’s not a good feeling.

That’s what I’m thinking, anyway.

Thanks for reading.

Lee.

Coming Home: a realisation about Arts as a Career

Some time in 2012 or 2013, while I was becoming engulfed in civic engagement activities and local neighbourhood politics, very quietly and without much fanfare, I started painting again. It started quietly enough with four or five abstracts and one hand-lettered logo for a representational painting that still isn’t finished.

The theme of the paintings was Tarot. I’m not a huge supernatural phenomenon guy. Tarot is mostly an intellectual curiosity to me. But it intrigues me all the same. The psychological implications of reading people, that is. Prognostication is kind of a mug’s game, in my books, but you can lightly forecast probability by studying your querent’s responses to the lay of the cards.

But I was talking about art.

The paintings lead to drawings and plans for an entire series, not so much to make my own deck, but to have a large body of new painted work to show. See, I like abstract painting, but I’ve been doing graphic design and illustration for the last 15+ years, so I wasn’t expecting to pick back up on the whole abstract expression thing, which was a phase I went through from 1990 to 1992. I finished my last major piece after flunking art school, and then stopped painting for roughly 22 or 23 years.

But I’m back in a big way. Last year, I worked on or completed about 29 paintings (10 of which are mounted on two large boards of five each; plus, I also made 20 abstract buttons; four left, going for $15 a piece), and this year, just in the last month, I’ve painted another 14 paintings and am working on three more. All this, plus plans for a new series that I haven’t even started yet.

SOME OF LAST YEAR’s WORKS
Contact-Sheet-2014
IMG_0185

Now, I’ve only sold a few pieces here and there (not including the buttons, many of which sold, though some I gave away as Christmas presents), but I’m pretty happy with the direction my painting career comeback is taking so far. I did about fifteen or so abstracts in the early 90s, and I’ve tripled that in less than a year. The work is mostly ‘of a quality’, as I like to say (meaning it’s of a quality that I believe measures up to professional standards). I may not be selling yet, but I believe these pieces will fetch a nice sum one of these days.

I just hope I live to see it.

With any luck, this will be the year I break into gallery exhibitions. I don’t have an agent yet, but I think the proverbial corner is coming up. Maybe next year, if things don’t come together as I’m hoping. I also hope to have us living in a larger space some time this year, with more room for larger scale paintings. We shall see.

Lee.

Shaken; Not Stirred

Still haven’t made my final decision about civic engagement activities.

Still haven’t decided what to work on next.

Thinking about writing the rest of THE WEIGHT OF THE WORLD. Also thinking more about writing PASSAGE TO BUJAH. Not sure which I’ll go with first. There’s a bit of a rethink for both titles dancing through my head. More humour? More pathos? More realism? Haven’t decided yet.

Haven’t decided on the next painting yet, either. 3′ x 1′, probably, but not decided whether to do another abstract or get back to work on the representational concepts I’ve been mulling over. TAROT is still on the planning table, as is my Zoe-meets-Edward-Hopper homage concept. But I’m wondering if I have another abstract in me at the moment…

Music is a little fallow right now. Still not able to practice or rehearse, because my wife has me on a strict no-practice regimen while my arm finishes healing. Feels pretty good to me, but hey, what do I know?

I DID sign up on a Reddit thread to potentially jam with some locals. We’ll see if that happens.

I’ve got plans… big f%^&ing plans…

Not sure if I should post anything else today. nothing new on my mind. Just watching James Bond and relaxing for a change. Feels weird, and I’m a little tired and in need of engagement.

Anyway, that should do for now. Hope everyone is indoors and safe.

Lee.

Supertramp – Crime of the Century (1974) – a classic rock album review

Well, we haven’t done one of these in a while, eh? I have plenty of other bands I could choose to write one of these about, and I will, but I’ve been in a Supertramp mood just lately (I may or may not have recently written a short story that is most emphatically NOT Supertramp fanfic), so I figured I’d go back and look critically at a few of their classic albums, starting with their third album, the star-making Crime of the Century.

Supertramp Crime of the Century

tl;dr Version: If you don’t already know this album front to back, I have no idea how you got here. But just in case you need help deciding, here’s my review.

‘Splain, Lucy Version: This album was one of the then-current rock albums playing in my household around the time my baby sister was born, and it is as deeply embedded into my musical DNA as Sgt. Peppers, A Night at the Opera, and Boston’s first album. I don’t need any other reason to like it, but there are a great many reasons to do so, and most of them are musical.

Boring Version: My favourite art teacher basically hated these guys (he called them Supercramp), and in the late 80s, it was fashionable to dump on any band that had prog rock pretentions, and Supertramp was a pretty ripe target, given that they managed three albums of middling progressive rock sensibilities, and then began shedding that mantle for a more jazzy pop stance that eventually lead them to Breakfast In America and a brief touch with super stardom, followed by the obligatory 80s breakup album, and the long, slow descent into rock obscurity. But during this period of their career, they were brilliant, and this album, though not as commercially successful as Breakfast, is perhaps their critical high water mark, bookending their most fertile period.

THE REVIEW
School starts with high, wailing harmonica. We’ve heard plenty of harmonica in westerns, folk songs and classic blues records, but for a prog rock album, that’s a new one, at this point in the game. Roger Hodgson eventually takes over, singing the opening lines as guitars approach from either side like sparring partners feeling each other out, and then a crescendo of sound initiates the dance. This is a poignant number trying to explain the complexities of the social conditioning institution that is school. The instrumental on this is monumental and goes through a building phase and an arrival phase, never being too chops-heavy, but being both very muscular and melodic, piano and bass waltzing with a bit of synth in the background. The bridge back to the verse is pretty beefy, delivered by songwriting partner Rick Davies, and then Roger takes it back and hammers it home with a verse that leads directly into the surprise outro. Very strong opener.

Bloody Well Right opens up with a slightly bluesy chops fest on the mighty Wurlitzer electric piano, and then a mountain of saxaphone and funky guitar escort in Rick’s answer to Roger’s opening statement, thus establishing this as something of a concept album, though I hesitate to name it as such outright, for reasons I’ll explain later. This number is a rollicking, rocking number with a bit of a clever twist, as the chorus is pinned on this almost dancehall piano figure, and the outro, when it arrives, is a jazzy pop turn. A very cool song.

Hide In Your Shell is where the theme of the album gets a little more ethereal, Roger singing about a philosophical outlook on life against a gentle stack of layered keyboard lines, and then the chorus arrives. The thing is, as pop songs go, this has three or four different distinct sections of music that come and go almost too quickly to write about. There’s even Theremin in there. After the second go round of the verse and chorus sections, they go into a long refrain segment where Roger basically concludes that he needs to make some kind of connection to his audience. And then another distinct section of music as they wind to the finish with a singalong chorus and R&B saxaphone.

Asylum is where they dial it down a bit, Rick on grand piano, singing about his pal Jimmy and his funny ways, before it comes clear that someone wants to have our singer locked up in the titular asylum. The premise might seem a little trite or absurd from my little precis, but the thing is, the musical themes (and there are several) make it clear that this is a very considered piece of music. The lyrics are some of Rick’s most cutting, as he makes it clear that people really don’t understand him, even as he laughs at their confusion over his behaviour. It has this elegiac refrain section with organ, strings and carillon bells and all the rest, and the thing is, the twist is, he starts to break down towards the end, and it becomes apparent that the joke is on him, and it’s such a dark ending, you can’t help but feel a little hollowed out by the finish. And then it finishes with that jaunty little piano figure from the top.

Dreamer Is probably the first truly dyed in the wool pop song in their entire canon, and yet, this is no meager Britney Spears track. Roger delivers this refrained chorus intro with an electric piano figure bouncing along behind him that carries the entire song, and the piece winds round and round until we find ourselves in a call and answer section with big damn drums and the whole thing winding to a crashing halt with a little xylophone chiming away to the rhythm of the now vacant piano. Incredible.

Rudy opens with a truly gorgeous piece of grand piano figure, and then Rick starts singing about Rudy, whose story seems to tie us back to the main story, but by the slenderest of threads; a possible reference to his troubles as a school boy. There are several lovely sections of music in this seven minute track, including a bit with a voiceover in the background, and a fierce call and answer between Roger and Rick to a Shaft-like funk theme. It’s a truly powerful piece of music, arriving at an almost Day In The Life moment that leads us into a brief coda, and it becomes clear that he has been watching a sad movie, and he’ll soon be back on his train.

If Everyone Was Listening has another piano opener, Roger spelling out a theatrical presentation, alluding to the metaphor time and again as an analysis of the audience and life in general as a theatrical performance. The music goes through a few distinct phase using strings, clarinet and piano, but I won’t attempt to break it down for you. it’s short enough.

Crime of the Century is without a doubt the closing number, and it’s a moody thing with piano and huge drums slide guitar and then carnival organ as it becomes apparent that the titular crime of the century has been committed not by some criminal mastermind, but by you and me. And what is our crime, we’re left to wonder, as the guitars and pianos and swirling organ and Moog bass and immense drums and a string ensemble and finally the greatest saxaphone solo in the universe leave us to ponder. By the end of the song, you really want to know what the hell you did wrong.

SUMMARY
This album is and has always been a bit of a mystery to me: a concept album in almost exactly the same mold as Sgt. Peppers, where the story is actually made of several seemingly disconnected vignettes (a lot like my latest novel, but I digress), tied together by a unifying theme of powerful dissatisfaction with life and society as we know it. It burns through and exhausts easily two album’s worth of song segments in half the time, chewing scenery and leaving you feeling like you’ve just had open heart surgery. So it IS a concept album of sorts, but not a neat and tidy narrative one as we have come to know them thanks to the efforts of Pete Townshend and Roger Waters. It’s still a most affecting album for me, and chokes me up in a few places when I think too long about what certain lines have come to mean to me personally.

So yeah, if you’ve actually never heard it–HOW have you never heard it?–and this review has done nothing to inspire you to check it out, or even if, like my high school art teacher you don’t like the band or the album, I’m at a loss for what to say. Truly. It’s a monumental album, and maybe not the most progressive, but certainly one of the most moving of it’s day. And in the end, isn’t that what life’s about?

© 2015 Lee Edward McIlmoyle

What Do You Say To People Who Won’t Buy Your Work?

I’m in the middle of a lot of long term projects, and trying to productize and market a number of finished works and ideas. so I’ve been a little quiet. Not disengaged. Just preoccupied.

I have a few problems in the offing. Projects I’ve been working on for months, or even years, are facing the scrap heap because people I’m working with are looking for either:
a) me to carry the ball the rest of the way myself;
or b) me to give up, so they can go home and get some rest.

SLOW DOWN
I’m sure that’s not the whole story. I’m certainly overreacting in the absence of actual data. But the impression I’m getting from a few different groups is that my efforts are not appreciated, and I’d be better off dropping the ball and taking it in the neck for getting people’s hopes up, rather than waste lots of energy trying to recruit new people to carry the ball for me, when in actuality, the ball has definitely dropped on at least three projects I’ve been involved with.

Perhaps my credibility is being questioned. Certainly my expertise is in question. And my results? Well, nothing has come of the work I’ve done so far, so what results would I be showing them?

What’s lacking in a number of the projects I find myself involved in is a simple matter of Vision. I have some vision (some would say too much, implying I’m delusional), but not enough consensus behind it to get even the slenderest of visions implemented. As always, to get what I want, I have to do everything myself. Good for publishing books and making paintings and albums, but not so effective when it comes to civic engagement and neighbourhood improvement strategies.

DEATH BY COMMITTEE
I’m all for consensus. I really am. But what I’m not so good at is waiting… and waiting… and waiting for the right number of people to say they agree, enough times to satisfy those who aren’t sure of the direction a project or team should take. There is building consensus (and capacities), and then there is committee rule, which tends to lead to inactivity. Inactivity CAN be the right answer, if the answer you’re looking for is ‘how do I get out of this?’ The Ostrich method of problem solving isn’t without its merits, because it gets definite results with the least amount of effort. It just doesn’t break any new ground, or achieve any major goals.

THE PROBLEM WITH ME IS…
I suffer from the problem that I never like any answer that coems too easy. It might be the right answer, but I still won’t like it. My motto is, “If it’s worth having, it’s worth working for”. The corollary to that is, “If it’s not worth working for, it’s not worth having”. Point is, Time + Work = Value.

If I offer to do a bit of work, it’s not because I want something specific from the project. My motives are often as simple as ‘Let’s make it better for everyone involved’. Occasionally, I see a personal opportunity in the offing, but they so rarely come to fruition that I rarely waste time or energy on pursuing them. I just take on the work and get it done to the best of my abilities within the time allotted, and hope it translates to successful objective results. Profit is somebody else’s problem.

SO, WHAT NOW?
I’m left with the options of either stating my intention to take over certain specific tasks /projects, or giving up and letting them fall to the wayside, for other people to pick up if and when they choose to.

Right now, I’m still on the fence about most, if not all of these activities. I feel as if I’ve been wasting a lot of my time and energy dithering over stuff that was already decided by the teams back when they were healthier and more proactive.

I’m talking around things, here, and I know how unentertaining that can be to read. I apologize for that. I wish I could be more direct, but things are still in flux. I just need to vent a little, because the tension and lack of activity is starting to make me rash. Even writing this is probably an exercise in self-immolation. I’m not going to self destruct. I’m just tired of having people–friends, even–question my abilities and my sanity. I’m thinking it might be more productive just to walk away and focus on my career interests again. I just don’t like quitting when there’s still a chance that things could get done.

I’ve babbled too much. Time to go do something constructive. Thank you for reading. Have a good day.

Lee.

Will The Music Be Your Master… Will You Heed The Master’s Call

Seems like I post more like once a week rather than once a day, lately, doesn’t it?

I’ve been posting art, so it’s over at THE ART PAGE.

My arm is healing, but it still feels weird, and it’s going to have a funky scar that I can actually feel (by the lack of sensation). Wish it didn’t feel as it I have a zipper that will pop open if I exert it too much. And my arm still gets tired if I type or especially play instruments for too long. *sigh*

I’ve been thinking about writing fiction. I’ve got two or three newish ideas, and a drive to reinvestigate the Passage To Bujah series, which has been languishing since I started to detect that YA Dystopia fiction is beginning to lose its cache. My main stumbling block was the strange sex concepts I had in mind for the series, which I rather liked, but feared were too Samuel R. Delaney for YA fic. I’m still waffling on that, but it occurs to me that it might be possible to handle it in a more light-hearted manner. Not convinced yet, but thinking about it. Also thinking it’s time I got back to work on Sterling Carcieri, who has been inordinately patient.

Got Led Zeppelin’s Physical Graffiti playing in the headphones this morning. Kashmir is on deck at the moment. Still one of the most moving tracks in the canon. Still inspires me, after all these years. Give me a second… *stops track… turns it up… restarts…* Ah, that’s better.

The idea of working on a drum program isn’t that appealing just now, but my guitar student requires it to record himself playing Maroon 5’s Payphone. I may put in some time on it this morning.

I have canvases waiting for me to decide if it’s going to be representational or abstract work I use them for. There were plans, but they’re all in my head at present, and they’re pretty involved… sort of a cross between Salvador Dali (or probably more like Rene Magritte) and Edward Hopper. Lots of drawing involved, and I’ve had very little time for derwing, ironically enough. But I haven’t done any foundation drawings on the canvases yet, so I can pretty much just do as I like and buy more canvases if and as needed.

I feel like I should be doing both, but the representational stuff takes time, where the abstracts are things I can do in a day or two if I work at it. Sometimes, they happen so fast, I feel like I’m cheating, but really, it’s a special process and a mindset I get in that enables me to work faster than normal. I used to labour over them for weeks or even months, depending on the size. I may get back to that level of deliberation, but right now, I just want to build a body of attractive abstract work, so I can mount a show. I really feel like it’s time I put these little darlings in the spotlight to sing and dance.

Part of me thinks that there is a kind of sex appeal to the layers of paint I apply to these pieces. I want to strip bare the process and lay it all out naked for people to deliberate over, but I think the tension comes from seeing glimpses of something recognizable, like a slipped nipple or a glimpse of cleavage within the swirling, towering layers of paint, and wondering if there’s a full image beneath. The answer is… maybe? Get a little closer and see for yourself.

Coming up on 5:30. Been writing this post for a half hour. Time to get to work. Thanks for reading. Stay warm.

Lee.

Turn On My VCR… Same One I’ve Had For Years

I’m tired. No. really. Yeah, I know I said it before, but it’s true now, too.

Probably a little depressed at the moment. Please excuse the look of the place.

I did a set of paintings (I paint in sets, most of the time, when I’m doing abstracts these days). You can see them HERE.

I’ve got two novels on the starting block (THE THIRD RAIL and THE COMPLICATED PRINCE), and dozens more novels and collections jockeying for position in line (too numerous to mention). I started designing a game last year that I’ve lost momentum on, but I suspect it’s still a Very Good Idea™. STEEP INCLINATIONS (album). TAROT series (paintings). Guitar lessons for Drake. Stuff.

Time I got dressed and got stuff done. Laundry and dishes, too. Fun times. Thanks for reading.

Lee.

How Can I Miss You If You Won’t Go Away?

Okay, so a few of you may have noticed that I wasn’t posting anything for a few weeks there. Money problems. Website was down. thanks for asking. But the point is, I’ve been having problems with money lately, and that is largely down to the fact that my career of choice, writing, is not paying the bills. There might be a reason for that. It occurs to me that I don’t publicize my books in a way that everyone can get into. So, I’m going to look into rebranding my books and rewriting the book synopses and such, to hopefully make the books easier to get into. My attempts to be clever and artsy have met with failure. I’m thinking the whole thing needs to be redone with less frills, no vector artwork, no photography (I’m anti-photo covers; they bore me to tears), and only a brief but very clear synopsis on the back. It’s probably the wrong way to go about it, but trusting my instincts hasn’t paid off so far, so maybe just sticking with the KISS principle will do the trick.

See, this is because I’m not a hobbyist. I’m serious about writing. I’m just not successful. And I’m not able to go back to factory work (bad back), and I can’t work for another bottom feeding print shop (I’m looking at you, Hamilton Copy Copy), and can’t seem to get work in the shops that look like they might have a clue how to treat their employees with respect. So, either I write my way out of debt, or sell more paintings, or record a new album of rock songs and hope I can promote that and sell lots of CDs and pay my debts off. Yeah, you see how this works, right?

I may be redesigning this site, as well. Might keep the sliding doors theme, but change out the graphics and go ultra simple and clean. Something that screams ‘professionally designed’. Because I am, or at least have been, a professional designer, too. Not so much lately, and not in the current market, it seems, but I’m competent.

So there you have it. Things are gonna change. And with any luck, you will be swayed, and will finally buy (and read) something I wrote. Because you know I’m talking to you specifically, right? Not the other readers. You. You’re the only one I’m interested in.

Now, if only you felt that way about me…

One more thing: I’m considering doing audio books. Any requests?

Lee.

Is There Anybody Listening?

I’m tired. Really tired. I may also be developing another of my famous chest colds. I think I need to take a long vacation from the life I’ve been trying to lead, and not just because I’m doing such a poor job of it.

I’ve been getting steadily more civically-engaged in the last few years, and it’s been interesting and validating in a way, but I mostly feel like I’ve been pushing a rock up a very steep hill for too long. I feel broken inside.

So what I’m thinking is, I may be handing in my papers soon. I haven’t decided absolutely yet, but I’ve lost so much momentum and my faith in myself to bring it all back up to speed is waning. This might be the end.

We’ll see.

If I do quit, I may be stepping back from a lot of civic engagement for a while to focus on writing and composing and painting and such. I need to rebuild my career(s). I was getting somewhere a couple of years ago, before I got sucked up into all of this. It’s not a good time for me to be losing sleep and missing opportunities to get my work out there.

So, yeah. If it’s of any interest to anyone, I have a slightly soiled plan for the next year or two, and I know a few people who might want to help you get something going, whoever you are. Drop me an email at pbhamontDOTnetATgmailDOTcom if you’re interested.

Small Victories in Hamilton

Last night was the third day in a row I spoke in front of people about our plans for Participatory Budgeting in Ward 2 (Hamilton, Ontario), at least since the surgery on my left elbow. It’s been a little trying, not to mention uncomfortable, and my arm still worries me, even though the cast comes off today. But that’s not what I came to discuss.

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I have a dilemma. A dear friend is drifting away from me, and it may actually be more like two friends. They’ve both been key figures in my life over the last couple of years, and I actually have trouble imagining doing some of what I am without them at my side (or at least at my back). I feel like I have to win their confidence by pushing forward and winning a solid victory to show them we’re able to do what I’ve said we can do. It’s difficult for me, because I fear stepping forward and missing the mark will mess everything up, but I can’t see any other way around the problem but to confront it head on and blow back the barriers to our success. We’ve tried finessing the situation, but we’re stuck at an impasse, and winds are blowing up threatening to blow us off the mountainside.

Ooh… all of these metaphors and talking around the subject…. but what does it mean for the price of tea? Well, for starters, it means no more being quiet. This ‘Death By Silence’ thing is too easy, too convenient, and frankly, it sends exactly the message that our naysayers have been saying since I came onboard: we lack leadership, and can’t deliver what I’ve been saying we can.

I see the whole thing in front of me so clearly, and I’m sure I know what we need to do to fix it, but I don’t get to make my opening gambit until I deal with the obstacle in front of me: the Area Rating Special Capital Reserve Fund. It’s a millstone around all of our necks. Hard Infrastructure deficits plague the city due to 50+ years of short-sighted city planning and suburban sprawl.

Our Councillor wonders openly why PBW2_2014 participation was seemingly half of the previous year’s. Two reasons come springing to mind, because they’re the same reasons that voter turnout is down all across the board: Interestingly, the answers can be found in the late 80s hits of George Michaels, of all people: Freedom and Faith.

FREEDOM
People who participated in the first year were told, perhaps naively, that the City Staff problem many of us had only heard vague but persistent mumblings about, would not affect what we were doing. There were precedents for doing good work with Area Rating money despite the City’s oft-repeated mantra ‘roads and sidewalks’. Sadly, a combination of hubris and perhaps jealousy disabused us of that simple tool: we were NOT to use ARSCR money for anything but hard infrastructure, set-and-forget projects, even if they’re more expensive, less satisfying, infinitely less sexy, and, quite frankly, NOT really our problem, because the City has (or had) money to fix those things on their own time. The Area Rating money was rightly seen as our first real opportunity to show the City Staff culture that we DO understand our needs, perhaps, just perhaps, better than they do. Long views and 2020 timetables are needed, but short term goals, though often viewed as ‘quick wins’ by the City, are much sexier, but just as hard hard to implement without consensus and common vision. The paradox is, these initiatives require both consensus building AND modern leadership skills.

Quick wins need to address immediate, pressing concerns of communities. You can tell a community that it costs $1.9 million dollars to properly fix one kilometer of road, but what they need to know is, will it make their lives measurably better? The short answer is ‘Yes’, but lots of things can do that. There’s no point in pointing fingers, but it helps to recognize that short-sighted thinking and problem solving have led to the infrastructure problems we have today, and incidentally divided this city so thoroughly that regaining the public trust is going to take some miracle working.

You think I’m babbling. Let me bring it back down to Earth for you: people who live in Ward 2 have a LOT of ideas about what will make their lives better, and some of those ideas are better than others. But the common denominator is that they are mostly problems that could and should be solved immediately, or as soon as possible. Our Councillor functions as a human weathervane, pointing whichever way the wind blows to direct problem solving resources and expertise–and no small amount of political capital, as it turns out–to fix whichever problem has the most impact. The problem is, he is only one person, and it’s impossible for one person to identify every problem AND solution for all 37,815 residents currently living in his ward. So he takes the most expedient route, which is to take advice from the six established community/neighbourhood associations, as part of his Ward 2 Community Council. They’re great people, and they try their very best to present the needs of their communities before the Councillor as best they can. But they’ve got a few limitations.

First, they’re MOSTLY fairly affluent, which means their problems aren’t necessarily the same as those of a lot of the silent majority in the neighbourhood; the perpetually marginalized classes who keep their heads down because the reality they live in is patently nothing like the one most of us live in.

Secondly, they’re not afraid of volunteerism or meetings or talking through problems, which is a sort of skill/mindset not all people possess.

And Thirdly, and perhaps most significantly, they’re White. I don’t play the race card lightly here. I’m about 1/16th Native myself, but I easily pass for Anglo European Canuck. A room full of relatively wealthy, white, English speaking people is a huge barrier for most immigrants and marginalized people to get over. Accents alone are a problem, let alone culturally significant metaphors and allegories, even for those that really try, like myself, to hear what people are really trying to say. Seeing a rich white person coming to your door is scary stuff for a lot of these people. How can you break down that level of culturally-ingrained mistrust to get to the problems and solutions needed to make these people’s lives better? The answer is to knock on every door until you find the community leaders, and win them over, so they in turn can win over their less-certain neighbours. It takes time, effort, faith and vision. These are commodities in extremely short supply.

So what does that have to do with Freedom? We (The late, lamented PB Office) offered residents untold freedom to deliberate on the spending of $1,000,000 of OUR tax money. Freedom to fix any problem–within reason–is what made PBW2_2013 the dark horse winner it was. It got by on chutzpah, but it succeeded because it helped identify real, human-scale problems in every community we reached. That it had serious teething problems was beside the point. We reached groups no one had before. That’s significant, and it’s in no small part because we listened.

What’s lacking now is the City’s willingness to honour its mandates of community outreach and transparent cooperation with residents. we didn’t get here by accident, and all of City Culture’s attempts to turn back the clock to 1985 achieve absolutely nothing. People want more than just a choice of 16 mayors. They want a seat at the table. They want to help decide where their tax dollars should go. They can’t possibly do worse than some already have within City Hall’s white walls.

In short, they want a new deal. And they deserve it.

FAITH
The other big factor, which is like the 500lb gorilla in the room, is Public Trust™. Promises are nice, but results are key. Show Me The Money. Pictures or It Didn’t Happen. Where the F#$% is my proposal?

There has been a serious lack of transparency in both the City’s AND PBW2’s activities, and it’s eroding what faith there was in the processes of the last two years. We have tried to rectify some of this in the last few months, but our hands have largely been tied by fuzzy timetables and a singular lack of faith in our people and our process.

That ends today.

FAST FORWARD
I’ll be making a post on https://pbhamont.wordpress.com/ later today (after the cast comes off), outlining the entire PBW2 process AND timelines we (The PB Team) have identified as necessary for a successful PBW2_2015 campaign. I’ll also explain why this campaign is already in trouble, and present a few ideas about what can be done to move things forward without upsetting the apple cart or–hopefully–jeopardizing our relationships with the Councillor and City Staff. I hope you will all tune in and also share our plan around.

But now I’m going to take a short break, because I’ve been going since before 5AM, and my arm is aching.

More soon.

Lee.

I Wish That I Could Really Tell You All The Things That Happen To Me Aren’t All That I Have Seen

Day 4 of ‘Life With One Arm’. So tired of this. I know I need to be patient and let my left arm heal properly, but it feels weird and heavy and wants to work. Plus, the awkward positions I spend most of the day in are starting to give me body aches.

I’ve had to export all of my Scrivener working (writing) files to rich text files, because Scrivener won’t run on my ancient PowerBook (G4; PPC) under Ubuntu, and I can’t afford to purchase another Scrivener Key just so I can run it in Windows. I’ve got the 30 Day Trial running, and I’ve exported all of my working files (that I can find/think of from the last 4-5 years) at this point, but I’m not happy, because I genuinely hate working in MS Office/Word. It is NOT a real writing program. It’s barely an editing program. I’d rather go back to using yWriter5, except that Smashwords and Createspace both prefer conversion from RTF or Doc files. *sigh*

I’m fussing because RETURN TRIP is complete, but needs proofreading & editing prior to prepping it for publishing. I haven’t sold an Ebook since the summer, and haven’t sold a printed book since last winter. And of course, nobody has told me what they think, which leads me to conclude that the books have not been read *shrug… sigh*.

Nine Inch Nails and cold coffee fuel my ambition now. The kitten has mercifully gone away. My knee is aching. My left elbow feels strange. Anything could be happening under that bandage and half-cast. It could look like a pot roast, for all I know. It certainly feels like one. It’s heavy enough. I travel with a cushion or blanket almost everywhere I go. I haven’t left my apartment building since I got home from the hospital. I have 3 important meetings early next week, before the cast even comes off. Fun times.

It’s past 7:30 and still too dark to see what I’m typing. One handed typing requires looking at my hand and keyboard, which is frustrating, as I have been able to touch type fairly well since high school in the late 80s.

Gonna take a break now. Thanks for listening to me grumble. Have a good day.

Lee.

Progress Report – 2015 01 14

Surgery seems to have been a success, though I am still wrestling with the urge to do things two-handed,

PB Presentation A is pretty much complete, though I am wondering if I should be doing a statistical update page for PBW2 in 2013 and 2014 before I sign off and submit our presentation file.

PBW2 Presentation A

Listening to the deluxe edition of Dave Kerzner’s New World, and really liking the album muchly. More is not kess, in this case. Prog Lives, boys and girls.

Time to check on my wife and contemplate making breakfast if I can/if we have any suitable breakfast foods in the house.

Thank you for reading.

Lee.