Tuesday, 30 November 2010

more on texting

Funny about texting. It seems complicated until you try it, and then you see how easy it is. How convenient. Soon enough it becomes addictive. The bell goes off, telling you have a message, and your fingers twitch. I have (I blush to confess this, and I don't do it any more) replied to texts while driving, which has to be one of the stupider uses of modern technology. I feel like a zombie, reaching out for my phone ... MUST BE CONNECTED. Yeesh.

Sam is a latecomer to texting. Last year his cell phone bill was non-existent. But he is an addict now, all right -- I was investigating a ridiculous phone bill a few months ago, and the person at the Rogers store told me that Sam had sent 3000 texts in that billing period. My jaw dropped. A hundred texts a day. Double yeesh. I changed plans at once. Forget long distance, internet, frequently called numbers: just give me more of that sweet sweet texting.

And it seems to be the way of the future. Friends have a toddler (also named Sam) who was playing with Mommy's phone last time we were over. Playing how? you ask. Well, remember how your toddler played telephone, holding it up to her ear, babbling into it? You probably played that way yourself -- they've had toy telephones since the 50s. But this Sam -- like my son Sam -- had the phone open in front of him, and was busy pushing buttons. That's right. Fourteen months old and already texting the infinite. I assume that Fisher Price has come out with a folding button-pushing toy, maybe with digital display. The old model with the the cord and rotary dial has about as much relevance as a Victrola Phonograph.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

texts from the boy

I hadn't heard from my son Sam in a while, so I was pleased to get his text. Ever had a pork rind? he sent.
No, you? I sent back.
No, sounds awful, he replied. And that was it for the night. He often sends me his random musings, and I enjoy opening my phone and finding out what is on his mind. It's a small and slightly grimed window into his life, but I am happy to peer and ponder. Aqua velva -- great invention or world's greatest invention? he sent last month. Of course my reply was along the lines of, What are you using it for? Turned out that he was putting it on his face. I told him congratulations, and that he now smelled just like his grandpa. He didn't reply.

The texts aren't always about him, and sometimes require some extrapolation. Recently he sent: Simon has 2d degree burns from our AMAZING new kettle! And when I asked if Simon (his roommate) should see a doctor, he replied, We're making more tea. From which I inferred that they had taken time off to deal with Simon's burn, and were now getting back to refreshment. I do not know if they are dealing with the rodent situation, because Mice are noisy was a one-off text. I asked for more info, but his next one -- Best half-book I have ever read -- went back to a conversation about a PG Wodehouse novel with some pages missing.

The last book I lent him was called Rats (I have to say -- is that a great cover or what?). Maybe it will prompt him to enlarge on his mouse problems. Or not. I'm happy to hear about whatever he wants to tell me.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

good idea bad idea

You ever run across an idea of yours in someone else's hands? Not just the, Gosh I wish I had thought of that, but more the -- Hey, that's mine! This is not about plagiarism. But sometimes two people can get hold of the same idea. For instance, there was a bad Robin Williams movie (a bit of a long list, much as I admire him) back in the early 80s that happened to have as a subplot the exact idea I was trying to build into a satirical novel about terrorism. I watched the movie, cringing every moment not simply because the acting direction camerawork and so on were iffy, but because so much of the film was so much like my book.

Then there's the idea of yours that ends up in good hands. Driving home tonight I was listening to a piece of music on the radio that sounded eerily familiar … and I realized that it was because I had written it. Well, not quite. Way back in high school, I was sitting at the piano when a melody came into my head. A simple walk-down melody, 16 bars of beauty. The chord changes fit, the ending satisfied … it was perfect. I performed it for my girlfriend at the time, who thought it was okay but that it needed something. I got angry and we split up, and I went into an emotional tailspin as I realized that she might be right. Maybe the piece did need something, but what? I waited for inspiration. I sat at the piano, and sat at the piano, but nothing came to me. I gave up on music as a career, and started writing a satirical novel about terrorism.

So this melody comes on the radio tonight, and it's mine. The same 16 perfect bars. After all these years it has finally found an audience. Then the tune ends and the composer starts playing around with it. There are, like, variations. Quite a lot of them, actually. The thing lasts five or six minutes. And, you know, it's good. Something came to this guy when he sat at the keyboard. I pull off to the side of the highway to write down his name. If you want to hear it -- my idea in good hands -- find the first movement of Handel's Organ Concerto in G minor, part of his Opus 7. It was his idea more than 200 years before it was mine.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

things that go bump in the night

Back from Vancouver now, and the locals are at it again. Toronto, city that can't help itself. A parking ticket on the dash, a used condom on the gravel, and raccoon poop on the bar of soap. It is to sigh.

Let me explain. The laneway at the back of our house (from which the boron-rich dump site was recently removed) is a daytime hangout for graffiti artists and home repair enthusiasts, who add beauty and noise and life to the place. Come nightfall, the sawyers and taggers go home, and the laneway becomes home to a more furtive crowd: parking cops, prostitutes and raccoons. We have tried to keep an open mind here -- even parking cops, we argued, were God's creatures (it had been weeks since B McGivern had ticketed us, and our hearts were softening). But you have to draw the line somewhere, and poop on the back porch and used condoms by the back fence were a bit too much. So we put a bar of soap (a piece of grandmotherly lore) on the porch to discourage the animals, and a garbage can (with a sign saying PLEASE USE!) by the back fence to encourage the johns. And for a few days it seemed to be working. The porch and back fence area stayed clean. I went to Vancouver.

And now I am back and the beasts are at it again. This morning I woke to find fresh spoor from all three nocturnal perambulists. Poop, condom, ticket. The cop is a new name. Monterey, it looks like from the signature. I wonder if the raccoon and sex trader are new too? I put out some fresh bar of soap. We'll see how that works.

If I am awake at 2:00 this morning I may head outside with a flashlight to catch whoever is doing what. Maybe the bar of soap trick will work with the parking cop ...