Les Semaines


what I'm thinking and doing § what I'm listening to § what I'm reading
what I'm writing § retrospective: The Phonosnout


Almost Human

"Almost don't cover somethin'" --Scott Merritt, a wonderful Canadian songwriter.

When Scott Merritt is singing that song (it also says "almost human" somewhere else in the lyrics, too) he's talking about Dianne Arbus' famous photographs of human outcasts, the folk on the edge, the freaks in the freakshows. Those don't bother me, but what do freak me out are the classic kid-fears: clowns and apes. I've never outgrown them. I can't stand to go anywhere near the apehouse at the zoo, or to look at clowns. I had nightmares about them. I can still clearly remember one dream about a gorilla running around our house in West Vancouver (I would have to have been younger than six because we moved from that house when I had just turned six) trying to break in and harm me.

I think it's the almost-humanness of apes that alarms me--the way they give physical clues that make you think they should react like people but then they don't. I think it's the same thing with clowns--they look just enough like regular people to be terrifying. The horror movie cliché of the evil clowns is real life to me. Every clown seems like that to me.

It's the things that come closest and miss that are frightening.

Star Trek should know this. Their aliens are too human. Most aliens are too human--as though if we make an alien species like Genghis Khan it is alien to us. No, it's too imaginable. But I guess for mainstream TV success we need it to be imaginable. It needs to be easy. But that's TV.

But humans themselves can be the least human thing you can imagine. The varieties in our cultures--and even just the way some people in your own culture think. I read letters to the editor in the local paper and I can't believe that people can think that way--people who live in the same city I do. That scares me almost as much as clowns so. People who almost understand things. Almost have the same life as me. Almost come from where I do. Who believe something I almost could have once. The scary life I could almost have lived.

It's the people who dress just like me and have lives just like mine and who don't quite think the same or have the same values, who don't see what the world clearly is to me. Or people I think are like me but suddenly they say something that makes me realize that trees are a totally different kind of green to them than I see. But almost. They see my world, but aslant. Even the man in the next room, who almost lives in my head, who I've shared so many years of my life with. He doesn't have the same vision I do. It's a different world to him. A world almost mine but not quite and while we can almost understand and almost touch each other's world, we can't quite.

Almost don't cover some things. It don't.


Hey--this is nothing to do with anything, but one of the best smells in the world is the slightly sweaty smell of a sleeping cat.

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Recently, I've been listening to a very pretty local pop group, Hand to Mouth, who sent in a disc for review on The Ectophiles' Guide. Their sound is smooth and kind Joni-Mitchell jazz/folkie/pop. Very pleasant and creative enough to keep me listening.

I also keep listening to Jorane--I really should put a page together for her on The Guide.

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Judith Merkle Riley's The Master of All Desires was a romp. It's about a rather naive young woman who gets involved with Catherine de Medici, Nostradamus, and the Undying Head of Menander the Magus, an immortal head with the ability to grant wishes--but it does so in such a way that subverts the wishers' intentions. Oh course everyone wants the head. The book is a strange combination of contemporary humour with period pieces, and the characters seem a mix of their own time and ours as well, but it was a quick and enjoyable novel, and Nostradamus was satisfying clever, and our heroine was brave and loyal and wins in the end, of course (oops! Spoiler!).

Juliet Marillier's Daughter of the Forest (Book One of The Sevenwaters Trilogy) is one of those books that the instant I started reading it I knew I was in good hands. The novel starts with a strong voice, scenes which quickly show personalities and interrelationships, and a vivid setting. The cover evokes a mythic Mists of Avalon type feel and the story is set in a similar time--when the Saxons were well settled in the British Isles. Here they have taken over some islands scared to the Irish Celts, and a continual war begins. One of the Celtic warchiefs lives in the midst of a forest which holds old enchantments. He has six sons and a daughter, who grow up wild together until one day their father brings home a bride.
     Mixing Celtic lore with the fairy tale of the sister who must labor to rescue her brothers who have been turned into swans, and a not-too-romanticized evocation of life at the time of the Saxons, this is an absorbing and well-constructed story, and comes to a satisfying conclusion, though with plenty of scope for the next volumes. I will definitely track down and read them, and in fact before I'd read it myself I bought for my sister's birthday. Now that I've ready it myself, I know she'll love it.
     I would recommend this to anyone who liked Mists of Avalon or who likes fairy tale retellings, or who likes stories with Celtic flavours. This has all of those elements and handles them well.

Robin McKinley is one of my favourite authors. I love her prose style and her way of telling a story and the magical worlds and characters she invents. Spindle's End is a Sleeping Beauty retelling, and a lovely one. This novel starts by introducing the kind of magic that exists in this world: rather unpredictable and mischevious in many small ways, but everyone has charms to try to control it. The story begins from the point-of-view of a young woman who gets to attend the baby princess' naming day and end up having to take the princess home with her to hide her from the evil fairy who has cursed the child. The characters are all delightful, and well-drawn, and while this didn't have quite the magical power of some of McKinley's earlier work for me, I still totally enjoyed this.

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Writing? Was I supposed to write this week?

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Retrospective: The Phonosnout

About the Phonosnout

February 1977

717. English 121

English (121) is even more hopeless than philosophy. (Only ten more minutes to go--can i stand it?) English 121 is a potent solution of boredom dissolved in water, which has a bland taste. Boredom121=Such an hour as i have just experienced. [Jethro Tull lyrics about zero omitted, ending with comments about Peter and Paul.] Peter and Paul would be long gone out of this class.

718. Personality Theories

Ah, Freud I wish you had known what effect you would have on psychology. Did you know that i would be studying you, knocking down your theories many years after you wrote? Freud should have been a short story writer. He would have made it.

719. Psychology as hedonism

All the theories are hedonistic and hedonism is a deadly philosophical sin. Psychology is a bore, and Judy didn't show up today, what can i do?

720. History is writing history

Or at least George Bowering says so. I tend to feel that writing history is writing history. (This is a confusion of the existential is and the is of identity.) But history is writing history, but only in Canada. In America history his history. In fact, probably everywhere else history is history. Yet in Canada history is writing history, therefore Phono is history.

721. Everything is subjective

Or at least that's what they're saying today in psychology. I tend to feel that everything is everything and subjectivity is subjectivity, and subjectivity is part, a kind of everything, much like a square is a kind of rectangle. Subjectivity is part of a larger genre of everything. Everything is the universal set. Excelsior!!

722. Politics

I have the feeling someone's [1] trying to interest me in politics. He says politics is reality. I say reality is not for me [quote from Beach Boys "Disney Girls" song about reality omitted] therefore politics are not for me. I want nothing to do with them. Besides, i feel it is my duty as an anarchist to abstain from voting. It is my duty as a cynic (one vote won't make any difference anyway). It is my duty as a professional bum (i won't do anything constructive). My duty not to vote. [2]

723. Mix-up

There is a great silly mix-up at The Seed. Sort of a gossip line trip. Paul asked Karen to pray about something about me, and Karen told the world. Without even finding out the truth about it. It spread 'til it reached the upper crust, and i'm under fire. [3]

724. On being under fire

Well, so far it hasn't been so bad, though i must admit my paranoia is increasing, and i can hardly handle my anger at the Seed-gossip. I can't really blame Paul, what he did he did in faith, but i do blame Karen. She is the only always spouting off about if you have something against your brother, go to him first. But she didn't.

725. One thing to say

[Quote from Michael Omartian song about faith omitted.] That's all.

726. Repetitious

Phono repetitious? Well, i suppose through 726 chapter i must have repeated several things several times... but Phono generally, over all, repetitious? --Frightfully so. (Oh dear.) [Quick Larry Norman quote about helplessness omitted.] I have nightmares about reworking and remolding Phono into something useful. Publishable perhaps. I think i'd be sick.[4]


1. Rob.

2. Hmm. This must have been for a university election, but I remember voting in all the provincial and federal elections I could before I disenfranchised myself by moving to the States and never getting citizenship here.

3. I don't remember this incident. Something about me seeing Rob maybe?

4. Ha!

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