That weren't no DJ, that was hazy cosmic jive

A novel project

Finally, I give birth to a novel. Now, who can I give this crying muck-ball away to?

It isn’t a political thriller, despite the nature of my bloggings, nor is it a story about a purely-fictional conservative prime minister named “Sterling Hopper.” Though if it were, there would be a scene where he crashes into a manure truck.

The backflap is likely to say something such as:

“a thrilling, mysterious escapade; a baroque madhouse brimming with murderous intrigue and alien sex! In a world so inscrutably surreal, you shall be left gasping for a breath which you dare not breathe – lest it infect you in your soul!”

That might be a mite misleading, but hey. It’s basically right.

Next exciting steps for me will include the hunt for an agency and publisher, which is going to be something rather new to me. An exciting process, but also one that will demand infinite patience, and will require me to thicken my already-tortoise-like skin. If you have any advice, I’d definitely welcome it.

I’ll ask you to also be patient, and indulge me in an occasional non-political (and non-dinner) post about these upcoming tribulations, how it’s going, and any interesting bits of news about bookish progress. And, should the day come when I can provide means for you to acquire the story by way of a credit card, you can be certain I will do that.

Thanks everyone – keep on truckin.’
(Or cyclin.’ Or takin’ the train).

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Happy bloggoversary

Cor, I forgot my own birthday! Turns out that the Polygonic blog has been going for one whole year (and a day). What better excuse to start drinking at work?


Thanks to all readers and commenters for a year of memorable memories. In the coming days (once I find the time to cook something!) I’ll post a celebratory photo of my dinner, as I am wont to do when I feel warm inside.

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Recently, for breakfast…

It’s dangerous work taking photographs of hot food with a mobile phone. You never know whether or not evaporating oils are going to cake onto the little lens, or whether a sudden text message might startle the thing out of my hand, and into the saucy repast.

But I’m a risk taker. That means I dive headfirst into risky business.

Doubly-risky this weekend, I decided to snap a shot of breakfast, instead of the usual dinner. Morning is not when I’m at my steadiest. But, what choice did I have? We’re talking about eggs, hash browns, baked beans (with a bit of balsamic vinegar and Worcestershire sauce: a totally bean-changing experience) and my favourite thing to cook in the world – mushrooms in garlic, spinach and a bit of tomato juice, and almost every spice I have at my disposal. Cumin, sesames, paprika, jollof, oregano, coriander, and black pepper for sure. They appear disturbingly blackish and sausage-like in the photo, but blame the funky poloroidish effect of the picture-taking machine. I assure you, it’s mushrooms.

It was just too yummers.


p.s. – thanks for the traffic, friends – this breakfast photograph is brought to you (belatedly) by the blog’s 6,000th hit. Keep on chewin’!

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The night of 5,000 pancakes

Can you feel the excitement of the pancake? An excitement so gooey, yet at the same time, so crispy? A flat, warm kind of excitement?

It is, after all, Mardi Gras. Otherwise known as Fat Tuesday. Or Shrove Tuesday. Or, as they tend to say in the UK, Pancake Day.

Sadly, I am otherwise engaged on Tuesday nights,* so we had to do the pancake social on Sunday. It was a good chance for me to learn the difference between English pancakes and Scotch pancakes.

Scotch pancakes are (the Canadian in me would say) real pancakes. Thicker, fluffier, spongier, and good with syrup, butter, and blueberries, and that’s it. English pancakes, though, are basically crèpes. Very thin, using a super milky batter, and then used as a sweetish kind of wrap, within which you may stuff sugar and lemon juice, raspberries, nutella, bananas, ham, mustard, green chillies, dill pickles, marshmallows, crumbled bacon, cabbage, mince meat, tripes, boiled yams, Rochefort, cherry tomatoes, almond butter, pickled eggs, kiwis, anchovies, or Korean beondegi.

We were doing it English style, which I realised a little late was remarkably hard. The line between raw and carbonised is nearly as thin as the crèpe itself. It was a fun night – but, on balance, perhaps one should practice the fine art of English pancake making before one hosts a crowd of friends to eat them. They are a very forgiving crew. I chiselled off a good few blackened strips of prospective pancake from the pan, but was soon rescued by my better half who actually knows how to do it, and she did it rather well. So what if we inhaled lots of carbon smoke along the way? All part of the experience!

Anyhow, the photo above is one of my efforts in situ, and the posting of dinner photos on Polygonic usually indicates a milestone of some sort. 5,000 hits as of today – that’s nearly as exciting as the sweet icky deliciousness of the pancake itself.

Happy Mardi Gras, and stay out of trouble.

* I can’t say what I do on Tuesdays. I wish I could offer up a hint, but it’s just against the rules. Let’s just say it involves helicopters, laser beams, and night goggles. It’s not impossible that I might be called upon once in a while to pilot a robot spy-fish into the murk of Lake Ladoga. But I really couldn’t say.

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Caplan’s “Reagan at 100”

When I saw the headline “A tribute to Ronald Reagan at 100” juxtaposed with the byline “Gerald Caplan,” I knew we’d have one interesting article.

Bravo to offer some rare resistance to the whitewashed Reagan narrative that seems to have emerged since his death. It might comfort a lot of Americans (and Canadians, and all sorts of people) to reflect on the Cold War 1980s with a load of V-signs and hurrahs. “We won, the Soviets lost, how simple, how wonderful.” It’s a very different way for our southern neighbours to conceive of how wars work, given the neverending chaos and stateless complexities of the long wars they’re mired in today.

But that ’80s nostalgia has unhelpfully ironed over the fact that Reagan’s America was among the worst incarnations of America we ever knew.

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A royal visit

Cue the ticker-tape! Crank up the misplaced national vanity machine! Canada’s future Head of State (from circa 2040 or so? Is it morbid to take bets?) is coming to survey his most expansive royal hunting ground. One hopes one approves of what one sees.

And what will the Royal Couple see? It’s a fascinating itinerary.

Alberta: Doubtless there will be some Columbia Ice Fields trekking, some Lake Louise paddling, and potentially some calf-wrestling at the Stampede. What’s less certain is whether His Royal Harperness will recommend to His Royal Highness a jaunt to Fort McMurray to see one of our government’s most ethical investments.

Northwest Territories: Thank god it won’t be Nunavut, with all its unculled seals flipping about. What will they do there? Ride ATVs, crying out “We make the rules!” perhaps? Visit a diamond mine? Which would be kind of underwhelming after a lifetime of looking at Queen Elizabeth’s hat.

No, I know what it is. Some cultures hold that the Northern Lights help you conceive lucky babies. Wink, wink.

Quebec: They couldn’t not, really. Perhaps Will’s toothy grin and Kate’s now-ish fashion sense will instill new enthusiasm for British imperialism along the Saguenay. Or perhaps they’ll play it safe and spend the whole time in Lennoxville.

Prince Edward Island: God knows. They’re going to Atlantic Canada, and their only stop is PEI. Charlottetown, to see where it all began? Will there be some Anne and Gilbert-style picnics in the meadow? Or just a tailgate party at the Duffys’?

Ottawa: You have to, don’t you?

I’m sure that, as a proud, exuberant, mostly-sovereign nation, we will fill their hearts with splendour, and that they will return the favour. There’s a slim but not-impossible chance that Will will want to make a strong impression on us – rock the boat a little. Perhaps by declaring himself permanently unavailable for the title of King of Canada in the future, sermonising that “you lot ought to get your own Head of State already.” Tough love and everything.

Sadly, the odds of that seem to be about the same as their being greeted at the airport in June by one Prime Minister Ignatieff.

Sigh. Long live what we’ve got.

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Polygonic’s going polly

I’ve just created a new Polls page on the blog, in which you are cordially invited to participate. The method will not be scientific, the results will be largely meaningless. But in the spirit of our own current electoral system – who cares?

Just click Polls in the Pages menu to your right, or follow through here.

First question concerns Stephen Harper’s retirement. We can’t know whether he’ll eventually leave in a Danny Williams fashion, or (as may be more likely) with a less-flattering Gordon Campbell motif. But however he goes, he must go one day. When??

Filed under: Canada, Politics, Uncategorized,

Hot lamb! It’s time to do poems

As I write, Polygonic’s now finishing up its 20th week online, which is the age some babies start teething. So, look out! My moaning and wailing can only get worse.

Coincidentally, I’m happy to note we’ve passed 3,000 hits this week. Merci buckets 🙂

I’m a man of fierce tradition, and so while a couple of days late, I’m commemorating the milestone as usual with a photo of my dinner. I’ve developed a recent dependence on fish cakes, but thankfully I was able to burst out of that breaded cage on Thursday when I did a lamb steak. Check it peeps – marinaded in OJ, lemons, cumin and powderednaga jolokia peppers (holy mother), then grilled. Joined on the plate are roasted mushrooms, spinach and garlic, and if you squint you can also see some peas. Wowsers.

And I’ll tell you something. Maybe it was the phase of moon, or something about those bloomin’ hot peppers, but Thursday night led me away from the normal desire to bloggify. It even led me away from my attempts at fiction. No, I entered instead into a surreal dreamscape of free-form poetry. I was loose, like a soul loosened. Like a loosened lock. I was full of metaphor and simile, as if I were a full glass, or some other type of full thing.

I will share with you the fruits of my journey into the post-sub-id here below. I can’t promise you this will be the last of its kind. Enjoy…

“The Fursting”

light rain tinkles on umbrellas, unfurled.
squirrels have none
is that why they cry?
eat your nuts
suck it up

green is my heart
like a verdant field
resplendent farm in harvest
a heart-growing farm
livers too
kinda scary

owlets warble in derelict barns
i smell a barbecue
how distracting

bubble, river! torrent, rage, flow o’er jostling pebbles
and tires
why are there tires in rivers
do they like it
having a bath
I would

Thank you

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Identity and patriotism

I was thinking something fun today about identity and patriotism, as the title suggests.

I’m a British Columbian who spent a good few years living in Quebec before moving to the UK for work at an international development agency (which shall remain undisclosed). We know what Stephen Harper (and, frankly, Stompin’ Tom Connors) thinks of dirty rotten expatriates, but of course I’ve never thought of myself as an expatriate. I avoid London’s Canadian ex-pats generally, considering they are, in the main, Leafs’ fans. In any case, as this blog maybe reflects, I still stay pretty engaged with what’s going on back home.

Thus the big question of home and identity. Do I call myself a British-Canadian? Or the inverse? I don’t like nationalising identity at the best of times, but these terms ring hollower than other hyphenated demonyms like “African-American.” That’s a term that links an ethnic identity and a civic identity, keeping each intact and enforcing two different concepts of identity. For me, though, I consider both Britishness and Canadianness alike to be civic identities. I have no time for ethnic identities, I’m afraid (and anyway, who wants to shoot the breeze with someone who fancies himself an Irish-Welsh-Anglo-Scots-Canadian-Brit?).

But sometimes these questions are thrust upon you. I remember at university in Montreal, talking to a Québécois friend about terms of origin. “Someone from Ontario is an Ontarian, someone from Alberta is an Albertan, and in English at least, someone from Quebec is a Quebecer,” I said, profoundly.

“Yes,” he agreed.

“What’s the term in French for a British Columbian? Is is Colombie-Brittaniquois? Colombien-Bretagne?”

He paused and smiled. He wasn’t sure.

It seemed a fascinating point to me because, I realised in my often-difficult battle to acquire the French language, I had no demonym for “who I was.” I could say where I was from – “je suis de Colombie-Brittanique.” But saying where you are from is quite different from saying who you are.

I realised that I didn’t mind, I was just curious. I wasn’t lost at sea without being able to incorporate my homeland into the very fabric of my being since, as is the case with all of us, our identities and our common communities are now as geographically dispersed and ethnically variant as to render point of origin quaint. When your parents have retired to another town besides the one you’re familiar with, when your old friends and exes live in different countries, when your favourite music, film, and literature is global in origin, the best you can say is that you retain a strong affection for where you’re from – not that it continues to ultimately shape you. Unless of course, you’re a total momma’s boy, or an ethnocentric nazi.

I’ve since learned that the term for British Columbian is Brittano-Colombien, which I admit I quite like. But again, it’s strange. What’s “British” (or “Britanno-“) about your average British Columbian? What association do they have with the Columbia River, or further back, with Christopher Columbus of boating fame? Is it implying that I’m a follower of Chris Columbus, and that I have predominantly British blood? And which part of Britain does the blood come from? Even in 2010, that’s still a ridiculously fraught question.

Michael Ignatieff would call people who ask these questions “cosmopolitans,” which seems to suggest I like drinking them, and only at very specific temperatures darling. I’d prefer to think that this supposed cosmopolitanism should be natural state of anyone in the 21st Century, and if only in selected places, then certainly in Canada. There has never been an “ethnic Canadian” (some might consider aboriginal peoples as ethnically Canadian, but they draw their ethnicity to something outside the nation-state of Canada in the first place, so I don’t think that applies). There’s always been a (kind of contradictory) pride in how little pride we brandish in front of others, and how much internal difference (and even discord) we celebrate. Almost as though Canadian citizenship were a generous licence to rights and freedoms, rather than a rigid code of conduct or legitimisation of a particular ancestry, or indeed, a recipe for identity.

That is the way I like it. I’m more of a Charter fan than I am a teary-eyed patriot. Nevertheless, it still makes for longer-than-necessary introductions when, instead of asserting a single demonym to people, I just list the places I’ve lived and loved.

Filed under: Canada, International, Travel, UK, Uncategorized, , , ,

Let’s 2000

Oops, I did it again. ♫ I played with your heart. ♫ With another photo of my dinner.

The occasion? We’ve passed the 2,000 hit mark on Polygonic, taking three months to get here. Thanks friends! (and enemies) It’s clicks like yours that keep me flying high as a weather balloon.

Anyway – I’d planned this stir-fry, but delayed it a few days due to working late or going to birthday drinks – resulting in the chicken being marinated for three days! OJ, soy sauce, star anise, tarragon, salt, pepper, lemon and ginger. Then chucked in the wok with other bits and bobs.

So tasty, angels wept – for they were unable to get out of Heaven to come try some.

Thanks again all – keep on visiting!

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May 2020

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