The Epistles of St. Moz

From 1983 to 1987, there was a band of very nice if somewhat tempermental lads from Manchester known as The Smiths. Although their lineup was conventional — a front man, a guitarist, a drummer and a bass guitar, they were unconventional in most other ways, with their odd chord patterns (the closest thing to a standard rock song being Bigmouth Strikes Again, whose chords are reminiscent of All Along the Watchtower), odder lyrics and even odder front man and throat, one Steven Patrick Morrissey. Morrissey (on the album credits, he went by only his surname), also affectioantely known as Moz, was your classic tortured soul: angsty, lonely, depressed and mopey. Exactly the kind of personality that many a teenager — especially pasty, gloomy Brit kids writing poetry in a tiny bedsit in something-on-another, UK, could really appreciate.

Prior to his stint with The Smiths, Moz had a pen pal named Robert Mackie. Mackie collected this correspondence and made them available to anyone who would cover the cost of the photocopying them. Someone’s taken some of these letters and put their text on a Web page — complete with Moz’s spelling and punctuation — here.

A long time ago, Spin magazine ran an interview with Morrissey, after which someone wrote a letter to the editor saying that Morrissey should get over himself, and that what the perpetually glum vegetarian needed was “a cheeseburger and a fuck.” After reading these bits of correspondence, I’m inclined to agree.

Some choice excerpts:

Dear person,

So nice to know there’s another soul out there, even if it is in Glasgow. Does being Scottish bother you? Manchester is a lovely place, if you happen to be a bedridden deaf mute. I’m unhappy, hope you’re unhappy too.

In poverty,


Do you really like Kate Bush? I’m not surprised. The nicest thing I could say about her is that she’s unbearable. That voice! Such trash!

…thank you for your photo. It came in handy until the plumber arrived. Did you know you had a dead caterpillar on your lip? Real deco, man. You could have smiled but it’s dreadfully unfashionable, isn’t it? Observe the enclosed piccy of your author, disguised as an artiste. This photograph is suitable for framing. Incidentally your real name IS Robert, isn’t it? Everyone in Scotland is either Robert or Billy or Jimmae. Have you got a real Scottish accent? How novel! Why don’t you join a traveling circus?

I’m sure there are worse groups than Duran Duran, but I’ll be damned if I can think of any.

I’m glad your body is still untouched by human hands, at least it gives you something to look forward to, besides Christmas.

He hated Duran Duran? Blasphemy!

Recommended Reading

The Reflex. Lyrics to the greatest song about self-gratification ever written. Even better than the Divinyls’ I Touch Myself.

Is Your Son a Computer Hacker? Is he obsessed with “Lunix”? Every parent should know about this.

Lawrence Lessig’s new book, The Future of Ideas. I may have to get a copy of this.

One cartoonist’s take on Segway, a.k.a. Ginger, a.k.a. It, a.k.a. Dean Kamen’s new invention.

It Happened to Me

Onions in the Varnish

primo levi - the periodic table

It’s a clever turn of phrase, really. I first saw it in use here.

The chemist-turned-Holocaust-memoir-writer Primo Levi has a story about a time he was working at a chemical plant that made varnish. He was surprised to find that in addition to the chemicals he expected, the varnish formula also called for a raw onion. At first, he could find no reason as to why a raw onion had to be added; there wasn’t anything in onions that was needed in varnish, and even if there were, a single onion would be too little for a large industrial vat.

After doing a little research, Levi found out that his predecessors used to toss an onion into the varnish as a simple and inexpensive way of testing its temperature. If the mixture was hot enough, the onion would fry. With modern equipment, the need for the onion had vanished, but for reasons they no longer knew, it had become part of the recipe.

This past Saturday morning in New York City’s Union Square, it occurred to me that I have at least one onion in the varnish.

Recommended Reading

The Periodic Table by Primo Levi. Originally published in 1975, this is a set of stories in which the each of the first 21 elements of the period table are used as the central metaphor for a short story about Levi’s Holocaust experiences.

Olfactory titration. Titration is a process often used to measure the acidity (or alkalinity) of a solution by adding a base (or acid) to an acid (or base) mixed with an indicator chemical and watching for visible change. In olfactory titration, you use you nose rather than your eyes, and in this particular case, you use an onion.

Onion Networks. My friend and former co-worker Justin Chapweske’s consulting firm. Go hire him!

City Bakery, New York. Damned good onion rings!


Happy Birthday, George!

And in honour of your birthday, I present you with this lovely photo of when I last came down to NYC for your birthday. It’s me, George, Alicia and none other Misharu Morimoto (Iron Chef Japanese) at Nobu.

Okay, I may have edited the photo just a little.


Start Spreading the News…

I’m leaving today…

…for New York City for a mini-vacation and to celebrate my friend George’s 32nd birthday.

I know it’s a day early, but George, as you once wrote on a birthday card: Happy birthday, you old poop. I’ll be in Manhattan by lunch, and maybe we can hit that nice Mexican place a couple of blocks up from your house. What say you, George?

Thanks to the Current Situation, I have to wake up at yet another ungodly hour in order to allow for enough time for airport security to make me crack open my accordion and prove it’s a working instrument. Hence this short entry…gotta get some shut-eye. But first, a couple of links…

Recommended reading

CBGB OMFUG and The Knitting Factory: Someday I’ll gig at these places. Someday.

The Soup Nazi. Yup, he really exists.


Dog and Pony

The app I’ve been working on

I’ve spent the past couple of weeks hammering out a prototype of an news-gathering app that would be based on the peer-to-peer kernel that we’re developing. I’m pretty proud of this prototype for a number of reasons. For starters, it’s my first serious application written in C#. Second, there’s a clever little database-based engine underneath it that simulates a network of users exchanging and recommending news stories. For a “canned” app, it’s pretty smart. Finally, with only the most vague of specs provided by the suits and with the departure of our UI specialist and our graphic artist, I’ve had to do all the interaction and graphic design — this sucker really has my fingerprints all over it. I think I can show you the splash screen I designed without violating my NDA

Ah gotz to reprasent to them wack-ass VC bitchez, yo

One of the occupational hazards of being a programmer at a start-up is doing early morning demos of your latest work for the monthly “dog and pony show” for the investors. The Chief Suit likes my prototype app and wanted me to show it to the guys from our VC, who I’ll just refer to as “J-Low” and “L-Dogg”. The prototype app isn’t quite done yet and I haven’t had a chance to build an installer, so I decided it would be safest to run it on my development machine, so there’d be no nasty surprises come demo time. I spent a good chunk of last night and the wee hours of this morning putting up enough “scaffolding” so that I could run a reasonable-looking demo. I woke up after 4 hours’ sleep to double-check the prototype for bugs (None! Yay!) and then wait for Johnny to come and pick me up from the corner of Queen and Spadina.

Ten minutes after he was supposed to pick me up, the wind started to blow and I was beginning to feel a little chilly.

Fifteen minutes after he was supposed to pick me up, I was really getting cold. I gave his cell phone a call and got his voice mail.

Twenty minutes later, still no lift. No answer on his phone either.

Half an hour later, I was trying to reach the office to tell them I’d be late. I’m imagining J-Low and L-Dogg sitting at the office, wondering where this nifty prototype that Chief Suit promised was.

I wrote Johnny off and called Kostya, the co-worker who normally gives me a lift to work. I arranged for him to pick me up at the usual place at our more civilized usual time and went to Lettieri (the Italian cafe at the corner) to have a hot chocolate and bash on the app a little more. Kostya picked me up about forty minutes later and got me to the office in time to do the demo, which took less than two minutes and got an simple nod of approval (and barely a mumble) from L-Dogg. This is what I stayed up late and woke up early for?

Normally, I’d say that L-Dogg is the strong, silent type, but that sounds too close to a compliment for the likes of a VC. They all need a good pimp-slapping.

One tiny upside

While waiting in the cold for Johnny to not show up (it turned out that he slept straight through his alarm clock’s blare), a car pulled up to the curb where I was standing. The cute brunette driver rolled down the passenger window (where an equally cute passenger was sitting) and they both yelled out “Hey, Accordion Guy! How’re you doing?”

Being greeted on the street like that — to me, that’s worth more than a million half-hearted nods of approval from a semi-interested VC.


Quote of the Day

When my alarm clock goes off each morning, I look at it like it’s some tool of the inquisition whose nature is clear but exact use and application I’m still trying to puzzle out.

Ry4an Brase, a friend and ex-co-worker of mine, on IRC.



My ex used to say that I had this way of saying the word pants that sounded really dirty. Pants has a certain je ne sais quoi when you say it with your teeth place together in some kind of lecherous demi-smile. And that, my friend, is the theme of today’s post.

Apparently a student named Alison has decided that it would be a worthwhile use of technology to place a webcam in her pants. A hand-sized Tri-M computer (powered by a 486), a small webcam and a Lucent 802.11 wireless card make this great contribution to the Internet possible. The whole thing is viewable on this page, and there’s even a handly little chat facility so that you can make Beavis and Butt-Head-esque comments to your fellow lechers.

In the twenty minutes I had my browser trained on the site, I caught a lot of darkness, then light, then some long-haired guy, then a bed. Naturally, I would be doing Way New Journalism (and the Internet as a whole) if I didn’t post some screen shots…

Suddenly, I am flooded with vague memories of my own birth.

What’s a dorm room doing in these pants?

And now the kid pants are off!

So this is what Marshall McLuhan was going on about.

Boong Ga Boong Ga

I got the link to Alison’s Pants Cam while reading about the latest Japanese videogame craze, Boong Ga Boong Ga, which translates loosely as “spanky-spanky”. The user interface consists of a derriere and a large finger which you wear on your hand. You gain points through ramming said derriere with the finger. This is probably not what Doug Englebart was thinking of when he invented the point-and-click interface.

If this kind of thing were invented in the States, there’d be all kinds of furor, but I can see the digerati going on about the inscrutability of Japanese culture. Let’s get off the blind Nihon worship, kids. Iron Chef was neat, but they’re capable of many dumb-ass ideas too.

Hey, I’m all for kink as much as…well, actually even more than the next guy, but I don’t think I want to be known throughout the arcade as the guy who’s really good at ramming his finger up people’s asses. In fact I’m worried that someone out there is thinking At last! A use for my secret talent!

Required reading

All your boonga are belong to us. The brochure for the video game, in classic Engrish.

Korean Ass Shooter. Korean. Ass. Shooter. What, you want me to draw you a picture?

A clever pun you can use when discussing Boong Ga Boong Ga: “The game may have its bottom-feeder appeal, but don’t expect much penetration in the North American market.” Arf! Arf!
Free Habbo Coins
I’m sticking with Dance Dance Revolution.