Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Economies of Scale (Freight & Taxes Extra)

There's not a whole lot that I like about coming to work. Given the choice and the financial freedom to make it, I'd probably be doing something else. Carving out my niche as a film maker or following some amateur golf tour or maybe just following the sun through tropical climes.

One good thing about work though is my window.

There was a time when this spot in the cubicle farm was highly coveted by rival workers. Back then I was more than content just to stay in my spot in the middle of the floor - it had my own personal internet connection. This was when our workstations played the intranet but not the world wide web, you see. Anyway, it was I who presided over and conducted the fateful coin flip to see which of the two finalists would win this window space. After a couple of years the winner moved on and the space again came free. Again I decline to contest it.

But I was not to deny it a third time, when once more the incumbent moved to a different branch on the career path. First refusal was offered to me and I didn't.

It was still no great shakes until I moved. For the first time became truly appreciative of the view it offers. I am now deeply possessive of my space.

MY space. My view.

From six floors up (the top of our modest building) I look down the throat of the harbour, past the ship yards and the power plant to one of the bridges that span the twin community. The blue of sky is reflected in the water. Sea birds whirl and float under puffy clouds drifting overhead. Occasionally helicopters drone by (one passes even as I write this) and distant planes reflect the sun as they make their final approach to the city's airport. Ships, boats, submarines and watercraft of all sizes run up and down the harbour in their traffic lanes.

Container ships arrive and depart daily.

These are big ships.

They easily catch my eye. I pause from what I'm doing to swivel in my chair and take a moment to watch them pass. They seem so close I could touch them. I know from experience that as large as the seem from my 6th floor window, they look behemoth from the waterline. On these ships are thousands of containers. They will be taken to the docks and the containers will be loaded onto trains and 18-wheel freight trucks to take the next step in their journey. We're mostly an interim port of call for the goods that come in.

I think about all those containers and the ship that carries them. Millions of dollars to build a cargo ship. How much to crew it, I wonder. How much to sail it up the seaboard or even from across the ocean. How much for the tugboats that pilot it through the Narrows and the stevedores to unload it at the dock where a line of a great many trains and trucks wait to piggyback her cargo the rest of the way down the rail and road.

What's in them all, I wonder. It would be fun to open them up and see.

There are so many of us to consume all this stuff.

Which is a good thing, I guess, because who could afford the price of shipping if the whole ship was full of a single pair of jeans.

Monday, February 12, 2007

FOOD! Glorious Food! (Except not food...)

On the commentary for the movie "As Good As It Gets", Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt talk about the restaurant scene they share late in the movie. For a reaction shot, Helen says, "I asked Jack to say something funny to make me laugh". What did Jack say that broke up Helen?

Jack: I said, "Tits".

I love that word, tits. It's a wonderful, evocative and provocative word. The hard consonant sound that explodes like a shock and then the sibilant that lingers like an ellipsis. I use the word when I can, which is not often enough because, sadly, it's not a word for polite company.


Not only a delightful word, but a joy to behold. Again however, polite company frowns upon that kind of enjoyment. Also called "staring".

Also called, "leering".

It's like an eclipse of the sun, advises a certain Mr. Seinfeld, offering an unofficial compromising compromise.

You get a sense of it and then look away.

George and Jerry are like the id and the ego. I'm tugged in different directions (read into that what you will). The id wants the eyes to linger, the soul to sing, to bathe in the calmness and comfort of offered d├ęcolletage. Plunging necklines and open collars offer - perhaps encourage - an appreciative glance or glimpse. One's attention is drawn to an aesthetic geometry, a single tangent to two adjoining curves where the eye is drawn to follow the line down to tantalizing shadows.

Ego (or is it the superego?) and polite society advise otherwise.

I was talking across the table to a woman the other day and as I talked, she closed her hand around the top of her neckline. At this point I realize two or three or four things: that she has a somewhat revealing open neck sweater and that she's concerned about me looking down it. I think to myself, Did she think I was looking down her sweater? Was I looking down her sweater? Why did she wear that sweater if she was concerned with people looking down her sweater? Would I have noticed the tops of her tits (which were very pretty, by the way) if she hadn't moved to close the top of her sweater?

What's a poor boy to do? They are both our nature and our nurture, tits.

Now that I'm on the meds I feel less inhibited - which is more dangerous. At the risk of forever following the path down the slippery slope that is "dirty old man" ... 

("What am I, waiting to win an Oscar here? This is all I have in my life."

... I've decided to adopt a friendly arrangement: You show, I'll look.

Some of it has to do with getting old (although not all, as I recall witnessing a small group of teen-aged boys who were taking a break from their ball game to chat with - and grope - the high school sex kitten who had wandered by; gropers were rewarded with an elbow in the guts which elicited only more grins). You reach a point when you approach and then pass forty years old and you become acutely aware that (a) you're definitely going to die and it might not be very fun; and (b)  you are still attracted to pretty girls aged 20 and 30 (just like always) but they are never going to find you attractive again. "If they ever did," chimes in a voice from the peanut gallery. 

You are likely never again to know the passion of that first kiss. The heady feel of a young body next to yours.

In most circles, the resulting cycle of desperation and denial is known as the "Mid-Life Crisis" and it explains a lot about why men my age do some pretty stupid things.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

where ignorance prevails

I had an English and philosophy teacher in my first and second year of university who viewed time as a sphere, each point touching all others. All moments occurred simultaneously and our perception of them sorted them out. Something like that. He was an astonishing man, Dr. Morgan was. My mind was never as sharp as when I was studying under him. He seems now to have passed out of existence; I left that university in 1983. An internet search includes yields only two solid results, one dated 1986. But if time is a sphere, then I am writing this at the same time I am seated in his classroom, marveling at his wit and intellect.

It is tempting for me to write that time is not real, instead only  a concept existing in people's heads and on their wrists. There are no clocks in a lion's den. But nature observes cycles and the seasons, so an argument can be made that time is not the sole property of humankind.

Not so, justice.

I have been a poker player for only about a year, but have driven cars for much longer, have been victimized by a break-in and have observed from the sidelines the public chatter about the downfalls and shortcomings of our legal system.

The guy who passes you on the right while you're observing the speed limit makes the light that you stop for. The player who calls you before the flop with only 2 8 suited hits his flush to crack your pocket Kings. Lou Pai  makes millions as a CEO in Enron while little old ladies die in the heat of energy-deprived California. The good and the innocent who die young.

I wrote earlier in these pages of how I have an overtly acute sense of justice - how minor and petty injustices provoke disproportionate response feelings of anger and outrage.

My intellectual self splits from my emotional self to advise that justice (perhaps like time) is an artificial concept, created by humans, imposed on the universe and existing absolutely nowhere else in nature.