A couple years ago, I had an epiphany while reading Gene Wolfe’s The Book of the New Sun, when the narrator Severian pointed out that

It is always a temptation to say that such feelings are indescribable, though they seldom are.

Today, though… Today I was finishing Wolfe’s superb 1988 novel There Are Doors, and I happened upon this on page 294:

"An indescribable sound filled the arena"

Which is it, Mr. Wolfe? Which is it?

I must admit, though, it’s nice that, immediately after he calls the sound indescribable, he proceeds to describe it with delightful economy. Wolfe may be fond of unreliable narrators, but his prose is reliably amazing.



Public Domain Pictures from the Met

A lot of art falls in the public domain. Now the Metropolitan Museum of Art has made it easier for you to use some of it. (And by “some” I mean “quite a lot”.)

For example, a high-resolution photo of Van Gogh’s painting Sunflowers is available for me to use free of charge. You too.

And if Munch’s The Scream is more your cup of tea, well, they’ve got you covered there too.

Have a look for yourself. If one of the 400,000+ pieces of art in their catalogue strikes your fancy, check for the Public Domain icon (a little 0 in a circle) and the download link. It appears that the public-domain content comprises 375,000 images, which, I think you’ll agree, is a lot.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to look at some J. M. W. Turner paintings.

Joseph Mallord William Turner (British, London 1775–1851 London)
The Lake of Zug, 1843
Watercolor over graphite; 11 3/4 x 18 3/8 in. (29.8 x 46.6 cm)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Marquand Fund, 1959 (59.120)

Thanks, The Met!

Thanks to my friend Kelly for pointing out this Engadget article on the topic.






Let’s Talk

Hey. Just a warning: This isn’t an easy read. It wasn’t easy to write, either.

Today is January 25th, when Bell, inspired by a spirit of boundless compassion*, will give a pile of money to mental health initiatives, so long as you tag your discussion correctly. So… here’s my 5¢ worth, I guess.

As some of you know, my dad recently died. He was in a nursing home for years before he left us, a victim of pretty severe dementia. So in a way, he died twice: once in the mind, slowly falling away over years, and then in body, later, more quickly.

Even before the dementia became apparent, there were hints of depression. Maybe things could have been different if he’d spoken up, or if we’d asked the right questions. (Let’s talk, Dad.) Hindsight is, of course, always 20/20, but Dad just wasn’t the type to talk about these things. (Neither am I, really. Not usually.)

I’m like Dad in a lot of ways. I look like him, I sound like him, and many of his mannerisms and turns of phrase are deeply ingrained in me too. We both love science fiction. We both lack a spleen, thanks to a genetic condition whose name I never learned.

But I’m also unlike him in a lot of ways. I do my best to go to the gym, which I think he might find a foreign concept. I don’t like canned peas (grey salty sadness pellets), I enjoy kiwifruit and yogurt, I read the occasional fantasy novel.

Sometimes—not very often, but sometimes—I wonder if his fate is my fate. People tell me that it’s not, and I do my best to listen.


* I imagine there are tax benefits, too.

Memories of JJ, 7 — Sartorial splendour


If you knew Dad, you knew he had his own sense of style. He wore moccasins as much as he possibly could*. In the summertime, if he wasn’t wearing moccasins, then he was barefoot. (Well, maybe sandals.)

At work and at play, he’d wear blue jeans and a button-up short-sleeve shirt. Later, after I’d left home, he discovered denim shirts. There was always a pen or a mechanical pencil in the shirt pocket, and usually a tube of Certs. (Remember Certs?)

The only time you’d see his legs was at the beach, in a bathing suit**. Otherwise, like I said: jeans.

* I wore jeans and moccasins at his funeral. It just seemed right.

** Which reminds me of another fun time. We were camping up at Blue Lakes. My sisters and I were swimming, and the water was cold. Like, my thumbnails turned blue cold. Dad, from the shore, asked how the water was. “Fine,” we said, and he ran in. And then complained all the rest of the weekend—and for years later, let me tell you—about his damn kids lying to him.

My dad passed away recently. I hope you’ve enjoyed my little memorials to him. This is the last one in the series, but rest assured, I’ll probably mention him again. Thanks for reading.

Posted in JJ.

Memories of JJ, 6 — Tar Fumes

(This one’s Susie’s, but I’m stealing it.)

Dad was, shall we say, not a fan of The Simpsons. (Neither is Mom, for that matter.)

Susie was home for the weekend, or maybe for the summer. She was downstairs watching The Simpsons. It was the episode where Ralph falls in love with Lisa, and makes the mistake of telling Homer that he’d do anything for Lisa.

“Anything?” says Homer. Aaaaand smash cut to the scene above.

Just at that moment, Dad walked into the room. He laughed. And as I’ve mentioned before, Dad didn’t generally laugh aloud unless something really tickled him.

Susie gave him a Busted! look.

He still refused to watch The Simpsons, though.

My dad passed away recently. I’m going to be posting little memories of him for the next little while. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Memories of JJ, 5 — Dietary quirks


Everyone’s got things they like to eat and things they’d rather not share a planet with. For instance, I love lasagna*/** and loathe turnips.


How do you eat your French toast? Butter and syrup, right? Maybe some whipped cream and berries, yeah? Not Dad. No, he’d butter it, add salt and pepper, and then slice it up and dip the pieces in strawberry jam.

I asked him once why he ate it that way. “When I was up North,” he told me, “I’d never had French toast before. Someone told me it was like scrambled eggs mixed into toast. So I reasoned that you put butter and jam on toast, and salt and pepper on eggs.”

Try it. It’s delicious. (Raspberry jam is also a great choice.)


Dad hated yogurt. Hated it. For years I wouldn’t eat it, because I assumed he was right. (He told me once that it looked, and I quote, “like the end product of a sick horse.” But he enjoyed cottage cheese. Go figure.)

Also he refused to eat kiwis. “I’m not putting something in my mouth that’s that shade of green.” I used to really enjoy eating them right beside him. I’d even exaggerate the smacking sounds that are pretty much de rigeur when you eat kiwi.

(Hmmm. Reading this back, it appears I might be a terrible son. Oh well. Je ne regrette rien.)

* I don’t much care for Mondays, either. Maybe I’m Garfield.

** Also, Dad taught me how to make lasagna Florentine, which is the best. Maybe I’ll make some this week.

My dad passed away recently. I’m going to be posting little memories of him for the next little while. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Memories of JJ, 4 — Resemblance

I look a lot like my dad. Everyone tells me that. (At the care home, on the day before he died, one of the administrators, meeting me for the first time, said, “Yeah, you look like him.” With the gallows humour I also inherited from dad, I thought (but didn’t say) Hopefully you mean before, because I scarcely recognized him anymore.)

I sound like him, too, and have pretty much since my voice quit cracking after puberty. More than once, when I lived at home (or, later, was visiting), I’d answer the phone and have someone call me JJ and ask me if I’d like to go for coffee, or if I could grant an extension on a computer science assignment*, or something like that. It always seemed to throw the caller for a loop when I’d say “Uh, hang on,” and give Dad the receiver.

The other day, I was washing my hands in the bathroom sink, and I happened to look up at my reflection. Something about the set of my mouth—a little wry smirk—and the stubble of a week’s worth of not shaving, combined with my eyes under, let’s face it, shaggy old-man eyebrows, really looked a lot like he used to. Back when he was my dad, not a lost stranger living in the care home.

I look like him. I sound like him. I carry on.

* That only happened once, I think. As tempted as I was to mess with the caller, I handed the phone over to Dad.

My dad passed away recently. I’m going to be posting little memories of him for the next little while. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Posted in JJ.