Rest in Peace, dear Ardessa

The first time we met was a challenge. Not a metaphorical challenge, or some kind of intellectual test with no ultimate meaning, it was an actual test. It was September 1994 and her downstairs neighbour and former roommate had had the temerity to return to Montreal with some kind of lover. To Ardessa, this was permitted – but would nevertheless require her approval.

So I was sitting in a strange apartment one street over from my new place wearing unfortunate khaki pants (which were never worn again) and a plaid button-down shirt (which was), sitting on a student-style futon that had been folded into its “couch” position. There was a big bottle of Chilean screwcap wine on the floor in front of me and I was holding a water tumbler full of the wine, looking up at this person standing before me, with blonde hair everywhere, and whose face alternated between nervous laughter and eyebrow-knitted interrogation as she tried to figure out who was this boy that N had brought home.

I passed the test, I suppose, and thus began a friendship with one of the most remarkable people I’ve ever had the pleasure to know. Whose friendship changed my life in ways that I didn’t understand then and never got the chance to tell her later. Who, I found out this morning at 6am, has passed away far too young.

We were never lovers – we never even made out (which is kind of surprising, if you knew Ardessa), and her friend N and I didn’t last very long as a couple (though we remained friends for a time). But for the next couple of years Ardessa became a great friend and, for a time, a constant companion. I was about 5 years older than everyone (at an age when 5 years was significant) so I was always a bit of an outsider with the group, but never with Ardessa.

Among the amazing group of artists and poets and singers who orbited her, Ardessa was always the brightest star. And she made sure that was the case, though not in an obnoxious way. Once she decided someone was a friend, that was that… at least until it wasn’t. Because when she broke with people, she broke with them completely – though to her credit she never (to my knowledge) used this as a weapon of manipulation.

She gave me a lot, this strange friend of mine. I look back and I was so naive and unsure of myself, just a young adult muddle of urges who was trying to succeed while slipping free of some of the expectations that had been placed upon him, with only a vague understanding of who I was or what I wanted. I carried myself with a lot more confidence than that – but that someone so completely given over to her art not only accepted me but liked me and sought me out… well, it gave me a confidence that I really needed.

Really, Ardessa had a kind of magic inside of her, and nurtured all of the magic around her – and if she couldn’t see the magic in a person, she either brought it out of them or… well there was no second option. I was always worried for her, this magical friend, because what happens to a person when there just isn’t any magic around? As far as I know, she never found that out. I hope she never did.

And so I have lived differently because Ardessa was in my life, because she helped me to see how awesome a life with a little magic could be. To a small extent I still measure up new experiences and people by asking “What would Ardessa think?” Not because I need her approval – it’s more subtle than that. It’s just that things just seem brighter and better when the Ardessas of the world (few as they are) are enthusiastic about them. And so if you’ve had the privilege of calling a woman named Ardessa “friend” that brightness and joy is something to be sought, or to feel guilty for not having sought when you lapse into the mundane or the typical.

So… be at peace, dear Ardessa. I’ll always miss you.

Hopefully not an idle threat…

There’s too much going on. I must start blogging again. I’ve refreshed the template here to be a little more flexible and I’m going to start bringing over some of the content I’ve put into Facebook and elsewhere soon.

But… I’ve said this before and not followed through. We’ll see.

This blog needs some serious attention!

Oof – this blog has been in serious hibernation. Interestingly enough, helping my friend Melora get her blog going has motivated me to revisit this place as well. More to come…

10 Years

Whoa. This month this is mikel.org turns ten (though the archives only go back to Feb 2000). I haven’t been very active on this blog in about a year, but it’s still alive and I am definitely coming back to it in the near future. Now that my company is entering a new, more mature/less startup phase, I’ll have more time for blogging.

Ten years is a long time for anything on the web to have existed, and in the blog world, it’s almost an eternity. There were already lots of blogs in existence when I started here – and those pioneers really inspired me (as well as proto-bloggers like Justin Hall) to start a blog in the first place. But it was nevertheless the very early days of the blogosphere when I got this going, and I remember those early days of blogging very fondly.

Back then, blogging was a lot closer to what Twitter is today, which is probably the most striking difference in the form between now and the early days. Remember there were no (or very few) inline commenting systems in the early blogosphere – so to comment on another blog, you had to write your own post on your own site and link back to the original post hoping that its author would notice. So – essentially the @username and RT functions in Twitter were then the state of the art in blogs as well.

Almost coincident with the tenth anniversary of mikel.org was the news (via Metafilter, where I’ve been a member for almost a decade as well) that another early blogger, Brad Graham, has died. I remember The Bradlands very very well, and although Brad and I never met (& I never have gone to SXSW, where many of the early bloggers first met), his passing brings a profound sense of loss. It’s the loss of a friend to many – but even to those of us who didn’t know him but were active in that era, he was a key member of the early community of bloggers, when it was possible to still discuss a “community of bloggers”.

Found while moving!

Tonight when moving the last of my stuff I came across my old copy of Millennium Cabaret (and yes it’s amazing to me that the site is still up). It’s a CD that (now) doubles as an important cultural record of a scene that thrived in Montreal throughout the 90s – and stretched backwards to the early 80s, as I recall the history.

The CD is full of performance poetry – a recorded anthology put together by Ian Ferrier including a who’s who of what was once a really thriving community here. Check out the website for some clips – but the CD itself is a wonderful document. I won’t name everyone (again, check the site) but if you can find a copy (or convince Ian that it’s time to put the whole thing online), you’ll find early work by Heather O’Neill, now-Toronto-expats Buffy Bonanza, Julie Crysler, and David Jager. It also features the ever-wonderful Cat Kidd (on temporary – I hope – leave from Montreal), the dean of the Montreal scene, Fortner Anderson, and many, many more.

Test from my iPhone

I can blog from anywhere! Starting to get faster with the keyboard too…

Ping!

Hmmm. It has been far too long since I’ve blogged here – time to get back to it. More soon….

What’s going on

I just realized I haven’t talked much about what I’m up to lately. When we moved back to Montreal, I had what I thought was going to be a great job developing a new, should-have-been revolutionary web product… but that didn’t really work out very well (they didn’t share my vision of what the site could have and should have been and I didn’t think it was worth the investment to think small). Since then, I’ve been working really hard to get a new company off the ground. My great friend Claude moved back from Paris a few months before I came back to Montreal and he has been working like a maniac to establish Exvisu in Montreal. Almost immediately we talked about merging our forces, and after one aborted attempt last spring, in the fall I started devoting some time to it and based on my good experiences in the early going, this past winter I dove in head first.

At the moment, Exvisu is all about doing a very unique and advanced kind of research to help leaders with marketing, communications, and political opportunities (or problems). We have the ability to go out into existing but unstructured data sets and learn a great deal more about an issue than traditional approaches can provide. From there, we work very closely with our clients to develop appropriate web-based strategies to address the opportunity or problem. And, to round out the offering, if our clients lack the capacity to execute on the strategy themselves, we’ll work with them to do the job.

It’s a pretty broad offering, but we’re exceeding the goals we set for ourselves in January. We have several clients and partners we’re working with such as AGY Consulting, K3 Media, Gartner Lee Limited and several others I can’t really mention. As well, we’re working hard on a couple of different technology projects that will be the key to moving from a pure consultancy to a much more ambitious play down the road.

Looking back at Wired 1.1

In his blog Fimoculous, Rex Sorgatz takes a look back at Wired 1.1, which came out 15 years ago this month.

I caught up with Wired at # 1.2, the Crypto Rebels issue, which I bought at a newsstand on Rideau Street in Ottawa. I was already familiar with both Mondo 2000 and the original bOING bOING zine, but that’s not to say that seeing the same kind of material in a clearly more mainstream magazine wasn’t pretty cool.

I wouldn’t say that Wired changed my life – as far back as 1.2 people who were involved in the culture Wired covered were (often rightly) critical of the magazine. But within a year I was in the world that Wired was all about – I had moved to Montreal and was working at CTHEORY, immersed in some of the earliest online publishing and (elsewhere) web community activity.

It’s kind of hard to believe it has been 15 years.

A moment of silence (2007)

Today is the anniversary of the Montreal Massacre, the deliberate killing of fourteen women at the École Polytechnique. So, at some point during the day, please take a moment and think about those victims and all victims of violence against women. This day has also become the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence against Women.

Almost 20 years hence, the events of 1989 seem at once remote and vivid. I remember almost every detail of the hours after I heard about the massacre – what I was doing, where I was, what was going on in my life, etc. At the same time, I spent the morning very close to the site of the events (I was at HEC) and it was if nothing had happened, nothing special was being remembered today. I guess that’s how the passage of time works: but as I have said before, for a certain generation of Montrealers, today is etched in our memories forever.