January 14, 2008


One of the best things I did for myself and my career last year was to buy myself a decent chair. When you spend as much time sitting at your desk as I do, the importance of a good chair cannot be overstated. But it wasn't easy. I looked for this chair for a long time. Years.

When I first started writing and wanted to be Jack Kerouac, I sat on a wooden stool. Just like him. Or rather, like he had, since he was already long dead by that point. He said it kept him grounded, kept him awake. That and all the Benzedrine. I loved the monastic asceticism of it. But those of you who know me know that I don't have a lot of meat on my bones, and after a couple of hours sitting on that stool I began to worry about pressure bruises on my ass. But I kept that up for a couple of years. Mostly for lack of a viable option. We didn't have a lot of furniture at that time. I kept the bruising at bay by taking a lot of breaks, which wasn't so good for the writing in the end.

My last chair wasn't much better. It was one of those old oak steno chairs from the 1950s. It had wheels, and even swivled, but the seat was hard as... well, oak. I think it's a chair Kerouac would've approved of. It was left in the house by the previous tenants, and I loved the way it looked. There was a certain purity and simplicity to it. And I appreciated the irony of working on a modern laptop while sitting on an ancient chair. But I still had to get up and walk around a lot.

I had long been dismayed by the pathetic gaggle of chairs on offer at Staples or any of the big office supply stores. It's like they keep them in the back of the store out of embarrassment. They are without exception, overpriced, plastic, disposable, ugly and uncomfortable. I've sat in many of them in the various offices I've had the displeasure of working in over the years, and not one of them ever inspired me to go out and buy one.

Then one day along came the Aeron chair. I read about it somewhere, probably in the New York Times, but I can't remember now. After doing a bit of research (Google) I knew I'd never be able to afford one, but hoped that since they were so immensely popular, someone somewhere sooner or later would build a more economical version that employed similar technology and ergonomics. Or, at the very least, that manufacturers of office chairs would start to give some serious thought to their product.

And so it was, years later, that I found the Think chair (pictured above). I first saw it in a photo on the side of a moving truck for an office supply store. A week later I had the Think chair in my office. It's simple, and elegant, and awfully comfortable but not in a soft, gooey way. It's firm and efficient. The arms are adjustable, not just for height, but forward, backward and side to side by way of an ingenious swivel built into the arm cap. One brochure I read claimed that the chair would increase productivity by 70 percent. I'm sure it's done at least that for me.

Anyway, I'm not trying to sell the thing. I'm just sayin'.

January 06, 2008

Benny's Gift

It being Sunday morning and all, I thought I'd catch up with my favourite televangelist.