Tuesday, October 31, 2006

It's Halloween, Part Deux


Looking for Inspiration?

If anyone is planning to, oh I dunno, write a novel in the next month or so, and needs inspiration, may I direct you to the wired site. They have some 6-word stories that are really great. This concept springs from Hemingway who wrote a phenomenal 6-word story which I will now quote in its entirety:

"For sale: baby shoes, never worn."

That actually gives me shivers.

I like Margaret Atwood's contribution too:

"Longed for him. Got him. Shit."

and Frank Miller's:

"With bloody hands, I say good-bye."

I'm guessing if you can just get down those first 6 words, everything else will fill itself in.

Thanks for MsMushrooms for bringing this to my attention.


It's Halloween

It's Halloween.
It's Halloween.
It's time for scares.
It's time for screams.
It's Halloween.
It's Halloween.
- The Shaggs

If you don't know this tune, or have mercifully forgotten it (if that's possible) click on the link and then click Listen. You're in for a "treat".


Monday, October 30, 2006

Looking for Gary

I watched Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban on t.v. It made me wonder, what has happened to Gary Oldman? Other than the HP movies, what’s he been in lately? I can’t remember seeing his name since that political movie about the female Vice-President a few years ago, and in that one he was wearing an Arlen Specter fright wig. Let’s not go there.

Anyway, he should be making more movies.

Thus have I spoken.

Career Opportunities

Given the lousy weather of the past weekend, I was thinking I need to get a job in a warm climate, like, for instance, in Italy. I did a quick search and found this job in Rome:

LOCUST OFFICER (Information Analyst)
Rome, Italy
Fixed-term: 3 years
1) Use a geographic information system to enter, summarize and archive locust, environmental, rainfall and meteorological data received from affected countries;
2) Assist in the analysis of locust and environmental data in order to assess the locust situation and environmental conditions;
3) Prepare inputs for the monthly Desert Locust Bulletin;

Requirements: University Degree in Natural Sciences or related field with academic specialization in geographical information systems

I don’t have a degree in Natural Sciences, but as a kid I really liked grasshoppers. I used to pick them up all the time; so that should be considered relevant, equivalent experience. I should update my curriculum vitae ASAP.

At the movies

It’s increasingly rare that I see a movie that I enjoy so much I’m still thinking about how much I enjoyed it the next day. Happy to report that The Departed is such a movie. It was so enjoyable that when I got home I put on Goodfellas just to watch more Scorsese.

The Departed is Goodfellas except instead of Italian-American gangsters, it’s Irish-American cops. That’s all you need to know. And Jack Nicholson is giant ham. The first few minutes are all Jack’s and he’s a hoot.

Everybody’s good in it: DeCaprio, Damon, Alec Baldwin (!) And I think it’s finally safe to say that Mark Wahlberg is a really good actor, without having to follow it by the words “No, really, I’m serious”. He’s terrific in this. I’ve liked Mark Wahlberg since Boogie Nights but I’ve always felt rather guilty about it, but no more.

And being a Scorsese movie, it has a few great-looking shots and terrific music. Great script, too. For once, my lousy memory served me well. I’d seen the original Hong Kong version, but because I can’t retain anything in this brain of mine, I didn’t remember any of the twists and turns of the plot, so I was surprised all over again. Hurray for bad memory.

Sunday, October 29, 2006


Another bleh day here. So grey and windy.
Here's another Tuscany picture. I like this one. It's got that Hand of God feeling to it.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Bleh Saturday

As predicted, the weather stinks today. So let's look at some pictures of the ominous clouds of Tuscany. This is the walled city of Montereggioni. Despite the clouds, it didn't actually rain that day.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Telling Tales on Myself

I know the beauty of a blog is its anonymity. Blabbing away into cyberspace to people who don’t know you, right? It really frees a person up to reveal anything stupid about herself. Or himself. But in my case, this blog is read mainly by people who actually know me so the whole anonymity angle is kind of a non-starter. So I had to decide whether I wanted to relate the following story which makes me look like a pathetic ass, but it is so physiologically interesting that I can’t resist.

A little background. A few years ago there was a young gentleman who worked in my building and who I thought was attractive. At least one reader of this blog already knows of him as the “Cafeteria Guy”, the cafeteria being the only place I ever ran into him. We chatted a couple of times, but in one of those mysterious, confounding cases of crossed signals or missed signals or whatever the hell it was, we stopped talking. Then his department moved to another building and essentially he disappeared. I rarely ran into him after the move. And if I did, we did not speak. He had not crossed my mind in many months.

Back to today. After work I head down to our gym. It is a small gym and very few employees use it. Those of us who do, all know each other. So I’m expecting to see a couple of regulars, but when I walk in, who is the only person using the gym? Yep, Cafeteria Guy. I stop dead in my tracks, then recover quickly, and walk in. He nods and says hi, I nod and say hi. But while my exterior is nodding and casually saying hi, my insides are going HOLY SMOKE! What’s HE doing here???

I go into the changing room still thinking YIKES! So I change and put on my heart rate monitor. And here is the funny part. Normally when I first put on the heart rate monitor, my rate is around 85. But now I switch it on and it's already at 115 ! Shock = adrenaline rush = elevated heart rate. Isn’t that bizarre? I switch it off, and then switch it on again. It's still at 113. It’s an Uma Thurman moment.

I was tempted to tell him that seeing him elevated my heart rate by 30 points, but that would make me look like a very scary head case. So I said nothing. I think his ego is sufficiently large as is.

Nothing else happened. When I went out, he was very inelegantly hurling himself off the treadmill and said that he was terrified of injuring himself on it and then he was gone. But he did have a piece of paper with a workout program on it, so perhaps I shall be testing my heart rate monitor again soon.

Because a week without Mahmoud is like

a week without sunshine.

Is this a recent photo, I wonder. Because his beard sure is lookin' scraggily. I suspect he is trying to win my affections by being more Fidel-esque. Sorry, Mahmoud, but there's only one Fidel.

Nice to see the jacket is still in good shape, though.

I hate this time of year

My good friend, theweathernetwork.com, says 1 to 3 cm of snow overnight, and 20-30 mm of rain on Saturday. bleh, bleh, bleh.

I really hate this time of year.

I guess I'm suppose to say that rain is better than snow, but still, it is so darn depressing. And it's grey today, even though the lying forecast had called for sun. I forget what sun looks like. gripe, gripe, gripe.

Things to do today:
1. Purchase wine
2. Consume wine
3. Purchase more wine.

Busy Week

What with being irked by the war and all, I haven't had any time or energy left to devote to disliking Ignatieff. I'll have to remedy that soon.

Also, I was asked why I haven't commented on the Belinda-Potato Head-dog story. Simple. I hate both of them. I think they deserve each other and therefore should get back together, thus sparing other individuals (like Tie Domi) the unpleasantness of getting involved with either of them.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Let's go to Siena

Dropping the politics again. Time for a break.
There are many motorcycles in Siena. This is probably true in all of Italy, but it was only in Siena that I felt I was going to be run over every 2 minutes.

But there are churches too!

A little bit of Michael Ware is good for the soul

Wolf Blitzer: "The president flatly said today the United States is winning. . . .From your point of view, does it look like the U.S. is winning right now?"

Michael Ware: "The president's remarks are absolutely striking, Wolf. I mean I would very much like to ask President Bush how he defines winning, because on the ground here, it looks like anything but. Given the state of chaos, given the near civil war, given the rising tempo of the Sunni insurgency, given the increasing influence, as Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad pointed out, of Iran and, to a lesser degree, Syria, I would like to know how the president defines victory."

I look forward to the day when Ware finally completely loses it and says: "Wolf, Bush is a delusional nut job." Should be any day now...

All the Fun Stuff Happens in Cleveland

"On Friday, October 20th, 2006, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum will unveil its latest exhibit, Revolution Rock: The Story of the Clash, with a weekend of Clash-related events. The exhibit – culled from the personal collections of members of the Clash and major collectors – will intimately document one of the most important punk bands in rock and roll history. Revolution Rock will be open to the public from October 21, 2006 to April 15, 2007 at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland, Ohio. "

So unfair.

The lazy man's guide to withdrawing from Iraq

Watched several commentators on Iraq last night. David Gergen has the right idea, I think. He calls the US plan “blame and run”. Here is my version of “blame and run”. It’s based as well on Bill Maher’s explanation of how men break up with women.

Let’s say the US (and its military) is “the boyfriend” and Iraq is the “long-suffering girlfriend”. The boyfriend really, really wants to dump his girlfriend, but he’s a bit of coward and can’t face doing this mean thing out in the open, so he decides to be a rotten boyfriend instead.

Being a rotten boyfriend will involve doing things like yesterday’s raid in Sadr City that killed 4 Iraqi civilians and wounded 18, and didn’t result in killing any terrorist target. That kind of thing upsets the girlfriend, so expect to see a lot more of it in the next 12 months.

In this way, in a year or so, the girlfriend will be so fed up she will yell at the boyfriend to pack his toothbrush and get the hell out. And then the boyfriend can say to the girlfriend’s family and friends (i.e. all the other nations on Planet Earth) “Look I tried to make it work, but she threw me out.” So he will walk away.

But, girlfriend won’t be alone for long, but because new boyfriend (let’s call him "Mahmoud") had essentially already moved in about 2 years earlier and was just waiting for that empty spot on the toothbrush holder. Ah, home at last.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

My Day So Far

Occasionally I have to work with a gentleman I think of as the Delightful Eccentric. Yesterday, we arranged that I would be in his office promptly at 8:30 this morning. Well, as usual, I was late so I didn’t show up until 8:50. I stopped to say hello to his secretary, and when he spotted me outside his office, he leapt from behind his desk and promptly SLAMMED his office door shut, causing his secretary to gasp and scream just a tiny bit. And left me standing there with my mouth hanging open.

Ten seconds later, he opens the door a crack, peaks out and says “you’re late”. And then happily welcomes me into his office.

I had told him I only needed 10 minutes of his time, and it turned out he could answer my questions in about 2 minutes, so he sadly said “you’re finished? But we still have 8 minutes!” so I thought of other questions to ask him. What a nut.

You don’t need a coffee to wake up when this is your first meeting of the day.

He’s retiring next year, and I’m going to miss him.

In Hell-Hole Iraqi News

Yesterday morning, I was surprised to see CBC Newsworld broadcasting live the pep talk from the US Ambassador to Iraq and the top US general over there. I watched a bit, while brushing my teeth, and a bit was all I needed. Bush is being criticized for his stay-the-course policy (“But I NEVER said that” sez W, apparently oblivious to the fact that television news conferences and interviews can be replayed at a later date!) so that poor general has to make the argument that they have never been staying the course, but have been bobbing, weaving and adapting since the beginning, like Woody Allen describing a relationship as an ever-moving shark in Annie Hall. Right! Sorry, general, but you’ve got a dead shark on your hands.

I was surprised at how useless the reporting was on this story. As usual, the only one who called them on this bullshit was (you guessed it) our man Michael Ware, who said “we’ve heard it all before”. To his credit, he didn’t yawn while saying it.

The guy who is really screwed here is powerless PM Al-Maliki. He’s snapping at his American occupiers, who feel free to put words in his mouth and then let him deny them. What a crap job he has.

Al-Maliki has clearly fallen out of favour with the Americans, and they are planning to toss him out. Isn’t about time the US installed every-Neocon’s-favourite-Iraqi, Chalabi the Hideous Worm, into power? Wasn’t this Cheney’s goal all along? There’s nobody left to run the place, and they obviously won’t take my advice, which is: Bring Back Saddam! Free the Man in the Hole! He will restore order.

Meanwhile, back in the UK, Tony says the British policy in Iraq won’t change. What? He’s “staying the course”? Didn’t he get the memo?

Two weeks until Bob Live in Concert

Is it too early to start my Big Bob CountDown? hmmm. I suppose it is. Even I can't hype Bob for 2 solid weeks.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Part of a Conversation...

...I had while in Italy. The Other Person involved will be identified only as O.P.

Opening: General talk about how the war is bad and getting worse….

O.P.: What do you think is going to happen to that man?
Me: What man is that?
O.P.: The man they found in the hole.
Me: I dunno who…
O.P.: Oh, you know! He was hiding in a hole, and the soldiers found him!
Me: Saddam Hussein???
O.P.: Yeah, that’s him. What do you think will happen to him?

Statues R Us

These are all around the Uzzifi in Florence. I love statues. Always have, always will.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Back to Florence

I'm fed up with complaining about Canadian politicians.
Let's visit the Duomo in Florence instead.

Separatist Cat Fight! Meow! Hiss!

Nothing delights me more than watching former PQ Premiers scratch and claw at each other. Especially when one of them is (by jove!) Mr. Monopoly himself, Blacques Jacques Parizeau. Truly he is the most loathsome of them all.

People outside Canada won’t have the pleasure of being familiar with oozing Fat Jacques but, believe me, he lifts snobbism to a new level. In a nutshell, this is a French Canadian, educated at the London School of Economics, who speaks perfect English, like an Englishman. I ask, does anybody in the English upper-class still use the expression “by jove”? Well Jacques does, and he’s not trying to be funny when he says it, which is precisely what makes him so laughable.

So when he said, regarding Lucien Bouchard’s latest criticism of us lazy-ass Quebecois, that (translated quote): “Once again the Quebecois have disappointed Mr. Bouchard. Once again. It is a shame” it’s impossible for me to reproduce the insufferable tone of his “ironic” comments.

Bouchard responded that Mr. Monopoly himself had once disappointed Bouchard, referring to tipsy Jacques’s infamous drunken xenophobic speech back in 1995. heh heh heh.

Bouchard is Bouchard, an opportunist all the way. A federalist when it suited his career, and a separatist when that later suited his career. We all know where he stands: this being, where it most serves him at any given time in his life. Now his role is to browbeat us about our bad work habits. There must be prestige in this for him somehow.

Global Warming? Who cares?

I’m joining the Harper government on this one. Fretting about the future of the planet is just silly. I’m not going to worry my pretty little head about it for one minute more.

Hey! Not caring is fun.

Of course, what I’m really doing is griping about the govt’s new plan for fighting greenhouse gas emissions. It’s a “no plan” plan. I don’t remember seeing a govt policy so universally panned right from the get-go, except for Alberta oil executives, of course, who are “relieved”. It’s pretty genius, though.

Quote: [the policy] “sets a new target for cutting overall greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2050.” And “The plan gives Canadian companies until 2020 to meet as-yet undetermined targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”

Steve: Let’s create a policy whose results can’t be evaluated until 2050, when we’re all long time dead!

And “as-yet undetermined targets” don’t have to be met until 2020. That basically says NOTHING has to be done for 14 years.

For shame!

On the bright side, in 14 years Montreal will be in a tropical zone, so I will finally have my wish of living in a warm climate year-round. Thanks, Steve.

Friday Cat Blogging

I dunno who started the practice of Friday cat blogging, but since I finally have a usable picture I now join a great Internet tradition...so..[drum roll] bring on the cats.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Another Tuscan photo

because there is more to life than comfortable-fitting jeans.

In Medical News

A drug company has told people to stop putting hemorrhoid cream on their faces. The cream, made by Schering, is called Scheringproct. According to a Norwegian TV report, "many photo models used the cream in the morning to get rid of puffy eyes." The report seems to have triggered a spike in sales. Please remember that the cream is "a pharmaceutical that is used on hemorrhoids and around the opening of the large intestine." (Newsweek)

This reminds me of Christopher Guest’s immortal line in Waiting for Guffman:

Corky St.Clair: Well, then, I just HATE you... and I hate your ass FACE!

Jeans Update

Detainees at Guantanamo Bay are getting fat. On average, each has gained 20 pounds; most have become overweight or obese. Reasons: Rich food and little exercise. (Newsweek)

Opportunity knocks. I sense a captive market for my new line of “George Kennedy fit” jeans!

More on middle-aged jeans

There’s a guy who rides my bus every morning, and he wears the male equivalent of mom jeans. They are a kind of dull-looking denim and have an ample seat. He himself is dull looking and has an ample seat, but I digress.

My question: is there such an item as “pop jeans” to complement “mom jeans”?

Is there a market for men’s jeans with a loose, comfortable fit? I’m assuming there is, but I suspect marketers can’t call them that because no self-respecting man is going to go to a store and ask for “comfortable fit” jeans. Male ego and all that jazz, you know.

I figure there’s a code word for these things that allow men to buy them without ever having to admit to themselves or anyone else that there are now middle-aged and have let themselves go to pot.

Roomy? No. Way too obvious.
Generous? Perhaps.
Mature? Nope. Too old sounding.

How about successful? “Successful man fit.”

Personally I’d name ‘em after some beloved celebrity with a similar physique.

“George Kennedy fit”.

The sleaziest headline in the history of sleazy headlines

“Priest tells of nude Foley massage” (CNN.com)


The media is going to have to go a long way to beat this one this year.

Florence - the River Arno

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

How does this look?

The first of my Tuscany photos. There will be lots more to come. This is from one of our hikes. Not bad, eh?

We, the Lazy Quebecois

I’ve been trying to figure out what I want to say about this story.

“QUEBEC — Lucien Bouchard's comments that Quebeckers don't work as hard as Ontarians and Americans sparked a furor Tuesday, with labour leaders and anti-poverty groups accusing the former Parti Québécois premier of being out of touch.

But some business leaders said they hope his remarks will encourage Quebeckers to rethink whether they can continue their current lifestyle.

“We don't work enough,” Mr. Bouchard said Monday night on the French-language TVA network. “We work less than Ontarians and infinitely less than Americans. We have to work harder.”

In the interview, Mr. Bouchard blamed what he called Quebeckers' poor work ethic and low productivity for the province's high debt and taxes and its economic stagnation.”

As I was saying to Rattansifan just the other day, my mother always said that Americans work A LOT harder for their money than we do. Now, apparently, so do Ontarians.

I guess the argument comes down to: do you work to live or live to work? And if you work to live, as we do here, how long can the economy sustain this?

Everyone’s saying the labour unions are too strong and workers never do one iota more than their job descriptions tell them to. I've spent a lot of time in hospitals over the last few years, so I've seen that attitude plenty of times, but I've also seen nurses and orderlies do things that I knew were not part of their jobs, so not everyone is the same. I know that work-to-rule attitude is not productive, but is it better to have employers who expect their employees to work regular overtime without pay? And employees who do it, knowing it is expected? That’s not fair either.

You know how, with US Generals, they can’t say what they really think of the Iraq War until they have retired? It’s the same with PQ politicians. They can’t tell Quebeckers they are lazy unless they are retired and absolutely certain they are never going back to public life.

Now I may not be a 100% pure Quebecoise, so in the minds of hard-core PQ supporters my opinion means nothing but, face it, if I was hard-working, would I do most of my blogging at the office? (Rhetorical question, that.) If this was Deadwood, people would call me a lazy c**ksucker.

I think it’s silly to deny that we work less hard than other people, but nothing in the system compels us to work harder*. So why should we? I like being out the door at 4:30.

*I do expect a comment from Mr. Anonymous on this. Rumour has it he works slightly harder than I do.

Lost in Space

I swear I'm making an effort these days to ignore the things Bush does, just because if I commented on everything I would drive myself crazy. But today he has irked me again and I must comment.

“President Bush has signed a new National Space Policy that rejects future arms-control agreements that might limit U.S. flexibility in space and asserts a right to deny access to space to anyone "hostile to U.S. interests."

A right to deny access to space? I’m waiting to hear from the Martian ambassador.

“National Security Council spokesman Frederick Jones said in written comments that an update was needed to "reflect the fact that space has become an even more important component of U.S. economic, national and homeland security."

When did space become part of the US homeland? This really annoys me. Grrrr.

A good reason to avoid Mexico for 4 days

This is really scary.

"Clown convention opens in Mexico

MEXICO CITY, Mexico (AP) -- There was hardly room for all the big feet and rubber noses as hundreds of clowns from across Latin America opened a four-day convention in a Mexico City theater on Monday.

Some 400 clowns, mainly from Mexico but with contingents from Central America, the Dominican Republic and the United States, gathered for four days of workshops, classes and, well, just clowning around."

Even the cutesy tone of the article makes me cringe. I'm an anti-clownite. I admit it.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Learned a new term today

From the Washington Post:
“The term "mom jeans" was introduced a few years ago as part of hilarious fictitious "Saturday Night Live" commercial with an unforgettable tag line: "This Mother's Day, don't give Mom that bottle of perfume. Give her something that says, 'I'm not a woman anymore. I'm a mom!' " It poked fun at mothers who wear the matronly jeans that immediately typecast them as being women who're hopelessly out of touch with fashion trends (at best) and sexually repressed (at worst). Women who wear mom jeans can be found everywhere: waiting for a latte at Starbucks, perched atop teensy chairs at parent-teacher meetings, running errands at Home Depot, Olive Garden.

To be fair ...mom jeans serve a purpose for a very particular type of woman. The denim is made of soft, washable cotton, so the jeans are very easy to care for. The styling and cut is often generous, especially in the pants leg, waist and tummy….

If the zipper on your jeans is the same length as that People magazine you're reading in the grocery store check out aisle, you're probably losing the camouflage fight. And if the back pockets are the size of an IHOP pancake and are situated on the fleshy part between the waist and the bottom of the booty, they should have no place in your closet.”

My question: what if you are wearing Mom Jeans and you’re not even a mom? What does that make you, other than middle-aged?

ipod nation

Last night on the local news, they interviewed friends and neighbours of a family who were murdered here in Montreal. Actually, the mother and two daughters were shot to death by the father, who then shot himself, and is in hospital. I have no idea if he will live or die.

These things happen all too often, but that’s not what caught my attention. What I did notice was one interviewee who talked about her shock and disbelief etc. etc. while keeping the headphones of her ipod in her ears the whole time.

I speak as an ipod owner. I like my ipod and wear it almost every day. But. BUT.

How can I take a person seriously if she keeps those things in her ears during a television interview on a very serious subject. I was appalled. There’s no way to know if she even bothered to turn the thing off, or whether she expressed her horror while listening the new Justin Timberlake. And she wasn’t a teenager. I’d guess she was in her early 30s.

Take the ipod off, folks, every now and then. Is that so hard? Show a little respect for the dead.

Gripe, gripe

Last night, during commercial breaks whilst watching Deadwood (which has commercials here, unlike on HBO), I flipped to CNN a couple of times. First, Larry King (our hero!) was interviewing the creepy wanna-be child beauty queen killer,.which was bad enough, but that’s Larry, I expect the lowest common denominator from him, but then at 10:00 I saw that Anderson too was reporting on the nut from Thailand. Is it time to officially throw in the towel on CNN? I fear so.

But I won’t because on AM yesterday morning, I did see Michael Ware reporting from Baghdad. As I hadn’t seen him in a long while and suspected that he’d finally been sacked for saying Condi Rice was living in an alternate reality, I was glad to see him still gainfully employed.

So I’ll keep watching CNN, but only in small, small doses.

Monday, October 16, 2006

First one of the season

I got my first heating-oil delivery on Saturday. I was quite happy, since last year I decided to lock in at 71 cents/litre, but this year I was in gamblin’ mood and decided to see where the market would lead. It was 59 cents/litre. Wheee, I’m practically rich.

Cheapish oil’s days are numbered, however, since I see that OPEC want to cut back on production, by a million barrels a day, in order to boost the price. Lord knows how painful it would be for those sad little oil producers to let me have my heating oil at a mere 59 cents all winter long. They’d be on the corner holding a tin cup, begging for quarters. I feel for them.

I’m not too worried, though, because my plan is that once the price starts to rise I’m going to write a really flattering letter to Hugo and politely request that he send a few hundred free litres of that sweet Venezuelan crude my way. If he doesn’t say yes right away, I’ll send a follow up letter attaching a comical drawing of Bush with horns, a tail and a pitchfork. Hugo will be so charmed by this, he’ll have to send me a tanker of freebie crude. What a devilishly good plan this is.

Here I am...

...patting a Tuscan dog. Isn't this a flattering angle? Yikes.

Friday, October 13, 2006

The Return of Lord Pompous Windbag

Schadenfreude, baby.

“[Shameless asshat] Conrad Black stepped up his campaign to regain Canadian citizenship yesterday with a speech in Toronto laden with praise for the country he was forced to renounce when he joined the British House of Lords.

“In his most significant public appearance since being charged in the United States last December with racketeering, tax evasion and fraud, the 62-year-old former newspaper magnate told business leaders that Canada is poised to play a larger role in the world.

“He followed those comments with support for Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper.”

Canadian citizenship must be preferable to an American jail, I suppose. “racketeering, tax evasion and fraud”. Yeah. We really want him back.

I’m not certain how regaining his citizenship could protect him from the US charges. As far as I’m concerned Lord Pretty-Please-Take-Me-Back should twist in the wind for a while. A long, long while. I’d like to see him beg on his knees for a while, and then suck up publicly to Jean Chretien. That would be so much fun. But his sucking up is reserved for Big Steve now and I fear Steve will fall for it, though Lord Snob is so unpopular here that if Steve thinks supporting Snob could cost him a few votes, he won’t touch him with a 10 metre poll.

And poor Lordy Lord had to sell his Rolls this week, too. Life is tough. You know, I like the British and mean them no harm, but really, they’ve got him and they should have to keep him and his curly House of Lords wig, too.

In blogging news

I see that Mahmoud has finally updated his blog. It's about time.

I'm quite excited about reading it, but it's awfully long so I haven't had time yet. The opening paragraphs indicate he wasn't too impressed with the level of discourse back in New York.

I wonder if he's plotting anything to get world attention back on him, or if he's glad to be out of the international spotlight for now. If he doesn't do something about the employment situation at home or the pollution and traffic problems in Tehran, I think he's going to be in trouble with the local electorate, so maybe he should focus on domestic issues for a while. Just my opinon.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Beauty, Truth, Truth, Beauty, Etc. Etc.

I love churches. Not for churchy reasons, but I love to visit them. And I love being in awe of them. I have not seen that many, and only a few of the great cathedrals of the world, i. e. St. Paul’s, Cologne, Notre-Dame, but as it stands I have to say that the most beautiful church in the world is the Duomo in Siena.

There is so much in that church that shook me. From the ceiling to the floor and every wall in between. It made the hair on my arms stand up. Best of all, it confirmed to me that I can still be moved by great art. I got weird tingly feelings in my neck.

To walk around the church and try to appreciate the years spent by hundreds and hundreds of sculptors, painters, woodworkers and all manner of artisans, working to produce and perfect this place for the worship of God and the glory of the Church. It’s staggering.

There were two regular guys working at restoring the floor. They were chipping at it with chisels, and I wondered how often they stopped and thought about how they were members of an exclusive group that had built and restored this church over 500 years or more. Do they sense that they are part of a great tradition? They have to!

And in all of this, the best part is the Piccolomini Library. It's a mind blower.

It's all about the intent

From Harpers:
"Iranian Supreme Leader Sayyid Ali Khamenei announced that intentional masturbation during Ramadan breaks the fast."

I want an explanation of how one partakes in unintentional masturbation. All enlightened comments are welcome.

Our Friends, the French

“The French parliament has adopted a bill making it a crime to deny that Armenians suffered "genocide" at the hands of the Turks, infuriating Turkey.

The bill, which provides for a year in jail and a heavy fine, still needs approval from the Senate and president.” (BBC)

As a non-European I don’t understand the significance of this bill. Who does it protect? How does it advance society, or law and order? Whose interests does it serve? It strikes me as a “We’re French and we like being assholes” law. This looks a law designed strictly to piss off Turkey. What gives???

I believe that there was indeed genocide committed against Armenians by the Turks in 1915, but I’m baffled by the need to make it a crime to deny it.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Our New World

A brief word about North Korea’s nuclear test. I’m only coming to realize how important this is to all of us in our mundane little lives.

Alice Miles in the Times of London wrote: “And now we have this: a tinpot totalitarian with no economy to speak of, whose people are starving, thumbing his nose at the world. And we look to China to tell us what happens next.”

It’s the last sentence that floored me. I didn’t feel it happen, but the tectonic plate shifted. It really did. Isn’t it scary and extraordinary that the world can’t look to the USA for leadership anymore? This is the first time that we must all look toward China and expect it to take care of an international crisis for us. We need China to protect us. This is friggin’ huge. So huge that I think we can’t quite understand it yet. I’ve always wondered what it would be like to live through some big geopolitical shift. Now I know. The world changed on Monday and I didn’t feel any different.

The 20th Century belonged to America and the 21st belongs to China. The starting gun went off on Monday, and now we are in their hands. This is really scary.

On Getting Drunk in the Morning

One day last week we had an excursion to a couple of wineries for a wee bit of wine-tasting. It lead me to wonder how alcohol consumption affects us. i.e. why is it so easy to get drunk in the morning? Is it because breakfast, the most important meal of the day, is not the largest meal of the day, therefore we don’t have enough in our tummies to absorb our late-morning libations and they thus go straight to our heads?

And what about afternoon drinking?

I was feeling a bit sick that morning so I really held back on the 11:00 wine tasting. I had taken a couple of gravol around 10 and although I learned that gravol seems to have no affect on me whatsoever, I did determine it would be tempting fate to slosh down a couple of glasses of wine on top of the gravol, just to see if it would knock me out cold. So I just had a couple of sips. But I watched my travelling companions swig down the vino and everything got pretty silly pretty fast.

At the afternoon session, I had regained my sea legs and partook happily of the offerings. A glass of nice solid red table wine, followed by a couple of small glasses of a tasty chianti, followed by biscotti dipped in vin santo. In a nutshell, and to paraphrase Shane MacGowan, by 4 in the afternoon every bastard there was pissed.

I don’t believe everybody would’ve gotten as drunk as quickly if it had been night-time. But that’s just my theory. I have no empirical study to back it up.

South of the Border

While there’s nothing more pleasurable for me than to watch the Republicans self-destruct in a sordid pool of gay scandal and hypocritical denial, I still think that as long as there is electronic voting in the US with no paper trail and no way to do an honest recount, the Republicans will never lose another election.

Unless they choose to. Which given the state that they have put the country in over the past 3 years, they may do next month. Let the Democrats sort out the mess.

That's the great thing about American politics. You can be as corrupt as you want, and nobody really cares. But it's always the sex that gets you in trouble. They really need to get over this.

I heard some nut on the news last night claim there was a “gay Republican cabal” that had been plotting the downfall of their own party for some time now. Whatever.

Legally, I don’t think anyone in this has done anything wrong. It’s just all a bit unsavoury for the party of family values, I suppose. But what is it about men in power that they think they can leave a trail of explicit e-mails and text messages and never get caught. Where are people’s brains?

Wowzer! Nostalgia moment

I was over at Jason67's site just now, and I HAD to steal this picture. It is so awesome. I remember the Kaleidoscope Pavillion and how cool I thought it was when I was a kid. I guess I just love pretty colours. This hostess just completes the shot, don't you think?

I wish I could understand the mindset of a generation that decided this style of dress is attractive.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

I'm proudly ABI

I was watching Tout le Monde en Parle on Sunday night, and Michael Ignatieff was one of the guests. This is the most popular talk show in Quebec.

Anyway, Iggy decided that it would be amusing to pick on Air Canada. He said that he was appalled by Air Canada, but then said he had nothing against the employees. This made no sense to me. In a business like an airline, how can you pooh-pooh an airline but then support its employees? One of the main things that makes an airline good or bad is the staff. I guess he thought he was being a “man of the people” or some such crap, but his “joke” was that one of the things that unites all Canadians is a dislike of Air Canada.

Well, I harrumphed, I just flew Air Canada last week and I was perfectly satisfied with the service. The food was edible and the employees both in-flight and at the airport were courteous. I admit they showed Mission Impossible 3, forcing me to look at Tom Cruise’s stupid face for 2 hours, but I can’t really hold that up as negligence or intentional cruelty.

So Iggy’s joke fell flat with me, giving me another reason to dislike him.

He also said that when Bob Rae was his college room-mate, he never made his bed. I guess this was supposed to be funny too. But it wasn’t.

Colour me ABI: Anybody But Iggy. Me and my buddy Lloyd Axworthy, we’re both ABI. Why doesn’t Axworthy get back into politics? Him, I always liked.

Meanwhile back at the Uffizi

Contrary to my disappointment over the display of Bottecelli’s Venus, I’m happy to report that I had a very good viewing experience with Titian’s Venus. You know her. We all know her. She had a nice bright space on a fair-sized wall and was given due respect.

I lucked out because I entered that room just as a big group was finishing up there. Had they remained, it would’ve been impossible to get a good look, but they cleared out and I was left alone in front of the painting for a brief time. Believe me, in a busy place like the Uffizi to be granted about 30 seconds for a one-on-one with such a famous work of art is to have been very fortunate indeed.

On prudes and wild women

When was the last time you encountered a real prude? I think they are in fact pretty rare these days. We had one on our trip. She was originally from Romania, so let us call her “the Romanian Prude”. (Apologies to JAW fan. I’m not slandering your home land, but she really was Romanian.)

It’s only in meeting a live one that I realized how unusual it has become for someone to be truly, deeply prudish. And since life always imitates sitcoms, it was inevitable that the Romanian Prude would be paired up with a room-mate I will call "the Wild Woman". Wild Woman, a very attractive lady whose age I estimate at mid-50s (she refused to divulge this info), went to Italy with the clear intention of landing herself a slice of young hot Italian. There was no doubt about that.

Every evening, after supper, which usually ended sometime between 9:30 and 10:00, WW would stroll over to the Internet Café to e-mail her sons, and then according to Romanian Prude, WW would hang around a bit in the town square, eyeing the local merchandise. Romanian Prude was scandalized by this, and would tell us at breakfast “I don’t even know what time she came home!!”

On Wednesday (forever to be remembered by yours truly as the night of the perfect bowl of spaghetti) Wild Woman got pretty hammered on the house vino. As luck would have it, five 20-something men sat at the table beside us. And I swear I am not making this up: they were carpenters from Naples. They really do exist, young Neapolitan carpenters. And here I thought they were only in our fantasies.

(One of them bore a striking resemblance to my azzurri love Fabio Cannavaro, clearly of the same pale-blue-eyed Neapolitan stock. I stared. I admit it.)

Wild Woman ended up having her picture taken on various laps of various young guys from Napoli, much to the amusement of the 4 Germans (3 women and 1 man) at the other table. Meanwhile the Romanian Prude suffered a slow nervous breakdown, at one point actually saying to the Germans “You know, I don’t know this woman. She’s not related to me.” Then Wild Woman got up and went and sat on the German man’s lap. He was lovin’ it, and the women at his table laughed their heads off.

As we were walking back to the hotel, I got an earful from the Romanian Prude. “She’s going to regret it! What she’s doing is so dangerous! Something terrible could happen! She could get herself in real trouble!” I was tempted to point out that I was sure Wild Woman was post-menopausal and therefore unlikely to get herself “in trouble”, but I didn’t say anything because this was clearly no laughing matter and the Romanian Prude had yet to exhibit any discernible sense of humour. So I just nodded and kept my mouth shut.

Then back in our room, my room-mate and I laughed ourselves silly over the unfortunate incompatibility of our fellow travellers. We really couldn’t stop laughing about it.

Monday, October 09, 2006

The Bad Boy of Italian Art

Last Thursday, I was in Florence and I went to the Uffizi.

The big draw of the Uffizi is Bottecelli's Birth of Venus. Or Venus on the Half Shell, as I usually think of her. Alas I was disappointed in her. A painting this grand deserves its own wall, if not its own room. But poor Venus, there she is sharing a wall with several other paintings in the Bottecelli room. She's an icon; she really deserves a more honourable presentation. And she's poorly lit too.

Fortunately the Uffizi experience was saved for me by the discovery of two monster cool paintings by Caravaggio. I've been reading up on Caravaggio ever since I got back. What a life. Look him up.

First, we have his Medusa. Isn't she scary? She's mounted on a shield so she's kinda 3D and wow, she is haunting. I love when a painting creeps me out.

Consumer Confession: At the airport gift shop, I saw a Medusa watch and I just had to have it. So now I own a Medusa watch. It is so cool.

Second was Caravaggio's Bacchus. I love this guy. I've read two conflicting stories about who the model is. One says it is a Caravaggio self-portrait, while the other says the model was a young student who roomed with Caravaggio. I prefer the latter story 'cause my mind reels at the thought of what outrageous situations and general naughtiness Caravaggio and this little trouble-maker could've gotten themselves into. He's such a little pig. I just love how this painting screams: "I'm one sexy motherfucker." That's my Bacchus!

Sunday, October 08, 2006

I have returned!

I'm back from Italy, safe and sound and not a pound heavier. Sweet!

I'm a bit tired for blogging, though I'm sure in the coming days I should get paid by the Italian tourism board for all the publicity I'm going to give their wonderful country. I loved Italy. Everything was great. For now, here are my top three things:

1. The Duomo in Siena.
2. Michaelangelo's David.
3. The bowl of spaghetti I had on Wednesday night.

All three of the above were sublime.

Welcome home, La Nanuk!

You world traveler, you.

(cityofmusrooms, over and out)

Friday, October 06, 2006

A Super-cool website

For retro and Mtl nostalgia fans: http://expolounge.blogspot.com/
A great site full of Expo 67 era memorabilia, including photos and some videos. And if you scroll back into July or August: a Nancy Sinatra video of "These boots are made for walking". Not exactly Expo 67, but fantastic nonetheless!

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Another Italian Tie-in!!

Where was the 2006 World Cup of Writers held this year? Italy! Where else?

Seems the lads (and as far as I could tell from www.cbc.ca/arts/books/writerscup.html it WAS only lads) would talk books all night and battle on the soccer pitch all day. Sounds good.

"The Dutch goaltender smoked a pipe, pissed behind his team's net and was known for his translations of James Joyce."

Can't argue w/that.

The winner? Not England. Not Italy either. They apparently lost in (what else is new?) penalty kicks against the Scandinavians.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Stop Iggy!!

Well, it's La Nanuk's blog, so it's about time for some political content.

Here goes:

Seems Michael Ignatieff, w/30% of first ballot votes tied up for December's leadership race, is "...rather flattered that there's a "Stop Iggy" movement."



La Nanuk/Giller Tie-in

Verrrrry interrrresting....

One of the books on the Giller Short List is by Montreal writer Pascale Quiviger and, according to www.cbc.ca/arts/ is about "...a young Montrealer named Mariane who falls for Marco, a seductive (but messed up) older man, while holidaying in Tuscany."

TUSCANY! get it? Holidaying Montrealer! get it?

Do we think Nanuk will ever return or will she, like Marine, take to the Tuscan hills w/a seductive yet messed up Marco-like character?
I hope they have fun.

(cityof mushrooms)

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

This just in

The Giller Prize short list announced.
Checkout www.scotiabankgillerprize.ca/
Small presses all the way (more or less)!


Blogging Alice

I'd been told that I could blog about Alice Munro all week if I wanted to, though I don't think it will bring in any converts. There are 3 kinds of people in this world: the Alice lovers, the Alice haters (fools), and the indifferent rest of the world.

My eye doctor falls into that last category. Last week, I sat squinting at her latest, The View from Castle Rock, my eyes stinging from the drops his nurse had put in 20 minutes before. The doc finally ambles in, and peering at my book says, "What's' that?"
"The New Alice Munro," I say.
"Oh, never heard of her," he says.
And this is the guy who points blue lights at my eye balls, checks for glaucoma and diabetes in my eyes, and who will one day probably operate on my cataracts...
See? Indifferent.

At any rate, no blogging on Alice.

Except to say that she's a judge in this year's Giller Prize and today the short list will be announced. The long list, published last month, had mucho small press books and short stories on it. So we shall see.
Can we all stand that suspense? Or is, this too, falling into the "indifferent" category?


Monday, October 02, 2006

greetings from tuscany

ack. i cant run this italian keyboard.

its me, nanuk of italia. im in an internet cafe. 15 minutes for 1 euro. wheee

ive had 2 glasses of yummy chianti and a great supper.

tuscany is fun. and hot.

my feet hurt.

Will Fur fly?

I've just been watching the trailer of "Fur", the new Diane Arbus film (so-called "imaginary portrait") directed by Steven Shainberg who trod all over Mary Gaitskill's "Secretary" a few years back.

The trailer shows a breathy-Nicole Kidmann as a painfully shy 50's mom trying to break away from her husband's photo biz to "take pictures of our neighbours" and to be bowled over by Robert Downey jr in a Jason-mask who will encourage her to find her wild side. Huh? Is this the same Diane Arbus who blew open photography in the 60's?

I guess Hollywood can't figure out what to do w/artists. Ed Harris did get to paint (to a jazzy soundtrack) in "Pollack", and I suppose they'll show Nicole/Diane photographing, and surround it with some ridiculous timid-woman-artist-"opened up"-by-weird-guy-mentor-in-a-mask plot.

I can't help wishing that Doon Arbus who looks after her mother's estate would sue. But how do you sue a fiction? What bugs me is that this serious artist who redefined her art is reduced (in the trailer anyway) to a squeeky voiced parody of a shrinking violet without a shred of self awareness.

Quote from Arbus: "...there's a kind of power thing about the camera. I mean everyone knows you've got some edge. You're carrying some slight magic which does something to them. It fixes them in a way."

Who knows? Maybe the movie will send more people to the photographs:

Identical Twins, Roselle, NJ
Nudist Lady with Swan sunglasses
The King and Queen of a Senior Citizens Dance
Mexican dwarf in his hotel room in N.Y.C.
A Jewish Giant at home with his parents in the Bronx, NY

Look 'em up. Be amazed.


Sunday, October 01, 2006

Covering Yourself

I was in a record store a few weeks back, and came upon a Gang of Four cd called "Return the Gift". Great! I thought. Most of my Gang of Four is on scratchy records and rapidly deteriorating cassettes. I wondered if I was a greatest hits, tho' I imagine GOF would be politically oppossed to the concept of "hit". The maddening, info-starved booklet didn't tell me anything either.

So I put it on, sounds OK, tho' I momentarily worry it is a live recording. I generally hate live recordings. But no, same screeching slap-in-the-face type songs I remember.

After starring at the cover some more and checking their web-site, turns out, these are re-recorded songs from a reunion-ed Gang. Apparently they've been on tour as well. But I can't figure out the re-recording thing. The songs are great. They were great before. Why not just re-issue like Byrne and Eno's "My Life in the Bush of Ghosts" (w/the bonus of previously unreleased tracks that are better than some of what was there originally. But I digress)?

It's like they are covering their own songs. Why? I mean, I guess jazz musicians do that all the time, record the same standards over and over, varying their take on the song each time. Ok, that's jazz. This is a whole different thing. Maybe it's the way we listen to rock or pop, which is obsessively over and over. I mean, back in LP days, that particular scratch right before a particular song became just part of the song and you waited for it each time you listened.

Oh, well. Even as good as "Return the Gift" is, maybe I'll just have to go and buy cd copies of all Gang of Four to hear "Ether" and "Natural's not in it" and "What we all want" and "Paralysed" the way I remember them.