Friday, December 15, 2006

because nothing says christmas like dante

Today's soundtrack:
A Charlie Brown Christmas by the Vince Guaraldi Trio

"Thick hail and dirty water mixed with snow
come down in torrents through the murky air,
and the earth is stinking from this soaking rain"
(Dante, Inferno Canto VI.10-12)

So I'm back in Nanaimo. Actually, I've been here since Sunday. This is just the first day that it hasn't rained, snowed, or blown hurricane-force winds. Only Dante could describe life in the 'Mo so well, although I think there are fewer Catholics here...

I won't lie to you - I love being back in my old house. Free food, access to all kinds of chocolate, cable, free chauffeur service, a seemingly endless supply of embarrassing baby photos (i'm either eating, dancing, or naked), and, last but definitely not least, access to all kinds of chocolate. Yes, I mentioned the chocolate twice. Believe me, it bears repeating.

Walking around the city, I have complete anonymity. It's nice, for a change. Used to be that when I walked around town, I'd inevitably run into someone I knew, or that knew the family, etc. Now, I recognise no one. Well, that's not completely true. I recognise glimpses of people. That kid looks like the younger brother of that kid from high school. And that guy looks like an older version of a former teacher. Lots of glimpses, not a lot of recognition. Dante couldn't slip past the shades in Hell half as well as I can slip past holiday shoppers in the mall.

In other news, four days left until the Spaniard makes his triumphant, conquistador-esque return to the New World, and then all will be right with the world again. All that remains is to resurrect the soul of Trudeau within the Liberal Party and the Christmas Miracle will be complete (nudge nudge wink wink)!

N.B. -- My computer has a fantastic sense of humour. As Mom walked into the kitchen, it started to play "Für Elise".

Monday, November 20, 2006

email from the spaniard

Today's soundtrack:
"Hide and Seek" by Imogen Heap
"Case of You" by Joni Mitchell

Miguelito just sent me this. To be honest, I don't know quite what to say about it. Should I worry that England has been taken over by a band of badly dressed Jedi Knights, or should be more concerned that Miguelito equates me with Star Wars obsessed nerdlingers?

Monday, November 13, 2006

a week in the life of a grad student

Today's soundtrack:
"Rest Of My Life" and "Who Taught You To Live Like That?" by Sloan
"Courage" by the Tragically Hip

MONDAY: Teach 20 disgruntled first years. Worry that they are plotting some kind of coup. Should work on thesis chapter that is due in a week. Rush home to watch Corner Gas instead.

TUESDAY: Stay home with intention of working on thesis chapter. Go shopping for groceries and catch up on General Hospital instead.

WEDNESDAY: Go to lecture and mark papers. Firmly commit to working on thesis chapter, but mark papers and make spaghetti instead.

THURSDAY: Stay home again with apparent illness. Delicate constitution demands that papers be marked and thesis chapter ignored. Baked cake and drooled over McDreamy instead.

FRIDAY: Woot! No school. Something about a war... remembrance... in lieu of... something... should work on thesis chapter but enjoy a noche de español with the smug marrieds instead.

SATURDAY: Realise that there are only two days left until the chapter is due. Print out rough draft and nurse nose-turned-faucet in front of tv. Canucks lost. Again. Clean house instead.

SUNDAY: Must work on thesis chapter. Roughriders lost. Again. Finally finished both chapter and tomorrow's class plan at 1am. For the record, that is unusually early in the evening. Decide to write a blog in style of Bridget Jones. Hoping family won't take my procrastination as a sign of avoidance of real world, as procrastination is in fact an avoidance of real world. Found comic that expresses current feeling:

When the stress is neverending, procrastination becomes the only defence against utter insanity.

Don't worry, next week will be better.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

and what's more...

Today's soundtrack:
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome by Kid Koala (in honour of Miguelito)

Continuing with last night's blissed-out realization that sanity is reclaiming its rightful place in society, I woke up to the news that Rumsfeld has quit. See, this day just keeps getting better and better... well... except for the foot of snow I just cleared from the walk. I guess it's winter now.

from one edwardian sister to another

Today's soundtrack:
Midterm Midtacular by the Daily Show and the Colbert Report.

Found this little movie for Lady J. Look, it has both Clive Owen and Gary Oldman. Almost as good as sipping a morning cappuccino in the streets of Florence. Almost as PC-cigarette-worthy.



Why the gloriously wonderful mood today? Well you see, everything is going back to the way it's supposed to be. Britney is getting divorced. Doogie Howser is gay. The world makes sense again. I take this as a sign that the Democrats will finally do something and win back the House, if not the Senate. It's as though the world, which has stood on the brink of complete and utter annihilation by sheer stupidity, is finally pulling itself back and saying, like someone who blacked out at 3am and has now woken up in a strange house with the Sex Pistols playing the background, "what the hell happened last night?".

Finally, some sanity in the world. Now where's my PC cigarette?

Sunday, November 05, 2006

"i'm crazy gary oldman!"

Today's soundtrack:
Piano Concerto No. 5 "Emperor" by Beethoven

Over the past few evenings, I watched Immortal Beloved, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and Dracula (which, in hindsight, was pretty stupid considering my overactive imagination and avoidance of everything even marginally scary). See a trend? Anyone? Anyone at all? Well, due to a resurging obsession with everything Gary Oldman has ever been in, I came across this in my internet travels. It's a 15-minute play version of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Laughed out loud. Woke the neighbours up.

And anyway, how could anyone not completely admire an actor who can play a crazed DEA officer and still seem so damned sexy? Oh go ahead - laugh. Go on. But I have some very fond memories of that movie, not the least of which involving a friend who insisted on dressing like Léon.

Note: Current obsession is the direct result of the Spaniard being surrounded by Cuban Geishas. I cannot be held responsible. Or, at least, I shouldn't be.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

a poetic education

Today's soundtrack:
"Mass Romantic" by the New Pornographers
"Hold On, Hold On" by Neko Case

Came across this on YouTube (or GooTube, if you like). I guess everyone had to read this in elementary school. It's one of two poems that threw me for a loop because of the ending (the other being "Porphyria's Lover" by Robert Browning). Anyway, as this city seems determined to force me into my winter parka before the end of October, I thought this poem was oddly appropriate as a form of mental conditioning for the long, dark, cold, miserable, seemingly endless, depressing, hopeless, frigid, dastardly, cruel winter that lay ahead of us like the Siberian tundra.

Friday, October 27, 2006

public service announcement

Today's soundtrack:
"I'll Stick Around" by the Foo Fighters
"You're All I've Got Tonight" by the Smashing Pumpkins

I would like to take this opportunity to publicly declare my undying love for my Mac.



See? Macs suffer from the devaluation of the humanities too! Clearly, we're meant to be together. Don't fight it, Hot Mac Guy.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Of Miguel, Bikes and Saskatoon

Some of you know it already… I bought a bike! I’m so happy! It is a premium bike. I had been looking for a while and I wanted a bike that I could bring back to Canada, so I bought a foldable bike. Foldable as in small enough that you can put it in a suitcase, but don’t think it is small enough that you can carry it folded in the bus everyday. It is still pretty heavy. Anyway, here’s the picture!


The good thing about it is that it won’t take any space in our basement, and I will be able to store it inside its bag. Perfect for the Saskatoon winter. I put some objects in the photo so you can see how small it is. I also uploaded other pictures in my picasa web album, including how it looks when unfolded. I must say that they sell smaller ones, but those were a little too small for me, and I couldn’t sit comfortably high, so I took this one.

In my way to the place where I bought it, I took this picture. I think it must have been a good sign.


If you don’t see anything strange, look closer. No? Well, it’s Saskatoon on the big tv’s! In the biggest store of the second largest city of Japan (a store the size of 5 centre malls)! And it was not the only one. Photos were prohibited, though, and I couldn’t take any more. Maybe Canada is indeed the center of the world. Certainly, the world is way too small; some of you don’t know that last week I met someone here that is from Nanaimo.

To finish this blog, I have to tell you all that I finally found the salt. I had to comb the store, but I did it. I feel on top of the world!!

you call that music?

Today's soundtrack:
Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness by the Smashing Pumpkins

So I've been thinking a fair bit about what Danielita wrote in her blog the other day. It's troubling to think that I, who worshipped at the throne of George Stroumboulopoulos back when he was the edgy VJ, now scoff at the latest pelvic thrusts of nuevo punk, pop, and rock "artists" (yes, I am using the term artists veryloosely). When did I become this stuck-up prude who would rather listen to Herbert von Karajan's recording of La Nozze di Figaro and sip sherry than catch the "Top Ten at Ten" on the Fox (a reference for the Vancouverite in all of us)?

I thought a good starting place would be to figure out what the best albums of the 90s were. Well, that's entirely too subjective, so I decided to figure out which five cds I wore out over the course of the 90s.

Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness - the Smashing Pumpkins
Big Shiny Tunes - MuchMusic (before they sucked)
Jagged Little Pill - Alanis Morissette
OK Computer - Radiohead
This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours - Manic Street Preachers

Pretty mainstream stuff, really. Then I got to wondering what the top albums of the 90s would have been for the current mainstream darlings. My Chemical Romance. Billy Talent. Fall Out Boy. Justin Timberlake. Who were their influences? Suddenly, I begin to see a trend, a connection between the 80s and what's currently in rotation. It's not all, but mostly 80s redux.

I hated the 80s. Unequivocally. Well, the 80s did give us U2, which I guess I shouldn't complain about. But what about Madonna? Flock of Seagulls? There was some good to come out of the 80s (like December 31st, 1989), but in my humble opinion, it was a rather dark time for music. I guess for those who loved the 80s, the current musical trends must be wonderful. For me, it's Hell 2.0, a horrific trip down a neon spandex-filled memory lane.

It's a musical time lag. I have to wait until 2010 before 90s music is reinterpreted and built upon in any meaningful way. Well, maybe not until 2010. There are some exceptions: Metric, New Pornographers, Fiest, Modest Mouse, and Death Cab for Cutie seem to be doing a good job of still creating good new music. Sort of a voice in the wilderness type of thing. Until then, I'll be revisiting my Smashing Pumpkins collection, if only to annoy the boys upstairs who believe that angst-ridden rock was invented in 2006.

Monday, October 23, 2006

7 Hours in Kyoto

Kyoto is one of the few cities in Japan that the Americans decided not to carpet-bomb in WWII because of it’s beauty and historical relevance. Interestingly, after the war, the urban planners were not as respectful as the Americans and most of the old center was re-built into a standard modern Japanese downtown. Luckily, most of the really beautiful stuff remains, and that includes temples (many temples), the imperial palace and a castle.

This is the information that I was reading while in the train to Kyoto. My tourist guide: Wikipedia and Wikipedia travel, my plans: enjoy the city. The guide article says that it distances are big, so taking the bus is good, and renting a bike is ok. As if I came from Bilbao, (and because I found no bicycle rental shop in my way) I decide that whatever is possible by bike, must be by foot. So there I go, walking the city up and down.

I must say, however, that renting a bike wouldn’t have been so good, even though I spent more than 5 hours walking non-stop. The good thing about walking is that you see the real city, the people, the houses. There is also time to think, and you learn to know the city better. Then, you don’t have to park the bike (which IS a problem in Japan), and there is more time and space to make photographs (thanks L. for the camera!!).

This time I decided to visit the north-west. It is ok to visit just one part of the city because the nice places are quite spread out, and there is a lot to see. Besides, as I take the regular train, and not the bullet train (shinkanshen), it is quite cheap and I can go as many times as I want (the total cost of my excursion was around $20, including train and entrance to the sites).

In the way to the Daitoku-ji (a temple complex), I cross through the imperial part that contains the Imperial Palace. To visit it you have to reserve in advance, so I don’t visit it. The palace is huge, but you cannot tell much from outside, because it is all walled. The park is pretty, reminds me of El Retiro.


More than one hour and a half later I arrive to my first destination. The Daitoku-ji temple complex. Many many temples. You have to pay to visit each sub-temple, so I chose to visit two that seem very interesting. Nice and peaceful, there were not too many tourists in the ones I chose. I had some time to walk around and relax. In the meanwhile I read that the temple was constructed by an important politician-warrior from the 15th century, who was also the one to perfect the tea ceremony (seemingly a very important thing in this place – just imagine Colin Powell perfecting the coke-drinking ceremony). Of course, everything in the temple is taken care to the millimeter.


As I said in a previous blog, a temple is different from a shrine in that the temple has a Buddha. Actually the difference is that a temple is Buddhist and a shrine is Shinto. Both religions/philosophies have lived here together for a very long time. Shinto is based on the aboriginal religions existent in Japan before the Chinese came and took over the country (we are taking at the relative beginning of Japanese history). The basic belief is that everything has a soul, so they pray to the soul of the different gods of everything. Buddhism came from India, through China, and also evolved here in new forms, among which you have Zen Buddhism.

The interesting thing is that although the religions/philosophies come from different sources, most people practice both. Sometimes you can even see signs from the two plus a Christian cross in the homes. Why not? Well, I’m sure that for the first Christians to arrive and preach here (specifically Francis Xavier), the compatibility of Christianity and other (specially pantheistic or polytheistic) religions was an issue. It seems that at the beginning the thing went more or less ok for the spreading of the gospel, but at some point the emperor decided that Christianity was a little problematic, and then they killed all Christians (sounds familiar, doesn’t it?). Now it is ok to be a christian here.

I’ve mentioned Zen Buddhism, and the second temple I visited was precisely a Zen temple. There are no photos of this because they were not allowed. It was a really nice place, though. It had a Zen garden (a.k.a. dry garden) which is one of the most interesting things that I’ve seen so far in Japan. Some people claim that the zen garden at the Kyu-ji (not too sure about the spelling), which I didn’t visit because of too many tourists, is the single-most important work of art in Japan. The garden is very simple. There is gravel (combed gravel), a few black rocks and that’s it. The one I visited is similar, and I believe it predates the other one. The idea is to convey the wonders of nature through the simplest way possible. It certainly has a soothing-hypnotic effect. I really enjoyed it.

The leaflet from the temple, however, was not so poetic, claiming that the garden was so because there was very little space in the temple for a garden, and they had to simplify to fit in mountains rivers etc…

After the temples, I went to the golden pavilion. It was crowded crowded crowded. Crowded as in 200 people with 300 cameras in 100m2. It’s probably one of the most visited attractions in Japan. Although it was interesting, the crowd made me want to flee away.


If you wonder why there are no tourists in the photo, it is because the place is nicely arranged so you don't have to take anyone in your picture.

The temple was originally the residence of one of these very powerful warriors/politicians, which retired with a lot of money. He decided that his villa should become a temple after his death. The edification begun in 1397. The first floor is built in the palace style, the second in the samurai style and the third is built in the Zen style. Originally only the third floor was covered in gold. Now it’s the third and second floor.

After this one I was already pretty tired, so I decided to walk back, which took me another two hours. I went through the river, and I also saw what I, stupid foreigner, interpret as Japanese poverty. If you look in the photo there seems to be some kind of container under the bridge. Actually, I saw people entering and getting out of it, and could peek in. It was a bedroom. Very clean and taken care of, but living under the bridge.

Anyway, I hope the blog was not too long or too boring. If you want to check out all the photos, you can go to my picasa album. I also put on the internet google earth links to the imperial palace, the Daitoku-ji temple complex, the golden pavillion and where I started walking the river. To give you a hint of the distance that I walked, here is the station.

In the next one: Of Miguel, bikes and Saskatoon.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

"all the news that's new and improved"

Today's soundtrack:
"Peace Train" by Cat Stevens

Today, I made paella de veduras. Yesterday, I fixed the frother on my espresso machine. Tomorrow, I may just fix the doorbell. Clearly I am missing my calling as handywoman extraordinare.

Also, caught fellow Dover Bay alum on Lost tonight. It was a bit like a trip down memory lane, except that this time he wasn't treating me like a servile techie. Also, he wasn't preening infront of the mirror for 10 minutes (still one of the funniest moments in high school backstage craziness ever). Well, maybe he did, but at least it wasn't onstage. So that was a nice change.

I shall reward myself for the making of paella with the ceremonial eating of the chocolate bar. Mm.. sacred chocolate.

Also, if you can name the movie that the title quote is from, you will win the Christmas turkey*.

* N.B. no actual Christmas turkey will be awarded, but maybe you'll get a pat on the back. That's just as good, right?

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Osaka adventures

I’ve been here for two weeks already. However, being in a country like this, so different and sometimes so similar, still keeps my mind alert for interesting things to write about in this blog. This time the blog is a mix of several things that I thought could make someone laugh, or think, or maybe experience by proxy a little of what I now see every day.

First, today I discovered that bread in Japanese is pronounced pan. Yes, just pan, like in Spanish. The culinary connection between the Japanese and the Spanish doesn’t stop there. Think about how tapas are similar to sushi and how they love their fish and shrimp, as we do. Besides, they have “croquetas” that taste amazingly similar (unlike the Dutch or North-American version) – I’ll ask if they have empanadas or empanadillas.

Thinking about the delicious raw fish that we ate the other day (and the risks of eating raw fish), I was wondering if Japan was the safest place I’ve ever been to. Well, if you think about how delinquency is almost inexistent (see how big the average police station is in the photo), and how some people leave their bikes unlocked, then it certainly is (compare to more than one million bikes stolen/year in the Netherlands). But then, I started thinking about earthquakes, tsunamis, typhoons and crazy North Korean leaders with potato-like heads. I think there might be something like a cosmic law of safety that balances it all out in the end. If you are wondering what makes Saskatoon an unsafe place, think about how dangerous gophers can be, and the probability of encountering certain people in Broadway on Friday night…

Did you ever see a monorail? I use it often on the weekends to go to the university. The idea is that, since there is no more space for trains on the surface, and making more underground will spoil the opportunity to have more hot-springs (more on hot-springs later), they put trains up 15-20 meters. The whole train holds to a concrete line about one meter wide. I don’t recommend the experience to anyone with fear of heights.

So, I was getting used to the thing, waiting in the station for the monorail to part, and then I see the train driver get into the train: a teenager with a little book in his hand. Of course, he was wearing a uniform, but that relieved me very little when I realized that the little book were the instructions on how to operate the train. Worst 20 minutes in public transport of my life…

By the way, if you come to Japan from Canada, as present you should bring maple syrup cookies. No matter how much you spend in chocolates, they will not be impressed. Even if they are the famous Saskatoon Berry Chocolates, at more than $1.50 the piece. However, if you make the right choice (as T. did), you’ll get people talking about the cookies for weeks.

Today Y. and I went for lunch to an udon restaurant in a mall. The mall is created around the hot-springs. It seems that you can get hot-water with medicinal properties wherever in Japan if you just make the hole deep enough. Y. suggested going one day to the hot-springs; I replied that I didn’t have a bathing suit, to which he laughed. I hope I don’t find myself telling any other related story about that in this blog…

For the sake of the visually oriented people, a couple extra photos of my villa in Japan. In these photos you can see the hallway, the atrium, the living room, the kitchen, the dining room, the entertainment room, the bedroom and the gardens. I omitted the garage and the swimmingpool for an exclusive with Hello!





To end, a real piece of text found in a train ad. I think it speaks by itself: “Do you nod along even when you don’t understand? It’s time to put the days of awkward English conversations behind you!”. Of course, it was advertising an English academy.

In the next blog… 7 hours in Kyoto.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Mikoshi

It’s been almost a week, but I still remember the Mikoshi vividly. What is a Mikoshi? Well, it is a kind of festival, but the name comes from the cart that is carried during the celebration. This cart is something very similar to the “pasos” used in Spain to carry Jesus, the virgin (any of the many that are actually only one) and the saints.

The particular Mikoshi that I went to is a Taiko Mikoshi Matsuri (don’t trust my Japanese, I know less words than current good leaders in North America). This means that it is a festival with drums and carts. It celebrates the rice harvest (something pretty important in these shires…).

If you are ever invited to something like this, please make sure that they understand that you have some kind of problem in your back, even if you don’t. In my case, I was lucky to participate in the least professional of the groups, but my god! Some people there carried the thing for several hours!

The whole process starts at 7:20AM. At that time Yoshifumi-san (the prof. at the lab) and the other members of the group (his neighbors) gather to go to the shrine (important distinction between shrine and temple – shrine has no Buda). The one in the left is Yoshi.



Even at the shrine I didn’t know what the festival had in spare for me yet, but I was grateful enough that I didn’t have to wear the traditional attire (check next photo).



After some waiting and some speeches by the elders (actually the organizers), we are invited to have some sake and white threads that look like they’re gonna taste sweet but are actually salted cod. If you are wondering, yes, sake at around 8:00 in the morning! At this point I don’t know whether I’m starting to like this thing or if I should be scared of what is to come.

Then we are allowed to take the mikoshi. Thanks god, this one has wheels. The mikoshi has a big drum in the middle and, after we arrive to the starting point (after around 30 min of pushing the thing through Osaka’s traffic) the real thing starts. First there is a group of boys (yes, no girls allowed), that are carried from a blanket in the floor to the top of the mikoshi. The idea is that the boys never touch the ground that day. I think that they represent the gods of the harvest or something like that. The boys are carried by their fathers into the cart, and then they start playing the drums in a defined sequence.

You can see a short video of the boys being carried to the mikoshi by clicking here, and of the drum playing here.

Now is when the men (us) take the thing and move it around a little (2 or 3 minutes). I guess this is a kind of blessing for the ground where we are. We got a lot of applause, and some sake, beer and the white threads again. At this point I thought we were done, and felt comforted and even a little proud of myself. How wrong I was! The process has to be repeated around the whole neighborhood. We did it 5 or six times that include pushing the thing with singing-drumming kids included to another condo, then do the change of the kids, and then take it up and move it around again.

Around 11:30 the next group takes over. These seem a little more professional, but, to be honest, I don’t care anymore because I’m exhausted. Now is the turn of partying and eating. Sushi, beer, and speeches by everyone. I, of course, cannot understand anything but the compulsory “arigato gozaimasu” that they repeat almost at the end of each sentence. So, when I say discourses by everyone, that includes me. And there you see Migeru (my name in Japanese, it seems), improvising a speech (sake and beer helps), in English, to an audience of family patriarchs between 35 and 60.

To this follows another party, in which there are some of the wives and kids (which I assume, were not allowed to participate in the carrying either). The atmosphere starts to get slightly more ethylic, and people start approaching me for a little bit of English conversation. I must say that they were all very nice to me, and very friendly. Some of them tell me things about their work: “This is a real story” says one “I work everyday from 9 in the morning to 23. Sometimes I go home for dinner and then back to work”. Nice that they can have these festivals every now and then!

After some fooling around, I go back to the shrine, where the professional mikoshi carriers have taken over. Now I understand why these are professionals. To begin with, they don’t use the wheels, second, they jump around.

Here you can see the mikoshi. Here, some drummers.

The festival finishes when they put the mikoshi in the “mikoshi parking”, in words of Yoshifumi. This happens at around 7pm, which makes for a very interesting, full day of cultural Japan; and for a very long blog… I hope you have enjoyed my description, I did enjoy a lot this peek into Japanese tradition. Next blog: Osaka stories.

ah.. the geekiness

Today's soundtrack:
"I Can See For Miles" by the Who
"Magic Carpet Ride" by Steppenwolf

In light of the soul-crushing nature of the previous post, I offer this:



Meet Chad Vader, the underachieving younger brother of Darth Vader.

Friday, October 13, 2006

girl, there's a better life for me and you

Warning! This post contains a bitter discussion concerning the state of the humanities. If you are a humanities graduate student, reading this may be harmful to your thesis, self-esteem, and will to live.

Today's soundtrack:
"We Gotta Get Out of This Place" by the Animals

It happened again. I was waiting in the Nanaimo Airport for my flight back here and, in usual gawker stalker fashion, was peaking at what other people were reading. In front of me, The Da Vinci Code in the hands of a completely engrossed reader. Sigh. I look to my side, notice the man beside me reading a book, and then I see it. The Kite Runner. Again.

Clearly you people aren't paying attention.

Fine. See if I care. Go ahead. Read it. You know you want to see what all the fuss is about. So go on. Read it. I dare you.

Should I just be happy that people are reading? Well, I suppose so. As I was explaining to New Office Guy (or, NOG), the devaluation of the humanities began with the Space Race (sorry, Mom). The States pumped huge resources into the development of science and math in public schools, thereby reducing the funding available to the humanities at elementary, secondary, undergraduate and graduate school levels. Yes, there was a time when telling someone that you were doing a Masters in English wouldn't result in a half hour lecture about how you're wasting your life, that you should really get a real job, and that no one likes English anyway.

But I'm tired of defending my decision to spend 3 years of my life on a thesis that only 6 people will ever read (including my committee). Why should I have to defend the importance of learning and understanding the language that the majority of Canadians speak? I learned math, science, and everything else they crammed down my throat. Without complaint. Well... maybe not completely without complaint. I do not, however, question the usefulness of understanding basic math or science. I run into both every day in my life. Why, then, do people insist on questioning the usefulness of English?

So in an attempt to prove borderline literacy, they pick up The Kite Runner. Well, I won't condemn them for that. They picked up a book. Give them a medal. But extolling the virtues of a book that is so badly written is plain unforgiveable. Where is the desire for literacy awareness? Not that everyone in the world should read Joyce, but why not the classics? Why not something a little challenging?

The only answer is for society to turn this lopsided approach to education around. I'm preaching to the choir here, I know. In fact, I'm preaching to the very angsty (yes, angsty), hopeless, depressed grad student populace that, in reading this, finds itself now curled up in the fetal position, whimpering and wondering why they didn't listen to their Grade 8 science teacher and become a doctor. I apologise.

Without Miguelito here, the delicate balance of science and humanities has been disturbed. I shall attempt to restore the balance with chocolate. Mm.. chocolate.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

In the market

So, how do you manage to get what you need in the supermarket if everything is written in a language that you don’t understand? The answer is lots of looking around and some trial and error.

Vegetables are easy to distinguish (they usually come in transparent wrapping), but other things are more difficult; for example, salt. How do you know that something is salt from the box? Does it even come in boxes here? Even worse… can you be sure that it is salt and not baking soda, cleaning salts, MSG or some kind of acid?

You might think that the shelf in the supermarket gives you some kind of indication, but I might say no. In this one the cheese is next to the dish soap (unless the green liquid stuff is actually some kind of milk-lime syrup).

Things that took me more than one visit to decipher:
- Cornflakes
- Dish soap
- Cheese or butter?
- Alarm clocks

Also interesting is how everything comes in small packages. The opposite to Cotsco. The tomatoes, you buy in packs of two (and they are about $2 each one!), the largest loaf of bread that you can buy has 12-extra thin slices (normal is 5 or 6 thick ones). Rice, however, cannot be bought in a smaller package than 2Kg.

In some products you can tell how they are behind in technology/marketing. For example, the toothbrush that I got for free from the USSU is almost hi-tech here.

They also like their milk whole. The most popular is the 4.7%, and I couldn’t find milk under 3% fat. You can almost smell the cow when you open it. On the other side, bread is white. 30% whole bread is the darkest I’ve seen so far.

To finish, a photo to show lady K. that I also have some style choosing my kitchenware. Take a look at the placemat I got in the “all for 100Yen”.


I think I’m done for today. If I can find the salt, the next blog will be about the Mikoshi, so stay tuned. And check the news just in case I provoke an international conflict!

Friday, October 06, 2006

From Osaka, with love

It has already been three days since I've been here, and I think it is already time to share a little of my experiences. I'll try to stay away from the topics about the japanese culture, although I know it is going to be difficult.

The trip here was remarkably unremarkable, specially because most of the northern parts of Canada and Alaska that we flew over were covered with clouds... No icebergs this time.
The arrival in Osaka Kansai airport is always impressive, first because it is built on an island and it looks like you are going to land on water, until it reaches the runway; second, because it's huge. Huge huge.
It's interesting how Japanese business employs a lot of people to stand around and help you out. Sometimes you even see people in the street taking care that you don't fall in a trench. In Canada you would see a sign, in Spain we have ambulances (just kidding).
As a sample, take a look at the ladies in the photo, which are there just to help you deal with the automatic ticket machines for the shuttle buses.



Another interesting thing is the use of english. Checkout this picture:


For whoever is worried about me, you should know that I'm doing fine. My room is tiny, but confortable. Just so you see, I show you a sample of my toilet/kitchen-stool/reading armchair:


In the next episode... Miguel's adventures in the market!

Sunday, October 01, 2006

i'm not here!

Today's soundtrack:
The Four Seasons by Vivaldi

Just passing through. Will be posting in the next couple of days from the 'Mo. Yes, for those keeping score, I'll be gracing you all with my divine presence this Thanksgiving. In the meantime, I must share this.

Communist knitters. It's so damned cool I can't think of anything else to write.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

this is also not a post

While walking to the university today, I decided that Kayne West's "Gold Digger" is really a modern interpretation of Jane Austen's theory of marriage. Kayne's call that "we want pre nup! We want pre nup!" echoes Austen's own concerns of mercenary marriages.

I think there's a conference paper in that.

N.B. - This is what 3 hours of sleep after an all-night thesis-a-thon sounds like.

this is not a post

Today's soundtrack:
The Thesis SkipMix

In honour of the completion of 47 pages of my thesis...

35 pages to go.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

call it an incubation period

Today's soundtrack:
If It Was You by Tegan and Sara

That's all. I'm done with procrastination. Really, I mean it this time. I have six weeks to finish this thesis. I will finish this thing. I will show Jane Austen who's boss. I will make Judith Butler my bitch.

Well, that was rather unEdwardian.

As I reach for my fan and smelling salts (the prospect of work plays havoc with my delicate constitution), I leave you, my faithful readers, with this bit of inspiring Englishness.



May this tide you over until such time as my spirit is fully restored and my body is freed from the bonds of unholy thesisity.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

and now for something completely different

Today's soundtrack:
Carrera Corta SkipMix

¡Oye, mis amigos españoles (y sudamericanos y canadienses)! Lindellio acaba de enviarme este. Ah... me encanta Shakira...

Friday, August 11, 2006

how to be an edwardian lady during inclement weather

Today's soundtrack:
Mi Sangre de Juanes

I awoke last night to lights flashing in my room and cracking thunder overhead. After my anger at the weather gods had subsided, I realised that my dear readers still don't know how to behave during such an ordeal.

1) Have a fan close. And smelling salts. You may need to use both together when the noise becomes simply too much for your delicate constitution.

2) Ensure that the current object of your affection is near enough to be within safe fainting distance. Although you may not truly faint due to the shock of the storm, but feigning fainting will be enough to keep his attention on you, rather than the storm or that dusty strumpet.

Vale. Ahora un poco mas en español. Pues, mi español es terrible (terrible, terrible), pero pienso que es un poco mejor que antes. Cada día, estaba leyendo El País. Pues, las vinetas El País. Hoy, he encontrado este:


Exactamente.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

another post about the vile vileness of the kite runner

Today's soundtrack:
Mi Sangre de Juanes

Well, in an effort to prolong today's procrastination efforts (which takes a surprising amount of energy) I offer this piece of literary blasphemy.

A few weeks ago, I spotted a woman reading Hosseini's cliche-ridden, hodge-podge of everything sensational and Oprah-esque. She was sitting on a bench by the River, blissfully unaware of the irreparable damage she was doing to her brain in subjecting herself to such tripe. Yes, tripe. I had the idea that if I threw the book into the River, I could save her the years of mental anguish that inevitably accompanies such horrific experiences (myself, I am still tramatized by Exorcist II), but then how will she ever learn?!

Well, in an effort to save some of you (let's call you "the chosen few", as "the chosen people" has been taken, and I don't think it's going to be free anytime soon) please, for the love of all that is well-written, eloquent, and original, do not read this book! I don't care what Allende says! I beg you, oh noble book-clubbers, to tuck in with anything - ANYTHING - but The Kite Runner.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

"i am part of all that i have met"

Today's soundtrack:
Politick SkipMix

I finished Ulysses yesterday. I can't say that it was enjoyable. Well, in parts. Bloom's wanderings and inner dialogue was rich. The characters were incredible. But Joyce made me work. During my summer. When I'm supposed to be working on my thesis. Well, if he's going to be like that, I'll just leave Finnegans Wake off for another year.

The last section gave me the most trouble. No punctuation. Nothing. Just Molly's stream of consciousness. There were some brilliant moments, such as "why cant you kiss a man without going and marrying him first you sometimes love to wildly when you feel that way so nice all over you you cant help yourself I wish some man or other would take me sometime when hes there and kiss me in his arms theres nothing like a kiss long and hot down to your soul that almost paralyses you...". But, as the notes point out in the back, "Molly's monologue is a compendium of old-fashioned sexist clichés about the incurable self-contradictions of womanhood" (1184). While Joyce maybe have been bang-on about the inner monologue of Bloom, he was way off on Molly.

This disappointed me. Slightly. After all, how disappointed can someone be after reading Ulysses? I had already planned to follow Joyce with Atwood's The Penelopiad. In hindsight, I probably should have started this summer with Homer's Odyssey. Regardless, I managed to read it in a day. After the fragmentation and the jarring of Joyce, I felt as though I was one of those insubstantial shades milling about Hades, listening to Penelope. Just wafting back and forth. And my soul felt better after reading it. The life of Penelope, from Penelope's point of view, allowed me to superimpose Atwood's brillance on Joyce's less-than-perfect rendering of Molly, making the final chapter of Ulysses easier to bear. At least someone gets it, I thought to myself.

If you've not read it, read it. If only for Atwood's ability to rip the academic community a new one. I fear accidentally meeting this woman. She's not a gorgon or anything of that sort, but that biting wit and sarcasm would leave me like the twelve maidens - my feet twitching in the air.

But now, it's onto Mrs. Dalloway, who has been oh so patient with me as she waits on that London street.

Friday, July 28, 2006

needing a respite

Today's soundtrack:
If It Was You by Tegan and Sara
"i quietly wait" by Barry Pellett

After coffee with the Gang this afternoon, I got to thinking about something Daniela mentioned. I really do wonder what it will take to get Canadians off their butts and angry about what's going on in the Middle East. Ah, "Middle East". Sorry Mr. Said, but no time for Orientalism right now. If Israel's "accidental" (yes those scare quotes are deliberate Olmert, so take that!) bombing of the UN Observer Post didn't illustrate the absolute reckless destruction the Israelis are inflicting upon Lebanon, then I just don't know what does. It's the UN, for christsakes! We know they're completely impotent without US backing, but damnit man! How about some respect for the international body that created Israel in the first place (well, since the Diaspora)?

In an effort to quell my delicate nerves, I've been listening to Barry's new songs. I'm glad there are no references to vomit, beds, or vomity beds. If such a reference should ever occur, I damn well better get a mention in the liner notes.

The hubbub is starting about Iran all over the place. So much for my respite.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

not as entertaining as civilization, but...

Today's soundtrack:
Estopa by Estopa, but I think it might be time to bring out the anti-Vietnam hippie love machine that is the Woodstock soundtrack.

This man understands more about the Israeli-Lebanon conflict than I do. As does this man.

Sigh. Here, this will make you feel better.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

livid

Today's soundtrack:
If It Was You by Tegan and Sara

I think I've tried to write this post three times now. Words are increasingly useless when it comes to expressing my absolute disgust at the world. Namely Israel, although if the States want to jump in there too, they're more than welcome (N.B. - I am talking about the governments, not the people. The people, I'm sure, are very nice and bake very tasty cookies). Everything that can be said on the subject on the current Lebanon-Israel conflict has been said. Each day the news is more depressing.

Sigh. This whole conflict is leaving me incredibly drained. It's just one thing on top of the other. Afghanistan. Darfur. Iraq. Gaza. Lebanon. Really starting to wonder if bringing more people into this world is a good idea. These wars, famines, and seemingly universal hatred are doing a number on my biological clock.

Top this off with the fact that everyday people seem to like the little wars within their communities, regardless of where they live, and it makes the world a rather miserable place to be, even if it is a beautiful day, 35º in the hammock, and Ulysses in my hand. I can ignore the little wars - those minor displays of intolerance and hatred that appeal to some but just leave me shaking my head - because the larger scale suffering, the absolute intolerance that has taken over the rest of the world, renders anything nagging at me in the back of my head completely silly. Sure there are those out there in the Blogosphere and Beyond than can't really stand me, but in comparison to the suffering of others, I really have nothing to complain about. Well, except the universality of intolerance.

Such a lovely human condition.

Friday, July 14, 2006

the french and their highly suggestive architecture

Today's soundtrack:
Carrera Corta SkipMix

I believe there is only one word to describe this: clitsy.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

a hippie wannabe's ode to sproat lake

Today's soundtrack:
The Eraser by Thom Yorke

It's about 38ºC with the humidity today, which I consider some form of blasphemy. At the very least it's misrepresentation. I was under the illusion that I was in a landlocked province, far from the ocean. Yet, my hair looks like I've been hanging out on the Island. Sigh.

This is not helping my Island-withdrawl. As a remedy, I've taken to wasting time the MEC site. It seems to epitomize everything that is BC. The communistic cooperative mixed with that posh snob appeal. So far, I've found a tent, sleeping bag, and sleeping pad that I can just picture up at the Lake. I keep telling myself that I'll put in this summer of hell (or thesis work - whatever you want to call it) and then next summer I can wander around Spain and the Island. Sort of a delayed gratification thing. Being Catholic (formerly or bitterly, I'm not sure which), I'm not good at delayed gratification. In Sociology 112, we learned that part of the industrial success of Protestant nations was due to the Protestant work ethic, which is based on the concept of delayed gratification. At least it provides me with a good excuse for my complete lack of patience.

Wow, that was an incredibly geeky aside.

Anyhoo, in my mind, I imagine myself waking up at the Lake. Having instant porridge and hot chocolate. Going kayaking before the Lake wakes up. Swimming. Deckslugging. Eating my weight in potato chips. Midnight runs up one of the arms. Sleeping in absolute silence. Wake up and repeat.

As for now, the hammock will suffice.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

the cure for what ails you

Today's soundtrack:
A mediocre thunderstorm (at least from the basement)
Mi sangre by Juanes

Because thinking requires too much effort, here's a nod to linking - to Stephen Colbert's commencement address to Knox something or other to be exact. If only all commencement speeches were as interesting...

Thursday, July 06, 2006

how to be an edwardian lady while watching the world cup

Today's soundtrack:
"Forca" by Nelly Furtado
"Estoy aquí" by Shakira

My dearest Edwardian sisters,

This latest installment has been far too long in coming, gentle readers. Inspiration came to me today as I took in the Portugal-France game this afternoon. I had just finished my coffee which, my dear readers, one should not drink unless they have a strong constitution. The caffeine is simply too much for those of a more delicate nature. While I stood amongst the spectators, I was shocked at the behaviour of the female part of the audience. They simply had no clue how to behave in such a situation. They cheered, they jeered, and they displayed nothing but indelicacy. Sigh. It clearly falls on me to explain how one is to behave while watching the World Cup in the company of men.

1) Be sure to arrive in time to find a seat. Best to sit somewhere near a table so that you can take tea or where you can take out your knitting or needlepoint when the game becomes a tad boring.

2) Do not dress in the garish fashion that some of the men are inclined to pursue. That is, in the team colours of those they will be supporting. It is best to appear impartial, especially if you plan on cheering (silently) for the team your sweetheart's team is playing against. Neutral shades work best in this situation.

3) Never, under any circumstances, cheer for the French.

4) Have your fan ready at all times. The excitement of the game, if it manages to distract you from admiring all of the striking Edwardian gentlemen in the room, may be enough to make you short of breath. As the men will be too deeply engrossed in the game to notice you faint, it is best to fan yourself to stay conscious and to keep your fainting spell when it can be used to greater advantage.

5) It is only acceptable to cheer for Spain if they are playing the French. You are required, however, to make several comments about the Armada and Gibraltar. Should the Spain win the day (this has yet to happen, but if it ever does), a rousing chorus of "Rule Britannia" would not be out of line.

I do hope this helps you, my dear Edwardian sisters, through this trying time of the World Cup. Strength, my dear sisters, as the World Cup is almost over and the attentions of men are about to be returned, rightfully, to us.

Until that time, I remain
your dear Edwardian sister,
the Great Lady K.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

my personal search for the world's most wanted fugitive

Today's soundtrack:
"Vino Tinto" by Estopa
"Don't Need the Sunshine" by Catatonia

He attacks, but we don't know when. Suddenly, we are ambushed and left defenseless. How he got in here, I'll never know. Whether or not he is still alive is a mystery. I have a suspicion that a corpse will be found soon, but Miguelito informs me that the terrorist is still at large and has likely breached all defenses. An Orange Alert has been recommended.

At this point, I would like to declare war on that vile demon that answers to the name of Osama. Below is the closest representation current intelligence can bring us.



People are warned that Osama is armed with a two inch long spear, with which he impales his victim, and a noiseless flight system, with which he slips through all forms of security. It is believed that he is capable of using chemical warfare in the form the West Nile Virus.

A bounty of Mayan Chocolate Häagen Daas has been put on his head.

Please contact the Department of Kate for further details as they develop. We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming...

Monday, July 03, 2006

bit of a bringdown

Today's soundtrack:
One Chord to Another by Sloan
Greatest Hits by Sublime

Was floating from link to link to link off of other people's blogs. Came across this photo essay on the children in Belarus. The ones from Chernobyl.

Why now? Because the Government of Canada has been all keen as of late on nuclear power as the answer to all our oil woes. I know 3 Mile Island and Chernobyl were basically freak accidents, and that nothing really bad has happened for years (that we know of, anyway. Not wanting to sound all conspiracy theorist here, but I saw Erin Brokovich. I know what these executive types are like). Still, I'd like to think there is a better alternative to risking another generation of children anywhere in the world having to live like these kids.

Maybe something mosquito-powered? I bet Manitoba could get behind that.

Friday, June 30, 2006

"the horror! the horror!"

Today's soundtrack:
"Paranoia" by Sam Roberts
"Fear" by Sarah McLachlan
"Nothing Better" by The Postal Service

It's the second day of 37ºC weather. For the record, I don't do hot weather. Warm weather, sure. Cool weather, you bet. But hot, rubber soul melting, sweat creating, muggy weather is not for me. Miguelito, of course, is in some form of Spanish Heaven with this heat. Perhaps there is something in the Spanish soul that thrives in this weather. Like bacteria. They love the heat too, right?

So naturally on this, the hottest day of the year thus far, I ventured out to Pier 1 and Old Navy in search of knick-knacks and pants to fit my ample bottom. I am especially proud of this find. As I was telling D earlier, now Miguel can't say I never buy exotic fruits. Anyhoo, I'm waiting, rather impatiently, for my neighbours to finish their laundry so I can wash the clothes I found today. Why on earth I want to throw anything into the dryer and create more heat today (of all days), I just can't comprehend. But there you go.

There are supposed to be a few more days of this heat, this torture, this miserable excuse for late-June weather. I was wanting to head out to the Canada Day bash down at Ex, mainly in an effort to Canadianize Miguelito, but being in that kind of heat and direct sun for so many hours just isn't as appealing as staying at home and watching The Mansbridge from Ottawa.

I'd go and relax in the hammock, but even though it's covered with shade (beautiful trees in my backyard), it's still a stiffling kind of heat. I think it's the humidity. And yes, I know we're landlocked, but it's just so muggy because of the southern wind. Oh dear, my inner meterologist is coming out. She's not nearly as terrible as my inner geologist. You should have seen her when I went through the Rockies for the first time. "Look at the rock formation, the striations, the folding!" Yes, it was sheer bliss. Well, for me. Don't know about the parents. Focus, Kate. English, not Geography. Right.

On the bright side, even though it's a blistering heat, at least it's not raining. Or snowing. And the heat seems to keep the mosquitos at bay. Well, most of them.

Stubborn little blighters.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

four quick notes

Today's soundtrack:
"Can't Face Up" by Sloan
"These are the Fables" by The New Pornographers
"Tired of Waiting" by The Trews

One, I woke up early today, of which I am very proud. In fact, I was out of bed before Miguelito, which gives me the right to say ¡perezosillo!

Two, I went to Midtown with D in an almost-vain search for strapless bras (we were, ultimately, victorious).

Three, while holding a variety of panties in my hand, I heard "Hi Miss Kate" and look up to see one of my students from last year. Awkward shiftyness ensued as she showed me to the Fitting Rooms.

Lastly, Miguelito is holding me personally responsible for Spain's loss against France today. Apparently my lack of presence in the Tunnel is the only reason for their poor performance (well, there's the weather too, but they always blame the weather - just ask Miguelito about the Armada).

And now, to the Kraft Dinner!

Oh sweet sweet nectar of the gods...

Sunday, June 25, 2006

gawker stalker

Today's soundtrack:
"Vino Tinto" by Estopa

Last night was the going away party for the Spanish Girls, from which I am almost recovered. While I was on my way to meet up with D and L, I walked down Broadway. The street was pretty busy, it being a beautiful day (finally) and the start of the Jazz Festival. And I was looking pretty damned cute, I'll have you know. Anyhoo, so I'm walking down the street with a 12 pack of Keiths in my backpack (clink clink clink) and I notice that oh so cute dress hanging in Divine's window. You know the one. Purple with a 40s vibe. $119. Ouch. So I turn and keep walking, noticing this couple leaning up against the wall. Anyway, the closer I get, the more this blonde woman looks familiar. By the time I walk by I realise that it's the woman who plays Wanda on Corner Gas and Brett Butt is talking on his cellphone right beside her.

So what do I do? Do I stop and talk? Ask for an autograph? Bask in the glory of their oh so wonderful celebrity?

I walk on by, bottles clinking, trying to look as unaffected as possible (is it even possible for affectation to look unaffected?), while reaching for my cellphone so I can share my quasi-brush with celebrity with D and L. I am thisclose to being famous!

In other, Ikea-related news, Scotty the Mover came this morning with the furniture Mom shipped out from the Coast. Several of those damned Allan keys later and we have a new bed! The mattress is still a little bumpy, but significantly better. Now if only my neighbours would finish their laundry so I could do the several loads that I have piled up around the house.

In honour Spain's making it to the last 16 (and of their imminent defeat at the hands of the French), may I introduce my future boyfriend? Ooh.. Cesc Fabregas! Hahaha!



Afterthought: A very ladylike curtsey to the Edwardian Sister Lady J, who will soon be returning to Her Majesty's loyal colony after an appropriately long sojourn in Japan. Andiamo, Gianetta!

Thursday, June 22, 2006

after a night of medicinal alcohol

Today's soundtrack:
"Papito" by Manu Chao

Went out with D and L last night (ditched the party on "I'm feeling ugly and fat" grounds). Watched L'Auberge Espagnol, which was (surprisely) really good. And made me want to move to Spain for a bit. Well, maybe not to Barcelona. I don't know enough Portuguese to be able to speak Catalan. Madrid might be nice. Live in an apartment with a bunch of Europeans. I resisted the urge to write Eurotrash there. That deserves a pat on the back. Pat pat pat. Actually, the movie reminded me a little bit of living at Emmanuel, with the lack of cleaning and the fridge.

Afterwards, we headed to the Yard and my neighbour/bartender bought me a beer. I felt very in the know. The beer was out of guilt, I suspect, for a out of the blue, 3am party the other week that woke me up (and then I woke Miguel up, because honestly, who likes to suffer alone?).

But enough procrastination. I.... must.... finish.... the.... Thesis!

Oh who am I kidding? It's time for some more Mayan Chocolate.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

welcome to pity-landia. population: me. sigh.

Today's soundtrack:
Whatever song Miguel was whistling in the shower this morning.

This terrible grey, rainy weather is destroying my weak nerves. Is it any wonder that the English Malady is that of low spirits. I'd quote Cheyne here, but honestly, it'll just take too much effort.

Sigh.

Going to a party tonight with D (I believe our not-so-real boyfriends have better, non-Spanish speaking things to do). Must go and buy beer.

Sigh.

Hair won't do what it's supposed to. Have nothing to wear. 5 pounds too many. Shouldn't have eaten that last pint of Mayan Chocolate.

Sigh.


I tell you, those children starving in Biafra have nothing on me. Nothing, I say!

And speaking of children starving in Biafra, I just came across this article about the Angelina Jolie-Anderson Cooper interview last night. Since I don't have cable (nudge nudge), I'll have to take the NY Times' word for it. My favourite lines are as follows:

"He [Anderson Cooper] praised Ms. Jolie for doing the interview solely to draw attention to the plight of refugees and not to promote a movie. He then seamlessly moved on to vigorously promote his best-selling book."

Now, I've always been suspicious of Mr. Cooper. That 360º show was just another shameless way to through geometry in my face. And the standing. Standing? Who stands? I didn't find his coverage of Katrina that interesting or good. Call me oldfashioned, but I see nothing appropriate about breaking down and crying during every interview. Yes, it's terrible. Yes, there's a lot of water. I didn't see any tears being shed for any of the stories he covered overseas. I guess Americans and the odd - yes, I said it, ODD - American disaster are worth crying over, but the everyday atrocities... eeeh, not so much.

I bet Mansbridge could kick his ass.

N.B. - I apologise for the rampant and unavoidable bitterness. It was, after all, unavoidable.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

in lieu of cable

Today's soundtrack:
"Un poco de amor" by Shakira

Miguel sent this story to me the other day. Annan has a sense of humour? I guess you'd have to have a good one...

I could really get into this whole sport thing if it would just stop raining. I've not gone running in a while, and even my yoga is suffering. Maybe watching hockey (sigh) and the World Cup is enough exercise, with all that jumping up and down, and shaking of fists.

Oh, and by the way...

Take that, Evil Thesis! I shall slay you yet!

but finally...

Quiero decir que yo quiero a Lindell en mi comunidad. But without the crazy falling from the roof with a bag full of Monopoly money.

A Mundial regreso.

Monday, June 19, 2006

and furthermore...

Today's soundtrack:
"Vino Tinto" by Estopa
The sound of Tunisia losing 3-1

Now that all that nancyboy football/soccer action is over, onto the real sport. Hockey. Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals is on tonight, and if Spain's "sumptuous"* victory is any indication of how the games are going today, then the Oilers just might have a chance.

I meant to blog about this the other day, but forgot. Harper showed up for Game 6 in Edmonton and was interviewed during the first intermission. I must say, the man knows his hockey. His was bang-on about the Oilers needing to go to the net and make the shots. In fact, I was so impressed that I'm thinking of emailing Harper with the suggestion that he give up this politics business and coach hockey instead.

So, GO OILERS!

* The BBC commentators actually called Spain's victory "sumptuous". Seriously? These guys are almost as bad a Bob Cole!

12.30, today in place

At the moment, the Ukraine is destroying Saudi Arabia in Germany. Just into the 2nd half and it's already 3-0. But that's a side note to the real story today.

Strangely enough, my hair is frighteningly similiar to this fellow's lovely red afro. Although I won't be dressed like this oh so snazzy Spanish fan, I will be cheering them on against Túnez (I've forgotten how to spell it in English).

A few weeks ago, I could have cared less about soccer. Or football. Whatever it's called. This is likely because Canada, as a soccer country, sucks. We're a hockey nation. I get it. So soccer/football/hooliganism has been something of a mystery.

Even though I like watching the game, and now understand the game, there's still only a snowball's chance in hell that I'm ever going to put on a get-up like that fellow (regardless of the fact that I already have the hair).

¡ESPAÑA! ¡ESPAÑA! ¡ESPAÑA!

Friday, June 16, 2006

canadian history for dummies

Today's soundtrack:
"Gold to Me" by Ben Harper
"Aserejé" by Las Ketchup
"Me Gustas Tu" by Manu Chao

A few Christmases ago, or perhaps birthdays, my cousin Erika gave me Will Ferguson's Bastards and Boneheads: Canada's Glorious Leaders Past and Present. It sat on my shelf. And sat. Then it moved with me to Saskatoon. I figured that since I'd already taken a year of Canadian History (or as it was truly known, "Kate's Mid-Morning Naptime") during undergrad that there was nothing new this book could tell me. Bastards and Boneheads has been sitting, for those keeping score, in our bathroom for the past few months. I suggested to Miguel that he read it because 1) it looked like a funny approach to Canadian history (of which he knows only that Wayne Gretzky is the King of Canada), and 2) it would look good sitting in our bathroom (N.B. I am the girl who buys extra fruit and vegetables so that I look healthier in the checkout line at Sobeys).

While sitting on the pot, however, it was inevitable that I'd pick it up and read. I was pleasantly surprised. Perhaps if Dr. D's lectures had been more humourous, like this book, I wouldn't have fallen asleep every class (and I mean every class - the man's voice was like a foghorn!). There wasn't anything I hadn't learned about in the book, although there were some things that I'd forgotten completely about. So I chuckled my way through, and left the book in the bathroom for Miguel.

He comes out of the bathroom nowadays shaking his head in disgust. He just finished the chapter on WWII and Canada's role in the Holocaust (the St. Louis anyone?). The chapter on Japanese Internment is up next. Keep in mind, this is all happening at the same time that The National is running "Your Turn" segments glorifying Canadian multiculturalism. Needless to say, I think he's finding Canada to be a bit of a hypocrite. I maintain that it's just that we've learned from our mistakes. But even that I'm not entirely sure of.

Regardless, if you want a little light reading that will help you pass any Canadian immigration exam (or Grade 10 Social Studies), get this book. Need further proof? Check out Ferguson's summary of the various Bastards and Boneheads in Canadian history in the final chapter of the book. Under "Highlights" for Sir John A. MacDonald, Ferguson writes "John A. was the alcoholic Father of the Nation, and with a father like that, is it any wonder we have been in therapy for so long? 'I know my dad loved me, but...'" (240).

Oh well that's just clever!

Enjoy.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

it's the fever

Today's soundtrack:
Hail to the Thief by Radiohead

I have one thing, and one thing only to say about the first team to secure a spot in the Top 16:

ECUADOR! ECUADOR! ECUADOR!


I'm going to start speaking Spanish with a South American accent. That is, until Spain gets into the Top 16.

Monday, June 12, 2006

movies and mundial

Today's soundtrack:
Buena Vista Social Club

In feeding my growing World Cup addiction, I came across this on the CBC site.

¡Viva España! I was going to write ¡arriba España! but Miguel says there are fascist connotations with that.

Also, watched both Brokeback Mountain and Everything is Illuminated this weekend. Brokeback was everything people said it was. Fantastic. Set at a cowboy pace. Beautiful. Everything is Illuminated was a surprise, though. I'm still not sure about Elijah Wood's character, but everyone else was strong. Made me want to learn Ukrainian. I guess I live in the right city for that. Anyhoo, I'd recommend Everything is Illuminated to you guys. Liev Schreiber makes a fantastic, erm.. premium director and screenplay writer. The dialogue is amazing. Really. A very quoteable movie. I hear the book is good too, but I've not had a chance to pick it up yet.

Oh, and ¡viva España!

Friday, June 09, 2006

A nationalistic start

So, you're probably wondering, what did get Miguelito (that's me, just in case you didn't notice the author change) to finally write in a blog like this? (yeah, a sisterhood and edwardian... if I were called Eduardo at least!)
Well, I'm pretty surprised too, but as the world cup is approaching I'm experiencing a very weird infectious disease inside this otherwise immaculate body of mine... Nationalism!!!
And it is very very very weird for three main reasons:
1. I never cared a rat's ass for soccer
2. I never cared a rat's ass for any national team
3. I believe nationalism is cured travelling (and I've done that quite a bit lately)
But yes, just a couple of minutes ago, I was saying, shouting, preaching! that Spain was going to win the World Cup.
This might be the sign... prepare your suitcases because if Spain actually wins... that's the Armaggedon!!!

Thursday, June 08, 2006

voting and hoping for tolerance

Today's soundtrack:
"Tired of Waiting" by the Trews
"Use it" by the New Pornographers

First, read this.

I'm still trying to figure out what these recent events are going to mean to Canada (for those of you thesising, I'm refering to the arrest of 17 Canadians in regards to their alleged plot to blow up buildings, kidnap politicans, take over the CBC and, apparently, behead the Prime Minister). Possibly I need to explore my own reaction to the news. Well, I wasn't really that surprised. The word has been around for a couple years now that Canada's name was on a hitlist (long with Spain, England, the States and Australia), and it was in Spain (I think) that they (the police) found maps of subways in Canada (Toronto or Montreal, I can't remember which) in the apartments of those involved with the Madrid attacks. That the men were all from Canada, as in born-here-educated-here Canadian, wasn't a shock. Especially after the London attacks. In fact, the only thing that really shocked me was that CSIS actually managed to catch them before anything happened.

And then I started to think. Was anything going to happen anyway? With the level of RCMP and CSIS involvement as it was, how much of this terrorism was suggested and facilitated from the so-called good guys, and how much would have remained idle banter around the table?

As more news has come out, it's clear that these guys weren't exactly professionals. In fact, they appear pretty amateur. Not that we should be complacent and decide that terrorism will never hit here, but is the level of fanaticism here as high as in Europe? Miguelito and I watched the National and saw some interesting interviews with Brits and the Dutch. I tried to argue that Canada is just more multicultural and open than Europe, but was countered with examples of both British and Dutch multiculturalism. I attempted to maintain that Canadian multiculturalism was different than European multiculturalism, in that we don't require assimilation (too many Borg references to make - to the hyperbolic chambers!), but believe in the idea of a mosaic.

Then somebody went and smashed the windows of a mosque in Toronto. I wondered where this nationally-instilled idea of multiculturalism and tolerance went.

At this point, I still don't what is going to happen within our society in reaction to this. Seeing what's happened in both the Netherlands and England, I fear that road of intolerance because of intolerance. So I wikied "islam" and read up on everything I could. I started reading the Koran. There is a lot about this community that we, as Canadians, don't know. A fantastic point was made the other day, however, that Muslims are not just their religion, and shouldn't be looked at as such. There are cultures behind all this, be they Iranian, Pakistani, or Moroccan, that go beyond praying a certain number of times a day. Personally, I still don't by the line that women have to cover up because of a modesty before God, not because of sexism. The same rules used to exist in the Catholic Church until the Second Vatican Council. The difference is that within Islam, there is a struggle between maintaining the traditions and habits of their Islamic ancestors (eg: they dressed like this in the 10th century, so we're going to keep dressing like this now) and modernising without destroying the intergrity of Islam.

But this is nothing new under the sun. Tolerance is the balancing act of every religion, culture, and society.

Monday, June 05, 2006

we now return you to your regularly scheduled programming

Today's soundtrack:
Twin Cinema by the New Pornographers

Let me say this first: no matter how appealing it looks, drunk yoga is not advisable. Ever.

In other news, I've been noticing that Mark Rogstad (of local CTV News fame) is sporting better hair (marginally) and funky glasses (although only when he's on location). I have several theories about this, but the most likely reason is that he's just tired of being mistaken for his annoying younger brother (I assume younger, anyway) who can't seem to go a newscast without making some embarrassing and widely inappropriate remark.

I tried Googleling for a picture in order to show Mark's transition from awkwardly embarrassed older brother to Diva's frequent flyer chic, but was somewhat tragically unsuccessful.

Furthermore, in between editing, revising, and vomiting over my excuse for a chapter, I caught glimpses of Spirit Bear on CTV. Shudder. You know, I lived in a logging household in BC during this whole thing, and honestly, I've never heard of this kid. As a result, while the credits rolled, I actually shook my fist at the TV. Miguelito claims I'm biased, but I prefer to think that I'm just slightly skewed. Content aside, though, this movie was terrible. When is Canada's movie industry (and yes, I know this was a movie of the week type of deal) going to produce something that's actually enjoyable to watch? If I had to see that damned kid look into the distance and spiritually commune with the bear one more time, I was going to go watch The Da Vinci Code in order to cleanse my palette of such filth.

Thank you. That is all.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

yoga! yoga! yoga!

Today's soundtrack:
So-Called Chaos by Alanis Morissette


I went to my first yoga class in a while today (I'm needing to calm my soul after that Lost finale). Jivamukti Yoga, which I think is what I studied in Nanaimo. But then again, it's likely that all yogas are frighteningly similar. The chanting at the beginning and ending was familiar, but the lecturing at the beginning via the David Life Lecture on CD was a little much. I've heard all the lines before. That humans are the only species that take milk from other animals. That the baby animals are ripped away from their mothers (appropriate level of drama in the voice). That is takes more energy to produce a hamburger patty than to power a SUV (more disgust in the voice now). All this built into a fevered, yet measured pitch. And I suppose that if one were willing to take everything at face value then Mr. Life's statistics (the source is unnamed) are convincing.

But they are also horrifically biased. All statistics are. Ask any statistician. They'll tell you. It's all about the questions you ask, both how and when. In the case of meat production, it's about which figures you include. Do you only count the farmers? Or do you include the truck drivers? And does that mean you must include the entire oil industry? The only thing said in the 15 minute rant/lecture/tirade that resonated with me was that we, as humans, consume too much. No argument here. After working at McDonalds (shudder), I've seen firsthand the amount of food that people order, eat, throw-away, and this is not to mention the amount of waste behind the scenes. Does anyone really need a SuperSized Fry? A SuperSized Diet Coke? Sigh.

But the yoga itself was fantastic. I think I'm definitely at an intermediate level, which is great athletically, but I worry about the lifestyle involved. I'm not about to become vegetarian, for the sole reason that I could never give up Kelly's Secret Spaghetti Sauce. I have no interest in becoming vegan. To be honest, I don't see veganism or vegetarianism as necessary for advancement in yoga. Here's hoping they don't tar and feather me for that. It always amazes me how people involved in things like yoga (yes, yoga!) wind up being some of the most judgmental people in the world.

Going to try Vinyasa Yoga sometime next week (body permitting) at a different studio. We'll see if that one is a little less preachy.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

this may require further consideration

Today's soundtrack:
Carrera SkipMix

Went for my first run around the River today. It was more or less successful. Well, more less successful. The run.. ok, run/walk.. was about 6km, but that wind was coming right at me. To be honest, I was wheezing and exhausted when the wind was at my back. I was feeling lactic acid where I didn't know lactic acid could go. By the time I got home, I was about ready to collapse. How out of shape could I really be? Perhaps this jogging three to four times a week is a plan that requires further consideration.


In other news, this comic illustrates my mindset right about now. "Yes Mom, I'm making great progress. Practically done. Want to see my outline?". Not that a lot of work is going to get done this weekend. Miguelito's back in the Great White North in about 15 hours (but who's counting?). Also, my "daughter" Shaily will be in town tomorrow (hopefully), so it'll be one big happy family! And as we all know, happiness is not conducive to thesis production.

Friday, May 26, 2006

another beautiful day in saskatoon

Today's soundtrack:
Twin Cinema by The New Pornographers

Aah.

That was a deep sigh of contentment.

The big news is that I was up before noon today. The better news is that I walked downtown today, hitting lululemon before coffee with D. I've decided that I'm tired of being tired, and need to start moving more. So I walked downtown, found a yoga mat and a good sport bra (don't want black eyes) so that I can start running again. Had a wonderful coffee with my real boyfriend, came home and did yoga (Dr. Phil in the background - one step at a time). Feeling a lot better now. I don't know if it's due to the beautiful weather today, the fact that Miguelito will be back on Saturday, or having done yoga - or possibly a combination of all three - but I'm feeling a lot more positive. Positive enough to charge ahead on the Thesis (with a capital T, as it is now more of a deity than a composition).

This is all in stark contrast to last night when, after Lost, I was nothing short of confused and perplexed. I'm looking forward to Amie's summary and analysis. Is Michael going to find Sayid and tell him what happened? Is Locke dead? Now that the electromagnetic field is destroyed (or is it?), will they be rescued? Amie, send help!

Una pregunta a mis amigas más cultural que yo - ¿cómo se dice 'doing yoga' en español?

Oh, and go Oilers.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

notes from broadway

Today's soundtrack:
Has Been by William Shatner

That damned da Vinci movie, reviewed by someone more spiteful than me (yes, it is possible!).

Oh, and that new Mayan Chocolate flavour from Haagen-Danz is orgasmic. Calms the nerves after, say, reading that damned book.

In other news, there was a blue-wigged girl with a guitar and a bucket wandering up and down Broadway this afternoon. The strap to her guitar was chainmail, which was cool. She strumming without making chords, thrusting the bucket in people's faces, and (I assume) singing, all of which was not cool.

Well, if the blue-haired girl is any indication, this summer is going to be very entertaining (thesis-dependant, of course).

Saturday, May 20, 2006

still procrastinating... but the pics are good, no?

Today's soundtrack:
"Me Gustas Tú" by Manu Chao

I've just discovered that my friend lives in Cicely, Alaska.

Moose
Yes, that's a moose merrily wandering the streets.

Grizzly
Yes, that's a real grizzly bear. Very possibly Jesse the Bear. I've been assured that it was thisclose to charging.

Tragically, no embittered Jewish, New York doctor. At least, not yet.

En las noticias de España, la familia de Miguel (en el pueblo - with two dogs and a Ferrari) no tiene ningún idea sobre el trabajo de Miguel, ni cúando el volveriá a España, pero toda la familia sabe que el tiene una novia canadiense.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

he's back

Today's soundtrack:
Funeral by Arcade Fire (D&L have that world's best music collection)

No, Miguelito's not back, but Gorby is. He first.. or possiby she.. first appeared last fall, but disappeared over the long winter. Miguelito named him Gorby, which is short of Gorbachev. Apparently, Miguelito always wanted a pet named Gorbachev. I've been a big fan of Einstein as a pet name myself. Anyway, through the magic of the internet and Jessica's website, Gorby has returned and can be found at the bottom of this page. He enjoys foie gras (in the tin can) and playing with the giant ruby on an ivory stick.

Right, right. A-thesising I go.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

agenbite of inwit

Today's soundtrack:
Nostalgeria - Exploded SkipMix

During my undergraduate degree, with all the readings for classes, I got out of the habit of having a book at my bedside. Now, the bedside table is overflowing with them. Nederlands/Spaans, Frankenstein, Español - Inglés, Memorias de una vaca, and Ulysses. Somehow, Joyce became my bedtime reading (he's following Atwood's The Blind Assassin, which was rather disappointing read). This, I feel, is somewhat disrespectful, but between procrastinating and pretending to work on my thesis, there's just not enough time in the day to sit and read with the upright posture this book requires. I hope Joyce won't hold a grudge against me for this.

I was reading, blissfully mind, away when I came across "agenbite of inwit". Oh, I get it now. See, it's one of those phrases that people who know say in order to gauge if another person knows. Well, now I know. Drinks all around.

Sadly, after I finish Ulysses, which I'm plowing through a chapter a night, I'll be left with only Finnegans Wake left unread on my bookshelf. And I don't think I'm quite ready for that. So I'm taking suggestions. Later this week, I'm going to go to McNally Robinson in search of a book on birds in Saskatoon (one of my many odd fetishes) and hopefully with a suggestion on what book could possibly follow Ulysses on my bedstand.



Esto es unos de mis fotografías favoritas de Miguelito. De Long Beach en al verano pasado. El está en Barcelona hoy (¡qué suerte el cabrón tiene!), y se echo de menos. ¡Quiero que el pueda ver mi pelo rubia! Pero bueno, en realidad, ojalá que esté en España. En Madrid. En Casa del Libro (qué tienda). Tomando un café con leche. Pero, estoy aquí, en una casa dondé la gente arriba hace más sexo que yo. Su novia vino ayer. Y squeak squeak squeak esta mañana. Chuta. Doce días más.

Joé.

Monday, May 15, 2006

stand in the corner and think about what you've done

It's official. All my best thinking happens in the bathroom. Tonight, as I washed my face I realised why the Catholic Church is so paranoid about gay marriage. If only my thesis had so many moments of sheer brilliance.

So the Church has been involved in lobbying government for years. Pro-life and environmental agendas have been pushed for years. Admittedly, some agendas have been better than others. But in the agendas lies the problem. In my opinion, the Church shouldn't be attempting to influence government at all.

Yes, okay there is scripture to counter that. I know, and rest assured I'm familiar with it. But this isn't the ancient world. We don't stone people for wearing cotton-poly blends. You can't pick and choose.

Jefferson had it right, and we need something just as clear up here in the North. Church and State need to be separate. Together, neither can flourish. Jefferson's concern, and indeed the concern of the earliest Puritans, was that the State would attempt to control the Church. Now we face the opposite problem.

The Church has spent years trying to influence government policy. Now, they're worried they're going to get as good as they've given.

Under Canadian law, no church can marry people without a document from the government - the marriage license. Without the license, churches can only give blessings. In short, the Church does not have any power, separate from the government, to marry people. Keep in mind that marriage itself is a legal, not theological term. When the government allowed gay marriage, it only meant that gay people could get married under the law. The Church was never under any obligation to give a blessing, or to allow gay marriages within the Church.

And like a scared child, the Church is now worried that all the poking and proding of the State is about to come back and bite them in the ass. If the Church can influence government policy, why couldn't the State influence Church policy?

Of course, I highly doubt that the State would overstep their bounds in such a way. It seems the government has more respect for beliefs, morality, and tolerance than the Church.

Like arguing children, the Church and the State need to be separated for a while. I recommend that the Church go stand in the corner for a while and think about what it's done.