Saturday, March 31, 2007

A Few Changes

There are all sorts of changes going on right now - Spring, Jobs, Location - so I thought I'd try a change of layout on the blog. Not sure if I'm quite convinced but maybe this one makes me look butcher? No not like a butcher I mean more... oh forget it!

All comments in the affirmative on the butch thing are welcome. Criticism on the rest of the layout more than acceptable.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Vespa... Vespas.. . Vespat... Vespanum????

Audrey Hepburn, Gregory Peck and a Vespa
A friend has suggested that the best way to get around Rome is to buy a Scooter! No desperate attempts to find a parking spot or fit down narrow streets lined with double parked cars. Just zipping around the Coliseum and down the Appian Way, the wind ruffling what's left of our hair.

This immediately conjured up visions of Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck in Roman Holiday. Question is which one of us gets to play Audrey??

P.S. Oh God I suddenly remember those scooters in Vietnam!

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Stop and Smell the Flowers!!!!!

Real sign, Honest! My colleague Shirly thought she would buy some but then a few questions arose (as it were):

I wonder what kind of a vase you would use to display them?

I wonder if they come in different colors?

I wonder about the fragrance?

I wonder if it would help to put those preservative packets in the water?

I wonder whether they would look better on the kitchen table or in the entry?

I wonder if they are cheaper by the dozen?

I wonder if they come in long-stemmed?

Captured at 115th and Allisonville Road in Fishers, Indianapolis. The sign is real and was up for about two hours before someone stopped and told them how to spell peonies.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

And the Little Dogs Laughed....

New Yorker Cover - Eustache Tilley by Rea Irvin I've read and enjoyed The New Yorker for over 40 years and nothing could have been more disappointing than The Complete New Yorker issued on 7 DVDs back in December 2005. It is a bug ridden, user-unfriendly mess and sits largely unused on the bookshelf with 80 years of incredible writing, advertisements, cover art and cartoons beckoning. But its just not worth the frustration of switching DVDs and grappling with an awkward interface. So little thought went into what should have been a landmark product.

Given that mess I was surprised to see that their new website design is so well-done and user friendly. Someone at Condé Nast has been thinking this time around.

Amongst the new features are animated cartoons which continue the great New Yorker tradition of Addams, Wilson, Booth, Thurber et al. Two of my favorites are the receptionist and the suggestion box - if only we had the nerve. And of course being the New Yorker there are one or two dog cartoons.

Friday, March 23, 2007

51 Years Ago ... and a bit

Laurent at 3 months

Happy Birthday Larry.

Love from Willy and Reesie

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

If I Had A Million $$$$$$

With tonight’s 6/49 lottery riding at around $20 million – though latest reports suggest that those sort of figures may be a marketing ploy – we started talking at the office about the first thing we would do if we won. A few of the suggestions were frankly too scatological to be included on a family (?) blog.

It did bring to mind one of our favorite old movies – if I recall it was the first movie Laurent ever copied on our old Beta machine – If I Had A Million. A rich old man (Richard Bennett) lies dying and rather than give the money to his greedy relatives he takes names from a phone book. This leads to episodes starring many of Paramounts biggest stars and finest directors of the period: W.C. Fields, Alison Skipworth, Gary Cooper, Mary Boland, Charlie Ruggles, May Robson, Ernst Lubitsch, James Cruze and Norman Tuarog. The Fields-Skipworth (as retired vaudevillians Rollo Peters and Emily LaRue) is the funniest sketch and Robson (as an old lady confined to a nursing home) appears in the most touching but it is the briefest segment that I have always enjoyed the most. Devised by and starring the great Charles Laughton and directed by Lubitsch , it comes closest to one of my dearest fantasies.

If tonight turns out to be my night you may see that scene recreated tomorrow in the hallowed halls of Transport Canada.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Bad Day at Black Rock - A Touch of Whimsy

Yesterday was not a good day for Reese. As well as being a snow day - more of that white, wet, cold stuff to plow through just when he had found some grass - it was also bath day.

A good Doodoo

So there you are in the middle of a great morning doodoo and suddenly you're scooped up, taken upstairs and dumped into the bathtub.

The Water Torture

First he gets you wet - all over! - then this foamy stuff! - tastes awful! - then more wet, more foul foamy stuff, then wet again. All the time he's cooing "what a good boy" - is there a choice?

Hide and he won't see you.

Once you're back on solid ground, make a beeline for the towel and hide your head. That way he can't see you, just in case he wants to put you back in the tub.

Roll in the towel

If you roll around on the towel he may not use that hair dryer to inflict more torture on a poor defensely puppy. Okay I'm thirteen but I can still do defenseless puppy.

You hate me don't you?

See! If this look doesn't shame the bastard, nothing ever will.

Help my nose is wet.

So he gets my nose wet, I'll just dry off on that expensive oriental carpet. Serves him right.

Now a picture?

And now he wants a picture?????

I don't think so!

I don't think so!

(I should probably avoided this sort of whimsy but what the hell, he's my best buddy and I think its as cute as all get out!)

Seeing the Sights - Some Not Often Seen

Anna and Luigi at the Temple of Heaven
As Laurent's time in Beijing is drawing to a close friends are making that last minute scramble to visit before he leaves. Anna and Luigi were originally scheduled to visit last year but health concerns delayed their trip. Gratia Deo they were able to spend some time this month doing the Beaulieu tour of Beijing and a little freelancing in Xian. And Anna was able to SHOP! Imagine our surprise!

Fragrant Hills North of Beijing
Though it was cold and snowy during their visit it was uncharacteristically clear - the polution in Beijing is, to put it mildy, a major problem. Laurent says that he can only recall seeing the Fragrant Hills that bound the city at the north three or four times in the past three years. Luigi took this shot from the Forbidden City just after a snow and wind storm. On a normal day the buildings in the background would be shrouded in smog and the mountains invisible. This is a sight not often seen.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

A Picture is Worth .... Three Words??

Ziolek Cartoon
When I left the Warsaw Business Journal to return to Canada my colleagues were at a loss as to what to buy me as a going away present. It had to be something that could be packed in a suitcase – our belongs had been shipped – and it had to be something that reflected our time in Poland and my time at the Journal. On the quiet I mentioned to our HR chief that I had always admired the work of Ziolek, our Editorial cartoonist, and one cartoon in particular had intrigued and unsettled me. And I would like to have the original.

Political cartooning is an art form in Poland and was often the only way dissidence could be expressed during much of the 20th century. Many Polish artists learned to work a type of shorthand into their work – particularly in cartoons and posters – that spoke volumes to the Polish viewer yet said nothing to the Government Censor. The cartoon I wanted had been published without a caption but subtly addressed the allegations made in a book that had been published the week before.

My colleagues at the paper were a little perplexed and unsettled by my request but on my final day I was presented with the framed original. It has hung in our two homes back in Canada and caused some equally unsettled reactions from many of our guests. Yes it is a strange cartoon and on the surface is just another rendering of the horrors of War. But this is a Polish cartoon and there is a hidden message that speaks to a disturbing event in corporate and world history.

(The picture is rather low quality as I was not able to successfully scan the cartoon but had to take a photo of it.)

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

You Can Say That There ..... Now!

As a follow up to last week - the vagina thing:

The School Board in Cross River N.Y. has had second thoughts about suspending the three girls who used the dreaded V word in a presentation of The Vagina Monologues. As with most bureaucratic changes of heart/mind only after parents, students, author Eve Ensler, the news media and the Civil Liberties Union raised a fuss did Superintendent Bob Lichtenfeld see it for the foolishness it was.

And I may be reading this wrong – after several Venetian murder mysteries I become cynical about officialdom – but is Superintendent Bob hanging the principal out of dry? Or just his principles??

Monday, March 12, 2007

Send In The Clowns

Saturday December 8, 1973 - Majestic Theater - A Little Night Music

It was a crowded weekend – Italiana with Marilyn Horne at the Opera Met, the Baroque Angel Christmas tree at the Museum Met, High Mass at St. Mary the Virgin (Smokey Mary’s), lunch at the Russian Tearoom, , non-stop activity – but suddenly that Saturday evening there came a grace note in both the musical and our weekend - a shared moment of melancholy quiet.

Glynis Johns sat motionless at stage left and in a voice that was never really meant to sing broke our hearts. Send In the Clowns had become popular in Judy Collins’ silken - almost sexless - version but here was the woman Sondheim had written it for, singing it the way he meant it to be sung. Singing of middle-aged love and the sadness of chances missed. And in the reprise with Len Cariou singing of the sweet foolishness and deep love that reunited them and would hold them together. It was a magical moment.

As with any magical moment that you discover has been captured you wonder if it was really all that wonderful..... all that magical. Looking at this clip: it was and it still is.

The Ambassador Who Came In From the Heat

Or should have!

We’ve seen some strange behavior from Ambassadors and Embassy staff in the past 20-odd years, but this story on the BBC takes the prize.

And I would tend to agree with Israeli State Controller – a little more effort should be put into examination but I think the Ambassador had the transparency thing down pat!

Saturday, March 10, 2007

He's Free!

John Inman - BBC photographJohn Inman died last week at the age of 71. He was at the end of an era that allowed us to find stereotypes funny. He and others like him – Kenneth (I’ve come all over queer!) Williams et al – were not politically correct by today’s standards but damn it they made us laugh! So did Mrs Slocum, Captain Peacock and the rest of the pc-challenged caricatures on Are You Being Served. (And there are some very funny episodes at

Days after Mr. Inman’s death self-appointed spokespeople (that is the pc word I believe) for various gay groups were pontificating about the negative image of gay men Inman or rather his Mr Humphries gave the world. In today’s Times of London, Matthew Parris takes on these groups of humourless activists and reminds them that it was men like Inman that help them say “I’m free!”

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

You Can't Say/Do That Here/There

I’m not into U.S. bashing – that holier than thou attitude we tend to take here in Canada does have a tendency to backfire. You know the one: We don't have racial discrimination here in Canada – hmm just ask the people of Africville. However a few things I’ve read today make me fear for the Land of the Free.

The Vagina Monologues - Random HouseIn Cross River, N. Y. Three high school girls are being suspended for using the word “Vagina” during a public reading from Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues. It would appear that using the proper anatomical term was going to damage the psyche of children in the audience. Somehow – though maybe I’m being unfair here – I can’t believe that many parents in Cross River would take their children to see something called The Vagina Monologues.

And this week poor Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter to most of us) has been the subject of outraged comments from American parents on several blogs – including one celebrity gossip site that I will not admit to visiting from time to time. So what has poor Harry… sorry Dan done? Well he is currently appearing in a revival of Peter Shaffers’s Equus in London’s West End. And for 5 minutes of this 180 minute play Dan is nude - Daniel Radcliffe - Uli Weber/www.equustheplay.comwith his “weewee” – I don’t want to use the word “penis” in case there are children from Cross River reading this – exposed. Now during the play he also rides on the back of men dressed up as horses and drives spikes into said horses’ eyes. But apparently that isn’t important – it’s that exposed weewee that is going to scar America’s children for life. They will never be able to look at a Wizard’s wee… damn it penis again!

The odd thing is that it isn’t happening in the mass media in the U.S. – the great exposure is happening in a theatre an ocean away. The likelihood of any of these people’s children making the trans-Atlantic hop to witness this dreadful unveiling are extremely slim –actually I can’t imagine its all that dreadful, Dan looks pretty damned buffed in the publicity photos. One upset mother referred to him appearing in a pornographic play. Any bets that Mom hasn’t read, if she reads anything at all, the play or perhaps seen a play for that matter.

Most of the indignation and outrage – indignation at the use of the perfectly valid word Vagina and outrage at a naked man 3000 kilometers away – seems to be the indignation and outrage of the ignorant. And that's what is frightening me.

Rising From the Flames - Part 3

The Reopening of La Fenice - 2003 Until I read the last chapter of The City of Falling Angels I had not realized that Enrico Carella had fled Italy after he lost his appeal. He was one of the two men charged with setting the La Fenice fire. His cousin is currently serving out his seven year sentence but until yesterday Carella had avoid his eight year term. Now according to an article in the New York Times he has been caught in Mexico.

Being Venice (actually being Italy) there are all sorts of conspiracy theories - Mafia, City Officials, corrupt Companies – some of which sound entirely plausible. But Berendt points out something he was told the first day he arrived in Venice:

Everyone in Venice is acting…. Venetians never tell the truth. We mean precisely the opposite of what we say.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Mon Pays - Aylmer, Sunday March 4, 2007

One of the oldest grand houses in townMon pays ce n'est pas un pays, c'est l'hiver
Mon jardin ce n'est pas un jardin, c'est la plaine
Mon chemin ce n'est pas un chemin, c'est la neige
Mon pays ce n'est pas un pays, c'est l'hiver

Rose arbour in our garden
La Maison Blanche My country isn't a country, it's winter
My garden isn't a garden, it's the plain
My road isn't a road, it's the snow
My country isn't a country, it's winter

The Barns Next Door
Mulberry Tree in the Garden Mon pays ce n'est pas un pays, c'est l'hiver
Mon refrain ce n'est pas un refrain, c'est rafale
Ma maison ce n'est pas ma maison, c'est froidure
Mon pays ce n'est pas un pays, c'est l'hiver

The Town Square Cenotaph My country isn't a country, it's winter
My refrain isn't a refrain, it's a gust of wind
My house isn't my house, it's the winter cold
My country isn't a country, it's winter

Mon Pays - Gilles Vigneault

Only in England

Say Cheese!

My First Digital - Sony Mavica
I’ve never been big on taking pictures when I travel – in fact until I bought my first digital camera in 1998 I very seldom took photos on my extensive travels. I found – and still do – that you spend so much time taking pictures you often miss the sights. That first digital was, as you can see, a rather clunky affair – a Sony that recorded pictures on a floppy disc. The pictures were not the greatest (click on the camera to get an example) and frankly as a photographer I’m no Henri Cartier-Bresson.

Back in January 2003 as I was getting ready to board The Canadian, VIA’s TransCanada service from Winnipeg to Vancouver, I realized that I had forgot to bring my old clunker. I made a quick trip to a Kodak shop in an underground mall – it was January, it was Winnipeg, it was -37c at the corner of Portage and Main – and I bought the first thing I saw that looked reasonable and easy (yeah I know, at the corner of Portage and Main, that would normally be Brandy or Tiffany.) It is what I have been using ever since. Still not the greatest but ….

So why bother to mention it? The past few days I’ve been going through photo files of Venice and a few other trips we took between 1998 and 2003. The photos are not the greatest quality and PhotoShop can only do so much but I thought I might post some of them. I guess this is just a word of warning.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Short Legs in the Snow

Reese in the snowKristina, our housekeeper in Warsaw, called Reesie "Nishki" (a bad transliteration as everyone knows that in Polish there has to be a least one letter with a line through it somewhere.) Apparently it is a term of endearment for a child but I've never had the heart to tell Reese that it translates as "short legs." But in his case it's certainly true - he's legs can't be more than 3 inches long. This can be a real problem with steps or on a snow day.

Reese in the snow 2And yesterday was definitely a snow day. We only got 20 cm but the winds were high and bitter and the ice pellets stinging. Today is one of those strange days - its either overcast with snow or bright sun and melting.

Reese has always liked the snow - it's great for burying your nose in. But this year there hasn't been much hardpack so the odd foray off the deck has resulted in a stranded daschie. Its hard to go either forward or backward when you're halfway up your chest in snow and your butt is stuck. Twice now the rescue brigade has sprung into action.

Snow ToesOf course there's also the drawback of having hairy toes in weather like this. The snow sticks to your feet and can be really uncomfortable once you get back inside. That is unless you look really pathetic and someone comes along and dries you off. And maybe if they're a kind loving person who cares about poor sad daschies (and doesn't everyone) gives you a biscuit to warm your feet.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Love: Seventeen Words - No Period

Olga Rudge - 1915I have never found Ezra Pound particularly accessible and much of what I know about his life is sketchy. I do know that he and his companion of 50 years Olga Rudge are buried in the incredibly beautiful cemetery on Isolo di San Michele in Venice. Laurent and I saw their grave on one of our visits to Venice. John Berendt devotes a chapter of The City of Falling Angels to Pound and to his beloved Olga. For me, at least, she is the more interesting of the two.

In 1966 Pound wrote a brief 17 word poem that he requested be placed as the last poem in his Cantos:

          That her acts

Olga’s acts

of beauty

be remembered.

         Her name was Courage

& is written Olga

Says it all really, doesn’t it?

Thursday, March 01, 2007

From the Office Window - Friday February 23 - 10:30 a.m.

Last Thursday I posted a few shots from our office windows taken on a cloudy day. The next day it was bright and clear with a wind that whipped the flags a caution. It was also -25c with that bloody wind but the views from the warmth of the 15th floor are great when the sun shines.
The Canadian War Museum and Eddy Complex I'm ashamed to say I have yet to visit the Canadian War Museum - isn't that always the way. I'll have to wait for some visitors to come into town. I don't find it a particularly attractive building and frankly it looks like a building looking for a location with that expanse of land around it. However I have been told the exhibits are extremely well done and the current show on Afghanistan is worth the trip.
Willson's Carbide Mill on Victoria Island
Tip of Victoria Island towards Place de Portage There has been talk about developing the entire Victoria Island complex including the Ottawa Carbide Mill (top photo) built by inventor Thomas Willson. Unfortunately the Aboriginal Experience village is complete covered with snow in the lower photo. This island has been a native meeting place for centuries.
The Casino Lac Lemay and Hull between the smoke
Cormier's Folly - the Supreme Court of Canada When I look down at the Supreme Court Building I am always puzzled by the crazy - and let’s admit it unsuccessful - attempt to wed the Beaux Arts style with the Mansard roof line. Apparently that what Ernest Cormier, the architect, was instructed to built by the Government of the day. And it’s still more attractive than the War Museum.
The Alexandra Bridge and the Interprovincial Bridge The first bridge, the Alexandra Interprovincial Bridge, was the railway bridge into town when Ottawa had a train station at Confederation Square rather than in a distant suburb.
The Peace Tower and West BlockSadly I will be losing my view of the Peace Tower in the next few days - the flag was always a good indicator as to how bad the wind was on a stormy day. The new job comes with a cost - relocation to an inside cell... sorry cubicle.