Monday, November 27, 2006

When the Highlight of a Play is the Fire Alarm

Not a good business indeed.

Canadian Stage's 'Glorious' was sadly anything but.

It wasn't even Canadian! A really tedious script by an Englishman, with a plot centred on a rich American who could buy her dreams despite all reality. What did anyone think the message was?

And the script was SO bad - I tend to the prudish, so the silly double entendres and jokes about homosexuality had less charm than they may have for some (and in fact the homosexuals seated around our seats seemed to find the script hilarious, not a great reflection on them, in my view).

Nicola Cavendish did a bravura performance in her role, but this was a role inviting the extremities she produced so well - no subtlety at all.

The supporting cast was decent - but there was no role with much of a challenge.

So what was the highlight? A funeral is occurring on stage. A bell rings, intermittently, and incessantly; it seems to be ringing strangely close to our ears in the back of the orchestra. And it turns out it is, as the characters on stage inform the audience that they are hearing a fire alarm. After a short while we learn the fire alarm was false and the play resumes; the funeral still gets a bell and we realize how uncanny the timing was as the fire alarm covered up the stage bells.
Sadly, the scene here is the only place I really enjoyed laughing - there was a nice joke as the funeral resumed and we got to be surprised. But that was really the sole moment of delight.
The program notes said this play had been a great West End success in 2005.
It seems to me the lesson is that success in London's West End is no useful predictor of anything, and maybe we could just have a native theatre season. (But please do not bring back 'Glorious')!
I guess this means artistic directors earn their money.
But really to quote my internal thoughts, "This was not even Canadian". It was very bad, so why did Canadian Stage choose to stage it?

Opera Atelier Deserve This

A search that came to my blog. from Japan!!!!:

"opera atelier magic flute review".

These guys are good!! I am honoured this search found me.

An Aging Society

Whose votes does Gerard Kennedy Want?
He is telling George Strombopoulos that he has to vote against Harper's 'Silly Nation' motion because he feels we need to take care of aging Canadians.
For some reason, looking at Kennedy and Strombopoulos, I am not convinced either of them has my concerns at heart. Maybe Kennedy could dye his hair gray.

Did I Hear That?

I am watching CBC report on the 'Nation' vote; Jim Travers says that Ken Dryden was perceived to be on the 'cerebral' side of the Liberal Party. Huh? The hockey side I can see. Cerebral? Dear me. Poor Liberal Party.

Help from an Axworthy

I have had great difficulty deciding on how I think people should vote on our utterly silly 'nation' motion, up for a vote in the House of Commons in the next hour.
Steve Paikin did me a service. Whatever my intellectual position, he found an Axworthy totally opposed to the motion!
OK - so I am now in favour.
Of course meanwhile I am forming a motion for the recognition of the Nation of Alliver, occasionally Alliverita, depending on who is living in this house. Even within the Nation of Alliver, we live within Two Solitudes - it is stunning how little the cat Oliver cares for the enthusiasms of the human Alan, and, to a degree, vice versa.
Over the last couple of years I have worried about the name of this blog, but Canada is coming through big time justifying it right now!

I Hope our Police are Better

And I hope I never need to find out!
Jackie Danicki underwent an assault in the London Underground. She took the initiative to get a picture of one of the assailants, and it seems the police are still not interested. What the hey?
Not a fine basis for a civil society.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Tis the Season to be Jolly Part Two

Part One is here.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Paikin Tonight

He took on a tough one tonight - women and men. I don't know - could not make much sense of the discussions.
But I did find one thing interesting today (see previous post).
Normally during the year I see a good mix of men and women on a golf course. Today, in the conditions described below, we did see a couple of women playing in a group, but the population on the course was overwhelmingly male.
Why is this?
I know I utterly love the scenery, and my wife tells me she is pretty much unresponsive to it. I love the flight of the ball - do men like this more than women? I love the focus on something completely irrelevant. I am less sure that is particularly male. Maybe that is the nature of the irrelevancy.
Maybe what we like the most is being dragged into a world of abstract tests.
I don't know.
But I suspect there is something to learn.

Toronto Winter Golf

The weather forecasts promised sunny skies and temperatures of around 10 degrees centigrade, so I agreed to join in on a round of golf today! The waters of Casablanca came to mind as we arrived at the course; I began to feel I had been misled.
Here is an out of focus picture of the dash on my car recording the outside temperature as we arrived. Not quite 10 degrees - more like 0 degrees.

As for sunny here is the scene at the first tee.

Now golf features occasional blind shots and these make it more interesting. But when EVERY shot is a blind shot, the game is something else, and in a fog, it is pretty hard to know where to shoot. I guess we should be happy nobody got hurt.
One of our group put a ball early in the round into the water. Ooppss! That is what we would normally say. Actually it was onto the water - here is his ball (slightly out of focus).
One member of our group commented, "Only Jesus can play that ball," and the owner of the ball said, "If we could wait two months, I could walk out and play it."
In the end this seemed unlikely, as the sun did break through on our back nine, from time to time, and gave us nice scenes like this of the group in front of us holding up our play.

As almost always, it was a grand time, with good company, with some promise of minor competence at this difficult sport, and with a lot of challenge to come.
But really, had someone said I would have an enjoyable round of golf this year on November 23, I would have laughed. The last laugh is on my expectations, and I am the winner.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

November 22

It is now past 6 pm here and I have seen NO observation that in 1963 John F. Kennedy was assassinated on this day.
In past years this has been observed strenuously. This is very interesting. Maybe it was the same last year - for some reason I just thought about it today.
That day in 1963 was truly extraordinary and I have memories about it I carry with more confidence that I do about possibly more personally important days in the interim.
I recall heading for history class with the news radio, oddly, being broadcast on the school PA system (very unusual) and I recall hearing on that broadcast discussions of what Mrs Johnson was saying (though there was no established context at that point so we had no idea who she was). I recall walking into history class, and seeing my history teacher (who was excellent, at least I thought so then, but I cannot recall his name) in tears. He filled us in.
The school sent us all home early.
I arrived home to see my parents unprecedentedly in tears.
What a date in history for little me.
And it is funny how fate works - one of Milton Friedman's best comments in my view, is the one that dismisses both halves of Kennedy's "do what you can do" speech as unworthy of a proper society (and I now agree with Friedman, though I could not have thought it through back then).
What were the Kennedys? The Lady Di's of their times - the symbols of the break from the '50s, which was both one of the most productive times in history and, I suspect as a result, the one that built up more tension for change than it could handle.
Still, those tears, from my history teacher in front of his class trying to maintain composure, and from my father, mowing the lawn trying to fight them back that day, tell me that this event cut deeply into the dreams and hopes of the generation before me.

A Day of Major Silliness

I am so happy. I named this blog after a passing comment by my mother about life in this self-important, and very silly, country, and lately it has been hard to find adequate levels of silliness in the land.

But we hit it all across the board today!!

One of the idiotic discussions that has gone on in Canada for decades is the question of whether the French (largely) province of Quebec should be a 'Nation' (which of course means many things).

There have been cycles of constitutional argument during which the discussion of whether Quebec gets special status has been tied up with this linguistic question. Whenever anyone has tried to write something into the constitution, all efforts at finding common meaning collapse.

The Liberal leadership campaign has lately been struggling with this, as Michael Ignatieff has appeared to suggest we need formal recognition of this status for Quebec as a nation (and perhaps for other groups, I cannot figure it all out). The Liberals have been desperately trying to keep these discussions under wrap.

But today in the House of Commons this took a serious turn. The Bloc Quebecois introduced a motion in the House of Commons, that Quebec be recognized as a 'nation'. Already at this point the Liberals must have been squirming as they might be forced to vote and take a position. In a counter-coup our Prime Minister amended the motion to describe Quebec as a nation inside a united Canada. This was a stroke of genius, I think, though we will have to see how it plays in the next few days. But it lets him establish a connection, and force the Liberals to take a position, the last thing they want to do.

We shall see.

These are issues of great national significance.

Could there be any better proof this is a silly country?

Move to Moderating Comments

I have decided to moderate comments henceforth. Apologies to anyone who feels offended. I have had to do too much deleting recently.

Please let's keep the Miss Canada contest simple

The Miss Belgium story is pretty rugged!

A Brutal Week

One knows as one ages that the theme will start switching at some point to the heroes you had, or at least those who became part of your life, leaving the world on a steady basis.
About ten years ago it began to strike me that those I admired where dying at a good clip.
This week has been especially hard.
Already mentioned in this blog have been Milton Friedman (who, by the way, I knew for years I had to despise - and was that ever wrong!) and Robert Altman. Today I find that John Allan Cameron has died (if you are not Canadian and are scratching your head, do not worry - it is one of those things).
A rough week indeed. The world seems a bit smaller, but to play a Bastiat riff, this is largely because we have no idea who is being born today!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006


The season is beginning seriously and Doc and I will be posting there too now.

Planned-to-be-roughly-biweekly Post regarding The Agenda

And just confirming yet again that Steve Paikin is hosting on TVO the best news and commentary show I know on my 500 channels.
I imagine if you live in other parts of the world you can create conditions that would let this channel appear on your local cable or satellite.

Baker's Free Pass

I have long wondered about James Baker's free pass; he seems personable, and most of the media seem ot have a lot of respect for his efforts in the past as a diplomat.
The great contrarian Christopher Hitchens sees it differently and right now I think Hitchens' points are spot-on:

In 1991, for those who keep insisting on the importance of sending enough troops, there were half a million already-triumphant Allied soldiers on the scene. Iraq was stuffed with weapons of mass destruction, just waiting to be discovered by the inspectors of UNSCOM. The mass graves were fresh. The strength of sectarian militias was slight. The influence of Iran, still recovering from the devastating aggression of Saddam Hussein, was limited. Syria was—let's give Baker his due—"on side." The Iraqi Baathists were demoralized by the sheer speed and ignominy of their eviction from Kuwait and completely isolated even from their usual protectors in Moscow, Paris, and Beijing. There would never have been a better opportunity to "address the root cause" and to remove a dictator who was a permanent menace to his subjects, his neighbors, and the world beyond. Instead, he was shamefully confirmed in power and a miserable 12-year period of sanctions helped him to enrich himself and to create the immiserated, uneducated, unemployed underclass that is now one of the "root causes" of a new social breakdown in Iraq. It seems a bit much that the man principally responsible for all this should be so pleased with himself and that he should be hailed on all sides as the very model of the statesmanship we now need.

The tragedy is that those with a yearning for the days of Bush 41 seem now to be growing in influence, and they are an appalling bunch; it is depressing to watch their self-satisfaction.

The World of Bond

I first noticed Daniel Craig in the superb British TV adaptation of Minette Walter's The Ice House. He was just great in that production, and I have watched for him ever since. The announcement that he was the new James Bond made a lot of sense to me (though part of me is lobbying still for Clive Owen).
Virginia Postrel has a nice post reminding us that the world of the original Bond is not our world today. And we should be thankful for it.
As for ' Casino Royale', I do intend to see it - my guess is on an airplane in January, or later off a DVD.

This poses no question for me nor does it surprise me when I consider the Israelis I know (not that they are gay, but more that they are very committed to human rights).
What troubles me is the tension between our 'social' left and 'political' left. Much of the political left I knew has decided to support forces that are appallingly opposed to what I consider basic personal rights - opposed to personal fredom, women's rights, gay rights. They would cheer the elimination of Israel and its replacement by Hamas or Hizbollah or some Islamic organization decidedly unfriendly to personal freedom.
This their call I guess but I have yet to see a sensible explanation of why. And I sure would not want to live in the result. (The main reason I do not want to live in today's Israel is of course that Hamas and Hizbollah are determinedly trying to destroy daily life there with largely ineffective but constant murderous attacks (and first degree, with clear intent)).

The Period Between the Lebanon Wars is taking shape

Pierre Gemayel is assassinated.

Whose side will we all be on in the next round of this?

This Debate is Likely to Continue

The problem here is that everyone seems to be trying to deny the evidence.

The sad lesson is that even for Fox News:

Apparently, blatantly lying about the Koran and throwing around hateful straw man accusations doesn’t disqualify a Muslim for the “moderate” label.

The video is worth a watch.

More Descent into Stupid Regulation

Regulators tend to be awfuly literal-minded. This is a topper.

RIP Robert Altman

I recall walking into the middle of a movie in 1970 that neither my companion nor I could reasonably parse starting there. Watching it from the start sorted things out and it was a revelation, a piece of delightful irreverence. This film was "MASH". (The TV series based on it was neither irreverent nor entertaining, but rather a piece of typical Hollywood gruel.)
A country music fan at the time, I watched 'Nashville' with some skepticism, but enjoyed it. His films were never just tedious and predictable. They were decidedly not always great. And as I have read other comments, I should line up on one side - I liked "McCabe and Mrs Miller" (though I may have been infected by the time).
Robert Altman has died. The world is a little poorer for that.

Monday, November 20, 2006


I have been working through old photos and this one of the replica of Francis Drake's "The Golden Hind", came from a walk along the south side of the Thames a year or two ago. I remain utterly impressed by the effeminacy and sense of surprise of the carving at the front (ooppss, rear, or what's a hind for?) of Drake's ship, no doubt headed our for worse killing and plunder than that poor deer must have feared.
Is this a warrior head? English dry humour even in the 16th Centunry!

The Horror, the Horror!

I went down this morning to get in my car for the morning commute. Guess what was on the window? That *is* snow. The first of the next several months. Wish us luck uo here in the north!

The Story of His Life

Saturday we watched Canadian Stage's performance of 'The Story of My Life', one of the showings this year about which I was most dubious, as it was a Canadian-originated show, and as it had gotten some dubious reviews in the local papers. This precis from The Toronto Star is dubiously positive.
This new musical by Neil Bartram and Brian Hill features some endearing songs and touching scenes, but the show as a whole is just too sticky sweet for its own good. Jeffrey Kuhn and Brent Carver are both winning as a pair of lifelong friends, but director Michael Bush has staged it all with an obvious hand and Glenn Davidson's snow-globe set is pure Hallmark Card, in the worst sense of the word (R.O.).

Silly Wife and I both really enjoyed this show, though it was a bit long. (Hmm, same divided spirit as the Star review.)
What makes it work is the two-man cast; I have often seen Brent Carver and knew to assume he would be superb. I had never seen Jeffrey Kuhn, but what a delight. There was a complex mix of the somewhat saccharine (the parts that did not move me) and the deep stuff (the parts that did).
Among the latter:
a) The 'Mrs Remington' song.
b) The '1876' song - I loved the last line about the idea that the publication of 'Tom Sawyer' in 1876 made life after 1876 much better than life before. Carver delivered it wonderfully.
c) Kuhn's character's eulogy of his father - especially the wish that he could go back to 11 years old and feel proud of his father.

There is much else - entertaining references to "It's a Wonderful Life", "Tom Sawyer".

The music is OK.

One funny thing though. We went the next day (see post below) to an opera in a much larger theatre, where no performers were wearing mikes. In this show, Carver and Kuhn were both miked; it makes them look vaguely like Star Trek aliens.

All things considered, I say go see it. The performances are superb, the story is OK, and the production is not bad. If you find the idea of making snow angels compelling, it is a must-see for you.

For us it is a show we saw only because we had a subscription ticket, and it justified that choice.


We did manage to make it to The Magic Flute, having overcome misinformation about the Santa Claus Parade and about the start time of the show. The parade did make parking a challenge.
On the way to the show, we saw bits of the Toronto Santa Claus Parade, and it was clear that the spirit of that event would be consonant with the spirit of the production we were heading for. I was very confident, after a few years of determinedly attending Opera Atelier productions, that this would be special.
I have seen four or five productions in my life of The Magic Flute; I doubt I will in my life see another to match this one, which surpassed all its predecessors in my experience.
Let me start by simply saying - "What He Said". Let me quote in a few places, and then prattle on myself.

It's a truly magic moment when a fine stage work meets equally fine performances powered by a strong director's vision. This is exactly what happens in the current Opera Atelier production of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's The Magic Flute at the Elgin Theatre.


Opera Atelier's is a gorgeously balanced, uniformly strong and youthful ensemble cast. Some exceptionally fine singing and comic acting help make this Magic Flute a fabulous night out.


Rounding out the fulfilment is Tafelmusik. Fallis's assured leadership highlighted every musical colour in the score in perfect step with the action.

The Magic Flute has been produced almost continuously since its premiere shortly before Mozart's death in 1791. There is almost nothing a director could do that hasn't been tried before. Many great singers have sung the gorgeous arias. So it takes an especially strong production to stand out.

This is one of them. Catch it while you can.

This company is one of the reasons it is an utter delight to live in Toronto at times. I think I first finally went to an Opera Atelier productions a few years ago, of The Marriage of Figaro. It was stunning to me - it featured several things I had not experienced or enjoyed so directly in my previous opera going. And they are:

a) An emphasis on combining the music, song, and dance. The music is provided by Tafelmusik, a superb Baroque group from Toronto. The dance includes ballet (I do not mean strict classical ballet) integrated into the scenes, and also a very strict and wonderfully stylized choreography integrated into every step and gesture from every performer.

b) No compromise in the casting - the roles have athletic and artistic requirements, and the company meets them. No implausibly large characters purportedly engaged in major physical feats. In fact a single performance must be quite an athletic event for all the performers.

c) Wonderful staging. As much use they make of modern technologies, part of the delight is that you realize what is being done COULD generally have been done in the original performances, maybe differently, but likely with a lot more drama.

d) Such costumes!!!!!!!!!!!!! Every cast member is dressed magnificently.

e) A sense of play. This is a very delicate point - for this play, the staging is clearly not what would have been the original one. But in every one of the shows I have seen sense, it felt right to me. Part of what I mean here is something that goes so wrong with many Gilbert and Sullivan shows I see - someone takes a liberty with the original and it falls with a thud. I have never seen this happen with Opera Atelier.

So how did The Magic Flute perform in these categories?

a) Wonderful. Colin Ainsworth as Tamino seems simply to be in better and better voice each new show - he was stunning yesterday. Peggy Kriha Dye's Pamina was lovely, accurate and clear. The SillyWife and I were a little disappointed at the Queen of the Night in the first act, singing through a gauze screen, but in her second virtuoso aria she was utterly virtuosic! - as a result she removed our puzzlement at why Penelope Randall-Davis would be a Queen of the Night specialist in the globalised opera world. More below on Papageno and some others. It is impossible to describe how wonderfully they all move and create the story they are in.

b) There was not a single case of feeling a performer was out of place. No corpulent Mimi, no corpulent Don Jose. Even the somewhat young Curtis Sullivan was a fine Sarastro.

c) What can I say?! Stunning - my eyes were always busy. The dragon of the opening scenes was an utter delight (he/she walked and died with such attitude), the floating boat just lovely (a child seated behind us asked his father, "How does it fly?" (the wires were visible so I suspect he may be caught up in video games)), the stage sets were moved in ways that kept me giggling, mostly inside. Some highlights below.

d) Yes!! What costumes!! Great cleavage where it made sense. Great colours. Nice feathers.

e) Oh what delightful play, but one expects it of them. Let me list some.

i) The dragon. It teeters and totters somewhat incompetently, but when the Queen's Ladies confront it, it reacts with great surprise with a wonderful speed and races off to die. Lovely.

ii) Papageno. Not what I had expected from past experience - a young and very fetching Olivier Laquerre took this role in with utter joy. He steals the show in many ways - some more details below.

iii) Monostatos - I am speechless. Just wonderful in his mix of rage and ineffectuality.

iv) The animals in the scene where Tamino's flute tames them - this was wonderfully low-tech and delightfully effective, eliciting laughs and plain delight.

v) The slaves and Monostatos when Papageno's bells tame them - I bust out laughing at the skipping ropes, and it was staged with such energy and precision that it just seemed natural.

vi) Papageno's scenes trying to be silent - Laquerre was unbelievable. More below on this.

vii) Papageno and Papagena - this scene, with the Pa- Pa- Pa- sequence in the songs, has always been my favourite, but this incarnation was so special - Laquerre played it to the hilt, Carla Huhtanen was a very fetching Papagena with all her feathers, and the two of them fluttered through their dances in a way to keep everyone giggling.

OK those are simply highlights.

Now on to some special moments:

a) Marshall Pynkoski (or a near double) was sitting in one of the boxes by the stage - and it was great to see him applauding after the skipping-rope scene. This small touch of leadership did a lot to explain to me how this company sustains its stunning quality.

b) The scene where Papageno battles so hard to maintain his silence created an interesting dynamic. This was a matinee and many parents had brought children with them to see the show. Laquerre mugged it so magnificently, playing Papageno rightly as a near-child, that every child in the audience was surely identifying as he squirmed, failed and spoke, and was then 'Shshshed'. A beautiful rhythm developed, as Papageno cycled through the above, followed by the children in the audience laughing, followed by their parents. This was life, and so nice.

c) I regretted in a way they did not perform it in German, but the choice to do it in English was dead right. It allowed everyone to be engaged.

d) I stood to applaud, partly to see the cast, but largely because of what I said above - I doubt I will live to see a better production of this opera.

e) I was delighted that they started the overture spot on at 3 pm, even as people were still being seated. I am curmudgeonly enough to have become annoyed at the local practice of saying a show will start at 8 and then tolerating latecomers until 8:15. Was it historically the purpose of the overture to mitigate the annoyance of latecomers?

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Trust Undermined

We had two shows to attend this weekend, and had some concern about the possible collision of our travel plans with the Santa Claus Parade, which I knew to be taking place in Toronto, though I did not know which day.
So I scanned the Saturday Toronto Sun for the information and was pleased to find this information.

I found this good news. The Saturday drive did not have to go anywhere near the route at a relevant time. Of course, somewhat later, I discovered that the assertion on the map that the parade would occur 'today' contradicted better information elsewhere on the same page. Someone had missed the need to edit the map, clearly prepared for Sunday's edition, for use on Saturday.

Now we had Sunday to be concerned about so I went to double-check the time of the show, so I found this:

This struck me as very odd as we have been attending Opera Atelier productions for years and the Sunday shows are always matinees, starting at 3pm. It turns out that all other evidence, newspaper ads, the Ticketmaster web page, the Opera Atelier web page, and finally, a phone call to Opera Atelier, pointed to 3 pm as the day. We are heading off soon and hoping that the majority of sources are right!

I think this is the first time I have been misled by a ticket for an event! I cannot say the same for it being the first time I have been misled by a newspaper.

'Tis the Season to be Jolly

At least that is what my Christmas Cactus is saying!

Friday, November 17, 2006

My Favourite Friedman Thing of the Day

Neo-neocon drew my attention to Friedman's view that his life had been full of moments of great luck (certainly also how I view mine). The nicest, I thought, was this:

In his first economic-theory class at Chicago, he was the beneficiary of another accident — the fact that his last name began with an “F.” The class was seated alphabetically, and he was placed next to Rose Director, a master’s-degree candidate from Portland, Ore. That seating arrangement shaped his whole life, he said. He married Ms. Director six years later. And she, after becoming an important economist in her own right, helped Mr. Friedman form his ideas and maintain his intellectual rigor.

After he became something of a celebrity, Mr. Friedman said, many people became reluctant to challenge him directly. “They can’t come right out and say something stinks,” he said. “Rose can.”

In 1998, he and his wife published a memoir, “Two Lucky People” (University of Chicago Press).

Thursday, November 16, 2006

How we Know what we know

Many of my favourite blogs have been lately on about Dawkins' anti-belief-in-God book. Chris Dillow has produced what I suspect in many ways is the nicest comment on the discussion (if you start with this post it will send you back through other discussion).

Thhs is dead true:

Most of us are more inclined to believe things if others do so. So, a big reason for us not to believe there’s a teapot orbiting the sun is simply that no-one else believes it. By contrast, countless intelligent people believe in God, and this disposes us to think God might exist.
Now, the thing about the heuristic of social proof is that it is often works well, because others often know more than we do. If you’re looking for a place to eat in a strange town, it’s sensible to avoid an empty restaurant, because the locals probably know more than you do.

There is a lot in the post, so I suggest going and reading it, and in fact reading his other posts on many topics, including Shania Twain. And even on yet other Canadians, somewhat like Borat: see this.

For me, the message here is not about God or Dawkins. It’s that it’s very hard for us to think rationally. It’s difficult to steer between being overconfident in our own judgement on the one hand, and being overly deferential to the consensus on the other.
This is another reason why I don’t trust my judgment.

Yea, verily.

Milton Friedman

In the end, Doc earned my targeting for announcing the passing of this so very inflential economist, and sensible man.

Saturday, November 11, 2006


TV Ontario (if I had to shut myself down to local broadcast stations, I suspect I could find a pretty good life devoting myself to this channel) is showing 'Patton' tonight. I have not seen it in years, but am planning to watch it tonight. This sister lists it as her favourite movie.
In its first ten minutes it documents some entertainig truths. What is the first country the US invades after Pearl Harbour? The answer is 'Morocco'.
George C Scott is widely viewed as having captured the genius and nuttiness of this warrior perfectly.
I look forward to the next couple of hours.

Observation not Dodged

I did not engage, even as a passive watcher, in any of the observations of November 11 broadcast earlier (at the official times) on TV today.
Inadvertently this evening, I stumbled across a powerful broadcast on the local Toronto Rogers cable TV station, staged by the War Amps and featuring singing by John McDermott.
So far I have been shaken by the song for Willie McBride, Eric Bogle's stunning "And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda" (about which I suspect the War Amps and Bogle have slightly different views), and then 'Danny Boy', featuring the teriible parental expectation to be dead by the time of the return of the son from the war. All are songs I know and love.
And then apparently a US Civil War song I do not know at all - quite lovely - "A Faded Coat of Blue".
Omigosh - now Christmas in the Trenches! This is like listening to Max Ferguson in the past on November 11 - and underlines the terrible point about the mutual respect of fighters on both sides (and the song features a timely and sad quotation from 'The Minstrel Boy'). But what a great line - "Whose family have I fixed in my sights?". Thank you, Francis Tolliver.
And now he sings "The Minstrel Boy". Like, these are many of the best songs ever written!! And then "When I Grow too Old to Dream." Wow. (By the way, on the screen as these songs are sung, battlefields and graveyards are being shown on screen. I will NEVER forget taking a short walk at a stop on a bus ride from Calais to Paris, and walking into a field behind the Auberge where the bus stopped, full of graves of Canadian casualties from the First World War. The scale was unimaginable to me, and I suspect as well to our public today - our current casualty cost in Afghanistan is nothing compared to that one battle that occurred in that one spot.)
He also sings "The Rose of Tralee" and "Auld Lang Syne". Burns' request that we remember is very fitting.

I thank the world of today for my 500 channels because I am so pleased to have found this one for the last hour. If you missed it it seems you can order the video here. Please do - it will support an utterly worthy cause.

Heaven is a Heating Pad

Recall that the heating pad is blue.

This is with a new lens. I need to work on the depth of field.

But now we are even more abandoned!

A Very Entertaining Cleansing Exercise

The obsessives are at work again. And I approve.
The widespread idolatry of a murderous psychopath is one of the more depressing elements of the modern West.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

For Those Worried about the Geese

And the Winter!!

I saw hundreds along the roadside as I left town yesterday. They are staying here, I assume! No need for fears about the coming winter.

A Gift from a Sister

In my youth I took what were, I thought at the time, reasonable poses, major among them to moralize over past military exercises by my country. I was too analytical to be a pacifist but I wanted to be - after all, it relieves one of enormous moral burden. I do not think I gave enough honest space to the fact that I lost an uncle after Normandy, and to take seriously the question of whether this was worth it (the answer is tricky, but I do now believe SOME people had to die - and maybe it should be an honour to our family that one of ours did).
And of course as a youth I was contemptuous of observances like Armistice Day, coming up this weekend. I could sit quiet for two minutes, but only barely. Now, I find it no problem. This lovely video, sent to me by a sister (not the one you know from reading this blog), does a lovely job of stating how I feel about this observance now.
There are interesting discussions going on these days about how far we in the West will go to fight for what we so specially have, or maybe, about how long we will wait before becoming concerned. It seems inevitable to me we will have to decide soon.

UPDATE: The back story is good too.

I Love Technology

I have whined in past posts about how in my youth I could find myself desperate for results from major sporting events, and have no means of finding them out, even events as large as the Wimbledon finals. I was totally dependent on local media, and if the event was not of major local interest, I was out of luck. The ultimate non-tail.
The long tail keeps extending. Some time ago I became quite happy with being able to go look at the Wimbledon web site, as an example.
But Meryl Yourish has just documented a most wonderful extension of the long tail. What if I want to know how some specific person is doing?

Saturday, November 04, 2006

What Use is the International Space Station?

I have long thought money spent there could be much better applied on general basic research.
But now I see a point to it all, thanks to ADAMANT.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Where were the Geese?

Following on the posts below, there was one very odd feature of my morning visits to the waterfront this week. I saw no Canada Geese.
Normally there are hundreds of them paddling about or wandering about eating grass (and, characteristically, leaving not so little deposits). I did see a few mallards, but no Canada Geese.
It seems most likely they just found a greener pasture somewhere else along the waterfront, and will be back tomorrow. But I'll be really worried if they have all flown south, since we normally have a large resident winter population. I would fear they know something about the coming winter that I do not.

They are Pouring In

This is from a monarch mailing list I follow:

This is Shelley Whittall. I'm in Queretaro, Qro.I had my first sighting on October the 24th. There was a cold snap in Toronto on Sept 28th so I knew they would come after that and have been waiting, watching. I have seen a trickling everyday since the 24th, but yesterday- The Day of the Dead Nov 2nd - WOW! the migration exploded overhead!

I spent the whole day on the rooftop Terrace watching them come from the distant mountains north of the city. Hundreds and hundreds of them! They're so strong! I could reach up and touch them, some even bumped into me! WOW! What a sight! EVERYWHERE that you looked!

They rest in the Alameda, a huge treed park here in Queretaro in the late afternoons and evenings. The trees are filled with them, then they continue on their way the next morning.
The numbers are still coming on strong today! They fly over my B&B in the historic center at around 10 am, that must be how long it takes them from early morning to come from the mountain range and they continue overhead in large quantities until about 5pm.

I'm arranging some trips, so that tourists can see them all together in their colonies this year, in and out of the designated sanctuaries. There are colonies in the Sierra Gorda region of Queretaro too.
Hope to see some Monarch Watchers here this winter!

Now THAT is something I would love to have seen!

More Ashbridge's Bay Scenes

From a few months ago. You may need to click on them to see them best.

A marina in the mist:

Scullers in the mist

Great News from the Waterfront

The switch back to Standard Time has permitted morning walks and runs at Ashbridge's Bay. Today was my third day in a row, and there was some excellent news this morning.

a) Yesterday I was dismayed to see only a single swan paddling about in the inner bay. I feared this was an ominous sign, but today I saw what was likely the same swan in the inner bay, and a pair of them out in what I call the outer bay. So it seems likely the solitary swan was the new generation (one survivor is not great, especially compared to last year, but it is better than the year with none).

b) The oldsquaws are back! In the inner bay I saw one, but assumed he/she could not be alone. And as I turned the corner out to Lake Ontario, I saw quite a large flock. Clearly, winter is coming.

The last two days have been wonderful cold sunny mornings. Wednesday featured clouds and slightly warmer weather. I just missed the orange in the sunrise when I took this picture:

There had been some high winds the previous days, as this shot testifies:

Thursday, November 02, 2006

One Happy Camper

One of my sisters-in-law is brilliant in caring for animals. Some time ago, indirectly as a result of this post, she mentioned that one of her aging cats had enjoyed a heating pad set on low. So I finally tried the experiment and this is what life looks like these days!

That blue thing is a heating pad. Ollie sends thanks, Lesley!!