Saturday, December 31, 2005

Be It Resolved...

Drink: The old favourite, the Talisker, "The King o' Drinks"

Songs: Dark Was the Night - Cold Was the Ground and Trouble Will Soon Be Over

Occasion: The planet caught halfway between one year and the next.

Purpose: Eclectic Resolutions for the next 365 rotations. Overly ambitious, sure. But no one expects to honour every promise they make with themselves. Without further adieu, here are the supposed plans of 2006:

1. Read (and record quotes/notes from) the following: the Old and New Testaments, the Koran, the Bhagavad Gita, Tibetan Book of the Dead, Tao Te Ching and the I Ching, the Kojiki, The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, and the Iron Cow of Zen. I've dabbled in many of these thus far. Time for a systematic exploration of our world's wondrous mythology.

2. Commit to memory my two favorite poems: Ithaka and Ulysses.

3. Audition for a play

4. Enroll in Spanish lessons

5. Resist the urge to return to Europe, but insist on at least one revisit to the Pacific ocean

6. Volunteer with a literacy group at the local library

7. Find new anonymous letter carriers headed to Indianapolis

8. Open and Close the Old Triangle on March 17th

9. Record a tape on June 8th, a la Krapp

10. Buy Christmas presents for my sisters and parents before December

11. Write 10 Short Stories

12. Go to Winnipeg for the 92nd Grey Cup

13. Buy a bottle of Johnny Walker Blue in January and finish it in December

14. Run the Bluenose Half-marathon

15. Find me somebody to love

Enjoy the extra leap second this time around. We'll see where this gets us to on the flip side. And what doesn't get done? It's Nobody's Fault But Mine Time to see where the last party of 2005 and the first of 2006 leads. Onward.

Friday, December 30, 2005

A Holiday Potpourri

1. Christmas at the MacDuffs proved spectacular once again, especially so since my father surprised me and my sisters with the gift of cowbells at our annual Christmas Eve party. Yes, actual cowbells. As per our family's ongoing jokes regarding the infamous Christopher Walken SNL skit. I doubt if I laughed harder at any point all year.

2. One day left in 2005 and still no solid plans for tomorrow night's celebration. I am half tempted to just go buy a bottle of Johnny Blue and drink it slowly while listening to this new CD, maybe watch the Giants clinch the NFC East, and and do some writing. Something tells me that news of a random party, or perhaps a search for random parties, will shatter any such good intentions.

3. On the Canadian electoral front, I find it difficult following the nuances of the campaign this time around. It is frustrating, rooting only for the downfall of those who, in other circumstances, you would rather support. But as the hits just keep on coming, it only emboldens my belief that the clock has run out on these governing Liberals.

4. Therefore, I wholeheartedly endorse the voting sentiments of the Tiger. If I were the Globe and Mail - in this newfound age of minorities - I would be tempted to editorially endorse one candidate in every riding as opposed to a choice between parties, and let the chips fall. I could see myself voting for all 3 major parties this time out, depending on the local candidates on offer and the dynamics of the race. Since I'm in Halifax, I'll be casting my ballot for Alexa.

5. It is sad, as Andrew Coyne wrote recently, in yet another column on Martin's dismal performance seemingly unchallenged by his supporters. [our best journalist is also the first I've seen to ask the proper questions re: the Income Trust fallout]. I have long thought that Canadian federal politics will not get truly interesting until the Liberals fall from grace. That time may finally be arriving.

6. Not according to loyal Cherniak, though. You really have to credit him for his unflinching tenacity, even as the posts spiral further into surrealism. Today he has outdone even his usual partisanship by stating - get this! - that the announcement of an RCMP criminal investigation into the actions of the Finance Department and PMO is not disastrous news for the Liberals. Far from it. Rather, it may represent "the final leg of a majority". A majority!?!

Oh, the contortions that politics can induce. It is to laugh.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Merry Christmas to all...

... And to all a Good Night.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Thirteen Ways of Thinking on the Louis Thirteen

(being mostly inspired by this Wallace Stevens poem)


Claret is the liquor for boys,
Port for men;
But he who aspires to be a hero
Must drink brandy. - Samuel Johnson


The culmination of anticipation
Distilled to this/that one moment
Already past.


To bring a glass of Louis XIII to your nose is to dream
An instantaneous, intensely personal dream - Rod Smith


Of La Sagrada Familia, and Time:

Difficult to dissociate the drinking of the Louis XIII with ruminations on the nature of time in relation to the human lifespan… perhaps the most intriguing idea of this cognac is that some of the liquid drunk today had its roots in fruit grown in French fields before World War I.

Such thoughts on the utter disregard of time evoked in me clear memories of a sunset observed a few years ago within a tower of Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia and the manic genius behind that cathedral. Assigned the project in 1884, Antonin Gaudi worked on this Cathedral for over 40 years until his death in 1926, when he was cruelly struck down by a tram.

Yet construction based on his plans continues even today, with scheduled completion hoped for the 100th birthday of the great architect’s death, 2026. No matter. On the subject of the extremely long construction, wikipedia quotes Gaudí as joking, “My client is not in a hurry.” Indeed.


I do not know which to prefer,
The beauty of inflections
Or the beauty of innuendoes,
The blackbird whistling [Louis XIII sipping?]
Or just after. - WS


I hope what I do today
I am doing for the tastes of my grandchildren,
When they have grandchildren. - cellarmaster Georges Clot


Remembering earlier
The shaking hands of the bartender,
As the drink was pain-stakingly measured out.
Emphasizing the value attached to every drop.

Still, each sniff and sip defied concerns
Of quantification.


I know noble accents
And lucid, inescapable rhythms;
But I know, too,
That the blackbird is involved
In what I know. - WS


Of laughter, and cheers to Andrew's impromptu Toast:

To the women of 2006, before and beyond -
May they prove as fine and sweet
As the wine grapes of this Louis the Thirteenth
... Though not as old!


Next must be a San Francisco pilgrimage to see this scroll.


Open up the broken cup
Let goodly sin and sunshine in
Yes that’s today.
And open wide the hymns you hide
You find reknown while people frown
At things that you say
But say what you’ll say
About the farmers and the fun
And the things behind the sun
And the people round your head
Who say everything’s been said
And the movement in your brain
Sends you out into the rain. - Nick Drake


Of death:

I am sitting in bar in Malta, listening to George Best telling me how he wants to die. “I've planned the whole thing,” he says quietly, sipping a white-wine spritzer. “I won't tell anyone, I'll just get on a plane to a little Spanish town in the middle of nowhere, find a local bar, order a bottle of Louis XIII brandy, drink the whole thing and that'll be it.”
An exceedingly lofty, if all too decadent, would-be tribute from the genius footballer and (too) intimate connoisseur of the spirits. The elixir lends itself naturally to further wonder at Bestie's skill and story. Sad his end was not as he envisioned.


It was evening all afternoon.
It was snowing
And it was going to snow.
The blackbird sat
In the cedar-limbs. - WS

[and so Le Rois returned to its shelf]

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Prelude to a Louis XIII

Not to Richelieu's King, but the world's finest cognac.

Having diligently saved up and collected loose change since starting back at the firm, together with a fellow conspirator, the day designated to savour the spoils of our reward has almost arrived. The Shoe Shop charges $115 for a taste of the famed Louis Trés. Tomorrow is for splurging.

Full report (and photos) following consumption. In anticipation, though, here is further detail about this liquid of legend:
Louis XIII is not a Cognac,” says Jason Bowden, taste ambassador for Rémy Martin. “Put simply, it’s a moment.” Why is it a moment? Figure this: each bottle is a blend of 1,200 Cognacs, ranging from forty to one hundred years old, across three generations of Cellar Masters, resulting from the combined labor of 10,000 people.

A fine Cognac, a Louis trés, has life,” he [Georges Clot, cellarmaster] tells me. “They are like a human being. They must have elegance, charm, power and strength, like the best of humans. They must show a knowledge of life, for after all some of them have lived for at least one hundred years.”

Remy Martin's Louis XIII is sometimes called the "King of Cognacs" and is certainly one of
the most esteemed liquors in the world. It was what Queen Elizabeth II was served when she visited France, what Churchill drank to celebrate his election as prime minister and what Tom Cruise and Bryan Brown wagered in the movie Cocktail.”

Perhaps most succinctly - “Try Louis XIII. And drink perfection.” We'll be sure to toast a host of worthy friends and a most successful 2005 that was and 2006 to come. And may all our Christmases be White.

The Boundaries of Reasonable Discourse

So Prime Minister Martin is now proposing to determine the "boundaries of reasonable discourse" for the campaign.

This after repeatedly accusing the Conservatives of being "in bed with the separatists". This after suggesting that Harper's position on same-sex marriage means he has "no business trying to become prime minister of Canada". Heh. Again, I'll just point to the latest from Wells, on another issue: "is there anything he won't say?" And I'll also just throw out there, who comes across as the more confident of the leaders in that article, as we head into the Christmas electoral break?

Let it Bleed applauds the Harper campaign to date as well played, noting especially the latest move in accepting the 1-on-1 debate challenge from Duceppe that Paul "every street corner but this one" Martin cowardly avoids. I have to agree.

All set for a fascinating January.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Unconventional Alliances

James Bow has a comprehensive look at how Harper and Layton might work together in an upcoming Parliament, should the numbers provide the CPC with the most seats in the House. While most predictions thus far don't give the NDP the balance of power in any scenario, it's clear [unless the drastic occurs] that the next House is going to survive on unconventional synergies, or else we'll be back to the polls by Thanksgiving.

How can the NDP tolerate a Conservative government? The answer is simple - Harper will be boxed in, with every motivation tending toward the moderate. After over 12 years in the wilderness, the incentives to present a straightforward, non-confrontational agenda will be overwhelming. As Bow summarizes:

Paul Martin’s blacklisting attempts aside, the fact remains that Prime Minister Harper is not a scary prospect. Thanks to the strength of the Bloc in Quebec, and thanks to the resurgence of the New Democrats, it is unlikely that either the Liberals or the Conservatives will come away with a majority. So whatever agenda might be hidden in Stephen Harper’s back pocket is going to run up against a brick wall of three other parties who aren’t going to play ball.

Other moderate voices on the right have been dropping the idea for awhile now as well. Harper needs to find a way to channel that simple point - how can my agenda be "scary" if it is contingent on votes from the likes of the NDP? It's like a free trial that might finally shake up the staid political environment in place in the central PMO for too long.

After all, that's the point underlying calls for proportional representation, is it not? If you are the NDP, then deal with the fact that 80% of the voters did not select you. Likewise the 60-some % who voted against the Tories. Find a way to make reasoned compromise work.

I, for one, am willing to roll those dice. My vote for the local MP in Halifax will be for Alexa. If I had to make a Presidential-style ballot decision between potential PMs Martin or Harper... I wonder.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

More from the Vastness of the Internet

(1) I wonder what Phil Woodford is going to do when he turns 40? Those ideas for the 35th were absolutely brilliant, and so British. Who in the world would you select for your party?

(2) Ever heard of the exploits of Lazlo Toth? Incredibly some people support such vandalism.

(3) Feel like canvassing on behalf of the Universal Church o' Fun? Need proof that you're a fully certified and authorized Pope? Interested in participating in the Random Initiation Project? Look no more.

The Mysterious Forlorn Lover

A sad, enchanting tale of lost love's consequences and anonymous generosity.

I wonder where that ring's journey will take it...

UPDATE: picture of the ring and MSNBC video here.

Saturday, December 17, 2005


I cannot seem to find a transcript or Ifilm video of Triumph the Insult Dog in Tempe, but it remains the definitive mocking of this process. His questioning of the spinners following the first Presidential debate of 2004 is art itself, and should be put in a museum as THE contemporary slamming of partisan folly. If the President went out and took a dump on stage, how would you spin it? Glorious.

Speaking of glorious. Shearer just scored in the 66th minute to put Newcastle up 3-1 against West Ham. The announcer: "When he gets the ball in that position, there's never any doubt." There's something about the English accent that raises such a quote to the poetic.

Anyway, back to debate spinning - if I cannot give you Triumph, here, at least, are the other present-day masters: Helms and Colbert from the Daily Show. Click on the Post-Debate Analysis video. Orgasmic triumph, Jon.

Every Street Corner..

... isn't it too late? we'll see.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Canada's "Fearless" Leader Trundles On

Our Prime Minister trundles on about the country in this election campaign, but to what end? Fortunately, Paul Wells is standing by to point out the absurdities of the Rhetorical Opportunist's seemingly infinite capacity for attacking reality with bombast and cliche. Brilliant writing and reporting, if only the lack of any acknowledgment of these failings from Liberals wasn't so damned depressing.

My constant frustration with Martin is long standing, so I should not be surprised at the latest false shock and bravado over the speech by Ambassador "Williams"[sic]. Another low point in his attempt to run as far away as possible from those grandiose leadership dreams of "Making History".

It is one thing to disagree with the direction taken by the Americans on public policy. It is quite another to actively foster such a poisonous relationship that any input is no longer taken seriously. "I will not be dictated to," he cries. Does he really think anyone elected to Canada's highest office would?

Remember the other Paul Martin:
"The longstanding partnership between our two nations – which is based not
only on commerce, but shared values – has been strained in recent times. For the
benefit of both our countries, we must work to confirm and strengthen it."
This Prime Minister long ago proved that anything goes when it comes to remaining at 24 Sussex. It leaves me always left to wonder - are any of the whopping 92% of Liberals who supported him back in 2003 willing to admit how poorly Martin has lived up to their expectations? Frustrated that their government's cabinet now includes not one, but two failed Tory leadership candidates [not to mention the founder of the Bloc -ed.] Might they ever admit he has failed to live up to expectations? Without placing the blame on the sponsorship scandal?

I don't look for such admissions among Chretienites, whose animus against Mr. Martin springs from other, often more personal motives of being left on the outside. I mean among those who really and truly believed the incoming PM when he so earnestedly boasted that a "time of immense national creativity and progress is at hand", back in November 2003.

Judging by the electoral fever sweeping Libloggers these days, I'm not holding my breath.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Der Ball ist Rund

... or, "The Ball is round", a famous quote by former German national coach Sepp Herberger, meaning that this is the only certainty in the game of football and anything else can happen.

178 days until the World Cup kicks off. Last Friday saw a decent draw to England, so far so good. While we wait for summer, check out this hilarious glossary of German football terminology translated into English by the British Embassy World Cup sight.

Lots of *interesting* translated phrases:
Eine seltsame Stimme hat Zidane in die französische Nationalelf zurückgelockt = A strange voice has enticed Zidane back into the French national side

He was as sick as a parrot = Ihm war kotzübel/speiübel; er war zu Tode betrübt
Antonym: over the moon = überglücklich

Stefan "Stinkefinger" Effenberg streckte bei der WM 1994 deutschen Fans den Mittelfinger entgegen und wurde deswegen nach Hause geschickt = Stefan "middle-finger-salute" Effenberg gave the finger to German fans at the 1994 World Cup and was sent home as a result

Here's hoping das Endspiel erreichen England.

Election Miscellany

1. The Liberal reliance on Stephen Harper as their last best hope to win another mandate continues unabated. Witness the latest attempt by Jason Cherniak to raise the spectre of non-issues like abortion into the mix, even if it means contradicting his very words praising Harper's stand in the Spring. Where have you gone, those Paul Martin "politics of achievement"?

2. On the "Beer and Popcorn" line, I agree with CalgaryGrit and today's article in the Globe that the line is a perfect storm of a gaffe for that whole host of reasons. A visceral image, and easily tied snidely to a host of Conservative themes, especially Liberal mismanagement of money on the gun registry, sponsorship, etc... Hilarious that almost the entirety of Duffy's show on Monday focused on the comment.

3. On child care in general, both major party plans have shamefully obvious flaws, though. Liam has done a fair job attacking the Liberal plan's failure to accomodate rural regions or stay-at-home parents. But does he not realize the obvious problems of a social program that transfers money to the likes of Celine Dion and other extraordinarily rich folk with kids, at the (seeming) expense of those most in need (ie. the working poor)? As Greg Staples notes in the comments at Sinister Thoughts on the NDP plan, why not a simple income disqualifier to free up additional funds for those who cannot afford such care? In this debate, count me in the Orange corner.

4. The overnights have been a source of continous fascination, as they don't seem to yet reflect the effectiveness of the campaigns thus far. The Liberals certainly have failed to impress, waiting as they are only for mistakes on the other sides. At this point, they need to be concerned about peaking too early. lest New Year momentum take the wind from their sails. Though I wonder if we'll start seeing frustration leak into the CPC message, or succumb to the "almost irresistable" temptation to blame the voters.

5. Has there ever been a national English debate in our history held on a Friday night? Who will be watching, or paying attention to the cycle during Saturday morning cartoons and Sunday football? I probably won't even tune in, due to the firm Christmas party. Could they not have gone with a Wednesday-Thursday schedule? We desperately need Elections Canada to take non-partisan, non-media control over debate organization. And let parties who run 308 candidates like the Greens in!

Monday, December 12, 2005

Next Blog

You'll notice in the upper right corner of this screen (if you haven't already) Blogger's "next blog" feature tab. The perfect tool for late night procrastination, when you are too tired to pick up that novel but not tired enough to rest. A slow, restful evening.

Here are a handful of entries found tonight. So many stories out there.

1. New York is one of the world's most wonderful cities - this guy has added one more classic reason why.

2. Courage and fair weather to these 'round-the-world adventurers, who embark at the end of the month. What an itinerary! While out West, I picked up a guide/history book, The Silk Roads. Only a matter of time 'til we are standing in Samarkand.

3. If you go to United Irelander, scroll down a bit and keep your eyes on the left hand side of the screen. Within moments, presto: the video of the greatest Christmas song of all time, Fairytale of New York by the Pogues. "I built my dreams around you."

And on and on... Must step out to drop a letter off to a relative stranger for safe passage to its destination. Wish it well.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Team Canada

Yeah baby.

Didn't post most of the week for fear of jinxing the Cinderella story of the boys from the Rock that unfolded in Halifax over the past week and culminated in this afternoon's victory. I can't imagine better Olympians, including coach Tobias Francis McDonald, 3rd on dad's Brier winning '76 team - the last big moment in NFLD curling.

Wow. An enormous congratulations to Brad, Mark, Jamie, Mike, and Russ. One of the feel good stories of the year. These Newfs are now Olympians. Who woulda thunk it?

Friday, December 09, 2005

Quote (and thoughts) of the (Fri)day

Seven random, dissociate thoughts for Friday Afternoon:

1. Ahab has been silent for much of the week for reasons that will be disclosed all in good time. Ironic, considering it's election time.

On that front, I'll say only that Layton disappoints in calling for complete withdrawal from Afghanistan today (though I'm still voting Alexa) and our country might be the only one where comments simply stating the obvious by a guy named Buzz (ie. vote for the Liberals in ridings where the NDP can't win) qualify as "big" news. I am pleased to see substantive tax and child care policy discussions so early, but it is pretty obvious in these parts that the real campaign won't begin until 2006.

On that note, count me completely averse to the obsessive fear-mongering that has taken over "progressive" bloggers these days re: American conservative "involvement" in the upcoming vote. In the days of Dean, people south of the border welcomed the involvement of myself, Alex of TO, and other random Europeans and Australians working on the primary campaign in New Hampshire. One op-ed piece in the Washington Times is nothing to get up in arms over. Conservatives in the US support Harper? The shock. I can only imagine the response of these shrills if they favoured Martin: "Even the Washington Times supports the Liberals!"

It's a democracy, people. Let whomever try and convince Canadians how they should vote. We'll decide.

2. Anyone out there looking to buy me a Christmas present, look no further. I can wait until February.

3. The quote of the week is one from about a year and a half ago. I arrived in lovely Munchen courtesy of an overnight drive from Berlin with an anonymous guy named Norbert who advertised a few extra seats on a website. I found my way to Dr. Wolfgang's office where I was to work for 5 weeks and, since there was nothing to do, perused his library. The books, predictably, were in German, but a few were English. Almost at random, but surely by some design, I came across the following:
"The inn that shelters for the night is not the journey's end. The law, like the traveler, must be ready for the morrow. It must have a principle of growth."

- Benjamin Cardozo, The Growth of the Law (1924)
On the road for about 2 months at this point, yet ultimately headed to Oxford for the law masters, it is difficult to convey how my heart glowed to read those words in late July '04. This travler hearts the great Cardozo's sentiments. Ready, even eager, for the morrow indeed.

4. Speaking of travellers and inns, here's a gem of a poem from Wordsworth (he of melancholy forebodings) entitled "Guilt and Sorrow", starts "A TRAVELLER on the skirt of Sarum's Plain", and proceeds accordingly.

5. Those looking for sweet music are advised to check out the samplings posted from time to time by my favourite person currently residing in Indiana, who styles herself as "euphoriclustbug". Her taste in music is impeccable, so here's hoping more eclectic songs get posted. I picked up Pink Moon at the used CD shop on Barrington a few days ago, and have been waiting for the right context to evaluate "Horn". Could this be the year I get to the 500 and hear Jim Nabors in person?

6. The Theory of Incompetent Design. Heh.

7. The last word goes to the incomparable Vonnegut. Upon waking this morning, I noticed Timequake on the shelf of my roommate, the copy I borrowed from him and devoured at a frenetic pace in the span of a few days sojourning in Paris back in 2000. In the epilogue, he discusses the death of his brother. The last lines of the book are thus:
"A woman who knew Bernie for only the last ten days of his life, in the hospice at St. Peter's Hospital in Albany, described his manners while dying as "courtly" and "elegant." What a brother!

What a language."
I echo the marvel in those final three words. Happy weekend and good luck, all. Monday Mas.

Friday, December 02, 2005

A Tide in the Affairs of Men...

How long has the NDP had these talking points on health ready to go - and Harper has offered the perfect context to release them.

Thus far, the Conservatives have been steadily dominating the agenda, while the Liberals continue a "go-it-slow" approach. I wonder if part of the Martin team's strategy involves letting Harper purposely get out to a lead early in the long campaign. All the easier to scare wavering Bloc and NDP voters back into the fold.

But will it work twice in only 18 months, with the same cast of characters? That's the big question looming over this election, and to navigate it all the leaders must be aware of catching momentum at the proper time. For, as Shakespeare quotes Brutus:
There is a tide in the affairs of men
Which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.

Fortune versus shallows and miseries. Those are the stakes.

Election Guesswork

Attempted last night to canvass the ridings over at election prediction for some insight in making the picks, but ultimately it's a crap shoot at this point. I think the NDP will end up around 30 and the Bloc around 60 - it's the fight between the Conservatives and Liberals that has really yet to be decided.

Here's how it looks to me now, for round 1 of the Bow Pool anyway. Note that this basically assumes that the desire for change trumps (slightly) other factors and that the Conservatives don't self-destruct. Three days into the campaign, those are serious assumptions. Who knows how this Parliament would function, and it probably wouldn't be conclusive enough to shake either leader, but that's another story:

CPC - 110
Libs - 107
NDP - 30
Bloc - 61

Turnout: 57% (might be slightly higher, but there's a Price-is-Right penalty for going over)

As for CalgaryGrit's "off-beat" Pool, my guesses (and boy are they guesses) as follows:

No Liberal seats in Alberta;
CPC support under 9% in Quebec;
Liberals to run the most vicious attack ad;
NDP to win Ottawa Center;
Svend over Hedy;
Bloc over 60 seats;
Garneau to Lose; Cutler to win; Chow to win; Lapierre to win;
first abortion reference on December 14th;
9 mentions of corruption by Harper in the first debate;
Martin to be "clear" 4 times in the first debate;
Layton seen as the instant poll winner;
No national Belinda ads;
Solberg over 75%;
Harper to win the gaffe poll;
Turnout 59%;
Decima as the most accurate final poll;
and Conservatives (gulp) to win the most seats.

Quote of the (Fri)day

That happy time of the week again - Rum and Coke Friday. Here's some ancient Latin for mid-morning/afternoon inspiration. From the Æneid X, 284:

Also translated as:

Fortune helps the daring.

Fortune helps Love when he meets envy for the dice of chance is falling well for someone who dares.

Should strength fail me, yet my daring will win me fame: in mighty enterprises it is enough even to have willed.

Venus herself helps the daring.