Wednesday, May 31, 2006

a Plethora of Favorite Words

(part 1 in a series)

Back in the pre-founding days of Ahab, I had toyed with the idea of a blog simply entitled "Words, Words, Words..." or the like. It was to be in keeping with Hamlet's reference to Polonius of the "slanders" of a "satirical rogue" in Act II, Scene ii and rooted in a simple love for the power and beauty of the written word.

In seeking out a topic on which to write during this latest bout of inactivity, I came across, quite randomly, a blogger's listing of her 10 favorite words that begin with 'p'. It would seem as intriguing and enjoyable a challenge as any to form such lists for each letter, and so arrive at 260 or so nominees from which to pick the absolute best.

Into the breach, then. To begin, let's start with "p" as well:

1. Pyramid - Giza is one of two personal pilgrimages that absolutely must be made (the Great Wall as the other). The only one of the Seven Ancient Wonders that remains. Passing through London in 2000, the Egyptian Tourism advertisements welcomed prospective visitors to the country's 7th Millenium. "Man fears Time, yet Time fears the Pyramids." Perfect.

2. Panjandrum - With much thanks to its inventor, Samuel Foote, of Worchester College: "So she went into the garden to cut a cabbage-leaf to make an apple-pie; and at the same time a great she-bear, coming up the street, pops its head into the shop. “What! No soap?” So he died, and she very imprudently married the barber; and there were present the Picninnies, and the Joblillies, and the Garyulies, and the grand Panjandrum himself, with the little round button at top, and they all fell to playing the game of catch as catch can till the gunpowder ran out at the heels of their boots."

3. Peculiar - Old Peculiar is perhaps (for my money) the only Halifax microbrew to really rival Rogue's Raspberry. Defined in one sense as "a privilege or property that is exclusively one's own" and in another as "beyond or deviating from the usual or expected". Excellent.

4. Palpable - Obvious. A classic word that's punchy, yet rolls from the tongue. "A hit! A very palpable hit!"

5. Patio - Summer has arrived, and there is no other place to be than basking in the sunshine with cool condensation running down the side of your (ever-replenishing) glass, ocean waves at your feet and dreams off on the horizon.

6. Possible - For politics is the so-called "art of the possible". Though everyone knows the famed Sherlock Holmes quote on eliminating the impossible to reveal improbable truths, perhaps more deserving of immorality is the Dirk Gently inversion because "we know very much about what is improbable, but very little about what is possible." It is an ever-expanding word.

7. Penchant - As in "a strong inclination for". Will always associate it with having a "penchant" for exploration, after hearing it associated in that context on an episode of Voyager. One must allow for the unexpected discovery.

8. Pseudonym - The only one I'll steal from our first blogger's original list. An oft-used ruse when on the razzle, we have played many roles - from Nigel to Steve - over the years. Looking forward to the next creation...

9. Penultimate - A word employed at an alarming (yet accurate) frequency by Czech friend Vaclav Potesil in conversation. The second last time, imbued as it is not with all the extra ceremony of things final, is so often the sweetest.

10. Paradox - The grandest 'p' word of them all. I'll let Jung and Kierkegaard take it away.

Carl Gustav: "...only the paradox comes anywhere near to comprehending the fullness of life. Non-ambiguity and non-contradiction are one-sided, and thus, not suited to express the incomprehensible."

Soren: "One should not think slightingly of the paradoxical, for the paradox is the source of the thinker's passion, and the thinker without a paradox is like a lover without a feeling: a paltry mediocrity... The supreme paradox of all thought is the attempt to discover something that thought cannot think."

Some time next week we'll take a crack at another letter. Oh, the suspense! And perhaps there will be fewer three-syllable victors.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

England's New Starting XI

Sven's lineup for the World Cup is revealed in today's friendly against Hungary - including the surprise inclusion of Liverpool's Jamie Carragher in the midfield holding role to release Gerrard, Cole, and Lampard.

Listening to the Radio Five commentary on the BBC through the first 25 minutes, sounds like the English pace is sluggish as they engage in "pretty ponderous buildups". No doubt they'll need some time to adjust to the formation. I like having Carragher in the mix - the boy's a true lion. But the heavy talent of the English needs to find a way to work together in attack.

More on the side, pre-match, from the Times and the Guardian.

Oh my. Here's hoping.

UPDATE, 90th minute - what sounds like a reasonable performance from the English, although no thanks to the novel formation. It was Beckham free kicks that set up the first two goals, and Peter Crouch may have answered his critics with a late strike. God love the anonymous BBC description:
83 mins: GOAL England 3-1 HungaryJoe Cole plays in Peter Crouch on the edge of the box and the Liverpool forward pivots before unleashing a right-footed shot low into the corner of the net. The goal is far superior to his dubious robotics-inspired celebration.
Looking forward to the post-game analysis. One more friendly against Jamaica before it begins next Saturday the 10th. World Cup excitement building to a fever pitch.

FURTHER UPDATE - despite the almost universal concern of the pundits that Michael Owen is poorly suited to the role as a lone striker, Eriksson seems to be indicating that he will be going forward with the 4-1-4-1. England's Robokop will serve as a substitute striker who can come on late and create a whole new threat with his height. More on this after the Jamaica friendly Saturday.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Quote of the (Fri)day

Two beauties today, from random past roads traveled. 'Tis Friday. Enjoy Yourself:
(1) "I wanted to meet people who know the truth, get drunk, stand on mountain tops, go painting, sit in pubs listening to old men's stories, laugh at and fall in love with mad Irishwomen, sing on the western edge of the world, sing folksongs, cry in the rain, vomit in soft green fields, catch a moving statue and put it in my pocket."

-Tim Bradford, Is Shane Macgowan Still Alive

(2) "Today I decided not to think of you
But was betrayed by a lazy pub window
I saw a slim tree whose delicate red leaves
Rose and fell in the Thames breeze -
A mixed-up drinker at this time of year
I can taste the Yeats in my beer."

- Robert Gainsborough, "Maude Gonne Fishin' "

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

The Way to (or through) Amarillo

Turns out it is none other than Steinbeck's "Mother Road" - Historic Route 66.

How could I not have realized this before today? In any event, 'twas lovely contemplating a classic road trip today from Halifax through to Boston to New York to Philly to Washington to Columbus to Indy to St Louis and on down the Main Street of America for the coast.
"Just beyond the city
There's an open plain
And it keeps me going
Through the wind and rain..."

oh Amarillo! Who knows - maybe we'll yet get there, some Texas Sunday morning, before 2006 is through. And find a sweet Marie who waits for us.

To live is to dream.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Poll Ridiculousness, Part XVI

Lots of fuss over the latest poll showing surging support (40% is considered a surge? And we still can't agree on the need for Proportional Representation? -ed.) for Harper's Tories. As this fits in so harmoniously with the meme of the moment, the opposition parties must have cause for great alarm and the Conservatives for jubilation.

Well - here are the results of another poll from Ekos. The question: "if a federal election were held tomorrow, which party would you vote for?" The response:
Liberals - 40.2%
CPC - 26.5%
NDP - 18.7%
BQ - 11.0%
Green - 3.7%

Hold on a minute, can that be right?? Indeed it is. Admittedly, this particular survey was conducted on February 14th, 2005 - but that only furthers the main point.

Which is this: Here's a relatively recent snapshot of the populace's opinion a week before the release of a popular budget, a few months after an election and with another 11 to go until election 2006. Yet despite these levels of support, the Liberals ended up falling out of favour over the course of their time in government and - most obviously and importantly - during the campaign itself. The sponsorship revelations had something to do with this, of course. But so did other events (the CPC performance in the campaign, Income Trust, fall-out from the budget vote/Belinda crossing, etc...) Harper, written off as an ineffective leader with no hope or future by the talking heads in February 2005, scored a remarkable victory in January 2006.

That 2005 Ekos poll, as a predictor of future electoral outcomes, proved a complete red herring. Yet who could be surprised at this. The poll itself only puported to ask who voters would support if the election were held today. BUT THE ELECTION WASN'T HELD THAT DAY. Nor is our next federal election expected for some time.

Why this patently obvious point is consistently overlooked by every pundit who puts these polls forward as news escapes me. It is analogous to a sports commentator drawing conclusions as to the final outcome of an NBA playoff game at the end of the first quarter, or on the likelihood of an NHL team hoisting the Cup at the All-Star break. While the score and play up to this point is clearly relevant, it alone does not dictate the future.

But no matter. The same folks forecasting the inevitability of a Harper majority next Spring will no doubt act as if they knew all along that Harper was too "extreme" for Canada if one of the Liberal leadership contenders emerges above the fray and sparks them back to office. Or not. And we casual bystanders will merely look on in feigned amusement at it all.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

The Week That Was

Monotonous talk filled with platitudes. Hypocritically pious language. Yeah, I'd say Coyne's condemnation of Parliamentarians from all parties for this past week's "symphony of cant" is especially well deserved. An excellent column that concisely knocks all concerned for their puerile behaviour in reacting to Gwyn Morgan, Fraser's report on the Gun Registry, and the Afghanistan debate.
So it goes. Each outrage begets another. You reject my nominee, I reject your committee. You mislead Parliament, I act outside Parliament. You debase your vote, I ignore it. And each side justifies its behaviour with the age-old defense, beloved of statesmen and philosophers: They Started It. I don’t know what damage they’re doing to each other, but they’re sure making a mess of Parliament.

"They started it" might be good politics, but at what cost? As the Liberals look to select a new leader, perhaps the most significant question is whether any of the wouldbe candidates have thoughts on how to "end" it? South of the border, John McCain appears intent on rising above this type of bickering, with varying degrees of success. I wonder.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Oh, the Summertime is Comin'...

... at least it must be, if I can manage to momentarily mistake a Thursday afternoon for Friday, which explains yesterday's quote popped up a day early. Wonderful. So let the Wild Mountain Thyme grow around the blooming heather. It's May 2-4 after all. And though a heartbreaking performance in the closing minutes of the Arsenal-Barca final, today brings news for celebration as Henry signs on through 2010. And T.F.I. Friday is already underway overseas at the Union. Have a good one.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Quote of the (Fri)day

Nice Trudeau quote in the comments to the post below, and indeed the N.S. provincial election is fully underway. A few thoughts on that over the long weekend. Here’s another few words, anonymously spoken and though of a slightly more depressing note, unfortunately more apt than those of PET.
"No matter who you vote for, the Government gets in."
Heh. That and other amusing electoral observations in this kos diary. Perhaps it was naive to think that Harper wouldn't resort so quickly to such utterly political tactics, those so frustratingly perfected by the Boudrias and Valeris (to name but 2 House leaders) over the course of the past 13 years. Perhaps it is too much to hope that elected Governments, of whatever stripe, aren't more forthright and less imperious in their conduct of the nation's business.

Alas - at least it is humorous to observe from the sidelines the sudden, irony-rich role reversal among the partisan commentators on sides red and blue. How quickly deft maneuvers might be broadly dismissed as arrogance, (and vice versa, of course) where the shoe is on the other foot. But so the game is played these days. I find my own appetite for it all on the wane as the summer sun approaches...

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

The Vote

...this House support the government's two year extension of Canada's diplomatic, development, civilian police and military personnel in Afghanistan and the provision of funding and equipment for this extension...

So there you have it, by a margin of 149 to 145. In the end, I'm fairly certain this mission would have been extended beyond February 2007 in the long run anyway. And that later decision, when taken, could have been a much more fully informed one. As it stands, the Canadian Parliament has endorsed a wholly undefined extension to a mission - with no clarity as to its future scope, cost, and trajectory. The headlines tomorrow will all say that "Canadians soldiers will remain in Afghanistan two years longer than previously planned", but of course, changing circumstances (inevitable as they are) could always be cited for a change of direction down the road.

I support Canada's continued involvement in Afghanistan, but I find it difficult to believe that this was either the proper time or the proper procedural mechanism to frame such a decision. What's more, the brazen attempts by the CPC and its Prime Minister to snidely imply that those who question this motion are somehow failing to support the troops. The fact that these cheapshots are taken when their own political motivations on this were clearly evident:
Many opposition MPs who opposed the extension said they believed the hurried attempt to win parliamentary backing was aimed at innoculating the Conservatives against attack if the Afghan mission goes awry...

But the opposition parties accused Harper of attempting to politicize a vitally important issue by springing a debate on the Commons with only 36 hours to prepare, and no opportunity for in-depth briefings.

It is frustrating and insulting to the extreme to be accused of not properly respecting the work done on the grounds by the Canadian Forces while attempting to debate the nature and desirability of future missions. The ugliness of such suggestions are the real affront.

On that final note - fare thee well, Nichola. We stand forever in admiration of your dedication and sacrifice in seeking a world more just and beautiful. May flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.

It's Up for Grabs Now

It is the day of the Champions League Final - and with the two best technical players in the world facing off, let's get right to the hyperbole. Simon Barnes:
"Ronaldinho and Thierry Henry on the same pitch, competing for the greatest prize in club football: it is a wonderful prospect, not just for the number of goals they might score, but also for the nature of the goals they might score. The setting of the Champions League final seems to demand from either — or even both — a masterpiece. We crave, we almost expect, a goal of such sublime perfection that we will talk about it for the rest of our lives.

And that is the thing that gives the expectation of this match its unique savour: the feeling that the presence of one might inspire the other to reach beyond even those lofty things he has already managed. It is like Bach v Mozart, each seeking to please the ear, Monet v Matisse, each seeking to please the eye. But in fact, it’s Ronaldinho v Henry, each seeking to beguile the footballing senses."

Bach v. Mozart - love it. The comparison to last year is inevitable, of course. The powerhouse European team with a litany of world class names versus an underdog English squad relying on its one incomparable superstar and a stingy defence. Substitute Barca for AC Milan and Arsenal for Liverpool - and we remember how brilliant last season's final turned out.

Arsenal, incredibly, have not conceded a goal in the Champions League since the 27th of September, and this is only the third time since the competition began in 1992 that two undefeated teams are to meet in the final. Should be an absolute cracker, especially if Arsenal somehow manage the first goal. Met an English guy named Matthew at the hostel in Maui who was trying desperately to book tickets online for the show - wonder if he makes it... Surely Hornby will be there.

All that's left is the anticipation until kick-off. Will Ronaldinho begin cementing his case as one of the greatest to ever play the game? Will Henry rise to the occasion and give the legion of Arsenal supporters moments of heroism a la Michael Thomas in 1989? Answers soon.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

"A Big Surprise Anyway"

Classic BBC moment, courtesy of Drudge. Apparently, some mystery cab driver was mistaken for the editor of a English technology website and pulled into a live interview on the impact of a legal ruling that ha just been handed down by the Royal Courts.

The video clip is here - the panicked reaction on the guy's face as he is introduced must be seen to be fully appreciated. Then our man gamely tries to answer his way through the interviewer's questions. Absolutely golden.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Stanzas to an Intoxicated Fly

A buddy came across a coaster at the King Eddie Hotel in Toronto adorned with the following quotation:

"The rapturous, wild and ineffable pleasure of drinking at somebody else's expense."

Efforts to find the proper context for these fine words yielded little result, apart from identifying the source as a poem marvelously entitled "Stanzas to an Intoxicated Fly" contained in Henry Sambrooke Leigh's "Carols of Cockayne". Nowhere on the internet can you find the poem in its entirety, so had to send Zovi into the depths of the Bodleian library of Oxford to ultimately trace her down. Well worth it, and hereby repeated for all future Google surfers:
It's a singular fact that whenever I order
My goblet of Guinness or bumper of Bass,
Out of ten or a dozen that sport round the border
Some fly turns a somersault into my glass.
Oh! it's not that I grudge him the liquor he's tasted,
(supposing him partial to ale or stout),
But consider the time irretrievably wasted
In trying to fish the small wanderer out.

Ah! Believe me, fond fly, it's excessively sinful,
This habit which knocks even bluebottles up;
Just remember what Cassio, on getting a skinful,
Observ'd about "ev'ry inordinate cup!"
Reflect on that proverb, diminutive being,
Which tells us "Enough is as good as a feast;"
And, mark me, there's nothing more painful than seeing
An insect behaving so much like a beast.

Nay, in vain would you seek to escape while I'm talking,
And shake from your pinions the fast-clinging drops.
It is only too clear, from your efforts at walking,
That after your malt you intend to take hops.
Pray, where is your home? and oh! how shall you get there?
And what will your wife and family think?
Pray, how shall you venture to show the whole set there
That Paterfamilias is given to drink.

Oh, think of that moment when Conscience returning
Shall put the brief pleasures of Bacchus to flight;
When the tongue shall be parch'd and the brow shall be burning,
And most of to-morrow shall taste of to-night!
For the toast shall be dry and the tea shall be bitter,
And all through your breakfast this thought shall intrude;
That a little pale brandy and seltzer is fitter
For such an occasion than animal food.

I have known, silly fly, the delight beyond measure---
The blissful sensation, prolonged and intense---
The rapturous, wild, and ineffable pleasure,
Of drinking at somebody else's expense.
But I own--and it's not without pride that I own it---
Whenever some friend in his generous way
Bids me drink without paying, I simply postpone it,
And pay for my liquor the whole of next day.
Ah yes, sweet victory. Glasses will be raised tonight to the author's fine memory, and to our diligent library researcher for a job well done.

Monday, May 08, 2006

The Goose is Out


Another amazingly successful trip - full of wonder and randomness and rejuvenating experience. Much time spent marvelling at the magnificence of the scenery, in conversation with fellow wanderers, and staring off into the horizon while pondering the past and future. So rarely is there opportunity to be truly alone with our own thoughts, opportunity to discover and bask in the profound freedom of tranquility, in the idea that all roads remain open.

One day, the governor, Lu-hsuan, asked Nan-ch'uan the following question: "A man once raised a goose in a bottle, watching it grow until he realized it had grown too large to pass through the bottle's neck. Since he did not want to kill the goose, or break the bottle, how would he get it out?"

Nan-ch'uan began quietly, "My esteemed governor," then he roared, "THE GOOSE IS OUT!"

It is said that Lu-hsuan was enlightened on the spot.

All told, an exceptionally worthwhile few days out on the Pacific. More notes to follow once life regains a sense of order.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Quote of the (Fri)day

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.

-Mary Oliver, Wild Geese
From an article in the inflight Aloha Airlines magazine. A magical few days, with two more left in paradise and then one more to complete the cross-globe journey home. The Pacific has been ever so lovely, my escapades on a moped around Oahu ridiculously epic, and the peace and quiet reflection offered by the landscapes a true tonic.

More upon return to reality. Until then happy Cinco de Rum and Coke Friday - it is only 10AM here, and I need to get going.