Friday, June 30, 2006

Quote of the (Fri)day

Officially Quarterfinal Game Day in Berlin now - the city has been on noticeable edge since I arrived up from Munchen on Tuesday. None more so than my old mate Torsten, who earns the quote of the week for his description of his feelings this evening as the Argentina encounter approaches:
"So nervous... I feel like you do if you must go to the dentist or something - you don't know how it will go, you are so worried that there might be something, might be pain, might be problems... Or maybe like waiting for a big exam. You cannot do anything more, so you want it to arrive, but are scared if something goes wrong and then all is over. If Argentina win, I will never eat a steak from that country again."

So outstanding. Even better is the Adidas Football World make-shift stadium of 10,000 set within a Beckham free kick of the Reichstag here where I hope to camp out this morning to secure last minute tickets so we can enjoy the agony and ecstacy en masse.

More stories and photos from Munich later, but the return pilgrimage was truly a magical one. And there is a sense that the next 2-3 days will be the memorable ones. To Frankfurt Saturday to watch England amidst the public fan site, and then to the stadium to hope for a minor miracle look at Zidane and Ronaldo in person. I keep upping the amount I am willing to spend in my mind, but we will have to let it unravel. And Dylan is playing in Gelsenkirchen on the 2nd if the scalpers don't put my money to use.

Truly an epic one awaits. Last night I dreamt of goals and jewels. Time to see what the gods hold in store, what slight touches and sublime maneuvers will be immortalized. Oh, for more days like today.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Quote of the (Fri)day

Sitting in the windowless cubicle. Watching the clock. Tick, tock. About 12 hours until the anticipated landing in Frankfurt. Maybe 7 more until arrival at my favorite rail station in Munchen. So - likely less than 20 total 60 minute revolutions from now until the leading of a triumphal procession of 1 back into the Hofbrau House. The first time since Gartner and I left our man below and took off to Vienna, in search of Don Giovanni and that missed meeting with Grisele pre-Oktoberfest.

A celebratory and surreal mood this Friday, indeed. What will the next 10 days or so hold? For us? For England? Whatever the case, Nick Floyd of Three Floyds Brewing has it right:
"I love the smell of hops in the morning. It smells like victory."

And victory is what we seek. C'mon, England. See you on the other side.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Travel Reading List

First weekend of the summer upon us, so off we go. Words packed for the road:
1. The Art of Pilgrimage, by Phil Cousineau
2. Charlie Johnson in the Flames, by Michael Ignatieff
3. The Tao of Pooh, by Benjamin Hoff
4. The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner, by James Hogg
5. How Soccer Explains the World, by Franklin Foer

And of course, Walt Whitman will be riding shotgun in the knapsack once again. He never tires of the road. Looking forward to donning my newly purchased England jersey for the flight and beyond. C'mon England - make this memorable.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Get Serious

Does the NDP really want an election called over a confidence motion on Rona Ambrose's resignation? Are the Liberals really so desperate that they need to mount rhetorical attacks in the House against the 4th place party for its... wait for it... opportunism?

I succumbed on Friday and filled out the Liberal membership form, so as to vote in the leadership race. "Canada is a serious people," Ignatieff has taken to saying in his stump speech. You wouldn't guess it from the sheer madness and idiocy of the opposition political parties and their infantile spin doctors these days. The Liberals obviously have failed, remarkably, to adjust to not getting their way in government. The NDP has lost its mind and continues to bizarrely rejoice over each minute Parliamentary victories over - not the government - the Official Opposition.

Ridiculous, clownish antics for the parties on the left - these elected Parliamentarians are about as far from focusing on the serving the interests of the voters as ever before. It is time to get serious, take a step back, and not react to the news of every day as if Harper is about to destroy the idea of Canada. Oh, hasten December and the installment of a grown-up in the Opposition benches who can control the crowd. I don't fancy anyone's chances of shifting the current inside baseball debates from tactics to substance.

Hopefully the likes of an Ignatieff or a Dion can ultimately prove me wrong.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Flight of the Condor

Hilariously, absurdly, ridiculously - we are a go for launch this Friday.

I suppose in retrospect maybe it was inevitable, that the call of this European World Cup would sound too loudly for me to resist. If it were not Condor Airlines that offered the steal of a ticket to Frankfurt from Halifax direct, stumbled across so innocently just 3 days ago, there would have been something else. With legendary Torsten Schadendorf ready and willing to host the celebrations in Berlin and a looming England v. Germany clash possible in the Round of 16 (dependent on tomorrow's games), the stage has been perfectly set. And everyone to a man told me to go for it when I raised the possibility in conversation over the weekend. What else to do but gulp, and hand the VISA over the counter quickly, to the hands of another and thus past the point of no return.

Magic. Yet there is, too, an attendant sadness that accompanies even the most joyous of such purchases. So many other magical, hypnotic cities that might otherwise be visited - those trips now indefinitely postponed by finite resources and the harsh chance of random occurrence. But no matter. The horizon remains long, with time aplenty for lost pilgrimages to be renewed and done well. In the mean time, we beat on, boats against...
Sunlight falls across the table from the window. INDY reaches for the drink. The bar of sunlight turns like the hand of a clock over the tabletop across the drinks.

We see INDY puzzled. Only for a moment.

INDY: "They're turning around. They're taking us back to Germany."
Heh. One more time it is.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Quote of the (Fri)day

"For once I would be a writer, and not do someone else's work."

-Jack Kerouac

Could never find this gem erstwhile online, but remember it from somewhere and it is so perfect it has to be true. Hasten that day. In the meantime, ridiculous World Cup performances and the magic of random encounters make living not just bearable but easy. Cheers, Captain.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Tenorio Thursdays

Oh God said to Abraham, "Kill me a son"
Abe says, "Man, you must be puttin' me on"
God say, "No." Abe say, "What?"
God say, "You can do what you want Abe, but
The next time you see me comin' you better run"
Well Abe says, "Where do you want this killin' done?"
God says, "Out on Highway 61."

For so long, Thursday nights have been those to be longed for. Ecuador Three, Costa Rica Nil. Tenorio. Delgado. Ohhhh. And then a frightfully fun game from England, leaving it until the end, and of course the player who has played the worst and blown the most chances becomes the hero. Do the Crouch.

But that Gerrard goal was football. I don' t understand those who aren't content to wait 90 minutes for such a possibility to develop.

Decked out in the Ecuador jersey - I am hoping that England matches up with Germany in the Round of 16. Destiny is a bitch to overcome. Do it, Inger-lund.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Victory is Life

..say the Jem Hadar, of DS9 fame. But sometimes losing can simmer as sweet, with the right people. Not as good a result as the N.S. people deserve, perhaps, but one we can (and will) eminently live with. And there is something about celebrating all manner of events in such hilarious circumstances that is sublime.

Lady Astor once called Savannah, "the beautiful woman with the dirty face." Maybe losing for the right reasons is comparable. A compliment of the highest order. Some character beneath the magical surface.

How can we but remember to revel in such moments? Well done.

Election Day

Blink, and you might have missed Nova Scotia's election campaign that ends today.

The tone for the campaign was set from the outset, when rookie Premier Rodney Macdonald's Conservatives decided to eschew the frugal approach of his predecessor and go bidding for votes with spending announcements aplenty. At a debate in my riding, second place leadership finisher Bill Black referred to the wealth of promises in the Tory platform as a "payoff" made possible by good Conservative government. Say one thing about Black, he can be exceedingly blunt. That - at least - is refreshing. But Nova Scotia should be wary of returning to the brokerage politics of the short term - and I see too much of that in an uncertain Rodney MacDonald.

I will be headed to the polls for his Liberal opponent, my neighbour and friend Devin Maxwell. Devin has fought a tough campaign against the odds, with little money and a leader largely seen as more a hindrance than a help.

The Liberal policies this time are solid. On one of the highest profile issues of the day, only the Liberal party has avoided the easy populist call to remove HST from home heating fuel - a policy that provides absolutely the wrong incentives in our drive for energy efficiency and conservation. When first conceived by the NDP, I have no doubt it was intended as a measure targeted at the poorest Nova Scotians. Yet it must be wondered whether such a broad-based tax cut is the best use of our finite resources for that relief.

Also, the Liberal plan to encourage University graduates to stay in Nova Scotia via tax credits is a strong one, and is to be contrasted with the NDP's pledge for a 10% tuition reduction that, presumably, subsidizes students from out of province at the expense of those here who leave. The Conservatives - increasingly fond of the summer election - have talked about providing such help before, with little result.

The campaign never caught the imagination of the public, probably because the three leaders just aren't all that impressive/provocative when it comes to campaigning. The debate, as Bruce Wark wrote in the Coast, was an hour-long repetition of the usual platitudes, and surely failed to change anyone's mind. Most disappointing (to me) was Dexter, who has the most experience yet failed to channel that into a campaign that might chart Nova Scotia in a new direction. He has also caught that federal NDP affliction of never uttering a sentence that doesn't include "today's families" or "working families". In his copycat, lead-from-across-the-aisle approach, Rodney Macdonald's obsession is the "Nova Scotia families" moniker. These have become almost infuriating refrains - who is supposed to be against families, anyway?

Francis MacKenzie, the Liberal leader, shied away from the legislature upon his election in favour of "building the party from the grassroots". The policy document is solid, but in an electorate generally satisfied with the direction of the government and economy, most people (and Nova Scotians in particular) will go with people and parties that are known and trusted. If there is a lesson for those casting ballots in the federal Liberal leadership race, it is to pick a candidate who not only has the ideas, but knows how to sell them persuasively to a majority of Canadians. And as the last N.S. minority government showed, ideas proposed by all parties are free for the taking.

Given the polls, the Liberals are destined for third place once again. Perhaps my ideal result would be an slight NDP minority where the Liberals have just enough to hold the balance. A thin Tory majority eeked out in the rural ridings is the outcome to bet on. These might seem like vastly different possibilities to those outside the province, but ironically, both the PC and the NDP have outdone each other this time pretending (ideologically) to be Liberal.

All these musings aside - it's time to get to the polls and see if the people (as opposed to the pundits) are proven right once again. Best of luck to Devin and all the other fine men and women whose names are on the ballot, and to the party workers who toil through the good times and bad to get their candidates elected. It is - for so many of them - a thankless effort.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

More, please

Dream result for England on Day 1 - a victory against Paraguay and then a Sweden/T&T draw to put them firmly top of the group. But it looked oh so painful. Typical Sven-Goran hand-wringing and holding on at the end against weaker opponent's. The fans began chanting Rooney's name 70 minutes in. What must it be like, to be a young kid hearing that?

Last night the celebrations were manic, as Ecuador managed a cracker of a victory, and I proved to be their favorite supporter in all of Halifax. A wonderful swirl through the Lower Deck. Ecuadorian.

Torsten Frings may have scored the most beautiful goal of the tournament in the very first game. Simon Barnes, unsurprisingly, has produced the definitive opening statement:

Victory would be nice, but what every one really wants is a ride. A journey. A story to live through. There is a strong feeling here that what matters is not the arriving but the travelling, the hitch-hiking from hope to hope until journey’s end, which is generally at the town Disappointment.

The Germans feel like this and so, too, do the English. It is not a matter of “please God let us win”, but “please, God, let the journey not end just yet”.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Quote of the (Fri)day

Juliet, the dice were loaded from the start
And I bet and you exploded in my heart
And I forget the movie song
When you wanna realise it was just that the time was wrong, juliet ?

A magnificently extravagant and extraordinary day/night 1 as a 27 year old. The World Cup starts in one minute, I'm wearing a bright yellow Ecuador jersey found fortuitously by dad at some Salvation Army, surely in preparation for today. And the grand Stayner's draw for the trip to White Point is tonight. As Vonnegut often asks, "If this isn't great, what is?"

The world is wide and wonderful. And for the next month its eyes are on the bold players attempting so valiantly to kick a little ball into the back of a deceptively large net. Best of luck to them all. But C'mon ENGLAND. I should have spent the 30 pounds and bought that Rooney jersey underneath St. Paul's.

It is a fortunate life, when that is one of your main regrets.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

The Devil Went Down to Georgia

"C" is ....

for Cryptic.
for the Chelsea drug store.
for Crouch.
for Krapp (and Kwak).
for the County Claire (and Cliffs of Moher).
for Hugh's College.
for Cash's Rusty Cage.
for Cake (as well as Cream and Clapton).
for Cassady.

... And for Crayola. 27 shall be a fun year to draw. Happy Birthday, McMahon.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

This, That, and the Other

(1) I found this story (via Coyne) hilarious. By majority vote in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, the Members of the House have called upon the Government to, among other things, recognize “…that the Premier's procrastination and failure to show leadership when it was most needed, allowed this situation to escalate into a public safety crisis”. The full text of the motion is here. The best part of the story is the Liberal neptness and subsequent explanation of their failure to get the vote recorded:

The vote was done by voice, with MPPs calling out "yay" or "nay." The "yays" were louder and not enough Liberals stood up quickly enough to force a recorded vote, which would have allowed more of their MPPs to rush to the Legislature to defeat the motion...

Liberal party whip Dave Levac, who is in charge of mustering MPPs for critical votes, said he was trying to get more Liberals to stand up to force a recorded vote but not enough heeded his hand signals.
How many would have been "enough"? Here's the relevant section of the Legislature Rules:

42(g) Debate on a motion shall be limited to one Sessional day. At 5:50 p.m. on that day, the Speaker shall interrupt the proceedings and shall put the question without debate. If a recorded vote is requested, the division bells shall be limited to 10 minutes.
The rules don't even specify - but under budget and time allocation motions, they do specify a recorded vote must be requested by 5 members... And they should have known in advance that this would occur at precisely 5:50PM. Oh, imagine the scene - the whip gesturing in vain to muster a meager 5 Liberal Members to stand up in time against a motion calling out the procrastination and failures of leadership of their own Premier.

Yet we continue to operate under the illusion that debate in Parliament somehow matters. I can only imagine how a gaffe like this would be ruthlessly mocked in Britain. Perhaps the whip would be so ashamed he would throw himself into the Thames. (I so love that expression!)

(2) As most know, the Nova Scotia election culminates in a vote next Tuesday. I will try and put up some thoughts on each of the three (four?) main parties over the next few days, with predictions, an indication on how I'll be casting my ballot, and a look at some of the innanities of the Elections Act. Incidentally, I happen to live in the same building where Premier MacDonald keeps a Halifax apartment. We bumped into him in the hallway last evening on my way out to "The Break Up". So hilariously (and wonderfully) communal, this province.

(3) Iamnotafraid.ca? Fine intentions, I suppose, but really - doesn't such a plan just unnecessarily flatters these would-be lunatic terrorists as to their own importance and sense of impact? Far from being "afraid" by the thought of such eejits roaming the streets, I find myself simply not bothered. Radwanski's musings on ignoring them altogether (June 5th) seems the more appropriate response.

Within reason, of course. And this is certainly not to minimize our reliance on the authorities' continuing good efforts on a job (so far) well done. Our government will always need to evaluate how it can best protect the citizens in the face of the depraved. But simply put, living in a society entails a certain assumption of risk. I much prefer Sinister Thoughts' contribution to this "not afraid" business, so far as slogans go. Take off indeed, hosers.

And cheers to your continued failures and stupidity.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Just Rewards

For the third year in a row - 'twill be a celebratory Monte on June Five. From the anticipation of Calgary and beyond to the peaceful satisfaction of overlooking my favorite Weeping Willow near the end of the Oxford line... Now the Halifax rooftop after a year that absolutely zoomed.

Where will June 5, 2007 lead on?

Saturday, June 03, 2006

The Actor's Revenge

A Guardian Article from a Nestruck post:
"There too, someone's phone went off three times in less than 20 minutes. At the third occurrence, Suchet merely stopped speaking mid-sentence, allowing the phone to ring on and on while he stared into the middle distance with a look of infinite regret blended with disdain etched on his features. Time stood still. The phone continued to ring. Suchet's stare became even more sorrowful, even more resigned, even more disdainful. It was an electrifying interlude. Eventually the ringing stopped. A half smile, and he seamlessly continued from the very syllable he'd left off at. If I'd been the miscreant I would have thrown myself into the Thames after such an elegant shaming."

My Turquoise

Is Act III, Scene i of the Merchant Shakespeare's best? Arguable. Although Twelfth Night's 2-iii is priceless as well. Not to be abed after midnight is to be up betimes. Nevertheless. The villany you teach me, I will execute, and it shall go hard but I will better the instruction. And culminating with this brilliant slice:

One of them showed me a ring that he had of your
daughter for a monkey.

Out upon her! Thou torturest me, Tubal: it was my
turquoise; I had it of Leah when I was a bachelor:
I would not have given it for a wilderness of monkeys.