Monday 31 May 2010

Les Shadoks

J'ai trouvé par hasard sur Youtube les épisodes d'une série animée française qui a eu un succès immense à une certaine époque: Les Shadoks de Jacques Rouxel. J'avais découvert la série il y a plus de dix ans (ça ne rajeunit personne), sous la forme d'une adaptation en bande dessinée. Le premier album avait été laissé dans le local commun des étudiants d'Études françaises (appelé à l'époque et peut-être encore aujourd'hui Le Soulier de Satin) en compagnie du premier album du Concombre Masqué. J'avais dévoré les deux (pas ltitéralement dans le cas du Concombre Masqué) et je m'étais donc servi une bonne pinte d'humour absurde, le genre d'humour le plus rare, le plus difficile à réussir, mais que je trouve le plus drôle.

L'impact culturel de la série a été aussi immense qu'insidieux. Les Shadoks ont donné à la langue française des maximes pleines de sagesse. Je redécouvre donc la série avec plaisir, dans son format original, le charme primitif de son dessin et l'humour sophistiqué de sa narration. Et je laisse ici les premiers épisodes, glanés sur Youtube:

Sunday 30 May 2010

My drugs (or yours)

I had discovered now that I drink more and more tea, and that I drink it regularly. At least two cups a day, sometimes three. Nothing outstanding, but for someone who was only drinking it episodically not so long, this is a sharp change that almost looks like the beginning of an addiction.

Some people cannot start their day without a cup of coffee. I am glad I never felt for it, but I might be falling for a drink that is also high in caffeine. That said, we all have our addictions. Mine happen to be legal in this part of the world and I never had them so strong as it took over my life. More importantly, I have learned to know my limits. For instance, I love beer and I love it for its taste (yes, I do, seriously), but I rarely get drunk nowadays and usually stop drinking when I start feeling dizzy. I rarely drink alcohol more than two days in a row and strongly dislike the cheap brands. I think this esomewhat elitist approach to beer prevented me from developing alcoholism.

And then there is chocolate, or indeed anything that is sugaree. I can live without sugar, for a while at least, but then sometimes I crave for it uncontrollably. It is probably one of the few things I can say that I am genuinly addicted and feel the loss. And you, what are your drugs of predilection?

Saturday 29 May 2010

Un appétit pour le fromage

J'ai comme envie de manger un vins et fromages ces temps-ci. C'est un peu à cause de Marks & Spencer qui fait une grande publicité sur les fromages anglais, c'est aussi et surtout à cause de cette chronique de Pierre Foglia. Ca m'arrive parfois. On oublie souvent que les Anglais ont une tradition de production laitière et de fromages qui n'a rien à envier à celle de la France. Et du cheddar avec un chutney, c'est pas mal du tout. Je songe donc à faire un vins et fromages, il ne me reste plus qu'à trouver une excuse. Quoi célébrer, à part mon chômage (lequel n'est pas vraiment prétexte à célébration)?

Friday 28 May 2010

A farewell

I had my last day at work yesterday. That said, I got back there for an hour to say goodbye to everyone and get some presents my closest colleagues had bought for me. Some beers, among them my favourite, and two DVDs. I felt spoiled. Just as thoughtful and just as appropriate as a box of chocolate. Funny that they saw something else in me, not the sweet toothed guy, but the beer drinker. I enjoyed it there, in spite of a few difficults moments. What really made a difference is that I always felt that I was part of the team, even though I was only part-time and all. Anyway, I blogged about it before and now that period of my professional life is over. I spent the day not doing much, I thought I could give myself that luxury.

So what's next?

Je m'abstiendrai...

Je sais, je sais, le pauvre con ne peut pas se la fermer ces temps-ci et il s'enfonce de plus en plus. Cela dit, je crois que je vais m'abstenir de commenter sa plus récente sortie. Il commence à m'ennuyer sérieusement et en bout de ligne, le mépris est la meilleure réponse pour Son Insignifiance.

Thursday 27 May 2010

Last day at work

Today was my last day at the school I was working. I will have to come back tomorrow to get my farewell gift. But the work is definitely over, done and dealt with. I have to say I do feel a bit sad about it. It will be, again, a bittersweet farewell. I never felt like an outcast there, unlike the other school where I worked. It is true that people treated me decently and not like a pariah. In my previous job, I felt ostracised by most of my colleagues, so even though some appreciated me, I ended up frustrated, sometimes downright angry and with a longing to roar at the slightest disagreement. I regretted I never gave it as good as I got from them. Maybe I should have had.

Not with the job I just lost. People were nice, they were chatty at lunchtime and break time, many of them were actually intelligent and I even got to admire some. I also found nobody to have a grudge against me. Sure, I was underpaid and the work was sometimes boring and below my skills. But it was at least an harmonious environment.

So yes, now I have to find something else. I can be fairly optimistic on that side, I might not feel the same if nothing comes up soon, but I am not too anxious for the moment. My farewell will be (was?) a sober one.

Je meurs de soif auprès de la fontaine

Pardon, il fallait que je la dise encore celle-là, même si j'ai déjà utilisé le fameux début de la ballade du concours de Blois pour ce billet. Il n'y a pas de raison, je ne suis pas déshydraté ni près d'une fontaine. Simplement, j'ai pris quelques photos de fontaine lors de notre visite dans ce parc sur lequel j'ai déjà blogué. Il y avait un canard qui se baignait ou s'abreuvait dedans, pas farouche du tout (je crois qu'on aurait pu le caresser si on avait osé). Je tenais simplement à publier cette photo et je cherchais un titre qui va avec. Le premier vers de la fameuse ballade m'est venu naturellement.

Wednesday 26 May 2010

Quoting Oscar Wilde

Just because I haven't quoted him in a while and because he is one of my favourite writers who wrote one of my favourite novels, I thought I would quote the Preface again:

"No artist is ever morbid. The artist can express anything."

I strongly believed it when I first read it when I was sixteen, I still strongly believe it now.

Henri IV

J'ai manqué, le 14 mai, le 400e anniversaire de l'assassinat d'Henri IV par François Ravaillac. Je ne suis pas très original, mais c'est mon roi de France préféré. Je l'ai d'abord connu enfant en lisant sur l'histoire de France, puis ensuite avec La Reine Margot, le film tiré du roman d'Alexandre Dumas (un auteur qui m'indiffère profondément). J'ai lu sur lui par la suite et j'ai appris à l'admirer, tant pour son génie politique que pour sa simplicité. Enfin bref, n'étant pas tout à fait historien et son époque n'étant pas ma spécialité, je me retiendrai faire une longue analyse qui serait truffée d'inexactitudes et de clichés. Je me contenterai de dire que je trouve l'homme sympathique. Vous trouverez largement de quoi lire sur Henri IV, sur internet ou ailleurs On peut trouver ici une dramatisation de la journée de sa mort (la page sur imdb) que je compte bien regarder avant la fin de l'été. Oh, et il existe aussi l'air Vive Henri IV!, que je mets ici pour souligner en retard l'anniversaire de son assassinat:

Tuesday 25 May 2010

A British garden

I often say to my wife that last year, we had a high sea kind of summer and holiday, as we went to two aquariums and saw a good deal of aquatic wildlife. This year, we might end up having a holiday centered around gardens. It will certainly be more land-based. In any case, we have seen so far more gardens and park than last year, or at least this is my impression. So yes, we visited a garden no later than last weekend and it was a pleasurable experience.

I prefer British gardens to French ones, as I find them more natural, there is something still wild about them. French gardens have the order or a piece of complex architecture, even the plants seem to have been sculpted and organised in clockwork, like inanimate matter. English gardens have been made by people who understood that what they were working on was alive. It often looks like there are only a handful of discreet human elements that adapted to the vegetation surrounding them. Of course, I probably love them more, at least partially because Quebeckers adopted the English way of gardening. Still, I find them so atmospheric. Sometimes I was feeling like I was in a wood in another time period, maybe Yvain in Brocéliande, maybe a M.R. James character. (okay, I say this one very often, but it is nevertheless true.)

My wife said it was maybe a bit on the monochrome side: the garden was very green, with a hint of purple or white here and there. Most of the flowers hadn't bloomed, but I still find the place charming. Take the picture of the roses alley at the top left, for instance. There were no roses, but the thorns that were there still had character. Beauty can also be bare, unpretentious, devoid of bright colours.

I am pretty much a urban man, but sometimes I wish I had a garden like that one. I could use my time there in a protuctive way and enjoy the place.

La mort de l'éducation

J'ai lu cette chronique de Richard Martineau, qui a eu le don de me désespérer. On ne se rend pas compte à quel point ça va mal avant de voir qu'ailleurs, ça va bien. Déjà que je trouvais que le système d'éducation québécois faisait dur, mais de voir ce qu'on exige des étudiants français. J'ai parfois l'impression d'avoir vraiment commencé à apprendre quoi que ce soit une fois rendu au cégep.

Je ne sais pas trop pourquoi au Québec le monde de l'éducation est dans un si mauvais état. Je soupçonne que c'est à cause d'un mépris historique pour la connaissance, d'abord institué par l'Église, ensuite intégré dans la culture des masses et chez l'élite également. Je me sens toujours vaguement dégoûté quand j'y pense.

Monday 24 May 2010

Another great unknown line (from myself again)

So let's try to make this a tradition, or at least a recurrent theme. Here is another great unknown line and its story:

Back in my days in Liverpool, I was back from Tesco with some grocery, among other things a few chocolate pies, which are totally decadent. I was about to store them when the phone rang. It was for one of my housemate. When I knocked at her door to give her the phone, I still had the pies in the hand, so I said:

"It's for you. The phone I mean, not the chocolate pie."

To which she replied, laughing:

"But I wanted both."

She kept on laughing and had to explain the joke to her friend. Now it's not as funny as the first great unknown line I put here, but it's still quite good.

Avoir un jardin?

Je viens de lire cette chronique de Marie-Claude Lortie sur le jardinage en milieu urbain. Pas inintéressant. Je suis plutôt citadin, cela dit je me suis découvert un amour pour le jardinage, enfin certains aspects. Surtout la cueillette de fruits, dont les pommes dont Lortie parle. Je ne me vois pas faire du cidre, mais j'aimerais avoir mon propre pommier. Ici, c'est impossible. Je devrai me contenter de offrir mes services de jardinier amateur à ma belle-mère, ce qui consiste surtout à couper les bouts séchés des plantes et à cueillir les légumes du carré de légumes qu'elle fait pousser. Je l'ai déjà dit ici: le jardinage a quelque chose de relaxant que j'aime bien. J'avais un ami qui en faisait entre deux chapitres de thèse de doctorat, pour occuper son esprit à des considérations plus concrètes, ce qui lui faisait un bien immense, m'a-t-il dit.

Sunday 23 May 2010

An hedonistic life

I don't know why, maybe it is because we are having lovely days here, with hot and sunny weather, maybe because I can now be carefully optimistic on the employment front, which makes the upcoming end of my current employment less stressful, but I am having a really nice weekend. I almost feel like on holidays, for the first time in years. Forget about what I said yesterday,this Saturday proved that I can appreciate a sunny day without a swimming pool (although with one I would appreciate it better). Which makes me an inconsistent blogger, I guess, and just as much as a philistine, as I still quoted Melville on such a trivial topic.

But anyway, I take pleasure in life this weekend. We had a very Greek Saturday my wife and I, or at least a very Greek dinner, as we made spanakopita. We had it with white wine, which makes it taste even better. And during the day I had beer, not enough to be tipsy, but plenty enough to appreciate the day, which was not so unbearably hot as to make it awful. Today I woke up without hangover or headache. So I am following the principles of hedonism: taking pleasure and maintaining myself in a state of pleasure. Often, I enjoy life as an Italian, but today I am a Greek. Tonight we might eat in a French restaurant, so I might be a French hedonist, which is a rare thing for me.

A little disclaimer before the end of this post: I don't particularly agree with hedonism as a philosphy. There will be plenty of occasions to follow stoicism, I might as well be an hedonist when I can.

Question existentielle (7)

Une question existentielle qui me tarabuste depuis un certain temps:

-Puisque le café goûte à ce qu'il sent à ce qu'il ressemble, pourquoi est-ce que tant de gens aiment ce breuvage?

Saturday 22 May 2010

Longing for a swimming pool (and a quote from Moby Dick)

It is hot here, enough to feel that it is a heatwave. I don't know if it is accurate, but it certainly feels like it. Days like this one makes me long for the old family swimming pool. I haven't had a dip in one in years and I sorely miss the feeling of water surrounding me in a hot day like this one. The worst thing is that there are some public swimming pool around here, but I have never really visited them. I need new swimming trunks anyway. I guess it could be the weekend's activity: find some swimming trunks, then find a pool.

As I once said here, swimming is one of the few sports at which I am naturally good at. Not great, but I can do more than float, I can dive, I can crawl and I can hold my breath for long enough in the water. So My Haitian aunt once told me that swimming is not a real sport. She had such contempt with water and fittingly enough she couldn't swim. Ironic as she came from an island. But she was wrong, I think: swimming is probably one of the best, healthiest physical activity, as it is a complete one. It is also a pleasant activity, maybe this is why my aunt said it couldn't be a sport.

I mentioned last year that I have some kind of love story with water and sea life. Maybe not like Ishmael in Moby Dick, but I have always been fascinated by it. And I associate sea life with the many afternoons spent in the family swimming pool. Talking about Moby Dick, there is a quote from the novel that sums up perfectly my longing for a swimming pool: " The more so, I say, because truly to enjoy bodily warmth, some small part of you must be cold, for there is no quality in this world that is not what it is merely by contrast. Nothing exists in itself." There, I just quoted what is maybe the greatest American novel (maybe even the greatest novel in English) in a post about a tank with chlorinated water! I just shocked myself. But the quote explains what I am feeling right now: one can enjoy warmth when one knows cold, the reverse is also true: feeling cool is pleasant when one knows how unpleasant hot can be. I don't like heatwaves and hot weathers much in and by themselves. A hot day can quickly become unbearable. I have only really appreciated hot summer days in a swimming pool.

Last note: the picture was taken at the Vancouver Aquarium.

Une pensée pour le homard

Je viens de parcourir cet article du Devoir, sur le homard québécois et sa popularité. Ce qui me rappelle que je n'ai pas vraiment mangé de homard depuis des années. Depuis une décennie, si je ne trompe pas, je n'ai pas mangé de homard complet, bien qu'il y en ait eu un peu au banquet du mariage de mon petit frère. Il faut dire que 1)ma femme n'apprécierait pas, le homard faisant partie de ces animaux dont la cuisson est particulièrement cruelle pour une végétarienne et 2)ici ils sont hors de prix et 3)je ne saurais comment l'apprêter. Et l'odeur dans un appartement comme le nôtre, pardon.

Je ne mange donc guère plus de fruits de mer, à part des moules et parfois des crevettes. Enfant, les fruits de mer étaient la sorte de nourriture que je trouvais absolument gastronomique et luxueuse. Bien sûr, il y avait les hot-doyes et les hambégers (comme disaient les locaux) des barbecues, que j'adorais, mais le homard avait quelque chose d'aristocratique. Maintenant, à en croire l'article, il fait son chemin dans ces mêmes barbecues. Je me demande si les enfants aiment pour autant. Il a une couleur rouge tout ce qu'il y a d'apétissant.

Friday 21 May 2010

Un peu d'espagnolisme?

Il fait une chaleur étouffante. Enfin, j'imagine que ce n'est pas encore trop mal, mais c'est un contraste étonnant avec les semaines précédentes. Qui dit chaleur estivale dit musique estivale, mais j'ai pensé mettre ici quelque chose de pas trop gnan gnan. Alors autant mettre ici de la musique française à saveur espagnole, comme il fait ici une chaleur toute espagnole. Un peu d'espagnolisme, donc.

Je n'avais pas placé sur ce blogue d'aria de Carmen depuis un bout de temps, alors j'en offre deux pour le prix d'un. D'abord la scène des cartes, puis l'aria des douaniers. Petite note nostalgique: enfants, mes frères et moi nous jouions les contrebandiers faisant le guet, lorsqu'on s'ennuyait en attendant les invités avant une fête. Le divan du salon qui donnait sur la fenêtre faisait office de colline. L'idée nous était venue de cette première scène du troisième acte de Carmen. L'opéra nous avait donc fasciné à ce point, assez pour qu'on en adapte certaines scènes à nos jeux enfantins.

Maria Ewing a le rôle de Carmen dans cet extrait.

Wednesday 19 May 2010

Musing on working outside

As I mentioned here, May is now in full bloom and looking more and more like Summertime, enough so I can be outside without a coat and I have to be careful about getting sunburns. As it was really nice, I decided to take the students out for their lesson with me. That's one of the good things with teaching: it's one of the jobs that you can do outside, if the weather allows it, but you don't have to. I don't know if I could do a real outdoor job. I never really had one. Well, I love to pick up fruits and do bits of gardening for the mother-in-law, but I never had a paid job that required to work outside.

Working outside appeals to me as an intellectual. There is something about being outside that seems to encourage reflection: Newton discovered gravity outside, Greek philosophers and philosophers in general conceived a lot of their thoughts outside. There is that overrated movie, Dead Poet Society, which has its main character teaches his students outside half the time, it seems. I always strongly disliked that movie, but I see the merit of this method. In an ideal world with an ideal job, I would teach literature, all sorts of literature, outside, near an oak, a willow or what have you, having afternoon tea on cool Autumn days, or drinking beer, and on hot Summer days drinking Pimm's. It would not be an orthodox teaching method, but it would certainly be entertaining and I guarantee it would give results.

Anyway, I will have to leave my job soon, as my contract will end. There is already something that I might have, but that would be office work. Just when summer is starting which, presuming I get it, would be a shame. I think working outside fits my creative mind better.

Tuesday 18 May 2010

La saison estivale, enfin?

Bon, après une bonne partie de mai plutôt froide, il semblerait que l'été soit en chemin, puisqu'il fait chaud depuis hier. Je tenais à le souligner: c'est aujourd'hui que je me mets d'humeur estivale, donc que je songe: 1)aux vacances, 2)à lire dehors, 3)à me baigner (même si ça n'arrivera sans doute pas), 4)à oublier un peu que je serai au chômage bientôt. Je vais aussi essayer de bloguer plus léger, les derniers billets en français étaient un peu lourds et sévères.

Je laisse ici une autre photo de l'arbre qui m'avait impressionné il y a quelques jours.

Monday 17 May 2010

Signs of Summertime

Summer is coming at last: it was fairly warm today and people were mowing the lawn, it was smelling like grass when I got back home. It looks, smells and feels like May should look, smell and feel like.

Oh, and I will be unemployed in two weeks or so. That's not so fun.

Il remet ça?

Je ne voulais pas bloguer sur le cardinal Ouellet une autre fois, je ne pensais pas bloguer sur lui de sitôt, mais il ne m'a guère laissé le choix: ses propos sur l'avortement après un viol ont fait des vagues. La réaction de Patrick Lagacé (et le billet sur son blogue ici). Celle de Richard Martineau ici. La mienne, de réaction? Je n'arrive pas à trouver des mots que je n'ai pas déjà dit pour exprimer ce que je pense sur la mesquinerie, la petitesse, la stupidité, la profonde ignorance, l'aveuglement de ce puceau du troisième âge. Je disais qu'il voyait le monde "à travers la phraséologie étriquée de son bréviaire". C'est bien pire: c'est un esprit malveillant qui fantasme à l'idée qu'un jour la société québécoise se fera piétiner sous la botte des ayatollahs catholiques de son espèce.

Saturday 15 May 2010

Barbaric milk

I had this post in mind since I blogged about tea recently, and earlier on about unpasterised milk. A member of my wife's family, when I mentioned that their national drink was in essence so foreign (perfumed hot water), mentioned that the only thing the Brits added to it was the dash of milk. And it stayed in my head. I love milk, I drink a lot of it, but I love by itself. I wondered if the Brits had not spoiled tea with that dash of milk, in a way barbarised it. It seems significant that China, a very ancient civilisation, maybe the oldest one, has a high number of lactose intolerant people. Putting milk in tea seems almost philistine.

Because there is something primitive, even barbarous and uncivilised, about milk and dairy products in general (and I say this as a milk drinker). It might not seem like it for Westerners nowadays, what with the French cheese tradition and modern pasteurization, but it is one of the most primal drink. Milk is something you give to babies and toddlers, which they usually grow out of when they grow up and reach adulthood. Ancient traditions have milk as a very positive but primitive icon. Even its whiteness emphasises its simplicity. Milk is earthly, bestial, almost untouched by civilisation, even when turned into cream or cheese.

During my years as an undergraduate, in a course on Greek literature, my teacher had told us that Polyphemus being a shepherd and like other Cyclops a cheese eater might have been a sign of his savage nature, especially since he got vanquished by by getting drunk. Cheese was the stuff Barbarians would eat, the Greeks had wine, olive oil, figs, etc. But there are more modern examples: my favourite writer made Alex a milk drinker. You read this text of Liana Burgess about this particular motif in the novel.

The barbaric nature of milk should not make us forget its appeal. I don't care much about health concerns surrounding it, as I strongly (but maybe subjectively) believe in its virtues. Milk is also and more importantly, as Liana pointed out, a sign of purity and innocence.

L'éducation comme vue de l'esprit

Un billet sur le blogue de Richard Martineau m'a mené à une chronique de Christian Rioux, qui réagissait à une lettre abrutissante de stupidité d'une étudiante québécoise. J'ai souvent honte de l'école de mon adolescence, ce genre de lettre me rappelle que si les choses ont peut-être changé, c'est pour le pire. Ou à tout le moins elles ne se sont pas améliorées. Ce qui me met en colère avec l'éducation au Québec, c'est l'hostie de démagogie qui remplace la rigueur intellectuelle. En fait, le mépris de la connaissance et de la a culture semblent devenues des valeurs institutionnelles. Enrageant. J'ai particulièrement apprécié ces mots de Rioux:

"Comment ne pas conclure que notre étudiante est finalement le produit malheureux d'un enseignement qui ne met plus l'accent que sur la communication? T'sais veux dire. On n'apprend plus le français en lisant Flaubert et Anne Hébert, mais des articles de journaux. (...) ceux qui étudient le français devront se contenter de textes médiocres, sans style et sans génie glanés sur Internet ou de ces torchons bourrés d'anglicismes que le club de hockey le Canadien distribue dans nos écoles avec la bénédiction du ministère.

Personne n'a jamais expliqué à Alex qu'avant d'écrire, il fallait d'abord apprendre à se taire — c'est d'ailleurs le plus difficile. Qu'il fallait lire beaucoup avant de songer à énoncer une petite idée. Qu'il valait mieux faire de nombreuses rédactions sur l'automne et peut-être même apprendre quelques poèmes par coeur avant de penser à avoir une opinion. Et que le vrai travail ne commençait qu'au moment de se relire."

Ah, et pour la petite histoire, je suis depuis un certain temps le blogue du Prof Solitaire (découvert grâce au blogue de Patrick Lagacé) qui brosse un portrait sans compromis de l'école québécoise. Je compte le mettre sur le blogroll.

Friday 14 May 2010

Lights, shadows and the beauty of a May evening

I took this picture last Sunday, when we were coming back from a weekend away. There was this tree (don't know which species), the sun lights were going through the leaves and branches and crows were crowing and flying around. My wife and I found it very picturesque and we decided to take a few snapshots.

As I mentioned before, I love the mix of lights and shadows and this tree was giving us a perfect blend of it. Beauty has sometimes an almost brutal way to show itself. We have passed this tree often before, on many occasions, yet we never noticed it. We needed the right circumstances.

I wish the crows could have been visible on the picture. I used to dislike them as a kid, now for some reason I grew fond of them. There is something soberly elegant about them, even their crowing.

Puis il revint comme il était parti...

"Puis il revint comme il était parti :
Bon pied, bon œil, personne d'averti.
Aux dents, toujours la vive marguerite,
Aux yeux, toujours la flamme qui crépite.

Mit sur ta lèvre, Aline, un long baiser
Mit sur la table un peu d'or étranger
Chanta, chanta deux chansons de marine
S'alla dormir dans la chambre enfantine."

-Jehan l'advenu, paroles de Norge, musique d'un quelconque Jacques Yvart, interprétation de Georges Brassens (enfin d'habitude).

Vous pourrez trouver le reste des paroles ici, avec une explication sur l'origine de la chanson. ce Jehan l'advenu n'est pas comme moi, il est plus aventurier, il a pour femme ou fiancée ou amoureuse qui vit dans sa terre natale plutôt qu'une rencontrée dans un pays lointain, il est marin, il ne s'annonce pas quand il revient et il ramène chez lui de "l'or étranger", ce qui ne risque pas d'arriver ces temps-ci avec la carrière que j'ai et la valeur de la livre sterling. Cela dit, il me fait tout de même un peu penser à moi. Je suis devenu bohème par la force des choses, mais suis bohème quand même et donc éternel expatrié, je reviens dormir dans la chambre enfantine à chaque retour au pays (ou presque) et il m'arrive de chanter. Mais c'est l'atmosphère du retour et du départ qui m'est particulièrement familière. Je l'ai en tête depuis des semaines.

Thursday 13 May 2010

Absorbing cultures (and a sort of self-portrait)

I was thinking about writing a post on my particular fondness for some cultures since I blogged about tea. I have discovered tea recently, but I don't drink it like an Englishman: I don't put milk in it. And the addition of milk is probably the contribution of England to the tea drinking ceremony. In a way, I drink tea like a Chinese. As a tea drinker, I am therefore a cultural Chinese, or close to it. As a beer drinker, I am unambiguously Anglo-Saxon, as a reader too, although my love for crime fiction is definitely American. As a music lover, I am all around the map, or at least all around Europe. As a semi-competent linguist, I am an Italophile. As a man interested in mythology, I am an Ancient Greek and sometimes a Norse.

Allophilia is the term used to describe a love for a culture or group that is not your own. What makes one love another culture? My love for England predates my marriage with a British woman. But I say this and I love aspects of England: the beer, the tea, the writers, the food even. And this is true for all cultures: one takes the parts that he likes, and easily ignores the rest, or even show contempt for parts of said culture. Take Italy for example: I love the language, which through opera became the language of music (maybe undeservedly). I love its food, its architecture, I love spaghetti westerns, I am also fascinated by many aspects of Italian history. But I am appalled by its culture of political corruption and by the strong, oppressive influence of the Catholic Church. But that actually makes me very similar to many of my Italian friends, or indeed many Italians. I am relatively indifferent towards Germanic culture, although I absolutely love many of its composers.

I think I can understand why I have a particular attraction to Ireland and England: almost every Quebecker have Irish blood and they strongly influence our culture. England, the conquering nation, managed to influence us strongly too, in spite of ourselves so to speak. I find in those nations something akin to my own, yet with the charm of the exotic. Unlike many Quebeckers, I am not particularly attracted to French culture. I love some of its music, its poetry and especially its secularism and republicanism. My atheism is pretty much French existentialism.

This is mere rambling, but the topic raises many questions that would each require long reflections: do you belong more to the culture you come from, or to the culture(s) you adopt, even if you do so partially? Is allophilia always selective? Is it entirely consciously chosen? I am curious to have your thoughts on that.

Parlons de hockey, puisqu'il le faut

J'ai pu constater l'ampleur de la fièvre du hockey à Montréal lors de mon dernier séjour dans la ville. Je dis fièvre du hockey, mais il faudrait peut-être plutôt parler de fièvre du Canadien. Comme l'a déjà dit un commentateur sportif, je ne sais plus lequel (et je paraphrase): Montréal n'est pas une ville de sports, ce n'est pas non plus la ville d'un sport, c'est la ville d'une équipe. J'ai été partisan du Canadien toute mon enfance, je le suis toujours, malgré ma relative indifférence pour le hockey une fois venu à l'âge adulte. Je suis partisan, mais je ne suis plus un chaud partisan. Ca a un peu à voir avec les conneries récentes de l'équipe, de même que l'infantilisme des fans.

Cela dit, je suis heureux qu'ils aient éliminé les Penguins hier. Même si ça m'agace que certains aient quand même fait des conneries, il semblerait que tout le monde ait pris les choses de manière plus responsable, les partisans comme la police (je ne m'ennuie pas trop du jovialiste Yvan Delorme). Quant à la victoire en elle-même, je partage le sentiment de Patrick Lagacé. Et je regrette un peu de n'avoir pas suivi ça d'un peu plus près quand j'étais là.

Tuesday 11 May 2010

Not enough time

I don't know why, but these days I feel like, although I have plenty of free time, I never find enough time in a day to do everything that I want: not enough time to read all the books I want, not enough time to blog, not enough time for anything. I am not all that inspired to blog so I shouldn't complain, however I do find it frustrating sometimes at the end of the day. I feel like I haven't been productive. I just don't get the mathematics: how come I have free time and end up doing so little with it? Take Luther for instance: I have not watched the first episode and will not watch its sequel. When I find time to watch something, it is The Wire. Maybe I am too messy with my free time, maybe I am too lazy, or maybe I should just go with the flow and hope everything I end up doing something in the end.

Monday 10 May 2010

Le petit détail qui déprime (un peu)

Il y a des petits détails que l'on remarque parfois dans une journée et qui lui donnent une couleur morne, nous font prendre conscience qu'il y a un truc qui cloche. Ca m'est arrivé ce soir: je faisais la vaisselle il y a une heure, et j'ai vu une femme marcher dans la rue, avec un foulard remonté jusqu'aux nez, visiblement frigorifiée comme si on était une froide soirée d'automne. Elle ne portait pas de manteau lourd, mais le foulard illustrait parfaitement ce qui cloche jusqu'ici lors de ce mois de mai: si ce n'était de la verdure, on se croirait effectivement dans une autre saison. J'aime l'automne, mais en son temps. J'aime quand mai a des airs de printemps qui se transforme en été. Ces temps-ci, même quand le soleil est là on gèle, ou du moins on n'a pas chaud.

Saturday 8 May 2010

Observations on tea

My wife bought me this teapot for my birthday, which you can see on the picture on your right, a nice little modern artifact to keep an old tradition alive and kicking.

The idea of England being a nation of tea drinkers has been a bit of a cliché, and in our modern time an inaccurate one. My wife, for instance, dislikes tea and only drinks coffee. Ian Fleming hated tea, and so did his iconic character. They both considered it mud. Maybe it is because I'm Anglophile and therefore more sensitive to old clichés, but I have been (re)discovering tea in recent years and am drinking more and more of it. I started drinking it during my first trip to the UK, then I stopped for years, until late in teenage when got into it again. I discovered Twinings, more particularly but not exclusively Russian Caravan which I drank in my first years Montreal. It is the variety that I used for my first cup from the teapot.

I am not a connoisseur, in fact I am pretty much of a philistine about tea, like for many other things. I know close to nothing about its history, here or elsewhere, I don't know at all how to infuse it perfectly, I know nothing about all the varieties and their differences, my drinking preferences (more on that below) would certainly be seen as barbarous for any long-time tea drinker. Still, I love it. I find tea far superior to coffee in any way: its taste is smoother, its colour is nicer, it is softer on the stomach, it is a drink that has been developed and refined by ancient civilisations.

Talking about those civilisations, there are other nations of tea lovers, and they are aficionados from much longer: China, Japan, Iran, among others, but one associates tea with England. Maybe because it is the Western nation where the drink became most successful. An unfair association in a way, typical of our Westerner attitude, but it illustrates how England integrated tea as part of its culture, even though it is seemingly so foreign: leaves in hot water, in a country that developed the culture of beer? There are reasons for its popularity here: tea cools you down on a hot summer (as a former housemate once told me), it also keeps you warm on a cold rainy day (and there are many of those here), it tastes lovely with a cake or a biscuit and like wine for a main meal, it enhances the taste of the food, it is as I said before soothing, it is also revigorating, etc. Tea has only virtues.

I don't put milk or sugar in my tea, as I think it gets in the way of the flavour (especially sugar). I have it strong, maybe too much (Marjane Satrapi thinks that too strong tea spoils the flavour). As I said, I am a philistine. I try to have one in the morning when I have time, I usually have one late in the afternoon and when I don't have to wake up early the next morning I have one in the evening, with or without dessert. My mum thinks I am turning into an Englishman. I doubt I could pass as a Chinese or an Iranian. But I think I am just carrying on an old tradition, that might become a fashion one day. I have seen signs of this: a growing number of tea rooms in Montreal, which have aseptised look selling tea while promoting healthy properties. There are also, in some independent cafés, more and more tea varieties. We might see the beginning of a drinking revolution. I would certainly welcome it, being a tea drinker.

Friday 7 May 2010

Bon débarras...

Tony Tomassi, le plus prodigieux imbécile de la politique québécoise et l'un des plus intellectuellement tarés ministres d'un gouvernement qui en a pourtant pas mal, a donc été démis de ses fonctions. Bon débarras. Et c'est le temps de le redire: "Il pesce puzza dalla teste".

Thursday 6 May 2010

A great unknown line (from myself)

I am trying with this post to start a new series of posts based on one topic/theme (as I promised here). These posts will be about great lines that I have either heard or said and which I want to leave here to posterity, because I find them quite good (especially mines, as I am terribly vain). Granted, I am no Oscar Wilde, neither do I have his talent for aphorism, but I can sometimes be funny or witty.

So anyway, we were having a barbecue in Liverpool, in one of the few warm and sunny days we had that year. A friend of my housemate had brought a bottle of wine, which she dropped on the floor minutes after she arrived. It shattered, obviously. Then I said:

"I hope that was a cheap bottle."

It made people laugh.

Le retour du sinistre ensoutané

Une chronique récente de Richard Martineau a porté mon attention sur un discours récent du cardinal Marc Ouellet, sinistre ensoutané sur qui je blogue parfois, parce qu'il représente tout ce que je déteste et méprise sur le catholicisme en général et la version québécoise en particulier.

Étrange tout de même comment le jupon dépasse de la soutane lorsque Marc Ouellet se retrouve (ou croit se retrouver) en territoire allié, ici chez la Fédération canadienne des sociétés de médecins catholiques (comprenne qui pourra). Il ne se gêne plus alors, pour lâcher son venin, ici contre l'avortement, ce qui n'est pas surprenant, mais aussi contre l'émancipation des femmes, contre les homosexuels, les couples non mariés en ménage et, bien sûr, contre les progrès scientifiques qui nous ont sortis des Ténèbres. On aurait espéré que son Éminence se garde de faire la morale alors même que son Église est aux prises avec un scandale sans précédent. Ce qu'il cherchait à faire, c'est le procès de la modernité et de l'humanisme. Pas de chance pour lui, il n'a pas ni l'autorité morale ni l'autorité intellectuelle pour les juger. Marc Ouellet n'est qu'un vieux con qui ne perçoit la vie qu'à travers la phraséologie étriquée de son bréviaire.

Tuesday 4 May 2010

Of time and old friendships

I was going through Facebook recently, seeing status of my friends, getting in touch with some long estranged ones too. I will probably spout thundering clichés, so be indulgent. I felt a weird feeling of self-alienation, as if my life and theirs had been taken by legions of doppelgängers. I met most of the friends I still have in late childhood or teenage. I now see them sporadically, or not at all, I only know about them from their Facebook status and their pictures. Most of them, I haven't seen in years. I remember them as teenagers and young adults, people with whom I spent many carefree years of my life. Now many are married, some are divorced, many have children, cats, dogs, what have you. And it just feels strange. I guess I must be just as alien to them, the boy growing up in Chicoutimi who ended up marrying an Englishwoman and living on the other side of the Atlantic.

Le lait cru

C'est peut-être une vieille nouvelle, mais j'ai lu récemment un article fascinant sur le lait cru au Québec, lequel est interdit de vente. Je me rappelle de la controverse de 1996, quand le gouvernement fédéral avait voulu interdire la vente de fromage au lait cru au Canada, idée profondément stupide qui avait provoqué une levée de boucliers, presque une révolte des producteurs comme des consommateurs. J'avais mangé du fromage au lait cru comme un goinfre tout le temps de la controverse, au cas où on nous en aurait privé à cause de ce projet de loi débile.

Ca me revient à l'esprit, donc, mais je me rend compte d'une chose tout de même étonnante: si je bois beaucoup de lait pour un adulte, si j'ai mangé les produits du lait cru, je n'ai pourtant jamais, à ma connaissance, bu de lait cru. Et là, depuis la lecture de l'article, la curiosité me taraude, pour ainsi dire. (Parenthèse pour ceux qui se demandent d'où m'est venu cette dernière phrase: j'ai lu Achille Talon récemment, ce qui m'inspire un style verbeux. Selon l'article, le lait cru est de plus en plus populaire en France. La prochaine fois que j'y vais, je me promets d'essayer.

Sunday 2 May 2010

A black cat on the wall

My wife and I went to a French market yesterday. I love French markets, they allow me to stock myself with olives, pastries and other delicious things. We also found other things, such as this poster (which you can see above), to decorate the bare walls of this flat. This was an old advertisement poster from a once famous cabaret in Paris, now the poster is probably more famous than the place (which still exists).

Having this picture is probably a bit of cliché for cat lovers and therefore I am sure I utterly lack originality here. I guess getting was just a question of time. But Veggie Carrie and I both love this poster, the colours are gorgeous, the cat looks real, stylised and adequately mysterious (love the staring yellow eyes on the black fur)and it's just nice to have something nice on the wall. More importantly, since I cannot have a real cat here, I might as well have another image of one. With Ruby, it will felinise the place. Still, I wish I could get a real one. I spend some time on the Cats Protection Society website, daydreaming about those we could adopt. One day, I hope.

Question existentielle (6)

Il y a un marché français ici depuis hier, ce qui est fort intéressant quand on veut se stocker en olives (hé!) et autres déliciosités, mais ça m'a fait penser à ces deux billets. Et ça m'amène à me poser une question existentielle:

-Pourquoi tant de Français ne comprennent toujours rien au Québec?

Saturday 1 May 2010

Overture to the Sun

Strangely, everything seems to be getting right weather-wise here, this year. We had a lovely first day of Spring, we have now a perfect first May day. So far, it is sunny, warm and lovely, lovely, lovely. I thought I would put a piece of music to celebrate May. This piece of music is from A Clockwork Orange (anybody surprised?), or at least I first heard it in the movie, just like anybody else I guess. It is from a short-lived band named Sunforest, from their one and only record. I blogged about another song of theirs before. They now have their whole record on Youtube, so I appreciated this morning the rest of Sunforest's work. To say that it's not really my cup of tea would be an understatement. It's pretty much lame psychedelic stuff. No wonder the band was forgotten quickly.

That said, the two tunes that made it into Kubrick's movie are great in their own way. The Lighthouse Keeper song is pretty much silly entertainment, Overture to the Sun is a nice little pastiche of Renaissance (or baroque?) music, perfectly atmospheric for a sunny day of May. I say this maybe because the character of the Minister of the Interior say something similar about Alex when he is reformed, "as decent a lad as you would meet on a May morning"... Then he gets him beaten, in front of an audience, with Overture to the Sun in the background. And I think I just discovered why I thought spontaneously about this music for May. Anyway, for those who cannot stand violence, you can see the scene parodied here, with teddy bears instead of actors. I have to admit, it works perfectly, and there is something Alexian about the white bear.

I put here the original, then the rearranged movie version. You tell me which one you prefer. I think the movie one is superior.

La Bibliothèque nationale du Québec

J'ai oublié de le souligner hier, mais la Grande Bibliothèque nationale du Québec a eu cinq ans hier. J'ai déjà blogué sur les bibliothèques et j'y ai mentionné la Grande Bibliothèque. J,y suis allé quelquefois, mais je n'ai pas de carte de membre, ce qui m'agace un peu. Je ne vis plus au Québec, mais je devrais quand même corriger cet état de fait, quitte à payer quelques dollars. La Bibliothèque est l'un de nos grands succès collectifs, qui plus est un succès récent et les succès collectifs se font rares ces temps-ci.

Que je ne sois pas membre est d'autant plus aberrant que c'est sans doute, à bien des égards, ma bibliothèque préférée. C'est sans aucun doute la plus accueillante. De l'extérieur, l'édifice est au mieux quelconque, mais l'intérieur a des couleurs chaudes et accueillantes et la lumière emplit l'endroit sans être aveuglante. Je pourrais passer une journée là sans m'ennuyer. Enfin, je me devais de souligner son anniversaire.