March 2007 Archives

More Rhymes with Orange

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Rhymes with Orange, March 28, 2007

Pussycat, Pussycat, where have you been?

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I've been to see The Queen.

Helen Mirren is dour and spectacular as Elizabeth II, and James Cromwell is absolutely believable as Prince Philip. Sylvia Syms and Alex Jennings are less physically believable as the Queen Mother and Charles, respectively, but certainly capture the essence of their parts. If Helen McCrory's portrayal of Cherie Blair is true to life, then I must say the PM's wife is not very likeable.

Michael Sheen is Tony Blair - and I mean he is Blair. His lips were a shade too red, but otherwise Sheen embodies Blair as the young, optimistic, charismatic PM who has to drag the royals into the modern era, while maintaining a veneer of protocol at all times.

The movie is convincingly cut with television clips from the time - i.e., Diana's death in 1997 - and for me, part of the appeal of the film is reliving the emotions and events. It's hard to believe that this August will be the tenth anniversary of her death, and the intervening time has given us enough perspective to see just how massive was the reaction to her death.

I think that at the time, many people felt Diana's death and the subsequent reaction, both on the part of the royal family and that of the public, were defining - and redefining - moments for the monarchy. A decade later, however, not all that much has changed. The last few lines of the movie are thus prophetic, not only because Blair reassures the Queen that she and "the institution" will survive the anti-royal backlash that coloured the public sentiment in the first few days after Diana's death, but also because she warns him that one day, the public won't love him so unconditionally, either.

Above all, the movie showed a human side to the monarchy, and convincingly portrayed Elizabeth as a woman with a sense of humour. Also, it was kind of like watching The West Wing with nicer accents. Definite recommendation.

Oh, and in passing, if you haven't seen Stranger than Fiction, rent it. It's great.

Feeling a little flushed

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So here I am in drizzly Halifax.

Y'know those automated toilets? The ones with the sensor that "sees" when you've moved away from the seat, and then does the flushing for you?

Well, the bathrooms at the Halifax airport have those toilets.

The bathrooms also feature toilet roll dispensers that are installed, for God only knows what reason, at knee height. The paper itself, naturally, comes out the bottom of the dispenser, somewhere near your ankles.

So you have to lean forward and down to get any paper...

...thus, in the eyes of the sensor, moving away from the seat...

...thus flushing. While you're getting paper and awkwardly trying to maintain your balance in some position better suited to a yoga class.

Welcome to Nova Scotia, my ass (get it?).

Your guide to Christian sects*

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Dr. T and I are lapsed Catholics. I mean, we're practically relapsed. We were married in a United church. We 'baptised' our children at home, with no mention of any supreme beings (or, as one of my students once wrote, "super" beings). We regularly take the Lord's name in vain, for God's sake.

So you can imagine we're bemused by the fact that our two sons appear to have captured the essence of the two major divisions of Christianity, as evidenced by a meal at our dinner table:

Colin, the Protestant, carefully arranges his food into separate ingredients, and eats these separate piles in order, from least appreciated to most. In other words, he saves the best for last. The work ethic, as applied to supper.

Meanwhile, Robert, the Catholic, carefully pulls out the best bits to eat first, and then reluctantly tackles the rest. If he's lucky, no one notices the remainder, and he doesn't have to atone for enjoying the good stuff. If we do notice, he dutifully eats his penance, and we're all satisfied in the end.

Take cake, for instance. While Robert enthusiastically eats all the icing first, and frequently eats no actual cake, Colin meticulously eats the cake, leaving an empty shell of icing. Once all the cake has been taken care of, he rewards himself with the icing.

Obviously, this phenomenon explains their behaviour during the papal transition. While the world waited with bated breath, first for the death of JP2, then for the election of Benedict, Colin asked a million questions about the function of the pope, the process of choosing a pope, the path to becoming a pope, and so on. Robert paid no attention whatsoever ~ obviously trusting in the super-being and his representatives on Earth to take care of everything.

Mysterious ways indeed.

*NB ~ that's sects, not sex. There is no such thing as Christian sex, the missionary position notwithstanding (and definitely never standing). We don't do that kind of thing. It's bad. It's dirty. It's naughty...

Squirrels in the attic

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We live in the city. As such, we're not exposed to a whole lot of wildlife. In fact, last fall, when I took my students on a tour of St-Henri, I realized that urbanites really don't know what true wildlife is ~ because these students were talking about grey squirrels the way I might talk about encounters with, say, a moose.

Having grown up in a rural area, I am a lot more complacent about city-based wildlife, which seems to consist of squirrels, pigeons, and the occasional raccoon. Since we have a backyard (really more of a back-foot-and-a-half), we do have a lot of animal activity, mostly in the form of squirrels scampering along the overhead wires and pigeons trying to nest in the eaves.

Until this winter, that is.

This year, the squirrels took advantage of the inroads made by the pigeons (or, as my ornithologically-minded Dad would have it, the 'rock doves'), and broke into the crawl-space between the ceiling and the roof of our house.

Initially, this was annoying because of all the coming and going, since the traffic seemed to go right up the balcony door (think tiny claws scrambling up glass and you'll understand why this was annoying). Then we realized the squirrels were actually in the ceiling ~ we were tipped off by the pitter patter of little feet running overhead.

OK, obviously not an ideal situation.

The other night I came home to discover a pile of plaster on my desk...

...and looked up to see three little holes in the ceiling.

Yesterday morning, I called the Humane Wildlife people, who impressed me by (a) not sounding judgmental when I admitted these animals have been living up there for at least a month, and (b) sending a technician this morning.

So, three hours and $550 later, we are squirrel-free, and the squirrels - including the soon-to-be-mother whose nesting created the holes in the ceiling - are ousted, but alive.

All of this merely to explain why I was compelled to find and share this:

If you have time, watch the one with the cat-herders, too

Posting for Patra

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So, apparently my loyal readers are desperate for new material. This must be how Bill Cosby feels.

Anyway, up here in the Great White North, when we have nothing to say but are compelled to speak nonetheless, we talk about... the weather.

OK, so, it's like, March, right? Which means the weather is, like, messed up (I would say it's f***ed up, but my mother reads this blog, y'know).

For instance - yesterday? Minus 24C, or minus-frikkin-38C with the windchill. For the sake of consistency, I duly provide the non-metric equivalents: -11F, and -36F.

On Friday, we got 34 cm of snow in one day. That's more than a foot of snow. In one day.

Oh yes, March has definitely come in all liony.

Right now, it's "only" -11C, or a balmy -22C with the windchill. So naturally, the forecast for Saturday is +5C. [a.k.a. 12F, -8F, and 41F respectively]

Of course, that's the forecast according to the Weather Network. Environment Canada is calling for +9C [48F], while over at canoe.ca, they're chilling out and calling for 0C [32F].

And you know what? None of this has anything to do with global climate change. This is just March in Montreal.

Stupid month.

For want of a comma

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So, according to this morning's Gazette, lunar colonization appears to be a matter of fiscal responsibility:

NASA will delay the first manned flight of Orion, the new spacecraft designed to take humans back to the moon because of budget constraints, the agency's boss said.

Lynn Truss would have a field day.

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