The Literary Salon

A free salon wherein patrons and passers-by may view or contribute ideas on literary and generally intellectual matters. The blog will strive to maintain its commitment to wit, humour and perspicuous analysis.

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Location: Toronto, now Ottawa, Ont, Canada

Monday, July 31, 2006

Post-World Cup pics

It took a while, but I present for your delectation (or horror) a pic from my trip to Little Italy on College West in Toronto. I'm the one on the left with the buzzed head, and my friend John is on the right. I'm not Italian but I fit right in that day.

Friday, July 28, 2006

I hate FIFA

Reasons why I hate FIFA (The International Body of Soccer):

They are a bunch of spineless, vacillating weasels (Sepp Blatter, this means you).

1- Before the world cup began, Blatter called a meeting with all the participating referees and basically told them to card anything and everything. After the debacle that was Portugal vs. Holland (in which 16 cards were shown), Blatter had the gall to impeach the referee, even though he was only following instructions.

They are inconsistent miscreants

2- In Euro 2004, Francesco Totti is suspended for 3 matches because he allegedly spit in the direction of a Danish player.
-Daniel De Rossi (also Italian) gets 3 match ban for elbowing a U.S. player during the play (i.e., not behind the play
-Germany's Torsten Frings punches an Argentine player after their match and gets a 1 match ban.
-Zidane gets an aesthetic punishment, and Materazzi is somehow fined for trash talking. Oh, poor baby Zidane, don't upset the 6 year old, please! I'm glad France lost just because of that. And, if you're gonna fine Materazzi for something that goes on during every single match, then nearly every professional (and amateur) player must get fined.
-In world cup 2002 (the worst ever), Brazil's Rivaldo gets hit in the knee gently with the ball, and falls to the ground, covering his face in agony. His punishment? His coffee money for the week.

Finally, FIFA is made up of a bunch of puerile cavemen from Middle Ages

-Other sports use video replay (only American Football does it to excess), and instituting it would reduce the amount of cheating as well as bullying on the field. I propose they use video replays ONLY in the following cases:

-to determine a goal
-to determine a penalty
-to determine a red card that is not beyond doubt

Players would get away with far less, and it would definitely curb bad behaviour.
Don't give me the tired excuse that it would slow down the game: whenever there is a controversial call, the game is slowed down considerably by complaints, etc. If anything, when there are controversial moments, video replay would speed it up. Has FIFA considered it? No, because they are, as I said, puerile cavemen.

Mack the knife and other matters

-I went under the knife yesterday for some very minor surgery. I'd rather not say what it was, but it went well and the doctor was able to close up the wound (usually they can't, and it's a pain in the ass, metaphorically and literally). I gotta get my hands on that IV anaesthetic; it knocked me out in about 5 seconds!

-I am nearly finished reading my very first D.H. Lawrence novel (Lady Chatterey's Lover). I'm not crazy about it, but he's an author I neglected for far too long. Interestingly, I think if Dr. J were an author, he'd look just like him. (except he's more emaciated and older).

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Grope and Flail

Here's a copy of my response to Jeffrey Simpson's column in yesterday's Globe and Mail followed by the the original piece. I'm only concerned with the first 1/3 of the column (BTW, the title of this post is Dr. J's coinage):

Re: Evacuation tips: Who's a friend, who's a Canadian, July 25

I find Mr. Simpson’s suggestion that Stephen Harper merely recognized the Armenian Genocide because of "ethnic politics" genuinely risible. Canada has a very small Armenian population, probably accounting for less than 0.3 percent of the population (and that's a generous estimate), and worldwide there are no more than 7 million. Turkey has a not insignificant population within Canada, and their population worldwide is far greater, to say nothing of their economic power. Let us also not forget Turkey's massive lobby, which, in terms of dollars, is larger than the budget of most nations. Whence does this magic Armenian power to manipulate the leader of a G7 country come from? Please enlighten me, because I cannot see it.
I also found his logic to be unsound, tasteless and, in fact, almost racist: if somehow the Holocaust were never recognized, and Germany and Canada were good trading partners, then Canada, according to his logic, should never recognize the Holocaust.
Perhaps Mr. Simpson and the vacillating Liberals have it wrong: after all, for twelve long years they promised to recognize the Genocide (among other things) and never did. Maybe Stephen Harper is the first person in Canadian politics in a long time who actually stands for something and is respectable for his moral convictions. Did he ever consider that possibility?

From Tuesday's Globe and Mail

Lessons for Canada from the flight from Lebanon: First, don't kick your friends needlessly. Second, review dual citizenship.
By way of first things first, here's a question: Which country helped most when Canadians tried to rescue people from Lebanon? Answer: Turkey.

With Cyprus filled up, Canada urgently asked for Turkey's help. The Turks, whom the Harper government just gratuitously insulted while playing domestic politics, could have made up all kinds of excuses by way of payback.
Instead, the Turks turned the other cheek. They took our Lebanese-Canadian citizens, rented boats, and put their airfield at our disposal. Have they received an official thank you from Prime Minister Stephen Harper?

It's the least Mr. Harper could do after making recognition of the 90-year-old Armenian “genocide” official government policy, such a sore point in Turkey that the Turkish government withdrew its ambassador to Canada in protest.
The Harper announcement, delivered almost flippantly in April, made headlines in Turkey. Everybody close to the file knew the announcement had everything to do with ethnic pandering in Canada, part of the Conservatives' wider campaign to play ethnic politics.

Now that the Conservatives have been in office for a little while, perhaps they'll realize that a country's foreign policy interests should not be subordinated to domestic pandering. They might also realize that a foreign policy based on realism requires remembering which countries are allies and friends, because you never know when friends might come in handy.

As a NATO partner, Turkey is now being asked to contribute to a peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon, a force Canada is not being asked to join (except by some people in Canada) for the good reason that this force needs to be robust. Canada doesn't have robust forces to spare, what with the two-year commitment to Afghanistan, a point those urging Canadian participation might remember. The Turks (who were in Afghanistan before us) and others will have to do the heavy lifting if NATO agrees to inject a force into Lebanon.

Another lesson concerns dual citizenship. It's way too late to think of eliminating dual citizenship, even were the elimination desirable. Australia thought of trying to go that route, and gave up. The United States once forbade dual citizenship but relented about two decades ago.

Dual citizenship is a fact of life, but it's a misunderstood fact, one that a parliamentary committee could usefully explore and explain to Canadians.

We seem to believe that, because a person carries a Canadian passport, that person thinks of himself as a Canadian and has an absolute right to assistance from the Canadian government while outside Canada. Both beliefs are false, and potentially dangerous.

It is worth at least asking whether we have made the acquisition of Canadian citizenship so easy — divorcing it, once acquired, from residence in the country — that we have spawned legions of citizens of convenience. We know that thousands of people worked in Canada, earned their pension time here, and live elsewhere clipping Canada Pension Plan coupons.

There's nothing illegal or inherently wrong with that — retired Americans in Canada keep getting their Social Security cheques. But there are a lot of other people holding Canadian passports around the world whose attachment to this country — measured at least by time spent here — is, shall we say, somewhat more limited.

We should also understand that a dual citizen in another country is not always considered a Canadian. For example, a holder of Iranian and Canadian passports, or Syrian and Canadian passports, is not considered by the authorities in those countries to be a Canadian, but rather an Iranian or Syrian.

Canadian consular help to such dual nationals in those countries is limited or non-existent, just as Canada might get upset if a dual national caught doing something we consider illegal in Canada tried to appeal for help to the Iranian or Syrian governments.

The same applies to China. The migration to Canada from Hong Kong before the Chinese takeover from Britain produced thousands of dual citizens, by Canadian law. The Chinese, however, don't recognize dual nationalities. If things ever got tense between China and Canada, and dual nationals in China appealed to Ottawa for help, it's not clear what Canada could do if the Chinese made matters difficult.

All this is to suggest that a gap can arise between the legal realities of being a dual national and the obligations and expectations of Canada, especially in times of crisis.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Thoughts on Film

Those who know me know that I am not a film buff, but I do watch the occasional movie. The last movie I saw was Not-so-Superman unfortunately returns, a total flop (how that movie received any positive reviews is beyond me. It is the only movie I ever cried in because I wanted to leave so badly). I followed that up with a rental last night, Date Movie, which is almost marketed as a clone of the Scary Movie series.

Unfortunately, unlike Scary Movie 1-4, which are funny, this movie simply is not. You know a comedy is bad when the funniest part involves toilet humour and a cat. Scary Movie parodies recent pop culture phenomena, often with success. Date Movie forgot the parodies. In fact, I'm surprised the producers of this movie aren't charged with plagiarism since, instead of parodying or spoofing other movies, they simply take funny parts from other movies and replay them. And when they do parody other films, it is usually unfunny, incurious and predictable. This is to say nothing of the cliches, which the movie brims with. After about 50 of the movie's 70 minutes, my friend and I pressed the stop button together.

The allusions in the film (it consists of little else) are egregiously bad not only because they simply aren't funny, but they are seriously outdated! The movie was originally released May 2006, and there are (please believe me): Michael Jackson, Meet the Parents (which came out years ago), and J-Lo jokes (didn't those die out around 2001?) . I'm surprised they didn't include O.J Simpson jokes, because they are just as old. Topical satire should be, as its name suggests, topical!

Upon the whole, a terrible movie. Even as a fatuous spoof it fails miserably, and, much like Superman Returns, I couldn't really find anything good about it. The worst movies often have at least one or two redeeming points, but these two don't.
I'm no puritan, and I certainly enjoy the occasional ribald, scurrilous film, but that also must be done well. For a simple, funny movie I recommend 40 Year Old Virgin and Wedding Crashers.

Irish Beer Bong

This video is dedicated to all the votaries of beer out there, especially Dr. J.
This clip is not for those with weak stomachs.


Saturday, July 22, 2006

Indo European Revisited

As some of you already know, I am an amateur linguist (in addition to a cunning linguist :). I am especially interested in Indo-European linguistics, and, given my knowledge of a few such languages, I am often fascinated by new discoveries, usually serendipitous ones.

I made one such (potential) discovery yesterday as I was randomly leafing through my 2 volume Shorter Oxford English Dictionary (make no mistake: there's nothing short about it). I noticed that Summer is a word of Germanic origin (Zomer, Somer, etc, in the living Germanic languages), and the word, as far as I know, in Avestic (the ancient Persian language of Zoroaster) was hama. I know that in Armenian, the word for summer is Amar, with the last r trilled as in Spanish. The affinity with the Avestic is beyond question, and even summer=amar is not beyond the realm of possibility. If we remove the initial S, we get umer, and with a few minor vocalic changes, we get to amar. Thus I posit that summer and amar are cognates, i.e., they have the same Indo-European source.

In case you were wondering, cognates sometimes look/sound similar, and sometimes they seem far removed. For example, the words wheel, chakra (Sanskrit) and kuklos (Greek) are cognates.

Interestingly, by the way, the map above suggests that the homeland of Indo European is, in fact, the Armenian highland, which is a more recent theory. Has the Crimean/Black Sea Kurgan culture hypothesis been since discarded?

Fascinating stuff, ain't it?
(I sometimes wonder whether I should have gone into linguistics instead of English, but I'm sure that if I were in the field, I would ask the same thing about English.)

Thursday, July 20, 2006


I took the nation's capital (Ottawa) by surprise on Tuesday in search of a domicile. I woke up at 6 am on tuesday (after about 2-3 hours of sleep) and left 16:30 on wednesday. After seriously walking around the whole city east of the canal, I had nearly given up hope since every place was either taken, a welfare nightmare (osgoode chambers), or psychotic landlord (one nasty lady said over the phone, "absolutely no visitors"). I was left with two places, one on Robinson avenue, which was awesome, and one 419 Nelson street. Both had their advantages, but the one on Nelson is so much closer to everything, so I signed up! It is about a five minute walk to campus and is close to just about everything else. My new address this fall is 5-419 Nelson street. The landlord is super cool and nice: he even gave me a ride to the bus station and said I could move in August 26 or so at no charge. The place is furnished (bed, desk, fridge) at 450 a month util included. My only concern now is phone/internet, which is is extra. As long as I'm paying under 500 a month total I'm content.

I stayed at the Jail House hostel: it is centrally located and costs under 30 bucks a night for a room, which is pretty decent. Be sure to bring earplugs, because people on the floor like to talk. I was also awakened at about 3 am by the post-bar rush (damn Quebecers! Just kidding; they're awesome). I heard a lot of French in Ottawa, which is nice. I didn't get a chance to see much of the city apart from the residential areas I trudged through, but I like what I see. I'm really looking forward to moving there in about 5 weeks.

Incidentally, I had some books and music to keep me occupied on the long 10 hour round trip: I had with me two of Coldplay's albums as well as Strapping Young Lad's latest effort (not as good as "Alien," but still good) and Decapitated's latest offering (good bedtime music for the kids). The latter is pretty darn heavy, but is great for those who like the double bass drums (as I do). Literarily, I surprisingly had no 18th century material, instead opting for Dickens' Great Expectations. Along with D.H. Lawrence (whom I am also reading now), Dickens is an author I've gravely neglected. I also found Kalidasa's play about Sakuntala for 5 bucks last week; a great find and an interesting piece of literature. More on that when this story develops.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Congratulations Azzuri, and some thoughts besides

Whew, what a day! I went to Little Italy on College Street West in Toronto to watch the final with two friends. Although we arrive about 3 hours before the game started, it simply wasn't early enough. Fortunately, we went to a well known nightclub (The Mod Club) which was showing the game on several big screens, accomodating an audience of perahps 200 (room was at a premium). After the place erupted following Grosso's flawless winning penalty kick, we congregated towards College West, where hundreds of Italians and Italian supporters were jumping, dancing and generally creating much noise (one woman standing on the street, I believe a French supporter, told me that she saw me playing the game. Since I was wearing an Italian jersey, I resembled a less attractive version of Cannavaro or Del Piero, so maybe she was on to something).
After some more standing, walking, and pizza, we took the subway up to St. Clair West, which is probably the #1 little Italy. The police estimated that 100,000 people flocked there, and it was PACKED! At certain points I was worried I would either get crushed or asphyxiated.

So here I am, 12 hours later and very dehydrated and tired, satisfied that my chosen team one. Concerning the match itself, it really was a game of two halves: Italy dominated the first half and came back from an atrocious penalty call (Malouda tripped himself); France dominated the second half and much of extra time. What was interesting is that Italy struck all of their penalties flawessly; they finally broke the curse of the penalty shootout (remember that Italy lost on penalties in the 1990, 1994, 1998 World Cup and the 2000 Euro Cup). For once the Italians had some luck on their side, although losing on penalties is the worst way to lose, something the Italians certainly knew. France cannot really complain since they beat Italy on penalties in 1998 and 2000, so it's somewhat fitting.

Then there's the matter of Zidane: what a tournament he had, and he led a dormant French side further than anyone expected. Sadly, his distinguished and illustrious career was sullied with about 8 minutes left with that gratuitous, abominable and contemptible attack on Materazzi. Even the French knew he deserved to be sent off, but I was shocked that of all people, it was Zidane who committed it. A player of his calibre, charisma and accomplishments should become semi-legendary, but he will henceforth only be remembered for his infamous headbutt, which has already become the butt of all jokes (no pun intended). The same thing happened to Baggio: he led Italy in 1990 and 1994 with some impressive play, but ruined it with his infamous miss in the shootout against Brazil in the 1994 final. Even today, most people remember him only for this reason, and I'm sure Zidane awaits a similar fate. Too bad.

It's hard to believe another world cup has come and gone. Although most Italians (and non-Italian supporters such as yours truly) are exultant, I can't help but feel a touch lugubrious knowing that it will be another 4 years until the next one, and the atmosphere that the World Cup creates, at least in Toronto, without equal. T.S. Eliot said somewhere that he measured out his life in coffee spoons; I measure mine in world cups. I always remember where I was and what I was doing during the previous cup and think forward to the next. I remember with some fondndess the 2002 world cup: although it was a terrible tournament, I remember I was working part-time at Chapters and was enrolled in a General Education Social Science course at York, and I also remember staying up to watch nearly every 3, 5, and 7 am (yes, A.M) matches. This time there's a hint of concern as my station in 4 years is very unpredictable: will I even be in Toronto (or Ottawa) is anyone's guess, let alone which one of my friends will be married by that point.
Forgive me if I sound like Mrs. Ramsay from To the Lighthouse.
Here's to the "undiscovered country."

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Italia, Italia, Italia

Well, I'm off to Little Italy on College West in Toronto to watch the final (sniff). Few believed me when I said Italy would get this far, and I hope they win it. The game could indeed go either way, and regardless of what happens, it will be a tight game, most likely 1-0. Both teams are quite good, but I think Italy has a slight edge. In any case, as long as it doesn't go to the dreaded and ridiculous penalties, I'm happy.
Turn on your televisions, you just might see me on the news.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

How Sweet it is

I just wanted to take this opportunity to stick it to all the naysayers and bandwagon-hoppers: Italy is in the final, and it looks to me as if they will win it. For over a year now I've held to the belief that the winner would be Brazil or Italy; in fact, I thought they would face each other in the final, but it wasn't to be, owing to Brazil's abominable performance against a surprising France that has pullulated out of nowhere. Few Italians believed the Azzuri could do it, but, for reasons I cannot explain, I was rooting for them all the way. Bravo.

In case you haven't figured it out, I hate bandwagoners with every organ in my body. I myself never talk about baseball or basketball because I neither watch nor give a whit about them. I only expect the favour to be returned. I once had an encounter with a bandwagonning blockhead a few years ago who kept saying that England would win (in 2002, which of course they didn't). I tested the miscreant by asking him to name three players on the English team, to which he replied: "Owen, Beckham, and Bergkamp." I almost exploded with rage at how stupid he was, and even when I asseverated that Bergkamp was Dutch, he somehow had recourse to some subterfuge.

There's an excellent chance that my friend (who is Italian, unlike me) and I will go to Little Italy in Toronto for Sunday's match. I was on the Danforth (Greektown) in 2004 on the day Greece won, and it was pandemonium. One literally had trouble breathing in the streets.

Congratulations to Portugal for making it this far, but, despite all their possession, they simply couldn't do anything with the ball. The match also convinced me even more so that Figo is one of the most overrated players on earth, even more so than Ronaldo. The latter's Portugese namesake, Cristiano Ronaldo, played very well, and didn't dive too too much (Needless to say his career in the English Premier League is finished. Sadly, it's their loss.) Portugal also demonstrated, along with some other teams in this world cup, that ball possession means nothing.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Rambler No. 157

I have certainly surfeited on soccer for the past few weeks. It's almost sad that the world cup, held only once every four years, is drawing to a close, but life must go on. My mind has become mush (more so) because of all the soccer. As a result I have been able to think of little else, but I have amazingly found a job during this time: I am to teach an essay writing/research class for four hours a week until the end of August. The company employing me is being rather casual, that is, I have not been told exactly what to do or what guidelines to follow except that I am expected to show up for each class on time. I've never taught a class, even though I have been told that I have the ability. Who knows, maybe this will be a profitable experience besides being a good job.

Re: the world cup, it is surprising that Brazil has been knocked out at this stage. Since 1994, they have reached the final. Their team this year was their best in years, even better than 1994. I'm told there were coaching problems. How do you lose a match with Kaka, Ronaldinho, Adriano and Carlos on your side? What's even more surprising is that France has played phenomenally well. This is the same team that couldn't score a goal in 2002, and had trouble with Korea and Switzerland.
Looks like one half of my prediction from one year ago turned out to be false: no Brazil, but I'm still hanging on to Italy, perhaps the only non-bandwagon team left in the tournament. I like them because I actually watch soccer when the cup isn't on, and Italy's domestic league is the most demanding in Europe, producing such great players as Totti, Toni, Perrotta, Pirlo, etc.

By the way, Beckham's resignation has come about 4 years too late. I simply can't believe people still like him even though he has never impressed, let alone shown absolutely no leadership. Good riddance. The captaincy should definitely go to a John Terry or, better yet, Stephen Gerrard, one of the few solid players the English team had this year.

I saw Superman Returns on the weekend. To put it simply, I'm still recovering from it. I never wanted to leave a movie worse in my life. Towards the end, I was about to cry because I was in excrutiating tedium. If you haven't seen it, don't. The movie has so many faults I don't even know where to begin: Acting, casting, length, editing, plot were all horrible.
And, just to let you know, I'm not a captious critic: I liked V is for Vendetta immensely, for example. I wonder what the customarily acrid and querulous Anthony Lane thought of this film. Is it possible to get a negative score?