chickenfeet: (widmerpool)
2017-09-04 03:29 pm

Posts on a number of things

 This weekend has, as every Labour Day weekend for years, seen the Toronto International Air Show.  This involves about a week (Including rehearsals) of noisy planes flying low over downtown and the Waterfront.  I think the time has come for it to stop.  The centre of a major city is not the place for massively noisy and somewhat dangerous events (that includes the Indy).  It's not like it's even interesting.  It's not Paris or Farnborough.  It's basically just Barnum and Bailey's for planes and the same tired old acts get trotted out every year.  Seen the greying lion tamer and the mangy old lion once?  It's enough.  The same goes for an F-22.  Add to that that parts of the downtown have significant refugee populations whose associations of screaming fighter jets coming over the horizon don't include sitting by the lake eating ice cream.  Move it to Trenton or something FFS.

The saga of the city's bolloxing up of a minor trail realignment in the Don Valley continues.  It's still (after two summers) technically closed but in best Anarchist Trashpanda style the fences have been torn down and it's seeing heavy use again.  "A friend" was up that way yesterday and saw dozens of both cyclists and pedestrians cheerfully ignoring the notices.

I have a couple of days on my hands in Glasgow in a couple of weeks time.  What are the must sees?

An interesting Facebook thread on anachronisms in fiction got me thinking about how that evolves.  How do things fall out of the collective memory and which ones are then genuinely hard to reconstruct when needed?  Sometimes it's obvious.  Anybody setting a work in 13th Europe who has a character with syphilis hasn't done their homework but there must be lots of aspects that are much trickier.  Try and find out hard information about the etiquette of dinners given before dances in 1920s London for example.  It's full of minefields.

chickenfeet: (widmerpool)
2017-08-23 09:38 am

Powell parody

I think the thing I miss most about the literary/political weeklies are the weekend competitions.  I was therefore especially pleased to see the following drawn to my attention on ap-list:

The Spectator for 12 August 2017 contains the winning entries for a competition in which readers were invited to provide an extract from a mash-up of a literary classic and horror fiction.
One of the winners came from a gentleman of wit and letters, Hugh King, who supplied an extract from a much gorier version of "Temporary Kings":

At first I attached little significance to Gwinnett’s observation that Pamela Widmerpool’s performance in bed resembled that of a corpse, for such a characteristic could be understood as merely an extension of her generally glacial manner. I later revised this view when, in Venice for the Giorgione exhibition, I was woken at midnight by roars, increasingly discernible as expressions of protest, succeeded by cries for help. A moment later I encountered the blood-drenched figure of Widmerpool in the hotel corridor. Pamela, shrieking with laughter, repeatedly plunged a dagger, possibly Damascan, into his neck. The scene irresistibly suggested Caravaggio’s depiction of Judith beheading Holofernes, an impression strengthened by her shroud-like garment and disordered hair. Here the resemblance ended, for her face, covered in glaucous slime, appeared to have undergone some unusual process of deliquescence, exposing areas of underlying bone. One became aware of a disagreeable odour of putrefaction.

Of the highest quality IMO.

chickenfeet: (Default)
2017-08-22 07:38 am

Rorschach Brewery

 Excellent new brew pub in the East End.  It's at 1001 Eastern Avenue (just north of Gage Field) so it's easily accessible by bike via Lakeshore or from the Queen Street streetcarbus.  It's a true brew pub that only serves Rorschach's beers.  There is a lovely patio overlooking (just about) Gage Field.  The range of beers is decent and nothing we tried was awful.  The India Pale Saison was very good indeed.  The food menu looks deceptively like "small plates" but don't be fooled.  They are sharing plates but one for person would be perfectly adequate.  We ordered three for two of us expecting it to be one of those times one needs to pick up a kebab on the way home.  Wrong!  We were stuffed!  The food is excellent.  Carnitas tacos were delicious and their all dressed fries are yummy.  There are vegetarian options but I think vegans would have to go down to the field and graze.  Prices are average or maybe slightly less for an actual brew pub.  Service was excellent.
chickenfeet: (cute)
2017-08-17 02:14 pm

Lamb ribs

 Canadians don't eat much lamb.  It's just not a thing and it's more expensive than most other meats.  Despite that, by and large, only the expensive cuts make it to market.  Recently though butchers have started to sell lamb ribs as a BBQ cut at fairly fancy prices.  This amuses me as, some years ago, one of the more upscale butchers at the S. Lawrence Market tried to sell ribs with little success.  In fact at one point they were giving them to me for free in exchange for recipes.  I still wonder how many Torontonians essayed Côtes d'agneau à la St. Ménéhoulde.

In other world shattering news I have just completed room 9 of Kleptocats.
chickenfeet: (mew)
2017-08-16 05:25 pm


 A wise man once said "the second rat gets the cheese".  I think my problem is that all my life I've been typecast as first rat.
chickenfeet: (resistance)
2017-08-16 11:24 am


Much of what I've been working on or reading or watching lately seems to turn on what homeland means to the colonised and how relationships between occupiers and indigenous people play out both in practice and ideology. Who would have thought that there were common threads between Rossini's Guillaume Tell, Scott's Ivanhoe, Tovey's Ancestral Voices and Current's Missing?  For some people writing about opera is all high notes and pretty dresses.  For me it's reading Franz Fanon and John Ralston Saul.
chickenfeet: (resistance)
2017-08-04 06:52 pm

Are all Tories thick?

So apparently Michael Portillo thinks George Orwell fought with the International Brigades. Has he read "Homage to Catalonia"? If you can't tell the difference between the POUM, the CNT, the PCE and the PSOE one really ought to stay out of politics and stick to reading Thomas the Tank Engine to the kiddies.
chickenfeet: (canada)
2017-07-09 10:48 am

Trillium Park

I like the new park that's been opened up on the Waterfront by Ontario Place. It manages to have a real lake country feel to it while obviously being in the city. It's just across from Island Airport after all. Also odd bits of derelict old Ontario Place are still weirdly visible.





chickenfeet: (penguin)
2017-06-27 10:12 am


 As the Brexit express hurtles towards the abyss I though I'd ask a question that's been bothering me for a while.  I'd it as a poll but I can't so please comment.  Leaving aside strictly legal definitions (I understand the technical difference between the status of the Isle of Man and Ascension Island) who is "British".  Below is a list of territories and what I want you to consider is for which of these should the inhabitants be considered British:
  • The Channel Islands
  • The Isle of Man
  • Northern Ireland
  • The Falkland Islands
  • Ascension Island
  • South Georgia
  • St. Helena
  • The Pitcairn Islands
  • Gibraltar
  • Malta
  • Hong Kong
  • Victoria BC
Go on.  I'm curious.

chickenfeet: (Default)
2017-06-24 07:55 am

Landladies down the ages

 I saw a performance of Dame Ethel Smyth's The Boatswain's Mate a couple of nights ago,  (Review).  I've been thinking about whether moving the setting from the early C20 to the 1980s(*) didn't rather undermine the unusualness of the strong and independent nature of Mrs. Waters, the pub owner and (ironically) the title character.  Then it occurred to me that inn keeper (with or without extra services) is the default role for the strong and independent woman in English drama down the ages.  Mistress Quickly and "Auntie" in Peter Grimes are probably but two examples.  Worth noting perhaps that the prim and feminist Dame Ethel does not even hint that Mrs. Waters' offerings extend beyond drinks.

(*)Don't get me going on productions set in the 60s/70s/80s by directors who are too young to remember them.  I am still laughing about an Albert Herring set in 1960s rural Suffolk that had white table cloths at the pub and a range of whole salamis at the grocer.
chickenfeet: (mew)
2017-06-14 11:10 am

The Irish question

 Perfectly serious question that's been troubling me about the Brexit situation.  How can the border between the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland be any different than that between the rest of the UK and the rest of the EU?  I can't see it.  Let's look at people but I think the arguments apply equally to goods.  If a person can cross the border from NI to the IR without any kind of passport/visa check then anyone who is in, or can manage to get into, the UK is free to go anywhere in the EU.  Unless perhaps a "hard" border is established between the IR and the other EU states which I can't see happening.  The same is true in the other direction.  Either there are controls at the border or between NI and the rest of the UK and the IR and the rest of the EU.  Am I missing something?
chickenfeet: (Default)
2017-05-27 12:19 pm


 Last night was the semi annual Craft Beer Festival at C'est What.  As usual there were about 50 beers on offer ($1 - $2 per sample).  Time was when this was a bit of a riot and quite often one found a really exciting beer from an unexpected source plus some real shockers.  Over the last two or three years though it seems to have settled down.  The experiments are less wild; no chilli, chocolate, durian IPA.  There are still new brewers but it's a more stable market and they have to be solid to be there at all.  So, bottom line, the 15 or so beers I tried all fell in a 5-8 point window on a 10 point scale, which means that everything we tried was way better than InbevAB or equivalent swill but nothing was mind blowing.  Best of the night:
Halcyon Infinity Mirror IPA - grapefruity IPA with a touch of Brett
Clifford Sour Cherry Porter - One of the best porters around with an interesting added note
chickenfeet: (Default)
2017-05-04 02:12 pm

Stuff and stuff

 I've been watching a BBC Scotland documentary about archeological work on Orkney.  The basic hypothesis is that the "stone circle culture" that came to dominate the British Isles around 3000 BCE originated on Orkney among a group of settlers from continental Europe and then spread south.  It's an intriguing theory and the evidence looks pretty good.

Reading Penrose's latest "Faith, Fashion and Fantasy in the New Physics of the Universe".  Typical Penrose.  Unlike some other popular physicists he refuses to skip over the mathematical basis of his argument.  I had hoped to never again encounter a gauge tensor but there you go.

Just got back from a convo with a chap working on a PhD on how audiences perceive shows.  It made me realise just how analytical and model based my own process as an audience member is.  It's curious how little research there is on the cognitive processes of audiences.

For the first time in a long time I've been trying to fit some new and different ideas into my politics.  I'm thinking about two related ideas (or at least I think they are related).  One, which I wrote about here a couple of days ago is the idea of "sovereignty" and how the 19th century view of it as indivisible and mapped isomorphically to "nations" is probably very unhelpful, especially when thinking about multi-polity initiatives like the EU.  The other is land ownership and the idea again that "ownership" is a single thing vested in an "owner".  First Nations had/have a very different idea of the relationship between people and land and maybe we need to think some about that.  European settlement in the Americas can't be undone but perhaps new ways of thinking about the land and the people on it can help with the process of Truth and Reconciliation (and, yes, the unthinkable, Restitution).
chickenfeet: (Default)
2017-05-02 10:22 am


 I see a lot of articles and the like about how the leaders of the EU consider the British government position to be "delusional".  I'm beginning to think though that a major part of the problem is that the EU's take on the British government (and a very large chunk of the British people) is also "delusional".  The EU seems to think that the UK is going to negotiate "rationally" where "rationally" means with a realistic (by EU political class standards) understanding of the UK's place in the world and its bargaining power.  I suggest this is a dead wrong assumption.

From my observation point, i.e. as someone brought up in the UK and still with strong ties there but having lived elsewhere for over 30 years, I think this is unlikely.  I'm sure the EU sees the UK as a medium sized political, military and economic power with very little bargaining leverage versus the EU27.  May, and her supporters (a big chunk of the population of the UK), think very differently.  They still see the UK as a "great power" and as very special.  This manifests itself in a number of rather odd ways:
  • An actual belief that the UK is a (more or less) equal partner with the US via the special relationship.
  • A belief that the world (and Europe in particular) owes Britain a huge debt for single handedly liberating Europe from the Nazis.
  • Clinging on desperately to the last bits of Empire in a way that would have made Lord Palmerston guffaw,.  I don't think he cared much for the "Britishness" of the people of Heligoland or the Dodecanese.
This probably isn't a view that too many would articulate in those words but look at the reaction to, say, the Gibraltar issue or the comments directed at Juncker along the lines of "if it wasn't for us you'ld be speaking German" (and leaving aside that he does...)  In short, the government will try to negotiate from a position that seriously overestimates its punching power and will be egged on by the press at every stage.  Paradoxically, the more this approach digs them into a hole, the more they will stick with it.  This does not bode well.

Another stumbling block will be the government's concept of "sovereignty" as something indivisible.  This is a really outdated 19th century notion that needs to be ditched.  The idea that there is an (indivisible) nation that is the only political entity that has the attribute sovereignty is manifestly not true in the modern world and it wouldn't be helpful if it were.  It's even a bit odd that it is such a shibboleth in a rather odd multi-national conglomeration that can't decide what the nation is anyway, at least partly because, outside the fringes, it's not even possible to raise the question and have a rational discussion.  Imagine asking Theresa May whether she is English or British, which of those nations she identifies with and which one is sovereign and whose sovereignty is going to be repatriated from the EU.  I think she's go into a core meltdown repeating "strong and stable" on endless loop until her head exploded.

chickenfeet: (mew)
2017-04-29 10:54 am

Diplomacy and dissonance

 I've been reading Susan Brigden's biography of Sir Thomas Wyatt.  It's dense and interesting but one really interesting modern parallel struck me.  Diplomacy becomes all but impossible when one party self image of itself is something that the rest of the world simply doesn't acknowledge or recognize.  In this case it's Henry VIII's insistence that he is an orthodox Catholic despite the Break with Rome and the Dissolution of the Monasteries.  This puts his ambassadors to the Catholic powers (Wyatt was ambassador to the Emperor) in an impossible negotiating position.  This seems remarkably close to the current British government position on Brexit in that there seems to be a belief that the UK can be part of the Single Market while rejecting the bits it doesn't like.  Now Henry was a megalomaniac and probably had fallen on his head a few too many times jousting.  I'm not sure what May's excuse is.
chickenfeet: (canada)
2017-04-24 05:21 pm

Singapore sevens

 Just watched the highlights of the Singapore sevens.  Canada's first gold medal in the HSBC series and over the USA in the final at that.  And Lucas Hammond scored the winning try.  I used to coach that kid.  So not only have the Nomads produced the last two captains of the women's XV team and the captain of our medal winning women's sevens team in Rio but now this.
chickenfeet: (Default)
2017-04-18 03:24 pm

Eigg McMuffin

Reading about the massacre of the Eigg Macdonalds is leading to very silly speculation about the odds of there being a clan McMuffin or a clan McNugget. Neither seems intrinsically unlikely. Why should one not run across the McNuggets of ghleann cearc?
chickenfeet: (Default)
2017-04-15 06:41 pm

Easter feasting

 So today's culinary excursion was an exercise in simplicity.  I had a lake trout fillet caught in Lake Huron yesterday.  I had asparagus.  I cooked some du Puy lentils and seasoned them with butter, salt, pepper and balsamic.  I grilled the asparagus.  I cut the trout into portions and heated a non stick pan as hot as I could get it.  A little olive oil and the fish skin side down.  A couple of minutes and I turned down the heat.  Flipped the fish to get some colour on the other side then flipped it again, whacked up the heat and nappéed the fish with some butter until it was just done.  I served the fish on a bed of lentils with a sprinkling of sea salt and a wedge of lime with the asparagus on the side.  Gorgeous!
chickenfeet: (Default)
2017-04-12 03:44 pm

Clean up

 As part of the clean break from LJ I am disabling all sub and access links to LJ.  Everyone in my Dreamwidth Circle should be unaffected in terms of access from within Dreamwidth.
chickenfeet: (Default)
2017-04-07 01:39 pm

Time Reborn

 I just finished reading Lee Smolin's Time Reborn.  It's a tough piece of writing that, like earlier Smolin works, argues that contemporary particle physics and cosmology are largely barking up the wrong tree.  It's a view that Roger Penrose also holds for different reasons.  This time the argument, crudely reduced, is that the methods of "physics in a box" cannot logically or realistically be transfered to a theory of the universe as a whole.  "Physics in a box" assumes independent observation and measurement of time and space.  Clearly at the scale of the universe there can be no such independent observation etc.  He then argues that the route forward is to reintroduce a heuristic view of time as we experience it (as opposed to the time invariance of Newton, Einstein, Maxwell and the Standard Model).  It's a clever blend of physics and metaphysics and he is a very, very smart person so maybe he has a point.  Then for reasons I don't fully grasp he goes off on a tangent into economics where he really hasn't done his homework.  He correctly points out that all the insights that the use of advanced mathematics have provided have been largely ignored by academic economists (though not by hedge funds) and then keeps drawing parallels with physics.  This drives me nuts.  Having spent umpteen chapters arguing about how, physically and metaphysically, a universe can have laws; whether universal for all time or not, he completely misses the point that economies are not ruled by extrinsic laws.  They are created and shaped by the decisions of the actors within them.  The "laws" can be changed by legislation or other government action.  The "initial conditions" of an economy are determined by things like trade rules and decisions on what lies in the public and what in the private sector.  It's as if Parliament or Congress could decide on the strength of gravity or the mass of the electron.  He just doesn't get this.  He seems to think the "Economy" is like the "Cosmos" and is just waiting for clever people like him to discover how it really works.  Would somebody please buy him the "Dummies Guide to Marxism" (not that I think Marx got everything right but he did realise that economics and politics are inextricably intertwined).  It's not just a case of finding a new class of Philosopher Economists who believe in evidence based decision making.  Gah!