Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Look what I found under the tree (AKA better late than never?)

A couple of shots of this year's Charlie Brown tree for you. 

The cats like to lurk under the tree.  If I could fit, I'd lurk under the tree too... 

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Bunklelife - Top Albums 2009

I'll try once again to give a top 10 list of the year...acknowledging that there are going to be albums from 2009 I will discover 4 years from now and love more than any of those listed here.

1. Grizzly Bear -Veckatimest - the rest will be hard to rank, but this is comfortably #1 of the year for me.  Lush and dark and beautiful.  While you wait for the others is absolutely stunning.

and in no particular order....

2. Dirty Projectors - Bitte Orca - YAY for this album!!  The gorgeous West African guitar and crazy vocal acrobatics from the women in the group balance out Dave Longstreth's unique vocal style to make something both wonderfully odd and surprisingly accessible.

3. Antony and the Johnsons - The Crying Light -  A strong album from beginning to end, and really, music doesn't get much more beautiful - or haunting. 

4. Dark Was the Night - Various Artists -  Absolutely fantastic compilation album in support of Red Hot, an international charitable HIV/AIDS awareness organization.  What I would have done to be at the live performance that went along with this release...

5. Akron/Family - Set 'em wild, set 'em free - It's Akron/Family.  Do I have to say more?  Perhaps not their most consistent album, but it's still great.

6. Noble Beast - Andrew Bird - Probably my favorite Andrew Bird album.  Enough said.   Watch and listen to Anonanimal, and be amazed.

7. Dan Mangan - Nice, Nice, Very Nice - And indeed, it is.  Not 100% consistent, but there are some fantastic tracks on here...and as I have spoken about him so often on this site, it would be wrong not to put this on the list.

8. Great Lake Swimmers - Lost Channels - I'm a sucker for banjo.  

9. Rock Plaza Central - At the moment of our most needing...  - I'm a sucker for banjo.  Still.

10. The Morning Benders - Talking Through Tin Cans - OK this is a bit of a ringer.  It is not from 2009, it's from 2008.  And at this point I don't know if I can honestly assess if it is good or not - all I know is that it has been on constant play in my car for over two months (I don't drive much) and I CAN'T take it off...but I CAN sing along, badly.  Extremely well written pop, that's for sure.

PHEW - done!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

This isn't a real post - but...

Raunchier content than you will usually find on Bunklelife, but - I admit it, the Samberg/Timberlake Digital Shorts make me snort out loud. Dick in a Box was good, but the follow-up Mother Lover is oh so much more tasteless... and so much better, not only because Susan Sarandon and Patricia Clarkson guest star.   You have to watch an ad prior to the short, but it's worth it.

This is all really to distract you from the fact I haven't posted anything in ages.  Soon, I promise, soon...
EMBED-Dick in a Box Sequal - Mother Lover - Watch more free videos

Thursday, December 10, 2009

TO...or the T-dot...or Tawranna...

Yes, I'm in Toronto.

And I know I will get grief from my brother for saying anything nice about this city, but that's the price I have to pay I guess.  Few self respecting Westerners would be caught dead saying kind things about Toronto.  You just...don't.

And I am happy I left.  Really.


I love coming back.  Even if it is for a short time, when I don't have time to see many pals (though that is what I love the most!), or do much other than try to work while feeling like a zombie from jet-lag induced lack of sleep.  It is funny how big and exciting a place it feels now.  How much more I appreciate the different neighborhoods.  And the crazy volume of (good) restaurants.  What seemed too much, too tedious before is FUN now - because all at once it feels new, and like home.  Kind of.  Strange, that.

The trip started with the top photo of Miss Mags.  She hates the suitcase.  Or rather, hates that she can't claim ownership of it.  This photo doesn't reflect how fiercely grumpy she looked.  Both cats know what the suitcase means I think, and they are none too pleased about it.  I had a real battle getting her out, then getting her off the top of it, then getting her off the suits I had put on the bed to pack - she hunkered down, growled like something out of Pet Cemetery, and wouldn't budge.  I had to bribe her off with food.  I think she slept on it all night.

And the second photo is outside my hotel window.  Not a great view this time around - I look straight on to another building, but oh well.

And I will be back on Saturday.  It's a short, short trip.

But I'll be back.  Soon.  I hope.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Much more than just reading...

Had the excellent fortune to see The Books at the Cultch last night.  Firstly, how much do I love the Cultch?  VERY much.  Such a beautiful venue, and a staff that let everyone in early because of the crap weather.  What's not to love??

I missed the Books the last time they were here (work-travel nonsense of some sort) so I was super happy to have another chance.  They are an odd band, but one that remains in high rotation in the Bunklelife play list - somehow, their weird combination of vocal samples from tapes and videos they find second hand and some truly beautiful cello/guitar/music samples is just...right.   And when you mix it with the all-important visuals (as you can on their DVDs as well), it just comes together so very very well.

The video above isn't mine for once - there was no way I was going to brave filming, or break the spirit of the night, by pulling out my camera.

For anyone interested in the band, check this out - the vocal samples are from a tape they found of a brother and sister talking (?!)  on tape.  Some classic moments of graphic kid violence in there...
I know I will find a way of using  "by cutting your toes off and working my way up towards your brain" in conversation at some point...

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Tuesday on Tuesday

OK, maybe I was more interested in the models than the fashions, but...really, can you blame me?

Very, very fun.  I await her wrath for posting this.

(I have lost my blogging mojo for a bit.  Hopefully soon I will be back with something substantial to say)

Friday, November 13, 2009

Necks are overrated.

It has been a long time since I have featured my flat faced roommate, so for those that have been missing him, here is Thomas watching shadows (I never said he was bright).
Sometimes he reminds me of a seal, sometimes a raw prawn (yes, you read that right), but these photos are pure space alien.  And we all know space aliens don't need necks.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Where was I last night?

I stumbled across a notice that Hofesh Shechter's dance company was coming to Vancouver for two nights to perform Uprising/In your rooms.  I knew nothing about Hofesh Shechter's work, but I poked around the internet for a while, discovered he is the current darling of London's contemporary dance scene,  and decided it was worth the risk/expense/trying to rope a pal into.  And I'm glad I did.

I'm finding that I am getting more and more interested in contemporary dance.   That being said, I know next to nothing about it...but, like music, you don't really need to know much to be affected by it.  Shechter's choreography is energetic and raw, even animalistic at times.  I've included a clip from Uprising (which looks a lot better if you view it in Youtube fyi)  - an interview I listened to with Shechter indicated he was interested in boys' interest in playing, in fighting in this piece.  I don't really think narrative is the focus of his work (this is just me, unedjumacated as I'ze be in the language of dance ... so I could be way off); there does seem to be an interest in  between the group and the individual (in the middle of a completely unified group movement, one or two dancers will break off into their own patterns), but really, trying to figure it all out isn't all that necessary.  There is something universal about the movement he presents, and you can't help but be affected.

Shechter also composes the score for his works.  The clip I've included doesn't really convey how integral the really loud, pulsing score is.

A great night out.

Though my pal A. and I agreed Uprising would have been that much more meaningful if the dancers were shirtless... (sorry, had to lower the tone, but hey, we're only human ;)

Monday, November 02, 2009

I *heart* David Sedaris

I had the good fortune to see David Sedaris last night as part of the Vancouver International Writers Festival.   He was at The Centre, which is fairly close to GM Place, which meant the area was milling with a bizarre combo of hockey fans hoping that the Canucks could redeem themselves, and literary junkies excited by the prospect of hearing Sedaris tell his often personal, sometimes bittersweet, and always hilarious stories for an hour or so.  It was one of those nights that caused me to make that weird sneeze sound that I emit when trying to suppress a slightly ill timed, anticipatory guffaw.  What a great time... and even after hearing the results of the hockey game, I'm pretty sure that all in all, the Sedaris fans had a better night (OK, I'm biased, I admit...)

I've included the only clip I could find on YouTube of Sedaris reading live.  Enjoy!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween, Vampire Style

I finally saw the lovely Let the Right One In - not often you use "lovely" to describe a vampire film, but it isn't your regular vampire film I guess.  At the core, it is a story about two outcasts - Oskar, a 12 year old boy so pale he seems completely bloodless, and his friend Eli,  a 12 year old ("give or take") who just happens to be a vampire.  The horror in this film is really Oskar's isolation from the parents who really don't seem all that interested in him, and the persistent bullying he faces at school.  And there is nothing elegant or romantic about Eli's vampire life ( a nice change from the earnest teen love vampire romance genre so popular today)  - she lives in a barren tenament apartment, and her need for blood to survive is just a brutal fact of life.   I'm not going to say much more, as it would spoil the fun.

For those worried about blood and gore - there really isn't much.  And for those who have cats - you'll learn that they are effective protection against the Undead.  Just don't rent the dubbed DVD - brave the subtitles, it is well worth it.

*update* - actually, hold off watching this on DVD until after Xmas, when a release that contains the theatrical subtitles will be available - apparently the original DVD release had extremely poor subtitling  - or, of course, you could go see it on the big screen if you get the chance!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Finally, I have something in common with Lindsay Lohan...

I wasn't planning on it when I got up this morning, but that's how the day has ended up.

Yes, I ended up with a pair of Fiorentini & Baker boots.  Did I know the brand before today?  Um, no.  But now I am in love - they are nothing flashy, but they are as soft as a puppy's ear.   I don't make a habit of spending ridiculous money on apparel - the opposite in fact - but these ... well...  I fear that next time I make it to London, some serious damage will be done at their flagship store.

If I could marry my boots, I would.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

I'm a bit dizzy but...

...I will try and make sense despite that.  I seem to be going through a minor vertigo recurrance.  Frustrating but oh well, could be worse - as it is, I'm drugged out on gravol and codeine so I'm feeling no pain.

Saw the engaging Chad VanGaalen at the Rio Theatre last week.  Firstly, I love the venue - the lighting is a bit crap as it is really a movie theatre not a concert venue, but otherwise it is great - nice high stage, great view, comfy seats for old people - what more could you ask for? The concert wasn't life changing, but it sure was fun - Chad is an engaging guy (even when sporting a bizarre black wig) and you couldn't help but get drawn in.  And as the pal I was with said, it was a bit like seeing a Neil Young concert, but without the guitar solos - I hadn't realized how reminicent of Neil Chad's vocals can be until I saw him live (listen to this and you'll see what I mean).  

As for video quality? Well, it's crap due to the poor lighting, but hopefully it captures the spirit of the night.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Grizzly Bear...Again

Another fantastic time with Grizzly Bear last night.   What made it extra special?  The fact they were playing the Vogue theatre - a quiet, theatre style venue.  What a treat not to have the Commodore's constant clink of glasses and background chatter.  And cudos to a very respectful audience as well (with the notable exception of the insecure clingy girlfriend action in the row in front of us, which kept interfering with the view - I know, I know, not everyone needs to sit stock still.  Hang on - yes, in my world they do).

I don't really know what else to say about the night without sounding like a drooling idiot, so I will let the videos speak for themselves.  Sorry about the wandering camera in the second video - I was trying to avoid the giant head of the squirming girl sitting in front of me.  Sigh.  I didn't tape much, mostly because I didn't want to break the spell of just watching the band.  I should mention that security asked if I had a camera on the way in, and I furrowed my brow and said "camera?" like it was a foreign word, let him look through the main pocket of my bag (which didn't contain my camera, obviously), and walked merrily to my seat.  I think that the harsher the check is at the door, the less people they have observing the crowd for people filming.  Who knows, but it's my theory for today.

A shout out also to the opening act, The Morning Benders - very talented young guys, and they managed to keep me and my pal L. impressed and engaged the whole way through, which isn't actually that easy a feat.  Something tells me these guys were all in jazz band in high school - and it's paid off in spades.  There are smatterings of The Dodos and Grizzly Bear in what they do, but hey in the big picture those aren't bad influences to have.

Monday, October 12, 2009

And MORE....

Yet another very quick VIFF post - I only have two more films to go before my 20 picks this year are done.

So - my picks from the last few I've seen?  Broke. ; Pop Star on Ice; Cedar Boys; and I Killed My Mother (see trailer above).

You may have heard of I Killed My Mother - it cleaned up a few awards at Cannes, and has been chosen as Canada's pick for the Academy Awards.   For those of you that haven't heard of it, it is written, directed, and stars (and has art direction by) the now 20 year old Xavier Dolan, based on a story he wrote when he was 17.  Let's stop and think about this for a second: write; direct; star in; 20 years old; first film; Cannes; Academy Awards....


But it is well deserved.  The film looks gorgeous, and does a great job of capturing the technicolor intensity of teenage life through the explosive love/hate relationship between a gay 16 year old boy and his mother.  It has shades of C.R.A.Z.Y. and a few drops of Tarnation (particularly the b&w footage the main character takes of himself talking about his mother), but remains a strong, unique story about a very complex relationship.  And it fulfills my seemingly annual film fest requirement to view a gay coming of age story...I don't plan it, it just happens that way.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Too tired but...

Just a quick post on my one VIFF free, meeting free night this week.

First - I've included my favorite VIFF trailer for those of you who haven't already seen it - I laughed out loud the first time I saw it and it still makes me grin.

So how is VIFF going so far?  REALLY well.  I don't have the energy to talk about the films in detail - yet - but in broad categories so far:

GREAT:  We Live in Public (old news I know); Will Not Stop There - oh my what an expected treat this was!  When the film opened with a gypsy porn star playing a folk song with his nose (and that isn't a euphemism), I really wasn't sure what we were in for - but it is a really nicely layered story with great characters and a nice balance of comedy and drama...I may write more on this one later; Afghan Star -    the pop culture wonder of the American Idol style show is a great foil to highlight the issues, culture, and people of a very complex country...and it also proves that teenage girls will vote for The Cute Boy no matter where in the world they are; and The Maid, for a really richly rendered look at the life of a woman who has allowed herself to become defined solely by her role in her employer's family, while never really truly being part of it.

VERY GOOD:  Excited! (it ranks this high largely because the setting is VERY Vancouver! Nice story too.); Only When I Dance; Nora's Will; Rembrandt's J'accuse (lovely and entertaining, but hard to follow at times - information overload from the giant brain of Peter Greenaway)

GOOD: Gigante (lovely character, but slooooow)

NOT GOOD:  It's Not Anime (a couple of good things but largely a disappointment)

Enough for now, more later....

Saturday, October 03, 2009

VIFF highlights so far...

Well, I've seen a few very good films, one good, and one that hit the ball right out of the park:  We Live in Public.

Here is the synopsis from the film's website:
Ten years in the making and culled from 5000 hours of footage,  WE LIVE IN PUBLIC reveals the effect the web is having on our society, as seen through the eyes of “the greatest Internet pioneer you’ve never heard of”, artist, futurist and visionary Josh Harris. Award-winning director  Ondi Timoner (DIG! – which also won the Sundance Grand Jury Prize in 2004 – making Timoner the only director to win that prestigious award twice) documented his tumultuous life for more than a decade to create a riveting, cautionary tale of what to expect as the virtual world inevitably takes control of our lives.
Harris, often called the “Warhol of the Web”, founded, the first Internet television network during the infamous dot-com boom of the 1990s. He also curated and funded the ground breaking project “Quiet” in an underground bunker in NYC where over 100 people lived together on camera for 30 days at the turn of the millennium. With Quiet, Harris proved how we willingly trade our privacy for the connection and recognition we all deeply desire, but with every technological advancement such as MySpace, Facebook and Twitter, becomes more elusive. Through his experiments, including a six-month stint living with his girlfriend under 24-hour electronic surveillance which led to his mental collapse, Harris demonstrated the price we pay for living in public.
This one really keyed into some of my own fears about the new technological world.  I could talk more about the film specifically, but I really think it better you watch it yourself.
What made this screening so great for me is that the director Ondi Timoner was there and did a really extensive Q&A afterwards.   I love this woman's work - DIG! is one of my all time favorite films - and I have to say DIG! ranks higher than this one as a personal fave, but that is only because I have a particular love for stories of crazed musical genius.  Josh Harris, on the other hand, is not a likeable guy.   Timoner has no great love for Harris - she was hired by Harris to film the "Quiet" project over a decade ago (for which he stiffed her financially), referred to him during the Q&A as a charlatan, and admitted that for a long time she had no interest in stringing this footage together.  Thankfully, that changed - as she said in the Q&A, despite her conflicted feelings about Harris, she felt that this was a film that needed to be made - the time was right, and Harris gave her complete access to the footage, letting her tell the story she wanted to tell.

And oh what a story it is.  Harris truly believes that entertainment in the future will involve everyone having cameras in their house, the job of "producers" being to pull this footage into something that is engaging to watch.  Oh the horror - and I like to think (or hope) he is wrong, though the volume of "reality" tv shows is already testing those boundaries.  I get scared by things like the changing meaning of the word "friend"; that the self-worth of today's youngsters is starting to hinge on the number of online "friends" or "followers" they have, and that despite these fears I too have online conversations with people who I really don't know (name? location? age? family? schooling? job? no idea...and those are just the basics).  Are they my "friends"? No.  But how hard is it going to be to hold on to that distinction?  What role do these online connections play in how socially involved we feel?

Uncomfortable questions to be sure, but important ones.

(And I will say a big thanks to Timoner for keeing the "toilet bowl cam" footage to a minimum.)

(and for those of you that read this earlier - I've gone back and corrected some pretty whacky sentences - that's what I get for trying to blog before my coffee has kicked in)

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Today's struggle: moral ambiguity...

 Sigh.  A rare Bunklelife True Revelations moment ahead.

When I woke up the other morning, the first thing I heard on the CBC was a news story about Roman Polanski's arrest in Switzerland.  My reaction?  I said - out loud -"OH for FUCK'S sake."  You know it's a good morning when your first sentence includes the F-bomb.  My initial reaction was frustration that this whole thing hadn't been dropped and put to rest long, LONG ago, and sympathy for the man involved.

But I've been thinking about my reaction.  And about the situation.  And I've been trying really really hard to figure out why I have sympathy for a 44 year old man who drugged and sodomized at 13 year old girl.  And what I hate is that I don't really have a good answer.  Or at least not any answers that I'm comfortable with.

Am I absolving him because he has brought some absolutely brilliant films to the world? No, but...yes he has ... but no... maybe?

Or because he is a "star"? Um....

Is it because I think the man has taken enough punishment in his life? (is the Holocaust and your wife's brutal murder not enough for one lifetime?) Um....kind of?

Is it because the 70's were different times (you know - drugs, free love, flowers and peace? or something like that?) I guess sort of...but not really...

Am I being a "victim blamer"? (she should have left when he told her to pose topless?) Ugh.

Or a "victim's mother" blamer? As if she knew...

Or is it just the passage of time - 30 years later let's just let it go...after all, the victim has ... But does that make it OK?  No....

I can't explain it - particularly not when at the same time I am more than ready to be creeped out by Woody Allen's consensual relationship & subsequent marriage with a girl 35 years his junior that he had known (and helped raise) since she was a young girl (though strangely it seems to have worked out...but still - GROSS!), or the recent revelations about John and Mackenzie Phillips (though their sexual relationship is just one miniscule piece of a WHOLE lotta f*cked up).  And lord knows that even though my nieces are both young adults now, if I found out either of them had something going on with a guy 30 years older than them, consensual though it may be, I would quite certainly be ready to rip out the offending testes with my bare hands - even though in the eyes of the law they are both "consenting adults".   Reasonable? Maybe not, but ...would it be different if that 30-years-older guy was George Clooney? Or Harrison Ford? Or David Suzuki? Or David Bowie? (I know, I know - a random selection if ever there was one)  I like to think not...but...?

So why am I cutting Polanski so much slack?

I honestly don't know.  It must have something to do with his cultural significance, or his personal history, mixed with the passage of time, because I know for certain if some random 40 year old guy was caught raping a 13 year old I'd want the book thrown at him.

Ugh.  It doesn't make sense, and it obviously doesn't sit comfortably...but I can't shake it.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

So I'm being a little smug...

At the risk of this blog becoming All Dan Mangan, All the Time - this Vancouver boy has just won the $25,000 "Artist of the Year" at XM Satellite's Verge Music Awards, a good old fashioned popularity contest calculated by listener votes if I am not mistaken.   

For those that have been following this blog - I like to think that this is proof that when I'm right, I'm right - rare though it may be (and as nonsensical a statement as that fact, I'm not sure exactly how my logic is working here for any of this, but it's Sunday and it's early, so work with me).  And big congrats to Dan - it seems like it is finally happening for him.

The video above is Dan with Vancouver's Hey Ocean! at the Western Canadian Music Awards in Brandon MB (whoohoo Brandon! ;)  Enjoy.


Saturday, September 26, 2009

Some things stay the same

Spent last night at the Commodore for D.O.A.'s dvd release party last night. This ranks up there as one of those nostalgia moments, for me, and for most of the people there at the table with me last night. My underage self was transfixed by their live shows back in 1982 - but I was transfixed by the whole Vancouver alternative music scene back then, or at least what I knew of it. I certainly spent a whole lot less time deciding what to wear last night than I did back in the day.

So - how is the band fairing? Well, to start with the only remaining member on stage is the irreplaceable musical politico Joey Shithead Keithley, and he's still got it going on. He looks great (dare I say better?), he sounds great, and he's still as empassioned a guy as he ever was. Sure, there isn't the same frantic rawness anymore, but it's 30 years later for heavens sake - if things hadn't grown a bit more...controlled...over time, it would be pretty weird. And I can't really imagine the 1982 Shithead telling the audience to get themselves aquainted with Woody Guthrie, the father of the protest song - but I kind of loved that he did last night. Change? Sure - but overall the essence of the man and his concerns is just the same - it has just grown deeper and more solid. He's still living it, and that in itself is inspirational.

I have full videos with better sound here (including the one featuring the stuffed Gordon Campbell effigy featured in these stills - which was quickly dismembered, its limbs thrown about by the crowd after Joey tossed it into the mosh pit ), but I though for this site I would just post a couple of short clips - the top one is from the fringes of the mosh pit roiling in front of the stage, which my ears (and camera) could only manage for a couple of songs.  Enjoy.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The List!

OK - for those that are interested, here are the films I have tickets for (so far... I have 2 unassigned tickets).
I may die of exhaustion (there are a couple of concerts in there as well) but there are a couple of things I'm really looking forward to - I do love Greenaway, and I do love Rembrandt, so I have high hopes for Rembrandt J'accuseWe Live in Public is also high on the list, particularly after I saw Errol Morris' interview with Josh Harris...but you can hit the link to find out more.  And I will try to have the energy to do some brief reviews, at least of my faves.  Wish me luck.

Nora's Will


We Live in Public

Only When I Dance


Will Not Stop There

The Maid

It's Not Anime

Afghan Star

Rembrandt's J'accuse


Cooking History

Wah Do Dem (What They Do)

Cooking With Stella

Cedar Boys

I Killed My Mother

An Education


Monday, September 21, 2009

WHEEEE!! It's that time of year!

Yes, it's soon to be VIFF time again!  I've been poring over the guide book, and I think I've found about 20 to see this year - though I still need to buy tickets (which I might right after I post...). 

I do love VIFF, but though it pains me to say so, it makes me long for the crackling excitement of TIFF - which admittedly was my first experience of a film fest of any kind, so the bar was set high.  I have fond memories of the long (LONG) lineup on labour day to pick up my tickets to see how many of my first picks I had this year (it's a complex, nail biting lottery system, details of which I won't bore you with).  I have fond memories of sitting above Nick Cave, behind Roger Ebert, and in front of Alexis Bledel; of seeing Peter Dinklage walk confidently down the theatre aisle to a standing ovation after the screening of the truly lovely Station Agent; of listening to so many young directors so obviously and genuinely thrilled to have their films screened at such a big fest.  I LOVED IT.  Well, except for the crazy prices and overall stress of the whole ticketing process...ok I lie, the ticketing stress kind of added to the thrill of it all.

So - in comparison, VIFF feels kind of... tame.  And easy.  No lottery, no craziness.  And seeing a film is actually cheaper at VIFF than when it comes out in wide release (ok, maybe that qualifies as crazy).  It's very Vancouver somehow.  There's no anxiety, no real buzz - just the opportunity to see what is - hopefully - a great film or two, fingers crossed.

I will keep you posted.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Paris: Some big things

OK, I completely give up with attempting to make text and photos relate in any way - not sure why I am finding it such a struggle, but I am. Note to self: brush up on HTML skills. So - I will add two photos per topic. If you get lost, just count down.

Arc de Triomphe:
It's big. And if you make your way to the top, it gives you a clear view not only of Tui's rear end, but also the completely baffling traffic patterns below (can you use the word 'pattern' in this case? YIKES)

The Pantheon:
It's big. And quite beautiful. And it houses an example of Foucault's Pendulum, which is an added bonus.

The Eiffel Tower.

Also very big. I've included a "distance shot" so you can see how it looms over the Seine. We went in the evening, which was cool - and not only because it was raining (one of the few rainy patches we had, so I'm not complaining). It is an amazing structure. Part of me was hoping for a lighting storm...a larger part of me was not. Next time, will check it out during the day.

Notre Dame
Also large...with very large rose windows. And a large number of truly fantastic small details, like this little guy. I'm restricting myself to two photos, which is a bit tough. There is a great photo of Tui doing a Hunchback pose, but you'll just have to imagine it.

The Luxembourg Palace/Gardens.
Big gardens, near the big Pantheon. This is one of the gorgeous manicured Parisian parks where you can observe the the locals at play. They also serve big (and really good) sandwiches, which you can eat seated on one of the many green chairs scattered about. A really beautiful place.

Bored now, so I'll stop!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Paris: Butterscotch and other sweets

I think the Paris posts will be winding down soon, but I did want to post this one. Like the video of Tuesday on the Arc, this is another one really aimed at the family - specifically my brother M. who, I know, has a particular interest in Butterscotch the Robot Pony. So - here is a short of Mum enjoying meeting Butterscotch in the Bon Marché.

And as for other sweets - one word: FAUCHON. Fauchon is a gourmet food store - a big, hot pink house of food porn. Mustards, chocolates, pickled beans, coffee - you name it, it's there, all housed in hot pink luxury. We had a very very nice lunch at the Fauchon café (Tui is eating the end of that lunch in the photo), and more importantly, we bought 6 eclairs to take home - also pictured. ( T1, these are for you). Fauchon must have about 20 kinds of eclair to choose from, each one costing the same as two bottles of wine (my new unit of measure). But man, were they worth it. We carefully cut each of the 6 into three pieces, savoured, discussed, debated, and picked our favorites. Which, for me, was pretty much ALL of them.


Friday, September 11, 2009

Paris, in Pairs

A bit of a random post today, with three of my favorite "pairs" pictures. I will start with the picture of Tuesday and me. I included this one for a few reasons:
1) gorgeous Seine background
2) acceptable picture of me (in that I am wearing sunglasses, preserving my anonymity - I avoid posting pictures of myself on this blog just in case I write something offensive and someone wants to track me down; and due to some weird body twisting on my part I don't look 7 months pregnant in that dress for once, which adds to the acceptability factor)
3) clear demonstration of the height difference between Miss T and myself. I might add, my height is NOT unusual, or overly short, despite what the rest of my family tells me. I am 5'5". Tui is closing in on 5'12". But she likes to remind me of my place with the little people. And once, she responded to an email of mine in which I was ragging on her to respond to a question I needed the answer to with "I'm not responding because I don't know the answer yet. And because you're below my sight line." Which, though it deserves a slap, makes me laugh every time I think about it. Tuesday's height made for a few good moments on the trip (including the couple on the plane who thought she was a remarkably tall 12 year old - "look at her face! She's just really tall") My fave was a point on our trip where Mum and I had to go to the washroom, leaving Tui outside waiting (and waiting). When we returned, she mentioned that a couple of short men had been circling her. We decided they were planning on clubbing her and dragging her back to their tribe of short men to improve on their breeding program. Luckily, we saved her just in time.

Picture #2 - Mum and Tui and the Ambiguous Sign. I am sure many MANY tourists have taken photos of what might be the world's most ambiguous street sign. We discussed the options:
1)NO hand holding allowed;
2)NO pedophiles allowed;
3)NO holding Jan's hand when you are wearing pants, Tui

I did some internet research, and discovered that the actual meaning is "end of pedestrian zone." I'm hoping they fired whoever designed this one.

Picture #3: Tui and her tall boyfriend
This was taken on a street near where we were staying. He might not have a face, but they make a nice couple don't you think?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Paris - where the dead people are....

Thought this time I'd focus on three different things you can do if you want to see dead people in Paris. I'm not saying that the methods are limited to three - I can provide other suggestions if necessary, that's for sure.

Ranked according to levels of squeamishness

Method #1: Basilica of Saint-Denis (AKA "the Royal Necropolis")
The majority of the French monarchs from the 10th century on are buried at Saint-Denis, so there is no shortage of dead people to visit. It's great for the squeamish because the dead have been transformed into pleasant effigies - well, except for the dried heart of Louis XVII, which is presented in a nice clear glass jar. And, you have the bonus of being able to admire the variety of loyal dogs placed at the feet of the royal women (in contrast to the lions at the feet of the men), and some great 16th C graphiti (enlarge the photo of the bare breasted beauty and you'll see what I mean).

All this, housed in the first major gothic building. You can't lose.

Method #2: Cemeteries are nice...
Paris has some of the most renowned cemeteries in Europe. We didn't get to the most famous, but we did wander through the Montmartre Cemetery, which was impressive enough. It ranks a bit higher on the creepy scale than Saint-Denis because of the occasional disturbed grave, and the fact that some of the monuments seemed to include items that indicate some sort of habitation of the not-so-dead kind (why else would you need a pot? or a chair?). Added bonus: standoffish Parisian cemetery cats.

Method #3: The Paris Catacombs
Let's face it, who doesn't love a good ossuary?

This ranks pretty high on the creepy scale. To cut a long story short, in the late 18th C the inhabitants of the "city" cemeteries in Paris were dug up and their remains relocated to abandoned underground quarries (apparently the cemeteries were overwhelmed and the neighbouring living inhabitants were getting sick as a result...which I guess turns into a bit of a vicious cycle ...). So, you walk down about 130 steps (a typical Parisian spiral staircase) into the bowels of the city only to find tunnel upon narrow damp tunnel lined with neatly stacked ex-Parisians. Thousands of them. (as an aside - I have to say the first picture here - with the skulls on top - is one of my favorite photos EVER, because it looks so very baroque and painterly. Total fluke). And once you are down there, you are down there - there is no quick easy escape. If you get claustrophobic, stick to the cemeteries.

I might add that I did not touch any of the skulls, though it was kind of tempting. Not sure the same can be said of my companions.

So - that's the end of the tour through dead Paris. Something more lively next time perhaps.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Another Paris post: There is stuff to see, isn't there?

Why yes, there is...and though we spent a fair bit of time in galleries/historic buildings/places with dead people, there is a lot we didn't see, but that just gives me another reason (other than cheese that is) to go back. It's a bit surreal for me to see things that I spent so many years studying and writing papers on and doing seminars about (and so many subsequent years slowly losing the details of ...sigh!). It's such a pleasure, but part of me is so frustrated that it couldn't have happened years ago when all that there book-learnin' was still locked securely in my brain.

I should also mention we had museum passes - expensive unless you are seeing a lot, BUT it means you can skip past the line ups in most cases, which is priceless.

Perhaps stupidly obvious, the thing that shocked me the most was the Louvre. I'm not a complete idiot - I knew it was big - but nothing could have prepared me for the scale of it. We spent about 7 hours walking through what I would guess is maybe 1/3 of the galleries - mainly the Egyptian section, and the 16th/17th C Netherlandish and Italian wings. The highlight for me was the Rubens room, which contains the unbelievable Marie de' Medici cycle. Unreal. UNREAL. The photo of Mum in the gallery is not my best effort, but hopefully it gives you an idea of the scale of it. I *heart* Rubens (and many other 17C Dutch/Netherlandish painters, admittedly) and I could have sat in there most of the day and been happy as a clam.

Realistically, the Louvre is probably a three day endeavor. The idea that they offer a one and a half hour tour of "the highlights" makes me shake my head. Highlights? The whole freaking place is a highlight. Maybe it's just the art snob in me that found the crowds around the Mona Lisa a bit pathetic. Sure, it is a master work, but there are hundreds of other true masterpieces in that gallery that are not surrounded by 100 photo snapping tourists quickly proving they have "seen it" before rushing off to snap the next thing.

I should also give a shout out to the Louvre's outstanding collection of mummified kitties. Gives me ideas for my two.

We also went to the nearby Museé de l'Orangerie, best known for two rooms of Monet's Waterlilies. Rubens could still take Monet in an artistic cage-match in my opinion (OK, full disclosure, though I appreciate their importance, I'm not a big lover of the Impressionists), but it was pretty impressive.

OK, running out of steam now. More later (hopefully) - maybe something about dead people, who knows?

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Another Paris post...

So I promised a few photos and a few words about the trip. Not sure how many you'll get, but I will start and see where things go.

Firstly, if you are going to Paris - or just want a very funny read - I advise The Sweet Life in Paris, written by relocated American pastry chef David Lebovitz. Pretty much all you need to navigate the very unique culture that is Paris, mixed up with great recipes and wicked humour. I read it cover to cover on the flight over, and it was the perfect airplane book (thanks for the suggestion T1!!). And it is a LONG freaking flight, so you'll need something to read, trust me.

Maybe I'll start with a little bit about where we stayed in Montmartre. Montmartre is the highest point in Paris, north of the city centre, and is where much of the wonderfully whimsical Amelie was filmed. We rented an apartment, which is definitely the way to travel if you are staying put for a bit - it's nice to have a home base where you can relax and unwind. I did mention the issues with lack of promised phone/internet/extra bed earlier, but apart from that (which I could shake off a bit more easily after reading Lebovitz' book) it worked out well. The place was large and bright and perfectly located.

We quickly discovered the boulangeries and fromageries in the 'hood - OHMYGOD so good. SO good. Tuesday would skip off in the mornings and come back armed with a fresh baguette wrapped with a twist of brown paper, or with buttery croissants and some truly evil chocolate filled pastries, and late afternoon we would snuffle our way through wine, cheese (oh comté, how I love thee) and slices of baguette after a day of walking (and walking and walking) around the city. The photo of Tuesday is a post-cheese-gorge couch flop. Notice the comté induced smile.

Which brings me to a couple of points - first, wine. You can buy a bottle of wine (tasty, drinkable wine) for considerably less than a cup of coffee. It is seriously the cheapest thing in Paris. We were buying wine for the equivalent of maybe $4 a bottle - and I wasn't picking up the lowest priced bottles, trust me. Crazy. So - if you could survive on wine and wine alone, Paris would be a pretty cheap place to visit.

You also read a lot about the standoffish attitude of Parisians, but that wasn't really what I found. And honestly, if I was Parisian, I'd be standoffish - they just seem to have life worked out in a much more balanced (dare I say superior?) way. Or maybe I'm just getting seduced by their obvious respect for cheese. Anyhow - provided you play by the rules (greeting the store attendants when you enter and exit a store for instance), and make an effort to speak French, generally they take pity on you and do what they can to help and make communication easier. That doesn't mean to say that they weren't getting a few jollies from our stumbling attempts, but that's OK by me. What I did discover that my comprehension of written French is better than I thought it would be, and that Tuesday & I had enough vocabulary between us to get through the basics most of the time, Tui with a much more elegant accent than my own. As for Tui's reading comprehension, she spent a fair bit of time poring through a French book on methods of committing suicide that she found in the apartment bookcase (aka French holiday reading?) - and she seemed to be picking up most of it.

I think that's enough for today...more later.