Friday, 31 October 2008

Trick or Treat

My wife and I took a walk tonight, just to see the children trick or treating (can we turn it into a verb?). Sadly, we barely saw any children, Jack O'Lantern and Halloween display. Halloween here seems to be a non event (in the town I live in, that is, because it is getting bigger in England), to my great disappointment. In a night like this I miss Montreal more than ever. The night was perfect for Halloween, cold and spooky. I know trick or treat has a bad reputation here, but it is undeserved. It is a nice ritual of sharing, showing to your neighbours that you have a sense of community, that you trust them and they can trust you, and that they can come for help when needed. Sharing food, even candies, is a beautiful, selfless jesture.

Oh, never mind, I watched Halloween tonight and I have my own Jack O'Lantern. And since it is still relatively early, I can read a few horror stories before going to bed. I celebrate Halloween, but as an adult.

Déprimants gâcheurs de fêtes

Certaines écoles au Québec ont décidé d'interdire les bonbons pour l'Halloween, parce que c'est mauvais pour la santé. Un autre article ici, la réaction de Marie-Claude Lortie (que je n'aime pas d'habitude, because des propos d'une vacuité ridicule, notamment lorsqu'elle parle de Sarah Palin) ici, celle de Richard Martineau ici. Je suis d'accord avec eux. L'Halloween n'est pas un jour ordinaire, la valeur festive du 31 octobre devrait être une excuse suffisante pour relaxer les interdits et certains règlements concernant l'alimentation dans les écoles. Que va-t-il arriver l'année prochaine, on va interdire les déguisements de vampires, sorcières et fantômes parce qu'ils sont trop violents? La nature même de l'Halloween c'est 1)d'apprivoiser ses peurs. 2)de faire bombance (comme dans les sociétés primitives on mangeait les surplus qui ne pouvaient pas être conservés indéfiniment). Si on dénature la seconde caractéristique (commune à bien des fêtes), ce qui est déjà aberrant, dénaturera-t-on un jour la première?

Happy Halloween

This is my favourite day of the year. Ah, the cathartic pleasure of facing your fears, and the fun of eating excesses! I don't know for you, but I think I deserve a sugar fix tonight. I will light the Jack O'Lantern as soon as it gets dark. The weather is perfect today: it's sunny, chilly, and there are loads of leaves on the ground. I will start this 31st of October 2008 with the opening song from The Nightmare before Christmas, which I honestly don't remember much but for its opening sequence, which is absolutely lovely, and shows exactly what's so great about Halloween: its atmosphere.


Thursday, 30 October 2008

Jack O'Lantern

Here is the Jack O'lantern I carved tonight, with love. I hope you find it spooky. The pumpkin smells so nice in the flat, and good old Jack creates a spooky atmosphere. I will probably publish some more pictures of it here, including the carving process. I have never been much of an artist, and my designs are not as good as PJ's (I hope he makes one this year and puts some pics on his blog), but this is still a scary Jack O'Lantern, especially in the dark.

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Anticipation, Halloween

English below...

Alors, ce sera l'Halloween bientôt, sans doute ma fête préférée. Comme toutes les fêtes, celle-là est aussi sinon plus excitante à l'attendre et s'y préparer qu'à la vivre. De nos jours, je me prépare mentalement à la fête en lisant des histoires d'épouvante, en regardant des films d'horreur et en lisant des histoires d'épouvante. Quand j'étais enfant, mes frères et moi avions des jeux très élaborés qui nous préparaient à l'Halloween. Ils commençaient en septembre, pour nous faire oublier le retour à l'école, quelquefois dès août. Nous jouions à la maison hantée ou "au vieux château du moyen-âge" (je connaissais de cette chanson qu'une version très courte chantée par ma gardienne préférée, je ne savais pas que Brassens l'avait chantée aussi), où nous étions pris dans un château hanté pour la nuit, puis plus tard nous avons inventé un jeu très élaboré où mon petit frère faisait un démon général d'une armée d'élite de l'Enfer nommé Draco et où mon autre frère et moi nous le combattions (je jouais une sorte de Zorro chasseur de fantôme). La bataille finale se faisait évidemment à l'Halloween. À chaque année Draco était renvoyé en Enfer, à chaque année il revenait plus puissant, avec à ses ordres des sorcières, des morts-vivants, des monstres, des démons, etc. Pour une raison quelconque, l'histoire se passait en Angleterre... Une autre année, nous avons joué à Dracula. Nous avions une imagination débordante, c'est le moins qu'on puisse dire. Étrange comme on adore avoir peur étant enfant. Nos amis avaient parfois de la difficulté à nous suivre.
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So it is going to be Halloween soon, and I can't wait. Tomorrow, I carve the pumpkin. Like for any holiday, Halloween is often more exciting when you are waiting for it than when you are actually living it. Now, I get prepare by watching horror movies (not so many this year) and reading horror stories. Back when I was a child, when my parents forbid me to watch any kind of scary movie, I still loved Halloween tremendously. My brothers and I were anticipating it so much we played Halloween-themed games months in advance. We usually started in September, to make us forget about the school that was starting, but sometimes we played them as early as August. We had a game about a haunted house, about a haunted castle, and a very elaborate game with my brother playing Draco, the Devil général of Hell's élite army. My other brother and I were fighting him, trying to stop Draco from hurting the poor unsuspecting humans. I was playing a sort of Zorro-mixed-with-Van Helsing character, who was fighting evil through the usual holy weaponry (holy water, silver bullets and silver daggers and swords, crucifix, etc.). The ultimate confrontation was on Halloween night, when Draco was sending his armies of witches, werewolves, vampires and devils on Earth, which meant mainly England. yes, I was Anglophile even then, and my alter ego was a British hero. That said, he was probably a Catholic, judging by his weapons of choice. We had a very active imagination then. Sometimes our friends couldn't understand us.

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

First snow!

This evening, we just had the first snow of the year. I could tell it was going to snow when I got back from work, as it was pouring rain but the air was quite cold. It was not a nice dry snow, it was on the contrary wet and a bit slushy, an autumn snow from a cold autumn that is turning into a cold winter. Nevertheless, my wife and I had a little walk and enjoyed it, it was quite romantic.

Comment travailler sans travailler

Alors que la plupart de mes nouveaux amis ont perdu leur travail aussi subitement qu'ils l'ont eu, j'ai toujours le mien, même si j'ai de moins en moins d'enthousiasme à le faire (pas que j'en avais beaucoup au départ). Je ne sais pas trop comment c'est arrivé, ils se font tous virer cavalièrement et moi non seulement je travaille toujours, mais mes employeurs semblent satisfaits de moi. Touchons du bois.

Je dis que je travaille, mais en fait je lambine beaucoup et je ne crois pas donner beaucoup de résultats. Je crois que de garder certains emplois dépend plus de l'attitude que l'on a face à eux que de la compétence. J''imagine que jusqu'à maintenant j'ai la bonne attitude: je ne suis pas enthousiaste (loin de là!), mais je ne me plains jamais, je travaille peu, mais je donne toujours l'impression d'être occupé (les merveilles que l'on peut faire avec du papier et un stylo) et je prends un air soucieux et professionnel qui est aux antipodes de mon état d'esprit. Résultat: je perds mon temps, mais au moins je suis payé pour ça.

Sunday, 26 October 2008

The things to do with a pumpkin

I know I already put this picture of Jack O'Lantern, but I am quite proud of the result, although my brother deserves at least as much credit for this 2004 version of Jack O'Lantern. Anyway, I thought I would make an entry about the various things you can do with a pumpkin. Even more so than the apple, this is the fruit of Halloween, obviously. On our Halloween parties at school, I used to eat the dry seed of pumpkins and we usually had some kind of pumpkin jam as well, which we would make ourselves. I always loved the smell of it, the flavour maybe not as much, but as I got older it grew on me.

When I was living in Québec, I used to drink around that time period the autumn beer of MacAuslan, which was made of pumpkin. It was delicious, and I was happy to discover recently a British ale made of pumpkin too. So last week end, I drank a delicious pumpkin ale from the Badger Brewery. I am not a fan of their beers usually, nothing wrong with them, but I never liked it as much as other British microbreweries. It had a lovely orange colour, a bit like a fire on its last flames. I drank it like water (well almost), it was deliciously bitter, it tasted like an autumn drink should taste and it made me feel home. Drink wise, I don't need that much to feel home in England.

Then tonight, my wife and I ate a really nice Covent Garden pumpkin and beans soup. I think soup is my favourite version of pumpkin product. With the right ingredients, it is perfect to warm you up on a perfect autumn day. When I was living in Liverpool, we threw a Halloween party (a few days after Halloween), and we had many many pumpkin from one of the housemates who had a farm. We turned half of them into Jack O'Lanterns, then we were stuck with the other half, so another of my housemates (who became a very good friend), made a lot of pumpkin soup. I don't know exactly what she put in it, I know there were some spices and maybe some nutmeg, but anyway it ended up being delicious. It was nice to have some soup that you just need to heat a bit to enjoy after a hard day of work and all the walking I was doing in cold and rainy Liverpool. This one was not as good and I certainly didn't suffer as much to fully appreciate it (I didn't spend as much time walking in the rain, which is not as cold as up there), but it was still good, very filling and quite healthy. So I appreciated it.

Changement d'heure

Je ne sais pas pour le Québec, mais on a eu ici notre changement d'heure, nous sommes donc une heure plus tôt. Ce qui veut dire qu'il fera noir comme chez le loup quand je me rentrai au travail et quand je reviendrai à la maison, mais que j'ai plus dormir une heure de plus la nuit dernière. J'aime bien le changement d'heure à l'automne, c'est une autre manière de marquer le passage des saisons.

Saturday, 25 October 2008

Toffee apple

I bought a reduced price toffee apple today at Tesco. I thought it would put me in a Halloween mood, I mean apples are autumn's fruits and so on. I mused about apples here, among other places. I ate toffee apples once before in my lifetime, we had made a recipe from a school book. I had forgotten how terrible that dessert is. You have to lick the sugar on it, because the caramel is so hard you might break your teeth on it. And it tastes like sugar and perfume, like all bad desserts. I had a better souvenir than this of the toffee apple, so maybe it was the Tesco brand, or the fact that this one was getting old. This one, I decided to throw it in the rubbish bin. I lost 10 pence and I don't regret it.

On a side note, is this blog getting more and more trivial?

A bit of Halloween

Since my opera entries are not very popular(am I the only person under 40 who listens to opera?), I thought I'd put here the the opening credits of one my favourite horror movies, maybe the only slasher I genuinly love. I love the now classic theme music which sets us right into the atmosphere of the season. For those (hopefully few) who did not see Halloween, the one and only (there were sequels but they were pale imitations), I strongly recommend you to see it before the end of October. I hope that this post will make you want to watch the movie for yourself anyway. It's a shame that John Carpenter, while a brilliant director, never managed to recreate the momentum that he gets here. He did a couple of very good movies, but none had the brilliant efficiency of Halloween. Oh, and this week, we are going to carve our pumpkin into a Jack O'Lantern. I can't wait.

Friday, 24 October 2008

La voix du Diable

Un peu plus sur les trésors qu'on trouve sur youtube... Comme c'est l'Halloween très bientôt, j'essaie d'écrire des billets circonstantiels à la saison (des billets de saison, pour ainsi dire). Il y bien des choses que j'aime dans le Faust de Gounod. L'un des mérites de l'opéra est d'avoir parfaitement personnalisé la nature séduisante du Diable, nature révélée dans la voix de Méphistophélès. La menace qu'il représente doit se faire sentir dans la séduction de la voix. Je suis baryton et parfois j'envie les basses. Les personnages autour de Méphistophélès, Faust Marguerite, dans une moindre mesure Valentin, ressentent pour le Diable la fascination hypnotique de la bête face à face avec un prédateur. Je pense notamment au "Vous qui faites l'endormie". On peut l'entendre ici chanté par Samuel Ramey, si on a la patience d'endurer le Français bavard qui présente Ramey au public. Voici une autre interprétation (que j'aime moins), de Bryn Terfel, où Faust est joué par Roberto Alagna:

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

A sort of social life

Okay, I will try not to blog too much about my work, as I might not keep it for very long (there have been redundancies already) and I want this blog to be more creative. That said, I will talk about my work, or something I rediscovered through it: social life. I don't think any of my new (and most likely short-termed) colleagues will become real friends, but I get along with a couple of them. And I live again in a multicultural environment, which is always nice. Ironic that, while it is probably the job I liked least in years, I much prefer the company of the people I work with now than in my last job. Some want us to meet after work on Friday to take a few drinks, but I don't think I will do it. Commuting is already long and gets me very tired and I'll want to see my wife sooner rather than later. That said, it's nice to know that I could have an evening out with "friends" if I wanted to.

L'hiver en automne

Comme je ne veux pas faire de ce blogue une chronique sur mon travail (qui risque de ne pas durer très longtemps, étant donné la situation économique), je vais parler un peu de température. On pourrait croire le sujet d'une vacuité affligeante, mais parfois on peut faire preuve d'esprit en parlant de température. Voici une photo prise par mon père hier sur la neige qui est tombée sur le Québec... en octobre. Ici, il ne neige pas (pas encore du moins), mais il fait très froid: ce matin le sol était gelé comme en hiver. Nous vivons un mois d'octobre comme je les aime, c'est à dire froid, sec et annonciateur d'un hiver rude. Voyez-vous, j'aime même l'hiver quand il est froid. Enfin, en autant qu'il y ait de la neige, ce qui est rare ici. Cela dit, je n'aime pas trop les grosses bordées de neige avant novembre. Les neiges automnales sont bien quand elles sont modestes, juste pour nous rappeler que le temps change.

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Second day at the office

So, it was my second day at the office today. It was much better than the first: I woke up later and I had slept more the night before, and I stopped worrying. It's boring, by far the most boring job I ever had, probably the least rewarding, but the surroundings are nice and so are my colleagues. I don't know how long I will stay, but I will keep looking for something better. I will try to blog as much as I can. It is the activity I miss most now that I have a job. Funny, my life feels more uneventful when I work.

Monday, 20 October 2008

Chronique d'un retour au travail

Donc, j'étais de retour au travail aujourd'hui. Je ne sais pas combien de temps je vais durer. Mes collègues sont sympathiques, mais comme moi ils sont surqualifiés pour un travail très moyennement payé et particulièrement barbant. Mais ce qui m'agace le plus, c'est le temps passé à me déplacer: trois heures en tout et pour tout, quand je ne manque pas mes connections. C'est un peu trop long et c'est un peu trop cher. Enfin, il y a quelques bons côtés: les gens sont sympathiques et la cafétéria offre un excellent menu. J'ai également renoué avec la sauce HP.

Saturday, 18 October 2008

Musing on Italy

Recently, I got back in contact to an old Italian friend through Facebook. That was nice to "see" her again, well, get in touch really, as she was a really good friend during my first year in England. It made me think about my experience of Italy and Italians. I blogged before about this year in the company of the Italian community. It was a weird time, because my first real contact with England (tourism didn't count) was through the contact of a foreign community. Brits were not easy to hang out with, they were often distant with foreigners, after a few years at university they all had their circle of friends already and hanging around a group of outsiders like yourself was the logical thing to do. As I said before, they were not only Italians in our group, but they formed the main demographic.

I have always been Anglophile, but my fondness for Italy, while present, was never as strong. I love opera, so of course I already appreciated Italian language, I also loved spaghetti westerns, Italian cuisine, my favourite writer (you know who) married an Italian woman and so on. That said, I never cared too much for the religious zeal of some (sometimes even when they are not religious), the corruption of their élite and their utter lack of discipline. Italians can also be quite rude without meaning it. However, they accepted me without much hesitation. They taught me a thing or two about cooking, they were more than ready to share their drinks and mine, they made me belong somewhere when I needed to fit in, whatever "in" was. I always wondered why I got along so well with them, while I couldn't connect with a people I admired much more and who didn't have the same language barrier. Maybe there was a sort of exotic reciprocity between them and me: they were exotic for me, I was for them. And exotic people are always more interesting creatures. Some of them became close confident and I was always disappointed that I never saw them after 2000. I hope I can correct this, even though apart from the friend I mentioned here, I lost sight of all of them.

Oh, and a side note about religiosity: my friend is not a religious zealot (I write this in case she ever reads this blog). She is very liberal (by Italian standards at least), has always been strongly secularised and shares more or less the same lack of beliefs as your humble narrator.

Le chat botté

Je ne sais pas pourquoi, mais j'aime bien cette chanson de Thomas Fersen (artiste que je connais très peu d'ailleurs). Elle jouait souvent dans les bars du Plateau Mont-Royal. Cela dit, Thomas Fersen sera toujours pour moi l'interprète de la version de la chanson Bella Ciao qui figurait dans Un crabe dans la tête.

Can't I take alcohol anymore?

I had a bottle of Green Goblin (I love Wychwood Brewery products, as you know) on Thursday night and I woke up in the morning feeling terrible, as if green goblins have been dancing in my head all night. It makes me feel old, and a bit sad: what if I can't take alcohol? Anyway, I have a pumpkin beer to try and a Hobgoblin waiting for me too. I will drink them eventually, but will wait for next weekend, as I don't want to have the mother of all headaches again when I am back to work.

Friday, 17 October 2008

Sic Transit Gloria Mundi

I had a thought regarding the work I am going to start on Monday. It is probably the lowest kind of job I took in the last two years, and I am wondering if I am not regressing. I will do it because sometimes one has to take a demeaning job, but I wish things could be different. I thought about that phrase, Sic Transit Gloria Mundi, because a year ago, I was on top of the world: I just had offered a big job with big money, in a sector I had no previous experience, the interview had gone like a charm, etc. I felt like I had been blessed twice. The job I had a year before in Liverpool, while it had been much more modest, was always intellectually rewarding, so I never felt I was overworked and underpaid. Now, I can't help but feel that I ran out of luck.

Tuesday's Dead

I know it's Friday, but I had this Cat Stevens song in the head since yesterday evening:

Thursday, 16 October 2008

Ambiance automnale

J'ai pris quelques photos d'arbres dans le voisinage, histoire d'immortaliser une journée d'automne comme je les aime: il faisait soleil mais l'air était frais, presque froid. Ces photos ont été prises à divers moments de la journée, du matin jusqu'à la brunante. J'ai passé beaucoup de temps dehors et je ne l'ai pas regretté. Puisque je vais recommencer à travailler bientôt (et il était temps), autant profiter du beau temps autant que possible. Au Québec, les couleurs seraient plus vives et moins vertes, ici l'automne arrive un mois plus tard ou presque, mais il vaut quand même la peine de le vivre. J'adore l'atmosphère qui se dégageait de cette journée d'octobre. Comme je l'ai déjà dit, la nature n'est jamais aussi belle que lorsqu'elle meurt. Ce n'est pas étonnant qu'on ait choisi ce temps de l'année pour l'Halloween. Ca, je l'ai déjà dit aussi...

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Pumpkin

This is the pumpkin I bought for Halloween. I could have had a gigantic one in Montreal for much less, but nevermind, it is a nice pumpkin and we will make a really nice Jack O'Lantern this year. I love making Jack O'Lanterns and I think I am pretty good at it. Anyway, it is going to take a bit of space, but it will be worth it in the end. I promise to show pictures of the carved pumpkin when it is done.

A solution for the hungry nostalgic expat

I found this site, this other site and that one which are supposed to provide products for the Canadian living abroad (such as Map-O-Spread, Grenache spread, Laura Secord chocolates and so on). I don't know if I can order anything to be sent here in England (I guess abroad is abroad), but it would be nice to get some Kraft peanut butter. I will have to see first about how expensive it is.

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Danse macabre

"Zig et zig et zag, la mort en cadence
Frappant une tombe avec son talon,
La mort à minuit joue un air de danse,
Zig et zig et zag, sur son violon.
"

-Henri Cazalis, dans le poème qui a inspiré Saint-Saëns

Comme c'est l'Halloween bientôt, j'ai pensé mettre ici La Danse macabre de Camille Saint-Saëns. C'est sans doute l'ouvrage de Saint-Saëns que je préfère. J'aime le mélange de joyeux et de sinistre.

News of some relative importance

I might have a job very soon (starting next week, actually). It's a meagre salary, it's a tiny bit far, I am pretty sure I won't like it much but right now, it's better than unemployment and I need something. I mean, I really, really, really need something, as staying here all day would drive me crazy. So well, I might say yes.

Paddington Bear

Yesterday was the 50th birthday of the Paddington Bear. I already mentioned Paddington in an entry in French, the animated series was one of the things that made me discover England (and marmelade). You have the first episode in the French blog entry, I am putting the second one here. As of today you can find about episodes on youtube. Paddington is really adorably naïve.

Monday, 13 October 2008

Un réactionnaire bien de chez nous

Je me plains souvent ici des intégristes religieux de toutes sortes. Un article paru aujourd'hui dans cyberpresse m'a rappelé qu'on a aussi, au Québec, des intégristes. Enfin, intégriste, le mot est peut-être un peu fort, mais réactionnaire semblerait indiqué. Je n'ai rien contre la religion, en général et je ne suis pas particulièrement anticlérical, mais ce genre de nouvelles me rappelle pourquoi j'ai perdu la foi et pourquoi je me méfie des curés. Son Éminence avait fait un passage remarqué lors de la commission Bouchard-Taylor, où il avait déjà parlé de son souhait de réévangéliser le Québec. Son Éminence, voyez-vous, est un onctueux passéiste: il trouve qu'on ne croit plus assez et il blâme notre incroyance et notre apostasie pour tout ce qui va mal au Québec. Or, le Québec a peut-être son lot de problèmes aujourd'hui, mais revenir à l'époque où l'État et le monde de l'éducation avaient des relations tellement étroites avec l'Église que l'on pourrait les qualifier d'incestueuses ne les règlerait en rien. Si on a rejeté l'Église et Dieu, c'est peut-être qu'on avait de bonnes raisons, et que l'on ne peut pas bâtir des valeurs communes, enseigner des vertus civiques à nos enfants en se basant sur ce qui demeure invérifiable. Je soupçonne son Éminence de vouloir exorciser le Québec de sa laïcité. Manque de chance, c'est un démon dont la plupart de mes compatriotes s'accomodent fort bien et c'est tant mieux.

Sunday, 12 October 2008

The fog

We got more fog today, it's absolutely beautiful outside. I love the eerie atmosphere the fog gives to a day. It's perfect for autumn. It also means, if I am not mistaken, that it is going to be sunny later on. I took some pictures a few minutes ago, so here is a new one.

Friday, 10 October 2008

L'idiot du village

Ainsi donc, il semblerait que Maxime Bernier sera réélu facilement en Beauce, en dépit de son insignifiance et de son manque total d'éthique. Comme quoi l'esprit chauvin et la putasserie éhontée peut avoir de l'effet. Je l'ai déjà déploré ici et ici. J'ai déjà aussi employé l'expression "idiot du village" pour décrire Maxime Bernier. Donc, les Beaucerons veulent toujours réenvoyer Bernier à Ottawa où, si les Conservateurs font un mauvais score au Québec, il redeviendra sans doute ministre. Étrange quand même qu'aucun des compatriotes de Bernier qui semblent détester Julie Couillard ne se posent des questions sur le jugement de celui qui s'est amouraché d'elle. J'imagine qu'on pardonne beaucoup à l'idiot du village, il est toujours si sympathique...

Marquise, si mon visage...

C'est l'anniversaire de mon petit frère aujourd'hui, il a trente ans. Je suis passé par là il y a un an et demie, et je peux confirmer que ça donne un sacré coup de vieux. Quand on atteint la trentaine, on n'est pas à bout d'âge, mais on est conscient du temps qui passe. C'était du moins mon cas et je crois que c'est le sien aussi. J'ai donc décidé de lui mettre ici, en son honneur, une chanson de Georges Brassens, qui est son chanteur préféré et qui parle du passage du temps. Les paroles sont de Corneille, mais le dernier couplet est de Brassens lui-même.

BATS!

I discovered this yesterday at sundown: we have bats flying over the garden. I spent almost an hour looking at them. They are very fast and quite small, so I couldn't take pictures, even though I tried. I might take a look at them tonight, it will be my evening activity. With Halloween coming, it's just a nice little thing to do to put myself in the mood.

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Brouillard

Le brouillard était là ce matin, je me suis empressé de prendre des photos.
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There was mist this morning, I hurried up to take pictures.

In Memoriam: Jacques Brel

English below... As usual it will be a free translation from French.

Jacques Brel s'est éteint il y a trente ans. Je l'ai découvert sur le tard, au début de la vingtaine, mais je suis devenu un grand admirateur. J'y reviens toujours. Que dire sur Brel sans tomber dans les clichés? C'était à la fois un chanteur, un poète et un acteur, le tout en symbiose parfaite. Déjà là, je dis des clichés et je ne lui rends pas justice. Je vais donc mettre Le Dernier Repas, pour ceux qui ne le connaissent pas encore (et, dans mon lectorat francophone, ça m'étonnerait qu'il y en ait). C'est probablement la meilleure façon de lui rendre hommage: écouter et se taire.

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Jacques Brel died 30 years ago. As I said before, I discovered him relatively late in my life, but I became a big admirer. It is difficult to explain how great he was without resorting to clichés. In English, his songs have been translated, or to be more accurate rewritten, and often massacred in the process. I strongly urge my readership to discover the real deal. I am putting here Le Dernier Repas, about the fantasised/idealised last moments of a man. I don't wish to sound too dramatic, but a few years ago, I had the occasion to think about my own death. If there is a way to go, I think this is the right way. Notice that the song isn't as much about death than about the last moments of life, which the characters wishes to enjoy to the fullest, unrepentant, regretting nothing, adamant about his (absence of) belief, yet he cannot help but feel scared about what is going to happen to him.

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

A look at the bookshelves

Here are some pictures I took today of the bookshelves here. Fascinating things, bookshelves, it tells a lot about a person or a household if you take a look at them. I don't have many books here, if you compare to what I had in Montreal where I had loads of bookshelves, but it is still good, especially since I will slowly get back at least the essential books from Montreal, which are stashed at my parent's house. All in all, with what I gained through my studies (I was never keen on borrowing books, so I bought loads) and my hobbies, I probably have enough for a small local library. That said, the collection I have here is not bad at all. It is, however, a bit messy, as there is not nearly enough room on the small bookshelves for my already growing collection. Most of them have been read already, and there are quite a few that belong to my wife. You can probably notice the Anthony Burgess books (of course) and many, many crime novels.

Brume matinale

Il y avait un peu de brume ce matin, assez peu mais quand même. Elle est vite disparue et je n'ai pas eu le temps de la photographier. Bien sûr, il fait maintenant un soleil splendide, c'est donc une belle journée d'automne. Je vais essayer de passer autant de temps possible dehors, regarder les feuilles tomber et peut-être m'arrêter dans un pub pour prendre un verre. Et oui, c'est un peu court comme billet, mais la journée ne fait que commencer.

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

La brunante

Un commentaire anonyme (qui venait de mon père je crois) sur mon billet sur l'expression "entre chein et loup" m'a rappelé qu'il existe aussi une autre expression québécoise pour décrire le crépuscule: la brunante. Comme je l'ai déjà dit, j'aime particulièrement ce moment quand on passe du jour à la nuit, surtout à l'automne où les jeux d'ombre et lumière sont magnifiques. Au moment où j'écris ces lignes, il n'est pas sept heures encore et il commence déjà à faire sombre.

The voice of Pelecanos

Found this video on youtube, it's funny to hear his voice. He looks like one of my uncles. I want to read his new book.

Monday, 6 October 2008

Jacques Brel and Amsterdam

An article on cyberpresse reminded me today: on the 9th of October, it will be the 30th anniversary of the death of Jacques Brel. My francophone readers will forgive me to talk about him here first in English, but he is still too much of an unknown in the English speaking world. I discovered Jacques Brel in my early 20s, when I was working as a dishwasher in a fancy restaurant. We used to play his songs for the customers and then when we were closing down. I slowly got into it, and by the end of summertime he was one of my favourite singers. His songs like Le moribond and Amsterdam (among others) were adapted poorly in English and didn't do justice to his incredible talent. I will put Amsterdam here, a classic, with subtitles. Amsterdam is probably one of my favourite song of Brel, it is powerful, evocative and turns grim realities into poetry.

L'éducation et la culture au Québec

Pas que j'aime particulièrement me retourner le fer dans la plaie, mais il y a des jours où j'aimerais résider encore à Montréal. Ainsi donc, ils engagent maintenant des enseignants sans permis, ce qui n'est pas un mal. Je suis sceptique quant aux bienfaits d'un baccalauréat en pédagogie de quatre ans alors que les enseignants manquent cruellement de culture générale. La pédagogie ne donne aucune culture et je me rappelle de l'ignorance crasse de bien des profs de secondaire. Il y en avait des bons, mais le ratio de "syndiqués solides" (pour reprendre une expression de Prenez garde aux chiens dans un sketch assez comique) était passablement élevé. J'ai déjà parlé de l'enseignement secondaire au Québec ici. Cela dit, j'ai longtemps essayé d'enseigner à ce niveau, à défaut de travailler dans un cégep (ce qui est très difficile). Sans vouloir me vanter, je croyais pouvoir relever modestement le niveau des cours. Peine perdue, parce que pas de permis d'enseignement. Aujourd'hui, à en croire ce que je lis dans cyberpresse, ça ne poserait plus vraiment problème. Mais je me demande quel genre d'autorité on peut avoir quand on possède une "tolérance d'enseignement".

Sunday, 5 October 2008

I miss the stage

Okay, this is another nostalgic entry. I didn't know when to write it, but this is a rainy Sunday and it is just a good time as any. I used to do acting, a long, long time ago. I started it by chance, the production of the French play at university was short of one actor to play the role of Purgon in Le Malade imaginaire. It was just a few lines, so I decided to go along. I got hooked. The next year I got a much more important role (in Ionesco's Rhinocéros, where I had to change into a rhino in Act II) and then I got the main part in La Farce de maître Pierre Pathelin the following year. I was pretty good, maybe even talented, enough to get some acting lessons in Montreal, where I learned that talent is one thing, but you need to work very hard to become professional. I didn't pursue my career, but I loved, loved, loved the experience and I often miss it.

In my life, I have been attracted by two performing arts: opera and acting. There is a pleasure about getting on stage and playing a character, making an audience connect to you emotionally that is exhilarating. I said acting is very hard, but it can really easy in some aspects. Memorising the lines was for me a piece of cake: you just have to read them often enough, and besides a character gets in your body, literally, so the lines come naturally enough, if you can get into the character (or, more accurately, if you can get the character to be in you). Now, getting the emotions right and interacting naturally with the cast, that's trickier. But in the end, when you are in front of an audience and it works, there is nothing more satisfying than that. And that is why I miss the stage.

Saturday, 4 October 2008

Blog roll

Just a quick notice: I now have a blog roll at the right. At last.

Petite nature

Je n'ai bu que deux pintes hier, après un repas assez consistant, j'ai bu beaucoup d'eau avant de me coucher, j'ai même marché à la rencontre de ma tendre épouse quand elle est revenue de sa soirée marocaine, pourtant j'ai un petit mal de bloc. Je crains d'être une petite nature, incapable de prendre un verre. Il est vrai que j'ai bu deux bières sombres, qui ont la réputation de donner des maux de tête épiques. Enfin, il fait assez froid aujourd'hui, on a un mois d'octobre qui ressemble à un mois d'octobre, alors je vais traiter mon lendemain de veille (enfin, lendemain de veille, je n'ai guère veillé) cet après-midi en prenant une promenade automnale dans la nature en fête. Ca va me replacer la tête et l'estomac.

Friday, 3 October 2008

An evening of eating and drinking excesses

I am exaggerating by the way, for the sake of a good title. This blog is, after all, called Vraie Fiction, hence part of what I say is fictitious. I did not eat too much (although it was a big meal) and I have no intention to drink too much (I like to enjoy drinking, not be embarrassed by it). As it is that day of the week, and as I try to be a good little Catholic boy (yeah, right), I just had a delicious fish and chips (and this is not the fish and chips I had tonight, it is the one I had weeks ago). It will fill me up and might block my arteries, but hey, I just have that kind of dinner once in a while. My wife is at a party with her colleagues, so I decided to eat something she would find disgusting and drink a little bit of beer and enjoy myself somewhere out. There is an Oktoberfest evening in a pub nearby, I'll have a look there and I might drink a few pints.

I Want to Marry a Lighthouse Keeper

Well, that's the title of the song, I have no intention to re-marry, especially not a lighthouse keeper, that sounds like a boring job anyway. Okay, I am again referring to something related to A Clockwork Orange, but, but, BUT, I have a good (enough) excuse this time. Erika Eigen is what we could call a one hit wonder, and I feel sorry for her. It seems that the song is taken from this album and its real name is Lighthouse Keeper. She did that song, which got famous because Stanley Kubrick incorporated it in his famous movie and then she faded into celebrity nothingness. Now she is an unknown. And it's not a great song, it's not a brilliant song with brilliant lyrics, but it's funny and enjoyable enough. So I found this performance by Eigen herself on youtube, and we might as well give it a go:

Montréal dans l'oeil du typhon?

Il semblerait que le policier qui a tué Fredy Villanueva ne sera pas accusé au criminel. Je m'en doutais et pour être honnête je suis heureux pour lui. Comme je l'ai déjà dit ici, sa collègue était attaquée. Je suis content qu'on n'a pas fait de lui un agneau sacrificiel. Cela dit, bien que ce soit selon moi la conclusion logique de la mort de Villanueva, cela risque de mettre le feu aux poudres. Les tensions qui ont mené à l'émeute sont toujours là, espérons que si le couvercle saute, le SPVM sera mieux préparé.

Thursday, 2 October 2008

Religulous

Another movie I want to see. I got to give it to Bill Maher, he got guts. I am deeply worried about fundamentalism, coming from all religions. They have a fair share of fundamentalists in the US, of course, but we also have a few of those freaks here in the UK, and of course, sadly, in my beloved Québec. I think this documentary will give us all a healthy dose of secularism. A hilarious moment of the movie here.

Bernier, Couillard, l'hypocrisie et la lâcheté

Bon, je reviens sur l'affaire Bernier-Couillard, parce que Julie Couillard a publié son autobiographie. Ca s'appelle Mon Histoire, mais ça pourrait aussi avoir pour titre Les Confessions d'une vulgaire arriviste. Car je le dis d'entrée de jeu, pour éviter toute ambiguité avant de parler de Maxime Bernier: je n'ai pas de sympathie pour son ex. Couillard a frayé avec le monde interlope, elle a eu des liaisons avec quatre criminels notoires, et ce en pleine guerre de gangs, quand les bombes sautaient à Montréal. Elle n'a eu aucun problème de conscience avec cela et ça rend la chose doublement répréhensible. Donc, je prends les "révélations" qu'elle fait avec un grain de sel.

Cela dit, rien n'excuse l'attitude lâche et hypocrite de Maxime Bernier dans toute cette affaire. Oui, son ex est une menteuse et une opportuniste. Mais justement: c'est son ex. Il aurait pu et dû faire acte de contrition et en même temps faire preuve d'un peu de transparence. Par là, je veux dire qu'il aurait dû admettre que sa liaison avec Mme Couillard, étant donné son passé, était d'intérêt public, admettre son erreur de jugement et sa naïveté. Mais non, au lieu de cela, il se drape toujours dans la fierté beauceronne. Utiliser la fierté régionale comme argument, il l'a déjà fait. C'est lâche et hypocrite. Incapable d'expliquer comment il n'a pas pu savoir que son ex avait eu des rapports avec le crime organisé (ce qui me fait penser que Bernier savait, ce qui est en soi plus effrayant), incapable de donner sa versiond es faits, il amène ses compatriotes à la rescousse. Plutôt que de passer pour un imbécile, il dit que si on l'accuse d'être un imbécile, c'est qu'on accuse tous les Beaucerons de l'être. Minable. Finalement, même si je suis sceptique quant à la véracité des faits rapportés par Julie Couillard dans son autobiographie, je crois qu'elle a fait un portrait assez exact de Maxime Bernier: fallot, narcissique, brouillon, imbécile, malgré tout cela terriblement ambitieux et, s'il savait dès le début qu'elle était l'ex de criminels, indigne d'avoir quelque fonction élective que ce soit. J'espère que les Beaucerons ne lui pardonneront pas et qu'ils le renverront à sa position d'idiot de village, fonction qu'il remplit très bien. Hélas, à lire la presse écrite ces temps-ci, il semblerait qu'ils pardonnent bien des choses à leur idiot du village. Ce qui me fait penser à cette chanson délicieuse de Georges Brassens, que je dédie volontiers à tous ceux qui vont voter pour Bernier le 14 octobre parce qu'il est de chez eux:

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Countdowm for Halloween


Well, it's the first day of October, which means Halloween is in a month now. I will spend the month reading horror stories, watching horror films (when my wife lets me) and overall preparing myself mentally for the 31st of October. I love Halloween, it is my favourite holiday. I love the element of fear and the way the holiday makes us confront them, I love the eating excesses of the season, I love the colours of Halloween, I love carving Jack O'Lanterns (oh yes, especially that). In Montreal, I used to spend ages decorating the flat and carving the Jack O'Lantern. The pumpkins we had were huge, here they are much smaller, sadly. At the top of this entry, you can see one Jack O'Lantern I carved in 2004, at the right some Jack O'Lantern done by my brother a few years ago and at the bottom left the one I made last year here in England. I always wanted to put them on this blog, so here they are. I hope we get a good October month, not too grey, colourful and just chilly enough.