Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Improvised pasta alla puttanesca

A week ago, I was alone here while my wife was away, so had to cook for myself. I don't really like being alone much, not only because I miss her but because I lost habit of cooking for one, but on the bright side it allows me to cook things she would not eat. So that's what I decided to do that night.

It might not be very original to say, but I love Italian cuisine, maybe more than any other. There is one particular type of pasta dish I like, it is alla puttanesca. I discovered it at Misto in Montreal, last August. There is everything in that sauce I like: capers, olives, a bit of chilli for the taste and a bit of fish for the protein intakes. I am usually not a big fan of tomato sauce, especially with pasta, but I love the mix of tomatoes and fish (a surprisingly successful marriage of flavours), and it works wonders in the recipe. It is usually a spaghetti dish, but we don't have spaghetti so I had it with fusilli instead.

This was not the only change I had to make to cook it. We don't have anchovies, so instead I put in a tin of sardines. It was a great idea as I didn't know what to do with it. I also put harissa instead of chilli. And I am not sure if proper puttanesca has onions, but I put fried some anyway. But the rest was following the recipe with orthodoxy: loads of capers and as much as I could of olives (in other words what was left in the jar). You can see the result on the picture. I know, the bowl on the left looks messy, with the sauce on the side.

I mention following the recipe "with orthodoxy" in the previous paragraph, but I think the nature of the dish, and its appeal to me, is its improvised, messy, completely unorthodox recipe. I don't know if this is a urban legend or not, but it was supposed to have been invented by prostitutes. The Wikipedia entry also mentions another origin, much less romantic than the other one. The first theory is just seedy enough to remain mysterious without being tasteless (bad pun I know) and fits the dish's exotism.

Bon débarras...

Finalement, il s'en va à Rome. Je ne saurais dire si je dois dire "Enfin!" ou "trop tôt". Tout sentiment égoïste mis de côté, pour le Québec, ce ne sera jamais trop tôt. Partez vite et revenez tard, sinistre ensoutané.

Sunday, 27 June 2010

Enjoying not being part of it

I will start this post by a great unknown line. Last Wednesday, I went to a meeting at work. The person holding it told me: "So you are not into football". Stupidly I asked why: England was of course playing, which I had barely noticed. I was the only invited person who attended the meeting.

Today England played again, and lost, but I barely watch the game. If it wasn't for my wife being disappointed, I would not have cared at all about the game. I went in the garden instead, put down the picnic towel we had bought earlier on and I read. It was (and is still) the hottest day of the year, everything was silent outside but for the far away background noise of TVs. The town was otherwise so quiet I could have been the only living person here. I was alone, an outsider, not being part of that moment and not caring one bit.

Une bonne nouvelle brassicole

Je voulais utiliser cette photo de la sélection de bières que j'ai dégustées à Granville Island Brewing (remarquez le jus de pommes que ma femme a bu s'est retrouvé dans la photo) depuis un certain temps. Aujourd'hui, une bonne nouvelle sur le monde brassicole québécois me donne l'excuse de l'utiliser. D'accord, Granville Island Brewery est basée à Vancouver, mais tout de même.

Donc, les microbrasseries québécoises prennent de l'expansion dans le marché, en occupant maintenant 7% des parts, alors qu'ils étaient à 5% il y a cinq ans. Ca semble peu, mais dans un marché où la concurrence est aussi féroce, c'est une excellente nouvelle, surtout que nous revenons de lui. En un peu plus de quinze ans, le monde de la bière a changé radicalement au Québec et pour le mieux. Je le sais, j'ai été témoin de ces changements. Depuis que j'ai l'âge légal de boire (toux sèche), j'ai eu une préférence pour la bière. Or, les microbrasseries ont donné aux Québécois un vrai choix de bières, une vraie culture brassicole. Avant leur arrivée, on buvait de l'eau terne en guise de bière. Les microbrasseries ont amené (ramené?) le souci de la qualité dans le marché de la bière, ils ont introduit une véritable libre concurrence et le consommateur est en bout de ligne le grand gagnant. Alors je vais sans doute prendre une pinte cette semaine pour célébrer. En espérant qu'un jour les microbrasseries québécoises percent le marché anglais...

Saturday, 26 June 2010

Little nothings that make life

I have been thinking about it for a long while and I decided to blog about it. By "it", I mean nothing really, I mean the trivial, the useless, the unimportant stuff that we see, we live, we experience and that get stuck in our head like a stupid song. Meaningless things like that family in the swimming pool while I was getting back from work on a hot day. It seems that I either blog about big, meaningful stuff, or the utterly trivial. This is a post about the trivial. So here are a few meaningless things that remain in my psyche:

-There was a caterpillar on my shoulder when I walked in for the interview. The interviewer, now my boss (or manager), got freaked out. I flicked the caterpillar on the floor, was about to suggest to squash it but thought better. I didn't know what to do. Offer myself to throw it in the nearest bush, the nearest plant? The interviewee had to go on. But I think it kept my future manager uncomfortable for some reason.

-There is a black cat that walks around the garden sometimes, he is not very sociable sadly. There is also a cow coloured cat (white with blck spots) who is not either and a tabby cat who is a bit shy at first, but ended up rubbing my feet after a few minutes of me being friendly. I want to adopt that one. So cute. I am really tempted to adopt all those alley cats the moment they rub my legs.

-I recently broke my coat and had to sew it myself. It was when it was still not too hot outside, we went to a local café and one of its pockets got stuck in the arm of the armchair I was about to sit on. The pocket got ripped apart. I am terrible at sewing, yet I did an okay job. It is a very cheap coat bought last year in reduction in H&M (I think), yet I really love it and do not want to get rid of it yet.

-And, somewhat related to the previous point, we have a new café here. The owner and staff are very young, I don't know how well they can do where they are situated, but we will certainly encourage them as much as we can, as they are an independent café.

So yes, that was partially what my life was about recently. Insignificant events that got stuck in my head.

Moi mes souliers

Nous sommes encore en lendemain de Saint-Jean et j'ai pensé mettre encore un peu de musique québécoise, surtout que je n'ai pas pu fêter autant que je l'aurais voulu. Je ne brillerai pas par excès d'originalité ici, surtout après que mon frère ait découvert des chansons québécoises relativement peu connues et les aies mises sur son blogue. Il a toujours été plus tenance en recherche que moi. Sérieusement, allez voir son billet, il en vaut la peine. Il donne aussi un aperçu de ce qu'on écoutait, mes frères et moi, durant notre enfance.

Enfin, je mets ici Moi mes souliers de Félix Leclerc, l'une de mes chansons préférées de son répertoire. Nous allons partir en vacances bientôt ma femme et moi (on en a besoin) et le voyageur que je suis parfois trouve dans cette chanson une incitation au départ. Elle me fait aussi penser à ma condition de Québécois apatride. J'ai cette chanson en tête à chaque fois que je dois me défaire avec regret d'une paire de souliers usés, ce qui m'arrive plus souvent qu'à mon tour. L'interprétation ici est tirée d'une scène tirée du film (de la télésérie?) Les brûlés, dont je me rappelle encore quelques extraits lorsque mon père la regardait. Pas que je sois si vieux, mais le film (télésérie?) repassait de temps en temps. Je m'en rappelle peu, mais à en juger par cet extrait, c'était tourné de manière très professionnelle. L'atmosphère est particulièrement prenante: des colonisateurs se rendant dans le fin fond de l'Abitibi chercher un avenir meilleur dans une terre pourtant rébarbative, l'immense forêt semblant prête à les avaler. Avec la musique en plus, c'est une scène magnifique.

Friday, 25 June 2010

In French with English words

I wonder if my blog is not a blog written in French, sometimes with English words. I was thinking about it reading The Dragonfly of Chicoutimi, which I blogged about recently. The play, a brilliant work, which owns to Beckett as much as it does to Kafka and Ionesco, has been qualified as a play "en français avec des mots anglais" (in French with English words). I am not trying to be immodest here. I understand perfectly that this blog doesn't own anything to the great writers mentioned above, it is not their heir, it has nothing of the genius of Larry Tremblay's play. But it has the same cultural background: it is written by a guy who grew up in Chicoutimi and now thinks (often) in English. The mistakes I make, the barbarisms, the clumsy expressions, it is all due to my culture. It is almost part of the style. Furthermore, my sensibilities, the things I care about, my vision of life, all these things influence my writing in a foreign language. So reading the play, I started forgetting the sense of guilt I sometimes have blogging in English. Because I do not blog in English. I blog in French, Quebec French, Saguenay French, Chicoutimi French even, using English words.

Thursday, 24 June 2010


Bonne Fête nationale à mes compatriotes, de la part d'un expatrié. S'il existe une diaspora en Angleterre, faites-moi signe. Et à ceux chez nous, il est de circonstances de vous dédier cette chanson:

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Oh to be in the water!

It was very hot today... Again. On the way back home, I saw some people, a small family in a swimming pool in the back garden. A relatively rare thing in this country. The mother (I think) waved at the passengers. Oh how I loathed it! I felt miserable. Summer can be merciless.

Pour ne pas oublier la St-Jean-Baptiste

Je ne l'apprendrai pas à mes compatriotes, mais pour les autres: c'est la Saint-Jean-Baptiste demain, à cause du travail je ne vais pas célébrer autant que je le voudrais. Je me sens particulièrement expatrié dans ces moments-là. Bon, ce n'est pas nouveau, mais ce n'est jamais drôle. Une autre année à fêter la Fête nationale comme un expatrié.

Si je vivais encore à Montréal, j'irais me promener au Parc Lafontaine (photo de droite) parce que j'associe étrangement le parc avec ma québécitude, puis j'irais prendre une bière et ça finirait sans doute là. Enfin, ça se résumerait à boire beaucoup, car je ne m'arrêterais pas à une bière. Que vais-je faire demain? Je vais m'habiller de bleu, je vais écouter de la musique québécoise et je vais essayer de prendre un verre en pensant au pays. Ca se résumera à ça. Il n'y a guère de différences, à bien y songer, entre ma façon de fêter ici et chez moi. Tout est dans l'atmosphère: ici ce n'est pas festif (enfin si, mais à cause du Mondial de soccer), personne n'est en congé et je le 24 juin est une journée comme une autre. J'ai l'état d'esprit d'un Québécois, dans un pays qui ne l'est désespérément pas. Si au moins il y avait une vraie diaspora québécoise ici. Mais bon. Au moins j'ai ce blogue, une autre manière de ne pas oublier mes racines.


I don't know if it is a heatwave or not, but summer has been going on full mode the last few days, since I started working actually. I don't know what to make of it, to be honest. I am glad it looks and feels like summertime, but I don't appreciate it as much as I could/should as I am at work all day. I go out and enjoy the summery weather when I can, if I can. That's something I rediscovered recently: sometimes one can appreciate work more if the weather is lousy. Some kind of work anyway. There is something else I discovered too: feeling something is not necessarily appreciating it. I feel the summer, but its heat I could do without, in these circumstances anyway.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Une question au juge Dugré

Le juge Gérard Dugré a donné gain de cause à un collège catholique qui ne voulait pas enseigner les cours d'ECR. Je ne suis pas ung rand fan du programme, mais c'est un moindre mal à mon avis, cela dit je m'abstiendrai de commenter la nouvelle, n'en sachant pas assez sur la cause. Yves Boisvert commente le jugement ici, André Pratte est tout enthousiaste (surprise!) .

Donc, je ne commenterai pas le jugement lui-même, cela dit je tiens à poser une question ouverte au juge, lequel semble prendre très au sérieux la suprématie de Dieu, fondement de la Charte canadienne des droits. Ce n'était là sans doute qu'une allusion pour faire de l'effet, et oui c'est dans la Charte, cela dit c'est un fondement qui m'a toujours laissé profondément songeur. Ma question est la suivante: c'est quoi ça, la suprématie de Dieu?

Blank mind

I am blogging while it is still the 21st, but will schedule this post for the next day. It is the first day of summer and in spite of the heat I barely noticed, because it is the first day of my new job. Nothing to say but that it is as exhausting as a first day usually is. My mind is blank, got no idea about what to blog about for the near future, I can't concentrate on anything, but the pain in my body leaves me no doubt: I am alive. Somehow, I find this reassuring.

J'en ai oublié l'été

J'écris ces lignes le 21, mais ce billet ne sera publié que le lendemain. Premier jour de travail, donc. Je n'aurais jamais cru que ce serait aussi épuisant, même si je n'ai pas fait grand-chose à part lire des documents. Je suis rentré épuisé. Demain, même manège... J'en ai oublié qu'aujourd'hui c'est officiellement le premier jour de l'été.

Sunday, 20 June 2010

First day at the office tomorrow

I am starting my new job tomorrow. I hope I will enjoy it, it will certainly be an interesting change of pace and environment. Let's see if I will get a Monday feeling or if the excitement will make me enthusiastic. My new job was on my mind a lot today, but I will try not to bore my readership too much with too many posts about it. More importantly, I'll make sure that the posts on this topic will be interesting.

Question existentielle (10)

Avant de poser ;a question existentielle d'aujourd'hui, je tiens à dire que j'ai passé un excellent dimanche, gâté un peu par l'ombre du lundi de travail qui s'en vient. Mais voici la question:

-D'ordinaire, quel jour du dimanche ou du lundi est le plus déprimant et pourquoi?

A Dead Man in Deptford... in 2011?

I didn't see that one coming. I discovered on imdb that there is a project of adaptation of another novel of Anthony Burgess. I can barely believe it. I have read A Dead Man in Deptford, I have to confess that it was not my favourite of his novels. I have to re-read it, see if I can appreciate more now, as it was considered one of his greatest. I don't know how serious the project is, if the 2011 is a realistic release date and if it is promising to be any good. In any case, it is nice to know that something else is being done to remind the public of a great writer. I need to ask the Foundation what they know about it.

Se dépêcher d'aller à Rome

Selon une rumeur sérieuse et crédible, Marc Ouellet irait remplir d'autres fonctions à Rome. Dans un premier temps, je me suis dit: "Bon débarras, le plus tôt sera le mieux." Puis, j'ai songé que je voulais voir Rome un jour et que ce jour devrait venir avant que Monsignor Ouellet y soit. Je ne veux pas être égoïste, après tout le sinistre ensoutané méprise le Québec moderne (la modernité en général en fait) et ses prises de position allument la flamme du fanatisme dans une frange radicale de catholiques.

Cela dit, j'ai déjà été en Italie et, si je m'accomode des prêtres là-bas, je crains que la ville soit un peu petite pour moi et ce curé en particulier. Enfin, ce n'est pas comme si je risque de tomber dessus, mais je préfèrerais éviter le risque. Étrange quand même: Marc Ouellet ne me connaît pas, mais il est devenu ma bête noire de prédilection.

Friday, 18 June 2010

Other chance encounters

There is one thing I won't miss one bit with my new job: it's the chance encounters with students from the school I was working in. I was at the local sweet shop this afternoon to get something for my sugar craving (I am now a regular and they like me enough to give me free samples of pretty much everything), I was unshaven, wearing sloppy clothes and all of a sudden I saw a swarm of students coming in. It isn't the first time I bump into them and it just reminded me that every weekend not so long there was someone to remind me of my working environment. They are nice kids and it's not like seeing people from my other old job, but it will be nice to have this geographical and emotional distance between my work environment and me. Sure, I might see colleagues, but the chances are much smaller.

Question existentielle (9)

Ma femme regarde le football, enfin le Mondial de soccer, Angleterre contre Algérie. J'ai essayé de suivre, mais je n'y arrive pas et je retourne à l'ordinateur.Ca fait dix ans que je suis ici, jamais durant ces dix ans dans une nation et sur un continent qui vit à travers le football n'ai-je réussi à regarder un match sans m'emmerder souverainement. Ce qui m'amène donc à ma nouvelle question existentielle:

-Pourquoi est-ce que je n'arrive pas à m'intéresser au football?

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Corvids are superior creatures

I watched a documentary recently (I think it was on Channel 5, Extraordinary Animals I believe) about ravens and crows, showing how intelligent they were. They have excellent memory and some ravens even use tools to pick up their food, something only apes and humans do in the animal kingdom. I just find these kind of documentaries and what they teaches us fascinating.

Ravens and crows often have a bad reputation in the West. In Middle Ages, they were associated with disease and plague. I read once in a Dictionnaire des symboles that negative associations was probably due to the fact that corvids were stealing harvest to primitive cultures. That and their colour, which But on a more positive association, Odin had two ravens at his service. As a child, I didn't like to hear crows in the morning. I now admire them greatly, but I still like the sinister myths surrounding them. In our Dungeons & Dragons game, my brother had the brilliant idea to have the god of evil in our world be associated to ravens and his servants and worshippers using the raven as an emblem. Sauron was a burning red eye, Voldemort was a snake, our darklord is a raven opening his wings. Geniusly sinister.

But in the real world, they are just among the smartest birds one can ever find.

Calembour hilarant, tiré de Gotlib

cUn calembour d'un des Rubrique à brac de Gotlib, je ne me rappelle plus lequel, il est génial parce que profondément absurde et volontairement tarabiscoté. Mise en contexte: un roi voulait faire exécuter un prisonnier, il fit donc quérir le bourreau Faitonneau fils, il s'appellait ainsi parce qu'il était fils de Faitonneau père, dans la famille ils étaient bourreaux de père en fils, charmante tradition. Le roi ordonna donc:

"Bourreau Faitonneau fils, fais ton office."*

*"Qu'est-ce qu'on se poile!"

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Who reads this blog?

I blogged before about the nature of this blog. This post is not supposed to be as profound as that one was (not that it was a very profound one to begin with), just an anecdotal observation.

So I have been blogging for a while, and through writing posts and commenting on other people's blog, I got the attention of various people, from very different places. I "met" people through blogging that I might never meet in the flesh, from places I never visited and might never will, yet I got their attention. On my blogroll, you have blogs from the Untied States, from Canada, from Québec and England (of course!). Among the people who commented here there were also people from the Middle East, South Africa, Scotland and I might be missing a few. It makes me feel dizzy. My readership is very modest, last time I checked I had only seventeen followers, it is a ridiculously small number. I rarely have more than two or three comments on my posts either. However, even though it is a small readership, I do get some attention (I mentioned some in the post linked above).

More recently I was surprised to discover that people got here from the blog of a certain Miss Nahar. Vraie Fiction is even on her blogroll, for some reason. I have no idea why: she never commented here, she is from Indonesia (I think) and she blogs sporadically. I commented on her blog back in January, asking how I ever got on her blogroll, but never got any answer. It is very strange: she seems to be a very religious person and me being an unbeliever, that should have put her off. If my presence on her blogroll is a mystery to me, I find it a perfect illustration of how much travelling a blog can do.

La reine apatride

Tiens surprise, la reine Élizabeth ne viendra pas au Québec dans son prochain voyage au Canada. Le républicain que je suis va se retenir de persiffler (enfin, va essayer de se retenir de), mais force est de constater que c'est un peu pathétique: la souveraine d'un pays (car c'est de cela qu'il s'agit) n'ose pas y mettre les pieds, de peur que ses sujets le prennent mal. Toute l'absurdité de la monarchie comme institution est là, dans cette ignorance volontaire que Zaza fait du Québec: si la souveraine était vraiment souveraine des Québécois, elle s'y montrerait au grand jour avec la même aisance qu'elle le fait avec ses sujets britanniques. Et elle affronterait l'hostilité de la foule avec caractère. Or, elle n'ose même pas affronter directement ses détracteurs. Elle se retrouve donc persona non grata dans une partie de son propre royaume. Une reine apatride le temps d'un voyage, en somme. On pourrait avoir la courtoisie d'en finir avec la monarchie, ça lui éviterait les situations gênantes.

Et la photo de Betty a été prise lors de cette occasion par votre humble serviteur.

Monday, 14 June 2010

Those tortuous paths

So I will start my new job on the 21 after all. I don't know yet how it is going to turn out, suffice to say that it is far from the teaching world I have been used for the last year or so. It made me think of all the jobs I had, all the things I studied, the choices I made, the ones I refused to make and the paths I did not take.

There is a popular saying, taken from the Bible, that says that a man has to walk a "straight and narrow path" (the correct quote here). It makes for great songs, but it is inaccurate and naïve, at best. Paths in life are often narrow, but they are rarely straight. They are tortuous and filled with uncertainty. I could have been a lot of things at some point, yet I took educational and career paths that led me somewhere else and I was never sure of the arrival or the journey. I studied acting and opera, at some point I seriously considered becoming either an actor or an opera singer, but those careers are more uncertain than the life of an academic.

Even studying literature, a number of possibilities came to me. I decided to do medieval literature partially because it was one of the first period of literature I discovered I was naturally good at. But I found out later on that I could easily make intelligent and compelling analysis of contemporary plays (like say this one), Contemporary plays were never particularly attractive to me, but I had an almost unwilling fascination for them, enough to be good at "getting" them. I am still very proud of a paper I wrote on Krapp's Past Tape of Beckett, maybe my best essay as an undergrad. I could have become one of those many XXth century specialists, with a vast amount of plays to work on, including the ones of the all new XXIth century. I didn't follow that path, maybe because I was so unfamiliar with the field of studies that I thought I might not be original enough to sustain years of research in this field.

And there are of course other paths I might take, or not, and if I do I have no idea where they will lead. The teaching world has generally been good to me, except in recent years, where I had mixed results. It will be good to be away from it for a little while. But where will I be in a few months, I have no idea.

Bêtes noires

Il y a un terme qui m'est revenu à l'esprit à la lecture de ce billet: bête noire, ce qui veut dire quelqu'un ou quelque chose que l'on déteste particulièrement. C,est un joli mot qui décrit de manière délicieusement évocatrice une personne désagréable. Nous avons tous des bêtes noires, elles changent selon notre situation professionnelle et sociale, selon notre âge, etc. L'année dernière, l'une des profs à l'école où je travaillais était devenue ma bête noire. Je l'avais appelée ma némésis à l'époque, mais némésis est un terme trop poli: elle se comportait de manière dégueulasse et franchement méprisable. On peut avoir des rapports d'inimitié avec quelqu'un de désagréable mais on peu autrement respecter, voire admirer cette personne. La bête noire, elle, est méprisable et n'a pas de qualité digne de rédemption.

Il est difficile d'éviter les bêtes noires. Étudiant, j'en avais d'habitude au moins une à chaque année, souvent des étudiants, parfois des profs. Il y avait ces profs d'EPS qui franchement ne nous apprenaient rien, cette prof d'histoire qui m'avait pris en grippe parce que j'étais un peu trop naturellement bon en histoire, cet autre prof de religion qui était profondément inculte, donc populaire, il y en a d'autres aussi. Plus jeune, il y avait ce voisin, petit gros enfant gâté que des années plus tard je n'arrivais pas à blairer, à cause de trop de conflits enfantins. Les bêtes noires ont la vie dure, tout comme les sentiments qu'elles engendrent.

Sunday, 13 June 2010

A new great unknown line (from my wife)

Well, no it isn't new per se, it dates back to 2005 or 2006, I think. It is from my wife and it was so funny that it deserves to be listed here as a great unknown line. It is again food related (I might try to vary that a bit). So back then, we were dating but living an ocean apart. I was living in my Montreal flat but was supposed to have dinner with my mother and family at my brother's apartment. My mum had made some baked pasta with mince veal in it. So we were talking on the phone, Veggie Carrie and I, when I saw the time and told her I had to leave for dinner. Before leaving, she said:

"Enjoy your dead calf."

My mum later on found it hilarious and still remembers it to this day.

Bières et barbecue

Je viens de lire cet article sur quoi boire avec ses repas de barbecues. Le goût de manger un barbecue arrosé de bière me revient constamment ces temps-ci, pour diverses raisons. D'abord, c'est le temps de l'année pour les barbecues, ça sent la viande grillée partout lorsqu'il fait soleil. Ensuite parce qu'un voisin en fait à toutes les fins de semaine ou presque. Je ne suis pas sûr qu'il ait le droit, d'ailleurs.

L'article de Cyberpresse m'a fait songer à une ou deux choses. D'abord la bière est, à mon sens, la boisson pour les barbecues, plus que le vin en tout cas. Ensuite, les barbecues modernes, à en juger par les repas mentionnés dans l'article, sont plus complexes que ceux auxquels je participais. Y a-t-il moyen de nos jours de se contenter d'hot-dogs, d'hamburgers, de saucisses et de de brochettes? Je me sens un peu prolo à lire la liste sur le menu. Moins à lire les bières, quoique je me demande s'il n'y a pas un parti pris un peu trop prononcé sur les bières belges et les bières fortes. Moi, je bois des real ales avec mes repas, barbecues ou non.

Saturday, 12 June 2010

So I share two things with the pope?

There are days like this. I discovered that I have two things in common with the current pope. Reading about his interests in the Wikipedia page, I discovered that he loves classical music, particularly Mozart, who is by far is favourite composer, and that he loves cats! More about it here. On Mozart, you can read here.

I know that had to be expected from a man of his generation, but still, I was shocked. I should not, personal tastes are after all not exclusive tastes. And there is something both divinely and devilishly ironic about such an austere man admiring a musician who was as a person very vulgar, fond of scatological humour and as far as we know pretty similar to Shaffer's "obscene child". Sure, Mozart was also a good little Catholic, but that changes nothing to his vulgarity, or the very sensual nature of a lot of his music. So pope Benedict admires the composer of Don Giovanni, an opera where you root for its anti-hero, who is a murderous libertine, unrepenting even when threatened of eternal torments. I am suddenly wondering if the pope might not be a bit of a Salieri...

As for his love for cats, I just hope it can help him see animals in a more respectful way than many religious people do. At least he must have proper respect for felines. And he should, as they are superior creatures. But I guess Benedict would not go that far.

Un peu plus de nouvelles des ours

Un commentateur anonyme (je crois que c'est mon père) a laissé un lien sur les oursons blancs du Zoo de Saint-Félicien, sur lesquels j'ai blogué récemment. Le téléjournal régional (rérional?) en parle après six minutes trente secones, ou à peu près. Avis aux amateurs de plantigrades, donc.

Friday, 11 June 2010

Bread and animosity

Sometimes you get things on your mind for a few days, however unimportant they should be to you. Recently, my wife and I watched for the very first time an episode of Mary Queen of Shops, with Mary Portas. I had never heard of the woman before, but she seems to be the kind of businesswoman I usually like: smart, educated, sophisticated and well, almost artistic. The concept is interesting if a bit unoriginal: Mary Portas goes out to help struggling/failing shops that need a serious revamp. The same as Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmare and others.

Well, the first episode of the third season really got me obsessed since I saw it three days ago on IPlayer. In it, Portas comes to help Mahers and Sons, a London bakery stuck in the seventies by its owner's own admission, if not pride. Angela Maher and Portas clashed in a struggle of epic proportions and it stirred a fair bit of controversy. To cut a long story short, Portas wanted to revamp and modernise the bakery while Angela Maher wanted barely any changes. She resisted any suggestion, even tried to sabotage a few initiatives in order to protect her vision of bakery business and, more importantly, came off as rude and dismissive to practically everybody around her. As far as I could tell, the owner got little public support after the program. Whatever the bakery wants to spin, and however they want to spin it, I have no sympathy for the woman at all. I am a nostalgic man, I am actually a sucker for nostalgia, I can spend fortunes on old fashioned sweets as my readership knows. But even an unpractical nostalgic as I am knows that one cannot make a business viable by living in the past and that nostalgia, if that is indeed your niche, has to be profitable. But I could have excused the stubbornness of an old lady had she been considerate to the people around her. Angela Maher was rude, dismissive, condescending towards her own baker and downright arrogant and insulting towards an artisan baker, which you can see below. I understand that you can edit a program to make someone look worse than he/she is, but there is just so much you can really do.

And that's what really got me in this program, that's why it got me obsessed for days, so much so that I want to watch the episode again. We all had to deal with ungrateful, stubborn people and people with bad faith, people who only feel good, or better, when they put people down, with all the bad faith and venom they can have, so it flatters their own inflated idea of themselves, people whose only thing they really value is their own vanity. We all had bosses like that, teachers like that or neighbours like that. So yes, it got me all right. Anyway, you can see for yourself below. (And a disclaimer in case somebody thinks I am stygmatising Mrs Maher or taking part in a virtual lynch mob. Sure, she is no public figure, but she took part in a TV program, she knew her actions were going to be public and therefore susceptible to be criticised. I am sure she can be a charming old lady with her friends and loved ones, but it excuses nothing of her apalling behavior in the program.)

Thursday, 10 June 2010


English below...

Il y a un certain temps, ma femme m'a demandé de bloguer, à des fins éducatives, sur ce que c'est que d'être un carnivore vivant en couple avec une végétarienne. Je ne savais pas trop comment aborder le sujet. Puis l'idée m'est venue: je vais essayer d'exemplifier en parlant d'un de mes sandwiches préférés, le BLT. En fait je préfère le club sandwich, qui est pour moi LE sandwich parfait, mais son frère primitif est quand même délicieux.

J'aime les BLTs, pourtant je n'aime pas particulièrement le porc, je déteste le jambon et, problème lorsque je veux consommer un BLT ici, je n'aime pas le bacon anglais. trop épais, trop gras, trop jambonesque. Parlant de gras, c'est un problème avec le bacon en général: s'il n'est pas assez cuit il goûte le gras et n'est pas assez croustillant. Or, les versions végétarienness du bacon sont toutes croustillantes. J'ai mangé pour la première fois un BLT végé, en fait végétalien, au restaurant Aux Vivres à Montréal (vous pouvez le voir sur la photo à gauche). Le pseudo bacon était fait avec de la noix de coco et n'avait rien à envier à la vraie version. Plus tard, on a fait des BLTs ici avec le bacon végétalien de Redwood (un exemple sur la photo de droite). Encore une fois, le bacon n'avait rien à envier au bacon de porc.

Où est-ce que je veux en venir avec ça? J'ai pu constater dans mes années de vie commune avec ma femme que je peux vivre sans viande, ou pour être plus précis certaines viandes, en autant que je puisse trouver un équivalent crédible et savoureux dans la cuisine végétarienne. Je me suis aussi rendu compte que je préfère manger végétarien plutôt que de manger de la viande de mauvaise qualité ou mal apprêtée.
So my wife asked me a while ago to explain to my modest readership what it was to be a carnivore living with a vegetarian. I didn't know how to tackle the subject, and then I got an inspiration: I will illustrate this with one of my favourite sandwiches, the BLT. The club sandwich is still my favourite sandwich, it is for me THE perfect sandwich, heavenly decadent and filling like a real meal, but its smaller brother is still really nice.

So I love BLTs, even though I don't like pork much, dislikes ham and, bigger problem here in England, don't really like British bacon (too thick, too ham looking, not crispy enough). getting the right bacon, in any case, is always tricky: I like it thin and crispy, and when it is not cooked enough it is fatty and frankly disgusting. Veggie bacon don't have this problem. I first had a veggie, or rather a vegan BLT in Aux Vivres (the picture on the top left). Their bacon is made of coconut, tastes at least just as good as the real thing and is most likely healthier. Then back in England, we made BLTs with Redwood bacon (picture on the right). That was better than the real English bacon, to me at least.

So where am getting at with this? I made a few constatations with those experiences. I can live without meat, or to be precise without some meats, providing that I can find a veggie/vegan equivalent that tastes at least just as good. I also came to the conclusion that I would much rather have a good vegetarian meal than a meal with bad meat.

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Do I have it?

I received an email today saying that when some paperwork is done, I will get a formal offer for the job I was interviewed for last Friday. I am glad if it is true, but until I get something official I will stay careful. I guess there is nothing else to do but wait. But waiting is far worse than preparing for an interview. Anyway, the job can be interesting enough, from what I know, and for a change it is good money, so hopefully it will be enough to make me feel better about this one than the one I had a year ago, I guess there is always a risk to grow bitter with any kind of work you have, but it is easier to deal with frustration when you are actually earning decently. My skills will be better used, that is sure and hopefully I will be more appreciated.

Sometimes I wish I had been offered this job and the other job interviews I have been offered recently a year ago, as I would have appreciated them more, especially since I was feeling ostracised and would have gladly shut the door on that one without second thoughts if I could have had a place to rebound then. Instead, I swallowed my pride, literally almost choking myself, and begged for an extension of contract. Beggers can't be choosers, but there is a time when you enjoy more the change of status, from one to the other. Anyway, let's not get carried away. After all, I don't have the job yet.

Des nouvelles des ours à Saint-Félicien

Des oursons blancs sont nés récemment au Zoo de Saint-Félicien. Je vais jeter un oeil à leur caméra, je crois. J'ai déjà un peu blogué sur eux par le passé.

Question ici: est-ce ours blanc ou ours polaire qui est le nom correct? Ou est-ce que les deux termes sont acceptés?

Cartes postales (avis d'envoi)

Je viens récemment de redécouvrir les cartes postales. Je m'explique: j'ai commencé à en envoyer plusieurs récemment, alors je demanderais à mon modeste lectorat, celui d'outre-mer surtout, de surveiller leurs boîtes aux lettres. Je sais qu'envoyer des cartes postales, ça fait un peu rétro, surtout pour quelqu'un qui, comme moi, communique surtout grâce à l'internet. Et puis je ne suis plus un touriste ici et envoyer des cartes postales est d'habitude l'affaire de touristes en voyage. Cela dit, mon emploi du temps me laisse justement beaucoup de temps à perdre, j'avais acheté des cartes qui dormaient dans un tiroir depuis un bout de temps et puis recevoir une carte postale est toujours très plaisant, surtout lorsqu'elle vient d'outre-mer et des vieux pays, alors je me suis dit qu'il fallait autant en faire profiter mes proches.

Et je suis très conscient qu'en bloguant là-dessus, je leur gâche la surprise. Mais je préfère m'assurer ainsi qu'ils la reçoivent bien. Une carte postale se perd vite dans un voyage, surtout un voyage aussi long. Et puis et surtout, ce qu'ils perdent en surprise, ils le gagnent en anticipation. Il faut donc voir ce billet comme un exercice de suspense hitchkokien. Enfin, peut-être pas tant que ça...

Monday, 7 June 2010

Chicoutimi in a nutshell

"Chicoutimi is an Amerindian word
it means up to where the water is deep
this word refers to the Saguenay
a big a beautiful a splendid river
but Chicoutimi as a town is ugly
as every American town
and this ugliness is very interesting
but fortunately nature surrounds every town
in this country
and nature cannot be ugly"

Larry Tremblay
, The Dragonfly of Chicoutimi

I read this play a few days ago. It is haunting me and I will probably blog about it again (I already posted something in French about it) but until then, I wanted to put this quote here, which describes the town where I grew up perfectly.

Pour les amateurs de folklore

Trouvé aujourd'hui ce site, lequel fait dans les produits inspirés du folklore en général et du folklore breton en particulier. La page est un peu bordélique, il n'est pas facile de s'y retrouver lorsqu'on y navigue, mais le contenu est ma foi assez intéressant, en dépit de certaines illustrations qui sont franchement quétaines. J'ai déjà vu bien de leurs cartes postales et leurs marque-pages lors de nos voyages en Bretagne. Je songe à faire le plein la prochaine fois que j'y remets les pieds.

Sunday, 6 June 2010

The bats are back!

Well, maybe they never left, to be honest, but I hadn't seen them in a while, since yesterday that is. By seeing them, I mean of course getting a glimpse of their movement at sundown. They are elusive creatures, too fast when they fly for our camera, very small and barely perceptible. They are just shadows.

There was Batman Begins on television that night, fittingly enough, so I thought I would blog a bit about our nocturnal neighbours. It is also an excuse to put here those pictures of fruit bats, taken at the Vancouver Aquarium. What were they doing in an aquarium I have no idea, but there were a number of non-aquatic animals there, including the bats. I didn't complaint, the more animals the better, especially those you can barely see in normal times. Since they were in an enclosed environment, I could successfully take a few pictures of them.

Bats are basically flying rodents, so I don't know why I love them. I think it is partially due to their somewhat sinister reputation, their associations with vampires (I am a big fan of the original Dracula novel and of old horror stories in general), Halloween, horror in general and their mysteriousness. Batman is probably my favourite superhero, maybe it is a reason for me liking bats or my liking of bats a reason for this preference. Anyway, I also see bats as shy creatures, frail looking and vulnerable. I don't feel the same for mice and other rodents. And the bats we have here are most likely insect eaters, so they keep the flies level low during those hot summer days. But overall, I love them because they are so cool.

Théâtre de papier

Le sujet de ce billet m'est venu à la relecture de celui-ci. Il m'est venu à l'esprit que, bien que j'aie lu sans doute une centaine de pièces de théâtre dans ma vie (je ne crois pas exagérer), bien que j'aie joué dans un certain nombre de pièces, j'en ai très peu vu sur scène. Mon appréciation du théâtre est donc principalement littéraire, intellectuelle et par conséquent désincarnée. J'ai déjà enseigné Phèdre de Racine, par exemple, sans jamais avoir vu la pièce. Ce n'est pas un mal: l'interprétation d'une pièce est par définition partielle et subjective et peut engendrer son lot de fausses perceptions. Prenons le personnage de Phèdre comme exemple: s'il est joué par une actrice trop âgée, ça ne colle pas et c'est à mon sens une erreur. Comme le disait Pierre Gravel à l'époque où j'étais étudiant à l'U de M: "elle doit être assez mature pour être mère elle-même, mais assez jeune pour s'estimer susceptible de plaire à un jeune homme. Sans cela, c'est une vieille peau frustrée." Je cite de mémoire, donc je paraphrase. Des années plus tard, les propos de Gravel me sont revenus à l'esprit quand j'ai eu à préparer mes cours. Ils ont aussi engendré une saine méfiance de certains aspects du métier d'acteur, métier que j'ai pourtant exercé en amateur, avec d'ailleurs beaucoup de plaisir.

Donc, avoir comme source première le texte sur papier et rien d'autre permet de voir la pièce dans ce qu'elle a d'essentiel, sans être distrait par une interprétation particulière. Cela dit, une perspective nous manque, celle de la représentation. Il reste quand même qu'une pièce doit être jouée devant public. Malgré tout, et malgré tout le plaisir que j'ai tant à jouer qu'à aller voir du théâtre, je préfère d'abord lire la pièce, ensuite aller la voir.

Saturday, 5 June 2010

All the good TV I have been missing

It might be the nice weather, it might be because I am too absorbed in watching DVDs and trying to get through, but I missed quite a lot of good TV recently. Well, good, I don't know for sure for some of it, but I certainly am missing on program that would interest me, incidentally all of them are from the BBC.

There is Springwatch, which I have been watching this year, but not regularly. It is Autumnwatch's twin program. I like it a lot, but not nearly as much. Question of atmosphere, maybe? Autumn might be a more suitable season for animal watching, for me anyway. In any case, I don't watch Springwatch nearly as much. There is also Luther, which I haven't bothered watching. There is also a series of programs on opera on BB4, which I have been really curious about but never came around to watch them. I sort of hope it's not so good. I hate to miss good TV.

So, have you been missing any good programs lately?

Question existentielle (8)

Ca fait un certain temps que je n'ai pas posé de question existentielle, alors j'en pose une maintenant:

-Comment se fait-il que toutes les opportunités d'emploi arrivent en même temps?

Friday, 4 June 2010

A black cat in the long grass

I want to tell a little anecdote, totally insignificant in its importance, that nevertheless made my day like insignificant events usually do.

I was waiting for the train after my interview, in a little station with a terrain nearby full of long grass. It was sunny and hot and very much like June should be, but not a day to wear a suit and be all professional-like. I was hot, I was dehydrated, I was not feeling good and I wanted to be home. I suddenly heard some ruffle among the long grass. At first I thought it was a wounded bird or some kind of biggish rodent, but I paid more attention to the movements and saw a glimpse of a black tail and the head of a black cat. It was one of those short fur black cats, probably feral like there are so many around here. I don't know what it was doing there, hunting or playing, but seeing a cat always makes me happy.

Black cats have of course an undeserved bad reputation, but I love them. The cat that was living with us in Liverpool was black, so it might have played a role in my fondness for them. But even this set aside, I think their colour gives them the grace of little panthers, but they still have this mischievous nature small felines have. If I had to adopt a cat choosing only by its colour, I would get a black one. Anyway, with the heat and the long grass, it was as if I was looking at a little panther in the savanna.

Coïincidence "théâtrale"

Je viens de lire pas plus tard que cet après-midi The Dragonfly of Chicoutimi de Larry Tremblay, une pièce qui, je le sens, risque de me hanter pendant longtemps. Or, j'apprends il y a quelques minutes qu'on a joué la pièce récemment à Montréal. Il y a des jours comme ça. J'espère qu'on a gardé des extraits vidéos de la représentation originale avec le monumental Jean-Louis Millette dans le rôle. Ai-je déjà dit ici que j'ai songé à devenir spécialiste de théâtre contemporain, parce que j'avais reçu quelques bonnes notes sur mes travaux dans un cours de... théâtre contemporain? Finalement je n'ai pas suivi cette idée, trouvant le sujet un peu trop rébarbatif, mais je le regrette parfois lorsque je lis une grande pièce contemporaine. Le théâtre de l'absurde exerce sur moi plus une fascination aussi intense qu'involontaire qu'un véritable engouement, ce qui explique peut-être que je n'ai jamais sérieusement envisagé de devenir un spécialiste de cette littérature. Quand même, ça me fera du matériel pour ce blogue.

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Take it as a holiday

I have a lot of things to blog about, lots of inspiration these days, yet I don't have time. I am actively preparing for an interview and there might be more coming soon. It is good news, as I might not be unemployed for very long and my anxieties regarding work are now lessened... or redirected anyway. But it is frustrating: I spend time inside while it looks summery outside, being sunny and hot and looking every bit like the June day it is.

Somebody told me (I think it was my mother), regarding my current unemployment: "Take it as a holiday". It appears that I will not even have time for that. I should not complaint, but I have to confess that I wish it was rainy today.

Fumée sur Montréal

Je commente l'actualité en retard (ce blogue aurait pu s'appeler "Chronique presque contemporaine"), mais je suis en train de préparer une entrevue alors mon lectorat sera je l'espère indulgent.

Enfin bref, il y a des jours où je je sens plus expatrié que d'habitude. Ca arrive surtout quand je ne partage pas un évènement important ou anecdotique de la vie montréalaise ou québécoise. Je sens que je ne partage pas quelque chose qui est commun à mes compatriotes. C'est arrivé récemment, lorsque la fumée des feux de forêt s'est rendue jusqu'en ville. J'ai déjà vécu ça à Chicoutimi, mais je ne me rappelle pas avoir été dans pareille situation à Montréal. Pareille nouvelle ne me touche pas comme l'émeute de Montréal-Nord, mais elle me rappelle un peu que je ne suis plus montréalais.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Of countryside, old cottages and B&Bs

We have been recently planning our holidays, my wife and I. We both need one. As I said here, it seems that these holidays will be inland-based (no beach in sight this year). It also appears that they will be on the countryside rather than urban. That is an important distinction.

I am a naturally urban person, as I mentioned often on this blog. I have never been all that fond of weekend getaways in cottages (in Québec we call them chalets) and similar things. I can appreciate it, but at small doses. Maybe it is age, but I find myself inclined to appreciate rural environment, at least on an irregular basis. I wouldn't live in a cottage, but I am all very happy to spend a weekend or even a week there.

I remember going to L'Anse-Saint-Jean for autumn and summer breaks with my family. In autumn, the colours were beautiful and of course there was great atmosphere. I was a little more bored during summertime as I would often have rather been in our swimming pool. We usually spent time in rented cottages (there were loads in the area), made traditional food and that was quite fun. Now in England they also have old buildings and a much longer history, which add to the charm.

When one visits little places, especially when they are remote, one has to consider lodging in a bed and breakfast. We might do it, it would be a way to reconciliate ourselves with B&Bs. We did not always have good experiences with them. When we went to the wedding of my wife's childhood friend, my future wife, my future sister in law and I spent the night before and after in a "rustic" B&B that had been recommended to us. It was dreadful. The place was in a remote waste land, or at least it felt like it, the landlord was cold, inquisitive (he asked to see my passport after knowing I was a foreigner, I curtly refused) and barely polite. We got greeted with the usual tea and coffee, but straight away the old man asked us what we would have for breakfast. When I told him I would have the traditional English breakfast without bacon (I don't like English bacon as I find too close to ham) he said "What, you don't like bacon?" So they were not exactly hospitable. When I first came in this town, we spent nearly a month in B&Bs, trying to find a place. The experience was difficult for us. Living in ordinary houses, not on holidays, having to deal with the stress of finding a place, it put us off B&Bs.

So this summer might be the occasion to try B&Bs again, in much different circumstances. Surrounded by English countryside and in old houses, it will be a different and hopefully enjoyable, experience.