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It's a fine line between living for the moment and being a sociopath.

Patricia B McConnell: For The Love Of A Dog.

Pema Chodron: The Places That Scare You

Daniel Wallace: Mr Sebastian & the Negro Magician

All paths lead to the same goal: to convey to others what we are. --Pablo Neruda

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Location: Oxfordshire, United Kingdom

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Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Wasabi dad

I don't do it all that often, but every time I read Laid-Off Dad, my day jiggles a little more.

This following piece -- here reproduced in its entirety -- had me spitting Diet Coke through my nose at work:

Culinary revelation of the day

If you dip a wasabi rice cracker in wasabi mayonnaise, pop it in your mouth, and chase it with a handful of wasabi peas, you can see through time.


Sunday, February 26, 2006

Choice is tragic. Choice is celebration.

I am in yet another expensive hotel conference room, listening to yet another expensive speaker give yet another low-value presentation. I wonder what would be the impact on my life were I not to spend these hours like this. Would my searching spirit soar somehow higher? Would my creative arc and output flourish? Or would I simply transfer that time, that investment of a non-renewable portion of my life, to other (albeit self-selected) valueless drains of attention, passion and energy?

This is nothing less than the question of what I would do if I were given extra days to live -- not at the end of life, when the lights are dimming, but today. And then, of course, it's really no different than the alarming challenge that confronts each of us each day, but that almost all of us luxuriate in the false comfort of ignoring: What is it I want to make of my life, out of its diaphanous, fragile fabric, and how can I best bend this piece of daylight to that aspiration?

Is it only because I am getting older that this question presses more urgently than before, as remaining time is increasingly scarce? Or is it because some of the things that seemed like important aspirations when I was younger now appear less worthy as lifetime achievements -- either because, having achieved some of them, I appreciate their rank modesty, or because my values have changed?

Like many, I often evaluate myself, my achievements and, to some degree, my self-worth, on terms that are not wholly my own. Right now, I am sitting in a large room full of people who, by their presence here, proclaim their allegiance to a set of metrics of self worth -- in other words, a set of values -- that are tied to conformity and money and achievement of professional rank in an arbitrary commercial structure. I am one of them.

No doubt they have other values, too: individual by individual, they may measure their worth as fathers and mothers, as lovers, as friends, as servants of various gods, as amateur musicians/artists/authors, as moral human beings. The list, just for this room, would be long, indeed. And, perhaps, for many of them, the values that bring them to this room comprise only a small portion of their platform of self-worth. But, honestly, that's not very likely.

These are all senior executives. For most, they will only have achieved their elevated positions by giving their professional metrics priority over others in their lives.

I am one of them.

The sacrifices made -- to prioritize professional achievement is to de-prioritize investment in other values -- offer bracing, sometimes bitter, food for thought: the things we aren't doing, the things we aren't putting our hearts, minds and bodies into every day, and the things we are therefore not achieving over the course of our lives.

But we vote with our feet every day.

I listen to these presentations. I look around me at a room of (mostly older) people who have chosen to spend their Saturday morning as a life tax to be a member of this group. I am willing to cop to that choice (and then how many other decisions very like that one?), but I am not willing to continue being lazy about my choices, generally. I want to make every vote with my feet count.

You pass an age when the Playboy centrefolds are suddenly much younger than you. Later, you pass an age when the professional/sports/social hotshots are younger than you. Later still, perhaps you pass an age when those with the most passion for what they're doing in their lives are younger than you. But only this last is a choice.


Thursday, February 23, 2006

Logic and Cartoons

This is perhaps the best take I've read on the Mohammed cartoon furor:

I don't get the logic. If bombing embassies is the proper Muslim response, then what's wrong with a cartoon that shows Mohammed wearing a turban-bomb? Either the bomb is good, in which case the only offense was printing a picture of Mohammed, something done by non-Muslims quite frequently. Or the bomb is bad, and the embassy-burning folks are violating the spirit of Mohammed in their very act of defending the Him. If the bomb is sometimes good and sometimes bad, then who is to say that the turban-bomb isn't waiting for one of the good times?

These Muslims are almost as silly as the middle-Americans who wanted to ban flag burning in order to demand respect for the freedoms symbolized by the flag.

Ah, yes, you report that freedom of expression should be used responsibly. Meaning it should be used to say things that are convenient to the people with power, broadly defined.

From a letter written by Alexander Boldizar to Harper's Weekly Review.


Sunday, February 19, 2006

Shakespeare and (my) Company

I've blogged, before, about the joy that comes from seeing my old friend, Shakespeare. I believe I mentioned my offense at her not having gotten off her ass to make the short trip from London to have our hospitality bestowed upon her. Well, this weekend, Shakespeare rectified all, doing Flame-Haired Angel and me the honour of crossing the channel to be our guest and play in Paris for a few days.

It only occurred to me when I saw her in London, in December, that we'd known each other a yikes-inducing twenty years. We dated for about five minutes, those twenty years ago. I was so struck when I first saw her that I went on incessantly about her beauty to my friends, who teased me by nicknaming her: "If bodies were literature, she'd be fucking Shakespeare."

We might have had a disastrous relationship based on deep mutual longing, except for the fact that each of us suspected the other of harbouring absolutely no desire whatsoever, and so walked meekly in opposite directions. It wasn't until much later that we disabused each other of our self-deprecating assumptions and donned the truer mantle of mutual stupidity. And, of course, by then, we had each moved on.

We've not lived closer than a few time zones since leaving university, but ours is one of those friendships that is precious not just because she is, but because our history covers more than half our lives, and that is precious. Like it or not, with history that long, we have each played some small role in defining the other.

Lovely to see her, walk arm in arm with her, introduce my true love to her.

Shakespeare (with company) in front of the world famous bookshop, Shakespeare & Company


Back in the saddle?

Folks who know me more than a little will occasionally ask how the photography's going. For a too long, the answer has been "It isn't." The muse took flight somewhere between Shanghai and Paris, and I haven't really shot a serious frame since the move. The last image I made that went on my (woefully neglected) website was this one:

It's almost three years old. So, it was a gentle milestone when I broke out the serious gear this weekend.

It was little different from getting back on a familiar horse, with all the nervousness and unexercised muscles and instincts, and the joy of working hard at something that matters for no other reason than it does, right there in my heart. It'll be a while before it's clear whether the images I shot were worth a damn. But it almost doesn't matter. The doing is the thing.

As a geeky photography aside: I shot a mix of digital and medium-format film. Like everyone else, I love the immediate feedback of digital, but I have to say that there is still magic in the little unknown that is the moment right after tripping a film camera's shutter. "I wonder what just happened? I wonder what I made!"


The price of traversing linguistic borders

On the way to the airport last week to catch my flight to Barcelona, I see a big billboard advertising the upcoming visit to Paris of 50 Cent and his posse. It prompts a recollection of a recent conversation with a British colleague about his French wife's favorite American movie star: a man she calls "Reeshar Zhayr". You might remember him from American Gigolo. Then there's the Parisian rapper with a new album currently being advertised on subway posters. It's called Ouest Side.

All this linguistic mixing and matching goes through my mind as my taxi zooms past the massive picture of 50 Cent, with his "name" in meters-high letters. And I wonder why Parisians don't call him Cinquante Centimes.

Our friend Fiddy, aka Cinquante Centimes

A few minutes later, I ask the asian cab driver, in French, where he's from. He says China. So, I continue in Mandarin, wishing him a happy Dog Year, in honour of Spring Festival (or Chinese New Year) which passed just a couple weeks back. I'm very proud of this exchange until my Mandarin runs dry -- bone dry -- a few sentences later.

So, the cabby and I revert back to French, in which he has an easy fluency and great accent, and in which I have neither. White Boy, here, is off to Barcelona in his fancy suit, driven by a cabby who's fluent in at least two languages, and his passenger, who's lived in both languages' origin countries, is incompetent in both.


And I don't mean the French coastal city.


Fantastic Restaurant in Barcelona

Rossello 148
08036 Barcelona
Tel: 93 453 18 20

Where Flame-Haired Angel and I celebrated Valentine's Day. I can't recommend it highly enough. A wonderful night out, immersed in colour and zingers of lovingly crafted, tastefully flamboyant ambience, with extraordinary food. One main course was venison with licorice on a bed of artichoke.

Sums up my view of Cheney's trigger finger

(Hat tip to my BIL Rob)


Two views of the wondrous city of Barthelona

Since I had to be in Barcelona for all of last week, and since that week contained one of those days you shouldn't be away from your lover, Flame-Haired Angel joined me for a couple of days. We didn't see each other at all, except for a Valentine's dinner and some mostly unconscious snuggling.

Other than that scintilla of time together, we had very different experiences of Barcelona. While Flame-Haired Angel tripped giddily around the city looking at Gaudi's masterpieces:

I tripped giddily around a massive, over-crowded convention hall taking in masterpieces like this:


Me, God, George and Barcelona

I, like George W Bush (note the comma), believe that God is communicating with me directly, sending me specific signs about his intent for my life.

How else to interpret this week, when I was hellabusy with work in Barthelona, and therefore completely unable to blog, and when -- you think coincidentally? -- both the "Cheney's Got A Gun" and "Abu Graib The Sequel" stories broke.

God is clearly telling me He intends for me to live a long, healthy life, and that I shouldn't get over exercised by the butt-headed stupidity and/or evil in the world. He might as well shout from the heavens, booming in James Earl Jones fashion "Write about puppies! Or butterflies! Or something majesterial in my evolved creation! But I'm gonna stay your damn hand when the stupid/evil stories break."

Barcelona good. Paella good. Cheney bad. Abu Graib bad.


Saturday, February 11, 2006

Defining meanings taken for granted

Reading on the walk home from work:

Two thoroughly engaging pieces on very different topics, yet which both address the thorny issue of meaning. We speak freely of "spirituality" and "truth", but how closely have we examined what we mean and what others hear?

From "Spirituality in America", by Leigh E Schmidt:

In 1800, the word spirituality had little resonance in the evangelical Protestant vernacular of personal devotion, but during the ensuing century of transcendentalist ferment, it gradually shifted from being an abstractly metaphysical term, denoting an attribute of God or the immaterial quality of the soul, to one highly charged with independence, interiority, and eccentricity.

Below, from "Does Relativism Matter", by Simon Blackburn. (This article was the Voltaire Lecture for the British Humanist Association, King's College London.) I should note that I violently disagree with Blackburn's conclusion on one issue: global climate change. (The lecture was given in 2001. Perhaps ensuing evidence has changed Blackburn's mind. Who knows?) But that doesn't diminish at all my respect for the argument he presents pitting relativism against tolerance, and finding relativism not just lazy, but an offense.

While I have never particularly classified myself a skeptic, I am attracted to this definition of Blackburn's:

...the sceptic makes no attempt to bypass or sideline the issue. The issue is the issue, and so is truth. It is just that according to the sceptic, we cannot find the truth. We must moderate our opinions, confess to our ignorance, avoid conviction and dogma because we recognize the inadequacies of our investigations or our methods.

But, ultimately, I have trouble identifying with a supposedly heroic view defined in the negative. It is not that the truth doesn't exist; it is only that it can't be defined as a final destination. There is always a next stop on this train line. And the pleasure, even the duty, the very motivation of the journey is the hope that it is possible to approach the truth, even if we all die uncertain of just how close we've come.


The Ex-President Preacher

Reading on the walk home from work:

I have often said that the best man to hold the office of President of the United States in my lifetime was also the worst President. He was Jimmy Carter.

He's apparently got a new book out: Our Endangered Values. It will only be read by those who already agree with him. His has been a politically impotent voice for some years, however inspiring.

The para below is from a review of the book: Jimmy Carter & The Culture of Death, from the New Yorker. Carter, a Baptist Minister in addition to being an ex-President, comments in the book about the brand of fundamentalism that has gained so much political power in recent years.

The marks of this new fundamentalism, according to Carter, are rigidity, self-righteousness, and an eagerness to use compulsion (including political compulsion). Its spokesmen are contemptuous of all who do not agree with them one hundred percent. Pat Robertson, on his 700 Club, typified the new "popes" when he proclaimed: "You say you're supposed to be nice to the Episcopalians and the Presbyterians and the Methodists and this, that, and the other thing. Nonsense. I don't have to be nice to the spirit of the Antichrist." Carter got a firsthand taste of such intolerance when the president of the Southern Baptist Convention visited him in the White House to tell him, "We are praying, Mr. President, that you will abandon secular humanism as your religion."


Atheism Provocatively Reasoned

Reading on the walk home from work:

I've got nothing, personally, against atheists. Some of my best friends are atheists. They can be very nice people. And not at all the unmitigated evil you'd expect from someone with no divinely inspired moral prescription.

The piece, "An Atheist Manifesto", by Sam Harris, is one of the most interesting pieces I've read about atheism.

Harris's article was written before the Mohammed cartoon bruhaha, but he's taken the occasion of the latter to follow up and respond to criticism's of the former. It's an annex debate as compelling as the original piece. The follow-up piece is here.

We must put a stop to this savage bitterness

Reading on the walk home from work:

A level-headed editorial of rare quality, on the subject of the Mohammed cartoon fracas, from the Observer, in the UK, last Sunday.


Like guns, but ineffective

Reading on the walk home from work:

Continuing the journey of taking all this great stuff off my desk and putting it on yours.

I've been blogging a bit about the offensiveness of illegally wiretapping Americans. The two best points I've heard made about the issue are delineated brilliantly recent ABC news commentary by John Allen Paulos, an articulate math professor with expressive hair.

Damn, ya gotta love Google image search.

(Hat tip to 3 Quarks Daily.)


New Romantic Colbert

This is one of the funniest freaking things I've seen in a long, long time. Thank-you, Stephen Colbert, for pointing out just how easy it is to skewer my entire high-school pop culture experience.

(requires QuickTime)

Hat tip to Norm, at One Good Move.

Defense and offense

Reading on the walk home from work:

A very interesting article on the recently tabled US defense budget.

Whenever I read stuff like this, I have a tiny inner struggle. My rather obvious political position is that we should spend this money far smarter than we do. And that a lot of it gets spent idiotically.

At the same time, there's still the adolescent boy in me that just thinks some of the toys are too damn cool. I love military airshows, and I spent all my pocket money, for a good portion of my childhood, on airplane models.

Ah, well.

This is the F-22A mentioned in the article linked above.

The heartbreak of melting

Reading on the walk home from work:

Call me a predictable liberal, but there's only one issue more distressing to me than the long agenda of Bush administration misinformation aimed at constraining domestic liberties and justifying dangerously aggressive foreign policy. It's something that's a bigger threat to us all than Islamic fundamentalism, runaway pharmaceutical companies or illegal government wiretapping. And it's certainly a bigger threat to our children and grandchildren.

The earth is getting warmer.

The current administration has prevaricated about the issue plenty, of course. It's always struck me as idiot-fying that George Bush has continuously reiterated that global warming "needs more study", but his standard of evidence on WMDs didn't require nearly as much certainty before sacrificing soldiers' and civilians' lives in Iraq. But I blame Dubs hardly more than I blame any of us who over-consume and are still blazé about changing things. If you haven't yet focused on the issue, how's this for tugging your heartstrings toward giving a shit:

Polar bears are drowning.

That's how bad it is. Already.

That link will take you to a good piece on the bears' predicament. The best thing I've recently read on the broader issue, however, is called The Coming Meltdown, by Bill McKibben. Highly, highly recommended.

Catching up with Buckley

Reading on the walk home from work:

I'm sitting here at my desk, at home, on a sunny saturday morning, the Paris light streaming in through the French doors from a bright, blue winter sky. It's crisp out. You can tell just by looking.

For the moment, thought, I've got random music playing and a stack of articles I've been reading over the last few weeks. They've been piling up on my desk, the "best of walking home" collection, waiting to wind up here.

I always think, "Oh, I'll just throw a link to that up on the blog," but I can never quite seem to post links to articles without saying why the pieces struck me. I read so much dross on my walk home, tossing it straight in the recycling bin when I walk through the door. So why does an article wind up linked on here? I'm posting it for my own memory as much as to share it with anyone who might trip by, here. I feel an onus to jog my own memory, in the future, and, more, to give you a hint why you might want to spend precious time clicking a link, zooming off somewhere else and diving into some text.

Probably the most wizened piece sitting on the desk is an article from the November 12 Wall Street Journal. It's an interview with William F Buckley. I disagree with Buckley often, but he's never poorly reasoned. Buckley has always been one of the most powerful and articulate conservative voices. (His use of the English language as an elegantly carved and subtly inlaid battering ram is legendary.) Today, however, when so many people who call themselves conservatives spout jingoism and an inherently inconsistent party line, Buckley has remained true to a political philosophy that demands serious consideration, if not one's ultimate embrace.

I think he hits the nail on the head when he refers to the neo-cons as "lazy". The rigour of Buckley's conservatism is a refreshing contrast what we hear from the current administration.

Here is the WSJ piece. And here, just for fun, is an additional piece -- an interview with Buckley -- from Newsweek.


Stopped cold

Just listening this Saturday morning while writing to friends:

This virtually unknown track is one of the most moving love songs I know. When it comes on, I find myself stopped.

"4258", from the P Hux album Purgatory Falls.


Dying, not smiling

Reading on the walk home from work:

Philip Roth, one of the most potent novelists in any age bracket, considers the merits of smiling and his personal approach to his increasingly near death.

A rare interview.

Incidentally, my favorite Roth novel is one of his least-referenced: The Professor of Desire.


Thursday, February 09, 2006

You can pretty much get away with anything

Alberto Gonzales testified before a Senate committee, today, regarding the Bush administration's use of illegal wiretapping. (For those of you who don't remember Al, before he became Attorney General, he was the White House attorney who advised the adminisatration that the Geneva Convention didn't apply in the war on terror, called its provisions quaint, and paved the way for sanctioned torture.)

When asked about the President's authorization of the NSA's illegal wiretapping program, he didn't tell the committee anything. Why? Because he didn't have to. The administration's approach to Congressional committees throughout its time in office has been to show up, but say nothing. Use as your excuse (a) that answering the question would be a threat to national security, (b) that you wouldn't want to pre-judge issues that might come before you when you're in office, or (c) that you don't want to engage in hypotheticals.

In essence, couch your "fuck off and stop bothering me" in polite sentences.

The reason administration officials get away with this is that the Republican party dominates both the Senate and the House. So, given a majority of any committee must vote to do anything that has teeth, the administration knows it's immune from serious Congressional rebuke.

Just now, not so many "checks and balances".

How safe do you feel your liberty is?

Happily, Gonzales faced a more critical audience when he recently spoke defending domestic spying at Georgetown University Law School. The picture below is the students' reaction.


Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Camrade Stephen Launches Rocket

...in the form of a blog.

An old friend from Shanghai, Stephen Casale, has launched Camrade Global. Stephen's about as astute and articulate as you can get and still be talking about a white boy in China. For those still fascinated by the inner workings of the chaotic machine that is the Middle Kingdom, even after the exhaustive coverage provided by this journalist, Stephen's blog is a great leap, uh, forward.

But check it out quick. What with China's blog censorship policies, Camrade Global could be here today, Han tomorrow.

Once more, with levity

If you thought my piece on Bush's illegal wiretapping was a tad angsty, here is a bit of relief, from Laid-Off Dad. Same conclusion, but more in the "lite" food group.


Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Bush is to Intelligence as wiretaps are to the Fourth Amendment

I keep wondering what the United States would be like, just now, if either house of Congress had a Republican minority.

We'd still be in Iraq. But, oh, how different would be the posturing of Washington back home.

Dubs would be under investigation with the probability of an impeachment vote, for one. That thing about wiretapping without a warrant: I woulda thought kinda worse than lying about a blowjob.

But maybe "...when the President does it, that means that it's not illegal." (Link requires QuickTime)

The single most devastating thing to me about the Bush illegal wire-tapping revelations is the Administration's audacious defense that the additional intelligence is needed in the "war on terror".

Of course, that assumes that we are actually gathering meaningful additional intelligence by illegally spying on Americans. And that assumption requires a pretty big leap of faith, as this Wired article makes plain.

But the more obvious point is staring us in the freaking face: We didn't need illegal wire-tapping in 2001 to know that Bin Laden was determined to strike in the United States (remember the PDB?). We knew he was considering using commercial airliners. We knew suspicious persons were taking flying lessons, and we knew who they were. It wasn't a lack of information. It was a lack of action. Including the President's.

The most striking intelligence failure in the history of US domestic security wasn't a failure of intelligence gathering. It was a failure of intelligent, coordinated action.

So maybe he's arguing he needs more power to gather intelligence illegally because it's hopeless to try to improve his administration's ability to act intelligently.

Long live the Fourth Amendment, no matter what asshole in government claims it doesn't apply to him.

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

That's written in the founding document of the Nation, which, on two Inauguration Days, the President has sworn an oath to uphold and protect.

With apologies to Ben Franklin: Those who claim to defend freedom while assaulting it are outrageous assholes who don't recognize a totalitarian when they see one in the mirror, and wouldn't know liberty if they found it dancing nakedly joyful in a field of flowers under a bright blue summer sky.

On second thought, they would recognize liberty. And they'd take that joyful fucker down.


(Hat tip to Norm for a couple of those links.)

Scootergrrl, dated barristers, and winter tales

Scootergrrl wrote to me just the other day to say she had picked up a copy of one of my favorite books, A Winter’s Tale, by Mark Helprin. She will be blessed by its scrumptious goodness.

For whatever reason, graced by gods that are bloggily random, I was reading Frank Poynter’s delightful interview with Denise Howell on my walk home, tonight, even though it was published almost four years ago. In it, quite by surprise, Denise dropped this rather lovely reference to Winter’s Tale:

“…there are two kinds of books in the house. Vertical ones (on shelves, read) and horizontal ones (on every spare bit of table space, unread). The horizontals are winning...

With all the wintry imagery on people's blogs this June day (Shelley by the Bay; Doc bound for Vancouver; RB questing like a salmon for certain peaks, valleys and streams), I should mention one of the verticals, several times over, is Mark Helprin's Winter's Tale: "There was a white horse, on a quiet winter morning when snow covered the streets gently and was not deep, and the sky was swept with vibrant stars, except in the east, where dawn was beginning in a light blue flood." Hmmm, gonna have to lay that one flat again for sure.”

She also offers a list that warms me, given my sister lives outside San Francisco and Hot Mama lives way down south by the border of Mexico:

The single biggest difference between the two halves of the Golden State is the flood of animosity pouring south, and the absence of it headed north.

Just A Few Of The Several Reasons Living In San Francisco, California Totally Kicks Ass
  1. An acute case of self-importance actually comes in quite handy.

  2. There is at least one trendy restaurant within .2 miles of any point in this city, and each and every employee behind the reception desk is good-looking enough to bone, but does not prefer your gender.

  3. Homeless people on Market smell like Dungeness crab - well aged Dungeness crab.

  4. Newscasters are required to have no tits.

  5. No one cares what time you show up for work, what you wear to work, or if you call your boss "Rover."

  6. You get to walk everywhere.

  7. Access to the largest collection of linalool-sensitive noses on the planet (see The Aroma Wheel).

  8. Summers consist of restaurant heat lamp residue, with the occasional shower of bike messenger sweat.

  9. The neighbor across the hall who calls himself a "serious incentivzer of viral metrics" is going to be unemployed much, much longer than you.

  10. Charlie Manson lives here.
And a bonus reason:

11. Foreigner 4 tracks always playing somewhere on the radio.

That last reason is my favorite, hands-down. Reason enough to move there.

[recessional: Juke Box Hero]


Monday, February 06, 2006

You will believe your eyes

Give this a try.

Thai-ing one on

Sunday (yesterday) we hosted six friends for a Thai lunch. Just the thing to take the edge off Paris' winter chill.

I got off easy. My jobs were the table, wine (Gewurtztraminer and Tokay/Pinot Gris) and dessert. Flame-Haired Angel, on the other hand, created three beautiful courses: Tom Yum Goong, followed by a salad of barbecued duck with lime, mint and onion, and finally a green chicken curry. And one of our friends was vegetarian, so FHA doubled up her work, making veggie versions of every dish. She rocks.

I tailed the meal with baked lime puddings and jasmine tea.

We took our time, and lunch didn't end 'til 6pm.

Then, after doing dishes, Flame-Haired Angel and I curled up with the extra prawns, the left-over champagne, and snuggled in front of Brideshead Revisited on DVD.


Saturday afternoon in Paris Chinatown

A few pictures of my Saturday afternoon at the Vietnamese end of Chinatown, Paris.

Flame-Haired Angel was in London for the day; I was on a barbecued duck mission.
The residue of last week's Chinese New Year (Spring Festival) celebrations were still very much in evidence.

The red paper everywhere is the detritus of firecrackers.
Many were still going off as I walked down the street.

The red lanterns of Spring Festival were everywhere.

Along with a few signs that, yes, we were still in France.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Dad at 70, redux

Flame-Haired Angel and I were sad, the other night, to realize we'd missed by a day the deadline for talking to my dad before he went off traveling for a month.

Then, reading Dervala's tribute to her dad at 65, I was reminded of my own dad's 70th, a few years ago. I wasn't able to be there. So, I wrote a love letter to him, and read it on videotape.

It'd been a long while since I'd thought of that letter on tape. Inspired by Dervala, I dug up the original and read it again. A smile crept up my face as I made my way down the page. I had written about being absent from his birthday party because his travels had inspired my own. And here I am, sad to be unable to call him, because he's traveling.

The love letter is here.


Dervala rides again, and again

I often drive my browser over to Dervala.net in hopes of finding she's posted something new. She's not a compulsive blogger, so sometimes it'll be weeks between new words. I'm never quite sure why I go back so doggedly, until her next post pops up and reminds me why I read anything at all. She rarely writes about things I care the least about, but I always end up caring by the end.

I've quoted her gentle, diaphanous prose here before, but there's never a problem with going back to the well when the water's so sweet. This is from her recent tribute to her father on his 65th birthday:

When my sisters fought in the back seat, Dad would stop the car outside a church. “Go inside and pray for each other,” he’d order, “And don’t come out until Baby Jesus knows you mean it.” We never disobeyed him, though he didn’t go to Mass, and we were fairly sure he never consulted Baby Jesus on anything. They’d slam the car door and in they’d stomp, torn between enmity and a common enemy. “It’s important to give them something to unite against,” he’d say, as we watched them march back down the gravel path, friends again but scowling at him. It took us years to realize that he kept his stash of private jokes in plain sight.