Monthly Archives: February 2010

Ebb and Flow of the Olympics

We’re nearing the end of the Olympics and this is partly what it’s been like on the streets: traffic has been far better than normal. There are fewer cars, even if going away from the downtown core, so either everyone is at the Olympics or they left town. Which means I’m not looking forward to Monday morning traffic, which will be heavy and chaotic.

This lack of car traffic has all translated into a feast of famine aspect for many merchandisers and restaurants in the city. There are so many people in the downtown core that even the street food vendors are making thousands to tens of thousands a day, and the restaurants have constant lines. Olympic related merchandise is selling but little else. Yet if you’re in the food and drink business you are truly making a killing.

On Commercial Drive near where I live, it’s a different story. On Tuesday night I walked up the street to have a drink at one of my regular spots, The Libra Room. I passed the Latin Quarter and thought it was closed. Not a soul inside except one person at the bar watching a TV screen, and he was most likely staff. A couple of the Italian restaurants were equally void of life. Only the Charlatan, a sports bar with several large screens, was busy because of the Olympic sports. The Libra Room had a few people but they were way down on patrons and I’ve never seen the owner looking so unhappy.

What this means in the long run is that there are a few places and people making a true killing downtown and business has gone down everywhere else. In total revenue for the city, it is probably higher than normal but not as high as one might think. And yet, everyone who has been going downtown says that it’s crazy but it’s fun and the energy is so positive. Some people have just gone to people-watch.

Although I hate crowds I was planning on going down tomorrow night but I’ve now injured myself at the gym so it might not be possible. And should I manage it, one friend lives downtown so we can take refuge when it gets too cold or wet or crowded.

This is also the end of February. Two years ago, come March, I started this blog and have tried to write five days a week except for when I was on holidays. I think it might be possible to run out of opinion on things but I’m not there yet. However, even though some of these pieces have less research than they would if I was employed to write them, they still take time. I will be cutting back to writing three times a week as of March, hopefully giving me more time to write on other things, such as my novel or short stories.

With that note, Aberrant Dreams is relaunching with hopefully fewer of the time snags that caught them last go round. I will be back editing as senior fantasy editor. If you want to check out the site (still developing but submissions can be sent in) then go here http://aberrantdreams.com/content/ and read the guidelines. It’s hard to run any kind of magazine these days and Joe Dickerson and Lonny Harper have been trying it without any sponsors so it’s out of pocket for them to pay people. Some day I’d like to run my magazine as well but that will take some $$ first.

So in the meantime, go enjoy the last of the Olympics any way you want, whether that’s staying far away, just checking stats on the computer or going into the throng. And here’s to all the amazing athletes who have competed, whether they won or not. They’re still the best in the world and have dedicated time and energy to their achievements and sports. Go World!

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under consumer affairs, Culture, driving, entertainment, life, people, Publishing, sports, Writing

Book Review: In Sleeping Beauty’s Bed IV

For anyone just tuning in, this is the fourth and last segment of reviewing Mitzi Szereto’s In Sleeping Beauty’s Bed. Mitzi chose fairy and folktales from diverse sources. These aren’t just Grimm brothers or Arabian Nights. There are Japanese,  Persian or Sanskrit, a cultural mosaic of stories from sources around the world.

Written in Sanskrit, “A Tale of the Parrot” is an Indian tale where a talking animal relates various lessons or stories, much as Shahrazad did to her husband. An emir’s daughter is wasting away and the Spanish Infanta comes to try a cure, and discovers the Turkish Khan’s (who wants to marry the girl) emissary stirring a cauldron with a stick. The stick is actually his penis, with which he “agitates” the contents of the cauldron. The Infanta helps stir only believing his penis to be a growing stick. Then she takes a cup of the “creamy” broth to the emir’s daughter to break the spell. Now, whether Szereto is completely ignorant of cleanliness taboos of Arabic lands or not, the cleanliness taboos of Europeans would balk at this. Albeit, many of these tales have fetishistic aspects but the Infanta next takes a scrubbed chamberpot to fill. This would be repulsive to many people, even if they’re fine with a young woman drinking goblets of ejaculate.

I was actually surprised to see “Little Red Riding Hood” because, even with erotic rewriting, it’s almost been done to death. It has similarities to myths of gods changing shape, or magical beings consuming a string of victims. Here, “Red” sets off to Grandmother’s house on the lookout for “handsome young huntsmen.” She has a reputation for twirling about, revealing much beneath her skirts, to the workmen who grab their “bulges.” At least this phrasing makes it clear what they’re doing. When she wanders through the woods she actually hikes up her skirt, given as she is to the thrills of exhibitionism. The story follows the more traditional path when viewed in its sexual context, but with some  amusing twists with Red Riding Hood’s exhibitionistic tendencies, and refreshingly few odd twists of phrase.

“The Traveling Companion” is a popular riddle tale, especially in the Scandinavian countries and reworked by Hans Christian Andersen. Poor Johannes is like his counterpart Michel Michelkleiner and his innocence causes his poverty to increase before he has barely set out on the road. He meets an older, more experienced man who has a magic ointment for curing ills, and that he rubs high up under the skirts of an old lady, and a wooden marionette, which leads to the whole puppet troupe being rubbed and coming alive for a flesh and wood orgy. The two travelers learn of a princess whose suitors must answer three riddles and if they lose, they lose their heads.

Johannes uses the ointment to fluster the princess, and his traveling companion does not rely on the ointment alone but folllows the princess to discover her secret. He enters her bedroom where she is sound asleep with her nightdress having ridden up, “exposing a pair of graceful thighs and the corresponding hills above.” I wasn’t sure at first when he starts spanking her if these were her breasts or buttocks, but presuming buttocks, it would have helped to know she reclined on her stomach instead of trying to be tossed out of the story to figure it out. Other than this one aberration, the story is amusing if somewhat black in humor, and though bawdy, not overly erotic.

“The Turnip” brings us to where we began in Cinderella with the turnip (or parsnip) loving stepsisters who used the vegetative length and firmness for sexual diversion. This poor farmer has magical turnip seeds but his own member grows to gigantic turnip proportions and though he wishes to remove it, the king moves him into residence where the man is used for the king’s riding pleasure. This is another story that disturbingly borders on rape and does not meet erotic content so much as sexual abuse.

Also known as Brier Rose “The Sleeping Beauty” has long had an undercurrent of sexuality or even rape, where the prince kisses or impregnates the sleeping princess. Instead of the witch’s curse, Szereto tosses in a lecherous frog and then the story proceeds apace to the prince many years later breaching the brier thorns. By this point I confess to becoming quite annoyed with the bizarre euphemisms and found I was ejected from the tale when the prince lifts the sleeping princess’s dress where, “A pair of gossamer wings began to slowly unfold….the fragile creature was being held back by two fuzz-covered pods,…” What the–? I could not imagine what this was at first and then believing Szereto to mean the clitoris and labia I was dumbfounded. How is this description, even given to hyperbole, slightly erotic? Fuzzy pods? Gossamer wings? Has anyone ever seen genitalia that looked like this?

“The Twelve Months” is the last tale, with a stepmother and sister who envy the pretty daughter and send her off on tasks designed to kill her. She meets 12 men who are the months and tends to their “branches” in three ways. It is somewhat erotic and one of the better stories.

When I started out reading this collection I really thought I’d love it. I like what I know of Mitzi Szereto and I like the retellings of fairy tales (and many originals as well). Granted, eroticism is different for each person, I still find it hard to believe that many people would find these tales sensual at all; they fall more into the category of bawdy, if anything. The euphemistic phrases don’t work because the description is too bizarre, especially for our modern sensibilities. Why Szereto felt the need to follow this style I’m not sure, except maybe to mimic the style of earlier centuries, but why then the anachronistic aspects dropped in without making the whole tale of another era? It’s as if she was still writing these for children, which is not the projected audience at all. I did like the introductions  about the evolution and history of each story, but I would have liked to have seen a reading list or some lists including The Arabian Nights, Grimm’s Fairy Tales, etc. as well as scholarly works by Zipes or Bettelheim. I believe that Szereto can write but if I was in Sleeping Beauty’s bed, I was left wanting.

http://www.cleispress.com/gosearch.php?textfield=in+sleeping+beauty&search_type=TITLE

Leave a comment

Filed under art, Culture, entertainment, erotica, fairy tales, fantasy, myth, Publishing, sex, Writing

Book Review: In Sleeping Beauty’s Bed III

The second tale “The Magic Muntr,” in Mitzi Szereto’s In Sleeping Beauty’s Bed interested me more because I’ve read so many versions of Cinderella, from the centuries old through the Disney and Grimm versions to modern and futuristic adaptations and retellings. But “The Magic Muntr” was new to me, a tale from some Persian stories about a man  duped into exchanging his form for a parrot’s.

You could say this is a tale of curiosity killing the cat, and the transformed ruler, because of his inquisitiveness, nearly loses everything to a wicked rakshas posing as a sage. As a bird, he views many things, including women bathing, but details are often lacking where a build-up would benefit an erotic setting. The maharajah is left with a curse of voyeurism.

“The Demon of Adachigahara” is another story of the Far East, this time Japan, and as unfamiliar to me as the one above, which also piqued my interest. This sadistic demon has a penchant for snaring weary pilgrims, especially those  men who bring around (tongue in cheek) religious and inspirational pamphlets. Szereto seems to want to capture a different era, or an anachronistic feeling, and instead of saying covered in black leather she says, “Their muscled flesh had been partially covered with a supple black hide…” But there is a naiveté about each main character that is hard to believe. The male pilgrim, on discovering the chained men “…caressed the bulging arc of flesh held imprisoned by its plaited ring, [and] he found himself being sprayed with the same spumy substance that stained the captive’s costume…”

It starts to become obvious after three stories that Mitzi Szereto isn’t just writing about erotic sex but about different fetishes as we have the shoe fetishist in the first story, then the voyeur, and then sadomasochism. The next story is “Rapunzel,” quite familiar to everyone, and starts with a classic beginning. However, Szereto throws in an anachronistic image against the medieval aspects that grates as opposed to being a good blend. Rapunzel is a rap artist, playing off the name, and though she has a unique way of getting her lover up the tower’s walls, I found the rap aspect so anachronistic that it didn’t make sense nor add anything.

“The Swineherd” is a familiar Grimm’s tale, if not the most well-known, where a nobleman goes in search of a wife, but under disguise as a common man. He falls in love with the scourge-wielding warlord’s daughter and tries to woo her with ingenious, handcrafted tools of the kinky sort. Yet this woman is also ignorant of any man’s genitalia and she sees, in regards to the swineherd’s “scepter” that “For some mysterious reason, the swineherd had stuck a very large purple plum on the end of it…” At least her maids inform her it’s not a plum. The nobleman gets his masochistic dreams fulfilled.

“The Shoes That Were Danced to Pieces” is similar to the “Twelve Dancing Princesses” of Grimm’s fame. The twelve princesses (or countesses) always have worn out shoes in the mornign.  This story is more successful but again there is an odd hesitance to actually acknowledge the sexual activities and everything is couched in peculiar terms that are not necessarily those of the time period. In fact, I have a book of medieval bawdy tales and the “naughty words” are the same as ours (ass, cunt, shit). The seasoned soldier who solves the mystery dons a black, rubber cape. A rubber cape, especially in another medieval setting, makes me question why. Either modernize the tale or keep the innovations within the context of the time. The soldier is naive of the women’s activity though perhaps this naiveté is for the audience?

“The Ebony Horse” is from The Arabian Nights (a collection far vaster than the complete Grimm tales, which takes up numerous volumes–I have two volumes of selected tales), collected by Sir Richard Burton. I did go and read the original of this to compare it to Szereto’s version. The tale starts out very similar, but shortened and continues with the adventures of the mechanized and magical ebony horse. The sultan’s son is whisked away and eventually meets a beautiful sultan’s daughter, and proceeds to take her up on the horse, where she discovers she enjoys being exhibited naked before others’ eyes. The sultan’s son is also enraptured with her rose petal and for once the euphemisms actually fit the actions and lend to a sensual and poetic tone.

“Michel Michelkleiner’s Good Luck” is an obscure European story about a simpleton’s adventures, which Szereto has extended past gaining his fortune. I found her version disturbing as it begins with Michel’s rape by a group of brigands. Szereto’s style  does  not make it clear that Michel enjoys this forced sexuality, yet he  views the brigand as doing a most “extraordinary jig–or at least it seemed extraordinary to his unversed prey.” But it seems that Michel does indeed come to enjoy their ministrations and so his adventures continue.

Known as King Thrushbeard and Taming of the Shrew, “Punished Pride” is a tale of putting a woman in her place. It is similar to “The Swineherd” in that a rich/noble man disguises himself to win a spoiled/ill-tempered bride. This time she falls for the lowly gardener and leads a life of poverty and work alongside her husband. But her toils take on a lascivious nature when she must attend one lady. Now this noblewoman married her gardener who is the Czar in disguise so they have consummated their marriage and any woman would know what breasts are, yet here is the description of the lady the woman must attend: “…the lady had been endowed with two very large conical objects that she wore proudly upon her chest,…”

She seems somehow innocent of a woman’s anatomy when “No matter how thoroughly she scrubbed at the wriggly knurl she found and the two furry puffs encasing it, her mistress refused to be satisfied.” Maybe, just maybe a storyteller would tell a tale thus to an audience in the 16th century, but somehow the euphemisms get in the way here, as well as being bizarre. Furry puffs? I found I had to stop a moment and try to visualize this. Still, it’s one of the better stories, with more depth of  love and somewhat believable sexual ministrations that do contain erotic content even though the descriptions become more bizarre. As the woman submits to a flogging she looks between her legs (at herself) and sees “…a fiery red flame extending out form her body….exactly like the vermilion tongue belonging to the furry creature that lurked between her former mistress’s thighs.”

Tomorrow, the final part of the review.

Leave a comment

Filed under art, Culture, entertainment, erotica, fairy tales, fantasy, myth, Publishing, sex, Writing

Book Review: In Sleeping Beauty’s Bed II

Mitzi Szereto starts off her collection, In Sleeping Beauty’s Bed, with an introduction to the erotic fairy tales. Here she talks about the influence of cultures and how scholars have discovered that many of the tales can be traced to Asia specifically. There is a long lineage and evolution to the fairy tale, and though many may have come from Asia and India, others were created in other areas, growing out of legends such as the Greek myths, or taking on local flavors. Indeed, there are common motifs and tales found through many lands and whether they were one migratory tale travelling a winding path, or many tales born of similar seeds, it’s hard to say. After all, Jung talked about the cosmic consciousness and how the human intellect tended to evolve or develop at the same time. A person in South America would come to the same revelations as someone in Europe, based on our understandings of the world, and a common foundation of reasoning and problem solving. This theory has proven true in the case of  inventors creating the same thing within the same time as another (or even such basics designs as the Greek key showing up in Aztec/Mayan Americas as well as in Greece).

With an erotic book I would expect the stories to be erotic; titillating or sensually stimulating in some way. Now one erotic tale won’t do it for everyone but there will at least be some tales in a collection that will appeal to a person’s imagination and sensual sensitivities. This book is marketed as erotica and the cover actually gives no hint to the fairy tale context. I imagine this is probably because erotica sells better than fairy tales, where adults might still think that those tales are for children or are some Disneyfied, pristine production. So it makes sense. Cleis is primarily a publisher of erotica and everything is packaged under that heading.

With a book of modern fairy tales I would expect either completely new tales but done in a fairy tale style, or known fairy tales that are skewed or deviate from the original in some compelling way. Some of the standard fairy tale formats are cautionary tales (if you stray from the rules, you’re going to end up in hot water), coming of age tales (you must go through these trials to attain your reward), common man tales (by virtue of quick wits you will conquer all obstacles to get your reward), and virtue tales (if you are good and pure, you will overcome the greater evils pitted against you and get your reward). In the last, the reward is often a prince/husband for the girl. There are other types of fairy tales but those are common themes. As well, fairy tales almost always have some type of magic or magical being in them, whether they’re the Arabian Nights or Grimm’s fairy tales.

I confess that I was somewhat biased before picking up this book. I love fairy tales and I’m certainly not averse to erotica. From what I can tell Mitzi Szereto is intelligent and energetic and takes her craft seriously. This collection contains 15 tales  from a wide range of sources. The introduction ends with Szereto mentioning that the tales captured the imaginations of such writers as Dickens, C.S. Lewis and Bernard Shaw, thought not mentioning Danish writer Hans Christian Andersen, or Oscar Wilde who sometimes created their own. She states that, “It is in this very same creative spirit that I continue the age-old tale-telling tradition…, choosing to rely not on the unexpurgated  versions of the past, but rather on those considered suitable for all  eyes–including the eyes of children. By working in this way, I can remove myself from all previous erotic influences and make the tales my own.

I found this slightly odd for an erotic fairy tale book, since the expurgated versions certainly are cauterized in many ways.  If she is writing adult erotica, why start with the family version, but I thought, okay, there are erotic undertones to some of the tales so let’s see what happens. Each tale begins with an introduction, talking about its roots, influences and changes through time.

The first tale is “Cinderella,” an extremely well known story. Early variations had such names as “Aschenputtle,” “La Gatta Cenerentola,”  and “Rashin-Coatie.” In Szereto’s introduction to the tale she goes back to its beginnings in China, as well as discussing the original erotic content (or perhaps lack) in this story, which had me wondering how she could remove herself from the erotic influences if she’s read and done all this research before writing her version. The tale unfolds as we know it, with Cinderella taking care of and dressing her ugly stepsisters. When they run off to the ball Cinderella’s fairy godmother appears, which seems to be a hairy fairy in drag. Why this particular character, I’m not sure. He/she eyes the coachmen in buttless pants. Nothing more happens with the godmother and I found it an odd deviation or embellishment that didn’t further the plot.

Cinderella’s ventures veer to her stepsisters having a fondness for parsnips (and not for eating, which the not so sweet Cinderella laces with peppers) and the prince having more of a fondness for the shoe, where he plunges “the bulky protuberance he had released into the right slipper,” than the woman. Her reward is not so rewarding and I was left…let down. I could see the tongue in cheek humor to this piece but there was little of erotic description and odd usages of words (mounds for breasts) to the point of a bevy of euphemisms. But then this was the first tale and perhaps Szereto was trying to capture the flavor of innuendo and tales of old.

So I moved on to the next one, “The Magic Muntr.” I have many fairy tale books; a complete Grimms tales, various ethnic folktales, Hans Christian Andersen’s tales, the modern anthologies by Windling and Datlow, several books on the analysis of tales, several Arabian Nights, etc. However, I have not read all these books. The complete Grimm tales alone is a hefty tome of 279 tales, some only half a page and not too interesting, but extensive nonetheless. So I was intrigued to see this tale and read its history.

Tomorrow, Part III of the review.

Leave a comment

Filed under Culture, entertainment, erotica, fairy tales, fantasy, history, myth, Publishing, sex, Writing

Book Review: In Sleeping Beauty’s Bed I

This will be a very long and involved review of Mitzi Szereto’s In Sleeping Beauty’s Bed, a collection of erotic fairy tales published by Cleis Press. In fact it will be at least three, maybe four parts, so hang on to your hats.

When I received The Sweetest Kiss and In Sleeping Beauty’s Bed for review I decided to do the vampire erotica first (Sweetest Kiss) since it was nearer to Hallowe’en. Plus, I love fairy tales. They’re a good memory of my childhood and I still have (managed to find again actually) some of the volumes I had as a kid. (Those influences can be read in previous blog entries on worlds of what-if.) I took one course in university on children’s lit but specifically fairy tales, which gave me a deeper interest in the form. I’ve read numerous tales from Charles Perrault, Hans Christian Andersen and the brothers Grimm to updated interpretations by Angela Carter, Sarah Moon and the collections edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling. I’ve written a few of my own, including poems, and continue to search out and enjoy the varied tales that are there, from the ancient to the new.

Fairy and folktales began a very long time ago. Along with the myths and superstitions that set up the religious structures of culture throughout the world, people were attempting to explain other things or events. And they were entertaining each other. However, not all entertainment had a single purpose. Much was in the way of passing on information: histories, cautionary tales, moral tales, tales of hope and trickery in the little guy/or common person who is rewarded for great deeds/virtue/quick wit, etc. The list is quite extensive.

These tales were told over and over again, passed down through generations and cultures, adapting and evolving with the times. Once Charles Perrault and before him Giambattista Basile, and after, the brothers Grimm, started to set the tales down in writing, gathering them from various sources, the tales began to evolve less and become frozen in time and sentiment of an age. There is evidence that these tales were written down centuries before in various lands, and in different versions but overall I follow the belief that most tales were passed from person to person, tales told by bards and travellers. This is not the view that Mitzi Szereto takes, stating that most tales were gathered from the more noble or richer classes, and there is obvious truth there as written tales would have been for the more educated and therefore wealthy classes. But all these tales started somewhere, being listened to by groups of people. Whichever it may be, there are variations all over.

Just as religions adopted gods from one country to another and similar sun gods, resurrection gods, grain gods and weather gods can be seen in most early religions, so it is that many of these fairy tales are part of the cosmic consciousness that Jung believed in and is quite evident in the evolution and progress of human intellect and thought. Books have been written just on the subject of fairy tales alone, besides the volumes of fairy tales themselves.

The earlier versions are often violent and bloody, and have characters not so redeeming as how they appear in some of Perrault’s and the Grimm brothers’ versions. Indeed, by the time Disney got hold of the fairy tales they were sanitized of any true lessons and every good little princess got her man, as long as she was virtuous, pretty and good, a role model for every submissive female for the 20th century and more.

This brings us to a reclaiming of fairy tales that happened the more adults began to take them seriously again and examine their content. Even though the Grimms edited the tales to suit their views, they were purveyors of folk literature and took their work seriously. Many others have come along to look at the tales and their hidden meanings and mysteries. Some of these scholars of today are A.S. Bayatt, Emma Donohue, and Angela Carter, who did her own rewriting of many a tale. In the Company of Wolves is a great rendition of the Little Red Riding Hood tale and can also be found in a “now” old film of the same name, starring a younger Angela Lansbury. Bruno Bettelheim and Jack Zipes are well-known scholars of fairy tales. Author Sarah Moon did a chilling rendition of the same Little Red Riding Hood as Carter’s but more as a cautionary tale than a coming of age story, with her stark black and white photos of a  young girl in the glare of a car’s headlights and with connotations of a pedophilic stalker, making the tale very modern and terrifying.

Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling edited collections of modern tales that take these fairy tales with leaps in new directions. Jane Yolen, and other authors have also written different rendtions that are darker and deeper than the original tales. Although it is less storytelling, authors are still taking these archetypal tales and bringing them along through the centuries to match our times, with warnings and morals and fears that hit closer to home.

There are many authors, editors and scholars in the realm of fairy tales who are researching, reading and telling new tales. Having written an erotic fairy tale for a Harlequin anthology that I based off of one of the many (and lesser known) Grimm tales, I was excited to see this collection by Mitzi Szereto.

And here I am, at the end of a blog entry and I have yet to actually talk about the book. I’ll start very briefly and say that it had a preface by Tobsha Learner. Though I didn’t know who this was, Tobsha is an Australian author with several books to her credit in which a blend of magic and eroticism are the theme (and some gorgeous covers on top of that). I thought, great, there will be a scholarly bent to the fairy tale aspect and I’ll learn even more about them. This was coupled by Mitzi Szereto’s introduction and an introduction to each story.

I’ll go into the intro and some of the tales tomorrow, but up to this point, I had not yet read any of Szereto’s writing. From what I could tell of reading about her, she’s vivacious, energetic, intelligent and a good writer. I read a couple of excerpts I found of her other pieces which supported that she knows how to write, so I was looking forward to the tales.

Tomorrow, what I found out as I read.

Cleis Press: http://www.cleispress.com/gosearch.php?textfield=in+sleeping+beauty&search_type=TITLE

Leave a comment

Filed under art, Culture, entertainment, erotica, fairy tales, fantasy, history, myth, Publishing, religion, sex, Writing

VANOC, RCMP and the Olympics

Okay, another update. I didn’t post for the last two days because yes, I’ve ventured into Olympic land, only because friends came up from the US and I wanted to see them. Wednesday I braved driving downtown. Yes, driving, not busing, walking or other. One friend works for city parking and he said the parkades downtown are nearly empty because no one is driving.

Well, “no one” isn’t quite true but I left New Westminster around 4:30 pm, took the highway to E. 1 Ave., then turned down Clark Dr. to Pender St. I took Pender to downtown (already knowing which streets were closed) to Gastown but anticipating Gastown’s usual traffic jam I turned up to Hastings St. In retrospect I should have gone through Gastown to Richards. On Hastings I had about four blocks to go to Hastings and it took about 20 minutes, or about four lights to get through each light. Yes, there was traffic there but there was nothing to do but just endure. And true enough the parkade was empty.

I met my friends at the Kingston Pub on Richards St. and yes there were people but I seriously didn’t look around at anything else. The Kingston’s alcohol seems to be in the normal range but they had an ahi tun caeser salad for $19. That is overkill. I did get a serving of calamari for $10, which would have been quite fine but the batter wasn’t cooked all the way through, but they were crazy busy.

On Thursday I spent the day with my friends on Granville Island (where they are charging for parking, with a 2-hour limit, where normally it’s free parking). There was a huge Francophone pavilion but we didn’t go in, but we wandered into one studio to see a video broken glass show that was short and interesting. Bridges Restaurant is the Swiss House but there was a line-up even for a drink (the Swiss-Canada hockey game was about to start) so we didn’t get in there. We got into the Atlantic Provinces show (we say Maritimes) because a friend was working the show. Music with some tales of the musicians’ homes and slide shows behind. It was very good and fun. I wished there’d been room to dance as Maritime music always has you toe tapping. Basically there were line-ups for everything and I hate line-ups so a lot of patience is needed to get into any of the houses. But it is a free cultural Olympiad (some of it) and that’s kinda cool, fun and informative all at once.

Now I’ve been looking at the results for the Olympic games online but have not been able to get any so-called channel (CTV) to actually show what’s supposedly being broadcast live.And I have not gone to see the Olympic cauldron for which VANOC has received huge criticism for putting it (and everything else) behind huge chainlink fences so that people couldn’t see or take pictures. They’ve now cut holes and moved the fence in but it’s typical of the VANOC heavy handedness and the blocking of lanes (which they somehow didn’t have to do in Salt Lake City). And I’m not venturing to Whistler where you need a permit to drive (or do it after 6 pm) or have to take a bus that yes, you must also buy a ticket for.

Another aspect of the whole Olympics is the SECURITY, which doncha know does not include taking care of the violent anarchists. That falls to the city’s police force and is not included in the budget. But there’s the tale of a guy who is a doctoral student and works at a local hospital in one of the labs. He decided to be part of the Olympics and was interviewed to be a guard. He got his uniform, was accredited and worked two shifts. When he showed up for his third shift his security card didn’t work. In between the accrediting and working and the nonworking card he’d been called and questioned by the RCMP, that bastion of moral righteousness and law.

It’s not that he’s a protester. It’s not that he belongs to any subversive organizations. It’s not that he has any criminal record. It’s because he works with a nonviolent protester of the Olympics, a professor by the name of Chris Shaw. He works with the guy but doesn’t really know him and was in fact a supporter of the Olympics and did not believe in Chris Shaw’s point of view. But it seems even if this man who had already passed all the testing to be security for the Olympics did not pass the RCMP’s scrutiny because of working in the same lab as a nonviolent protester.

This is typical of the ineptitude and misplaced scrutiny of the RCMP. Of course, any time the media asks for the RCMP to comment they say they can’t because of privacy concerns. Those privacy concerns are really only for themselves because the media has usually already talked with the person on the other end. And if the RCMP actually used this tight of a scrutiny of their own members we might not have a man tasered to death at the Vancouver airport, or a man shot in the back of the head while in a holding cell. The RCMP used to be reliable, balance and upheld the law. They are so tarnished now they may as well get rid of the brass buttons on their red serge. They continue to pull the “Homeland Security” fiascos that George Bush would be proud of, while at the same time doing nothing to stop the anarchists who did smash store windows and injure city police. Between VANOC and the RCMP it’s amazing that we’re not all being questioned and ticketed.

So while you’re here enjoying Canada’s open hospitality (why is it that I almost wrote hostility) make sure you’re squeaky clean. And if you’re not, don a black hood and the RCMP won’t be able to see you. It’s just to bad the sports and arts of the Olympics are constantly overshadowed but the idiocy of ineptitude of the various arrogant and money grabbing Olympic committees.

Leave a comment

Filed under art, cars, Culture, driving, entertainment, news, people, security, sports, travel

Indian Olympic Team Snubs Charity

India has a small Olympic contingent in the 2010 Olympics. Although India sports a warm climate, there are mountains in the country but not a lot of winter so it makes sense that there might only be three winter athletes. It also makes sense that although India has over a billion people and a sixth of the world’s population that there might still be a lot of poverty.

It doesn’t make sense that three athletes representing their country should not even be given matching outfits for the opening ceremonies. The Indian government spent about the equivalent of $2000 for each of the eight team members, which is not a lot for the length of the Olympics. I don’t think the government is that poor but I’m not an economist.  But here’s something else that doesn’t make sense. On arrival of the eight members (including the three athletes) in Canada the local Indo-Canadian community found out about Team India’s plight. A local Indo-Canadian businessman chipped in, and had suits made up, and the community raised $8,000 for expenses through a local radio host.

Before that, luge athlete and flag bearer Shiva Keshavan was given about $9,700 by a group of lawyers so that he could get a new sled. The Indian government has put out a statement saying they did supply uniforms (which were supposedly mismatched) and some money, as well as giving Shiva $2o,000 the year before for his training. I don’t know how $20,000 translates in India compared to cost of living and other expenditures but it probably goes farther than here, but how far?

It’s unclear whether the outfits were done in time for the opening ceremonies but most likely were. However Keshavan was not wearing the outfit. And it seems that the $8,000 raised by the Indo-Canadian community has been turned down by Team India (after Keshavan said they were grateful) with the comment that they will not accept charity and are embarrassed.

I think it’s time to leave egos at the door. Olympic athletes don’t just compete for themselves but for their countries. A country is made up of individuals and it’s obvious that the Indo-Canadian community here cared enough to want to help. They wanted their athletes to look good and do well and win for all of them.

And on top of that, Keshavan accepted money from the government of India as well as from the lawyers. In fact, almost all Olympic athletes accept charity, or donations to further their training, whether from governments, organizations, benefactors or other commercial donors. How does the Indian team (which member has his knickers in a twist over this?) decide that this is not acceptable? If they’re embarrassed by their government’s lack of funding, the damage has already been done. They should be grateful that their fellow country men and women are wishing to participate in their own way and help out.

If a country is poor and people chip in I think that just shows more of a team spirit to those who are happy to be behind a team, to support them and cheer them on and do a little bit in any way they can because they are not the athletes. It should be country’s pride in helping, not embarrassment in accepting.

And what will the overabundance of Team India’s pride get them in the end? Probably nothing, including no support from the local Indo-Canadian community and no medals because they didn’t accept what was needed. Team India, take some humility here and use your pride in your athletics, and be happy that some people were willing to help.

Leave a comment

Filed under Culture, fashion, news, people, sports

Vancouver and the Olympics

Well, I wasn’t really going to post much more on the Olympics. After all, they’ve started and no matter how much I dislike the amount of money spent, they’re in full swing. And it’s time for the athletes to shine.

I won’t be going to any of the paid venues because I can’t afford them. I’m not a big fan of crowds but there’s still a chance I can take in one of the many free events going on. It’s a bit odd on how quiet the media was about these until just a few days before. One or two newspapers listed them but I heard little on the radio, my main form of news.

Grey skies and flowers in Feb.

In the transportation end of things VANOC stressed (with many signs on the major thoroughfares) to take alternative forms of transportation for the Olympics. Walk, bike or transit the signs said. Then the “buts” began. But, said John Furlong, try not take transit when people are trying to get to their time-sensitive venues. He somehow missed that people had time-sensitive jobs and not all of us get free time to watch the Olympics. You can bike but don’t use transit at the same time because, although people are normally allowed to take their bikes normally, they can’t during the Olympics. Oh and you can walk, but don’t expect to actually get to where you’re going. Areas are cordoned off  without even a walkway through.

A friend of mine tried to get to the Arts Club Theatre to see a play a week ago, before the Olympics started. She gave herself plenty of time and took the SkyTrain. When she got off she went to take one of the small boats to Granville Island but the route was blocked off. She called Arts Club who would not change her ticket to another time and gave her a long circuitous route, involving a lot of walking, two buses and a shuttle to get to Granville Island. She never made it and found out later that Arts Club neglected to mention the train running from where she was, at Science World, right to Granville Island.

However, that said, extra SkyTrains and buses have been running, and another friend reports that her sister (visiting from Scotland) has made it on time to every venue in under an hour. VANOC seems to be doing a good job in having extra vehicles, as long as you can take transit under their terms. Don’t count on anything else and don’t count on taxis. In regards to other traffic around the lower mainland, it’s been the same as always or lighter and I’ve not had to deal with any changes, but then I’m avoiding downtown.

I live near one of the practice rinks. A few weeks ago they started cordoning off the rink from the gym, school and other facilities. I work out at the gym and was made aware well in advance of the upcoming inconvenience. They put up large concrete barricades and started erecting the chainlink fence. It’s not just a single fence but the outer fence is around six feet and the inner fence is 8-10 feet high. Thankfully, there is no razor wire at the top or slavering dogs running about. It was uglier until they put up the blue green branding tarps that’s part of the official Olympics look. I have to say this, the colors are nice and the blue and green must represent the greenery of BC, available all year round in the grass here in Vancouver, and the blue of the ocean (certainly not the sky, which is often grey in winter). And a bit of white.

Cameras clustered like grapes.

I wasn’t too happy to see Stalag 2010 going in and I still think it’s overkill. There are two security checkpoints around the rink, but not where the vehicles drive in. There is a third one for the official vehicles. But what I find even more ridiculous is the overkill of the spyeyes. These cameras are in clusters of three, plus a few other individual ones, plus the people in the three security booths, plus the guys in the parking lot, plus the person checking people’s passes, all behind the blue-green fence. And this is only a practice rink for something, hockey I would presume. Yikes!

Now as to the Olympics. Yes, I’ve seen some on TV. I watched some of the opening ceremonies and from what I saw they did look spectacular. Nicely done and I loved all the First Nations dancers and the giant drum. The speculation over the final torch bearer probably met everyone’s expectations with five bearers (Rick Hansen bringing the torch to the four: Nancy Greene, Wayne Gretzky, Steve Nash, Catriona LeMay Doan), and eight Canadian greats bringing in the Olympic flag (Donald Sutherland, Anne Murray, Romeo Dallaire, Betty Fox representing Terry Fox, Bobby Orr, Jacques Villeneuve, Julie Payette, Barbara Ann Scott).  But I didn’t watch it all. Still it does look world class.

The sports proceed apace and so do the protests. It is the right of every person to protest or not and do so peacefully. Unfortunately black robed and hooded thugs who care nothing about either the Olympics or the protestors’ legitimate concerns joined the crowds to cause violence and general anarchy, and put eight police in hospital the first night. I do not condone this nor support it in any way and those people should be arrested and locked up. They hurt everything, from the Olympics to the protestors to the police who are just doing their jobs. It’s one reason why I worry about going downtown and getting caught in some thug’s idea of a good time.

I hope the Olympics go well, I hope the athletes do fantastic and I hope the next venues to do the Olympics don’t feel the need to do one  upmanship and increase the ludicrous spending.

1 Comment

Filed under Culture, life, news, people, security, sports

All About Hearts

Well, it’s nearly Valentine’s Day, another Hallmark moment date for florists and candy makers to make some bucks. A moment for everyone to declare their love for one another and then forget about it for the rest of the year. I’ve never been a fan of Valentine’s Day except for the chocolate. I don’t believe some commercial enterprise should tell people when to express their love. A healthy relationship should involve a few declarations or symbols throughout the year, from one person to the other and not rely on prodding from the world of merchandise.

But the heart shape seems to be quite old, and stylized, although it doesn’t much resemble the human heart. Still, way back when humans started using it to symbolize the heart and love. Some argue that the silphium seed pod, which is heart shaped, is where the design came from but the truth is lost in antiquity. What we do know is that the heart has figured big in spiritual and emotional matters since at least the times of the Egyptians.

The heart would be weighed against truth, and early theories involved the heart being the seat of reason, the soul or emotion. Even though today we know that thoughts and emotions are generated by the brain and can cause a physiological reaction in the body, still our language is peppered with allusions to the heart still being the seat of emotion.

You have to have heart, goes one song. It should come from the heart, means it should be done with feeling. People will touch the vicinity of their chest housing the heart (though usually higher that the heart’s true location) and say, It touched me, or I felt it here. You have a cold heart, is a common enough thing to say to someone who seems to lack feeling or compassion.

Some conjecture that the heart is the shape of a woman’s buttocks or that it is the vagina (or possibly the uterus). All of these are just guesses because we will never know who first made the shape so stylized. But the heart is a unique shape that we recognize the world over as much as the circle, square, star or diamond. It’s asymmetrical and different and it will forevermore be part of a symbol for emotion, love, the physical heart and Valentine’s Day. So whether I like it or not, chocolates are sure to be dispensed in heart shaped boxes for at least another 100 years or so.

Leave a comment

Filed under Culture, history, people

Traveling in India: Frightful Flights

When I traveled to India, way back when, transportation in all ways was memorable. Flying though, was something else. We first flew to Singapore on Singapore Airlines, a very classy, clean operation. However from Singapore to Calcutta was Indian Airlines and although the airline was fine, the hygiene was terrible. Here is were we ran into cultural issues. In India people use squat toilets or just squat over ditches and runnels, depending on the area. Even a porcelain toilet will be used to squat over, and often have no seat. So the toilets on the plain would be covered in dirty footprints from people hoping up on the narrow ledge to squat over the toilet.

Cleaner for them yes. They weren’t touching anything that had been touched for others. But for everyone of a Western culture it was filthier. We’re taught (but not all are taught well) to clean the seat if you splash but of course since they didn’t actually sit on the seat, they didn’t clean it. Singapore would have arrested people for doing such and indeed toilets there had signs of large fines for not flushing toilets.

But the flights, that’s what I’m really talking about. The next leg of our trip involved taking a smaller plane through the Himalayan foothills to Meghalaya. There were several small airlines but the most direct route into Khasis lands was Vayudoot Airlines. I don’t actually remember which town we flew into but the flight was memorable. The plane was small, one of those where the wheels stay down. I believe it was a Fokker aircraft designed to hold 28 people. Five of those people were my friend and her husband, their two- and three-year-old sons and me. The seats were small and close enough that I could have reach across the middle row to touch the other side. There were, I believe three seats on one side and two on the other.

I sat with Hanocia and her youngest son. The plane took off and we headed toward the Himalayas. The flight attendant on the intercom just came across as loud fuzzy noise and no one could understand her. Being in India, a largely vegetarian country, we were given a light meal, which consisted of white bread with some sort of oddly green paste in it. Then the flight got rocky as we hit air pockets. We dipped, we twisted, we swooped, and so did our stomachs. Hanocia’s young son lost his green sandwich, thankfully into a barf bag. Hanocia, who had done this trip before, sat tight-lipped and white knuckled (even for a brown-skinned person) clutching the seat. I had the window seat, not necessarily a blessing. We sat over the wing and the wheels and I swear there was a crack running up one of the struts.

Needless to say we made it, shaken up but relatively whole. When it came time to leave Meghalaya, we chose different airlines. I was leaving a month early to travel through India and Nepal so I chose another airline, but that meant traveling into neighboring Assam. Because the borders were closed between Assam and Meghalaya due to another fight between the two states, I had to have signed papers. It was an arduous bus trip of many many hours, and passing a bloated dead man in the middle of the road, who had been hit by a car and who knows how long he lay there with the crowd waiting for officials.

The flight from Assam to Calcutta was relatively uneventful once on the flight. But it was over three hours delayed in typical Indian fashion. I sat there for hours, very dehydrated because I didn’t have water with me and didn’t dare drink the local water. At one point, about two hours into waiting three men flurried over, their jackets flapping and said, come with us. In India you can’t really tell who is an official or not. There were no uniforms or name tags but I was taken off to a back room and asked where I was going, where I had come from. I had to show my papers and the guy took them and laboriously wrote out information. I think the painstaking time was to make me worry and really, I was too naive to realize they wanted baksheesh until after the fact.

But I was glad I hadn’t taken Vayudoot on the way out because we had heard, after landing, that one plane had lost a tail on takeoff and another a wing on landing. I hope all my frightful flights are things of the past.

1 Comment

Filed under Culture, flying, memories, security, travel