Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Smokey again.

Yes indeed I am all smelly and smokey again. This time I won't be showering...somehow the smell of smoke isn't bothering me so much today...

You see it is a different kind of smoke...

Smoke from these:

You can read last year's post about this event here and here and there are more photos, also from last year, in this album which has photos of the castallers as well.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008


Ya know what I hate?

The smell of cigarette smoke that clings to your hair and skin and clothes after going out.

We went to watch the Manchester/Barça game at a local bar (we seem to have brought the Maple Leaf curse over with us...Barça can't do ANYTHING these days).

It was smokey.....

What a foul stink you carry home.

I am typing with a towel on my head and a complete change of clothes. The girls were too tired and went to bed with the foul odour floating gassing off them.


Monday, April 28, 2008


Chuck is sick.

Really quite sick. He has been infected with a disease that affects dogs. It is a warm climate illness that exists around the Med, the southern US, throughout central and south America, Africa and Asia.

He is a most unwell puppy at the moment. It is not contagious to humans, and it must be vectored through a mosquito for several days before it is transmittable. He will carry it for the rest of his life, and whenever he is ill or stressed it is likely to flare up.

He has pain, discomfort, joint ache, fever and he is tired.

The medication seems to be working though, and yours truly is giving him an injection every day along with pills. He seems to be in less pain, as in he will walk up and down the stairs and is willing to sit again. He also has some more energy, but nothing like normal. He is interacting with us more as well and has retained his sweet and patient disposition throughout. If anyone knows some way to stop a dog from licking at cuts that would be great...he has a couple of open sores that he will. not. leave. alone. I need to put anti-biotic cream on them, he views it as a light snack and tries to lick it off my fingers before I even get near the sores.

The disease is potentially fatal for dogs, but we have caught it early, and if we have any luck at all the medication will work, and he will be fine; on pills for the rest of his life, but fine. Fortunately the meds are cheap here.

Poor pup.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Busy days.....

It has been busy, I got a free ticket to go to a concert with a friend of a friend last night. The 'f. of a f.' was a man from Australia and he just finished the Camino de Santiago de Compostela...780 or so kilometers. We're planing on doing it in a few years if we can. Anyway, the concert was a performance by a Spanish/Catalan crooner...I cannot find a video by the man, but this is one of the songs he sang....I have to say that the version I heard was better, partially because the audience loved it so much....and he had them sing along...there was another song that I liked much better but I cannot find a single version of that anywhere...

Then today the man and youngest went and did a 5k orienteering run, in an ungraded age range group..their time brought them in about 4th or 5th...out of about 60 including adults and teens, unfortunately they got one tag wrong, you have to mark your card at set spots and there were two stations near each other, and they used the wrong one...they went really fast though!

There were also some Castellers are some snaps....there are more photos from last year on the sidebar there, you can click and go to the album....the pictures from this year are a little less structural and a little more intimate....

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Books once more.

We have had a fantastic rant about the books we loathe...indeed the comments keep coming in over there, which is really fun....

Lets twist it a little now.

Please, as the inimitable GM put it..."There's so much great literature out there just waiting to be discovered!"


I throw down the gauntlet...what are the GREAT new books you're reading...

I don't know if it counts as new, but I ADORE Fugitive certainly is more recent than Jane Eyre and all, but not NEW NEW NEW.....a great book....I love the language, the depth of the prose, the deft handling of a potentially depressing storyline into an uncomfortable, though compelling read...

What else,...I also love some non-fiction....At Day's Close, I just read, and it is a look at nighttime and life after dark in older cultures and how it affected everything from our architecture to our patterns of living, ,moving and marrying.

I also really enjoyed the DaVinci Code (so shoot me!) It was a great story...everyone please remember it is FICTION, m'kay? That is the issue I have with that book, could they all please remember it is FICTION?

Qeu més....what else....

There are some travel writers who are amazing, the astonishing Bruce Chatwin for instance....

Stephen Binker is fantastic. The language instinct and also the Blank Slate.

There are a ton of sailing books I really enjoy reading...the Smeetons are probably the best of the lot, though not as famous as some, there is a biography of them out which is also amazing reading. They were incredibly tough.

I'm going to have to add more is soooo late....

So who do you love?

Friday, April 25, 2008

Creativity and God

I was watching this video over on Ted Talks. If you've never visited, you really should cruise over there, you will have your mind expanded, in twenty minutes by any one of a thousand brilliant thinkers and speakers.

Sir Ted Robinson told a story during his speech on the importance of creativity and how our education systems kill it. His story is about a little girl, six years old, who was in a drawing lesson. She was at the back of the class, drawing. The teacher went over to the child and asked her what she was drawing.

The girl replied, "I'm drawing a picture of God."

The teacher paused and then stated (oh so teacher-ily) that, "Nobody knows what God looks like."

Without a pause the little girl replied, "They will in a minute."

Thursday, April 24, 2008


One of the interesting things about learning a different language is the different categories the languages create. Categories being human constructions based on what we view as important for the grouping or defining of a type.

With other people, we have acquaintances, colleagues, and friends and best friend...most commonly. There are also slang...which I am not going to go into, as it is so regional, and changes fairly fast....for fuddy-duddies, like me, those are the main characters...

The Catalans don't have a word, that I have discovered, for acquaintance...which kind of makes sense on a village level, you already know everyone so introductions are irrelevant...they also don't seem to have an equivalent for colleague, in the sense of someone you know from work (and don't necessarily like)...instead a colleague is someone you know fairly well and like (I think), but wouldn't quite call a friend yet. Then there are friends, which is quite a tight definition as far as I can tell, and I would say that NA's are freer with the word.

To me this seems to reflect on attitude and culture.

Then you get within a culture and you get individual differences...some folks have countless acquaintances, and others are fantastically friend at a time, and that's nearly it. I tend to have a friend or two from each stage of my life who I am still in touch with, plus some others with whom I have formed a close relationship tossed in, and I tend to be fairly good at building up relationships with people. I have colleagues at both of my workplaces, and the Catalan version of colleagues, as in you've been to each others house, you like each other, and know each other fairly well, but you aren't really friends yet.

Then there is on-line blog buds...another category, not quite friends in the conventional self, more than acquaintances, you've never met, but you know each other well.....

Then there is family that is a your spouse or sister or brother a friend as well? We don't call them a friend though, which seems weird to me...

Friendship and grammar, the hot topics in our house these last few months...intertwined too.

What kind of friends do you have most? Really close buddies, a bit of each? Do you agree with the definitions? I am interested...

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Youngests Neolithic work...

She made the clay, as in dug it out, and mixed in the straw.

She filled the molds.

She built the walls.

She laid the roof!

Then she made the pot...I like the seashell decorations.

She also made a candle that I forgot to take a picture of, tomorrow.

Then we looked at pictures of adobe brick work on the internet...from the Pueblo Indians in the US SW, to the Roman Coliseum, which apparently has some, buildings in Burkina Faso, modern houses in the US, and structures in South America.

Pretty cool!

Now we just need a bit of land, and she can build us a mortgage free home! And the pots, lights and dishes to go with it.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Eldest update.

We went off the the gastroenterological specialist today for the results of the battery of test that were done when we stayed overnight in hospital a few weeks ago.

In the meantime we also went and got anther ultrasound done to be sure that she hasn't torn an abdominal muscle, on the recomendation of one of the pediatricians.

Nope. Muscles are fine, everything checks out fine.

Physically, all is clear.


She has massively elevated immunoglobulin levels, which the doctor said and I have confirmed with google medicine, implies either an allergic reaction, or a parasite; as this started in the Bahamas, and I have a wicked family history of allergies...

We have our name in the queue for an appointment with an allergist...the gastro guy seemed to think that the allergist can look for parasites. Now, I don't know what medicine is like here, but I always thought that parasites were the task of, oh, say a parasitologist, or tropical disease specialist. I will be calling the man's cousin who is a pediatrician for some info on this, and then going to our local doctor for a referral to another specialist I suspect.

Still, all in all, I am actually pretty content. Nothing is physically wrong with her actual body. If it is a parasite, we can kill it; if it is an allergy, we can avoid it, and we have a two avenues of investigation to follow.

Plus the first actual definitive clue, as opposed to the endless shoulder shrugs..."No sé"

"I don't know."

Now maybe we can start to know.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Books, again...gotta hate'm

I've been thinking about the GREAT works of L'traaaatchuuure that I have hated. That have simply stunk.

Now don't get me wrong, there are some good ones out there, but YEE GAWDS there are some stinkers too.

Here goes a partial list off the cliched top of my head.

The first book I ever hated....Gone with the Wind. Would it never end, and would Scarlet ever turn into a worthwhile human being. Clearly NO. I finished it on a boat and the only reason I didn't lob the monster overboard was because it was a library book, and then I would have paid for it too. I decided at this point in my life I was NEVER plowing through a book I despised again.

Atwood (I know, your lining up to shoot me) but honest to God...she may be great...and she is a fantastic crafter of a sentence...but for all the toes on every Cupid's fat little foot, these are books to send you to the kitchen to stuff your head in the oven.

Middlemarch...yes it is a great and seminal book in the development of the novel...bored me senseless. Maybe it picked up after the first half, but life is too short to read books I am hating.

Reading Lolita in Tehran. Man I want to love this book. I so want to. I have started it about five times, and I always get about half way through and I am so overwhelmed by stifling boredom I cannot continue...maybe this is her point, the stifling overwhelming seemingly never-ending boredom of living where so little is allowed. If so, I've got it...I won't be picking it up again.

I just picked up, and put down about a quarter of the way through, A Distant Shore, but Caryl Phillips. Now the two protagonists are deeply troubled and basically massively depressed. I can work with that, the setting is dreary, that's OK, I'm hanging hombre....the weird slashed time changes that simply look like bad writing, but maybe are literature's version of abstraction, OK, I'm still there, but then the horrific racially motivated murder of one of the main characters by a crowd of YOBs who had been sending hate mail...sorry. BYE!!! I am only about a 6th in, and we are going to stutter and jerk our way through endless slashed disordered and time destroyed flashback misery to lead up to this? Ciao.

Pere Goriot by Balzac...I was forced to read it in French in grade 13, we read the Petit Prince the year before. I hate them both. What is it about assigning books at school that is such a kiss of death.

SO...My list can go on...

What are your secrets...those books you are ashamed to hate. Those books you are supposed to LOVE...

c'mon, I cannot be the only one with this dirty little secret....

Wha'da'ya hate?

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Beans beans beans beans and SPINACH!.

Now, I am no brilliant cook. I will say that up front, but tonight I made something that was so good, and so different, I just have to tell y'all.

Now you see, we eat a lot of beans. We just like them, and since we don't eat a whole lot of meat, cause we're cheap, cause it isn't all that good for us, cause we're cheap, cause it isn't all that good for the planet and cause we're cheap. Plus beans taste really great.


One of the ways I do chick peas (I know I was talking about beans and now chickpeas. My ESL students HATE this about English) Sorry. One of the ways I do chickpeas is to fry them up...I always use canned because even with a pressure cooker you have to cook them for something like an hour and that's just silly. Use that heat all at once and cook a few hundred cans of the suckers thankyouverymuch.

So, with your can of chickpeas, drain them and rinse them. Then I put a big fat frying pan on the stove, toss in some oil, usually sunflower because this recipe's roots lie further east than olive oil...toss in as much garlic as you can handle, I would recommend at least four cloves, and some dried hot peppers...whatever kind you can find and like. Once those get nice, throw in the peas and start cooking.

You have to be a little careful here cause sometimes they explode and then you have molten hot chunks of mushy chickpea flying around you kitchen landing on your dog, your wrist, or you lower belly if you wear the current fashions. I put a lid on the pan, maybe you like to live life closer to the edge than I do, I recommend a lid. And higher waists on pants. For everyone.

I fry that up for a while, here's the next trick. You need fish sauce. Thai or Vietnamese. I am going to open a can of worms here and say it doesn't matter which. To some people of course it matters a great deal, but I do not possess a sufficiently sophisticated palette. Nor do I have a lot of choice in the store I have found in BCN, so I buy what I can. Shake in quite a bit. It is pretty salty, so you may want to taste as you go along. If I am lucky and the chickpea gods are with me, they go kind of hard and crunchy almost on the outside, sometimes not.

Sometimes I cheat and sprinkle some paprika on the towards the end if they aren't really browning up all that well, they look nicer, the taste is nice...nothing like a Thai/Vietnamese/Hungarian fusion dish, no?

Now this is where things got weird tonight..and yummy. I had my chickpeas headed towards the flames, when I realised that I had two HUGE bunches of spinach that HAD to be cooked right now.

The Catalans do wickedly delicious things with spinach, involving boiling/steaming whatever, frying, prunes, raisins and pine nuts...and my local place also put some sort of cream kind of white sauce thing on there as well. (Are you enjoying the technical cooking lingo? I am such a pro.)

SO... I'm looking at my spinach and I'm prepping my chick peas and I wonder why the heck not, worst comes to worst it is indelibly horrible.

So I cooked up the spinach in a big pot, took the 8 tablespoons of spinach I had at the end out, and pressed it, then chopped it up small with scissors and tossed it in with my chickpeas. Not too big an innovation, but I was still thinking of that white sauce.

So a basic bechamel recipe is cruising through my head...fat, seasonings, flour, milk...I've got seasonings already in the pan, chickpeas can be used for flour of a sort, tip a little more oil in here and I've got some fat...What the heck, pour in some milk and I'm approaching that Catalan spinach dish they make at the local place that I kidding you, I could eat fields worth of spinach if she made them.

If your keeping track here I now have Thai/Vietnamese/Hungarian/French/Catalan spinach dish. Maybe I'll throw Canadian in there too, cause I am. Actually that kind of reads like the occupants of an average subway car in TO anyway doesn't it. Naw, there would be more variety than that.

The milk kind of thickened up, and took on a deeper tanned tone, I turned it off when it looked not too runny and not too thick, stir stir stir.

It was, if I may say so myself, really good! And really different.

I always cook out of a book, and adapt for the ingredients I am missing - I rule at this after three years on a boat in the tropics without a fridge...but making a recipe up by myself? Not so great usually.

It was YUMMY!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Spears and paint

Along with going to see Guy Clark play last night, youngest came back from her trip away at school. She was just a wee bit tired. She arrived home, virtually silent, at 5:45 and was asleep by 6:00. The babysitter woke her up for dinner at 9pm, then put her back to bed at 11. She slept till 8am, and was fairly civil today.

She spent her three days running around in the mud in the mountains with far too little clothes on (she mostly packed shorts, and it was around 4 degrees Celsius) eating tons of sugar and making neolithic weapons. She made a candle, a neolithic fur cleaner/knife, she shot a bow and arrow, she threw spears, using an atlatl, which is a second shorter stick with a notch at the end, that lets you throw the spear much further as you have a longer lever...or another joint in your also, according to youngest, makes it much harder to aim. They look like this...'

We will be making one of those soon I think.

She also made paint from soil and water, though not from blood to her relief, and painted with it...she had a fantastic time overall, which was great. We may have to go to the Basque region and see some of the cave paintings there!

She is bringing most of the stuff home on Monday, I'll post some pics then.

I cannot even remember what we are doing tomorrow, Eldest wants to go to a gallery. We'll see.

Hope you had a lovely day!



Friday, April 18, 2008

Guy Clark and Vernon Thompson

The Man and I went to hear Guy Clark play in a town near BCN tonight...I LOVE his music, here's a link to one of my favourite songs of his, that was actually written with the guy he's singing with, Vernon Thompson, I'm giving you a link 'cause it's really late and I am really tired and for some reason the embedding never goes is another version of the song, which is complete, the first isn't. The first is pretty much exactly what we saw though, without the hats....

One thing he mentioned, you know that song, Don't it make my brown eyes blue by Crystal Gail? The man who wrote the song, Richard Lee, is the man they who has boats to build in the song above. Also, Richard wrote the brown eyes blue song...for his dog!

Well, I was going to upload a photo, but I am too tired and seems I cannot even do that, to see Guy and Vernon one more time, go here

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Times ten

Swedish Expat had this meme up over at his site, and since I am still unsure about quite what to I seem to have too much so instead I'm going to play along, it seems kind of fun...

Ten seconds ago, I was switching the breaker back on for the power in our place after the lightning, thunder, rain and hail storm that Chuck and I were out in...please note it is sunny now.

Ten minutes ago I was doing dishes while waiting for my chai to brew, in my undies with a towel on my head, having dried off the dog and left him lying on his towel.

Ten hours ago I was asleep in bed, is that possible? Let me do the math again....yes, seems I was. *shocked horror*

Ten days ago I was walking in the mountains with youngest on her free day off, and planting a chestnut tree up there too.

Ten, wait, do I do weeks here or what...must look....yes, though I wasn't supposed to do hours...but what the heck...OK, ten weeks ago I was *woah there's a ton on that day* I was working and running about a million errands, plus I had some kids over for lunch along with ours.

Ten months ago I was here in Spain and we had lunch at a friends house I think, we were just about to leave for Canada.

Ten years ago...goodness gracious, give me a moment here...Eldest was tiny, we were living in Toronto, life was settled and pleasant, I was working from my home.

Now..the other way,

Ten seconds from now I will be typing or proof-reading; or sipping my chai.

Ten minutes from now I will be getting ready to go pick up eldest from school and by her gooey bakery goods as an openly acknowledged bribe about the after-school Spanish class that she hates.

Ten hours from now I will be once again sleeping (I sincerely hope)

Ten days from now I will be hanging out with my kids and my dog and my husband at home, by and large.

Ten weeks from now I will be (have you noticed how good this would be as an ESL exercise? All this practice with pasts and futures) grading and judging oral exams. Yee gawds.

Ten months from now (I am starting to feel superstitious about this, like I should knock on wood for each of these I wills...)I am planning on being (see, I am superstitious, I may have to change the others too.) in Spain, probably teaching, walking the dog, the usual stuff.

Ten years from now? I cannot even guess. I cannot even narrow it down to a continent. I will be more weathered after ten years with teens, I hope I will be stronger in mind, if not in body. Chuck will be a very old dog, and I will be older too. I hope I will have accomplished a bunch of things I want to do, take the kids to India, walk the Santiago de Compostella, sailed, swum, dreamt, I don't know what all, hope it will be as good as the last ten. I hope I will not have had to face anything too dreadful. Fingers tightly crossed.

As my Mom mentioned in an e-mail today, *drawn breath*

Wednesday, April 16, 2008


I just spent some time doing searches over on there is a place you can spend a lot of time without even knowing it.

But now.

I find.

I don't.

know what to say.

It has been.

a very.

muddled day.

Youngest went off for three days

with school.


Chuck is afflicted....visited the lovely vet.

lunch with ladies and kids....laughed, and joked, and ate, and talked.

worries/plans for school next year


Did the students know?

Adolescence. *gasp*


Aging parent. *Sigh*

Missing youngest.

Wordless late at night.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Modern art

I went off to MACBA today with a friend. I know that some people really don't like modern art. Some of it I don't like either, especially since some of it is so profoundly disturbing.

I think though that why some of it is so disturbing is that it speaks to us in this time. We don't need to learn the meaning of all the Christian saints, and their symbols etc etc etc to get the painting. It speaks to us more viscerally, because it speaks more directly to our experiences and innate knowledge of the world we inhabit. Kind of like reading from your own culture; though it is sometimes a pretty tough read.

What I also really like about it is the very fact that I don't get it, and the good pieces always leave me thinking about them. This happens partially because there is no expert speaking over my shoulder interpreting it for me, and partially because I don't get it really.

We stopped into the museum briefly on Sunday while killing time waiting for the bus -I hate that phrase killing time, we ran into a friend, had a chat, watched skateboarders fly in a plaça along side a group of brilliantly colourfully dressed Indian women who were setting up for a performance, shopped in a fantastic and fascinating bookstore (and didn't buy anything, though I was sorely tempted) and saw a piece of instillation art. I don't think this is killing time.

ANYWHOO, this installation piece, which I really like now, though I didn't get it at the time, is in the main entrance space. May I add that I think my favourite form of art right now, and for the last long, while is installation works.

This pieces consisted of a series of broad very dark brown hangings describing a ragged circle, you had to walk between these to get into the piece - another think I love about installation pieces is that so often the artist invites you in, and invites you to interact with the work - inside there was a mat on the floor made up of largish, as in at least a meter across, overlapping circles of brilliantly coloured mats. There were four TVs showing black and white movies in Russian (?) with subtitles in English. All about the oil industry in Russia or Lithuania I am not sure.

I like it, because every time I think about it I get a little more, it is very generous that way. I am assuming that the wall hangings represent the oil that is culturally engulfing us (pun intended) and the carpet is the oil floating on water...etc etc etc...

We saw a couple of artists' work, a couple of Calders and a Paul Klee plus some really cool installation pieces using lights, plastic bottles and a record player...we also saw this show by Luther Baumgarten which was OK, only OK though. There was a lot of photography, all black and white (it IS modern art you know daaaahhhling) but there were two installation pieces that I filled a room. At the far end of the room there was a table without any chairs, set beautifully with a plate, on it a napkin laid flat, and then a soup bowl. There were no glasses nor stemware. The cutlery was feathers and porcupine quills. All around the walls there were slide projectors, some showing art works, all with birds and others showed modernist style patterns of shapes. It was called the origin of table manners. I think my kids could get some mileage out of it.

I loved how we could go into the room and interact with the material, stand in the way of the slides, make patterns in the slides and walk around the table...

There was a second installation piece that was a series of enormous planks, of tropical hardwood, the kind they are chopping down the Amazon forests for. They were laid on edge on the floor one behind the other like a range of mountains, and each was cut along it's top edge to mirror the shape of the ranges of hills in the photos. There were huge cables ending in naked electric bulbs laid about, artists sketchbooks with bold black sketches of skylines, and formations of pigment for painting. White scattered around, and a pyramid of blue, achingly strong blue pigment. Some of this was clear to me...about the stripping of the forests, for a few bulbs and lengths of timber, the artistic ties were less clear...still pondering that one.

There was a final display we saw which was much less clear. There was one cool section that held the archives of something like 6000 Lithuanian women singing, talking, laughing whatever. There was a table with two heat/light sensitive indents, and a bank of powerful lights around it. You were invited to use your hands to create shadows, multi-faceted because of all the lights, and as you cast your shadows, of varying intensity over the heat sensitive spots, the voices changed. I really liked it. I liked the explorational interactive aspect, and it was pretty cool. I have to confess though, I haven't gotten an AHA about it yet, though it may come.

This paragraph was inserted later... I am coming to think that some of it had to do with the changes in these women's lives caused by the shadows and actions of people they will never know and cannot affect. Kind of obvious, but as the show was discussing the changes in women's lives as they move away from Communism and Russia.....

The funniest part was that they got a bunch of young women from the Lithuanian State Bank to Karaoke to ABBA's Money Money Money. A concept that I thought was rich in possibility as well as humour...

It's a rich man's world.

San Cugat

We were in Sant Cugat on Sunday. This is a part of the handle of the door to the main church in the monastery....I find it intriguing.

The buildings have been largely and vastly reconstructed because in the early 1800's, after the monks were forced to flee, the local population largely destroyed the buildings. Out of revenge, out of poverty, out of retribution, to search for riches, goodies and easy building supplies, but mostly to find and destroy the documents that held them in serfdom on the land. They could finally, for the first time in generations, own the land they worked.

This is a modern concrete fabrication of the very damaged original pedestal for a column in the cloister,

And his back end too.

At the tops of all of the columns, the capitals, there were different carvings, each and every one unique. Some displaying incident in the life of Jesus, others animals, and others I know not what, I like this fellow though...he seems medieval and modern, and content and thoughtful.

This is the cloister itself, the pavings and diggings you can see in the middle are the remains of a paleoChristian church, which was itself built on the remains of a Roman villa. It's been a busy place for a long long time.

Friday, April 11, 2008

If they're going to read, we have to...

Then there is the writing. How many of you love that aspect of blogging, of web based interaction, be it intellectual interaction and creation og text with information and opinions, or actual interaction through blogging and commenting...we don't need to go into dating here, but social sites like facebook and myspace, as well as twitter and chat rooms...they all provide different venues for writing....

I also find that writing on line is functionally different than writing with paper and pen. My online writing is almost always for an audience, be it an email, blog, or work related. When I write on paper it is more private, though often inane as well.

There you have some Catalan verb conjugations if you feel like studying them...

I have one of these Moleskine notebooks which I love and carry with me most is hopelessly disorderly and also strangely orderly. There is a place I can write anything down, but it is purely chronological...which sometimes makes it tough to find...I also use it as a portable memory, I can make notes of things I see and want to remember, that strike me as fascination or interesting...

These are two pieces from the Etruscan exhibit I went to and blogged about, but CANNOT find...ah well, I should be less cryptic in my blog titles...

I have always wanted to journal, but usually fell out of the practice. Blogging somehow fills that, I think the audience keeps me on track, the feedback is also motivating. Facebook? Meh, I had a page. Boring. Twitter? I've checked it out, and there are some neat things being done with it, for instance politically active protesters in countries that are not, shall we say, open to that use it as a safety net...for instance they will twitter that they are going into the police station, and how long they expect to be there, so that people can start to act if they don't reappear. Pretty cool, no? Not exactly useful in my life though.

Chat rooms...again blech for me.

I also like the reflective nature of having to come up with a blog post each day, it forces me to look back at what I thought about rather than what I did...and then endeavour to write about it coherently.

Skype chat? It can be OK, but I am not that fond of staring at the screen while I wait for the other person to think and of those moments you find with a computer, it is too short to do anything else, but too long to just stare at the d*mn screen, and they add up those moments.

I do use my little moleskin to journal comments that are more private than is appropriate with this venue...some are private enough though that they never hit the paper at all. Honestly though, I don't write much with a pen and paper if I were to count it up, I do draw a bit though....

Which is different again...

Can you tell I went to the Van Gogh Museum when I was in Amsterdam...which strangely I didn't blog about....looky here...

Woah, I shouldn't put mine up near his...totally intimidating, though I did draw mine in the hospital...sort of in the same theme with him, no?

The kids are listening to You tube while I type some Rihana and Yellow and more Rihana about her Umbrella, plus something about rehab

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Culture, books and web reading

Here is another thought that came out of the lecture the other night. The man who was speaking was complaining that 80% or more of the books in the local libraries are translated from sources outside of the local culture.

He of course had some vested interest in this as an author, but he did have a point. If the people of the culture never read the writers, they cannot get published, and their voice, that unique voice of that experience of being human is lost. I have heard reverse commentary about Canadian/American/British reading habits. By far the VAST majority of what I read was written in English, and comes from an English speaking culture, for me, primarily Canadian and American followed by British.

It must induce some sort of cultural tunnel vision, an introversion that can only lead to limited knowledge and understanding making us riper for miscommunication. Many of the great books that I have read set in other cultures were written by Americans or Brits...for instance Snowflower and the Secret Fan which was a great book set in China, written by - I believe - an American.

The Kite Runner is an excellent book written from outside Western culture, though it was written in English, and I believe that he lives in the US. Still, I think it probably comes from outside my normal reading routes, though clearly heavily influenced having gone through the publishing mill there.

This also raises the excellent question of voice in writing. Does the fact that a writer brings to life characters from cultures not their own, or times not their own preclude the possibility that they are speaking with a valid voice? Can it actually be a valid expression of the human experience?


That's a huge topic...

Web based reading does provide much easier access to writing from other cultures, but here's the rub, how many of us actually read much text from outside their own culture? There is still, of course, the language issue, requiring us to read what we are able to read, but how many of us regularly read writers who are from outside of our culture? I have to admit as I look down my favourites list, the vast majority of it is written by North Americans, or other ex-British colonies - an interesting comment in and of itself.

Really very very little. Something maybe I should look at. I regularly read a Dane and a Frenchman (living in Toronto, so I am not really stretching THAT much here). After that, there are a bunch of ex-pats, some sailors, and edubloggers - almost all N. American. Do I do this to reinforce my own opinions and positions? To stay where it is comfy? Is it just laziness?

Hmm, this begs my comment that reading web based material is more international, and provides a wider range of outlook and opinion. Doesn't seem to be working so well for me.

I must not be looking hard enough.

Is it important though to read from a world view point outside of your own? Youngest and I are currently reading a book called Ten Things I Hate about Me by Randa Abdel-Fattah who also wrote Does My Head Look Big in This?. Both of these books are written from the perspective of teenage girls growing up Muslim Lebanese in Australia. Given the cover blurb, the author is speaking with the voice of experience.

These are great books, they look at the world from a perspective of the outsider, or self-perceived outsiders, which makes them universal for the kids that read it. Both of the girls in the two books are struggling with their identity in the grind of growing up. Their issues are made more acute by their perceived dual girl fiercely and fearfully embraces it, and decides to wear her hijab to school, the other hides her identity fiercely for fear of reprisal.

These are typical issues facing teens, sharpened by the current political climate and cultural misunderstandings these girls face...and they are an excellent read for seeing into the world from another set of eyes, Lebanese Muslim Aussi eyes.

I think I am answering my own question; in drawing too fine a line around who the author is, and what experiences they have we run the risk of muddling whether we are reading literature or someones diary. Both have value, but I think that it is possible to speak universally from wherever you are, if you have the skill.

By the same token, I think it takes a rare person to be able to express this clearly, and reading the opinions and insights of those who come from different cultures and societies is vastly important.

I think that great writers of any background, working in any language, can speak to us all. I think that they also have a tremendous amount to offer their readers by opening a window into their experience of being a human.

Celebrate our diversity while touching each other through our unified human experience.

Books books books and reading

First of all, some entirely unrelated photos of me as a kid...

and my sister too....

I have been thinking more about the reading a book vs reading on line issue.

I think that there is no real difference between reading a magazine and reading on line, but I do think that a book provides both an opportunity for sustained attention and focus that simply does not exist on the web. I think it also provides a much greater depth of discourse than is typically available on line.

I do not mean to say that we cannot investigate things in depth on line, as clearly we can, but it tends to involve a skipping around from site to site in order to do so, along with a certain amount of waiting time as disparate sites post information. Again, this mimics a daily magazine format more than a book. On line information, as elPadawan so eloquently put it is infinitely more timely. I also find that I frequently am stirred to thoughtfulness much more often on line than in a book, depending of course on the book. This is partially a function of the fact that for the last five years or so, I have largely had to read what I can find to read, rather than what I would like to read, meaning that I very often am not compelled by it the way I am with information I search out on the net, and which I aggregate to my feeder.

The book, though, is not headed the way of the dinosaur. There is, without a doubt, the sensual and aesthetic aspects of reading a book. It is also simply unrivalled as a tool for focused in depth conversation and investigation. It also is just so nice. So nice to have a big fat story to thumb through, so nice to have a good meaty chunk of information to work your way around.

Some of the comments brought me to another topic. E-books and their , readers or better still a Kindle, which I am desperate to own. Are they good things or devil spawn? I have to confess, I am not sure they would ever equal a real book, though I LOVE nearly everything about a kindle...for me though, living expat with few opportunities to get books, magazines or newspapers, let me tell you. I would LOVE one of these. LOVE IT LOVE IT LOVE IT. They are only available if you have a US bank account right now, boo hoo.

The idea of being able to access, read and carry about a shelf full of books that I CHOSE! Has me almost wilting with excitement. I wouldn't need it or want it in the US though. *sigh*

So yes, I think I would read off an electronic devise, here, now. I do prefer a paper book, they are just so d*mned hard to get, and so expensive.

I agree that web based reading is a different tool, a different system for accessing information, in different ways. It leads to unique experiences with the language, with the information, and I think, if used well, to very thought provoking interactions be they with timely and astringent or poignant commentary, a community of readers and writers, like this blogging community, or a dissemination of thought provoking information, opportunity and possibility.

Vive la diferencia! (what the heck mangled language mess is that?)

Visqui la diferencia! (there that was at least all Catalan)

and I really really want a Kindle, wonder if I can download the books from here???

Youngest and reading

Youngest has been making fashion designs...I love it, she is a real tomboy in so many ways, but she also loves making we cannot upload the video she made a couple of days ago, we are offering you these instead.

She's having a lot of fun with it.

On another note altogether, I went to a talk last night about the importance of reading, of honouring the word.

The speaker LOVED words. He was an old guy, who had written a whack of books, and he raised several interesting points (that I understood, I imagine he raised more, but I didn't get them all...MAN could he talk fast).

One person in the audience asked how he felt about kids reading on-line, blogs, papers, whatever...his response was that a word is a word, and reading is reading be it on paper, or electronically. He maintained that there are blogs out there that are incredibly literate, and beautiful to read, that he can get the news he wants faster on-line than through the paper, that the political and analysis pieces he can find on-line are more timely, thoughtful and well written than much he finds elsewhere.

I was surprised a bit, I think partially because somewhere inside me lurks a paper snob. I don't value reading on-line the way I value reading a book somehow, which is strange considering the proportions of time I spend doing each; though if I had access to more written media in English, that ratio would change...

Somehow, I don't feel that reading on-line is of the same qualitative value as reading a book. Simultaneously, I don't agree with myself (aren't we humans amazing!?!) This is something else I have to work my head around, I am still not sure what I think. I am not sure that placing a value judgement is even relevant, like trying to decide whether writing with a pen is or isn't really writting. Maybe only writting with a pencil is true writting.

Sounds silly that way doesn't it.


Do you feel a qualitative difference between the two? How much do you read on line vs. on paper?

I feel a survey coming on...

....later, make that three...they're up there, please be counted.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Language and religion (God forbid)

It's after midnight.

I am (once again) up far too late.

For a while today, I thought I might be able to get my workplace on side for providing some kind of drop-in program for kids who want some help with homework. It is a business, so I wasn't going to get them down to where it is free, but very cheap.

I am not sure it is going to fly, nor am I sure why; but I find myself disappointed.

I think it would be neat if it pulled together, and useful, and I think it could work really well.

I get frustrated by my lack of language, I get lost and confused, and confuse others as well. I don't know if it isn't going to come together because of my lack of language, my inability to communicate my vision, or because it isn't an idea that would work here; though I find that boundlessly pessimistic.

More head-scratching is in order I think.

On that head-scratching note, why is it that mono-theistic religions feel superior to poly-theistic religions? Something I keep pondering. It is almost presented as a Darwinian inevitability...the natural evolution of the process, but I find myself wondering why this is viewed within monotheistic religions as a positive evolution.

Why is that?

Just thinking.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Headaches and lizards.

I have had this weird headache all day today, like someone has wrapped a tensor bandage around my head too tight, and is pushing hard on my eyeballs. Meh. Worse if I shake my head.


That said, look who I saw when I was out walking the Chuckster today?

Isn't he cute? Maybe it is the weather, the dog is mighty inert, one of my co-workers also has a headache, and that little guy wasn't going anywhere he didn't have to. I didn't have a fancy telephoto, I just jammed the camera in his little face, and he didn't move.

I've been thinking about a bunch of stuff lately, but I've been too tired for a big fat thinking you're getting photos and comments for now.


O. (not the rich and famous O, just me.)

Monday, April 7, 2008

From the kids

The kids want me to do a little show and tell today, so here is a drawing by eldest,
and a video by youngest, which she took today in the hills and which won't load, thank you blogger. I may try later.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

More pics, this time from BCN

Today was a lovely serendipitous day.

We got into BCN just in time for a 10K race that was going are some of the front runners...This guy was going faster than I can when I run half a block for the bus...

So was he....

So were they, the first two women. Seems that guy is running scared, no?

This is what it looked like when we got to the pack, and it just kept up like this for AGES...there were about 20,000 runners! We saw and cheered on two friends (to the intense embarrassment of eldest, who was pain free today I might add).

This Tibetan monk went the distance, though I don't think he had the training he needed, he seemed to be hurting. Quite a lot of people were wearing signs and headbands supporting Tibet.

We left this, sort of, ended up in Santa Maria del Mar which has got to be one of my favourite churches in the world. Just a small etiquette note here, if you happen to be visiting a church and mass is going on....Shut the **** up, m'kay? I could NOT believe the behaviour of some of the people in there. The man actually walked up to one group and told them to shut up. It was truly surreal.

We ate out lunch outside, on some steps, looking at all the healthy people go by, and the Barcelonians checking out the contents of the garbage cans, which must be called recycling bins in Catalan, and I took this photo to show there are bikes in BCN as well as Holland!

As we walked along, I noticed you see what I see? I find this utterly entrancing somehow....

Youngest and I took Chuckbacca into the hills when we got back...she took this photo and it's pretty darned good I think.

So much more happened, and I have more photos, but this will do for now...

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Went for a walk today....

It was lovely. Hope your day was too.