Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Some European Leavings

Best British Tabloid Headline: D’OHLYMPICS

Most Important Thing that the British Can Learn Prior to the Inevitable Arrival of Bird Flu from Across the Channel: Wash Your Hands After Going to the Bathroom! (It’s a concept that seems to have been lost on the Brits)

Most Important Thing that the French Can Learn now that Bird Flu has Arrived: Chicken Really is Better Cooked All the Way Through! (It’s not steak, after all)

Most Important Lesson About Winter that the French Need To Learn: Turn On the Heat, Dammit! It’s Freezing in Here!

Most Shocking Sign of the Impending Collapse of French Civilization: Reruns of Night Rider (with David Hasselhoff) are one of the Most Popular Shows on French TV! (And Charmed Isn’t Far Behind)

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Paris en Hiver

What better way to spend a rainy, cold afternoon in Paris than to wander through the labyrinth that is Pere Lachaise cemetery?

Or perhaps the museum of natural history is more your style?

Either way, best to end the day at Le Train Bleu in Gare de Lyon.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

More Heart Shaped Candy

Nice to see so many people standing up for Valentine’s Day. Well, sort of...
What follows is a quick response I sent to a friend who took me to task on the “Valentine Schmalentine” article.
Who me?
Far be it from me to express displeasure with a day dedicated to expressions of romantic love...
Nope. Not me. That article was written by some sarcastic sod on Craig's List. Nothing to do with my current state of thinking…

That said, I did find certain ASPECTS of the article interesting. Something about how the original idea of MUTUAL expressions of love between two people has turned into a rather one-sided ordeal (i.e. one side expects it, the other side digs deep and hopes it's enough to satisfy that rather indefinable expectation).

But seriously, my true feelings about Valentine's Day are similar to those I hold concerning New Years Eve.
People who go all out on New Years tend to be people that don't get out much. They are happy to spend $100 per person to go to some lame bar, watch the same band that played the previous night (for free!), and drink a complimentary glass of Baby Duck at midnight. It's a big night for them because they got to leave the kids with a sitter and play for a night in the big city. It wouldn't be such a big deal if they actually let loose once in a while.
Valentine's Day ends up being much the same. People who lead fairly mundane day to day lives attempt to rekindle something with their partner by spending lots of money at restaurants with inflated "Valentine's Menu" pricing. Or, they get all depressed because they don't do much of anything on Feb 14 and they wonder "where the love went".
I only say this because I think it’s better to maintain a healthy level of romance all year long. It's not a case of me thumbing my nose at a day of romance; it's actually quite the opposite. I say, why restrict it to one day? Why run the risk of having your love marginalized by yet another media hyped consumer cash grab? Instead, fill your year with as many nice dinners (Wild Rice works for me), romantic getaways (I know a great waterfront Inn in Port Townsend), and special treats (I honestly hope I don't need to make any suggestions here) as your budget can withstand. And most of all, it needs to remain a mutual thing. Money's not the equalizer here; it's effort and thoughtfulness.
And there's not a hint of cynicism intended. Well, not a lot, anyhow.

God Loves the BBC

In Manchester, England, the BBC was planning an Easter tribute in which Jesus Christ will sing "Love Will Tear Us Apart" by Joy Division before joining Judas in a duet of "Blue Monday" by New Order. Later, as Roman soldiers flay him, Jesus will sing "Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now" by The Smiths.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Valentine Schmalentine

Hey all. I had planned to write a wee rant on how Valentine’s Day is such a complete waste of time. Well, Craiglist rants to the rescue! Some anonymous fellow (this was NOT written by a woman) has done the job for me. Here is his hilarious and accurate rant in its entirety.


Every guy involved with a woman knows that Valentine's Day is one of those stumbling blocks created for guys to trip over and be reminded that they are dogs, scum, and inconsiderate lizards. If a guy doesn't make Valentine's Day special for the woman he loves then she will remind him of just how inconsiderate, uncaring, forgetful, boorish, unromantic, inattentive .... he is. And she will be able to do this because OBVIOUSLY none of these terrible things apply to women!!!

Women are attentive.
Women are romantic.
Women are loving.
Women are caring.
Women are nurturing
Women are considerate.
blah blah blah....

But the point of this rant is this.. Why is Valentine's Day a stumbling block for MEN ONLY? Lets face the simple fact that on Valentine's Day, if a man does nothing for a woman he is in trouble, whereas, if a woman does nothing for a man, she is NOT in any trouble. Men must fulfill the expectations of their women while women have no expectations foisted upon them.

Is this fair?

If the holiday was called "Valentine's Day for Women" then it would be fair. But its not.
Mother's Day is clearly a day to honor women. Valentine's Day is a day to honor St. Valentine. Who is he?

".. it originated from St. Valentine, a Roman who was martyred for refusing to give up Christianity. He died on February 14, 269 A.D., the same day that had been devoted to love lotteries. Legend also says that St. Valentine left a farewell note for the jailer's daughter, who had become his friend, and signed it "From Your Valentine". Other aspects of the story say that St. Valentine served as a priest at the temple during the reign of Emperor Claudius. Claudius then had Valentine jailed for defying him. In 496 A.D. Pope Gelasius set aside February 14 to honor St. Valentine. Gradually, February 14 became the date for exchanging love messages and St. Valentine became the patron saint of lovers. The date was marked by sending poems and simple gifts such as flowers and candy. There was often a social gathering or a ball. "

You will note the ".. exchanging love messages.." part of the quote meaning "I give something to you.. and you give something to me."

So the obvious conclusions about St. Valentine's Day are that (a) it's a Catholic ONLY Holiday and (b) the most appropriate observance is prayer, not cards, flowers, candy, dinner out, diamonds, furs, jewelry.... or any of the other consumer goods that exist pretty much only to be given by men to women.

But turn to your woman on Valentine's Day and say, "Honey, I said a prayer today to St. Valentine" and she'll say, "You better have prayed that I don't leave your sorry ass!!!! Where's my card, gift, flowers and romantic evening?" And you will never ever hear the end of it!! You will find yourself in that old familiar doghouse (which is really not so bad anymore seeing as how you installed a refrigerator to keep the beer cold since you spend SO MUCH TIME THERE!!!!!)

Now suppose the shoe is on the other foot. You're woman has been working hard and long doing, well, whatever passes for work for women, and suddenly it's Valentine's day. She has forgotten to give you a card, a note, a passing glance in the bathroom... Is she in trouble? Will she be spending any time in her doghouse? Of course not, don't be silly!!!! She was busy!! She justifiably forgot the day, but wasn't it so special that YOU remembered. You did remember didn't you, SCUM!!!!!

So guys, Valentine's Day is a test you MUST pass. It's a necessary event placed there to separate the men from the boys, the strong from the weak, the men who get sex from those who don't. You must enter into it as you would combat.. prepared!!! To help you with that, I've reduced Valentine's Day to a list of thing you ABSOLUTELY must know in order to keep the shine on your armor and the manure off your white charger. Here it is.. The GUYS list of important facts about Valentines Day and how to survive it:

First and foremost .. DO SOMETHING!!!!! This something that you do needs to fit the following criteria....

a) It must be the RIGHT THING.
You must determine, preferably by stealth, and cunning WHAT exactly it is that your woman wants done for her on Valentine's Day. This could be just about anything. It could be strictly symbolic.. as in a card, candy, Mercedes.. or it could be something of real substance.. as in stocks, yachts, small empires. What ever "IT" is, you need to figure that out LONG before Valentine's day actually arrives because casting about clumsily the day before will be a dead give away to your woman that you have blown it for yet another year, and maybe it's time to put that paneling up in the dog house seeing as you are going to have the time there anyway.

b) It must be done at the RIGHT TIME.
Timing is everything when it comes to Valentine's Day!!! Pulling the right gift out at the wrong time will reduce your score by 90% and perhaps garner a penalty. Simply look at this from your lovely ladies point of view.. "Okay.. I'm waiting.. I'm waiting.. I'm waiting.. POP" - That popping sound means you waited too long, and any time from then on means points are being deducted. Like a biological clock, your woman has a Valentine's clock that starts ticking a few days before the actual day. The size of the gift you need to give gets larger and larger the closer this clock gets to zero. Perfect time means she is just a tad anxious and beginning to have those niggling thoughts that maybe you forgot when BAM.. there you are with the PERFECT gift. Allowing her to have that second of doubt makes your gift that much more special and garners you points BIG TIME.

But be very careful... niggling doubts turn into full fledged skepticism.. which transforms into pessimistic anticipation of disappointment.. which quickly degrades into tornado strength rage over being treated so shabby by YOU.. Mr. Slime. Your timing needs to be just right. Blow this and you'll need a storm shelter.

c) It must last the WHOLE DAY.
Once you have made your offering(s) there is still time on the clock for you to blow it. Valentine's day is a minefield from beginning to end. You may believe you are safe once your offering has been given and accepted, but dismount from your white charger too early and you will quickly find yourself standing there doing the usual "What? What did I do?" An example will help illustrate.

The day arrives. You come home from work.. sweep your wife into your arms giving her the warmest most passionate kiss she has had in weeks.. and as you release her from your embrace you suddenly get this surprised look on your face.. patting your pocket you go "Humm.. I wonder what this could be?" as you pull out a small case and pass it to her. She opens it and there are the most perfect diamond earrings she has ever seen.. "Well, these must be for you..", you say smiling and moving in for another kiss. "Happy Valentine's Day Beautiful!!!" you say as you hold her there in the front hall. Later you take her out to dinner at that new restaurant to which only the rich and famous can seem to get reservations, but you managed to pull it off. On leaving the restaurant the valet brings you the wrong car.. a brand new Jaguar, but "Oh, look honey. It's already monogrammed with your name on it!!! We may as well drive it home!!" She looks at you as if you were a SUPERSTAR.. no moment in her life has ever been more special and no man could ever make her as happy as you do. You arrive home and she says she is going slip into something comfortable with that gleam in her eye that says you've earned something special. After a few minutes you walk to the refrigerator because you'd like to have a beer. Hum.. no beer. "Honey, are we out of beer?"

"Is that all you care about?"

"Um.. no.. honey, I was just asking.."

"I'm just a slave for you aren't I? I'm just here to make sure your BEER is kept stocked, aren't I!!!"

"No.. was just wondering.. I didn't mean..

"YOU BASTARD. How could you be so insensitive!!!" boo hoo boo hoo..

And Guess who is sleeping on the couch?! This poor shlep forgot that a woman on Valentine's day is like a woman on her period.. or before her period.. or after her period.. whatever. A woman on Valentine's day is a time bomb. One wrong move and she goes off. Why? Because it's HER DAY, DAMMIT !!! It's your job to make is special for HER... and woe be unto him who fails in the smallest way.

Okay, Now that you know the rules about DOING SOMETHING, the next step is figuring out exactly what to do. This requires amazing skill because part of the value of anything you DO do for your woman on Valentine's day comes from the very fact that it is difficult to discern the right thing to do.

Now, being a man, you might think that the smart thing to do would be to ASK your woman what it is she wants for Valentine's day. This makes complete male logic sense... if someone has information and you want to get at it you ask that person for the information and they give it to you. It's called communication. This logic is, of course completely wrong.

Women claim to be good communicators. It is men who don't know how to communicate. But if you ask a simple questions regarding what they want for Valentines day you will:

a) Not get a truthful answer because...

b) They will be disappointed that you don't know them well enough "just know" the answer without asking and...

c) Lose points in the Valentine's day challenge for having proved your self to be a MAN*

So direct communication is out of the question. But there are lots of ways to determine what your woman is hankering after that will win you points BIG time in the Valentine's day game. Some of these are:

1) Ask her friends. Say to her closest friend, "What would _____ want for Valentine's day that would make things really special for her?" This wins you points in several ways. One, her friends will naturally tell her you asked, and, though she won't tell you she knows, she'll be giving you points. Two, her friends will think better of you which comes in handy for mitigating the inevitable times when you've pulled a boner and she is complaining to them. And three, you might get an answer you can use. DANGER NOTICE: DO NOT use this technique the day before Valentines day because the clock has ticked past the deadline for this tactic and you will lose points with everyone involved.

2) Starting in January, start to pay attention to the flood of catalogs and magazines that are passing through your home. Look at what is marked, what pages are dog-eared, what kinds of ads seem to be left out in the open because, though they know if almost never works, women are constant hint droppers.. it's genetic .. and they always leave clues around about what they want if you are just paying a tad of attention. DANGER NOTICE: If the People magazine is constantly left open to articles about Peirce Brosnan.. well, you’re in trouble, unless you are Peirce Brosnan (in which case, Hi Peirce.. glad you found craigslist)

3) Test the waters... Float a few trial balloons and see which one's make her POP. "Honey, what do you think of the new Lexus?" "Hey baby, I'm thinking of investing in diamonds.. what do you think?" "Wow, look at the deal you can get on these season hockey tickets!!!" Depending on her reactions to these subtle (for a guy) ideas, you'll be able to hone right in on the perfect gift without giving ANYTHING away to your lady. "So, the mauve Jaguar with the leather interior and the gold trim and the 8 cylinder sport package is something anyone would love hum...?"

Is this all starting to sink in... Good, cause I'm tired of stating the obvious, and it's time to conclude...

1) Valentines day is a test which only men can fail.

2) Valentines day is the day on which you will either score or lose big time.. there is no neutral ground.

3) Valentine's day can be conquered with just a little bit of energy.

4) As with all tests.. if you fail you will never hear the end of it, so spend the energy and be the hero.

And finally.. if you’re reading this on Feb 15th then you already know what I'm talking about, and your probably ready to add that addition to the Dog House. Enjoy it.. your going to be there a while.

*MAN - being in this case shorthand for an insensitive, boorish, ham-handed, inconsiderate, lout. You know, a MAN....

Monday, February 06, 2006

Ode To The Seahawks

Darkness had been replaced by a hazy dim light. Thin coatings of ice cracked underfoot as I stepped down off the bank and started to make my way out into the river. The water temperature was frigid, but the air was even colder. My breath formed great billows of mist as I blew on my fingers in a vain attempt to keep them warm. The sun had not yet met the surrounding mountain peaks as I laid my first cast against the far bank. In Detroit, kick-off was still eight hours away. That’s right, I chose to spend the pre-Super Bowl hours fly fishing in a glacial fed river about 1 ½ hours north of Vancouver. At the same time the players were undoubtedly beginning their game day rituals in snowy Michigan, I was chasing the moonlight along a west coast highway, intent on catching first light in the water. We were all praying for our good fortune; the players hoping to catch the top prize in the biggest media event in America, me hoping to catch, and release, a winter run steelhead.

The river was running high due to a series of storms that had dumped over 100 millimeters of rain in the area over the previous several days. Luckily, the water had remained clear. Still, conditions were such that my chances of hooking up were remote. A betting man would not have put much money on me, even given favorable odds.

The Seattle Seahawks were facing a similar challenge. No one gave them much of a chance for success after reviewing the Super Bowl conditions. Pittsburgh was supposed to be the better team, having played a tougher schedule, and the crowd in the stands would be primarily Steeler fans. The betting line rather graciously placed the Seahawks as four point underdogs.

My day on the water passed surprisingly quickly - they all do. The sun rose soon after I began, splashing a brilliant pink over the snow capped peaks. The river had seemed sluggish in the cold, but as the air temperature warmed it brought with it a sense of opportunity. Eagles soared high above, or sat quietly in the tree tops watching me work the water. In the end, they proved to be the only thing interested in what I was doing. The fish, for their part, seemed quite content to ignore the variety of brightly colored flies I cast in their direction.

Perhaps the eagles knew something that I didn’t, because when it was over, I swear I could hear hints of laughter in their calls. Were they aware of some preordained proclamation that had ensured my coming up empty handed? Their playful mocking accompanied me for the several kilometer walk back to my car. It had been a beautiful morning, despite the lack of any tugs on my line. My thoughts turned to football.

Where to start in describing the travesty that was Super Bowl XL? Despite their underdog status, the Seahawks played admirably. They outplayed their supposedly superior opponents for most of the game. Yet, whenever they seemed ready to strike, the opportunity was snatched away. Not by fate, but by the men in stripes. When it was all over, the story line that the NFL had hoped for had come true. Pittsburgh was victorious.

Still, a day later, I can’t seem to shake this feeling that “we was robbed!”. Sound like sour grapes? You bet, and I’m not alone. But don’t take my word for it, read what some of the admittedly pro-Steeler media has to say: http://msn.foxsports.com/nfl/story/5310192. It certainly inhibits the healing process when you know that you've been duped and there's not a damn thing you can do about it...

If the Seahawks can take anything positive out of what may forever be remembered as “Black Sunday”, perhaps it is some sort of satisfaction attained just by having been there? Their main goal was sadly not achieved, but after a thirty year drought, the Seahawks were actually in the Super Bowl. They made it all the way to the big dance, and no one, not even some guy in a striped shirt, can take that away from them. They may not have caught the big prize, but they were there. I just hope they were able to stop and appreciate the sunrise while it was happening.