Sunday, 31 October 2010
Great changes amounting to a revolution took place, the left wing politicians stepped in and the Church lost all the influence it had enjoyed becoming a marginalized institution and disappearing from people's lives.
This week in Ontario several municipal elections took place, in Ottawa an incompetent mayor was tossed out after just one term and a former mayor who is a good guy with no vision and thinks of the National Capital as a small town, was elected, steady as she goes politics in Ottawa. The big change came in Toronto, Canada's largest city at 4.5 million in population.
The City elite who in Toronto is educated, liberal and left wing had decided that their candidate George Smitherman would win and the other candidate Toronto City Councillor Rob Ford would loose.
The newspapers endorsed Smitherman and dismissed Ford, however what was not reported and largely ignored by the press was the amount of anger at the level of the common man at high taxes and no services and incompetent big city management. Also the common man is sick and tired of being told by the elite and by the newspapers in this case The Globe and Mail and the Toronto Star what to think and what is good for him. All the common man sees is that he has to pay for it all while he does not get invited to the party. The Toronto left wing or liberal elite suffers from the Marie-Antoinette syndrome, let them eat cake and forget about it. What is interesting in the weekend papers is how pages after pages are filled with Cassandra like warnings that the common man by electing Rob Ford, the raw populist, has made a terrible mistake.
One article tells us that the morning after the victory of Rob Ford, the CBC National radio show As It Happens with Carol Off interviewed Mr. Ford. He, at that moment, was coaching his football team all the while answering Carol Off's questions. The interview did not go well, Mr. Ford was busy with the team, a practice was on, he showed that he did not care much for the CBC, the national broadcaster, and he hung-up on her abruptly. Next morning Mr. Ford gave another interview this time with Talk Radio AM 640 and it went very well, why, well the ordinary man listens to AM radio and not to the CBC.
The elite is offended how can this man ignore us and give more attention to a local station then the National Broadcaster.
Predictions by the press are that Mr. Ford will be a terrible mayor and papers like the Globe have turned their backs on him. Mr. Ford it turns out was elected by immigrants and the ethnic vote in Toronto who are more conservative and are now the new common man. They are the new majority displacing the old traditional elite of the city, we knew this was coming, Canada is changing rapidly and is far more multi-ethnic now than it ever was, the majority of our immigrants come from the Asian sub-continent. Ford represented Ward 2, Etobicoke with a 48% immigrant and ethnic population, as a City Councillor Ford has been re-elected in the past with very large majorities.
Margaret Wente in her column put it best when she writes about the masses revolting, with good reason.
She describes the elite in Toronto who did not see the Tsunami Ford coming as people who live and work in downtown Toronto and rarely leave it. Few have ever met a person who voted for Rob Ford.
The editors of the Toronto Star describe people who voted for Ford as people with pointless rage, who are deluded, to explain why the common man ignored editorials telling them who to vote for, in this case George Smitherman, the darling of the left wing elite and the Liberal Party of Canada. The problem as she explains is simple the Toronto elite believes it knows what is best for the masses, even if the masses massively disagree. The problem is simple, people have a lot more government than they can or will pay for, Mr. Ford knows that and he promised to scale down city government in Toronto.
We will see now what actually happens, stay tuned. His brother Doug Ford replaces him in Ward 2 as the new City Councillor.
Saturday, 30 October 2010
I am now hoping to conclude by arriving at my goal which is 70 Kg. I am only 3 kg off at this time, I have lost about 14 Kg. or 25lbs. My goal of 70 kg is what I call my Asian weight target, in China most men weigh between 60 to 70 kg on average which is far less than Western men.
Another discovery I made while in Ottawa at the old By Ward market, I found this new apple called Honey Crisp, they are not very common on the market yet but very good, bigger than a Mac Intosh and certainly more juicy and sweet.
Tuesday, 26 October 2010
I feel like E.T. and I want to go home, but where is home? Coming back to Ottawa, the Capital of our Dominion, the city has changed, but it remains a small town. Now urban growth sees condos grow like mushrooms and the price is anything between half a million to several million dollars, the University of Ottawa, my alma mater, has grown with many new faculty buildings, obviously many rich alumni have given to the University. The Rideau Canal built by Colonel By and the Royal Engineers in 1834 to move troops rapidly in case of American invasion has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site. The capital is also cosmopolitan now, much more so than a decade ago.
I know that if we return to Ottawa, where we have many friends and were we have had a home in some fashion since 1976, there would be a big adjustment. It is all a question of optics, I suppose. Rome is a small town in many ways and it is also Rome the Eternal City. The same can be said of many other cities, there's the image and the myth about a place and then daily reality.
It is nice to return and to meet so many old friends, the people we know here, we have known for decades.
Sunday, 24 October 2010
The flight to Ottawa was quiet, I did notice on board Air Canada, that the food served is heavy on the bread and sauce and heavily salted and sugared. In Ottawa I notice the same thing on menus in restaurants, lots of breading, dips, sauces, cheese and cream, people love their foods to be heavy. So I have to read menus and order what is less heavy and healthier, difficult to do in this culture. Canadians are not as obese as Americans but they are not far behind.
Again Air Canada has much older on board personnel than other airlines, on average I would say that most cabin crew is over 55 years of age and testy and not necessarily happy.
Ottawa has changed in 7 years, the airport has expanded and is a lot bigger though the international arrival still has only one luggage carousel, we also now have a Hilton hotel at the airport, a first.
Other changes, new congress centre, lots of new big towers, condos, hotels, many condos now sell in the 2 to 7 million Canadian dollar range, again another first for this city.
Though there is still no decent public transport system and this weekend the mayoral race will probably see a new mayor elected. The city is still very quiet, little traffic after hours and fewer people, it is also very clean and tidy and Sunday is still a day of rest and everything is closed.
There is also a lot of cultural differences with Europe, you notice how people in Ottawa are low key, polite and courteous in a small town kind of way, people do dress down, very casual. Even on the flight I notice lots of jeans and T-shirts, you can easily overdress in Canada. There is an overwhelming concern with protecting children, the hotel has prominent displays about parental supervision and blocking internet and TV channels to protect children, to give parents peace of mind. Against what exactly? It seems that there is a huge concern with inappropriate influences on children, the attitude is the world is an evil place, a puritanical, Calvinist, the nanny approach to life. On Air Canada, every film shown came with an advisory about bad language, nudity and violence, the movies on the programe had none of it, the movie's contents were all quite inoffensive. Same with television, always the advisory message, a little too anal for my taste.
I do not find Ottawa to be a very affordable city, many food prices and other items are more expensive than Rome, I have been doing conversion from dollar to euros and am surprised to see, contrary to popular belief, that Canada is more expensive than Italy at least, items like a restaurant meal, parking, public transport, groceries, a simple coffee are all more expensive. As for real estate it has now reached to my surprise the same level of any European Capital in terms of prices.
I have a lot of people to see in Ottawa, I am going to make a big effort to see as many friends as possible.
Tomorrow the training starts, will we have to return to Ottawa in 2011, will see what HR says.
Sunday, 17 October 2010
He gave me a jar of his home made jam as a gift and it is wonderful. Have a look at his blog
Very interesting blog, beautiful photography.
Saturday, 16 October 2010
Friday, 15 October 2010
Keramikos metro station in Gazi. I have been there several times and always enjoy my visits, so different
this area of Athens is compared to the Plaka, Monasteraki or Psirri.
Thursday, 14 October 2010
Wednesday, 13 October 2010
Tuesday, 12 October 2010
Oia remains one of the foremost tourist attractions of the Aegean Sea. The famous Oia sunset, considered by many as one of the most beautiful in the world, keeps tourists flocking down to the castle, waiting for the moment when the sun slips down on the calm sea of the caldera. Tourists are often told that the fishing docks at Oia are the oldest continually used docks in the world, supposedly being in service for 3000 years.
Monday, 11 October 2010
Sunday, 10 October 2010
We will stop in Paros and Ios on the way to Santorini, the active volcanic island, unique in the Aegean sea, when the volcano blew up some 3500 years ago, it obscured the sky for months and the effect of which is mentioned in the Bible the passage about Moses and the Israelites in Egypt. The little villages like Fira on Santorini are all built on the edge of the crest of the volcano, if it should blow-up again while we are here, there is no escape.
Saturday, 9 October 2010
Giant Prawns with a sauce of tomatoes, Greek cheese and green onions
Friday, 8 October 2010
Thursday, 7 October 2010
Wednesday, 6 October 2010
Tuesday, 5 October 2010
Sunday, 3 October 2010
The Roman Forum today is very different from what is was 200 years ago, as of 1805 when Napoleon I arrives in Rome, he orders massive excavations, what you see today is the street level of the age of Augustus 40BC onwards, but there are another 800 years of sub-soil prior to Augustus from the early foundation time of Rome that are yet to be excavated. For most visitors to the Forum it is a very confusing place, you need to know some Roman history, otherwise it is just a field of ruins, but what a fascinating place it is.
Today we started by the Arch of Septimus Severus, at the foot of the Clivus Capitolinus. It turns out that on the original 7 hills where basically little villages, the Sabines lived on one, the Latins on another, etc.. Really small villages of 50 to 60 people living in huts and below was a big swamp and a place of mystery and myth, separating them and this place became the Roman Forum, the central square, place of business of ancient Rome. There was no understanding in Antiquity of what a swamp was, people believed that it was the entrance to the underworld or Hell. This gave rise to a lot of the original beliefs, all tied to history and the development of the Pagan religion. There is a well by the arch, I had never noticed it before, it was said to be the Gate of Hell which you can see and this door was opened 3 days a year for worship and prayers. Today the door is gone so the Gate of Hell is simply open, a fence keeps people away just in case you wanted to walk into Hell to see what is going on, like Euridice.
There are also old trees in the Forum, one group is an Olive tree, a Fig tree and a Vine, they have been there since antiquity, seen as sacred symbols, source of life and were worshipped as such.
Another Fig tree by the Senate house is said to also be the sacred tree which gave shade to the shepherd who found Romulus and Remus being suckhold by the She-wolf. It was also the spot in ancient Rome where prostitutes of all stripes use to hang out. As we arrived at the House of the Vestal Virgins and Temple to the holy fire, Nexon explained that what we see is a construction of the period after he great fire of Rome under Nero in 64 AD. Nero wanted a city with a grid pattern, the ash from the fire found in the area was a foot deep. we know that the Vestal remained an order who maintained the fire until at least 410AD, when under the order of the Pope it was put out for ever.
I also learned that Anastasia the sister of Emperor Constantine in 320 AD created what we know today as Christmas, she basically instituted the holiday, inventing the Christmas story and its observance and for her efforts she is mentioned in the second mass in the Christmas Service. No one before then believed that Jesus was born on December 25 and no observance existed, there was no date as such. In ancient Rome this was the date for a famous Pagan Festival the Saturnalia, a festival to male virility and female fecundity. Apparently also the conversion of Constantine to Christianity was not well received at all by the majority of the population who belonged to numerous other religions including the old Pagan cults of Rome. The population could not understand why they had to adopt a new religion based on Jewish beliefs.
Until 520 AD many pagan temples still functioned and worship of the old gods continued, until the Pope became so exasperated that he started to institute persecution of non-Christians and the destruction and closing of Pagan temples. Now that was a twist I did not expect, the Roman Catholic Church in Rome loves to paint itself as a victim, now it turns out that they were the persecutors, apparently much evidence of aggressive Church policies have emerged in the last 20 years with new discoveries in the Forum.
What we see today of the Forum is mostly a field of ruins, this was caused primarily by a series of earthquake in Rome in the ninth century and in the 14th century and as of 1500 the Popes started using the Forum area as a vast quarry for their own Church building projects robbing the world of priceless art work, our Western Cultural legacy. This was done in response to the Reformation in much of Europe which scared the Popes and shook the Church. A period of great intolerance and violent repression under several Popes. The barbarian invasions did some damage but none lasting and what was damaged was often rebuilt afterwards.
The swamp was eventually drained by the Romans with the building of the Cloaca maxima, (purifying drain) which took the water to drain into the nearby Tiber river. Many buildings in the Forum are now newly opened to visitors, such as the House of Augustus on the Palatine, the temple of Jupiter Stator also known as the church of St-Romolo, one can walk to the grain storage houses which are also a support platform 7 storey high supporting what was the Palace of Caligula and connecting it to the Capitoline hill and the Temple of Jupiter great and best.
By walking around the Forum, Nexon also explained how today's Roman Catholic Church incorporated as much as possible of the old Pagan religion into Christian beliefs, per example Castor and Pollux the twins of the underworld are replaced by St-Damian and St-Cosmo, who never existed in reality and were not twins either. This incorporation was necessary if Christianity was to be accepted by the majority of people.
The event of Christmas day in 730 AD when Charlemagne comes to Rome to formally recognize the Pope as a religious authority and be his right hand man in imposing one religion is Europe is significant because it coincides with the development of a new religion in the Holyland, Islam and in Europe the old Pagan religions were still alive and thriving. With all this competition Christianity had a difficult time to impose itself.
This visit gave me a fresh look on Rome and how the city was shaped and built. It also gave me a new look on religion and how in ancient Rome political development, daily life, myth and superstition played an important role in the lives of people. This visit was certainly not the approved version of the Vatican.