Wednesday, 28 September 2011

more news

Well I finally found a barber, at least one I like. IMPERIAL is a men's barber shop in the old style, where you can get a shave with hot lather and a straight razor, hot towels etc... The decor is the way barber shops use to look like before 1960, before they became confused in style and feminized. In Ottawa the first IMPERIAL barber shop opened about 20 years ago at the corner of Sparks street and Elgin street by the National War Memorial. At first they caterer to the Canadian Military, it was not uncommon to go in and find officers waiting for a haircut, never saw enlisted men there. So I think I will continue with them. See

I have now taken to walking up Cartier street and at the Old Teacher's College I continue on Elgin street towards the National Cenotaph at Confederation Square, then turning unto Laurier street to my building.
A nice walk as long as you watch out for the legion of bad drivers on their cel phones in this city. In Ottawa a car is a weapon to be used against people who walk. In the last two months I read about five stories of fatal hit and run, it looks like an epidemic in this city.

I also stopped listening to the CBC in general, CBC radio use to be the best radio station for its music, news, commentary and simply for the hosts they had on the air. Nowadays every morning they have these long, sad, boring stories about some cause like Charitable drop boxes for 3 days running who are in fact for profit and not free and how they should be regulated with stiff penalties. Another favourite topic on Ottawa morning is about some feminist group who think that being pregnant is unnatural for women or the feminist cause is under constant attack from all men who we are told are violent psychopath, etc..

The other morning they had a special appeal from the SPCA no less, looking for foster families to adopt baby squirrels, considering that they belong to the same family as the common rat, one wonders.

The CBC being a public, government funded broadcaster appears to delight in leftist politics, sometimes verging on the extreme left or just plain bizarre. In other words if you are a weirdo with a cause you can be sure they will put you on at CBC Ottawa in the morning before the 8 o'clock news. It's not terribly pleasant for listeners.

Now the CBC is the English public radio broadcaster, if you listen to Radio-Canada, the French public broadcaster they have an entirely different approach, lighthearted, engaging, speaking to a large public, cultured and interesting. They certainly do not preach like their English colleagues and have kept to a programming which is well known and well liked.

To give ourselves diversity we now have at home a device called Airport Express which allows us to listen to 2075 radio stations from around the world. So we can enjoy a more enlighten approach to our radio listening. It is my understanding that CBC Radio might be on the way out come the next budget, maybe it is time to say goodbye. What we have now has nothing to do with what the CBC use to be, how very sad.

A recent business survey revealed that 75% of Canadians are peeved at others in the Office for not taking responsibility for their actions, no wonder in this Nanny State country, it's always someone else fault. Also 58% of women in the Canadian workplace are annoyed at clothes that are too revealing. Strange too much competition ladies? After all most offices today in Canada have a majority of women working. But there is much more, it would appear according to statistics in the workplace that women also complain about scents of any kind, what other people eat at lunch, peanut free zones, sunlight (too much of it), cel phone ringtones. That is a lot and shows in my opinion poor social skills.

The one country who has no pet peeves or little ITALY!!!! I am not surprised, Italians are not the sort to get fazed by others. I found them to be very tolerant in general.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Cocktails and things

We have fallen into a little routine in our new abode in Ottawa on the Rideau, each night my personal barman Mr. W. will ask what would you like to drink this evening. Mr. W knows how to a make stiff drink, none of those watery half oz. or one oz. drinks you find around town for $10 or more. His drinks are measured with a sharp eye.

He makes a very nice Bloody Mary and a wonderful Apple vodka cocktail. The vodka he uses is Polish, either it is a potato vodka Luksusova or the famous grass vodka Zubrowka which has that greenish tinge to it. This knowledge comes from a posting to Warsaw many years ago where we learned about good vodka compared to ordinary commercial vodka, one thing I learned in Poland, the Poles know their vodka, more so than the Russians.

So Mr. W also serves our drinks with corn chips or wasabi nuts. What a nice way to end the day. Then we have our wine cellar from Sicily, the Marche, Lazio and Tuscany to choose from for that wine with dinner.

What a hardship our lives in the great frozen tundra. This evening we are having a white wine Miano, from Catarrato, Sicily, vintage 2008, producer is Castelluccimiano. This wine comes from vineyards 800 meters above sea level. Sicily with its fertile volcanic soil is perfect for wine and vineyards.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Is democracy dead as a concept?

When we were living in Rome we saw the workings of the Roman Catholic Church at Vatican City up close and we had a privilege entry into the world of the Holy See which is not open to ordinary people. In fact most people who visit St-Peter's Basilica only see the religious trappings which is mostly window dressing for the gullible. The real drama is behind the scenes but that is not for public consumption.
Maybe it was too close, you see the warts and all and you start to realize that faith in God has little to do with the institution of the Church run by the Pope. You have Faith but this is a personal belief not one based on the trappings of an organization.

Back in Ottawa the Capital of our Dominion of Canada, I wonder if we as a people have not come to the end of participatory democracy. Are we entering another age, a new feudal age, big business are the new Lords and our politicians the new Princes who rule over us the people, the great masses. Yes we vote and yes we can toss out a group of politicians as we did in May, is that it?

So many people do not vote anymore, so many people take no interest in what is going on in Parliament. Participation is at an all time low, not a good thing.

In the USA, Social Security is about to collapse, unemployment is at historic highs, millions of Americans live in poverty, the figure of 15% of the population is given, imagine 15% out of 300 million people. This number is growing, these Americans cannot hope for a dignified life. Same in Canada where more and more people, children in particular live in poverty.

The Republicans in Congress and in the US Senate could not care less, the greater good is of no importance to them.  Can this explain why only 12% of Americans believe their representative are doing a good job.

Wealthy Americans do not want to share their wealth and pay their fair share to help the nation. Poor Americans are not seen as fellow American Citizens but as an inconvenience, lazy and not worth the bother. Since when in a Democracy do you have two levels of Citizens. If a so called democracy is to function at all it must include everyone, all Citizens without exception, the common good is the most important element in a democratic society.

I do have the impression that our politicians realize that we are at a cross road and that if they do not act in a responsible manner there could be great upheaval in our societies. A democratic society must provide for all its Citizens not just those with money, power and privilege.

Friday, 16 September 2011

at the Movies

The old Bytowne cinema has been a fixture in Ottawa since 1947, it's the original building at 325 Rideau street, one of the oldest streets in By Town (Ottawa) it was the highway East to Montreal in the  19th century. It remains one of the major roads in Ottawa leading to Parliament Hill.

The one screen cinema was built by the Berlin Family of Ottawa and opened in February 1947 as the Nelson Cinema. It was operated as one of Ottawa's main cinema house for many decades until it was closed in 1988. The Berlin family sold the building to the operators of the independent Towne Cinema of Beechwood ave in the New Edinburgh area of Ottawa. They renamed it the ByTowne in honour of Ottawa's original name of Bytown. It has become the venue for alternative and foreign films.

The Bytowne shows a variety of Foreign films each month and films from International Film Festivals which would not be shown at regular cinemas. It has become sort of a club, you often recognize the patrons. It is relatively small about 640 seats, one screen. You can buy a yearly membership which allows you to pay only $7.00 dllrs per movie, which is not bad in this day and age of high prices.

Today we went to see the new Woody Allen movie, Midnight in Paris, cliché ridden with flat acting, characters we cannot really relate too. The story line is interesting and the shots of Paris beautiful. It reminded me of Brigadoon in a weird sort of way. Owen Wilson plays the role of the American writer who wants to live in 1920 Paris, this role would have been played in his younger days by Woody Allen, now too old.

We also saw recently an Italian film with English subtitles, Mine Vagranti (Loose Canons) by Ferzan Ozpetek, a great film, a comedic drama in a contemporary setting in Puglia Italy, engaging and believable.  The Bytown is the place to go for a movie, the patrons are quiet and everyone is there to see a good film.  

The Bytown the place to be on a cold or rainy day in Ottawa.

Monday, 12 September 2011

a few photos

We are down to our last 10 boxes, we have made great progress. The house or apartment is starting to look permanent and we are getting new curtains for the den, master bedroom and for the large kitchen window.
So the end of the moving period is in sight.

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Learning a new language

We went back to school today and so did our kids, Nicky and Nora needed some guidance so we called in Bark Busters. Our teacher Marco is Austrian, we chatted on Austria and the trips we have made there in the last few years. For the lesson we explained the learning problems and what could be done about it we asked. He first explained that Dachshunds do not speak any human languages and do not understand them either despite what Walt Disney has been telling the world for decades in his movies. They guess at what we are saying but most of the time do not understand what we humans are saying. So he told us that we had to learn Dachshund, it is easier than any human language I had to learn and it can me mastered in about  3 hours with a bit of practice and bingo Nicky and Nora now understand everything we tell them. I am quite serious, it works, forget the sit and stay and come and bad boy or whatever, it does not work but start talking dog talk and well you enter another world. Nicky and Nora were astounded that we now spoke their language, you should see the faces, quite unbelieving. The teacher explained how we humans do not understand another person who does not speak our language, any tourist who has been abroad where no French or English is spoken can vouch at how difficult it was to communicate. So we learned all the stock phrases Mommy or Daddy Dachshunds would say to the young ones. We then went for a walk and today being a gorgeous day in Ottawa, blue sky and a few puffy clouds here and there and a pleasant 22C, lots of people on the Rideau Canal walking or running or bicycling and of course lots of other dogs and squirrels.

Nora whose Hungarian-Italian family background has a long list of European Hunting Champion is always willing to kill a few cats or squirrels or whatever for dinner. So we walked by 2 Squirrels who were enjoying some nutty food, usually Nora would have pounced but this time she quietly walked by and there was no fuss after I spoke to her.  Same with Nicky who goes nuts if he sees another dog or person. Now a few words in Dashchunds and bingo, we have calm and civility. So now we just have to work on other behaviour things and we should have a more harmonious household.

As for the Internet campaign around the world to save Nicky's balls on facebook, well it all depends on how well Nicky responds and stops marking his territory in the house. We will re-assess in a few weeks. 

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Report from Stalag 13

For those of you old enough to remember the television series Hogan's Heroes featuring a group of Allied soldiers in a German POW camp during World War II, the prisoners were always a step ahead of the dumb Nazis and the Camp Commander Colonel Klink who was an old softy from the first World War and his side kick Sargent Schultz who knew nothing, nothing!

Well life continues in Ottawa, I have found 2 places who can make a decent Espresso, at least as close to what I use to drink in the morning in Rome. One is the Elgin Dinner on Elgin street of all places, the other is a small café on Kent Street called Délices, I told the owner that I thought his espresso was as good as Rome and now I get a double espresso for the price of a single. Also found a good barber on Gilmour street called Toss. We had a great dinner at Al's Steak House on Elgin last night, it has been around since 1967 run by the Saikali family. I think Al has passed on because his kids are now running the place. The food is excellent with great service. We also noticed that dining out in Ottawa is about the same price as in Rome strangely enough.
My brother and I, he was visiting from Washington DC

  A few days ago I posted a rather unflattering review of life in Ottawa, I have to be careful because people or friends who live in Ottawa will read this blog and may be offended, no offence intended. At any rate those who know me, know that I am a loveable sort and infamous, that's why they are my friends, though as I say it's my view of what I see. This past week I read in the local paper an article by Andrew Cohen, a journalist and University prof at Carleton University, about how Ottawa is a city of tenants. His article was picking up on another article by a British journalist who visits Ottawa regularly and has done so for the last 25 years. It confirmed what I have been seeing all along. In one sentence the article defined Ottawa as a city of Tenants not of Landlords, being tenants no one takes a stake in the city, everyone is detached, it does not belong to them so why bother. An example major bus route cuts are happening on 4 September so the newspaper reports that people will take a taxi now because there is no public transport. That is bizarre to me, but that is the attitude no one will raise a peep about it.

This week is now over and this long weekend we will work around the house continuing to unpack and organize, we are into week 12 of the move, yes 84 days so far, will it ever end. We have done so many visits to the St-Vincent de Paul Society that we should be shareholders, if you want to see our lives go visit them on old Wellington street.  W has done a great deal of work, it is starting to feel like home. We have favourite shops already, found a good dry cleaning place. food places, coffee place, some good restaurants. It seems that going to independent businesses is the way to go in Ottawa, if you want service. Have visited with old friends which is always good and re-comforting, thank God for old friends, bless them all. We have our season tickets to the symphony and looking forward to it. We are also making plans for the future in 2013, stay tuned for that one, major lobbying effort underway.

So we have to remain philosophical about all this and create our own cocoon. If all else fails we have 172 bottles of wine to drink, I am quoting freely from Greek philosophers and Stoics.

Friday, 2 September 2011

Art Work

Some 20 years ago I lived in Chicago, that beautiful city on the lake. I use to walk up and down Michigan Avenue to go to work and loved to have lunch at Neiman Marcus. We had season tickets to the Chicago Lyric Opera and we would wear our tuxedos each time. Our apartment was on State Parkway near the old Playboy Mansion turned into a university building of some kind.
There was a gallery which sold art work and they always had the most interesting stuff. One day my eye caught sight of La femme en noir ( the lady in black) by René Gruau, who is the great fashion illustrator of the XXth century. Still celebrated today despite having died in 2004 in extreme old age.
He was not French as his name might lead you to believe but Italian, an aristocrat from Rimini that little town on the Adriatic just a few kilometers north of our beloved Pesaro.  It is also the town where Federico Fellini the great Italian movie producer comes from. 
Gruau had an interesting life to say the least, born Renato Zavagli Ricciardelli in Rimini, Italy, on Feb. 4, 1909, he was the son of an an Italian count, though his true muse was his aristocratic French mother, Maria Gruau, whose name he took. He showed a talent for drawing in his teens, and in his 20's he moved to Paris and began doing illustrations for fashion magazines like Femina, Marie Claire and Vogue. He spent World War II in Lyon, where Marie Claire moved during the Second World War and the German occupation of France.

His career took off after the war when he met Christian Dior. In 1947 Gruau created the Miss Dior image. In 1948 he moved briefly to New York, where he worked for Harper's Bazaar. In the years that followed he worked from his home in Cannes, he did fashion drawings for major couture houses, including Pierre Balmain, Jacques Fath, Balenciaga, Givenchy and Rochas.

Clothes were the focus of his work, but the women he drew often seemed to come alive. As is the case in La Femme en Noir.
Recently the gouache painting of La Femme en Noir sold at Christie's New York for $146,000 USD.
I have the lithographe, not worth as much but just as stunning.

ArtistRené Gruau
TitleLa femme en Noir
Size45 x 34.3 in. / 114.3 x 87 cm.
Year1980 -
DescriptionRENE GRUAU (1909-2004)
La Femme En Noir, circa 1980
45 x 34¼ in. (114.3 x 87 cm.)
signed lower left