Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Literary Booze Toronto

couldn't resist this Toronto beginning for literary booze...fortunately i did make a left turn, all the way to 136 Ossington avenue and the astonishing tequila selection of the Reposado . This was so encouraging that i'm nearly ready to check out the Roof, so that i can raise a glass to the (undoubtedly grouchy) shade of Mordecai Richler...just in time for the Day of the Dead.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

potty philosophy

it had to happen...the newspaper Liberation asked a French philosopher for his opinion about the Harry Potter phenomenon, now that the latest Potter is available in translation. Jean-Claude Milner assures readers: "Harry Potter is deeply political...So what appears as elitist is in fact real equality, as opposed to the false equality of the Muggles. In this, Harry Potter is a war machine against Thatchero-Blairism and the 'American way of life.' J.K. Rowling is a real libertarian motivated by a desire to conserve."
good to know that there are French philosophers worrying about such things...means i can relax.

Monday, October 22, 2007

gearing up for Halloween

...i love this time of year...

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Operation Cafe

this month is a good time to have a coffee in Paris...not only is it the last few weeks of terrasse weather (well, today's perfect, anyway!) but also there's OPERATION CAFE put on by the Action Contre La Faim network. for this whole month, when you order a coffee in participating cafes, 10 cents is donated to helping stop hunger. so you can sip coffee & feel helpful & very lucky, while watching all the Parisian wander by in the hazy October sunlight. and in case you think 10 cents isn't very much, consider that last year, the operation raised about 81 000 euros. the key is to get as many cafes participating as possible...so if you notice that your favourite cafe doesn't have the Action sign, go to the Action Contre La Faim website & get your cafe to sign up for next year.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Literary Booze #2

i went to Trieste specifically for its cafes: not only is Trieste a famous coffee importer (Illy coffee, anyone?) but the pastries are superb...anywhere that was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire has an enduring legacy of whipped cream, and i say that's a good thing.
Trieste is also famous because of James Joyce. there are carefully-numbered plaques anywhere he ever paused for a drink, and at the very windy but gorgeous Grand Canal, there's a statue of him (not life-sized, somewhat shorter, i don't understand why). appropriate that he's near the sea... "Moving through the air high spars of a threemaster, her sails brailed up on the crosstrees, homing, upstream, silently moving, a silent ship."
first, i hit the Caffe Pasticceria Pirona (12 Largo Barriera Vecchia), where Joyce reputedly began outlining Ulysses. i was amazed to discover that the Pirona is tiny--there are no chairs, just a counter where you stand. i tried to picture Joyce at the counter; i had a marzipan pastry but wimp that i am, i couldn't face a glass of white wine for breakfast.
by noon, i was better prepared: i nabbed a table at the magnificent, immense Caffe San Marco (18 Via Battisti) which still holds literary and musical events and is generally the place to go if you want to talk with friends, read newspapers, and feel literary. there are carved oak leaves around the ceiling, there is an immense black bar, and there is excellent beer. i could have spent all day...

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Pont Neuf in Venice

I was in Venice to see the Biennale (and admire the pavillions used to display the art--the Canadian building is particularly wonderful)...but while I was there, I couldn't help making a detour to see how the new bridge is coming along. They don't built bridges over the Grand Canal very often. There's the famous 16th-century Rialto Bridge--most poetic to go under but I've never been that impressed walking across it. Then there's the marble bridge near the railway station (completed in 1932)--surrounded by a hubbub of vaporetti stops, gondolas, garbage boats, and deliveries being dragged up the bridge steps, dodging the tourists. And there is the wonderful wooden Accademia bridge (also built in the 1930s)--which I think has the best views and has a kind of thrown-together temporary look.

But now, there's a fourth pedestrian bridge, a new red steel arc at the top left-hand corner of the Grand Canal (imagine it on the space-photo of Venice, above).

The bridge is designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava (he designed the Olympic sports complex in Athens & has built marvellous bridges around the world). His new project links the railway station with the bus and parking terminal. Not a very poetic task, since the parking lot is the ugliest thing in Venice, but the bridge looks good. It isn't finished yet--there are ducts and scaffolding obscuring the lines--but Calatrava's design is light, elegant, and an interesting contemporary addition. It relates well to the Accademia, I think, and is surprisingly unshocking to see. It should be open by December, though we're talking about Venice here, and construction delays & scandals are legendary.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Berton House Saved

Good news: the Berton House Writer's Retreat is being handed over today to the Writers' Trust of Canada. This is the perfect organization to maintain the House--Pierre Berton was one of the 5 founders of the non-profit trust back in 1976 and it's fitting that his childhood home be included in their programs. So despite the Canada Council's brutal funding cut for the House, writers will be able to continue visiting Dawson City, to write and enjoy the amazing community up there. The annual fundraising dinner for the Berton House is November 28th--held as usual at Berton's favourite Chinese restaurant in Toronto--and in the meantime, we can all raise a glass and twirl a bowtie in goodwill towards the Writers' Trust...