Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Strolling Toronto's Chinatown (updated)

Not the best photo taken of Chinatown, but I just couldn't seem to find anyplace to take a cellphone snap that really expressed anything of the size and complexity of it all. Toronto's Chinatown is very big, many many blocks, and chock full of vendors selling imported goods and foods ranging from the familiar Asian imports to those which are utterly foreign in appearance and mysterious in usage.

It was a quick trip - up one day, back the next - and this was the only personal outing I managed to make. I was staying right in the heart of downtown, at the Metropolitan Hotel on Chestnut Street, and walked all the way to the end of Dundas Street West to Spadina, which I wandered for several blocks north. It was a beautiful day and a nice way to immerse myself very quickly in Toronto's overwhelmingly multicultural life and culture (and grab a cold bubble tea, a pleasure which, alas, has not yet made its way to Freddie).



Sunday, May 18, 2008


Happy Victoria Day and all that. Not everything the Brits left us turns out to be naff. It almost makes up for the bland cuisine, the monarchy, and the crushing self-consciousness.

Xtreme English is always poking about on the net looking for interesting stuff which she then posts about, making her a good source of undiscovered things that will make you laugh until you pee your pants. Recently she introduced me to "Whoopee", the blog of Antonia Cornwell, a woman who lives in London and by whose own account has "a heart of gold and a wrong sense of humour. I live with my moustachioed lover, Ian, who owns real lederhosen, and our baby daughter Esme, who doesn't." Reading her blog didn't cause me to pee my pants but it did cause me to snort out loud more than once. She's very funny and very dry and while I'm not a mum, I sympathize with her campaign of trying out different playgroups and "mommy and me" activities as she attempts to find other mums to socialize with who think like her and who haven't turned into food nazis and joyless, primary-school-obsessed automotons.

If Antonia doesn't make you laugh, perhaps it is you who are the joyless automoton; if so, Xtreme English has something to chill the cockles of your heart as well.


Friday, May 09, 2008

Dual Citizenship

If you follow matters Cuban you may have read about a remarkable Cuban blogger named Yoni Sanchez. Ms. Sanchez writes a blog, Generación Y, which is pretty much like any ordinary blog you might read by a young, bright, well-educated person who reports with keen insight on the world around her. (Click on the British or German flags to read some of the posts which her readers have translated into English and German.) That, of course, is what makes her blog so extremely extraordinary; she is doing it from inside a country where criticism of the government is considered "counter-revolutionary", and where counter-revolutionary activity can get you thrown directly in jail, do not pass "Go", do not collect $200 pesos.

The government has tampered with her blog (it's been down a few times) and recently managed to slow access to it. That's a very strategic move; as Yoni herself points out, what it means is that Cubans themselves, who have extremely limited access to very poor and slow internet service, will now be unable to read her blog even if outsiders with broadband and multiple browsing windows can still check in.

Well, somebody's reading her. Her latest post prompted 2343 comments!

Yoni was recently awarded the Ortega y Gasset Prize in Digital Journalism for her blogging. She applied for an exit visa to attend the awards ceremony in Spain - contrary to popular belief, Cubans are allowed to leave the island to work, study or travel - but the state must issue an exit visa for them to do so - and of course she was turned down. This may turn out to be a mistake by the government in retrospect; the brave journalist addressed the assembly by tape-recording, noting that her absence from the event spoke more loudly than her presence ever could have.

In reflecting on the experience, Yoni wrote something thought-provoking and wondrous:

"Olvidan ellos que en el ciberespacio mi voz puede viajar sin límites, salir y entrar sin pedir permiso… No importa si mantienen retenido mi pasaporte. Desde hace un año tengo otro que en el acápite de nacionalidad exhibe una breve palabra: 'blogger'."

"They forget that in cyberspace my voice can travel without limits, leave and return without asking permission… It does not matter if they retain my passport. Since a year ago, I have another nationality, displayed in one short word: 'blogger'."

I continue to hope that the changes in Cuba portend more freedoms for the people, including the rights of people like Yoni Sanchez to speak her very sharp mind. In the meantime, I (along with thousands around the world) cross my fingers and hope for the safety and security of a very brave woman.


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Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Nearly over

Cleanup underway: N.B. flood damage expected to be tens of millions of dollars

Of course, the unfolding horror in Burma has put everything rather sharply into perspective.



Friday, May 02, 2008

Water, water, go away...

Yesterday I posted this picture of an intersection near my home which had flooded up through the storm drains. (Click on the photo or check the blog post just below this one for a better look.)

This is the same intersection today. Government employees in downtown buildings have been asked to work from home again today so that's where I'm tappy-typing.
They say the river's crested in Fredericton now and has actually gone down just a little. Unfortunately, the worst of the flooding has moved downriver to small towns like Maugerville (pronounced "Majorville"), Jemseg, and Sheffield.
The Prime Minister is coming to tour the hardest-hit areas this afternoon, which no doubt will be an enormous security and logistical headache and distraction for the people working down there. However, what is the PM to do? He's damned if he comes (he's already being criticised online - "How many people affected by the flood could the money wasted on this photo-op help?") and of course he'd be damned as callous if he didn't.
He gets a pass - or a shrug - from me on this one. Apparently he'll be bringing his chequeboook, so...
Keeping dry,