A shot of a stand of hot peppers  for sale in Kusadasi, Turkey. - May 2016.

Des Informations, des Idées, et des Opinions Suspectes - rarement mises à jour et de qualité douteuse.

The 2016 Archives

Just look at all of the great stuff that I wrote in 2016

(or move onto the literary gold from 2017 or the gems from 2015)


Baby, it's cold outside

Baby, it's cold outside

My favourite Xmas song is "Baby, it's cold outside". I've collected many versions over the years. The version that sounds best to me is by Jessica Simpson but I also like the hilarious version the guys from Scrubs did: (video starts at the funny part)

But it's 2016, and now this song has been declared "rapey" and it no longer fits in with modern feminist culture. I never realized this before but "Baby, it's cold outside" actually describes a sexual predator who possibly slips a roofie into his victim's drink and refuses to let her leave. See http://shoppe.ca/u?mmh2m and http://shoppe.ca/u?m4hs2 

But luckily somebody has kindly updated the lyrics for the modern age.

The world's best scream

Edvard Munch - the scream

Probably the best blood-curdling horror movie scream of modern times can be credited to Jamie Lee Curtis in the original Halloween movie. Hers was the scream that launched a thousand wannabe horror movie “sound-alikes”. The last of the Halloween movies I saw was Halloween H20; Jamie Lee was in that one too. She was more mature, a lot more self-assured while dispatching Jason, and didn’t scream a whole lot. Just as well, because these days Jamie Lee Curtis’ screaming crown is in serious jeopardy by none other than my own daughter Ellie, a four year old girl no less.

Ellie is my first child and I certainly do not have a lot of experience with children prior to her, but one thing I do know is that 4-year olds are afraid of their own shadows. She will not move 10 feet without an escort. She will not remain on any level of our house unless a parent is on that level with her. Sometimes I think that everything frightens her. Despite this, as far as I can tell, she simply loves it when I scare her.

When I jump out of a dark corner and Ellie screams, that scream is such a pure and totally unadulterated sound. Far louder than you would expect possible from such a small package, it sounds like she is mostly terrorized and just partly thrilled. Ellie’s screams actually hurt my ears, the pitch overloads my ear drums making my tympanic membranes thrum like the blown speakers in my station wagon.

Ellie throws her whole body into the scream too. If I take the time to recollect, I recall that she throws her arms out straight to her sides with her hands wide open. She jumps slightly. But all of this is ancillary. It is the scream that is the thing. It was just this afternoon that she let one of her patented horror-movie screams out. I tell you she’s got a real talent.

It is important that I not take her completely by surprise. Do that and I risk not getting any scream at all, just a very irritated little girl who does not appreciate being frightened that way and cries very loud as well. She must be complicit in the adventure. The game is best played when I tell her that I am coming after her and then chase her part way around our race-track shaped house interior, before ducking into an opportune corner along the way. As she rounds back to where we started, inevitably she will enlist the eyes and ears of her mother. Mom will usually attempt to throw Ellie off course (I think your dad went outside…), a ploy that Ellie is more than familiar with and one that never works. Ellie usually has a pretty good idea of where I am and will come towards me creeping slowly and call my name and feeling, I am sure, the same knot in the pit of her stomach, that I am feeling as I lie in wait.

It can be excruciating, the moments leading up to the scream, but when I feel the moment is right I will come out quickly and noisily like a large bear charging through the bush, and Ellie will sing out that scream that is so brilliant and pure - and just plain loud.

Afterwards, when I am feeling guilty, like maybe I am setting up my young daughter for an early heart-attack, Ellie will start begging sweetly: “Again, Dad? Can we do it again?”

A mysterious new French vegetable

It was not this African Horned Melon...

The other midday I had a few minutes to spare, and I was and kind-of-hungry and equally kind-of-lazy so I decided to grab a sandwich at the local patisserie a few meters from my place. I've had the sandwiches there before and they're always terrific and judging by the perennial line-up out the door, I'm not the only one who thinks so. It's a busy little place. Usually, where I get there, I stand in line and I can't see anything until I get close to the sandwich case and I certainly don't want to hold up the line like everyone in front of me always seems to do, so I usually have to think fast and pick something where I'm not quite sure of what I'm getting ... I only know that it looks good. This happens not only because of the aforementioned always-moving line, but also because the descriptions on the little cards in front on the sandwiches are always smeared and in cursive and I can't decipher most of the words for the local foods anyway.

Today, none of that mattered because the lady in front of me confidently, loudly and immediately ordered three of the last four "Savoyardes". Following the cashier's tongs with my eyes as she moved to the sandwich case, I could see that the Savoyarde is an open-faced sandwich on a thick, light-coloured, and seeded rustic bread with what looks like smoked meat on top, along with a creamy coloured vegetable of some kind, covered with an equally creamy butter-coloured fondue cheese - gratineed, and topped with fresh herbs. As I watched the cashier put those delicious-looking sandwiches into the lady's bag, and with the one remaining Savoyarde seemingly calling my name out loud (Stephan, manges moi!), when it was my turn I simply said (with not nearly as much confidence or nearly as loud as the lady before me) "Je voudrais votre dernier Savoyarde, s'il vous plait." And two minutes later my sandwich was back at home (along with a pain chocolat amandes, just in case it sucked) heating up in the oven for a bit. A few minutes after that I was digging into it.

I did not regret my choice; it was sandwich heaven. The marriage of flavours was amazing. The meat, cheese, and bread was fantastically fresh and this buttery-textured mystery vegetable really rounded-out not only the flavour of the sandwich, but also the mouth-feel of it as well. The only problem was that I couldn't quite place what vegetable it was. It definitely wasn't eggplant, though that would have been good too. It could have been artichoke, but I eat a lot of artichoke and after consideration felt it wasn't quite that either. I racked my brains and while I ate I found myself switching on my PC and searching Google for the identity of this strange yellow-beige French vegetable, much like I had months earlier successfully searched to determine the origin of the not-nearly-so-tasty flageolets...

As good as it was, as I finished the sandwich I was disappointed. I just couldn't figure out by sight or by taste what that damn vegetable was (or even if it was a vegetable) so that meant I wouldn't ever be able to reverse engineer this simple sandwich and make it for myself, or even know how to ask what that ingredient is the next time I am at the patisserie. Because if you think I can walk into a patisserie and ask about a mystery item, you can forget it. With my school-boy French, I would be all like, "I am here yesterday (since all I know is present tense) and I would like a sandwiches (because I suck at definite articles) like yesterday, with one vegetables (because I have trouble with indefinite articles too) around butter yellow or white. (because I can never tell if the adjective should go in front of or after the noun)

I had saved a little bit of the delicious veg while I was eating and searching online and now, pushing that last little bit around the plate, I realized I wasn't going to ever figure it out, so I popped it into my mouth and that's when it hit me.

It was potato.

Perfect gifts for the kids

Kids doing a total fail on a rope swing.

You've all heard the story of the child that gets the expensive Christmas gift and then spends the whole day playing with the box? My kids, my son in particular have taken this phenomenon to the extreme. Both my kids have a thing for empty tissue boxes, and my son is nuts over empty toilet paper tubes. I don't think a toilet paper tube has ever left our house. The boy has boxes of them and calls them his toobz''. He draws figures and characters on them and then situates them into scenes and situations that make think that maybe I shouldn't have let him watch those zombie movies with me when he was two and three: "Dad, this tube has chopped off the head of this tube and this tube's wife and daughter are crying about it..."

A few years ago, I spent over $200 at Home Depot on this fiberglass rock wall that attached to the kids play structure in the backyard. It looks like a pile of rocks. It was a bit of a sting price-wise, but there was only one left and standing there in the store I imagined my children climbing over it, under it, and through it, awarding time to other neighbourhood children, lording it over the other kids, and waving at me warmly as Hollywood family flashback music played from some unspecified source. I saw the children mouthing the words, "we love you dad!" so I could make out what they were saying through the glass of the closed livingroom window as my hot supermodel wife served me drinks in the Jacuzzi...my mind does tend to drift a little.

Anyway, getting this monstrosity home was a bit of a pain. It was an unusual shape and simply did not fit in the van. In the end I tied it with the Home Depot supplied string to the top of the van, sort of like a huge sail, and then set out to sail the Chrysler Santa Maria the 30 minutes back to my house.

Upon arriving home, the kids were full of curiosity with a lot of "What's that, dad?" and "Is that for us?" and as I leaned it up on the side on the house, they both started climbing up on it and I yelled at them that the instructions clearly state that children should not climb on it until the internal support braces are fitted, can't they understand that?

Then the bloody rock wall sat against the side of the house for two weeks until I got the energy to finally attach it to the play structure. The kids did a perfunctory circuit up and down the thing one time and then never looked at it again. As it was situated under a maple tree, wet leaves would fall on it and stick to it, and if left there would begin to decompose on it, staining it. I couldn't have a pile of fiberglass rocks stained with leaves so for the first season I wasted a good portion of Canada's limited fresh water supply washing off the fiberglass rock wall, then after a couple of months of that, gave up. That thing may have been light, but it was a pain on the ass and yet another constant reminder of my failings as a father, consumer, and a maintainer of properties.

It was a classic example of buying something that I imagine that I would have liked to have had when I was a kid. And I applied my adult perspective to the purchase, revealing that I actually have no clue as to what the kids really want. For example, my kids could care less if it costs $2 or $200. The difficulty getting it home similarly also does not impress them. Children are wonderfully utilitarian in this regard.

Now, contrast what is now known as the the fiberglass rock wall fiasco of 2005-2006 to a situation that occurred when we moved into our new house in Podunk, Ontario. The previous owners had left an old fraying yellow nylon rope hanging from a tree in the front yard. The rope had knots every 18 inches or so, and it was inexpertly and cruelly tied around the branch overhead in such a way that the rope would not expand to accomodate the growing tree branch that it was tied around.

First Ellie, then Nik took tentative turns trying out swinging on the rope, both of them possessing an innate ability for rope swinging that is apparently built into children. Within a week the kids were swinging on the thing like Tarzan. Nik in particular devised more different rope swinging techniques than I ever thought possible. He was spending 60 minutes per day on the rope. His hands were raw with little yellow nylon splinters in them. Finally, I went to the store and purchased some nice, thicker diameter and softer rope that would not splinter and fixed it with a slip knot to the over head branch so it would expand as the branch did. Because this rope was thicker, smoother and nicer than the original frayed and rotting rope, the kids very nearly rejected it as they had rejected the rock wall earlier, but in the end the joy of rope swinging won out and they increased their rope time, if anything. Total cost for the rope: $6.

So in summary, for $6, those two kids and as well as many of the neighbourhood kids have enjoyed countless hours of entertainment, and the $200 rock wall has given them exactly none. There is a lesson in there somewhere, but as is usual with most adults I'm sure, I 'm having a difficult time finding it.

Funny enough, the rope lies at the eastern end of the property at the front of the house. On the western side just a few short meters away is another tree, this one with a tire swing hanging from it. Like the rock wall, the tire swing gets absolutely no love from the children. I've asked Ellie, "Why don't you ever use the tire swing?" And I listened carefully to her answer so as to get some insight as to the fickle nature of children. Ellie said, "Well Dad, the branch that the tree is tied to is too springy, I'm always worried it's going to break when I swing" and me being the moronic dad I am/was sealed the deal by unthinkingly saying, "Oh I see. Yeah, you're right, if that branch came down on your head, the result would be truly tragic, and that's if you even survived." ...which pretty much ensured that the kids never again went near the tree, let alone the tire swing. Now at this point, I'm pretty sure I could relocate that swing to a beefier branch and maybe even replace the rope and the tire, improving it and costing me a fair bit of time and money, but I have a feeling that I would get as similar a reward for the tire swing as I got for the rock wall.

Wik: Maybe the Smallest Wiki Ever?

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Stop! Ca Suffit! poster.

There is a pretty big public awareness campaign going on in France right now; it's an effort to build awareness of the apparently endless harassment that some people experience when taking French public transit. I say 'apparently' because as of yet, not a single woman has harrassed me on the tram. C'est domage...

The ad above depicts the progression of come-ons a woman can expect to hear as she navigates the public transport system:

  • Mademoiselle...;
  • You are charming. (formal speech)
  • Is that little skirt for me?
  • You know that you're good? (informal speech)
  • I going to hold you.
  • Answer, dirty bitch!

From a grammar and translation perspective, it's the Réponds sale chienne! line that I find most interesting. It's an order...an instruction. otherwise known in grammar circles as the Imperative. In English I can say (You) Get up! or (You) Sit down or (You) Answer me! All of those are imperative and the pronoun is not required. In French as you may know, there are two ways to make any sentence in the 2nd person singular - formally or informally. Obviously, if you're going to call a woman a dirty bitch, you're not going to use the formal: Répondez vous, sale chienne! You will instead say: Réponds (toi) sale chienne! Just as in English, the personal pronoun "toi" is not required. Note that in French, the object personal pronoun (te, toi) always goes in front of the verb EXCEPT if the the statement is Imperative, as it is here.

Poster on the tram of: Vous souhaite un bon voyage

Where this construction REALLY gets interesting is the statement I saw on a sign while on the tram: Vous souhaite un bon voyage. Translate that too quickly and you'll see: You wish (...me maybe?) a good trip. Errr, what's that? But note the conjugation...if it were really "you wish me" (formal) then it would be vous me souhaitez... So then when do you conjugate the verb 'souhaiter' in the form 'souhaite'? Only in the first and third person singular. (I or we)

Well, a sign at the train station isn't going to say "I wish you a good trip" and the sign didn't say the more formal Nous souhaitons un bon voyage So then the only possible meaning is: On vous souhaite un bon voyage (and again, we leave off the optional "On")

We wish you a good trip.

Because "On" is the subject and "vous" is the object expressed a personal pronoun so therefore must go in front of the verb since it is an indicative sentence!

I should give my teacher a hug. :-)

Une meilleure methode!

C'est fantastique! C'est plus facile d'apprendre le français avec le texte en anglais, et les notes de bas de page, en plus il y a un index anglais-français! Je le conseille à ceux qui veulent améliorer leur français par la lecture.

Pic of a Bilingue french-english paperback novel cover.   Pic of a Bilingue french-english paperback novel. 

Pic of a Bilingue french-english paperback novel cover.

Pic of a Bilingue french-english paperback novel.

(Click on the images to enlarge.)

Et bien, On trouve que vous êtes arrogants, brailleurs, libidineux, lâches, incultes ... et sale.

Astérix & Obélix: Au service de sa Majesté (Astérix and Obélix: God Save Britannia) is one of my favourite French comedy movies. I can't believe it's rated only 5.3 on IMDB. That has to be because either North American reviewers don't understand all the hilarious references (to A Clockwork Orange, to Star Wars, English Rugby, etc.) and/or the French people's interesting take on the concept of humour. (France awarded a "Chevalier, Ordre national de la Légion d'honneur" to Jerry Lewis for crying out loud.)

Here is my favourite scene; I've memorized it should I ever need to use it on a French person. Here the "Brit" Jolitorax is telling Asterix and Obelix how the Brits regard the French, Keep in mind that this is only after Goudurix (the kid in the background) fired the first insult. I put the video at the exact spot of my favourite line, but rewind it a little bit if you want to hear the kid say his little insult first.

It's a hilarious movie, especially they way they used French actors to play Brits and then instructed them to totally murder the French accent. Imagine seeing a great French actress like Catherine Deneuve (who plays the queen of England) speaking French like a schoolgirl from south-western Ontario.

Check out this scene. Here as well as in every scene they are in, Miss Macintosh and Ophélia (played by Charlotte Le Bon who is actually from Quebec) absolutely murder the accent better than anyone else in the movie.

See the newer gold from 2017 or the literary classics from 2015

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Maybe read No Big Deal, a story I consider to be the very best thing I ever wrote.