31 December 2005

Year in Review

Started with Loverboy. Brad and Maria and Ryan and Chiara in Vancouver BC.
Moved to April when I, with very little fanfare, achieved my BA in Communications from Simon Fraser University along with my Community Economic Development Certificate.
A week later I was being stripped to the boxers and stripped of my glasses and dignity by friends who dragged me to an island to have a manly Canadian send off, involving foosball, geese, clay and other stuff.
Then I took a plane to Europe, wandered around having pints in London with David Frederick Symonds, got back on a plane and ended up in the arms of Chiara in Rome Italy.
Very soon thereafter (after being denied the opportunity to teach English to these Italians) I began work as a tour guide in this big old city. All summer was spent hustling the tour guiding. Much time was and still is being spent getting used to the city, the language, the people, the culture etc. The Italians call foreigners stranieri and it's often an accurate description of how I feel. However I've made a few friends, many of whom are fellow stranieri. Many of whom have returned to their respective cities.

Then I did more tour guiding. Went on holiday with Chiara to Amsterdam where I got to tread the Boom Chicago boards once again, and then back to Rome.
Also, Chiara and I moved, very recently. I got a new jacket. My Italian is improving, though not necesarily in that order. PLus I got a Playstation. Imagine all of this as more exotic. Please.

Greater examination of the trends show that I've rapidly adapted to having alot of disposable income. It took no time at all for me to get used to having money to blow on dinners, clothes, student loans, etc. Also, learning this Italian has caused me to come up against two weaknesses, laziness, and ego. I don't always feel like hitting the books, though I get tired of not understanding everything that happens around me. Bit by bit it gets better, though I'm not as good as I'd like to be. And for every experience where somebody is surprised and impressed by my prowess there's two where somebody stares me in the face and says "Che cosa!?!" Back to the textbooks. Maybe.


28 December 2005

Get Lost, I Have a Playstation!

For anyone, if there is anyone, that reads this blog or receives my emails with any regularity you might realize that here in Rome I'm only pretty happy. I feel sad sometimes, a little lonely, I miss my friends, I'm alienated etc etc. However the good news is this Christmas I received a Playstation and realized that none of that shit really matters anymore. All that matters is mastering FIFA '06 in time for the world cup this summer, and playing some of the vast array of games available for me to live in. I now have my own digital entertainment bubble. When I say "get lost" I don't mean it in a harsh way, only in a "i'm over it" kinda way. This must be how Columbeus felt after he discovered his new world: "Get lost, Old World, I have whole new lands to exploit. You're sooo 1491."


27 December 2005

New Nog News

Hey! Hurray!
I made nog and it was alright. It didn't make me sick, it wasn't snotty (thanks Chelsea) and next batch will have some secret ingredients. (thanks Andrew) The real problem with nog (besides the lack of noggers here willing to participate) is that making it I came right up against the nutritional value of the nog. It's nutritional value consisting of being a weeks worth of your dairy group (if you ascribe to the Canada Food Guide) and a weeks worth of calories.

The more or less recipe is:
Take full-on milk. Add cream. Add eggs. Add sugar. Douse liberally with booze. Presto! Nog!
Buying it prepackaged one can ignore the issue of dubious nutritional content of nog. Sure it's bad for me, but when I buy it at the store I don't have to think about that at all. What I don't know can't hurt me, right? But by making the nog I get to see exactly what's going on, and what's going into the drink. That's a potential dissuader. However this didn't have nearly the dissuasive powers you might think. Though it didn't stop me from nogging, being witness to nog in progress gave me some food for thought, which fortunately is low in calories. In fact, all in all, I say it balanced my diet right out. I can drink deliciously unhealthy nog with impunity, provided I think about the notions of the Canada Food Guide, (is there still a meat group?) out-of-sight-out-of-mindedness, and the nutritional value of thoughts. This food for thought was nutritious, and the nog delicious.


22 December 2005

On the Nog


Did you know you can make egg nog? I didn't. It's not like milk, which only cows can make. There's a bunch of different recipes for making egg nog, which you can use if you live in Italy or some other nogless country. I'm gonna give it a try. I'm gonna use this recipe:


Egg nog, as it turns out, is a pretty simple drink to make. This is the perfect recipe for egg nog novices.


2 eggs, beaten well
3 tbs sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/8 tsp nutmeg, ground
2 1/3 cups milk


Blend all ingredients together and serve chilled. Done.

UPDATE: Easy egg nog is delicious! Note, it's a good idea to add booze, like rum or brandy or whatnot. Of course you can mix these in at the punch bowl, but a litle bit in the recipe gives your nog a little sumpin' extra.


17 December 2005

Mean Streets

I'm learning to drive. All over again. My years of experience driving in Canada are not helping. It's like when you join the Marines and they break you down to build you back up again as a fighting machine. Only here it'd be a driving machine. And a military comparison isn't really that apt, because the military is about discipline and rigid order. Driving here can be best described as functioning chaos. I have no idea how it works, but it does. When I am driving, I am scared shitless. Almost paralyzed with fear by the unfamiliar dangers everpresent, and in that sense maybe it is like active duty in the military.

My years of experience operating a motor vehicle in Canada are very unhelpful here. I am locked into a dogma of following traffic lines and expecting other drivers to do the same. Not expecting motorini to whizz by either window at any time, not expecting a car to suddenly decide to cut across three lanes of traffic at a stop light and then do so. Often. But the big mistake is believing that it's totally unbridled chaos here. I know it's not. I can see it's not (when I'm not driving).

There's a brilliant disregard for rules of the road guided by passionate self interest. Everybody has this mindstate and so it works. It's a beautiful system actually, and it works quite well. But only if you have that mindset as well. All rules can be broken, except the ones that can't. And the ones that can't are not written down, nor are they signed anywhere. It's a complicated, confusing death-defying mess for me. But I love the beauty of drivers doing whatever they want instead of being falsely constrained by unnecessary traffic rules. The only thing is i'm having trouble unlearning what I know, and accessing this Zenlike state of accepting all, following my primal instincts, and just going with the flow.


12 December 2005

Brazil vs. Croatia

Thank you, oh my, thank you, Football Gods. Thank you for smiling upon the FIFA World Cup draw last week. I am honoured that in Your Infinite Wisdom You saw fit to bless me with the opportunity to view some Totally Awesome football in June in Berlin. You certainly work in mysterious ways. I could not have seen, back in January 2005 when I entered the FIFA lottery system (and won. Amen.) I could not have seen that the game I received tickets to would miraculously become Brazil and Croatia. Just last week the draw happened, and thanks to Your Divine Guidance the Pool F first and second seed spots are Yellow Brazil and the Good Ol' Red n' Whites of Croatia. You have thus provided me with the chance to see some totally excellent Football up close at the World Cup of Football. The awe-inspiring creativity of the Brazilian side against the underrated and disciplined Croats: this is truly a fortuitous draw. I hope Your charity shines as well on that specific day in June so we don't see a scoreless draw, or a lopsided rout. I pray for 90 minutes of dedicated creative, clean, flowing football. I also beg for there to be a minimum of phony diving, especially by those gifted, yet cheap, Brazilians. I continue to ask for Your mercy, in this and other football-related matters. Glory Be.


08 December 2005

The Cat Came Back

Today I was a teaching God! I was actually more like the Wizard of Oz: seeming and feeling so fucking rad, but just hiding behind the curtain. The curtain was "Father and Son" by Cat Stevens, the Tin Man was the teacher, Dorothy, was um, the kids, and The Wicked Witch was, the uh, Principal..., and the uh, Cowardly Lion, was, well, um...

I don't know where I was going with this Wizard of Oz thing, maybe I was trying to get to the part about the Cowardly Lion because lions are just big cats. Although that's a terribly weak segueway so that couldn't have been it...
but the point is I came home from teaching today and I was totally hyped because I spent all morning singing with these kids. The same song. Over and over. But it's a good song. Not only that, I didn't have to force them (seriously). They wanted to sing!! We sang so much Father and Son, so many times that we really sounded out our pronunciation and internalized the generational difficulties the song speaks to. It reminds me of another Cat Stevens song: "If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out." And we did.

Here's the real Cat. Groovy. Very Groovy.


17 Shots!

VANCOUVER, British Columbia

Armed officers on trains

Canada's first armed transit police, the Greater Vancouver Transit Authority Police, have taken to the rails, making some passengers and civil libertarians uneasy in a country that generally frowns on firearms.

John Les, solicitor general of British Columbia, said the public was demanding greater security on the region's transit system and commuter lines, which have been plagued with crime, particularly drug dealing in and around stations.

The 70 new officers, who began work Sunday, have full police powers and the authority to enforce drug laws, execute warrants and arrest people committing crimes outside stations. Previously, they could only hold people as they waited for officers from other forces to arrive.

The police are carrying semiautomatic pistols that hold 17 rounds. (AP)

17 Fucking Rounds?!?!?


According to The Globe and Mail:

Each officer is equipped with a .40-calibre Glock C22 semi-automatic pistol, an Austrian-designed weapon that can carry up to 17 rounds


I picked up the International Herald Tribune this morning. It’s basically the New York Times Europe Edition. Just to see what’s going on. To add further evidence that the world gone nuts includes my hometown of Vancouver Canada I got to read a little newslet capsule on the backpage. Visible above. It caught my eye of course because it was about the newsworthy event in Vancity that managed to make the Times and EuroTribune. It was about the rollout of the Skytrain Police Force., Canada’s first such law and Order Force. I wrestled with that, not being opposed to it in principle, because safety is a good thing. It was the last line of the article that shook me “They will be armed with semi automatic pistols with 17 rounds of ammunition.” What in the name of Goodness and Safety and Public Fucking Order requires the neophyte police force, destined to work in Public areas (Public Transit) to get semiautomatic pistols filled with 17 fucking bullets? I mean, yes, ok to Transit police, let’s keep our city safe, but really do you think after squeezing out 16 bullets in a crowded Skytrain Station to stop a drug deal or fare evader, there’s going to be need for another bullet?

I don’t know much about firearms or budgeting, but this seems like we’re off on the wrong foot already. The concern I had, that arming this security force with guns seemed like a push in the wrong direction has not been assuaged by the decision to get semiautomatic handheld weapons with 17 bullets. I mean, what scenarios are they expecting? What could possibly justify this? I moved from Vancouver just 7 months ago. I lived near Commercial drive Skytrain station, and yes there was shady activity, but I have trouble believing it has degenerated into some sort of dystopia since I left. Fuck me! Really fucking unbelievable! The kind of people that want guns with 17 bullets, are precisely the people you don't want to have authority or be responsible for safety; yet they now have those bad ass weapons and are responsible for public safety in Vancouver's busy Skytrain stations. The countdown to a tragedy caused by an overzealous weapon mongerer on the right side of the law begins now….


The Piston in Rome

Fortunate indeed we were in Rome this week. We had a visit from James "The Piston" Liston and his awesome girlfriend Leanne. It was short indeed but we managed to pack a lot of Rome into that short period of time. As well I got to catch up on some of the news of friends back home and have a few drinks and some smokes with one fo the boys. Abbiamo fatto un bel chiachierate. I took them around Rome, playing tour guide and showed them the highlights. It was sweet relief from the routine, and mostly great to have some good times with some good peoples. I miss my peoples. In other news the hot new short “24 Hours in Rome with Ryan Millar” on super 8 coming out soon. It'll be in fast motion. Like the trip itself.


07 December 2005

Schooling 'em

Last Wednesday, in follow up to the brutal disaster of a slow-motion train-wreck of the week before, was actually alright. It rates solid "did not inspire me to wring someone's neck, then go home and cry all afternoon." It didn't start great though: I got up at 5:55 in the morning to get all the way to the liceo (high school) across town and then outside of Rome, for which I must take a bus, both Metro lines, a train, and a ten minute walk only to find out that my first class was cancelled. An aptitude test was taking the place of first block English. So fuck you very much for no advance warning. But the morning was salvaged because the kids taught me how to do Sudoku (the puzzle craze sweeping the world!!!) I then retired to the staff room to enjoy some puzzles and puzzled looks from the other teachers.

Second class was only so/so. I threw two girls out of class, the first taking the opportunity to have a smoke break, and the second incident being so disruptive, and inexplicably funny that the other three girls sitting around her couldn't stop laughing, a real giggle fit. By removing the disruptive influence the disruption just got worse really. At least she didn't go for a smoke. At any rate that incident didn't incite nearly as much laughter as the piece of toilet paper stuck to my shoe earlier on in the lesson. That was really funny. For them.

Sure, shitty so far, but the third class, which was breaking point for me last week was actually alright this week. The teacher (Margherita Ricerca, or Margaret Research) was present, which helped considerably. I noted that her key function is to yell "Quiet Please!" or "Claaaaaaa-aaaaaassssss" or something similar. This is great because I hate doing that. Because she was holding the reins we were able to get some work done this week. This week we learned that Lisa's dreamy new beau Patrick has short, dark hair, and is quite handsome, according to her. Her friend Stephanie hopes he has a friend.

Last class:
Great as always.

The other good news about school is that being stranded without my preplanned activity last week prompted me to buy Cat Stevens Very Greatest Hits. So i'm never strung up in the wind again. I’m enjoying the Cat right now.


05 December 2005

Fashion Tip

If you're wondering what's up on the fashion zone here in Italy, just remember: nothing, i mean nothing is too much. But for specifics, i've been trend spotting.
All summer long it was hip to rock sunglasses approximately half the size of your face. I'll admit my sunglasses got a little bigger over here, but nothing like the novelty style sunglasses the truecool rocks.

Anyway, lately i've been spotting this, so just keep it in mind, if you're looking to make a splash somewhere.

Short ties.
Seriously, take a regular tie, give it a big knot and have it reach down to about your nipples. Throw on the rest of your fancy gear and head off to work.

It still hasn't trickled down mainstream, but it's about to.

If I was a "coolhunter" i'd have made some cool coin for this observation, but here I go, handing it out for free. Knowledge is power, wear a short tie.