ed_rex: Winter Warrior icon (Weekend Warrior)

Fright or flight?

The author takes the right seat - just don't touch anything! Photo by Raven

The strangeness of fear (or lack thereof)

December 11, 2016, OTTAWA — Fear — pure, irrational fear — is the damnedest thing.

I'm talking about the fears that don't make sense, or at least, that don't make sense when taken out of context. Fear of spiders that aren't poisonous, of rodents nott dangerous, of heights well-barricaded.

This last — heights — is my especial irrational bugaboo. Standing on a chair to reach a high shelf makes me uneasy. Getting onto the counter to change a light-bulb makes me nervous verging on frightened.

Hell, one of my earliest childhood memories comes from a terror near paralysis I experienced when I had to ride a down escalator at the old Eaton's in Montreal. In fact, it's only in the past five — maybe 10 — years, that I've learned to travel the moving staircases in more or less complete serenity.

But put me in an elevator or on an aeroplane, no matter that the latter, especially, is objectively much more dangerous than riding an escalator, and I feel no fear whatsoever.

At least, that's always been my experience on commercial airplanes. But I've wondered, ever since I first flew as a passenger in a Dash-8, how I would react were I to ride in the cockpit of a small aircraft, without the illusion of safety even a small passenger liner provides.

Would my fear of heights reassert itself in such a flimsy platform?

Last month, I finally found out whether I have any fear of flying.

_______

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On the uneasy satisfaction of prescience

This afternoon, I drove my sweetie to the airport. She's off to Europe for a couple of weeks, scratching her nomad's need to move. As we drove in, she noticed the Canadian flag flying above The MacDonald-Cartier International Airport's welcome sign was at half-mast. "Look at that!" she said, "I wonder who died."

It took me a moment, then I realized. "It's 9/11!"

And of course, that's who died, the special victims, our victims, to be mourned forever, because 15 years on, we are a nation at war. Sort of.

And I remembered that I had written what I thought was a pretty powerful piece of analysis not so long after the fact, and went looking for it when I returned home. Only to realize that, somehow, it was a piece of work no longer attached to my website. Somehow, gone, lord only knows when or how.

Thank god for Archive.org! There were my words (not to mention an even more primitive design than the one "gracing" my site now), preserved for posterity, and for me. Remind me to send them a donation.

In any event, what follows is (but for a half-dozen typos I could not resist correcting) exactly what I posted on October 8, 2001.

It is, if I do say so myself, almost frightening in its prescience. To quote H.G. Wells, writing (if memory serves) on the eve of the Second World War, "I told you so, you damned fools." Click here for my full, depressingly accurate look ahead from October 8, 2011.

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The Pedestrians' diaries, parts 10 and 11

Days 9 and 10: Sugar beaches and the General's gun

Image: Photo of cars parked outside a hamburger stand in Varadero.

Excuses: the day job, other writing, selecting photos, an internet outage, real life ...

All true, all inadequate. But here we are at last, come to the end of our Cuban adventures.

Click here for Day 9: Varadero Sands, our last full day in Cuba.

And here for Day 10: Adios to Cuba, in which I encounter a General and his gun.

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The Pedestrians' diaries, part 9

Day 8: Last night in Havana

Image: Photo of the liquor shelf at the 'grocery store' across from our casa particular in Varadero.

Our last morning in Havana was our first evening in Varadero.

We learned that Cuba pumps oil on the sea shore, that good food isn't restricted to Santa Clara and Havana, and that we both looked forward to, and dreaded, the impending end of our journey.

Click here for Day 8: A hovel in the lap of luxury.

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The Pedestrians' diaries, part 8

Day 7: Last night in Havana

Image: Photo of Young Geoffrey with painting of Fidel Castro in Old Havana.

Our third full day in Havana was also our last; in the morning, we ship out to the beaches of Varadero.

But today? Today we returned to Habana vieja, riding instead of walking, visiting old forts, old streets and old cars.

Click here for Day 7: Cocotaxi, Habana Vieja & a '56 Ford Fairlane, and don't forget to play the video!

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The Pedestrians' diaries, part 7

Day 6: Havana by day, Havana by night

Image: Photo of yellow car, stripped or under repair near Calle Neptuno, Havana.

My Cuban diary continues, with our second full day in Havana.

As with the first, we walked, and we walked and we walked. No soldiers this time, but a shuttered Capitolio, the Old City, really scary street-food and Chinatown (yes, Chinatown!).

Click here for Day 6: Stormy weather on the Malecón.

Cuba: Day 5

Jan. 7th, 2016 07:04 pm
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The Pedestrians' diaries, part 6

Day 5: Soldiers on duty!

Image: Photo of El monumento Jose Miguel Gomez from the south, in Havana, Cuba.

My Cuban diary continues, with a report from our first full day in Havana.

Walking, walking, walking, we encountered smog and soldiers and monuments galore. And also, found ourselves back that the Viazul station, almost by accident.

Click here for Day 5: Schlepping in Havana (less politics, more pictures!).

Cuba: Day 4

Jan. 6th, 2016 02:11 pm
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The Pedestrians' diaries, part 5

Day 4: Adios! Santa Clara (Havana ho!)

Image: Photo of rear of statue of Che Guevara atop his Mausoleum in Santa Clara, Cuba.

January 6, 2016, OTTAWA — Life and work have got in the way of things. But here at last is the fifth entry (for the fourth day) of my Cuba diary.

The travellers come to Havana at last (and buy a pair of shorts)!

Click here for Day 4: Shopping in Havana.

Cuba: Day 3

Jan. 1st, 2016 01:26 pm
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Cuba: Notes from behind the Coffee Curtain

Day 3: Che sera, sera

The Note that wasn't

Image: Photo of Parc Vidal in Santa Clara, Cuba

My diary for Day 3 is a bit of a cheat. I over-wrote the original and was forced to reconstruct it from memory and visual aids (ie, photos).

But I remember the day pretty well. We had our first introductions to the realities of Cuban bureaucracies and the limitations on freedom that Cubans have to deal with. We also spent time at the Che Guevara mausoleum and rode home in a horse-drawn taxi — no calèche, but a humble cart.

Click here for Day 3: Che sera, sera.

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Cuba: Notes from behind the Coffee Curtain

Day 2: The chickens cats streets of Santa Clara

p>December 15, SANTA CLARA, Cuba — Our first full day in Santa Clara included a fuck-ton of walking, the worst spaghetti in the world, Che's cat, a yellow T-Rex, urban chickens and the most laid-back cops I've ever seen. Also horses and really dirty air.

And if all that isn't enough, I'll leave you with a gratuitous shot of Che's Cat, a mere sample of the pic-spam you'll also be missing if you don't click through!

The Streets of Santa Clara!

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Cuba: Notes from behind the Coffee Curtain

Day 1: A jet plane, a Lada and food! Glorious food!

p>December 15, SANTA CLARA, Cuba — The flight lasted only three and a half hours, delivering two Canadians from an un-naturally warm late autumn to sub-tropical heat. It seems also to have landed us in a world that Time has almost forgotten.

A blurry cellphone photo of the Aeropuerto Abel Santamaria, just after we de-planed.
The Aeropurto Abel Santamaria on the outskirts of Santa Clara, Cuba, taken just after we de-planed.

Our first day (or rather, evening) in Cuba began with lost luggage and a terrifying ride in a Lada (a Soviet-made knock-off of an Italian car) at least 40 years old. It ended with a lizard on the wall and fantastic meal in our bellies. The full report is here. Comment here or there, as you like (if you feel like commenting at all, that is).

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Cuba: Notes from behind the Coffee Curtain

A Canadian abroad: Memories of Cuba

December 27, OTTAWA — I imagine the word Cuba brings to mind all manner of things. To the historically-minded, it could be the Bay of Pigs, or the Cuban Missile Crisis. To the romantic, bearded Che and Fidel emerging from the jungles to over-throw the gangster dictator Batista. To automobile-aficionados, it is vast fleets of ancient Detroit steel and chrome still rolling. Even agronomists and ecologists have an interest, since Cuba is the first country to successfully transition from a "modern" industrial agricultural system to a more-or-less organic system.


A cop in Santa Clara talks with a woman. His relaxed body-language was pretty typical of those we saw in uniform during our visit.

Geopolitics was what first came to mind when I thought of that Caribbean island, but now that I have actually visited, the reality of people and places has pushed the abstract to the back of the bus. And what a reality!

Nine days don't make me an expert, but I think the experience was worth writing about — and worth reading.

A brief introduction to The Pedestrian's Diaries is here. If you hate introductions, the first full entry, Security theatre of the absurd is here.

Comments welcome here or there, as always.

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The Night Before the Day of the Doctor

Resurgence of hope?

Screenshot from Doctor Who mini episode, Night of the Doctor, Doctor Who copyright 2013 BBC

Doctor Who returns tomorrow, in yet another special, this one to be simulcast all over the world, the better to prevent the spilling of spoilers before their time.

Do I sound cynical? Those (few) of you who have been wondering what happened to my long-promised review of "The Name of The Doctor", first broadcast last spring, might well expect me to be.

I won't disappoint you: I still am.

But I ran across a bit of a surprise a couple of nights back, in the form of an eight-minute (mini) episode called "The Night of the Doctor." I don't suppose many of you reading this are still in the dark about it, but just in case, I'll offer no details here. Beware the spoilers that lurk in my review!

The surprising pleasure I received from the above-noted short film, saw my cynicism tempered, a little, by hope that this Saturday's long-awaited extravaganza might also surprise me. That hope saw me finally re-visit last spring's ostensible finale, "The Name of the Doctor" — and, yes, to also finally review it. That review is behind this cut. Spoilers, of course, and also a return to much wailing and gnashing of critical teeth. You've been warned on both counts.

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(I know, I know, I know; Doctor Who again. I thought I was done with it too ...

But I ain't; in fact, my intention (because working on a full-length book and driving 26 days in March doesn't take up enough of my time) is to blog every god damned episode of Steven Moffat's fershlugginner version of Who.

In order to spare those of you who don't give a damn, I'll keep this entry brief.

  • The teaser is up on here, currently at the top of Rex's front page;

  • The new Series 7 section introduction is here; and

  • the review proper is right here.

One of these days, there will be something personal in this space as well. But not today. (And possibly, a poll: I really wonder how many people on my friends' lists — LJ and DW, but especially Livejournal — still actually pop in to read their lists. Lord knows, few enough of you are posting anymore.)

But for now, I'm off to cross-post, while the Habs game is playing in a small window at upper left. Ciao!.

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1.0: Finding the culture-verse in an FM radio receiver

1.1: The kids today

Driving home yesterday, I did something I almost never do: being bored with CBC Radio and the Montreal AM sports station blathering on about something not hockey, I chanced upon a commercial music station and decided to give it a listen.

94.7 FM it was, "Montreal's Hit Music Channel".

What struck me first was that this station really plays pop hits, not just hits of a particular genre. 94.7 FM ain't a rock station, nor a pop station nor even a hip-hop station. It is all of the above, if I dare to judge by that hour and some minutes of exposure. The only thing missing was country (which has really been subsumed into rock anyway; Hank Williams wouldn't recognize today's "country" if it crooned at his 24 hours straight. But I digress).

The kids today, it seems, don't limit themselves to one particular style of noise music, but are in fact one hell of a lot more catholic in their tastes that the radio of my era would have suggested.

And good on them; I guess the internet is good for something after all, eh?

1.2: Disco laughs last

That said, and though the technical merits of the music on offer were bloody slick, there was a sameness at the back of just about everything I heard, a monotonous back-beat that reminded me of the "sound" in the 80s when even really good drummers did their damnest to immitate drum machines.

Driving just about all the music I heard last night was a descendant of disco's throbbing dance-hall backbeat. I'm not saying there is nothing to distinguish between the pop songs and the rap tunes and the rock-and-roll on offer, but all three had clearly been infected by that which so many of us loudly said "sucked" way back in the day.

I guess people like to dance ...

1.3: The decline of Anglo Montréal (and the rise of a bilingual urban polity)

As you might have noticed above, 94.7 is an English-language radio station. Not so the ads. Like many of my Montréal-based passengers, the ads on 94.7 presume the audience is bilingual. At a guess, I'd say maybe a third of those I heard were in French, and French only.

Which is pretty god damned cool, when you think about it.

And which, as I alluded to above, matches my observation of the younger cohort among my Montréal-based crews. Those people, Anglo and Franco alike, are bilingual down to their genes, switching between languages while they talk without any hesitation, nor even, any apparent self-consciousness. Whatever works in the moment.

Dunno if the phenomenon will survive over the long term, but in the short one, it is a beautiful thing to witness.

* * *

2.0: Speaking ill of the dead

To completely change the subject, those of you who give a damn already know that Elisabeth Sladen — yes, Doctor Who's Sarah Jane Smith — dies nearly two years ago now.

What you might not know is that she wrote (or rather, she told her story to a hack) a memoir shortly before the cancer got her.

Fool that I am, I dared to hope that Lis Sladen might be even half as interesting as Sarah Jane was. Not quite. Elisabeth Sladen: the autobiography is really only going to be of interest to those who knew her work with the Third and Fourth Doctors, Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker. That's what most of the book covers, but only superficially.

Anyway, my full review lives here and my intro to that piece is over here.

3.0 Music, music, (new) music!

Finally, for those of you who've slogged all the way through my meanderings, a reward. Gin Wigmore is a young(ish) Kiwi who has knocked my proverbial socks off like no one since Emmy the Great came to my cognizance maybe a half-year or so back.

Anyway, without further ado ... Sweet Hell with Gin Wigmore!

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