Tuesday, July 25, 2006

With Sighs and Furrowed Brow

Wishing: I was literate in Japanese so that I didn't have to wait two years for Haruki Murakami novels to be translated into English.

Wondering: Why when I listen to and watch gory medical details on Grey's Anatomy I'm fine. But when my doctor friends tell me about their cases I have to put my head between my knees.

Wishing: Richard Ashcroft sang me to sleep every night. In person.

Wondering: If Sushi knows that the new rocks I bought for his bowl are a guilt-gift, because I felt terrible about leaving him for a month while I was travelling.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

When I Open My Eyes...

...at my parents' house when I wake up in Victoria, this is exactly what I see.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Summer Reading 2006

Unlike last year's list, this year's summer reading is quite sparse. I've been travelling for much of my four week vacation and am more of a magazine and newspaper reader when I'm on planes and trains and returning to a hotel room exhausted at the end of the day. Also, the book I am currently reading (the Mailer) is the size of about three books, but damn, it's good. So the list for summer 2006 is:

Kafka On The Shore by Haruki Murakami
The Naked And The Dead by Norman Mailer
Alentejo Blue by Monica Ali

Thursday, July 13, 2006

St. Petersburg Photographs

All of my St. Petersburg photographs are now up and ready for viewing on my Flickr page. While I admit it's a bit cheesy, I loved all the corporate fast food slogans (McDonalds, Subway. Baskin Robbins) in cyrillic. A few of the photographs were taken at 11pm and yet still in broad daylight (they're labelled as such) and if anyone knows the story behind the lucky rabbit, do let me know.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Leaving The Hermitage In Awe

The Lonely Planet guidebook said in its list of things to do in St. Petersburg: Leave the Hermitage in awe. Well, we did that - and then some.

Thanks to a family friend with some great connections, we secured these VIP passes to the Hermitage, but didn't actually realize the gold we were holding in our hands. After bypassing a line-up of about 300 people outside the Winter Palace, we were ushered into the museum like gods and after dashing up to the third floor, we had the entire place to ourselves for an entire hour. I don't mean that it wasn't very crowded, I mean that we were the only people there. It was like they had closed off the museum just for our private viewing and we wandered the multiple rooms of Matisse and Picasso and Gauguin with our mouths hanging open. The photographs below are of the Gauguin Tahitian room, the spectacular view from said room and a particularly nice Matisse (click on photos for larger view). It was possibly one of the best hours of my life.

Gauguin Tahitian Room, Hermitage Woman in Green, Matisse Shot From Inside Gauguin Room, Hermitage

Monday, July 10, 2006

Until 2010

Less than a fortnight ago, when English hopes were still high for a place in the quarterfinals of the World Cup, I took these photographs in Trafalgar Square. The England team had just beaten Sweden and throngs of drunken youth, some naked and wrapped in the flag of St. George, all flocked to Trafalgar Square and partied in the fountain.

It got me thinking about the World Cup as an interesting measure of time. In 1998, I was working a summer job while home from my first degree at U of T and I remember frenzied Dutch tourists all crowding around a tv screen we had put up to watch the Netherlands game. Then in 2002, the first summer of my first real grown-up job, I remember being surprised by screaming Korean fans in a restaurant in Toronto's Little Korea with John, as Korea made it to the semi-finals. And then this summer, watching the festivities in London by the National Gallery as I was on holiday during the last year of my Ph.D. Where will I be in 2010? As seeing a World Cup match live and visiting South Africa are both on my List of Things To Do Before I Die, perhaps I will even be at the big event...

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Wide Awake for Wimbledon

Sometimes jetlag works in my favour. After flying a long 10 hour transatlantic flight to Vancouver Island today, I will most likely be wide awake at 6am tomorrow to watch the Wimbledon Mens Final live. And then the World Cup Football Final...such a great sporting television day!

It was a shame to miss what looked like a cracker match today when Mauresmo beat the Belgian quitter in the Ladies Final. But as I watched both the Ladies Quarterfinals and Semi-Finals live on Centre Court this past week, I shouldn't complain. Prediction for tomorrow: Federer in 5 sets.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Woman and Scarecrow

Last night I saw the positively brilliant play Woman and Scarecrow by Marina Carr at the equally brilliant Royal Court Theatre. It was a sort of coming full circle moment for me. I dragged my dad along (poor jet lagged man) as he had never been to the Royal Court before. Yet it was my dad who gave me my first play script - a copy of John Osborne's Look Back In Anger, which caused a huge stir upon its premiere at...the Royal Court Theatre.

I want to write that Fiona Shaw's performance was unbelievable, yet the true description is that her performance was painfully believable. The kind of performance where you realize you have been holding your breath. It was as hilarious as it was traumatic and as my dad so aptly put it: How on earth does she walk off the stage at the end of the play and just have a cup of coffee after that?

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Brief Impressions of Russia

I checked my email in St. Petersburg yesterday and found a few emails asking why I hadn't been blogging about my trip and could I please do so soon. It made me feel very popular. So...here are some brief first impressions of Russia, with more detail and photos to come soon when I am in London next week.

The Simpsons in Russian is hilarious. It is dubbed, but not completely so you hear American Marge speaking and then one second later the Russian Marge chimes in on top. 'Aye Carumba' is translated as 'Aye Carumba'.

Stereotypes ring loud and true. Young Russian women look very much like Russian mail-order brides and they all wear ridiculous stiletto heels. In fact, on the flight back today when the safety announcement said: 'In the case of evacuation, remove high heeled shoes as they may tear the evacuation slide', my travelling mate Charlie said, 'Pfft. The Russians are all going down with the plane.' Also brilliant were the tough looking men in heavy leather jackets in the sweltering heat and old, scarved headed woman selling cigarettes out of tattered briefcases on street corners.

The Hermitage and Mariinsky Theatre far exceeded my heightened expectations. More on that with photos later.

Sidewalks are considered decorative details of the road. While I have experienced insane drivers in other parts of Europe and Asia, Russians take the cake. In a 5 minute span on Nevsky Prospect I was almost run over by maniacs on bicycles, rollerblades, vespas, horses, and a car.

The Russian bliny rivals the French crepe.

There is interesting dichotomy everywhere. Old, falling apart cars next to Alfa Romeos, gorgeous Tsar extravagance next to blocks of Soviet housing units, designer boutiques next to statues of Lenin.

In one word, the trip was: Wow.