Category Archives: A – BLOG

Mardi 2 août 2017 — Deux voyages, avec momos (version française)

Pas grande chose a été pub­liée sur ce site au cours de la dernière année. Peu après mon retour d’un voy­age en France, une série d’événements a com­mencé à mod­i­fier mes cir­con­stances per­son­nelles, en com­mençant par la mort de ma mère. De nou­velles respon­s­abil­ités per­son­nelles appa­rais­sent et des change­ments de plan. Pen­dant un cer­tain temps, je ne suis pas d’humeur pour les com­mu­ni­ca­tions per­son­nelles. Mais alors que je n’ai pas eu beau­coup de temps à écrire mon blog, j’ai été en train de faire des recherches et d’écrire beau­coup. Main­tenant, je com­mence une nou­velle phase, parce que j’ai aban­donné les emplois rémunérés et j’espère sur­vivre entière­ment en écrivant. Cela sig­ni­fierait des sac­ri­fices — vivre fru­gale­ment l’un d’entre eux. Mais il y a des avan­tages. Pen­dant des années, main­tenant, je pou­vais rarement me livrer à l’un de mes plus grands plaisirs, en marchant dans les ravins et dans les coins loin­taux de ma ville. Je n’avais tout sim­ple­ment pas le temps libre, et un tra­vail à l’extérieur qui me tenait debout dix heures tous les jours me lais­sait trop fatigué pour le faire. Mais main­tenant, je serai assis à un ordi­na­teur pen­dant la plu­part du temps, et faire de la ran­don­née sera néces­saire pour écarter le péril clas­sique des écrivains: le sur­poids. Donc, je ne marche plus pour gag­ner ma vie, mais je suis libre de marcher pour le plaisir. Read more »

Tuesday, August 2, 2017 — Two Journeys, with Momos

Not much has been pub­lished on this site in the last year. Shortly after my return from a trip to France, a series of events started to mod­ify my per­sonal cir­cum­stances, begin­ning with my mother’s death. New per­sonal respon­si­bil­i­ties appeared, and changes of plan. For quite awhile, I remained in no mood for per­sonal com­mu­ni­ca­tions. But while I have not had much time to write casu­ally for the site, I have been in fact research­ing and writ­ing a great deal. Now I’m begin­ning a new phase, since I have stopped out­side work and expect to sur­vive entirely by writ­ing. This will mean some sac­ri­fices — liv­ing fru­gally being one of them. But there are ben­e­fits. For years, now, I could rarely indulge in one of my great­est plea­sures — walk­ing the ravines and dis­tant cor­ners of my city. I sim­ply did not have the spare time, and out­side work that kept me on my feet ten hours every day left me too tired to do it. But now I will be sit­ting at a com­puter for most of every day, and some walk­ing will be nec­es­sary to stave off a clas­sic writer’s peril: over­weight. So, no longer walk­ing to make a liv­ing, I am free to walk for plea­sure again.

I had a monthly sub­way pass in con­nec­tion with that work, and it still remained valid until yes­ter­day. Real­iz­ing that I was let­ting it go to waste, I used it on Sun­day and Mon­day, to go to two remote parts of the city for some walk­ing. On Sun­day I went to Old Mill Sta­tion on the sub­way, so that I could walk along the Hum­ber River. Bloor Street and the Sub­way trains cross the river that sep­a­rates the old City of Toronto from the Bur­rough of Eto­bi­coke [1] at this sta­tion. But a short walk from it there is a much older and quite hand­some lit­tle bridge that was built in 1916. This was the point of cross­ing for the river for many cen­turies. Here was the17th Cen­tury Seneca town, Teia­iagon, at its peak hav­ing about 5,000 inhab­i­tants in long houses. It was a major cen­ter of trade along the Toronto Carrying-Place trail that joined Lake Ontario with the fer­tile Huron lands to the north, and upper Great Lakes. But the Seneca town was the cul­mi­na­tion of a very long his­tory, as there were peo­ple liv­ing along the Hum­ber as early as 12,000 years ago. The local his­to­ri­ans have been busy, and now there are sev­eral plaques in Eng­lish, French, and Seneca indi­cat­ing this and that. The hand­somest one com­mem­o­rates Éti­enne Brûlé, whose name has been given to the park­lands along the river north of Bloor. This gave me great plea­sure, because he is one of my favourite char­ac­ters in Cana­dian his­tory, and one of my cats (now adopted by friends) was named after him. Arriv­ing in Canada from France at the age of 16, Brûlé chose to live among the local peo­ple and, after learn­ing the Algo­nquin and Wen­dat lan­guages, began a series of extra­or­di­nary trav­els that ranged over four of the five Great Lakes, most of present-day South­ern Ontario, Michi­gan, Ohio, and Penn­syl­va­nia. It was in 1615 that Brûlé arrived at this spot. The next recorded vis­i­tors were in 1678 —- René-Robert Cave­lier, Sieur de La Salle, the Sieur de La Motte, and the Récol­let Louis Hen­nepin. Their ship was grounded and frozen at the mouth of the river, and they walked upstream to barter for pro­vi­sions with the Seneca. In the next cen­tury the Anishinaabe-speaking Mis­sis­sauga peo­ple had largely sup­planted the Seneca, build­ing a sep­a­rate vil­lage on the oppo­site bank, closer to the present sub­way sta­tion. Trade in the region flour­ished under the Great Peace of Mon­treal, and by 1730 there was a French mag­a­sin royale and gar­ri­son, sta­tioned fur­ther down­stream and to the east of the river mouth at Fort Rouillé. A hand­ful of French came to live along the river. But all of these things van­ished dur­ing the vio­lence of the Seven Years War, and this por­tion of the river, for which the Seneca name was Niwa’ah Onega’gaih’ih and the Anishi­naabe name was Gabekanaang-ziibi, was deserted until set­tlers from York­shire arrived and renamed it Hum­ber, after the largest river in that part of north­ern Eng­land. A series of mills were built at the river cross­ing, the last of which, a grist mill, burned down in 1881 and remained a pic­turesque stone ruin until its walls were incor­po­rated into a new hotel in 2001. 17-08-01 BLOG old bridge

With all this his­tory in mind, I walked south towards the wet­lands of the river mouth, and within min­utes I was out of sight of any build­ing. Occa­sion­ally, a canoe would drift by. The for­est here is rich, an unspoiled rem­nant of the Car­olin­ian for­est that cov­ered what is now Toronto before it became farms, then city. There are many tall and ancient oaks here. And these, link to more his­tory. The largest clus­ter of them, about 150 trees, is known as the Tuh­be­nah­nee­quay Ancient Grove, named after the daugh­ter of the Mis­sis­sauga chief Wah­banosay, who was the main nego­tia­tor and sig­na­tory of the 1805 pur­chase of the lands that were to become most of Toronto. Tub­nah­nee­quay mar­ried Augus­tus Jones, the prin­ci­pal sur­veyor of Upper Canada. Jones was a long­time com­pan­ion of Thayen­da­negea (Joseph Brant), and was with him when he led the Loy­al­ist migra­tion of Six Nations from New York State to Canada. Tub­nah­nee­quay was one of his two co-wives, for Jones fol­lowed native cus­tom. Tub­nah­nee­quay mar­ried him in a Wiidi­gendi­win [2] cer­e­mony, for she was a strict tra­di­tion­al­ist, but Jones’ other wife, Sarah Tek­ere­hogen was a Mohawk and a Methodist. One of Tubnahneeqay’s sons, though raised by her in the Mis­sis­sisauga midewi­win tra­di­tion, in later life became a famous Methodist preacher, tour­ing the world. The grove is named after her because at this spot, Mis­sis­sauga war­riors, led by her and her father, took a stand, claim­ing that Eto­bi­coke town­ship, on the west side of the river, was not part of the pur­chase. The legal wran­gling sur­round­ing the Toronto pur­chase went on until finally resolved in 2010!17-08-01 BLOG Humber River
Not only the oaks, but all the trees are espe­cially splen­did. The land becomes wet­ter as you walk south, until it becomes broad marshes. Here there’s a wealth of bird life, and in a very short time I saw count­less monarch but­ter­flies and drag­on­flies, numer­ous ducks and cor­morants, a tern, a red squir­rel, a muskrat, and a mag­nif­i­cent white egret, perched on a limb with lordly dig­nity. I had not been in this place for years, and for­got­ten its wealth of wildlife. There are beaver here as well, and fox, and even deer, but I saw none. A bit closer to the lake, the west shore of the Hum­ber is blocked by a steep bluff, and one must make a detour away from the river to get past it. This detour took me into a quiet res­i­den­tial neigh­bour­hood, known as Stonegate. It is partly low-rise apart­ment build­ings built in the 1950’s, all very well-kept up, and partly hand­some houses in tree-filled streets. Stonegate Road has some of the finest houses I’ve seen in the city, in the sense of good taste rather than wealth. Reach­ing the end of that street, dense woods began again, and I fol­lowed a wind­ing foot­path down into the rather iso­lated South Hum­ber Park. Here I saw a for­got­ten item of 1950’s Mod­ernism, the “Sun­catcher”, a strange pavil­lion inspired by sci­ence fic­tion art of the era, serv­ing no iden­ti­fi­able pur­pose, except per­haps to be the best local place to smoke a dube. After that, the tree-cover thinned, a huge water treat­ment plant appeared on the right, and the the path­way ran beneath the Queensway Avenue bridge, then under the CNR rail­way, then under the Gar­diner Express­way, and finally ended where the Hum­ber River emp­ties into the inland sea we call Lake Ontario. There, a mod­ern foot­bridge allows one to cross the river out of Eto­bi­coke back into the City of Toronto.17-08-01 BLOG Suncatcher
At this point, I was very hun­gry. No prob­lem. A short street­car ride brought me into the neigh­bour­hood that is com­ing to be known as Lit­tle Tibet, and I love Tibetan cook­ing. Here, within a few blocks, are most of the best Tibetan restau­rants in Toronto — The Lhasa, Nor­ling, Shangrila, Tibet Kitchen, Tsampa Café, Tashi Delek, Himalayan Kitchen, Le Tibet, Om, Kasthaman­dap. I set­tle on Loga’s Cor­ner, because there I could order take-out momos, those deli­cious Tibetan dumplings, with the owner’s fab­u­lous home-made hot sauce, and bring them home with me to eat at leisure. Soon I was back home, feet propped up, dip­ping momos into sauce, with no wor­ries other than keep­ing the cats from grab­bing them.

On Mon­day, the last day I could use the pass, I chose to go east­wards, into the part of Met­ro­pol­i­tan Toronto called Scar­bor­ough by its inhab­i­tants, but “Scar­be­ria” by peo­ple down­town. It is largely the prod­uct of post-WWII sub­ur­ban expan­sion, and is mostly on flat land, but at it’s east end there is a major, heav­ily wooded river, the Rouge, and along the lake it is a long series of sandy cliffs, known to the explor­ers as Les grands Ecores, and today as the Scar­bor­ough Bluffs. These are as high as 90 metres [300 feet], grad­u­ally dimin­ish­ing in height as one goes east. They are always erod­ing, and houses and streets are now kept away from their edge — after a few ended up tum­bling into the lake. There has been con­sid­er­able new ero­sion this year, since the lake is at it’s high­est level on record, and there have been a num­ber of storms. I took the sub­way out to it’s eastern-most sta­tion, Kennedy, then took a bus that wound slowly east­wards, through var­i­ous neigh­bour­hoods, lit­tle “strip malls” of Tamil, Afghan, and Caribbean shops, and finally left me off on a quiet street. A short walk led me to the entrance of a park. It had few park­ish ambi­tions, for it was noth­ing more than the space between the back sides of the sub­ur­ban houses and the edge of the cliff, ran­dom patches of mowed lawn and woods, mostly just a place where the locals could walk their dogs. The only peo­ple I met were a cou­ple doing exactly that. Their retriever frol­icked about hap­pily and came over to me to make friends. There were numer­ous signs warn­ing peo­ple not to stand on the edge of the cliffs. They are only about 30 metres high in this part, but the soil is very loose, water­logged, and slip­pery, and some of the warn­ing signs no longer exist because they were once located in what is now air full of swoop­ing seag­ulls. As I walked east­wards, the patches of grass dis­ap­peared, and I fol­lowed a nar­row path through the woods. This turned abruptly, because I had reached a point where a creek had eroded through the cliff face.23839904 I fol­lowed this inland to a point where I could scram­ble down, to the creek that would take me down to the shore. But there was no trail going down, only a dense tan­gle of trees, brush, and mud. One has to be care­ful, since sting­ing net­tle abounds in such places. Sting­ing Net­tle has a rec­og­niz­able flower in the spring, but at this time of year it looks like any other ran­dom weed. When its leaves brush against your skin, thou­sands of micro­scopic hairs stick to you and release his­t­a­mine and acetyl­choline, caus­ing burn­ing and itch­ing for hours after. There’s also plenty of bur­dock, this­tle, poi­son ivy and poi­son oak. But I avoided these per­ils and found myself down below, on the shore of the lake. It was grow­ing late, and for the last hour I had been hear­ing dis­tant thun­der. East­wards, out above the lake, dark clouds were pil­ing and roil­ing. Noth­ing of the city was vis­i­ble from this part of the shore, only the bluffs trail­ing west­ward and east­ward and the vast extent of the lake. Lake Ontario is the small­est of the five Great Lakes, but it is still about the size of the whole coun­try of Slove­nia. Though at mid­day its waters shone their famous bright blue, cel­e­brated by Walt Whit­man in his poem By Blue Ontario’s Shore, but now they were a cold gray. In fact, Whit­man sailed by this very spot on the lake steamship Alger­ian, on July 27, 1880. He specif­i­cally men­tioned, in a diary [3], that the ship kept close to the shore, and the bril­liant blue­ness of the lake. He was a keen observer, always quick to notice and iden­tify a par­tic­u­lar flower or tree, keen to eval­u­ate the farms, notic­ing house-styles and how well or poorly made a street, a build­ing, a train or a boat might be. Here are sam­ple entries:

I am in the midst of hay­mak­ing, and, though but a looker-on, I enjoy it greatly, untir­ingly, day after day. Any hour I hear the sound of scythes sharp­en­ing, or the dis­tant rat­tle of horse-mowers, or see loaded wag­ons, high-piled, slowly wend­ing toward the barns; or, toward sun­down, groups of tan-faced men going from work.

To-day we are indeed at the height of it here in Ontario. A muf­fled and musi­cal clang of cow-bells from the grassy wood-edge not far distant.

In blos­som now: del­phinium, blue, four feet high, great pro­fu­sion of yellow-red lilies; a yel­low coreopsis-like flower, same as I saw Sept. ’79; wild tansy, weed from 10 to 15 inches high, white blos­som, out in July in Canada, straw-colored hol­ly­hocks, many like roses, oth­ers pure white — beau­ti­ful clus­ters every­where in the thick dense hedge-lines; aro­matic white cedars at evening; the fences, veran­dahs, gables, cov­ered with grapevines, ivies, honeysuckles…

… I spent a long time to-day watch­ing the swal­lows — an hour this forenoon and another hour after­noon. There is a pleas­ant, secluded, close-cropt grassy lawn of a cou­ple of acres or over, flat as a floor and sur­rounded by a flow­ery and bushy hedge, just off the road adjoin­ing the house, — a favorite spot of mine. Over this open grassy area immense num­bers of swal­lows have been sail­ing, dart­ing, cir­cling, and cut­ting large or small 8’s and s’s, close to the ground, for hours to-day. It is evi­dently for fun alto­gether. I never saw any­thing pret­tier — this free swal­low dance.

I rose this morn­ing at four and look’ed out on the more pure and reful­gent starry show. Right over my head, like a Tree-Universe spread­ing with its orb-apples, — Alde­beran lead­ing the Hyades; Jupiter of amaz­ing lus­tre, soft­ness and vol­ume; and, not far behind, heavy Sat­urn, — both past the merid­ian; the seven sparkling gems of the Pleiades; the full moon, volup­tuous and yel­low, and full of radi­ance, an hour to set­ting in the west. Every­thing so fresh, so still; the deli­cious some­thing there is in early youth, in early dawn —- the spirit, the spring, the feel; the air and light, pre­cur­sors of the untried sun; love, action, forenoon, noon, life — full-fibred, latent with them all.

By Blue Ontario’s Shore was the poem in which Whit­man most deeply explored the tri­umphs and tragedies of his own coun­try, the United States, which is almost vis­i­ble from this spot on the shore as a thin line on the hori­zon to the south. What one is see­ing is not in fact, the actual shore of New York State, but the white­ness of haze float­ing above the land. As one’s eyes turn toward the east, length­wise along the lake, the hori­zon shows only the sharp line of sky meet­ing water.17-08-01 BLOG Lake 1

By blue Ontario’s shore,
As I mused of these war­like days and of peace return’d, and
the dead that return no more

The poem is prac­ti­cally schiz­o­phrenic in it’s unre­solved dual­i­ties. He seeks to under­stand, embrace, and take respon­si­bil­ity for all the wild lib­erty and youth­ful­ness of his coun­try, and its tragic failings.

O I see flash­ing that this Amer­ica is only you and me,
Its power, weapons, tes­ti­mony, are you and me,
Its crimes, lies, thefts, defec­tions are you and me,

most of all, the still bleed­ing wound from its great­est, most shame­ful evil:

Slav­ery — the mur­der­ous, treach­er­ous con­spir­acy to raise it
upon the ruins of all the rest

When Whit­man vis­ited Ontario, he was com­ing to a place where slav­ery had been abol­ished in 1793, and inter­nal polit­i­cal and social con­flicts were so tame that they would barely be on the level of bar-room scuf­fles in Whitman’s home, Brook­lyn. But the coun­try that he came from was not in good shape. After the slaugh­ter of the Civil War, the Repub­li­can Party quickly sold out the inter­ests of the African-Americans it had fought to free, and the elite of the South was allowed to use sys­tem­atic ter­ror­ism to drive them back into the semi-slavery of share-cropping, with the poor rural whites kept only slightly above them, while every com­po­nent of democ­racy was dis­man­tled. On the Fed­eral level, a few large cor­po­ra­tions, known as “trusts” had come to con­trol almost all of eco­nomic life, while a con­clave of wealthy financiers and indus­tri­al­ists had sim­ply laid out cash to pur­chase the gov­ern­ment. Polit­i­cal and finan­cial cor­rup­tion were omnipresent, uncon­cealed, and all-pervading. Stock mar­ket and rail­way swin­dles, and “pay for play” pol­i­tics were the norm. The rich boasted that they were super­men, and a small class of pros­per­ous pro­fes­sion­als acted as a cho­rus to them. The wealth­i­est 1% owned 51% of the prop­erty, while the bot­tom 44% claimed only 1.1%. Most Amer­i­cans had just strug­gled through a severe depres­sion that lasted seven years, and had just reached recov­ery the year Whit­man was here. The rich hired pri­vate armies to vio­lently crush strikes and the cities had erupted in repeated riots, all of which were fol­lowed by ruth­less police repres­sion. The rich could always rely on their bought politi­cians to deliver the booty, and on ingrained racism, reli­gious fer­vor, and hatred of immi­grants (at that time mostly Irish and Ger­man) to keep the “peas­ants” in line. Farms around the coun­try were falling under cor­po­rate and elite con­trol, land, credit and agri­cul­tural reforms des­per­ately needed, but these reforms required poor white farm­ers and black share­crop­pers to rec­og­nize their com­mon inter­ests and work together… some­thing the rich could eas­ily pre­vent by press­ing the racial, reli­gious, regional, and xeno­pho­bic but­tons on their con­trol con­sole. How­ever, the Amer­i­can peo­ple did, even­tu­ally, pull them­selves out of that hole. The next gen­er­a­tion curbed the power of the trusts. This was known as the Reform Era. It would take sev­eral cycles of such “reform eras” to build a mod­ern coun­try… work that is still unfin­ished.

If all this sounds famil­iar, it’s because the United States is going through much the same thing today, and we in Canada, as then, are stand­ing in rel­a­tive safety observ­ing it with the same mix­ture of hor­ror, sym­pa­thy, revul­sion and pity as we did then. We have our own prob­lems, but they pale com­pared to night­mare that our Amer­i­can broth­ers are march­ing into with a trai­tor, work­ing for their ene­mies, con­trol­ling the White House, mil­lions of their num­ber insanely embrac­ing a total­i­tar­ian ide­ol­ogy no dif­fer­ent from Com­mu­nism or Fas­cism, and a pop­u­la­tion so eas­ily manip­u­lated by exactly the same sort of con­trol con­sole as pre­vailed when Whit­man was sit­ting on the deck of the Alge­ria, prob­a­bly look­ing intently at the swal­lows fly­ing about the very place I was stand­ing 137 years later.

For the swal­lows are still here. They nest in great num­bers in the cliff face, and behave exactly as Whit­man described them.

17-08-01 BLOG Lake 2The sky was, by this time, per­form­ing the func­tion of the pathetic fal­lacy, by which nature mir­rors the polit­i­cal con­di­tion of soci­ety. Very dark clouds were rolling in from the Amer­i­can side, and flashes of light­ning. I did not want to be stuck on an unin­hab­ited beach below a con­tin­u­ous line of cliffs, 15 kilo­me­tres long, fac­ing a lake whose storms can be extremely vio­lent, and waves extremely high. The path I had taken down was dif­fi­cult, and retrac­ing it upward would have been more dif­fi­cult. So I walked east­wards along the beach, look­ing for a bet­ter egress. I even­tu­ally found a spot which was suf­fi­ciently clear of veg­e­ta­tion, and had secure enough foot­ing to let me climb, and I emerged on the man­i­cured prop­erty of a large, futuristic-looking water treat­ment plant that I didn’t know existed. [4] This was com­pletely deserted, though the city had duti­fully filled a large expanse with park benches and pic­nic tables, and kept the grounds as neat as a hos­pi­tal scrub room. It was being enjoyed, how­ever, by two very large brown cotton-tail rab­bits. One of them quickly hopped away as I approached, but the other strangely stood his ground, and stared me down with that pecu­liar aris­to­cratic con­tempt that I have seen in wild Kan­ga­roos in the Aus­tralian bush. Per­haps he had read Water­ship Down in his spare time, if rab­bits can be said to have spare time.

I was now in the first stages of twi­light, and I had no idea how far I would have to go to get to the near­est bus. Out­side of the fil­tra­tion plant there was noth­ing but an empty ser­vice road run­ning east-and west, par­al­lel to the CNR rail­way tracks, and behind the tracks there was noth­ing vis­i­ble but trees. The part of Scar­bor­ough with human beings in it was some­where beyond that, but how was I to get to it? I walked west along the road, and even­tu­ally found an inter­sect­ing road that crossed the track and went north. This was a level rail­way cross­ing, with noth­ing but a saltire, lights and a prim­i­tive boom bar. It must be the only one left in Met­ro­pol­i­tan Toronto on an active rail line, and this is the most heav­ily trav­eled line in the coun­try, link­ing Toronto and Mon­treal! Noth­ing could have more effec­tively under­scored my down­town prej­u­dice that Scar­bor­ough was a remote and prim­i­tive wilderness.

Nev­er­the­less, it was not long before this road brought me to houses, and some teenagers play­ing pickup bas­ket­ball in the street with a Spald­ing portable hoop set up on the curb. They directed me a few blocks north where I could get the 86D bus to the sub­way. I could, in fact, just see it turn­ing the cor­ner. But it waited at this par­tic­u­lar stop to mark time on its sched­ule, and I was able to run for it suc­cess­fully. Along its route, it passed a large Tamil gro­cery shop, so I hopped off the bus to pick up some naan bread, some Chennai-style snack mix [5], and a cold gin­ger beer. I got home, and, as the night before, hap­pily feasted. There were still some left­over momos.

Amount of writ­ing done those two days: zero. But I would count them as productive.


[1] Eto­bi­coke is pro­nounced “Ee-toe-bi-coe”. The “k” is silent. Nobody seems to know why.

[2] Wiidi­gendi­win — a wed­ding cer­e­mony in accor­dance with the Midewi­win, tra­di­tional reli­gious teach­ings of the Ojib­way and Cree peo­ple. These tra­di­tions are still active, some­times sup­ple­men­tary, and some­times in com­pe­ti­tion with other faiths.

[3] Walt Whitman’s Diary in Canada, with Extracts from Other of His Diaries and Lit­er­ary Note-books — edited by William Sloane Kennedy. 1904 Boston. Small, May­nard & Co. I read one of the 500 orig­i­nal copies, but it has since been reprinted. Whit­man trav­eled as far as the Sague­nay in Que­bec, but most of his visit to Canada was spent with his friend William Bucke, a pio­neer psy­chol­o­gist and coiner of the term “cos­mic con­scious­ness.” Their friend­ship was the sub­ject of an odd lit­tle film, Beau­ti­ful Dream­ers (1992) directed by John Kent Har­ri­son and star­ring Colme Feore and Rip Torn.

[4] I looked it up when I got home. The F.J. Hor­gan Fil­tra­tion Plant was com­pleted in 2011. Since it’s in Scar­bor­ough, down­town Toron­to­ni­ans like myself would no more hear about it than we would hear about one in Nepal or Ecuador.

[5] Ground­nuts, thenkuzhal, kara boondhi, roasted chana, kara­sev, murukku, pakoda and oma podi — a much tastier com­bi­na­tion than the Bom­bay and Pun­jabi mixes you get in my local supermarket.

Monday, November 28, 2016 — A Letter to my Member of Parliament, Bill Morneau

To: Bill Morneau, House of Com­mons, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada K1A 0A6

Re: Prime Min­is­ter Trudeau prais­ing Castro

I voted for the present gov­ern­ment. I voted for you. I had vis­cer­ally despised Harper, and I fell for your party’s hokum about “sunny days” and restor­ing Canada’s demo­c­ra­tic val­ues after the grim repres­sive­ness of the Con­ser­v­a­tive admin­is­tra­tion. Naive me.

This rid­ing includes Canada’s prin­ci­pal Gay neigh­bor­hood and busi­ness com­mu­nity. Among my friends was a man who suf­fered ago­niz­ing tor­tures in the con­cen­tra­tion camps that Cas­tro threw thou­sands of gays into. He is now, mer­ci­fully, dead, and does not have to hear a Cana­dian Prime Min­is­ter prais­ing his tor­turer. He was under the impres­sion that he had come to a democracy.

Prime Min­is­ter Trudeau’s inane, syco­phan­tic blather prais­ing a mass-murderer, slave-holder and exploiter is no dif­fer­ent from Trump’s cring­ing praise of Putin, Ronald Rea­gan call­ing the geno­ci­dal butcher Rios-Montt “a man of great per­sonal integrity”, or Mar­garet Thatcher claim­ing Augusto Pinochet as a “true friend”.

This clearly demon­strates that our sup­pos­edly “demo­c­ra­tic” lead­ers have no com­mit­ment to, or respect for democ­racy, what­ever their party.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016 — Fucking American Morons, part 2

Gmail was down for an aston­ish­ing 24 hours. It will, no doubt, cost Google a lot of money, as they have con­trac­tual oblig­a­tions to their com­mer­cial cus­tomers which will incur penal­ties. The out­age effected much of the world, and most intensely North Amer­ica and the U.K. It started around when the U.S. elec­tion polls closed, and con­tin­ued for the bet­ter part of a day. Now, I don’t know for cer­tain the cause of this unprece­dented out­age, with its unlikely coin­ci­dent tim­ing, but I could ven­ture a guess.

There are few can­di­dates for any­one who could hack such an out­come. The best can­di­date would be Don­ald Trump’s good bud­dies in Moscow. Motive? Per­haps an unsub­tle reminder to the world’s busi­ness inter­ests that they should not inter­fere with Putin’s Pup­pet Pres­i­dent. If that’s the case, we will never know it for sure, as silence would doubt­less be a con­di­tion of com­pli­ance. No doubt we will all quickly learn that it was just the “fat man on a couch.” Whether this is the case or not, Putin is singing in the shower these days. He now knows that he can safely start restor­ing the old Com­mu­nist empire. If he decides to, say, invade Esto­nia and annex it, he knows that his good buddy Don­ald will sab­o­tage any resis­tance from Europe.

Mean­while, Trump’s even bet­ter and closer bud­dies, the Neo-Nazi ter­ror­ists of Europe, are pop­ping cham­pagne corks and danc­ing. There are now fanat­i­cal racists and anti-semites in power in Wash­ing­ton as well as Moscow and var­i­ous Euro­pean cap­i­tals, and their influ­ence is grow­ing rapidly in South-East Asia. Europe’s Jews and Gyp­sies have few places to look for safety. Canada may be one of the few remain­ing havens of freedom.

Bei­jing stands to lose finan­cially from Trump’s ascent, but it is power, not money that inter­ests Bei­jing. They are already reap­ing the pro­pa­ganda bonus. They are already loudly boast­ing that democ­racy has been dis­cred­ited, that the U.S. is washed up, and that Com­mu­nism will ulti­mately triumph.

Those Lib­eral val­ues —- democ­racy and free­dom — that Con­ser­v­a­tives, Com­mu­nists and Fas­cists all hate, are in full retreat. Soon they will be forced underground.

Well, you fuck­ing Amer­i­can morons, you fuck­ing Con­ser­v­a­tive trai­tors, you finally got what you wanted.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016 — FUCKING AMERICAN MORONS!




I”m sad to say that I had a mis­guided faith in the Amer­i­can peo­ple. It’s not just the mis­lead­ing polls that had me bam­boo­zled. From the time I lived in the United States, I retained a deep feel­ing that the Amer­i­can peo­ple where at heart decent and patri­otic, that they cher­ished free­dom, and that if push comes to shove they will do the right thing. That faith is now gone. The Amer­i­can peo­ple have destroyed that illu­sion. Mak­ing that ass­hole Pres­i­dent demon­strates clearly that the United States is washed up, a nation of cow­ards and pathetic losers. If Amer­i­cans would rather be slaves than free human beings, it is up to Canada to take up the flag of free­dom. I will ded­i­cate my life to pro­tect­ing my beloved coun­try from the influ­ence of that mon­strous evil below the border.

Sunday, November 6, 2016 — Two Days

In two days we will finally find out what degree of power the Racism, Rape and Trea­son Party will exer­cise in the United States for the next four years. It’s plain that they will not win the Pres­i­dency — patri­otic Amer­i­cans have sensed an immi­nent threat to the coun­try, and are turn­ing out in record num­bers to defend it — but what really mat­ters is whether or not the RR&T (Repub­li­can) Party will retain con­trol of the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives. A gen­er­a­tion of sys­tem­atic voter sup­pres­sion and dis­trict ger­ry­man­der­ing has allowed the Repub­li­cans to con­trol the House, repeat­edly hold­ing the Amer­i­can peo­ple to ran­som and obstruct­ing any kind of ratio­nal admin­is­tra­tion. If they retain this power, there will be four years of relent­less obstruc­tion of the kind that Amer­i­cans have become accus­tomed to in the last eight years. Repub­li­cans have no claim to being patri­ots: the well-being of the Amer­i­can peo­ple will always be the last thing they are con­cerned with. They are dri­ven by a total­i­tar­ian ide­ol­ogy that has fused older ele­ments orig­i­nat­ing in Amer­ica with Com­mu­nism and Fas­cism imported from Europe. Those who delude them­selves into think­ing that Don­ald Trump is some sort of aber­ra­tion in his party need to wake up. Trump is the nat­ural, log­i­cal and inevitable con­se­quence of Con­ser­v­a­tive ide­ol­ogy in exactly the same way that Stalin was the nat­ural, log­i­cal and inevitable con­se­quence of Marx­ist ide­ol­ogy. Every­thing that Trump has done in this elec­tion is some­thing that the Repub­li­can Party has done before, every slo­gan he shouts and every slimy tac­tic he employs are straight out of the long-term Repub­li­can play­book. Trump will prob­a­bly not suc­ceed in his dream of destroy­ing Amer­ica and turn­ing it into a sleazy, Putin-KGB style dic­ta­tor­ship, but the Repub­li­can Party will not stop their ide­o­log­i­cal cru­sade with his fail­ure, and their ambi­tion is exactly the same as Trump’s. They will keep on try­ing. Amer­i­cans will not be safe from the specter of tyranny until the Repub­li­can Party is com­pletely erased from their lives.

This does not mean that the Demo­c­ra­tic Party is any­thing admirable. It has absorbed most of the creepy ele­ments of Con­ser­v­a­tive ide­ol­ogy. The Clin­ton admin­is­tra­tion of the 1990s adopted most of Con­ser­v­a­tive crack­pot eco­nomic the­ory. Its repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act and pass­ing of the Com­mod­ity Futures Mod­ern­iza­tion Act laid the ground­work for the sub­se­quent Repub­li­can global reces­sion. Hilary Clin­ton is not the demon she is por­trayed as, but she clearly rep­re­sents the oli­garchi­cal and Con­ser­v­a­tive ele­ments of the Demo­c­ra­tic Party, and can­not be depended on to do any­thing to lessen the power of the rich, which is the can­cer eat­ing away at Amer­ica. But there is a great dif­fer­ence between a cor­rupt, aging aris­to­cratic regime and a dynamic total­i­tar­ian move­ment. The Romanov monar­chy and the shaky Weimar Repub­lic were not any­thing to boast of, but the Com­mu­nist and National Social­ist dic­ta­tor­ships that dis­placed them were a thou­sand times more hor­ri­ble. The Repub­li­can Party embraces and pro­motes such a men­ac­ing total­i­tar­ian ide­ol­ogy, and has been work­ing away dili­gently to impose it on Amer­ica. Like all such ide­olo­gies, Con­ser­vatism chan­nels the ener­gies and resent­ments of dis­parate groups, gives them scape­goats to hate, and employs a mish-mosh of con­tra­dic­tory slo­gans, pro­pa­ganda lies, and pseudo-intellectual argu­ments that can be deployed or negated at any time. But the under­ly­ing prin­ci­ple is straight­for­ward: if the Leader enters the room, get down on your hands and knees and suck his dick. There is really noth­ing else to it. View­ing any ten minute seg­ment of a Trump rally makes this per­fectly clear. It’s an ide­ol­ogy for sniv­el­ling cow­ards. But there are a lot of sniv­el­ling cow­ards out there.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016 — Danger

16-07-27 BLOG CaligulaThings are get­ting very dan­ger­ous. There is now a seri­ous pos­si­bil­ity that the peo­ple of the United States will elect Caligula as Pres­i­dent. The entire world is endan­gered by this folly.

I will repeat what I have said before. I con­sider any Amer­i­can who votes Repub­li­can in the com­ing elec­tion to be a trai­tor to his coun­try. There is sim­ply no excuse con­ceiv­able for an act so immoral, so dis­gust­ing, so vile, as to vote to make Don­ald Trump the most pow­er­ful per­son in the world. Fur­ther­more, I count it a moral oblig­a­tion for any Amer­i­can to act to pre­vent it. Nobody can claim to be a patriot unless they actively oppose this mon­ster at least to the extent of going to the polls to vote against him. There can be no sit­ting this one out.

Friday, March 25, 2016 [part 1] — Game of Caves

My appoint­ment at Gar­gas was for early in the after­noon, so I was able to have a pleas­ant and leisurely break­fast. In place of the stan­dard French baguette, there was a much more chewy local loaf known as quatre-banes, which I thought superb, per­fect with the fresh coun­try but­ter and jam. The cui­sine of Hautes-Pyrénees, like many other aspects of its cul­ture, is more closely in tune with that of the Basque Coun­try and Cat­alo­nia than with north­ern France (and indeed, the slang expres­sion nordiste is used by the locals with obvi­ous dis­dain). Beans and spicy sausages, coun­try soups, hard rather than soft cheeses, bread that you can get your teeth into. After break­fast, I still had plenty of time to reach the caves on foot. From Lom­brès, I walked down the road to the vil­lage of Aventig­nan (about three times larger than Lom­brès), then along a minor road to the cave’s recep­tion cen­ter, lit­tle more than 4km.

The road to the caves starting at Aventignan.

The road to the caves start­ing at Aventignan.

Only two cars passed me, and there was noth­ing much along the way but empty fields until the hills and for­est started. The weather was cool and over­cast. Often, when I’m walk­ing, music pops into my head in sur­pris­ingly com­plete form, and this time it was the Shepherd’s Song from Canteloube’s Chants d’Auvergne, sung in Old Occ­i­tan, the lan­guage of South­ern France before it was con­quered, re-educated, and reg­i­mented by the nordistes. The dialect of the Auvergne was con­sid­er­ably dif­fer­ent from the Gas­con spo­ken in this region, but it nev­erlthe­less puts across the South­ern mood:

As gaïré dè buon tèms?
Dio lou baïlèro lèrô,
Lèrô lèrô lèrô lèrô baïlèro lô.

Pas­tré lou prat faï flour,
Li cal gorda toun troupel.
Dio lou baïlèro lèrô,
Lèrô lèrô lèrô lèrô baïlèro lô.

Pas­tré couci foraï,
En obal io lou bel riou!
Dio lou baïlèro lèrô,
Lèrô lèrô lèrô lèrô baïlèro lô.

(“Shep­herd across the river, your work there is hard. Look, the mead­ows here are in bloom. You should watch your flock on this side…. Shep­herd, the water divides us, and I can’t cross it”). Noth­ing at all like French. Incom­pre­hen­si­ble to all but a few surv­ing speak­ers of the Old Tongue, but the melody con­veys such a won­der­ful sad­ness and yearn­ing that it would be under­stood emo­tion­ally in Tokyo. In fact, it resem­bles many Japan­ese folk melodies.

The forest approaching the caves.

The for­est approach­ing the caves.

I soon reached the recep­tion cen­ter, which boasted a café, which was closed, and a small museum. It was here that I con­firmed my reser­va­tion. A staff archae­ol­o­gist was busy explain­ing how stone-age tools were used to some chil­dren, so I chose to walk up to the cave entrance and wait there for Alexan­dre Gay, who was to be my guide into another world.

Now is the time to explain why I had picked this par­tic­u­lar cave. Oth­ers are more famous, more spec­tac­u­lar, and eas­ier to get to.

Grad­u­ally, most of the pre­his­toric art caves are being closed off from pub­lic view. The mere pres­ence of human beings is destroy­ing the cave art, because the increase in the level of car­bon diox­ide caused by human breath­ing pro­motes the growth of a nasty green slime of bac­te­ria and algae on the cave walls. The famous art of Las­caux and Chau­vet have been nearly destroyed, and these caves are now sealed off. The French gov­ern­ment has spent a for­tune cre­at­ing replica “caves” for tourists. But I have lit­tle inter­est in view­ing these repli­cas. Good pro­fes­sional pho­tog­ra­phy and the appro­pri­ate tech­ni­cal reports will give me more infor­ma­tion, and no replica can pro­vide the real­ity of expe­ri­ence I seek. Gar­gas is not one of the more famous ones, and it is not con­ve­niently located. Unlike many of the caves, its exis­tence has been known for cen­turies, and in fact it has vis­i­tor grafitti from cen­turies past. Most of all, it has only a small amount of the ani­mal art that peo­ple asso­ciate with such caves.

But Gar­gas specif­i­cally has fas­ci­nated me since I ran across Claude Bar­rière & Ali Sahly’s L’art par­ié­tal de la Grotte de Gar­gas in a two-volume Eng­lish trans­la­tion pub­lished by Oxford’s British Archae­o­log­i­cal Reports. In the many years since I read it, the cave has haunted me. There are many ways in which it is pro­foundly dif­fer­ent from other pre­his­toric cave sites. First, and for­most, are its hands. Hand sten­cils, formed by plac­ing a hand against a stone sur­face and then spray­ing pig­ment onto it by con­trolled spit­ting — a slow process, but very pre­cise — are scat­tered through­out Europe, and can also be found in Africa, Indone­sia, Aus­tralia, and South Amer­ica. But Gar­gas has far more than any other site. In fact, it accounts for half of all the hand sten­cils in Europe. The sig­nif­i­cance of the hand-stencils is unknown. They exhibit great pecu­liar­i­ties. Many of them appear to have fin­gers miss­ing. This trig­gered var­i­ous the­o­ries based on anthro­po­log­i­cal par­al­lels, such as the cus­tom in some places of chop­ping off a fin­ger to sig­nify mourn­ing of a deceased loved one. Oth­ers sug­gested that fin­gers were being lost to frost­bite. But the num­ber of sten­cils at Gar­gas show­ing miss­ing fin­gers far exceeds the prob­a­bil­i­ties of these kinds of expla­na­tions. For­tu­nately, some­one even­tu­ally demon­strated that one needs only to bend a fin­ger under­neath one’s hand while spray­ing the paint to achieve the “miss­ing fin­ger” effect. Hand sten­cils of this type are much, much older than most of the fig­u­ra­tive art that is known in pre­his­toric caves. The famous ani­mal paint­ings at Las­caux were made around 20,000 years ago, and are asso­ci­ated with the Solutrean archae­o­log­i­cal cul­ture [archae­ol­o­gists des­ig­nate sim­i­lar com­plexes of arti­facts as “cul­tures”, but this should not be taken to mean a “cul­ture” as nec­es­sar­ily an eth­nic entity]. The art at Altamira is between 17,000 and 13,000 years old, and is asso­ci­ated with the Mag­dalanean cul­ture, and the images at Trois-Frères are push­ing to the edge of the Neolithic. Gar­gas con­tains some ani­mal art, and it too dates from around 15,000 years ago and is iden­ti­fi­ably Mag­dalanean. But the hand-stencils at Gar­gas date from more than 27,000 years ago, and are asso­ci­ated with the Gravet­t­ian cul­ture. This was before the last Glacial Max­i­mum. It is impor­tant to remem­ber that when the best rep­re­sen­ta­tional art was made at Gar­gas, the artists were near to work done by artists who were nearly as far back in time from them as they are from me.

Visitor photography is not permitted at Gargas. This and the next photos come from technical papers

Vis­i­tor pho­tog­ra­phy is not per­mit­ted at Gar­gas. This and the next pho­tos come from tech­ni­cal papers

The hand-stencils at Gar­gas are very sim­i­lar to ones found across the planet in Sulawesi, Indone­sia. Recent re-dating using “U-series” Uranium/Thorium dat­ing tech­niques have con­firmed that these were made 39,900 years ago. As in Europe, Asian hand-stencils tend to pre­date ani­mal art by sev­eral thou­sand years at the same loca­tions. The idea that art “orig­i­nated” in Europe is long aban­doned from seri­ous con­sid­er­a­tion. Pari­etal art in Aus­tralia, Asia, and Africa can be dated to the same time depth, or earlier.

Another thing that is unique about Gar­gas: It is the only Euro­pean cave in which art co-exists with clear signs of human habi­ta­tion. In the famous caves in the Dor­dogne, for instance, there are caves nearby that were inhab­ited, but the art-caves were func­tion­ally sep­a­rate enti­ties. At Gar­gas, all the art is inside the cave, well beyond the lim­its of nat­ural light, and had to have been made and seen by portable illu­mi­na­tion (prob­a­bly fat-lamps sim­i­lar to the ones used by the Innuit), but there was con­sis­tent, long-term habi­ta­tion at the cave mouth. Why Gar­gas should be unique in this way remains a mystery.

16-03-25 BLOG Hands 2small16-03-25 BLOG Hands 3small

A small group gath­ered below the cave entrance, at a place with a fine view of the val­ley below. M. Gay arrived, and after a brief talk led us into the upper cave. It is now only acces­si­ble through a locked door. For about an hour, Alexan­dre led us through about 500 metres of gal­leries. The upper cave is nar­row and wind­ing, but does not require any spe­cial skill to pass through. It con­tains some of the fig­u­ra­tive art. The nat­ural fea­tures of this cave, includ­ing a vari­ety of rock pil­lows, sta­lagtites and sta­lag­mites, cre­ated an appro­pri­ate atmos­phere of sus­pense as we pro­gressed. We came at last to an arti­fi­cial tun­nel that had been con­structed to con­nect the upper cave with the lower.

The lower cave is much big­ger and wider and con­tains the two main cham­bers and a small side-chamber called the Cham­bre du Camarin. Most of the cave art is here, includ­ing all of the hands. There seem to be at least three phases of devel­op­ment in the fig­u­ra­tive art. Ani­mals rep­re­sented include Bovi­dae, Bison, Mam­moth, Horses, Ibex, and pos­si­bly birds. For the most part, it con­sists of etch­ings into the stone, some­times com­bined with paint­ing. This is the sort of thing that does not come off well in pho­tographs, and only see­ing the real thing in situ con­veys its artis­tic qual­ity. I was not pre­pared for the emo­tional power of this art, hav­ing long assumed that it must be infe­rior to the famous stuff. At one point, we were asked to crouch on the ground to look up at one engrav­ing that could only be viewed from this angle.

But is the hands I was most inter­ested in. They had come to rep­re­sent, for me, a direct con­nec­tion to other human beings across a vast gulf of time. And despite all the prepa­ra­tion for the event, the real­ity of it drained me emo­tion­ally. They are not merely pretty, but shock­ing, in some­thing like the way that the ghostly shad­ows of vapor­ized humans on the walls of Hiroshima are shock­ing. These are not arti­facts, like the ani­mal draw­ings, the mobile art, or the lithic finds. They are shad­ows of human beings, of real peo­ple who thought and felt and loved and hated and cried and died. Their pres­ence in the cave was pal­pa­ble, as if they were por­traits of my own fam­ily on a bed­room dresser. And these peo­ple strug­gled to stay alive in a way per­fectly famil­iar to me — the hunt­ing of large mam­mals in a cold cli­mate, much like the world that still exists in north­ern Canada. It is not very long since I spoke and shared a whiskey or two with peo­ple who would have rec­og­nized the inhab­i­tants of Gar­gas as “folk just like us.”

Gay has devoted all his life to the Gar­gas caves. He had an appoint­ment to attend to, so we agreed to meet on the fol­low­ing day at his home pour un apéri­tif. He con­ve­niently lives in Loubrès, a short walk from the fro­magerie. It was a con­ver­sa­tion I eagerly looked for­ward to.

But what to do next? It was still mid-afternoon, and I might as well see some of the coun­try­side. M. Uchan had men­tioned that there was a medieval church or some sig­nif­i­cance, and some roman ruins another four kilo­me­ters to south. This would put me in the val­ley to east of the one Lom­brès was in, sep­a­rated by a wall of steep, forested hills. The topo­graph­i­cal maps indi­cated that there was a foot­path over the hills, in fact a frag­ment of the medieval trail of pil­grim­age known as El Camino de San­ti­ago. There seemed to plenty of time to find this trail, cross the hills, find the Roman bridge that was sup­posed to cross the lit­tle river Larise, and then make my way back to Lombrès.

The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft agley.

Thursday, March 24, 2016 — A Voyage to Blefuscu

The first part of my trip was a bit of a chal­lenge: thirty hours of con­tin­u­ous travel, and no sleep for forty hours. Every leg of the jour­ney had to match the next in a short time span, and I was to be met at the Mon­tré­jeau rail­way sta­tion at a spe­cific time. One missed con­nec­tion would put my finances at risk. There were two flights by Ice­landair (always more com­fort­able than most air­lines because the hefty Ice­landers require leg room) but, sadly, my stopover in Reik­javik was less than hour. No chance to stroll in one of my favourite towns. I could do noth­ing more than look out the win­dow at the black lava fields around Keflavik.

I had wor­ried about bor­der has­sles because of the ter­ror­ist attack in Brus­sels the pre­vi­ous day. Last year, Ice­land with­drew its appli­ca­tion for EU mem­ber­ship, which had only ten­ta­tive sup­port among the tra­di­tion­ally independence-minded Ice­landers, but it remains per­haps the eas­i­est entry point into Europe from Canada. No ques­tions, a quick pass­port stamp, and I was in. I could walk straight from the plane at Roissy with­out going through cus­toms. Roissy-Charles deGaulle is, however,an air­port the size of a small city, and requires some nav­i­ga­tion. After mak­ing my way through a maze of inclined tubes resem­bling a futur­is­tic ver­sion of the stair­cases of Hog­worts, I needed to take the dri­ver­less CDGVAL train five sta­tions to the part of the air­port where the Grande lignes of the SNCF trains depart for the south. There, I caught the train for Lyon, hav­ing time to spare only for a baguette with ham and cheese. The trains pull into the sta­tion at higher speeds than a Cana­dian train would go on open track. When under­way, they accel­er­ate to speeds that ViaRail in Canada could not imag­ine. The Paris-Lyon run nor­maly goes at just a bit under 200 mph (320kph). Trains com­ing in the oppo­site direc­tion whip by in a sec­ond, vis­i­ble only as a blue blur. Like most trav­ellers, I find rail travel vastly more com­fort­able, con­ve­nient, and civ­i­lized than air travel, and I’m ashamed that my coun­try has let its rail ser­vice, once its pride, decay into incom­pe­tence and tech­ni­cal back­ward­ness, while much of the rest of the world strides into the future.

At Lyon, I switched to another train, which took me on the longest rail seg­ment of my voy­age. It went through Avi­gnon, Nîmes, Mont­pe­lier, Beziers, Nar­bonne, and Car­cas­sone to Toulouse. An elderly lady explained to me the com­plex geol­ogy of the Mas­sif cen­tral, a mostly Devonian/Permian struc­ture that is mostly karst­land, but with vol­canic intru­sions. I strug­gled to trans­late geo­log­i­cal terms that I knew only in Eng­lish. For exam­ple, I ven­tured “ter­rain de type Karst” but the cor­rect form is “for­ma­tion kars­tique”. This regions marks the tran­si­tion from North to South, a divi­sion that is lin­guis­tic, cul­tural, cli­matic, and eco­log­i­cal. Once in the South,you are in a Mediter­ranean place. The archi­tec­ture reflects it. Plenty of red-tiled roofs, plain stucco walls, and when you get down to the coast, palm trees.

By the time I passed through Car­cas­sone, it was dark,so held lit­tle expec­ta­tion that I would see its fab­u­lous cas­tle. But it is flood-lit, and so huge that I glimpsed it in the far dis­tance in the train win­dow oppo­site. At Toulouse, I did no more than take a few steps across a plat­form to get on my last train, a milk run that would take me to Mon­tré­jean, in the foothills of the Pyrénées. I shared a com­part­ment with a snow­boarder who yearned to visit British Colum­bia (a log­i­cal ambi­tion for a snow­boarder — he even knew who Ross Rebagliati was).He brought me to another com­part­ment where a small group, young and old, was pass­ing around a gui­tqr. The snow­boarder didn’t play, but he sang excel­lent rap, pour­ing out a stream of lyrics with­out hesitation.

The train reached its des­ti­na­tion on time to the minute (please take note, ViaRail). My host, M.Michel Uchan, spot­ted me instantly in the crowd of one, I being the only pas­sen­ger to get off. M.Uchan has proven a most con­ge­nial host. He speaks French and Span­ish, but no Eng­lish. His French is the musi­cal accent of the South, where the final vow­els and con­so­nants that are silent in stan­dard French are clearly pro­nounced, and there is the rhyth­mic lilt you hear in Span­ish, Cata­lan or Ital­ian, rather than the machine-gun tempo of the North. Within a few min­utes we were in Loubrès, a vil­lage of eighty peo­ple that is uncom­pro­mis­ingly rural and Occ­i­tan. M. Uchan oper­ates a small fro­magerie, which pro­duces a local cheese of the vari­ety known as Tomme de Pyrénées, which I am most eager to taste, but for the moment, forty hours with­out sleep sends me promptly to bed.

Sunday, March 13, 2016 — Where I Stand

I will make my posi­tion plain. I am a Cana­dian, not an Amer­i­can, but like all Cana­di­ans I must pay close atten­tion to the pol­i­tics of the coun­try that bor­ders mine for 8,891 kilo­me­tres (5,525 miles), has ten times our pop­u­la­tion, with which we have (by far) the largest-scale trad­ing rela­tion­ship in the world, and with which we share a con­sid­er­able degree of our cul­ture. Our economies are so inter­twined that every polit­i­cal deci­sion that occurs in the U.S. imme­di­ately and some­times pro­foundly influ­ences our life. I have at times lived in the U.S., and have many friends there, as do most Cana­di­ans. But we are not Amer­i­cans, and some­times all has not been well between us. When the United States entered its dis­as­trous war in Viet­nam, and we were pres­sured to join in with that deba­cle, a major­ity of Cana­di­ans were opposed to it, and we stayed out of it. When, sub­se­quently, many young Amer­i­cans resisted the slav­ery of con­scrip­tion, and the cor­rup­tion of the war, we wel­comed them as hon­ourable refugees, just as we had wel­comed refugees from slav­ery in the 19th cen­tury. They were the true Amer­i­can patri­ots, and we respected them.

One of those great moral divi­sions is upon us. The United States has accom­plished many great and noble things, but in recent times, it has reached its low­est moral ebb in a hun­dred years. The upcom­ing elec­tion in the United States is cru­cial to both our coun­tries. If the Repub­li­can Party wins, then the U.S. is washed up as a coun­try, every decent prin­ci­ple it has fought for will be defeated, degraded and destroyed. This is a pro­found threat to my coun­try, which I love.

There have been two great men­aces to human dig­nity and free­dom in the last cen­tury. One was the con­stel­la­tion of total­i­tar­ian move­ments that dom­i­nated the first half of the cen­tury, which included Com­mu­nism, Nazism, Fas­cism, and their var­i­ous mimic and out­lier move­ments. The other is its mod­ern suc­ces­sor, the Con­ser­v­a­tive Move­ment that emerged in the United States in the last gen­er­a­tion and has slowly taken over its pub­lic life, and spread around the world, as Com­mu­nism did, through the influ­ence of cor­rupt intel­lec­tu­als, deluded suck­ers and fellow-travellers. But there is no sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence between the two move­ments. The sec­ond is essen­tially just a reboot and re-branding of the first. In both cases, the aim is the same: the destruc­tion of free and demo­c­ra­tic soci­eties and the erect­ing of mil­i­taris­tic soci­eties ruled by a wealthy, all-powerful aris­toc­racy, in which most human beings will be dis­pos­able ser­vants, peas­ants and slaves. In both cases, human rights and lib­erty are to be sac­ri­ficed in the name of crack­pot eco­nomic the­o­ries. In both cases, the lead­ers of the move­ment mobi­lize racism, vio­lence, super­sti­tion and every base human pas­sion among the gullible to achieve their aims. The aims are the same, the meth­ods are the same, and the under­ly­ing phi­los­o­phy is the same. Only the slo­gans and catch-phrases dif­fer. Don­ald Trump and Ted Cruz are merely the tip of the ice­berg of evil. There is worse to come.

Any Amer­i­can who votes for the Repub­li­can Party in the upcom­ing fed­eral elec­tion is, as far as I am con­cerned, a trai­tor to their own coun­try, and a men­ace to mine. I will con­sider such a per­son to be beyond the pale of civ­i­liza­tion, a per­son to be shunned. Such a per­son will never be allowed to set foot in my home, I will never share food with them, and never, as much as pos­si­ble, ever speak to them. This deci­sion is final. It will never change. Ever.

I have spent the entirety of my life study­ing the abom­i­na­tions of aris­toc­racy and slav­ery, and sup­port­ing and pro­mot­ing democ­racy and free­dom. This is a crit­i­cal moment, and I wish to leave no doubt in anyone’s mind where I stand.