State of the Nation

So, what with profound world events (Funny Picture of Prince Painted; Canadiens Eliminated; Iraq Gets New Flag), I've not provided a personal update in some time. And since others cover world happenings with a little more frequency and a lot more insight, I thought I would turn my attentions inward for one post.

And so, the Optimuscrime Montreal State of the Nation:

Outdoor Temperature: 26°C
Indoor Temperature: 21°C
Morale: High
Work Ethic: Low

I woke up around ten this morning, and shuffled out in a t-shirt and a pair of shorts to pick up some bagels for breakfast. My intention had been to pop over to REAL Bagel -- a block away -- then immediately proceed back and return to work on my paper. Unfortunately, there was a flower shop (fresh flowers for Casa Del Optimuscrime!), a fruit stand (mmm, strawberries), a bakery (a couple croissants couldn't hurt) and Java U between the bagel shop and my front door. A quick italian soda at Java U turned into hours spent on their patio, people-watching, munching strawberries and flipping through the Globe and Mail.

Good god. And I'm supposed to get a thesis done this summer?


A Year Of Occupation And All We Got Was This Lousy Flag

The Iraqi Governing Council unveiled a proposed redesign for the Iraqi flag this week, apparently motivated by a need to replace the symbols of the old regime (Beyond the fact that Syria and Iraq totally cheated off each other on the Flag Design exam...)

However, the result is abismal. Iraqis are pissed, because the new flag abandons the traditional arab color-scheme of red, green, black and white, and the blue horizontal stripes and centred, pale-blue cresent strikes them as derivative of the Israeli flag.

I'm not sure I see the similarity with the Israeli flag, but I still agree that Iraqis got a raw deal on their new flag design. The flag looks like it got resized without keeping the aspect ratio -- the crescent, in particular, looks like it's been vertically compressed. The blue stripes are meant to represent the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, with the yellow swath as the symbol of the Kurds, but it just looks like the big skewed moon is crushing the Swedish flag.

Secondly, what explanation can possibly exist for using two different blues? Can anyone think of another national flag that has uses two similar-but-mismatched shades of the same colour? What, the 'Sky Blue' crayon got used up after the crescent?

If I were on Iraq's Governing Council (they keep ignoring my job application...) I would see if I could track down whoever designed the flag for the Isle of Man. Now there's a kick-ass flag: it looks like a ninja spin-kick, with tough looking spurs. Other cool flags, for my money: Lebanon; Hong Kong; Kiribati.


Prince Gadzooked by Portrait

This Globe and Mail story draws our attention to a recent painting of England's Prince Philip by quirky portraitist Stuart Pearson Wright. Prince Phil is depicted shirtless (spicy!), with a bluefly on his shoulder and a plant sprouting from his fingertip.

I quite like the painting, and a cursory glance over his website turns up a range of really kickass portrait work. However, the work is all slightly unsettling, and its subjects seem frail, world-weary, and all-too human. And that's his portrait work -- leave along his still-life paintings of dead rats and plucked chickens.

The Royal's response, as reported by the Globe? "Gadzooks!" As long as I don't have to have it on my wall!"

I'm not sure what, precisely, Princy was expecting he would get. If he wanted something to hang over the fireplace, he could have just hired Christian Furr or someone.

Anyway, if you happen to fancy hanging Prince Philip's strapping torso on your wall, you apparently can for about $60 grand Canadian. Me, I'm a few bucks short.

Also, on an unrelated note, pertaining to the outcome of the Canadiens-Lightning match this evening:

[String of profanities]


"... What is this salty discharge?"

This month's Monkey (Remember.. It's Not a Meme, It's A Monkey!) tends towards the confessional, but who am I to argue? So, with only some Neil Young lyrics as preamble, I give you my Crying At The Movies Confessions:

"Day and night we walk these aisles
In the same old movie show
And look for someone
to feel for a while."

-- Neil Young, Sad Movies

Crying-At-The-Movies Confessions:

1. The House of Sand and Fog:
Ben Kingsley grieving his son? Okay, I didn't actually cry, but my heart broke. Does that count?

2. Transformers: The Movie
After Optimus Prime died defending Autobot City from Megatron, I was a wreck.

3. The Bicycle Thief
It wasn't manipulative, but it really made its viewers feel the protagonist's helplessness. Made me a touch weepy.

4. Last Night
One of my all-time favourite films. I don't want to ruin the end, but it's warm, poignant and human. At least a couple tears shed.



An 'A' Grade Hard To Get? Welcome to Queen's...:
Princeton has apparently announced a plan to cap 'A' marks to 35% of students in any given course. Grade inflation -- rampant in US colleges, even in the prestigious Ivy League schools -- has apparently progressed to the point where up to half of students earn 'A' grades.

The article linked above attributes the rise of grade inflation to the Vietnam War, when sympathetic professors doled out artificially high marks to keep students from being subject to the draft. Perhaps, then, I can blame the reluctance of my professors at Queen's to dole out 'A' grades on a Canadian antipathy towards conscription? In any case, the next time one of my students here at McGill complains about their B+, I'll let them know that I only provide re-reads if they are facing compulsory military service. Ha!

John Kerry's Farnsworth Bentley:
Priscilla drew my attention today to a cute NYT story on the towering (6'8"!) Torontonian Marvin Nicholson Jr., who serves as butler, aide and "chief of stuff" to presidential hopeful John Kerry. I particularly liked the fact that he turned down a Senate internship to be a caddy at Augusta.

The Hundred-Million-Dollar Dress:
Also via Priscilla, a bizzare eBay listing for a wedding dress, proceeds of a divorce, modelled by the jaded ex-husband. Quoth the Divorcee:

"I gotta say it did make me feel very pretty. So if it can make me feel pretty, it can make you feel pretty, especially on the most important day of your life, right? Anyway, I was told to say it has a train and a veil and all kinds of shiny beady things. I think it's funny that one picture makes it look like the chest plate off an Imperial Storm Trooper."

The cross-dressing model is only the first strange element. When I first visited the page, bidding was at nearly $2,000 -- for a dress worth $1,200 new. Strange, I thought. Within half an hour, the price had been driven up by a series of bids, with the present price now set at ninety-nine million dollars (up from ten million when I started writing this blog entry, by the way).

Though the bids are clearly not serious, the seller might be able to cash in anyway: This article describes the contract-law implications of bids on an auction without reserve. I would imagine the business cards of litigators are already being sent to the seller's attention in anticipation of the inevitable welching to come.