Friday, January 29, 2010

Wanted job for 10 year old dog!

I have two dogs. One is Bubba, a Lhasa Apso with an inflated sense of self importance. He is a therapy dog who visits with alzheimer's patients. He loves his work and responds with tremendous enthusiasm when I put on his uniform. Bubba has a job, he has a purpose in life and he bears his responsibilities with all of the dignity that only a Lhasa Apso can muster!

My other dog, Sophie does not have a job. She is a rescued dog whose first 10 years of life were anything but pleasant. I have told her that her life now should be filled with treats, warm snoozes by the fire, home cooked meals and walks in the dog park. I would have imagined that she would have been thrilled to be in heaven. There are no more cold nights, no matted fur, no fear of being chased or killed.

For the first 6 months after we acquired Sophie, she settled into her new home slowly but with great joy. For the first time she was able to relax. It is heaven! We have now had her for a year and she has blossomed into a sweet and loving dog..but she needs a job! Heaven is not enough!

As a Lhasa Apso, Bubba is a watchdog and guards the world from his throne on the back of our couch. He barks and warns off all would be invaders, postmen and unsuspecting parents walking their children to school across the street. Sophie tries to join him, and when he is sleeping has even tried to sound the alarm. This infuriates Bubba who charges up to her and barks in her face.

When Bubba comes back from one of his visits, Sophie greets him with a large paw on his back or tries to take off his scarf. It is clear Sophie wants to work with Bubba. In the hopes that someone can assist Sophie with her problems regarding retirement and heaven I am posting her resume.

Here is Sophies Resume

Name: Sophie
Age: 10 (dog years but I am young for my age)
Education: Ph.D in food. I love all food
Trilingual: French, English and Food!

Work History etc

Numerous short term contracts
Survival style working conditions
used to the outdoors
can work under high stress conditions
fast learner
will work for treats
some vocal abilities with a harmonica

Maybe someone will offer Sophie a job!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Carmen...or why you should listen to your mother!

This afternoon I attended the metropolitan opera's production of Carmen. The title role was sung by Latvian mezzo Elina Garanca, Don Jose: Roberto Alagna, Micaela:Barbara Frittoli, Escamillo: Teddy... a last second replacement from New Zealand and conducted by the Quebec superstar conductor Yannick Nezet-Seguin. The opera is all about dysfunctional relationships! The music is well known and the challenge is to draw out new elements. I believe that this production did just that by focusing on the intense and insane relationship between Carmen and Don Jose. While some productions have portrayed the relationship as Carmen is a flirt and Don Jose a hopeless and flawed romantic, this production showed a much darker side to both of the main characters.

The cigarette factory girls emerge from the underground to cool off. They are colourless with grey dirty smocks. Carmen emerges and although she is dressed in black, it is clear she is different. She is sung by Garanca with passion and elan but also it is clear that Carmen probably suffers from manic depression or another mood disorder. Her famous opening song tells it all. If she loves you watch out. Mistake number one: Don't try to change people, Carmen is a bird meant to fly and be free.

She flirts with Don Jose, a soldier who is loved by the gentle Micaela. Don Jose pretends not to notice but is clearly captivated by her when he keeps a flower she gives to him. The destructive relationship begins with Don Jose who meets Carmen in a gypsy cavern after he was imprisoned for two months for releasing her from prison after she instigated a fight with another woman. She dances for him and he hears the bugle call. He starts to leave and Carmen launches into a guilt scene. "You don't love me, you respond to a bugle call...go to the much for love...what a fool I was to love you" Clearly this relationship is not healthy.

Mistake number two: If you are not getting your way in a relationship, don't use guilt or mockery, you may be sorry. Don Jose has a drink but decides to return to the army. His officer comes in and tries to seduce Carmen, Don Jose takes a knife to him and tries to kill him. Carmen saves Don Jose and he is forced to leave with her and her gypsy friends to their mountain smuggling hideout. Mistake number three: Girls if your boyfriend is a homicidal maniac, call the police, don't save him!

It is clear that Don Jose has some serious problems with anger and jealousy as well as misplaced love. He wants to possess and control Carmen, who like a bird must be free. Don Jose's moody and jealous behaviour builds an ever stronger cage for Carmen. The two fight, one threatens to leave, Carmen mocks him as he becomes a smuggler when he remembers his mothers faith in him. This enrages Don Jose. Mistake number four : When involved with a homicidal possessive partner..DO NOT make fun of their mother. Don Jose threatens her broodingly while the gypsy cards spell doom for the couple. The audience does not need cards to see this one!

Alagana does a very convincing job of singing and acting like a possessed man, enslaved by Carmen and yet with murderous intent towards her and anyone who approaches her. Escamillo the toreador goes to the mountain hideout to proclaim his love for Carmen. Don Jose challenges him to a knife fight to the death! Once again, Carmen saves Don Jose and Escamillo. Carmen is clearly upset but seems unable or rid herself of Don Jose who is becoming dangerous.

The pious Micaela returns and lures Don Jose back to the village because his mother is dying and wants to forgive him. Madmen seem to have special relationships with their mothers and Don Jose complies. Mistake number five: When dealing with homicidal maniacs, it is best to play the mother card very early on!

Carmen begins a relationship with the toreador superstar Escamillo. She appears on his arm. Carmen's friends warn her that he, Don Jose is here lurking. Carmen says she is not afraid. When it is clear to Don Jose that Carmen no longer loves him, he kills her. Mistake number six: Listen to your friends, don't try to brazen it out!

Both Carmen and Don Jose were sung with passion and conviction as the doomed and insane lovers. Carmen had a haughty and yet almost disturbed set of mood swings. Don Jose would simply warn..dont push me, dont go there. While this is the world of opera with cardboard sets and fake blood, I could not help but think of the many relationships that are actually very much like Carmen and Don Jose. Two moths drawn to a flame of mutual destruction.

Monday, January 11, 2010


Now that bike season is over, most, if not all of my cycling friends are skiing. Cross country skiing that is.

Cross country skiing has undergone a revolution since I first skied many years ago. My cross country skis (and I still have them) were wooden with ligenstone or reinforced edges. They were wide and heavy with cable and then three holed plates on the boots. I used them to take photographs in the woods of animals tracks in the glinting snow or heavily laden branches of conifers. I would pack a thermos of hot chocolate and carry a piece of chewy frozen Christmas cake, and an assortment of waxes. I wore corduroy and wool knickers, a sweater and a bright orange anorak. The anorak was made out of cotton which is a poor choice for skiing as it gets wet, and then freezes. My boots were black leather with grooves for the cables. They were unlined and invariably cold. I would ski for hours and take rolls of splendid photographs.

Fiberglass skis came out next. They were clumsy and inflexible and once they came out, for some reason, my skiing tapered off. Coupled with a few snowless winters and my skis had a thick coating of dust in the back corner of our furnace room underneath my rawhide and wooden snowshoes.

In 2006 I purchased a pair of mid range cross country skis. To my horror I discovered that I had no control on these skis and could not stop. The slightest incline would send me and my skiis racing towards an uncertain future. After an accident and a feeble attempt to resume skiing, I resolved that my cross country days were over.

I have since resumed skiing but have a pair of fiberglass skis with metal edges. They give enormous control and enable me to go downhills, uphills in control. The sense of control and indeed the control that a metal edges provides is second to none. Boots have also improved. Gone are the days of my leather boots which I would stuff with numerous pairs of socks only to have a wet half frozen foot at the end of the day. The new boots are stiffer with built in insulation, coupled with one pair of woolen socks they provide far better insulation than their old counterparts.

Cross country skiing, when you are in control, connects you to an otherwise inaccessible hinterland. On skiis you are in the land of the beaver and the fox and the wolf and deer. You ski past their homes, across tracks of white powder, across frozen lakes and past beaver lodges. Once I heard the beaver kits, warm and safe in the lodge, chuckling as I bent down to listen to the sounds of life beneath the frozen sticks.

I have seen splendid tracks in the snow that tell their own story. Tracks of small mice that vanish and a new track with wings appears then vanishes again. I have heard wolves when I have been skiing and relish the crisp clean air that fills my lungs. I imagine myself to be a native hunter, only my weapon is my camera. Years ago I had a large SLR with interchangeable lens that took up a lot of my backback and weighed as much as my skis did. Today I have a pocket ELPH digital camera that can fit in my pocket. I even have a pocket sized movie camera, but I am not brave enough to take that skiing.

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