Tuesday, July 31, 2007

This past weekend Paul and i went to see Gruff Rhys, who was performing as part of a Brazilian-Glaswegian festival, Troca Brahma. The organisers called it a "3 day UK - Brazilian culture jam"; Paul and i called it a cheap promotional orgy for the shit beer, Brahma. Not only were we bombarded with Brahma commericals in between acts, but it was also the ONLY beer being offered to the masses. You know, i don't know too much about beer but after having a sip of Paul's Brahma, i realised why Brazil wasn't renowned for its beer. Nevertheless, the lack of choice reminded me of that Bill Maher quote (and yes, it pains me to quote that sometime-misogynist):

After the plane lands, airlines must stop saying, "Thank you for choosing us." There is no choosing anymore. I took the only flight that left within eight hours of when I wanted to go by the only other airline that went there. Choosing! Nobody chooses Southwest. Southwest chooses you! If I need to be in Spokane, Washington, by tomorrow morning, I either take the flight I'm given or I mail myself in a FedEx box!

Paul and I attended the Brahma marketing campaign with two of his uncles and their friends. One of their friends was a pregnant German women and after discussing German film (something I studied at Glasgow University), we got onto the topic of Scottish binge drinking. After comparing the drinking culture in Germany and Canada, she proposed an interesting theory as to why British people drink like the Prohibition is set to commence the morning after.

She thought that the British government treated its citizens like children. That is, since British people could not be trusted to drink responsibly on their own, the British government heavily regulated drinking laws, setting laws accordingly so the drinking masses may only drink at certain hours in certain places. She proposed that since the government treated its citizens like children, they act accordingly, which is quite interesting and in some respects, very true. And since the British public are told that you can only drink until midnight (or, if you're lucky, 1.00am), some people attempt to drink as much as possible in the limited window allowed. In Canada, however, depending on which provence you live in, you can drink until 3.00am.

However, I also think that Britain has a long history of public drunkenness and love of ye' ol' sauce. It's in their blood, so to speak.

Walking home from the gym last night, I got to thinking about the British civil service, government, and its treatment of the public. Take, for example, this piece of urban planning:
As you can see, it's a sidewalk that has been fenced in. This is to stop people from jaywalking and cutting across the intersection. These gated sidewalks are all over Glasgow and it drives me nuts! Why? Because the Scottish Executive / British government assumes I'm too fucking stupid and irresponsible with my own life to cross the fucking street. It's as if the government infantilizes its citizens, chastising us what we can and cannot do on a daily basis.

I swear, the Health and Safety Executive have more control over my life than my parents ever did when I was a kid. And the fuckers don't even give me an allowance; I suppose not because I'd just end up spending it on booze. Health and Safety know best!

Monday, July 30, 2007

Thursday, July 26, 2007

You Can't Go Home Again

In exactly one month, Paul and i will be going back to Canada for a "holiday"; how much of a holiday can you have in your native country and hometown though? Paul has never been to Canada and i'm quite looking forward to showing him my beloved country. Nevertheless, it will be nice to see friends, family, and of course, drink as much Tim Hortons coffee as humanely possible. Oh, how i have been craving a large double-double!

It's funny because i currently fluctuate between missing home so goddamn much and yet being completely in love with Scotland. When i think of the possibility of never living in Canada again, i feel sad and terrified. Likewise, when i imagine going back to Canada, i feel i would be giving up so much. Which is why, i suppose, i try not to think about it too much. i'm here for now and i couldn't be any happier.

i felt a wee pang for home today when a fellow-Canadian co-worker, just returning from holiday in Montreal, brought me back a bag of Montreal bagels! Who knew pieces of dough could bring such joy. After living for one and a half years amongst shitty imitation "New York Style" bagels (when New York bagels are shit to BEGIN WITH) , i am deliriously happy to just SMELL Montreal bagels.

i also got word today that in September, the BBC will be sending me down to London for 3 days for an induction. Finally after living in the UK for over a year, i will get to see London.
Tour de Farce

This is the second year that i've been able to watch the Tour de France live and not have to wake up at the crack of dawn to do so. When i lived in Toronto, i was having to wake up at 8.00am - ON A WEEKEND - to watch the live coverage of the race. Now, however, i can awake leisurely on a Saturday and Sunday morning, read the paper, and turn on the TV around 2.00pm to catch Le Tour.

Prior to the start of the tour, i was quite excited and explained the basic premise of it to Paul. Paul, bless his wee soul, feigned interest but really, if it isn't Celtic - forget it. Although Jan Ullrich, my favourite rider, had recently retired from cycling amid a storm of controversy (over doping, of course), i was still thrilled to watch it.

And then yesterday the overall tour leader, Michael Rasmussen, was kicked out of the Tour by his own team (basically for lying to the anti-doping agency). THIS after Alexander Vinokourov, a talented rider who used to ride with Jan Ullrich on T-Mobile, failed a blood test indicating he had received a blood transfusion earlier.

In addition, two small explosions were set off yesterday along the race route in Spain about 40 minutes apart; the second explosion occurred about a half hour before the riders arrived but after a publicity caravan had passed by the spot. Apparently the explosions followed after a warning from the Basque separatist group ETA had been issued.

Worst Tour ever!

Monday, July 23, 2007

News comes today that heroin treatment in Scotland are at record levels. According to statistics:

"About 21,000 people are now said to use heroin substitute methadone - 10% more than previously thought - with a third of them caring for children under 16"

Ever since living in Parkdale, Toronto (home to a lot of marginalised and poverty-stricken populations) and witnessing people not only selling crack cocaine but those also abusing it, i became curious as to why certain drugs seemed to take hold over specific populations. Towards the end of my time spent in Parkdale, it seemed more and more people were using crystal meth. This, of course, was based on my own observations of people tweaking out along the main drag of Queen Street West.

So why does it seem as if heroin has such a strong hold over Scottish drug users? Why heroin and not say, crystal meth - which is virtually still rare in Scotland. Is it supply? For example, apparently it was once near impossible to get pot in Scotland. Hash - no problem - but apparently marijuana was rare.

However, for all the alleged junkies in Scotland, i've yet to see anything as bad as the east end of Vancouver.

Friday, July 20, 2007


I'm going to stick to the likes of Don Delillo, Michael Redhill and Margaret Atwood, thanks. If i really need to revert back to my childhood, i'll read Roald Dahl. Otherwise, fuck Harry Potter and anything to do with those piece of shit books!
Of course, everyone knows that Britain is wet, rainy, gloomy and so forth but the past couple of months have been unbearable. To anyone who would argue against global warming and attempt to discredit it well, first of all, you're an asshole and second of all, all you would need to do is look at the UK because this weather is fucked (along with the receding and melting glaciers in Canada)!

It has not stopped raining for almost two months. Nary a day has passed without it raining. While last summer was quite hot, humid and dry this summer has been wet, cold, and non-stop raining. In fact, I wore my winter jacket out last night because it was just too bloody cold and wet to go outside in anything other than a warm wool coat.

Then comes further news of no sign of summer as forecasters predict more rain. It feels like the end of days at this rate and as the great Bob Dylan once said, "you don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows". At this rate, the UK is set to be the next Atlantis.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Fucking watch this video because i can't stop laughing at it!
You know when things are going so well - almost too well- that you begin to think your luck has almost certainly run out and you're just waiting for disaster to set in? Well, i've been feeling that way for a while now. You see, i was recently offered a position at my DREAM employer - a world renowned broadcaster trusted for its news, programmes, and documentaries; a place that i had always wanted to be a part of and to be honest, it was a personal ambition of mine to just get my foot in the door at the aforementioned joint.

When i decided to take the great leap into the unknown and move from Toronto to Glasgow, i daydreamed about life on the other side of the Atlantic. i fantasized that i would move to Glasgow, live in an awesome flat, drink overpriced cocktails in noisy pubs, date hunky Scottish lads, maybe apply to law school or maybe just work at the BBC. And somehow, in its own strange way, it's happened.

Of course, i worked hard for it and it didn't just fall into my lap. When i first moved to Glasgow, i worked in a shitty cafe (that i can no longer set foot in) for next to nothing, got fired from a job for not laughing at my boss's jokes (i swear to God, it's true!) and went on some really awful dates (i.e. the Coke Head Fart Blamer).

Yet somehow, despite the pangs of homesickness, life in Glasgow is good; i'm soon to start work at my dream employer, have a decent enough flat, increased my alcohol tolerance and of course, have a wonderful and cute Scottish boyfriend. And so, being the worrier that i am, with a penchant for punishment, i'm just waiting for my luck to run out.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Oh my fucking god, Torontonians can be obnoxious douchebags. Look at this total fanny who describes his "style" (*ahem*), as "anatomical gestures of invented canaries". WHAT?! Argh, I am SO over these nothing-fazes-them Toronto hipsters who can't be bothered to wash their own fucking hair, they make me want to shoot heroin into my eyeballs.

Why i bother reading Now Magazine online anymore, i don't know because i just end up getting annoyed and yet, oddly reassured in my decision to move from Toronto to Glasgow. Hey, thanks for that, Jeff Garcia; yae fuckin' douche!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Photo: Todd Heisler/New York Times

There's an interesting article from the July 8th edition of the New York Times entitled, Terror in Glasgow? Scots are Perplexed. Below the bold print headline is a cheeky photograph of last weekend's Orange Walk, which I previously posted about; I fear, however, that the irony of the seemingly random photograph, is lost on the general American public. To summarise, the New York Times article states that in the past, Glasgow was sparred terrorist tactics by the IRA believing Scotland to be under English control as well. In addition, the article also notes that Scots have tradionally seen themselves as minorities and therefore more open to embracing other minorities and their cultures. I would have to admit with the authors' opinions because personally, and I have said this a hundred times now, I find Glaswegians to be aggressively friendly. That is, Weegies will make a forceful effort to engage you in a conversation - and you better well fuckin' reply!

Speaking of the Orange Walk last Saturday, Paul and I (myself more reluctantly) made a decision to avoid the walk at all costs. As I said to Paul, the whole notion of an "Orange Walk" is completely foreign to me and I was curious to have a look. Paul vehemently told me not to go but of course, me being the flaky and clueless foreigner, persisted that I should go and take photos because it would be a unique experience.

Paul just glared at me.

And so, we didn't go.

However, later in the evening as we headed to dinner, Paul and I heard a distant banging of drums and random yelps. As we turned down the street to the restaurant, we came head-to-head with the tail end of an Orange Walk and the drunk troglodytes that trail alongside them. And so, after witnessing the intoxicated stragglers brandishing Union Jack flags, I admit it: PAUL, YOU WERE RIGHT - they are best to be avoided. I'm sorry for being a stubborn and clueless foreigner. When in doubt, always refer to your local Weegie who has your best interests at heart. ♥

Monday, July 09, 2007

Preaching to the Converted

Canadian and British newspapers were brimming with articles this past weekend appraising the proud, Scots-talking, working class ethics of "Weegies".

From the Guardian: More than his actions, Smeaton's words symbolise Glaswegian pride - Basically the author argues that despite being a shithole and full of gruff alcoholics, Glaswegians are proud folk. A very London point-of-view.

From the Observer: They've Al-Qaeda. We've 'a'll -have ye - An article praising the fiesty nature of Weegies but below the surface runs a darker and hostile tendency of sectarian tension.

And from the Canadian national paper, The Globe and Mail: You'de be a Numpty to mess about with the Weegies - A Canadian perspective of Weegies, which is quite traditional and stereotypical of the angry Weegie, pushed to his limits, who becomes the reluctant hero. The article itself, however, is viewable only to those that pay for a subscription (which I do not) but because I am an Internet genius, I have bypassed the login and copy the article below:

LONDON -- Before you attack a country, it's probably best to scan their cultural history. Did the two men who drove a blazing Jeep into Glasgow airport last week know nothing about Scotland's past? Had they never seen Braveheart? Had they never read Rob Roy? Didn't they know that it is always a bad idea to mess with an angry Scot, especially one from Glasgow? Ye'll get a wee skelp and nae doot aboot it.

These prospective setters-alight-of-innocent-travellers had perhaps been too busy stockpiling propane canisters to read Robbie Burns on the subject of protecting the homeland: "Wha for Scotland's king and law/freedom's sword will strongly draw?" Okay, so freedom's sword wasn't quite as essential to saving holiday-goers' lives as the brawny arm of a baggage handler out for a smoke break, but still.

That baggage handler, John Smeaton, has received the laurel wreath of the 21st century: overnight Internet fame. His offhand comment to a television reporter - "That's just Glasgow. We'll set aboot ye" - has become the catchphrase of the moment, a defiant challenge delivered in an accent as thick as the coating on a deep-fried Mars bar.

There was Smeaton last Saturday, a handsome 31-year-old in coveralls and a neon-yellow safety vest, "having a fag" during his shift when he heard shouting and saw a car in flames jammed into the airport. He noticed a man getting out of the car and attacking a policeman, so he and some other onlookers rushed to help subdue the assailant.

Wait, that's so bland. I'd never make Internet stardom with a description that banal. Here's the way Smeaton put it, in one of several interviews he gave that day: "Me and other folk were trying to get the boot in and some other guy banjoed him." You don't have to be a student of Scottish argot to figure that one out. The hero baggage-handler also memorably compared the explosion from the burning Jeep to the sound a deodorant can make when it's thrown on a fire (and yes, it seemed he was speaking from personal experience.)

Now you can buy t-shirts that say "What would John Smeaton do?" and even pledge to stand him a pint at the Holiday Inn near the city's airport (more than a thousand people have already done so, which means there should soon be a Glasgow episode of that fine TV show, Booze Britain.)

Scottish newspapers are campaigning to get an award - or "gong," in British - for Smeaton and his fellow bravehearts. All over the Web, images of Smeaton have cropped up in various martial guises: He's Rocky, he's Superman, he's a Jedi knight wielding a light sabre above the legend, "Not on my shift!" Osama bin Laden is pictured next to the words, "I thought John Smeaton had Saturday off."

So why did Smeaton achieve this level of delirious approval while his fellow hero citizens are largely anonymous? Michael Kerr, who was returning from a family holiday, lost teeth and hurt his leg in the scuffle. Cab driver Alex McIlveen literally did get the boot in, leading to what is now my favourite headline ever, from Wednesday's Scottish Record: "Hero cabbie: I kicked burning terrorist so hard in balls that I tore a tendon in my foot."

For one thing, Smeaton has an unaffected gift of the gab, and the square-shouldered appeal of the working man - you can bet he wouldn't have disciples if his name was Peregrine Pip-Fawcett. For another, he was speaking the slang in which his country (and particularly his city) is absurdly rich. Many of the posts on sites such as http://www.johnsmeaton.com are from fellow Weegies, and written in dialect that reads as proud, defiant code. You may need an interpreter to understand them, but you'd be a right numpty not to love how they say it.

Smeaton fits in perfectly with the Scottish cultural tradition of the reluctant, rag-tag hero who can be pushed so far before he snaps: there's William Wallace and Rob Roy and the guy out for a smoke who decides that he's "got tae get this sorted!" There are the warriors led by Robert the Bruce, the brawlers imagined by Irvine Welsh, and now the hard men who sling the Samsonite down the carousels.

To his credit, Smeaton seems even more reluctant than most, professing to a Scottish newspaper that he didn't know what to make of all the fuss. "It's been mad," he said. His mother said all the hype was depressing her son.

That may be, but he's provided a focus for the vaunted British sense of humour, which is flourishing in its most entrepreneurial way just as it did in the aftermath of the July 7 bombings two years ago. Then, a website called We Are Not Afraid sprang up, which featured photos with many pert variations on that saying (an alarming number featured cats, but then the world is infinitely perfectible.)

Now it's up to satirical web sites like Scotland's Daily Mash to put things right. "Glasgow airport returns to drunk-filled normality," it announced. "Now it's only dangerous if you look at someone the wrong way."

It can't be that dangerous - John Smeaton's soon returning to work. Don't make him set aboot ye.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Life seems to be fairly back to normal in Glasgow: city workers threatening strike, T in the Park, and of course, Orange "parades". Reading the latest news article regarding the massive orange parade, i had to laugh; on the same day Glasgow will be hosting a rally against extremism and the recent attacks at Glasgow Airport. Nothing like sectarian marches to coincide with extremism - ah, the irony!

As much as i think that people who participate in orange marches are assholes, i'm really quite interested in witnessing it. i think it would also be quite interesting to capture on camera. It's all so antiquarian. Really, more than anything, these assholes need to get a more productive hobby like model airplanes.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Earlier today I purged a bunch of photos and videos from my mobile phone...
This is Bombo (Cocobaby) engulfing a HUGE bowl of mussels. That's the thing about Bob; although he is a wee boy, he can eat a mountain of food and does so regularly. i took the photo while he was visiting me in Glasgow. i had taken him to one of my favourite restaurants where he ordered vegetarian haggis, mussels, and two bowls of bread. AND BITCH ATE IT ALL!

Me filming Paul as he was innocently trying to read the news about terrorists lighting themselves on fire and getting the shit kicked out of them by angry Glaswegians.

Watch this because I will fucking quiz you to make sure you did!

Sunday, July 01, 2007

It's been an eventful weekend in Glasgow.

Early Saturday afternoon, Paul and i were in the midst of our ritual: drinking tea, reading the Guardian, and goofing around. As i was getting ready to finally venture outside for groceries, Paul went online to read the news just after 3.00pm. Paul called me into the living room and told me that someone had driven a blazing car into Glasgow International Airport. i was confused. Glasgow? Glasgow, Scotland!?

And so, we turned on the news and as events unfolded, i turned to Paul and said, "there is no way they are Glaswegian or Scottish". Although there is a large Asian community in Glasgow (the suspects had been described as Asian), i just knew they were not local. Firstly, Glaswegians just can't be arsed. If it doesn't involve football, mocking the English and/or alcohol, forget it; Glaswegians aren't interested. Secondly, Glaswegians tend to stick to the random casual violence that is more widely embraced by this culture.

Take for example, John Smeaton - a Glaswegian airport worker at scene of the attack:

See? After wrestling one of the would-be terrorists to the ground, he does what any decent Glaswegian would do. Kick fuck out of them.

Today as Paul and i walked back to my flat after an aborted game of tennis (it was raining), we noticed cop cars, cops, and said cops barricading the end of my street. As you may have heard, the UK is on "Critical Alert" - meaning another attack is thought to be imminent. As such, what would have been considered an empty kebab wrapper just 2 nights ago, is now a "suspicious package".

This is the view from my flat:

In other (shitty) news, my favourite shop, Fopp, the Scottish record/dvd/book store, closed its doors on ALL of its 81 stores across the UK, leaving most of its workers UNPAID. Not only is this shit news for people who shopped there for it's CHEAP prices, but it will also have a ripple effect on all the smaller music labels that were supported by Fopp.