Our dirt bikes bring all the boys to the yard. Damn right, they're better than yours.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Procrastination!

Don't worry, I'm not slipping from my policy of titling my posts with ridiculously simple French phrases while I'm here—procrastination is a French word too. Anyway, three posts in three days: can you tell I have a shitload of homework I don't want to do? Also, thanks to Chris, other Chris, Katie, "Steve-Dave" and, uh, me for your comments—as Chris (Thrall) pointed out, maybe people will be more likely to continue commenting if I acknowledge their time and effort. So: you made my day. I don't know what I would have done without your guilt-induced comments.

In other news, I just talked to my mom, and she told me that my cell phone bill for this month (which still gets sent to my parents' house for some reason) is over $300. I guess I should have thought twice before deciding that I was too lazy to bother buying another phone card once my first one ran out, hey? So this information induced me to do some soul-searching, and I've realized, perhaps a little belatedly, that I probably can't keep up the same lifestyle I'm used to now that I'm not working (and won't be for the next year or so). Sad, I know, but true. I guess now I'll finally understand what it's like to, uh, have to walk three blocks to buy a phone card. It's a hard life, isn't it?

Not all that much is new here, besides the three written exams, report, oral exam, and two presentations I have to prepare for next week. Last night, Sean, Garrett, Matt and I went for some fantastic smoked meat sandwiches and then got drunk off bad Unibroue beer (I refuse to stick to the stuff I know I like, like Maudite, 1837, and Fin du Monde, because I'm trying to collect as many different bottles as I can before I leave, so I can then not bring them home since they're big and heavy and I have no room in my suitcase. A word of advice for those of you non-collectors out there, though: stay away from Trois Pistoles—the beer, not the place. Although probably the place too).

Also, I know this is probably the weakest post I've made so far, but I apparently have to run so I can see see Sakate (this crazy Newfie guy we've been hanging out with) pushing a shopping cart full of beer bottles that he's taking to the grocery store so he can cash them in for, like, $3. I'll most likely post again tomorrow, but no promises, you needy jerks. BYE!!!!!!

magique!

So I was catching the number 9 home from work today, and I'm standing there right by the very back doors of one of those accordian buses, just listening to my discman (Wolf Parade; brilliant). And I look down the aisle--and you know how they have those four seats on each side that face one another across the aisle near the middle of the bus, as opposed to the two-seaters that face forward? Okay, I'm like ten feet away, so picture it: I was watching this guy who was sitting on one side of the aisle do some street magic with this Australian (most likely) who was in town for the Masters and drinking some Tim Hortons coffee--and it was the most amazing thing.

So these two guys, there's no way they know one another at all, and there's about two feet of completely open space between the two that is easily observable. And the magic guy's first trick is a switcheroo, in that he has the subject pick out a card from the deck that he never sees, and I watch the subject put the card in between his two own outstretched palms; it's hidden, the magician's never seen it, but it's out there, in between the subject's hands. So the magician shows the guy another card; I saw it was the nine of diamonds (the card the subject had picked was the four of clubs), and the magician waves it over the guy's outstretched palms and tells him to open his hands. Lo and behold, the two cards have switched.

And I sincerely ask--how? As a casual observer, I wasn't the target, so I wasn't going to be distracted by anything. This guy, the subject, I watched him put the four of clubs into his own hands, and then I watched as this guy waved another random card a couple inches over the subject's hands. And somehow they switched. I watched it all, and they switched, without any contact. Obviously, sleight of hand is a more powerful thing than I thought.

But sleight of hand doesn't explain the next trick I happened to watch. Same guys, and bear in mind that there's at least two feet of clear space in between them that, after the last trick, I'm watching like a hawk. So the magician, he holds out the deck and gets the Australian guy to pick a card and memorize it. Then the subject shuffles the deck himself, like, several times, without the magician ever coming in contact with the card or the deck. Then the subject hands the deck back to the magician, and the magician holds it to his own forehead, closes his eyes, and then rifles through the deck and picks out a card. "is this the card?" he asks, and it's not, the other guy says (I never saw the card he chose, so I'm taking his word). And the magician's all like, "Oh. Okay... that's embarrassing," and he rifles through the deck some more. And here comes the crazy shit: he looks through the deck and says he can't find it--and at that moment I see the subject jerk like something just touched him, even though that space between them was never breached... and he reaches into his own back pocket and, to his own pants-shitting amazement, pulls out his card.

How? I've watched David Blaine's street magic specials, and I understand that when something is on film, you can't take it at face value. But this was on a bus. In full view of spectators from various angles. And it totally happened. Honestly, I have never been more blown away in my life.

Then I went over to Darren's and ate chili and got drunk. The mundanity of it all cancelled everything else out.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Pourquoi est-ce que vous ne m'aimez pas?

So, like, I know Chris is a way more interesting writer than I am and everything, but how come you guys always comment on his posts and never on mine? Is it because his are short and succinct while mine are unnecessarily verbose play-by-play accounts of my days? Is it because I use words like "verbose"? Either way, this makes me feel things. Things that hurt my heart. Maybe if I post shorter, more regular posts, you'll be more likely to read to the end. So check it out: two posts in two days!

Last night a bunch of us went to Les Grands Feux, a huge international fireworks competition between the totally random countries of Canada, Spain, China, Sweden, and Italy. Because we bought our tickets through the University, we got fantastic seats for $20 (or, in my case, $10, as they gave me $10 back for some reason—I wasn't going to ask). They were at La Chute-Montmorency, that huge waterfall near here that we visited in the pouring rain the day we went to Île d'Orléans. Needless to say, 30 minutes of incredibly elaborate fireworks (last night's competing country was Spain) against the backdrop of a giant waterfall emptying into the Saint Lawrence, accompanied by a live orchestra playing everything from Ode to Joy and Flight of the Valkyries to bad '80s synthesizer pop, was pretty impressive. There were also a lot of people who had kayaked or canoed up the river to an island just a few feet away from the waterfall who got to stand right under the fireworks and see the show for free, which I imagine made it even more impressive.

Last night was also one of the rare occasions here when I actually spoke French for an extended period of time and wasn't in class, as the only time they're even remotely strict about not speaking English is on the organized excursions (very different from doing this same program in a small town, from what I've heard). It was good practice to speak only French for three hours, but I realized by the end of the night that the longer I speak, the worse I get. Constantly thinking and translating and speaking in a language you're not very good at is exhausting, and after a while I'd completely given up on using the correct verb tenses, and had forgotten about half the words I'd known at the beginning of the night. It's strange, and kind of frustrating. And what did I learn from all this? Never try anything.

JUST the face!

I don't know if any of you have ever been to snopes.com, but it's this actually really valuable website that answers reader mail about potential urban legends by researching whether or not it could possibly be true. Really, it's an awesome site to kill a few hours at any time of the week, but they recently just added a page of completely absurd but very urgent-sounding emails they've received over the last little while. Needless to say, it totally reaffirms any suspicions you may have had that people are, in fact, incredibly stupid. Here's my favourite actual question posed to snopes:

They say that if a person has a pet cat and dies, if the person's body is not found fairly soon after death, the cat, having not been fed, will become ravenously hungry and eat the dead person's face off — JUST the face!

Is this true? My cat often looks me in the face. I used to think he was just being friendly. Now I know he's just sizing me up, like a chef at a butcher shop, waiting for "the big day". Since hearing this rumor, every time my cat licks his chops it gives me the willies!


Read the rest of them here. And feel free to repost your favourites.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

J'ai perdu une chemise!

I. Am. So. Retarded. It. Hurts. See, I bought Chris this really nice sweater on Saturday but decided that it was probably a size too small, so I went to centre-ville yesterday to exchange it. I then promptly proceeded to leave it on a restaurant patio, and now it's gone. (On the plus side, I just had what were probably my first two lengthy conversations in French with real live Québecois people who aren't my profs, when I called both the store and the restaurant to see if anyone had found it—they hadn't). This makes me very sad on several levels, namely the fact that I essentially just threw a large chunk of money in the garbage, and now I don't have a totally awesome present for Chris—and tomorrow's our two-year anniversary. Isn't that tragic? Come on, altogether now: awwwwwwwwwww ... . Anyway, it's not the end of the world, but I'm just really pissed off at my own stupidity at the moment.

Or, you know, not. I just got a call from the restaurant telling me they found it and I can come pick it up at my convenience. And they say people are rude in Québec City! (Or maybe that was just my grandma—I can't remember.)

Anyway, yeah. Really not all that much is new here. I got my first zero on a test since Math 10 the other day, though, so I've got that going on. (This isn't nearly as bad as it sounds—it was only 30 per cent of our midterm mark, and I got 100 per cent for the other 70, but still, it's a scary thing to see a giant zero on a test, especially when you were going around bragging about how easy it was the day before. Her comment was "Je croix que tu ne comprenais pas," and I was all like, "No doubt, bitch!" Only, uh, in French. So basically all my marks are hovering around 70 right now, which would be fine if that wasn't, like, a C here for some reason. But, again, I'm probably not going to get credit for this anyway, and I don't have to even if I can. So, you know.

Otherwise, I've basically been up to the usual: drinking every night, not getting enough sleep, hating people, etc. On Sunday night, that Jon guy I tried to go see Goldfinger with showed up on 8A (Laval's equivalent of three Henday, only way more awesome because we hang out there) with a gram of salvia, that (possibly) new, still-legal drug that I believe Ross Moroz wrote/is writing a feature on for Vue. Being a prissy snob, I, of course, didn't try any, but it was hilarious to watch everyone else totally freak out for the extremely short time the high lasts. Apparently it's like an entire mushroom high packed into two minutes—and for only $25 a gram! Apparently it also basically stops working after the first time you try it, so it's probably not worth the money, but hey—it provided an hour's worth of amusement, and it's legal, so why not? (I'm also probably totally wrong about everything I just said—this is just what the people who tried it told me, so don't go quoting me as some sort of salvia expert. Because, you know, you were totally going to otherwise.)

Uh, what else? Matt, Steph and I went to the Musée de la civilisation yesterday, which was pretty "hip." We saw quite a good exhibit on Québec's history, briefly wandered through a big Russian exhibit called Dieu, le tsar, et la révolution, and checked out the pretty typical Native exhibit. The highlight of this was a big sign that said, "What it means to be Aboriginal." Matt wanted to go check it out so he could finally understand the meaning of his life, so we went over, only to discover that all there was under the sign was a big display of various Native headdresses, including, for some reason, a mesh trucker hat. We then went to a restaurant called Faubourg de la Diable for dinner, where I temporarily lost Chris's sweater, and where we paid $22 (!) for a pitcher of Stella. This doesn't quite live up to the 11 Euros for the half pint in Paris, but it come pretty close by Canadian standards. Still, they redeemed themselves by finding that sweater, so I am, as Joanna would say, totally over it.

Speaking of Joanna, I've finally, permanently gotten her off my back. "How did you accomplish such an amazing feat, you incredibly sexy person, you?" you might ask. "Did you fight her? Did you spread a horrible rumour involving her, her dad, and a pretty serious case of AIDS?" No, believe it or not, I really didn't do anything. Instead, Nelson has, for some completely unknown reason, decided he (apparently) has a big crush on her instead of the Mexican girl he was dating before. He now spends basically all of his time with her, which was apparently all she was looking for from the beginning, which means she leaves the rest of us alone now. What happened to Nelson, I can only speculate.

Anyway, I guess that's about it. Strangely enough, I'm going to be home in a little over a week now, so I guess I'll see those of you still in Edmonton relatively soon. In the meantime, I'm going to do some homework, and then go check out Spain's entry in this huge international fireworks competition that's happening here over the next two weeks.

Did I mention this city is fucking rad?

Sunday, July 24, 2005

me = criminal, apparently.


Hey! So last night, the stenciller guy who I'm writing a story about and I went out around 2:30am and he showed me the basics of laying down a stencil. It would have been nice to do it up in a more high-traffic area, but seeing as we were doing this just as the bars were letting out and we both live just off Whyte Ave, we very rebelliously hit some Canada Post boxes on University Ave instead. Whoo!

As you can see, the stencil was a very moustache-exaggerated Tom Selleck. I went back today to take a pic in the daylight; this one was mine, and is on a box on the corner of 108 St and 76 (I believe) Ave. Awesome? Totally. I was actually pretty surprised at what a fast process the whole thing is--so speedy, in fact, that it hardly seems like breaking the law at all. Basically, you make your stencil (out of acetate, as in those sheets they print overhead material on) in the comfort and safety of your own home, and after that, all you need is a newspaper to transport the stencil in and a can of black spraypaint. Hold the stencil up, take a look around, and five seconds of paint later, you lift the stencil and put it right on top of the paper you're carrying (a See or Vue works best) and just fold it loosely in half, so the stencil can dry discreetly without touching itself and getting stuck together. Once it's dry, repeat. Yay!

Actually, it was fun, and I might take the guy's offer to come along more often, and maybe even try and make a few stencils of my own. It's getting pretty crowded out there already, though.

Hmm, what else. Oh yeah--remember that crazy pinched nerve in my neck that was making my legs go buzzy? Yeah, well, I finally got freaked out enough by it that I had to go to the U of A's emergency room and have it checked out. It was pretty scary at first; the news that both my parents have diabetes caused a knowing glance to be shared between the two doctors present (the first, apparently, couldn't figure out what the fuck was wrong and had to bring in backup), and, quite terrifyingly, they spent a lot of time wondering if I'd suffered a minor stroke somehow, and I had to do a bunch of movement exercises and reflex and speech tests. Yee.

Luckily, it turned out that I'm not losing the use of my legs to diabetes or suffering the after-effects of a stroke, but rather, my problem might just be stress. They attached great significance to the fact that this thing started happening almost immediately after I began working as much as I have been lately, and possibly also to the fact that I now spend almost twice as much time as I did before hurting my back in a terrible office chair that was probably found on the side of the road while Ron was moving one time. So they figure I'm just carrying so much neck and back tension right now that something is impacting the nerve root near the base of my neck. The prescription? Nine (!) Motrin IBs taken throughout the day for a week, and Robaxacet to taste. And go see my family doctor (whoever he is; it's literally been years), because I'll probably need a CT or MRI to make sure there's no actual nerve damage going on. Oh, and find a way to ease my job stress. Ha. Anyone want to trade off?

Anyhow, I'll keep you all posted if I turn out to be dying, and you guys can fight over who gets my fake fireplace with the built-in eight-track and record players.

Quelque chose creatif et francais

Hey! I'm still alive! And I'm sure you've all been waiting on the edge of your collective seat to hear the gripping conclusion to what happened at the street performers' festival! Well, I'm sorry to have made your weekend both stressful and disappointing as you checked this blog every five minutes to no avail, but you can relax and get on with your lives now (well, actually, not until you've finished reading this, but soon enough, my friends—soon enough).

So anyway, I believe I mentioned how Chris told me that French kids' shows are very strange and nonsensical. Naïvely, I'd pictured a bunch of bright-coloured puppets yelling at each other in French, and secretly thought to myself that English kids' shows are much the same way, only they only yell at each other in French when they're trying to teach us words like "ami" and "chat." But how tragically wrong I was. You see, this performance consisted of five people: a guy dressed up like a sailor who was attached to those bungee ropes you can use to jump on trampolines at West Ed (this would have been much more interesting if he could do more than jump really high and spin around sometimes—we kept waiting for the awesome acrobatic stunts, which never came); another guy dressed up like a conductor who kept yelling at the bungee-rope guy to be careful; a girl dressed as a '20s flapper who kept dancing on picnic tables for unknown reasons completely unrelated to the rest of the show; a girl dressed up like a stereotypical Vietnamese person, hat and all; and, finally, a girl dressed up like a Steve Urkel-style nerd (something the Québecois seem to find endlessly hilarious). So, basically, the show went like this: bungee-rope guy would do some shitty tricks, conductor guy would yell at him to be careful, girls would dance, and so on. This was confusing but still vaguely resembled something you might see at home—until the gargoyles showed up. This was what made it so hilariously Québecois: see, the bungee-rope guy was just hanging out, minding his own business, doing some shitty stunts, when suddenly everyone starting acting really scared and yelling at him to stop jumping and stay hanging in the air. At this point, everyone in the audience is all like, "Oh my god! Maybe this bungee-rope guy stole some money from someone and now he's coming to kill him or something!" So you're waiting for an angry guy with a gun to come running around the corner when all the lights go down and this eerie music starts playing. Suddenly, five people on stilts dressed up like gargoyles come creeping through, and everyone's all like, "Shhhh!" Then they walk away and the show continues. This was quite possibly the highlight of my trip to date, but unfortunately my camera sucks at night so I only have some blurry pictures to show for it. Still, those will be up here as soon as I get home, I promise.

Anyway, back to what's been going on recently. Things are looking up here, as I've managed to avoid seeing Joanna for four days in a row now and she's stopped calling me as a result. I assumed this would ultimately result in everyone else getting mad at me for constantly ditching out while they're still forced to hang out with her, but none of them really seem to care (yet, anyway). So, in conclusion, Kristine—1, Joanna—0. Other than that, school's going well (I think, although I haven't gotten any marks back yet), other things are going well ... we went to a baseball game on Friday (the Québec Capitales versus the New Haven Cutters. I assume they're in the same league as the Cracker Cats, although it might even be a lower tier—turns out baseball isn't really a big sport in Québec), where we paid $25 for our ticket and all we could eat/drink pizza, hot dogs, and beer for two hours. Needless to say, the time limit on the free beer made everyone drink as much as possible as fast as possible, so the night kind of turned into a gong show. I have some excellent pictures of Capi, the Capitales' terrifying cat-like mascot, as well as various people passed out on picnic tables. Several hilarious things happened over the course of the evening, so I'll just relate the two highlights here. First, I spent part of the night talking to this absolutely retarded girl from Syracuse who could not get it through her head that Alberta isn't part of BC, and that Wayne Gretzky is consequently not from Vancouver. Secondly, as the cut-off time for free beer drew nearer and nearer, we started to build up a bit of a stash so we wouldn't have to pay the exorbitant price of $5 (!) for beer after 7:30. I guess one of the security guards got wind of this and starting to come around from table to table pouring out people's stashes. When Mississippi Jed found out about this, he came sprinting back to our table to warn us, but before he even said anything he downed a good chunk of his stash so it wouldn't go to waste. This resulted in him passing out on the lawn outside the field for a while, at which point some Québecois called him Johnny Cash and told him to go home.

After the game, we headed down to la Grande Allée to check out this place called Chez Maurice, which is, believe it or not, Maurice Duplessis's old offices converted into this ridiculous three-story club, with a lounge on the main floor, a dance floor on the second floor, and a stage for live Latin American acts on the third floor. It was worth seeing, although I felt incredibly under-dressed and a tad on the ripped-off side when I decided to be generous and buy drinks which, for three double gin and tonics, came to—are you ready for it?—$36. We then decided to go downscale a bit and end the night with poutine, Chez Ashton styles.

Yesterday, I finally managed to escape everyone for a while and went downtown alone to do some shopping. Feeling much rejuvenated (or something) after buying several things for myself and presents for Chris, I decided to go see Goldfinger with Jon, this guy in my class who somehow won tickets at the baseball game to go see them. Knowing they were playing out in the relative middle of nowhere (for some X-treme sports thing that's going on in Beauport this weekend), we left around 7pm to leave ourselves lots of time to get there. On the way down, we met up with Pierre-André, one of the animateurs (animateur is French for "asshole who's job it is to freak out at you everytime you utter an English word") who was also heading down, and spent the next hour making awkward conversation in French while getting horribly lost in Québec's equivalent of Refinery Row. By the time we finally found the field Goldfinger was playing at it was 8:30 and, for some reason, they were already playing their encore. So, essentially, we spent almost two hours getting lost just to hear Goldfinger play a cover of 99 Red Balloons in some mosquito-y field in the middle of nowhere. Most likely feeling guilty about how strange all of this was, Pierre-André invited us (me, Jon, and two girls in the program whose names I can't remember) back to his place to drink and—gasp!—speak English. This was honestly the first time I'd heard an animateur speak English since I got here, so it was pretty scandalous. At the end of the night, he told us not to tell anyone what he'd done, since apparently he did the same thing last year and some girl actually told on him, getting him in a lot of trouble. So it was an interesting evening, all in all.

Other than all this, not much is new here. I have to run and do some homework (which reminds me: Iain, or anyone else out there who's spent some time in Québec, any idea what the term "Se montrer la fraise" means? We were given a bunch of Québecois sayings and we have to find out what they mean), and make a salad for yet another potluck tonight.

So, uh, yeah. How are things at home?