and I don’t mean McGill Institute for the Study of Canada.

–Last night we threw a party for the ages. It was outstanding, massive and eminently positive. I am a little woozy today but in that good way that one is. As I said to Carrie, “I am quite pleased with us.” Our new friends and students are all awesome. Also our blonde cat turned out to be quite the party hound. Inasmuchas a cat can be a “hound.” Additionally, our “great room” is the perfect dance floor. Speaking of the floor, I must go get the vaccuum after completing this entry.

Two things that have caught my mind while cruising the ‘net:

cartoonist Tom Tomorrow asks after the etymology of “wingnut” and “asshat”

Charlie Bertsch wonders about what’s at stake in a guy calling himself feminist

And a question raised by the shooting of four Alberta mounties in a drug bust this week: what will happen to Canada’s slow movement toward more sensible drug policy?

History Question

So I read this book review over at salon.com on the forced removal of the acadians by the British, and it raises some interesting questions. If you’re talking about the land that now makes up the Maritimes during the 1500s-1700s, is that “Canadian history” or “American History” or something else? There were the usual range of letters from readers, but it does occur to me that we have a bit of a classification issue on our hands.

Note: Salon.com has a stupid and annoying ad policy. Thanks to my friend Steven Rubio, I have a free sub, otherwise I wouldn’t read their stuff.

Now Available in Tampa

We’ve been in Tampa for two days now, and it’s definitely a southern “new” city. The conference hotel, like the Jungian archetypal conference hotel, is located near nothing of great significance, and extorts its residents for meals, coffee, etc. As the faculty spouse, I have studiously avoided the conference, opting instead for the vacation-ritual of meals punctuated by not much else (at lunch yesterday, we actually heard people leaving the place talking about where they would go for dinner). Our time here has been spent with our friends Carol and Mrak and their son Tony. Yesterday’s big outing was to the aquarium, where I saw the biggest fish I’d ever seen, some cool sharks, and so forth. We tried to take pictures. The day before we went to the Tampa power plant, which creates a bunch of warm water (used for cooling) that attracts manatees. Unfortunately, we did not see any and all we got out of it was a plastic souvenir. It was one of those “make your own souvenir” things where you give a machine a dollar and it injects plastic into a mould. Oh, how mighty DIY has fallen! Anyway, it was fun and we are slowly warming to our plastic manatee, who needs a little trimming and still has that “freshly burnt plastic” smell. I fear he may not survive the trip back to the cold north, however.

Our last two before coming to Tampa were also relatively uneventful, though we did drop down to Sarasota for an afternoon/evening. On the way, we also picked up another six Cds from a store where you can listen to them beforehand, so we did a little better. The new Thievery Corporation is great.

Back to Sarasota. Our colleague David Crowley is restoring a house down there and so we took advantage of the coincidence to have a very nice dinner at a fish place (Carrie had grouper, the same species as the shark-sized fish I would see at the aquarium two days later) and enjoy excellent conversation. David’s house is an old Florida house but it is located in a neighborhood that is rapidly going upscale, which means that there are McMansions with gates and BMWs parked in the driveway right next to, well, old Florida houses. But then real estate seems like the biggest industry in the parts of Florida we saw. If it’s not actually the biggest, it is surely the biggest in our imagination of the place.

Tomorrow we get up at the crack of dawn to make sure we’re at the airport on time for our departure back home to Montreal via Chicago. You know we’re not going to be late.

The trip as a whole was restful in the way that vacations are restful, though much of my life (and work) in Montreal is still present to me. Perhaps that’s because I took work with; perhaps it’s because I haven’t been away long enough. Either way, I got the vacation I deserved – except that I’ve obviously got a thing or two to learn about tanning. I’m excited to go home and get back to my (still relatively new) life, even though I know it will kick my ass for the next six weeks.

Fish Mistaken for Sharks

Among our activities yesterday, we went on a “BayWalk” which is nothing like Baywatch but reminds me of those patches of restored prairie in the Midwest. Basically, the concept is that the island’s natural habitat has been completely destroyed over the course of 100 years of development, so now they’re working to bring some of it back and maintain it. It’s that completely artificial experience of “conserved” nature that dominates both the vast majority of experiences of nature for people in urban societies, and – I suspect – also dominates the ecological imagination. Anyway, we got to see tons of baby fish swimming around, a bunch of weird birds and lizards, and a group of large fish that Carrie at first mistook for sharks, which just made them that much cooler (we were both looking for the telltale dorsal fin). We also got to see a couple dolphins, the first of which was really exciting to see.

Today is cloudy, so we are off to see if we can watch some manatees and dolphins from one of the piers on the north side of the island.


–no part of my body is tan. There is only red and white.

–sandpipers are still my new favorite bird.

Special Guest Entry by Carrie

Hi Folks – it’s vacation time in Florida for Jon and I, and I thought, being a special kind of thing, that I’d create a special guest entry.

Florida is both amazing and absolutely frightening. While flying in to Tampa (see J’s Feb 18 post on the intrigues of our flight), I read an article in the recent Harper’s on a young Democrat who went to Florida in late October 2004 through election day to go underground with the Republican party, all in the name of keeping an eye on the electioneering process. The article particularly emphasized the more loony and surreal aspects of Republican political canvassing, especially the lives of its canvassers and the very religious among them. With article fully digested, I felt I had some good insight into Floridian political life, and from the eyes of this tourist, the author’s take on Florida seems to be quite true. I’ve never seen so many large, full-service Christian churches, block after block in Bradenton, FL. The “prayer station” next to the beach really clinched for me how intimately linked daily life, evangelical Christianity and tourism are in the Gulf region – heck, probably all over Florida and most of the Atlantic south. Couple that with the XXX mega stores in the strip mall next to McDonald’s, the Christian bookstore, the funeral home and the liquor mart, and I feel I’m experiencing America in a nutshell. I know that’s a bit unfair as an assessment. But then again, put in relief, the selling of sex, death, God and burgers really does about capture it all.

Vacation (Ctd)

First of all, in case anyone in the north has forgotten, the sun is actually hot. This means even relatively short periods of exposure after one’s body has been covered in sunblock can still lead to roasting. Both Carrie and I are a mix of lily white and totally burnt. There is not a “tan” patch anywhere on either of our bodies. But there are plenty of days left on the vacation.

My new favorite bird is the sandpiper. Mostly, they just run around, which is cool. They look like they’re running really hard. And I like their beaks.

After spending the first night on St. Pete beach, which is a crowded high rise family resort sort of place, we went down to Ana Maria Island, which is considerably quieter. We’ve got a place with a kitchenette and a separate bedroom which means we can stay in when we like and operate on our own schedule. The only hitch is that the smoke detector is too close to the kitchenette and is awfully sensitive. In fact, after ours went off, we would occasionally hear others going off in other people’s units. So it’s not just us.

The beach is amazing. The island is about 3 blocks wide, and we do have to cross the street to get to the beach, but this stretch really has almost nothing on it except furniture for us to lay down on, sand and sand sculptures, and beautiful crystalline waters that make that lovely swooshing sound they make. The Gulf of Mexico has that same calming effect as the ocean, and it tastes just as salty.

The towns nearby are all super conservative: tons of churches and tons of real estate offices, in case you wonder what the locals’ two big preoccupations are. There’s also the “mobile prayer station” and the stretch of highway that is being sponsored by the John Birch Society.

Mostly, though, we ignore all that like good consumers and go about our vacationing business.

We also picked up some Cds to listen to as we drive around. My capsule reviews (keep in mind we were not going to find the hip indie record store down here):

And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead (latest one): track 2 absolutely 100% kills. It’s an amazing rock song. Bordering on prog rock in its high concept-ness, though they don’t overplay. That said, the rest of the album is the album that they were supposed to make. You know, the one where the band “matures” and takes a “giant leap forward.” Unfortunately, that may have been their EP “Secrets of Elena’s Tomb.” This one is just plain old uneven.

Arcade Fire: I know I am under tremendous pressure to like this one as a good Montreal wannabe hipster. There are a couple tasty tunes but the jury’s out because of the shaky singing. Will I get used to it or will I forever see it as an affectation that makes a virtue of a necessity? Also, I’m starting to get a feeling that there’s this whole Canadian indierock thing about having a lot of people and a lot of instruments in your band.

Queen Latifah: the jazz album where she sings. It sounds exactly like a very, very standard album of female jazz vocals accompanied by a competent backing band. Inoffensive, which is unfortunate in this case.

Zero7: Exactly like their first album “Simple Things,” except different songs. Which is to say that they didn’t try to mature. Extremely pleasing 1970s mellow, but perhaps not the ideal choice for driving around.

UNKLE: the new one. Very good, but whoever wrote the blurb from Rolling Stone that said it was a “dance” album is crazy. It’s very mellow.

DJ Shadow, Preemptive Strike: early singles. Lots of tasty beats. I asked Carrie at one point if, in the future, I were to do a DJ album, whether I could record her saying “Jon, I want you to play me some tasty beats!” She assented, but I think she is counting on this never actually happening.