Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Paris Tour--Part 2

It was already on my second day in Paris that I'd discovered my "outside office": a café on la Place Saint-Michel, presided over by an impressive fountain of Saint Michael slaying the Devil.

Located on the Rive Gauche off the Pont Saint-Michel to Ile de la Cité, the square has a perfect view of Notre Dame and the spire of Saint-Chapelle behind the Palais de Justice. Place Saint-Michel is a crossroads for several major boulevards and colourful narrow alleys which spill a constant flow of tourists, pilgrims and locals into the open square.

By the third day, I'd already acquired my obligatory scarf (90% of Parisiennes wear them, along with gorgeous shoes, being stylish dressers) and was getting very comfortable in this beautiful city. I had settled in my corner of the café with a pastis (an anise-flavoured liqueur) and café creme and was reading le Monde when a gaggle of tourists from Rhode Island swept into the café. As one bumped up against my chair, she excused herself in broken French. I had a revellation: they thought I was a local! I responded in English, which ended in a wonderful conversation and this picture of me, where I confess I have done some of my best work... (that pastis was very nice!).

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Paris Tour—Part 1

Bonjours de Paris, La Ville-lumière. I’ve dropped by momentarily to give you a little report of my research progress on my current book, a historical fantasy about a girl, Vivianne, from medieval Prussia, and a boy, François, from modern-day Paris (see my previous post).

Toulouse and I settled in very nicely in a little apartment on Rue Princesse, just off Boulevard Saint Germain in the 6ieme arrondissement. Once the hangout for bohemians and intellectuals, this neighbourhood underwent gentrification and is now newly chic, with upscale boutiques, art galleries, and restaurants.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

A Butterfly in Peking by Nina Munteanu

A Butterfly in Peking is about the casualties of war and violence. It first appeared in the Bram Stoker Award-winning webzine Chiaroscuro (Chizine: Issue #17) It was later translated and reprinted in Nowa Fantastyka (Poland) and in The Dramaturges of Yann (Greece). It is scheduled to appear in a collection of short stories entitled "Natural Selection" by Pixl Press (an imprint of Starfire World Syndicate).

Friday, April 11, 2008

Paris: City of Light--Friday Feature

Today’s Friday Feature is Paris, the City of Light. I’m heading there with my friend, Toulouse (napping on my shoulder in the photo below). He isn’t too excited because he’s, well, French. But it’s my first visit to this splendid city and I have to admit to you that I am randy round the bend ecstatic. Paris is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, with over 30 million foreign visitors per year. And for good reason.

Paris has been a beacon of culture and art for centuries, long considered a world capital of art, fashion, food, literature and ideas. Paris is a symbol of all the fine things human civilization can offer. Says Rick Steves, “Come prepared to celebrate, rather than judge, the cultural differences, and you’ll capture the romance and joie de vivre that Paris exudes.” He adds, “Paris offers sweeping boulevards, chatty crepe stands, chic boutiques, and world-class art galleries. Sip decaf with deconstructionists at a sidewalk café, then step into an Impressionist painting in a tree-lined park. Climb Notre-Dame and rub shoulders with gargoyles. Cruise the Seine, zip up the Eiffel Tower, and saunter down the Avenue des Champs-Elysees.”
Paris is known as the "The City of Light" (La Ville-lumière), from its fame as a centre of education and ideas and its early adoption of street lighting. "Modern" Paris is the result of a vast mid-19th century urban remodelling. For centuries the city had been a labyrinth of narrow streets and half-timber houses, but beginning in 1852, the Baron Haussmann's vast urbanisation levelled entire quarters to make way for wide avenues lined with neo-classical stone buildings of bourgeoise standing; most of this 'new' Paris is the Paris we see today.

I’m actually going to Paris to research my latest book, a historical fantasy, about a young girl from medieval Prussia who learns that she can alter history (which is partly why she ends up in slightly future alternate Paris). The day is June 14th, 1411. It’s Vivianne’s 14th birthday and she’s been promised to this nasty foreign dude 30 years older than her and who she’s never met; the day is also the eve of one of medieval time’s greatest battles, “The Battle of Grunwald”. (This battle between the arrogant Teutonic warrior monks and the peasant Lithuanian and Polish armies should have been an easy victory for the Teutonic knights, who were far superior in weaponry, tactics and ambition than the peasant rag-tag armies. It wasn’t; they were all but wiped out. But, what if they hadn’t been?…)

It’s still the eve of the battle and, after being hunted as a witch for being “different”, young Vivianne flees through a time-space tear into an alternate future Paris…one in which—you guessed it—the Nazis currently rule (because they had the chance to evolve sooner, thanks to the survival of the Teutonic Order in a world where intervention—involving Vivianne—allowed them to prevail and see-in an early Germanic Nazi regime).

So, here I am… heading to Paris to see what Vivianne sees. Oh, and to drink and eat too! Ah, the wine… the cheese… the bread… You know what the French say: “Du pain, du vin, du Boursin…”
I’m not sure if we’ll have time to post. So I will leave you with a short story. But either Toulouse or I may come on with an update of our rigorous research. Otherwise, see you in two weeks! Come back tomorrow to read my short story.

Nina Munteanu is an ecologist and internationally published author of novels, short stories and essays. She coaches writers and teaches writing at George Brown College and the University of Toronto. For more about Nina’s coaching & workshops visit www.ninamunteanu.me. Visit www.ninamunteanu.ca for more about her writing.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Climate Change: Part Four—“Smoke and Mirrors”

In an article in Salon.com, Elizabeth Svoboda endorses an outlandish global warming geotechnical “fix” proposed by UC-Irvine physicist, Gregory Benford: "Global warming demands more than do-gooder actions. It demands "geoengineering" -- like blocking the sun's rays with stratospheric dirt."
“Benford thinks Al Gore's a good guy and all, but he also thinks the star of "An Inconvenient Truth" is a little delusional,” says Svoboda. “Driving a hybrid car, switching your bulbs to compact fluorescents and springing for recycled paper products are all well-meaning strategies in the fight against global warming. But as UC-Irvine physicist Benford sees it, there's a catch. Those do-gooder actions are not going to be effective enough to turn the temperature tide, and even incremental political changes like reducing greenhouse gas emissions and mining alternative fuel sources are not forward-thinking enough.”

Monday, April 7, 2008

Climate Change—Part Three: The Dark "Optimism" of James Lovelock

“Climate science maverick James Lovelock believes catastrophe is inevitable, carbon offsetting is a joke and ethical living a scam,” says Decca Aitkenhead in an article in the Guardian. When Aitkenhead asked the 88-year old scientist what he would do, Lovelock replied—rather pithily, I might add: “Enjoy life while you can. Because if you're lucky it's going to be 20 years before it hits the fan."

“Lovelock has been dispensing predictions from his one-man laboratory in an old mill in Cornwall since the mid-1960s, the consistent accuracy of which have earned him a reputation as one of Britain's most respected - if maverick - independent scientists,” says Aitkenhead. “[Lovelock] introduced the Gaia Hypothesis, a revolutionary theory that the Earth is a self-regulating super-organism. Initially ridiculed by many scientists as new age nonsense, today that theory forms the basis of almost all climate science.”

His latest book, The Revenge of Gaia, predicts extreme weather will be the norm, causing global devastation by 2020; and that much of Europe will be Saharan by 2040; and parts of London will be underwater. The most recent Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report reflects some of 88-year old Lovelock’s predictions.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Somerset Bob—Friday Feature

His Tag line reads: where the true and the real are often confused.

He calls himself Somerset Bob. "Because throughout my professional life, I’ve often found myself explaining to people that I’m ‘the other’ Bob Kingsley," he says rather apologetically. "It’s about time that changed. I don’t want to be the other any more. I want to be my own man. I need a new ‘handle’.” … Well, I think he’s found it. And, along with it, a worthwhile cause…
On January of this year, Bob Kingsley wrote this mission statement on his blog, ‘Somerset’ Bob’s Place:

”I’m not a scientist, but since June 2007 I’ve been gathering evidence for climate change from various diverse sources and speculating as to the possible future outcomes indicated by that research. As the months have passed I’ve become increasingly concerned that we’re heading for a sudden, catastrophic climatic event. By “sudden”, I mean just that: not a gradual change over centuries or decades — something to which we might, if we’re lucky, be able to adapt — but an event that will overwhelm us over a matter of a few years or even a single year or season. I’m searching for any evidence that underpins that view and narrows the time-frame so we might know when to expect the change. I’m not preaching about what we as individuals should be doing, I’m warning about what I’m increasingly convinced will be the consequences for us all, no matter how much or how little we each do to minimise our individual energy/carbon footprints. This is not to say we needn’t bother doing anything — far from it. By “thinking globally and acting locally”, as the saying goes, we may be able to delay the catastrophe, which will be a good thing — for people of my generation at least, if not for the next — but as I gather and analyse the information that’s out there, I’m becoming persuaded that despite our best individual efforts, it will ultimately overtake us.” Words reflected grimly by the British maverick scientist, James Lovelock (but that’s a later post of mine).
Bob has posted many stellar articles on climate change. Here are some of them:

Defeat Global Warming? Just Think About It (results of a US university’s study)
The UK Floods (summer flood hits the UK)
Climate Change: Sunspots? Or Us? (BBC News item)
UK Floods: The Crisis Deepens (floods invade southern counties in Britain)
Climate Change: Competing Theories (Gulf Stream and the Jet Stream and Superstorm theory)
Gore Gored by British Judge (facts vs. facts…)
North Polar Meltdown (Al Gore and the NOAA report)
More Climate Change Indicators (latest BBC reports)
Superstorm Authors Vindicated (about the Gulf Stream and superstorm theory)
The Maya and the Arctic Meltdown (Mayan calendar and the end of the world in 2012)
Antarctic Ice Loss Confirmed (latest research)
Sudden Climate Shifts Predicted (journal findings)
Polar Meltdowns: More Evidence Emerges (about the Antarctic’s Larsen B ice shelf breakage)
Being Economical with the Truth (is there really human-induced climate change?)
Antarctic’s PIG Threatening Sea Levels (glacial shrinkage and global sea level rise)
There Goes the Sun (China’s coldest winter in 100 years)
When More Means Less (more about the Arctic winter sea ice debate)

You might know Bob as “Bob Kingsley” through his work as a radio presenter and voice-over artist. You might even think he’s the other Bob Kingsley, but here in cyberspace they call him ‘Somerset’ Bob, and these days he likes to be thought of as a voice-over man and writer. You can hear his sexy voice right here and read some of his writing here.
Here’s Bob’s potted history: Bob has been associated with the UK radio business in one way or another all his adult life, including working as a radio show presenter at various commercial stations in his younger days, but best known as a voice-over artist for nearly 30 years. You’ll find some demo MP3s posted under the Work category of his blog.
But, says Bob, “I really set up [his blog] to give myself an outlet for my lifelong wish to be a writer. Now I’m no longer constantly dashing hither and yon pursuing work in a mad, youthful frenzy, I want to spend more time honing my skills in this noble art, flexing my creative muscles. I’m hoping to write a novel–look for posts about that in the Writing category. I’m also creating what will eventually be an online archive of all my earlier attempts at creative writing. Even if they’re only ever read by a handful of others, I’ll be pleased. They’ve been filed away on my computer or hidden away in desk drawers for years–putting them up on the web is just another way of storing them, except now anyone will be able to read them if they wish. I always wanted people to read my stuff. Isn’t that what any writer wants?”
Yup. So true, Bob!

Nina Munteanu is an ecologist and internationally published author of novels, short stories and essays. She coaches writers and teaches writing at George Brown College and the University of Toronto. For more about Nina’s coaching & workshops visit www.ninamunteanu.me. Visit www.ninamunteanu.ca for more about her writing.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Climate Change--Part 2: Solastalgia

Solastalgia: the sadness caused by environmental change or loss.

Solastalgia: the distress caused by the lived experience of the transformation of one’s home and sense of belonging and is experienced through the feeling of desolation about its change.

“Australia is suffering through its worst dry spell in a millennium. The outback has turned into a dust bowl, crops are dying off at fantastic rates, cities are rationing water, coral reefs are dying, and the agricultural base is evaporating,” wrote Clive Thompson of Wired Magazine last December in a compelling article on “How the Next Victim of Climate Change Will Be Our Minds”.