Cinema History Bursts Onto The Scene (And All Over Your Face)

You’d think it would be easier to find a cumshot on the web.

I mean, really, all you need are opposable thumbs to work a mouse and keyboard, and any search engine. But I guess it gets tougher when you’re looking for one particular cumshot that dates back to 1929 and doesn’t involve Peter North. Sure, Mr. North has been in the business a long time, but not quite that long.

I’ve been having meetings about one of my feature-length scripts again. It’s one that’s peppered with film references. Normally I hate when movies do that, but this particular script is about a trio of film geeks, so it’s kind of hard to avoid the shop talk. I figure if I’m obliged to include self-referential movie-buff jargon, I’m going to make it as obscure as humanly possible. There’s nothing worse than when a movie has its characters talk about film and all they can reference is fucking Star Wars.

One bit of dialogue in my script dredges up the memory of Soviet propagandist Sergei Eistenstein and his communist-cheerleading feature, The General Line AKA The Old and the New from 1929. In one particularly inspiring moment, Russian peasants are introduced to the wonders of the modern world as an industrial creamer accomplishes, in short order, what used to take them hours of backbreaking labour. It’s a glorious moment, and they all beam in delight, confident that the revolution marches on and will deliver all sorts of efficiency miracles in the years to come. Surely if mother Russian can produce this much cream this quickly, communism will prevail in the international struggle of ideologies and all will be well in the world. Oh, and they’re also really happy because they’ve just invented the cumshot.

Or so my lead character postulates in his interpretation of the scene that just happens to mirror my own. Sergei Eistenstein films are somewhat unwatchable by today’s standards. Barring the battle in Alexander Nevsky, or the uber-famous Odessa Steps sequence from The Battleship Potemkin, Eistenstein’s work has become an historical footnote from a failed political system. It’s old, it’s dusty, and it’s every bit as heavy-handed as the communist ideals it so loudly (in a silent-film sort of way) endorses. Nevertheless, his contribution to cinema was enormous. Just like some of the other early film pioneers who made movies in support of some really reprehensible ideas (D.W. Griffith, Leni Riefenstahl), he somehow managed to help create the basic vocabulary of film despite being on the wrong side of the social-engineering fence. Much of what he and a select few of his contemporaries invented in their movies is part of what we now consider basic elements of how to tell a story with moving pictures. Someone had to come up with these shots, these compositions, these cuts we all take for granted now. Eisenstein was one of the first great director innovators and his contribution to film as an art form cannot be underestimated.

And he created the cumshot. No, really.

Porn is as old as cinema itself. In fact, one of the very first motion pictures, The Kiss, was considered pretty pornographic back in the Victorian era. It didn’t take long for people with cameras to start pointing them at naked people getting it on, but the idea of going all the way and showing ejaculation as part of projected erotica took a while longer to get around to. Leave it then, to Eistenstein, to invent what would become the porn industry’s “money shot” — not in a sex film, but in an industrial communist propaganda film. Genius!

Watch this Youtube clip if you doubt me. Eisenstein was so forward-thinking, he not only invented the cumshot, he anticipated the bukkake film.

Marfa Lapkina takes it like a trooper in her one and only screen role.

I wanted to show this clip to our gathering of actors and producers so they could understand what I was on about, but it took a bit more digging back home for me to find the scene in question. The General Line is not terribly well-known or regarded these days, and my usual movie-geek bit-torrent sources came up empty. It figures Youtube would have the right clip. They have pretty much anything that copyright lawyers can’t squeeze a buck out of. Now, at last, the cast and crew can see it for themselves. And they’ll know I’m not crazy in the head. I just have a dirty mind.

It Was A Nice, Polite Country While It Lasted

I don’t know if you’ve heard the news, but Canada is now, officially, a failed state. After losing a first-round men’s hockey game to the U.S.A. in the Winter Olympics, on home soil no less, we’ve decided to dissolve parliament, abandon our laws and constitution, and fight a few civil wars long-in-coming (yeah, I’m looking at you, Nunavut!). Taking a cue from our failed-state brethren in Africa, we’ve decided to resort to open piracy along our coastlines and launch a genocidal ethnic-cleansing campaign against anyone deemed to be a “hoser.” Oh, and word of advice, if you should receive any unsolicited emails from “a Canadian prince” who wants to use your bank account number to transfer large amounts of money out of his troubled nation in exchange for a hefty handler’s fee, move it to your spam folder. It’s a scam. Unless it happens to be from His Royal Highness, Prince Shane the First of the House of Eyestrain. Then it’s totally legit and you should do exactly what he says.

The 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics persist regardless, however, because we have to do something with all that snow we emergency air-lifted to the venue at great expense. Yes, after years of planning and preparation, construction costs and controversy, training and tragedy, the entire world’s eyes are focused on one sporting event, and one sporting event only. I am, of course, talking about Tiger Woods’ apology speech.

And it was a bit of a dud, wasn’t it? Allow me to offer a rewrite. I know all about rewriting because, as a screenwriter, I’m being rewritten constantly. And it must always be for the better because it ends up on TV, and isn’t TV wonderful? Tiger, here’s what you should have gone with — the non-apology apology. Trust me on this one, I’m a professional.

“Hi, I’m Tiger Woods and I like me some pussy. What can I say, I’m a guy. The issue here seems to be whether or not I should have made a sexual glutton of myself by nailing lots and lots of smoking hot women. I think the answer is obvious. Hell, yeah! I’m incredibly rich, world-famous and dashingly handsome. What the hell’s the point of being rich, famous and handsome if I don’t use those three enviable attributes to help me score? I’m mean, shit, if I didn’t spend every waking hour getting laid, commuting to the next hotel where I’m going to get laid, or chatting up the next girl I’m going to lay, my whole life would just be about golf. Think about that. Golf for fucksake! If I have to play the world’s most boring sport — and I use the term “sport” loosely — in order to make a living, don’t begrudge me the pussy it earns me on the side. I need it to get through the day. If I’m going to apologize for anything, then allow me to say that I’m sorry, truly sorry, that I married a psycho Swedish chick who tried to take my head off with a nine iron when she found out about all those other asses I was tapping. That was inexcusable. I don’t know what I was thinking when I proposed marriage. I must have been drunk or high or something, because why would I get married and forsake all that other pussy out there that was just lining up to get a Tiger in their tank? Crazy, man, crazy.”

It’s not too late. Book another press conference. We’ll all show up. I mean, what the hell else are we going to watch? Elimination curling?

Also in the news, I have to mention the Canadian tall ship, Concordia, which sank 300 miles off the coast of Rio a few days ago. No really. A tall ship. It sank. When was the last time you heard about that sort of thing happening? I’m thinking nineteenth century. It makes you wonder, what the hell happened? Did some peg-legged brigand smoke his corncob pipe too close to the powder magazine when he should have been keeping his one unpatched eye on the cargo of slaves fresh from the Ivory Coast? Arrr matey, they be fetchin’ a fair price after we be stoppin’ by New Providence for a wee spot of rum and doxies, yo-ho! Or maybe it was John Paul Jones who perforated their poop deck when he gave them a broadside of grapeshot, thinking they were a flagship from the Canadas Upper or Lower running his blockade? I’m just saying, it’s a tad nautically retro.

All sixty-four passengers and crew were rescued by the Brazilian navy and merchant vessels. No one rested their bones in Davey Jones’ locker. It was all so ill-timed. Our newly failed state could have really used that tall ship for our fledgling piracy industry. Such a waste.

Legacy

Even as the whole world celebrates the inauguration of Barack Obama, my thoughts can’t help but drift to the ever-tenuous reputation of George Bush. As he slithers out the back door of the White House, leaving behind two wars, a ruined economy, destroyed foreign relations, and a viscous trail of slime, I can’t help but feel a little bad. As historians debate what his final legacy may be, hyperbolic insults continue to be uttered and may grow deafening again as the title “Worst President in History” solidifies. Much as he may have all this and more coming, can we, at the very least, finally put the Hitler comparisons to rest? I mean, really, it’s rude, it’s insulting and it’s demeaning.

To Hitler.

Old Adolf is already history’s greatest boogieman. Do we really have to subject him to the final insult of comparing him to George W. Bush? Give the poor genocidal maniac a break. Sure, they’re both war criminals responsible for brutality and torture on a massive scale. But Adolf Hitler was a competent war criminal. Bush, on the other hand, has gone about his crimes against humanity in bumbling-boob fashion. Mean-spirited comparisons between him and the legendary Nazi dictator do serious damage to the memory of Hitler, and tarnish his otherwise impeccable reputation as the most despised monster of the last thousand years.

Now, I know, Hitler made his fair share of boneheaded mistakes. In retrospect, declaring war on America following the bombing of Pearl Harbor wasn’t the smartest move. Nor was ignoring Napoleonic history and pressing his invasion of Russia well into the winter months. And really, what was up with that moustache? Bad bad choices all. But he never stooped to the astonishing level of slack-jawed idiocy of Bush. Hitler’s speeches may have been loud, frantic, even hysterical. But the words all made sense. Not necessarily in their philosophical content, but at least in the logical progression of one word following the next and forming correct sentence structure. Hitler’s policies may have been insanely xenophobic and dire in their consequences, but they didn’t work completely counter to his own stated objectives. It took invading armies to bring his country to ruin, not greed-fuelled economic models. And Hitler, to the very best of my knowledge, never nearly choked himself to death on a pretzel. Nor on any other Bavarian snack food for that matter.

So please, for the sake of correct historical context, try to refrain from the cheap and easy sport of comparing George Bush to Adolf Hitler. He’s more of a retarded, lobotomized genetic hybrid of Rudolph Hess and the monkey from Outbreak.

The Germans Invade Again

Historically, the Germans are a tad, shall we say, grabby. Over the course of the first half of the 20th century in particular, they developed an unfortunate habit of marching into neighbouring countries uninvited and behaving badly. You know, doing rude things like not wiping their feet at the door, eating the last biscuits without asking if anyone else would like some, killing Anne Frank, and telling off-colour Bavarian jokes in polite company.

Now they’ve gone too far. Look, Germans, you can have Poland. Take Czechoslovakia if you must. But leave my toons alone.

I visit YouTube from time to time, to see if anyone has pirated more of my shows so I can link them (thereby further encouraging the piracy and illegal distribution of copyrighted material). So far there’s only a few clips from my most recently aired cartoon, Ricky Sprocket, but one of them is from an episode I wrote called, Ricky Who?

I’ve seen other cartoons I’ve written show up online dubbed into a variety of languages, but this one is different. There’s a kid — some German child — pointing a camera at a television with the sound off, making up his own dialogue. In German! How dare he!

Look, I’m sure his dialogue is better than mine, but that’s not the point. Television is supposed to be a passive medium. You stare at it blankly and turn your brain off. In no way is it supposed to encourage creativity or inventive interaction. So knock that shit off right now young man, or I’ll sue your ass for all the Euros or Deutsche Marks or Swiss bank account numbers or whatever it is you have in your piggy bank. Mostly because you’re German and you have to learn: Don’t touch what ain’t yours.

What? I’m sorry? Oh. This just in. This clip is actually Dutch, not German. Oops.

I would like to take this opportunity to apologize to the fine and noble German people, who have always gone out of their way to support my work, and haven’t invaded a single country so far this entire century. Except Afghanistan. But that one doesn’t really count because it was sort of an international invading-army gang bang.

I will now turn my rightful indignation on the Dutch, who also have it coming.

Umm. Your trade monopoly on the island of Dejima for over two hundred years was unfair to your European competitors and only encouraged feudal Japan’s isolationist politics that would later necessitate their rush to join the arms race in the post-Meiji Restoration period at the end of the 19th century! So there.

Harsh, I know. But somebody had to say it.

Things I Learned In 2007

Another year and what’s it all come to? Even a know-it-all like me has to admit that a full year of travels and experiences must still amount to some measure of enlightenment. Here are the few pearls of wisdom I managed to glean from 2007 by keeping my eyes and ears open.

1. I’m allergic to Ground Zero.

During my recent trip to New York, I started to experience a severe allergic reaction to something. My nose was in agony, with a tickle deep in my sinuses, and my right eye was leaking like a tap. These symptoms dogged me for the better part of a day before finally fading in the evening. What had I done to bring this on? Well, I’d eaten a salmon omelet, driven in a New York cab, watched Fox News, visited Ground Zero, had a bag of vendor peanuts…

Wait, back up.

Watched Fox News. Hmmm.

No, forward a bit.

Visited Ground Zero.

Damn near everything I was interested in seeing was shut down thanks to various entertainment industry strikes. But at least one stage show was still packing in the crowds. The circus that is Ground Zero remains a vibrant tourist trap, filled with rich opportunities to gawk, grieve and buy tacky twin-towers souvenirs.

Or you could just try to sell your conspiracy-theory manifesto like this guy, who didn’t particularly care for me snapping his photo — obviously at the behest of a Black Ops death squad that has been monitoring his thoughts via satellite technology obtained from a crashed alien spacecraft in Area 52.

I considered my allergies might have been a reaction to the general filth of New York City, but the symptoms returned the next day when I traveled to the south end of town again. I really think it was Ground Zero. The ongoing construction continues to stir up who-knows-what toxic crap that still remains in the area. Conspiracy theorists are free to speculate what exactly that toxic crap may be. Personally, I expect it’s something rather mundane and boring. Like asbestos.

2. It takes a German.

Body Worlds 2 enjoyed sell-out crowds in Montreal this summer. This was the second in a series of shows that travel the world displaying human bodies prepared by plastination. Yes, we’re talking real dead people, skinned, preserved, and posed under glass to illustrate the wonders of our insides. The Body Worlds exhibits have been going on for years, but remain controversial because of their uncomfortable mix of science and art. Seeing what people’s muscles and organs look like as they perform common activities has value as a teaching tool. But some of the bodies — like the one that had been effectively turned into a chest of drawers, with different compartments left ajar in an oddly aesthetic cubist manner — seem to be the hapless victims of Hollywood’s next franchised serial killer. The creator of the show, Gunther von Hagens, makes sure everybody knows that all the bodies were obtained through detailed consent forms. If you have any doubt, you can grab one of the consent forms yourself. They’re readily available to anyone interested, and I couldn’t help but wonder who there was already eyeing my carcass for a future display. I don’t think I could qualify as the next “Basketball Player” or “Swimmer” body, but if they’re planning a “Television Watcher” display, I’m their corpse.

3. Fuck the Smithsonian.

A weekend trip to Knowlton in the Eastern Townships of Quebec brought me to a little rural museum run by the Brome County Historical Society. As we were driving into town, it was casually mentioned to me that the museum housed an actual World War I fighter plane that had been sitting inside since 1920. Being a bit goofy for WWI aviation history, I had to check it out. Sure enough, they have their very own Fokker D VII, the last of its kind in the world still with its original canvas skin. It was one of a few brought back to Ottawa as war trophies following Germany’s defeat. When the Brome County Historical Society wrote to the government asking for something — anything — from the war to put in their museum, they received a bunch of packages with an entire disassembled airplane. It took them a couple of years to construct a building to house it. Once it was done, they put the Fokker back together inside and its been sitting there ever since, perfectly preserved. Several years ago, a goon squad from the Smithsonian Institute dropped by to visit the museum’s prized possession. They were horrified to see it was in a wooden building with inadequate fire protection. They expressed their great interest in procuring the D VII for their own rather-more-famous museum. The Brome County Historical Society told them, in their polite Canadian way, to get bent. And they were absolutely right to do so. Sure, maybe this priceless war relic will burn to the ground one day when some smoker gets careless with a butt. But the Smithsonian has enough shit already, so fuck ’em.

4. Not everybody in Canada is an atheist yet.

I hadn’t been to Halifax in years — not since I took a sixteen-hour bus trip to visit friends in university and shared a single bed with a close friend for one uncomfortably close night. My travel experience this time around was rather more relaxed because I was flying there, staying in a beautiful oceanside house, and sharing a double bed with my wife. You’d be surprised how these little luxuries can improve the whole experience. When I wasn’t eating tremendous amounts of sea food, I was taking in the sites. Being mostly outside the city this time around, it struck me how much the locals wear their religion on their sleeve. I expect bible quotations on convenience store signs when I’m in Texas, but not so much when I’m anywhere in Canada. Maybe it’s because I’m from Quebec, a province that used to be run by the Catholic church until everyone collectively decided they’d had enough of that shit and abandoned religion in such numbers that there’s nothing left to do but turn all the churches and convents into condos. Faith remains alive and well in the maritimes it seems. I expect it has a lot to do with the fishing industry. The sea has a habit of eating sailors mercilessly and completely at random. I saw enough graveyards scattered throughout the area to remind me of this. I guess if your job is that dangerous, you’d better believe in something bigger than a retirement fund.

5. The Chinese are even smarter than I thought.

Why invade when you can just send your enemy lead-painted toys? America thinks they’re winning the cultural cold war with China by turning them into capitalists. But China is simply using the free market to further weaken the United States and turn it into a nation of retards by feeding its children a steady diet of brain-damaging heavy metals. The American feast of lead paint explains much about where they find themselves today — up to and including the Bush presidency. One more generation of this and they’ll be so stupid they’ll lose the ability to press the right combination of buttons to launch their vast nuclear arsenal. And by then, the landing crafts will be at their shores. Americans will be reduced to throwing their own poo at the invading red army, and they’ll go down in history as the first empire to fall through idiocy alone.

6. I don’t attend to my blog enough.

But you knew that already.

As the final hours of 2007 tick away, enjoy some more random snapshots from my digital photo album.

I had to go visit Peggy’s Cove again. Last time I was there it was a gale and all I saw was inky blackness and rain hitting my face.

Nova Scotia has no end of quaint fishing villages trying to unload all those damn lobsters.

What Nova Scotia vista would be complete without a washed-up lobster trap?

I have a fetish for aircraft of the Great War. I’d just never go up in one of those death traps.

I also have a fetish for the Chrysler Building — home of Q, the winged serpent.

This does absolutely nothing to stop insane New York drivers from honking constantly.

Ok New York, you win. You have the creepiest mannequins.

Does your city have a 3600-year-old obelisk? No? Then I guess your city just sucks.

Sometimes I take pictures because I think they’ll make a pretty desktop background.

The hippest hole in the ground in the world. Come visit before they fill it all in with buildings and parks and crap.

This tent-like structure just adds to the circus atmosphere.

But then again, the whole city is a big circus freakshow.

If you bought this bridge on eBay, please be advised the City of New York will not honour your purchase. I found this out the hard way and now my PayPal account is down fifty bucks.

No, It’s Not Actually Made Of Ice

I’m not a location scout. But last month I felt it was my duty to make an excursion out to a couple of obscure Montreal locales to snap photos for the benefit of the Irish half of the Paddy Whacking development team.

They’d come over recently to debate the merits of the material as it stood at that time and do some research, but our tour of the city’s underbelly failed to include two key locations. Both figure prominently in the story, and I was compelled to share a virtual tour with them so we would all know what we were writing about.

The Black Rock is a monument to the Irish immigrants who died on the fever ships on their way to a new life in North America during the potato famine. Thousands perished after arriving in Quebec, as did many here who tried to care for them through this epidemic. The rock is placed in the middle of what used to be the cemetery where so many of the victims were buried. Currently the penultimate scene of the series is set there during an official gathering of the local Irish community. Depending on when the shoot happens however, I would never be surprised to see this same scene relocated to take advantage of Montreal’s St. Patrick’s Day parade, the largest in North America. We’ll just have to see when the time comes, but until then, here are some photos of a corner of the city even most locals have probably never seen.Always place your monuments in the middle of a busy streetBe sure to advertise your company when honouring the deadJust in case you forgot it was Irish

I felt it was particularly important for me to make it out to the ice bridge because we have pivotal scenes set there at the beginning and end of the series. All sorts of nefarious goings on happen, at least in our fictional world, out on that barren stretch of pavement that stretches over the St. Lawrence. If you’re familiar with this, the most obscure bridge off the island of Montreal, it’s probably because you’ve crossed it in its context as a foot and bike path. There’s enough space for vehicles to get on, but only city vehicles are authorized to do so for maintenance purposes (specifically to change the bulbs in the lights, I imagine). Its actual function is to break up the ice flow coming down the river in winter, before it hits the bigger and much more expensive Champlain Bridge.

That’s about all I know about the ice bridge. What I didn’t know was that it’s closed to foot and bicycle traffic in winter. Which is why I had to break in to get these shots. Although I’m happy to commit a misdemeanor in the name of fair and accurate screenwriting, I was hardly alone in doing so. There was already a convenient hole torn in the wire fence at the top of a muddy embankment, allowing awkward but reliable access to those who would not be deterred from crossing at any time of the year. Indeed, I passed several joggers and bike riders as a strolled from one side to the other and back again, firing off shot after shot of bland industrial architecture. I won’t bore you with all of them, but these should give you a sense of what it’s like out over the river in February.Champlain Bridge left, ice bridge rightShot through the locked gatesOn the bridge after minor scrapes and cutsA view of the real bridge from the lesser bridgeA chunk of ice makes it through to the ChamplainHeading back to Nun's Island as the sun sets

The most interesting thing to occur on my tour happened when I heard a slow, steady crashing noise on one side of the bridge. I ran over in time to see a huge sheet of ice breaking apart on one of the supports. Only moments later, another sheet came bearing down on the same spot, so I whipped out my camera and grabbed these action shots showing exactly what an ice bridge does during a Canadian winter.Look out!Crack!Sploosh!The ice bridge earns its keep

In other news (at least in news I find interesting), The Passion of the Christ is getting recut and reissued. The new edit of the movie is supposed to remove six minutes of violence so as to make it a more family-friendly snuff film. I doubt the tinkering will end there since, these days, no cut of a movie is the final cut. The director has had his cut. This, I suppose, is the marketer’s cut. The producers will probably have another stab at it. And eventually we can all look forward to the caterer’s cut with plenty of missing Last Supper footage reinserted.

I’m sure, as the years go by, more violence will be deleted with each subsequent release, and eventually the film will be:

FADE IN:

Judas fingers Jesus. Jesus is busted.

CUT TO:

Children hunt for Easter eggs.

THE END

This will be convenient to all those who like their pop culture salvation to come in three-minute doses. Sure, we want to be saved, but does it really have to kill and entire afternoon? Me, I think I’ll stick to my own particular brand of religious cinema. If people can find the Lord in a piece of toast, I can go looking for him here.

And before I sign off, I’ll point you all at the movie night minutes, which is up to date for the first time in months. Go make snide comments at my expense. That’s what the forum is for.

Ireland, Day Four

I wasn’t hung over.

That was something that had concerned me slightly when I’d woken up in the middle of the night with a minor bout of nausea after all that wine. But wide awake again in the morning, I felt perfectly fine for the last day of work.

The final battles for the shape of the show to come were waged throughout the morning and afternoon as we finished banging out what, more or less, would happen over the course of the first four hours of the series. Remarkably it all came together amidst the countless scribbles and notations that covered the large white erasable board at the head of the room (both the front and the reversible side). Once the producers fled the room, it was simply a matter of the writers transcribing all the notes so we could each compile them into some semblance of an outline once we got home.

The day was done early enough for me to take one final stab at tourism. It was my last chance to see the town, my last chance to hike out to an historic landmark. But which one to choose? Well, you can never see too many medieval cathedrals I always say. No, really. Ask my friends. I’m always saying that.

St. Patrick’s Cathedral it was. This one was built after Christchurch so, needless to say, all the stops were pulled out to top the earlier House-o-God. It was bigger, fancier, more Gothic, and with more local dead celebrities of bygone centuries filed into the walls and floors. Among the better known bags of bones interred there is Jonathan Swift, author of Gulliver’s Travels and, slightly less famously, A Modest Proposal, perhaps the greatest work of cannibalism advocacy in the history of literature. Under a slightly smaller floor tile next to him is his long-time significant other, Stella Johnson, who there’s no proof Mr. Swift ever legally married. I guess living in sin isn’t so much of a problem for the church if you’re both conveniently dead, thus their roped-off place of honour on hallowed ground.

Taking pictures inside these holy relics is a dodgy affair and the rules vary. You know how tourists are. They love to snap away. In Christchurch they apparently let you go whole hog. Flashes go off steadily and no one says boo about excessively documenting the place with rolls of film that will bore both family and friends once you get back from vacation. St. Patrick’s, however, is rather snootier about voguing for the camera. If you want a souvenir, then you should bloody well cough up for a St. Patrick medallion like a good little Christian. They aren’t a cheap snapshot sort of cathedral, not like that harlot Christchurch up the street! Oh no. Here you must pay proper respect. And they have enforcer priests patrolling the grounds to fuck you up if you get out of line.

“My son,” he said in that fatherly, understanding, ball-busting tone only men of the cloth have been able to master, “this section is now closed to the public.”

I have to admit, I’m not really wild about guys who are probably younger than me calling me “my son.” It’s creepy. It also makes me feel like a little boy who’s about to be inappropriately touched in his bathing suit area. Sorry, priest dudes, but you seriously need a PR makeover.

Still, as I found myself ushered out of yet another section of the cathedral that was suddenly declared off-limits, I couldn’t help but feel that familiar pang of atheist regret. With the choir’s majestic singing, the towering columns raised to the glory of God, the magnificent stained glass with such fine detail…  Even the four-storey tall monument in which the praying hands off all the figures within reach had been torn off as collectible religious artifacts by devout vandals in centuries past… It put into focus the seductive nature of religion, and again I felt like an outsider looking in at a warm, safe enclave where I could be reassured and loved if only I stopped being such a foolish cynic and let myself believe…

“My son, we’re closing in five minutes.”

This just fifteen minutes after I paid four Euros to get into the place. And with my very soul lying in the balance, I was also reminded of the shameless gouging of the people by religious institutions. Oh sure, you guys were happy to take my money, but where was the tip-off that you were just going to boot my ass out of the place again in a few minutes, huh?

“You’ll have to leave. Unless you’re staying for the service.”

Oh, so that’s it! Give the heathens a taste, welcome them into God’s house, then hit them with the catch. Sure, we can have a quick peek, but if we want a good look around we’d better roll over and let you save our souls. No dice, you fucking drug dealer. Opium of the masses, indeed. Gimme a refund or I’ll roast in hell just to spite you.

No refund, no saved soul. I was out on the street again with only another social engagement of drinking to keep me warm.

Apparently, whenever Bono isn’t jetting around the world telling other people how to run their countries, he’s the proprietor of a hotel in Dublin. I’m sure he owns plenty of other properties too, but I didn’t visit any of them. I really didn’t give much of a shit to see his hotel either, but that’s where our gang ended up. In the bar, naturally. As a celebrity-owned establishment, it draws other celebrities like moths to a much brighter moth. While we were there, one of our group actually spotted some guy I’m not familiar with from a TV show I don’t watch. I was star-struck – or at least I would have been had I actually seen the guy. He was gone before I could look, likely ejected from the grounds because, as we well know, all celebrities are dangerous troublemakers, often armed, sometimes homicidal. Especially TV celebrities. Best to preemptively call the bouncers.

Our last gourmet meal was another showstopper. A showstopper with plenty of potatoes. I generally don’t like to reinforce a bunch of negative stereotypes. For example, I’ve tried not to give the impression in these last few entries that the Irish are fond of drink. I’ve failed miserably in this because they ARE, in fact, fond of drink, and I’ve repeatedly mentioned it. But (and this is the important distinction) I’ve TRIED not to. Well, again, I’m trying not to give the impression that the Irish eat a lot of potatoes. It’s a silly cliché and I’ve hardly had anything to say about potatoes this whole time (unless you count the potato famine and chips). But I would be terribly remiss in my impartial reporting of the facts if I didn’t note that in a number of Irish restaurants, in addition to your appetizers and main dishes, they’re also in the habit of bringing a big bowl of unsolicited potatoes to the table. I dismissed it the first time it happened, but it kept happening. It’s like the country is so overwhelmed with potatoes, they have to force them on you.

“Look, we know you didn’t order this, but could you please eat some. We forgot to plant anything else this year and now we stuck with several million tons of the bastards.”

What the hell did they grow there for thousands of years before someone brought a boatload of spuds back from overseas?

The evening ended in the V.I.P. lounge of what, I gather, is one of Dublin’s more exclusive clubs. I don’t recall ever getting into a V.I.P. lounge of a club before, largely because I’ve rarely bothered to cross the threshold of many clubs in the past. Apparently, the key is the be in the company of someone who has spent huge wads of cash there. I guess you could earn your own way into the lounge with repeat visits and plenty of greased palms, but that seems terribly time-consuming and expensive to me. Especially since, under normal circumstances, it’s unlikely I’d ever been deemed cool enough to make it past the doorman and into the general dance area to begin with.

The funny thing about a V.I.P. lounge is that if it weren’t a V.I.P. lounge, it’s a part of the club you’d never want to hang out in. Comparatively, it’s dead. All the drinking, dancing and hot chicks drinking and dancing happens in the other rooms. The lounge, however, is where you go to have a relaxing evening with friends, away from all the noise and bother of the rest of the place. You might as well stay home and read a good book. The fact that this particular V.I.P. lounge was filled with shelves of books is telling. I expect the usual chain of events goes something like this:

“Boy, I wish I could get into that trendy club.”

“Now that I’m in the club, I wish I could get into the V.I.P. lounge.”

“All right! They’re letting me into the V.I.P. lounge!”

“Nothing’s happening in here. I’m bored.”

“Hey, check it out! Books.”

“Shhhh. I’m trying to read.”

Finally acclimatized to the time zone after four days in town, I felt ready, able and willing to stay up all night drinking and having fun. So we promptly went to bed early. Our plane ride back home was around noon the next day and we wanted to get plenty of rest before facing the gauntlet of security checks, customs agents, and flight delays.

Being the only one to have hiked all over town, I was the designated navigator who safely steered the remaining members of the Canadian delegation back to the hotel.

Try double clicking after all that whiskey

The face of modern Dublin. Internet café next to the pub. Drunken surfing ensues.

Snail mail leaves a trail of green slime

Look! A green mailbox! You crazy Irish, you’re adorable.

Christchurch - shameless whores

You can take pictures of the stained glass in Christchurch because they’re a bunch of whores.

St. Patrick's - holier than thou douch bags

Not so in St. Patrick’s, but I took one anyway. Four Euros to get in and they didn’t tell me they were just about to close? Well no one expressly told me not to take pictures either, so I guess we’re even. Pious dickheads.

Ireland, Day Three

“How, exactly, do you consider yourself a teetotaler?”

This from the head of the Irish production company over dinner. Two days earlier I had excused myself for nursing my Guinness and failing to pound down the booze with the big kids using this lame, but generally accurate descriptive term. Now I was drunk, and there was no denying it. I’d been outpacing much of the table, greedily guzzling quality wine that had been ordered in bulk. Someone kept filling my glass, and I hate to be rude by letting a fine vintage I know nothing about go to waste.

By day three we had settled into a routine of a room full of producers, broadcasters and writers bickering with each other about a bunch of fictional characters and their imaginary tomfoolery. It’s silly that grown men and women do this sort of thing at all, let alone do this sort of thing for a living with huge wads of cash on the line. If we had all been rolling a bunch of ten and twenty-sided dice, it would have been eerily like my last role playing session in college – the one that made me quit because I much preferred getting on with the story as opposed to arguing over who made what saving throw versus sudden death. Well, turns out writing in the big leagues isn’t all that different. Now they just pay me for being a geek.

The only thing that kept day two of work from being a virtual carbon copy of day one was our lunchtime excursion for some authentic U.K. cuisine – namely fish & chips. The smoked cod came highly recommended, and I must say it was something of a relief to eat a meal that didn’t require me to keep track of the correct fork for the correct course. It’s fun to play snob every once in a while, but when it comes to stuffing my face, I enjoy myself more when the only point of etiquette to keep is mind is to not vomit directly onto someone else’s plate. You can call me low-class if you must.

The day ended early enough for me to get in some good urban hiking before the next social engagement. I’d failed to walk all the way along the River Liffey my first day out, and this time I was determined to get a look at the sea. Mapping my rather lengthy route out to a marked green space north of the docks, I began an excursion that took me through some of the rather less scenic sections of town. The highlight of this trip was my epic journey along Wall Road. Aptly named, Wall Road consists of two imposing walls on either side of the road and a lot of trucks rumbling up and down it, kicking all sorts of dust and grit into the air that helps mask the rotten fish smell. After cutting through this industrial wasteland and marching another mile up a road that was one massive construction site for another one of Dublin’s ill-conceived infrastructure plans (this one a tunnel too small to fit the trucks it’s suppose to service), I finally arrived at my goal. The shoreline.

The blandest, most uninteresting stretch of shoreline I’d ever laid my eyes on. I took a picture so I could remember it forever.

I could stare at it for seconds at a time

At this point I was navigating with a much better map than the one I’d downloaded and printed out. Dublin Castle had offered me a very functional free tourist map. I had now, however, walked right off the edge of it.

My original intention had been to take the train back downtown. I spent far too long trying to find the station, and longer still trying to find the cleverly hidden entrance to the station grounds. They tried to fool me by disguising it as a hedge, but I clued into their deceit after some twenty solid minutes of hunting. The train, however, proved to be off limits to the casual commuter, with an elaborate pricing system and an exact change rule. Thoroughly intimidated, I decided it would be much easier to walk my ass back to the hotel through the rather less-nice north end of town. I can offer no pictures of this leg of the journey since I assumed that the sight of a camera might label me a readily muggable tourist even more than my infrequent but necessary map consultations.

Arriving at my hotel in once piece, I had exactly enough time to change and rendezvous for the next grand feast. More great food and a perfectly drinkable wine aside, the most interesting wrinkle on the evening for me was the arrival of another member of the Irish film industry. Not directly associated with our own production, he nevertheless proved to be an interesting conversationalist with a genuine appreciation for Irish history, medieval to ancient. I suppose it helped that he lived on a particularly historic stretch of land popular with the pagans who descended on the property once a year during some equinox-type event to eat huge quantities of magic mushrooms. Mind you, every stretch of property in Ireland is historic in some way. In fact, he explained, metal detectors are highly restricted in the country and you need a special government permit to operate one. Why? Because you WILL find stuff. In North America you’ll likely come up with a lot of bottle caps and, if you’re very lucky, pocket change. In Ireland you could well stumble across a national heirloom. So the government wants to know there are reputable archaeologists snooping around out there, not some beachcomber in a floppy sunhat and a Hawaiian t-shirt who’ll take a priceless artifact to the pawn shop for beer money. They already have their hands full trying to keep farmers from ploughing over priceless dig sites in the name of good grazing or a higher potato crop yield.

As I downed yet another glass of wine which, peculiarly, increased the decibel level of my conversation with each mouthful, our Irish historian also had some words of wisdom for us. If it’s not an actual Irish proverb, it seems to sum up a common sentiment.

“Don’t trust a friend who won’t get drunk with you.”

As I walked home, making a conscious effort to keep from staggering around on my uncoordinated feet, I felt I’d successfully earned that trust.

Tina, if you love me, you'll let me eat your POTATO!

An ode to the potato famine, this charming statue looks as though it might have been designed by George Romero. The hungry peasants, wasting away from the legendary 19th century blight, look like they would gladly take a bite out of you in an effort to put some meat back on their ribs. I particularly like the starving dog in the back. He makes for a nice final touch of horror to the landmark I vote “Most likely to traumatize children for life.”

Olaf double parked at the marina again

The warning against vandalizing public property is likely directed at the Vikings in the longboat parked across the river. A thousand years later and those Scandinavian bastards still don’t know when to stop pillaging.

Ireland, Day One

Less than an hour in the country and what was the hot topic of discussion? Booze. Guinness specifically – Guinness predictably. Our cabbie was explaining to us that should the tap at the pub ever run dry of Guinness, the only acceptable substitute is Budweiser. Not Kilkenny as one might assume.

“Budweiser?” I asked incredulously. I’m not beer drinker, but I’d still been raised with a healthy disdain for all American beer, which seems to be shared the world over. Or at least everywhere that’s not America.

“Oh, don’t get me wrong,” he explained, “Budweiser is horse piss. But it’s better than Kilkenny.”

I suspect this is a regional argument, centred around Dublin, home of Guinness (which also makes Kilkenny despite it being named for another town). Much as you don’t come to Montreal extolling the virtues of the Toronto Maple Leafs, you don’t come to Dublin and talk about Kilkenny unless you want to be sipping your Kilkenny through broken teeth. If you have any doubt about the local loyalty to the dark ale in question, just hang around the baggage carousel at the airport for a few minutes and you’ll get the picture. I spent a good deal of time there waiting for the verdict on my travel companions’ lost luggage that had failed to make the Philadelphia switch. In that time I was subjected to the same ad over and over again on a television monitor that was supposed to be offering useful flight information, but was instead telling me, “No trip to Dublin is complete without a visit to the Guinness brewery.”

Seriously. Dublin has buildings that are A THOUSAND YEARS OLD. They’re just sitting there waiting for you to come and explore them. There’s so much history on a block-by-block basis, it can make your head explode. And they want me to run and see where they make the fucking beer?

It was Tuesday morning. Once we were safely checked into our luxury hotel and had a good greasy Irish breakfast in our bellies, it was time to get some rest. This was set aside as a day of relaxation and reorientation to shrug off the jet lag and catch up on our sleep.

I was having none of that.

Fuelled by a fresh pot of strong coffee, and armed with a printout of a wildly inaccurate city map I found on the web, I took to the streets. If I was going to be stuck in a conference room for the next three days arguing the minutiae of a TV show that didn’t even exist yet, I was going to seize my one big chance to take in the sights.

Dublin is a very walkable city. You can cover a lot of ground and see a lot of landmarks in a short period of time because the layout hasn’t changed much in centuries. As other cities might have a clothing district or jewelers district, Dublin has things like a Viking district, because those were the guys who got to shape that end of town over 1200 years ago. Recent buildings date back to the mid 1800’s. Brand new buildings are scarce and you actually have to search for them. This is what a European city looks like when the Germans don’t get a chance to bomb it flat.

The fact that Dubliners seem to care much more passionately about their beer than their history is easily explained once you’ve walked around for a few hours. Beer is an immediate experience. It’s here, it’s now, it’s on demand, and it’s always fresh. The history, however, is tremendously old and all-encompassing. It’s bloody everywhere, and it’s overwhelming. You walk on it, you breathe it, and if you don’t look out, you’ll bump your head on it. There’s simply too much to take in, so you become blasé about it as a defense mechanism. By mid-afternoon I was turning my nose up at two or three hundred year old architecture.

“Two or three hundred years? Bah! Show me something OLD. If it doesn’t predate the discovery of the New World, I’m not interested.”

And there’s more than enough of that stuff to go around, too. Understand, I was born and raised in Canada and live in a house that was built a mere forty-four years ago. If we, as Canadians, see something that’s been around for a century, we think it’s old. We have no concept of ancient whatsoever. There are trees in this country, alive and well today, that pre-date the arrival of our earliest European settlers. Dublin, on the other hand, has books lying around that were written before anyone knew my home continent even existed. So when I walk through the crypt beneath Christchurch Cathedral, or spelunk my way into the remains of Dublin Castle’s original northeast tower (the one where they had to remove all the rotted heads before they could parade the tourists through the area), or walk along the city wall gates that were erected to keep the Vikings from returning to set up shop again…well, it’s hard for my little Canuck mind to grasp the sheer longevity of it all.

By early evening, I’d seen an insane number of landmarks without ever having to hail a cab or hop a bus. I returned to the hotel to shower, change, and hook up with everyone involved with both ends of the proposed production in time to hit the pubs.

I’d been warned there would be drinking involved. This was, after all, Ireland. My ancestors had vacated the premises and hopped over to England generations ago, but judging from some of my relations, the fondness for drink went with them. It’s not something I inherited, however, so I’d been wracked with performance anxiety for weeks. As I struggled through my obligatory pint of Guinness, I was already on my way to drinking myself under the table. It wasn’t drunkenness, it was exhaustion. At this point I’d been up for a good thirty-two hours straight, and there was no way I was going to survive a night of socializing and shots. I wasn’t just nodding off, I was about ready to hit the floor dead to the world.

Excusing myself on the grounds that I wanted to be fresh for the next day when work would actually begin, I returned to the hotel, made a quick supper of the complimentary fruit and chocolates that had been brought up to my room, and then lapsed into a coma.

flyingpig

Exiting Dublin Airport, the first landmark of note is the flying pig statue opposite the taxi pickup lane. The implied message at this bustling airport: You’ll get a cab into town when pigs fly.

Trinity

The entrance to the grounds of Trinity College where Oscar Wilde (and I suppose a few others) studied. The cobble stones are worn away to a fine polish by centuries of footsteps. The mortar between them has suffered even more wear and tear, making the height difference between it and the stones it binds together painful to walk across. This is, doubtless, an intentional feature to discourage the legions of tourists who come to see the Book of Kells. Although I was not turned back by the uncomfortable courtyard surface, I was driven off by the discouragingly long line of people there to see the day’s four page display.

 Battlements offer a great view from the end of a pike

Dublin Castle, now headless. Note the varying styles of architecture typical of buildings this old. You can tell on a century-by-century basis which parts burned down and when they were rebuilt. The turret is the one remaining tower of the original castle. The cathedral is a much later addition, the interior of which is mostly wood that only looks like marble. The cathedral had to be made very lightweight so as not to collapse into the old moat that still runs beneath it and the adjoining parking lot.

When sacred ground just ain't good enough for you

Get famous enough in Ireland and you too might be interred in one of its famous cathedrals. The centuries will just fly by as addle-minded tourists of all faiths rub their grubby little hands over your monument and wear away the finer details of the masonry. The fellow up front has only been around for a century and a half, so his sarcophagus is still in good shape. Not so the chap in the background who, as one of Christchurch’s oldest fixtures, has been worn down to an indistinct nub.

Bearing little resemblance to Cate Blanchett

No room in your local cathedral? Well, you can still hope for a statue if you’re a big shot, or a bust if you’re a murdered crusading reporter. Okay, a bust isn’t as cool as a whole statue, but not many of those statue guys get a feature film tossed into the deal.

No solicitors or pillagers

Once they kicked the Vikings out, it was time to build a city wall to make sure they never came back. This used to be the front door of the city back in 1240.

Nice try Dublin, but Toronto's phallus is still bigger

But don’t go thinking all of Dublin’s monuments and landmarks are ancient. The Spire, erected way back in 2003 and pictured left, is the tallest structure in the city. Surrounded by so many old buildings, its gleaming smooth metal surface makes it look completely unreal from a distance, like a bad cgi effect dropped into a low budget science fiction movie to make an otherwise normal cityscape look all futuristic and Jetsonsesque. Ultimately, it’s just a spike. And it lights up at night. “Yes, but what’s it for?” we asked our cab driver as we passed by. “It’s for wasting our money,” he told us flatly. Four million Euros to be exact.