Saturday, February 10, 2007

The Smoking Section has moved!

I am pleased to announce that The Smoking Section has a new home: Please update your links, bookmarks, feed readers, and other blog paraphernalia accordingly.

See you on the other side!

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Vila does Yulblog




For the complete lowdown, click here.

For the comic, click here.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007


So, it looks like Frank’s going, which substantially increases the likelihood that I’ll go.

What about the rest of you? Will you brave the bone-chilling winds to raise a glass with your fellow scribes? C'mon, you know you want to… (Grins.)

Friday, February 02, 2007

On leaving


Given enough time, a building will start to feel like home. You get to know the cracks, the weak step, the sticky lock. You become chatty with the neighbours. You learn the janitor’s name. If you had to, you could find your way around in the dark. This comforts you.

Then, the restlessness comes, like it always does. Honestly, half of you was already gone.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The drugs don’t work

I’ve been thinking a lot about drugs lately, in large part because other people have been thinking about them. Within the span of a week, I learned that Frank has never done them, that Tornwordo has tried them but didn’t like them, and that spiders weave really fucked up webs when they’re on them.

I also learned that scientists, having unveiled the role of the insula in translating drug-induced sensations into pleasure, are practically tripping over themselves trying to find ways to deactivate this part of the brain, possibly through magnetic stimulation or, alternatively, by pharmaceutical means. Just turn off the pleasure switch and the drugs disappear.

Somewhere in the midst of all this reading, it began to occur to me that the drug experiences I have had in my life may not be as common as I think they are, and that this would explain a whole hell of a lot. But that’s a story for another day.

For now, I want to talk about this extraordinary column by Heather Mallick, which is ostensibly about the Robert Pickton trial but is really about drugs. Mallick begins with a bold statement about the occupation of the murdered women: that prostitution is a side-effect of drug addiction. From there, she discusses middle-class alcoholism, the novels of Edward St. Aubyn, and the parallels between addicts and refugees, before concluding with these remarks:

To think that women died because they didn't have the drug their body and soul demanded, and they were unfortunate enough that the drug wasn't liquor, which they could buy at the corner store.

Why the hell aren't we making all drugs available to all adults? Yes, we'd have another mess on our hands, but it would be a better mess than women's heads sliced in half and left in buckets. It would instantly drain the power of violent criminals. Yes, prostitutes need protection. But perhaps we could make it unnecessary for them to climb into a car and ride into the fetid, bloody pit of death that we will peer into during this trial.

All this for a little heroin, a little cocaine, a willingness to admit that people's bodies and brains need what they need. All these things these women, The Desperates, didn't get from us because they were lumped into an undesirable group of people who need something so desperately they would go anywhere to get it.

Yes, I'd say that's about right. Wouldn't you?

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Last stop 'til winter

Originally posted to Metroblogging Montreal, Oct. 5, 2005.

It was an incongruous day. I emerged from my apartment to find the staircase covered in dry, yellow leaves, yet the temperature stood at nearly thirty degrees. As I ran the day's errands I felt impossibly sad, knowing that this is well and truly the last gasp of summer. There is no turning back now.

It is, as every Montrealer knows, harder to be alone in winter. The whole city retreats indoors, leaving the streets and parks to the snow. Warmth becomes a precious substance, one that is forever leaking out through the cracks in things, which are, suddenly, everywhere. Baseboard heaters struggle audibly, clicking and clanking without discernible effect. On certain days, even the Café is too cold to bear.

In winter, the smallest gestures of physical intimacy are survival techniques: the feet that share warmth under a blanket, the torsos that draw closer in sleep. As the warmest part of the body, the belly is transformed into a fetish object beneath its scratchy layers of wool. Extremities don't stand a chance.

In sex, we become as modest as Victorians, finding our passions only under a mountain of bedclothes. If we are clever, we arrange ourselves in such a way as to create a hothouse, which recycles the heat of our breath until orgasm or oxygen depletion overcomes. There is simply no other way, as bodily fluids will freeze upon contact with air.

In the absence of sex, a Montreal bed is as cold as a grave. There is no love in this city in winter, only the will to live.

These are the thoughts that were with me today, until I met K. on our favourite terrasse. Defiantly, I drank a glass of sangria, which tasted as sweet to me as honey.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Paging Dr. Freud

Is that a snake in your blog post or are you just happy to see me?


Environment Canada

Currently Observed at:
Montréal-Trudeau Int'l Airport
2:00 AM EST
Monday 29 January 2007


Temperature -17°C
Pressure/ Tendency 100.9 kPa↑
Visibility 10 km
Humidity 87 %
Dewpoint -19°C
Wind W 5 km/h

I have to leave a bar to have a motherfucking cigarette, but today's weather is smoke? Oh, and there's also a smog warning in effect. Breathe easy, people...

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Fait accompli

Some of you have been asking, so I guess an explanation is in order.

Last week, I stepped down from my position as president of a teaching assistants’ union. I made the decision to leave in November, but I should have made it a year before, when I collapsed in a fit of tears in the middle of Parc Avenue.

Those who know me well know that I rarely lose my composure in public, and when I do, that something is deeply wrong. In retrospect, the fit was a sign that the pressures of trying to complete a PhD while working at what amounted to a full-time job had taken its toll, and that it would only get worse. Which it did.

The problem was, I loved my work, or, more accurately, what my work was for, and I’ve never been quick to walk away from what I love. Even when it’s not especially good for me. In this case, though, I was reminded of the fact that I am walking toward something immeasurably better, or at least, that I’m trying to.

And so, I applied for a student loan, which I had sworn to myself I wouldn’t do again as long as I lived. As I waited for the government’s response, I worried myself sick about the decision I had made and very nearly reversed it. Arit, whose opinion I trust more than anyone’s, put it to me starkly: “Vila, you have to quit your job.” The note of concern in her voice convinced me that she was right.

Already, I can feel a difference. The daily flood of phone calls and emails has slowed to a trickle. There are no more agendas to plan, egos to soothe, crises to narrowly avert. Most of all, I don’t feel like I have the weight of two thousand people on my shoulders, seemingly all of whom require my attention more urgently than I do.

For now, I’m just letting myself exhale.

Saturday, January 27, 2007



Last day


Handshakes, meeting, report. I wish the new president luck, then escape for drinks with J. We talk about climate change, our first boyfriends, the painting she’s working on—anything but work. Slowly, the union disappears.

She asks me if I’ll miss it. I say yes, and no.

Walking home, I think about other, quieter passions and the prospect of time. As I turn the key, I realize that tomorrow is finally my own.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

"It's all gotten a bit glum, hasn't it?"

Peter O'Toole and Jon Stewart on the joys of white wine and cigarettes.

High-definition sex

Why HDTV is bad for porn stars and other living things.

Sunday, January 21, 2007


I went to Husk’s show last night. We found each other before he took the stage, both of us peering through the dark at the back of the room. I asked his name as a question, still unsure. He said, simply, “It’s you.”

At these moments, you feel the contradiction: you are intimate strangers, ideas extracted from bodies and lives and arranged on a screen. Then, suddenly, the idea becomes a person, with a voice and a smile and hands that are warmer than yours.

It takes a little while to sink in, but you’re glad when it does.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Another day, another petition

If you're looking for the petition to save the Spectrum, you can find it here.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The majority rule

From the New York Times:

[T]here is no going back to a world where we can assume that marriage is the main institution that organizes people’s lives.
Well, about bloody time.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

January storm

January storm

Smoking outside the office, the snow stung as it fell. It was almost a relief.

Monday, January 15, 2007

An excerpt from Beyond Vietnam

A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. On the one hand, we are called to play the Good Samaritan on life's roadside, but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho Road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life's highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.

A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa, and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say, "This is not just." It will look at our alliance with the landed gentry of South America and say, "This is not just." The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just.

A true revolution of values will lay hand on the world order and say of war, "This way of settling differences is not just." This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation's homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into the veins of peoples normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice, and love.

--Rev. Martin Luther King, via Bitch PhD

Sunday, January 14, 2007

OK Camera

OK Camera

You know, I’ve always wanted one.

The way I figure it, it’s an aid for the quiet times, when I can’t find the words, or when there are too many at once.

It’s for when I’m shy or uncertain, which is often these days.

It’s for when I am compelled to give evidence for what I think or feel.

Most of all, it’s for when I know that something important is about to be lost.

These will be snapshots, then, amateurish and imperfect. I’m content to leave the art to others, and, happily, they are equally content to make it.

I just need a different way to say things sometimes.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Horoscope haiku

You need to be yourself now and to feel what you really are.

Often the outer appearance of a life conceals the depth of contact with underlying reality, even to the person who is doing the living.

You aren't quite the silent virgin others are used to.

Now go make your own.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007


Sick. Tired. Dishes to be done. Cat to be fed. Writing indefinitely on hold.

Two weeks couldn’t be further away.

Today, I felt almost everything I read. Sparky: “I miss my drunken, extroverted, libidinous self.” Dude, you and me both. D: “Who knew that it could be so boring?” Fucking right, who knew. Something Andrea wrote about missing her friends, but then she deleted it.

I’m going to have a glass of scotch before bed, sickness be damned.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

This just in...

British scientists have discovered the cure for stage fright, and it don't cost a thing.

All tomorrow's parties

Uberfrau reflects on her time in graduate school:

I guess I never expected to have to know anything practical, and I've realized that over the last decade, I've only trained myself to be a snob of the worst sort. It's like I envisioned my future as an endless cocktail party (incidentally, the sort of party I'm not invited to now), in which i'd quietly make devasting observations on life and culture and have a european lover named Sven and live in a minimalist apartment with scandanavian furniture and glass mobiles and black and white photographs of attractive people with smeared makeup smoking on toliets reflected in puddles.
Just wait 'till you publish your novel, D.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Little mysteries

Me: The Sequel poses the question: do women scan? Well, sure. As I wrote here some time ago, we just do it a little differently.

I’ll let you in on a secret, though: sometimes, we look too. The shirt that rides up, exposing the crest of a hip; the calf that tightens as it bears down on a bike pedal; the faded jeans that hang just so. But I think the way we look is more idiosyncratic; we catch glimpses of sex in a thousand places because that’s what we’re used to, because no one thought to direct our gaze. Girls have wandering eyes – consider yourselves warned.

If I didn’t have to work in the morning, I’d tell you more.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

January snow

January snow

A white Christmas after all...

Saturday, January 06, 2007

January rain

January rain

The weather is as out of sorts as I am. I tell myself that the new year hasn't really started yet, not according to the Julian calendar. In fact, it's only Christmas Eve.

For the Orthodox among you, sretno badnje veče, and dibs on the silver coin.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Hangover reading

2007? Fuck that.

Last year's words.

The next big thing: Bar-free cities.

Twenty reasons not to buy a house.

Therapy: Pros and cons.