The Ottawa River + courtesans + fast fashion
May I recommend
The goddamn Ottawa River
This thing is a BEAST. It’s gigantic and wide and really full of water. It’s not some kind of half hearted river, but a big one that has waterfalls and rapids and islands and cormorants and sturgeons and tiny little pebbles and giant massive boulders. It’s got a lot going on and it doesn’t get its due.
Not to intimidate you, but I’ve been to Europe, and let me just tell you, those Europeans make a gigantic deal out of their dumb rivers and they are piddly.
Firstly, the Thames (yes, I know maybe not Euro anymore, but work with me). The Thames is not great. Sure, it’s wide-ish, but it’s tidal so it goes up and down, which is not trustworthy. You are certainly not SWIMMING in it. Not only is it a gross manky colour, but there are a ton of dead bodies churning around in there and it has fat blobs the size of city busses threatening it, so just ew. Yet, people love the Thames so much they want to marry it. They go on and on about its history and its stupid commercial importance. There are poems and paintings and nursery rhymes all about the dumb, seaweed smelling thing. Ugh.
Secondly, the Seine. Maybe a smidge less gross than the Thames, but it’s all walled in and doesn’t feel like a real river. It’s more like a canal, and I am NOT interested in canals. The Seine is filled with those bateaux mouches. Didn’t Tom Cruise propose to Katie on one of those? For that reason alone, we should dismiss it. Scientology is a cult and we don’t want to tacitly endorse it by saying that the Seine is some kind of great river.
I will give you that the adorable little bridges that go over The Seine are quaint, but that actually just proves my point, because to be a real, mighty river with consequence, you shouldn’t be able to slap up a pretty little bridge any time you want. I mean some of those Parisian bridges are 400 years old… That should tell you all you need to know. If those 17th Century dillweeds could work out the engineering required to whip up a bridge over the Seine, you have to figure that it’s not exactly a large expanse to cross. I mean, they didn’t even know to wash their hands before a surgery back then, so… Also, let’s remember that the French pee everywhere and with abandon, so you know that the the Seine is 50% urine.
Thirdly, The Danube, the Rhine, the Loire, the Rhone. I’m lumping all of these together because they are so unimpressive and skinny and sluggish that they don’t deserve their own paragraph.
Am I mad at these dumb Euro-rivers that get all the glory and the poems and the paintings and the songs and the loving movie shots? You’re damn right I am.
Am I also mad at the dumb people of Ottawa who have this massive, beautiful river filled with lovely clean water churning away at their doorstep, can’t even be bothered to pay it any attention? YUP. We need to be making way more of a big deal about this flipping river and it’s deeply infuriating to me that we don’t.*
I blame the Rideau Canal.
Enthusiastically agree with this opinion in the comments below.
*The caveat to this recommendation is that in my extremely limited knowledge of the cultures and values of First Nations who live along, and use, the Ottawa River they also agree that it’s really flipping stupendous. This recommendation isn’t meant for them… Their cultures already know what’s what.
Napoleon III’s mistress
My forthcoming novel, THE HONEYBEE EMERALDS, features a different Napoleon III mistress, but it sounds like the sequel might have to focus on this one - the Countess de Castiglione, a truly fabulous lady:
Understanding Napoleon III’s weakness for beautiful women, the countess was sent to France by the Italian prime minister to solicit support for the unification of Italy. Introduced to the French court in January 1856, the “pearl of Italy” set her sights on seducing Napoleon III. She wore revealing dresses and orchestrated dramatic entrances, finally winning his approval by June. Although her contemporaries were “rendered speechless by this miracle of beauty,” noting her appearance at gatherings was “like a goddess descended from the clouds,” her arrogance and disdain for perceived inferiors was legendary: “I equal the highest-born ladies with my birth, I surpass them with my beauty, and I judge them with my mind.”
No more $20 pants?
I have definitely changed my shopping habits over the pandemic. Yes, I panic bought leggings and sweatpants in the early days, but now I’m more interested in supporting local (or at least, Canadian) brands and looking at second hand.
According to consulting firm McKinsey & Company’s The State of Fashion 2021 report, the global sector predicted an estimated 93 percent drop in profit in 2020 compared with the year prior, and brands with massive retail footprints have permanently closed down many of their bricks-and-mortar stores.
According to this, as human animals we’re hardwired for social interaction. The volume of emails we get means that we are in a constant state of anxiety because we can’t respond to them in time, and even when we do, those responses just generate more email. There are solutions out there, though. I like this one a lot.
If a Thrive employee sends an e-mail to a colleague who is on vacation, the sender receives a note that the colleague is away and the message is automatically deleted. In theory, a simple vacation auto-responder should be sufficient—as it tells people sending a message not to expect a reply until the recipient returns—but logic is subservient in this situation. No matter what the expectations, the awareness that there are messages waiting somewhere triggers anxiety, ruining the potential relaxation of a person’s time off. The only cure is to prevent the messages from arriving altogether. Huffington said, “The key is not just that the tool is creating a wall between you and your email; it’s that it frees you from the mounting anxiety of having a mounting pile of emails waiting for you on your return—the stress of which mitigates the benefits of disconnecting in the first place.”
Paris: not just a pee-filled river
I am fascinated by the existence of the Parisian catacombs and the crazy stuff those Parisians get up to in there - illegally running a theatre? Sneaking into buildings via the tunnels? Forming underground societies?
Parisians call it a "gruyère." For hundreds of years, the catacombs under the city have been a conduit, sanctuary and birthplace for its secrets. The Phantom of the Opera and Les Miserables' Jean Valjean both haunted these tunnels; striking students descended in 1968, and patriots during World War II. The Nazis visited too, building a bunker in the maze below the 6th.
British Bake Off @BritishBakeOffHe came. He baked. He dished out rum. Here’s how legendary actor James McAvoy got on in the Bake Off Tent… #GBBO https://t.co/viTlTVvzuc
So, I don’t know anything about basketball, and I had to watch this twice to figure out what was supposed to happen.
This really made me laugh because I am a 9 year old.
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