tuque /tūk/ n Canadian English, var. toque [19th c. Canadian French, from the French toque, from the Basque tauka] 1 A close-fitting knitted cap, often with a long tapering end or tassel or pompom. 2 fig Something quintessentially Canadian.
souq /sūk/ n from the Arabic سوق var. souk 1 An open-air marketplace. 2 fig A central meeting place for the circulation of news and ideas.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Bill Moyers reads Magazines Upside-Down

"Lying in bed at night, reading. Magazines mostly. It's amazing how many places you can go with a stack of magazines while flat on your back."

--Bill Moyers, quoted in the July 2011 issue of Vanity Fair, in the back-of-book Proust Questionnaire; asked what his favourite occupation is. The veteran American journo also professes his love for Dr. Seuss, Steinbeck and his Peace Corps days. Seems to have the important things in life sorted out.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Brain-Eating Zombie Fungus is Selfish SOB

"Tropical carpenter ants who are zombified by brain fungus are thereafter compelled, at solar noon, to latch on to the main vein on the underside of a leaf, readying them for death in a spot ideally suited to the fungus's well-being."
--Harper's magazine, "Findings"; July 2011

This is simply a fantastic sentence. And its subject matter reminds one of the spectacular clip of the ant-eating brain fungus from the Planet Earth series. 

: A mature brain fungus clings to a tree. And to think, it all started with one brainy ant.)

And with that, I'm finally caught up on six months' worth of Harper's

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Oh Aubergine: Etymology of an Eggplant

In India I learned most of the local language at the School of Hard Knocks, otherwise known as the vegetable market. Elbowing my way through the horde of pickers, it was:

"I'll take that one, what do you call it?"
"Ach-cha, I'll take chaari
What do they call them in your country?
"Aubergine. Or sometimes eggplant."
Egg. Plant?

The vegetable in question is native to southern India, where it was originally known as vatinganah (in Sanskrit). Legend holds that this word, broken up, literally means "fart, go away!
" But this ain't true.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Behind the Scenes at the 34th National Magazine Awards

Last night Canadian magaziners feted themselves with due and tasteful pomp at the annual National Magazine Awards.

For my multi-pronged role* as the NMA show stage manager, program editor, script composer and ticket-queue improv greeter, I was rewarded with backstage access which, coupled with the sobriety that outlasted most others in attendance, has yielded a few memorable impressions of the soiree.

Jacqueline Hennessy absolutely rocked the MC gig, employing the best kind of wit for this crowd (the succinct, self-deprecating kind; and all the funny bits were of her, not my, writing).

And she ran the tightest show on the NMA stage perhaps since Pierre Berton brandished a cane
and aimed it at anyone who got within 10 feet of the podium to attempt a thank-you speech.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Magazine Week in Canada

What's better than a warm spring afternoon in the park? How about a warm spring afternoon in the park with a large stack of magazines that has been quietly, patiently yet doubtless eagerly awaiting my return from India.

And what beats the heck out of that? Having a [part-time*] job that encourages one to spend his afternoon in the park reading a large stack of magazines.