Friday, 7 March 2008

Odds and Ends #2

Dogs against Piracy

Gone are the days when a dog jumping to sniff your crotch was simply discovering your family identity and kinship. First, canines were trained to ferret out your grass stash, and then taught to discover contraband you might have in your luggage, and now, man’s best friend has graduated to exposing your DVD theft - be forewarned and learn not to carry discs in your undies. Only a matter of time before your seemingly docile pet gathers evidence on all your nasty habits and finks on you to the authorities or the thought police.

Idiots up Front

For years I wondered why traffic heading in either direction over the Port Mann Bridge in the Lower Mainland suffered from the stop-and-go syndrome in the absence of any accidents or stalls. Once you’ve hit the initial slowdown, movement alternates between 70 KPH spurts, crawling forward in idle and complete stops. Craning your head to see the road ahead rarely reveals anything other than a long, long vista of slow moving vehicles; not the sight of flashing lights, overturned cars or emergency equipment to explain your lack of progress. However, as soon as the halfway point of the bridge is reached the flow immediately thins out and returns to highway speed. My suspicion always centered on the drivers who either could not handle the curves on the initial section of the bridge or were afraid to pass the semis on the bridge deck. This study pretty well confirms drivers with a ‘brake fetish’ are at fault.

Where are My Readers?

One more gathering of the literati lending credence to the urban rumor of bastions of higher learning morphing into diploma mills to fill the coffers. And in the wink of an eye, half of North America will wave the newly minted, creative writing sheepskin in the air and commence to chasing down their assigned reader from the uneducated half who will unfortunately turn out to be ileterite. Must be all the bloggers!

What’s Behind a Door?

Once I got into playing the game a few times, I realized I’d forgotten to mark down my totals for each try. So the explanations fell on deaf ears. Rationally, I am aware of my irrationality on many occasions, but often attempting to bang square pegs into round holes excites my endorphins, creating pleasure rather than distress – sort of a situation of going with the flow and learning from the experience. It ended up as just another excuse to wreck havoc on my mouse finger and send it into spasms.

The Golden Touch

Occasionally I’ve heard of using gold plated faucets to impress your guests with your wealth or lack of good taste, but a throne of precious metal speaks to a Midas complex. Besides the obvious initial expense there are other considerations:
• Scouring away your investment with abrasive cleansers
• Removing bite marks from the rim
• Removing stains or does gold not stain?
• Preventing reactions with hydrogen sulphide gas
• Does Miss Manners suggest a seat cover before use?
• Are guards necessary? Maybe a job for Oddjob?
• Does a green ring on the butt mean you’ve been ripped off with pyrite?
• Can ‘poochie’ still use it as a water bowl?

Before this water closet gets sent to the foundry for meltdown, I’ll bet the buyers are lined up at the door – not to use the facility – cash in hand to purchase this one of a kind, must have toilet unit for the castle or mansion. Almost guaranteed this prized loo ends up on the auction block where it will undoubtedly fetch many times its weight in gold.

I wonder if Goldfinger had a hand in its design.

Thursday, 6 March 2008

F is for Fennel

Cannot recall seeing fennel – often mistakenly labelled as anise - on the grocer’s shelves only a few years back; it may have been in the city’s parochial era. Or maybe an interest in Italian cooking naturally leads to locating and partaking of this herb type vegetable. However its discovery happened, it has become a regular item due to the delicate nature and pleasing liquorice taste on the palate. For salads remove the stems, fronds, any tougher outer skin and the core from the bulb before slicing it very thinly – a mandolin is helpful – directly into the bowl. The stems and fronds can be chopped up and added to the water for boiling pasta. After cooking, remove the stems and larger fronds, and then use a bit of the strained water to add extra zip to the sauce. The lighter taste complements roasted vegetables without overpowering them as can occur with onions.

•Potatoes         1 ¼ pounds medium size, peeled and quartered along the length
•Fennel bulb    ½ pound trimmed and sliced vertically into 5 or 6 pieces
•Carrot             ½ pound peeled and sliced into ¾ inch chunks
•Garlic              4 cloves peeled and flattened
•Fennel seeds  2 tablespoons
•Olive oil           3 tablespoons
•Lemon juice    ¼ cup
•Salt                  ¼ teaspoon
•Pepper            ½ teaspoon

Preheat 8" x 12" glass or other baking pan with 1 1/2 tablespoon olive oil in 400' F oven.
Lightly toss together in a large bowl all of the ingredients with the remaining tablespoon olive oil until well coated.
Transfer into preheated baking dish and spread out as much as possible.
Turn vegetables every 10 minutes to brown evenly.
Add small amounts of water or oil to prevent excessive burning.
Cook for 45/50 minutes until potatoes brown and vegetables are easily pierced with a fork.

Wednesday, 5 March 2008

The Tree

The Tree: From the Sublime to the Social
Vancouver Art Gallery
February 2 to April 20, 2008

In a right handed world, given a choice of proceeding left or right at the top of a stairwell – with no indicated directions – one may assume the majority of visitors will commence their viewing heading to their right which may have occurred to the curator of this exhibit or maybe not. And in this case you would move from the sublime to the social as dictated by the title; however, veer to the left and you experience the exhibit from the social to the sublime. Does changing the direction of viewing alter the perception of the artworks and lead to different conclusions at the end? Maybe a question for the psychologists in the crowd.

Jochen Gerz: White Ghost #1-9

A very arresting group of large black and white photographs, which were taken on Cortes Island featuring nude islanders standing individually in the midst of fallen trees. Each has been documented with a personal quote that reveals the thoughts and feelings of the participants. Unfortunately, it was difficult to understand the significance of the two dozen or more semi tropical plants placed throughout the room; cedar, pine and fir nursery stock would better represent the clear cut timber, and the scent would have been evocative.

Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptan: MacMillan Bloedel: Eco system……..

Primitivism as an art genre……If the artist had yet to attain his teens, these pieces could have a voice……Sticking to vocal raging against the intruders on a looped tape has more potential……

Gordon Smith: Varied

The large canvases appear to be from the same series as displayed in the Equinox Gallery last year - deep, thick, lush coast forests: nearly every square inch covered by giant trees and impenetrable undergrowth. Yet each hints at hidden elements barely concealed, never revealed to the eye, but gently caressing the mind.

Kevin Schmidt: Fog 2004

Two back to back projected slides, approximately nine foot by nine foot, in an otherwise quiet darkened room. Remembrance of countless hikes and treks through the coastal mountains, waiting for sunlight to break through and lift the dampness from the still air.

An enjoyable exhibition, even if too heavily weighted to environmental concerns. Continued pressure on the industry to reduce the size and deleterious effects of clearcuts remains an important priority, but has to be tempered by societies need for this resource in all its varied forms and the economic benefits. The Vancouver Art Gallery has over the years been supported by the logging companies both monetarily and through gifts of art; so one should expect a balanced portrayal of our relationship with our trees and forests.

Tuesday, 4 March 2008

Northwestern Cacklers

Never mind the appearance of the first robins of the season; our permanently resident northwestern crows have begun to display their early pre-spring assertiveness, heralding the lead-in to the mating and nesting cycle. Rather than a short flight away on approach, they hop and skip into their comfort zone, casting a baleful eye towards the intruders. In particular, groups who are feasting on chafer beetle larvae are reluctant to move more than a couple of meters away. Even when not engaged in eating, there is more squabbling and bickering interspersed with short frantic chases which may be preliminary stages of mating behaviour.
With crows, one may wonder what criteria are involved in making a choice. In many bird species colour and conspicuous plumage can be an attractant or maybe a sweet song warbled in the treetops. Since all crows seem to be blessed with the identical set of feathers, beauty must be in the eye of the beholder. And any of the varied utterances issuing from their beaks could hardly be mistaken for a romantic, melodious come hither invitation. In spite of this, they obviously begin to hang out in pairs and begin their nest building in anticipation of egg laying after the nine week gestation period.
During this time, the skies become quieter during the morning and evening, since they are far fewer crows heading to and from the communal roosts; in addition, they are less likely to congregate in midday, suffering everyone with their cacophonous assault on the eardrums. However, once nesting is established the pairs become highly territorial and extremely defensive against any and all intruders. So walking or running, especially under or close to coniferous trees, the sought after nesting sites, can be an invitation to an open air dive bombing attack across the top of your head. Shrieking close enough to make you aware of the air movement can cause an immediate ducking reaction, in fear of having a two inch sharp beak protruding into your skull. While I have never heard confirmation of a direct hit, one can imagine an older, vision challenged bird making direct contact instead of a fly-by. And occasionally, one of the more demented defenders will maintain an ongoing assault far past the nesting site before finally giving up and glaring from a tree branch or electrical wire. Maybe just a momentary lack of control due to onset of avian air rage.

Saturday, 1 March 2008

Odds and Ends #1

Movie Extras

While scrolling through an online employment site, I was intrigued by another of those talent companies trolling for movie extras. Besides the usual head shot this outfit required, there was also this request.

Please list in detail the following applicable information:
- Wardrobe: Business, Tuxedo/Gowns, Traditional Costumes, Uniforms, etc.
- Equipment: Snowboard, scuba gear, bicycle, skateboard etc.
- Specific Skills: Motorcycle, Military, Weapons, Equestrian etc.
- Vehicles: please list the make, model, year, and color of the vehicle.

Wonderful! They are only willing to pay minimum wage for movie extras yet expect them to have the resources of millionaires. The film industry after paying the stars does not have enough left over to handle wardrobe, recreation equipment and also expects film fodder to provide vehicles (and please ensure the tank is full – no reimbursement). And don’t forget the ‘agent’s fee’ of 15% still to be clawed back if and when the pay checks are ready. Lucky for the agencies there are so many people willing do anything on the off chance they are discovered.

Plastic Bags

Judging by the number of news stories lately, one could easily believe these bags are the greatest threat to human existence since the sabre toothed tigers scoffed us up as hors d’oeuvres. And the experts cannot agree on whether paper or cloth replacement carriers meet environmental criteria. When presented with the sight of thousands of plastic bags full of garbage and dog excrement covering the surface of landfills, I pause to consider how this refuse will then be handled. It could be amusing to watch pet owners scooping up doggie leavings with their bare hands and carrying it home in their jacket pockets. And then, they can use the living room composter to turn the offerings and kitchen waste into fine soil amendments. Just maybe most of the media reporting could be branded as overkill.

Opium Poppy Production

Somehow the drug problem in Europe and North America rests solely on the shoulders of the growers in Afghanistan. Stop them and we save the entire world from descending into a drug crazed hell. If the Afghanis grew plums and exported them to the western world where people rejected them; they would be quick to halt production and experiment with other crops. A better question is why more and more westerners are succumbing to drugs to get through life – are they not happy with their lot in life? And secondly, we are led to believe the billion dollar drug trade is solely supported by non-working, back-alley dwelling, east side residents. In reality, most of the cocaine and illicit drug trade has been supported by high rollers, top income earners and pillars of society. One only need look to the entertainment industry and the sporting world to see the buyers and consumers of the majority of drugs both illegal and legal.

Conrad Black

Imprisonment couldn’t happen to a nicer guy. After a few years, he will be allowed to request a cell with a view. Wonder how the guards will deal with his arrogance?

Shell Game with Oil

One of the better articles questioning the soaring crude oil prices in spite of almost negligible increased demand. The financial manipulators keep dreaming up new methods of concentrating the wealth into fewer and fewer hands. But, there are always rational reasons for the fluctuations, even if it was only a sneeze from a Saudi prince reacting to pepper laced caviar.
Remember, the rising price of oil is not a conspiracy, price fixing, collusion, manipulation: it is the law of supply and demand working at its finest – the controllers of the market demand money and maybe will supply a pittance if they are so moved. Courtesy of the financiers of the world, they plundered some of your money and savings in the meltdown, and then grabbed more with the easy money mortgage schemes, and now intend to drain the balance of your cash through your veins if necessary.