Saturday, January 31, 2009

Jessica Simpson ... Fat ...!?

Here is a trick question for you. Which of these women looks healthy? Who does not? Take your time, there is no rush ...

There has been a whole lot of furor lately ... (don't you just love that word ... furor ... a: furious or hectic activity b: an outburst of public excitement or indignation) ... about Jessica Simpson's weight gain. What am I missing? I think she looks healthy, curvaceous and feminine. The woman in the middle looks as if she has been very ill for a long time. The gold standard for feminine beauty was -- and still is -- Marilyn Monroe. The standard for beauty now seems to be Keira Knightley, and every woman is starving herself to look like that. Why? How did that happen? Is that what men like?

I watched a TV documentary recently about a 28 year-old woman who undertook an experiment in starving herself and over-exercising, to see how she would feel, and how it affected her skin, hair and internal organs. In just four weeks she made herself extremely ill and her doctor was concerned. Her skin became sallow and her hair started to fall out. Her fingernails cracked and split. Her internal organs worked at less than capacity. Her doctor told her if she did not stop, the damage would be irreversible. It took six weeks to get her health back. During the time of her experiment she was tired, listless, bad tempered and generally out of sorts with everyone.

I fail to see the beauty in the picture of the woman in the middle photograph (Keira Knightley) but the beauty of Marilyn Monroe and Jessica Simpson is obvious. I hope Jessica Simpson does not starve herself back to improbable proportions. Perhaps she might even set a new gold standard for women everywhere, by retaining her feminine curves, glowing skin and shiny hair.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Stuff White People Like

I found a wonderful blog the other day called “Stuff White People Like” and I laughed when I read the list. Oh, goodness, yes. White people are earnest, yes we are. We are terribly, terribly earnest. I think it may be a hangover from the hippie days, when everyone was earnest about everything. One of the expressions in the 1970s was “What’s your bag?” which basically meant, “What’s your thing?” What are you fanatical about? Everybody had something. Vancouver was full of people with a “cause”. They usually smoked a lot of dope and drove Volkswagen buses. Greenpeace was founded in Vancouver by a couple of hippies named Bob Hunter and Patrick Moore, together with some of their friends. Very earnest, indeed. The Rainbow Warrior was officially the first hippie boat. She was sunk in New Zealand in 1985 by the French Intelligence Service.

So as I scrolled down this list, all I could think was, “This describes almost everyone I know in Vancouver”, except for No. 75, of course, because we’re already here. And number 54? Oh, yes, there are more kitchen gadget stores here in Vancouver than there are Starbucks.

So, here is the list of Stuff White People Like.

#120 Taking a Year Off
#119 Sea Salt
#118 Ugly Sweater Parties
#117 Political Prisoners
#116 Black Music that Black People Don’t Listen to Anymore
#115 Promising to Learn a New Language
#114 America
#113 Halloween
#112 Hummus
#111 Pea Coats
#110 Frisbee Sports
#109 The Onion
#108 Appearing to Enjoy Classical Music
#107 Self Aware Hip Hop References
#106 Facebook
#105 Unpaid Internships
#104 Girls with Bangs
#103 Sweaters
#102 Children’s Games as Adults
#101 Being Offended
#100 Bumper Stickers
#99 Grammar
#98 The Ivy League
#97 Scarves
#96 New Balance Shoes
#95 Rugby
#94 Free Healthcare
#93 Music Piracy
#92 Book Deals
#91 San Francisco
#90 Dinner Parties
#89 St. Patrick’s Day
#88 Having Gay Friends
#87 Outdoor Performance Clothes
#86 Shorts
#85 The Wire
#84 T-Shirts
#83 Bad Memories of High School
#82 Hating Corporations
#81 Graduate School
#80 The Idea of Soccer
#79 Modern Furniture
#78 Multilingual Children
#77 Musical Comedy
#76 Bottles of Water
#75 Threatening to Move to Canada
#74 Oscar Parties
#73 Gentrification
#72 Study Abroad
#71 Being the only white person around
#70 Difficult Breakups
#69 Mos Def
#68 Michel Gondry
#67 Standing Still at Concerts
#66 Divorce
#65 Co-Ed Sports
#64 Recycling
#63 Expensive Sandwiches
#62 Knowing What’s Best for Poor People
#61 Bicycles
#60 Toyota Prius
#59 Natural Medicine
#58 Japan
#57 Juno
#56 Lawyers
#55 Apologies
#54 Kitchen Gadgets
#53 Dogs
#52 Sarah Silverman
#51 Living by the Water
#50 Irony
#49 Vintage
#48 Whole Foods and Grocery Co-ops
#47 Arts Degrees
#46 The Sunday New York Times
#45 Asian Fusion Food
#44 Public Radio
#43 Plays
#42 Sushi
#41 Indie Music
#40 Apple Products
#39 Netflix
#38 Arrested Development
#37 Renovations
#36 Breakfast Places
#35 The Daily Show/Colbert Report
#34 Architecture
#33 Marijuana
#32 Vegan/Vegetarianism
#31 Snowboarding
#30 Wrigley Field
#29 80s Night
#28 Not having a TV
#27 Marathons
#26 Manhattan (now Brooklyn too!)
#25 David Sedaris
#24 Wine
#23 Microbreweries
#22 Having Two Last Names
#21 Writers Workshops
#20 Being an expert on YOUR culture
#19 Traveling
#18 Awareness
#17 Hating their Parents
#16 Gifted Children
#15 Yoga
#14 Having Black Friends
#13 Tea
#12 Non-Profit Organizations
#11 Asian Girls
#10 Wes Anderson Movies
#9 Making you feel bad about not going outside
#8 Barack Obama
#7 Diversity
#6 Organic Food
#5 Farmer’s Markets
#4 Assists
#3 Film Festivals
#2 Religions their parents don’t belong to
#1 Coffee

The Law of Probability

Childen at the Dice Game
Bartolomé Esteban Murillo
1670

Probability is the likelihood or chance that something is the case, or that an event will occur. Probability theory is used extensively in such areas of study as mathematics, statistics, finance, gambling, science, and philosophy to draw conclusions about the likelihood of potential events and the underlying mechanics of complex systems ... and my life. If I find something I like such as a shampoo or a toothpaste or vacuum cleaner and I go back to buy another one, I find that particular brand is not being made anymore. Or, if on the odd occasion I may be saying something about someone that I don't wish them to hear, I will turn around to find them standing right behind me. Oh, yes ... we've all been there.

Law of Probability
The probability of being watched is directly proportional to the stupidity of your act.

Law of Mechanical Repair
After your hands become coated with grease, your nose will begin to itch and you'll have to pee.

Law of Gravity
Any tool, when dropped, will roll to the least accessible corner.

Law of Random Numbers
If you dial a wrong number, you never get a busy signal and someone always answers.

Law of the Alibi
If you tell the boss you were late for work because you had a flat tire, the very next morning you will have a flat tire.

Variation Law
If you change lines (or traffic lanes), the one you were in will always move faster than the one you are in now (works every time).

Law of the Bath
When the body is fully immersed in water, the telephone rings.

Law of Close Encounters
The probability of meeting someone you know increases dramatically when you are with someone you don't want to be seen with.

Law of the Result
When you try to prove to someone that a machine won't work, it will.

Law of Biomechanics
The severity of the itch is inversely proportional to the impossibility of the reach.

Law of the Theater
At any event, the people whose seats are furthest from the aisle arrive last.

The Starbucks Law
As soon as you sit down to a cup of hot coffee, your boss will ask you to do something which will last until the coffee is cold.

Law of Gym Lockers
If there are only two people in a locker room, they will have adjacent lockers.

Law of Physical Surfaces
The chances of an open-faced jelly sandwich landing face down on a floor covering are directly correlated to the newness and cost of the carpet/rug.

Law of Logical Argument
Anything is possible if you don't know what you are talking about.

Brown's Law of Physical Appearance
If the shoe fits, it's ugly.

Law of Commercial Marketing Strategy
As soon as you find a product that you really like, they will stop making it.

Doctor' Law
If you don't feel well, make an appointment to go to the doctor; by the time you get there you'll feel better.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Rock On...!

I have managed to catch a bit of a cold and I haven't been doing much blogging in the past couple of days. I would like to curl up in a corner somewhere with a good book, a box of Kleenex, a hot toddy with lots of lemon, and perhaps copious amounts of chocolate. In the meantime, here is a video I just discovered yesterday when someone sent it to me. I'm probably the last person in the entire Solar System to have seen it, but I never get tired of watching it.

This little fellow has moves!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

100 Weird Facts About the Human Body

Woman with a Guitar
Picasso
1913

I have always been interested in fascinating facts and figures. (How's that for alliteration?) Anyway, I came across this website the other night that listed 100 weird facts about the human body, and I started reading it. Several times I heard myself saying, "Eeeiiiuuww...!" For instance, did you know the human heart has enough pressure to squirt blood 30 feet? Or the acid in your stomach is strong enough to dissolve razor blades?

I hope the text size is large enough for you to read it. If you click on the downward arrow second from the right, you can enlarge the text. Enjoy! It's very interesting.
100 Weird Facts About the Human Body






Monday, January 26, 2009

Triple XXX Rated English Village

These are genuine clips from complaint letters to the council of an English village. Isn't it wonderful how others put their thoughts into words?

1. Will you please send someone to mend the garden path? My wife tripped and fell on it yesterday, and now she is pregnant.

2. He's got this huge tool that vibrates the whole house and I just can't take it anymore.

3. It's the dog's mess that I find hard to swallow.

4. I want some repairs done to my cooker as it has backfired and burnt my knob off.

5. I wish to complain that my father hurt his ankle, very badly, when he put his foot in the hole in his back passage.

6. And their 18 year old son is continually banging his balls against my fence.

7. I wish to report that tiles are missing from the outside toilet roof I think it was bad wind the other night that blew them off.

8. My lavatory seat is cracked, where do I stand?

9. I am writing on behalf of my sink, which is coming away from the wall.

10. My bush is really overgrown round the front, and my back passage has fungus growing in it.

11. I request permission to remove my drawers in the kitchen.

12. 50% of the walls are damp, 50% have crumbling plaster and 50% are plain filthy.

13. I am still having problems with smoke in my new drawers.

14. The toilet is blocked and we cannot bath the children until it is cleared.

15. Will you please send a man to look at my water; it is a funny colour and not fit to drink.

16. Our lavatory seat is broken in half and is now in three pieces.

17. I want to complain about the farmer across the road; every morning at 6am his cock wakes me up and it's now getting too much for me.

18. The man next door has a large erection in the back garden, which is unsightly and dangerous.

19. Our kitchen floor is damp. We have two children and would like a third, so please send someone round to do something about it.

20. I am a single woman living in a downstairs flat and would you please do something about the noise made by the man on top of me every night.

21. Please send a man with the right tool to finish the job and satisfy my wife.

22. I have had the clerk of works down on the floor six times, but I still have no satisfaction.

23. This is to let you know that our lavatory seat is broke and we can't get BBC2.

Kung Hei Fat Choy!

Every year Vancouver has wonderful Chinese New Year celebrations, and this year it starts today, January 26th. Chinese New Year starts with the New Moon on the first day of the new year and ends on the full moon 15 days later. New Year's Eve and New Year's Day are celebrated with family and friends. Departed relatives are remembered with great respect.

At Chinese New Year celebrations people wear red clothes, decorate with poems on red paper, and give children "lucky money" in red envelopes. Red symbolizes fire, which according to legend can drive away bad luck. The fireworks that shower the festivities are rooted in a similar ancient custom. Long ago, people in China lit bamboo stalks, believing that the crackling flames would frighten evil spirits. There is always a wonderful parade in Chinatown here in Vancouver, attended by more than 100,000 people. Vancouver's Chinatown is mostly a tourist area now, filled with fabulous restaurants and stores. I love spending time there, and the munchkins and I often go there for Dim Sum.

This year is the Year of the Ox. The Ox symbolizes prosperity through fortitude and hard work. Those born under the influence of the Ox are fortunate to be stable and persevering. The typical Ox is a tolerant person with strong character. They are very tenacious when deciding to accomplish a task. Ox people work hard without complaints at work or at home. They know that they will succeed through hard work and sustained efforts, and do not believe in get-rich-quick schemes. The Ox people cherish their private lives and are not usually very adventurous. They can be loners. Ox people are great traditionalists, they like the familiar.

One year I had the privilege of being invited to spend a Chinese New Year luncheon with some Chinese friends of mine. It was so much fun. There was more food than I had ever seen before, and all the little girls were dressed in red velvet dresses, and the little boys in little tuxedoes with red vests. They were skipping around as only excited little kids can do! The best part for me is the parade with the lion dances and the Chinese dragon dances. The parade is always really noisy with drums and firecrackers and music, and everyone having a good time.

Kung Hei Fat Choy!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Robbie Burns Day -- Piping In The Haggis

Of all the traditions I know, there is none more Scottish than Robbie Burns Day. It's sort of a silly tradition, but I love it because it reminds me of my Dad. He was a red-headed Scot, and he loved Robbie Burns Day and he loved Haggis. It's really ghastly stuff, but it's the traditional dish of Robbie Burns Day, so every January 25th my mother cooked Haggis, and my father wore his dress tartan tie.

Robbie Burns has always been one of my favorite poets, and one of my favorite quotes is “Oh wad some power the giftie gie us To see oursel's as others see us!” And of course there is my other favorite, “The best laid plans of men and mice often go awry.” The title of one of John Steinbeck's books was taken from this, and both quotes seem to apply to my life on a regular basis.

The tradition of serving Haggis on Robbie Burns Day comes from his poem, "To a Haggis".

You powers who make mankind your care
And dish them out their meals
Old Scotland wants no watery food
That splashes in dishes
But if you wish her grateful prayer
Give her a Haggis!

Haggis is not for the faint of heart, and if you have a queasy stomach, read no further. Here is a traditional recipe for Haggis, taken from the 1800s.

1 cleaned sheep or lamb's stomach
2 lb. dry oatmeal
1 lb chopped mutton suet
1 lb lamb's or deer's liver, boiled and minced
1 pint (2 cups) stock
the heart and lungs of the sheep, boiled and minced
1 large chopped onion
1/2 tsp. each: cayenne pepper, Jamaica pepper, salt and pepper
Toast the oatmeal slowly until it is crisp, then mix all the ingredients (except the stomach bag) together, and add the stock. Fill the bag just over half full, press out the air and sew up securely. Have ready a large pot of boiling water, prick the Haggis all over with a large needle so it does not burst and boil slowly for 4 to 5 hours. Serves 12.

If you would like to hear some bagpipe music while you're (*cough*) enjoying your Haggis, here is the Simon Fraser University Pipe Band from here in Vancouver. They are the winners of the World Pipe Band Championships in Scotland in 2008. They even beat the Scots, for goodness sake. Scots Wha Hae!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

What Is Love?

The Lovers
Pablo Picasso
1923

This is a subject that has puzzled me my entire life. When we are childen, we imagine what life will be like when we grow up. I remember when I was about four years old, I loved my father, and I asked him if he would marry me when I grew up. He laughed and said, "No, you will marry someone else. Besides, I am already married to your Mommy." That puzzled me for a long time, and I thought it was very bizarre that my Mommy and my Daddy were married to each other. How weird was that! Of course, at that age I had absolutely no concept of married love.

As I became a teenager, I developed crushes on boys in school -- puppy love. It would change from week to week, hour to hour in some cases. Of course, these crushes were always based on whether or not the boy was cute. Usually they had been gifted genetically, but they had absolutely nothing else going for them -- you know, sort of like George Clooney. Fellows like that are so wrapped up in themselves, they don't have time for anyone else.

I have always felt sorry for people who ended up marrying someone they did not love. Either their biological clock was ticking, or they thought they were not worthy of finding true love. I had friends who ended up in marriages like that. To me, that would be like a kind of slow death. I do envy people, however, who married the true love of their life. That must feel like finding the other half of your soul. People like that must love each other unconditionally, and no matter who you are, or what your ideas, opinions, likes, dislikes, thoughts, feelings, you love each other anyway, not "in spite of" but "because of"... I went through my whole life never feeling that. I have a strong personality, and anyone I have ever known has always been critical of that aspect. "You can't say that!" "You can't think that!" "Good grief, you can't do that!"

I think everyone should be fortunate enough to find that special someone who is exactly like them, who accepts them for themselves -- flaws and all. How many of you have found that?

Friday, January 23, 2009

Richard Jenkins in "The Visitor"

If you're looking for a good movie to rent this weekend, I recommend you rent “The Visitor”. I’m not a movie critic, and I’m not an expert on movies as an art form, but occasionally I will see a movie that is so perfect in every way, I have to share it with everyone I know. "The Visitor” is just such a movie. Richard Jenkins has been nominated for an Academy Award for best actor in his role as Walter Vale in this movie. Walter Vale has been teaching the same economics course at a Connecticut college for 20 years. He is so bored with his job, he finds difficulty even preparing a syllabus for the course. He goes to New York City to attend a conference and to give a paper which he has co-authored, but for which he really had very little input. He still has an apartment in New York, where he and his wife once lived. When he gets there, he finds the apartment occupied by a Syrian immigrant, Tarek, and his Senegalese girlfriend, Zainab. Walter takes pity on the young couple, allows them to stay, and a friendship develops among them.

Walter spends his days at the tedious economics conference, and in the evenings Tarek teaches him to play the African djembe drum, and before long Walter’s inner spirit and passion begins to awaken. The music in this film is amazing. There is a CD of the African djembe drum music from this film, and I have tried to buy the CD, but I have been unable to find it.

Tarek is arrested and held at a detention center awaiting deportation. The movie really begins to unfold when Tarek’s mother, Mouna, comes to New York to help him, and she stays in Walter’s apartment. A lovely, warm friendship develops, and the chemistry between Walter and Mouna is amazing. We see Walter begin to smile for the first time. I found myself really caring about what happens to all of these people.

As soon as the movie was over, I wanted to watch it again. The title refers to the visitor, but I was never sure who was the visitor. If you're looking for a movie to rent this weekend, rent "The Visitor". I absolutely guarantee you will love it.

Click on the video to hear some of the great djembe drum music.


Thursday, January 22, 2009

La Lunatic

In three more days there will be a new Moon and on February 8th there will be a full Moon. The full Moon always inspires all sorts of legends, and of course there is the anecdotal evidence of people behaving strangely during a full Moon. Apparently more babies are born during a full Moon, the hospitals and police departments are suddenly busier. It could all just be an urban legend, of course, but the Moon does have an effect on everything that contains water, and the human body is 95% water. Even bones are 22% water. So it would stand to reason that the Moon would affect us. Right?

Well, did you know that you can now purchase an acre of land on the Moon for $19.99? Yes, you can, and the fellow who is selling the lunar real estate is raking in $$millions from his lunatics clients. He owns a company called Lunar Embassy, and he gets calls every day from folks wanting to buy property on the Moon. And he accepts Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Diner's Club or Discover. He also accepts cash in various earthly and intergalactic currencies including Euros and dollars.

In 1967, the United Nations signed the Outer Space Treaty, which forbids any government from claiming the Moon. The treaty failed to mention anything about private individuals or corporations, so a second treaty forbidding anyone from claiming ownership of extraterrestrial real estate was proposed. Only a handful of nations signed this treaty. This left a loophole in international law. In 1980, Dennis Hope sent letters to the United Nations, the United States government and the government of the former Soviet Union, informing them that he was officially claiming ownership of all planetary and lunar surfaces in our solar system. He gave them the opportunity to respond if they had objections, but no one replied to him.

Hope, who calls himself "The Head Cheese," trademarked the term "Lunar Embassy" with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. He has sold property on the Moon to 2.5 million people in 80 countries, and more than 1300 corporations.

You better hurry, they're going fast. He guarantees a view of the earth.

One Ringy Dingy

Where I work, we receive daily health news bulletins, and we received one yesterday that I found very interesting.

"Humanity uses various forms of radiation in our everyday life. From microwaves to X-rays, we are surrounded by EMF waves (electromagnetic radiation). Modern medicine thanks Madame Curie for her discovery of the X-ray, but recognizes radiation poisoning eroded her health and eventually claimed her life.

Almost two billion people worldwide use cell phones, many of whom are children. This usage represents an unprecedented exposure to electromagnetic radiation in the population. Estimates put EMF radiation exposure at 100 times what it was only a few decades ago. Today, 30 to 50,000 new cases of brain and eye cancers are attributable to cell phone usage. Projections indicate this number will rise to 500,000 by 2010.

These energy waves carry information invisibly over great distances and can penetrate solid objects, humans included. As these are human-made forms of radiation, they are seen as foreign. Our bodies, well designed as they may be, do not have a built in protective mechanism for this kind of radiation, unlike solar radiation. Some fear humans put their health at risk bathing in a sea of EMF radiation.

Founder of the Safe Wireless Initiative, Dr. George Carlo, a world public health authority on cell phones, cautions harm from wireless technology may be even more tragic than global warming. His research suggests cell phone radiation can cause genetic damage. He found exposure allowed for leakage of the blood brain barrier. Normally, the blood brain barrier is a tightly controlled border. His research suggests even moderate use of wireless communication technology dramatically increases the risk of brain tumors.

Dr. Carlo explains when people are under stress, their nervous system goes into a sympathetic state, otherwise known as the fight or flight response. At a cellular level, stress causes cells to close down, as if they are in a sympathetic lock position. In such a state, nutrients have difficulty getting into cells and waste has trouble getting out. This leads to energy deficiency and an inability to communicate with other cells. From a health stand point, this is bad news. Essentially, the whole biological system is not functioning well and the immune system will follow suit.

People who are sensitive to cell phone radiation describe symptoms such as anxiety, insomnia, concentration difficulties, poor digestion, memory problems, immune dysfunction and reproductive trouble.

If electromagnetic pollution is responsible for such a collection of health dysfunction, people will waste a lot of time taking prescriptions that miss the mark. Making a lifestyle change may be the better solution. Because the health of you and your loved ones is so very valuable, consider using wireless tools sparingly."

... Vancouver Island News Group

Yikes! I wonder what other health hazards we are exposing ourselves to, without being aware. We are all, at this very moment, sitting in front of computer monitors. Hmmmmm....

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Random Things

Mary Ellen at Bad Habit has tagged me for a meme. I don't usually do memes, but I rather like this one, even though I don't like talking about myself. There's not much to say... In any case, the object of the meme is to discuss six random things about ... me ... So, here in no particular order, are six really boring random things about myself.

1. I love yellow. Henry Ford once said about his Model T Ford, "The customer can have any color he wants so long as it's black". Well, I feel that way about yellow. I will wear any color, as long as it's yellow. To me, yellow is the color of sunshine. I feel happy when I wear yellow. Kind of sappy, I know, but ... Vancouver can tend to be grey, grey, grey, so my raincoat is yellow, my rain slickers are yellow, my umbrella is yellow with blue flowers on it ... I think you get the idea.

2. I don’t like ostentatious things. I would love to live in a simple cottage with hollyhocks around the door. In fact, I would love to live in a log cabin with a rustic stone fireplace, real hardwood floors with area rugs, lots of windows, perhaps on a lake, with a rowboat and a canoe parked next to the dock. I would spend my summers swimming in the lake, or puttering around in my canoe, and for the rest of the year I would go for meandering walks through the woods.

3. I have OCD and everything in my cupboards is all lined up, with the labels facing out. In my refrigerator, the milk, eggs, cheese, fruit, vegetables, mayonnaise, salad dressings, etc., all have their own place, and it never varies. In my linen cupboard all my sheets and towels are color coordinated. People laugh at me when they see it, but I am more comfortable that way.

4. I have the same thing for breakfast every day, and whenever I vary from it, I don't enjoy breakfast, and I go back to the same thing the next day. I always have one scrambled egg, done with a bit of olive oil, onion, and a tiny bit of cheese. And strong Melitta coffee.

5. I feel bad when I type a post that offends or upsets anyone. I want everyone to be happy. I can tend sometimes to be outspoken, unfortunately. So to all the people, past, present and future who may be upset or annoyed with any of my posts, I do apologize, but I am probably never going to change. I’m worse in real life, trust me... I love you all, and it’s not meant personally.

6. I have a very good friend named Bailey. Bailey and I have telephone conversations sometimes, and we have had rather long, intelligent conversations. He has a bit of a British accent, and speaks very properly, with clipped tones. I think he must have a bit of Scottish in him, because he has red hair and freckles. Bailey likes me and he enjoys our conversations. He's quite delightful. Bailey is a dog and lives in Iowa with his owner, Russell. Bailey doesn't know he's a dog, however, and we don't have the heart to tell him.

7. Here is a seventh random thing, just because the first six are so -- boring. I don't own a car or a cell phone. I walk everywhere or I use public transit, and if I need to talk on the phone, I use my land line. I don't feel the need to be in constant contact with people all the time. The other day I was on the bus, and everyone was on the phone. It was surreal to hear everyone on the bus talking on the phone, and no one was talking to each other.

So there you have it. Nothing exciting in my little corner of the world. I'm not going to tag anyone, but if you play along, I would love to read some random things about you.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Cultures and Traditions

One of the many wonderful things about living in a multicultural city such as Vancouver is the food. We have hundreds of fabulous restaurants, Chinese, Japanese, Indian, French, Russian, Mexican, Greek, Italian, Iranian, Ethiopian, Moroccan, Turkish, Hungarian, oh, I could go on and on... At the top of my list of favorites is Japanese, followed by Indian as a close second.

Where I live and work, I am a quickly becoming a minority. It's very strange how that happens. But an interesting side effect of that is how other cultures have taught me to respect my own culture. I have had folks from all over the world ask me about my family customs and traditions, and I have to stop and think ... what are they? We never really give much thought to these things here in North America. We have a culture and traditions? Yes, I guess we do.

I remember as a child dancing the Maypole dance in the May Day Celebrations. No, that isn't quite the same as the pole dance done in certain clubs. Maypole dancing is an old British tradition, and it is done to celebrate Queen Victoria's birthday around May 24th. We have a big parade, and one of the little girls is crowned "Queen of the May". It's a lovely tradition. It's silly, I know, but it is a tradition, it's a statutory holiday and we get the day off work and school.

At work, we celebrate the festival of Diwali, which is known as the festival of lights or sometimes as the festival of sweets. You cannot even imagine the wonderful treats people bring to work for us. Omigoodness! And Chinese New Year ... the same thing. Fabulous food, and a big parade winding its way through Chinatown. And the feasts that mark the end of Ramadan, scrumptious! One of our Iranian doctors is a fabulous cook, and she brings in all sorts of exotic treats made with honey, and filo pastry and pistachio nuts. Yum!

I think it is very important for an ethnic society to have common customs and traditions. It's what binds us together and defines whom we are. We risk losing our identity otherwise. What is Canada's ethnic dish, aside from perhaps poutine? McDonald's hamburger? Kentucky Fried Chicken? Do we even have one?

When people from Iran or India or China ask me about my cultures and traditions, I want to have something to tell them. Our cultures and traditions are slowly being eroded from us, generation to generation. We have to learn to keep them and respect them and cherish them, just as we do with other cultures and traditions.

What are some cultures and traditions that you don't want to lose?

Monday, January 19, 2009

The Fog


The fog comes
on little cat feet.

It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on.


... Carl Sandburg

Just to give you some idea of the depth of the fog, those buildings are over 35, 40 and 50 stories high. The fog is eerie and beautiful, and stretches out over the Pacific Ocean.

I thought this lovely photograph would cool everyone down a bit after my last post about Barrack Obama. Goodness! I wish everyone the best of luck tomorrow!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Hotel California

I'm a Canadian, not an American, so folks will probably say I don't have a right to an opinion about this, but I just can't seem to get on board this train. What am I missing? If I were an American, my political philosophies would definitely lean more towards the Democrats than the Republicans. So why don't I care for this man? What is it everyone sees that I don't see? Or conversely, what is it I see that others don't see? It's not about race. America is more than ready for a Black President -- one who has indeed come from the ranks of Black American history.

It was during our generation that Black Americans were not permitted to drink from the same drinking fountains as other folks, or swim in the same swimming pools. Sammy Davis, Jr. was a beloved member of the "Rat Pack" and yet he was not allowed to stay in the same hotels as Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin. Rosa Parks became a hero for everyone, Black and White, when she refused to move to the back of the bus. God, that took guts! Many of us cannot even imagine dehumanizing discrimation on that level, so for the Americans to elect a Black President is long overdue.

I understand how awful the last eight years under the Bush Administration have been, and I believe also that any Democrat would have won this election. It was a done deal.

I remember about a million years ago the Eagles had a huge hit song called "Hotel California". Everyone loved it. I thought it was the most boring song I had ever heard. What was I missing? I still think it's the most boring song I have ever heard.

So, will someone please explain to me why I cannot get excited about this man? Why does something not feel right to me? Why does this ostentatious coronation inauguration costing $150,000,000 feel so wrong? I want to like him. Tell me what it is I am missing, and please be specific.



Addendum: I would like to mention that my purpose here is not to offend anyone's political affiliation or beliefs. Goodness! My question is aimed more inward than outward, but it is a valid question. What am I missing?

I Live In Lotusland

In exactly one year from now the world will be coming to Vancouver for the 2010 Winter Olympics, and I hope when folks come here they won't be disappointed to see palm trees instead of igloos. And there are no herds of moose (meese?) walking down the main streets. Vancouver is a very cosmopolitan city, and we wear Jimmy Choos, not snow shoes. I know everyone imagines Canada to be the land of ice and snow, but Vancouver has palm trees -- lots of them. The photos on this page were all taken by me. My favorite part of the city is English Bay in the West End, and this is one of the many (many) palm trees lining the bay.

A few weeks ago my friend Leslie and I went for lunch at the Boathouse Restaurant on English Bay. I took this photograph through the windows of the restaurant. I happened to glance out the window just as this sailboat passed by, perfectly framed by the trees and the palm trees, and I snapped the picture. This picture was taken at the beginning of December 2008, but it almost looks like a summer's day. In fact, the bay was filled with sailboats, and if you look closely you can see several more.

This last picture was taken just across English Bay in West Vancouver at an area called Dundarave. It looks like Hawaii, doesn't it? I have been to Hawaii, and I think this photo looks just like Hawaii. Well, actually, we do get mild, tropical weather from Hawaii here in Vancouver. We often have a weather system known as the Pineapple Express, and it brings warm, mild weather when it visits. It can also bring a lot of rain (*sigh*) but, well, this is the rainforest.

If you're at all interested, sometime I will tell you all about our desert, complete with cacti, sagebrush and rattlesnakes. In fact, I once had an encounter with a rattlesnake, but that's a story for another day.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

What Makes You Scream?

There are times when I think I am a complete total bit of a neurotic. Oh, the people who actually know me are saying, "Um ... ya think?!" But, yes, I will admit there are some things that drive me to the point of almost screaming. Does anyone remember clackers? They were a toy popular during the 1970s, and everywhere you went, kids had them. They consisted of two acrylic balls attached by a string and the object was to move the string until the two acrylic balls clacked together. Anyone who has ever heard the noise they made can certainly remember it.

Clack, clack, clack, clack, clack, clack, clack ....

At work we are required to wear our plastic access passes at all times. I have a co-worker who wears her access pass on a lanyard around her neck, and attached to the access pass is the key to her desk. Now, I don't understand the reason for this, because the key to all our desks is the same. My key opens her desk; her key opens my desk; and so on... But in any case, my co-worker has a form of ADHD and she is not able to sit still for any length of time. Do you see where I am going with this?

Clack, clack, clack, clack, clack, clack, clack .... all day long.

"Scream!"

I have another co-worker who sneezes. Constantly. She doesn't believe in the polite, quiet sneezes that require a Kleenex in front of the face first. She prefers the gut-busting, earth shattering, 5.9 on the Richter scale sneezes. They're always in doubles, and every time she does it, it scares the h*ll out of me.

Another of my co-workers is the sweetest person I know. She's very quiet. Often I will be working at my computer, and I will turn around to find her standing 10 inches away from my face, which of course immediately puts my heart into atrial fibrillation. "I wanted to talk to you, but you were busy, so I didn't want to disturb you."

Now, please don't get me wrong. I love my co-workers. They're wonderful people and on most days we make a great team. And I'm sure if you were to ask them, they would find things about me that makes them want to scream as well. I'm almost sure of it. But there are days when I come home from work a complete wreck.

What makes you want to scream?

Friday, January 16, 2009

Angels In The Outfield

Anyone who has read my blog for a while knows I am a skeptic. I envy folks who have strong faith. (Say, envy is one of the seven deadly sins, isn't it?) Anyway, people either have faith or they don't. It's not something we can wish for ourselves. Somewhere along the way, we either lose faith, or we never had it. I think I am sort of a combination of both. And yet, things keep happening to me -- strange things.

Last fall I had another mystifying experience that -- well -- mystified me. I work in a very noisy office, in fact, some days the noise level is so high I have to leave for a few minutes to get my sense of calm. But something very odd happened one day. I looked over at one of my co-workers, and she was reading some papers on her desk. She looked very focused and was concentrating on something. I looked back at my computer screen. Just then, through all the noise and cacophony in our office, it suddenly got very quiet and still, and a voice said, "No, don't look away, look back..." So I turned back to my co-worker and I felt something was not right, so I asked her if she was okay.

"Dizzzzeeee..."

And then all h*ll broke loose. We ran to get one of the doctors from the clinic, who examined our co-worker and said she was having a stroke. The doctor asked me to call an ambulance, and our co-worker was in the hospital within 20 minutes, receiving the clot-busting medication she required. I went to visit her later, and the neurologist said our quick actions saved our co-worker's life. If we had left her sitting at her desk, she would have suffered severe damage. She apparently had a minor heart problem which caused her heart to beat with an irregular heart beat. This in turn released a clot which went to her cerebelum. It was just an anomaly that can happen to an otherwise healthy, fit woman like my co-worker.

My co-worker came to visit me at work the other day. She is 100% well, she has had no residual effects of her stroke. She's a pretty woman, and she looked healthier and more fit than I had seen her look before. It was wonderful to see her.

My co-worker (friend...) is a woman of faith, and she believes God worked through me to save her life. I don't know. But I do know that something tapped me on the shoulder that day and told me not to look away. And the strangest thing was the quiet -- through all the noise, everything became quiet. "No, no, no, don't look away."

Faith -- you either have it or you don't. For me, the jury is still out.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

I Can Hardly Wait...!!!



As of today, I will no longer be seeing this prompt on my computer screen ... over ... and over ... and over ... I have now joined the 21st Century. Now I will be able to visit all of your wonderful blogs without my silly computer crashing.

Please be patient with me while I get myself organized. In the meantime, here is something to keep you entertained for a while -- one of the prettiest songs ever written.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Déjà Vu All Over Again

When I was a little girl, I did not want to go to bed during the long summer evenings. I wanted to stay outdoors and play with the older kids, who were usually allowed to stay outside until the sun set around 10:00. I wanted to be where the action was. I didn't always fall asleep right away, and I would lie there in my bed and remember things.

One of the things I remembered was being a child during another time, living in a great house made of granite stones. The house had endless hallways and chambers, which were lit by candles in wrought iron wall sconces. On the walls were huge hunting tapestries, and I remembered walking through the halls, looking at the tapestries. The tapestries were large and covered most of the walls, and there were intricate details and beautiful rich colors.

I grew up in a small town on Vancouver Island, and I can assure you, there were no great stone castles and no hunting tapestries. But I remembered them, in detail. And I remembered walking slowly through the hallways, studying the art work in the tapestries, thinking how beautiful they were next to the large stones in the granite walls, lit by the candlelight from the sconces.

When I researched hunting tapestries, this is what I found: In the early 1500s hunting scenes were very popular with the aristocracy. This popularity led to 'verdure' tapestries of lush landscapes, which in turn developed into romanticized pastoral designs, which reflected increasing Italian influences.

A few years ago the Vancouver Art Gallery held an exhibit of hunting tapestries, and I went to see it. As I went through the exhibit, I had a feeling of being at home. These tapestries were identical to the ones from my childhood memories. They were familiar to me, but the exhibit at the Art Gallery was the first time in my life I had ever seen a real hunting tapestry.

How does something like that happen? Do we in fact have past lives that we slowly forget in this one? I can't explain it, but to this day I have vivid memories of walking through the granite hallways, looking at the tapestries, lit by the flickering candlelight from the wall scones next to them.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Sproat Lake

I grew up in this painting, in fact it was painted by a friend of my mother's. It is Sproat Lake on Vancouver Island and the wonderful mountain in the background is Mount Arrowsmith, which is the largest mountain on Vancouver Island. Sproat Lake has 144 miles of shoreline and 13 islands. When I was a teenager living on Vancouver Island, my friends and I spent July and August living at Sproat Lake. The girls, Fae, Bonnie, Ann and I, stayed at Fae’s place and the boys, Doug, Bill, Gary and Randy, stayed next door at Doug’s place. We were only 13 or 14 at the time, and not really dating boys yet, but it was our first venture into flirting.

I’ll never forget one warm summer evening, the girls were lounging on the wharf, trying to look sexy. The boys attempted to impress us by jumping off the roof of their boathouse. We pretended to be very mysterious, and ignore them. But as the boys leapt off the roof and flew towards the water, each one of them lost their bathing trunks in mid air.

Make no mistake, God is a woman, and She has a sense of humor. The girls’ shrieks could be heard echoing around all 144 miles of shoreline. And then the loons took up the cacophony. Fay, Bonnie, Ann and I still get together occasionally, and without fail one of us says, “Remember the day the boys….?”

One afternoon after a day of swimming, we all went back Doug’s place to hang out. Doug asked me to make him a sandwich. Big mistake. From a very young age, I have had a feisty streak. It gets me into trouble all the time.

“Sure, you just sit where you are and read your newspaper. I’ll make you a sandwich.”

I opened the fridge to see what was there, and I found a can of dog food. I buttered the bread, spread the dog food, added a little ketchup, cut the sandwich up nicely, just so, and served it to Doug. He loved it.

“This is really good, what is this? I didn’t know my Mom had anything this good in the fridge. Can you make me another sandwich?”

“I would be happy to…!”

After wolfing down the second sandwich, Doug asked me what I had served him, and I held up the can of dog food. And then I started running. Doug chased me all over the property with the rolled up newspaper in his hands. I hid behind trees, in ditches, behind logs, watching his feet running by like cartoon characters. He finally caught me, after I couldn’t contain my laughter any longer. To my surprise, he laughed as well.

For years afterwards, whenever I ran into Doug and he was with a group of his friends, he would always point to me and say, “That’s the girl I’m going to marry.” Lucky for him, he didn’t.

I hope on warm summer evenings, that somewhere there are still girls and boys learning about each other by just having goofy fun.

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Tilting Universe

I grew up in a small town on the edge of a forest and my friend Helen* lived on the other side of the creek from our house. We spent all our time at each other’s houses, playing hopscotch, skipping, swimming, playing with dolls and doing all the other things girls do. We went through elementary school together and we ate lunch together every day. We would often trade lunches, and I always looked forward to the days when Helen’s mother made her chocolate bar and banana sandwiches. They were delicious. We grew apart as we got into high school and found we had different interests. Helen was very athletic and involved in girl’s basketball, where I was more involved with the school choir and painting. We went our separate ways and didn’t see each other again after graduation.

Helen became a teacher and moved to another city, and I got married. After my husband died, it was necessary for me to go back to work, so I became a legal assistant with a large law firm. I worked for a senior partner and his junior assistant, a young articling student named Paul*.

Paul was a very sweet young man and everyone liked him. He was dark, attractive and sort of self-effacing, but he was a very promising articling student. However, he had made one serious mistake in his personal life, which required a formal hearing before he could become a lawyer. When the hearing concluded, it was agreed that Paul could become a lawyer and practice law, but on the condition that he move to a law firm in another city.

In the meantime, Helen had been diagnosed with a condition that required surgery. The doctor who performed the surgery botched it, leaving Helen in chronic pain. Helen sued the doctor but she lost. By coincidence, the firm representing the doctor was the same law firm where Paul now worked.

Helen was frustrated with the outcome of her case, and after exhausting all appeals she set out on a mission to take justice into her own hands. She went to the law firm that had represented the doctor, with the intent to shoot the lawyer, and she shot Paul instead and killed him. She was on her way to shoot the doctor when she was captured. After a lengthy trial, Helen was found guilty of murder.

At the time this happened, I had not yet heard of the theory of six degrees of separation. Two people whom I had known at different times in my life, had their lives intersect with each other in a way that would turn out to be devastating for them both.

That is my story of how the universe can sometimes tilt on its axis.

*The names have been changed.

Thank You To The Blogger Team

Much to my astonishment, a few days ago the Blogger team chose me as one of their "Blogs of Note". Moi? Oh, goodness! I am honored that my boring-little-blog has passed muster, as the saying goes. But more than that, I am very pleased that so many of you wonderful folks have visited me, and have posted lively, witty and intelligent comments, and have added your names to my followers. I love meeting new people, and over the next few days (weeks?) I plan to visit each one of you. In addition, I have had folks ask me if they can link to my blog, to which I reply, "Absolutely!" That is what blogging is all about.

I often think of blogging as being similar to the little Russian matryoshka nesting dolls, where inside one you will find another, and another, and another ... That is the beauty of blogging. Click on one link, and it leads to another, and another, and another ... I have found blogging to be a wonderful way to find out about other people all over the world -- their lives, their customs, their ideas, their hobbies and interests, and their likes and dislikes. The one thing I have learned is that, the more differences we have, the more we are the same. Somehow, I find that very reassuring.

Thank you all for visiting my blog, and I hope you do have the opportunity to come back again soon.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Bill, The Toaster Repairman

Several years ago I had the opportunity to take some art classes with a well-known local artist. I had always admired her work, and I jumped at the chance to study with her. We had to "audition" and show her some of our work before we were accepted. Her class consisted of 15 people and it was an interesting group, all with very different artistic styles and levels of talent. We were instructed at the beginning of the classes to introduce ourselves by first names only, and we were not to discuss anything about our private lives. The teacher wanted everyone in the class to be on a level playing field, as it were, and to bring to it only our interest in learning art.

I made a couple of friends in the class, one was a woman named Kathy and the other was an older gentleman named Bill. The three of us sat together at the same table each week and we critiqued each other's "homework". Bill grew roses and he loved doing paintings of his roses.

Over the course of several weeks we got to know each other very well, but on a first name basis only. The three of us had a lot of fun at our little table, and occasionally our paintings would cause gales of laughter. One day as we were walking home, I said to Kathy, "What do you think Bill does for a living?" She said, "Well, he wears the same beige Lacoste golf shirt every week, and he's very quiet and unassuming. I think he's a toaster repairman." "Yup," I agreed. Bill was definitely a toaster repairman, quietly sitting in the back of his shop every day, screwdriver in hand, fixing toasters. It suited him perfectly.

At the end of the sessions, the entire class had a party. The teacher brought a few bottles of wine and we had a pot-luck dinner and kicked back. We were all given permission to state our last names and to describe a bit about ourselves. There were the usual suspects, a physiotherapist, a school teacher, a nurse, me ... a few other folks. Kathy and I winked at each other. We were finally going to find out if Bill was really a toaster repairman. If I recall, we had a $5.00 bet on it.

When it came to Bill's turn, he quietly talked about his rose garden and his interest in painting, but he was hesitant to talk about what he did for a living. We felt bad that he was embarrassed to admit he was a toaster repairman, but we finally pried it out of him.

Bill, it turned out, was The Honourable Mr. Justice William Joseph Trainer, a Justice of the Supreme Court of British Columbia. Our friend Bill had presided over the Supreme Court trial deciding the disposition of the “cash for bodies” in the Clifford Olson case, Canada's most infamous mass murderer, and serial killer of children.

Never judge a man by his quiet manner or his beige Lacoste golf shirt.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Extra-Sensory Perception...?

As I have said, oh, about a million times, I am not a writer, so I probably am not able to do justice to this little story. But it is a true story, so just imagine you are sitting with me in my living room, we are having some refreshments and chatting, and I am reciting the story to you just as it happened. I must say, also, that although I was baptized in the Catholic Church, I am not a Catholic so I have no special affinity to the Pope. I am spiritual but non-religious, secular. This is my Pope story.

It was Mother’s Day, Sunday, May 10, 1981 and my daughter and I went for a two-hour walk to Jericho Beach and Spanish Banks, near where I live. When we got home my daughter settled down to do her homework, and I enjoyed the rare luxury of a Sunday afternoon nap. Just as I was waking up, I looked out the French doors in my bedroom that lead to the garden. The cherry trees were in bloom and I thought how wonderful they looked. I was wide awake. As I was looking at them I had a vision of a radio tower, similar to the RKO radio tower, and I could hear voices coming from it. The voices were speaking in various languages that I could not understand, but then I could understand the voices as they spoke in French and English. They were announcing that the Pope had been shot and was being rushed to Agostino Gemelli University Polyclinic in Rome. The voices went on to say who did it and how he did it. His name was Mehmet Ali Ağca and he was a Turkish gunman for hire. He took the train into Rome and hid his gun in a locker at the train station. He later retrieved the gun, went to St. Peter’s Square and shot the Pope.

I sat up in bed and thought, “How evil. Why would anyone shoot the Pope?” It left me feeling very unsettled and I tried not to think about it. An hour or so later, a thunderstorm passed over Vancouver and lightning struck very close to our house. The basement windows were shattered and I felt very disoriented, as if I were part of the electrical energy.

The next day, Monday, I checked the television and newspapers to see if there had been any news about the Pope being shot, but there was nothing. By Tuesday, I had put it out of my thoughts. On Wednesday morning, May 13th, as I was getting ready for work and my daughter was getting ready for school, she came into my bedroom and said, “Mother, someone has just shot the Pope.” I said, “I know” and I told her about my premonition. I said, “Wait, there’s more,” and I told her the whole story. It was met with skepticism. Two days later, the rest of the story was announced on the six o’clock news. It was just as I had predicted.

A few years later I learned the assassination attempt on the Pope took place on the anniversary of the day and the hour when the Virgin Mary first appeared to the three peasant children in Fátima, Portugal, May 13, 1917. The Virgin Mary divulged three secrets to the children, the third of which was of “a bishop clothed in white who falls to the ground, apparently dead under a burst of gunfire.” The third secret had been kept sealed for many years and had been interpreted as the assassination of a Pope. One of the three children, Lucia, became a Carmelite nun and Pope John Paul II met with her on May 13,1982, one year after the attempt on his life. He always felt that the Virgin Mary had protected him.

Three years after the assassination attempt, the Pope came to Vancouver. Everyone turned out to see him, and I was standing by the side of the road near the Burrard Bridge as he passed by in his Popemobile with the bulletproof dome. Just as he pulled beside me and he was a few feet away, he turned and looked at me and our eyes locked for a brief moment, and on his face was a look of recognition. A strange and powerful force of the universe had connected us on May 13, 1981, and had also connected us both to another extraordinary event that had taken place on May 13, 1917. However, I will never fully understand what it was.

Friday, January 9, 2009

A Pear of Pears

The pear on the left sells for about $5,800 CDN. The pear on the right sells for about 58 cents. I painted the one on the right, and I was not aware of the existence of the pear on the left when I did my little painting. They look similar, but a pear is a pear is a pear.

The pear on the left is oil on canvas and is wonderfully and masterfully painted, while the pear on the right was sketched very quickly with some pencil crayons on a piece of pink cardboard. But somehow there is a little voice deep inside my head that tells me the pear on the right is almost as good as the pear on the left. Maybe not worth $5,800 CDN, but perhaps $5.80.

Lately I have been considering going back to school, studying art and finding out whether or not I can actually be any good. I am always intimidated by talented artists, and then I think, well, what the heck, if they can do it, why can’t I? What is it they have that I don’t have? Well, the only way to find out is to actually do it, right? And there is the conundrum. I am a procrastinator. I procrastinate.

I enjoy the boring, safe little routine of my life, and I find excuses not to push the envelope. My life is on autopilot, and I am comfortable that way. Go to school? Do something different? Change my routine? Whyever would I do that?

So, I have decided 2009 is the year I am going to be daring and do things I have never done before. Maybe quitting my job (gasp) and going back to school might be one of them.

Is there anything you have always wanted to do your entire life, but have been too afraid or intimidated to do? Now’s the time to do it.

It's Friday...!

Just when I think I cannot haul my ass carcass body into work one more day, that most magic of all creations comes along, namely, Friday. This first week back after the Christmas holiday season has been particularly exhausting. We now have a full complement of nutcases staff back at work once again.

*sigh*

Everyone is more relaxed on Fridays, people are looking forward to the weekend, and things that might have been enormously serious on Mondays are now just tiny blips on the radar screen. I may even take in some chocolates, just to sweeten everyone up.

I have something to look forward to as well. Tonight I will be receiving - ta-da - my new computer! Yes I will! I can hardly wait. I can't imagine what it will be like to use a computer that actually works, and actually has a USB port. Don't laugh. The computer I have now was the original computer used to guide the Mayflower from Southampton, England to the colony of Plymouth. So this weekend I will be learning all the bells and whistles of my new computer. Be prepared to be amazed at what I can do!

Have a great weekend, everyone.

NB: My site statistics on my boring-little-blog went off the chart today, and I noticed I have been chosen a "Blog of Note". Goodness! Moi? Well, the great thing is that I get to meet all you new folks, and I am looking forward to visiting you.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

A Tale Of Two Houses


I just had to share these two amazing images with you. One is a painting by Edward Hopper, and one is a photograph by my good friend Russell from Iowa Grasslands. Russell didn't realize when he took the photograph that he was almost duplicating a Hopper painting. The name of the painting is "Ryder's House" and it was painted in 1933. It now resides in the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

"Ryder's House", is described as follows: [The painting] shows a house built sometime before 1839. After several previous owners, title passed in June 1871 to Silas Ryder II. His son James, for whom nearby Ryder Beach was named, was born there. Again Hopper cues us about the long family history of the house through his title, Ryder's House. A traditional Cape Cod house-and-a-half, it was, and is, a shingled structure that retains much of its early character, in spite of subsequent additions. Rather than depicting the house from the front or the back, which would have indicated the actual size of the substantial dwelling, Hopper selected a vantage point that made the house seem small and simple. He emphasized its age by scumbling layers of gray-white pigment over one another so that it appears to be weathered stucco rather than shingle.

Russell's photograph was taken yesterday on a trip to northern Iowa. The whole area is encased in ice right now, but the brilliant sunshine on the house in his photograph is almost identical to the sunshine in Hopper's painting. Notice the chimneys and the shadows on the roof lines. And both images have an air of stark bleakness.

Now, if we could just get some history on Russell's photograph. I think these two images are wonderful...!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Books! Books! Books!

Ever since I was a little girl, I have loved books. My favorite gifts were often books, and I would disappear into my room to read them. I loved Maggie Muggins, all of the Nancy Drew series, Treasure Island, Black Beauty, Greek Mythology, Heidi, The Wind in the Willows, Alice in Wonderland, and so much more. I escaped to the worlds of all the imaginery places and characters. One moment I could be in Switzerland and the next I could be on a pirate ship in the Caribbean. I became addicted to books.

This Christmas I received three wonderful books. "Annie Liebowitz at Work", an autobiography by Annie Liebowitz, the photographer. Annie Liebowitz has lived an amazing life, in addition to being one of the world's best photographers. Who else but Annie Liebowitz would ask the Queen to remove her Crown? The Queen's reply: "What do you think this is?" I always get the impression when I see photographs of the Queen that she is just slightly ticked off about something, and is about to holler "Off with her head!" The images Annie captured of the Queen are beautiful and very human. Annie Liebowitz has led a life as interesting as many of the subjects she has photographed, and I can hardly wait to read of her adventures.

The second book I received is "The Year of Living Biblically", by A.J. Jacobs, a writer for the "New York Times" and "Esquire Magazine". A.J. Jacobs is Jewish, but he grew up in a secular home. "The Year of Living Biblically is about my quest to live the ultimate biblical life. To follow every single rule in the Bible – as literally as possible. I obey the famous ones:

The Ten Commandments.
Love thy neighbor.
Be fruitful and multiply.

But also, the hundreds of oft-ignored ones.

Do not wear clothes of mixed fibers.
Do not shave your beard.
Stone adulterers.
"... A.J. Jacobs

The third book I received is "Dreams from my Father" by Barack Obama. Yes, I really, really do want to like him, and I am hoping this book will do the trick. I should, however, learn to keep my opinion about him to myself. As Mark Twain says in his essay, "The Privilege of the Grave", "As an active privilege, free speech ranks with the privilege of committing murder: we may exercise it if we are willing to take the consequences."

*sigh*

I am looking forward to reading this book, because I am earnestly hoping it will change my mind about Barack Obama. Intelligent, well-read, well-informed people appear to really like him. Maybe there is something I have missed. I'm sure of it.

So, now I have three books covering all the bases - art, religion and politics. Does it even get any better than that?

We All Live In A Yellow Submarine

The “Ben Franklin” was once the largest non-military submersible in the world and it is now at the Vancouver Maritime Museum. In 1969 the “Ben Franklin” made a 30-day dive that made NASA history. The “Ben Franklin” was used as a laboratory to see how people respond to a prolonged voyage in an enclosed capsule, including sleep quality and patterns, sense of humor and behavioral shifts, physical reflexes, and the effects of a long-term routine on the crew. The lessons learned from that mission are used today in NASA’s plans to send people into deep space.

The “Ben Franklin” was purchased by a Vancouver businessman for private use, but it sat disassembled and slowly rusting, for 30 years. He donated the submersible to the Vancouver Maritime Museum. The Museum's director James Delgado, an American underwater archaeologist, realized the importance of restoring the “Ben Franklin”. He did this with the help of Vancouver businesses and volunteers. James Delgado contacted the former crewmembers of the “Ben Franklin”, and also the company who originally built the submersible. In 2002 The Vancouver Maritime Museum hosted a reunion of the original crew of the “Ben Franklin”.

The submersible is now part of the exhibit at the Museum. The interior of the sub is not open to the public yet. However, if you click on this link, you can take a virtual tour of the sub. And if you live in Vancouver, check out the Vancouver Maritime Museum. It’s full of wonderful treasures.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

A New Year, A New Calendar

La Psyché
Berthe Morisot
1876

I'm not overly fond of New Year's Eve celebrations, and I celebrate the New Year by getting up early on New Year's Day and greeting the day. One of my favorite things to do is to take down the old calendar and put up the new. I look at the fresh, clean pages and wonder what the months ahead have in store. Usually - at least most of the time - we can choose how we fill those pages. Two 21st Century "buzzwords" are proactive and reactive, and we can truly be proactive as much as possible about how our days will unfold. If we proceed with inertia and sluggishness, our days will be filled reactively rather than proactively. I think we all tend to go through the "coulda, shoulda, woulda" phase occasionally, but somehow New Year's Day has the promise of "can, shall, will" - don't you think? I never make New Year's resolutions, because they usually don't last until much past noon, but I do like the fresh, clean pages of a new calendar and a new year.

My calendar this year was one of my Christmas gifts from my family, and it is a wonderful calendar of female Impressionist painters. These paintings are by Berthe Morisot, who was a friend of Edouard Manet, and in fact she married his brother, Eugène.

Grain Field
1875

I think this painting is easily as wonderful as anything painted by Vincent van Gogh, who came along later. Berthe Morisot was a member of the circle of painters in Paris who became known as the Impressionists. Undervalued for over a century, possibly because she was a woman, she is now considered among the first league of Impressionist painters. Although traditionally Manet has been related as the master and Morisot as the follower, there is evidence that their relationship was a reciprocating one.[3] Morisot had developed her own distinctive artistic style. Records of paintings show Manet's approval and appreciation of certain stylistic and compositional decisions that Morisot originated. He incorporated some of these characteristics into his own work.

... Wikipedia

You can read more about Berthe Morisot here and see more of her paintings here.

With the passing of another year, we all hear that loud ching as the clock ticks ahead. I hope you all go out and make it a wonderful new year. And remember, look ahead, not back. Last year's calendar has been filed away.