Thought For The Day

March 31, 2008

The flowers fall, for all
our yearning; weeds grow,
regardless of our dislike.

— zen saying

The Pritzker Prize

March 31, 2008

The Pritzker Prize is the Nobel of architecture and the 2008 award has gone to French architect Jean Nouvel for his “insatiable” creative experimentation.

I’m not a great lover of his work, finding much of it too “blocky” for my taste. However, his roof over the Lucerne Cultural and Conference Center works really well as a reflection of the environment.


And this incomplete work in Abu Dhabi is fascinatingly hard to grasp.

Abu Dhabi

Congratulations to him. Recognition by one’s peers is the greatest satisfaction.

Night Music: Put Your Records On

March 30, 2008

Happier days than she is going through right now, I’m guessing.  Hope it gets better for her.

I ♥ Maps

March 29, 2008

I’ve touched on data visualization before. The ability to display quantities of data in a visual format that explains and expands is a key skill in my opinion. None of has time to read through the reams of statistical background, but we all have a reaction when we see an image that conveys the same knowledge.

Since I was a young boy, I have had a fascination with maps — pure visualizations of geographic data. I’ve had odd collections of maps, and I’ve read a few histories of cartography. I like maps. But many uses of maps have now been usurped by satellite imagery that allows the viewer to scale their view exactly as desired, and can add map-style data as an overlay. With some, you can even drill down to a street-level view. Fabulous use of technology.

Commercial Drive

But this doesn’t mean that maps qua maps have lost their interest. Especially when there are sites like Strange Maps to fire up the imagination. They manage to find odd and fascinating maps of all kinds. There is a great map of the walks taken by Armstrong and Aldrin on the moon, for example. There are fictional maps, artistic diagrams, odd stuff. The image below is of the haunts of Tom Petty in Los Angeles.

Tom Pettys LA

Spring Blossoms

March 29, 2008

Every Spring Vancouver is awash in beautiful blossoms. Over here on the eastside, stand at Victoria and Parker (or East 3rd) and look east or west to see long glorious vistas of blossom trees.

Bigger Trees Near Warter

March 28, 2008


I’m not sure that any image could do justice to this marvelous new David Hockney work.  It is enormous:  12 meters long and 4.5 meters high.  It is probably the largest picture ever painted outdoors.  It consists of 50 separate canvases hung together and was the star of last year’s Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy.  Now, he has donated the work to the Tate Gallery.  The size of the piece will make the showing “complicated” but they will find a way.

A Jerk Is Snatched From Obscurity

March 28, 2008

pushing excellence to excess
arms burning with the weight
of a hundredweight of metal
denying the body’s crying
crying with the throb of victory
a champion is born
and the interest on a thousand
mornings of solitude is
returned in gold

Cleanliness and Culture

March 28, 2008

In the world of cultural beginnings, cleanliness and personal hygiene have an ancient but stuttering history. It is a history that is entertainingly captured by this review of two recent academic tomes on the subject.

Virginia Smith, a British historian and fellow of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, begins Clean, her survey of hygiene’s “material empiricism” and purity’s “immaterial imagination,” at the beginning, observing that our grooming rituals are rooted in those of our primate ancestors. Indeed, well into the 17th century, artists de­picted wealthy women apparently proudly de­lousing their children, much as monkeys pick their progeny’s ­nits—­perhaps a skill worth cultivating again in this era of resurgent lice and ­bedbugs … In The Dirt on Clean, Toronto-based journalist Katherine Ashenburg begins her chatty history with ablutions in the Odyssey. The Greeks not only brought us hygiene, which made cleanliness part of healthfulness, but also their sociable public baths. Taking this concept and running with it, the Romans created baths where, says Ashenburg, you could have “sex, a medical treatment, and a haircut” in one convenient ­stop.

As both books attest, personal hygiene is a subjective topic, varying both by society and by historical period. And also, I might add, by personality. I had a throughly European upbringing, but I couldn’t bear to go a day without a shower. The same cannot be said for some of my European colleagues at the office.


It’s Snowing In Vancouver

March 28, 2008

I’m sure this isn’t the first time it has snowed here at the very end of March, but I sure wasn’t expecting it. Just the other day I was wandering around in a short-sleeved shirt. At least it will give the local mountains another good weekend before they close.  And it takes our minds off the dismal Canucks.

Kayaks In the Mist

March 25, 2008

An early morning in Steveston.

Thought For The Day

March 25, 2008

Reality is that which, when you stop
believing in it, still exists.

— Philip K. Dick

The Champ Is Back!

March 23, 2008

AsashoryuAsashoryu the Great is back at the top of the sumo heap!

The March basho in Osaka finished last night in perfect grand style. After a see-saw battle throughout the first fourteen days, both the yokozuna, Asashoryu and the young lion and fellow-Mongolian Hakuho, came to the last day with records of two losses and twelve wins. Their bout — winner take all — would close out the tournament.

The evening was as full of sumo-Shinto ritual as final days should be, the hall was unusually packed from the very start of the bouts, and the rikishi responded by performing at their best: Most bouts were interesting contests, with very few simple blow-outs. As the lesser wrestlers fought for the lesser prizes, and for their positions in the next basho, the tension rose until at last it was here. Asashoryu and Hakuho strode onto the dohyo and went through the intricately synchronized pre-bout ceremonies. And then they were against each other, testing the other’s strength and balance, pushing with arms and bodies. And then suddenly Hakuho was in the air, crashing toward the floor. Asashoryu had thrown him with a wonderful technique.

It was Asashoryu’s twenty-second Emperor’s Cup and, while he stood with classic sumo stoicism as the referee officially announced the result of the bout, he punched the air and beamed his happiness as he strode from the arena through throngs of adoring fans. The boss is back!


March 23, 2008

So Cruel

March 22, 2008

The CNN headline screams “Ex-70s radical free for 5 days on clerical error” as if we were all in mortal danger from the liberty of Minnesota housewife Sara Jane Olson. Not a mention of the utter cruelty of giving someone their longed for freedom and then just five days later snatching it back with the explanation that it was all just a silly mistake.

Life Before TV and The Movies

March 21, 2008

None of us today — at least none of us in the industrialised north and south — can remember a time when there wasn’t either the TV or the movies to give us animated entertainment.  But life before us wasn’t dull or without its own mechanical delights.

The always interesting Low-tech Magazine has a fascinating series of articles covering the Panorama, the Stereoscope, the Magic Lantern, and the Peep Show.


Well worth the time.

Reef On The Drive

March 21, 2008

I guess Commercial Drive just wasn’t ready for an American-Pie retro Quebec diner featuring poutine. We watched a man build Frenchie’s last year through months of hard effort. And we watched as day after day and week after week Frenchie’s was never busy. Some days it was hard to see a single bum in a seat. Not surprising it closed, I guess.

But Frenchie’s sad loss has proven to be a boon for the Drive because the space has been taken over and refurbished as The Reef, a Caribbean joint, with other branches on Main Street and in Victoria. We had dinner there last night and it was great! Simply but appropriately decorated and furnished, the atmosphere was good, the service attentive, and business brisk.

My better half had the Bajan fried chicken, which came with yardie yam fries, gravy and coleslaw. She told me it was the best fried chicken she had ever eaten outside of the house, and then called over the waitress to tell her the same thing. It was that good.

I had the goat roti, an enormous and wonderful bundle that I couldn’t finish (packed it up and brought it home). The smooth but highly spiced taste was exactly what I remember from Jamaica. Wonderful. Mine also came with their coleslaw, made without mayonnaise and with a very fresh taste and texture.

I look forward to herself and I going through their menu comprehensively over the next few months.

Tree and Coaster

March 21, 2008

Trees and Coaster

Night Music: Walkin’

March 20, 2008

Hard to fail with the Miles Davis Quintet of the late 60s.

Holi Day

March 20, 2008

The Spring Equinox is an important time for many religions and groups to celebrate a new beginning. There is Easter, of course, and Purim. In Iran and that region, many celebrate the new year — Nowruz Mubarak! In India, it is the festival of Holi.


A colleague at work, Vikas, wrote me about Holi: “It’s a festival of colors and brotherhood. People play with colors and apply color on each other’s face and give hugs. It’s actually about forgetting the differences of past and starting afresh and colors make all people look same, nobody is big, small, rich or poor, equality among all.”

How can you beat that?

A Sign Of My Times

March 20, 2008

Fifty years ago this Easter, my father dressed me in a warm coat and, with my grandfather — they were both Labour Party activists, — walked me the short block to Chiswick High Street. There, we joined thousands of the curious to watch go by the first Ban The Bomb March from Trafalgar Square in central London to the Aldermaston nuclear weapons factory. Some in the crowd cheered, most watched in silence. My father and grandfather cheered and clapped and I cheered and clapped along with them.

This Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) was a very new animal on our streets. A new Campaign needed a new symbol, and it was for this very march that Gerald Holtom devised the famous “peace sign”. He took the semaphore signals for “N”uclear and “D”isarmament and put them in a circle to represent the earth. And I was there at its public birth. If only my memory were sharper!