April 30, 2008

“Meadow”, (2000), photoshop transfer to TIFF, 10″ x 8″

The World Atlas of Language Structures

April 30, 2008

I have mentioned before that languages are an important interest of mine. Now we have an extraordinary linguistic resource online — the World Atlas of Language Structures.

The database covers more than 2,500 languages by up to 140+ structural and familial criteria. The content is displayed in text and maps serving as a rich body of data visualizations. We are lucky to have such work made available to us, and I greatly appreciate the effort.

Ocean View

April 30, 2008

“Ocean View”, (2008), oil and acrylics on canvas, 16″ x 20″

I posted an earlier version of this a week or so ago.  That older post has been taken offline.

This Is A Happy Anniversary

April 28, 2008

On this very day eight years ago, the most wonderful woman in the world arrived in Vancouver to live with me.  I had only imagined true happiness before that moment.


April 27, 2008

When I last wrote about our end of the Drive, I was bemoaning the fact that all the new action was on the east side of Commercial. I had completely forgotten about Stix Noodle & Grill, an unpretentious place on an unpretentious block between a 24-hour quicky mart and Deserts on the west side of the street. We went there for dinner tonight and it was great!

Not very large, the interior is bright and fresh and clean, a bit like a food court site. You order at the kitchen counter and wait for your order to be called. There are a few tables and chairs and long counters with stools by the windows onto Commercial, perfect for watching the neighbourhood go by.

There are less than a dozen items on the menu, with Malay and Filipino influences. We had Malaysian beef curry and Lemon grass chicken with a side of spring rolls. The beef in the curry had been cooked, slowly I think, for a long time, until it was just perfect for eating; and the mild curry with coconut milk was exactly right. On the other plate, you could really taste the lemon grass in the chicken. We think it must have been marinated for quite a while before grilling. Excellent tastes from both.

Both meals came with perfectly cooked fluffy rice, the curry with potatoes in the sauce, and mixed vegetables with the chicken. The spring rolls were very tasty, with the lightest possible batter.

Cheap, cheerful and delicious. We will return, for sure.

Lampshade #1

April 27, 2008

“Lamp Shade #1” (2008), powerpoint transfer to TIFF, “15” x 20″

Tulip and Vase

April 27, 2008

“Tulip and Vase” (2008), powerpoint transfer to TIFF, 12″ x 16″

Head Shots

April 27, 2008

A couple of great hairstyles on show at the 420 last week.


April 25, 2008

Researchers have long believed that oil paint was developed in Europe in the 13th century, becoming widespread by the 15th. However, paintings using a walnut or poppy-oil base have been discovered in Afghanistan and dated to the 7th century.

“This is the earliest clear example of oil paintings in the world, although drying oils were already used by ancient Romans and Egyptians, but only as medicines and cosmetics,” says team leader Yoko Taniguchi.

The paintings were in the caves behind the huge 6th-century Buddha statues blown up by the Taliban a few years ago. The scientists believe they were painted by artists traveling the Silk Road from China.

We Got The Good Buses

April 24, 2008

As of last Monday, the #20 bus route that runs down Commercial Drive is handled by the wonderful new articulated buses.

For years we have had to live with the old buses on The Drive, and boy did they get crowded! Bigger buses, increased schedules — this is a good time!

Update:  It has taken me a week to realize that the big new buses on the Drive are trolleys, running on electricity.  This makes then even better than my old favourites, the 98 and 99 B Lines, which are powered by gas or diesel!

Night Music: “Tutu”, Miles Davis and Marcus Miller

April 22, 2008


April 22, 2008

ecce homo
this Jew ex machina
who’s purloined Pauline
crashed the Whore
of Rome’s machinery

— a sudden stoppage
in the
constant(ine) gears
which had weathered
the (st)orms
of barbarism and buffoonery —

died on a tree
say it
(s)aint so
devoid of (e)motion
qui(e)t, silent even
as the public gawked
and prodded
b(lo)ody hands agape.

Agape! he cries,
through the tears
renting his b(lo)ody flesh
almost as ba(l)dly
as we have
rented his b(lo)ody
super(ficial) image
through the years

in the
par(ox)ysm of death
he begged
his go(o)d forgive
those who
(k)illed him
with their fears

In remembrance of the Pope’s visit to the USA, April 2008

Trees Near Hilo

April 21, 2008

Trees and Weeds

April 21, 2008

After the usual fabulous dim sum at Pink Pearl on Sunday morning, we headed downtown to the Art Gallery. When we were there in February to see the Truth Beauty: Pictorialism exhibition, we didn’t have the energy to look at the other galleries, and I had been intrigued by a series about trees. So today, we saw it.

The exhibition is called “The Tree: From The Sublime To The Social” and covers painting, photography, sculpture and video. There was quite a lot to like, but I saw my favourite piece first. It was Ed Piens’ “In awe of her power“, an intricate paper cutting, perhaps 20 feet by 10, showing a complex series of entwined tree branches with human figures within.

I was also impressed by some wide frame black and white photographs of fallen trees, full of stunning detail but with a bulk that respected the objects. I am embarrassed to say I don’t remember the artist’s name.

I guess I should have known that the exhibit would include examples of work (upside down trees, of course) by Rodney Graham, whom I have disparaged before. I had rather hoped not to see his stuff again, but there we are.

Outside, on the front steps of the gallery — Vancouver’s main commons — was a 420 to celebrate Cannabis Day. Several thousand people were there, relaxing in the sunshine, smoking dope, selling dope, hawking the marijuana lifestyle. It was reasonably well-organized with stalls for vendors and a complete lack of uniformed police. There were folks of all shapes and sizes and ages and colours and creeds, simply enjoying. We didn’t stay long because crowds aren’t our thing.

We came home and I cooked chicken kofta. An interesting day.


April 21, 2008

We have no real garden, just a well-protected extended balcony with everything grown in pots, planters and boxes. We have, however, enjoyed a lot of success growing flowers and vegetables — a success we put down mainly to the quality of our compost.

For more than seven years now, we have maintained a compost pile in a large plastic container. We turn it as often as we can, and feed it almost everything we don’t eat. When I started it, I went across the street to a local park and dug up half a dozen worms. Now, whenever I dig into the compost, I find masses of worms, sometimes in tightly curled balls. I love them and try not to harm them because it is they that produce the heavy dark soils rich with nutrients that fill our vegetable and flower boxes each spring.

Now there is a great little article from the Telegraph in London about the value of worms. The writer quotes naturalist Gilbert White expounding in 1777 that “the earth without worms would soon become cold, hard-bound and void of fermentation, and consequently sterile.” We also learn that the Egyptians had a caste of priests devoted to the well-being of the little earth-chewers. Moreover, the writer tells how the American prairies, devoid of native worms since they were killed off in the Ice Ages, surged with productivity once the Europeans arrived with their underground allies.

But there is possible danger ahead for my little friends.

A New Zealand flatworm accidentally introduced to Belfast in the Sixties has run wild. It kills earthworms by turning them liquid. The pest has spread through Scotland, northern England and Ireland and in some places, earthworm populations have collapsed.

This sounds just as deadly as the pine beetle or the zebra mussel or kudzu. I sure hope they keep away from my compost bin.

Sun Study #1

April 19, 2008

“Sun Study #1” (2008), acrylics on canvas, 16″x20″

Once I got over the shock of the snow this morning, the weather was brilliant; cool air and a bright clear light blue sky.  Perfect walking weather.  And so, after breakfast at the Skylight, I wandered about on the Drive for a while.  Soon enough I found myself in the local art store where I stocked up on colours and canvases.  It felt great to walk home with canvases under my arm and visions of paintings in my head.

I spent a lot of the afternoon painting the sun study above and test-painting mountain firs for another piece I’m planning.  Life’s pretty good.

Better Than The Curate’s Egg

April 19, 2008

With about a hundred restaurants on The Drive between Broadway and Venables, I guess it is not so strange that, even in my almost twenty years here, I haven’t tried them all before. One of the ones I had missed to date is the Rinconcito Salvadoreno up around 5th. We finally made it there last night.

When I got there at 6, just a couple of tables were in use. By the time my wife arrived fifteen minutes later, every table was full and there was a line-up out the door that continued throughout our dinner. Unknown this place isn’t! I was amazed at how many people they could squeeze into such a small space, including a fourteen-person group that was, we thought, a Spanish language class outing.

As the name suggests, this is a restaurant that features the cuisine of El Salvador, especially pupusas of which they have several varieties including cheese, chiccharron and bean stuffings. The daily special pupusa was queso con loroco. Much of the rest of the menu was recognizable from Mexican fare. I was disappointed (as was our host, I think) that the imported beers were all Mexican rather than Salvadorean (not that I have ever drunk a Salvadorean beer, but I like to try local brews when eating their food).

The especially good looking one of us ordered a couple of pupusa revuelta, rice and salad. She really liked the pupusa, which came with a tasty curtido and tomato salsa; and she appreciated the fact that the salad contained a wide range of good ingredients rather than just a pile of boring greens. We both thought their rice was overcooked.

I made the error of ordering pollo encebollado, chicken with onions. My fault, really; I should have thought it through. I find that re-heated chicken has a peculiarly unpleasant taste (I adore re-heated leftovers, where flavours have been allowed to marry and meld. But NEVER chicken!) I should remember that most Central American cuisines boil chickens for a long time and then re-heat them with various sauces and condiments. Here, I am guessing, the chicken is slow boiled with onions, and then the meat is pulled and heated as ordered. I am positive that if you don’t mind re-heated chicken, then this was well-prepared. I just didn’t like it.

As I mentioned above, this was a crowded, busy place. That level of activity always seems to feed a friendly atmosphere, and so it was. Many of the diners seemed to be regulars, usually a good sign. Service was fine and the price was reasonable. I’ll go again and try something other than the chicken.

Global Warming and Bad Marketing

April 19, 2008

About three weeks ago I wrote a piece about how unusual it was to have snow in Vancouver at the end of March. Guess what? Three weeks into April and we have snow on the roofs again! It came down last night and survived the very cold night. I doubt it will last the day, but still! Just a week or so ago we were practising for summer in our shorts. Today, I have to iron a heavy winter shirt before I can go out to breakfast.

It is days like this that make a mockery of “global warming”. Most people will remember this snow more than they will recall the breaking up of the ice shelves reported last week. There was probably no marketing mastermind behind the unfortunate adoption of “global warming” as shorthand for the entire phenomenon of climate change, but marketing simply “climate change” would have been a better idea.

So, to cut a long debate short, we can blame Al Gore for the snow today.


April 17, 2008

He snored.
And threads of thoughts of windy days
Rushed by like the rivers of Sierra de Ronda.

He turned.
And the heft and touch of the silken duvet
Slipped across his body like the soft waves of Estepona.

He slept.
And into his reverie the ringing telephone
Floated like a minor chord from a flamenco guitar.

He yawned.
And the dreamy grin of the old pepper merchant
Dissolved like tapas in the mouth of a hungry eater.

He answered.
And the sound of his hoarsely whispered “Ola?”
Crept across his chin like a shovel scraping tar.

He awoke.
And the everyday cares of the little village
Wrapped up his dreams like garbage and threw them afar.

Images of Old

April 17, 2008

I’ve already lived through several generations of photography. My parents had a little Brownie box, and then I graduated to an SLR; we all had Polaroids of one kind or another, abandoned for digital a decade back; and now we have digital-SLRs and telephone cams.

Of course, this sequence is just the latest in the surprisingly long history of photography. While the work of Fox Talbot and Dageurre from the 1830s and 1840s is quite well known, the latest thought is that experiments could go back a further generation, to the 1790s.

A print, “The Leaf”, due for auction, is now thought to be connected to Thomas Wedgwood and Henry Bright who were experimenting with “solar images”. Humphrey Davy (famous as the inventor of the miners’ safety lamp) wrote about these images in 1802.

Jill Quasha is the photo dealer and expert who bought “The Leaf” in 1989 as she was building the Quillan Collection, a group of world-renowned photographs that Sotheby’s sold (without the leaf print) for almost $9 million on April 7. She said that it was still too early to say exactly what type of research would be conducted on the image. Tests could include those to determine the age of the paper and to identify the chemical makeup of any substances on the paper. “I think it has to be done quickly and efficiently and with the least amount of damage to the photograph,” said Ms. Quasha, who added that she hoped the research could be completed within six months so that the print could be put up for auction again with a more iron-clad, and perhaps stunning, provenance. (As a Talbot, it was estimated to sell for $100,000 to $150,000; if it is determined to be older, it could bring substantially more.)

Interesting stuff for those us who follow cultural beginnings.