Thought For The Day

March 24, 2009

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Art — Whatever

March 23, 2009

It was the most glorious Spring day here yesterday.  Clear blue skies and a bright sun encouraged us, and even a chilling wind couldn’t damp the pleasure of being out.  After a wonderful dim sum break at the Pink Pearl, we headed downtown for the Art Gallery.

Three distinct shows are on offer right now.  The main ground floor space has the show “Legacies of Impressionism in Canada” featuring late nineteenth and early twentieth century works by Maurice Cullen, James William Morrice and others.  Primarily, these works are of the Canadian landscape — often bleak and cold — and I think the collection speaks more to changing views of that landscape than it does to changing styles of painting (but I may not have thought that through completely).

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I was not really aware of Maurice Cullen before this show but there were many canvases of his that really spoke to me.  “The Ice Harvest” shown above is very effective, as is a night scene called “Ste Catherine’s Street, Montreal” from 1899.   His later works, mainly of the uninhabited Laurentians or of Newfoundland villages, just shine with a gorgeous light. There is also “Brittany Farm” (1900-1902) that shows his ability to use a colour palette that stretches away from the greys and into orange, blue and green.

His contemporary, James William Morrice, however, seems to exemplify  Impressionism as murk.  I wasn’t impressed with any of his canvasses, and for me he suffers badly in comparison with Cullen.

Talking of colour, I also want to note “Spring Thaw, Quebec Village” by Clarence Gagnon — bright with snow and multi-coloured roofs.  A marvelous piece.  In looking for a version of that painting to show here (I failed), I found a whole raft of Gagnon’s work that I liked.

The second and third floors of the Gallery were given over to “How Soon Is Now” (an exhibition of contemporary BC art) and “Enabling Abstraction” (the development of Abstract Expressionism) respectively.  Both shows are full of creativity, with styles ranging from expressionism, through video cutups, conceptual art, pop art, and everything in between.

They are tough shows if you have to “like” most of the works you see.  Quantities of black canvases, white canvases, piles of everyday objects, a pile of soil called “The Island”, several large installations that don’t appear to have a point, obvious creativity put to banal and mundane uses at times. I have long ago given up “liking” or “disliking” non-figurative art in general.  There are pieces I like and pieces I don’t.  Knowing exactly what it is to face an empty canvas, I deeply appreciate any artistic impulse.  Sometimes, though, I think it best not to share works that have meaning only to me. In many cases it seems that to be shown, all one needs is an Artist’s Statement as full of inflated phrases as possible;  that the statement is as important as the finished work.

I was glad to see an expressionist piece by Tony Onley called “Blue Figure“.  I also really liked Landon Mackenzie’s “Tracking Athabasca (Short Line)“, a massive canvas.   It was a good visit and we saw a lot of art.  Hooray for public galleries!


Baking For Spring

March 22, 2009

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Saturday morning’s baking in honour of Spring.


More Home Made Baking

March 15, 2009

Today I expanded my repertoire of breads by making these English muffins which, I have to say, turned out pretty good.

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Art Of Ancient Grease

March 14, 2009

Wonderful creativity from 10 burgers and a paper canvas!  Thanks to Serious Eats for the link.


A Classic Wright House For Sale

March 14, 2009

The Fawcett Ranch House near Los Banos, California, is for sale.  It is one of the most complete examples of Frank Lloyd Wright’s architectural vocabulary.

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All this and 80 acres of San Joaquin Valley farming land can be yours for the surprisingly low price of $2,700,000.  I would if I could.


Pizza By Automat — Fresh Baked!

March 14, 2009

Thank God it was an Italian who did it, is all I can say.   The whole idea of making a pizza (including making the dough) in three minutes and serving it out of a machine just sounds bad.  But, as the New York Times reports

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Over the last decade, Mr. [Claudio] Torghele, 56, an entrepreneur in [Rovereto, a] northern Italian city who first made money selling pasta in California, has developed a vending machine that cooks pizza … The machine Mr. Torghele and his engineers produced is outfitted with little windows so the customer can watch the pizza being made. As in the Charlie Chaplin film “Modern Times” (in miniature and without Chaplin) wheels turn and gears grind.

The customer presses a button to choose one of four varieties — margherita (plain cheese and tomato sauce), bacon, ham or fresh greens. A plastic container dumps flour into a drum resembling a tiny washing machine; a squirt of water follows, and the drum goes into a spin cycle, forming a blob of dough that is then pressed flat to form a 12-inch disk. Tomato paste is squirted onto the dough and cheese is added before it is lifted into a small infrared oven. The baked pizza then slips onto a cardboard tray and out into the customer’s waiting hands. Mr. Torghele says the pizza will cost as little $4.50, depending on the variety.

More interestingly, the article looks at the renaissance of the automat and the enormous size of the market.

Restaurants reminiscent of the old Horn & Hardart chain in the United States, which are fully automatic, are also showing up around the Continent.   Unlike the old automats (the last Horn & Hardart closed in 1991), which were staffed with workers who refilled the machines with creamed spinach and baked beans as fast as customers pulled them out, these restaurants consist entirely of vending machines.   In Milan, a two-hour drive west of Rovereto, a franchise chain called Brekky has opened the first three of what is planned to be a large chain of restaurants in which customers can buy cold dishes like salads and sandwiches, and warm dishes like pasta, from vending machines.

North of the Alps, the automat never really died out. In the Netherlands, Febo, a chain started in 1941 by a Dutch baker, now has about 60 restaurants. In France, bright green and yellow Yatoo Partoo machines — the name loosely translates as “You can get everything, everywhere” — sell milk, juice, snacks and sandwiches 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The European vending machine industry, which has grown significantly and now has annual sales of about 26 billion euros, or $33 billion, hopes the trend will catch on …

It is not surprising that the new drive to offer fresh-made food is coming from Italy. Italians may be legendary for long lunches of pasta and wine, but they also lead Europe in vending machines, with more than 614,000 installed, compared with 593,000 in France and 562,000 in Britain, according to the European Vending Association in Brussels.

I don’t think we have any automats in Vancouver.  Shame on us.  When I was a very young boy back in the early 50s, I’m pretty sure there was one in Chiswick where I lived.  And certainly there were one or two automats near Picadilly Circus in the early 60s.  Wen I was first in New York in 1967, a friend took me to an automat near Times Square.  And I think that’s my entire history with automats.  But I love the idea.

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