The New “Pandemic”

April 26, 2009

We have been reading with interest about the human-swine-avian flu that has hit Mexico (with sadly fatal results) and has now shown up in the US, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Spain and elsewhere.


When we came back from Mexico this winter, both the better half and I had a tough few weeks with what, looking back, were clearly  flu-like symptoms.  I remember feeling tired all the time for a couple of weeks at least.  It played heck with my blood sugars, and we were both miserable.

I guess it is fair to wonder whether we got an early sample of this infection.  And if so, then the virus has been kicking around since December at least and has just reached the tipping point of news interest.

It is both sad and interesting that the disease has been extravagantly deadly in Mexico (more than 80 dead at this point) and yet easily tolerable elsewhere (at least so far).  When the case studies are written in the years to come, it will be instructive to understand the solution to that particular mystery.

Puerto Vallerta: Sunset

April 25, 2009


“Puerto Vallerta: Sunset” (2009), acrylics on canvas, 36″x24″

Canucks On A Roll!

April 22, 2009

Last night, for the first time in the club’s 40-year history, the Vancouver Canucks swept a 7-game playoff series, scoring their fourth victory in St Louis in overtime.


Alex Burrows scored the winner less than a minute before the scheduled end of the first overtime period.

The Canucks look better than ever these days;  strong, fast and determined.  Now we get at least a week’s rest and recuperation while Calgary and Chicago finish their series.  Gonna be a great spring!

Happy 420 …

April 20, 2009


Window Boxes

April 18, 2009


“Window Boxes” (2009), Powerpoint to TIFF, 36″ x 24″

Weave Scene This

April 17, 2009


“Weave Scene This” (2009), Powerpoint to TIFF, 36″ x 24″

Sumo Breaks Out!

April 17, 2009

Regular readers will know that I am a fan, a devotee of the ancient sport of sumo.  I enjoy the rituals, the colour, the history.  But I also think it is pretty stuffy, and needs to get over itself in order to attract new and younger supporters and stars.

The great champion yokozuna Asashoryu from Mongolia has, over the years, been the face of modern sumo.  He fights hard against the tradition-bound rules that govern how rikishi should live, and he is always in trouble with the authorities.

However, it may be that the Sumo Association is softening its stance.   Rikishi are generally not allowed to be seen in public unless they are wearing wrestling gear or a kimono.  But they have given Asashoryu permission to appear in a series of ads for a new soda drink.   In them, the big guy plays a supposedly oversized 13-year old schoolboy.  In this one, he and his friends arrive home late from school.  The mother thinks he has taken the boys to a dance club, but Asa shows her they were actually practicing at the school’s sumo club.

It is definitely odd.  But then again I find a lot of Japanese ads are designed for a completely different sensibility than mine.   Fun though to see the yokozuna dance and act!

Art Writ Large

April 14, 2009

In another place, an earlier incarnation, I wrote a lot about North Korea.  It is a fascinating place (so long as you don’t actually have to be there).  Now they have produced art on a scale unimaginable today in the west.


This glorious piece created to celebrate what would have been the Great Leader’s 97th birthday (except that inconvenience called death got in the way) is stupendous in scale and concept.  It is time we stopped sabre-rattling and started to appreciate the vision of the Korean artist!

Thought For The Day

April 6, 2009


The Liberation of Paris: A Whitewash!

April 6, 2009

A truly despicable  slice of Western history has been revealed:  The Americans and Brits insisted that the troops who were to march through Paris at its liberation in 1944 should be all white, regardless of the sacrifices made by British, French and American black soldiers.

tirailleurs_senegalais1The issue arose, according to this BBC report, because General De Gaulle insisted that French troops lead the march.  However, most French units were a mix of white and black troops and that just wouldn’t do for the Allies.

In January 1944 Eisenhower’s Chief of Staff, Major General Walter Bedell Smith, was to write in a memo stamped, “confidential”: “It is more desirable that the division mentioned above consist of white personnel.  “This would indicate the Second Armoured Division, which with only one fourth native personnel, is the only French division operationally available that could be made one hundred percent white” …

A document written by the British General, Frederick Morgan, to Allied Supreme Command stated: “It is unfortunate that the only French formation that is 100% white is an armoured division in Morocco. “Every other French division is only about 40% white. I have told Colonel de Chevene that his chances of getting what he wants will be vastly improved if he can produce a white infantry division.”

A suitable French unit could not be found without removing all the black troops and replacing them with soldiers from other units, many of them not even French.

In the end, nearly everyone was happy. De Gaulle got his wish to have a French division lead the liberation of Paris, even though the shortage of white troops meant that many of his men were actually Spanish.  The British and Americans got their “Whites Only” Liberation even though many of the troops involved were North African or Syrian.

We were lucky enough to have large numbers of Africans, Indians, black and Native Americans and others fight and die on our side in that war, but we were too sick in the head to recognize them as heroes when the time came.  What a miserable load of hypocrites we were.

Surfin’ The Mall

April 4, 2009

My fascination with malls continues even as the times get tougher for them.  Department stores and larger retail chains are tanking in the market, leaving gaping holes where anchor stores used to thrive.   But while the situation worsens — mall vacancies are at their highest point for a decade, one of the nation’s largest mall owners, General Growth Properties, is laden with more than $25 billion of debt and is trying to avoid filing for bankruptcy protection — some creative entrepreneurs are shining through, as this New York Times story attests.

Downscale chains that landlords once kept out of shopping centers are suddenly being shown the welcome mat. Temporary stores are popping up. Once-small retailers are being invited to take over big spaces, while the strongest national chains are seizing the moment to move into new cities at low rents … Greg Maloney, president and chief executive of the retail group at Jones Lang LaSalle, a real estate brokerage firm, said that to fill empty anchor spaces, landlords were getting creative and were considering bringing in grocery stores, medical facilities, dance studios and even community or technical colleges.


While mall owners may be batting around plenty of unusual ideas, the Flowrider — a 10-feet-tall wave machine that sends 35,000 gallons of water gushing over a slope at more than 30 miles an hour — is among the most unusual.  The device is the centerpiece of a cult sport that got its start in water parks and on cruise ships. Lately, a retail chain called Adrenalina, which sells gear for extreme sports like skydiving and kite-surfing, transferred the concept to retail stores. Because the machines can draw enthusiastic crowds, Adrenalina is getting sweet deals from landlords. Adrenalina executives said some mall owners were paying to install the Flowrider, upwards of $2 million, just to get the extra traffic.

The creative will always survive!  As the first Depression gave us roller derbies and dance marathons, perhaps our Depression will give us indoor surfing.