The Good Old Thanksgiving Days

November 26, 2009

In 1936, Camel cigarettes issued the following ad for Thanksgiving:

I hope you can read it.  Smoking between courses is the healthy thing to do it declares.  “Smoke a camel right after the soup,” it says. “For digestion’s sake … You enjoy food more and have a feeling of greater ease after eating when you smoke Camels between courses.”

Ah, those good old days!

I started smoking early and was already a confirmed smoker by the time I started to attend dinners with my father’s American businessmen friends.  However, it was still a shock to me back then (perhaps 1966) when they lit up cigarettes between courses.  I remember then doing it with my friends and explaining that it was just the chic thing to do.  Such dupes we all were!

Shadows On Wood

November 23, 2009


Shaken By The Salt

November 22, 2009

I like food.  A lot.  I like eating it, and I love cooking it.  But I find it really difficult to suggest that one kind of diet is better than another.  You want a high-fat diet — go for it.   You want vegan — great!  I happen to eat just about anything, and that’s good too.  Everyone should make their own choices.  But there are some things that are taken out of our hands, unless you are willing to cook everything from scratch.  And the amount of sodium in processed foods is one of them.

We Canadians live in this little bubble of self-esteem that assumes that, as a country, we nearly always do “the right thing”.  Therefore, it is more than disturbing to read in the Globe & Mail:

… one cup of All-Bran cereal in Canada has 620 milligrams of sodium, but in the U.S., one cup has only 160 milligrams of sodium.

… and that this sort of difference is general across the range of food categories.  Worse, apparently we — the consumers — are the only ones to blame:

“Consumers will simply not compromise on taste,” Catherine O’Brien, director of corporate affairs at Nestlé Canada Inc.,  said. “Therefore, [taste] must be a priority alongside improved health.”

Where would we be if we had accepted this kind of logic from the cigarette manufacturers?  Regular readers will know that I am not a supporter of government intervention in our lives.  However, so long as we have this patronising system, isn’t one of their jobs supposed to be to protect consumers from this kind of profit-above-all marketing?

A Good Victory For England

November 22, 2009

Having stayed up late — for me — last night, I just managed to crawl out of bed at 5 this morning to follow the last couple of hours of England’s one-day cricket match against South Africa.  It was worth it, with England winning decisively.

Once again it was our old stalwart Paul Collingwood who was man of the match, taking wickets and a spectacular catch in the South African innings, and then knocking off an unbeated 105 runs.   He was brilliantly supported by Jonathan Trott and Eoin Morgan in the run chase.

After the up and down play in the T20s, this augers well for the rest of the ODI series and, later, for the Tests.

[Note: image is from CricInfo]

I Left You A Message

November 21, 2009

Tim Burton As Artist

November 20, 2009

I have always enjoyed Tim Burton’s movies — and I am looking forward with anticipation to his “Alice” — but not in any fanatical way: they often have a conceptual similarity about them that detracts for me.   Besides being a filmmaker, Burton is also an artist and the NY Museum of Modern Art has honoured him with an “expansive” retrospective.  Ken Johnson, the NY Times art critic, is not impressed.

Given the tremendous visual appeal of Mr. Burton’s movies, you would hope that “Tim Burton,” the Museum of Modern Art’s expansive retrospective of his noncinematic art, would be equally exciting. Alas, it is a letdown. Focused mainly on hundreds of drawings dating from his teenage years to the present and including paintings, sculptures, photographs and a smattering of short films on flat screens, it is an entertaining show and a must for film buffs and Burton fans. To see the raw material from which the movies evolved is certainly illuminating. But there is a sameness to all Mr. Burton’s two- and three-dimensional output that makes for a monotonous viewing experience.

That’s a shame, but I am not altogether surprised.



Sleep Pods

November 19, 2009

Here is a fascinating idea for urbanites like me who just feel like a nap wherever they happen to be:  Sleep Boxes

As the story says:

SLEEPBOX is a small mobile space (box) 2mx1.4mx2.3m (h). The main functional element in it is a bed 2×0.6 m, which is equipped with automatic system of change of bed linen. Bed is soft, flexible strip of foamed polymer with the surface of the pulp tissue. Tape is rewound from one shaft to another, changing the bed. If a client wants to sleep in maximum comfort, he can take the normal set of bed linen for an extra fee … SLEEPBOX is equipped with a ventilation system, sound alerts, built-in LCD TV, WiFi, sockets for a laptop, charging phones. Also under the lounges is a place for luggage … After the clients exit, automatic change of bed linen starts and quartz lamps turns on. Payment can be made on a shared terminal, which provides the client with an electronic key. It is possible to buy from 15 minutes to several hours.

Here are the possible locations for SLEEPBOX:

  • Railroad stations
  • Airports
  • Expocentres
  • Public and shopping centers
  • Accommodation facilities

In countries with warm climate SLEEPBOX can be used on the streets. Thanks to SLEEPBOX any person has an opportunity to spend the night safely and cheaply in case of emergency, or when you have to spend few hours with your baggage …

SLEEPBOX is intended primarily to perform one main function – to enable a person to sleep peacefully. But it can also be equipped with various additional functions, depending on the situation. Application of the device can be very broad, not only in the form of paid public service, but also for internal purposes of organizations and companies.

I can see all sorts of problems, but it is still a great idea in our services/entertainment/pampering culture.

Sun 1

November 19, 2009

This is as close as we will get to the sun in Vancouver this week!

Watching The Culture Change

November 18, 2009

As a further sign that going to the movies is no longer the world’s favourite entertainment activity, the latest video game craze “Call of Duty 2” was released just five days ago. In the brief time since then, sales have totaled $550 million. The highest ever 5-day total for a movie was for last year’s “Dark Knight“, which took $204 million in that period.

Estimates are that “Call of Duty 2” will make $780 million by the end of this year alone at $60 a copy.

Game building costs continue to climb, but they are nothing like the costs associated with major motion pictures (James Cameron’s new “Avatar” is said to have cost $500 million to produce). So, higher returns and lower costs: which business would you rather be in?


November 17, 2009

One Million Or Bust!

November 17, 2009

Sometime today, the 100,000th visitor will come to this blog.  The first 50,000 took 15 months to achieve; this second 50,000 has taken just 6 months, and daily visist numbers continue to grow.

Many thanks to everyone who has read my pieces, looked at my images, commented or not.  This has never been designed as one of those sites that get 100,000 hits a day, and I am pleased to see each and every person who comes here.  Welcome!




November 16, 2009


Losing a lover is like
losing a limb
or a necessary organ;
take whatever drugs you want
to ease the pain,
it still hurts like hell
in the morning

Taking a new lover is like
another transplant:
the dose of anti-rejection drugs you need
just grows and grows.
And as the skin thickens
it takes a harder push
each time
for the needle’s point to pierce your cover;
and each drop of blood seems redder
and more precious
than the last
until you decide
at last
that the payoff is not worth the pain
and you consign that part
of you
to an oblivion
that is not complete
to a decision that is not whole-hearted
to a diagnosis that hurts
like a lover leaving.

The Artist As Libertine: Man Ray

November 15, 2009

Oh to be in New York, now that there is a new exhibition of Man Ray‘s drawings, paintings, sculptures, photographs, “rayographs,” poetry, and short films!  The show, and review in Fast Company, reminds us of one of the most original — and certainly free-est — artists of the last century.


The Rope Dancer Accompanies Herself with Her Shadows, 1915–16, oil on canvas

Wall With Window

November 15, 2009


“Wall With Window”

Venice Becoming A Ghost Of Itself

November 14, 2009

Venice_aerialThat most marvelous of European cities, Venice, is in danger of becoming little more than a post-modern simulacrum of its flamboyant past;  a flat-screen tourist resort instead of a vibrant living city.  The city’s population is now only around 60,000.  As the AP reports:

A dozen gondolas snaked down the Grand Canal on Saturday in a mock funeral procession bemoaning Venice’s approach to the dreaded status of living museum, with a population now below 60,000.  While the largely symbolic threshold is considered by some to signal the end of the city’s viability, Venetian officials say reports of Venice’s demise are premature, and even Saturday’s somber funeral ended with a surprise, bright hope for rebirth.  In fact, while native Venetians have been fleeing the expensive lagoon city for cheaper and easier living on the mainland, the population of the historic center was officially 60,025 as of Thursday, up from the 59,992 it had fallen to in recent weeks. ”They will have the funeral in a living village, not yet dead. And it won’t die, even if it goes to 59,999,” Mara Rumiz, the city official in charge of demographics, said in a telephone interview Friday. She said the numbers don’t take into account the inhabitants of Venice’s islands — including glassmaking Murano and the Lido beach — nor the many who are not officially registered, including students. Together, they add another 120,000 souls.

That’s all well and good, but a core of 60,000 is certainly not enough to keep the city as a going concern, with necessary services for its residents.  And living in Venice is not easy:

[L]ife in Venice is for the hardy and financially resilient. Housing costs and rents drop to as much as a third in the nearby city of Marghera. And consider the logistics of an everyday errand like grocery shopping. One would likely need a water taxi ride to a supermarket, another to get home with the groceries, and then with few elevators in residential buildings, there is a heavy load to lug upstairs. Historic Venice does not permit the comfort of a car parked outside the door … Venetians themselves would like to see more money put toward retaining natives, and are critical of such projects as the new Calatrava Bridge over the Grand Canal. Building the bridge, designed by the Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, ran well over projected costs while doing little to ease the lives of average Venetians.

There is, I think, little anyone outside the city can do to help.  Visiting the city more would simply add to the tourist side of the ledger and add to the pressures on the locals.  This is all very sad and difficult to watch.

Street Art 1

November 14, 2009

street art I

Southern Comfort

November 13, 2009

It was a slam bam thank you ma’am kind of night.
“It’s alright,” she said with a slight frisson of uncertainty perhaps
as she unwraps and taps the money-box on the dresser.
He pays to caress her, to possess her as she bumps and grinds
and too quickly finds the kind of passion paid for.
He wants more before he’ll leave: sixteen and still hard.
But she’s on guard, body barred against free love.
Push came to shove.  Above his pleas she screamed and screamed
until the apartment teemed with neighbours and passers-by
who wondered why this nigger came by and by to be in a white girl’s room.

It’s a warm, hormone-rushing, mosquito-swarming kind of night.
Fox-fire bright, passions tightly wound and sprung.
No brass bells are rung, no masses sung, but masses gather to enjoy
the black boy toy with the last of his time on a slippery slope
as the hempen rope grips and gropes for his hopeless neck.

Did The Art Market Go Crazy Again?

November 11, 2009

After a year of bad results followed by a rebound this Fall, it seems the high art market may have recovered its old nerve. I haven’t got the details yet but I hear via Twitter that Andy Warhol’s painting of dollar bills made a phenomenal $43.7m against an estimate of $8-$12m at Sotheby’s New York tonight! That’s bizarre and shows that common sense has failed in the art market once again. Plus ca change, plus le meme chose.

Update: Here is the NYT story on the sale.

For Remembrance Day, On Seeing A Photograph

November 11, 2009

You were young men in the Guards
treading water in wretched trenches
swinging kitbags and rifles and broad silly grins

so young
that two billion volumes single-spaced wouldn’t be enough
to list all of life’s treasures
you haven’t experienced yet
and still you would die
right then
right there
doing right
or so you thought
as you lay where
no-one could tell where
mud ended and blood began

three and four generations removed,
we lay wreathes for your wraiths
on a hollow day in November
while the parades and the poppies
an annual landscape of memory

profound today, gone tomorrow

and for three or four days the flowers fade
and the greenery browns at your memorials
and then the work crews come

young men and women with guarded futures
treading water at minimum wage
swinging brooms and shovels and black plastic bags

and when the work trucks leave
your memory has turned once again
to cold undecorated stone
and nothing can ever change
the fact
that you died before you started living.

Who’s Reading What?

November 9, 2009

lucien-freudI was looking at this site’s statistics this morning.  I  wasn’t surprised to see that coverage of Lucian Freud over the last year has drawn most views — by many thousands:  he is a popular and controversial painter.

What did surprise me, though, was how popular the Les Sapeurs du Congo post has been.   They are a truly fascinating social phenomenon.

Other posts that appear in the top half dozen include my image of “54 Stories of Old Ireland” (no idea where this is coming from), and the post on a pizza machine!