Happiness - A Working Blog & A New Pair Of Socks
Saturday, March 27, 2010
A blog that Works and a pair of new sock. Better still happiness is a blog that works and four pair of new socks.
After my call for help, help came from home turf. Vancouverite Roland Schigas (an expert on web design) wrote in with some pointers. But it was Skunkworks and their webmaster guru Chris Botting who migrated my FTP Custom URL blog to a Blogger Custom URL blog. It all happened today without any fuss and everything looks the way it did before.
Last week I went to Mark’s Work Wearhouse to buy by two jeans for the year. In this last year I discovered that stretch jeans my size are far more comfortable than regular jeans my size. I buy a blue pair and a black pair. No matter how careful I am I still kneel (for picture taking or for gardening where I should use the old jeans) and the knees soon look unsightly. While getting my jeans I spotted some very nice socks. They were being sold at two pair for $9.00. I bought four pair. I was not only getting a 10% discount because of a sale but I also had a $10 coupon.
For four days I have put on a nice, clean pair of brand new socks. This is about as cheap as sheer pleasure can be. Buying the socks reminded me of my mother who used to buy shoes when she was depressed. I thought that was a good idea and through the years I have modified that by saying that the quickest way to eliminate depression is to buy a pair of shoes, or some socks. But the quickest cure has always been a nice and thick chocolate shake.
Thanks to Skunkworks and Chris Botting for saving my hide and to Roland Schigas for responding so quickly for my cry for help.
Friday, March 26, 2010
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Fetish For Fishnets
Thursday, March 25, 2010
Well my sweet baby wears fishnet stockings
When she starts a rockin' there ain't no stoppin'
Singing wop bop a doo dop fishnet stockings
Shoo wop a doo dop when she's rockin'
Bop bop a doo dop there ain't no stoppin'
Rockin' with my baby in her fishnet stockings
Well she's got a pair in pink
She's got a pair in red
When she puts the black ones she makes me loose my head
The Stray Cats
As far as I know I am not a sexual deviate. I dislike fetish and fetish photography. I don't understand the pleasure of tying up people or being tied up. My tastes are pretty simple.
But I do like fishnets. In fact I would venture to admit that I have a fetish for fishnets and particularly if the fishnets happen to be torn. I connect fishnets with sleazy, dark and mysterious. Which is why I have a particular liking for the pictures you see here of Roxie, the Polish-born banker who lives in Manchester. She dresses and looks like a sophisticated James Bond woman. She has money. She seems well-behaved. It is because of it all that Roxie shines in fishnets. If I had had the time for more photographs I would have photographed her in a private school uniform. That's another fetish of mine, in case you didn't know.
A few years ago I was driving North on Granville and I crossed King Edward Avenue. That is where York House School is. As I was passing the bus stop on the Northwest side of Granville my right eye caught two York House students in a passionate embrace. They were kissing. I almost lost control of the car I was so shocked and affected by the sight.
The particular look of the first 6 pictures here is the result of using the now sadly discontinued Kodak b+w Infrared Film. One had to shoot through a deep red filter (a No. 25) and once one focused one had to unfocus to the infrared mark on the lens. Infrared film's spectrum focuses at a different distance. Most photographers who ever used the film tended to print their pictures light. Mine here (or at least on my monitor) are darkish which is the way I like them. I have a few rolls of Kodak Infrared film in my freezer and I am looking for the appearance of someone like my Polish banker to pose, perhaps in fishnets.
Joji's Is Still There
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
You can sit and look at art in a gallery. At Joji’s you can have your hair done too. Borrowing the idea from the yearly Artworks On The Drive, when stores on Commercial Drive display art on the street, Joji has a monthly art show in her salon. She has featured Jan Crawford, Dana Irving, Katarina Thorsen and the photographs of Natasha Moric.
Joji, from Hull Quebec, has been on the drive for five years and says, “I have brought a downtown salon to the Eastside. Many of our clients are artists who are demanding. We are up there with Suki’s as one of the ten best in town. We believe in doting over and papering our clients to the hilt. You can sip coffee from Casa del Café while you get your Japanese shampoo.” If it weren’t enough you can always walk down a block to Joe’s Café, buy that special Mexican Chicken at the Nazarene Market, up a block, or stock up with groceries and vegetables at the Santa Barbara Market next door.
If you don’t spot Joji in her gaucho hat at your next appointment, don’t be surprised. She is probably perfecting her style at the London Academy or the School of Vidal Sassoon.
If you wonder about the above piece an example of “service oriented editorial drivel” I can only cite my ignorance on the matter. I wrote it for Western Living sometime in the late 80s and I am not sure they ever ran it accompanied by my photograph of the beautiful Maurice and the Clichés
groupie and model, D’Arcy.
Of the places mentioned Joji’s remains as does the Santa Barbara Market and Joe's Cafe.
In the heady days of magazines in Vancouver, the 80s!, we freelancers just didn’t wait for the phone to ring with the next assignment. We indulged in the daring sport called speculative work. In my case I photographed D’Arcy (film cost money) and interviewed Joji and then wrote the piece. The idea was that magazine editors were a tad lazy and they liked being offered a package. For me, this was not usually the case. It was easier for a writer to convince an editor on a speculative piece than for a photographer to do so with an editor. It was after a few of these failures that I began to concentrate on writing pieces without offering pictures to accompany them. My success rate improved and in most cases I was assigned to take the pictures
Damian Invites Me To Tea
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
The first Chinese person I have memory of was a girl in my class at the American Grammar School in Buenos Aires. We were both in the fourth grade and she was the top math student and tops in just about anything else. Since she was the only Chinese person I had ever seen she was as exotic as any person could possibly be. She must have had an older sister or brother that my mother taught at the American High School as we were invited for dinner one weekend. The family must have been part of the diplomatic corps. I don’t remember much except that we sat at a table that had bowls and those wonderful “modern art” swoops that a Chinese spoon has always been for me. I was not an adventurous eater but I managed to stuff it all in without asking what it was.
When we arrived in Vancouver in 1975 I got my first real taste of cultural diversity. I marveled at the men in turbans and the bustle of China Town.
In the late 70s I began to frequent the Drake Hotel. I had become a fan of ecdysiasts. The profession had little ethnic variety. It did not go any further than, as an example, English Ana (as we called her) or “Emma Peel” which was her stage name. The one truly exotic exotic was Damian. She was a Canadian Chinese. Why she had chosen the profession I never did ask.
Romans and Greeks were noted for their noble noses and we can single out beautiful legs, large eyes and flowing hair in persons. But when it comes to singling out such bits as breasts, even when they are beautiful we must keep our mouth shut or be labeled sexist.
Damian had beautiful breasts and a flowing dance style. She used her long black hair for strategic cover during part of her performance.
I photographed Damian in her living room sometime in the 80s. Her house was on Marine Drive by the Knight Street Bridge. Somehow the noise of the trucks outside was ameliorated by the cozy situation of her living room. I took 20 pictures of her. I studied every one of them under a loupe today before I scanned one. To my dismay I had not taken one single one in which her nipple was not showing! But thanks to the “censorship tool” of Photoshop, Damian, once again, strategically covered that which must not be shown here.
The next day after our portrait session, Damian woke up with chest pains. She was rushed to the hospital and was, right then and there, subjected to open heart surgery to save her life. I never saw her again.
Camellias, Tea, Soot & Menstrual Cycles
Monday, March 22, 2010
In our bedroom we have a large antique lawyer’s bookcase full of botanical books we began to purchase in 1986 when we moved to our current corner lot on Athlone Street. In it I have all my American Hosta Society Journals since I became a member in 1992. When Rosemary became interested in clematis or hardy geraniums or I suddenly could not read enough about roses, ferns, hydrangeas or euphorbias we bought the corresponding books on them.
Of all the books in the bookcase the only one I consult with regularity is Peter Beales’ Classic Roses
. I also know that in the dead of winter I can discern hope in the spring by reading Christopher Lloyd’s pithy books on gardening. His books are opinionated but accurate almost as if they were written by a botanically enclined John McPhee.
For the last few weeks the four camellias in our garden have been showing off. I have been thinking how I could scan the flowers and write about them for the blog. The idea came yesterday when I received a phone call from my friend Mark Budgen who wanted to compare notes on our mutual like for very good loose tea.
Anybody who has gone beyond the usual “flow-thru” and un-ritualistic cup of contemporary brew that passes for tea must know that all tea (as in black and green) comes from one plant and that the plant in question is the lowly Camellia sinensis
(its flowers do not compare to those of its flashier cousins) Camellia japonica
and other species camellias and cultivars.
When the Brits showed interest in the liquid in the beginning of the 19th Century the crafty Chinese shipped plants of Camellia japonica
. In spite of its beautiful flowers the leaves will not brew any tea of consequence.
The story of tea is told best by a woman called Frances Perry who wrote many books on plants. We have one of them called Flowers of the World – Illustrated by Leslie Greenwood – Foreword by The Lord Aberconway
and published in collaboration with the Royal Horticultural Society, 1972. This with Peter Beales’ Classic Roses
would be my desert island botanical tomes of choice.
Here is what Perry says (verbatim) of the camellia in its connection to tea (and along the way I find about the correct pronunciation of the word!).The genus is named for Georg Kamel (Latinized as Camellus a Jesuit priest (1661-1706) who was particularly interested in natural science. He collected plants in both the Philippines and China although opinions differ as to whether he brought back Camellia seeds to Europe. Certainly he was responsible for introducing the St Ignatius Bean to Europe (Strychnos ignatii), one source of strychnine, and he also wrote a history of the plants of Luzon.
Economically the most important species is Camellia sinensis, the Tea Plant, the national beverage of China and one much prized by the English. Many tales and legends surround this plant, an especially charming story referring to an Indian Prince and Buddhist monk called Bodhidharma. This Prince is supposed to have landed on the shores of China in A.D. 510 with the object of converting its natives to Buddhism. To that end he dedicated his life to sleeplessness but one day, after years of wakeful teaching, praying and meditation Ta-Mo (as he was known to the Chinese) fell asleep. Mortified by this weakness of the flesh he cut off his eyelids and threw them on the ground where Buddha caused them to sprout and take root. These became the first Tea plants, the dried leaves of which assume the shape of eyelids and are supposed to represent and induce wakefulness.
Their employment as a beverage is supposed to have been discovered by another Buddhist. He lived the frugal life of a hermit and one day while making a fire with branches of Tea plant he accidentally dropped some leaves in a pot of boiling water. Later he tasted the liquid and finding it exhilarating and pleasant to the palate imparted the discovery to others. And so in course of time the practice of tea-making spread.
Around 1606 the Dutch set up Tea plantations in Java and soon afterwards brought this new beverage to Europe. In 1650 Peter Stuyvesant took it to North America although curiously it was 1652 before Tea reached England…Camellias (pronounced mell not meel)…
I cite the above information simply because of my paradoxical situation of wanting to keep all my books and at the same time realizing I don’t need them anymore. If I want to find information on why soot seems to appear on the leaves of my camellias (a common malady of camellias in our climate) I will find all the relevant information on the net. Few of my books unless I look into a specialized camellia book (I don’t have one) will explain that the black soot is a fungus or ‘sooty mould’ growing on the sugary honeydew secreted by aphids or scale insects. The honey dew drips down from the insects to the upper surface of the leaf below where the mould then grows. Although not harmful to the plant itself, the mould is a certain indication of the presence of one or other of these pests. It is readily moved with a cloth and warm soapy water, but to prevent its reappearance the root cause of the problem must be tackled. Although there are many types of scale insect, the one most commonly found on camellias is Pulvinaria floccifera
, known as Cushion Scale or Cottony Camellia Scale.
They appear as small (up to about 5mm long), oval shells, ranging in colour from yellowy-green to brown, and found anchored limpet-like to the underside of leaves and sometimes on the stems. In late spring/early summer the females lay their eggs, which appear as a characteristic trail of white fluff behind them. The adults then die, and may drop from the leaf, leaving only the eggs behind. These hatch a few weeks later, and the tiny crawlers’ disperse themselves over the plant, or are blown by the wind to neighbouring plants, before attaching themselves to a leaf and beginning feeding. It is at this stage of their life-cycle that the insects are most vulnerable, before their waxy shell is fully developed.
Aphids are to be found on the soft, new growth and, later in the season, on the developing flower buds. Like scale insects, aphids are usually found on the underside of leaves where, undisturbed, they can rapidly form large colonies. As the plant growth hardens they will move on, but not before having distorted the foliage and formed lots of honeydew. Prevention is better than cure, and small numbers are easily controlled by wiping off with a damp cloth, or spraying with a jet of water. In fact I spray my camellias with a solution of warm water and dish soap and then I hose them off. A lot, but not all of the soot disappears.
In other botanical journals I found out that the British (and the East India Company) were stymied in not being able to get tea plants from the Chinese. In the 1840s English botanical adventurer Robert Fortune snuck into China and dressed as a Chinese potentate spied around and learned that both green tea (unfermented leaf) and black tea (fermented leaf) came from the same Camellia sinensis
. He bribed officials and spirited plants out of China to India. Most died but enough survived and the rest (and why we have Assam and Ceylon tea) is history.
The camellias in my garden consist of two we purchased, one that came with the garden and one (the white one) that I liberated years ago from a nearby home that was going to be demolished. In the picture on the left is Camellia x willimasii
‘Donation”. On the far right there is a spent flower of Camellia x williamsii
“Aunt Mavis’ (the earliest to bloom camellia in my garden) selected and named by my friend Alleyne Cook. In the middle at the top is the original camellia of the garden some sort of camellia japonica
. I do not know what the white one is. But it is the white camellia that finally answered my question of why Alexandre Dumas’ (fils) novel The Lady of the Camellias
is called so.
In The Lady of the Camellias
by Alexandre Dumas Fills translated by Sir Emdond Gosse and with an introduction by Toril Moi, Moi writes: In chapter II we learn that Marguerite was called the Lady of the Camellias because she was always carrying a bouquet of camellias. “For twenty-five days of the month the camellias were white, and for five days they were red; no one ever knew the reason for the change of colour, which I mention though I cannot explain it,” the narrator (p. 15) disingenuously declares. The visible and public sign of Marguerite’s menstrual cycle, the camellias signify her sex and signal her sexual availability.
Camellias, moreover, are particularly fragile flowers; they quickly turn brown, and for a long time they were not terribly popular. One commentator claims that they were disliked because the flowers drop off intact “like the head of a man decapitated by a sword.” Thus the very name “the Lady of the Camellia reinforces the novel’s obsession with the connection between a woman’s sex and her death
Vancouver Urban Affairs - Air Rushing Into A Vacuum
Sunday, March 21, 2010
I am no longer accustomed to throwing in my two cents on civic issues, except around dinner tables and in canoes on distant lakes. But I am ready to join those who are concerned about the Vancouver Art Gallery's (VAG) decision to move to Larwill Park (aka, the old bus station site at Cambie and Dunsmuir).
Darlene Marzari, March 17, 2010
Darlene Marzari (seen here in picture, with from left to right, Mike Harcourt and Shirley Chan) has and intelligent take on the moving of the Vancouver Art Gallery in an op-ed essay Think City
(a web magazine on Vancouver City urban affairs) here
I sent the link to my friend Mark Budgen who replied with:
Interesting. Why is it that Think City, a coalition of so many esteemed organizations, has so little influence in what actually happens in Vancouver?
Budgen’s short statement left me bewildered and I spent most of Sunday thinking of an answer. Budgen and I talked on the phone and we echanged e-mails. In one he wrote:
I ask because they[Think City] seem to have some good ideas that are tweaks rather than fundamental thoughts as to the direction of the city for the next several decades. It wants a ward system but Sam Sullivan successfully saw that off a few years back. What about metropolitan government? Taking control of transit? More taxing powers for the city? A police force that crosses boundaries just as the crooks do?
I thought about it hard and suddenly I had a memory of walking on Beatty Street some years back and looking into the window of the restaurant that serves American Southern style barbecue. I spotted two men deep in conversation. One of them was Vancouver Sun columnist Vaugh Palmer and the other was then Editor-in-Chief John Cruickshank (below). Watching them I felt a sense of comfort. I knew that these two intelligent men were somehow discussing the state of our city and of our province. With them around I felt that things would happen for the better.
I don’t think that vision would ever repeat itself. That newspaper, like many others is in a rapid decline of importance in our city’s and province’s affairs. Cruickshank moved from Vancouver to the Chicago Sun Times
, from there he went to the CBC
and now he is the influential publisher of the Toronto Star
. He is often heard in CBC panels on current affairs. I respect the man and I only wish he would return to our city. Of Vaughn Palmer I can only repeat what others have told me. And that is that as soon as he had his TV program his written views somehow became diluted.
There are other Vancouver Sun
columnists I admire like Miro Cernetig, Ian Mulgrew and David Baines. John Mackie every once in a while writes excellent columns about the state of our city’s architecture. I would wish that garden columnist Steve Whysall would perhaps tackle city landscaping issues. Columnist Pete McMartin writes city oriented pieces every once in a while to make me think what the trio of Cernetig, Mulgrew and McMartin could do if they honed their direction into just civic affairs.
With the loss (thank God!) of our infamous stock exchange I find that David Baines’ watchdog columns on those dishonest traders would best be directed towards issues such as the one of city politicians dancing with developers. I am sure that Baines would discover stuff that would perhaps begin to help wane the outrageous influence that developers have in our city.
Many would say that the Vancouver Sun
is a paper in decline and going towards a state of irrelevance. I would strongly disagree. Just the publishing of Abraham Rogatnick’s views against the moving of the Vancouver Art Gallery a couple of weeks ago on their editorial page generated many intelligent comments on subsequent days in the pages of the newspaper. I would suspect that the publishing of Rogatnick’s manifesto
led Darlene Marzari to write her essay on the matter.
The Vancouver Sun still has influence but like papers in other cities and countries it has suffered the dilution of influence as people read stuff on the web.
Fifteen years ago Vancouver Magazine editor, Malcolm Parry would run a story, every couple of years, on the state of radio, TV and the city’s newspapers. These articles were articles that people read and talked about. These articles generated op-ed articles in the media. People were talking. Discussing which restaurant serves the best sushi will not create city buzz.
The same could be said about the Georgia Straight
under the tutelage of Charles Campbell. The paper was more than film reviews and alternative scene rock concerts. Writers such as Ian Gill would reveal damning facts about the logging industry. Sean Rossiter wrote many informative articles on the state of our city's architecture. There were lots of investigative essays on urban and provincial affairs. At the time the paper hired and promoted freelance writers. That task is now an insurmountable one on the shoulders of its editor and other editors who must not only edit the paper but edit their own features.
My friend Mark Budgen says (as we discussed the thinning of influence of conventional media) that the only publication that covers the small affairs of our city that influence us in our daily lives is the Vancouver Courier
. I am aware that this publication not only publishes a West Side edition but also another for the less monetarily advantaged section of our city. The paper tries to cover our city’s demographic. But increasingly I find that the paper is drifting towards bad-taste-irrelevance (Kudos & Kvetches) and busy-bee Allen Garr finds himself with too much honey in his pot. Budgen and I both agree that the Courier’s influence is waning.
Neither of us watch TV but we suspect that there is not one news person with the clout of yesteryear’s Jack Webster. Does Rafe Mair influence people to talk in our city streets? I doubt it.
Many would point out that our conventional media is being replaced by blogs and web-based social networks. Of this I have my doubts. Francis Bula has a very good blog here
. She raises issues that are often ignored by her former paper, the Vancouver Sun
I would venture to assert a suspicion that the people who read Francis Bula are the same people who read the Globe & Mail
which certainly has been tackling the issue re the moving of the Vancouver Art Gallery with lots of gusto. These people are mostly secure in their jobs (they have jobs) and after reading the intelligent commentary they withdraw into their private lives.
There are blogs that spread stuff like wildfire in other cities. But Vancouver seems to be immune from a passion for city politics. Things happen here like air rushing into a vacuum. Nature hates a vacuum some say. It is about time we decided to fill our city with a city pride that is beyond the wearing of red jackets made in China for a store chain owned by Americans.
Or as Mark Budgen wrote:
There's no media paying attention to civic issues, no columnist, no leadership on issues outside politicians. At least, none that can make themselves heard