Tag Archives: Vancouver

Supporting the Arts

I’m highlighting a few worthy causes today. One is local, taking place in Vancouver, and the other takes place somewhat virtually through Canada.

COLLABORATIVE ART

First is the Magpie’s Nest Community Art Space Events. This is a group of local artists who are trying to create pop-up art spaces for artists to come by and work in, and just spread the fun and love of art.

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May 25 at Astorino’s
1739 Venables Street, Vancouver, BC

Magpie’s Nest Community Art Space invites you to create a patchwork of ideas and creativity with your neighbours, young and old.

The completed collaborative mural will be a tapestry of painted and embellished circles – each circle being made up of four quarters.

Each quarter completed by an individual will connect to the work of three others, creating a visual representation of continuity within and encircling our neighbourhood.

The Community Circles Collaborative Mural will be kept and put on display by Britannia Community Centre.

All supplies will be provided by Magpie’s Nest. We will provide paints and printing inks, objects to print with, and ephemera to embellish with: beads, buttons, ribbon, embroidery floss, yarn, and needles.

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June 2: if you’re in Vancouver, come out and get good food and support the arts.

As well, they have a fundraising dinner for more of those community supplies. East Feast takes place on June 2 and for $20 you get a meal, entertainment and three artist presentations that you can vote on.  I find I love public art, whether it’s a mural paint on the wall by the community (see my previous post on East Van wall art), the knitted cozies wrapped around trees and fences, people bursting into song in a mall, the zombie walk, the machine animals of Nantes (see previous post for this as well) or a myriad other things. These pieces are not done for more than surprising people and bringing smiles to our faces. We need more of this in our everyday lives and to recognize that we are community.

CROWDFUNDING AN ANTHOLOGY

Canadian award-winning author Ursula Pflug is editing an anthology called They Have to Let You In. It is due for a 2013/2014 release through Hidden Brook Press.

Details can be found at the site (by clicking the title above) but here are the basics:

“All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

 Whether or not we agree, we have probably heard Tolstoy’s famous quote. “What is unarguable is that our family shapes us as nothing else.” Family elicits our strongest emotional responses, whether joy and love, or rage and fear. For this anthology don’t feel you have to sugar coat your work—we aren’t timid and want to include stories and poems that explore the darker aspects of family life. After all, healing requires our truth as well as our forgiveness. But also—please don’t forget to include work that expresses the deep sustaining joy our families can provide. The love we give and receive within families is irreplaceable.

This month’s government cuts to CSUMB (the Community Start Up and Maintenance Benefit ) will put more families on the street. 100% of royalties from the sale of They Have To Take You In will benefit the shelter system in eastern Ontario.

This anthology will have poetry and fiction and is open to almost any genre. If you’re Canadian or expat you can enter. And instead of crowdfunding to buy a video from drug dealers on Toronto mayor Rob Ford’s alleged drug abuse, why not put the money to something that can doubly benefit people: both the family shelters in Ontario and to writers who submit? And, like all crowdfunding, by donating you’ll also get cool stuff. Go here to support and read more about it: http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/they-have-to-take-you-in/x/2238410

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East Van Wall Art

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Bugs on the wall

East Vancouver, around the Commercial Dr. area is known as the boho artsy part of town. The neighborhood used to have and still does, a heavy Italian and Chinese influence, mixed with artists, First Nations and lesbians. It’s eclectic, used to be lower income and filled with many restaurants. Every fall there is the East End Culture Crawl where people can wander through the many artist studios in the area.

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Wings on the walls

As much as these characteristics are part of the cultural pastiche of East Van, the natural fauna  include raccoons and crows. Crows and Ravens are our local board and even the seagulls don’t compare. Every evening as the light leaves the sky, murders of crows fly east to Burnaby and the Grandview cut to roost for the night.

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Feathers on the wall

It’s no wonder that recently in a community beautification project, that crows feature largely.  Britannia Centre includes a high school, day care, library, park, year-round skating rink, swimming pool, gym, courts and other areas. The school grounds take up several city blocks and on the west side there is a large retaining wall. A few years back, they rebuilt it and people have been trying to do some community gardening there though it’s been sporadic.

wall, East Van, art, design, crows, graphic art, graffiti, wall art, communityBut recently, in the last two months, during Vancouver’s cool weather this year, people were showing up to paint the walls. I was curious. Was it a random flash graffiti mob or was it organized? People came with stencils and I’d say the bottom part was done by participants who didn’t need to be artists. Several people blocked the background geometrical colors, while others came along and blocked in one color with a stencil.

Later, I saw some guys doing the top part of the wall, which is covered with flying crow silhouettes. The bottom half has bugs, bicyclists, birds and leaves. What really worked for this wall was the range of colors, bold swatches behind bold designs. All of the images have had depth added to them with brushstrokes of other color. The wall is interesting and complex without being overly busy and it’s so much nicer than the bland concrete of before.

wall art, culture, East Van, Vancouver, art, crows, graffitiI don’t know who paid for this project, if it was the community or the city or some combination but it is a beautification plan that has greatly enhanced the area. The wall is two blocks from where I live and I love walking by it. The only thing that could dampen it, like some of the other walls in other areas, is if people paint graffiti over it. I don’t mind graffiti but it’s disrespectful, pointless and destructive to paint over other art. Here’s to hoping there are more projects to make the city look better, and to community spirit.


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I Don’t Hate Bicyclists!

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Okay, I have to revisit this topic, as my bicycling friends think I’m out to get them. Let me reiterate. Bikes are a good thing. Bicyclists are a good thing. Bike lanes are a good thing. But… there are major transportation issues in Vancouver and I firmly believe the way they’re being handled is not the best answer and is causing antagonism.

Listening to my biking, driving and walking friends, there are several factors at play. Vancouver wants to cut down on people driving to the downtown core. Not a bad thing but as the mayor of Calgary, Naheed Nenshi, said, he believes in the dangling-the-carrot approach. Right now, it feels as if Vancouver is punishing anyone who drives. First, we have the highest gas prices in the country. This is partly because of the province’s supposedly green policy, which again punishes drivers, doesn’t tax gas companies and doesn’t offer a cheap and efficient alternative.

Coupled with a downtown core that you can only reach from North and West Vancouver by two bridges (Lions Gate and Iron Workers Memorial), or from the south side of Vancouver by three bridges (Burrard, Cambie, Granville), this adds to a crush for people commuting to work.  From the east  there are several roads and only one pseudo bridge, the Georgia Viaduct. It looks like a bridge and acts like a bridge but other major streets going into Vancouver are Powell, E. Cordova, Hastings and Expo Blvd. via Prior St. (which is also the street that leads to the viaduct).

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Wiki Commons

Now I believe bicyclists have a lane over the Lions Gate Bridge and there is one over the Burrard St. Bridge. These are fine, and Burrard used to have a shared pedestrian/bicyclist sidewalk. I used to walk it and learned that this was the safest thing because bicyclists on the road were very much in danger of being smunched and on the sidewalk they smunched pedestrians. It wasn’t the best solution so making a lane was the better choice and when you have bridges you have to choose one of them. Lions Gate Bridge is closer to downtown and Cambie and Granville have too many feeder routes. There is no “from the west side” to get to downtown Vancouver unless you take a boat. But from the east, the most popular car routes are the viaduct and probably Hastings. Hastings is two way but the viaduct feeds onto a one-way street downtown or a one-way street out of downtown. Unfortunately in this case, the city chose the worst possible street that conflicts greatly with drivers coming in and limiting ways to turn. One or two of the other streets would have worked better.

You can no longer turn right for blocks and blocks. As well, no one knows for sure who has the right of way. There are some signs. Cars yield to bikes coming up on their right side. Big barricades limit delivery vehicles from offloading supplies. If a bicyclist wants to turn left from the right side bike lane, how do they do that, especially with concrete barricades limiting them? I should also say, that the city says 1800 people a day use the bike lanes but the one that goes along the Georgia Viaduct onto Dunsmuir St. doesn’t look that busy. My walking friend who works downtown says he’s never seen more than four people on it at once, nor have I until the other night, out of rush hour, when I saw five. But either way, they could have put this bike lane on a different street where it wouldn’t have inconvenienced drivers and still given bicyclists a free lane.

Now, how do you keep bike lanes and not punish drivers because, yes, there are many drivers as well and many reasons why a person can’t just bike into the city. Let’s not even mention winter weather. Try this. Don’t punish people for living farther out and having to commute into work. Charge the same price, make the bus/train really cheap and more people will take it. Don’t stop the SkyTrain at 12:30 am when clubs are open till 3 am. Don’t blame drivers for all the faults. Do encourage people with better education for cyclists and motorists. Don’t do things like critical mass, which only raises the antagonism level. Do think about the structure of a city ringed by estuaries, rivers and the ocean. Make taking the bus in the downtown core completely free, as Calgary does. Think about dangling the carrot.

I’ll end with that we do need a better solution and if I could afford an electric/hybrid car I would have changed long ago. I also stay as far away from downtown as I possibly can, except when I go to my doctor. I don’t go for drinks, dinner or movies downtown because parking is expensive, roads are blocked and I feel like I’m bad just because I have a car. I’m an environmental advocate but I also can’t afford to buy an $800 bike and I can’t sell my car. So before we blame another group the best solution is to work together, which means listening reasonably to all sides, not believing one way is the only and right way.

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Vancouver Lives On as the No Fun City

Ever wonder why Vancouver, BC, home of the 2010 Olympics, wild outback of early lumber and gold rush thrills got the moniker of the “No Fun City”? Well, I have because I live here. Did it get this label because of a lack of venues for the arts, whether paintings, dance, acting or music or was it that everything closed down early?

Well, it’s some of both, plus more. Restaurants usually have to stop serving alcohol at 11:30 and close by midnight. Other clubs have to close by 2 am, unless you’re on the downtown strip, which stays open till 3 am but then you have to deal with other issues such as drunk 20-somethings fighting. Taxis are expensive, parking more so. Transit doesn’t run often enough, with the SkyTrain stopping around 12:30. If they ran the SkyTrain on the half hour through the night people wouldn’t be stranded or having to fish out big sums of cash. I live ten minutes from downtown and it can cost $20 for taxi. Some forethought on the city’s part would make transit better and lessen the chance of people driving after drinking because it’s the cheapest way home.

So let’s see: not enough live venues, early closing, expensive or inadequate transportation, concentrating everyone in one area which exacerbates the testosterone levels. That’s almost enough but it turns out there is such a rat’s nest of red tape for restaurant and pub owners that it makes having fun more difficult. There are places that aren’t allowed to have any dance floors, such as the E. Van extablishments. Some of them manage live bands but they’d be slapped silly should they entertain a dance floor. So people get up and dance in front of their tables or at the tiny spot in front of the stage.

Even though the mayor declared we’d beat our “no fun” status during the Olympics, again that was very localized downtown without allowing other thriving communities to participate or even extend their hours. Montreal has a soft closing of 4 am and when I was there a few years ago we never went to bed before 4. Sometimes it was a little pub where we just sat and talked. No crazy violence erupted. Once it was a pizza restaurant.

It turns out that the red tap that wraps up the fun runs to naming your pub or restaurant. A new restaurant on Main St., one of the Boho

Scout Magazine

trendy, artsy areas wanted to name their place the Fast Food Disco. Since it seems it’s the BC Liquor Control Board (BCLCB) that actually approves names of establishments that serve booze the owners already knew that “disco” wouldn’t be approved because it would indicate a nightclub. They actually had to do the signs and finish the restaurant first before applying for the license. They even had a webpage. But good ole BCLCB said you can’t serve alcohol with fast food. The owners cited that they were using irony because their menu is not fast food. It includes that homey cooking of the 50s & 60s, meatloaf, deep fried Mars Bars (I shudder to think of the jello creatures they might serve). The restaurant changed their name to the Rumpus Room because the BCLCB wouldn’t buckle.

Of course the BCLCB doesn’t include White Spot restaurants as fast food but that doesn’t matter. The restaurant was told it would mislead the public who would expect alcohol with the greasy  fries. I’m a little disconcerted by the concept of the food but be that as it may, the name wouldn’t have told me I got booze with fast food, especially if I looked it up online or looked at the menu before entering. Here’s how I imagine the BCLCB decides which names pass the muster.

Hubert: Here’s another one. Hooters. Whaddya think?

Bertha: Nope, nope won’t do. It implies you can get alcohol and will start hooting.

Hubert: Hmm, I don’t think so. Owls hoot, right? Well, we always associate owls with being wise. Oh, and parliaments.

Bertha: So?

Hubert: Well the wise person wouldn’t drink and therefore it won’t encourage that disgusting behavior.

Bertha: Sounds reasonable. A wise place to eat. Politicians might go there. We’ll pass that name. I’m sure it will be a dignified establishment.

Cheers, from the no fun city.

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Review: Hard Times Hit Parade

Hard Times Hit Parade

It’s too bad I didn’t see this show earlier, to give a review that would have been more timely. The Hard Times Hit Parade is performed by the Dusty Flowerpot Cabaret and consists of 25-30 performers. Hard Times Hit Parade This extravaganza is set around a Depression era dance marathon and begins the moment you walk in. In fact there were signs outside the building that I thought were part of the Russian Community Hall’s edifice but turned out to be the theme of the show. Entering the auditorium, we saw bleachers set up with strands of pennons coming out from a large central chandelier. As well, there were signs of the era and advertising around the benches setting the atmosphere.

Behind the bleachers was a little bar with servers dressed in 1930s clothing. Many audience members came dressed, adding to the theme. The show begins with old B&W films and the narrator talking of the times and the dance marathon that has begun. The performers, couples coming out with numbers attached, do an opening swing number to a live band that had at least six people playing saxophone, violin, cello, banjo, etc.

There are different dance numbers, scenarios that go from the emcee and the referee, the anal rulemaker who adds comic moments, to the band and all around. There were even popcorn girls in the aisles selling popcorn, beer and wine. If someone dropped their plastic cup (reusable) under the bleachers, they would incorporate a scold or a scornful look into the show. The emcee or barker was appropriately over the top and the band was excellent, with the main singer/saxophone player also doing a number in drag.

The marathon dancers consisted of about six couples and as the show progresses, various people drop out after having hallucinations or or other events that make them quit. One hallucination is a cabaret style dance sequence. Another is a man being pressured to give his dance partner a ring. He then does a spinning acrobatic maneuver in a giant ring. There is a marionette sequence as well, and when the dancers go backstage for their rest break we see silhouettes on the screen which may include kissing, sleeping. changing, washing. These are accented with shapes on cellophane to represent tears or showering or birds. Another dance number is more the contestants dragging themselves about as the dance marathon moves into its fourth month; it involves a nurse checking the exhausted dancers and focusing a light on them. This projects a large silhouette on a screen that is accented with images such as hearts or lace or fields, representing the inner workings of these people.

It’s actually quite difficult to put into words the full scope of this multimedia performance. At $25 (at the door) and three hours the performance was well worth it. I laughed, I was mesmerized. There was so much to see. There is an intermission where the audience can mingle in a party atmosphere or get more drinks. And after the show, everyone can continue to dance. I loved the creativity, the depth and the energy of this show. It was so inspirational that I think I might see how I can help out at the Dusty Flowerpot Cabaret. If you can get in (last day is March 18) go and see Hard Times Hit Parade. Advance tickets are sold out but some are available at the door. This was so fantastic that I’m going to try to stand in line and see it again. Five stars!

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Olympic End and Aftermath

I did actually venture into the crazed throng on Saturday night. First we gathered at a friend’s near to the SkyTrain and had drinks at her place, knowing that places would be packed downtown. Then we (seven of us) walked over to the SkyTrain and boarded, losing half our party immediately. But we yelled that we’d meet them off the train since one of our party needed to buy a ticket (and some of us didn’t bother I think).

At around 9:30 pm we boarded a pretty full  train where people were cheering and toasting with beer bottles, and got off two stations later and immediately found our friends. The escalators to and from the trains were absolutely packed with people cheering and slapping each other’s hands as they went by. When you think of all that loose young testosterone mixed with booze and euphoria it’s amazing how friendly everyone was.

I’ve been in this city a long time and know the downtown well, yet when we exited onto the street I had no idea where I was. One reason was that I had not taken that particular (and new SkyTrain) that exits onto Granville St. (I think). But we felt like we were spawning against the flow of thousands of people. And that is not an exaggeration. From one side of the street, across the road and to the other side of the stores, were hordes of people walking, dancing, stopping to take pictures, slap hands and give a woohoo. There was such a flow of people in red and white, Canadian flag capes and painted faces that it did indeed look like a red tide.There was supposed to be the decentralized dance party at the art gallery but we either missed it or it was smaller than we thought. The city had put plastic tiles over the grass to save the lawns from all the feet. Still it was a muddy morass and I wonder if the lawns recovered (remember Vancouver has green grass all year long).

We managed to get down to the new skating rink and I couldn’t tell you if there was anything going on in the rink. I think it had all stopped by then but there was a live band. People were packed in, sitting on the cement steps and standing crammed in and even though it was raining lightly people stood and watched, umbrellas folded. One woman had short red red hair and was dress in a red polka dot mini skirt, white vest, white legs and was dancing. Next to her was a guy in the plaid mac lumberjack shirt, holding a Mountie nutcracker. As they danced I joined in and there was another guy just dancing with anyone who would dance.

One of my friends was wearing a red velvet dress with white fur and a matching red sequin santa hat. We joined in the dancing as much as we could and when I accidentally lightly bopped a guy in the head with the umbrella I was dancing with, I apologized and then told him it was good luck. He just laughed, no dirty looks. Truly for the thousands of people, there was nothing but euphoric happiness and maybe a bit of overwhelmed stunned looks. There was one couple, their faces fully painted with Canadian flags, their clothes matching, just sitting against a wall looking exhausted. I didn’t see any porta potties though I hear there were a few but there were obviously way too few and the clean-up today in parkades and out of the way places is not pretty.

We passed a band playing on the street; a bit of funk reggae and they were pretty good. We danced (a few of us) there for a bit as well. I have no idea who any of these bands were and I really couldn’t keep my directions straight with all the people. We eventually made it over to Yaletown, where the streets were also blocked off for the sea of bodies. There were white tents set up in front of some restaurants, probably to fit extra bodies. Two of my friends had left by this point, already hitting the full point for crowds (how can you tell we’re not in our twenties).

Every place had a line-up that would have taken at least an hour to get into. We finally wandered into one restaurant, a sake bar. I didn’t have my glasses but can read okay close up. I had to ask my friend if the prices for the bottles of sake were real: $132, $156, etc. No wonder this restaurant didn’t have a crowd. We ordered a bottle of wine and small appies/tapas as everything in Vancouver is called regardless of ethnicity of the restaurant. I split two deep fried prawns and one scalloped covered in coconut like, very light and crispy batter. They were actually very good and cost $11, an average cost for very little fancy food called tapas.

After that, around midnight, we were all full on the crowd fount. People were still going pretty strong but there is only so much people watching you can take. The trains were moderately full leaving downtown and now completely empty entering. Still the tired partygoers kept their good mood and there was relatively little bad attitude given the numbers we had in a party that rivaled everyday life in India, and Mardi Gras mixed together.

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Ebb and Flow of the Olympics

We’re nearing the end of the Olympics and this is partly what it’s been like on the streets: traffic has been far better than normal. There are fewer cars, even if going away from the downtown core, so either everyone is at the Olympics or they left town. Which means I’m not looking forward to Monday morning traffic, which will be heavy and chaotic.

This lack of car traffic has all translated into a feast of famine aspect for many merchandisers and restaurants in the city. There are so many people in the downtown core that even the street food vendors are making thousands to tens of thousands a day, and the restaurants have constant lines. Olympic related merchandise is selling but little else. Yet if you’re in the food and drink business you are truly making a killing.

On Commercial Drive near where I live, it’s a different story. On Tuesday night I walked up the street to have a drink at one of my regular spots, The Libra Room. I passed the Latin Quarter and thought it was closed. Not a soul inside except one person at the bar watching a TV screen, and he was most likely staff. A couple of the Italian restaurants were equally void of life. Only the Charlatan, a sports bar with several large screens, was busy because of the Olympic sports. The Libra Room had a few people but they were way down on patrons and I’ve never seen the owner looking so unhappy.

What this means in the long run is that there are a few places and people making a true killing downtown and business has gone down everywhere else. In total revenue for the city, it is probably higher than normal but not as high as one might think. And yet, everyone who has been going downtown says that it’s crazy but it’s fun and the energy is so positive. Some people have just gone to people-watch.

Although I hate crowds I was planning on going down tomorrow night but I’ve now injured myself at the gym so it might not be possible. And should I manage it, one friend lives downtown so we can take refuge when it gets too cold or wet or crowded.

This is also the end of February. Two years ago, come March, I started this blog and have tried to write five days a week except for when I was on holidays. I think it might be possible to run out of opinion on things but I’m not there yet. However, even though some of these pieces have less research than they would if I was employed to write them, they still take time. I will be cutting back to writing three times a week as of March, hopefully giving me more time to write on other things, such as my novel or short stories.

With that note, Aberrant Dreams is relaunching with hopefully fewer of the time snags that caught them last go round. I will be back editing as senior fantasy editor. If you want to check out the site (still developing but submissions can be sent in) then go here http://aberrantdreams.com/content/ and read the guidelines. It’s hard to run any kind of magazine these days and Joe Dickerson and Lonny Harper have been trying it without any sponsors so it’s out of pocket for them to pay people. Some day I’d like to run my magazine as well but that will take some $$ first.

So in the meantime, go enjoy the last of the Olympics any way you want, whether that’s staying far away, just checking stats on the computer or going into the throng. And here’s to all the amazing athletes who have competed, whether they won or not. They’re still the best in the world and have dedicated time and energy to their achievements and sports. Go World!

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Weathering Vancouver

What I often hear when friends think of coming to Vancouver for a visit, or for why they could never live here is “the rain.” And yes, we do get rain. After all Vancouver is in a pacific rainforest, though the forest has receded to this hills and mountains in places. Still we’re a pretty green place and that’s evident when flying over the land.

When I first moved to Vancouver, I moved because I hated the cold and I hated winter. The only snow I liked was the very first snowfall, when it was dry and fluffy and sparkled like diamonds in the lamplight. Walking back from my friend’s in the evening, my footsteps would be the first to make an impression on that scintillating carpet and everything was muffled and magical, with only the sound of a car or a dog in the distance. Then day would dawn and it would just be cold and cumbersome.

I was always cold, sometimes to the point that it felt like my marrow was freezing in my bones, a numbness that would only go away with a hot bath. So, winter especially was not my favorite month. I visited Vancouver three times in one year and all of that was in summer. Vancouver is very lovely in the summer and has the mountains and the ocean so close to the city. I fell in love.

I moved in June and spent the summer getting to know the city and getting a job. But fall and winter came and my shoes were growing mold in them. I always felt like I was crawling into damp sheets and it felt clammy to me. Compared to Calgary’s very dry climate, Vancouver was moist and humid (I hadn’t yet experienced Toronto or Singapore where that’s real humidity). My face broke out in little bumps, not pimples nor really a rash. After seeing a dermatologist it was determined that I was using too much lotion; for Calgary it had been the right amount.

Eventually I acclimatized to the weather. Vancouver does not get blazingly hot in the summer. It’s a rare day that it hits near 30, and because of the ocean and the mountains nearby it will cool down faster in the evenings. While we don’t get as hot as other cities in the summer, we also don’t get the freezing temperatures in the winter. In fact, most pipes for the older houses especially are not far below ground. That and the high water table (we are by the ocean) means that if it does freeze, the pipes are in jeopardy of freezing as well.

Last winter was a brutal exception to Vancouver’s winters. Whereas normally we can expect rain and may be a bit of snow that will melt in a day, we had huge dumps of snow (over 18 inches at one point when I measured) that lasted for weeks. There was so much snow that at first it was that dry snow that other places get, the type that is good for snowballs and building snowmen. But then as temperatures rose, we had the slushy, slippery stuff where everything gets soaked instantly and getting grip, whether by boots or tires, is nearly impossible. My landlord shovelled out more than 13 people in a week, me included.

But the white stuff is rare, and truly hideous when it happens in a city ill-equipped for it. The city is getting more equipment as global warming brings more upheavals in the climate. However, that ubiquitous rain that we always have. Well, yes, there have been a few truly icky and gray summers. But usually they’re quite nice. Winter and fall can vary. The past few years have had winters that weren’t that bad. A bit of rain but periods of sun. Of course the snow last year, negated the rain.

This year almost seems like the old winters here. I heard yesterday that we’ve had 23 days of rain. That doesn’t mean that it rains 24-hours a day but that it is raining every day. Today, it’s actually partially sunny but scheduled to rain some more. When the sky is deep gray all week long and the rain is dripping off of everything, and the grass, if you step on it, slides off the mud below it, then yes, it’s gruesome and depressing. I spent most of the day in bed last weekend because it was so miserable and I felt down.

The Olympics come in February and it looks like they’ll have enough snow for the events. Even in Whistler there are years where it can be a problem. But it could also be raining a lot in February, one of the notorious months for bad weather. But even in winter, usually, it’s not every day of rain. Being someone who has suffered from depression, I can understand the reluctance to live in a place depressed by rain. But then it’s a matter of spending time with friends and in bright light, even if it is artificial. I would still rather take the rain over snow and slogging through the cold every day.

 

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The Death of Art Glass

You might be wondering what art glass is. It’s any piece of glass that’s not utilitarian. Vases, stained glass, goblets, plates, paper weights and other items that are made by hand. They’re rarely mass-produced unless you’re looking at huge glass factories like Waterford crystal (you can see more about that factory in my Ireland blog pieces). There are two categories of art glass: cold and hot. Cold glass is taking pieces that already existed and making something of them, whether that is cutting and gluing them together, sandblasting them or using as part of other art pieces. Hot glass involves slumping, blowing, lampworking or otherwise molding molten glass using a furnace (or other heat source) and a kiln.

Blown glass is expensive for several reasons. A batch of glass without impurities must be kept molten at all times. This requires running a gas furnace 24/7 at a precise temperature. If the furnace has to be shut down, the glass has to be cooled and reheated slowly and can take up to two weeks to attain the right temperature. So it’s not feasible to shut off a furnace each night. Imagine your gas bill for heating your home and then multiply it to a temperature to keep glass molten (2400°F) and you might just fathom the cost. On top of that you need another heated furnace area for working the glass, called the glory hole, and at least one annealing kiln. Without cooling the formed glass gradually it will develop stresses and break.

Beyond the heating and maintenance of molten glass, there is the expense of a studio and the equipment. As well, every color in glass must be bought and added when blowing. These colors must also be pure and compatible with the basic clear glass in the crucible. Before even blowing the glass, the costs are huge.

Then comes the training. Glass blowing is not easy. It takes years of constant work to perfect the craft. One must be able to blow several glasses of the same size, with the same thickness (and not too thick or uneven) as well as even color if you’re making a set of something. You must be able to blow items round that should be round and oval if they’re oval. You have to maintain great skill in keeping openings even, patterns working, colors mixing. Anyone fresh out of college will still need years to perfect their craft.

And then you have to hope you can sell the pieces. Seattle has a fairly vibrant art glass community, courtesy of the Pilchuck Glass School. Some of those graduates are in BC and other areas, but Canada has a problem for supporting the arts. Our population is about 34 million, which is probably similar to the population of New York or California. When you take a percentage of people who support the arts or can afford to buy it, you get much fewer people, but the cost of producing the art is still the same. Canada is at a huge disadvantage. Yet, to market art can take as much time as making the art itself.

Thus, with our slumping economy, the arts have been nosediving. Vancouver used to have quite a few hot glass studios. The hardest to maintain were the glassblowing studios because of the costs. These included Andrighetti Studio, Joe Blow, David New-Small, Robert Held, Starfish Gallery in Victoria, Molten Spirit Glass Studio in Roberts Creek, and Solart Glass Studio in West Vancouver. Jo Ludwig in Victoria does slumped and fused glass, which negates the need for furnaces and glory holes, thus greatly reducing the cost. Joel Berman in Vancouver does architectural walls and windows. There are many other studios doing architectural glass whether molded or stained glass. A few do the kiln slumping. And fewer the glass blowing.

Joanne Andrighetti stopped blowing and running her studio due to exorbitant rent increases in  a trendy area. She does lampworked glass now. Joe Blow, run by Jeff Burnette is the latest to fall into the embers of the tight economy. Both of these studios taught classes, besides renting space to other blowers. Starfish Gallery also closed a while back.

There may be a few other studios which I haven’t mentioned that are still going. Some have a prime location like the Granville Island studios that get a good chunk of tourist trade. Other studios do production line art glass and commissions for such places as Waterford crystal. But the places for one of a kind art glass are truly shrinking and it’s too bad. It’s too bad I don’t have the means to support these and other arts more. It’s too bad that Jeff has had to end a thirty-plus year career in blowing.  I’ve heard similar tales from other artists in other forms of art.

Here’s an example of what some former glass artists are doing to make ends meet.  G is slinging fish for pay and taking HD photos for fun, and M is selling sausage and painting. E is making cheese. The skill to make art takes as long as any other skill-set or doctorate. Without art we lose beauty, a resting place for the eye and mind to replenish itself and make it through the every day.

So, if you want a deal on art from two artists now struggling to make ends meet go to Joe Blow Glassworks as Jeff is selling off his glass pieces, and Eric Montgomery (a cold glass and artist) is having a sale on some of his pieces. You could end up with a unique piece of a dying or shrinking art form that has existed for thousands of years.

Contact Jeff Burnette here:http://www.joeblowglassworks.com/1.html

Contact and see Eric Montgomery’s works here: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=137615&id=654211188&l=bdeb910c32

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glassblowing

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Do We Need Another Beauty Queen?

Yesterday it was announced that there would be the first Miss Vancouver, multi-ethnic beauty pageant. Marina Hossain, is the CEO of Jam Expo Inc., which will be organizing the pageant for the Health and Beauty Expo. So first off, Canada hasn’t had a Miss Canada pageant since 1992. High production costs and declining interests were the reasons given. The other part was that people just weren’t interested in seeing women sashay along in a bathing suit and an evening gown, and giving their five minutes on how I hope to improve the world.

Yesterday’s CBC Radio One had a pageant coordinator also mention that Canadians just aren’t interested in being beauty queens, yet the ethnic beauty contests have continued. Obviously these contests do give exposure to the winner, as well as some prizes and cash. But the other reason they’re not popular is become they are still sexist and based on “beauty.”

So here comes Ms. Hossain with a new one that blends all ethnicities. Common ground is good but it’s still a beauty pageant. In fact, Hossain says, “Some can sing, some can dance, some have a nice face. Not everybody has that. But it’s the same as any other talent, like swimming. I see it in the same line. Beauty should be appreciated, too…. Beauty is something you have to work on. You have to furnish it. It’s a talent, knowing how to keep up with your body and health. Plus the natural talent you’re blessed with.”

A talent? Right. Being beautiful is a talent like having a well working heart, or two good eyes. You’re born with it or you’re not. Being born with something is not a talent. Some people have natural abilities in drawing or running but it still takes work to be good at and maintain a consistent level of talent. Beauty I guess can also be maintained: eat healthy, exercise, sleep properly. But then there is always botox, and  silicone and plastic surgery to make one beautiful. That’s a talent for those with money.

Hossain thinks beauty is a legitimate female talent. Wow! Why not have a beauty pageant for flowers then? Beauty, where the winner will be crowned with a tiara. Like a true Disney princess world in which Hossain wants to perpetuate the aspect of women being pretty trophies.

Contestants will be judged on the health of their skin, hair, fitness level, etc. They will get to parade along in white T-shirts and jeans, evening gowns and ethnic wear. Swimsuits may yet happen. So someone like me, born in Canada to Canadian parents, whose ethnic grandparents died early and didn’t pass on their cultural motifs for Italian and Danish ethnic/rural clothing would  wear something decidedly…Canadian. Like jeans, or Birkenstocks, or cowboy boots, or a shirt, or… Hmm, I wonder how the judges will like that ethnic dress. But I’m sure they’ll be fair…in judging who’s most beautiful in their ethnic wear.

It makes me wonder if someone, a woman who is sturdy, perhaps small hipped but barrel chested, thick through the shoulders but with amazing skin, lovely hair and who exercises four times a week could ever win, even if her attributes were better than her slimmer opponents. Especially if she had a bulbous nose and squinty eyes but was the nicest person you ever met, with intelligence and compassion for all. Would she win? I’m guessing, not.

While other pageants in recent years had to disguise the parading of female flesh with humanitarian works and community work, this is hardly mentioned up front. It’s all about the talent of beauty. Here is rule # 7 in the requirements:

7. Candidates will not be permitted to have any body art or body piercing that is visibly offensive.

Hmm, visibly offensive. I’m sorry, ma’am, your botox lips are visibly offensive. Excuse me sir, your balding head is visibly offensive. Why you, your height is visibly offensive. That leaves a lot to interpretation but then Ms Hossain and her judges get to be the judge of that. Just hope you figure it out before you send in your $138 nonrefundable registration fee. Oh and you have to be in good health and not have any medical problems. Is that fair under the human rights code? Well probably since they’re making it for young women 18-28 who can never have been married. I wonder if they want them to be virgins too.

But perhaps I’m being harsh about this vapid throwback to stereotypical pageants that promote the objectifying of women. I’d believe more that this was something new and great if it wasn’t a promotional gimmick for the expo. I’d believe it had altruism at its heart if there had been any mention about what the women are expected to bring to the world and community. Sure, that might help decide but it’s obviously not the thrust. I’d believe this was for a more balanced and less genderist idea if it included men and didn’t have the Disney princess tiara.

Unfortunately I find it hard to believe in or support this trophy girl award. There is a good reason that Canadians don’t want to enter such bigoted pageants.

http://www.jamexpo.ca/RULES-MAY2009.pdf

http://www.jamexpo.ca/vancouver.php?pageid=29

http://www.straight.com/article-212939/beauty-talent-says-organizer-new-miss-vancouver-pageant

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