Wednesday, March 31, 2004

The Outside World is a Circus

I've been holed up in my apartment for days (read: academic imprisonment), and today I have a day pass to do a KAZILLION things, only to find that the outside world is a circus. I'll get into it later, when I break free of Orkut jail and academic prison. Wish me luck. Send me a nail file.

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Danger Mouse

In the TV cartoons from our childhood community on Orkut, someone posted the link to the Danger Mouse theme music:

Danger Mooooooouuuuuuuse!

Bless him!

Monday, March 29, 2004

I'd Never Make a Living as a Writer

I'd starve. My editor would HATE me.

OK, enough fooling around. Write!


a) I'm an OK writer who could be better not with instruction, but a cattle prod
b) I'm a decent writer who is held back by an inability to write without extreme pressure or threat to life and limb
c) I'm a terrible writer with flashes of mediocrity---->delusions of grandeur in irregular cycles
d) I'm sick and tired of school and need a holiday.

I'll take d), because that's the only one I know for sure. I have a theory for why, for the first time in 2.5 years, I am only taking one SFU course but feel less energized than other terms when I have three on the go at the same time: I didn't go anywhere at Christmas break. I always go on a trip somewhere to re-set my brain, and in December I stayed put... well, you all know why.

*NEWSFLASH*! There is a God. I'm going to have a live-in chef. An Aussie houseboy. (ha ha -- just kidding, Matt)

Matt's coming back to Vancouver. He'll be staying in my apartment part of the time I'll be in Europe, and for about 10 days after I return and before he returns to Australia, he will be at my beck and call... I'm telling you, he promised me laksa way back in December, and he has the nerve to be "flat out livin' the dream", he says, riding his snowboard all day in Whistler and working all night... first that Aussie bloke Steve hitches all the way up to Alaska with my apartment keys in his pocket, now this Matt guy takes four months (it'll be five once he actually does it) to make good on his promise of laksa. What's with these Aussie guys, anyway??? I'll see Steve in a few weeks in London, but he's probably breathing a sigh of relief that this time I won't be making any toxic homemade sangria that renders one unconsconscious after an hour...

Sunday, March 28, 2004

Crimes of Fashion

You think people should be jailed for Crimes of Passion? How about Crimes of Fashion.

I posted this all over Orkut, in the Fashion Police forums, in the Vancouver community, wherever I could.

Spotted today. I had my camera with me, so I took a picture:

The little old Chinese lady is wearing a SUPER-HOT-PINK velour tracksuit, and a matching fuschia and black spotted bag, with brown leather shoes, a brown leather coat, and a fuschia and white hat (the fuschia in the hat is also very bright), with big sunglasses. I suppose she's matched the fuschia, but with the brown it's painful to look at. She sat down right away, and she's behind plexiglass, so you don't get the full effect of full-body fuschia pink next to brown leather.

I saw lots of scary fashion today, but this was the only person who was stationary, and I could take a photo at a distance.

[ADDENDUM March 28: Anyone who takes this post seriously either hasn't read the two-drink disclaimer or is not familiar with the word facetious or my attitude toward the colour pink.]

Friday, March 26, 2004

Nellie McKay

This girl is hilarious... check her out:

MSN Entertainment - Music: Nellie McKay

I read about her a while back, but hadn't gone searching for a listen until I read Darren Barefoot's blog. Her debut is a double album titled "Get Away From Me"!

I find it very hard to believe she's 19, but you know, there are stranger things in this world.

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Saw this film last night with Eliza and it was great!

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Lacuna Inc.

The first time I saw this title, I knew I wanted to see it. (I have a very spotty mind, see.) There was something very tantalizing about the premise:

From Yahoo Movies:
From the twisted mind of screenwriter Charlie Kaufman ('Adaptation,' 'Being John Malkovich'). 'Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind' features Jim Carrey as a man who undergoes a process to remove all memories of his ex-girlfriend, played by Kate Winslet. The film also stars Kirsten Dunst, Mark Ruffalo, Tom Wilkinson and Elijah Wood.

This film is for anyone who's ever been in a relationship consisting of two very different personalities trying to make a go of it. I don't want to spoil the film for anyone who hasn't seen it yet, but speaking as a self-admitted sentimental old fool, a memory junkie who organizes her photo albums not by chronology but by subject, who takes her camera around with her everywhere, and keeps boxes of journals and little scraps of paper with notes in friends' handwriting for so long the paper has yellowed, this movie validates my otherwise unpractical behaviour of hoarding my memories. What are we but a walking microprocessor with a massive memory cache? OK, don't answer that. But, biology aside, aren't we very much shaped by our experiences?

I have an above-average memory. It's not quite as good as it used to be -- I never used to write much down, I memorized all the phone numbers I used often, and I had a pretty good recall for addresses, too. These days I have the stuff I use regularly stored in memory, like driver's license, SIN, credit card numbers and expiry dates, Aeroplan number, that kind of thing. I wouldn't care if someone erased those -- as long as I can still read, I can read those numbers off slips of paper. But quite often I can't recall certain details, trivial stuff I used to rattle off easily, and it bugs me. It's as if the memory cache is filling up, and something's got to be erased before I can store more. Now here I am, blogging stories and posting photos, putting my thoughts out for all to see... if one day I had Alzheimer's, would I read this blog and have some kind of cognitive spark? Or will the undocumented memories be lost forever?

It occurred to me one day, after someone commented on my memory (usually prefaced by "I have such a crappy memory"), that part of me doesn't believe that a having a good memory is a gift at all. I feel that my memory is as it is because I feel it's important. Just like other things that we feel are important, like keeping a tidy house, or exercising, we engage in these activities not out of discipline but a deep-seated regard for its value to ourselves. So, I make a point of remembering things of no material consequence, such as whether a person likes a particular Jamaican rum, because it makes that person much more real to me -- in my mind. They're not just a walking microprocessor wrapped in biology, as I said before, they're a flesh-and-blood unique creature with a predilection for Appleton rather than Captain Morgan. Sounds like a paperweight example, but when you think of 5 billion or so people on this planet, and no two people born the same, it's these little details that begin to distinguish people apart from physical characteristics... in addition to their tastes for spirits, there are preferences for food, fashion, structures, climate, cars, and even each other's company. (My little segue back to the film, you could see that coming.)

The two characters in the film are so different, and I can relate to that. Or, maybe I dated someone so like me I had to break up with him because of a hidden self-loathing... Ha! -- I think not, he was really just a pompous bastard... anyway... I won't say too much more, other than mention a hilarious but apt reference to the "dining dead" -- couples having dinner and being so bored with each other that they just focus on their food -- and a line from the film that had me laughing: "Just because you talk constantly doesn't mean you're communicating," says Joel.

Monday, March 22, 2004

Anti-war Demonstration and Crescent Beach

On Saturday, after sleeping the sleep of the dead, I woke up to crowds building on Beach Avenue. I had no idea what for, but I was pretty out of it: the night before, after speeding to the ferry after a long day at work and nearly getting a ticket, I went to the airport and Allison's plane was delayed out of Chicago for something like an hour. I nearly fell asleep leaning again a railing. Allison herself had been up nearly 24 hours, so we were a right pair driving to Surrey. I confessed to her that I'd never driven to Surrey from the airport before, so I just had to make sure I took the right exit... I did not... I shot past the Surrey exit and we ended up in White Rock, then I took the 99 north again, missed another exit, so I ended up taking us to Surrey along the 17, the trucking road beside the Fraser River. Crazy! I returned the car after 2am.

So, yes, it was the sleep of the dead on Friday night. On Saturday morning I looked out the window and watched as people streamed onto the beach, and figured out by a sign or two what was going on. I cooked my omelette and listened to D.O.A. screaming some garbled anti-war phrase. Surreal. Then I heard someone mention that Noam Chomsky would be on later. Noam Chomsky?

Noam Chomsky Talking on My Beach?
Sevenoaks article

Apparently so, but I had to head out on the Skytrain, so Allan and I could take the kiddies to Crescent Beach. On the bus I could hear people talking about Noam Chomsky, and I kick myself a bit now that I didn't hang around long enough to see him speak. After all, the man is now 75 years old, and not only was this speaking engagement a public, free event, but it was across the bloody street!


We took the kidlets to Crescent Beach and had a good time playing teeter-totter, making stick cities, and building pretend campfires. It's good to get the kids out of the House of Chaos.

This photo was taken earlier, maybe the week before or so.

Me with baby Megan. This is the bigger twin. I got to hold both babies the Sunday before, for the first time. They're still pretty tiny, and everyone's still making the necessary adjustments to having them home. It's been a while since there were newborns in the house, now that Maddy is two and a half. I like the fact that the older 3Ms are talking and rounding out their personalities. They're much more interesting now that they have broader vocabulary!

Melissa, for one, is very verbose. She talks almost incessantly, but quality phrases, rich with hedging, proper grammatical usage of verbs, nouns, and adjectives, independent and dependent clauses, and all sorts of rather scarily large words for a 4-year old. Cheryl told me that she heard Melissa preface her sentence with, "Incidentally, ..." ??

Michael isn't quite there yet, but his penchant for proper nouns rather than generic terms are hilarious (eg., burmese python, which someone had Googled and ended up here). The boy of 3 has an excellent memory for songs, too. I remember this even when he was barely old enough to form the words, let alone memorize them.

Maddy is talking a lot now, too, and her words are becoming progressively clearer. Before, she needed a translator -- either Cheryl or Allan. She still does a lot of repetition and uses generic words, but last year we were wondering why she didn't seem to care much about talking. Probably because Melissa wouldn't let her get a word in edgewise.

I'm Surrounded by the Absurd

I was out late on Thursday night. I'm talking really late.

So, on Friday morning, when I drove on the ferry, I did a double-take when I saw what was on the car ahead of me:

What the hell???


The vehicle was a ute -- as they call them in Australia, short for utility vehicles. Half car, half truck. Inexplicably, there were tons of these utes around when I was in Australia. I thought they died along with the 70s, but Australia has a tendency to time warp... a post for another day...

Anyway, the driver of this vehicle wore a baseball cap and sunglasses and a sort of BC hick outfit of lumberjack shirt over a t-shirt -- hey, it's morning, so I could've been seeing things. I took a photo of this vehicle just to make sure it wasn't my fuzzy imagination.

Close Call

I was late leaving the office on Friday, and was panicking that I wouldn't make the last ferry. I had to be on that ferry, not just to return the Volkswagen co-op Beetle, but because Allison's flight was due in at 10:21pm. (Allison is my sister-in-law's sister.) If I missed the ferry, I would've had to:

1) get Allan to pick up Allison
2) pay hefty fines for not returning the car on time (I had it until 3am, and someone booked it at 6am)
3) overnight on the Sunshine Coast at somebody's house

So, I kept my fingers crossed and sped like a bat out of hell down the Sunshine Coast Highway. I raced down the long hill that leads to the ferry terminal and what do you know -- there's an RCMP OFFICER waiting for me at the bottom of the hill, waving me over.

I was so mad! What is a police officer doing at the bottom of a 2km hill in front of the terminal booth just before the last ferry off the Sunshine Coast?? That is so DIRTY! That's like shooting fish in a barrel! If I missed that ferry (the cars were disembarking), I would've, I would've... I was so mad I couldn't think of anything! It's like my mind went purple.

Instead, I pulled over and rolled down the window.

Officer: "You realize that your excessive speed calls for a $368 fine, plus demerits on your license, and... blah blah blah"
Me, trying to keep calm, just looked him straight in the eye and without emotion said evenly and slowly: "I HAVE TO MAKE THIS FERRY"
Officer, without missing a beat: "You should've left earlier, then."

Standoff. I said nothing. There was a long pause. At that point, I would've paid the $368 on the spot to get the whole thing hurried up so I could actually make it to the booth. Because if he was actually going to charge me, I was still going to try to make that ferry!

After a pause that lasted an eternity, he let me go, and with a big sigh of relief, I drove to the booth to find out what lane to go down.

Bloody hell.

Sunday, March 21, 2004

The Growing Edwin Clan

This is the first attempt at a photo shoot with all 7 of them together, and even though we shot lots of photos, this is about as good as it gets:

Allan is holding Michael and Madeleine, Melissa is squished in between Allan and Cheryl, and the baby to the left in the pic is -- I'm pretty sure -- Maribeth, and Megan is on the right.

Thursday, March 18, 2004

Dinner in the Dark

When my friend Karen sent this invitation off to me, I couldn't resist. A mystery dinner with a bunch of strangers in pitch darkness? I'm in!

I met up with Karen outside of DV8. The place was completely taped up so you couldn't see inside. It was positively cave-like. The last time I can recall sharing an experience in darkness with strangers was "blackwater rafting" in New Zealand. It was towards the south end of the North Island, with a Maori outfit that sent you off along a small river through a cave system in an inner tube. The amazing part of it was the presence of glow worms. No, not those silly green toys from the '80s, these were the Real McCoy.

They hung from the ceiling just like this, and believe me -- there is nothing quite like the experience of floating in the darkness, looking up at points of light above your head, knowing that the light is emitted from... hanging worms. If you're squeamish or claustrophobic in any way, I don't recommend blackwater rafting. You're in a cave, after all, the walls are slimy (if you can even find them), and often you have to crawl through small areas. We were given spelunking hats with lights, but we turned them off when we were in the tubes and floating. Voices reverberated everywhere, and you never really knew how far away people were. At one point we were told to turn off our lights to go down a drop -- a height of which we had no idea. You could hear the water rushing over the edge, but you couldn't see it, and even though we knew it couldn't be very high, just not knowing was nerve-wracking for some.

Dinner in the Dark wasn't quite like that. I suppose the only thing you could be scared of was embarrassing yourself or getting groped. Thankfully, I did neither, but anticipating possible embarrassment, I wore black so if I'd spilled food on myself, it wouldn't be so noticeable, I made sure my wine glass was as far away from the others as possible, and I turned to the guy to my left to ask if he was right or left-handed. I told him I was right-handed, so we wouldn't have:

a) a glass crash
b) a hand crash
c) bits of flying food

--oh, did I mention there were no eating utensils? It was a mystery dinner: all kinds of food put on your plate, and you could only feel your way around.

The event organizers explained they were going to have assigned seating, and if we wanted to sit with the people we came with, we'd have to grab their arm. "Don't go looking around for attractive people to hook arms with," they said, "it's not going to matter."

That's part of why this dinner intrigued me -- the idea that conversational skills were more important than how you looked. You could be the most stunning-looking person ever, but if you couldn't carrying on a conversation, all you could do was play with your mystery food and imagine what the other people looked like. I was the first person to be placed in one of the four-person booths on one side of DV8. Most of the people were placed along a row of long tables, which meant you'd be flanked with people. Since I was first in the booth, I had the wall to my right and someone to my left. Then two people were seated across from us. Thankfully, everyone was chatty, although I'd saw the guy next to me, Greg, and I were probably were the more talkative out of the four of us. This is what information emerged from our table:

Jen, 22 (?), Spanish student in ColoradoBriggs, 20 (?), poli-sci student near Tacoma, WA
Greg, 26, journalist with Westenderme, old fogey at our table

Jen and Briggs are brother and sister from Roswell, New Mexico... I know what you're thinking -- we talked about UFOs, right? Well, how could we not? This was their first time in Canada, and they'd come up for a couple of days to celebrate St. Patrick's Day. Greg was at the Dinner not by design -- his boss at the Westender gave him a ticket.

Dinner in the Dark is supposed to give your non-visual senses a nudge. It certainly does -- one thing I noticed almost immediately is that there is a distinct BC accent. Greg's got it, and he says he's BC born and raised. Describing an accent is like describing a colour, but all I can say is you can definitely identify it. The easiest way to recognize it is that Greg sounds JUST LIKE other BC guys I know -- for example, Mike, my former BCIT classmate and now my 'cousin-law'. Canadian regional accents -- bar the Newfies -- are not as distinct as they are in other parts of the world, but Greg says when he's in Toronto people know he's from BC.

[Update, March 26: Greg's story in the Westender, March 25 -- "Dinner in the Dark Sheds Light on New Way to Socialize")

All four of us guessed at what we were eating, but some of it was still a mystery until the lights came up at the end. We listened to a play (how funny does that sound?) by a local group called Rock, Paper, Scissors -- yes, still in the dark -- but all I could think of was, I have to go to the bathroom! Do I get out my little Swiss army knife with flashlight, push Greg out of the booth, and make a ruckus? What to do! What to do! After a few minutes I was really starting to regret not making a dash for it before the play started, but we were all so busy yakking it hadn't occurred to me. I was so distracted from the play, my thoughts were so wrapped up in my bathroom strategies:

Should I just go for it now, before the play ends and other people try to run in the dark to the bathroom and we all collide in a heap?
Which door was the bathroom, anyway? What if I end up in the men's and someone's in there?
Is the video camera person filming the play in the dark standing between me and the bathroom?
(Now and then we'd see a tiny red recording light, and that was the only way we'd know someone was filming us in the dark... spooky)
Would I disturb everybody with my tiny flashlight on?

When the play was over, I made a mad dash. Luckily, we were closer than most of the people, and I'm familiar enough with the layout of DV8 to know generally where to go. The lights finally came on shortly after, and the first we did was look at each other... of course! Suddenly I recognized Jen, because earlier in the evening she almost fell down near the bottom of the stairs, and somebody caught her. I took one look at her Superman t-shirt, and very nearly made a joke, like "Hey, you're supposed to be Superman..." In retrospect, I'm glad I kept my trap shut, even though wearing a Superman t-shirt is asking for jokes. Briggs, her younger brother, didn't really look like Jen, he reminded me of Jared Leto, then later I thought he looked more like Robbie Williams. I really had no idea what either of them looked like when we were having dinner, and the same went for Greg. It's funny how you can be drawn to people by their voices, and I have to say I was a bit curious to see what Greg looked like once I listened to him for the duration of a meal. Karen came over to tell me she'd ripped her contact lens and had to go home toute suite, Greg parted ways with us, and Jen and Briggs and I went to the Nelson Cafe for more drinks. I gave them some tips on free parking and plotted some places to check out St. Patty's Day on Jen's map. We shot the breeze at the Nelson Cafe until nearly midnight before they decided to head back to their sketchy hostel on Main St.

As I walked home, I thought about how much we take our senses for granted. In Edinburgh I lived with a bunch of flatmates, and one of them was deaf. Martin was Irish, and deaf from birth. If you are familiar with the Irish, this sounds like a set up for a joke. To say that the Irish love to talk is an overwhelming understatement. I'm reading Frank McCourt's second book 'Tis, and it reminds me of every Irish person I've ever known... the gift of the gab. I lived with two Irish brothers in Sydney, Australia, and I could never tell when they were pulling my leg, they were so convincing and persuasive. I've had Irish employers, co-workers, friends, and trips to the Emerald Isle, and it seems they're all like that.

Martin was deaf, but he was mute, and we communicated with his teletype machine. I'm pretty fast on keyboard, so we would have long, drawn out conversations about anything. Nobody else in the flat talked to him as much as I did, which actually caused some tension when Martin showed me favour and disdain for the others, for ignoring him. When they asked him for anything, he'd turn them down. As Gillian succinctly put it, "Martin thinks the sun shines out of your arse." Sometimes they would try -- when Martin was around and in other times, too, we'd mute the TV and turn on the teletext just to remind ourselves that we had to adjust our ways and be more understanding. Some situations pissed people off -- for example, if someone got locked out and Martin was the only one at home, they could bang on the door until they were blue in the face and Martin would have no idea. We were all renting, so it's not as if the owner was going to change the doorbell to one that flashed the lights, or the kinds of things you might find in a deaf person's home.

Martin didn't stay at the flat for very long, and part of that was because two of the five of us pissed him off too much. I mean, Martin was a regular guy who went dancing (there's plenty of vibration to get the rhythm, he said), was bi-lingual since he had sign language as well (I wonder if they have Irish brogue in the signing, too?), and didn't deserve to be ignored. Deaf people can lip-read pretty well, and it's up to us speaking people to cut them some slack and slow down a bit. Martin was the only deaf guy I've ever lived with, but it was an ear-opener -- in the same way that Dinner in the Dark was an eye-opener. We have five senses (some might argue six), and we need to use them ALL, as much as possible. Just like the old saying goes, you don't miss something until it's gone.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Dinner in the Dark?

I'm supposed to be having Dinner in the Dark with a bunch of strangers in a couple of hours... will tell you folks all about the evening later...

Monday, March 15, 2004

An Agnostic Goes to Anglican Church

I'd mentioned last week that I wrote a proposal to study religious rhetoric, and chose the Anglican Church as my site. I did a bit of reading about Anglicans before my first foray into their sanctuary, but I was quite unprepared with quite how much ritual and ceremony took place during High Mass.

I haven't seen that much ritual since my cousin Mario's Greek Orthodox wedding (he's Filipino-Italian-French Canadian, she's Greek). Mario's side is, I think, Anglican, but we had to keep an eye on the bride's side of the church to make sure we stood up and sat down at the right times. It was like a sports stadium wave, but in church -- the Greek side would stand up, and we'd follow... up, down, up down. Must've been hilarious to watch from the back of the church. Maybe if I were up at the front, I wouldn't be able to stay solemn and reverential.

When I told my Auntie Susan about my project, she was predictably ecstatic. After all, she's very devout. She's never been married, but I would say she's married to the church. As far as I know, Anglicans don't have nuns, but if they did, she would be one. If she's not at home, she's at church. Now, don't get me wrong -- I'm not knocking her devotion, or devotion to religion in general. It would take a very hardened person to not acknowledge how much good the churches do in communities. (Although you could argue they also did a lot of damage to the aboriginal community in the country's early days.) Most of the organizations I've volunteered for were linked to a church.

So, I knew I wouldn't get zapped upon entry into St. James -- I'm a self-proclaimed agnostic, but if God were at St. James on Sunday morning, He might say, "Hey, haven't I seen you around before?", not "Where in My Name have you been?"

Aside from weddings and baby dedications and funerals, I think the last time I showed up in a church -- any church -- was maybe when I stayed with this evangelical Christian family in Bundaberg, Australia. They had two girls and were a pretty conservative bunch, from what I can recall. But I'll tell you one thing: I'll take the classical churches -- Roman Catholic, Anglican, Orthodox Greek, what-have-you -- over evangelical Christian any day of the week. I'm a modernist generally, but something about evangelical Christianity gives me the creeps.

Back to St. James...

Music for High Mass
Mass setting
Opening Hymn
Gradual Hymn
Offertory Hymn
Communion Hymn
Closing Hymn

Anyway, so it's 10:30, and I'm standing at the steps of the church. I see a bodyguard, but no aunt. He's a big beefy guy with a name tag, and he greets me as I head in the door, pretending like I was just like any other churchgoer to St. James. My aunt was nowhere in sight, so I stood around in the foyer for a while before someone inevitably invited me in. The church is old, and I like it -- the first thing that hit me was the incense. It was still a bit smoky near the front, and the smoke and the scent hung in the air, the scent of the ages.

I was there at the tail end of Family Mass, before High Mass. Everyone disappeared downstairs, where they were serving refreshments in between services. The basement of the church is filled with people, a motley crew of white-haired little old ladies, street people -- some of whom are probably homeless and want some coffee and somewhere to sit down -- and everybody in between. The location of St. James, the oldest church in the diocese of New Westminster, is in Vancouver's gritty, grotty Downtown Eastside. Site of the first clinical injection site in North America. The cesspit of the city. You get the idea. Why else would this church need a bouncer? But, the church's location is one of the reasons why I chose it -- because it is smack-dab in the middle of the most secular area in the city, made all the more desperate-looking by the smattering of gospel missions and church soup kitchens. The guy occupying the pew in front of me had dreadlocks that reeked so badly I had to move across the aisle to avoid being downwind from him. The hooker that hobbled in on stiletto heels and fishnet stockings was high as a kite -- her singing more like screeching/wailing, piercing the air over and above the minister chanting his part of the prayer on a microphone. Eventually she was removed. I wondered if it was like this every week.

Do the other people in the church gaze upon her and think to themselves:
"God have mercy on your soul" or
"I'm so glad I didn't turn out that way" or
"This woman shouldn't have been let in" or... what?

It's at these times I would like to be able to read people's minds.

St. James wasn't all little old ladies and bums, though, there were people there of all shapes and sizes, ages, and attire. Sitting near the back, I was quite fascinated with the variety within the congregation. And, no matter who they were, they gave a half-kneel and bow as they went past the centre aisle. I grew up in a modern church with very little ritual or ceremony, and whether or not this part of religion makes a difference to the faith of the religious individual, it was interesting to observe. It brings to mind a lot of questions about the function of ritual in a secular life, too. I'm thinking of politeness rituals, gestures of respect, things you're taught in childhood. Do any of us really think about why we're doing it, or has the ritual become so ingrained into our psyches that nothing short of a lobotomy will get them back out again? As I sat in Anglican Church on a Sunday morning, a thousand paper topics raced through my brain, not just about religious rhetoric but prejudice, modernism, class consciousness, etc. I think if I am ever stuck for inspiration for an anthropological paper, I gotta go back to church. Even if it means dragging my sorry carcass out of bed early on a Sunday morning.

Saturday, March 13, 2004

Spain, continued

On Wednesday I wrote about looking forward to going to Spain next month. That still applies, even after the chilling events that took place in Madrid only a few hours before I wrote that post at 4am, Pacific time. If I'd had Kevin's homepage up in another window, I'd have known by then that 10 bombs ripped through three train stations in Madrid, killing 200 people and injuring 1,500 others, and I might not have written that post. But never in a million years would I have guessed that such a thing would be happening while I was writing my first post about Spain.

In reading a related article in the Jerusalem Post, writer Barry Davis articulated what had been subconsciously bothering me about the Spanish government pointing the finger at the ETA, the militant Basque separatist group. He says, "First, ETA does not have a record of killing on a mass scale. In general, its operations have been designed to assassinate individuals - political and military - who are associated with the government. Over the past year, for example, ETA attacks have claimed three lives." From what I have read about ETA's terrorist activities in the past, they haven't engaged in any large-scale acts. It's not to say that they wouldn't be capable of this, I'm only going by their historical modus operandi. On my Wednesday post, I put in a comment that said I was shocked that the ETA would commit a terrorist act as large-scale as this, and since then the ETA has denied responsibility for it. Many theories have since been offered, but I rationalize that the Basque group would not likely commit such an act on the basis of potential retaliation from the rest of Spain... they are a relatively small cultural group in Spain, and to resort to violence at this level against civilians -- possibly even to some of their own -- for the purpose of gaining independence from a government they will continue to be reliant upon (for trade at the very least, if independence is achieved), would be an unlikely strategy for ETA.

Which begs a disclaimer at this point: I am no political pundit, such as the likes of Jay Currie or Andrew Coyne or any number of online writers who follow Canadian or global politics. Politics is my Achilles heel... I have become more and more political in recent years, but I don't claim to have any more in-depth understanding of the political process than, say, the mechanics of a car. It's not to say that I'm not trying to be more politically (or mechanically) savvy, I am definitely working on it. (Ask my mechanics.) But, Gail's Balcony does not claim to be a political blog. If a significant global event occurs, and I do not write about it, it doesn't mean in any way, shape, or form that I don't have an opinion about it. Hell, I have an opinion about everything. I just won't necessarily air my opinions on political issues because it's one area where I feel I need a great deal more information before I'll form an opinion worth writing. Everything else, however, is fair game... (cheeky ol' me)

Interestingly, a commentator on Andrew Coyne's site noted that 911 days had passed between 9/11 and the Madrid bombings, but another commentator noted that it was actually 912 because of the leap year. Don't the leap years only count in the Gregorian calendar or some such thing?? There are all sorts of calendars out there besides the ones used in the Western world, and -- hey, is this a tangent or what? -- maybe leap years are only accounted for in what we're using, the same way that Daylight Savings Time is not observed in some places (eg., some Australian states). Even more interestingly, in the time that it took me to put in references and links, those comments regarding the number of days that have passed since 9/11 have disappeared. I thought it was just my imagination, but I still had the original comments window up and saw that it was not myopia or clicking off-course.

At, I noted a little poll in the side window, for this question:

Will high-profile terrorist bombings in places such as Bali, and this week's attacks in Spain, dissuade you from travelling to such popular tourist destinations?

Results as of this afternoon:

29% for Definitely
24% for Perhaps
28% for Not at all
17% for I was never interested

I like to keep tabs on these little polls from time to time, to watch how the percentages change over the course of time, as more information gets released, as more opinions and theories are postulated and public opinion sways with the media breeze. Of course, the readership is not necessarily representative of the public -- results of online polls must always be taken with a grain of salt.

My vote is lumped in with the Not At All crowd. I am from the school of thought that considers risk a part of everyday life. When we drive around, there is a significant probability that we will be involved in a car accident at some point. All forms of travel carry inherent risks. I've gone bungee-jumping, river surfing, and other activities where I've had to sign a disclaimer. But there are so many other things we do that don't carry a disclaimer, but are taken for granted to be without inherent risk to personal safety -- riding on public transit, crossing intersections, standing in a crowd, hiking in the woods, etc. Risk is everywhere, it just depends on how you calculate the risk and how you let that affect your life. I would live life differently if I had kids, for example, I would be much more wary about my surroundings and side with caution more often. I wouldn't do arguably unsafe things such as wander around foreign cities in the middle of the night by myself to satisfy my noctural urge to explore.

Stephen Savage is one of a number of individuals who have been inspired by world events such as 9/11 and the terrorist bombing of Bali to initiate an international travel project to foster goodwill among people. He travels to remind people that the world, with all the conflict it's sustained in recent years due to terrorism and war, is not overrun with terrorists -- most of earth's inhabitants are essentially good people. Steve has been travelling since July of last year to get out there, travel and meet people and write about his experience so others may benefit. I've mentioned Steve before, but I may not have mentioned his project, which is an online shared experience. The shared part comes in by way of 'audience participation': sending him challenges, hosting him (which I did briefly in July and August), and posting in his messageboard. I bring your attention to his project from time to time not for the sake of giving someone publicity, but because I've "sussed him out" as the Aussies say, and think he is a worthy poster boy for global goodwill. Behind that occasionally scruffy exterior, Aussie humour, and broad accent is a guy who genuinely wants to highlight the good in people, not the cruelty or barbarism that is so often the content of media stories.


I can't believe it. A weekend without a deadline hanging over my head. It's been so long I'm forgetting what it's like! Lately, if it's not one thing, it's another. As much as I moan on this blogsite about how much there is to get done, it's just all hot air, really. Deep down I know if I didn't have stuff going on, I would wither up and die with boredom. If I didn't channel this energy into something constructive and productive, I'd probably end up in jail for mischief...

The weather's been so good lately, I'm looking forward to doing stuff outside. When Ross called from Boston on Monday, he said it was snowing. I took this pic this afternoon, and as you can see, the blossoms are out in full force on Beach Avenue.

What I have slotted for this weekend, work-wise, is:

1) finally finish off my taxes so I can get my refund!
2) attend Anglican Church to collect data for my ethnography paper about religious rhetoric.

In case there are any Anglicans reading this, I'd just like to say that I have never been to Anglican Church, and that my use of the word rhetoric is not in the pejorative sense. I'm taking Advanced University writing, so the entire field is referred to as rhetoric studies. Just thought I'd clear that up. Why did I choose the Anglican Church?

a) there are several in the West End and around the downtown core
b) if I attend my brother's church (the one I grew up with), I would be less objective, and it would mean waking up early on a Saturday; somehow, this seems harder after a tough week -- I need to break myself into the weekend!
c) the Anglican Church is an old church, and one of my objectives is to examine the modernization of religious messages. The reason why I didn't choose Catholic is because it's more of an inherited religion -- people will more likely identify themselves as Catholic if their parents were Catholic, even if they were non-practicing. There seems somewhat less of a need to modernize Catholicism, although this is more my impression rather than a statement of fact and I'm certain that there are Catholics out there who would argue this. In any case, I chose Anglican because although it is an old church, it has adopted some (relative to Catholic) progressive policies (ordination of women as ministers, gay marriage) and appears to position itself as attempting to be more relevant to its constituents. I understand that within the Anglican Church there are different levels of conservatism/liberalism, but I chose to study a church in an urban setting as it would seem to address relevancy to a modern way of life more than a suburban or rural church.

Fun Fair at Kits Point??
I returned from Sechelt late on Wednesday night, and found it oddly bright outside. Where was all this light coming from?? My office/bedroom was flooded with light, and there were massive stadium-sized lights on the beach by my apartment, across the water at Kits Point. I've just done a Google search, and according to Katkam, it's just a film set. I was wondering why there was no advertising, no press junkets, no information whatsoever. Vancouver, as a location for all kinds of filming -- feature films, commercials, made for TV movies, etc. -- can transform itself in a matter of hours. I can't tell you how many times I've unintentionally walked or driven through a film set over the years. It's bizarre, but interesting, to observe the transformation. One minute you're standing on a city streetcorner, and the next block over is New York City, complete with NY shops, cars with NY plates, cafes and NYC police.

Dining Out For Life
Eliza and I had much more fun this year working Dining Out For Life. Last year it was pissing down with rain, there was a hockey game (in Vancouver that does tend to keep people indoors), and the restaurants we had assigned to us were all over the city -- Kitsilano, Main Street, downtown. Some restaurants closed early, one didn't even know why I was there, and the rest all mentioned at some point or another that it was a pretty slow night. This year, the weather was good, people were dining out, and there was no hockey game going on. Everyone was in good spirits, I never had to wait long to get the boxes, and I'm very certain we made a lot more money than last year and hopefully beat the total raised from two years ago.

What Eliza and I had to do was pick up the donation boxes that were placed at each of the participating restaurants. There were about 150 in total, but we were assigned about 10. In some places, people found us a pretty curious sight: me with a name tag, running in and grabbing a box, then running out again to jump into a canary yellow Mercedes SLK. Kam, of Kam's Place Singaporean restaurant, joked that he would only give me the box as a trade for the car. Driving around in a yellow sports car is like putting wheels on a neon sign!

Project Empty Bowl

While we were out driving around, I asked Eliza to cruise by the Virgin Megastore window so I could take photos of the display. I alluded to a debacle on Tuesday, the day of the installation. It all got sorted out in the end, but let me just say this is the second display. The first was dismantled. I only learned about this yesterday, and I was mortified and apologized to the Virgin Megastore marketing and promo manager by e-mail. That is the last time I will let something I'm responsible for go unsupervised (unless I know the people involved first-hand). This is generally my policy, but as I had to be in Sechelt -- ironically, so I could work the other A Loving Spoonful project -- Dining Out For Life on Thursday, I couldn't be around to be involved in the installation at Virgin. Karen played it down, but personally, I was embarrassed.

The bowls on display at Virgin are the largest and most flamboyant of all the bowls created for Project Empty Bowl. Because the windows at Virgin are so large, the posters created for them were special ordered and -- I'm sure -- very expensive. Karen picked out the "loudest" bowls to showcase there, and the pics I took below are two very ornate pieces that we were hoping to display at Holt Renfrew. I'm going to go there sometime over the next few days to take photos and see what they've done with the displays.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Spain, Spain, Spain

I'm sitting here at Kevin's desk, surrounded by papers. It's after 4 o'clock in the morning. Thinking of Spain to keep me going. Five more weeks. Barcelona architecture. Tapas and sangria. Wandering around Alicante and Malaga... try not to eat too much. Must keep skin clear and fit into bridesmaid dress. Don't go scaring Lucy by wandering off with total strangers to the shops at 3am like that time in London, only to return after dawn. What a night! I did that to her in Amsterdam, too, only not with total strangers -- I went off on a food mission. OK, must save stories for time when deadlines not hanging overhead.

Volunteering: Part Deux

If yesterday was a three-car pile-up, today was a wrecking yard. I'm out of town, in Sechelt today and tomorrow, but one of the projects I'm co-ordinating suffered a bit of a setback today due to a mix-up on my part... I managed a correction, however, and all was well again, but there was a bit of a panicky moment, there.

Memoirs of a Geisha

Memoirs of a Geisha
I finally finished the dang thing. I don't think I have EVER dragged out the reading of a book this long before. Eliza gave me a bunch of novels over Christmas, and I'd finished the Bridget Jones books in due course. I even wrote a rambling blog about them.

Memoirs of a Geisha, however, took some time. Rightly so, though, since there is a level of detail in the book -- Japanese culture in a particular time period -- that warrants a slower pace. Plus, I'd already started my coursework and work was taking more of my time. But I have to say: I was a bit disappointed. The book is a favourite of so many, yet I found myself somewhat let down with... I'm not sure what exactly. Some passages were quite moving, her emotions powerful, but overall I didn't feel the book's expected impact. Could've been the long period of time I took to read it. Maybe if I'd read it in a few sittings it would've had a different impression, although that's purely hypothetical. I can't exactly unread it to find out.

Now I'm onto the last of the books Eliza lent to me: Frank McCourt's 'Tis, a follow-up to his more famous work, Angela's Ashes, which I read when it was released way back when. I can't recall the story details, but I do recall enjoying the book immensely. We'll see how Frank McCourt does this time. I must say, though, I do have a fondness for the Irish lilt and have a tendency to "read aloud" the accent in my head as the words jump off the page. My own simultaneous translation, if you will.

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

Volunteering: Part One

It somewhat resembled a three-car pile-up today, but we all survived. No injuries. Things got done. No worries.

Monday, March 08, 2004

We Visit the Great Big Ball of Science

Michael watching electricity come alive
It won't take much for the regular readers to figure out that the "Ball of Science" I'm referring to is actually...Science World. "Ball of Science" is what Melissa called it, much to the amusement of those who heard her pontificate on the Skytrain. If you're dubious as to whether or not a 4-year old can pontificate, I assure you: this one does.

It's Sunday, my usual day with the kids. Kids on good behaviour is the condition (and variable). So today that excluded 2-year old Madeleine. Apparently she takes the "terrible twos" terribly seriously or just... well, terribly. Or to heart. She was screaming blue murder when I arrived at my brother's house, and I asked how long that had been going on.

"Oh, nearly an hour," Cheryl informed me. "I don't recommend you take her." Oh, really? That bad, huh? I figured the older two could handle going out on their own, so I decided to make our lives easier and take the Sktytrain, since the "Ball of Science" was chock-a-block full due to raining-cats-and-dogs kind of weather. I drove by it on the way to the freeway, and I could see people were having a tough time parking. Thought it might be best to avoid all that.

the Ms on the Skytrain
This is only Melissa's second outing with me since her return from Maine, so I thought we'd hit all the shows. Some of them were very dazzling, like the "Cold Show" which featured dry ice and even liquid nitrogen. I could tell the kids were really wowed by the demonstrations with shattering banana peels, rubber tubing, and Fluffy the balloon dog. I saw their eyes widen as Fluffy was stuffed into the clear cylinder that contained the liquid nitrogen, promptly deflated, then "resuscitated" by a little volunteer who breathed on it and causing it to inflate again. Michael has an amazing memory, so I'm going to have to keep my eye on him the next time I get him balloon dog -- he might try and stuff it into somebody's glass of water, hoping it would deflate.

Between the "Locomotion" show and the last show of the day called "Science Surprises" I ran around to get the kids to try new exhibits. Seems like Michael and Melissa are getting bolder, especially Michael, who on occasion was a bit shy but has now become pretty brazen. I have a feeling it's a competitive thing. Melissa may be older than Michael by one year, but he's the same size as she is, so competes with her physically and in other ways. She's very verbose for her age and can still talk rings around him (he's catching up, though), but I think attending daycare with a bunch of rowdy boys for the past few months has made him louder. Michael is SO VERY LOUD, it can be embarrassing. On the Skytrain a man sat down in front of us who was bald, and guess who piped up, "HEY, HE HAS NO HAIR!" at the top of his lungs? Pointing his finger, no less, at the man's head as he eagerly made his report...

I wanted to crawl under the seat and disappear, but the man just ignored us, and I shushed the kids up.

The daycare lady, Natalia, says she finds Michael hilarious. When other children say "snake!", Michael will say "Burmese python" When they say "ostrich!", Michael will shake his head and say "emu"! I took Michael and Melissa to the nature section of Science World, which houses some live creatures such as a hive of bees and snakes. They had the opportunity to pet the resident corn snake, and when I asked Michael what it felt like, he said very matter-of-factly,"it feels like a Burmese python!" The man next to me burst out laughing, while I admonished, "Michael, how do you know what a Burmese python feels like?" Really, I should've saved my breath.

Melissa's first stint as a volunteer
Melissa even got onstage. Before, whenever a volunteer was called up onstage during a show (practically every five minutes), the kids wouldn't even raise their hands. This time it was different. They started raising their hands tentatively during the first show, waving their arms in the air during the second show, and by the time the third show came around both of them were right up in the front row just about jumping up and down. I knew it was just a matter of time before one of them got called up. This time it was Melissa.

She did quite well for her debut. No stage fright. She did push buttons even when the "scientist" told her not to, but nothing blew up, so that was fine. I think Michael was jealous that she went up and he didn't, so I'll see if I can get him in a red shirt or something bright like that for next time. Or a Canucks (hockey) jersey, that seemed to be one sure-fire way of getting onstage. Either that, or I'll have to do it the old-fashioned way and grease a palm. (Apparently, that works best at the government level.)

Sunday, March 07, 2004

My Extra-Curricular Activities

Last week was a busy week, not just because of work and SFU stuff, but because I've got some sideline projects going on. One of them is Project Empty Bowl, for A Loving Spoonful.

Project Empty Bowl
History of Project Empty Bowl

In 10 years Empty Bowl has fed thousands. It began when John Harton, a teacher in Bloomfield, MT, asked his high school ceramic students to make enough bowls to give a luncheon for the school staff. For $5 each, the guests received a simple meal of soup and bread, served in one of the handmade bowls. Guests were asked to accept their now empty bowls as a gift and to keep them as a reminder of all the empty bowls that still need filling. The money raised was donated to the local food bank.

The energy of those young potters, their teacher and their guests breathed life into what has become the Empty Bowls Project. Since then, groups of potters have raised and donated over $1,750,000 to organizations like A Loving Spoonful that fight hunger.

The premise of Empty Bowls is profoundly simple and has been repeated thousands of times by small groups and large. A few people get together to create bowls. They invite guests, as many as they have bowls, to share a simple meal and to donate a small sum, which provides food to those in need. In return, guests take home their empty bowl as a reminder of the continuing hunger within their own community.

In 1997, Rachelle Chinnery of Mudslingers Clay Studios brought the concept of Empty Bowls to A Loving Spoonful. They had the blessing and enthusiastic participation of the Potters Guild of British Columbia and the Canadian Craft & Design Museum. Together, they created Project Empty Bowl as a benefit for A Loving Spoonful.

In March 2004 we will produce the 4th bi-annual Project Empty Bowl. Prominent members of the clay, glass, metal and wood artisan communities have been asked to create significant bowls specifically for this event. These creations have traditionally been part of a static display in one location and then are auctioned at a Gala evening of beautiful donated food, drink and song. In 2004, we will be displaying the pieces at select retailers such as Holt Renfrew and in public spaces to increase visibility for the artists, the event and the sponsors. A silent auction features many items, including bowls designed and executed by local celebrities such as Arthur Erickson, Bill Richardson, the fabulous Tracy Bell and our wonderful founder Easter Armas-Mikulik.

As many as 80% of deaths from AIDS are immediately precipitated by malnutrition rather than by the disease itself. Project Empty Bowl has raised $50,000 for A Loving Spoonful, a registered charity that delivers free, nutritious meals to men, women and children fighting HIV/AIDS who have multiple barriers to accessing proper nutrition. Next year, we hope to raise $50,000 to provide nutritional services to our clients.

Dining Out For Life
The A Loving Spoonful website is featuring Dining Out For Life right now, which is happening next Thursday, March 11. I'm also involved with that, in a lesser capacity. Vancouver readers - don't forget to dine out at a restaurant that has the Dining Out For Life poster in the window. There are 150 participating restaurants, you can find a list of them here.

My main job in Project Empty Bowl is to co-ordinate the window displays, which will feature some of the bowls being auctioned at Heritage Hall on March 31. The three retail locations are Holt Renfrew, Granville Optical, and Virgin Megastore. Much of the co-ordination has been on the phone, contacting people, explaining what needs to be done, getting things, etc., but yesterday I actually put up a display in the first window, at Granville Optical. I shouldn't say I put up the display, since really it was Oz who created the display and I just followed his orders. I got in touch with Oz through Alexandra, who is co-chairing the project along with Kenn. I was trying to get some materials together for the displays, and Alexandra said when it comes to windows, Oz was the man to call. So, call him I did, and arranged to meet him on Saturday morning.

Saturday, 9ish, much too early for my liking...



Granville Optical
After dropping off Ross and Kevin at the airport so I could borrow Ross's truck, I tried to wake up a bit before picking Oz up in Kits and heading off to Alexandra's house to pick up the display stands to be used at Virgin Megastore. I was only half-awake, after a coma-like sleep on Friday night and relatively early Saturday morning. But Oz was even worse off, having gone to bed at 6am. We were a dozy pair, that's for sure. In fact, if you'd been walking on Granville Street at the southwestern corner, you would've seen us in the window draping fabric and taping lights on the security bars in a bit of a stupor.

As you can see, one of the main challenges to dressing this window is the security bars. Lloyd, the owner (manager?) told us that last summer some thieves had actually broken the glass, reached through the bars, and with a coathanger or something nabbed all the sunglasses from the display cases. So, even though there's a motion sensor alarm, this all happens too quickly to be able to intervene. These thieves must work pretty fast, since there's a community police station right on Granville Street, around the corner. We were a little disappointed that we couldn't put the displays closer to the glass, but to compensate, we taped the poster information on the glass so people could at least read it, even if the bowls were a bit far away. We fiddled around a bit with the track lighting, too, for better illumination. While I was standing in the window, I noticed more people looking in, so I know the display is a lot more eye-grabbing than before. Actually, I don't know how the display could be any less eye-grabbing than before, because it was basically just two lacklustre stands with some glasses on it. Nothing else. Oz put in purple mini-lights in the shape of two eyes, so that should help attract attention at night. He added a third eye in the background, in white lights.

Holt Renfrew display

Holt Renfrew platform
Holt Renfrew generously gave us a platform in the menswear department to showcase larger bowls, as well as an accessory display case upstairs. When I went to Holt Renfrew last week to check out the space, I was surprised to find Kevin remembered me right away, since it's been nearly two years since the one and only time he'd seen me, when we decorated the Loving Spoonful float for the Pride Parade. (This float won the prize for 2002. Loved the bubble machine. Sue dressed up in costume and was the centrepiece of the float.)

I checked out the Virgin Megastore window the previous week, which was an interesting view of the pedestrians along the corner of Robson and Burrard Streets. William took me through the doors into the space between the walls and the glass, and I was very much distracted by the people walking past. It's not every day you stand inside a glass enclosure that you walk by often and peer out at the window shoppers instead of being the one looking in. It's an interesting perspective. On a side note, you wanna know how they fasten those giant posters on those Virgin Megastore walls? Velcro.

Thursday, March 04, 2004

A Night On Robson Street

Robson Street from the top of the Landmark Hotel
It was Claire's last free night in Vancouver before she flies home to France, so she and I hit Robson Street for dinner, gelato, and coffee with a view.

We started off at Thai House between Thurlow and Bute, for which I had a 2-for-1 voucher. Oh my word. We ordered so much food I thought, "There's no way we're gonna finish this!" We did, eventually, but I can't remember the last time I'd eaten so much. It was all good, though, especially the seafood house special in green curry... yum, yum.

Then we headed west towards the Landmark Hotel, but I was hypnotically drawn into Mondo Gelato -- certainly not by hunger, but some other primordial instinct to consume. I told Claire that even chickens, as daft a species as they are, know to stop eating when they're full. Humans, on the other hand, will eat until we pass out. So much for being at the top of the food chain.

After MUCH deliberation -- and anyone who's been to Mondo Gelato will know how difficult it is to make a decision on flavours -- we picked out Maple Caramel, Biscottino, and Tiramasu. Then Claire actually went for two more scoops -- this time, of White Chocolate and Ferrero Rocher. You'd never have suspected we'd just eaten vulgar amounts of Thai food only steps away, moments before.

Once we got our gelato fill, we headed over to the Landmark, where I took this photo of Robson Street facing east. We barely made last call, and chatted there in the revolving restaurant until we got kicked out. We made arrangements to meet in two months, in Paris, where we will again order two very expensive coffees and chat away until closing. I almost choked when I saw that our two coffees at the Landmark come to $10. We'll probably end up paying the same in Paris, for less -- but stronger -- coffee.

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

The Ultimate One-Way Mirror

Talk about killing two birds with one stone!

If you're a people-watcher, like me, you might find this interesting (Allan sent this to me last week). It's an art exhibit at the Tate Britain (London), except it's also a functioning toilet situated on the street next to the museum. It would be strange actually using it, even though you know perfectly well people can't see in. I mean, imagine: doing your business, watching people walk by totally unaware that a) you're watching them, and b) you've got your trousers down.

Here's the full article.

I saw a German short film a couple of years ago that took place in Berliner Platz, about a sculpture artist who won a design contest to put an art piece in the middle of the plaza -- the busiest shopping district in probably all of Germany (somebody please correct me if I'm wrong). She then designed a one-way mirror cube as a stunt... a place where she and her boyfriend could fool around while people walked by, because they liked to be naughty in public places. Ah, you can always count on the Germans to take things one step further... the artist of the exhibit toilet, however, is Italian.

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

More Orkut Amusement

Over the weekend, I stumbled onto the motherlode of Orkut communities: All Things Filipino.

Now, most of you out there wouldn't think twice about this community, but to those of us transplanted to the West, or who have only known the West, we full well know how things could've been because we were raised by these crazy people called Filipinos... well, to find such a community is a boon to people like me, who experience nothing Filipino on a day-to-day basis, even though we look like we're FOB: fresh off the boat.

You might think I'm being harsh, calling my own kind crazy, but if you saw some of the posts from those of us second+-generation Filipinos who grew up in immigrant households, you'd have to agree. There are long threads about weird Filipino behaviours, such as:

* naming the entire family with one letter, such as what my brother did with the letter M for his kids: Melissa, Michael, Madeleine, Megan, Maribeth (there must be some kind of latent Filipino thing going on with him, since obviously we grew up in the same household, and I would never do this, neither would our brother Alvin... or did our DNA thumb its deoxyribonucleanic acid at the genetic programming??)

[by the way, if you think that's not crazy, remember that this is mostly a Catholic nation with big families... some families go alphabetically, and one girl in California mentioned that everyone in her family has a name that starts with the letter A and ends with N: Alvin, Aileen, Allan, Arleen, Allain, Arman... see?]

* taking a van and converting it into the "van of vans" that they have back in the Philippines, replete with horns... and musical horns!

man in a barrel
* making tacky imports, like this man in a barrel that has a spring for a willy (don't even ask... Filipino humour is so twisted, but what's even more twisted is that tourists actually buy this stuff)

... oh my, I could go on and on, but I wouldn't be doing the homeland any favours by trashing it. Rather, I should mention the good stuff, like the food. It goes without saying there are whole threads in the Filipino community related to food. Sad to say, I don't know how to cook any Filipino food, but I'm good at eating it!

I couldn't stop laughing at the Filipino Expressions thread... I don't know if any of you folk will get it, though, unless you know Filipinos. It was game over for me when someone mentioned the "pointing with the mouth" thing... I laughed so hard... IT'S SO TRUE!! This was my post in that thread:

f's and v's
...when they pronounce words such as "five" like "pibe"... There's some linguistic twistedness in imperialist Spain giving a colony a name that its own people can't even pronounce!!!

Orkut Amusement

I've joined some pretty funny Orkut communities. One of them is Oversleepers Anonymous, where people discuss topics such as:

* least effective alarms
* The most comfortable bed?
* How long have you slept today?
* the irony of it all
* Tips for getting up/being woken up
* When was the last time you overslept?
* snooze button: best ever invention?
* The snooze record
* Ten more minutes

Some of these are absolutely hilarious! I thought I was pretty bad for sleeping in, until I read some of the oversleeping exploits of this bunch. You want to know what some of the sleeping records are? Quite a few are over 24 hours. See, it's not just me. And I am not the only person who uses my mobile phone as an alarm clock, in addition to the screeching alarm clock, and the portable one I got at MOMA in NYC that is now residing in the bathroom to remind me what time it is.

I think my favourite thread is Tips for getting up/being woken up. There's this German guy from Hamburg who got his hands on this huge factory bell from the 1950s made of cast iron, used to signal lunchtime for the workers. He hooked up a digital clock-controlled relay that switches the bell on after his two other alarm clocks. He says it helps him get out of bed, because he's scared the the big bell will start ringing:

"I can't use it often, because the whole house wakes up and sometimes i keep sleeping for more then 2 hours while its ringing, then even the neighbours will start complaining."

This one guy in Belgium wrote a script to start playing some song at volume 0 and progressively increase it to 100 over a period of six minutes. It worked for three days, he said. Hmmm... I'd really get in trouble for that one. Christa used to come in and turn off my alarm clock herself because it would wake her up and not me, even though it was beside my head and she was way over in the far end of the living room. I can't imagine what Volume 100 would evoke, probably a contract on my head.

Here's a thread from Least Effective Alarms:

Mobile Alarm clock -- from the UK
Did anyone here the story/joke about the alarm clock which was part toy car, part alarm clock. The way I heard it was that when it went off it started moving and started making a siren like noise. Think I remember someone telling me about chasing one around. Then again I may have been drinking when I heard the story so I may have imagined that part.

motorized ball! -- from Norway
That's a brilliant idea! My brother has a dust collecting robot, that is really nothing but a motorized ball driving a cloth. Remove the cloth and have a siren in it... you'd have to chase it. Or maybe you'd just become a skilled marksman, throwing stuff at it.

-- from an American, in Canada
For a while I tried setting my alarm to my favorite radio station with the volume set pretty loud, but that usually didn't work. However, one morning I woke up all freaked out because a stranger was in my room, yelling [at] me. I'd accidentally moved the tuner to a talk radio station and the host was ranting and raging about something at the moment when my alarm went off. It was effective, for a while.

Monday, March 01, 2004

False Creek Frolicking

It was a nice day in Lotusland, for the last day in February – warm and sunny.

Melissa is back from Maine, so the 3 older Ms are reunited and as frisky as ever. Allan brought his mother-in-law, Jean, who is here for a month from Maine, helping Cheryl out while she's recovering from months of bedrest and all-day visits to the twins in the hospital. I thought it would be nice to show Jean around my stomping ground of False Creek. After all, she's seen simply LOADS of photos of the kids around the area, so now she can see why the kids like it here so much.

Wow, this ball is heavy!

ice cream!