Sunday, January 11, 2015

Museum of Human Rights

On our recent trip to Winnipeg this past Christmas we took in the Museum of Human Rights. Last time we were there in 2011 it was still under construction. In my opinion the building is up to the challenge of presenting such important subject matter. It's an imposing elegant structure, yet rugged enough to withstand the harsh environment of a Canadian prairie.

Time Capsule

While sorting stuff in my workshop over Christmas I came across a few tubes of posters I've had for a very long time.

It's perfect timing as we have some vacant wall space to fill now that our basement office space is finished.

With both of the posters shown below, I'd totally forgotten I had them. Once the dates printed on them sunk in it was like opening a time capsule. Ironically I didn't actually attend either event, so I'm not sure how I acquired them, but I'm sure glad I did.

Two unexpected bonuses for this one: it's for the inaugural event and it's signed by the artist (in pen; hard to read in this format).
Strangely enough both posters are from 1990, now enjoying their 25th anniversary.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Paying the Mercury Price

The recent drop in gasoline prices was even more noticeable in Winnipeg than in Vancouver. We spent time in the ‘Peg over the Christmas break and it was really an eye-opener to see sub-loonie pricing per litre. I can’t remember when I last witnessed such an event. When we came home from vacation in Europe a couple of summers ago gas was approaching $1.60 per litre in Vancouver. The average price for gas in Winnipeg I saw during our recent trip was about half that; about 80 cents. And here I thought we were being so smart by buying a hybrid car recently to combat the petro assault at the pumps. But I digress.

The real reason for this post was an exchange that came to mind during our stay in Winnipeg. It occurred to me that although gas was about 20 cents per litre cheaper in Winnipeg than in Vancouver, we’d paid in another way in that the outside environment was 20 degrees colder. It could be said that we’d paid the “Mercury price”.

That slang phrase is in reference to the Game of Thrones series of books I’ve recently read. In the series one clan of people prides itself in paying the iron or gold price. The “iron price” is paid when a warrior slays his opponent in battle with iron weapons, and takes what he pleases from the losing party. The “gold price” is a traditional exchange of currency (gold) for goods. Within this particular clan, it is much more respected to pay the iron price.

Going one step further in this analysis, perhaps next year we’ll go full circle foregoing a traditional Canadian white Yuletide season and pay the “plastic price” (credit card) for some heat to go to Hawaii for Christmas.

Thursday, November 27, 2014


I’ve been procrastinating about writing this particular blog piece for a while now. I think it may have something to do with what I’ll call the “Glory Days” principle.

That’s reference to a Bruce Springsteen song that was popular about 30 years ago when I was finishing high school. It’s all about a guy whose best years are behind him. He peaked in high school, and 30 years later has morphed into somewhat of a barfly itching to tell whoever will listen how great an athlete he’d been in high school.

I don’t want to write an entry expounding how much better things were 30 years ago, because in truth all cycles of life have their peaks and valleys. I simply want to explain what spurred me to dig out some old photos of my first car. Modifying that car was a defining part of my youth. I’m probably recalling that car in my mind’s eye through rose-coloured glasses to some degree, but that’s my prerogative.

This past year we took the plunge to hire an outside party to finish a couple of rooms in the basement. I’d started drywalling about 2 years ago, but progress had all but shuddered to a halt. When we bought our house we’d loosely laid out a plan to finish renovations in 10 years. Upon the eleventh anniversary of our residency here, a re-evaluation became necessary. After re-directing a few hard-earned paycheques towards our handyman contractor we now have a functional space in the basement for our home office.

That lead me to the next (former) disaster area; the storage room under the deck. In all honesty I hadn’t planned much for the space besides cleaning it up enough to be able to take a step inside the room, outside the area of the door swing. But once I got going I got a bit more creative and had the brainwave to display a few VW Beetle engine lids I’ve had hidden in the rafters of the garage since we moved here.

One thing lead to another, and incrementally I found myself using up leftover building supplies that had been in my way for ages as interior finishes in the storage room. I paneled one wall in plywood sheets for instance. That became the display area for the deck lids. I actually got the idea from a display at the Vancouver Art Gallery. We went to see Douglas Coupland’s work (everywhere is anywhere is anything is everything), and one room was completely paneled in raw plywood.

Once I had the deck lids mounted I realized that I had the perfect canvas for license plate display. License plates were always offered for sale at the automotive swap meets I attended years ago and I accumulated quite a few of them. Strangely enough, the ones I most wanted to display weren’t the collectible ones. During some random search through my stashes of building supplies and car parts I came across the license plate from my first car. These days you have to give them back to the insurance company for recycling if you sell the car, so I had forgotten I’d kept my first pair. Upon further investigation I found another plate I’d mounted on the front of that Beetle for a trip to Seattle in 1989 for the Bug-In. It’s a 1962 BC plate since my Bug was a ’62 model.

Now I have my own “Glory Days” display in what my wife has labeled the “Man Cave”. I thought a Man Cave was supposed to have a gigantic flat screen TV in it and maybe a Harley, but that’s a discussion for another time.

This is what my first car looked like shortly after I bought it in 1984.
This is the result of about 1-1/2 years of modifications.
This was the pinnacle event I drove it to; the 1985 Seattle Bug-In at SIR.
Another event that weekend was the VW Vintage Meet at a naval station close to Seattle.
Again at the Vintage Meet.
Again the Vintage Meet. Note the BC 1962 license plate.
This was a car show in 1985 at the Abbotsford fairgrounds.
"Glory Days" in the "Man Cave". The deck lid on the left is the very same one pictured in the first photograph. I kept it for some reason after being rear-ended in 1984. Sounds pretty absurd to admit that now. The deck lid on the right is also original from that car. I replaced it with a fibreglass "W" decklid visible in the previous photo.


Last weekend began as a culinary quest and ended with the unexpected purchase of a half-price pre-Black Friday Christmas tree. Plus of course, as has been our ritual these past few months, we took our dog Tannah for a walk through a park; Fraser River Park (aka Angus Park). We hadn't been there in ages.

Bakeries are the new black these days in Vancouver. You really can't swing a croissant without hitting a new one every coupla weeks. Late last week I read about a new one close to Gastown, so we hopped a bus to check it out. I actually knew exactly where it was just by the description of its location; Flack Block. I'd done some work in the Woodwards development a while back, and in my discovery of Meat and Bread (sandwich shop) one lunch hour I encountered the restored facade of the heritage building in which Purebread has set up shop. The amount of detail in the Flack Block's arched doorway is quite extraordinary when (if?) one really stops for a moment to appreciate it. Can you imagine what it would cost in today's wages to carve a design like that?

After an unbelievably tough selection process (how to narrow it down to only one item?) we explored a bit of Gastown.
Shouldn't everyone's Christmas list contain at least one item with one's own name on it?
This was the view through one heritage pane of clerestory glazing as viewed from a Gastown vendor.
Isn't this a bit extravagant to be labeled merely as "graffiti"? Although I probably wouldn't want to discover such a tableau on my garage door one Saturday morning. Just saying.
This is what I call "Painting with light".
To me nothing sounds like Christmas like Vince Guaraldi. Sorry Bing.
We even took in a film shoot.
Tannah indulged us in our bakery excursion as long as she got to go for a trot in a park. All parties win!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

The Fall of the Wall

This is one of the historical photos we saw in 2013 when we visited Berlin.

Former Chancellor Kohl at Brandenburg Gate 25 years after the collapse of the Wall.
Twenty-five years ago today I watched the Berlin Wall come down on TV with my Dad. He left East Germany just before it became impossible to do so. Obviously it was quite an emotional experience for him to see it dismantled; something he never really expected to see.

The above photo of Former Chancellor Kohl is all the more powerful for me because my Dad was a paraplegic. He saw the wall come down, but he died 2 years later. It's easy for me to imagine it's my Dad sitting there in quiet contemplation.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Disney Mushrooms

On my daily lunchtime walks lately I've seen the strangest mushrooms ever. If I hadn't seem them with my own eyes I'd think they were photoshopped. They remind me of an image from a Disney cartoon. They've popped up after (and during) the heavy rains we've had recently.

Something tells me the red colour is probably Nature's warning label not the eat these ones.
Every time I see these things all I can think of is Dopey, Doc or Sneezy diving for cover under one of these red polka-dotted umbrellas.
This one was at least 10 inches in diameter!