Thursday, February 26, 2009

On the Move

It is almost nine years since I was last in Australia. It was the year 2000 in fact, when we went for the OS's mother's 100th birthday party.

Today we take the long flight, 15 hours, from Vancouver to Sydney. That I am not looking forward to at all and I only wish they would make the cost of business class travel less outrageous for I would willing pay double, maybe even four times, as they charge to fly to Europe, but eight times! I'm afraid I just can't bring myself to spring for that. To add insult to injury they charge a $350 fuel surcharge which seems incredible given that the price of crude oil had dropped to around US $40 a barrel again. It seems like just another money grab by Air Canada, who even so managed to lose $2 billion dollars in the last fiscal year. In fact I hope they don't go bankrupt before we return in early April which has been bandied about.

Now the flight is direct, with no stopovers at all. When we first went back to Sydney from here, in 1963, the flight was 22 hours, with stopovers at Honolulu and Fiji. Sometimes, over the years, we took the opportunity to break the journey for a few days at one or other place on the way. Now that is no longer an option. I am hoping to sleep for most of the trip, since it leaves just before midnight. On the other hand I am petrified of DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis), sometimes charmingly known as Economy Class Syndrome and knew someone who died from it in the Glasgow airport after a flight from Vancouver, so I have to make sure I keep the circulation in the legs moving.

The other problem is that you arrive in Sydney at 9 am and check in time at the hotel is 2 pm. I like to get onto local time immediately but that means a whole day ahead of us after we land. Still, while Sydney is officially 19 hours ahead of us, in practical terms it is just a five hour time difference, so I have always adjusted relatively easily. However it's been a while and I'm not getting any younger. We shall see.

We have no relatives in Sydney now since they all have moved away, so we will be staying for two nights at a small boutique hotel, The Rendezvous Stafford, before we leave on a 17 day cruise on the Volendam, seen above, from Sydney, down the east coast of Australia and across to and around New Zealand and back to Sydney. My favourite area of Sydney is the Rocks, the original settlement area of Sydney and which is right on the harbour, close by the Sydney Harbour Bridge and I am willing to pay a premium to stay there. It is right downtown, on the harbour front near Circular Quay, the ferry terminal, opposite the Sydney Opera House and within walking distance of the central business area, but relatively quiet. Above you can see a view from the hotel penthouse, which we will not be occupying but there is a rooftop viewing area.

After the cruise we will stay with several different relatives and make our first visit to Perth, to spend a few days with the friends we made when they spent a sabbatical in Vancouver last year.

Naturally I will be taking my computer and will have online access most of the time so hopefully I can share with you some of the highlights of this trip to the land of my birth and of my heart. After all, Once an Aussie always an Aussie.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Genealogy -- The Old Scientist's New Hobby

Early last Fall, the Old Scientist went to Australia to visit his sister who has Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia and is well past the expected two year survival rate for this illness. She gave him a couple of old photos of their grandmother and somehow that started him on a genealogy search of his family.

Now he has a quite rare surname and since his father came as an immigrant from New Zealand to Australia he was not likely to find any of the dreaded convicts that Australians might fear in their murky past. Although I can imagine that Australians could well be delighted to have such ancestors nowadays. A reverse sort of pride.

Being the lazy person that he is, sitting at a computer and tracking down all the hard work that others have done before him is right up his alley.

The first I heard about it was when he came downstairs and said, I want to sign up for a website, It costs $29.99 US. Why are you asking me? I queried. Oh, you want to use my credit card, the one I keep especially for online purposes. OK. And that was the beginning of it all.

For the last several months he has been building up his family tree, with information he garnered there, on some free program called Legacy which he downloaded for the purpose. Not only that, he has contacted various people who had members of his family in their trees and has begun an email correspondence with assorted people around the globe. They are all sharing whatever information they have and correcting their various charts. He has also found some relatives he never knew about before, one a second cousin in Portland, Oregon and some assorted cousins in New Zealand. Funnily enough, in some cases, he is not corresponding with the relatives themselves, but the wife in one case and the partner in another, since they are the "genealogists" of the family. So now, like me, he has all these online correspondents that he has never met, but has become quite friendly with.

So far he has traced his family back to the fifteen hundreds, to Jersey, where apparently some still live.

One of the amusing things he has discovered is that you cannot count on the information being correct, not even straight from the horse's mouth, so to speak. His own father always said his name was C... V... B.... and his birthday was 24th March, 1900. But on his marriage certificate and the birth certificates of his children, he seems to have used various birth dates. From his actual birth certificate, it turns out he was V.... C.... B..... and he was born in 1901.

Even the date of his death was incorrect in some trees. Two of his sisters , when asked, said 1970 and that's what the OS had in his tree. But I said no, that's not right, it was 1975, as I recall. Finally one sister found his death certificate. 1974!

So the fact that an ancestor in the 1500s has a birthday in May on one tree and in September on another, albeit at least the same year, is not the least surprising.

As is his usual style, he treats it like a scientific project. I don't think he is quite so interested in the people themselves as much as making nice diagrams and making sure the information is correct and complete.

This week we are off to Australia and as well we are taking a cruise around New Zealand. So we have arranged to meet some of these "relatives". Actually he just got word that one of them died this week, which is a shame.

He has been sending his "results" to all of his family members who are on computer and one of his nieces is very interested. So we are to meet up with her too while we are in Australia. She actually plans to go to Jersey in October when she will be in England for a wedding. I wonder if we will be visiting there any time soon. That would not surprise me, although this passionate interest in the B family certainly has.

Once we were in France, in Normandy, not far from St Malo, where one crosses by ferry to Jersey from France. We came across a tiny village with the name of his surname. My daughter was with us and we have this photo of the OS and my daughter with the sign. Did a B... go there from Jersey, way back in the mists of time or did someone from the village of B..... go to Jersey? Interesting to speculate.

There is a famous French semiotician with the same name and everyone always asks my daughter if she is related to him since she has a PhD in seventeenth century French Literature. She always laughs and says no, I wish. But who knows? Maybe his family tree crosses hers somewhere. I guess we will never know.

However this has kept the OS happily occupied for hours on end and luckily I have my own computer(s) for I would not have been able to get a look in at the main desktop computer these past months. All in all, a harmless enough pastime and quite cheap.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Rezday Guurrrl

Does anyone remember the movie Tron? I think it is maybe the first time the word "rez" first entered every day vocabulary. Though I think De-Rez was used more when the Characters got “killed” Rez and De-Rez are short for resolve and de resolve. That is to do with computers displaying things where they resolve on the display.

In Second Life (SL) the term Rez means much the same. You “Rez” or create objects. You Rez at a new location and the location rezzes for you.

"I have not rezzed yet" can mean I have not yet appeared properly, or maybe also that the site is not rezzed for a person yet after their arrival, and they cant see anything, or anyone fully yet.

The first time you ever appear within SL is the first time you ever rezzed. Your Rez Day.

The anniversary is your Rez Day, like a birthday is in Real Life (RL).

Except that SL is quite fluid in some ways. Much can change. So time seems to go faster, like cat and dog years maybe ^_^

Something else to remember here. SL is an international sort of place and “suffers” (if you can call it that) from day stretching/scrunching.

Like you can't be sure that the person you are speaking to is living in the same day as you. Because of time zones it might be yesterday for them, while it is today for you, or tomorrow for them, when it is today for you. Go figure.

So to the main point of this post. It was my Rezday the other day. Now I had completely forgotten because of the cat years ^_^

The first I knew of it was when a SL “pen pal” IM'd me to wish me a happy Rezday. I was touched he remembered. I met him just after I joined SL, he was new too and we have kept in touch by IM, though very seldom see each other. He was out dancing with a lady friend when he called as he noticed I was in SL.

That is a good thing about SL, you can have multiple conversations, once you learn to do it it is great. A better, wider, more versatile way of communicating. it has benefits in RL too.

So back to the thread, I figured he was a bit early, but the thought is what counts.

I didn't think much more of it or that anyone else would know, but yesterday my very best SL friend “P” sprung a surprise party on me. She got me a lovely pink cake with candles and a dress and new skin and all.

She went to some trouble. It was so thoughtful. We had a lovely time. I still feel good about it. *grinzzz*

Friday, February 20, 2009

Saturday Photo Hunt --- Warm


Warm........... The first thing to spring to my mind for this theme is warm sunny days at the beach. The golden sands, the blue sky above, the sound of the waves breaking on the shore. So here are a few photos from Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, a frequent destination for Canadians seeking some warmth from the long winters.

So warm that many sat under these palm frond umbrellas

Not just ordinary sand here, but sand sculptures. This was part of
a life sized depiction of the Last Supper.

Some young children found it too warm and decided to
cool off in a nearby shallow stream, clothes and all.

I'll be travelling in Australia/New Zealand for the next month and not likely doing Photo Hunt. So I'll join you all again for sure at the beginning of April. I will be blogging but probably not doing Photo Hunt.


Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Constant Wife - A Classic Comedy of love and Revenge, by Somerset Maughan

One of the great pleasures of life for me has always been live theatre. I love it so much that I am not even necessarily critical of the performances and quite happily enjoy amateur theatre as much as professional. I appreciate the fact that people stand before an audience, acting their little hearts out, for our enjoyment.

Looking back on the almost two years I lived in London, England, I can quite easily say that what I enjoyed most of all were the theatre experiences I had there and we went frequently, often several times in a week. I'm not sure why I don't go more often here, although every year or so I do have season's tickets for the Arts Club Theatre Company and then I will let them go for some reason or another.

But this afternoon I went with a friend to one of their matinee performances of W. Somerset Maughan's comedy of manners, The Constant Wife. While it was written in 1927, it has held up very well and although the mores of that time no longer exist, it depicts a woman's strike for independence from her husband, albeit with a twist, and Maughan's comedic touch and witty dialogue can still be appreciated by modern audiences. It is a typical drawing room comedy, not so much of action but of brilliantly funny and somewhat cynical conversation although, trust me, things do happen!

The following summary is from here and since I don't believe I could do better I reproduce it for you below.

The leading character, Constance Middleton, is a calm, intelligent and self-possessed wife of a successful London doctor. Knowing full well of her husband's infidelity with her best friend Marie-Louise, Constance purposefully maintains the fiction held by her other friends, mother and sister that she has no idea of the affair. However, when confronted by Marie-Louise's jealous husband, Constance reacts in a way not expected by her husband, mother or sister. She first deftly conceals the affair from the husband, and then tells her family that she has known all along. She further shocks them by demonstrating a total lack of sentiment on the subject of matrimony. The modern wife, she explains, is nothing but a parasite, "a prostitute who doesn't deliver the goods." She resolves to establish her own economic independence ("which she considers the only real independence"), going into business as an interior decorator. After a year of successful employment, she pays her husband for her room and board, and then announces she is going off for an Italian vacation with a longtime admirer. Her husband is, in turn, shocked and outraged at this turn of events, but finally capitulates to her outrageous charm as the curtain falls.

Funnily enough I have always thought of Maughan as a novelist with his famous Of Human Bondage, The Razor's Edge, and The Moon and Sixpence, along with so many others, but he did write many plays which were produced.

The actors for this performance were outstanding and their comedic timing excellent. This production chose to set the play more in the physical style of the thirties and the costuming and set decor were quite sophisticated. One thing I did find a little disconcerting was that, having found a pair of shoes which fit the style of the period, several of the women were wearing identical shoes and while they changed costume several times, the shoes were a constant although they did change colour. I have no idea why I even noticed it but my friend also mentioned it to me afterwards. Of course we were sitting in the third row centre so were close enough to notice details in the costumes.

One of the most memorable lines of the play came when Constance asked her mother, how do you know if you really love a man? Her mother's reply was a question to her, Could you share his toothbrush? Well Constance was not so sure about that one.

All in all, an afternoon well spent.

Image is taken from The Arts Club Theatre Company website.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Eagles have Landed

They are back. The two bald eagles who call this tree home, near the waterfront in Vanier Park, have returned from wherever they spent the winter, which is probably Brackendale, just north of Vancouver.

It is home to the largest gathering of bald eagles in North America and around four thousand eagles arrive there in November, remaining until mid February. This area is a particularly good source of salmon for them, as they come to feed on the dying fish who have spawned in the local streams and rivers.

I need a camera with a more powerful zoom! Trust me, they are there: one on the left and one near the top, in the centre. Click to enlarge. Do you think they have quarreled? You can also see the very large nest which has been there for many years. Once the tree comes into leaf we see neither the nest nor the eagles as we pass by this spot regularly on our Thursday walk.

A short YouTube video of some bald eagles at Brackendale, taken in the winter of 2008.

Interesting bald eagle facts for your enjoyment (taken from here)

The bald eagle – or Haliaeetus leucocephalus – is the only eagle unique to North America and covers most of the continent from Alaska and Canada to northern Mexico. Their diet consists mainly of fish of which they consume nearly a pound a day.

The world population of bald eagles is 70,000, of which BC is home to 20,000 of the birds.

Bald eagles have an impressive wingspan of 6 to 8 feet, mate for life, and can reach the age of forty years.

Eagles fly at 50 kilometres/hour (31 miles/hour) and dive at an incredible speed of 160 kilometres/hour (100 miles/hour).

Bald eagles see 8 times better than humans.

Only two decades ago the eagles were near extinction. Populations are healthier now due to increased restrictions on DDT and other pesticide use.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Saturday Photo Hunt --- Nautical


Nautical: adjective, relating to ships, sailing or sailors

A selection of ships from my archives, some seen here before but not for Photo Hunt

The Star of India was launched in 1863 and is the oldest ship in the world that still maintains a regular sailing schedule. It forms part of the Maritime Museum of San Diego, a collection of various types of historic boats which can be seen moored at the Embarcadero.

The HMS Surprise is a magnificent replica of a late 18th century Royal Navy frigate and she was used in the production of the film, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World. Also in the same museum.

Wings, built in 1931, is one of the Pacific Class wooden hulled boats, racing yachts designed locally and for southern California waters.

USS Midway was the longest serving aircraft carrier in the United States fleet, from its commissioning in 1945 to its service in Desert Storm in 1991. In 2004 it opened as a museum at its final mooring place in San Diego harbour.

But I guess you expected to see some boats in Vancouver. How about this one with an opulent powerboat, a dragon boat, a False creek mini ferry and a black sail boat, all in the same photo.

Finally, sailing at its leanest and meanest. A kitesurfer sailing along on a windy day in Vancouver. Yes stretching the term nautical in this last one. Do click to enlarge this one.


Thursday, February 12, 2009

Bountiful, BC --- Religious Freedom or Canada's Shame?

The speaker for the recent Faculty Women's Club monthly meeting was Daphne Bramham, highly respected journalist and whose book The Secret Lives of Saints: Child Brides and Lost Boys in Canada’s Polygamous Mormon Sect, was shortlisted for several national book awards. As journalist and columnist for the local Vancouver Sun, Daphne has been recognized for her hard hitting public interest journalism.

For some years Daphne has investigated the issue of polygamy as practised in the small community of Bountiful, tucked in the southeastern corner of British Columbia. Her interest arose from an email which a reader sent to her after reading her articles on illegal trafficking of Asian women. She challenged her to look into the situation of Canadian girls being trafficked to become concubines to polygamist men. And so she did, with this book the culmination of her exhaustive investigation of the Fundamentalist Church of the Latter Day Saints, a sect of fundamentalist Mormonism which practises polygamy and the community of Bountiful, BC in particular.

Mormons agreed to give up polygamy in exchange for statehood in the United States of America and since have excommunicated practitioners of polygamy. The FLDS church was a break away sect which maintains that a man cannot enter the highest level of the kingdom of heaven without multiple wives and some practitioners arrived to settle in BC in the forties, despite the fact that polygamy is illegal in Canada.

The community consists of a mere five families and currently has a population of around 1000, with all the progeny originally descended from half a dozen men. The former bishop, Winston Blackmore, who actually was excommunicated from the FLDS church in the USA, has 26 wives, several of whom he married as teenagers, one a mere fifteen year old and more than 100 children. He has absolute power over the lives of his followers, although his excommunication in 2002 split the community in two. He administers an independent school which is more than 60% funded by the Provincial Government, as well as accredited by it, despite the fact that the children are not receiving a standard education and the sect actively promotes racism.

Children are considered and treated like chattel, girls must obey and they are forced into marriage at a very young age with men who are often old enough to be their grandfathers. The family genealogy is so convoluted that one young girl on her marriage became her own stepgrandmother.

Since the most powerful members of the community marry multiple times this eventually forces the young men to leave the community if they are to find wives and ill equipped as they are, lacking a real education, they become the lost boys of the title. Before they leave they are often employed by Blackmore in his various businesses and woefully underpaid for their hard work.

The marriages are of course unlawful, one only is usually registered and the others are religious ceremonies which are not recognized by the state since polygamy is illegal. However all the children are registered so that they may take advantage of the child allowances and welfare payments given by the government. A government which of course they consider an agent of Satan. They are all taught that it is perfectly acceptable to lie to outsiders, certainly about their family situations, outsiders whom they refer to as gentiles.

Some brides have been brought illegally into Canada from the United States and the US Consulate has been investigating the situation in Bountiful. One young girl came up to attend a cousin's wedding and was forced into a marriage herself.

Of course not everyone is happy in Bountiful and some people have left. Jane Blackmore, Winston's first wife and mother of seven of his children as well as the community widwife, divorced him after 17 years and left to give her children a better life. Debbie Palmer, at 15, was given by her father to be the 6th wife of a 57 year old man and became stepmother to 32 children. After her third marriage, at 34 she gained the courage to run from the community with her 8 children and became a strong advocate against polygamy. She documented her life in Bountiful in a book called Keep Sweet - Children of Polygamy.

For more than 60 years the authorities have ignored the blatant flouting of the law against polygamy. Some think that any testing of the law will find it unconstitutional and that it will be struck down. There is also the problem of the rights of religious freedom, as laid down by the Supreme Court of Canada in 1985. However the Court went on to say that limits on religious freedom are "necessary to protect public safety, order, health or morals or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others." Canada does recognize these limits in other cases, regardless of religious belief. They do not allow genital mutilation to be practised in this country. They do not allow Muslim immigrant men into the country with multiple wives. They have over-ruled the refusal of Jehovah's Witnesses** to use of blood products in their children when medically required. There certainly are precedents.

So what about the rights and freedoms of the women and children of Bountiful? In Daphne's opinion Canada has no moral authority to tell other countries what to do when they have this situation within their own borders. Why are Canadian soldiers fighting in Afghanistan against the Taliban who advocate some of the very same things that are practised in Bountiful.? Their women have no freedom of dress, belief or action. They are forced into marriage while legally under age, some forceably raped. What about their rights? Surely no one would consider it right that girls as young as 13 and 14 years old are married to men in their fifties? Could this be considered child abuse? Harder to prove than polygamy. Basically this seems to be all about power and sex.

But there is some hope on the horizon. The current Attorney-General of BC, Wally Opal, has finally laid charges of polygamy against Winston Blackmore and the current bishop, James Oler. It is expected that the case will finally go before the Supreme Court of Canada and the law against polygamy will be tested. Of course no doubt the defense will ultimately be funded by the public purse.

Daphne spoke passionately about her subject. Five woman from Bountiful generously, if often painfully, shared memories of their life there and made this book possible. On one occasion, as she spoke, tears welled up in her eyes, so emotionally involved has she become in this situation. After she finished speaking, there were many questions from her very interested audience. Many of us have known about Bountiful, BC, albeit only marginally, until recently. Certainly Daphne has helped to publicize the shocking situation there, both in her articles in the Vancouver Sun and also with her widely acclaimed book, all based on meticulous research.

She had some copies of her book for sale and I purchased one which she graciously signed for me. That evening I read the first one hundred pages in one gulp and there was a lively discussion about her talk and her book at a luncheon I attended the next day with some of the people who had been there. It was indeed a mesmerizing book and I am very glad to have read it. Let's hope that it will be instrumental in getting the message out about this flagrant abuse of women and children's rights in the name of religious freedom.

* Daphne Bramham's image is from the Vancouver Sun

** Corrected to read Jehovah's Witnesses. My error in previously saying Seventh Day Adventists. Apologies to same.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Blog Anniversary -- The Terrible Twos!

Actually I am a day late, for yesterday was the second anniversary of Nobody Important. Last year in my first anniversary post I said that somehow I doubted that I would be celebrating a second year.

But somehow I am still here. Writing about nothing much, still wondering why I am putting the effort into it. I guess there is some satisfaction to it after all. I never did keep a diary for more than a day and a half and this is a diary in a way. Places I've been or go, things I have done or do today, books I've read. That how I think of this blog.

My children and my friends still don't read it but maybe they will look at it after I am gone and learn a little more about me. When I gave the eulogy at a friend's funeral, obviously from my point of view of our friendship, a family member came up to me afterwards and said you know it was as if you were talking about a different person, someone new that I knew nothing about. We all present different sides of ourselves to those we interact with and we are different people to each of them. Here perhaps I come together as a whole, but only what I choose to reveal. I think there is always a person within that we never show completely to outsiders. Well at least I don't.

I am still trying to master my digital camera, never really satisfied when I compare my photos to some of the others I see . I am still hoping that one day I will develop the "eye" but it is not likely at this late stage. But I enjoy very much taking part in Photo Hunt every week and have made some different blog friends in that way.

I am still so grateful for the good friends I have made through blogging. A few I have met in real life, other blog friendships have deepened further by email correspondence. Some I visit regularly, others more casually but I have learned so much from each and every one I visit. What's not to love about that? On the other hand, blogging has unexpectedly brought me some trials, some negatives, just like life, but you work through them as best you can, saddened by it all.

This is what I said in last year's post and since it remains true I will repeat it once more.

I do want to thank the people who come regularly or intermittently to read this blog and comment, or not. Every one of you is precious to me and you have made this year very special. My family and friends all think I'm crazy with this blogging thing but I know that each and every one of you understands the lure of it all.

Of course now they think I am even crazier with my interest in Second Life.

So please join me once again in a virtual toast on the occasion of my second anniversary.
Cin, Cin!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Book Review -- Sharing knife

Here is a book review, after my foray into politics at Critical Faculty Dojo. Well more a series review really.

The Sharing Knife series, by Lois McMaster Bujold. The first book of the fantasy series is Beguilement. Followed by Legacy, Passage and Horizon to date. I am halfway through Passage right now.

The series is set in a world, now recovered from some long forgotten magical “final battle”. The legacy of that is every now and then a magical creature called a Malice, or Boogle, arises, absorbs people and animals together with something like their souls, called their “ground”, enslaves others by mind control and tries to take over the world. Only one thing can kill them. A sharing knife.

The world is populated by ordinary folk, farmers, townspeople and such. There are also the Lakewalkers, who are mostly immune to the enslavement of the Malices. A mysterious people who live in tribes a bit like native Americans. They are the only ones who can make the
mysterious sharing knives. They own little, make semi permanent camps and send out patrols to hunt for Malices.

The farmers are pretty suspicious of the Lakewalkers, the more ignorant suspecting them of evil powers and necromancy. This is fuelled by the fact that the Lakewalkers keep themselves separate, guarding their inherited abilities to manipulate magic or the “ground” of the world. The lake walkers see other people as generally ungrateful and ignorant.

The series chronicles the adventures of plucky Fawn Bluefield. She is a farmer's daughter. At home she finds herself stifled and discounted, never taken seriously by her family.

Then she falls pregnant to a successful farmer's handsome son, who, when she tells him,refuses to support her. He, or his family, have other plans for his life.

She just can't tell her family and is worried about what the community will say, this gives her the impetus to strike out on her own. She prepares herself and runs away from home with vague plans to find work in the town of Glass Forge.

On her way she stops at an inn and crosses the path of a Lakewalker Patrol. Amongst the patrol is Dag Redwing. And that's enough of that. I don't want to give anything away and spoil the story for readers. ^_^

I like this series for a number of reasons. Firstly the young heroine is a likeable character. Intelligent, perceptive, thoughtful, brave and considerate.

The other main characters are mostly well fleshed out and pretty complex characters with complex motivations also. Apart from the Malices that are almost elemental the goodies are not perfect and the baddies are not necessarily all bad, they are in fact often good people mistakenly doing bad in the belief they are doing good or protecting tradition.

The book quietly challenges fixed ideas and perceptions of what men, women, different people can do, are capable of and should be allowed to do or try. It examines peoples prejudices and motivations.

There is action, romance, adventure and thoughtful stuff also.

I think it is well written too.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Saturday Photo Hunt --- Bridge(s)


Vancouver is a city surrounded by water and there are eleven major traffic bridges in the nearby area. With my walking group today I passed three of them, all spanning False Creek.

The Burrard Street Bridge

The Granville Street Bridge

The Burrard Street Bridge seen through the Granville Street
Bridge, quite close together in fact

The Cambie Street Bridge


Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Art and Antiques -- The Uno Langmann Gallery

One of the very active groups of the Faculty Women's Club is the Art Appreciation Group. I have belonged to it for quite a few years however it meets on a Thursday and since I became the co-convener of the Thursday Walking Group my obligations lie there. However this past Thursday I opted for Art Appreciation which was to be held at the Uno Langmann Gallery on Gallery Row in South Granville area, home to more than twenty art and antique dealers.

Uno Langmann, originally from Denmark, has been a gallery owner in various locations in the city since the latter half of the sixties. In the current location since 1977, Mr Langman has a fine collection of paintings, antiques and objets d'art in his elegant but crowded gallery, which is housed in a very distinctive building called Langmann House.

This very gracious man, who now operates the gallery with his daughter Jeanette, had agreed to speak to the 25 plus people of the group on the topic of their current exhibition, Reflecting the Scandinavian Landscape, mid 19th to early 20th century realist landscapes on canvas from Scandinavian countries, placing an emphasis on the Scandinavian influence on Canada's famous Group of Seven, who painted Canadian landscapes in the 1920s and were strongly influenced by the European Impressionists of the late nineteenth century.

Mr Langmann explained that every painter is influenced by other painters and the Canadians and American painters of the late 1800s flocked to the various schools of painting which flourished in Europe. In those days the cities were quite poluted and the paintings they saw in galleries were dirty and everyone seemed to paint with a brownish palette. But about that time painters began to venture outside and paint en plein air as it is called, especially the French Impressionists and those who followed the School of Barbizon. So too did the Canadian painters and besides painting with a clean palette they began to paint small canvases, around 8 x 10 or so, which were easy to transport as they travelled around on their bicycles to paint outdoors.

The Scandinavian painters too were influenced by the Impressionism and they developed an this style and also painted with a clean palette. Since the latitude is similar to Canada so too is the light and the Canadians painted in a similar fashion. When they returned to Canada they painted the landscape here in that manner and there is a distinct group of Canadian Impressionists as well as a group of American Impressionists painters.

Mr Langmann speaks in detail about a painting called Eskimo Camp
by Thomas Harold Beament

He also spoke about other Canadian painters, some lesser known than the Group of Seven but some of whom he considers to have painted better works, especially William Blair Bruce, who spent time in the Barbizon School and after his marriage to a Swedish sculptor spent his summers in Sweden. He also talked about prices of art since he began as a gallery owner and how taste in paintings change such that some paintings no longer fetch the prices they once did. The above is written based on my hastily scribbled notes and is in no way comprehensive and randomly highlights but a few of the interesting things said.

Regulator clock by John Bennett, inscribed on face "BENNETT 64 & 65 Cheapside, London, MAKER TO THE ROYAL OBSERVATORY", with label on case "THIS CLOCK WAS MADE FOR THE GREAT EXHIBITION OF 1862. BOUGHT DECr 1863 BY HENRY TAYLOR AND WAS THE GIFT OF HIS MOTHER.", fine burl wood case with key for double lock, mercury pendulum
Size in inches h-75.00 x w-20.50 x d-11.00

He then spoke in particular about each of a half dozen paintings in the gallery and afterwards we wandered around looking at what interested us. My eye was taken by the half dozen beautiful grandfather clocks around the gallery. I asked Mr Langmann about them and he said he was very interested in these clocks and he had several regulator clocks. He also said that these grandfather clocks could go on forever, even the one on display which was made around 1700, since they were so precisely manufactured.

Inlaid Georgian Tallcase Clock
British circa 1700

Inlaid Georgian tallcase clock, maker Andrew Dunlop (London worked 1701-1733), circa 1700; height 7'2", with key
Size in inches h-86.00 x w-17.50 x l-9.50

His daughter presented to each of us a beautiful small calendar with reproductions of paintings which had passed through the gallery and a packet of similar art notecards. When I thanked her and said I would send them to a friend overseas, she generously gave me another set to keep for myself.

Although as a group we have visited many galleries and artists' studios in Vancouver over the years I think I have to say that this was one of the most memorable as this quiet charming man shared with us his extensive knowledge and his passion for art.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Best Blogpower Posts of 2008, chosen by the Bloggers Themselves

In celebration of the second anniversary of Blogpower we have a repeat of this compilation. Well yes, I do know it is a bit late this year. Jon Swift, whose idea I pinched last year, posted his Best Blog Posts of 2008 way back at the end of December. I see he included images from the Lolcats site. Do you think he nicked the idea of animal images from my last year's post where I featured photos of our members' delightful pets? I thought his compilation was a long standing tradition but in fact it was a first, so both of us are celebrating the one year anniversary of this feature. The only thing I share in common with Jon Swift.

Again, not everyone is represented, no doubt due to real life commitments and time constraints, but those who are, submitted what they considered a post to be proud of, along with their own words about it or occasionally mine. Several were chosen by me in a rather random fashion.

So thanks again Jon for the idea originally and thank you BP members for taking part. Enjoy!

But first of all, let's start off with an image and not just any image. George who supervises Liz at Finding Life Hard? is one year older and wiser than last year when as a puppy he led us off on our journey. George I don't think that is so wise and Liz is going to kill you!

Once again I get to go first since I am putting together this compilation.

JMB of Nobody Important looks back on her fortunate life in her birthday post, Another Year Older.

Gracchi of Westminster Wisdom says about his post, The Lady of Musashino: Films and history are two of my obsessions and the Lady from Musashino unites the two. It is a truly political film- observing the consequences of the changes taking place within Japanese society in the 20th Century and also the effects of world war two. It bears testament to the deep structural changes that we are still living with- deep structural changes that arise out of a century of warfare and industrialisation- and whose outcome are, as the film suggests, still uncertain. In that sense it is a shard of the mirror of art, literature and history (I suppose which my blog is about) which reflects back at us processes and ideas, achievements and failures whose consequences are still with us.

The Fake Consultant of Advice from the Fake Consultant says: Your friendly fake consultant spends a fair amount of his time complaining and griping--but to balance it out he also tries to find real solutions to real problems, which was the point behind the post On Buying Out the Fleet, Or, Here's A Gas War We Can Win.

Mutley, that is the real Mutley from Mutleythedogdaysout, sits here shyly, taking note of all the great posts of 2008. But let's turn to a cat owner.

Jams of The Poor Mouth, although we don't agree, feels that his photos are better than his words and presents us with a two parter of his favourite photos in his Photo Hunt Favourites and Wordless Wednesday Favourites II.

Chervil of Green Living gives us Stop the Madness -- Stop Coal Mining which she describes thus: My forebears came from the villages that lie in the path of a giant monster, set to destroy centuries of German history and architecture and the best farmland in Germany. Two thousand years of history sacrificed on the altar of greed. My forebears' graves will be dug up and crushed under with no respect to the dead. And the monster does more than "just" destroy villages and valuable farmland. It is digging up coal, the biggest contributor to climate change. The crazy thing is that it does not even make economic sense. Germany pays large subsidies to support coal mining. This is money that would be better spent on renewable energy projects, more affordable public transport and better energy efficiency.

Sally of Sally in Norfolk gives us a charming anecdote from her place of employment in True Story.....

Colin of Adelaide Green Porridge Cafe, our intrepid reporter of things Downunder, in Koala Watch tells us, with photos, of a visit to his neighbourhood by a friendly koala.

Heather Yaxley of Heather Yaxley - Green Banana views of Public Relations and More in Do PR Freebies equal blogger relationships? asked a series of questions about the nature of "hospitality" offered to bloggers and in response, many of those involved became very defensive. The fuss seemed to speak volumes - also the campaign went on to win many awards despite little evidence of its effectiveness beyond people saying it was a good campaign. That seems to sum up the nonsense that is a lot of online marketing/PR activities.

Tom Paine of the Last Ditch explores Patriotism versus Nationalism in a three part series. Part 1: A Complicated Subject, Part 2: Virtue or Vice?, and Part 3: The Dark Side.

Welchscakes Limoncello of Sicily Scene says of, My World at 1pm, "This post quite simply reminds me why I love living where I do!"

Paulie of Never Trust a Hippy offers Ignoring Fanatics as maybe not his best post, but he says, "I think that this is something that isn't said enough."

The Cornubian of The Cornish Democrat describes his post Modernising the Magna Carta? Why not start in the bottom left hand corner? as follows: Essentially any constitutional reform that ignores feudal institutions like the Duchy of Cornwall would be a half arsed job.

Deejay of Age is all in the Mind says of his post, The End of a Terrific 10 Days : "This summarises one of the best episodes of the year for me when I have one of the few times with my elderly mother who lives so far away that unplanned trips are not a possibility."

Louis at The People's Republic of Birmingham in ObaMcCainia takes a pre-election look at the candidates in the recent election for the US presidency.

Yes, it's Robyn who eats Jams of The Poor Mouth out of house and home, wondering if that rose is good to eat. Pressing on.

Andrew Allison of well, Andrew Allison - A Conservative View, succinctly sums up his post My Letter to Gordon Brown, in this way: "I think it shows up in glorious technicolour the moral bankruptcy of the British Labour Government."

Lady Mac of Braveheart-does-the-Maghreb talks about education, or rather the difficulties in obtaining it in some parts of the world, in her post, How Big is your World?

Phil of Critical Faculty Dojo in Democracy and the EU criticises the EU's non acceptance of the Irish no vote against the Lisbon Treaty, as they simply ignored the results and continued as if it had never occurred.

Since he misunderstood the instructions another BP member nominated a post by The Morningstar of Cynical Chatter from the Underworld called Extreme Pornography or Sections 63 to 67 of the CIJA 2008. The nominator described it thus: "It is on the surface controversial and highlights the current New-Labour State's desire to control everyone but themselves and that their justifications bear only a passing connection to reality. Tabloid politics. It is clear and well argued."

Mutley of Mutleythedogsdayout in Men's Rules!! issued very serious guidelines for women to follow with their menfolk to ensure an harmonious relationship. Since he considered them equally important they were all labelled Rule number one, despite the fact that there were 26 of them.

Crushed of Crushed by Ingsoc says of his post One in Ten, discussing sexual abuse, "
I'm not sure I myself saw it as my best, but it certainly hit a nerve. Which of course, is what makes a good post I guess. In a sense, I guess it sums up what the blog is about, because it's one of the very real problems existing under the carpet in this world we live in, proof that really things are very far from OK."

Miss Simi, who keeps Welshcakes Limoncello of Sicily Scene in line is quite exhausted by clicking all those links and has taken to her bed.

Let's hope you are all of a stronger constitution. Thanks for reading to the end and thanks to those members of Blogpower who contributed their best to this compilation.

Crossposted at Defending the Blog.