Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween from JMB and Moggs

Witchy JMB on the right with her familiar in Neko form, Moggs Tigerpaw, wander this creepy pumpkin patch before introducing you to this year's version of the Dunbar Haunted House. This is the third year I have written about it and the sixth year I believe for its existence.

Please click on any photo to enlarge, if you dare.

While entrance is free donations are collected for several charities and last year $29,000 were raised for these excellent causes and this year the crowds are up to 1000 per evening. Without further ado let's get down to the photos. I think this is the scariest one I have attended so far and I am very glad I go during the daytime as costumed actors are around after 6.30pm to scare the living daylights out of the visitors.

One of three larger than life figures which grace the normally charming front garden

Much of this year's display is in the dark, but a photo with flash
gives some idea of detail


Welcome to Klown Alley says the Headless Chicken

Colourful if gruesome

Moving right along into the Torture Section
or Man's inhumanity towards Man

Ghoulish Gardeners in the Cornfield

Delicious and Mine, mine, mine

If you go down to the woods today, you're sure of a big surprise

The Graveyard coming to life, sort of.

Typical homeschooling family

Red, my favourite colour!

A glimpse into the Future?

A true creature of the night

Please don't feed the Zombies, they have
a very special diet

Please read these instructions and
follow them carefully

It might be Halloween but Christmas is just
around the corner

Santa's Little Helper, so happy in his work

Rudolph looks a little peeved this year

And so ends my annual visit to the Dunbar Haunted House. This year the owners have outdone themselves and the number of visitors shows how popular this event has become. They even have their own Facebook Page.

Below is a slide show from YouTube put together by one of the people who work at the house as a "spook" and taken at night for a different view if you are so inclined.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Saturday Photo Hunt --- Bags


Tomorrow is Halloween and I thought I would tie this theme to Halloween although tomorrow I will post my annual visit to the local Dunbar haunted house as usual. So what do you think Santa will have in his bags this year for all the good little boys and girls? Mmm.

Scene from the local much-visited Haunted House
click to enlarge either photo

Those are some really ugly gifts in Santa's bags


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A Musical Evening

Moggs, our intrepid reporter, doesn't get to have all the musical fun you know! Although my musical evening was with a much different crowd from hers.

It was a dinner and private musical performance put on for the clients of a local financial management firm at, of all places, the local River Rock Casino Resort. A cocktail reception and a very nice dinner preceded the musical part of the evening, all taking place in the resort's dinner theatre venue.

Michael Kaeshammer, the young man to the left, a very talented pianist and singer, entertained us with his special brand of keyboard wizardry playing jazz and boogie woogie. He was totally mesmerizing as he along with bass player Mark Rogers and drummer Mark McLean put together a great performance for the very appreciative audience.

Michael was born in Germany and studied classical piano before discovering boogie woogie and jazz at age 13. Within several years he was touring across Germany playing in clubs and at concerts and festivals. Moving with his family to Canada he soon established himself as a performer at jazz and blues festivals. His career has grown over the past ten years and this gifted young pianist entertains audiences around the globe.

Here is a youTube offering if you are so inclined you can hear Michael and the two Marks yourself and appreciate what great performers they are.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Of prisons and ballet

One thing about Second Life is there are more girls than boys, or at least in the parts I hang out in. I guess they are all in the combat sims or Gor. So anyway my experience of SL is there are more girls than boys.

I found myself in a Real Life situation with a very similar balance the other day.

I am not being high brow when I ask you to think of ballet.

The dictionary defines it as:

Function: noun
Etymology: French, from Italian balletto, diminutive of ballo dance, from ballare
Date: 1634
A theatrical art form using dancing, music, and scenery to convey a story, theme, or atmosphere b: dancing in which conventional poses and steps are combined with light flowing figures (as leaps and turns)

Now a second definition... and I think you might get an idea of where I am going here...

Function: noun
a district of Berlin, in E Germany: site of prison for Nazi war criminals.

Put them together and you get something else entirely... Spandau Ballet. A new romantic band.

Handsome Tony Hadley the lead singer.
Gary Kemp, of movie fame on guitar and doing backing vocals.
Lovely Martin Kemp also of movie and tv fame on bass guitar.
Sexy Steve Norman on sax, guitar and percussion.
John Keeble on drums and backing vocals.

The other evening found me at the O2 Arena among thronging crowds, a significant proportion of whom were female which kind of brings us back to where I started ^_^.

Not all of 'a certain age' either, clearly there were daughters amongst the good natured and cheerful crowds too.

The Dome kind or reminds me of a Vegas hotel, with all the fake buildings inside it, except practically all of them seem to be restaurants, it just needs a fake sky. Or maybe it doesn't cos it feels more like being out at night when it is dark. Not that perpetual twilight you get in Vegas.

Anyway... We had a meal and found our way to our seats. We had good seats. The atmosphere was expectant and charged with whatever the opposite of testosterone is. Estrogen?

When the band came on it turned out to be well worth the wait. They are so very good at doing live.

Brilliant in fact. As good as their recorded tracks... better maybe, more alive.

As for Tony Hadley his voice is just as wonderful as ever, and so very powerful.

Steve Norman was awesome on the saxophone. He made it sound like it was alive, sends shivers up your spine.

They gave us what we wanted. The old favorites we sang loudly along with and some new tracks they have done. The new album is "Once More".

The boys? Well they are men now, and to my mind improved for it. They still have 'it'. But they have maturity too. I don't think it is the perspective of maturity like I said, there were quite a few late teens early 20s there.

There were some girls, young women, behind us. They screamed so hard I worried they would wet themselves, or it might damage my ears. I wonder if they could even speak afterwards. People were on their feet dancing. Applause was deafening. I made myself hoarse singing.

Did I enjoy it? Yes, Duh! Sooo of course. What did they finish with? Gold of course.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Saturday Photo Hunt --- Tied


You know how suddenly a light bulb goes on in your head and you say of course, that is so obvious. Why did I not think of that before? Such a moment occurred for me with this theme and I did not even have the Eureka moment when looking through the archives. This time I knew exactly where to go.

I'm sure you all remember macramé, the art of making fabric by tying knots and along with many others I practised this craft in the seventies. I can't believe I actually had the patience or the interest to make those ridiculous plant hangers and necklaces and belts. Of course I made the ubiquitous owl hanging from a stick which adorned my son's bedroom for years although he did balk at taking it with him when he left.

All these items are long gone except this one which is still in my living room. I covered the bottle totally with macramé, including the bottom, and I am unable to discard this as a reminder of those days. Besides it is not too unattractive, is it? Maybe in another few years it will become a collector's piece, or not, she says laughingly. Click for a very detailed view, possibly ever so slightly out of focus?


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Second Life meets Real Life

Superheroes JMB (on the left) and Zaz in Action

Today, for the second time, I am about to meet in Real Life someone who has become a friend in Second Life, albeit this is a different SL friend from the one I had lunch with on a previous occasion.

Anyone who is reading this understands how one can become very connected to virtual strangers, even become online friends with them, through blogging. Somehow that seems even easier in Second Life, with the back and forth of instant messaging and the exchange of ideas and sometimes even more personal observations and conversations. I have met a few bloggers in person on previous occasions and funnily enough when Lady Mac came here to the Surrey International Writers' Conference where she and I met, Zaz, my SL friend, was also in attendance, unbeknownst to me.

I did not know her at that time but she has been a fairly regular participant at the SIWC in recent years and this year I will pick her up at the airport and take her to the conference hotel and later we will meet another SL friend for dinner.

This past weekend JMB the fairy met up with Zaz the vampire over a glass of wine to discuss the arrangements. Of course we will be more conventionally dressed when we meet up in Real Life.

However Second Life is a place where you can live out your fantasies if you wish. Both of us are pretty pragmatic people I think, not into role play, although we do take the opportunity to dress the part on occasion as you can see above. We both acquired this Superhero freebie outfit and got together for a photo opportunity, Superheroes in Action. I suppose it does lose some of its punch due to our Fairy entourage but then this is Second Life where anything is possible and "saving the world" accompanied by these cuties is a fairly ordinary concept compared to some. Click to enlarge either photo and get the full punch.

I'll let you know how it goes later.

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society --- Mary Anne Shaffer

It's quite a while since I've done a book review but I could not resist writing about this one. It was the last book we read for the Short Book Club and while it has been around for a while all but one of us had missed it. Probably the name was a bit off-putting! But one member's recommendation was so enthusiastic that we chose it for our seventh anniversary meeting.

Yes, seven years ago in the Fall, we met for dinner at our convener's house for the first time and recently every single one of us were there for this meeting, although we had no idea until that night that it was our seven year anniversary.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society*
by Mary Ann Shaffer is an epistolary novel, one written in the form of letters. While not much in favour these days, it seems just the right format for this delightful novel, although it can be a bit confusing at times since there are many letter writers contributing to the whole.

Set in 1946, in the days just after the Second World War, the book commences as Juliet Ashton, a thirtyish author, writes to her publisher bemoaning her lack of ideas for a new book and also wanting to write about something completely different. She receives a letter from a farmer on Guernsey with a query and an exchange of letters begins. He tells her about the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, a rudimentary sort of book club and describes how the whole thing began during the German occupation of that island. Other members of the society begin to correspond with her, narrating their wartime stories and the idea for a new book is born.

Through these letters the reader not only gets to know the various characters and "characters " they really are, but also the realities of the German occupation are revealed little by little. Of course Juliet must go to Guernsey to meet these people and thus we see them first hand in her letters to others. To my mind, their stories, along with her own, are carefully interwoven most successfully using this format and revealed little by little. While being quite informative the whole book has a very delightful, warm charming feeling, despite the often depressing reality of the years of the occupation and the post war situation. This book delivers a touch of romance, some sadness and some humour, along with a lot of information and a satisfying conclusion. What more can one ask of a novel read for entertainment?

I am sure that most everyone has already read this book, but if not I can highly recommend it and my copy has already been passed on.

* Annie Barrows, Mary Ann Shaffer's niece completed the book after the author's death.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Saturday Photo Hunt --- Free choice

This week tnchick has given us free reign for our choice of subject and as usual that paralyzes me with indecision. I am really not a great photographer so nothing jumped out at me saying choose me as I browsed through the large number of photos on this computer. But this one represents so well not only the city where I live but also a typical view enjoyed by my walking group on our favourite Granville Island walk.

This is an area of False Creek where people can live on their moored boats and as you see many do. I can't imagine living in such a tiny space but it would certainly make one realize what the true essentials are. Click to enlarge if you wish. I did not reduce the file this week so lots of detail.


Thursday, October 15, 2009

Why the trouble?

Another possibly hard hat post. I really must get a hard hat...

I noticed the Irish electorate, I guess feeling less confident in themselves, what with the recession and all, have voted for the EU Lisbon treaty.

The treaty is basically to introduce what amounts to a constitution and nationhood to the EU, complete with unelected president, etc. and unelected Senators (commissioners).

The Irish voted against it all in better times (was it only last year?), but that answer was not good enough, so they were told to vote again ... and to get it right this time.

I must admit I was sort of proud when they said "No" before.

Now I am thinking to myself. Well... Maybe if the Irish had thought like that back a hundred years ago... then I guess they would have been happy being part of the British Empire. There would have been no cause to want independence, it would have been scary. No need for the Easter uprising, the IRA, the troubles...

All those deaths over all those years.

Maybe I would have grown up in Dublin, or more like never have existed.

In those days the British Empire was a pretty powerful trading block.

A definite case where you could argue “We’re Better Together”. You could have easily argued that Ireland would have been economically stronger as part of such a huge trading block too, with the added bonus of having actual democratically accountable representatives in its parliament and maybe a chance of home rule to come into the bargain .

The arguments in favour didn't wash back then. I guess that was then and this is now. Independence is too scary now, apron strings more secure.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Saturday Photo Hunt --- Sports


I was absolutely stumped for this week's theme but an idea popped into my head as I frantically searched my archives. If you have peeked below at the photo I am sure you are scratching your head. What on earth does that rural scene have to do with sports? Why it is connected to the most celebrated sport of all, the Sport of Kings.

Yes, my brother in law breeds thoroughbred racehorses in Australia and this mother has done her time at the track and is now a breeding mare. The young foal is a potential superstar of the track! Well my BIL can always dream that this horse will someday be the winner of the Melbourne Cup.

They do have very fancy names under which they are registered but they also have very ordinary names as well, like Blaze and Nipper. Yes the latter for a very good reason! Personally I think this hobby, which he acquired after he took early retirement, is simply a sinkhole into which you pour money. But it has brought him great pleasure over the years and he still dreams of having a big winner one day.


Thursday, October 8, 2009

National Poetry Day in Britain -- My Contribution

Yes, today, according to Jams. I thought I would share this one which someone brought to my book club recently and with which we could all identify . Oh there is a theme, but I am ignoring it as is my wont and my poem is by an American to boot. Heroes and heroines in case you want to celebrate in the proper style.

The House was Quiet and the World was Calm
Wallace Stevens

The house was quiet and the world was calm.
The reader became the book; and summer night

Was like the conscious being of the book.
The house was quiet and the world was calm.

The words were spoken as if there was no book,
Except that the reader leaned above the page,

Wanted to lean, wanted much to be
The scholar to whom his book is true, to whom

The summer night is like a perfection of thought.
The house was quiet because it had to be.

The quiet was part of the meaning, part of the mind:
The access of perfection to the page.

And the world was calm. The truth in a calm world,
In which there is no other meaning, itself

Is calm, itself is summer and night, itself
Is the reader leaning late and reading there.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Tilting at Windmills

Well the world is full of lots of bad stuff and it gets blogged about. Not so much the good stuff.

Africa seems to get real bad luck with things like aids and ethnic cleansing and corrupt/bad rulers, droughts and famines. The last often caused or helped along by some of the others on the list.

That's why it is good when we get to hear about inspirational and good things happening there.

William Kamkwamba is surley one of those inspirational people. He is 22 now and lives in Malawi. He had to quit his schooling when he was just 14.

He did not give up with his education though. He kept at it using his local library.

One day he found out about windmills in a textbook and realised they could be used to pump water and provide electricity. Malawi had a terrible drought in 2002, so the water thing was pretty important.

He decided to try and build one himself in his spare time from junk. People in his village, even his Mom thought he was on drugs, or crazy, till he explained he was making magic.

They sure changed their minds when he got his windmill to light a bulb though. He wired power to his family's home, provided electric lighting and figured out how to charge his neighbours' mobile phones.

Then he managed to get a solar powered pump and got it to pump water up from a borehole into storage tanks for his village.

Now there is a book about William called "The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind" jointly written by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer if you want to know more.

William is truly someone worthy of admiration. A can-do guy who wants to make the world a better place. He does not wait for someone else to do it for him. Like the 'they' who "ought to do something", the government, whoever.

He shows us that even if things are really bad we each of us can still do something even if only on a small scale, locally, to make the world a better place - If we choose to.

Imagine if we all thought like that... Wow!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Saturday Photo Hunt --- Words


Most of us do our search for the meaning of words online now, however it's not so many years ago that there was but one source for that information. Oh did I tell you that I love words? The sounds of them, the subtleties of their use to convey nuances of meaning. This was the old fashioned way or now for when our broadband is acting up. How do you spell???????? What does ?????? mean? I'm ready!

Just the biggest and the best! I won't tell you
how many I really have!