Saturday, 30 April 2011

Friday, 29 April 2011

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Lego - Antikythera Mechanism

The Antikythera Mechanism is the oldest known scientific computer, built in Greece at around 100 BCE. Lost for 2000 years, it was recovered from a shipwreck in 1901. But not until a century later was its purpose understood: an astronomical clock that determines the positions of celestial bodies with extraordinary precision.
Read more about it here and here

In 2010, a fully-functional replica was built out of Lego, using 1500 Technic parts and 110 gears. Not sure which is cooler – the thought that someone 2000 years ago figured that out, or that a readily available toy allows you to recreate it.

That is part of the reason why I love Lego so much – sure it’s a kids toy, but it is a powerful engineering/modelling/prototyping tool as well.

Street Art - Blocky Rouge Man

Don’t know who the artist behind this is, but I’ve seen one or two pieces around town from I assume the same person.

I like that they’re on paper and eventually disintegrate.

S.o.t.D. – The Memory – Steve Roach

I’ve found some Steve Roach CDs at the library, the Immersion series, and I love them. Several CDs with 70 minute long drone soundscapes. Fantastic stuff. I’ll often sign CDs out of the biblio, listen to them a few times, discover some new stuff, and return them. These ones I hang on to for quite a while, often renewing them. Great background music on endless repeat. Creates a soundscape that isn’t distracting.

Trying to discover more of his stuff, and hit on this one. I can’t even describe how much I like this. Just gorgeous.

I think....I can’t believe I’m saying this....I think....I might....oh god this feels like heresy.....I think Steve Roach might be....supplanting Brian Eno as my favourite ambient artist. Gasp!

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

S.o.t.D. - The Time We Lost Our Way – Thievery Corporation

These guys always seem to be consistently solid.

Lego – Stingray

This past Saturday I had babysitting duties and we spent the time building stuff out of Lego. I showed what my young charge made, and this is what I made.

Sometimes I have a clearly defined idea of what I want to make, and I visualize it all in my head and other times I just sit down with only the vaguest of notions, grab a few parts that appeal, and make a simple little thing. This was the case here. 

It’s been a while since I’ve made anything out of Lego, and the mental exercise part of it, the riffing on an idea, was really enjoyable. And hanging out with my little buddy, talking and laughing was just a cherry on top.

Nothing that special, not the best thing I’ve ever made, but an hour spent building something from Lego is an hour well spent in my books.

I called it...the Stingray. ’cause it’s grey and squat and kinda flat and it has a stinger in the back.

Signage: Bertolli

I guess technically this doesn’t really qualify as signage per se, but, what the hell. Wasn’t sure what else to qualify it as.

I found it lying on someone’s lawn. I think it may have been made as a ramp. Constructed from scraps of wood, it looks like one of the sources was a wooden box that would have held bottles or jugs or cans of Bertolli olive oil. Or, Bertolli Olio Puro D’Oliva.
Imagine if we were still lucky enough to get our goods in sturdy wooden boxes, useful for so many things and recyclable into so many other things, painted with beautiful lettering like this.

Gore Park Fountain at Night

Walked past Gore Park last night and saw the fountain working. From 1860 originally, it’s been out of commission for some time, and underwent some repairs recently. And I can’t recall if I’ve ever seen it in operation at night.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

S.o.t.D. – Crater Lake – Shen

Another wonderfully bouncy yet ethereal track from mister Noah Pred.

Lego and PhotoShop

Yes, two of the most fun things in the world, together. I could add one or two other things to the mix, but then my brain might implode.

My nephew has been expressing a lot of interest in PhotoShop lately. Which I think is great!

He had a book about ghosts from the library the other day. Tried to convince me that ghosts are real. “Look! See! Here are photos of them!” On the one hand I felt bad about being such a bummer, but I felt I had to break it to him that those were all examples of advanced for their time photographic techniques. That when people didn’t know any better, it was easy to fool them. “These aren’t ghosts buddy, they’re hoaxes. People may well have done these to get rich off of. There’s nothing honourable about profiting from bamboozling people.”

I took him over to the computer, opened PhotoShop, found a picture of one of his school pals standing against a blue back ground (made it very easy to crop her out - didn’t want to spend too much time on the demonstration) turned her about 35% opaque, found another picture, dragged the selection over, and presto, his pal was now a shimmering ghost.“What I just did is a more high tech version of what people were doing in a dark room 100, 150 years ago.”

On the one hand I felt bad about bursting his bubble, and yet at the same time I want to make sure that he is media savvy. I guess you have to start that conversation at some point.

Coupled with that, he’s been expressing a desire to have a blog to show his Lego creations, “just like Uncle Thomas has.” To him it’s the most natural thing in the world. He’s grown up with it. Yet there are some thorny issues surrounding a 7 year old wanting to have a blog. While on the one hand I think it’s great if it inspires him to want to make stuff, practice writing, learn about taking photos, using a computer, etc., there may well be some bigger issues involved in it that he doesn’t entirely grasp yet.

While babysitting him for a while on Saturday, we of course spent a delightful hour making stuff out of Lego. I let the box of parts speak to me and I felt “wheels.” So I made a car type of thing. He told me his creations was going to have wings. And of course, it ended up with a whole bunch of blasters. Can’t forget the blasters.

When we were done he asked if I could take some photos. “And then could we do what you did with those photos? You know where you made it look like it was flying?”

So we went outside, snapped some pictures in the backyard, and then back inside to give him a lesson in PhotoShop.

Showed him a whole slew of things, and I heard the phrase “That’s amazing!” several times. I don’t know how much of it he’ll retain, but you gotta start somewhere. I told him that I’ve been using it since day one, and I’m still learning things all the time, so not to feel bad if he doesn’t remember everything. 

Explained to him the concepts behind masking. “Remember when we were painting the wall and we put masking tape along the edges so we’d end up with a nice straight line and the paint wouldn’t go on the baseboards? Well this is sort of like that. Pretend that I’m putting tape all around the edge of your ship. That way I can paint over it and not get anything on the ship itself.”

I didn’t get too fancy with it, and none of this is anything I’d put in a portfolio necessarily. But the main aim was to introduce him to some fun stuff you can do with PS. And I think I succeeded in inspiring him.
Showed him the clone tool and what it could do, and that elicited a “That’s amazing!”

“Can we do another one?”
“That’s so awesome! Can we do another one?”
Tried to take a few photos against the sky, but this is the only one that turned out halfway decent. Would have gone back to do more, but after the computer noodling, it was dark.

Probably touched on way more things than he can possibly retain, but he prattled on about it the rest of the night, rightfully amazed at the awesome power of PhotoShop. (I may have just blasted Adobe and their handling of the whole FreeHand debacle, but PhotoShop is something I can’t fault them for.) I hope these two introductions to some of its capabilities inspires him to want to learn more. I’d be delighted to sit down with him any time and teach him anything I have learned over the years. I was already an adult when I got my hands on PS. Imagine what a kid could do with it.

Typeface Design – Siegfried

Mmmhh, design may be a bit of a misnomer – production may be more appropriate.

Along with Freddy, this was commisioned by PostContemporary Records for use on one of their Zeuxis and the Painted Grapes releases.

The example they had was from a Morgan Press Type Collection Catalog. In the sixties there was a big revival of turn of the century, art deco faces, and that is indeed the era this is from. Released in 1900 by the Wilhelm Woellmer Schriftgießerei in Berlin.
If you totally love this typeface, you can get it free from here and here. Don’t know if they’re the same, and I seriously doubt that it’s the one I did. But if you want it, go there. (Maybe my version is better, but I don’t even know where I have an actual typeface copy of it (never thought enough of it to actually use it myself). I know I have a .fog file somewhere, but without Fontographer, there’s not much I can do with it at the moment.)

GSI N-Case 840 Follow-up

For my birthday last year I received a new camera, and found that it fit perfectly in the GSI N-Case 840 I had received for Christmas a half year before.

So I have been using this case for about 9, 10 months now. Admittedly I open and close it a lot. I don’t think dozens of times a day is an exaggeration.

Two days ago I noticed that the latch didn’t close with the satisfying click it once did. I looked and there was a big crack running along it.
So, the stress of being closed and opened a few thousand times seems to be all it took to do it in.

Rats! That case perfect for the camera.

I wondered whether it required a harder plastic or a metal latch perhaps?

GSI got in touch with me and it seems they’ve  already improved the latch, with a stronger, fibreglass impregnated plastic. They’re sending me a new one and want me to test some other things out for them.

Excellent! That’s what I like to see. Constant upgrading and development and responsive customer service. Thanks GSI.

So I will once again happily recommend this product.

I realize that stuff breaks, but companies that constantly strive to make their products better and are committed to their customers, are good to go in my books.

Snow & Nealley Trowel

About five years ago, I was wandering around out in the Beaches in Toronto, and passed a store called Gardenscape. Went in, looked around and found a totally wicked awesome cool trowel from Snow & Nealley. Bigger than the average trowel, and smaller than an army surplus entrenching tool. Solid, sturdy, good size scoop, good sized handle, and still a manageable size and weight. Me want.

It seems that whenever I go on a canoe trip to places that have designated campsites, we always end up rebuilding the pitiful firepits into engineering marvels. Filled with mountains of ash and an awkward hodgepodge of stones that a rack or a pot can’t balance on very well. Not only for our own sake, but we figure it’s a nice thing to do for anyone that follows us. Trying to scoop out months, possibly years of ash or lever stones around with one of those plastic trowels, doesn’t work very well. I’ve also built quite a few dakota holes, and have a few caches here and there.

This thing looked to be the perfect size. Not too small to be a nuisance to use, not too big to be a nuisance to carry.

And the price was decent too. Less than $25. Sold.
It was so sharp looking I was almost reluctant to use it for a while. Seemed a shame to mess up that nice black anodized finish...
Hickory handle.
After oohing and ahhing over my shiny new toy for a while, I went out and put it to good use.

First time I stuck it in the ground, it bent like the proverbial wet noodle.


This was nice soft soil, not rock hard, stone impregnated soil.

To quote two philosophical geniuses...“Thith thucks!”

Snow & Nealley had stopped making their range of garden tools by this time, so...what could I do. Their offer to replace faulty tools didn’t mean much when they didn’t have any to offer. Sent them an email, told them I wasn’t thrilled with their product, and never heard back from them.

Very disappointed, I put it aside.

Later, I was helping friends dig some roots out of their yard, so I figured I’d use it. It worked all right, as long as I kept bending it back into shape every few scoops. I could see a crack developing and in time the scoop fell right off.
“We are so confident that you will be satisfied with our tools that they come with a Lifetime Guarantee.”

Nope, not satisfied with your tool, and since you don’t make it any more, I can’t very well take advantage of your lifetime guarantee to get a replacement to see if I just got a bum model. Can’t say it gives me much confidence in any of your axes either.

“We are proud to make ‘The Tools That Last For Generations!’ ” 

I don’t think this trowel lasted for more than a few hours, let alone a few generations.

If I had a few bucks to spare I’d mail it back to them, but it just seems like a waste of money compounding a waste of money.

Not impressed.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

S.o.t.D. - Crystal – Fierce & Nico

Dark and ominous, yet I find this totally beautiful. Sounds really good really loud. The record this is from, Torque, easily one of my top ten favourite records ever.

Depth Fish

 Artwork for a tattoo. The original Escher image doesn’t contain a complete image - each one is cut off in some way. Constructed a complete one so it could be tattooed.

S.o.t.D. - Lush3-4 (Warrior Drift Mix by Psychick Warriors ov Gaia) – Orbital

First PWOG, then Orbital, now Orbital remixed by PWOG. 

The year this came out, 1993, seems to have been a pretty verdant year for music, for me at least. Discovered loads of great stuff right around that time.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Bibliophilia: Modesty Blaise

I’m a fairly recent discoverer of Modesty Blaise.
While she’s only a comic book heroine, I think I’m smitten. That cool aloofness, coupled with her smarts and resourcefulness, not to mention her butt-kicking skills make her one foxy lady.

British comics in the 1960’s were a thriving concern. Smash!, Lion, Valiant, Victor were some of the more famous ones. Appearing weekly, they usually featured a dozen different stories – military, sport, western, espionage, crime, sci-fi, historical, humour, etc. Something for all tastes, and there were comics to appeal to all age groups and genders. Many hundreds of pages were produced per week. The stories were usually three, four pages long, and moved at a break neck pace. Some were stories told within the confines of those few pages and sometimes they were a serial. One page to get out of the predicament the characters found themselves in last week, a page or two to move the story forward, and then a page to set up the next cliffhanger to keep the kids coming back for more. They were pretty much uniformly corny and completely over the top.

While Modesty Blaise arose from the same era, it was something else all together. While some of the stories and plots were escapist and fairly silly, they appealed to an older audience, and it was all imbued with a sense of style, personality, and charm. She is undoubtedly sexy, but she is also strong, independent, determined, and compassionate. It’s very reminiscent of Emma Peel of the Avengers, and a female version of The Saint, but I believe Modesty Blaise may well predate those two classics.

Rather than a weekly, it appeared daily as a three panel strip and never varied from that format. It ran from 1963 to 2001 in the London Evening Standard, and in other papers in syndication. Papers as far away as South Africa and Australia carried it, although its circulation in the US was erratic. (In part because of the occasional nude scenes, or more correctly a tasteful hint of nudity, which made it problematic for the religious zealots in the US. The violence was okay, a bare back suggesting boobies might be in the offing was not okay. Sigh.) Over 95 stories, more than 10,000 individual strips over almost 40 years. Quite a remarkable achievement. There was also a real continuity due to the fact that O’Donnell was the sole author the entire time.
In the Beginning, from 1966, tells her story. A young, nameless, feral orphan girl, remembering nothing from her past, a refugee from somewhere in war ravaged Europe. About the only thing she knows how to do is survive by any means necessary. In a displaced person (DP) camp in Kalyros, Greece she met an old man named Lob, a Jewish professor from Hungary. Not nearly as adept as her at the hard scrabble game of staying alive, she helped him and he in turn helped her. He tutored her and schooled her, and taught her several languages. He also gave her a name; Modesty. She gave herself a last name: Blaise, after the man who had tutored Merlin of Arthurian legends. And so, Modesty Blaise was born. They escaped the camp and traveled through Turkey, the Middle East and North Africa together. Lob died when Modesty was 17. Burying him in the desert, she moved on, once again alone, to the city of Tangiers.

There she worked the roulette table at a casino owned by a man named Henri Louche, who also ran a crime gang. When he was murdered by a rival gang, a 19-year-old Modesty took over his organization. She rallied Louche’s employees and built up the small time gang into a global syndicate called “The Network.”

Despite being an underground enterprise, their dealings were governed by a sense of morality. Stealing - industrial secrets from the Soviets, art from corrupt politicians, gems from drug lords, money from crooked lawyers - that was fair game. But vice was a definite taboo. Drugs and prostitution weren’t just something they refused to have anything to do with, but they weren’t above dealing with those that did by delivering them to the authorities or sending them to their graves.

While in Saigon on Network business, Modesty came across a man named Willie Garvin. A cockney and former Legionnaire, and in a bad way, she saw his potential, bribed his way out of jail and offered him a job. Inspired by her belief in him, he became her right-hand man in the Network and also her most trusted friend. Interestingly, theirs is a strictly platonic relationship and is based on mutual respect and shared interests. They are best friends, devoted to each other, but have never been and will never be lovers.

When they felt they had made enough money, the Network was dissolved, each member given a pension for their services. Modesty and Willie retired and moved to England; she to a a pent house overlooking Hyde Park, he to a pub outside London by the Thames, called The Treadmill.

Bored by their new lives among the idle rich, still quite young, and their thirst for adventure still strong, they wonder if retirement was the right move. Sir Gerald Tarrant, head of a secret British agency, recruits them and gives them the opportunity to put their skills to good use, helping him solve problems of an “extra-legal” nature. This is where the story really begins.

Drawn in to a series of capers with all manner of nasty villains, ruthless opponents, and diabolical evil masterminds, using their finely-honed skills to best them all. The stories invariably took place in a small banana republic where a tyrannical junta had recently installed itself, the tiny eastern European kingdom taken over by a communist police state, the pocket sized emirate whose benevolent ruler, while visiting with Modesty in London, was informed that he was in the process of being overthrown by his cousin and the scheming chief of intelligence. (I wonder if anyone has ever added up all the Andorra and Lesotho like countries that have appeared as a staple of fiction.) The scenarios were usually improbable, the escapes were often impossible. But for pure escapist fun, it can’t be beat.
While Frank Hampson, the creator of Dan Dare was initially trialled (and I thought the few panels he did were great) O’Donnell chose to work with Jim Holdaway, who drew the daily strip for seven years until his sudden death in 1970. Enric Badia Romero very ably stepped up to take over midway through a story arc, and carried on until 1978. (What made that even more interesting is that he was in Spain and spoke no English, O’Donnell was in England and spoke no Spanish, but with the help of a very able translator it all worked without a hitch.) For less than a year (October 1978 until September 1979) John Burns took over, but fans were apparently not so enamored of his artwork. He was in turn replaced by Patrick Wright, whose turn was even shorter, until May 1980. Neville Colvin lasted until September 1986. After that Romero came back on board and remained right until the end in 2001.

Of all the artists, I think Holdaway was the best. As much as I liked Romero’s work, his males lacked much in the way of variety. All of his contributions I’ve read so far have been from the early seventies. All the men look like swarthy Marlboro men, and the fashions, given the time, are heinous. Certainly I liked the fashions that Holdaway drew in some of the earliest strips, mainly because the clothing in those days was a bit more reserved and elegant. By the time Romero took over, the prevailing fashions were considerably more garish. Wright’s style was in some ways more detailed, and yet also sparser. Both Holdaway and Romero made the panels very dark (I don’t think LetraTone had appeared yet), so his work looked positively washed out. Wright’s characters were more varied and their expressions also more nuanced.

Modesty Blaise has been reprinted in a number of formats over the years. Titan has more than a dozen and a half reprint volumes, with about three complete stories per volume, along with lots of background information and interviews, and introductions by O’Donnell for each story. Each book contains about fifteen months of strip. They have included all the Holdaway years, all of Romero’s first tenure, and all of John Burns’ and Pat Wright’s stints. With the 19th book, The Double Agent, they will have covered all of Neville Colvin’s years.

The Gabriel Set-Up (2004) ISBN 1-84023-658-2
Mister Sun (2004) ISBN 1-84023-721-X
Top Traitor (2004) ISBN 1-84023-684-1
The Black Pearl (2004) ISBN 1-84023-842-9
Bad Suki (2005) ISBN 1-84023-864-X
The Hell Makers (2005) ISBN 1-84023-865-8
The Green-Eyed Monster (2005) ISBN 1-84023-866-6
The Puppet Master (2006) ISBN 1-84023-867-4
The Gallows Bird (2006) ISBN 1-84023-868-2
Cry Wolf (2006) ISBN 1-84023-869-0; ISBN 978 1 84023 869 3
The Inca Trail (2007) ISBN 1-84576-417-X
Death Trap (2007) ISBN 1-84576-418-8
Yellowstone Booty (2008) ISBN 978 1 84576 419 7
Green Cobra (2008) ISBN 978 1 84576 420 3
The Lady Killers (2009) ISBN 978 1 84856 106 9
The Scarlet Maiden (2009) ISBN 978 1 84856 107 6
Death in Slow Motion (2010) ISBN 978 1 84856 108 3
Sweet Caroline (2010) ISBN 978 1 84856 673 6
The Double Agent (due 22 April 2011) ISBN 978 1 84856 674 3
Million Dollar Game (due 30 August 2011) ISBN 978 1 84856 675 0

Fourteen stand alone novels also appeared.

Modesty Blaise (1965)
Sabre-Tooth (1966)
I, Lucifer (1967)
A Taste for Death (1969)
The Impossible Virgin (1971)
Pieces of Modesty (1972) (6 short stories: A Better Day to Die - The Giggle-Wrecker - I Had a Date with Lady Janet - A Perfect Night to Break Your Neck - Salamander Four - The Soo Girl Charity)
The Silver Mistress (1973)
Last Day in Limbo (1976)
Dragon’s Claw (1978)
The Xanadu Talisman (1981)
The Night of Morningstar (1982)
Dead Man’s Handle (1985)
Cobra Trap (1996) (5 short stories: Bellman - The Dark Angels - Old Alex - The Girl With the Black Balloon - Cobra Trap)
There were also some movie and television adaptations, but they were pretty uniformly awful. A movie adaptation came out in 1966, which veered more towards campy comedy thriller. It was directed by Joseph Losey and starred Monica Vitti as Modesty, Terence Stamp as Willie Garvin, and Dirk Bogarde as nemesis Gabriel. O’Donnell wrote the first draft of the screenplay, but it was monkeyed with so much that the end result bore little resemblance to his vision.

In 1982, a one-hour pilot was made for a proposed Modesty Blaise television series, starring Ann Turkel as Modesty Blaise and Lewis Van Bergen as Willie Garvin. The film aired on the ABC Network to positive reviews, but no series resulted. This was a slightly more serious version of the stories than the movie. In this pilot the setting is moved from London to Hollywood, and both Willie and Tarrant are portrayed as Americans.

A direct-to-video film titled My Name is Modesty (which was released under the label “Quentin Tarantino presents ...”) was released in 2004. The film was directed by Scott Spiegel and starred Alexandra Staden as Modesty Blaise.

Quentin Tarantino has been very vocal about wanting to direct a Modesty Blaise movie for many years. (My Name is Modesty was sponsored by Tarantino by being released under the label “Quentin Tarantino presents ...”, and in Pulp Fiction, Vincent Vega is seen reading a copy of Modesty Blaise.) The great Neil Gaiman even wrote a script treatment based upon O’Donnell’s novel, I, Lucifer. Nicole Kidman and Jennifer Lopez have both expressed interest in playing the role of Modesty. (Carrie Anne Moss, might make a good Modesty; she looks right, she’s got that cool demeanour Modesty has.) To date, nothing has come of these plans. O’Donnell, who died in May 2010, was so disappointed by all the efforts to film his stories, that he’s gone on record that he wanted no more movies to be made of his character. Pity. An interesting character that the right person, group of persons, could do justice to.

Logo – Craft Coven

First stab at a logo for a group of wiccans that knit and stuff. The little symbol I pulled out of some of the clip art that came with CorelDraw. Being into geometry and all I rather liked it. Never really had anything to do with it until I got asked to do this. It reminded me of some of the yarn bombing I’ve seen around town.

Refreshing Flyer

Flyer from a bunch of years back for a weekly club night.

S.o.t.D. - Semi-Detached – Orbital

Semi-Detached – Orbital

....could have sworn I’d already posted this...

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Signage: Groovy Baby

Place out on Barton east that sells kids stuff. I think the letters are cut from foam (?) Totally amateurish, but dare I say it, kinda groovy.

S.o.t.D. - Dust (original mix) – Psychick Warriors ov Gaia

Dust (original mix) – Psychick Warriors ov Gaia

Oh sweet mother of god does this bring back great memories! Quite possibly one of my favourite pieces of music ever.

Off of 1993’s first Trance Europe Express compilation. It had a load of great tracks on it, including Orbital’s Semi-Detached, but this track in particular totally did my head in. I got this just before I went to South East Asia, and this was most definitely part of the soundtrack.

In 1996 a magazine I was writing for asked me to go and interview these guys. They were playing at a Trancendance rave, on my birthday no less. I had a press pass, and got there well before the event was supposed to start. I had no idea what they looked like. I see three tall guys, and another tell tale clue.
“Hallo. Jullie zijn denkelijk Psychick Warriors ov Gaia?” (I assume you’re....)
“Ja. Hoe wist je?” (Yes. How did you know?)
“De Hema tas.” (The Hema bag.) They burst in to laughter.
I had one just like it. A sturdy canvas bag with leather handles, and a flat bottom with a wood plank in it to give it form. Made a perfect bag to carry records in, which is what one of them was doing.

We went in to a quiet room and had a great conversation for the next hour and a bit. Later I got to see them perform. Fantastic. Then I immediately went in to the other room to see the equally fantastic DubTribe play. That and a few other things, made for a really terrific birthday.

Monday, 18 April 2011

S.o.t.D. - The Biosphere (Global Communications remix) – Reload

Another stunning track by Global Communications/Reload (one and the same thing really). Not sure that Mr.’s Middleton and Pritchard have ever done anything that wasn’t. Love the way it slowly spools out and builds a really evocative soundscape.

This Omnivores Dilemma

I figure it’s good to re-assess and re-evaluate why you believe and do the things you do every once in a while. Just kind of healthy, no matter what. Otherwise you become dogmatic, and besides whining, I find little else as odious.

When I was 19 I became a vegetarian. For quite a few reasons. I was intrigued by the claims that a vegetarian diet was healthier and could reduce the possibilities of many of the maladies people suffer from in the developed world. My dad died far too young of heart problems. I didn’t mind being an epidemiological experiment to see if there was any validity to the argument that a meatless diet could stave off an early death. The realities of modern intensive farming practices are horrific and I really didn’t want to be complicit in it. While it might be naive and idealistic, people voting with their buying power might have some small effect. Consumer power might be slow, but it does have a possibility of effecting change over time. Congruent with my discomfort over the way animals are treated in a mechanistic system, there was also the staggering environmental toll it is taking on the planet. For all those, and probably several other good reasons, I made a decision to eschew meat.

I wasn’t strident about it. If people wanted to know why I made the decision I did, I could lay out a very cogent argument why. But I felt I might do more to persuade people as to the correctness of my stance by quietly living my life and politely and rationally explaining my stance when interrogated, than by haranguing anyone about what they ate.

I never had any problems with it, it’s always been relatively easy for me (at first, the options in restaurants and grocery stores were somewhat limited, but as time went on, the possibilities increased exponentially), and it’s not like it’s caused me any difficulties. I have always been healthy, hearty and hale. Anyone who has to practically jog to keep up with me walking isn’t left with the idea that a vegetarian diet left me weak and unhealthy.

I made a decision, I was comfortable with it, and I quite happily lived with the decision for more than twenty years. Two decades is a pretty long time though, and maybe it was time to revisit the reasons for a belief system.

A few things got me to thinking about it. One of the forums I go to we ended up getting into a very interesting discussion about the subject. A member who I respect and is one of those fonts of knowledge on almost every subject imaginable, raised some intriguing points. I also read “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” by Michael Pollan (highly recommended reading – it’s worth it just for the section on corn alone). So those things got me doing a bunch of reading and quite some contemplating.

T.O.D. got me thinking about a lot of things - agriculture mainly. How it’s done wrong and how it can be done right. The book is an excellent piece of reportage and while it re-inforced some of my initial disgust with factory farming, it gave a me a whole new appreciation for small scale farming. While the afore-mentioned section on corn was fascinating, the section on PolyFace Farms was equally paradigm shifting. Traditional agriculture is a very symbiotic thing, and has an ecological balance totally lacking in what farming has become.

And also I’ve just been thinking more and more that eating as locally as possible is the best way to go. A large part of why I stopped eating meat was on account of the environmental impact. But can I really be patting myself on the back for eating mock chicken made from soya beans grown in Brazil, shipped to Israel and then flown to Canada? Or eating produce grown in New Zealand or Chile or South Africa and flown here? I love fresh fruits and vegetables, but what impact is my diet having on global warming and the lifestyle of people in those countries? Something tells me that people in Chile aren’t buying much Canadian produce out of season. While I’m not going to go completely whole hog into a 100 mile diet or anything like that, I figure that if I truly care about future generations having a planet they can live on, I should certainly reduce the radius my food travels.

And there has also been an idea floating around in my head to go hunting. Kind of a nagging idea I couldn’t shake. Maybe just one of those very primal things locked somewhere deep in our psyche…I don’t know. I’ve never really had a huge problem with hunting. As long as it’s done humanely, and you stick to regulations and you actually use that animal in the fullest sense, okay. My main problem was always with intensive factory farming. If you go out and kill a deer, and get down to the nitty gritty of what that act is all about, okay. I go out and practice all these outdoor skills and I think I’m quite competent at a lot of them, but that is one area I never practice. I always figured that if the need arose that I would do it. But is that really realistic? And stuff like pemmican and jerky really do make a lot of sense as a trail food.

I go out and forage for stuff when I can and I helped out in the garden at Dundurn Castle and in Jen’s garden and that got me some local veggies. I figure that’s a start. But I see lots and lots and lots of rabbits whenever I go out on a hike. And I see lots and lots of lots of deer whenever I’m out and about. Hhhmmmmhh, if I really want to reduce my eco footprint, maybe I should start wrapping my brain around the idea of their being a food source.

My pals Scott and Ashley also raise free range chickens and turkeys. There are also several farms around here that let chickens lead the lives they’re supposed to, and feed them what they’re supposed to eat. Harkening back to the idea of fake chicken, which is better? If I can jump on my bike and go out a ways to buy a chicken that was raised 20 KM from my house or a very processed food source with a huge distance to travel, it doesn’t take much to figure out which is better. Or if I can get some of S&A’s chicken when they come down this way, cool.

It’s not like I’m rushing out to McDonalds to scarf down Big Macs or anything like that. And its not as though it’s ever going to be a huge part of my diet. But I figure if I know where it comes from, or I had a hand in procuring it, once in a while isn’t so huge a deal. I will still likely remain mainly vegetarian, but I have broadened the dietary parameters a bit.

Still not a fan of factory farming or cruelty or shitty diets, but my view has shifted a slight little bit anyway.

Still a bit of a weird thing to get used to, but meh. It’s kind of neat in a way, cause now a whole new range of possibilities open up.

I’m not fond of dogma, and I figure it’s good to take a step back and go, “hey am I dogmatic about things?” I don’t really think so, but I figure that long held beliefs do deserve to have some light shone on them once in a while.

I guess it’s just the realization that the route to a goal (a more sustainable future) isn’t necessarily a paved highway with directions clearly posted, but perhaps it’s a meandering path in the wilderness. Probably it’s a bit of both.

New and Improved Cottage 13

Some recent changes at the tattoo shop. There was a small room in the front, that was originally meant to be nothing more than the space where the photocopier and stencil machine and some supplies would reside. It didn’t take long before a burgeoning number of tattooists saw to it that it was pressed into service as another tattoo room. But it was never ideal. Small and awkward, it was referred to as the “punishment closet.”

It also cut into the reception area.

With one of the tattooists leaving for BC, it was decided to take it out altogether. With the market for piercing waning, and Yolandas sideline of making custom corsets and clothing ramping up, it was decided to take the room right out. The space now means that the area behind the counter is no longer bursting if more than one person is there. It also means more room for Yolanda to display her wares, but also the wares of similarly creative and handy local folks.
The lovely and talented Os working at the new counter. It will also house the Mac.
The start of the clothing side of things. Much more to come.
Jewelry cabinet.
Ganesh standing guard.
Some prints by Charlie Owens.
Skateboards by Tyson McAdoo. Something unchaste is about to happen there me thinks.
The cascade of tracing paper you find in every tattooists room.
Some of Os’ fine artwork. Love what that guy does.
Looking down the hall of ever changing artwork.
Some of Bryce Huffman’s art. Love what he does as well.