Friday, May 28, 2010

Updates and... Invercargill Represents (January 28--February 5, 2010)

I've been taking an impromptu break from posting, mostly because I was beginning to lose track of which of my (thousands of) photos had been posted already, and which I still wanted to use. I'm using Picasa to manage them, and during the past week or so I devised a system for keeping track and keeping them organised; I then set about the grunt-work of actually putting them all in order, which took until today.

I've decided that as well as keeping the pictures more organised behind the scenes, I'm also going to put up fewer posts (perhaps two or three per week) with more commentary, and more groups of images as opposed to single pictures. I think this will make things more interesting both for me as 'author', and for anyone else who happens to be checking this blog.

For now, here are some images and links to amuse and enlighten. First, one taken at Kaikoura as I was passing through on the bus, on my way to Picton: a classy vehicle parked near the beach and across the road from the cafe.

There's just something about Tim Shadbolt (could it be that he never goes away? He's been well-known in NZ since I was a child). And something else about Invercargill, which inspires such strong sentiments among many New Zealanders--one expat I ran into in Montreal called it "the asshole of New Zealand". Nonetheless, Invercargill does have something to offer.* This very amusing documentary (password: Tuatara), called "Love in Cold Blood", is about Henry and Mildred, two Tuatara who mate for the first time together when Henry is 111 and Mildred is 80 (there are plenty of old-age jokes made here). The video is only about 25 minutes long, easy to watch at one sitting.

Tuatara (Māori for "spiny back") are fascinating creatures, reptiles native to New Zealand and often called "living dinosaurs" due to the obscurity of their branch in the Linnaean tree--they have an entire section of the reptile family to themselves--and the fact that they seem to have changed little in the past 225 million years or so (like much of New Zealand's flora and fauna, due to its 60-million-year-long period of isolation from other land masses). And yes, there's also the whole "third eye" thing.

These days, Tuatara are protected and carefully bred in sanctuaries, and released on offshore islands and other enclosed areas that have been cleared of predators.

Below, I've added a few pictures including an actual "Tuatara car" below (well, a car with a very large Tuatara perched on it), spotted outside the Kiwi Birdlife Park in Queenstown on January 28:

After a look at this car, a trip to the Birdlife Park seemed like a good idea. And it was--I got to meet this wee fellow, up close and personal:

When I reached Invercargill I sought out Henry, ageing giant of Tuatara, at the Southland Museum; but unfortunately for me he was feeling uncooperative (I suppose his little 'operation' did not make for a complete personality overhaul after all--he looked crabby, hiding under his rotting log).

Lastly, the backpackers shown in the video linked above is also the one I stayed at in Invercargill--they really do have a theme going:

*Note: I come from Palmerston North, which is also widely disparaged in New Zealand--and we don't even have Tuatara to make up for it.

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Sunday, May 16, 2010

Lotus Driving (August 24, 2007)

This is my friend Adam driving his Lotus Elise, a shot taken on a warm night with the roof down, in Toronto. I didn't intend the blurring effects here but I quite liked how they turned out. The pictures gives a kind of impression of what it is like to be driven around at night in the city in a very small, very fast car.

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Saturday, May 15, 2010

Silhouette (December 7, 2009)

Silhouette on the bus window, showing the profile of the person sitting across the aisle from me on the other side of the vehicle. Quite an odd (serendipitous?) effect of light and glass.

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Friday, May 14, 2010

Downtown Dogs (April 27, 2007)

Thanks to the assistance of friend (thank you, Christopher and Philip), I was finally able to re-discover the location this sculpture on Wellington Street, at the north-east corner of Wellington and John. I took the pictures several years ago, and when I went to label it I realised I wasn't sure where it was taken. All I remembered was that I'd been walking from the GO Station on Front street up towards Spadina Avenue, via various side streets.

I'm sure I've made the humour clear enough here. I just love that sign, which of course is really only funny if you think the sculptures look like dogs. But still... heh.

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Thursday, May 13, 2010

Matt & Ducks (October, 1995)

Taken at the Halifax Public Gardens, before they were ravaged by a hurricane in 2003. The gardens were downtown, not far from the school we were attending at the time, Queen Elizabeth High School at the corner of Robie Street and Quinpool Road, by the Commons. I heard that since then it's been closed and torn down, though Google Maps still shows it standing (and a new high school under construction down the street), complete with label.

I've written before about that sense of destruction or loss, the 'tearing down' of place that's happened (for me) since I left Halifax; sometimes I find it eerie that this process that felt as if it was only happening in my head--deliberately--should have these outward manifestations, this parallel aspect in the physical world (the actual end of places as I had known them and seen them and inhabited them). It's an interesting contrast to what I was writing about yesterday, which was more or less the opposite feeling/experience.

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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Poem Stone (August, 2005)

I have called these things "poem stones" for as long as I can remember knowing about them; goodness knows what they are really called, I'm sure there is a title.*

The first one I ran in to accidentally, walking on the south side of Mont-Royal at the foot of the stairs that led to the terrasse above. There is a little grove of trees there that I like very much, and one day when I was walking among them I saw this flat piece of stone, embedded in the ground. It had words carved into it, and they followed the curve of the stone: you had to turn in circles or walk around and around in order to read them. They were in French, I could understand snatches of it: "not far from here Charles and I had an argument. I don't even remember why." Touching, that small whisper of memory, a trace now ground into the granite. For the artist, this is the sense of place, the ephemerality that somehow continues to lie heavily locked in the earth, waiting for interpretation.

I found the second stone (pictured) by accident as well, as I was walking through an overgrown and slightly under-used path, over to the 'eastern' slope (in Montréal, the directions marked on the streets are awry--'east' is more like 'northeast', and north is more 'northwest'). The path ran, at that point, through a small clearing; it was lined with long grass and there were low bushes around. To the left, I could gaze out clear over Outremont and towards Côte-des-Neiges, and I could see the Cimetière Mont-Royal in front. In fact, it was in turning to look that way that I caught sight of the disc of polished granite at my feet, again engraved with French words. I'm not fluent, but it was evocative to read: "It's beautiful, isn't it? When I want to read the last pages of a good book, I come here."

I felt in that moment that the artist and I had somehow connected--his purpose, my accident--and I "saw with his eyes"; the artwork achieved its purpose.

I still see place as the theme; the sense that I, too, come here and find it familiar, come here with special purpose, and imbue this spot with quiet meaning. Poised there with my feet at the edge of the stone, I had experienced a sudden communication within this intensely private moment that I realised belonged not only to me but also to this other, specific person--a revelation of the passage of time and the invisible repetition of movement and reaction. A moment when what was planned (the path, the position of the stone, the words) felt entirely serendipitous; a moment spent alone, where I felt entirely connected.

*I decided to find the title, after all this time; they will always be "poem stones" to me, but they are actually an art piece called La Montagne des jours (1991), or "The Mountain of Days", by Quebec artist Gilbert Boyer. There are five stones, and now I aim to find the two I haven't seen, next time I'm in town; the third one I found was over in another woody area, near Beaver Lake.

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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Mountain High (February 14, 2002)

A view of the Rockies, shot during a flight from Calgary over to Victoria, British Columbia.

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Monday, May 10, 2010

Swan (December, 2000)

Oddly moody, a bit surreal, dark against light and air against water. I don't think I necessarily planned the picture that way, but I like the effect.

The picture was taken at Rainbow Springs in Rotorua, a little touristy "wildlife park" (these are quite popular) where you can see some New Zealand wildlife (not particularly wild though--of course) and a bit of native forest, and it's also a trout hatchery, which is what shows in this image.

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Sunday, May 9, 2010

Temple Faces (March 12, 2008)

These are wonderful sculpted caricatures--grotesques--that appear as a kind of frieze inside the round nave of the Temple Church in London, which dates back to 1185 CE. It's likely that they were modeled after real people known to the artist/s. I wonder what those medieval neighbours did to earn such charming portraits?

...They're so deliciously vivid. Apparently, at one time these would have been painted; it must have been an interesting colour scheme! A better picture of the faces in context is attached to this article.

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Saturday, May 8, 2010

It's Not Pretty (June 25, 2005)

I'll tell you what's not pretty: it's this. And this. And this. And from a little while back, let's not forget... this and this. (There's even more here.) Seems almost as if they were looking for an excuse. But why?

I thought it was appropriate that I should comment on the latest news and relate it to the photo (taken at Toronto Pride 2005, when I marched with the Gay Geeks). For once I'm going to express a political point in my personal blog, and here it is: I don't want to live in a country where Pride parades, women's groups and the arts lose funding, where the government members can say they "hate" the city in which I live and act on that, where information is withheld from the public on a regular basis, where the MPs are allowed to engage in sketchy/crass behaviour with relative impunity, and where, overall, I simply don't trust the government to govern in anyone's best interest but their own.

This ridiculous crew of meritocratic, homophobic, sexist, classist, racist rowdies must be tossed aside, assigned to the past along with their repugnant attitudes, which are not those of the majority of Canadians. We've got work to do.

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Friday, May 7, 2010

Mural (September 2, 2007)

Crucial contextual detail: the entire wall was painted solid black.

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Thursday, May 6, 2010

Milk 1.34 (March 3, 2008)

One of my favourite things about visiting other countries is checking out the food, in particular the supermarkets (grocery stores). Even though there seems to be a kind of standard basic format, there are of course regional and national quirks--for example, in Italy it seemed common that meat had to be ordered over the counter, rather than available pre-packaged as in Canadian, kiwi and U.K. shops. This is intimidating and challenging for those of us who don't have much Italian-!

I took this picture at Tesco (of course!), the one in Purley near my sister's place. In the classed hierarchy of supermarkets, Tesco is hardly at the top of the ladder, but I like going there--mostly because the food is different--the dairy products cheaper and more plentiful, and the gluten-free section much more affordable and well-stocked than in the average Loblaw's in Toronto. Here the price of 58p per litre was still well below that in Canada, even after currency rates are taken into account.

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Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Halifax Waterfront (September 13, 1997)

Rope on the side of a boat at Halifax's historic waterfront area. I love the texture in this picture, how it has a tactility of its own that has little to do with the way coarse rope feels if you actually reach out and touch it. It's soft, like a drawing done with a 2H pencil, and for some reason the clarity of the lines and the shifting depth of field reminds me of those 19th-century photographs printed from glass-plate negatives.

Taken using a Mamiya twin-lens reflex camera, not sure if it was the 220 or the 330; and hand-held light meter. I've posted some other pictures taken on medium-format film during this time, and I like the way they turned out.

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Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Earth Hour (March 27, 2010)

Taken at The Gem pub, in Toronto; a pleasant ending to a leisurely day with friends Alex and Tom. Earlier in the afternoon, we'd spent a few hours at an event organised by volunteers working with Parkdale-High Park MP Gerard Kennedy. We watched live a telecast of the "Canada 150" conference happening in Montreal that weekend, and participated in a Skype chat with Gerard, who was attending the conference; to complete the social-networking-politics-nerdiness we were all sending Twitter updates from mobile devices, throughout the afternoon.

After the event ended we went for a stroll in High Park, which appeared as if it were in momentarily arrested state between winter and spring; there was no growth yet, but the ground and air were warming up. I'd never actually seen the animal enclosures at the park before, and we walked past them on our way around (I thought they looked forlorn and the animals were probably rather bored... I always find I'm uncomfortable seeing animals in enclosures).

We ended up later at The Gem, where the lights were turned out at 8pm for Earth Hour. as always I do prefer candlelight to electricity, so this was a charming treat.

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Monday, May 3, 2010

Consumerism (April 16, 2010)

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Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Hole in the Hull (February 6, 2010)

This boat, moored at the Picton Marina, was actually a restaurant (Echo Bar & Cafe). For small treats, this clever little installation was available in the side of the boat (ice-creams and cold drinks, primarily). It was a hot day; I was lured towards the counter as I walked back to the waterfront after a short hike and some boat-watching, and I had a banana milkshake.

Perfect for Waitangi Day afternoon!
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Saturday, May 1, 2010

Sunset by the Thames (March 4, 2008)

Beautiful spring evening down by the riverside. This was after walking over the Tower Bridge from The City and then towards London Bridge station, near London City Hall.

I liked the back-lit effect, and the globes and strings of lights against the evening sky, a complicated silhouette of the city with its domes and cranes and towers, the last light reflecting off the river and the polished stone.

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