Archive for January, 2009

Better Late than Never

Well, I thought that no one would want to hear my relatively typical account of going to Obama’s inauguration a week after the fact, but I know Robert does, so here it goes for you my Unk.

I bought tickets to D.C.  soon after the election, when my lovely host Ashley, sent out a call on facebook inviting all her friends out to the inauguration. I wrote back “really?” and when the invite was affirmed I dug into a ticket search. So why go to Washington? We didn’t have tickets for anything (I never learned the ass kissing necessary for these kinds of things) and though we stood on the Mall with a view of the capitol and many tiny little specks on the steps, I pretty much watched it on TV (though my TV was a Jumbotron) like everyone else. I guess I was really excited, I am still really excited, to have voted and actually wanted to vote, to have actually wanted to vote for someone and then to have that person win. It was certainly a historic moment, but for me it was that this was the first time that politics has seemed to be about my generation. No more arguing about who was in the Vietnam war and who was at Woodstock getting stoned instead. To my parent’s generation: these things were important, certainly, but things have happened since then and the world is different. And though those differences may not be important to you or even apparent, they are the reason a politcal figure has never really been able to speak to me, because they haven’t tried to, they have been speaking to you. I mean really, we have never had a president who has sent an e-mail while in office, while this is pretty much the only means of long distance communication I like? Thank goodness for Obama’s Blackberry. So my political interest was raised and is still flying pretty high (Meeting with Republicans to flesh out stimulus ideas, or for those of you who are a bit to consevative for the NY times here is the CSM article, that’s pretty good as far as I’m concerned) and that, and the joy of visiting with Ashley and talking Reedese, got me to Washington.

When I went though customs in Montreal the (American, of course) border gaurd warned me about all the people that would be there. When I told him, “worse comes to worse, I’ll hang out at my friend’s house instead” he admonished me and told me I had to be there, to tell my kids about how I was in history. I was going to do that anyway, but it pleased me that I made the border gaurd jelous of my trip.


The first few days in DC Ashley and I scampered around D.C, saw the constitution, took photos with the white house and the Washington monument, got a bra fitting by a terse little French woman, seeing an inaugural burlesque show, all the usual DC things. We also visited the art show curated by Shepard Fairey, the poster artist responsible for the red and black Andre the Giant posters all over the country and the now even more ubiquitous image of Obama in Red White Blue and Black. We decided that the art was better viewed as graphic design for a political movement rather than art. That certainly made it more interesting and I think showed the vibrancy of visual culture around politics that I don’t think has been around since the 60s. We also got to hang out, drink Pimms and lemonade, eat a boatload of muchcheaperandmorevariedthaninCanada ice cream and play Rock Band, pretty much the best group video game I’ve ever played.

Okay okay, you want me to get down to business. On Monday night we went over to Noah’s house for a wonderful celebration dinner party and stayed overnight as it was much closer to the Mall than Ashley’s. (Thanks again for your hospitality Noah). We woke up early Tuesday, grabbed the requesite cup of coffee in Georgetown and started walking. Before we were a mile away the closed off street was filled with pedestrian traffic. Our relatively large group had to keep stopping to regroup, but we all filed in to the mall and skirted around the crowds around the first few Jumbotrons. We ended up right in front of the Washington monument 1.2 miles away. That means I could have started to run to the capital steps when Obama started his speech and given him a hug before the end without breaking a sweat. Of course I couldn’t actually do that, that sort of thing is not allowed, especially not without a ticket.

So once we staked out our spot we stood in the cold for another 3-4 hours. Some volunteer had given me a flag and I spent my time waving it with a big smile on my face, accidently trying to poke Ashley in the eye and feeling exeptionally patriotic taking photos of the flag with the Washington Monument, even though researchers claim that flags actually invoke more nationalism than patriotism, I don’t buy it. Oh and of course singing along to the replayed concert from Sunday.

I found the whole process quite touching. I know the inaugural speech genre is not supposed to be the most moving, and it certainly didn’t hit Obama’s other speeches, but it did it for me. I especially liked that he aknowledged non-believers when he was was mentioning the religions America is made of. To you nay sayers (I know who you are) who say that he was just trying to blanket everybody, tell me the last time a president has blanketed non-believers. Much better than Romney’s as long as you believe in something bullcrap (apparently be backpedaled that one). Oh and I liked the returning science to it’s rightful place. Who doesn’t like science? Who doesn’t think science is good? Yeah.

So I admit, I got a little teary eyed.

After the ceremony it took us a good 2 hours to get off the Mall. That part was not design particurally well, but there were portapotties a pleanty so I can’t lay too much blame. Back in Georgetown we ate pizza and watched the parade on TV.

The inaugural excitement over, Wednesday, Ashley and I got a tour of the Library of Congress from my friend Katy’s awesome dad. Ashley almost jumped out of her pants at getting to see the stacks. I then halled my but across the Mall to the Lincoln Memorial and the Vietnam Memorial and then hauled myself back to Union station to get to my flight to return to my real less exciting life.

Oh, I didn’t mention that we saw Obama’s motorcad, so technically as much of Obama as those people at the parade. I would love to travel by motorcad, so much faster.


Better than a bus stop

Vancouver has been shrouded in a dense fog for the last week. Walking to class I’m lucky to see the building I’m walking up to. West Vancouver, where my studio went yesterday to meet with the curator of the museum we are working on, is also bathed in the visible moisture. When it was time to go, a group of us hopped into Arash’s car under the supposition that he was taking us to the bus stop. Instead he stared driving up the mountain- the mountain being one of the ubiquitous ones on all postcards of the city and for that matter in all views of the city. We kept going up in to newer and newer construction looking at bigger and bigger houses. Finally we broke through the clouds.

We got the kind of light and sunset, so to speak, that I can’t remember seeing in Vancouver. The rich warmth of a late afternoon sun that has nothing to compete with but a strong horizon, her provided by the clouds.

The cloud had that purly whiteness flecked with rose and purple shadows that I’ve seen a few times from planes, but here it seemed as though, if only I was a little braver, I could jump upon the closest rooftop and use it as a springboard to land in the velvety softness. Construction is still going on in this area and what Olena joked about the rich having a monopoly of the sun (or was it Jonathan) seemed a little bit more than eerie.  I snapped a couple more shots on the way down. I really like this one.I was happy to welcome this unexpected delight into my day. Thanks Arash.

A corner with a view

Im in green

Studio layout for the semester: I'm in green

New Semester: one week down, many more to go.

Monday saw the studio lottery. We rank the studios we’d like to take and the school comes back a day later to tell us what we will take. The large open 3rd floor of the Lassare building is is scematically divided by studio (above). We find a new desk or move our old one, staking out where we will spend the majority of our waking hours. This term I’m in the green, in a corner right next to the printers. Nicely sequestored as long as folks don’t have printing trouble.

from my desk

from my desk

My studio is with Jerzy, a professor with first generation modernist sensiblities and a rumoured love of cookies. I’m fond of Jerzy because in the course I took with him last year he quoted Picasso and Herodotus side by side in a class assignment. It is the only time I’ve seen an architecture professor quote an ancient greek historian.

We will be working on a small museum in West Vancouver- MAAD- the museum of art architecture and design. Hopefully I’ll get plenty of time to engage my extensive beliefs and ideas about museums. I’ll keep you updated as we move along. Apparently West Vancouver was a hot bed of northwest modernsim in the 50s. Whodathunk.

Learning to Love Vancity (part 1)

Most people have heard me complain about Vancouver in the last year and a half I’ve been here and maybe its just that I’m slow to love and appreciate things, but bits and pieces are beginning to grow on me.

Though the snow of the last two weeks has begun to melt off the sidewalks and is gone from all the major roadways, our car is surrounded by heaps of snow created by people and snow plows shoveling snow off the sidewalk and off the street and onto the pavement around our truck.

While I recognize that it would not be particularly difficult to borrow a shovel and stand in traffic and shovel the snow somewhere, I don’t mind waiting until the rain washes it away. Though neither Colin nor I use the car during the week, this as afforded us a pristine view of all that we can walk to in our neighborhood, even over icy sidewalks. We live in the part of Vancouver most tourists never get to. Right, not on the island peninsula thing with the big glassy green condos but one the larger peninsula to the south. The part of Vancouver that my father affectionately  calls the ‘burbs (because, as a child of the 50s he doesn’t seem to to have a negative connotation associated with suburbs). While I see his point about the rows of tree-lined streets and single family homes dotted with the occasional three story walkup it is well within the city limits, blocks from city hall and surrounded by what makes a city for me, diversity of people, services and activities all within walking distance.

While our walking distance (about a mile one way) is a bit longer than the urban planning 400 m (1/4 mile) its still pretty impressive. Our favorite grocery store is 1 mile away but closer than that are 2 (soon to be 3) Whole Foods style groceries, plus 2 other regular grocery stores, and I’m not talking fruit stand, thats a whole other story, these are full on grocery stores. There are at least 3 bars within stumbling distance (though prices keep us from excessive stumbling) and at least 10 coffee shops, plus we’ve found a plethora of breakfast places a handful of which are good and many which we haven’t tried.

Many of these aspects I think are not unique to Vancouver, but I’m sure that whenever I move I will be appalled at the lack of veggie stands. Small storefronts selling only fruits and vegetables (with a few coolers in the back) are all over Vancouver. They often have the best and the cheapest veggies and we have about four in our walking area. There are also 2 independent movie rentals with a decent selection and appropriately cocky employees another Vancouver special so to speak as they are scattered all over the city. Finally, though we don’t have any good Mexican food that I have found yet, how many people can claim great Vietnamese, Chinese and Japanese noodle places all within walking distance. To top it off we have Toshi’s, one of the best sushi places I’ve ever been to on our block and we’ve figured out their secret takeout system- you’ll have to come visit for this one.

To end this fit of praise I’ll send you off with a picture. A cute vinage theater that I have only been to once. Nonetheless I consistently appreciate its presence.  



Last Day of Respite

Late afternoon light on those rare sunny days- like the 2nd.

Late afternoon light on those rare sunny days- like the 2nd.

Yesterday it snowed again all day, but now even without rain it appears to be melting again. That said it will take time, maybe through the end of the month, for the layers of snow and ice to melt from the unmaintained sidewalks and sidestreets and at least that long before we can move our car without buying a shovel.

The weather is perfectly suited to my state today. I came down with a cold, like my body jsut realized that school is starting on Monday and it won’t have another chance to be nursed to health until May. It’s given me the chance to read a book in 2 days, something I haven’t done in some time and of course the kitten doesn’t mind me staying home all day to play catch.

New Beginnings?

Well here we are in 2009. I’ve been meaning to get this thing rolling for quite a while and since one of my New Years resolutions is about reflection, here’s the forum. Colin (I hope my blog co-conspirator) and I came up with the slightly heavy title. The term Well-behaved narrative came up in my architectural history course last term and I fell in love with it. But of course what we have simply is not a well-behaved narrative, life rarely is. Nonetheless as we record our lives we tend to strive toward order and meaning. So basically I’m letting you know that all the sense I make of things is a ruse. 


So to start with the best ruse of them all, the idea that we can successfully mark out new beginnings on an arbitrary day each year-

New Years Resolutions

  • Focus: when it is time to focus focus
  • Reflect: that’s what this whole things is about. I’ve found recently that I often don’t have anything to say about what I am doing. I think that it is not because I actually have nothing to say (come now), but because I haven’t taken the time to clarify things for myself. 
  • Time for myself: That means taking the time to workout and do some pottery.
  • Do not overcommit: This really just means thinking for a few seconds before I volunteer to do something.
  • Use my camera: for more that just photographing models

So that’s that. Welcome back.

When we wrote

January 2009
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