Don't Shake the Flask

Because you don't know if it'll explode

Category: Uncategorized

Some Notes from the Museums

I love going to museums, but sometimes the other museum patrons drive me nuts. I thought today would be a great day to go to the local museums because most people would be staying at home due to the iffy weather. Unfortunately, that didn’t help me avoid the lady who glared at me as if I should just crawl back into the nearest ghetto even though I wasn’t bothering anyone while I was looking at a painting. Or overhearing some old guy loudly complaining that one of the latest exhibits was “dated”. Seriously, dude. Everything in that exhibit was made before 1973. What did you expect?! Pictures of Justin Effin Bieber?

Anyways, aside from that, I saw some new art exhibits at Balboa Park. As I’ve mentioned on Twitter, the Museum of Photographic Arts (MOPA) is a really interesting gem that not many people pay attention to. Currently, they have some Ansel Adams photographs as well as an exhibit of contemporary Californian photographers. It’s fascinating contrasting the two–Adams is well known for grand nature in black in white which can, in turns, evoke timelessness and nostalgia (although these days with the destruction of the environment, it feels like Adams has documented a past that will never be any more). The contemporary Californian photographers have also documented nature, but in color, abstraction, and scarring by humans on the landscape. It’s as if nature is not simply nature any more but some kind of idea that humanity has marked, transformed, and destroyed. There’s a sort of beauty to that, too, but it’s also stark and terrible.

At the Mingei International Museum, which specializes in folk art, I’d like to point out one of its newest exhibits on tools and utensils. There’s all sorts of interesting tools there, everything from rug beaters to betel nut cutters (as well as the usual saws and hammers and mixing spoons). An entire section is devoted to Japanese lacquer tools. Apparently the hairs on the brushes are made from human hair–specifically of Japanese women. Which is pretty creepy if you think about it for any length of time.

The major new exhibit at the San Diego Museum of Art is a retrospective of Louis Kahn, an American architect. I think the only work of his that I’ve seen in person is the Salk Institute in La Jolla. He primarily worked in Philadelphia and transformed urban planning in that city. Kahn’s style is very geometrical. There’s a lot of evidence that he drew his inspiration from nature and science, yet at the same time, his structures don’t feel quite comfortable–they are too perfect to fit into the landscape. Postcard aficionados out there would also find this exhibit particularly interesting because a number of Kahn’s postcards to his family are also on display. It’s less about the message than his choice in postcards, though. He always chose postcards that showed the ancient architecture of the places he was visiting. And the classic lines of these ancient buildings also influenced his style.

Another new exhibit was one entitled “Visible Vaults”, where a section of the museum was transformed into a replica of its archives. Most of the museum patrons, I noticed, passed by this exhibit, too afraid to touch anything even though there were signs encouraging interactivity. Me? I was like a kid in a candy store–I looked in all the cases and pulled open every drawer to check out what was inside. I found some really cool stuff, like a nightmarish etching by Goya of men with bat wings. Or a drawing by Andy Warhol of butterflies.

Finally, at the Fleet Science Center, I went to see the world’s largest display of LEGO art by Nathan Sawaya. The start of the exhibit starts out pretty safely with replicas of famous art in those tiny plastic bricks. But then, as you wind further into the exhibit, things take a dark turn as Sawaya gets into his own art. The penultimate series of LEGO sculptures was probably my favorite because they were a nihilistic interpretation of traditional American postcards. In some ways, it was surprising this got exhibited at all. The science center caters more towards kids and you’d think that anything with LEGOs should equal happy fun times. But I’m glad this was shown because it’s a great illustration of the fact that you can still express some serious, adult ideas with media that society might arbitrarily deem “childish”.

Postcard #12 – Cows from Germany

This is one thing that I had learned after joining Postcrossing. There are a lot of people on there who love postcards with cows. I do not understand the fascination with cows. Cats and dogs, yes. Hamsters and even hedgehogs? Yes. All animals in general? Okay. But cows? One or two people, I understand, but it’s really confusing when every other swap partner you get puts “cows” under their list of interests.

I worked with cows for a little bit as a graduate student. I can say that I’m probably one of the shrinking number of Americans who can actually milk a cow. (I’m an extremely unlikely person to even have this skill, but not as unlikely as, say, someone who might be in the top 1%.) Cows are smelly and dirty (and yes, I’ve also seen them at county fairs–but they’re washed and groomed deliberately for judging) and recalcitrant, if they’re feeling nice. I don’t hate cows, but I wouldn’t put them on the top of my list of cuddly fluff balls either.



The Holiday Ghost Story Challenge

After reading this article on the tradition of telling ghost stories during Christmas, I was inspired to come up with a writing challenge for December. Sure, I’m still trying to finish this year’s NaNoWriMo novel, but I also wanted a break to do something fun. So why not try my hand at writing a ghost story?

The challenge is this: write a holiday ghost story/winter-themed creepy story (all up to your own interpretation) and post it somewhere (like a blog or website) by December 24. If you think you’d like to try your hand at this, let me know (either in the comments or by email) where you’ve posted your story by December 24, 11:59 PM Pacific Time and I’ll post a link to it on December 25.

And if you don’t want to post your story anywhere for whatever reason, that’s cool, too. It’s a writing challenge, not a posting challenge. The whole aim of this is to have fun and not to stress yourself out.

Of course I’m planning on doing the challenge myself since I came up with it. I’ll post my short story here on this blog, warts and all (well, with at least one run-through with spellcheck) for your reading pleasure or ridicule on Christmas Eve.

This Blog Has Moved

Since Blogger is no longer supporting blogs using FTP, I have decided to move on to a different blogging platform. The archives since 2000 will stay here. But I am now blogging at Don’t Shake the Flask.

Really Cold

Today was clear and cold. Not good weather for walking about unless you want to turn into an icicle.

After checking out, my sister and I left our luggage in care of the hotel while we wandered about Toronto some more before we leave in the evening. We went to Chinatown and had dim sum at Dim Sum Banquet which was a lot more traditional in layout compared to the place we went to in Montreal. Here, the ladies carting around the food screamed out their wares like fishwives–which I found hilarious.

Then we wandered around the University of Toronto and took some pictures (primarily for our father’s benefit) before riding a bit on the subway to make use of our day pass. For dinner, we went to Queen Mother’s Cafe, which unlike the restaurant we went to on New Year’s Eve, truly serves Asian fusion. I had the Pad Thai which was quite good.

At the moment, I’m waiting at VIA Rail Canada’s lounge for people taking the sleeper cars. In some ways, I’m excited about taking this transcontinental trip, but then again, I’m not so sure about the other passengers. They’re all of a certain type, if you know what I mean. Retirees with money to spend. I’m doing this on a semi-impulsive lark so we’ll see how this goes.

Wandering Around Toronto

We had breakfast at a small mom-and-pop cafe called Daily Brew on Bay before heading to a bookstore a block away which claimed to be The World’s Biggest Bookstore. Honestly? Not even close. The chain bookstores in Canada such as Chapters and Indigo might even have more square footage.

Later in the day, we headed to Greektown on Danforth where our parents had lived while our dad was in grad school. But since that was about three decades ago, we figured that whatever had been up back then had either been torn down or renovated beyond recognition. We had some appetizers at The Friendly Greek and bought some cookies at a local Greek bakery called Athena.

Then it was back to the Eaton Centre in downtown where I was pretty much dragged along on the next chapter on my sister’s quest for the perfect boot. And you guessed it: no boot found.

Also: No blog post for the next week due to my train trip across Canada. If I can get reception on the cell I’m borrowing, any updates will be on my account on Twitter.

From 20100101_Toronto
From 20100101_Toronto
From 20100101_Toronto
From 20100101_Toronto

Happy New Year!

While I’m still in the process of uploading the crazy, grainy video I took with my camera around midnight, here are some photos I took right before the hand hit twelve.

Right before we hit Nathan Phillips Square for the New Year’s celebrations, we wandered a bit around downtown Toronto and got dinner at an “Asian fusion” restaurant called Made in China. The atmosphere was cute and chic–definitely for hip, young people–but the food was only so-so. I guess in decor and food, one has to give somewhere.

From 20091231_Toronto
From 20091231_Toronto
From 20091231_Toronto

A Train Ride to Toronto

Early in the morning, we headed to Grand Central and took the 57 from Montreal to Toronto. It was pretty much uneventful. The scenery looked mostly misty due to snow. This evening, though, we may see the fireworks at Nathan Phillips Square across from Toronto’s Old City Hall.

Climbing, Sort of

After having brunch at Au Pain Doré, my sister and I headed off to Mount Royal Park. First we passed by Victoria Hospital (where my sister was born) and General Hospital (where I was born). Victoria Hospital had, well, a Victorian sensibility in its architecture which I found interesting. General Hospital was more modern and appeared to be under construction for a new wing. Unfortunately, the hiking trails were closed due to snow so we took a circuitous route via Côte-des-Neiges. At the park, we walked around and went inner tubing.

On our way to visiting the pièce de résistance, L’Oratoire Saint-Joseph du Mont-Royal, we passed by firetrucks in front of a smoking residence. But aside from that, the visit to the cathedral was intriguing.

And after all the hiking, we went to La Banquise which specializes in poutine. We got a classic one and one topped with chicken and peas. All I can say is: if you get a regular size (the smallest size), you can share it with two people. And it was a good thing we were hiking all day and were hungry because otherwise it would have been way too much.

Oh, and my sister dragged me to more stores to look at boots. Still no perfect boot.

From 20091230_Montreal
From 20091230_Montreal
From 20091230_Montreal
From 20091230_Montreal

Boot Insanity

Was mostly dragged through Montreal’s underground city to what seemed to be every store that sold boots in my sister’s quest for the perfect boot. No boot found, however.

Other things done today: visiting Christ Church (only the exterior since it was closed), visiting the interior of Basilique Cathedrale Marie-Reine-du-Monde, and having lunch at Boustan famous because it was frequented by former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau (very good, by the way).

From 20091229_Montreal
From 20091229_Montreal
From 20091229_Montreal