Monday, December 20, 2010

Longevity


It's come to my attention that there's another entity on Blogger by the name of Cultural Flotsam, this one with a hyphen in the URL.
Ever the competitive gal, I am happy to point out (rub in) that I launched my blog a full 103 days before this guy. Woot!
Furthermore, he seems to have had a rather short run at it (essentially 7 posts to my, ahem, 56 and counting).

Still, I can sympathize. According to some researchers, up to 95% of blogs are abandoned within their first year of life. This New York Times article by Douglas Quenqua, titled "Blogs Falling in an Empty Forest", paints a rather dire picture (why bother when one can just Tweet?). It also reveals that most people who blog hanker for a huge following, constant feedback, and even imagine they can make money or land a book deal out of it. But I recently came across a rather enlightening site (you may have heard of by now) by Chris Guillebeau called The Art of Non-Conformity. I became aware of it via his inspiring, free how-to manual titled 279 Days to Overnight Success, (which you can download from his site), which essentially chronicles his journey from Joe-job, 9-to-5er, to ProBlogger. And one who actually makes a decent living at it, to boot.

While I am light years away from that (and have other, equally off-the-beaten-path priorities that I've invested enormous time and effort into already and am doggedly dedicated to) I love hearing from other people who are doing it, succeeding at it, and who are re-writing the codes for every day living. We should all be so lucky and inspired.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Rules / Signs - New York Special



I was in New York City recently for the NY Art Book Fair, the now colossal event put together by Printed Matter. But that was just a convenient excuse to finally get my butt down there after a too long absence. (It's like, 6 hours away by car. What's my problem??)

But this isn't about that. As you can imagine, this edition of Rules/Signs is just a taste of what's out there...


BEAUTY BAR - somewhere in Chelsea:
The great thing about this type of place in this type of city is I'm still not sure if this place is a bar, or a hair salon, or a "gentlemen's club" or cosmetics store, or all three. It's possible.


DANGER:
On the way up to The High Line (which is awesome, by the way). Um, why the allusion to giant crumbling alpha-blocks of concrete, anyway?




BROOKLYN: Keep it clean!


Lions and Burgers and Rolls! Oh, my!
When plain old black just won't do.

This next trio is from The New Museum. I didn't realize every square foot of real estate in these places has been sponsored by patrons. How amazing to have a drinking fountain named after oneself. That's nuts! Had they run out of emergency exits? In the hierarchy of sponsorship, seems the drinking fountain would be kind of low on the totem pole. Still worthy of a plaque tho. Well, thank you for supporting contemporary art, Mr and Mrs Campbell!






Huh?


Ha ha. It's CANADA Gallery, silly!

Last one:

Dexter Sinister. This was actually an on-purpose destination. Unfortunately, we just caught the tail-end of their book launch (no more booze) but we picked up a publication or two.

Warfarin' Stranger



I usually wear earplugs to bed. This habit began years ago not due to a snoring spouse, but because I was being driven half-crazy by the scratching, gnawing, squeaking sounds of a mouse. When it became clear that my usual arsenal of poison, traps, steel wool and even the occasional 'cat for hire' wasn't enough to keep them at bay (especially in the fall and winter), I resolved that if they were going to have their way in my kitchen at night, then gosh dern it, they would not rob me of my sleep.

Growing up on a farm, I was used to the sight of mice, although usually in the jaws of a cat. But that was long, long ago. I so wish I could deal with these little problems with the poise and matter-of-fact calm I once possessed as a nine-year old barnyard explorer.
But no. I scream. City life has turned me into a wuss.

I should stress here that although I am by now quite familiar with mus musculus, this is not an indication of an unkempt house. I practice good, solid housekeeping skills, all my dry-goods are in jars or plastic containers with tight-fitting lids, and I have plugged and re-plugged every single crack, hole, and crevice I can find. But aie, there's the rub. They know the place better than I do. Some people mistakenly believe that only drafty 100-year-old houses have mice. Wrong-o (they have ghosts). Mice can squeeze through holes the diameter of a pencil. A PENCIL!!! So don't underestimate those tiny crevices. They are a mouse's portal to Nirvana!

For those of you who share my plight but are new to the game, here are few tips I've learned over the years.

BARRIERS: Medium steel wool is best for plugging holes. Jam it in there real tight. If they try to chew through it they'll cut the insides of their delicate mouths (plus it's a killer on those fillings). Silicone and expanding insulating foam are totally useless. They chew through that like buddah.

TRAPS: I find the old fashioned snap traps the most effective. As mice have very poor vision and navigate mostly through smell (hence the poo-trails) they are wary of new obstacles in their paths and may avoid traps despite the tempting food (although they can also be finicky eaters). A very effective tip is to place a few unset traps out for a few days to let them get used to running over them, sans conséquence. Then bait and expect results. Also, wear rubber gloves in order to not leave any human scent on the trap. Place traps in groups of two or three with bait side against the wall, in areas you suspect they frequent most.

BAIT: I've tried lots of different mouse trap bait options. My current favourite is cold BACON GREASE. I've also had success with raisins and peanut butter. Despite ubiquitous representation throughout the history of popular culture, cheese is not their preferred choice. I've had a few remarkable experiences with bait disappearing without the trap being set off, which baffles me to this day. I have actually tied things like popped corn, nuts, etc. to the lever, and they somehow managed to get away unscathed.

DISPOSAL: Once the deed is done, don't just toss the whole shebang in the garbage. Lift and separate! If you can't bear the sight of the thing, cover the whole mess with a plastic bag and feel your way through it to lift the snapper and release the vile creature into the trash. Come on! Channel your inner farm-girl and be a man! No toilet disposal either. That's just stupid.

EXTERMINATORS: If all else fails (or your nerves are just to fried to deal with it anymore) it may be time to call in the pros.
Like most exterminators, Poulins Pest Control has a great sense of humour. I'm not sure they still do this, but for years this Winnipeg company had one of those roadside signs with changeable letters that usually advertise specials, etc. They had a rotating roster of so-bad-its-good pest themed puns that made the drive to or from the Norwood Bridge just a little brighter. Anyone out there in Winnipeg-land remember any of them? (Brother Don - this one's for you...) Their site is super informative. As you can read in the 'About' section, the business began, circa 1946, as a result of the death of the young Poulin boy's puppy by a pack of rats. Talk about revenge!

Word on the street has it that many of today's rodents are resistant to the once ubiquitous warfarin. This immediately conjures horrifying visions of "super-mice" (Mighty Mice?) who will one day grow the size of bears and strangle me in my sleep. But in the meantime, there are other, more potent products out there that are keeping us at least one step ahead. Products such as: Rodend! Ratak!! Ratsak! Pestroy!! Pestoff!!! (emphasis mine!)

Of course, as most people's advice dictates, I could just "get a cat!".
Sure, but then I would have a cat.

Links:

http://www.victorpest.com/store/rodent-control/mouse-traps

Wayfarin' Stranger

Happy Holidaze!



I hate to think that my bloggerism is diminishing, but the truth is in the numbers: I need to post 3 more times before the bell tolls on December 31 in order to match the number of posts I had for 2009 and 2008 (a meagre 10 - but at least they were all earnest, informative and cheeky).

So, in a bit of shameless, last-minute rattrapage, I will produce over the next few hours (days if necessary) the required quota - if only to save my pride and convince myself and my 3 regular readers (more like "occasional checkers" by this point) that there are still interesting things in the world to share on this here site.

And while I'm at it, I wish you all (three of you) HAPPY HOLIDAZE!!! and BEST WISHES FOR @)!! Oops! 2011. Too bad you probably won't read this until the spring.

Love,
JB
CEO, Cultural Flotsam Enterprises, Inc.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Prairie storm clouds

A severe rain/wind/hail storm passed through parts of Manitoba on July 26 and it left these beautiful clouds in its wake. Hail is quite possibly a farmer's worst nightmare during the summer months, so here's hoping the damage was minimal.
















More crazy hail storm clouds here and here!

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Rules / Signs: Manitoba Special


This second installment of Rules / Signs is 100% Manitoba stock, freshly picked from my annual summer trip home. Winnipeg remains a gold-mine of vintage signs, bad puns, and other weird and wonderful visual signage. Ellice and Notre Dame are especially good, and I've vowed to keep documenting them while they last (many are for old businesses that are probably on the brink of closing).

Special thanks to my Winnipeg hosts, Andrew and Candida, who most generously lent me their digital camera after I forgot mine at home (*%@**#&!!).

Under the category of RULES:

OKAY! At the Playland Arcade, Winnipeg Beach.




Translation: Piss the night away in our outhouses! Winnipeg Beach.





I much prefer diving into a giant bowl of dry concrete myself.
Gertrude at Osborne, behind the old "Dutch Maid" antiques shop (best in the city).


Self-righteous weekend day-tripping cyclists beware! In Wolseley.




Aww. Value Village.




SIGNS that make you say "huh?"

Alien abduction area. Gimli, MB



Part of this car dealer's schtick is claiming "they cut the mustard".
Cam Clarke Ford dealership on Main Street around North Kildonan, Wpg.




On Sherbrook near Westminster.






...and it starts with dumpster diving!
Back lane near Langside and Westminster.



Cute / Bad:

I would like to amass a collection of bad pun signs. Hair salons are notorious for these. Winnipeg Beach.





On the opposite side of the spectrum are businesses that can't be bothered to come up with any uniquely identifying name at all. Main Street, Gimli




Entrance to the former St. Charles Hotel, on Notre Dame at Albert St.



Self-loathing ninja dragon spray-paints claws / douses feet with perfume (?).
Gertrude and Osborne.




Tasty links:

A Flickr photostream from someone else who loves WPG signs

Sunday, April 18, 2010

MONSTER TRUCK SPECTACULAR !!!



Last night I indulged in one of my long-standing wishes / guilty pleasures: the MONSTER TRUCK SPECTACULAR, here at Montreal's Stade Olympique . I was lucky to attend with seasoned-veteran-friends who are always able to score some excellent seats. Jacked-up on over-priced chips, hot dogs and Coors Lite, I was, as they say, ready to rumble.







This double-decker car derby was sort of the equivalent of the fat Shriners riding the tiny bicycles. Top car guy handles the steering while bottom car guy handles gas and breaks. This show is of course accompanied by loud, play-by-play commentary by two men who I'm sure just live for this stuff, and the evening's events provided many memorable lines.

Memorable quote #1, in reference to the double-decker cars. Imagine this screamed into a microphone, Hulk Hogan style:
"AND THEY CAN'T COMMUNICATE WITH EACH OTHER! IT'S LIKE TWO HALVES OF THE SAME BRAIN SPLIT APART!!"

Much hilarity ensues especially when the radiators blow up and steam comes pouring out from under the hoods. Or, they tip over. Memorable hyperbolic quote #2:
"YOU GOT 2000 POUNDS OF METAL ON TOP OF YA! IT'S NOT SUPPOSED TO BE THAT WAY!!!"



The thing about these Monster truck shows is that they really appeal to the old-fashioned "fire and brimstone" kind of crowd. Lots of noise, lots of big power, and lots of everything in sight getting totally obliterated for no reason other than it being there. Oh, and fire.
Memorable hyperbolic quote #3 :
"YOU GOTTA LOVE A GUY WHO WOULD SACRIFICE HIS FIRE-PROOF VEST TO PUT THE FLAMES OUT ON HIS ENGINE!"







Saturday, March 27, 2010

Jogger



I recently took up jogging. Well, that's actually sort of false, on two counts. 'Recently' is more like 10 years ago, when I tried it out for the first time and nearly died because I didn't know what I was doing. And 'jogging' is also a bit of an exaggeration at this point. It's more like wogging. At this early stage, I'm easing into it by altering walking and jogging, eventually phasing the walking part out.

My initial will to run regularly waned rather fast that first time, but the flame never totally went out. Since then, I have had what I like to call 'my annual jog', which usually occurred sometime during the first blush of spring. I did that just to remind myself that it was still a possibility. That maybe it would one day 'take'. I was encouraged by my friend Karen who told me it took her 11 years to finally get it. I think it's kind of like quitting smoking. It won't work unless you're really ready for it. Influenced and encouraged by a few close friends to make a more concerted effort, I did, and realized my time was now.

First stop: running store. Boutique Endurance on Saint Denis in Montreal is excellent. I didn't realize, though, that as a beginner, part of the deal of getting outfitted with the proper pair of shoes involves running several paces on a track inside the store. I just thought that track was a clever design element. Wrong-o. Well, mild humiliation aside, it proves that these guys know what they're doing, as just those few pounding steps demonstrate how your foot falls, whether your knees buckle in, and just what type of support you need to correct or balance those mechanics. So after a few tryouts, I settled on the beauties pictured above. The Brooks Adrenaline GTS 10, in Chambray / Midnight Fog / White. They are hideous. But they're the most dreamily comfortable shoes I've ever worn. Pillows, they are. But gawd almighty why do they all have to be such a dog's breakfast of mesh and shiny space-age flash?  But at least I got away with a decent blue and not some obnoxious pink or mint green. It would have been rather counter-effective to wear bags over them I think.

So while it may take me another few years to really 'take' to this, I'm bolstered by the fact that I'm equipped to do it in comfort, if not in style.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Dare we say it? (Spring is here!)

So far, the winter of 2009-2010 has mercifully spared us some of its harsher blows. Of course, March - the cruelest month - has just begun, so we may get our comeuppance yet. (Ever the pessimist!)

Our relatively light snowfall - February was a record breaker with only 2 cm - has meant that Montreal's (in)famous snow-clearing crews have been mostly absent from our streets and sidewalks. This is a good thing. Recent winters were quite unkind. 2009 was an annus horribilis for them, as evidenced most brutally by the no less than 3 accidental deaths that occurred - on the same day - as a result of an unfortunate meeting between large snow removal equipment and pedestrians. See these news links for more:

From CTV.ca

From CBC.ca

Otherwise, playing a crucial support role in our annual plow n' haul ritual are these wee little sidewalk clearing bulldozers:



Don't be fooled by their size. They are terrifying. As that blur of movement suggests, these things whip down narrow walks with a reckless, take-no-prisoners abandon. Many of the drivers I've seen look about 18 and jacked up on RedBull, which explains the joy-ride aspect. If you left your precious bike locked to the front fence or lamp post, consider it mangled. As a child I had an inexplicable fear of trains. Even though we lived about half a mile away from the track, the sound of a distant train whistle would have me running for cover. This is my new train. In the peace and quiet of softly falling snow at night, there is nothing more terrifying than that unmistakable rev and rumble...

It's getting closer...
It's turning the corner...
It's heading straight for you...
It's in your house!!

Anybody remember this long-forgotten B-horror movie?:




Meanwhile, here's a little taste of how people in other, less snow-seasoned areas are coping with this year's blasts:

in Baltimore, Maryland

in London

And finally, here's a nifty little site that is chock-a-block with pics and fun facts about winter in Montreal.

Land of Snow

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Happy New Decade!



The New Year is good a time for self-reflection, planning, purging (puking?), patting yourself on the back for jobs well done, or kicking yourself in the butt for not getting off the couch more often. Same old, same old.

But a new decade puts a bit of a time-warp on things, as we look back on the decade that was, and try to remember just what it was that we did with all that was. 1999 seems like just a short trot back in time (Y2K panic!) and like ancient history. How is that? It's true, Father Time seems to step just a little harder on the accelerator the older we get.

Well, while you contemplate the universe and your place within in, you can bone up on a little ancient history (well, 1910, anyway) on this site I randomly found. Chock-a-block with fun facts, tidbits and trivia you can bore your friends with all year long.

Santé!