Friday, December 30, 2016

Welcome to a New Year...

Have a surreal 2017!
Look for the magic to happen in the New Year!
Here's hoping that 2017 is weird for you and that you find love in all the strange places!

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Like no one is watching...

Dance like you just don't care (what people think of you)...
Graceless...without rhythm... 
Who dances so awkwardly? 
Every white guy 😏
Unabashedly, free of self-consciousness -- and timing -- this guy gamely tried to bust out some air guitar moves to the music during a fall downtown street festival in Victoria.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Christmas ball

Tidal treasures on Parksville's main beach...
A colourful Christmas treasure...
During our first ski weekend of the season, my wife and I found ourselves beach combing in search of Tidal Treasures. It's a winter/spring tourist promotion event in nearby Parksville in which glass balls are hidden along local beaches.

We poked around the main beach in front of our condo for about forty-five minutes, not really expecting to find anything. Just as we were about to quit, I decided to look in the end of a hollowed out piece of driftwood. I gently kicked a pile of dead leaves aside. In the dark, wet mass I caught a glimpse of a smooth dark shape.

My wife was ecstatic. Her favourite colour is amethyst, the colour of the ball. Furthermore, the ball was marked with a red star which entitled us to a further prize of a gift coupon at a local restaurant.

The glass ball is the work of local artist Robert Held. It now has a place of honour in our living room.

The treasure hunt has been attracting people up and down the island to local beaches. We felt bad -- just a little -- for the nearby family who had apparently spent a couple of hours at the beach looking for one of the treasures.

Our amethyst Christmas ball...
Details of our amethyst Christmas ball...


Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Lights, trucks and rain...

Greater Victoria's annual Lighted Trucks Parade...
The bright lights of the annual Lighted Trucks Tour
pass through Saanich on a wet Saturday night
Aside from the Santa Claus Parade, the other big annual event that marks the season is the Lighted Trucks Parade. On this particular Saturday a few weeks ago, it was raining -- our cross to bear in this part of the country. However, the wet streets enhanced the colourful glow of the trucks so there was that...

Monday, December 19, 2016

Least effective camouflage...

Such bright blue feathers! 
Hiding among yellow leaves? 
You silly bird brain!

Friday, December 16, 2016

Yippee-kai-yay melon farmer!

The official Die Hard colouring book...
Bruce Willis... What IS the colour of badass?
Die Hard is THE classic 80s action-thriller. Bruce Willis starred as wise-cracking New York cop, John McClane, who must single-handedly take out the Euro-trash and kick them to the curb.

The movie created an entire movie genre; that of the heavily-outnumbered lone hero trapped behind 'enemy lines' (ocean liner, train, commercial airliner) who has to use his wits to evade and defeat the villain(s).

There are those who consider the movie a Christmas movie and there are the others who are wrong. In our house, it's required viewing at Christmas.

A few weeks ago, strolling through the local Walmart, I came across the official Die Hard colouring book! It's faithful to the movie, but does feature some tongue-in-cheek puzzles and games. An example -- seen in the right-hand side above -- challenges you to act as the TV network censor and substitute creative alternatives for the movie's explicit language.


Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Winter in Victoria? Snow big deal...

Red holly berries stand out against the fresh snow...
Red berries, white snow...
Victoria was recently hit with a burst of snow. It didn't last long. Just long enough that we can feel a small fraction of the pain that colder parts of the country go through.

The good news is that it's shaping up to be an awesome ski season.

Buddha still laughing in the snow...
Our garden Buddha is all good with the white stuff...

Monday, December 12, 2016

Featured Photographer: Nadav Kander

Donald Trump, Time magazine's Person of the Year...

I periodically feature the work of other photographers in this blog. I haven't done it in a long time, but this recent article inspired me to feature this image by Nadav Kander.

Initially, I was stupefied when Time magazine announced Donald Trump as their man of the year. However the article below completely changed my mind.

Why Time’s Trump Cover Is a Subversive Work of Political Art http://forward.com/culture/356537/why-times-trump-cover-is-a-subversive-work-of-political-art/

This article reminded me that the art and power of photography has really been cheapened in these days of digital photography and ubiquitous phone cameras.

There are undoubtedly some powerful photographs out there, but they are increasingly hard to find under the detritus of selfies that are filling up hard drives and servers everywhere.

Never before have we had so many means to document our times for our children and their children. Yet we increasingly turn our cameras toward ourselves in this act of digital masturbation, instead of turning them around to record the history that is passing by around us. It's depressing to think that this increasing self-absorption is blinding us to our crumbling planet.

Friday, December 9, 2016

No need to check YOUR privilege, Kris...

Santa appears during Victoria's Christmas parade...
Santa waves to his fans at the recent Victoria Christmas parade.
Santa Claus is probably the only old white guy who ISN'T vilified by the usual spectrum of left-leaning whiners.

Santa's biggest fans...
Santa's biggest fans...

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Dodgy...

Sketchy overhead wiring seen in Bucerias, Mexico...
Look up! Overhead!
Gordian knot of wiring
Looks sketchy to me...
Time for a haiku... I'm pretty sure this wiring, seen in the village of Bucerias near our resort in Mexico, doesn't meet any sort of electrical code.


Monday, December 5, 2016

Nature's sketchbook

Nature's sketchbook...
Believe it or not, not a special effect...
While walking the beach at Nuevo Vallarta, I was struck by the patterns produced in the sand by the surf. If you look at it 'upside down', i.e. inland rather than toward the water, it resembled this sketch-like effect of a forest of trees.

You can see them in the wide-angle view below for a better idea of how they are created.

Sky, surf and sand...
Sky, surf and sand meet...

Friday, December 2, 2016

Red sky at night

The sun sets over the bay at Puerto Vallarta...
The awesome end-of-day view from the rooftop tapas bar...
What's a tropical vacation without iconic sunsets?

A staff spinner catches some end-of-day twirls...
Twirling at the end of the day...
The fellow to the left was a daily visitor to the beach where he would practice his staff spinning.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The (s)mile high club

Flying high over the bay of Nuevo Vallarta...
Flying high over the beaches of Nuevo Vallarta...
Parasailing is ubiquitous in tropical resort locations and Nuevo Vallarta was no exception.

The older guy to the left here would walk up and down the beach flying the parachute like a kite to entice tourists into taking the plunge... erm, taking flight. I could only think that he must have some serious back muscles from pulling on this thing all day.

My wife and I are parasailing veterans so we passed on this particular adventure.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Surf City (Not)

In Nuevo Vallarta, these are considered dangerous waves...
Surfing the 'dangerous' waves of Nuevo Vallarta...
The beach near our resort wasn't ideal for surfing. The waves were large enough, but they curled and collapsed too quickly for any decent runs.

Still, anything is better than nothing, so I looked forward to getting on the water. It turned out to be an exercise in frustration. The local beach authority red flags the beaches anytime there is a hint of surf. The rental cabanas are not allowed to rent out gear when that happens. By West Coast standards the waves that rolled in would barely have earned a shrug from local surfers.

I did manage to get out for one morning for a few hours on an unbalanced paddle board with a too-long paddle. At one point I glanced down to see four stingrays swimming along beside me.

"Mental note," I thought. "DO NOT fall in the stingrays." It was a good incentive to make sure I stayed on the board.

A few days on the beach we witnessed a young girl being evacuated by ambulance. She had somehow been stung in the face by a stingray. There was a fair amount of blood that we could see, but otherwise she seemed okay.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Life and Death on a Mexican Beach

One baby sea turtle that didn't make it...
A dead sea turtle hatchling is a silent testament to harsh nature...
On our first day on the beach in Nuevo Vallarta, I noticed the pelicans and gulls over the beach periodically diving down to the sand to pluck at some small dark objects which they promptly swallowed before taking flight again.

I could only glimpse the objects and I initially thought they were some sort of dried fruit. It turns out they were snatching the dead and dying baby sea turtles on the beach.

Sea turtles come ashore to lay their bury their eggs in nests below the sand. The turtles emerge at night and have a few hours to scramble to the water before they succumb to the flying predators, or the sun's burning rays.

The remains of a sea turtle nest...
The remains of a sea turtle nest.
There were a few notices along the beach about not disturbing the nests or the babies, but given that Nuevo is a very crowded public beach with people, horses, dogs, and birds, I suspect that a lot of these animals don't live very long lives.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

"Get to da choppa!"

Predator statues on display in a Mexican gift shop...
No, not an ancient Mayan god...
Okay, I bet you're wondering about the weird title of today's post. It's one of the classic lines from that Arnold Schwarzenegger cinematic masterpiece Predator. Over on Youtube you can see the original version and Arnold's modern update.

But you're still confused? What has that go to do with Puerto Vallarta? Well, it turns out the movie was filmed in nearby jungles. In fact, the wreckage of the 'choppa' still exists and some local tours will take you to the film's shooting locations.

Local tourist vendors have taken advantage of this fact to produce and hawk Predator-related paraphernalia such as the statues above. I can't see this stuff appealing to anyone but teenage males. They wouldn't be old enough to remember the original film, but they've probably seen the numerous sequels and spin-off movies since.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Critters

Fast gecko was not fast enough for me...
Fast gecko... was not... fast enough.
We found this gecko sprinting around the walls of our bathroom. I'm guessing s/he hitched a ride into our room via a room service trolley. Not to worry. After we trapped it, we released it outside unharmed.

At the other end of the size scale we encountered this goodly-sized iguana at a local marina. Iguanas are served up as food in some Central and South American countries. Apparently they DO NOT taste like chicken, but more like cooked hen or Peking roast duck from Google sources.

A large iguana hangs out at the local marina...
Iguanas... colourful AND tasty...

Friday, November 18, 2016

Puerto Vallarta

The main beach of Neuvo Vallarta...
Blue skies and sun over the beach...
My wife and I recently returned from a week long vacation in Nuevo Vallarta. The frequent overcast skies combined with the high temperatures made for a comfortable experience.

This was our first experience on the west coast of Mexico after two previous visits to the Caribbean side.

Our very comfortable resort...
The Marival resort...

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Day at the Gallery

A delicate figurine carved in ivory...
Subtle colours and details...
My wife and I recently visited Victoria's Art Gallery. I hadn't been there in a decade or more.

On the day that we visited, there was a collection of Chinese art on display.

Pieces like the one above leave me with mixed emotions. On the one hand, I am in awe of the time and talent that it took to carve the delicate details into the block of ivory above and tint it so softly. On the other hand, it bothers me to think that elephants and rhinos have been poached to the edge of extinction to provide the ivory for this art.

The pagoda in the Zen garden...
The Art Gallery features a small Zen garden.



Monday, November 14, 2016

Ballet... it's not for sissies...

The fortified entrance to the Victoria Academy of Ballet...
Ballet... like prison, but with tutus
instead of orange jumpsuits.
I recently came across the downtown entrance to the Victoria Academy of Ballet. See those loops across the top of the gate? Barbed wire.

The only way to sneak out of this prison is sur les pointes.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Con mi vida

With my life...
Love? Inspiration? Or...??
Speaking of Mexico...

Recently I took a hike to the top of nearby Christmas Hill overlooking Saanich and, further out, downtown Victoria. Someone had very recently painted this Spanish phrase on the rocks.

Google translates this expression as 'with my life'. It doesn't seem to have any meaning on its own... it's usually used in larger expressions, e.g.

Así es que ahora siento que no sé a ciencia cierta qué es lo que va a pasar con mi vida. 

So now I feel I don't know very well what is going to happen with my life.

So, the context of it is a mystery. If any Spanish-speaking visitors know the significance of this phrase, please share it.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Wayback Wednesday: Hustle

Locals and tourists stroll Carmen del Playa's 5th Avenue...
Carmen del Playa's 5th Avenue...
We first went to the Mexican resort town of Carmen del Playa, located on the Caribbean coast, in 2012. One of the main attractions is 5th Avenue, a long stretch of local vendors and some American lifestyle/music chain stores.

Hustle is the name of the game here. With so many vendors competing for your dollar, the local merchants have a number of scams to earn your trust.

One of the more common ones is to greet you as if they have met you before. They will claim to have been your restaurant server/room service/whatever at the resort where you are staying. In reality, they identify your resort from the unique wrist band that most visitors are issued upon their arrival at the all-inclusives.

If you're the type who feels uncomfortable rebuffing aggressive sales types, the experience is likely to leave you exhausted as you politely excuse yourself again and again. Otherwise, just treat it as part of the life down there... certainly the locals won't feel offended as they will simply look past you for their next mark. You can read my TripAdvisor review of our experience here.

On the prowl for their next mark...
Vendors on the lookout for new marks customers...

Monday, November 7, 2016

The Inn is out

The Colwood Inn, in search of a new home...
The Colwood Inn is looking for a forever home...
Decades ago -- longer than I will admit here -- I was a young cadet at Royal Roads Military College (RRMC), training to be an officer in our Navy.

During our time at the college, we were forced to wear uniforms, or regimental jackets, ties and trousers when off the campus grounds. Easily identifiable, we were frequently harassed by local yahoos when we were out on the town. As a result, we tended not to wander far from the college to socialize, and the Colwood Inn was a favourite watering hole for us.

It was located a short walk from our campus. The patrons were familiar with us and content to leave us alone.

On a recent visit to Colwood, I was surprised to see that the Inn was still intact, albeit behind a chain link fence and up on blocks. I assumed that it had been bulldozed years ago to make way for inevitable new malls and condos.

Apparently, there were plans to re-locate the Inn, but they've been put on hold due to the bankruptcy of the developer of the site. For now, it sits, waiting for its eventual fate to be determined.

Friday, November 4, 2016

The Dark Knight

The Batman fails to intimidate...
Batman... less threatening than a balloon...
The Dark Night himself, aka Batman, put in multiple appearances at last weekend's Wicked Victoria event.

Government Street was closed to traffic. Food vendors and activities for the children kept families entertained for hours.

Batman (above) apparently had little effect on the kids. Which was surprising because he was tall. Seriously tall. He towered head, shoulders (and chest) above the crowd. I asked him how tall he was. 6 feet, 10 inches!

At the other end of the scale, this pint sized Caped Crusader caught some attention in his suitably small Bat-stroller.

Mini-Caped Crusader...
That Batman has a Bat-gizmo for everything!

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Suspended

Suspension bridge over the chasm below Elk Falls...
Suspended over Elk Falls...
This suspension bridge near Campbell River on Vancouver Island gives a bird's eye view of Elk Falls and the chasm 180 feet below. You know what would be really impressive? A zip line across the face of the falls and down the length of the chasm. I'd pay money for that!

Elk Falls near Campbell River...
Elk Falls...

Sunday, October 30, 2016

There's a light over at the Frankenstein place

Victoria's Craigdarroch Castle stands in for Dr. Frank-N-Furter's abode...
Craigdarroch Castle standing in for the abode of Dr. Frank-N-Furter...
The title of today's Halloween post, is a line from the musical play/movie The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Back in my college days, it was a cult favourite that played at a local cinema every Friday night at midnight for about a year, maybe more, if I remember correctly.

After the movie let out, on late Friday nights, the fans -- all dressed in drag -- would stroll over to the night club in the Empress Hotel across the street. The dance floor would suddenly fill up with guys in high heels, fishnet stockings and garters, and sporting mascara, lipstick and big wigs. The DJ would often indulge them by playing "Let's Do the Time Warp Again", the movie's signature song-and-dance bit.

A recent made-for-TV remake gamely tried to re-create the original, to a mostly critical reception.

A big problem was that the gender-bending of the original play/movie isn't shocking anymore in an age where an alphabet of sexual identities (LGBQT) is largely acknowledged, if not entirely accepted, by all.

That's your cultural history lesson for today... Happy Halloween!


Friday, October 28, 2016

Day of the Living Dead

Pennywise... or Poundfoolish?
Pennywise... or Poundfoolish?
Victoria's Zombie Walk took place a couple of weeks ago. This year's event was the smallest I've seen. Victoria was getting hammered by the wind and rain on the edges of a Pacific typhoon. It proved too much for many of the zombie horde who opted to stay warm and dry instead.

The zombies below are Stephanie Rahl (left) and Leyla Molala. They are fan favourites for their elaborate makeup and commitment to their roles!

Stephanie and Leyla... best zombies ever...
Mean girls...

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Rusty

The rusty truck that sits on the jetty at Telegraph Cove...
Rust-covered truck on the jetty at Telegraph Cove...
This well-photographed truck has sat at this spot on the jetty at Telegraph Cove for at least a dozen years. It looks a lot more weathered and patchy than the first time I saw it... but, then, don't we all?  ;)


Monday, October 24, 2016

Telegraph Cove

Stilts keep the waterfront homes of Telegraph Cove above the tidal zone.
Former homes have been converted to commercial accommodations...
Today Telegraph Cove is the centre of an eco-tourism industry centred around whale and bear watching tours. The former homes along the main jetty have been converted to rental units. My wife, who grew up on this part of Vancouver Island, remembers going to sleepovers with some of her high school friends who lived in these homes.

Telegraph Cove's waterfront museum...
Telegraph Cove's waterfront museum...

Friday, October 21, 2016

Broken Oar

Telegraph Cover's Broken Oar...

Beside the main jetty of Telegraph Cove, you could easily walk by this broken oar without noticing it; it sits in perpetual gloom cast by the overhead tree, leaning up against a sign beneath the tree.

Taking a closer look at it, this is what it says:

The story of Telegraph Cove's broken oar...

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Shroom colony

A colony of West Coast mushrooms...
A cluster of mushrooms on the forest floor...
Thanks to our damp climate, mushrooms are prolific on Vancouver Island. We have hallucinogenic mushrooms, exotic cooking mushrooms... and poisonous mushrooms.

I've previously mentioned that our warm climate here has led to all sorts of invasive plants appearing. One of them is the death cap mushroom that established itself here after 'hitchhiking' a ride on imported trees. Recently a local toddler died when his parents inadvertently harvested and cooked up a death cap mushroom.

Not being a mushroom expert, I have no idea what sort of mushrooms appear in the above photo.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Sea stack: 3

Sea stacks at San Josef beach on Vancouver Island...

San Josef beach features a collection of sea stacks at one end. though they aren't as dramatic as the ones we've seen in Oregon.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Dragon Eye

A full moon near Parksville framed by a piece of driftwood.


The title of today's post sounds like the title of a James Bond movie. It's an Oceanside full moon framed by an arch of some driftwood on the beach.