Friday, August 31, 2007

Don't step in the arcomantula...

Have employees at Tawakoni State Park in Texas stumbled on Aragog's lair?

Read on and prepare to shudder with waves of heebie-jeebies. A park groundskeeper who was mowing the trail in one part of the park recently made a stunning discovery: the largest communal spider web scientists have seen this side of the tropics.

They're not sure what has caused the phenomenon, which has encased several large oak trees--maybe Texas's record rainfall this summer (hello again, climate change)--but at the rate they're going, the spiders will take over a very large corner of the park. The better to trap you and eat you, my dear.

Read more here about the horrible smell of rotting bug corpses the web emits, the deafening sound of billions of tiny, dying wings flapping their last, and why little boys are the scientists' worst fear.

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Thursday, August 23, 2007

Bad art is timeless

Have you visited the Museum of Bad Art yet?


I think you should.

Collected from dumpsters across America.

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Sunday, August 19, 2007

Animate objects

There is so much fun and creative design going on around us. Came across the A+R Store online the other day. It sells exceptionally well-designed objects and housewares from around the world, many with a (dark) sense of humour. There is more than a modicum of genius in these objects. (And ladies, you must check out its disturbing/intriguing collection of "pleasure objects.")

Some of A+R's offerings:

"Clocky: the alarm clock that runs away"
If, like most humans, you don't get up at the first ring of the alarm but rather hit the snooze button every 9 minutes for the next hour, Clocky will actually fling himself off your nightstand, roll around on your floor until he finds himself a quiet dark corner, and "beep forlornly until you stagger up to switch him off." This gadget HAD to have been invented by someone with a dog.

Raise your hands if you love Clocky.

"Self-Balancing Serving Tray"
A device that evil time-travelling genius Dick Cheney/Dr.Emmett Brown himself would be proud of. Based on physics, this tray sort of defies gravity. It can be carried with one hand. It won't spill. And you have one hand free to gesture dramatically as you tell your friends about that weekend you spent locked in hotel room with the Argentinian polo team. Talk about an intriguing collection of pleasure objects. Rrrrowrrrr.

"Cow Baby Bottle"
You know, it's inevitable that you will screw up your kids. You know it's true. So why postpone the inevitable? Why not start right away, with this imitation cow-teat bottle--it is, after all, a fully functional baby bottle. The fact that it (creepily) has only 3 teats instead of the anatomically correct 4 adds a little extra "ooomph" to your child's psychological damage.

"Voodoo Knife Holder"
What disturbs me most is that this is the object I most "have to have." I must have it.

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Thursday, August 16, 2007

Dick Cheney's Crystal Balls

 they've never been seen in the same place together....

Dick Cheney is one smart man. In fact, I suspect he may be a genius who has built a flux capacitor that he keeps hidden somewhere in his garage. Sometimes, late at night when the paparazzi are all tucked up in their beds, he'll quietly insert his flux capacitor into his special time-travel car and voyage back and forth between now and 1994. How else could he have foreseen this? It's not like it was always obvious or anything.

Verily I say to you, YouTube shall set us free. Amen.

Still? My question is: How could an intelligent person in the public eye whose every statement has been closely analyzed for much of his working life say this on the record and then, a few years later, pull a complete 180 and think nobody will remember? It's on the record.

What are they thinking? Do they really think the public is that stupid? Or are they just not technosavvy? Or do they have memory loss problems? Or did they think they'd sufficiently paid off the press not to circulate said evidence? What are they thinking? What?

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Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Stick-on shadows and droopy galaxies

Smart people are cool. But smart, creative people with a sense of humour? Hello!

I hadn't heard about Dutch artist Wieki Somers until recently reading about her in ... I think it was Elle magazine. She's a sort of industrial artist-slash-designer who creates these amazing, clever, beautiful, funny everyday products like fox-skull teapots and boat bathtubs and flower lamps and feather-stoppered perfume bottles. But unlike the mass-produced utilitarian crap we tend to stuff into our lives (I'm as guilty as/more guilty than the next person), her objects are designed with deep speculation and humour and all kinds of other good arty stuff.

Her design sense is really organic and very much about nature. This lamp is a great example. The "Bellflower" is made of a single piece of woven metal and inside the flower's droopy head, there's a sort of galaxy of starlights--but it's bright enough to read by.

This "Blossoms" vase is designed to look like it's sprouting its own flowers.

Behold the "Bathboat"-- a fully functional bathtub shaped like a little boat. It stays still on dry land while you drift away on the bubbles...

What's wrong with this picture? That's right: the shadows of the stools...They're stick-on decals. It's great to find new ways to mess with people's minds. To paraphrase with wild abandon: the transformational potential of shadows is underrated, so she created stick-on shadows that you can put on your walls, windows, and floors to show how fun and important shadows really are.

My only criticism is of the site itself. It's one of those mind-numbing Flash sites where the cursor is a butterfly, there is no nav bar, etc. I. Hate. Flash. Sites.

But if you're feeling patient and have a few minutes to explore, I highly recommend it.

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Friday, August 03, 2007

Um....ahem...ah....hello there

I am alive. I am back. Life continues. All is well.

Our trip to San Francisco and down highway 1 to Big Sur was ridiculously gorgeous and absurdly fun.

San Francisco is one of the most beautiful cities I have ever visited. My husband and I found it very, very bright there. I think maybe the angle of the sun is different from what it is here...? That brightness, plus the wonderful riot of colours San Franciscans use to paint their buildings, made for a blinding first few days.

We were also surprised by how arid it is there. And also how cold it is. It was a bit of a shock to me as a Canadian to be somewhere "warm" that was colder than what I'm acclimatized to in summer. Here, it is not unusual for days to get to 35 or 40 Celsius (with the humidex factored in) in summer. There, it didn't go above about 22 Celsius. At night, it was downright cold--as low as 8 or 9 degrees.

We met up with blog buddy Moose on our second night there. It was (nearly) her birthday, so we drank tart birthday margaritas and ate at a fabulous "nothing-fancy-to-look-at -but-theres-a-lineup-down-the-block" Mexican restaurant. Best enchiladas I've ever had, sin douda.

Highway 1
The drive down the coast was phenomenal. Heights dizzify me, but even I couldn't look away from the fantastic views of coastline and mountains. Every blink was a postcard.

We stopped in Santa Cruz one night. The boardwalk features a kick-ass amusement park, complete with several rollercoasters. It was fun just to walk around, not knock down any milk bottles at the gaming booths, and strenuously resist buying cotton candy, ice cream, and various fried stuff that wafted temptingly through the place.

I must say, something about night-time on the Santa Cruz boardwalk really creeped me out. I later found out that it's the boardwalk where they filmed the early scenes of Lost Boys--remember that vampire movie with all the hot male vampires? I must have recognized the set on some subconscious level...

Our B&B owner in Santa Cruz was a Mexican woman who made huevos rancheros for us in the morning, complete with homemade tortillas. That is what they serve for breakfast in heaven.


We made our way further south, passing through increasingly wealthy towns until reaching Carmel, aka The Retired Real Estate Baron's Shangri-La.

It's famous for being the town that Clint Eastwood was mayor of for some time. He owns the Mission Ranch there, he plays golf at Pebble Beach, which is just north of it, and lives--or should I say "has a home"--not too far from the golf course. He and several other megamillionaires seem to own a big chunk of the property, hotels, etc., in that area.

You are struck dumb and kind of gawp-mouthed when you drive into Carmel via the 17-mile Drive. It's like a movie set combined with a Smurf village blended with a Mediterranean villa. A little too perfect, a little too "retirement nirvana," for our tastes, but fascinating because it's something we have never seen before. (The whole time I was in Carmel, I couldn't get "Hotel California" out of my head...creepy.)

The Carmel Beach is simply divine, though, dahlings. And they have a really, really good little luxury mall there. Not that I can afford to shop in any of the stores, but it sure is fun just to look around.

We like "totally" scored like some like awesome deals on B&B and hotel specials in Carmel, dudes. Ironically, it was the least expensive place we stayed in. We even got a full "apartment" with kitchen and everything for more than $50 less than the going rate at most other places.

The Carmel drugstore is another sight to behold. Oh sure, they have your aspirin, your sunscreen, your maxi pads. But then there's the full wall of high-end summer perfumes and colognes. Yes, "summer fragrances" is a specialized category of perfumerie. I didn't realize that either, until I saw the wall-o-scents at the Carmel drugstore. And it's set up as an old-style drugstore with everything in glass display cabinets and on behind-the-counter shelves set in rich panelled wood reaching right up to the ceiling. Quaint, but inconvenient if you actually need to buy something because you have to wait for the shopkeeper to help you. You soon learn to slow down in Carmel.

Big Sur

Big Sur was another treat. There is no actual village called Big Sur, we found out (although the maps all give it its own dot--deceptive). But there is a strip of inns, hippies, cabins, camping, hippies, restaurants, galleries, hippies, and more restaurants all nestled in the mountains and redwoods overlooking the massive drops down to the rocky coast. We had dinner and consumed vast quantities of California wine up in the clouds in Big Sur.

We stayed at a place, fairly famous, called Deetjens Big Sur Inn, which was built long ago and is, essentially, a series of wooden cabins and outbuildings. It's really lovely and quaint but I must say that, coming from the land of cottaging, it wasn't as much of a big deal for us to stay in a wooden cabin as it was for some people who seemed exceedingly excited about it. Maybe it was the $150/night price tag...

We wanted very much to drive down to the famous spa and institute, Esalen, for a midnight dip in the mineral hot springs, but the 12-mile drive along the coast in the dark was enough even to give my courageous husband the heeby-jeebies.

Next time.

Andrew Molera Park

Our asses rapidly gellifying from all the driving and wine-drinking, we decided one day to take a 7-mile hike through Andrew Molera park. It was stunning. The first 3 or 4 miles run on a bluff along the crystal-blue ocean, overlooking wild, windy, white-sand beaches. The rest of the journey is up the mountain and through a stand of ancient redwoods.

As kilometer people, we were, uh, somewhat surprised at how much further a mile is than a kilometer. But it was worth the 3 hours of sweat and even worth running into that one rattlesnake. And carefully dodging entire forests of poison oak. And the tick problem. That hike was, honestly, probably the highlight of the trip for me. (That and shopping at Target, which we don't have here. Also called Tar-jjjay because of all the great couture. The Libertine for Tarjjjay collection? Shut up!)


There was a whale-watching voyage in Monterrey, visits to art galleries along the highway, a peacock sighting (just sort of pecking away beside the highway), and lots of other stuff.

On our last day, we drove across the Golden Gate bridge and into Sausalito, which looks directly across the Bay at the "back side" of Alcatraz (the "front side," at least as we came to know it, is visible from San Fran's Fisherman's Wharf--a horrible tourist wasteland of poorly made sunglasses and massively overpriced t-shirts...avoid it if you ever go there.) Anyhow, Sausalito is stunning. A little jem nestled in the oceanside hills. The town is basically vertical--built right onto a mountainside. If--no--when I go back, I'd like to spend more time there.

The End.

That and 18 hours of flight time about sums it up.

A couple of cultural notes:

1. Californians really are larger-than-life. They're extremely tall. It was very strange for me to be in a place where everyone was at least as tall as me, if not taller.

They're also boisterous, friendly, smiley, and easy to talk to. Sort of like Canadians with the volume dialed way up.

2. It was depressing and strange to see the migrant workers covered head-to-toe in the industrial farm fields (I'm guessing to try to keep pesticides off their skin and out of their lungs), hunched over and picking berries, etc. It really makes you look at the produce department differently. Enough said.

3. I'll never stop being shocked by the gulf between rich and poor in the U.S. and how often this "class" gap intersects with race/cultural background.

It was a fantastic trip. I will go back.

Now back to real life.

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