The fastest trip to Japan from Vancouver

I spent most of this past weekend at the Powell Street Festival which has got to be one of the best entertainment deals in Vancouver taking place at Oppenheimer Park and the streets around it with events at the Firehall Arts Centre, the Japanese Language School, and the Vancouver Buddhist Temple.

This area was home to the largest concentration of Japanese people in Vancouver prior to WWII before they were banished from the West Coast in Canada and the U.S. as a result of Japan’s bombing of Pearl Harbour and a build up, prior to that, of racism and fear-mongering.

I had to get my little fix of Takoyaki (Osaka Balls),  those tasty street vendor treats that instead of the traditional style which are filled with octopus, these are filled with shrimp and scallops, a creamy middle with a crunchy deep-fried outer and with fish shavings on top. I stayed traditional but you can get the wasabi version or with mayo. 

So many interesting offerings  at The Firehall Arts Centre. We were introduced to a HAPA comic from L.A., Katie Malia and her Almost Asian vignettes which are being picked up by Netflix in the near future.

Listened to Dr. Asato Ikeda from Japan talk about a Third Gender in early modern Japan, a spin off from an exhibit at the ROM in 2016 A Third Gender: Beautiful Youths in Japanese prints. Descriptions of wakashu or boys between the ages of 12-18 who fulfilled the pleasures of men and women and how to hear about that part of cultural history in Japan without imposing contemporary North American values on that part of Japanese history which has been kept under wraps mostly because, if I understood the speaker correctly, of how it fits into the Kabuki theatre in the Edo period. Since Kabuki has been designated the official theatre of Japan, there’s a reluctance to acknowledge the roots of it in this expression of sexuality. Super interesting!

Introduced to two men (both Gaijin or caucasian) Jay Rubin and Ted Goossen, Americans who are elders in the translation of Japanese literature. They spoke about the novelist Haruki Murakami and mostly that stood out for me because it’s always amazing to me how some people just fall into their professions without any effort on their part and that becomes their entire life.

Admired that Joy Kogawa who is looking very fit and in her eighties was open to participating in an experimental performance that included her poetry, a young Hapa poet Soramaru Takayama and a wonderful mime (whose name I can’t find, unfortunately)  as part of a 20 minute performance.

 

Also took in two interesting short films called Born with it and Blasian Narratives about Black-Asian kids’ experiences. I’d never heard the word “Blasian” before.

Listened to a wonderful shakuhachi player who resides on the Sunshine Coast.  Alcvin Ryuzen Ramos, is one of the leading teachers and performers of the shakuhachi in North America who teaches at the Bamboo-In Retreat Centre.  His performance was exquisite and a rare treat. I love the breathy, haunting sounds of the shakuhachi, an instrument that may be the hardest instrument to learn taking years of mentorship and practice.

And of course George and Noriko, a crowd favourite. He’s known as the Japanese cowboy and she’s the Tsugaru shamisen player. Together they have a fun and unique sound. 

Taiko. Walking tours. Ikebana. Martial Arts. My god. It’s a veritable trip to Japan without the hell of the long flight.

Must do a shout out to Leanne Dunic (seated in photo) who led the curation in her first year as the new artistic director.  It’s been a busy year for her. She’s a writer, singer and multi-instrumentalist who plays with the band The Deep Cove. Her book To Love the Coming End published by Chin Music Press was released this year as well.  The weekend was awesome and it didn’t cost a dime. The only thing wrong with it was that I didn’t win the trip to Japan for two or dinner for six put on by Hapa Izakaya restaurant chefs.

Fermented beverages, lemon macarons and 77KFREEZE

June 2, 2017

Dear Diary,

A friend, Karen, alerted me to a free course at the new Tommy Douglas Library on Kingsway near Edmonds which is a small library but a bright open space. Very inviting indeed.

There was a workshop there on fermented beverages on Monday night. Now I know what you’re thinking. What miniscule little pocket of tree huggers would check THAT out? Well, there were close to 30 people there. And not who I was expecting. A multicultural bunch for sure, more middle-aged than young.

A young twenty-something female, a Ginger, whose name I didn’t catch, and who, as you might guess, liked to use the word “cool!” with fervour, was sharing her considerable knowledge, minus the not very well thought out decision to go around the room first and have people introduce themselves. That left about an hour for her to share the knowledge we’d come for, but when you know better you do better.

She was sharing recipes for Kombucha, Kefir, and Ginger Ale with Ginger Bug. A while ago Karen had shared some Kefir culture with me because I love Kefir (pronounced Kuh FEAR, not KEE fer)  and thought it might be even better to make it myself until I realized that with one person, that’s a lot of Kefir. It wasn’t long before I felt like a slave to the kefir grains, like I was doing that experiment from high school to teach you what a drag it is to have children (or a boiled egg) that you’re responsible for 24/7.

Many people were there to learn how to make Kombucha and other fermented stuff, even Kimchi, for the benefits of the probiotics and the taste. Kombucha is made from black or green tea, non caffeinated. I learned a new word – SCOBY – which stands for Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast. A SCOBY is critical for Kombucha.

As I sat there I was reminded of a drink called Sima made by the family I stayed with in Finland so many years ago and recollected that, amazingly, I’d kept the recipe. Here it is if you want to try it. Super simple.

SIMA (Recipe from Kuisma’s in Finland)

  • 2-1/2 litres water
  • 2 whole sliced lemons
  • 1/4 kilo brown sugar
  • 1/4 kilo white sugar
  • 1 tsp. yeast
  • raisins.

Boil the water. Add two whole sliced lemons, 1/4 kilo of brown sugar, 1/4 kilo of white sugar. Shake well. Leave sit for an hour. Add 2-1/2 litres of cold water. Add 1 tsp of yeast and shake. Let sit for 12 hours. Put through strainer squishing lemon juice out of lemon pieces. Put into bottles. Put two raisins in every bottle. Leave in fridge. When raisins rise to the top, it’s ready.

You can also check out Cultures for Health for all you need to get started with fermentation.

The young woman was starting her own company where she’ll be selling some of her fermented beverages and she’s part of a new social venture market that’s going to happen every Tuesday, 11-4, on Granville Island called Groundswell.

Artist Barb Webb at her opening at The Gallery at Queen’s Park in New West’s Queen’s Park.

On Wednesday, I took a few photos at The Gallery at Queen’s Park as I usually do once a month at the opening of a new art show. June’s show is Barbara Webb’s acrylic paintings called Nature of Layers. It was nice to have a full house at the gallery. The food was to die for, especially the lemon macarons made by her daughter, and can I just say, her two kids just had the nicest energy. I mean look at them. Don’t you just get the best feeling when you see them. No, they’re not twins.

Spy those lemon macarons? To die for! Made by Barb Webb’s daughter.

 

Went out with Colleen last night to a teeny, weeny Lebanese place called The Jam Jar on Commercial drive. Good energy. Very friendly service. The food was good and there was one dish we had that was super delish called Kafta Skillet. I loved that one.  A lot of people on TripAdvisor raved about the deep fried cauliflower tossed in pomegranate molasses but I wasn’t crazy about it. A small appetizer of it would have been good enough given the strong taste.

Employee behind the cloud making our frozen dessert using liquid nitrogen.

Afterwards, we wandered into the place, almost next door, called 77KFreeze and for $8 you too can wait to get some ice cream made from a liquid nitrogen process. You can choose from a variety of liquid bases (cream, light cream, almond, soy, coconut, etc.) and then you add to that with fresh fruit (or they have their own suggested recipes) and then they put it in those metal cylinders and there’s lots of white clouds arising from their equipment and voila, frozen dessert. Good luck to them. It is a novelty.

Recently went to a place called Sula on Commercial Drive. Indian food. Now that is good. I would highly recommend it.

And now here we are: Full circle. The weekend’s winding back around faster than you can say Kalamazoo or What’s for dinner?

I’m not the C-word police [but I could be]

female anatomyIt’s not every day you get pulled aside by a 75-year-old woman celebrating her birthday who wants to read you a poem that she wrote and wants your opinion on whether the c-word should be left in or removed from a stanza.

“I removed it because I didn’t want to offend that older lady,” said the birthday girl nodding to the woman across the room fiddling with her hearing aid. I found that amusing since the even older woman with hearing difficulties wouldn’t have heard it anyway.

It’s weird that she should pick me to ask my opinion. Or maybe not. After all, I am sometimes referred to both affectionately and derisively by one close friend as The Presbyterian Nun.  Therefore staying true to my virtuous (uptight?) nature, I’m not about to be a big fan of the c-word even though I have read many of the arguments about how its reputation as the most shocking and taboo word in the English language derives from and represents misogyny and therefore we should, as owners of said part of anatomy, take it back. We should take back the c-word in a march or something and if we took back ownership of ourselves “down there” we’d happily be flinging out the c-word in casual conversation because we could, dammit! And with pride!

Of course, on closer examination, it’s not about us at all, or our anatomy. It’s about inequality and belief systems related to women’s sexuality and I guess we’d  known things had finally, actually changed in the world when the c-word loses all potency as the absolute worst thing to say to a woman.  It’s unlikely you or I will be alive to see that day.

For the record, I don’t like the b-word either. It’s probably my age but I’m regularly annoyed by the use of the word Bitch. Then again, I can’t say I typically throw around the word dick either but saying that to a guy certainly has less impact than the slap-across-the-face feeling that the c-word can provoke. Some guys would actually take it as a compliment.

I guess for me it’s more about feeling that such aggressive and angry language should be curbed in a world that’s elevated aggressive and angry to an art form, the Kama Sutra of anger.  If each one of us refrained from using these aggressive words, we could, to use an overused phrase that makes me feel somewhat ill, even if I wholeheartedly agree with it in principle: “Be The Change We Wish to See in the World.” PUHLEEZ!

So my vote was take it out. Nix the c-word from the poem.  In hindsight, I realized that it was actually the sentence that didn’t make sense and to C or not to C, was the secondary factor.

On a lighter note, I found this great joke off the First Presbyterian Church of Oneida New York website.

THREE NUNS WERE ATTENDING A YANKEES BASEBALL GAME.

THREE MEN WERE SITTING DIRECTLY BEHIND THEM.
BECAUSE THEIR HABITS WERE PARTIALLY BLOCKING THE VIEW,
THE MEN DECIDED TO BADGER THE NUNS,
HOPING THEY’D GET ANNOYED ENOUGH TO MOVE TO ANOTHER AREA.

IN A VERY LOUD VOICE,
THE FIRST GUY SAID,
“I THINK I’M GOING TO MOVE TO UTAH .
THERE ARE ONLY 100 NUNS LIVING THERE.”

THEN THE SECOND GUY SPOKE UP AND SAID LOUDLY,
“I WANT TO MOVE TO MONTANA .
THERE ARE ONLY 5O NUNS LIVING THERE!”

THE THIRD GUY YELLED,
“I WANT TO GO TO IDAHO .
THERE ARE ONLY 25 NUNS LIVING THERE!”

THE MOTHER SUPERIOR TURNED AROUND,
LOOKED AT THE MEN
AND IN A VERY “SWEET” AND CALM VOICE SAID,

“WHY DON’T YOU GO TO HELL…
THERE AREN’T ANY NUNS THERE.”

Oh, and for more information than you’ll ever need in this lifetime related to the C-word, check out this site by Matthew Hunt.

Sound like you’ve never experienced it

Basantasound2

I went to a talk last night by a young guy from Montreal named Adam Basanta. He describes himself as a sound artist, composer and performer of experimental music and he has an installation in New West’s New Media Gallery on the third floor of Anvil Centre.

I read the other day in the local community newspaper, The Royal City Record, that the curators of this new space in Anvil Centre actually used to work at the Tate Modern. Wow! Talk about having the crème de la crème of experience.

It was a small turnout, maybe 35 people, and Basanta, who is one of four sound artists in the exhibit, began to speak about his work related to experimental sound with a particular emphasis in his piece on feedback, but not in the way we’re all used to; not that unexpected siren from a microphone that rises like a banshee in a deafening way.

BasantaexhibitHis installation is part of OTIC: Systems of Sound. His emphasis on feedback had to do with space and tones and how humans’ presence in a space can change feedback and how he played with feedback to bring to our attention our experience in the world and of the sounds around us.

He had this really cool project, Positive Vibes, in Finland where he used a recorded voice of women saying “I love you all very, very much.” He tied that to a bunch of helium balloons and then floated it near people in public spaces and watched as they reacted to this disembodied recording telling them they were loved. I love weird projects like that.

As he spoke I was both challenged by the topic in terms of its weirdness and a foreign way of thinking about sound, and then I was really heartened that in Canada, there’s still some money, apparently, to be found to encourage those who are approaching the arts in a way that calls on all their courage and expertise to interpret and reinterpret and challenge their own boundaries in order to challenge that of any audience.

It’s worth the exercise to be open enough to expose yourselves to others’ far out ways of approaching their passions.

I realized as I was listening to him,  my own personal resistance to weirdness, to foreign and difficult approaches, was rising. Being able to be aware of that, acknowledge it, and then let it wash over me and feel it lessen, is perhaps really getting closer to the essence of the kind of curiosity required to accept others’ interpretation of all the shared worlds that exist on the planet.

The exhibit, which will undoubtedly be richer if you have someone to interpret it as we did last night, runs at Anvil Centre to March 20, 2016.

Famous funny people getting coffee and drinking it like the rest of us

ford-pinto-photo-365085-s-986x603About a week ago, I got detoured by a tweet that led me to Comedians in Cars getting Coffee with Jerry Seinfeld.   O.k. So I’m a bit out of touch. It’s only been around for 7 seasons on the digital network Crackle. And I’d never heard of Crackle either so there you go. I’ve always been a pop culture alien so no big surprise.

I loved the beautiful classic cars he was driving but here’s the thing about this show. It really wasn’t very funny. How two people who are comedians in hot cars in Hollywood could be less funny was kind of shocking to me. And the only thing that proves is just how much work it takes to prepare to actually BE funny. Still, it was kind of addictive in a So that’s how other people interact kind of way. Not that much different than you and I really.

In some other altered reality, if I got to ride in a beautiful car with Jerry Seinfeld, I can think of one or two maybe three people from my past who would be funny enough to bring along. The first person who comes to mind is a woman named Kama I knew about 20 years ago. I wonder whatever happened to Kama? I remember she once said that Jerry Seinfeld was the only man she’d ever marry. ford pintoPersonally, I’d want Jerry Seinfeld to show up in the Steve McQueen 1968 Green Ford Mustang GT, or at the other extreme, the 1975 Uncle Rico van from Napolean Dynamite. How about a lookalike of the White getaway Bronco that O.J. was driving that crazy day way back in 1994? Maybe a 1971 yellow Ford Pinto would be fun. I think super crappy cars lend themselves to humour more than lifestyles of the rich and famous. To be fair, he did show up in a Pacer and some ratty Volkswagen van.

Warner-Brothers-Pictures-bullit-steve-mcqueen-ford-mustang_0-100_1If you watch the series, I’m guessing you might enjoy it as well because isn’t that who we are now? We’re all just voyeurs of the rich and famous. Even in death. R.I.P. David Bowie. Watching the show became a bit like drinking coffee with the video images of making coffee interspersed throughout.  It was interesting to interlope on some of the conversations he had with his guests about the comedy biz.Cw_640

I enjoyed the Steve Harvey episode mostly because of his laugh and because he was funny! I know Steve Harvey really  heaped up the Miss Universe Pageant recently but I really hope he can make a whole comedy routine out of that screw up.  Because. It really is pretty damned funny when you think about it in hindsight.

I liked the conversation with Bill Burr. I liked Sarah Silverman. Michael Richards was interesting. I found the conversation with Trevor Noah really interesting. You might want to watch the episode with President Obama. And I’m a big fan of Steve Martin not because of his stand up from the past but because he’s such an intelligent, versatile guy –  comedian,  writer, actor, musician, knowledgeable art collector – so that one was a thumbs up for me just because of the curiosity factor.

It would just be wrong not to take a look at the Julia Louis-Dreyfus episode. I loved her line in response to Jerry asking if he was nice. “I think you CAN be nice.” I could totally relate to that line.

You have to watch the Jimmy Fallon episode to see Jerry’s awesome little boat.  I was wondering what Jerry would have shown up in if Robin Williams was still alive. That would have been a great episode.

But honestly, Rick Mercer could do a fantastic paraody on this show complete with mouth fulls of corn beef being spewed across a table. His first guest? Jann Arden of course!carfrom1982

This is me in 1982 with the first car I ever owned, a Chevette Scooter that lasted FOREVER. The Coquihalla Highway finally took her down. I couldn’t risk driving those hills in a 20 year old Chevette.

If you were going to be interviewed by Seinfeld, I wonder what car would you’d choose and why?