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?

Word Vancouver: From Comics to Kids Lit

WORD2015

This year at Word Vancouver, I decided I’d go to sessions that I might not typically be drawn to, especially comic books and Kids Lit.

First stop was a panel of children’s authors. One of the authors walked us through the steps she takes to create an animal character as the subject of a rhyming poem.  I really enjoyed that. Four authors spoke about how much going into the schools and reading to kids is an integral part of what’s required of children’s authors. That sounds like a fun thing. And as always happens, which is why it’s important to attend events such as this if you write, my own ideas came bubbling up as background all throughout the talks. Think of it as creative mind mapping, silently but stealthily, a running commentary of possibilities mingled. Creative thought begets creative thought.

I listened to Caroline Woodward, who had worked in the publishing industry for 30 years. She was speaking about living at the Lennard Island Lighthouse at the entrance to Clayoquot Sound near Tofino. Being one half of a lighthouse keeper has enabled her to get back to her first love, writing. Her latest book, Light Years, is about her time at the various light stations where she and her husband, Jeff George, started as relief lightkeepers. George’s photographs in slideshow format were a nice touch. Woodward’s favourite lighthouse is Nootka because of its history and its natural beauty.

I didn’t even know there were still people working at lighthouses anymore. Apparently seven of the 23 people who are stationed at lighthouses in B.C. are couples.

I listened to John Vaillant whom, of course, I’d heard about but had never seen in person or read before. He gave a compelling  intro to his book  The Jaguar’s Children and the life and death crossing into the USA of an illegal immigrant.  His reading and the prose was so precise that it was a clear lesson in how a compelling presence mixed with vivid language does indeed go a long way towards selling books. He said a teenage boy’s voice came to him clear as day one day while he was working on something else. He felt compelled to carry that voice onto the page.  This happened while he spent nine months living in Oaxaca with his wife who is a potter. Perhaps the spirits visited him. Perhaps they knew he was someone who could do their story justice.

It was cool to hear the journey of The Flour Peddler by brothers Chris and Josh Hergesheimer. Their original focus on local grains and farmers’ markets in B.C. (starting in Roberts Creek) eventually took them on a global journey to South Sudan. Their bicycle-powered flour mill is adding efficiency to small farmers there. Chris is now in Ecuador doing Ph.D. work through UBC’s Land and Food Systems faculty.

I found it kind of sad to hear the trials of cartoonist David Boswell and the trajectory of his comic, Reid Fleming, World’s Toughest Milkman. What began as just a one-off, one pager for The Georgia Straight back in the day, developed a small cult-like following with a script eventually optioned for a movie at Warner Brothers Pictures only to be quashed at the 11th hour by the executives who just didn’t get the humour.  That’s funny actually! The script remains locked in the vault there, stuck in limbo, history.  Boswell showed a movie that one of his nephews made about him with guest appearances by Matt Groening and others who sang his praises and the genius of the character, Reid Fleming.

The last session I attended was by Michael Kluckner. The local artist and heritage advocate has put together a graphic novel, a love story, called Toshiko.  I was surprised to learn that not all Japanese families were interned during WWII. Some lived independently, specifically up in Tappen, B.C., and Squilax near Salmon Arm where they worked on a farm called Calhoun’s.

I really tried not to buy but resistance is futile when it comes to books. I have to laugh at my purchases though which are more a reflection of proximity and mood than a strategic plan since I didn’t actually end up buying The Jaguar’s Children. I bought The Flour Peddler, Toshiko and Amber Dawn’s How Poetry Saved My Life.  Boswell was selling his comic book, a signed copy for a Toonie, so I got one of those as well. Go figure?

Did you go to Word this year? What stood out for you?

Not even David Suzuki knows for sure

earthfirst

I went and listened to David Suzuki speak at Firehall Arts Centre as part of the Powell Street Festival. He was promoting his new book, Letters to my Grandchildren.  He’s 79 years old now and in what he calls “the death zone” or the zone that’s headed most predictably in death’s direction, although you wouldn’t know it to look at him.

Of course there were references to what you would expect in a 30 minute talk from Canada’s most notable environmentalist: the elevation of the economy to God at the expense of humankind’s future via clean air, clean water, and Prime Minister Harper’s dedicated contribution to that on behalf of Canada in oh so many election losing (we can only hope) ways. A paraphrasing with me taking tons of liberties in that last line.

Because Suzuki was there to soft sell his new book, and in keeping with the book’s focus, his talk centred more on relationships than environmental issues.  He shared his experiences of his mother and father. He talked about his grandchildren. He referred to a long ago retort to his mother that to this day still fills him with regret, and choked him up during the talk.

His mother was the one who toiled day and night behind the scenes in her quiet ways of servitude so common in Japanese woman of that era while his father was the gregarious guy who got the attention.  One day, while chatting with his mother as she was doing the washing, she looked at David and made some reference to hoping that he’d be able to help out his parents in the future. His retort, the retort that could have come from any 14-year-old was, “I didn’t ask to be born…”  He let us know that he did come through for them.

David Suzuki emphasized the insanity of being constantly focused on the economy when in fact, without clean air, without potable water, there can be no life. He spoke about the impossibility of the economy’s ability to continue to grow ad infinitum and at some point, having to accept stasis and turning the money and commitment that now goes into degradation of the planet as a result of our total reliance on oil and gas into innovation around clean energy to build on humans’ legacy of innovation.

The economy is there to support what matters to us, not the other way around: relationships, sacred spaces on earth, ability to live and learn and direct that to the betterment of ourselves and others and other species, not stuck on the treadmill of an economic model that appears to be the recipe of our eventual demise.

It must have struck you by now that there IS nothing new left to say about climate change and our lack of change.

At the end of the talk, when someone asked, “Do you have any hope left?” He used the return of the sockeye run in 2009 as a hopeful example. “In 2009, based on the low numbers of sockeye, their extinction appeared imminent. Then the very next year saw the largest sockeye run in history and with no explanation for it.”

“We don’t know enough to know what’s going to happen for sure,” he said, and that, strangely enough – the ignorance of humankind – did actually leave me with a bit of hope for a change.

In the next breath, he referred to Guy MacPherson, an academic and author from Arizona, and MacPherson’s belief that we won’t even be here in about 20 years because of some catastrophic methane explosion.  A belief that Suzuki said put him into a funk for days.

“This is the first year, said MacPherson in an online interview, that we could have an ice-free arctic by September and it will be the first time in human history.” Again, nobody knows precisely what’s going to happen,” he said.

I couldn’t help but think that it’s the kind of plot that blockbuster films make millions on, except, according to this, we won’t be around to scarf popcorn and marvel at the amazing and tragic destiny of all species on the planet.

PS: That brings me to ideas about my next blog post. After seeing David Suzuki and Taylor Swift in less than a 24 hour span, I feel the need to write about legacy next.

Putting the Phabulous into Photography in Vancouver

The other night I went to this photography event as part of the Capture Photography Festival. Organized by CAPIC, it was a survey of some photographers working in Vancouver, many of whom had apparently graduated from Langara in the past, and it was really interesting not only to hear their eight minute talks but to see the projects they were focused on. Literally!

David Duchemin

http://davidduchemin.com/

Spoke about recent findings of mirror neurons in the brain and how that means just seeing a photograph, not being there in person, may be enough to enable us to find a “string of empathy” to engage our compassionate hearts and to think about what justice might look like for other people. What might justice look like for all people, especially those we appear to be most unlike on the surface, finding a way to recognize that all humans, at the core of their humanity, are similar.

Angela Fama

http://angelafama.com/

To me this project was the most interesting of the evening. It was a project where she asked people how they were as she photographed them at a car-free event on Commercial Drive.  “No, really, how are you?” Then she captured their expression while she asked them to really think about that question and answer it honestly. And she spoke about building community and a cross country trip she’s about to embark on as part of a wabisabibutterfly.com project.

Vince Hemingson

http://www.hemingsonphotography.com/

In his own words, he didn’t really want to be there that night, which (editorial comment) is a less than ideal way to present oneself at an event.  Regardless, he showed his Nude in the Landscape photographs which he said was focused on form in landscape. I was intrigued by how fluidly he fit them into the landscape and I personally was fascinated by the detail of how he’d position a finger or a toe, slotted into a piece of driftwood in such an exquisite manner. I’m sure others will find these photographs enticing for their own reasons. Not sure why they had to be beautiful women only (as defined by mainstream impossible standards of beauty) if the point truly was just about the forms and shapes but take a look. Read the artist statement.

Alex Waterhouse-Hayward

http://www.alexwaterhousehayward.com/

He had an old camera around his neck and I enjoyed the way he just put up his photos and let them communicate. There seemed to be an inordinate number of people in the audience who had a problem with silence that lasts more than 30 seconds. I don’t get that. Embrace it!

Katie Huisman

http://www.katiehuisman.com/

Interesting personal discussion while dropped into a project to photograph sex trade workers in Uruguay. She realized she was putting a fashion filter (her normal bread and butter photography) on these women in this environment that was foreign to her and it wasn’t until she started to photograph the rooms without the women in them, that she was really able to capture their realities, to find a way to let their experience, stark and human, reveal itself through the empty rooms.

Pooya Nabei

http://www.pooyanabei.com/

A fashion photographer, relatively new to the field, who’s into the night scene and some interesting images that portray the interesting clubbing types he spends his time with.

Ross Den Otter

http://www.nuovofresco.com/home.html

Documenting development signs and how streetscapes have changed and continue to change focused on capturing those places in the city that we take for granted and putting boundaries around the parameters of where he’s choosing to shoot that which is near Main and Hastings.

There was the beginning of a little energized discussion around photographs on the web and stock photography and how it has impacted the industry with the typical dividing line between those who got it, accepted it and have capitalized on the “new reality” and those who are still fighting it.

I really loved experiencing the range of photographs and personalities that were there that night. I was struck by how much these photographers were the image-related version of  The SFU Writer’s Studio, each trying to promote connection as they defined that.

Day trip to Edgemont Village

I’ve lived in the Lower Mainland for a very long time, minus a few escapes, and I’ve never been to Edgemont Village. I’m not sure how that’s possible but there you have it.

The North Shore Arts Crawl gave me a reason to visit. I strolled the two street strip and learned that 80% of business owners in the village are women.  I stopped into 32 books, a great little bookstore/giftshop, and dropped by Trims, a romantic oasis of seasonal home decor owned by mother Marlene and daughter Morgan. I might not seem very romantic but I do have a weak spot for those really romantically-decorated small businesses with flowers and mannequins and bunnies and chicks.  Their artificial flowers were exquisite.trimsmall

Trims2small

From there, I backtracked to Lonsdale and the seniors centre, with the cheesey name of Silver Harbours, behind the rec. centre. Elders were weaving, throwing on the potter’s wheel, creating hooked rugs, and small personalized hand bound books.weavingsmall

boundbookssmallpottershandssmallI kept going down Lonsdale to the school district building with its beautifully carved First Nation’s door by an artist whose name, unfortunately, I didn’t write down. It leads into the hidden Gordon Smith Gallery.

There was no avoiding Robert Chaplin who was selling his books in the gallery and conned me into holding up some sign that says something about breaking some world record which I still don’t understand.

mewithsignsmall

He grabbed the first book, read it to me out loud at warp speed, and then when I got into it, I joined him for the second one, Delicious Chicken Soup, which he created with Michelin chef Andrey Durbach. As his infectious enthusiasm drew me in,  I performed with him reading out loud in unison. I have no problem calling him a whirlwind creative force even though I only spent about 15 minutes in his larger-than-life presence.  RobertChaplinsmall

Apparently he holds the Guinness Record for publishing the smallest book.  Minus the cash I wasn’t planning on spending for books I didn’t need to buy, I headed to the back room and had a nice chat with Warren Oneschuk who paints vintage trucks that he finds derelict all over B.C.  I love, love, love old trucks. The patina. The history. The country. Think Clint Eastwood in Bridges of Madison County.

From there I stopped into this endangered building on West 1st Street, full of nooks and crannies, where some amazing artists have found their studio space and their community. I was blown away by the work of Dene Croft and Kiff Holland.  The building was surrounded by big holes in the ground and looming cranes, ready for another condo development. Ho Hum.   I caught this view from the top of it looking across to downtown.studiowindowsmall

The last stop was a fashion designer, Fariba Mirzaie,  and her studio Gabbeh, where her one-of-a-kind fashion masterpieces are created hour upon hour at her sewing machine. The juxtaposition of that plain white plastic sewing machine with the beautiful fabrications she’s able to create from her mind, and the machine, is what struck me as I stood in the small space in awe of her art turned fashion.

It was a fabulous way to welcome spring.