Thursday, January 28, 2010

Wednesday, January 27, 2010



Banff Rapids
July 2009
By Andrea

I'm attempting a new, more spare blog template. I'm hoping that this will allow me to showcase more of my own images and artwork without the distractions of all sorts of widgits and colours. I'm open to feedback though. So if you hate it or love it I'd be happy to hear from you

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Excuse Me, You Forgot Your Pants

I think something needs to be clarified, because I get the impression that people have been hugely misguided somehow. So here it very careful attention...tights are NOT PANTS! I don't know who has been telling people that tights and pants are interchangeable but that person is either bizarrely misinformed or just has a nasty sense of humour. Tights never have been and never will be akin to pants. Let me rephrase that--tights and pants are not the same category of clothing and should not be worn interchangeably.

I think that things started out innocently enough. Tights came back into style throwing us all back to the 80s. People started by wearing multi-coloured tights with short skirts. That was acceptable enough. Then the skirts started getting shorter. Okay, I get it, tights are basically opaque so you can get away with a shorter skirt because in the event that you accidentally bend over the opacity of the tights will hide your underwear. Then people started wearing sweater dresses. At this point it was beginning to look a little like people had just forgotten to put on pants, but the sweater dresses were long enough that they could potentially pass as real dresses and that was acceptable. Then the sweater dresses started getting shorter until they just barely covered up the wearer's ass, and that started to get questionable. Finally through some insane extrapolation of the "pants" category, people started wearing hip length t-shirts with their tights and this my friends is where the line was crossed. Because here's the thing...TIGHTS ARE NOT PANTS. And since tights are not pants and are really more like thick nylons one should probably wear clothing with them that provides at least a tiny bit of coverage. But I come to work at UBC every day and see all sorts of girls wandering around in tights that are sometimes stretched so thin that they really aren't opaque at all anymore with short t-shirts, boots, and nothing else. And I think--dear god, it's like an inverse nightmare. Have you ever had that nightmare where you go to school and have been going about your day for hours when you suddenly realize that you forgot to put on pants in the morning? Yeah, it's like that. Except I go to work and have been going about my day for hours when I realize that no one around me is wearing pants, and I have to wonder if maybe I'm not wearing pants either, so I check, and thankfully I AM wearing pants, but the fact that no one else is makes me strangely uncomfortable because I start to wonder if they know something I don't and that maybe I shouldn't be wearing pants either.

I admit I own tights. I've even worn them--under my skirts where they're supposed to go. Even under short skirts that might be a little scandalous, but I just can't wrap my brain around people who put on their tights, a tank top, and some flip flops and consider themselves dressed. What's next? The only next step I can see is for people to start putting on a thong, sheer nylons, and a lace camisole, and considering themselves ready for a day at the office. In fact, it might simplify things if we all swore off clothes altogether and just went to work naked. It would save a lot of time in the morning and we could all spend the money we save on other exciting things like trips to exotic nude beaches.

Remember that fairy tale the "Emperor's New Clothes"? I think it might be applicable here. I'll let you all ponder that for a moment while I double check to make sure I'm wearing pants.

Photo credit:

Monday, January 25, 2010

Ukulele Universe

Image by Andrea

Last Tuesday I stepped through a portal into an alternate reality where people converge en masse in coffee shops to play the ukulele. It was like a weird and wonderful episode of the Twilight Zone--one where the world becomes not scary and convoluted but lovely in an inexplicable way. My foray into the world of the Vancouver Ukulele Circle:

occurred after M. stumbled upon their website. His recent ukulele obsession has resulted in much research and it was through this fine-toothed comb perusal of ukulele related things that M. discovered the ukulele meet up at Our Town Cafe. And so on Tuesday M. took his ukulele and I took my camera and some knitting and we set out on our small adventure, not really having any sense of what lay ahead.

And I can tell you, what lay ahead was nothing like I had expected. In my mind a ukulele circle involved about a dozen middle aged, rather serious uke players who would sip peppermint tea while engaging in never-ending renditions of Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World mixed with the occasional break out tune by a rare ukulele prodigy. I imagined the other coffee shop patrons reading the Economist, typing on their laptops, and steadfastly attempting to ignore the odd musical event taking place in the cafe's darkest corner. So when I walked through the front door of Our Town Cafe half an hour before the official start time for the event I was a bit startled to find the entire cafe inhabited by ukulele players of every description. It was like a ukulele tornado had come through the building. There were ukuleles everywhere. Small brightly coloured ones lying on the laps of a few 20-something back-packers, one cozied up between the sugar packets and the napkins on the condiment table, some high end ukes lovingly nestled in the cases of their owners on tables all over the place. There was a teenage boy with an electric/acoustic model and wearing a grey patched fedora he looked the way I imagine Stevie Ray Vaughn would have, had he traded in his electric guitar for a ukulele. There was not a seat to be had in the whole place. One bar-stool was occupied by a man with a Euphonium! Clearly the ukulele players are not opposed to other musicians adding a bit of variety to their jam. However, I don't think I have ever seen a Euphonium in a real life context and to find one at the ukulele circle was truly amazing.

M. and I eventually managed to find seats in the corner with the Euphonium player and we were soon chatting with the people closest to us. There is something about the ukulele that seems to encourage openness and conversation. I suspect it's because the ukulele has a reputation as a rather silly instrument (though there are some fantastic uke players out there and the reputation is not necessarily deserved) so those that play it are not the sort to take themselves too seriously. There was a ripple of energy spreading through the crowd--a wave of good-natured fun, friendliness, and a universal intention to have a rip-roaring good time. I was extremely happy to have my camera along to record this event and spent much of the evening wandering around snapping portraits of the various players and meeting all sorts of people along the way. I think there was a common misconception that I was working for a newspaper or magazine. Having an SLR camera means that people think you know what you're doing when in fact you don't. And some grave exposure errors are testiment to my lack of knowledge. But I did get some decent shots and also spent the two hours we were there with a grin permanently plastered to my face because there was something about the whole atmosphere that kept me full of mirth and constantly on the brink of delighted laughter.

At 7:30 things got started in earnest with the King of the Ukulele and his ukulele-bass playing assistant leading the jam. So there I was, in the midst of sixty ukulele players all strumming at once and singing such favourites as Brown Eyed Girl and Beatles tunes with great gusto and enthusiasm. Through some acoustic miracle a cacophony was avoided and everyone managed to stay more or less together. Everyone was smiling. Everyone was singing merrily. And everyone was having a ridicolously good time as they played, sang, met new people, and managed to cram in some delicioius looking paninis and mochas in between.

It was hilarious to watch unsuspecting folk just looking for a cup of coffee and a quiet corner walk into the cafe only to be bowled over by the discombobulating sight of the throng of ukulele players. But rather than turning heel and departing for the nearest Starbucks, the coffee seekers were overtaken by the ukulele fever. As if a spell had been cast over them they were suddenly tapping their toes. A smile would spread across their face and they would seek out a space to sit in. One such man seemed to see me as a kindred spirit because I was also sans ukulele and he offered me a seat at his table. When does that happen? When does a random stranger in a crowded coffee shop offer you a seat at their table out of pure good will and a sense of community? When have you ever been in a coffee shop where the patrons do anything other than stare at their Blackberry screens and, with grave determination, ignore every other human being in the vacinity?

It seemed to me that the Ukulele Circle had performed an act of deep magic, creating instantly the feeling of a small town cafe where you are only a stranger for a maximum of thirty seconds and everyone is happy to see you. Everyone's talents were recognized no matter what level of musical ability they were at. The open mic performances resulted in multiple standing ovations and excited clapping. The room was infused with generosity and appreciation for everyone's musical contributions. It was perhaps the most refreshingly wonderful event I have attended in quite some time. It reminded me of the inherent goodness of the human spirit, of the joy that people can create just by being willing to reach out to those around them, and the way that communities can form in the most unlikely places when people are drawn together by common interests--in this case a great love for the strange little instrument that is the ukulele.

When I regrouped with M. later that night I found that he had had a wonderful time as well. He was raving about the fantastic selection of songs laid out in the ukulele song book he had just purchased. We both went home knowing that we had stumbled upon something unique, rare, and infinitely valuable in a world that more and more tends towards chilly aloofness and a generation of people who shut out the world by plugging their ears with iPod headphones and limiting their vision to their laptop screens or cellphone displays. M. and I are not sure how often we'll attend the ukulele circle, but I'm happy just to know that it's there. Rumour has it that next month they will be hosting the Ukulele Games, which will be kicked off with a burning ukulele used as a torch! That's something that I definitely don't want to miss. The world is suddenly a bit brighter now...suddenly a little warmer.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Dangers of Scooching

Aging is a sneaky thing. It happens so slowly that you barely notice until all of a sudden your body fails in some odd and inexplicable way. And no, I'm not talking about the sort of failures that require the usage of small blue pills. I'm talking about more subtle things than that--things that come right out of left field.

Example: M. and I were getting ready to go to sleep last night. We were both settled in under the covers and I leaned over to kiss M. goodnight like I always do, but I couldn't quite reach and he had to scooch down a bit in order for me to manage. So I kissed him and said goodnight and M. said "OW!" And I was a bit taken aback, because I didn't think that a goodnight kiss should be painful and it's not as if I bit him or something.

"When I scooched down to reach you I put out my shoulder!" M. exclaimed. I pondered this for a minute, tried some sympathy on for size but couldn't manage it, and started laughing.
"You had a scooching injury?!" I said. And I had a sudden image of a day when we'll be grandparents and M. will tell some grandchild that the reason he can't go outside to throw a ball around is because of his bad shoulder...the shoulder that was ruined in that horrible scooching accident of 2010. M. hit me multiple times with a pillow as I relayed this vistion of the future and almost choked laughing.

So this is a warning to all of you: Scooching can be a very dangerous thing. It involves shuffling over a very small distance, usually while lying down, so as to get closer to someone or something. This means using multiple small muscle groups that can be inadvertently twisted by the scooching motion. I suggest that all of you practise ergonomic scooching techniques from now on and learn from M.'s mistake. Otherwise we'll all be going around sporting various scooching injuries like twisted knees and wrenched elbows. We're not all spring chickens anymore here. Scooching may have been easy in our youths but with age comes less pliability and things you once took for granted can become risky.

It seemed that M. wasn't much the worse for wear this morning, so I think the scooching incident may be fairly minor, but we'll know to be more careful in the future.
(Sorry M. I couldn't help myself)

P.S. "Scooch" is indeed a real word. It appears as a slang term at Check it out for yourself if you don't believe me.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Holiday Debriefing

I have to say that without a doubt this was one of the best Christmases I've had in a very long time. M's parents and my parents seemed to get along swimmingly (though I don't have a direct report from the future in-laws about their perspectives on the holiday so I can only speculate that they did indeed have as good a time as they appeared to be having and aren't just superb actors with a flair for unshakeable politeness), no one had to go to the hospital, there was no family-rending drama, and we're all still speaking to each other and so I declare Christmas of 2009 a glorious success.

Even so there were a few moments of note. For instance--what holiday is complete without a bomb scare at the airport? Not ours that's for sure. M's parents were flying into Detroit via Chicago on Christmas day. Yup, that was the day that a nutcase on a flight from Nigeria tried to blow up a plane that was also bound for Detroit. This meant massive delays for M's parents and Christmas dinner at 9 pm. Also, while M. and my Dad were gone for a few hours attempting to pick up the in-laws at the airport those of us left at home had no choice but to crack into the wine to give us something to do while we were waiting. A few drinks later we were having some sort of ridiculous conversation riddled with all manner of silliness and when M. and Dad returned with our esteemed holiday guests my Mom and I were laughing unto tears and weren't really certain we would be able to compose ourselves to greet our guests in a civilized way. With much effort, some Kleenex, and a few deep breaths I was able to achieve a semblance of normalcy and from there everything went off without a hitch. Dinner was still delicious even though a bit late. There was even gluten free stuffing which made M. and I extremely happy.

I pretty much spent the rest of our trip to Ontario gorging myself and trying not swear like a sailor in front of our guests. My family has no aversion to cursing and back in my home environment I feared that slip-ups might be unavoidable. However, I was ultimately successful on both fronts--the stuffing myself to near bursting on a daily basis as well as the repression of all questionable language in mixed company.

Our engagement party was fantastic and I am deeply grateful to my parents for organizing the whole thing. As much as I love Vancouver, it's tough being what seems like a gazillion miles away from my family. Having the engagement party meant that I could celebrate my upcoming wedding with all the family and friends that are unlikely to make it out to Vancouver in July. The grandson of a family friend played the bagpipes and it was noted that my attempt to present myself as Scottish to the world is about to become a reality by association! Once I marry M. I can have a Scottish name, a Scottish father-in-law, and a bunch of relatives in Scotland, which I'm pretty sure makes me Scottish enough that I can claim real kinship at this point. The piping was followed by my Baba and Guido singing a traditional Ukrainian song of celebration. It was a strangely emotional moment. I'm extremely lucky that my grandparents are still around to share this huge event with me. They sang in Ukrainian, reminding me that my life is rooted in distant places that I have never seen--the farms, the wheat fields, the prairie lands of Ukraine. My great grandfather moved to Canada leaving a young wife, his son, and a baby daughter in Ukraine. It took him somewhere in the region of a decade to make enough money to send for them. In the meantime his daughter died of an illness and my grandfather came to Canada to meet a father who was essentially a stranger to him. With Baba and Guido singing I saw this history suddenly like a slideshow projected on their faces, full of love and well wishes. I am a lucky, lucky woman indeed.

Later both my mother and my oldest friend gave speeches and I, of course, had to fight like a maniac not to start bawling my eyes out. I needed to keep a hold of myself because I had a speech to give as well and I didn't think it would look to good to be up there with my nose running and my eyes all red and puffy from crying. I couldn't help but shed a few tears but I managed to get through my own speech without mishap and as I told the assembled crowd about how I made M. make paper plate turkeys in retribution for not inviting me to Thanksgiving early on in our relationship, and how I survived M's skiing tutelage I looked around at my family and friends laughing, eating, and sharing in this giant transition in my life and felt infused with love and support.

We rang in the New Year quietly at home. Okay, Mom and my aunt rushed outside to bang some pots, but I refrained. 2009 has been a rough year in some ways, full of transitions, and hard decisions, adjustments, and struggles. But at the end of the year as I sat reflecting on all that has happened, as I scanned through my blog entries, as I perused my journal and sat surrounded by all the people who love me I found that over all life is pretty wonderful right now. And now at the beginning of a new year and a new decade I have much to look forward to. It's going to be a banner year. There are three weddings planned in our group of family and friends this year and I'm going to be doing lots of travelling--first to Australia and then to Europe for my honeymoon. M. and I are busy learning music for his sister's wedding, our own wedding plans are in full swing, and I suspect that 2010 is going to be one hell of a hectic, exciting year.

Happy New Year everyone!