I remember getting vaccinated against polio and other diseases when I was young. The one disease I was terrified of was polio. There were lots of stories of people in iron lungs (shown above) that enabled people to live and breathe. The thought of being trapped in such a device made me easily get over any fears of needles and get the vaccine.
I really hope we don’t get a severe outbreak of that disease. No one should suffer with it, especially because there is no reason to.
If you are fearful of it, read those pieces for more information. And make sure whoever needs to gets their shots.
To have that type of work, you need good management, not just at the highest levels, but all through your organization. Unfortunately, no one wants to work in middle management anymore. At least according to that piece. Indeed, many women in general are giving up on work ambition in general. That’s too bad. Good workplaces need good leaders to be successful.
Perhaps as a result of all, we see dissatisfied employees who are “quiet quitting”. It doesn’t help that they are being forced to return to the office when they don’t want to. It also doesn’t help when you have people like Malcolm Gladwell going on about how working for home is bad (unless you are the hypocrite known as Malcolm Gladwell).
Mind you working from home can also be tough, as companies are dumb enough to think they can make people more productive by using employee monitoring. That’s the worst form of leadership.
Posted onAugust 28, 2022|Comments Off on Sunday reads: on how to deal with racist art, Critical Race Theory, and more
I collect thoughtful pieces on a wide range of topics to educate myself, to change my mind, and to see the world in a new and better way. Pieces like those below that revolve around race, racism, anti-semitism, and related topics. They are not easy reads, but worthwhile ones, I thought.
Back in 2013, Chang had set up a store/exhibit in Soho, NYC, where
the only thing in stock here is the Beatles’s White Album, and the store doesn’t sell any of them, it only acquires more….(it included) 700 copies of the 1968 double-LP first edition of the White Album, all the personal collection of Chang. Each album is marked with a distinct serial number on the bottom corner of the starkly designed cover by Richard Hamilton, a totally white cover that’s readily attracted the wandering drawings of (possibly stoned) listeners, the visible stains of coffee cups, and some mold.
I never did get to see it, but the idea captivated me and I never forgot it.
Needless to say, I was excited and delighted to see that it was on the road and recently at the AGO! You can see part of the exhibit above. It wasn’t the same as being in the store, but it captured the essence of that 2013 event. Chang even made a new recording that consisted of 100 copies of the album all playing at the same time. The AGO had it on display and for sale, too:
As a big fan of conceptual art and the Beatles, I loved this project. I’m glad I could experience it through the AGO.
For more details, I recommend you go to that hyperallergic link and read more about it. You can also read more about the exhibit at the AGO, here.
(Images: top two mine, bottom image is a link to the hyperallergic article)
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Posted onAugust 26, 2022|Comments Off on On Bades Bake Shop and the Chip Wagon of Glace Bay
It can be notoriously difficult to find images of Glace Bay on the Internet. Google is no help: I had been searching for “Bades Bakery Glace Bay” and came up with nothing. It was only through searching for the specific phrase “Bades Bake Shop” did I find it.
I loved Bades as a kid. It was on my route to the hockey arena, and depending on the time and how much coin I had, I could drop in and get a doughnut or something sweet. I don’t recall there being any other such establishment nearby, so it was an oasis for someone like me who loved sweet things. I recall the lettering for the sign being yellow against a brown backdrop. It was a great place, long gone. (You can read more about it, here.)
Here’s a good piece on another place I loved as a kid and as an adult: the Chip Wagon. When I was a kid it was in the main part of town. Later as an adult I would line up like these people to get a sample of those delicious fries. I don’t know if it is still in operation. If not, that’s sad. Like Mike’s Lunch, it was a must visit whenever I went home to Glace Bay.
If you are feeling nostalgic like me, you can see lots more images of Cape Breton at Caperpics or here at the flickr account of the Beaton Institute. Forget Google: go directly to those two places.
(Images: links to images at the Beaton Institute and Caperpics).
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Posted onAugust 25, 2022|Comments Off on Is Kanye West a good clothing designer? And other fashion thoughts
Is Kanye West a good clothing designer? That’s a good question, and one this piece spends many words considering. Part of the problem is what is the standard for “good”. His work resembles the work of other good designers. His work, like the products he makes for the GAP or this Goyard Robot Face Backpack, seem to be sought out by people:
I don’t think he is good as some of the best clothing designers, from Armani to Valentino. But I don’t think he is bad either. Just how good he is will be best measured over time. One thing for sure, he is not dull. That’s a good thing.
Men’s running shoes often have boring colour palettes: those don’t.
Finally, thanks to Cup of Jo for this piece on Striped shirts. Like dots, stripes never go out of style. If you are freshening up your wardrobe this Fall, why not add some bold stripes to the mix? There are so many ways you can bring stripes into your wardrobe. If you are leaning to the sporty side, you cannot go wrong with Adidas:
(Images from the good folks at Uncrate)
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Posted onAugust 24, 2022|Comments Off on On art, being rescued, and George Westren
You could say art rescued George Westren. In discovering op art, he found a way to deal with his addiction troubles and get his life to a better place. The idea of being rescued plays out again in his life, when his neighbor saves his artwork from being thrown in the trash.
Posted onAugust 23, 2022|Comments Off on A list of 10 resources to help you get through hard times
If you find yourself going through hard times, then you need to help yourself. Sure loved ones and professionals can make a big improvement, but the more you can do on your own, the more successful you will be.
With that in mind, here are 10 links that you may find useful in dealing with your difficulties:
I was skeptical when I first started reading it. I thought: Gen Z are just another generation dealing with their first few years of work. And that’s true, but there’s much more at play than just that. Things like the number of recessions that they’ve been through, a pandemic, the high/impossible cost of home ownership, and more.
It’s worth a read. Especially if you are in a position of employing young people.
With that, I give you Beyoncé and her big summer hit about….work. And more:
P.S. Relatedly, here’s a list of the Top 10 books about terrible jobs over at The Guardian. That might not seem appealing, but it is a list of very good books. It might appeal to those of you, Gen Z or not, who also do not dream of labor.
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Posted onAugust 21, 2022|Comments Off on It’s time to retire the “Sunday Routine” (at least the one at the New York Times)
Each weekend in the New York Times, there is a story in the section called Sunday Routine, part of “a weekly series that profiles newsworthy New Yorkers and how they spend their down time”. Sounds good. I even liked this one: How a Couple Who Started a Food Bank Spend Their Sundays. Mostly I hate read them, though. Like pieces that ask people what’s on their bedside table and they list out 20 really hard books they are reading, these Sunday routines seem so performative and superior. It’s rare now, it seems, to see people having “down time”.
So if you are someone who tries to be productive during your Sundays and hates down time, then read this series. Otherwise, give it a pass. Don’t be dumb like me and hate read it.
P.S. Ok, this week’s piece on Alice Feiring is also good. I’ll be glad to rescind this if the Times keeps this up. 🙂
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Posted onAugust 19, 2022|Comments Off on On the great Billy Munnelly and what he can still teach us about buying wine at the LCBO in 2022
Since the 1980s I’ve been getting expert advice from Billy on how to buy wine at the LCBO. So I was shocked to see he had moved away and he won’t be offering LCBO wine buying tips anymore. It’s great for him, but not so great for folks looking to know what to buy and what to avoid at the LCBO.
But here’s a tip. Go to his blog Billy’s Best Bottles, and with a pen and paper take notes on what wines he likes and what he likes about them. Do you feel like a good summer wine? He has posts on them. Do you feel like a good bistro red to go with your steak frites? He has a wine for that! It doesn’t matter too much about the year (most of the time). Go and seek out those wines he recommends. The prices will have gone up, but most times the quality will be consistent year over year.
There are wines from the 80s he recommended that are still good and recommended today. (I know because I’ve been drinking them all this time.) There are many newer and better ones since then: the LCBO has improved considerably in the last few decades. There is still lots of not so great wine, though, and Billy can help you avoid those.
There are a great many people writing about wine at the LCBO these days. But back in the 1980s such info was rare. Billy had put out a small comic book back then on how to buy wine at the LCBO, and it was my mainstay for many years whenever I needed something for dinner or a special occasion. He eventually moved to the web like the rest of us, but the spirit of that little comic book lives on at Billy’s Best Bottles, Go check it out, then go get some wine.
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There are three good suits you can wear in the summer: cotton, linen and seersucker.
Seersucker is lightweight and doesn’t wrinkle easily, but it tends to be limited in terms of colour options. (The one on the left in the photo above looks good though). If you have to wear suits in the hotter months, having a seersucker suit will help you get through them.
Cotton is also lightweight and can come in a wider range of colours than seerksucker. However cotton wrinkles. Alot. Really it is a dry cleaners dream. It looks great well pressed, but after a few minutes it looks wrinkled and disheveled.
That’s why I like linen: it looks great pressed, and it looks great wrinkled. Plus it comes in lots of colours and cuts. Hands down it is the best looking of the three types of summer suits and it has been for some time. I had a black linen suit from Hugo Boss and even in the heat I could wear it and feel comfortable.
That’s why you should ignore the Guardian when it talks about how the loose linen suit became retirement wear. They use Boris Johnson wearing linen as an example of why (younger) men should not. I mean, please. The other comparison point is Brad Pitt who wisely decided to promote his new film in the hotter months by suiting up in linen. A smart choice. (Also note the style of Pitt: draw string pants, loose necklines, casual shoes….all good looks to steal.)
It would be a shame if men, especially young men, gave up wearing linen suits. They are extremely versatile in terms of cuts, colours and styles. They are supremely comfortable. You can wear them to a wedding and you can wear them to a show. You can wear them in the city and you can wear them in the country.
Posted onAugust 18, 2022|Comments Off on Italy is a reminder not to be cheap if you want to tackle climate change
To tackle climate change, Italy provided what is considered by some a superbonus to homeowners to make specific renovations. That’s right, Italy reimbursed home owners 110% to upgrade their homes in a way that helps the environment. That prompted some to ask: ‘Why so generous?’. One reason? It resulted in a “surge of green home renovations” which is great for Italians and great for the climate.
Look, people know that something has to be done about climate change. People are also motivated mainly by their own self interests. Take advantage of that by offering generous benefits for people to change. We need to use every tool at our disposal, from alternate energy to alternative uses of energy, and more. Now is not the time to quibble about the price: that time is past. Now is the time to hurry things up. Throwing money at a problem can often do that. Italy showed it.
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Posted onAugust 17, 2022|Comments Off on One way to be an artist is to add extra to the the ordinary
There is no particular way to be an artist and to make art. There are many ways. One of those ways is to add extra to the the ordinary to make it extraordinary. (See what I did there? :))
I thought of it when I came across this post on Cup of Jo called Four Fun Things. Among other things was a feature on an Instagram account:
The Instagram account Subway Hands by Hannah La Follette Ryan is surprisingly moving, don’t you think? (This one looks like a Michelangelo sculpture.)
I agree: the photo on the bottom left does look like sculpture! But all the images are good. What Ryan does, by paying extra attention to the ordinary (“hands on the subway”) is make something extraordinary. That is her art, and it is fine art indeed. She pays extra attention to something common and gets us to pay attention and think more about it. If you can do that too, you will be making fine art, indeed.
As Austin Kleon wrote: “The ordinary + extra attention = the extraordinary”. (He writes about the concept in a few posts.)
P.S. Now, this is a formula, but if you just use a formula without putting much of your heart and head into it, then you will get art that is formulaic. And that ain’t good. So keep that in mind.
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There are seasons of the year when the temperature outside is somewhat close to room temperature. Neither my furnace nor my air conditioning comes on for long periods of time. Without them on, the house can be totally quiet. So quiet you can only hear the occasional noise outside or you can hear a mechanical clock. Maybe you can hear the wires in the wall humming. It’s the season of the quiet house.
I love those times of year. Nothing is more relaxing to me than sitting in a quiet house.
Right now it’s one of those seasons. I treasure it.
As for my two cents….part of me likes the Dark Brandon meme. It a political jiu-jitsu move, taking the use of memes and shitposting that comes from trolls, the alt-right, and basic straight up Nazis, and using it effectively against them. That part I am good with.
But I think the warning that comes from this piece is worth considering:
… experts warn there are risks to embracing this type of political iconography. “You don’t want to take a trend that is precipitated by fascists and Nazis and then sort that into your arsenal. That’s just not great,” says extremist researcher Daniel Grober, who co-authored with Hampton Stall a definitive report on the Dark MAGA trend in far-right online networks. “What it does is it normalises the aesthetic, and it gives kind of a platform for it to be solidified into the general media.”
I agree with that. Essentially the use of memes like Dark Brandon risks getting into the mud with the worst of the Internet and wrestling with them. As G.B. Shaw(?) once warned:
“Never wrestle with pigs. You both get dirty and the pig likes it.”
As an example of this, one of the Democrats grabbed a Dark Brandon meme that contained some Dark Knight/Batman imagery and tweeted it, only to have to pull it when someone pointed out the Nazi Eagle in the background. See? The mud gets on you even as you fling it.
I can see why it is so appealing. If you feel that you are always winging it, then thinking everyone else is doing the same makes you feel less alone. It’s also comforting if you have imposter syndrome.
But there’s two facts and a lie:
some people wing it all of the time (Fact)
all people wing it some of the time (Fact)
all people wing it all of the time (Lie)
In fact, most adults have expertise in fields and wing it none of the time. Surgeons, bankers, bus drivers, grocery staff…you name it, they know what they are doing most if not all the time. We expect that of them and they deliver. Even young parents go from winging it to being confident and capable most of the time. As humans, being in control makes us feel more comfortable and confident and makes those around us feel that way too.
It’s fine to wing it from time to time. It’s how we learn and grow. But don’t kid yourself: all people are not winging it all the time. Chances are, you aren’t either.
(Picture is of someone definitely not winging it.)
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Posted onAugust 14, 2022|Comments Off on (Sunday) Night Music (one of the best music shows you never saw)
In the late 80s, Lorne Michaels (of SNL fame) produced this show called “Night Music” that was seen in Canada as well as elsewhere. For a show that only ran from 1988-1990, it featured a wealth of musicians. (You can see the list here.)
One of my favorite episodes was #208 which featured Sting and Mary Margaret O’Hara as well as many other fine musicians. If you have 40 minutes, you can see it here:
What I like about that episode, like most episodes, is that you get a wide range of musicians, old and new, all doing challenging or interesting music. You didn’t just see the latest artists performing their hits. You didn’t just see one style of music. You never knew what to expect, other than it would be good.
So check out that video while you can. I’ve posted Night Music videos before and they get pulled sooner or later. See it while you can, and see why it was so good.
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Posted onAugust 14, 2022|Comments Off on In defence of the 80s against current day philistines
I try not to write too much here on my love of the 1980s, but sometimes the world forces me to do otherwise.
It started recently when in this piece on John Lurie and his Downtown Confessional book, the reviewer compared him to Pete Davidson. I mean, I’m sorry, but that is an egregious comparison, even in the slightest of ways. John Lurie is cool in a way Davidson could never be. Comparison aside, that’s a good review and I recommend it and anything to do with Lurie, including his book and his work with Jim Jarmusch.
Posted onAugust 13, 2022|Comments Off on On the Basquiat work at the AGO in 2022
The AGO had a good show called “I AM HERE” packed with a great many works, including the one above. There were some other works like these…
There were even some drawings of food
For a Basquiat fan such as myself, it was all very exciting to see so much of his work here in Ontario.
It wasn’t until sometime later that I noticed the fine print besides the work:
That doesn’t mean to say that these are forgeries. It just says his family doesn’t vouch for them.
I can’t say one way or another. Basquiat was known to draw on all sorts of things, which made the food drawings seem real enough. To me only the head / portrait painting seemed a bit off. Not his typical pallet. But I think it seems like him in many other ways.
Given how much his work goes for and how much he produced, I think we might see more potential issues with works of Basquait on display. something to keep in mind the next time his work is on display.
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If you want to find more joy for your life, you can go about it in two ways. One way is to read the work of Ingrid Fetell Lee. She has a book and a web site that can help you do just that. I like her and recommend her.
So that’s one way. Another way is simpler and almost too obvious. List all the things you enjoy…those are the things that bring you joy! They are people, places and things. They are activities. They are inactivities! They are free things, and not so free things. They are rare things, and they are common things.
Here’s the main thing though: when you enjoy them, take the time to really enjoy them. I often find I partake in things I enjoy, but I allow myself to get distracted. Don’t be like me. If you are enjoying a sunrise, or a trip to someplace new, or a conversation with a friend, or a new outfit, really enjoy it.
Posted onAugust 12, 2022|Comments Off on On the wonder of Big Glace Bay Lake
There’s plenty to see and do in Nova Scotia and Cape Breton, including exploring the coast. One of the best parts of that coast is Big Glace Bay Lake and the area around it. When I was younger I’d walk down to that beach and swim or or skip rocks or just sit and watch the ocean. It’s still one of my favorite things in life.
Maybe next week I’ll be in a better mood and I will write about why American is great. Often times they are great because of their enemies and the challenges they pose. Some of those enemies are foreign, but many of them are domestic.
Posted onAugust 10, 2022|Comments Off on Issey Miyake was more than a designer of turtlenecks for Steve Jobs
I’ve been a fan of the late great Issey Miyake since the 1980s. No one at the time was doing anything as wonderful with fabric as was. Perhaps Armani, but Armani’s cuts seemed conservative in comparison.
It’s an odd thing, but this week when he died, many of the news articles kept mentioning how Miyake designed the classic turtlenecks that Steve Jobs wore all the time. And it’s true, he did make those black tops of Jobs. However, those were among the least interesting thing he designed. To get a sense of just how beautiful his clothing designs could really be, see this: Issey Miyake’s best celebrity fashion moments at the Daily Mail. As well, Vogue has some highlights. (This piece in the Guardian is the best by far in recognizing his greatness.)
It’s quite a legacy. And right up until the end, he was making beautiful clothes.
Besides the clothes, he has always been associated with great fragrances. Next time you can, pay your local fragrance shop a visit and see if you can get some. You may not be able to wear his garments, but you can wear his scents.
(Image: link to image in Daily Mail piece)
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Posted onAugust 10, 2022|Comments Off on On art and artists being bad. From Gormley, to Hirst and more
So Antony Gormley is in the news for his “phallic” statue which students are worried about. This is not the first time he’s made statues associated with sex, as this piece shows: Sex on the beach? This could be made into a story about artist freedom and prudishness, but I think the easier case could be made for communities being forced to deal with ridiculous sculptures of oversexed middle aged artists. It’s like the artist is an exhibitionist and what he flashes his stuff, tries to make it about you being a prude. Anyway, stuff like this makes me grumpy. Stick the goddamn stuff in a garden or something. Sculptures like Gormley and Serra who subject the public to their difficult work are jerks.
That’s Sex. Moving on to Death, Damien Hirst recently got into trouble for a work that consisted of killing flies. He really should avoid dead things and stick to what he is good at: money. Here he is burning his art to show art as currency. When it comes to money, that’s where his true talent lies. Stick to that, Damien.
Speaking of money and greed, you can read about how a company is trying to trademark a colour. Just what we need. We can thank Anish Kapoor for fostering that bad idea. Thanks, Anish.
Too often I seem to spend my days counting. Counting the hours in the day until the work day is done. Counting the hours in the evening until the day is done. There is little joy in such hours: I am just passing through them. Some hours are boring: others are painful. At night I often think: ok, that day is over. Thank god.
Before I get up in the morning, I find my brain anticipating the hours ahead and trying to deal with them. Some mornings I can convince my brain to think about something else until I get up; some mornings that enough to let me get back to sleep.
For a long time I did not want to be here anymore. I had converted it from not wanting “to be” to “not want to be here”. Other people want me to be and want me to be here, and so not wanting to make things worse, I remain. A remainder of a divided life. I try my best to be responsible for those who want that dividend.
Lately people have taken to treating my heart. They are worried about the literal one, but the metaphorical one is troublesome too. Hearts are too often troublesome.
People make recommendations to improve, as if I don’t know. As if I have not tried. I know enough. Enough to keep counting. Counting the days, the hours, the beats. Counting things that don’t count. Counting on things that matter will go on after me.
It’s possible that both companies could falter, but I suspect we will be getting our fill of Apple Devices and Marvel Entertainment for the rest of this decade. I’ll be curious to visit this post in 5 or 6 years and see if this prediction held.
Posted onAugust 5, 2022|Comments Off on Friday Night Music with the Psychedelic Furs and….Maroon 5?
I find it fascinating when ideas reoccur in music videos. Take these two. First up is “Heaven” by the Psychedelic Furs.
Next up, “Girl Like You” by Maroon 5, some years – decades – later.
Both use a similar style, where the camera seems to revolve around the singer, allowing for lots of motion even while the singer remains in one place. It’s effective in giving the video life. It’s also interesting to see it revisited after all this time in the latter video.
Of course, there are other things that give the video action. In “Heaven”, there is literally a downpour of water! While in “Girl Like You’, there is the effect of many women appearing behind Levine as he sings.
Anyway, both effective videos. I am loathe to post music videos these days: so many times the music companies will yank the videos and leave my blog posts looking poorly. Perhaps these ones, because they have been there for some time, won’t be removed.
P.S. It’s an impressive pantheon of women appearing in the Maroon 5 video, ranging from performers to athletes to activists. You can get the details on who they are, here.
P.S.S. Here’s a different version of “Girl Like You” which I like even more.
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Posted onAugust 3, 2022|Comments Off on Ian Brown catches COVID again and why that’s good
It’s good not because I want him to be ill! Not at all. Rather, it’s good because what came out of that is this fine essay: I caught COVID, again – this time, nobody cares (The Globe and Mail). It nicely catches where we are in this ongoing pandemic. Not just by writing about the disease and what we are doing or not doing about it, but also what else is competing for our attention. I highly recommend it.
I hope by the time you read this Ian is well and none the worse for having suffered through another bout of COVID.
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Posted onAugust 2, 2022|Comments Off on Some advice on visiting Toronto, from the New York Times and me
So the Times has done a recent piece on Toronto: What to See Eat and Do in Toronto. It’s nice to see. It has lots of good ideas on where to dine, where to stay, and what to do.
While it’s easy to go to the places everyone recommends, if you want to bypass that and go to some very old school restaurants, here are five classic places that have been around forever and are still great, including Swatow and Country Style. For bistro fans, here is a list of fine French restaurants that should appeal to fans of that cuisine, as I am. There’s lots of great places to dine in Toronto.
Maybe you – yes you – already write emails like this. In that case, try this as an exercise: look at the emails in your inbox and see how many of them meet these criteria. I’ll bet most don’t.
A word to younger people: you might think, I don’t write emails…I use Slack or Teams or some other form of instant communication. If that’s true, then you definitely need to read that and practice it. You cannot avoid email (yet) and when it comes to key communication, you need to write good email. So get going on that.
Good luck! Was this clear? I hope so.
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