Still Summer …

Here are a few pictures I took recently of rides around town and along the seawall.

A convoy of big red trucks was parked near Science World one night for an unknown reason.

I had noticed the colourful blue stripes on the base of the Cambie Bridge pilons before; what I did not realise is that they are a public art project designed to demonstrate how high the waters are projected to rise in False Creek as a result of global climate change.

As you can see, the water rise will be significant … and might happen sooner than we think, if the arctic continues to melt quickly – frightening.

Now that we no longer have a car, it’s bicycle commuting for me. And rather than the huge vessels of BC Ferries, my water transport is the Cyquabus across the Creek to Emily Carr.

Below are a few pics that I took from the Painting on the Edge juried show at the Federation of Canadian Artists Gallery on Granville Island.

From our place, we can still see a little slice of water and a tiny bit of Granville Island in between the towers that continue to proliferate downtown.

When the tide is low, it’s really fascinating to see the well-demarcated ecological niches of the creatures populating False Creek.

This bike tune-up guy is conveniently located on the seawall right near Science World.

This flower bed in George Wainborn Park is just amazing; I have no idea what these purple flowers are called but they have grown enormously in the last month of good weather.

AARRRRR – the Pirate Pub is a favourite pit stop along the seawall.

Two salty sea dogs on the sea wall ~

We saw this guy just floating around in the fountain at George Wainborn Park one beautiful late afternoon.

And these Fringe Festival folks waiting for the aquabus.

Malaspina Gallery has a really interesting show of print works by Kathy Slade and Lisa Robertson up – we stopped in to the opening.

BIMPE VII, the Biennial International Miniature Print Exhibition’s seventh incarnation, opened on Thursday night at the Federation Gallery, offering 400 small print works from all over the world. Check it out if you have the chance – lot’s of great stuff.

I am really enjoying riding my bike around town; last week, with a group of cyclists, I rode out to Dundarave across the Lion’s Gate Bridge – joy!

See more pics here.


Monsters and the Moral Imagination

Monsters and the Moral Imagination 1

(image by Melinda Beck)

By Stephen T. Asma

Monsters are on the rise. People can’t seem to get enough of vampires lately, and zombies have a new lease on life. This year and next we have the release of the usual horror films like Saw VI and Halloween II; the campy mayhem of Zombieland; more-pensive forays like 9 (produced by Tim Burton and Timur Bekmambetov), The Wolfman, and The Twilight Saga: New Moon; and, more playfully, Where the Wild Things Are (a Dave Eggers rewrite of the Maurice Sendak classic).

The reasons for this increased monster culture are hard to pin down. Maybe it’s social anxiety in the post-9/11 decade, or the conflict in Iraq—some think there’s an uptick in such fare during wartime. Perhaps it’s the economic downturn. The monster proliferation can be explained, in part, by exploring the meaning of monsters. Popular culture is re-enchanted with meaningful monsters, and even the eggheads are stroking their chins—last month saw the seventh global conference on Monsters and the Monstrous at the University of Oxford.

The uses of monsters vary widely. In our liberal culture, we dramatize the rage of the monstrous creature—and Frankenstein’s is a good example—then scold ourselves and our “intolerant society” for alienating the outcast in the first place. The liberal lesson of monsters is one of tolerance: We must overcome our innate scapegoating, our xenophobic tendencies. Of course, this is by no means the only interpretation of monster stories. The medieval mind saw giants and mythical creatures as God’s punishments for the sin of pride. For the Greeks and Romans, monsters were prodigies—warnings of impending calamity.

After Freud, monster stories were considered cathartic journeys into our unconscious—everybody contains a Mr. Hyde, and these stories give us a chance to “walk on the wild side.” But in the denouement of most stories, the monster is killed and the psyche restored to civilized order. We can have our fun with the “torture porn” of Leatherface and Freddy Krueger or the erotic vampires, but this “vacation” to where the wild things are ultimately helps us return to our lives of quiet repression.

Apollo Jekyll and Hyde

Any careful reading of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, for example, will reveal not only a highly sexualized description of blood drinking, but an erotic characterization of the count himself. Even John Polidori’s original 1819 vampire tale The Vampyre describes the monster as a sexually attractive force. According to the critic Christopher Craft, Gothic monster tales—Frankenstein, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Dracula, Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles—rehearse a similar story structure. “Each of these texts first invites or admits a monster, then entertains and is entertained by monstrosity for some extended duration, until in its closing pages it expels or repudiates the monster and all the disruption that he/she/it brings,” he writes.

A crucial but often-ignored aspect of monsterology is the role those beasties play in our moral imaginations. Recent experimental moral psychology has given us useful tools for looking at the way people actually do their moral thinking. Brain imaging, together with hypothetical ethical dilemmas about runaway trolley cars, can teach us a lot about our real value systems and actions. But another way to get at this subterranean territory is by looking at our imaginative lives.

Read the rest here.

Sexist ad trends that refuse to die


This was a big year for women: The first serious female presidential candidate, the first predominately female state senate, the first female Top Chef. Yet the advertising world has not caught up to the advances of half our population and continues to use stereotypes and violence to prey on our most vile desires. Here are the worst of them — the trends that won’t die despite our cultural outrage, and personal boredom.

BONDAGE – This year Remy Martin debuted its “things are getting interesting” campaign that features a mediocre Website and a series of billboards/magazine spreads depicting women in degrading bondage positions. You may think, “hey this one shows two women, there aren’t even men involved, how can it be sexist?” But most of the ads (not available online) have men between the two women in controlling positions. And even without that, these women are obviously putting on a show for an outsider, not having a passionate lesbian love affair for themselves. These types of ads gain traction in cultural periods of female advancement — capturing the fantasy of “putting us back where we belong.”

Read the rest here.