Monday, 31 October 2011

"Happy Hallowe'en"? I don't think so

I will not be at home this evening. So when your children come knocking, the door will not be answered. I have now learned by bitter experience that this will be an excuse for the "trick" bit of "trick or treat". Last year the front of the house was comprehensively "egged". I just hope the damage they do this year will be no worse.

I learned this weekend of a day care that now has no toys for their children to play with when outdoors. Some idiot - armed with hallowe'en fireworks - set them alight. They were stored in a locked, fenced compound, so it was an easy matter to poke a firework through the mesh. They would, of course, claim ignorance that a propane cylinder was also stored there. The subsequent fire must have been especially gratifying for their pyromaniac tendency. The damage to adjacent buildings was significant.

The CBC attempted to deter by running a fire department demo of fire crackers - and video of a boy displaying what was left of his fingers after an incident last year. They followed up with the very useful information that legal fireworks - bear deterrents - are sold to anyone by outdoor outfitters. This also included video of how these devices work. They are, of course, explosives.

It seems to me foolish in the extreme to allow the sale of fireworks to the general public, in light of the record in recent years. Quite why fireworks and hallowe'en got associated in the first place baffles me. But then I do not see why we need "celebrate" this odd jumble of old superstitions. It is a bit like getting alarmed by potential zombie invasions. But if there must be fireworks, why not confine them to properly regulated public displays?

For the last couple of nights my sleep has been disturbed. The new generation of firecrackers seem to me to be not only louder but also designed to mimic the firing of automatic weapons. Sadly, this is something we are becoming familiar with here, as the gang wars move into populated areas and even busy streets in broad daylight. Why anyone thinks letting off fireworks past midnight in an urban park is "fun" also defeats me.

On the news tonight there will be yet more reports of the increased load on fire departments and emergency rooms. There will probably also be accounts of property damage - and quite possibly other malfeasances committed under the cover of the "festivities"

We love the scary bits of Hallowe'en. The dreadful warnings of the tainted "treats" are greatly over done. Much more to the point would be the damage that the untainted candies will do, but that of course would offend those who profit so greatly from this over consumption of confectionary.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

REVIEW: Vancouver Opera West Side Story

From the Program Notes "From the beginning, the team [Bernstein, Sondheim, Laurents, Robbins] was adamant that this not be an opera"

Perhaps that might explain the large number of empty seats at last night's performance. Are people put off by the word "opera"? It was a Broadway show - groundbreaking, revolutionary but highly successful - and then a block buster movie. Which was when I discovered it for myself - just as I was entering the teenage phase of dating. This was actually the first time I had seen the stage show - which has many notable differences to the movie, and is in many ways stronger. Though dated, of course. The story is "Romeo and Juliet" reworked but it is the music and lyrics that captured me - and, last night, the dancing.

I got very emotionally involved - really to my own surprise. I thought I was past that, but I felt like a teenager again - anxious, nervous, and emotional all at the same time. Yet this is a very stagey presentation. It makes a virtue of the need to move people on and off the stage and there are no stage hands to move the scenery or props. The cast does that. But it all works brilliantly. There are only four performances left. If you can, you should not miss it.

And, honestly, I would suggest that you ignore the surtitles: they are quite unnecessary and also very inaccurate.

Incidentally the Opera has taken a real risk with this show - see the Globe article

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

"Chef Sampler" sushi from Thrifty Foods

A new store opened today in Sapperton. Thrifty now have seven stores in the Lower Mainland with "more to come". They are no longer the independent Vancouver Island company I got to know when I first moved to Victoria but part of IGA - which means that there are growing numbers of "Compliments" brand goods on their shelves replacing the Alex Campbell brand in some cases. However, it is still a store worth driving a distance for - especially for their fresh foods. In store made sushi been one of the attractions (this selection was $9.69, which compares favourably to most take out places). Indeed the people working the sushi counter recognized me from the Tsawassen store. New Westminster is about the same drive time - and their traffic is no worse than getting stuck on the wrong side of the tunnel in the pm peak. Moreover this store will be open 24/7 which means that is will be relatively convenient for shifts at the bridge - and much to be preferred over Wal-Mart, which is close but unacceptable!

The store is located on the former brewery site and, of course, does not show up yet on Google - so roughly on East Columbia between Alberta and Simpson Streets on the east side of the street. There is underground parking - but you will need to pay and get the ticket "validated" (this was not the case today as a concession on opening) and remember your stall number.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Restaurant Review: Nelson the Seagull

Nelson the Seagull has been open since May of this year. In their own words, they are about bread and coffee - and they do both exceedingly well.


They are located on Carrall between Hastings and Cordova which you might think of as Gastown but is still the Downtown Eastside, and definitely raises the tone. Even so, I would be cautious about parking my bike where I couldn't keep an eye on it, if I were you. Carrall is one of the streets that has seen its cycle facilities upgraded recently.

Nelson the Seagull interior

As you can see the interior is welcoming and does have the air of a home.

Nelson the Seagull menu

The menu is short, but the choices are still adequately varied, though since I like to eat lunch at noon, when I arrived not all of the items - the stew for instance - were ready.

Nelson the Seagull carnivore

This came with a knife and fork, so I ate it that way. It would have been quite a mouthful if I had put the components together. Cilantro pesto is a good idea, but I would have preferred that the cheese be identified. This is going to sound like carping, because the white bread is truly very good. But I try to get as much whole grain into my carbs as I can (to lower the glycemic index) so I am hoping that they will introduce some greater variety of bread in future.

Nelson the Seagull carnivore

I haven't ordered a "flat white" before, since I haven't seen it on a menu, but it turns out that is what I have been making for myself at home. My partner likes to eat the fluffier foam from the top of the pitcher with a spoon - and I am happy to indulge her. Of course, I use a much bigger cup, and I have never managed to produce latte art.

Wikipedia says "A flat white is a coffee beverage from Australia and New Zealand. It is prepared by pouring microfoam (steamed milk from the bottom of a pitcher) over a single shot (30 millilitre) or double shot of espresso. It is similar to the latte and the café au lait and like other espresso based beverages it can be interpreted various ways.

The beverage is typically served in a small, 150–160 millilitre, ceramic cup. Microfoam is used, resulting in a smooth and velvety texture. A flat white may incorporate latte art."

Up to now, when in Gastown I have seen little reason to go beyond the Water Street cafe - but the number and quality of establishments is certainly rapidly increasing. I no longer have kids at home so the Spaghetti Factory has not seen me for a while despite its in house tram. Nelson will certainly see me more often