Saturday, February 28, 2009

Le Moulin de Provence

On Saturdays, when the temperature is not thirty-billion degrees below freezing, I like to wander around the Byward Market area of Ottawa, going into the food specialty stores and buying one or two items at each place.  Today I bought mustard from the Euro-grocery and croissants at the bakery and sun-dried tomatoes at the Italian grocery: it is as though I am a bee, bumbling from flower to flower.

I was mildly scoping the storefronts out to see if there was any Canada Loves Obama stuff when I suddenly decided to go buy a croissant at Le Moulin de Provence.  Hye-Sung does not like this bakery compared to whatever in Paris but, as I'm still cruising on my wave of disfavor of all things France-related (see North American Scum), I care naught for what she thinks.

I laughed aloud when I saw this on the door of the bakery, not realizing the madness within.

The bakery was very busy.  Most of the people in this line want to buy Obama Cookies.

Part of the interior display.  Not pictured are the large photographs of Obama with the bakery staff and action shots of him purchasing the red maple-leaf cookies reading, 'CANADA.'  I kind of want one of those posters saying, Obama cookies sold here.

There were at least five people photographing the cookie/poster display at the same time that I was.  I asked one friendly-looking woman if I could photograph her photographing the cookies, but she misunderstood me and we ended up photographing each other next to part of the Obama Cookie display.

I did not opt for the Obama cookie.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

I Have a Cubical?

So when I'm not working on the Medicine Hat Panorama, I have something which may seem like a cubical?  It has cubical walls, and a translucent window through which I can see the dark shape of Hye-Sung.  The windows on the other side look into the wooden artifacts lab.

Gillie-Bean is on my computer screen: that way everyone at the ThinkTank can hear me talk to the still photograph of the Lil' Bean.  Only saying, "Hello Gillie-Bean!"  In the voice of Percival, the Purple Seal.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Fat Tuesday

For my first experiments cooking something involving yeast (at one point, I thought I killed it, or whatever, but it clearly turned out completely fine), I made a king cake - for Fat Tuesday and in honor of Lenora and because the Canadians at the ThinkTank had asked me about special American foodstuffs and I was like, "Uh..."  So I took the cake to work and was like, "King Cake!  Mardi gras!  New Orleans!"  And the Canadians were suitably impressed!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Strong Ankles

Saturday was beautiful, so Flatmate Andrea and I went ice skating on the canal.  Since Fabian was such a crappy ice-skater last time, we only made it like 1.8 kilometers town the canal.  Flatmate Andrea had strong ankles so we could make it the whole way to the Down's Lake, like 6 kilometers away.

Looking down on the snack-stands at the downtown end of the canal.

Looking out of the city.

Banners proclaiming something that might be saying, "Greasy fried snacks here!"

The National Portrait Gallery of Canada, which has no home and exists as a group of works hanging out in the storage of the Library and Archives Canada, had put large reproductions of Canadian portraits relating to skating and winter-outdoorsy activities beneath a large bridge.  It was pretty cool.  There were lots of people looking at the pictures, and it was a clever way to raise awareness of the works in the Portrait Gallery's collection.

Flatmate Andrea, the Female Half of the Hungarians (which, obviously, are a pair).

At the lake, eating Nutella-covered Beavertails, a lady with an Irish accent and dressed in early 19th or late 18th century clothing came up to us and offered us a job working as barmaids.  She noted our strong ankles, saying that she was always looking for girls with strong ankles.  Then she winked, and said that the men who worked digging the canal liked to see a bit of the barmaids' ankles.  We'd get a shilling a day and all the whiskey we could drink.  I thanked her for her offer, it was very good, but said I wasn't sure if my mother would approve of me showing my ankles off like that.

Flatmate Andrea had never encountered a reenactor before, so she kept silent, wondering if she should give the woman money, as that's what she would have done back in Hungary.  Afterwards, asking me what the woman wanted, she was shocked to hear my answer, "She just wanted to share some history with us".  Flatmate Andrea shook her head, clearly in wonder.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

They React to Us Reacting to Them

In a highly unofficial and semi-anthropological way, I have greatly enjoyed the Canadian reaction to the US presence in Canada related to President Obama's visit.  The US presence in the form of the mega-wattage of our juggernaut news networks.

The Canadians found it interesting that we know practically nothing about Canada, calling it 'American wonderment' and unfamiliarity 'with what they seemed to consider their quaint neighbor to the north.'  

"One CNN reporter had apparently never seen the Mounties before, and those who recognized one of Canada's most iconic national symbols noted the absence of their horses."

What?!?  Who doesn't know that in Canada the Mounties will help you out if you're in trouble.  Just look how heroic this graphic is - but a pale reflection of the heroic actuality of the real Mounties.  The unfortunate CNN reporter who was apparently puzzled by the Mounties, after a confused pause, lamely referred to them as 'troops'.

The Associated Press screwed up Prime Minister Stephen Harper's title, calling him 'Premier' - that is a pretty embarrassing mistake considering that Canada is the US's number one trading partner (over a billion dollars cross the border each day).  All of the French terms the Fox News people said were horribly butchered, and after the terminological slaughter, the reporters attempted to brush it off, saying, "It's French."  Don't they have people to coach them on how to properly say things?  Come on people, really.

In other notes, this is a photograph from something that is called the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Musical Ride.  Musical Ride!  I kind of don't even know what that means!  Would 'troops' have a Musical Ride?  I think not.  But!  If this photograph is any indication of what happens at/in/on the Musical Ride, I'm totally there!

Montreal Museum of Fine Arts

So on the same day that I felt like the most extraordinary (and not in a good way) provincial thanks to the French conservation students, we visited the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.  It was small but it had some interesting things, mainly in the form of Canadian painting.  As far as I am concerned, there were far too many paintings from every one of the French stylistic periods that I hate.  Not enough Early Italian/Golden Age Dutch/Colonial-Era Folk-Art Canadian.  Realization: artistic works that are either very realistic or highly stylized appeal to me.

I do enjoy decorative arts though.   

Excepting modern furniture, which I usually just hate.  If the chairs don't look good for sitting with book and teacup, I'm not interested.  

This turquoise odd-ball, however, passes the teacup-book test (something that should probably be official, somehow).

This is a portion of a large installation.  It's glass.

The Inuit art gallery was excellent, all glass and blue light.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Obama Visits Canada, and Canada Rejoices

As we all know, Obama visited Ottawa for a couple hours today, and Canada could not have been happier!  I'm hoping that they've made a bunch of Canada-loves-Obama swag that I can snatch up over the weekend.

They spent weeks preparing!  The American flags were removed from storage and fluffed:

They made special graphics for their news networks:

They also removed all of the garbage cans and newspaper stands along the multiple possible routes the Obama-caravan might take from the airport to Parliament.  They also welded shut all of the manholes along those roads.  When the Canucks mean business, they mean it.

Luckily for Obama, it's been snowing for the last 24 hours, so he got a nice stereotypical Canadian arrival.  Mounties included.  Every time I cross the border I get an official greeting from a few dozen Mounties.

Obama met with the current Prime Minister Stephen Harper.  I wonder if they spoke about how Canadians love Obama way more than they love Harper (with whom they seem to feel nothing but apathy) and how Harper can get some of that love for himself.

To me, Harper looks like he is pretend.

I can't decide exactly who Harper is copying with his hairstyle, but I'm leaning toward the Lego Man.

I totally wanted to take the day and Obama-fangirl, but no-go.  And how I mildly rue that my time at the Gallery is over...  Guess who stopped at the bakery Le Moulin de Provence a couple blocks from the Gallery to buy his daughters maple cookies before jetting back to DC?  Guess who also likes to buy croissants at said bakery, and who could have casually run into the cookie buyer?  That's right.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Photogenic 'Drawrings'

Completely randomly, on Friday, Supervisor Greg was like, "Hey!  You guys want to make a photogenic drawing?"  Hye-Sung and I responded, "Yeah!"  Photogenic drawings are one-of-a-kind objects because there is no intermediary negative.  I have some really awesome platinum chemistry photogenic drawings I made of leaves last spring.

Supervisor Greg had some old photographer's proofing paper, so we cut out paper shapes and put little translucent objects on top of the paper to block the light.  Then, after sandwiching the photo paper and the light-blockers between a piece of glass and a piece of cardboard, we put our little make-shift printing frames in a window for about an hour.

The Surrealist artist Man Ray used to make photogenic drawings which he egotistically termed Ray-o-grams.  Despite what Man Ray's dubbing of the photogenic drawing may lead you to believe, it is actually one of the oldest photographic techniques.

William Henry Fox Talbot, an early photograph mover/shaker (think 1840-ish), made loads of photogenic drawings.  One of those gentlemen of leisure puttering in the sciences, Talbot worked out of his family's estate, Lacock Abbey, in England.  (Lacock Abbey is also known as being one of the locations where Hogwarts-scenes from the Harry Potter movies are filmed.)

Anna Atkins (working around 1850-ish) used the cyanotype process to create the first photographically illustrated book.  Cyanotypes are some of my favorites.  So blue!

Post-light exposure.  You can see how the photo paper has turned dark.

Hye-Sung wanted hers to be Canada-themed.  So she cut out snowflakes.  I merely hacked at an old page of the Daily Stephen Colbert Desk Calendar, making asymmetrical stars for mine.  And the recycled paper of the calendar was translucent enough that you can read what the Daily Dose of Stephen is in my photogenic drawing, in which he compares children to body-snatchers.  (Thanks Mary Ann!)

Supervisor Greg mixed up some fixer and we put our little prints in the solution, so now they are delightfully permanent.  

(Fun but somewhat science-y fact: though we used a photographic paper relatively similar to what Man Ray would have used, our prints are brown because we left the paper in a window for an extended amount of time.  The silver that formed that way is in the shape of small spheres.  These spheres are small (nm small) and scatter and absorb light in such ways that they appear colored.  Man Ray would use an enlarger to create his Ray-o-grams, developing the print in a chemical solution.  That way the silver that formed in Man Ray's prints looked more like clumps of steel wool.  These wooly bundles are much larger than the sun-made-spheres and absorb the light, appearing black.)

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Tuna Eater

The Tuna Eater, in his natural habitat.  He's eating a sandwich consisting of white bread, ketchup, and hot dogs.  Three hot dogs, all lined up in a row between the slices of white bread.  As you can see, one of the dogs has escaped and is lounging on the plate.  (Sidenote: I'm laughing so hard right now my computer is shaking).

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Montreal: North American Scum


So I went to Montreal on Sunday, with Hye-Sung, Marie, and Fabian (French interns).  Our purpose in going to Montreal was to visit the Museum of Fine Arts and to spend some time walking around the city.  

It's already awkward enough for me, speaking the same level of French as a twelve-month old, that they mostly converse in French.  But it was even more awkward when I almost punched Fabian in the face.  He totally has one coming: I'm not Canadian, but I'm sick of him hating on my entire continent.

Fortunately I  know enough French to be dangerous - they never know when or how much I'm comprehending, so they have to be careful what they say.

Old Montreal.  Quaint, but potentially quite charming in the summertime.

Fabian found many things on which to comment condescendingly: the window displays at the souvenir shop (did I think these window displays looked good, of course I did because I have bad taste because I'm North American, and because they didn't look good), the collection/building of the Museum of Fine Art (the collection is really small, nothing compared to the museums of Paris, like the Louvre), the French street names (Notre Dame is in Paris, not Canada - inferior Canadians, pretending to be French).

Old Montreal was not old enough.
I responded: This is the New World.  Teepees are not permanent structures.  

Old Montreal was just for tourists.
I responded: We walked along two streets in Old Montreal.  It is a whole neighborhood.

He also laughed every time I said the names of the French streets.  Next time he does that I'm gong to tell him to fuck off.  At least I properly pronounce 'Neil Young'.  I'd be sure to know how to properly pronounce my favorite musician's name.  It took me fifteen minutes to figure out that he what he was saying - it sounded like something crazy, like 'peelin'.

The non-North Americans wanted to get poutine at someplace in Old Montreal.  I was like, "Here!  Montreal Poutine!  Clearly they sell poutine!"

It was very much like the Tastee-Freeze or a similar diner-type place.  I sat down, took the paper menu in my hand, and said, "Awesome!  This is going to be great!"  The place was full of happy college-age people, eating poutine.  It was mostly a take-out place, and I had read/heard that take-out places had the best poutine.  Jackpot!

The others did not even want to touch their menus or the tables!  They kept saying things like, "How clean do you think the kitchen is?" - I was really embarrassed to be sitting with them, attempting to explain about diners and that it doesn't matter how nice the restaurant it, you don't want to see what's going on in the kitchen.

Then Fabian turned to me and said in the most pedagogical manner (I think we all know that this technique has never gone over well with me), as though talking to a three-year old who lives in a house made of filth, eating cockroaches, and thinking dollar-store fashion is haute couture, "Do you actually think this is a nice place?"  Simultaneously insulting Canada, North America, Americans, myself, and my taste in things!  Which is, in fact, impeccable!!!

And that's when I turned to him and said, "Fabian, don't be an ass."  I really wanted to say some other things too, but I was totally embarrassed that they were behaving like that!

"I think we are just used to more culture."

And then I really wanted to tell him that he was actually quite unattractive and that I thought Paris needed a good power washing - so much ingrained grime.

Anyway, there was much smaller and less salty poutine.  I could actually eat it all this time!  And it was good.  And if people visit me and we go to Montreal, I might take you there.  Because it was a fun experience and because I'm North American Scum That Doesn't Know Any Better.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Candy Hearts that Say "Dear Leader"

All Valentines should be as awesome as these.

I do love, "I approve this treatment," but I think I love this one more: "The General Secretary of the Worker's Party of Korea, Kim Jong-Il, extends a Valentine's Greeting to the Beloved Comrades of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea with Warm Fatherly Love, like a Rainbow Coming out of the Sky."

Monday, February 9, 2009

Manifestation, alternately titled, How I Lost Those Christmas Pounds and the Tips of My Fingers/Toes

After fifty-ones days of manifestating, the OCTranspo people are off the picket line and back behind their bus wheels.  I think that once Parliament was back in session they forced the transit workers to settle down and get back to work (any issues as yet unresolved go to the mediator, and what the mediator says is the way its going to be, suckers), but I could be dramatically wrong on that.  Being that I get my news about events in Canada from off-hand remarks made by co-workers, The Daily Show, and the French-language morning shows that come out of Quebec.  I don't know what they say during those morning shows, it just looks like a lot more fun than what they do on The Today Show.  One time on my favorite French show, Salut, Bonjour, they were eating bon-bons and drinking wine.  I don't know why, but it was definitely more fun that Meredith trying to get me to see the latest Tom Cruise crap film.

So the bus strike officially ended last Monday, but OCTranspo needed a week to get everything running again.  Because they apparently just left everything as a hot mess when they went out on strike.  This week has been the first week the buses have run since I can't even remember - early December?  So nice of them to arrange it not in the late summer or early fall, when it would have been pleasant to walk to and from the National Gallery, but in the worst of winter, when your own breath causes ice crystals to form inside your nose.

I'm not risking a bus ride yet.  Hye-Sung and I have decided that on Wednesday we will take the bus.  Depending on what we hear from the people at the ThinkTank who took one after work today.