Sunday, February 28, 2010

Happy Valentine's Day

Milpitas, CA, February 14, 2010: Last year for Valentine’s Day, I sent out a bunch of blank cards with illustrations of muffins, candy and chocolate on them. Inside, I wrote, “Happy Valentine’s Day, from, [not “love,”] David.” Most people liked them, but a few were confused. How was I to know that in some cultures, sending a Valentine’s Day card to a single woman was like the concept commit for marriage? You know the part where you promise the big house on the river and the condo in Hawaii with palm trees and white sand by majestic blue waters... before reality sinks in and you end up with a condo at Rivermark (near Cisco) with a cat litter box by the toilet.

So, this year, to avoid similar confusion, I’ve taken some photos of the flowering trees near our beloved Building 30, which I offer to everyone as a Valentine’s Day treat... No strings attached, so to speak.

Not saying which day I took these photos so John won’t know which hour to dock out of my next paycheque. Just kidding, John! Go Saints! Go (LSU) Tigers!

After all the rain this week and last, I thought I might miss out on this show, but there they were in full bloom: the Japanese cherry trees just down the block from my desk.

Here you see a grove of these lovely specimens. In some cases they were next to white flowering cherry trees. Sort of like the Gaijin (foreigner) sitting next to the Japanese person on a full flight to Tokyo. “We’re very sorry you have to sit next to the Gaijin, most honorable sir,” which is what I gathered the air hostess likely said to my Japanese seat neighbor (I speak no Japanese whatsoever) shortly after my bag of chips exploded all over him. Not easy pulling those suckers apart when your elbows are jammed firmly into your ribs, eh?

Here, down the street, I can imagine the Japanese gardener apologizing to the Japanese cherry trees for the mess of petals dropped by the Gaijin tree, not that the Japanese trees don’t make a mess on their own.

Doesn’t matter if the Gaijin is American, Canadian or European, all of us Gaijin look alike to the Japanese, except our noses all look different: and the Japanese aren’t used to that. Japanese noses look the same. Having sat around for an hour in the Ginza district looking at noses, I can attest to that, however unscientific that study might have been. And once achieving perfection, why should Japanese noses have variety? They smell, run, sing... I’ll tell you, after 3 hours of whiskey fueled Karaoke, you’ll hear all the nasal singing you can handle for a lifetime!

Two views of the trees outside of the entrance to the Sheraton.

There are many empty commercial buildings around our area. But the grounds are well kept.
Here one of the trees looks a little tipsy.

Speaking of tipsy trees, back at the Drunken Forest, our pet name for Building 30’s parking lot, the trees are just starting to sprout, which means we have about two weeks of full color to look forward to as we park our cars. However, I’ll park underground to avoid scraping the petals off of my windshield as they start dropping next week.

You know what a drunken forest is, right? No, it isn’t some lonely, uniformed guy stuck in the middle of the Rockies, that is a drunken forester.

A drunken forest is one that grew on permafrost that is now thawing due to normal cyclical weather patterns that have nothing to do with global warming, you know, according to people in Dallas and the East Coast who are suffering through a dump of snow this week.

The photo on the left is not mine, I found it here.

OK, so our trees aren’t exactly drunken, just a little wind swept. Likely some genius came up with a cost savings measure: “we’ll use 2x2’s to support these saplings rather than 2x4’s. Nobody will notice!”

Still, hard to beat the view from our balcony. Drunken Forest in the front, mountains (hills) at the back. This is also the view from my desk. OK, I know a guy who planned the seating (thanks, Chuck).

Considering that this was my view for about 8 years at the old building, I don’t feel too guilty about my present location. However, being part of the greater team, I do feel obliged to complain, despite my view, you know, to keep my finger on the pulse, to show camaraderie with those who didn’t get a window seat. So here goes, the office is too noisy when everyone is talking... the parking lot trees are crooked and my view of the mountain never changes, except when it rains!

Happy Valentine's Day

Copyright © 2010 David G. Kelly

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Mr. Spock's Tree-Topped Condo

Vancouver, December 29, 2009: I was rushing downtown to the West End to see if I could take in the final hour of the afternoon before the sun set. Tough goal to meet as the December sun sets just after 3:30 PM. Vancouverites get the lost daylight back in the June when the sun stays up past nine and twilight paints the sky orange for another hour more. I missed the sunset that day in December, but I did get some decent photos from Sunset Beach. Amazing how much light a digital camera can pull out of a dim winter evening. 

Eugenia Place on Beach Avenue. Named after the developer brothers’ mother, this condominium tower was designed by Richard Henriquez with a 30 foot (10 meter) live pin oak tree planted at the top. The top of the tree represents the height of the original old growth Douglas firs that grew in this part of Vancouver before they were logged in the 19th century. At the base of the tree is a concrete platform that resembles the plunger of a syringe that encapsulates the fa├žade of the building with the “needle” firmly plunged into the earth at the entrance.

Some interpret this “syringe” as a symbol of injecting new life back into Mother Earth. There is also an unsubstantiated story around that the architect having a substance abuse problem that he attempted to work out through this design. My favorite, yet unsubstantiated story about this building is that the penthouse was once owned by Leonard Nimoy of Star Trek fame. More likely, he went forth and prospered elsewhere. The first photo is mine, I captured the second two from Google Earth.

Close up look at the oak tree, living in what has been called the world’s largest flower pot.

Just down the street from Eugenia Place, I came across a street performer. This guy was truly athletic and funny 
These guys know how to pull in an audience and, then, take their act to a point beyond what anybody normal in the audience would consider trying themselves. “Don’t do this at home,” are the operative words here, folks. Juggling baseballs and bowling pins aren’t good enough, no, they have to be lit torches that go around his back, under his leg, then way up in the air. Tricks that take years to learn.

See the structure on the right, above? Those platforms are neither glued nor bolted together. No way I’d be going up there.

The performer showed off his extreme sense of balance as he walked that ladder over to the balanced structure. And he made it look like it was nothing. Darn camera batteries went dead just before the finale, where he stood on top of a loose skate board, that was balanced on top of a suitcase, that was balanced on top of the two platforms (there’s a hole in the bucket, dear Liza (folksong that came to mind, just now.)) Then, he juggled the lit torches before putting them out inside his mouth. Didn’t say, “ouch.” And when I gave him a tip after the show, he had no trouble saying, “thank you.”

From the audience, this man’s face and body language accurately captures the emotion that went through my mind while watching this act.

After buying new batteries, it was dark and a good time to look at the lights.
Everywhere, you’ll find trees with Christmas lights. The lights on this enormous cherry tree on the right are strung up each November with the aid of a fire truck.

I tried to get both lit trees into the same photo. Next time, I’ll bring a tripod.

Copyright © 2010 David G. Kelly

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Vancouver Biennale

In the previous essay, you can read about how I much I admired the 2008 Olympics artwork in Hong Kong. Fast forward to Christmas 2009, 7 weeks before the start of the 2010 games, you’d think there be a public tribute to winter sports. Well if there was, I missed it. Instead, what I found were these public sculptures by Chinese artists.

Vancouver, December 2009:
Welcome to the Vancouver Biennale 

The objective of the Vancouver Biennale is to celebrate art in public spaces, inviting the entire community to experience the brightest new and world renown talent in contemporary art. Through a diversity of artistic mediums, aesthetic sensibilities and cultural perspectives, an open dialogue about the art and the importance of art in public spaces begins.
OK, nothing to do with the Olympics, but I’m a fan of modern art, let’s see some highlights, which my way of saying, let’s see what I happened to find while looking for other things. Sort of like John Lennon’s words, “Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans.”

A-maze-ing Laughter; Artist: Yue Minjun, China; Location: Morton Park (Triangle), Vancouver; Media: Patinated bronze

Pleasant idea. A little grotesque at first, but popular with the people who I saw admiring it. Fun subject for a photo or two.

Artificial Rock #143; Artist: Zhan Wang, China; Location: Vancouver City Center Station, Canada-Line, Vancouver; Media: Stainless steel

Not as much fun as the first one. Maybe a little more imagination could have gone into the name, for example, “Honey, I melted the Prius?” Were Artificial Rocks #1 through #142 such disasters that it didn’t seem real until Artificial Rock #143 tumbled out of its castings? And, how do you know when you’ve got it right? When does your blob of metal have the right blobbiness?

Miss Mao Trying to Poise Herself at the Top of Lenin's Head; Artist: Gao Brothers, China; Location: ALO Triangle, Richmond

Here’s my guess at what happened: the Gao Brothers were sitting in their mom’s basement watching the movie, Frida, co-starring Salma Hayek’s breasts, hey, just saying (see the movie.)  After the scene where Nelson Rockefeller has Diego Rivera’s mural destroyed, because it featured an image of Vladamir Lenin, the Gao brothers turned to each other and said,  “Dude, we can top that!” And did they ever! Not sure why Mao has breasts. I don’t think that was discussed in the little red book.

Not my photos, though: When I saw this, I was driving my dad back to his place. He was tired and I didn’t want to stop to take photos, so these are from this site.

Copyright © 2010 David G. Kelly