Monday, January 31, 2011

I'm Supposed to Eat That?

I read a story online today that gave me the willys...err, you know what I mean. It was a Reuters article about a developmental biologist and tissue engineer (huh?) by the name of Dr. Vladimir Mironov who is trying to bio engineer "cultured" meat in a South Carolina lab. He feels that these new meat products could help deal with global food crises of the future.

Did anyone else think of the movie Soylent Green just now? What's not to love about those cool, green wafers. Yum! For the younger crowd who haven't seen's set in the year 2022 (was made in 1973) and is a stark vision of the future where the population has exploded and the food is scarce. I'll stick on a trailer for the movie at the bottom of the post, for those feeling in a '70's Retro sort of mood. Fantastic sci-fi with Charlton Heston and Edward G. Robinson in his last movie.

You can link to the full Yahoo story here. Dr. Mironov has a visiting scholar of cancer cell biology, Nicholas Genovese, who is working under a three year grant from PETA. Genovese said, "Animals require between 3 and 8 pounds of nutrient to make 1 pound of meat. It's fairly inefficient. Animals consume food and produce waste. Cultured meat doesn't have a digestive system..."

Laboratory cultured steaks. I only have three or four steaks a year (evil cholesterol) and prefer them the old-fashioned way...from the freezer section. Under plastic. Chock-full of growth hor...

I'm thinking that if my only cost-effective options are cultured meat products from my friendly neighbourhood Fermi or DuPont Labs I may be looking at a future diet of eggplants and lentils...Oh! That reminds me of the sweet potato soup that 'V' force-fed me for supper doctor would be so happy.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Am I Awake Yet?

"...and the great, woolly mammoth stirred temporarily from its deep slumber."

Yeah, sounds like a good line. Perhaps I'll use it in a story one day. It's a pretty good description of the state of my writing this year so far. I scraped together about 750 words for a flash story the past couple of weeks. I'm not happy with it, though, and will work with the suggestions from the 'writing group' and try to evolve it into something interesting.

It's been an odd week. In the blink of an eye it passed by in a blurr. "Forgive's been a week since my last post." I know...a penance of some sorts is in order.

We had the boy's birthday this week, so my parents came down for a visit. And cleaning the house prior to their visit was quite a chore (even with the assistance of a dozen types of cleaners, a couple of Swiffers and a team of hunch-backed, old, cleaning ladies). It was also surprising that I missed Robbie Burns day on the 25th all together. Nary a word about it in the news either. Guess that I'll have to crack open that bottle of single malt and eat tinned haggis for supper tonight. I think that I may be dining alone.

I forgot to mention that I received a package in the mail a couple of weeks ago that contained two books. I hadn't ordered anything from Amazon? They were from a certain A. Polson in Kansas. I was so perplexed about why I had been given the copies of Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad and Robert Frost's Poems that I emailed him asking why. Back in November he had held a contest at his blog promoting the release of his book Loathsome, Dark & Deep. I think that I had read as far as "winner of an Amazon gift card for $25" and stopped reading when I Wooted! and did a happy-dance about the office (much to the chagrin of my neighbours who discovered it was "Pantsless Friday"). So...apparently the books were another prize for winning the contest (to be honest, my name was randomly drawn...or so Aaron Polson SAYS...I think that he's developed a soft spot for Canadians--and why NOT?)

But don't despair. You can enter his newest promotional contest described here until this Monday. I have a purchased a copy of Loathsome but, alas, am yet to read it. I will surely post about the book once I've read it.

But wait...Al the Pimp is not finished yet! A friend emailed me this morning with a link to Jodi MacArthur's Love Bug contest. I have no idea how I missed her post on that. I was probably on my hands and knees, slaving away, scrubbing muddy paw prints off the floor  sleeping. She's looking for one-liners to post leading up to Valentines. I think that you have up to Feb. 3 to get her an ending to..."Love is..." How hard could it be. Even a geezer like me managed to dredge up some Hallmark-ish wisdom. Or perhaps it was something I heard uttered by my thrice divorced Uncle Angus...

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Manly Art?

I don't discuss art often here because anyone who knows me knows that I'm failry ignorant on the subject. Those that have read this blog for a while may recall my ramblings about a couple of members of the Group of Seven in December of 2009. Now before everyone starts reading this and saying, "that Alan is such an ass-hat" just hold off a minute. My son has given me permission to blog about his recent creations and knows that I won't cross the line. Well, not too much...

Sean is not an artistic person. I don't think that's a secret to anyone that knows him. Through grade school, the most artistic tendencies he displayed were stick men and colouring books and crayons (and he didn't even stay within the lines).This obviously comes from me as I haven't an artistic bone in my body. I can appreciate art, but making it is another matter.

The boy preferred to spend his time taking things apart to see how they worked...small appliances, a television, a microwave...nothing was immune to his dissection. Thankfully all of these items were past their prime because he didn't have a clue how to put them back together.

You can imagine my surprise a few weeks ago when he brought home a, large purple object (shown above) from his 9th grade art class at school. He has named it 'The Gilded Demon' because he figured it "looked sort of royal". I am encouraging him to box it up and FedEx it to William and Kate in the UK to help celebrate their nuptials this April. I think he wants to keep it, though, on account of the long hours fashioning it into just the right shape with his blistered fingers. The GD is a wire frame with panty hose stretched over it and painted. I didn't ask where the hosiery in question came from...sometimes a guy's got to have his secrets.

Just when we thought the 'artistic well' was tapped dry Sean brought home this wooden, umm...object...home from school. It was created in the wood working shop. It is made of wood glued together and cut and sanded to the shape shown above. "Nice Arrow," I said. "It's not an arrow," he replied with annoyance in his voice. He looked at me like I had sprouted another head. I was nervous now, trying to avoid bringing up the symbolic shape of the object. "It's a car," he said and pointed out the drill holes in the sides of the shaft for a future axle. "Very nice," I said, smiling and nodding. Drilled into the square end is a large hole, apparently for a future CO2 canister. Just guessing here, but if Sean has a French project soon he'll probably create a scale model of the Eiffel Tower. And in science he'll probably create a replica of the V2 rocket...

We've probably got nobody to blame but ourselves for the unique shape of the boy's artistic creations. Perhaps it was all the trips to Toronto we took him on as a small child. What's the first landmark you can see towering over the city for miles before arriving there? Of's the CN Tower, piercing the brown-ish air of the Toronto skyline. Don't get me wrong, we're all for his creative endeavours...especially if he can off of them in the future. Even as I am typing this I can hear him in the living room listening to bagpipe music on YouTube. He'll be 15 next week and, if I may use a cliche, definitely walks to the beat of his own drummer. I'm OK with whatever he does down the road. I'll be behind it 100% as long as it's a) legal b) he can live off of it, and c) it gets him out of our basement and into his own place.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Cleaning up the Airwaves and the Backyard

I suppose that this post is something of a follow-up to last Sunday's mini-rant about the republishing of a (dead) author's novel to remove a certain offensive word. It was announced in the Canadian media on Wednesday that Dire Straits' song 'Money For Nothing' from 1985 can no longer be played on the Canadian airwaves because of its use of the word 'faggot'. It can still be played if the offensive word is masked over or substituted with another word.
This action was taken by the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council in reaction to a complaint from a listener to a radio station here in St. John's that thought "...the song includes the word "faggot" in its lyrics and is discriminatory to gays." Here I was thinking that Canada was a pretty liberal country...until this week. I'll link to a Yahoo story here from Thursday that I think does a good job with both sides of the argument. I have read that Mark Knopfler meant the word in the context of a conversation he overheard between two men matching an MTV video. Sort of a way of mocking himself and others in the music industry.

Society has taken a bizarre turn in recent years with its ultra-political correctness (yes, even by Canadian standards). I recall the 'Lord's prayer' being banned in school as it could offend students (or their parents) of other religious affiliations. And then Christmas celebrations became Holiday celebrations (I should note that my Muslim co-workers back in Ontario had no problem with the Christmas recognition going on about them). I am in the construction industry and, years ago, we went through a period at work when door openings for people to enter, traditionally called 'man doors', had to be called 'personnel doors'. That was short lived because the industry will do what it wants to do.

I was going to attach a video (because I now know how to do it) of Dire Straights singing 'Money For Nothing' but can't find any version with the offensive words. I notiice that Mark Knopfler often substitutes the words 'queenie' or 'maggot' or 'mother' in its place.

I'm all for keeping offensive lyrics off of the public airwaves but I'm wondering if the use of the word 'faggot' in that song is so offensive, why hasn't the gay community been all over it at some point since its release over 25 years ago? Anyway, I'm sure it won't be long until complaints flood in from Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig supporters about Queen's 'Fat Bottomed Girls' and that won't be allowed on the radio either. I shall have to list out all the song's I find offensive and contact the CRSC about them...

On a side note, we had our first dumping of snow on Thursday. It was about 38cm (15 in.) of snow and my back hurt just watching it accumulate during the day, let alone applying shovel to snow. I enlisted the help of the boy. I coaxed the snow blower to life after its 9 month slumber and give Sean instructions on its use and a safety refresher. Mainly, keep hands and feet (or any other important appendages) away from the spinning blades. I finished shovelling the front and he cut a path in the back for the dog to 'do his business'. A small running circuit is good for the greyhound because after he does his poopy he likes to take what we call 'victory laps' about the yard. I'm not sure if he is happily celebrating his bowel movement, or is in fact reliving his glory days of 6th place finishes on the racetracks.  I have attached a sketch (yes, perhaps I DO have too much time on my hands) of the back yard showing Sean's interpretation of a dog path. I have included a handy legend below explaining some of the letters. I also believe that you can click on the image to enlarge.

WG - Once a thriving strawberry patch and later a carrot a Weed Garden.

C     - Compost bin.

R     - Large rock, probably glacial deposit.

GM - Grand Maple. Complete with black plastic bag fluttering in the wind.

PM - Petite Maple. Yep, smaller version of the above sans plastic bag.

SM - Stumpy Maple. I cut down four years ago, it's making a come back.

B1  - Birch 1...fell down after Hurrican Igor. Now a stump.

B2  - Birch 2...leaning heavily towards house after hurricane. May fall down this year.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Awards and Sunny Days

I was all set to come on here and boast about the sunny day and the fact that we on The Rock are one of the few places in North America without snow. The news tonight again showed people golfing at the local golf club here in St. John's.

Did anyone see that news story today noting that 49 of the 50 US states have some measure of snow? My first guess was that the odd state out was Hawaii...I was wrong. Apparently Florida is clear of snow.

Apparently, though, payback is on the way in the form of that storm moving up the east coast towards us. They are forecasting about 20cm of snow...small potatoes (or apples) compared to New York! We can apparently blame it all on La Nina.

Softening the weather setback is this fine award that I received from Cathy Webster at life on the muskoka river.

The Creative Genius Award is the brainchild of #fridayflasher Deanna Schrayer to celebrate International Creativity Month. Many thanks to the talented and creative Cathy for this award that apparently has no strings attached. A pleasant surprise that I don't have to make up 38 more things about myself. Or have to provide you with photo evidence of me juggling flaming bull testicles while riding a unicycle (that I would not do because, quite frankly, I don't own a unicycle).

I shall pass this fine award along to three other creative folk that are kind enough to frequent this blog...

Aaron Polson (check out his newly released Loathsome, Dark and Deep)

Kathryn who always makes me laugh at From the Inside...Out.

John Wiswell, humourist and creative brains behind The Bathroom Monologues.

OK, enough linkage for now...must put on my woollies and waterproof fez and check to see if the snow blower still works.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

On Bad Words and Travel Destinations

The internet was alive this week with news stories, articles and blogs about the announcement that NewSouth Books of Alabama will publish a new version of  the classics Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer in February with the offensive words 'nigger' and 'injun' removed. Yes...I did indeed use the 'N-word' as it is so often described. I agree that it's an ugly word from an ugly period of American history and we may all have to live with it for a long time. It's a shame to think that they feel that they have the right to change the author's words. I glanced through my ancient copy of Uncle Tom's Cabin and it didn't take long to find the 'N-word'. And also the 'S-word' (Sambo). Hmm...perhaps it will be next on the hit list (if it hasn't been sanitized already). In future years someone may find the country of Spain as offensive and they will substitute that country with Sweden in all of Hemingway's novels. Sadly, the cliche "opening up a large kettle of fish" comes to mind.

In my opinion, words are just words. They are reflective of the time and location of where they were written and what was happening. I once worked with Sudanese man who said that the 'N-word' was not offensive to him. He had no history with the word and it had no meaning for him. In American culture, the word was offensive then and it still is now. That does not give license to some to change the works of others. What  do you do if you are walking down the street with you youngster and you pass a crowd of you folks (boys AND girls) using a lot of 'F' words, 'S' words and a whole lot worse? You tell them that those dirty words are NOT appropriate and should not be used. Is that not also the procedure when one is introducing literature to their children? Anyhow...I'll get off my tiny soapbox now...

I'd like to link you to poet Jhon Baker and his blog THE PLATITUDES OF WILLFUL RESEMBLANCES where he discussed this topic in greater depth and with far more intelligence and compassion than I could ever hope to muster. Follow his link to an article by Mark Brendle, media critic for far the best words I've seen on this topic to date.

On a more upbeat note, I'd also like to link you to the NY Times travel list of 41 Places to Go in 2011

On the list, as you would expect, are many exotic destinations. From Chile to Thailand, from Japan to Turkey. Lovely places to choose from. Two Canadian destinations managed to sneak onto the list. At number 25 was Whistler, B.C. It's mountainous and scenic and one of the top ski destinations in the country. The other location? Our very own Fogo Island on the north coast of Newfoundland has made the cut at number 22. They say "...saltbox houses and deconsecrated churches that perch over the North Atlantic and rugged pristine landscapes." Yet another reason for you to select The Rock as a future holiday destination (as if visiting Laurita Miller and Alan Davidson were not reason enough!) I have visited the scenic island once before, but Laurita has ties to the island and can attest to it's beauty and artistic community far better than I can. Anyhoo, take a few minutes to peruse the NY Times list.

Thursday, January 6, 2011


In the past 24 hours, there have been a couple of stories in the media demonstrating that nothing is a sure thing. I'll get this off my chest first. First example is the loss of the final hockey game in the World Junior Hockey championships--pauses to wipe tear from eye--. Canada had a 3-0 lead going into the final period and gave up 5 unanswered goals. Now who would predict that. I was so upset that I dropped my poutine, causing me to almost spill my Molson Canadian (note...I am receiving no remuneration for the endorsement of that beverage).

What's next...1000 birds dropping dead from the sky? We up north have gotten pretty cocky with the whole 'hockey supremacy' thing and perhaps had to be knocked down a peg. Now we know how the Americans have felt the past few years. I shall again try to embed a video showing a little of the Russian celebration at the end of the game. A lot of hyper young men there...

I understand the celebrations were so boisterous that at about 6am this morning they were turned away by Delta airlines at the Buffalo airport for being unruly. They were sleeping it off this afternoon. Boys will be boys.

The second example of the unpredictable is the story of a homeless man by the name of Ted Williams. Unless you've lived under a rock the past couple of days, you've probably heard the story of the 53 year old man with 'the golden voice' a number of times in the media. I don't think I need to get into specifics but the homeless man in Cleveland demonstrated his radio voice to a TV news crew, I think on Monday, and by today he has several job offers, was interviewed by ET, CBS, and was reunited with his mother this afternoon. Apparently they will be on the Today show tomorrow morning. There has been a bit of criticism that, Yes this man was helped---but what about the other millions of homeless. True enough. But lets not over-think this. Something nice was done for one person. We hear too much about murder, flooding, terrorism and war in the news. Don't we have the right to have a 'feel-good' story once in a while? I wish this man the best and hope he can keep himself clean. Perhaps HE will be the one to champion the cause for the homeless.

Below is that much publicized interview of Mr. Williams in Cleveland. And yes...I finally figured out how to embed a video in the blog.

Thanks for asking.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Progress Delayed by Fog

Day 4 and it's time for a progress report regarding my 'resolutions' for this year (see previous blog post).

  • Basketball was cancelled due to the stat holiday however I did manage to walk the dog for about 20 minutes (paramedics were on standby with oxygen for me).
  • Have not given up junk food on account of there being so many Christmas goodies in arms reach, winking at me. Perhaps I will have better luck with this next week. On a side note: I have gone four days without finding any remnants of food (or as I prefer to say...'midnight snacks') hiding in the forest that is my beard.
  • No writing progress to date this year. Neither short stories nor long term project have made their way from my head to paper. Better luck next week.
  • My fez is still dirty (I hope that didn't sound too weird).
I attribute this to the mental and actual fog that has been hanging about the past couple of days, making my first two days back at work a bit hazy. For example, the photo directly below was from the camera on top of  The Rooms, the provincial museum overlooking the harbour, on Monday afternoon. I have seen better views. Good thing there's not many tourists about this time of year.

The next photo (below) was taken this morning from the same camera. Marginally better--you can actually make out buildings in that one. I really shouldn't be whining about the weather. We could be having the snow Britain is getting this winter. The fog and rain is much easier to deal with. In fact, we only have four more months of winter to go. As I've found in previous years here on The Rock, winter may be delayed for a while but they will eventually hit. Sometimes with a vengeance.

I'll finish here as I've got to get to bed. I'm getting up at about 3:30am to drive my sister to the airport for her 5:00am flight back to Edmonton. Yes, it's an un-godly hour but the Scottish in me won't allow her to pay $20 for the cab ride to the airport. Then again, maybe the fog will make play the wild card in this scenario and we can all sleep in. Here's to hoping that the fog lifts soon!