Monday, September 26, 2005

2 More Days let of our Reader Appreciation Giveaways - No Gimmicks, Just Gifts

On September 28, we will be drawing the prizes for our Reader Appreciation giveaways. No strings attached - no spams and no keeping your email on File,

Click on Contact

Enter your name and email address

Type the number 0 into the content

and on September 28 we will contact you if you have won!

Lots of prizes to give away, and a big thank you to readers for making this first year successful and fun!

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Sunday, September 25, 2005

3 days left for our gift giveaway celebration!!

I know, if it's too good to be true... it is.

That's not the case here - swanktrendz really wants to say thank you and give away gifts (albeit small ones) to show our appreciation.

Go to our site

Click Contact

type your first name and email (don't worry we delete emails after the contest)

Type 0 in the content

and submit!!! It's as easy as that

Up for grabs - Designer chocolates (designed by reknowned artist Robert Davidson)
Signed, framed prints by artist Sue Coleman (Vancouver Island's pearl of an artist)
Vancouver/Canada velcro fastening cloth ball caps - non of that cheap plastic stuff.
and last but not least... $100 gift certificate for so that you may buy books, music, whatever your heart desires...

Thank you all for being so supportive and wonderful! (As well as very good writers)


Saturday, September 10, 2005

swanktrendz has to bid adieu

The Swanktrendz gang has been so busy with our website that we no longer have time to post on blogger. It's been great reading everyone's sites and we hope you bookmark us for future reference.

Friday, September 09, 2005

How about rating pings on PPS?

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Maybe I’m just finding it a bit difficult in getting used to Project Petaling Street’s new look.

But it’s getting harder for me to pick out ping titles that I might find interesting (and before some wag says it’s because none of them are interesting, I was referring to visually scanning through the pings). The blue titles seem to just mix with each other, and end up simply twisting my eyeballs inside out.

The end result of this is that there’d be some great post out there that will go unnoticed by me, and quite possible by many others too.

So I’m thinking here, how to avoid this? How do I easily pick out the outstanding posts out there? One way would be to solicit the assistance of other PPS readers. Maybe if you really like a post, you give it some (+) points, and if you don’t like it, you assign it (-) points. Although the (-) points thing could lead to some problems, so maybe we shouldn’t use that.

A post on SE:

This method is used in SE [sometimes NSFW] and other such community-driven blogs, and maybe if we can find a mechanism to implement it with PPS, it’ll work here too.

That way, if I look at PPS Pings, and I notice that a particular post has racked up a lot of points, I’d know that the post in question is popular enough with many readers and will compel me to check it out too.

Edrei once asked, “Who does Project Petaling Street belong to?” His answer:

So yeah, I believe that we own PPS. PPS belongs to everyone who uses it to ping their blogs. It belongs to everyone who uses it to read other people’s blogs. Just as when an artists creates something, whatever the artist creates belongs to society. PPS was created with the society in mind for the society to use and with that, it belongs to the society it was created for.

But so far, we the PPS users do not do much but ping to it, read the pings, use up considerable bandwidth, and occasionally click on the Google ads.

So how about we the users try assisting our fellow PPS pingers and readers by helping them notice those posts that we believe are truly worth their while?

Like I said, the mechanism for the rating will have to be thought out, but do you - dear reader and hopefully PPS user - think it’s something worth working on?

Mike’s Musings - Baby Fingers

By Mike

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Lots of times when I'm temporarily stranded in a crowded place, like waiting in line somewhere for something, I pass the time by making retarded faces at babies and small children when their parents aren't looking. usually the child will giggle or make a face back. (Unless of course it's a retarded child, in which case I wouldn't have made a face at him/her in the first place, as I've been told that's cruel.)

Anyway, the point is this amuses me greatly.

Especially if it's a toddler who squeals loudly or misbehaves in some way when they see me and their parent cautions them to, ‘Be Quiet’, at which point the child will become frustrated and insist that that man over there is making faces, to which the parent will then hiss, ‘Stop It!’ or threaten to renege on the promise of McDonalds. I love this.

And besides, even if it happens to be one of those parents who actually believes what their young child says, by the time they look my way I'm either casually yawning or sullenly looking at my watch.

A) it's bulletproof
B) dance puppets dance

Which brings me to the other day, when I'm waiting in line at my insanely packed grocery store, slowly slipping into a coma of boredom. Time to rile up some kiddies.

There were no toddlers present to get into trouble, but there was a non-retarded baby in a plastic stroller a few feet to my left.

And then, before I could even gnarl my mouth or squintify my eyes, this baby gave me the finger. He didn't flash me the finger briefly. he held that puny middle finger of his aloft and proceeded to poke himself in the face with it.

Taunting me.
The bastard. (Probably)
So naturally, I gave him the finger.
A baby.
And I’m sorry, it felt good.
Try it sometime, I guarantee you can't do it with out laughing out loud. And I promise, the baby will not get upset.
But be stealthy.
I wouldn't want to deal with the wrath of an angry mom who just caught me flipping off her eighteen month old.
Are you giving my baby the finger?!?
Yeah. But he gave it to me first.
You monster! He doesn't know what that means!!
Exactly. So what's the difference?

The Ultimate Film

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There has been a definite bias toward film in The Wasteland since its resurrection last month. Fitting then that the first bit of sustained telly I've managed to sit down and watch, since practically the start of Summer, is a programme about film. Channel 4's misleadingly titled The Ultimate Film showed in two 3-hour installments, further satisfying our modern-day addiction to statistics and lists of all kinds. There is some fatigue with this kind of thing now; there has been so many of them, and most of them are useless as documents as they are voted upon by so-called experts, who naturally harbour their own prejudices and favourites. This list differed in that it claimed to be based on actual bums-on-seats figures since the recorded beginning of cinema in the UK. A very, very different thing to box-office takings in hard currency, whether adjusted for inflation or not.

We British are notoriously eccentric, and the films we have flocked to see more than others over the decades reflects that quite plainly. For a start about 50% of the list is comprised of British films, with films like The Full Monty statistically outranking all of the Star Wars films barring the original! 50% are also from 1965 or earlier, with a glut of films the majority of people under 40 haven't even heard of populating not only the lower reaches of the list but the top twenty as well! Historically it is easy to see how post WWII escapism was in high demand, and it is easy to imagine the appeal of the movies as a main source of entertainment before television was a regular accessory in every home. Britain's hottest stars ever? Think of ten names and you still won't get it... Dame Anna Neagle and Michael Wilding have a handful of films in the list, the highest being 1948's Spring in Park Lane at #5, which attracted 20.5 million people (half the population of the entire nation at the time)!!! It truly was a different age. Of the modern era, Titanic is the only film post 1980 to make the top ten! These and many more surprises await. Of the overall winner... Well, no prizes for guessing. Even my mum saw Gone With the Wind three times, and that is saying a lot. Personally I think it is boring and, frankly, couldn't give a damn about it, but you can't argue with the figures: an estimated 35 million tickets sold in the UK alone. That's not just amazing, that's staggering... Long live the movies!

Mercury Prize 2005

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Mercury Prize 2005

The Mercury Music Prize (properly know this year as The Nationwide Mercury Prize) is one of the more worthwhile awards events, as it doesn't pander to popularity alone, giving real artists of any level and any genre the recognition they deserve. Of the twelve shortlisted albums that Mercury celebrated this year - as the event acknowledges studio albums, not artists or individual songs - there were some familiar faces from the current indie rock/pop crowd: Kaiser Chiefs, Bloc Party, Maximo Park and the highest of high profiles in Coldplay (who didn't actually appear, no, no, far too big for that!), but there was a majority of lesser known talents, including new jazz band Polar Bears and indie/folk fiddler Seth Lakeman from Dartmoor. In the middle ground there was my tip for greatness early in the year, Miss K. T. Tunstall from Fife, whose reproduction of the Later With Jools Holland performance of her single Black Horse and the Cherry Tree is still one of the most electric things I've seen for years. But the whole show bristled with raw energy and stupid amounts of talent - every single act was great live, endorsing their worthiness even more. And nothing could be truer when talking about the "winner", the weird and perhaps wonderful Antony and the Johnsons - you could hear a pin drop in the auditorium as Antony himself played the piano and warbled his way through a soulful ballad in his own radically unique style. I have to admit he is relatively new to me, but once you hear him you can't forget it - it is a haunting style that jars an ear tuned to mundanity at first, but then beguiles it in a frighteningly resonant way. And that is why he got a standing ovation from the knowing crowd, and that is why he walked off with the gong, so that our awareness of this exceptionally individual talent is heightened as it should be, love it or hate it. I'm undecided but I will certainly give the album - Now I Am A Bird a very serious listen.



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Paul Haggis, the writer of Million Dollar Baby, attempts one of the most ambitious directorial debuts in recent memory with the critically acclaimed Crash. I had thought it only looked OK from the trailer, but I thought that about 21 Grams (to which this is not entirely dissimilar) and that turned out to be one of the best films of 2004! The weight of recommendations had become too much, and so I went along this morning to see what all the fuss is about. One thing is certain - it is one hell of a movie... but it will cause differences of opinion. In scope and style it seems to owe a lot to both Magnolia and Traffic - the former for its fascination with co-incidence and the holistic effect of human action and interaction, and the latter for its boldness in tackling a potentially incendiary subject with the aid of an ensemble cast and grainy film-stock. As a fan of both films I was always going to like this, although there are problems: the situations and dialogue are at times stretched beyond the reasonable limits of believability, and, considering the incredibly difficult task of marrying so many different threads into a coherent whole, it is oddly paced and edited in snatches. However, for a first time director it is an awesome achievement - the cast are very strong, notably the ever reliable Don Cheadle, Matt Dillon, in a perfectly cast role, Sandra Bullock (although it is little more than a cameo) and Ryan Phillippe, as Dillon's conflicted partner; the mood is sustained with nail-biting tension, culminating in two or three unforgettable moments as the characters "crash" together in different, but always life-changing ways; and, above all, there is a soul underneath it that propels the whole into the near-reaches of an absolute classic. Racism is a difficult subject - there are many arguments and not too many solutions, but here almost all of the key issues are dealt with, leaving you with questions, realizations and revelations aplenty without ever being trite or trying to be definitive - so much so that I feel like I need to see it again immediately! And it would be a pleasure: its ultimate success is not that it is a great piece of art or a great political statement, but that it is a great, watchable, movie with an indispensable human message. If this isn't at least nominated for a whole bunch of Oscars then I'll eat my shoes!! If you haven't already done so - See It... 9/10

Illegal Immigration and Drivers Licenses

Illegal Immigration and Drivers Licenses
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Contributed by The Political Heretic
The California Assembly voted late last night to pass a bill authorizing the creation of special driver's licenses for illegal immigrants. The state senate passed a similar bill in June but will have to vote on it again since revisions were made to it while in the Assembly. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has not committed, signed, or vetoed the bill yet, but he did veto an immigration license bill last year.

New licenses would be given to those illegal immigrants who apply for them. The new licenses could not be used as a valid form of identification in any financial transaction or for boarding airplanes. The governor's office claims it would rather wait until the federal government establishes its own requirements for state licenses but some Democrats say it would make the roadways safer by making sure everyone is trained and insured. Most arguments, however, revolved around the status of illegal immigrants with some who oppose the license bill questioning why they were giving driving permission to those who shouldn't even be there and encouraging them to break the law further, while those who support the bill appeal to the 'human needs' of those who cross the border looking to send a decent paycheck to family members living at home.

Any discussion on illegal immigration would be incomplete if there was no consideration of its impact on the war on terrorism. If Mexican citizens (and other immigrants) could sneak across the borders with impunity, an aspiring terrorist from Saudi Arabia, Indonesia or Nigeria could do so also. They need only fly to Mexico and eventually make their way up to the Mexican-American border.

Assemblyman Jerome Horton, one of those supporting the bill, is quoted as saying that "it is the right thing to do because individuals are here and they're driving and that's the reality." Mr. Horton's defeatist attitude isn't needed and should not be welcomed at a time when others who have every desire to harm us will do their best to do so. We were attacked on September 11, 2001 by religious fanatics who have no qualms about killing innocent civilians. While they may be focusing their new time and energy at our allies for now, they might strike us again sometime in the future.

Their decision to focus their efforts elsewhere provides us with a unique opportunity to address our security needs at home, and aside from stronger security at our airports nothing can be more obvious than border security (and this applies to both, entrance from Canada and entrance from Mexico). The Bush administration and its successors should be working with the governors to develop tighter border security by increasing border controls and raising fines on those who hire undocumented workers and not make it easier for those who do cross the border. Hospitals that care for illegals should immediately report them to the police and border control.

As time goes by and we set up a new system to control illegal immigration into our country we may, out of our good nature, extend some sort of amnesty to those already within our country should they go to the proper authorities and register their names as such but now, when there is no such control over immigration into and out of our country, is not the time. Governor Schwarzenegger should veto this latest bill like the one that preceded it. California alone cannot be responsible for illegal immigration - not when people can move from state to state with ease.

Governor Schwarzenegger's Gay Marriage Veto

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Governor Schwarzenegger's Gay Marriage Veto

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By: The Political Heretic

Through his press secretary, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger announced his intention to veto a new bill legalizing gay marriages because the issue, he claims, should be decided by the voting public and the courts. The statement is itself rather interesting, because Republicans generally say these matters should be left with the people or at worst, those they choose to represent them. It would be nice to hear why Mr. Schwarzenegger would leave this issue with either the most representative of bodies that could debate this issue (the people) or the least representative (the Supreme Court, where justices are initially appointed by the governor and then have to seek re-election) . But that is another question best saved for another day.

Assemblyman Jackie Goldberg
and bill-author Mark Leno said the governor is appealing to the right-wing members of his party. If he is trying to cater to the right-wing of the Republican Party he is not doing a good job. Governor Schwarzenegger used his press statement to affirm gay relationships and included their push for equal respect within the history of the civil rights movement. His statement would not have cited with pride, California's domestic partnership legislation that members of the religious right hope to write out of their state laws or suggest that gay couples are entitled "to full protection under the law" if he was appealing to the religious right. Nowhere in his statement does he resort to their code words - "family values," morality, or any other reference that intentionally or not denigrates gay people's lives.

Mr. Schwarzenegger is appealing to the center. The governor's aides know most people oppose gay marriage and overwhelmingly voted for Proposition 22, and that it would likely vote to for another gay marriage ban again. But at the same time he knows the people in California, unlike those in say, Alabama or Mississippi, wouldn't go for the gay-bashing and the far right, knowing this, are downplaying any harm their proposed constitutional amendment would have on gay Californians. If they succeed, the public may fall for it and vote accordingly without knowing how it would affect gay couples' hospital visitation , inheritance, and property rights. Mr. Leno and Goldberg desperately need a reality check and they do their gay constituents no favor in appealing to their desires without giving them the tough-to-handle political facts. They will not win needed support from generally sympathetic politicians and citizens if they call everyone who opposes gay marriage a bigot, right-wing extremist, or theocrat. Some really do believe gays have no place in society and will do their best to censor their works from libraries, pressure city governments to deny them parade permits, and push the cops to crack down on every public display of same-sex affection. And yes, there are those who believe gays are entitled to everything, including gay marriage (with the "word.")

But most fall somewhere in the middle, trying to make some kinds of distinctions to placate their mixed, perhaps conflicting and uncomfortable feelings about the issue. They may support laws protecting gays from job and public accommodation discrimination but draw the line at open displays of gay affection or any state acknowledgment of their relationships. Some draw the line after sodomy laws and still others may go further and support gay marriage without the name.

The governor's expected veto may deliver the gay couples in that state from a worse fate.

Brand Crises

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Brand Crises

By Mark Thristen

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I was just reminded of a presentation I gave last year on the role of online communication in crisis communication by the following quote from an article called "Brand Rehab: How Companies Can Restore a Tarnished Image" from the Knowledge at Wharton newsletter:

"The rise of the Internet poses new problems for post-scandal communications, adds Blythe. "Blogging can kill you. Before, when we had a problem, it was addressed in the public media. Now the Internet is many times faster, more unforgiving and out of control." Increasingly, Blythe's firm is helping companies monitor statements about them on the Internet and generate their own blogs."

The internet can make you or break you - today's brands have to react to threats in "internet time".

All the Anxious Girls on Earth

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All the Anxious Girls on Earth
Stories by Zsuzsi Gartner

Contributed by Lezah

Short stories - they make me shudder. They take me back to grade 8 English class when, on my first day in high school - as a matter of fact, in my first ever class in high school (I had English in block A) - I had to read The Most Dangerous Game, that 'classic' story of a rich man who likes to hunt live human beings for sport.

From there until the end of my university days, I have read literally hundreds of short stories, and for the most part they are all as equally depressing/bleak/dark. I came to the conclusion that while poetry is often short - beautifully and succinctly so - and novels can often be luxuriously long, short stories are neither. They're neither long enough to flesh a decent story out, nor are they, in some cases, short enough - a bad short story can never be short enough in most cases. There are, of course, certain exceptions to this: Salinger's 'Nine Stories' is one that springs to mind.

So, when I picked up my copy of 'All the Anxious Girls on Earth', I was unaware that it was a book of short stories. I thought it was a novel, in other words... But, being a compulsive reader, I read it anyway.
'All the Anxious Girls on Earth' contains nine short stories dealing largely with the theme of personal responsiblity. Many of the stories were similar in tone to Pahluniak's 'Survivor', with the presence and influence of the media playing the role of evil step-mother to the characters in many cases. I think my favourite story was the one called "The Nature of Pure Evil" about a recently jilted young woman who phones in fake bomb threats to buildings.

Apparently this is Gartner's first effort, and with that in mind (and taking into account my prejudice against short stories in general), I have to give this book a thumbs up. The characters are quirky and the stories are varied and ... different - certainly different than the norm. But in a good way.


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Contributed by Lezah

SWARM is an exciting arts event that is currently in its sixth year. This year, 16 different galleries all have their openings over the September 8 and 9th.

Thursday showcases galleries in the Mount Pleasant area, including the Video In at 1965 Main, which will be showing a video and installation display; the Western Front at 303 East Eighth is hosting a new group show; the grunt gallery at #116 - 350 East 2nd has a sculptural installation based on the infamous Janet Smith murder which took place in the 1920s in Vancouver; and the Butchershop at 195 East 26th has a show opening that is based on the theme of galleries closing.

On Friday, Lobby Gallery at 210 Abbott Street has a show about yachts, while Artspeak at 233 Carrall is showing Kevin Schmidt's video 'Burning Bush'. There are lots more interesting shows taking place - for more information, go to


Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Stanley Park - The Novel

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By Terry

I enjoy books set in my own city. They make this place seem more real to me, as though the writer's imagination has somehow amplified it and shown it to me new. I have a small shelf of such books, but most of those are historical.

Stanley Park presents us with modern Vancouver. Our protagonist Jeremy is a young chef, desperately trying to pay the bills with his own idea of what a little bistro restaurant should be: high quality but simple - and avowedly local - fare prepared more by instinct than anything else. Jeremy and his partner (and could have been/should have been beloved) keep the place running on creativity, sweat, and their own sense of adventure. But it's not working out, and the phone calls and letters from various creditors are increasing.

Jeremy's father - known only as The Professor - lives next door to a man who has amassed great wealth by running a multinational chain of high-end coffee emporiums, here known as 'Inferno'. This man's name (in a gesture of authorial burlesque) is Dante. Dante also owns the building where Jeremy's bistro is located, and takes a Faustian interest in Jeremy's future, to the tune of 95% ownership in return for Jeremy's services and instant relief from the mountain of debt. The bankrupt bistro is closed, renamed as Gerriamo's, and renovations are soon underway, guided by Dante's focus groups and highly paid advisors. Partner stomps out, furious and feeling betrayed, doesn't look back.

The Professor is studying the homeless people who live rough in Stanley Park. He likes deep research, and eventually moves in with them, digging out his own little hidden campsite, and learning how to stay dry on rainy nights. Naturally enough, they introduce him to their cuisine: squirrels, pigeons, starlings, ducks (highly prized but very hard to catch), and the occasional raccoon.

So when Jeremy is summoned to visit, it's obvious that these two trajectories are destined to collide. More than that, I won't reveal.

The book is wonderfully written, and he's got the city and the people down pat. The foodies and restaurant critics, the bike couriers drinking beer at the end of their day, the kids from the cooking school just up the street (Jeremy's new trainees), the turbocharged capitalists, the movie producers with 3 cell phones each, and the early morning produce vendors in old Chinatown.

Both the park and the city are evoked as secondary characters. The writing delivers:

Now Jeremy was looking out the window of the Rotterdammer Cafe, half a block down the street from the papered-over windows of Gerriamo's. It was just nightfall, and the cloud cover had split a seam at the horizon. There was now an orange glow from the west. And this light steadily intensified as darkness descended from the east, blooming upward, refracting, illuminating the clouds from beneath, doming out over the park and the city like the light of a great fire.
Yes, wonderful indeed. There's even street protestors, something that seems necessary to the Vancouver psyche. Stanley Park was first published in 2001, and shortlisted for the prestigious Giller Prize. It combines romance, mystery, satire, a distinct sense of place, and a strong well-paced narrative. I'll read this book again.

And I never knew before that there's a little diner in the back of the Save On Meats store on East Hastings Street, where you can get a fully-loaded burger for $3.99. I went and looked: sure enough, there it is. Hey now!

Commercial Street/Drive - ‘The Drive’ as a cultural community.

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Commercial Street/Drive - ‘The Drive’ as a cultural community.

By Christine

Though slightly off the beaten downtown path, this is one of the friendliest streets in Vancouver. The ambiance that exudes from Commercial Drive is that of a cultural community. It is not uncommon to hear/see people calling out to friends, stopping to chat, and discussing upcoming events. I have often found myself drawn to Commercial, just to take in the community-feel and the terrific shops.

Originally, Commercial Drive was most famous as "Little Italy." Recently, it gained worldwide recognition with the arrest Carol Gwilt who operated the Da Kine Café. Never had Commercial Drive been more notorious than when Da Kine Café was closed for selling marijuana openly. (Note: there weren’t any official complaints filed). Fortunately, Commercial is also known for its annual events such as the Fringe Festival, the Parade of Lost Souls and other street parties throughout the year.

I ventured into Deja Vu International, a hairdressing shop as well as an International School of Beauty and was immediately drawn into the discussion of current activities. Aside from a covert planning of a upcoming birthday, Luke, Nunu and the gang were all discussing the Caribbean Festival Dance being held at Deer Lake that evening. A cheerful group, they immediately began inviting me to attend the various events discussed and telling me which shops offered the best lattés, etc.

The Drive (as the locals call it) supports every sort of shop: ethnic shops, beauty shops, multi-cultural restaurants, including: Jamaican patty shops, a Caribbean food and spice store, Spanish tapas bars, Portuguese coffee shops, Indian and Mexican clothiers, European hand embroidery shop, Kokopelli hair salon, Audiopile record shop, Bibliophile Books, and Grass Roots Hemp and Drums shop. As well, Commercial has street vendors (in every sense of the word) as the wares are spread out on sidewalks displaying homemade jewellery and indie cds as well as other odds and ends.

Sitting outside JJ Bean’s House of Coffee, I was surprised to see so many ethnic restaurants within a stone’s throw of each other. The Drive is a ‘must-see’ for any food lover. Whilst jotting notes, I looked up and saw six restaurants, literally doors away from each other, offering Ethiopian, Greek, Spanish, Salvadorian, Moroccan and Asian fare. Harambe’ is an Ethiopian restaurant that received a write-up in the ‘Georgia Strait’ for its homemade “Wonder Bread’. Clovis’ menu showed a wide selection of Asian food, and Addis cafe offered Ethiopian Food. All the restaurants were at decent capacity (given that it was only 2:30 pm) and the menus posted listed varied dishes at reasonable prices, ie: $7.95 a meal ($6.00 if you’re American).

Amongst the numerous coffee shops sprinkled throughout the streets, the Cafe Deux Soleil stood out - offering coffee, food and entertainment. The food offerings were mostly on the vegan side and again, reasonably priced. Cafe Deux Soleil’s entertainment is both live and dj hosted, with poetry slamming being another popular event. (For example the CFSW Finals for slam poetry is being held Monday, September 5.)

While ‘people-watching’, and sipping the best latté in ages, I found that within the first 10 minutes, a multitude of nationalities, languages and physical abilities paraded past me. I also noticed that this area is a dog lovers’ stroll - I’ve never seen so many people saunter down the drive with their pets.

I loved the people of Commercial; chattering in an assortment of languages, hair styles ranging from no-hair to purple, pink, blue, dreds, braids, afros, long, and short. Clothing was mainly in the Boho hippie chic style - haven’t seen this many tie-dye wraparound skirts in ages. Blind, disabled, and wheelchair pedestrians were all completely at ease within the community mosaic.

Houses are scattered in amongst the shops with chic condos nestled above stores in a bright array of European colours. Detached houses in this area run between $400,000 and $500,000 for 2100 sq feet.

I had hoped to walk at least five blocks in either direction beginning at 1st avenue and Commercial, however, I was overwhelmed with images, attractions, conversations with friendly pedestrians and shop owners within the first three blocks. Altogether it took two hours to walk five blocks, and I fell in love with the charm of the Drive all over again.

Aldergrove Fall Fair

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Contributed by Lezah

Now is the time of year when gardens and fruit trees are full with the ripeness of the season. I grew up on a farm, and although we raised horses, we still had many fruit trees and each year my Mom planted a vegetable garden. So this time of year has a special kind of meaning for me: it’s literally brimming with the fruits of the season, the rewards for one’s hard work in spring, the blessing of summer and nature and everything that is right with the world.

In that vein, now is also the time for fall fairs. Now, I’m the first to admit that I go through phases – fads – whatever you want to call them. Like my must-read-every-Booker-prize-winner phase; or my must-eat-at-every-Mom-and-Pop-diner-so-I-can-be-just-like-the-guy-in-Twin-Peaks phase (that one, between you and me, was a real waste of time and money); and now, for the last couple of years, I have been going through my country-fair stage. Spring, summer, fall – for a while there, I wasn’t too discerning. But lately, I have narrowed my interest down to fall fairs.

As far as I’m concerned, the fall fair season starts at the end of August and can run right through to November. For me, it’s kind of book-ended between Vancouver’s Pacific National Exhibition, which runs for two weeks at the end of August, finishing on Labour Day, and Toronto’s Royal Winter Fair, which usually takes place during the week in which November 11th falls. Now, The Royal (as Toronto’s fair is affectionately referred to) continues to do us proud: it was featured just a couple of years ago for a whole week on Martha Stewart Living, and has the best there is to offer. Vancouver’s PNE, unfortunately, is not doing its part in holding up the torch – they’ve deep-sixed the agricultural shows, killed the equestrian events, done away with many of the pavilions, including the BC Building (home of a giant relief map of BC and an annual crafts exhibit), and replaced that with the poor man’s answer to Disneyland; but no matter. We still have some reasonable alternatives at this end of the country.

Take, for example, the Aldergrove Agricultural Fair. Now nearly 100 years old, the fair changed venue about two years ago and, at the same time, walked away with the award for the ‘Best Agricultural Fair in BC’ Award. And deservedly so: full of jams and jellies, crafts and crowds (small ones, mind you), it also offers educational exhibits, funky crafts and jewellery for sale, home-grown and home-canned goods, a small midway, 4-H exhibits – the list goes on. With a down-home, country feel, this fair is all about community, and in these stressful times, that’s exactly what everyone needs a little more of…

The Aldergrove Fall Fair is taking place on September 10 & 11 this year at the Aldergrove Kinsman Community Centre on 29th Avenue (between the Lynden Highway and 272 Street).

Mitch Hedberg

Contributed by Lezah
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“I used to do drugs. I still do, but I used to, too.”

Such is the humour of Mitch Hedberg – or, rather, was… Hedberg, described as “comedy’s answer to Kurt Cobain”, was born with a weak heart and died March 30, 2005, reportedly of a heart attack precipitated by heroin use.

Hedberg had a huge cult following, was on Letterman ten times, was a favourite of George Carlin, and killed at Montreal’s Just for Laughs Festival – to the tune of $500,000, which is what Fox Network handed him a cheque for with a sitcom deal in mind.

Hedberg’s was absurdist comedy. Twisted, and, quite often, surprisingly clean (considering his ‘stoner’ persona). Try this one:
‘The thing that’s depressing about tennis is no matter how good I get, I’ll never be as good as a wall. I played a wall once. They’re f***in’ relentless.”

If you’re interested in more, try looking up his cds ‘Strategic Grill Locations’ (1999) or ‘Mitch All Together’ (2003), the DVD ‘Comedy Central Presents: Mitch Hedberg’ (2003), or go to

LA Eats

Contributed by Lezah

Il Sole – a long-time Hollywood insiders’ favourite, specializing in Italian food – during truffles season, order anything truffle related. 8741 Sunset Blvd., W. Hollywood (310-657-1182)

Asanebo – Japanese specialties. 11941 Ventura Blvd., Studio City (818-760-3348)

Mako – pan-Asian fusion cuisine. 225 S. Beverly Drive, Beverly Hills (310-288-8338)

Musha – every had a mackerel torched at your table? 424 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica (310-576-6330)

News Room Café – try the News Room for something healthy. Wheatgrass and the like are their specialties. 120 N. Robertson (310-652-4444)

Ivy – mingle with the Hollywood crowd and grab a great salad at the same time. 113 N. Robertson (310-274-8303)

Boule – Hollywood’s favourite bakery and sweet shop, located in West Hollywood. (310-289-9977)

Toast Bakery Café – their red velvet cupcake with cream cheese frosting at $2 is to die for. 8221 W. Third St. (323-655-5018)

Joan’s on Third – double chocolate cupcakes for $2.50. 8350 W. third St. (323-655-2285)

Sprinkles Cupcakes – double vanilla at $3.25. 9635 Little Santa Monica Blvd., Beverly Hills (310-274-8765)

Or, if you’re hankering for a taste of something LA-made but not in the area, try Deluscious ( who, for about $50, will bake you a dozen cookies and, while they’re still piping hot fresh from the oven, ship them complete with a bottle of Broguiere’s milk, in ice-cold, old fashioned glass bottles. (323-460-2370)

The Motorcycle Jacket

Contributed by Lezah

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I don’t think that the motorcycle jacket has ever been out of style since its inception – from the time of James Dean, it’s represented all that is a wild and out there. We’ve just been seeing a bit less of it recently.

But here’s my prediction: we will soon be seeing a lot more of this old favourite. Consider, for starters, the music that is currently popular – does that not just go hand-in-hand with the whole motorcycle jacket look? Not since the heyday of The Clash have we heard music like this, and with that type of music goes a certain fashion sensibility – one in which the motorcycle jacket figures prominently.

And if I haven’t quite convinced you? Then take a look at this: a number of designers recently have included motorcycle jackets in their collections. To name but a few, Dsquared is showing one ($2,120, www.; and D & G are offering up one with a faux leopard-skin lining ($2,990, 212-965-8000).

Finally, at an art gallery opening that I attended this spring, the piece that garnered the most interest was a vintage motorcycle jacket, highly personalized with badges, studs and the like. It was the only piece in the show that wasn’t for sale, but I know it could have sold many times over.

So mark my words: the motorcycle jacket’s back.

Chief Justice William Rehnquist

Rehnquist's Passing

died Saturday night at his home in Virginia after suffering from thyroid cancer. The Chief Justice aligned himself with the conservatives on the court, consistently voting to uphold state power against individual rights in criminal procedure matters and due process clause challenges and for a narrow interpretation of our Constitutional guarantees against discrimination.

He joined Kennedy appointee Byron White in opposing abortion rights in Roe v. Wade but failed to win over Justices Sondra Day O'Connor and Anthony Kennedy when the Court revisited the issue. The late Chief Justice fought more successfully to shift the court to the right on religious establishment cases, a move that, while he hoped to overturn important judicial precedents that guarantee religious equality, did move the court to a more solid and balanced approach on those issues and moved the court to the right on federalism.

Few know how this will affect the judicial proceedings scheduled for this week. Most Court watchers expected Chief Justice William Rehnquist to retire first due to his illness but were caught off guard when O'Connor became the first to announce her resignation. Circuit Judge John Roberts will appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee this week but the president will now be required to find another replacement. The president was not caught off guard. The Chief Justice was gravely ill and had recently been admitted to a hospital for treatment before the end. He probably conducted most of his interviews when O'Connor retired so there are probably two or three candidates he might consider after the grieving process is over.

I rarely agreed with the late Rehnquist's judicial views and found myself supporting O'Connor more than any justice, but he performed his job with the dignity necessary for that office .. He presided over the impeachment of a sitting president, maintained judicial independence, and rarely engaged in the heated rhetoric offered by his fellow conservative counterparts. His loved ones will mourn his passing, but he his death spares him from further pain. May his successor come to appreciate the role as much as Rehnquist did.

The Prince Rupert newspaper wars, again

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Andrew’s Home

I need to touch on this subject again, as there's been some development in the ongoing saga.
This week the two main opposing free "newspapers" released new issues. The Northwest Compass (NC), a tabloid-sized monthly magazine owned by the NWW, put out it's second issue, September.
Look Inside (LI), the oddly named weekly newspaper owned by former NWW employees, put out it's first issue on August 31.
There are some striking similarities between them.
They're both the same size, same ad specs, same over-use of colour.
On the back page of both papers is a large ad for the local Chrysler dealership, something both seem to have adopted from the NWW days.
And both are available online, in the format - as newspaper pages which have been converted to large JPG images.
But really, looking inside, they are hugely different. NC is mostly all content, while LI is stuffed with ads.
In fact, NC is 20 pages and contains about 8.5 pages of advertising, from 17 advertisers.
LI is 16 pages and contains about 10.5 pages of advertising, from 48 advertisers.
That's not counting house ads, or ads by the paper promoting itself. Including those, NC is about 50% advertising, while LI is about 80%.
This leaves me with mixed feelings. I should love NC and loath LI for the content, or lack thereof. But I'm inclined to believe the reason NC is so lacking in ads is not because they want it that way, but because they couldn't get anybody else to buy ads. A real disliking developed for the NWW in its final days, as it spiraled out of control.
Look at the difference in sales. LI has nearly three times as many advertisers! They're the obvious winner in terms of support from the business community.
I was a bit worried, actually. If they hadn't done well on the first issue, they probably wouldn't survive. If they have a few more just like this one, then, all they'll have to do is increase the pages, add more content, and they'll have a strong, successful product, winning the hearts of both the advertisers and the readers.
Now, yet more thoughts about my current situation.
The more I think about it, being where I am is a far better place than Ryerson would have been. Rather than paying to learn to be a journalist, at a rate of at least $15k/year, I'm learning by being one, and I'm getting paid for it.
I was really looking forward to school for the social aspects though. The thought of being surrounded by large numbers of young, intelligent, like-minded people is very appealing.
Here though, with the circle of media friends I'm beginning to develop, I think I actually have that. To a lesser degree, but more than enough to satisfy me.
Of course, if I go this route, I'll have to stick it out for at least a year, maybe two, to make the experience look good on the resume. I can't see it lasting much longer than that though. I want to travel again, see more of the world and eventually live in a big city!

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Reader Appreciation Giveaways!

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Swanktrendz will be celebrating its first anniversary on September 28th. We have come a long way from its first inception (whilst driving home from a concert with Lezah). We’ve watched our site go from a rather simplistic Claris Pagemill attempt to a highly efficient software program developed by Terry Lowe (which is for sale if you contact the editors).

To say ‘thank you’ to our readers, we have decided to give away some decidedly British Columbian gifts, as well as a $100.00 gift certificate for The gifts are as follows:

4 - Sue Coleman signed prints to be awarded as individual gifts (see an article on Sue Colemen using our search feature)

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3 - Vancouver/Canada cloth ball caps - very sturdy, velcro fastened

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2 - boxes of Robert Davidson designed ‘art’ chocolates (from our own 4th Avenue Fine Art Chocolate shop)

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1 - $100.00 (US funds) gift certificate

To enter, send an email via the ‘contact’ on our index page and
give us your name and answer a simple equation (2 x3) - 6 =?

Only enter once per email address.

The winners will be posted on September 28th/05 and we will email you for your mailing address. All emails and contact information will be deleted from our database on September 29th.

Thank you for participating in a terrific first year. Please be aware that we welcome all letters, accolades, corrections and criticisms as we are hoping to add a ‘Letters to the Editor’ feature. Feel free to submit an article from your ‘neck in the woods’, for publication as well.

I'm not dead. I'm still alive. I've just been a bit busy.

Swank Home

Andrew’s Home

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Last week I wrote five articles for the newspaper. That really drained me, and I didn't feel like writing anything here.

In fact on the Wednesday of that week I wrote three articles, totaling about 2,500 words in length, in about five hours. I've never written anywhere near as much in such a short period.

It was both exhausting and challenging. I was filled with desperation as I struggled to get it done, and yet it was exhilarating as I knew I had to get it done.
And, after it was done, it was immensely rewarding. I really feel like I'm accomplishing something here, like there's value in the work I'm doing.
I think there's the growing potential that I could stay here a long while.
On Saturday I was supposed to go to a music festival in Skagway, but I skipped it in favour of attending a party here which I thought would be much better for me socially.
And it was. It was strangely mostly all media. I got to meet, play horseshoes with and get drunk with all the other journalists from the other newspaper and the radio stations.
Of course, by saying "other journalists," I'm beginning to believe that I actually am one.
It was a wonderful experience.
Anyhow, also last week and into the weekend, I searched somewhat frantically, with the end of the month looming, for a new place to live.
Whitehorse has a real housing shortage. Houses which go for $60k in Prince Rupert cost five times as much here.
Trying to find anything decent for rent, at a reasonable price, is a nightmare.
I looked at seven places before finally settling on a downtown basement one-bedroom apartment for $700 a month.
I know I've sworn before I'd never live in a basement again, but there wasn't much choice and some of the other places were truly abysmal.
In Rupert I was paying $500 a month and thought the place was overpriced, and now I find myself in a similar place (minus the view) for considerably more.
But, as I sit here on my futon with my furniture all assembled and my belongings mostly unpacked, I realize it is a pretty good apartment. It's quite clean, everything feels new and, considering all the alternatives I looked at, is very spacious.
After living in a cabin for four months, I'm finding it amazing how much I missed the little things, like electricity or a kitchen sink or my own bathroom. I'm shocked at how fast water boils on an electric stove.
Of course, there are downsides as well. I now feel, living within the city, the need to lock the door all the time. The cabin didn't even have a lock.
It was a very hectic, fast move. The previous tenant didn't vacate until about 6:00 p.m. on the 31st, and I had to be out of the cabin by that same day.
So I dropped off one load at the new place after work, then went back to the cabin to pack my remaining stuff and do a final cleaning. I didn't get it all done till about 10:30 p.m., so the place was cleaned in the dark.
And then, as the end of this week came, I found myself horrendously busy at work. Among a pile of other things, for Friday I designed five full-page ads and a double-page centre-spread of New Orleans hurricane photos, as well as writing the night before a feature story on the new season at the arts centre.
But it's all over. Tonight I've unpacked and put together my furniture and now I have a three-day weekend (Labour Day) to relax.
Oh. Also, I now have a phone. If you want to know the number, send me a gmail.

California and Marriage

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Heretic’s Home

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Gay marriage has, is and will probably continue to be a hot topic in the United States for some time to come and California has not avoided the issue as noted here. The public voted 60-40 to ban state and local recognition of gay marriages in March 2004 but the latest controversy involves a vote by the state senate to recognize gay marriage and a legal battle over the wording of an initiative that bans not only gay marriages but other forms of recognition short of it. Religious conservatives hope to place the issue before the voters on the June 2006 primary ballot.

The state senate voted to recognize gay marriage along a 21-15 partisan vote with Democrats for the most part voting to affirm it and Republicans voting against it. The General Assembly has yet to bring it up for a vote and no one knows if California's Republican but moderate governor will veto or sign it. Conservatives will no doubt contest its legal applicability in the courts since Proposition 22 explicitly bars any recognition of gay marriage.

And they will have a good chance of winning. If a proposition is to have any legal significance it cannot, by any means, be ignored by a legislative body. Challenges to the proposition must be made by either a new proposition designed to overturn it or through the courts itself.
Should, however, Proposition 22 itself be declared unconstitutional as some fear, the conservatives who pushed for it need only press for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage and that requires the same majority vote they won by a comfortable margin with Proposition 22.
Gay marriage is, for gay rights activists, a losing battle in California so gay marriage is not the issue; California's recognition of gay couples' domestic partnerships is.

Religious conservatives are, as mentioned above, pushing for a new initiative which would ban gay marriage and any form of recognition (civil union, domestic partnerships) short of it and the precise wording that will be put to the voters is being fought over by the opposing camps and both campaigns are using the court system to legalize and "confirm" their disingenuous campaign tactics.

The gay marriage activists know they will lose whenever gay marriage comes up for a vote. In the last general election, marriage initiatives came up for a vote in 11 states and in each one it passed, many by comfortable and even overwhelming margins. Libertarian Montana voted for it (even as the public there voted to legalize marijuana) and liberal Oregon joined Midwestern populist states like Michigan and conservative heartland states in banning gay marriage. They know Californians rejected gay marriage 3:2. with Proposition 22 and the religious conservatives will likely win any constitutional amendment by a comfortable margin as well. Their efforts to downplay the religious rights' emphasis on gay marriage is understandable in light of that fact but the gay marriage rights activists cannot genuinely say marriage is not the issue when their supporters in the legislature and within the legal community are fighting for it. They cannot say this initiative has nothing to do with marriage when their Supreme Court is hearing child custody cases, when San Francisco's mayor officiated over gay weddings, or when the upper house of California's legislature passes a bill recognizing a gay couple's marriage.

For their part, religious conservatives know they will have a harder time winning approval of the measure if the public were informed of its deleterious effects upon a stigmatized minority than it would if it merely affirmed something that most believe to be a fact of life (I will leave to the side the question of whether that is a fact of life or not; its perception as such is enough to prove my point). The public would have no problem voting to affirm marriage's heterosexual definition as a union between man and woman but support may wane if the public knew the law would ban state protection of a gay couple's hospital visitation, child custody, and property rights. Voters who might otherwise vote to give heterosexual unions special status might view the measure religious conservatives seek as a means to deprive gay couples the common decency and respect they would themselves ask for during times of hardship and consequently reject the proposal if they knew of its harmful effects.
The religious conservatives know this and that is why they are asking the Court to reject Attorney General Bill Lockyer's wording of the initiative, which notes, in its summary, the harmful effects it would have on gay people's hospital visitation and property rights. But their effort is just as disingenuous as the gay activists' campaign. They know that the public has little to fear from the gay rights' activists campaign. Had this measure been stripped of any reference to other forms of gay recognition short of marriage, there would have been no need to push this legislation in the first place. Gay marriage was rejected in California by a comfortable margin and it would be rejected again. Gay marriage is a red herring, one that the gay activists may be pushing, but ultimately to their own detriment. At issue are the very real tangential benefits gays now acquire through domestic partnerships, the very things religious conservatives don't want the public to know they are voting on. How honest and Christian of them.

May they have the same level of success in winning their interpretation of the amendment that gay marriage activists had in fighting Proposition 22.

Friday, September 02, 2005

He Came, He Smiled, He Conquered! Brian Wilson’s Smile Tour

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Queen Elizabeth Theatre, August 29/05

It certainly was strange to see a large theatre filled to bursting with people eager to hear the live performance of an album that for so many years was shrouded in myth, hidden away for the most part in the obscurity of Capitol’s vaults and of interest, I thought, to fanatical Beach Boys fans only. I didn’t realize that so many music nerds lived in Vancouver. The critical acclaim for the 2004 release of Brian Wilson’s Smile - essentially a remake of the original 1966 version with newly-created bridging sections to fill some holes left when the project was abandoned - and the receptions of audiences much like the one at the QE, must vindicate the long nightmare of Smile for Wilson. Smile was the album that cemented his reputation as a “genius”, but also precipitated his withdrawal from music-making. The ructions it caused within the band never really healed and they never recovered from the loss of critical cachet in the sixties - try as they might to be cool, it was like your pipe smoking dad wearing a kaftan. It has been both a bad memory and a millstone for Wilson - no wonder he hated and feared it!

Every self-respecting Beach Boy/Brian Wilson fan knows the legend of Smile. It’s the holy grail of pop music history. Many gratified their interest (also known as mania) in Smile through... ahem... bootlegs or made do with the sections of Smile presented on the 1993 box set Good Vibrations. They hoped that Capitol might one day issue a box set much like the Pet Sounds Sessions; but knew in their heart of hearts that they would never hear Smile as intended by Brian Wilson. However, with the encouragement of his wife, Melinda, the musical assistance of Darian Sahanaja and the creative input of original collaborator and lyricist, Van Dyke Parks, Wilson was finally able to overcome his distaste, conquer his fears and realize his original and unique vision. Having previously heard only snippets of larger pieces or instrumentals without vocals with no sense of context, I don’t think many fans were prepared for the revelation of hearing Smile as a complete work. Finally, to hear everything as Wilson had intended it: with completed vocals and everything in its proper order - what had before seemed confused and episodic finally merged into a beautiful whole. At last, fans could hear what Brian Wilson had heard almost forty years before - not without a little chagrin that such a wonder couldn’t have been released in ‘66 (It would have come out before Sgt. Pepper’s and one can only speculate how the musical landscape of the sixties might have been changed; would it have been a revelation or just an anomaly?).

So, the multitudes came to prostrate themselves before the temple of Smile and you could feel the keen excitement at the theatre - all these fans that couldn’t believe their dreams had finally come true, milling around in an exhilarated daze. Although there were lots of old fogeys, there was also a sizable contingent of twenty-somethings and lots of children, as well. This was Brian Wilson’s first concert in Vancouver, as a Beach Boy or otherwise, and the audience meant to enjoy it - “enthusiastic” and “excited” are two words that pop to mind (as does “frenzied”). Lezah and I took our seats, and much to my shock the concert started at 8:00 on the dot - much to the shock of others too, as people were still finding their seats three songs into the show.

Although the concert was billed as a Brian Wilson’s Smile, the first half was meant to whet our appetites. After a frankly over the top, rabble-rousing introduction, an almost frail Brian Wilson shuffled on stage and sat himself on his stool in front of his seldom-played piano and the band kicked into Do It Again. The songs were chosen with an eye to both BB enthusiasts and curious on-lookers alike. So mixed with the relatively obscure “The Little Girl I Once Knew” or “Breakaway”, there was a “Help Me, Rhonda” or “California Girls”. Of course, the song selection was heavy on the sixties material: “At the Drive-In”, “Please Let Me Wonder”, “Then I Kissed Her”, “When I Grow Up To Be A Man”, “Dance, Dance, Dance” and “Do You Wanna Dance?”, etc. with “Sail On Sailor” thrown in for good measure. As a BB nut, however, I had hoped for something from Wilson’s mid-seventies purple patch - it would have been great to hear the large band tackle “Honkin Down the Highway”, “The Night Was So Young”, “Had To Phone Ya” or his masterpiece “Til I Die”. Still this is just the carping you get from BB nuts like me. Judging from audience reactions, no one else seemed to miss them... the fools.

After a brief intermission - ah!civilization - the band and Wilson returned to the stage for Smile. Like the album, it was performed in three sections with the songs flowing into one another. As much as was possible with such an enthusiastic audience, applause was discouraged until the end of each song suite. One amazing thing about Smile is that an album, as much a child of the studio-obsessed, album-oriented mid-sixties as Pepper, that took almost forty years to complete, saw its original debut as a live performance. An integral part of this success is his incredibly talented band. Along with Sahanaja, there’s Scott Bennett on keyboards; guitarists Jeffrey Foskett, Probyn Gregory and Nick Walusko; Bob Lizik on bass; percussionists Nelson Bragg and Jim Hines; Paul Mertens on woodwinds; and vocalist Taylor Mills. Everyone except Mertens and Hines added vocals in a close approximation of that classic BB harmony sound and supported Wilson whose voice isn’t what it used to be, having been weakened by his former abuse and neglect (all that smoking lowered his range and control). This band is augmented by the eight-strong Stockholm Strings‘N’Horns - that’s nineteen people on stage including Wilson (even then, some of the band’s multi-instrumental abilities are called upon). It was absolutely amazing to see Smile performed live: the complicated, multi-layered vocals, the both spare and dense instrumentation, the breakneck switches from simple pop to oddball avant-gardism. It was all impeccably performed and the audience ate it up entirely. The band looked to be having the time of their lives up there too.

After Smile, there were two encores. the first consisted of band introductions performed by the very funny Jeffrey Foskett and a selection of the BB’s most popular moldy-oldies (“Fun, Fun, Fun”, Surfin’ USA”, for instance) and a enthusiastic cover of “Johnny B. Goode”. The audience which had stood up for “Good Vibrations”, the final song of Smile, remained standing throughout the encores, enthusiastically shaking their aging tail feathers (crutches were available at the concession) and singing along (one man directly behind me, quite loudly). The second encore was made up of a beautiful gospel-tinged song (which I didn’t know) and a rousing “Love and Mercy” from his first solo album. After thanking the audience, Wilson shuffled off stage for the final time that night to uproarious applause - although some parts of the audience, conditioned by years of going to hockey games, had left early to “beat the rush”..

I’d like to thank Brian for going out on the road with Smile and making his and so many of his fans dreams come true. Thanks, Brian.

Sin City

(2005, dir. by Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez)
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Swank Home

Contributed by David Dedrick

Another two-movie year for Robert Rodriguez: this year brought us The Adventures of Shark Boy and Lava Girl In 3-D and Sin City and in 2003 we saw Spy Kids 3: Game Over and Once Upon A Time In Mexico. I sometimes fear that he’s just pumping them out, but I have to admire his work ethic. Once Upon A Time In Mexico - a continuation of the Mariachi series - was an underrated gem, but Spy Kids 3 lacked the panache of its predecessors - especially the second - and seemed perfunctory. Once Upon A Time In Mexico’s problem was its title; implying as it did a connection to Sergio Leone’s violent, but stately sagas - Rodriguez is too ebullient and in too much of an all-fired headlong rush to have the epical gravitas and scope of Leone. It’s still lots of fun though. Anyway, Leone already made Once Upon A Time In Mexico; it’s called A Fistful of Dynamite (or, Duck, You Sucker!). (Q: Which one of these two titles is better? A: Neither.)

I haven’t seen Shark Boy and Lava Girl yet; I’m a bit put off by the perceived indulgence of making a film based on one’s own child’s screenplay. (It was such a success for Francis Ford Coppola in New York Stories, after all.) So I reserve judgment. Sin City, however, is one of my top picks for movie of the year.

First, let me say a few words about Sin City, the comic upon which the movie is based. It’s written and drawn by Frank Miller, who has consistently revolutionized comics content throughout his career: his run on Daredevil, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Ronin, to name but a few. He always challenges his audience, but he also challenges himself; he constantly alters his drawing style from project to project - still keeping one foot in his Kirby-esque roots. For Sin City, Miller chose an austere style of high-contrast black and white; as though every person and object in this world existed in the glare of some high-intensity spotlight. Occasionally Miller might introduce a single colour in a story to emphasize an important feature - a beautiful woman’s blue eyes, for instance - but black and white remains predominant. The stories are as stark as the art; they’re pulp fiction, more in the brutal manner of Mickey Spillane than the wry acerbity of Hammett or elegance of Chandler. The characters are the stock character of noir: the femme fatale, the femme who is a fatality, the burnt-out cop, the noble gumshoe, the hooker with a heart of gold, the two-bit hood, the corrupt authorities at al.

Although Miller was wary of a typical Hollywood desecration of his work, Rodriguez has done a masterful job adapting the work for the screen - obviously in close collaboration with Miller who gets credit as co-director and his name above the title. Converted by George Lucas to digital movie making, Rodriguez is now its biggest proselytizer; and Sin City is the first film to show the artistic rather than the technological possibilities - without the innovations of digital its unlikely that Rodriguez could have rendered this film as faithfully as he does. The actors were filmed against a green screen, giving Rodriguez unlimited control of the look of this film: the backgrounds and special effects are added later using CGI; he can tweak the lighting effects, add spots of colour, change the gradations of black and white, heighten the emotional intensity or the essential unreality of the movie’s events: the thick, slashing rain that falls like white pencils from the sky or the bright, white blood that seems less like blood than a void on the screen are examples of the heightened unreality that recall its comic book roots. It also looks like one of those German Expressionist films from the silent era.

And let’s talk about the acting in this film because its so good. Carla Gugino is great as a hardened parole officer; Rosario Dawson impresses as a tough cookie of a prostitute; Brittany Murphy, with her dark eyes and sad face, was born to play the ill-used barmaid; Elijah Wood gives a creepy performance as he attempts to break The Curse of Frodo©; Josh Hartnett pops by to play a self-deluding hitman with an unconvincing moustache; Jessica Alba lights up the screen - literally, with the help of a CGI-generated halo - as a stripper with a past; and an almost unrecognizable Benecio Del Toro has a small role as a... no, I can’t say anything without spoiling the fun. Rodriguez is also clever enough to cast the charismatic actors, Rutger Hauer and Powers Boothe, in two relatively small roles that with little screen time must be powerful and memorable; it’s their corruption and depravity that are the motor that drives events in Sin City.

The film is made up of some short stories surrounding three longer ones. The first with Bruce Willis as a decent cop in a dirty world, hunting a monstrous child-killer with connections in high places is great; both touchingly sentimental and highly cathartic with someone getting a much deserved shit-kicking. Willis gives an excellent performance and no one plays noble suffering more nobly than he. Clive Owen plays a man with a murderous past who must help the hookers of Old Town dispose of a big, big problem. Owen is the right mix of seediness, desperation and steely resourcefulness that, although you can see the end coming about a mile down the road, you’re happy when he gets there. Basically, it’s all an excuse for gunplay, Ninja-style hi-jinks and blowing things up “real good”. And Rosario Dawson in thigh-high leather boots. (Am I complaining? Am I complaining?) The bravura performance, though, goes to Mickey Rourke as Marv, the nearly human killing machine with reality/fantasy issues. Rourke, barely recognizable in his Marv make-up, brings such humanity and zest to his role that you can’t help but smile as he goes about his killing job. And kill he does. Marv pummels, clobbers, gouges, shoots, strangles, stabs and worse as he avenges the murder of a kind prostitute all the way to the top. Rourke is note perfect - right to the shocking end.

I can heartily recommend this film to everyone who loves movies, who aren’t too squeamish and enjoy their violence and action with a wry chaser. Or you can show it to people who are squeamish as some kind of a joke. Whatever. It’s out on DVD now, but be warned: a two-disc extended special edition is coming out later this year. Sin City 2 is in pre-production for 2006. Hooray!


Swank Home

Contributed by Lezah

September: the dog days of summer are winding down, fall is in the air, and it’s the start of both a new school year and a new TV season.

That’s right, all the fall shows are starting up within the next month, and it’s something of a crapshoot for a while. The return of old favourites, sifting through the great, the good, and the not so great – it all takes time.

Stay tuned to see what we have to say about the new TV season – but until then, here’s some other stuff to keep you occupied for the month:
Thursday, Sept. 8 – Toronto International Film Festival begins
Friday, Sept. 9 – NYC Fashion Week kicks off
Tuesday, Sept. 13 – World Music Awards on the box
Sunday, Sept. 18 – the Emmys
Friday, Sept. 23 – Austin City Limits music festival begins
Sin City

Good Times Cruise-In

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Swank Home

Contributed by Lezah

Have you ever seen one of those old movies where a motorcycle gang takes over a dusty, little town? You have? Me too – but I’ve never watched one long enough to see how it ends And there’s a whole generation of guys out there too who, I’m sure, have not only seen the movies but also own the special edition director’s cut DVD. It’s these guys and their custom cars that - in the spirit of those hokey movies - end up taking over the little town of Langley one weekend each year in September.

Yes, indeedy, on the weekend of September 10-11, the Langley Good Times Cruise-In takes place. The first time I went to it, I was absolutely flabbergasted. Langley City has a population of about 60,000, but on the weekend of the Cruise-In, the entire town shuts down. Every street in the town centre is closed and the place is jam-packed with vintage and custom cars – this year, they’re expecting about 2000! From the 1920s right through to more recent models, including low riders and hoppers; there’s everything a car buff could ever wish to drool over (just be careful that you don’t get any on the paint job).

At Douglas Park they usually have the earliest/oldest cars, along with the more exotic imports. Elsewhere there is a wide variety; sometimes clubs will get together and park in a group, but in other areas you may find an Aston Martin beside a ’69 Mustang next to an old Chevy truck… you get the picture.

The bottom line is this: if you like cars, then plan on attending the Cruise-In. It’s free to just walk around and look – parking is free, too, but not always easy to find. Throughout the day there are lots of events and activities happening as well.

For more information, go to

Dave’s Music Corner

What's Dave Listening To Lately

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Music is my soundtrack. I like to do a lot of sedentary things like writing, drawing and reading, and I always do those things with music in the background. It’s a little foible of mine to say that when music appeals to me it shoots an invisible beam of blue light right into my brain. When I say this people always ask, “If it’s invisible, how do you know it’s blue?” to which I can only answer with a shrug. What I mean, though, is that if the music I’m listening to can force its way out of the background and into my consciousness, then that music is for me.

Joe Jackson - Mike’s Murder Soundtrack (A&M, 1983)

Have you ever seen this movie? It’s a fabulous dreamy kind of thing and Debra Winger’s performance should be recognized for its greatness by all right-thinking people. I was so happy to come across this album, which I found in a thrift shop in Ladner, BC, as it filled an irksome hole in my Joe Jackson collection. All the rest of you neurotic collector types understand that, right? (The sleeve looked like it had been submerged in a bathtub for a day, but the record’s in great shape.) This album followed his brilliant Night and Day and features the same players. Unfortunately the songs on this album aren’t as strong and few of them stand out. There’s even a head-turning rip of the organ sound and most of the riff from “I’m A Man” on “Memphis”. When you hear it you think, “Oh, he’s covering “I’m A Man”, but near the end of the riff, the organ takes this sudden detour that’s kind of disturbing. “Moonlight” is the standout track on side one. Side two is all atmospheric instrumentals - not surprising considering this is a movie soundtrack. I was more surprised by the entire side of pop songs than the instrumentals, which are very good (especially the one based on “Moonlight”), but, of course, were designed to accompany visuals and suffer accordingly.

The Rolling Stones - Black and Blue (Rolling Stone, 1976)

Ronnie Wood’s first album for the Stones - he hadn’t officially joined the band yet. This is the album on which the Stones leave the blues behind and get all FONKY, a change of direction taken after the underwhelming Goat’s Head Soup and the collapsed soufflé of It’s Only Rock and Roll, as well as the departure of the excellent Mick Taylor. It was a decision that brought mixed artistic results (Emotional Rescue, anyone? *), but I suppose kept them alive commercially through the disco confusion of the late seventies. Like most albums produced by successful sixties acts in the seventies, critics tend to pooh-pooh Black and Blue, but actually it’s perfectly listenable. The thing is, the Rolling Stones were always a singles band and very few of their albums can stand as a whole from beginning to end. Their attempt to produce a coherent album statement, Their Satanic Majesties Request, is regarded as a bit of a failure, but like any album by the Stones it’s got plenty to recommend it. Black and Blue is the first album to explore the Stones’ interest in reggae with a cover of Cherry Oh Baby. The single was the fun Hot Stuff, but the standout track is Memory Motel, which I have now repeated twice. I notice that guest artists Billy Preston and Ronnie Wood are credited for “inspiration” on two songs by the notoriously credit-stingy Glimmer Twins. I wonder if Wood was ever credited for “inspiration” again after joining the band full-time.

*I actually like that album a lot too: “Ah am yo-uh knah-ght in shah-neeng ah-mah!”

Bob Dylan - Bringing It All Back Home (Columbia, 1965)
Highway 61 Revisited (Columbia, 1965)
Blonde on Blonde (Columbia, 1966)

Three albums that shook the world. As I said in my last column, I just finished reading Howard Sounes excellent biography of Dylan, Down the Road, so, of course, I dug out the Dylan because a good music book should make you want to listen to the music again with a new context. I think it’s the... I don’t know how many Dylan books I have. Wait a minute... God, I have thirteen different books about Bob Dylan that I can see. That’s a little embarrassing. I guess I’ll have to take comfort in the fact that I didn’t buy them all at once or read them all in a row, but over the course of years. But Dylan’s a fascinating subject and no person sees him the same, so each book has its own take - like looking at different facets of the same diamond. Robert Shelton’s book, No Direction Home, for instance, is particularly interested in the early years of Dylan and his later career is quickly disposed of; Clinton Heylin’s book, Behind the Shades, is more concerned with Dylan’s recorded output - particularly the “missed opportunities” of Dylan’s career as evidenced by his bootlegs. It must be strange to be an artist whose unreleased songs are has hallowed as his “official” output, and are always being thrown back in his teeth. I mean you don’t hear many people bemoaning the absence of “What’s the New Mary Jane?” on The Beatles’ White Album do you?

Anyway, as I was going to say before I so rudely interrupted myself, these three albums are pretty much perfect to me. The keening blues whine of “Tombstone Blues” or “Maggie’s Farm”, the gently picked acoustic, dancing behind Dylan’s voice on “Desolation Row” or “4th Time Around”, the drunken free-for-all/psychotic Salvation Army band sound of “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35”; the snaking “Stuck Inside of Memphis With The Mobile Blues Again”; I could go on and on. I love the sometimes snarl, sometimes gruff pleading in Dylan’s voice and the dense, stoned surrealism of his lyrics. Speaking of bootlegs, if you listen to some of his early songs on the cd box set, The Bootleg Series Vol.1-3, you can hear Dylan sing these songs straight, then begin to apply his curious vocal mannerisms to them. Remember, it’s not that he could only sing that way; he chose to sing that way.

Bob Dylan - Biograph Disc Two (Columbia, 1985)

In the mid-eighties doldrums of his career, the release of this three-disc box set did a lot to resurrect Dylan’s slumping reputation. In fact, its revolutionary use of album tracks, unreleased songs, demos and live versions practically invented the box set industry - for good or ill (not every artist has unreleased songs worth issuing we’re discovering to our chagrin). This is probably my favourite disc of the three, although the third one runs it a close second and occasionally overtakes it (it’s a mood thing I guess). The reason I love this one is the hypnotic live version of “Visions of Johanna”, a harrowing unreleased version of “You’re A Big Girl Now”, the superb “Tangled Up In Blue”, a gorgeous live rendition of “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” (with the unexplained change of “reindeer armies” instead of “seasick sailors going home”) and a scorching live “Isis” from the Rolling Thunder tour. It also has two obscure singles, “Can You Please Crawl Out Your WIndow?” and “Positively 4th Street”, the touching “Dear Landlord”, “To Ramona” and “Every Grain of Sand’.

Actually, I’ve decided that each disc is equally good. I guess I’m going to have to listen to them all! Catch you on the B-side!

“Now It’s Gah-bage!”*

Garbage with The Start

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The Commodore Ballroom, August 30/05

Wow. It takes an incredible amount of perversity or hubris to give yourself the name Garbage - you’re just sort of asking for it, aren’t you? Every smart-alecky reviewer who ever put pen to paper (or finger to computer key) can knock off a review without a moment’s thought (I’m not including myself in this group as I usually take considerably less time than that). Haven’t they been dogged by enough pithy reviews like: “They’re garbage!” “They’re right!” or “They’re also trash!” to make them heartily sick of the stupid name?

Perhaps inspired by Felix Pappalardi and Mountain, Butch Vig formed Garbage with Steve Marker and Duke Erikson in 1994 on the back of his success as producer of Nirvana’s Nevermind. Realizing they were all just producers, they hired front woman Shirley Manson to provide vocals and charisma. I’m just kidding about that - the band provides enough guitar neck strangling, lunging about, hunched intensity and other guitar histrionics to reward a degree of attention and Butch Vig is an excellent drummer. But Manson is the centre of attention - tall and slim with striking red hair and large eyes; she held the audience in the palm of her hand the entire night, chatting with the crowd, joking with her bandmates and singing songs, past and present, in her powerful voice (it’s not often singers can convey softness in a rock concert setting, but Manson does, quite easily - it’s not all that hoarse “rawk” shouting which can become a bit tiresome).

The band came out onto a spartan stage after a lengthy excerpt from Johnny Cash’s cover of Nine Inch Nails “Hurt”. Manson’s hair was tucked into a military-style cap and she was dressed in short, short cut-offs (with the name “Shirley” embroidered along the bum - not that I was looking! Uh...Lezah pointed it out) with fishnet stockings, striped socks and shoes not unlike Dorothy’s ruby slippers. After two numbers, she complained that the stage was slippery and a crew member brought out a pair of high top black runners that ran halfway up her shin. Manson proceeded to tie them up with her leg up on the monitor - an added thrill for the legmen and foot fetishists in the crowd (ahem). This little bit of stagecraft is repeated at shows, apparently, as I read about it happening elsewhere. That’s not a complaint, though; I’m a big-time advocate for showmanship at rock concerts. Later in the show, Manson also fell into conversation with a girl in the crowd, a member of the Garbage fan club, who complained that she’d been screwed around by the fan club over tickets. Manson promised to look into it and in recompense made the other band members come offstage and give the girl a kiss. When a song broke down, Manson canvassed the audience for requests and a girl, frantically waving a sign with the song title “Hammer In My Head” written on it, had the privilege of requesting her favourite song (I’m assuming that it was her favourite song and the sign wasn’t a desperate cry for help). It’s interaction like that with the audience members that really endeared the band to me.

The stage presentation was interesting too. As befits a band consisting almost entirely of producers, the sound was excellent - the best mix I’d ever heard at the Commodore. They had obviously taken the trouble to guarantee a quality sound; Butch Vig’s drums even had clear plastic shields set up around his cymbals, which were quite baffling. Oddly, there were no amps on stage, making it look quite bare. I wonder if all those Marshall stacks that bands insist on piling around the stage are just for looks? (Hmmm, I wonder...)

The opening act, The Start, was a crowd favourite as well. Its sound goes back to the golden era of punk - you know, Green Day, Rancid, etc. - combined with the effects-laden guitar sound of early eighties bands like the Fixx. On a couple of songs, the drummer had an almost Ringo Starr-like quality to his playing - that’s a compliment, by the way. The singer seemed to connect with the audience, but I found her a little over the top - too much dramatic stage stalking and head bows; and far, far too many leg kicks, chest thumps, dramatic collapses, courageous risings. She pointed at the ceiling so often I really thought there was something up there - apparently a holder of a Master’s degree in the Art of Hamology. While touring with Garbage, I hope she takes the time to learn from Shirley Manson how you really hold an audience’s attention.

*Walter Matthau in “The Odd Couple”

West Fourth (Vancouver) Contributed by Lezah

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Welcome! Here we are, about to embark on a new Swanktrendz feature: the Vancouver 'neighbourhood profile'; and I can honestly think of no better location to start with than Kitsilano's West Fourth Avenue.

Just to give you a bit of background, the Kitsilano neighbourhood proper extends from 16th Avenue north to the shores of English Bay; to the west its boundary is Alma Street, and from there it extends east to Burrard Street. This area was originally the home of a very wealthy First Nations band, and the name Kitsilano is a derivation of the name of a popular First Nations chief from the area. His name was spelled 'Khahtsalano', and many locals will still give the area this pronunciation. Now the area is known more commonly as 'Kits'. For more information on the Kits area, go to

Now, Kits is the neighbourhood in which my Dad grew up, so I, in turn, heard story after fanciful story during my youth about the antics of those growing up in the Kits area back in the day. Likewise, my aunt and uncle lived in the Fourth and Alma area during my youth, and consequently, I spent many summers down there, not to mention every second Christmas.

So, although I personally have never lived in Kits, I know for a fact that it is a great place to live. A stone's throw from the beach, and a short drive or bike ride from downtown, False Creek or UBC, Kits fulfills the three most important rules of real estate: location, location, and location. This is prime real estate we're talking about here, ladies and gentlemen: the average price for a 2000 square foot house in Kits is somewhere in the neighbourhood of $1-2 million, depending upon how close to the beach you are. But, even if you can't afford to live there, you can still hang out and shop there, so let me tell you all about that...

Today I'm going to concentrate on the West Fourth area of Kits, because I have been hanging there a bit this summer. What I'll do is let you know some of the highlights, and you can fill in the rest. First of all, West Fourth is the street for people who are into specialized, individualized, and one-of-a-kind merchandise. You won't find a Walmart or a McDonalds within spitting distance. This is the place to come if you need a flag: at the east end of Kits is The Flag Shop on Fourth, which carries flags from every country you've ever heard of (and probably some you've never heard of, too). A stone's throw up the street is The Telescope Shop and, you guessed it - they sell telescopes. Right next door is Videomatica, the place to go if you need a rare, hard-to-find, video - or a new release - they've got it all. At Chocolate Arts you can buy chocolate that is, quite literally, art: they have chocolate designed by world-reknowned West Coast First Nations artist Robert Davidson, and it is incredible - as are many, many other items in their store. This is food that is almost too good to eat...

There are restaurants, bistros, and coffee shops all up and down the drive. I ate at Pastis Bistro this summer, and I'm still dreaming about the Half-baked Chocolate Cake that I had for dessert; Bishops is just up the road from Pastis, and the night I was there, the line-up was out the door (I understand this is a regular occurrence); Sophie's Cosmic Cafe is regularly voted Best of... in Vancouver, and has done so consistently for years. It's funky, eclectic, and has great food - they've got a great burger selection, but also cater to the vegetarian crowd.

Clothing stores line West Fourth on both sides, and the selection is incredible and diverse. There is high- end fashion - Gravity Pope Shoes recently opened on the Drive, and they have the best selection of shoes on the West Coast. Hailing from Australia is Blundestone, and you can find their Vancouver store on Fourth, too. There are stores that sell designer mark-downs; there are thrift stores; there are West Coast-chic lifestyle-type stores like the wildly popular Lululemon; there are high-end fashion consignment stores. You could, quite literally, shop for a wardrobe on West Fourth, spend a quarter of what you would have done at the mall, and end up with clothes that: a) would never have been sold in a mall in the first place; b) are completely unique and individual, so you'll never, ever have to worry about anybody else wearing the same thing as you; and c) you'll look way better than anyone else!

On top of that, there are furniture and accessory stores that primarily deal in contemporary furnishing, although there are some funky rustic-looking places, too. Carpets, art, kitchenware, bathroom accessories - you want it? They've got it!

Hair, make-up, day spas - they're all there too. And other types of lifestyle stores: Zulu records has long been one of the best supporters of indie bands and labels, and they carry a huge stock of new and used vinyl and cds, and also do concert ticket sales - especially handy as many indie shows don't use the 'big guys' like Ticketmaster or House of Blues. The Comics Shop is a cool (in the nerdy sense) place with tons of stuff that you'll likely never find anywhere else, and happens to be right next door to the Candy Shop, which has every type of candy ever known to man. They specialize in British chocolates and sweets, and also carry a wide variety of current and retro (remember those candy cigarettes we used to get as kids?) sweets. There are a couple of places that cater to our four-legged companions, and I noticed that many of the stores allow people to bring their canine companions into the stores. As well, I noticed at least two stores that had installed in-store water fountains for their customers - complimentary, of course.

So, if you have an eye for the fun, a hankering for the eclectic, a need for the funky - then head down to West Fourth. As one shop keeper told us, "We go all over to buy our stuff - India, Africa, Japan, Paris - because all the stores in the mall already have what everyone else has. We try to be different - to be unique." And that, my friends, just about sums up Kits in a word: unique...

2:1 Words of Wisdom By: Mark Thristan

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My colleague, Karl Pickering, repeated a real gem of an expression again today, while talking about establishing a new brand:

"You don't get a second chance at a first impression."

I like the simplicity of this statement as well as it's 2:1 ratio, which reminds me of my favourite phrase for project planning, the carpenter's proverb:

"Measure twice, cut once."

I'd love to hear some more 2:1 phrases I can bandy about in business meetings (and yes, I have thought of "birds in the hand")...

Rich Wiki Editing By Mark Thristan

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While I love the collaborative authoring aspects of Wikis, I've always thought that wiki markup, while nicely concise, acted as a barrier to their uptake in "the real world". Via Wiki, I've come across socialtext, a JavaScript-driven wysiwyg editor for wikis (designed to integrate into existing wikis). I just tried out the demo, and while double-clicking to reveal in-context editing is a bit counter-intuitive, it works really nicely.

We're Packing our Bags By Becks & Posh

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Becks & Posh is going to be taking a little Vacation

Enough of this Posting Malarky!

I did have plans of pre-preparing posts that would magically pop up in my absence (thanks to Amy for volunteering to help me by posting them for me.) I certainly have enough material to cover my absence. But it dawned on my that my blog really wouldn't be me without me here to nurture it. I am heading somewhere it won't really be possible to get on the net, so I am going to take a complete break and hope you will all join me again when I return.

In the meantime, I am including, at the bottom of the page, a set of links to archive posts from last September, which you can wade through it you are in need of something to read. You can laugh at my naivety - I only discovered the wonderful world of food bloggers in August 2004, and last September was a revelation for me - it was when I entered my first ever Is My Blog Burning! A year ago my photos pretty much sucked, I had an audience of about 10 people a day and I hardly ever had any comments. The IMBB post is an exception - note the comment from Fatemeh who has since become one of my best food blogging friends.

Talking of Is My Blog Burning, after patiently waiting for eleven months, I am finally, at long last, hosting September's edition. The announcement will be the last post I write before heading off, on Saturday, for my holiday. Check back in the next couple of days to see what it is going to be...