Thursday, October 18, 2007

Another thing

In response to those of you have been wondering, just because I'm unemployed at the moment doesn't mean I sit around and do nothing all day. I know it seems like I've been spending the majority of my time obsessing over animals of some sort or another, in someplace or other, away from home, but actually, i do other things as well.
Click the images to see BIGGER versions.

Saturday, October 13, 2007


I just got back from Montreal where I spent two weeks visiting Megan who recently moved there because its fashionable to do so. Not only is it fashionable, but it's also economical, rent is cheap, and you can eat for free any day of the week at the Peoples Potato, where they let you cut in line if you bring your own tupperware dish. Also, Megan is currently living large off of Concordia bursaries (take that anyone who thinks you have to be a francophone to get free money in Quebec) so if it wasn't for buying booze, it would more or less be free to live there. In fact, if you made your own booze, you'd actually be making money. Like any third world country, Montreal has a high unemployment rate, and major problems with their infrastructure, but the hassles are well worth dealing with as you soak up the enchanting atmosphere and enjoy the colorful street life.They take thier night life very seriously in Montreal, and with a bar on every corner, and more live bands than you can shake a drum stick at, going out to party is an obligatory part of the experience. This Liquor store perfectly illustrates my point. Thats right, it looks like some sort of train station or town hall or something, Infact I was going to write about how in Montreal they've found creative new uses for a lot of old buildings and so on, but it turns out the place was built to be a liquor store (Note that its the nicest building in the neighborhood). Now a lot of people will tell you to go party on St. Laurent, or to have a coffee in little Italy, or this and that, but the truth is the best time to be had in Montreal is feeding the raccoons at the lookout point in the park. Go at dusk, bring Cheetos.
This being the first time I've been out east in a while, naturally I was anxious to do all those things you can't do west of the Rockies, and no, I don't mean eating putine, you can get that in vancouver too, what I mean is catching a catfish. Unfortunately it rained on that little adventure, the St. Lawrence did however produce on one of the other aquatic vertebrates I had hoped to encounter which was this little baby snapping turtle. Too cute for soup, we realesed the lucky little guy unharmed, although I did reconsider it later. Although Montreal doesn't have as much money floating around as we do here in the west, at least the money they do have seems to be going to some of the right places. In Vancouver all the money gets turned into glass towers and hideous condo developments. In Montreal they have things like the Canadian Centre for Architecture, and the Musee de beaux Art, and everyone just lives in regular houses.
In Vancouver people drive their Bentley to go pick up their miniature short haired dachshund from the pet pedicureist down the street. In Montreal people go to the bar at night. Different values. Incidentally, my friends Colin and Cabiri also just moved to Montreal (its fashionable), and while I was there Colin let me paint his portrait.
Email me for a cute Raccoons of Montreal photo album you can use as a screen saver.
thats all for now.

In Search of the Miraculous

Those of you who know me are familiar with the idea that I had to ride my scooter to Montreal this fall. Now alot of you have told me not to do it, that it would be dangerous and insane, and that my scooter would break down somewhere in the middle of saskatchewan and that.. well actually at this point in the conversation most of you would just shudder and then go back to something like, "look erik, just dont do it". Scooter problems aside, and yes, I understand that some of you guys are engineers, the general consensus was that it is a "bad idea". What most of you don't realize though is that I had this idea while attempting to ride my BICYCLE to Montreal, and that is what I would classify as a "much much worse idea". Thankfully, that idea wasn't mine, but belongs instead to my good friend Phil, who deserves to be either applauded, or to have his head examined, for having actually done it. Phil rode his bicycle clear across the continent, from the pacific to the atlantic. I dropped out after the Rockies, and took the bus home from Banff. I often cite this as an example of my ability to make good descisions when confronted with the "look erik, just dont do it" arguement. Anyway, the point is that, relatively speaking, riding my scooter to Montreal seems like "not that bad an idea", and actually kinda fun. Along the way I would get to visit my friend Mark in Winnipeg, and I would get to test my mental stamina against a Boring incredible for its colossal singularity (yes I used boring as a noun). Also, the trip would make a modest homage to Bas Jan Ader, a Dutch Californian conceptual artist from the seventies, who is most famous for his final performance in which he set out across the atlantic in a 13 foot sail boat, "In Search of the Miraculous", and disappeared at sea. (his boat was later recovered by the Irish coast guard or something, but his fate remains a mystery) Ader brought with him a copy of Hegels "the Phenomenology of the Spirit", which I have not read, but I now carry a copy of around in my scooter with the dedication on the inside cover "never forget". Which brings me back to Montreal (Je me souviens), and that I ended up taking the plane just because I felt pressed for time. Even at 70 kms an hour it would still take at least 10 days to ride from Vancouver to Montreal, but I still intend to do so sometime, regardless of what you engineers tell me.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Slit Their Throats Sink Their Boats; part 2

It was difficult to break camp and say goodbye to our comfortable little beach hovel in oyster bay, not because it was sad, but because we were totally hungover, and we hadn't gotten up before 10 or so in over a week. However we had an appointment to meet Andre at the general store sometime after 10 or so, so we got up early and hastily threw everything into the kayaks in the rain, and spent the next 12 hours hanging around at the general store waiting for Andre to show up. Redeemingly, the RV park had the best coin operated showeres I've ever had the pleasure of washing off two weeks worth of beach grime in. A loonie there gets you like 20 minutes of high pressure hot water, its incredible. Anyway, it was very generous of Andre to come pick us up there, because he ended up doing two trips to take Max and Is kayaks as well as his own and a rental kayak for Steve all the way up to Sayward. The reason for going to Sayward was because Max was going to meet his girlfriend Kate on West Thurlow Island, and the currents are too dangerous to navigate in a kayak from the south without a massive detour. Going to Sayward was fun not only because they have a really good diner with murals about the logging industry, but also because its an unpretensious coastal logging town, and there are a bunch of cool lookin old rusted out ships piled up to create a breakwater in the bay.
This is right on the Johnstone Straight, and the currents in these channels feed the Georgia Straight to the south, but in some places the channels are only a few kilometers wide, as a result the whole area is subject to the worlds most powerful tidal currents, standing waves, whirlpools and eddies. in some of the more famous and dangerous passes the currents reach speeds from 13 to 16 knots, and the boat swallowing whirlpools are legendary. The channel we had to paddle downt to get to thurlow island had a maximum current speed of about 7.5 knots, which is pretty fast for a kayak. There is absolutely no way you can paddle againt the current at this speed, so timing is really everything here.Thanks to Andre I actually have a few nice on the water shots of us kayaking for this post. Here are Max and I going with the flow, this was right before the Orcas showed up. The johnstone Straight is famous around the world for being the best place to see Killer Whales, and the best way to see them is from a kayak. As we were drifting in the current fishing, a couple of them literally swam right up to us and looked us in the eye, surfacing as close as three or four meters away. I swear I could feel them licking the bottom of my kayak. The water in this area also happens to be extremely clear, and you can actually see them swimming around below the surface at the right angle.
Heres a picture of an orca I stole off the internet, but this is what it was really like. The clear water in this area also makes for good diving, but the water is really cold, so I only went snorkelling for like a minute. We paddled two days, escorting Max and Steve, and then Andre and I paddled back to Sayward, about 20 kms, in 3 hours. we just got right out into the strongest part of the current, and before we knew it we were there. That was pretty fun. Then we drove across the Island to Zeballos, on the west coast.Zeballos is also a neat little coastal village, and the best place for access to nootka island on the west coast. Zeballos also has a bar that has good burgers, as well as bears that wander around town. We had to paddle a couple of hours before we made it out of the inlet, and out on to the "breathing ocean" Andre kept carrying on about. Andre hates inlets. It was nice to have the vhf radio, because it was blowing gales pretty consistently the entire ten days or so we were out there. We made it to an island on the west coast the first day, and ended up marooned there until two days later, which was fine with me because it was a really nice island, and we were stocked up on good food. This part of the island is the southernmost extent of the reintroduced sea otter population, and there really are loads of them. at one point I paddled out to a kelp bed between some rocks and there were at least 50 of them congregated all around me. There were no bears, cougars, or wolves on the island, so as a result there were a bunch of extremely tame deer and I had a good time chasing them around. The following day we paddled over to a beach on the big island, and learned the definition of "bear infested". It always makes me a little nervous when there are large potentially dangerous animals all over the place, and then it gets dark. Nonetheless, our campsite went unraided, and I slept soundly. In the morning the weather was actually nice, so we took the opportunity to cross a channel, and made it to another island just off of Nootka Island. I named the Island, which is listed in the chart as 44, Flathead Island, because of the many sea otters which hang out in the area. (I call sea otters flatheads).
The island was so nice and well situated for exploring that we spent the rest of the trip camped there, the gales never really let us spend the whole day on the water anyway. We ran out of fresh water, and while we were in our kayaks looking for a little stream someone told us about, we saw a pretty big black bear on a small beach. We paddled up closer, and the bear didn't seem to mind, so we got to spend a good long time watching it at close range flipping over rocks and rooting through the washed up seaweed. It only glanced at us occasionally, and eventually lumbered back into the woods.
One of the highlights of the trip was visiting the Nootka burial cave on one of the small islands facing the pacific. We landed our kayaks on the beach and then proceeded to spend about an hour walking all the way around the island in search of the rumoured cave, only to discover it right back on the beach we landed on, next to our kayaks. The ground inside the cave is completely covered in pieces of carved cedar boxes and human bones, several of the skulls have been positioned up higher on ledges. It must be nice to be able to come and visit with your ancestors in this way.

Friday, September 21, 2007

My Last Year of Treeplanting

For those of you who may not know, Treeplanting is a job in Canada, where you get paid to plant trees. Every spring thousands of young Canadians head out into the bush, and spend the summer destroying their joints for cash. You get paid by the tree, so the harder you work, the more money you make. With a good company, there is always the potential to make a surprising amount of money, with fast planters often averaging above 300 dollars a day.
Here is my friend Mike with a big bag of weed, and Phil, laughing about Mikes big bag of weed. "Oh no officer, I wasn't going to smoke it, thats my pillow."
Here are colin and some people waiting for the helicopter to drop a bunch of trees on them so they can get to work.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Slit Their Throats Sink Their Boats; part 1

Always in search of danger and seafood, I spent the better part of this summer teamed up with fellow dirtbag and raccoon, Max, in search of good times and baked goodies.. provided they weren't more than a casual walking distance from the water. (pictured are Max and his girlfriend Kate) Starting with a casual canoe trip up and down Denman Island raiding oyster farms, we worked our way up to the rigors of living in a beach hovel in the shadow of the East Islands scariest Rv park where the only salmon we cought was the one we bummed off a sympathetic fly fisherman. This is our story, yawn. I left the canoe in Maxs care, and hitchiked home thinking I would paddle up the coast from vancouver in my kayak solo, but when i got home Max called and said he had bought an old strip built kayak and was ready to go, so I threw my boat on the bike cart and walked it onto the ferry so we could start our trip from his moms place in sechelt. Here we are having a couple of roadkill bear steaks for breakfast before we get going, thats another story entirely, and its a good thing we had a hearty breakfast, because it turned out to be a long day, and the snacks were few.
Maxs Kayak, which is insanely heavy, and he hadnt taken for a test run, turned out to weathercock quite badly in the modest 3 to 4 foot chop we were running with up the straight, so with the help of a local boat handyman Max glued a skeg to the bottom right during the time of heaviest rainfall of the day. oh yeah, the weather sucked. despite the setbacks and only getting on the water at noon, we made it to halfmoon bay, and found a cool spot to camp among the cliffs. I guess it must have been a haul-out spot, because every once in a while a seal would get really close before seeing us and then freak out and swim away as quickly as his little flippers could take him. I call the seals "toothy sea slugs", and there's no shortage of them in the Straight of Georgia, infact they're considering a cull.

The next morning we climbed back into our wet wetsuits, and paddled pretty hard all day during rain and thunderstorms to get to the Agammemanon Channel where we were stalled by a moderate to strong outflow wind.

We couldn't find a spot to camp because the whole damn sunshine coast is lined with multi million dollar mansions, so we went ahead and camped on the water front yard of one of them. the neighbors seemed friendly enough, offered us to fill up our water and chatted about boats. The owner however was not friendly, but we only found that out in the morning when he called the police so it was ok. Actually he didn't even call the police, that would have been better though because no body likes to be yelled at over breakfast, this guy didn't even say good morning before giving us the whole private property talk at the top of his voice. We decided not to slit his throat just then, there were people around, but instead we just took our sweet ass time vacating the premisis. This was the house.

If you ever see this place from the water, go ahead and empty your holding tank there, just throw a rock through the window and pump it out into the living room. Anyway, we paddled around the outside of Nelson Island that day, and the weather was actually pretty nice. There are no houses on the west coast of Nelson, and it alternates between nice pebble beaches and rock bluffs. It blew up pretty hard in the evening though, so we had another night of camping in the rain.

Next day we paddled to Powell River, and met some really nice people on the way. Just when we were getting cold and fed up with the rain, Max paddled up to a guy and asked if the coffee was on. He turned out to be the right guy to ask, because he invited us in, made us coffee, (with a generous amount of baileys in it), and sent us off with a bottle of homebrew wine each. Then later we stopped at a little beach and an old lady came down to see us and say hi. She thought we were great, and had her husband bring us some kindling for a fire. Then she brought us a homemade blackberry desert, and we seriously considered moving in right there on the beach. Oh, that was another thing, we had to cook on fires the whole time because i forgot the fuel bottle for my stove in Alberta earlier in the summer on a bike trip, and Max ran out of fuel. In any case, we were cold and tired by the time we made it to powell river, but we were in good spirts, even though we had to stay at the campground, and the showers there were short and had lower pressure than a winter storm.

We spent most of the next day relaxing in Powell River, we had a couple of good feeds, and photocopied charts at the library. In the evening we took the ferry over to Cape Lazo on the Island. we loaded all our stuff into some shopping carts, and the ferry workers helped us carry our kayaks, smooth operation. We paddled north a little ways and camped for the night on the beach near some sympathetic homeowners. I was planning on meeting my friend Andre in Campbell River about a week later, so we took a much slower pace than before, and took about two days to paddle to Oyster River. On the way we stopped at a game farm and picked up some venison steaks and sausage, and banana bread from a bakery/general store, this was a treat.
When we got to Oyster River we set up camp on a beach in the estuary, and stayed for almost a week. We went snorkelling in the river with the spawning salmon, and got to see some pretty huge cutthroat trout swimming around as well. The pink salmon were jumping all the time right in front of our eyes, but aside from a few strikes, we didnt get any action. The Fly fishermen on the other hand were bagging their limit early in the mornings, and we got to know some of the regulars (all old guys from the rv park) I also had the pleasure of my first snake bite during this time, when I tried to apprehend an ornery garter snake. it was a dream come true. I've never felt so close to Steve Irwin (except that time I faced off in the water against a giant stingray in brazil armed with only a machete that was duller than my wits).

Then I got bitten by a Penguin the day after. Ok, so it wasn't a penguin, it was Uria Aalge, also known as the common murre, the closest thing to a penguin we have on our coast here. It came ashore during a thunderstorm looking rather confused, so I grabbed it and it bit me, then I grabbed it again, this time making sure to slide my hand up its neck, we checked him out and there was nothing wrong with him, so we let him go. then we tried to catch him again to eat him. he looked like this.

We also cought lots of these, which I don't care much for anymore after eating several this summer. Everyone calls em Dogfish, but really they're sharks, and we don't call it fishing, we call it "shark hunting".

Heres Maxs hunting machine. This was the day that Andre picked us up and we continued our adventure in the Johnstone straight.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Blue Space Contained Within a Red Dome, also fear, lots of fear

Buckminster Fuller figured out at one point that he could put a giant geodesic dome (were talking like a mile diameter) over part of the city of Manhattan and it would pay for itself in a couple of years with the saved energy. I don't know what it was going to be made out of, or covered with, but it is interesting that the geodesic dome is the only structure we know of that actually gets stronger the larger it gets. I also don't know where the supposed energy savings were going to come from, I guess heating and snow plowing and stuff. Anyway, that dome never got built, why? well, I don't know the specifics of the circumstances, but you can imagine it probably had something to do with people thinking it maybe might not work. Ok, I know I said "lots of fear" in the title, but apprehension just doesn't sound as good. Also, I'm sure any potential investors would have been genuinely "afraid" of losing their money, and the city would have been authentically "concerned" , at the least, for the well being of its citizens, etc, etc. In short, the whole project was probably met with a lot of skepticism, which is what I was really trying to get at here, that people allow what they believe to interfere with their reason on much more subtle levels than we are usually aware of. We should probably be critical of this. People believe that making big things, is hard, and that it maybe won't work, which is reinforced in many peoples lives by things going wrong, which is often the fault of incompetence (the failure to predict outcomes). Anyway, Robert and I built this dome out of rolled up paper (an idea we got off the internet) for a party at our place, it was fun, people got drunk, nobody learned anything but us. Oh, and sexattack and adjective were the names of the bands, we didnt mean anything by it.... the dome either.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Raccoons, God’s Eyes, Burning Man and “Native Art”

I don’t want to comment on the politics of so called “native art”, that’s a subject for a whole different discussion, one which I am not qualified to write about authoritatively.* What I do want to address though are the forms that get relegated to the “native art” category, specifically woodcarving, mask making, and to a lesser extent textile work. What I wanted to point out was that “the natives” don’t have a monopoly on these forms, nor do they claim to as far as I know. I bring this up because I recently discovered how much I enjoy making masks. Some of you may have seen the recent portrait show at the gaff gallery where I showed my raccoon mask. Ive always liked sewing, and ive always liked animals.

Anyway, recently ive been wanting to make outfits of some of my favourite animals so that I can dress up as them, just because it feels good. My raccoon mask was not the first manifestation of that desire. When I was a kid I often had my mom make animal suits for me for fasching (kind of like Halloween and carnival in Germany) when other kids wanted to be Batman, I just wanted to be a bat. That desire to make costumes and wear them is the same as the desire I have to make any form of artwork, at its most basic level, the drive is for creating something, it gives my life meaning.

Now I have to say that I really admire traditional northwest coast artwork, and out of all the artwork I have seen in my life, not just nw coast stuff, the animal masks are some of my favorite pieces. Likewise I like the costumes and outfits from the numerous cultures of the pacific islands, and while I have to admit that my appreciation of these cultural artifacts is pretty much limited to the look of the thing, I don’t think there is anything wrong with that, and I don’t treat my enjoyment of other cultures artwork any differently than I treat the enjoyment of artwork from my own (think Hollywood movies). Anyway what I’m driving at here is that it has occurred to me that the appreciation and understanding of those artworks is incomplete without the significance of context. Furthermore, from my own perspective, this significance often finds its expression in the ritual use of the object, more so than even the object its self. For example I understand that in eastern coastal New Guinea a mask was often made for one occasion only, and the mask would be ceremonially incinerated after use. ( the accompanying image is of what a mask from new guinea would probably look like being incinerated.) Or think also of the more familiar Potlatch and the use of artwork in a ceremonial way. I know I know, citations needed here. I’ll save deconstructing the concept of ritual for another time, for now lets just take the word to describe a collective or personal spiritual experience involving a symbolic gesture.

Now, I’ve never felt like I want to somehow inject myself into another cultures ritual practices, but I have often felt a sort of sadness at the meager ritualistic experiences I have had in my life. The only such occasion I can think of, in fact, is fasching when I made along with all the other kids lanterns out of paper, and would walk out in the fading evening light in a big line. I cant remember why we did it, but it felt good and significant (to me as a 6 year old) , also I got to dress up as an animal on such occasions. This experience is altogether missing from my adult life, and I think a lot of other adults lives as well. The desire for experiences of this sort lead people to do a lot of strange things, major religions aside, there are mass suicides ufo cults, and the burning man festival in Nevada. While I haven’t yet been to burning man, I myself have turned to ritual while confronted with the hardships of the Canadian outdoors. I don’t think I am the only treeplanter to have ever buried a cookie or part of their lunch in the ground as a symbolic sacrifice to the land in hopes of easy planting.

OK, I know it says raccoonS in the title and the reason for the plural is that I would like to see all my friends also make raccoon masks. Wearing these masks we could then go dumpster diving together. Thereby culturalizing our collective conviction that waste is bad. also, how cute would it be to see a bunch of raccoons sitting around a campfire drinking beer and playing ukuleles.

I guess I'll have to get to the gods eyes some other time, but its related to ritual, and Megans sister once made one that shook the foundations of what i thought was possible with yarn.