Of Death Star and Doncaster

31 03 2013

So we all trekked off to the Auto Show on Friday. Quite a pleasant day out. We then went to the Bellaggio Café for lunch, opposite Canada Place in Vancouver. Near the Giant Blue Sperm. (It’s Art. It’s also German. Just sayin’…)

I have to say that the food was pretty good. The spelling though?! Interesting at the very least. It’s no connection at all with Bellagio (one g) in Las Vegas. There were no fountains or Dale Chihuly glass art.

Now I’m a big fan of Eddie Izzard‘s work. Mainly his stand-up, but also his straight acting. Up there with the best bits though is “Darth Vader in the Death Star canteen”. So famous in fact that it has been done in Lego and re-enacted word perfect by pre-pubescent boys a thousand times on YouTube. If by some fate of nature you’ve made it through life thus far without having seen it, try this video. If you’re well aware of Jeff, Sir Lord Vader of Cheam, then read on. Or eat cake. Your choice.

Now, I’d never actually heard of Penne Arrabbiata prior to Eddie Izzard, and I’ve never seen it on a menu. I thought it was one of those made up names. I once tried ordering the popular-in-Canada Alfredo sauce with my pasta on a trip to Northern Italy to howls of laughter and questions as to who in the name of all that is edible was this Alfredo chap?! Same with Latte – unknown in small town Italy.

Imagine my surprise then to see Penne Arrabbiata on the menu in Bellaggio’s. I opted in the end to share a proper Italian-style pizza (less crust than topping, unlike typical North American 2″ deep doughy monstrosities) with Mrs E., so can’t attest to the quality of the Arrabbiata sauce. Nor, I’m afraid can I attest to what a chocolate mouse tastes like. Even if serverd with ice-cream. Look carefully at Royal Chocolate in the photo…

Chocolate rodents on the menu at Bellaggio Café

Chocolate rodents on the menu at Bellaggio Café

Our waitress was very attentive but unfortunately it was other staff who delivered the actual orders. These others seemed to think it odd that we might want side plates in order to share our chicken wings, or regular plates off which to eat our pizzas. On the first attempt we were given teacup saucers!
The actual waitress, as I mentioned, was very attentive though. She was also English. Better – she was from Yorkshire. I know this because she told me so. Years ago, a French Canadian once told me that one need never ask if someone was from Yorkshire, as they’ll have already told you. C’est vrai! She’d married a bloke from Leeds it seems.

Over the space of our lunch we both politely circled around and determined our origins. I’d been in Canada 12 years, she 4. I was from “near Bradford” (in galactic terms at least – actually Silsden), she “from Doncaster”. My sister was born in Doncaster. Later, I said I’d spent my first 4 years in a village called Skellow, but couldn’t recall how close to Donny it actually was. It’s a suburb, she said. It’s where she’s really from! We agreed it was indeed a small world, and went our separate ways.

I just checked on Google Maps at what the old street looks like now. The one I spent my first four years on. Learning not to eat Play-Doh, alongside other life lessons. Watching the Vietnam war on black and white TV.  The old house is still there – and yes: that’s the A1 in spitting distance over the road. The Great North Road built by the Romans, and used ever since for moving untold volumes of goods North/South in England. “Go play in the fast lane of the A1” was a common repost when I was at school in later years. It really was incredibly possible…

Where QE spent his early years

Source: Google Maps – Where QE spent his very early years

Friday Mystery Photo

1 02 2013

A lovely photo of Dale Chihuly’s Fiori di Como at The Bellagio, Vegas. Check out other less good Vegas photos here.

Places Unknown and Everything Else

This one got to be easy one for you guys. But I have to ask two questions about this photo, first is the usual – where I took this photo? The second – who is the artist behind this incredible installation?

There is so much detail in it, I think I’m going to create a few more photos from it by zooming into different parts of this image and giving you only a few flowers at a time. They look really awesome when you zoom into them.

Click me!!!

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Viva Las Vegas! (Not)

22 10 2012

So I just got back from a business trip to Las Vegas. It was a trade show, so all paid for by the company. I’d never been to Vegas and though I didn’t have especially high hopes for it, I was at least hoping for some sizzle.

I was really disappointed. It was just plain cheesy. Apart from one highlight when I discovered some Dale Chihuly on a ceiling in The Bellagio, my over-arching impression was just how utterly naff everything was. I’d be really happy never going there again. I understand that there is some phenomenal natural beauty in the surrounding area, but the city itself could easily be ignored. If it’s on your bucket list… leave it to last, just in case!

As you walk the strip you are constantly pestered by people flicking wads of “business cards” in your face, advertising “girls, girls, girls”. They wear T-shirts saying things like “Girls to your room – guaranteed in 20 minutes”. Everyone (guests and staff) looks bored. We were staying in the Las Vegas Marriott, near the Convention Centre. This is a “regular” business hotel without any of the casino trappings, and the staff there were very attentive. I’d recommend it if you find yourself having to go to Las Vegas.

The monorail is poxy compared to the Vancouver SkyTrain – and expensive too. But, in fairness, it was clean and appeared to be safe, even late at night. Its stops aren’t so convenient though, and we ended up using taxis after the first day.

Some of the hotels had free shows you could watch as you walked the Strip. The Bellagio’s fountains were pretty good, and ran different choreographed water displays every 15 minutes after 8pm. Treasure Island, on the other hand had “Sirens of T.I.” which was beyond naff, twice around the pole and back, it was so bad. It involved girls wearing less clothes than they should, but more than would make it interesting, and dancing pantomime-style to a pirate themed melange of crappy music. There was another pirate ship full of blokes (and a rather unfortunate result of an experiment to cross people with parrots) who could dance even less well, and weren’t even worth looking at.

We landed back in Vancouver at nearly midnight on Saturday. It was raining hard and it was 4 degrees Celsius. I’ve rarely been more glad to get home!

2 06 2012

Can’t beat a nice bit of Chihuly!
Found this over on Global Art Junkie – thanks for posting!

Mrs Malaprop and the Aussie birds

24 03 2012

So I recently finished reading Sheridan’s “The Rivals“. That snippet of information has only tangential relevance to anything that follows, but I did tell kathryningrid I was about to read it, and I just wanted to show I was sincere.

We just got back from walking the dog around Campbell Valley Park, and she was pretty well knackered. We had a good friend coming round for dinner, so I suggested a quick diversion to the local Murchie’s to see if they sold Russian Caravan – a favourite morning beverage – to enjoy the calm before the storm. Unfortunately they did not sell it for consumption at this branch, and it turns out that “Queen Victoria” (though smoked) was not in the same ballpark at all. Anyway, whilst walking up to the shopping centre, Mrs Elephant suddenly said I should look out for the Galahs.

Having travelled to Australia several times on business, I am familiar with these birds which fly free – rather like starlings do in the UK or crows in BC. The first time one sees them in the wild it’s a bit weird, as previously they’re strictly the things of aviaries and zoos. To see them lined up on a fence is pretty jaw-dropping.

Wikipedia: Galah

OK, so the more astute amongst you will have gathered that galahs are not in fact native to BC, and so this statement had me stopping dead and searching the trees for swooping parrots. Presumably escaped from some nearby condo. It took a few more seconds to join the dots and realise my long suffering other ‘arf was in fact referring to the broken bottle lying on the pavement ahead of us.

You see, in Yorkshire, “glass” rhymes with “ass”, whereas in the South of the UK, from whence she originally hails, “glass” rhymes instead with “arse”. Ignoring for a moment that a UK arse is the same as a North American ass, you perhaps begin to see the issue. The galahs were in fact glass. Not Dale Chihuly organic works, but a plain old vandalised bottle.

Lydia Languish would be amused…

Chihuly… again!

9 03 2012

Bless you!

Frequent readers might recall a recent piece on Dale Chihuly. No? Try “Gesundheit“.

So imagine my surprise, on our fourth and final day in Phoenix, when I came across the unmistakeable style of Chihuly right there in the desert. The organic style merged very well with the real plants it represented and echoed there in the Desert Botanical Garden.


29 01 2012

… Which at least one reader will know literally means something close to “have healthiness” in German, and is offered in North America (potentially accompanied by a tissue) to someone who has just sneezed, as an alternative to the more common elsewhere “bless you”. Probably something to do with the separating of church and state. 😉

And if you can tell our next stop is Tacoma, near Seattle, “You’re a better man than I am, Gunga Din!”

We have friends in Tacoma, Washington. On our first trip to visit them, they were kind enough to take us to the old union railway station, which is an impressive public space. It has its own web site too.

unionstationrotunda.org: Tacoma Union Station

unionstationrotunda.org: Tacoma Union Station

According to the usually reliable Wikipedia, it opened for business in 1911. Now then, if you look closely at the photo above, you’ll notice some organic looking colourful shapes and forms. Hard to tell at this resolution, but they’re actually glass. Some of the other features can be seen in this shot.

unionstationrotunda.org: Tacoma Union Station

unionstationrotunda.org: Tacoma Union Station

Needless to say, they catch the eye. There are several other items too, on the outside of the building in glass cases. Some half-hearted research (it’s on placards everywhere!) educated me as to the creator of such surreal, organic, mesmerising beauty. It’s one Dale Chihuly. <Gesundheit!>

A local boy, born right there in Tacoma, he studied glass art in Venice, which James Bond fans will know has a bit of a reputation for such things. Probably why most consider him “quite good really”, or at the very least “not half bad”. A bit accident prone, losing his eye in a car accident and later dislocating a shoulder, he now has others implement his designs, which are all hand-blown in glass. With a bit of a thing for rotundas it seems, the Vic’n’Bert rotunda in London (still not in Ontario) also has one of his pieces:

Wikipedia: Victoria & Albert museum

Wikipedia: Victoria & Albert museum

There has been one of his installations right here in Vancouver since 1998, at 1200 Georgia. Actually on Bute. It’s visible from the road, and worth a better photo than the only one I could find.

virtualtourist.com: "Dale Chihuly Art"

virtualtourist.com: "Dale Chihuly Art"

He also does smaller pieces which are more readily accessible for the general populace.

Dale Chihuly: Cadmium Yellow Seaform set with Red Lip Wraps

Dale Chihuly: Cadmium Yellow Seaform set with Red Lip Wraps

Quite distinctive, and so rich and vibrant. More than once I would have sworn they moved.

Cornets, 2007 Missouri Botanical Garden

Cornets, 2007 Missouri Botanical Garden