Thu, May 12, 2011
Now, using the tremendous power of the internet, you too can create your very own cat-oriented comic strip.
Fri, Mar 25, 2011
If you’re TA Loeffler, local adventurer, author, and go-getter, that thing is ski downtown.
There’s still time to ask TA any questions you have about about keeping active and staying sane in March and April in our Wha Q&A section. Click here to submit a question.
Mon, Dec 20, 2010
The only thing better than Christmas is more Christmas. The only thing better than gifts is more gifts. The only thing better than money is more money. Here’s how to get all three.
Christmas might be the happiest day of the year but when the supermarket near my house started to put out their obnoxious Christmas signage and roll out the novelty nail clipper stocking stuffers, my heart sank. So begins the annual descent into fist fighting for Tickle-Me-Elmos. There must be a way to enjoy the friends, family, food, drink, merriment, and gifts, without having to set foot in the mall or Wal-Mart or any other place that resembles Dante’s fourth ring of hell from mid-October until the new year.
There is. It’s called Recycled Christmas.
For many years my extended family has tried various attempts to make Christmas gift giving manageable, affordable, and pleasant. We’ve set price limits, drawn names, and have tried many variations of the Gift Exchange (such as, everyone throws a couple pairs of novelty nail clippers, or their equivalent, into a pile and lots are drawn for who gets first pick from the pile, or amongst the things already opened.)
These were usually failures. There was always a waffle maker or a bucket of pucks that stood out amongst the jigsaw puzzle and wool sock junk and someone’s feelings would inevitably be hurt.
Last year, however, was different. Thanks to long voyages home that sucked our wallets dry, my family decided that Christmas 2009 would be a Recycled Christmas.
It turned out to be the best Christmas ever.
The rules were simple: all the gifts you give must be something you already own or something you made. You could buy materials. Money would be saved, and the world would be spared several more pairs of novelty nail clippers.
At first, this idea sounded terrible. Worse than the Christmas my parents told us Santa would be delivering our gifts to mudslide victims in South America. There is a stigma attached to recycled gifts—sometimes called “garbage”—and homemade gifts—sometimes called “garbage glued together” by my girlfriend. No one was really sure what this plan would amount to.
The result, however, was 20-odd people brought 20-odd gifts, which meant two hours of flat-out unwrapping Armageddon.
The highlights of the recycled gifts included gently used sports equipment and clothes; previously loved books, video games, movies, and board games; various electronics—like that free iPod they gave you for opening that new bank account; and craft supplies from the person whose best intentions got the better of them.
The real highlights though, were the made gifts. These included:
• A professionally printed book of funny things my sister’s kids say copied off of her Facebook profile (blurb.com, an on-demand book printer with their own free user-friendly layout software, prints books for as little as $5 each)
• Professionally bound photo books and calendars (can be made almost anywhere that prints photos, or many places online.)
• Children’s art in a nice frame or on canvas;
• Wood working projects (simple things like cutting boards, recipe boxes, etc.)
• Love Jugs (jars containing the dry ingredients from a recipe for cookies, brownies, soups, etc., arranged in layers to look all pretty.)
• Homemade pyjamas.
• Stuffed animals for children based on their own drawings (the oddest looking pig and cow you have ever seen.)
• Knitted mittens, scarves, toques, socks, etc.
• Original Christmas music recorded by the talented musicians in the family.
• Leather wallets and belts (my dad recently developed an addiction to leather craft.)
• Jams, pickles, relishes, and other preserves.
• Christmas candy and baked good stocking stuffers (cookies, peanut brittle, and chocolate bark, which is made by melting chocolate pellets (from Bulk Barn) into a bar and sprinkling smashed up candy canes on top.)
• A variety of frozen meals for the family member with special dietary needs.
Sure, there was the odd board game with pieces missing, but the gifts overall were more thoughtful and plentiful than they would have been otherwise. Not to mention all of the extra time over the holidays that we spent eating, drinking, making, playing, visiting, and having a belching contest—easily won by my charming sister (Sorry fellas, she’s taken.) And all of this rather than standing in a checkout line somewhere in the fourth ring of hell to buy yet another pair of novelty nail clippers with money we didn’t have for someone who didn’t need them.
It was so good we’re doing it again this year. You should try it too!
Feel free to post your recycled Christmas ideas as a comment below.
Thu, Jul 1, 2010
Photo by Flickr user Greencolander
Think you might want to start your own neighbourhood association? You should. It’s not that hard, and it’s a great way to bring a community together, to rebuild, protest new condominiums, or even just organize a barbeque. The city doesn’t have any guidelines for official recognition, but that actually makes it easier.
1) Talk to people. Decide why you want an association, and what you want to achieve.
2) Meet! Have a big meeting, let everyone weigh in. Then plan some more meetings, and find a space to have them .
3) Advertise the next meeting so more people come.
4) Define your neighbourhood. Neighbourhood boundaries are pretty vague a lot of times, to it’s useful to have a map and some markers.
5) Adopt a constitution. In addition to Purpose and Boundaries, some things you need to decide are how the following will work: Membership, Voting Rights, Meetings, Officers, Finances, Committees, Amendments, and Termination. It’s generally handy to use another association’s constitution as a guide.
6) Once you’ve got a constitution, you need to elect a board (as defined by the above document). You can also establish committees at this point –- fundraising and party planning are key.
7) Incorporate. This is actually really easy. Just go to bit.ly/bU6fsa, print out the form, fill it out, and submit it to the province with $70. Incorporating is a good idea because it means individuals can’t be held personally responsible for anything the association ends up doing.
8) Get a corporate bank account (you’re a corporation now, remember?). TD has Comunity/Not-For-Profit Plans. So does RBC
9) Start a website—if nothing else as a way to make the meeting minutes available. Also, I mean, it’s 2010. Get with the program.
10) That’s it, you’re done. Onward to social action, be it justice or drinks!
Thu, May 20, 2010
By Juls Mack
Thu, Dec 17, 2009
By Ryan Davis
The hobby horse is a peculiar breed. With their menacing eyes, and crooked hobnail teeth, the mummer’s hobby horse has been terrifying the bejesus out of people for centuries. It harkens back to the days when our not-so-distant ancestors would save the skins of animals, dry them, drape them over their bodies, and chase people around at festive times of the year. Pretty creepy, I’d say.
Also referred to as “Horsey Hops”, “Flop Jaws,” “Horse Chops,” “Hobby Hoss,” and “Lop Jaws,” the hobby horse has been known to follow people into churches, pull tablecloths off tables, turn off ceiling lights by pulling the string with its mouth, and to swallow oranges, apples, and caplin when tossed its way. They also tend to dance around in a rather awkward and grotesque manner.
But most of all, they tend to chase people.
In some extreme cases, hobby horses have peed on floors (with the help of a water bottle), ripped the sleeves off of shirts, and they almost always get dogs howling. They often lurk in dark places, and hide behind doors, or around the corners of houses. There haven’t been too many accounts of serious harm inflicted by the hobby horse, but they have been known to push boundaries and the expression, “you’re as bold as a hobby horse,” speaks to their mischievous side.
The hobby horse has always been a do-it-yourself project. Pieced together with whatever was around, and often in secrecy, the hobby horse often came to life in sheds, barns, and basements around the province. Because the hobby horse accompanied mummers, the builders would take precautions to keep it a secret so as not to reveal the mummers’ identities by association. Hobby horses have been made out of junks of wood, giant blocks of styrofoam, leftover plywood, stitched-together cardboard, and the skulls of horses, moose, cows, and pigs. It’s rumoured that an albino hobby-moose is lurking somewhere in St. John’s.
What they all tend to have in common, besides their creepiness, is a snapping lower jaw, usually attached with a hinge, a piece of leather, or rubber. The sound of the hobby horse’s jaws knocking together are known to bring a chill up the spines of people who grew up with the tradition. A string gets knotted on the lower side of the jaw, goes up through the tongue and the roof of the mouth, and along to the back of the head where the carrier can pull the mouth open and closed. A blanket or sheet ties onto the back of the head to cover the body and a stick or broom handle acts as a third leg and supports the head. With a bit of ingenuity, anyone can piece together a hobby horse.
The head can be covered with fake fur, moose hide, fabric, or paint. Eyes have been made with ping pong balls, tennis balls, jar lids, and bottle caps. And when the crooked hobnail teeth are lined up just right they’ve been known to make sparks.
The Mummers Festival’s last Hobby Horse Workshop is Saturday, December 19th from 1-5pm. That’s just enough time to piece one together for the Mummers Parade on Sunday, December 20th. See www.mummersfestival.com for hobby horse photos and more workshop information.
Thu, Dec 3, 2009
By Angus Woodman
Photo by Ryan Boren (www.flickr.com/ryanboren)
I’m not sure what I like most about Christmas shopping.
Perhaps it’s dodging traffic in the busy streets. Perhaps it’s squeezing my car into the only open parking spot between two poorly-parked SUVs. Perhaps it’s strong-arming my way through a store, dodging holiday displays whose invasion of the aisles gives me war flashbacks.
Or maybe, just maybe, I don’t like any of it at all. Yes, that sounds right. Luckily, I’m not under an obligation to put myself through it this year, because a few years ago, I gave up exchanging presents. Completely.
Before you call me a grinch, or something unprintable, let me explain. There are plenty of reasons to give up giving on the holidays.
I once watched my then-27-year-old brother receive a Dallas Cowboys blanket from a member of his step-family. My brother doesn’t watch football. I doubt my brother knows what a football even looks like. I once heard him call it “footsball.”
Watching him pretend to like this blanket was one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen.
Also, I don’t want anyone worrying themselves over what to get me. And I don’t want them feeling like they failed when they don’t do it before the Christmas timer buzzes.
Now let’s drag some economics into this. Christmas creates what is called a deadweight loss. (Stay with me for a second.) This happens when a good is purchased for more than its utility. That is to say, someone giving a gift will pay more—in one 2006 study, 16 per cent more—than the person receiving it would have paid to buy that same item for herself.
This is wasteful and challenges a free market. Some stores depend on the Christmas spending surge to stay afloat. Ever think, “how is that place still open?” Christmas over-spending. That’s how.
There are many other reasons (the economic downturn, the enviroment, etc.) but let’s assume you’re completely convinced already. You’ve decided you no longer want to participate. So how do you extricate yourself from the mass hysteria? It seems impossible.
Tell anyone and everyone
That’s right. You have to sit and have a semi-serious conversation with anyone you think might give you a gift. Tell them you aren’t accepting or giving gifts. Tell them why. If they argue, lay on as much guilt as you need. Then when it’s over give them a cookie. Repeat until you run out of friends or cookies.
Start with a small group
If you can’t give up gifting completely, try to convince a smaller group of friends first. Maybe start with a group that’s hard up for cash.
The charity beard
Two things here: First, if someone is completely uneasy with the idea of not giving you something, tell them to give to a charity in your name. Your friend would never argue that. Because that’d make him a bad person.
Next, tell everyone that if you do end up with a gift, you’re going to give it to charity. Or if you can’t because you’ve already eaten it, donate the equivalent amount to charity.
Bake each other cakes, clean each others’ shoes, trade significant others for a night. There are lots of things you can do for someone besides buying things that will embarrass people and erode the economy.
Whatever your reason for doing it, removing the traditional gift-giving from Christmas will have one effect: it will make the season fun again. If you don’t believe me, try pouring all the money you would’ve spent on gifts into alcohol.
Now you’re with me.
Thu, Nov 19, 2009
By Jill Pasquet
Illustration by Tara Fleming
When I was a kid, my grandfather, who lived in rural Nova Scotia, kept bees. We were used to seeing bees flying through the fields, settling on the back deck, and hanging around the yard. The sweet, warm smell of honey permeated the house from the back room where my grandfather extracted it from the combs. There was a great sound of industrious buzzing when we pressed our ears against a hive.
And my grandparents had fantastic gardens.
Now, long after my grandparents have sold their hobby farm and moved to the city, I have become the proud keeper of my first hive of bees.
I live just outside of St. John’s where my bees have access to fields of wildflowers and a nearby pond. I’m not sure if there are any bylaws regulating beekeeping, but the neighbours who know don’t mind and the neighbours who don’t haven’t noticed the little hive tucked in a protected corner of my backyard.
Let’s be clear: I haven’t quite earned the title of beekeeper yet. The bees still have much more to teach me than I know to do for them.
I began to find out about bees by contacting local beekeepers. Aubrey at Paradise Farms/Bee Natural and the folks at the Newfoundland Bee Company have been immensely helpful and welcoming, and their enthusiasm has been catchy.
One of the first things I learned was honey made in Newfoundland is unusually pure, since the kinds of parasites that commonly affect them are nonexistent here. Plus, the instances of disease are very low. In fact, Newfoundland is one of the few places where you don’t have to automatically treat your bees with pesticides and chemicals—which inevitably ends up in the honeycomb and honey.
My beekeeping year began last winter when I ordered a starter colony, or “nucleus”, of bees. The “nuc”, as it’s called, consists of a few frames of bees and larvae, including her majesty the queen, one or two frames of honey and pollen (food for the bees), and a spare frame for them to build honeycomb onto.
I picked the bees up in a specially-made travel box and installed them into my own “super”, or hive body, which I had mail-ordered and put together myself beforehand.
Yes, installing the bees was nerve-wracking, since I was pretty much just letting a few thousand bees loose in my neighbourhood.
Miraculously, though, they clung to the frames as I transferred them to their new home. The few stragglers followed their sisters into the super.
Ever since getting past my initial intimidation about getting stung, keeping the bees has been pretty easy.
These supers are the building blocks of a beehive, and as my colony of bees grows, I will add more supers for honey and more bees. My bees spent their summer building honeycomb on the empty frames in the super and gradually filling the comb with nectar, honey, pollen, eggs, and larvae at various stages of development.
I opened up the hive every few weeks to peek at them and help them with basic maintenance of the hive.
It’s been pretty amazing to watch my relatively few bees blossoming into a healthy colony—buzzing with activity and literally dripping with honey. Honey is harvested at the end of the summer and into fall and one healthy colony can produce 75 to 100 pounds of surplus honey. Because my bees are not a well-established colony yet, I left this summers’ honey in the hive for them to feed on over the winter, where they’ll clump together in the middle of the hive, huddling and “shivering” their little wings to keep warm together until the spring.
Getting to know and learn more about the bees has been really rewarding. They’re pretty low-maintenance, really, but it’s a true pleasure to see them soaring through my backyard and hovering around their small hive. I’ve gotten to introduce a beneficial natural element into my environment and also to reconnect with the excitement and wonder that my beekeeping grandfather shared with me.
Thu, Nov 5, 2009
By Michael Flaherty
Illustration by Tara Fleming
Michael Flaherty is a bonafide desert island expert if we’ve ever known one. This summer he spent three months living alone on The Grey Islands— an uninhabited island group off the east coast of Newfoundland’s Great Northern Peninsula—as part of an interdisciplinary ceramic art project, where he spent his time constructing an inside-out ceramic kiln in which he “fired” the islands. He’ll be giving an artist talk about The Grey Islands project at Eastern Edge Gallery on Monday, November 9th at 7pm.
Admit it: you’ve thought about it more times than you can recall. Remember that horrible break up a couple years ago that almost sent you over the edge? How about that time at work when your incompetent manager took credit for your work? Or that Saturday afternoon when you wasted a half hour searching fruitlessly for sesame oil at Sobeys?
Civilization, as becomes apparent at times like these, is ridiculously over-rated. Why not go live by yourself on a desert island?
It’s not as crazy as it sounds. It can be done, and fortunately for you Newfoundland abounds with deserted islands (Count yourself and your escapist inclinations lucky that you don’t live in Regina.) There are so many locations to choose from that it shouldn’t be hard to find the perfect island for you.
But where to go?
So how do you decide? Start by asking yourself a couple questions: How much time do you have? How isolated do you want to be?
An easy overnight excursion can be made to Kelly’s Island in Conception Bay, while a week might be sufficient to experience Merasheen, near Placentia. Traveling to Belle Isle between the Northern Peninsula and Labrador would, however, require a significantly different level of material and psychological investment.
When you’ve narrowed it down a little, consider some other key elements: geography, history and aesthetics.
Talk to the locals
When you’ve figured out where you’re going, you next need to get to know the locals. Sure, your island is deserted now, but it wasn’t always. Humans, opportunists that we are, inhabited virtually every neck and arm in this part of the world until resettlement happened in the 1960s. Someone out there knows a lot about wherever it is you’ve decided to go.
Talk with fishermen, tour boat operators and cultural organizations in the area. These people can give you information you need to know, like where fresh water and a good campsite can be found—the sorts of things that won’t necessarily be obvious when you look at your topographical maps. They can probably also tell you whether your cell phone will work, or what stations you might be able to get on your AM radio. Don’t worry about them thinking you are a bit flaky—even if they do, it’ll probably motivate them to check in on you now and then. In any case, you’re going to need to hire a local with a boat who can drop you off and pick you up later.
Food as company
Bring a lot of food. A lot a lot. I can’t emphasize this enough. Bring more food than you could possibly ever eat. Food won’t just be your sustenance—although I don’t want to suggest nutrition isn’t important—it will be your company. And eating will be your entertainment.
Remember: you are going to be on this island all by yourself without much else to do. Keeping the kettle boiled is going to be the closest thing you have to your usual habit of continually checking your Facebook account.
For a short trip, fresh fruit and vegetables with plenty of canned food might be all you need. To prepare for a longer trip, though, a food dehydrator is a must. Through the miracle of dehydration 100 pounds of bulky, spoilable raw ingredients can become 10 pounds of edible, easy to pack, virtually indestructible fruit leather and beef jerky. Mac and cheese is a great staple meal, so bring plenty of pasta and cheddar (which I was astonished to find would last months if unopened). Rice with lentils and dehydrated vegetables is another.
And for a quick snack, nothing beats popcorn doused with lots of spices and cooked over an open fire.
Of course you’re going to need a lot of other gear, too. Get the best tent and sleeping bag you can afford. Bring clothes for every possible type of weather—you’re likely to get any or all of them on any given day. You’ll need a good knife and an even better axe.
And don’t forget your emergency supplies—a first aid kit, any medicine you might need, and, if you can afford it, a personal satellite tracker.
Boredom is the enemy
Most importantly you’ll want something to keep you sane while you’re out there. Sure, living on a deserted island seems romantic enough in itself. But if you don’t have anything to do you’re going to get bored.
I suggest you give yourself a project, preferably one that keeps you on the move. Bring a plant guide and make a list of every species you can find out there. Pick berries and make fresh jam every morning. Make detailed records of the temperature/winds/precipitation/tides/phases of the moon/whatever. Build cairns on all the highest points of land. As long as it’s time consuming and enjoyable it doesn’t really matter what you do.
You’re going to love it! Your first night alone might be a little scary, but it quickly gets much easier.
Maybe the hardest thing will be coming home at the end.
Ever spent time on a desert island? Leave a comment below.
Thu, Oct 22, 2009
By Angus Woodman
Illustration by Tara Fleming
My to-do list for November: rake leaves, mock American friends for their placement of Thanksgiving, write a novel.
Alright, so I may not have a yard or any American friends, but the last one is true. November is National Novel Writing Month — NaNoWriMo, if you like — and each year people the world over join in on the fun and attempt to write their very own novel.
Now, writing something like this isn’t as impossibly stupid or stupidly impossible as it may sound. If you can read this sentence, you can write a novel. (If you can’t, go fudge a battleship cackle.) It doesn’t matter if you’ve always dreamed of being a novelist, or if you just want to impress the ladies (which, trust me, doesn’t work.) Anyone can do it. So dust off the pen and paper, throw them away, and get out your laptop.
Before you attempt this, however, a warning. There are pitfalls everywhere. Success, then, hinges on a few important, time-tested strategies.
There aren’t many times in life when the following applies, but neglect is the key to success. Forget cooking. Forget house chores. Forget washing your pants. If it’s not writing, throw it out the window (literally or figuratively.) Your friends can entertain themselves for a while. Showers are optional, but shaving can be cut.
A regular sleep pattern is good. Less sleep and some caffeine is better. Sleepless caffeinated hallucinations are best.
You are not an island. Or if you are, you are part of a large archipelago. Over a hundred thousand people will be attempting NaNoWriMo this year. There are local events where you can meet and get support from fellow writers. Though should you actually live on an island by yourself, the website houses forums where you can discuss plot points, find a quirk for a minor character, or read horror stories about what happens when you don’t backup your work.
Back up your work
Seriously. If you don’t, someone will beat you with a hammer. (And that someone will likely be yourself.)
“It’s about your mom”
You will get asked over and over (and over and over) what your novel is about. Have a one-line answer prepared. “It’s about a vagrant who finds a magical pot roast and uses it to fight crime,” or something. It doesn’t have to reflect your novel in the least, just have one ready to whip out. Also, if the one-liner is weird enough it’ll also work as an instant conversation killer, thus freeing you to return to writing.
You’re glue and it’s also glue
Lastly and most importantly, stick to it! You will want to quit. Don’t. You will think your story sucks and want to start over when you’re part-way through. Don’t. Keep going. It will get better. Eat more candy, drink more coffee, punch someone to vent your frustration if you have to, just keep writing.
If it all goes well, by December first you’ll have a complete novel. Imagine. You’ll also have a really dirty house, some relationships to mend and some rockin’ face and/or leg hair. But you’ll have written a book.
And it won’t completely suck.
Parts of it will be awful because parts of every first draft are awful but, mark my words, there will be gold in ‘dem pages. You’ll read it over and marvel at your own brilliance. You’ll see how frantic writing forces your mind to vomit up all kinds of wonderful things you won’t remember having put in there.
But unlike when that happens with food, it’s a wonderful feeling.
Learn more about NaNoWriMo at www.nanowrimo.com
Thu, Oct 8, 2009
By Kevin Woolridge
Illustration by Tara Fleming
Who doesn’t like kiting? Well my dog doesn’t show any interest in it, but unless it’s a cookie or his own butt he doesn’t show much interest in anything. As a species, though, humans have been fascinated with the idea of flight for thousands of years. Probably invented by the Chinese nearly 3,000 years ago, kites have been used for various applications ever since, from military use and scientific experiments (remember Marconi? And despite common belief, Ben Franklin never attached a key to a kite in a lightning storm, he just wrote about the idea) to festivals both spiritual and playful.
Kites have been a part of us for almost as long as we’ve dreamed of being in the sky.
For many of us, flying a kite as a kid is our first real experience with the idea of flight. Although my memory is a little hazy, I’m pretty sure we had more than one kite from Pipers when I was little. Probably with Spider-Man or the Hulk splashed across its cheap plastic. I guess Superman would have made more sense—at least it would have matched the Underoos. As an adult, kiting can do much more than connect us with our inner child, it can be a great recreational and social activity. It can be a great workout.
And at the very least it’s a good excuse to get out and ‘get a bit of air on ya.’
Nowadays there’s a great variety of kite styles— from parafoils, deltas and boxes to bowed and stunt or power kites—and it can be daunting to someone just starting out. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Let’s say it’s a rainy day and you’re looking for something to do that doesn’t include mopping your floors and cleaning the bathroom.
Here’s what you’ll need:
• Tape (of the transparent type)
• String or twine
• Two wooden dowels (bamboo
skewers will do in a pinch, but will make for a very small kite)
• Paper (a large brown paper bag or some nice wrapping paper, or, in a pinch, this page)
Take your dowels and put them in the shape of a cross. These are the spars of your kite. Your horizontal spar should be about 12 cm shorter than your vertical spar. Use string to keep these together with a dab of glue. With a sharp knife cut a slit at the end of each dowel. The slit should be level with the kite.
Grab your string (or twine) and tie it to the top. Feed it through the slit and around the frame. If you like, you can loop it around the end of each dowel after it goes through the slit. When you reach the top you can go around again for good measure. The strings should be taunt. At the bottom tie a little loop and then again at the top.
Lay your frame down on your paper and cut around it, leaving a bit of extra paper. Fold the extra paper over and glue or tape it to the other side. The paper should be nice and taunt on the frame.
Wow, you’ve almost got a kite!
Now take a piece of string, roughly 20cm longer than your vertical spar and tie each end to your loops. This is your kite’s bridle. Tie your flying line to the bridle about a third of the way down.
Add some extra glue to your edges to be safe. Take another piece of string and tie ribbons to it. Then tie the string to the bottom loop of your kite for a tail. You may find you need to adjust the length of the tail once you try it out. Grab some crayons and/or markers and decorate the thing.
Viola! You’re holding a kite.
There are lots of resources online for kiting, and a quick Googling will come up with hundreds of pages.
My only advice is to pack sunglasses/sunscreen, gloves, extra string, tape and a knife or pair of scissors, and with that you should be able to handle anything that comes up.
As part of the Association Communautaire francophone de Saint-Jean, the Festival Du Vent (Festival of the Wind) Sunday, October 16 is Kite Day in Bowring Park. There will be wind-themed crafts happening from 2-4pm, and a kite judging contest at 3pm. Follow the signs from the Waterford Bridge Road/Park Road parking lot. For more info, visit www.acfsj.ca
Thu, Sep 10, 2009
By Adam Clarke
Illustration by Tara Fleming.
In theory, going to the movies should be an escape, allowing you to get lost in the story unfolding on the massive screen.
Oooh, let’s check back in with grim reality, shall we?
Check out a film on the weekend and there’s going to be plenty of bawling children running around.
Opening night will leave you awash in the blinding glow of cell phones as of mouth-breathers text around you.
Make the mistake of going to the early evening show and you’re sitting with sexagenarians unwittingly speaking in “outdoor voices” during a movie.
I’ll never forget the stewed-prune receptacles sitting behind me at No Country For Old Men dribbling on about their semi-functional prostates.
With so many reasons to avoid the cinemas, why not build your own? It’s easier and cheaper than you think.
When his eldest son moved out of the house, David Hammond, a Mount Pearl musician and sound engineer, transformed the boy’s basement bedroom into the perfect home theatre. Hammond’s got a seven-foot screen, two rows of seats, an LCD projector and a 5.1 sound system for only $500 total. How much you want to spend is up to you, but first you’ll need…
• A room that’s at least 12 x 16 ft
• A DVD player, VCR, computer or whatever you play movies on.
• An LCD projector with bulb
• Speakers with active subwoofer
•A king-size white bed sheet
• Dark-coloured bedsheets
• Window valances
Don’t worry, LCDs are relatively common items on eBay now. Once you’ve hooked up the yellow video cable that came with your DVD/VCR to the projector, you can just project your movies onto any ol’ king-size white sheet.
Found items will keep your budget low. Staple window valances to create a border around your screen. Your seats don’t have to be fancy, either. Grab a couch from the curb and place it 10-12 feet away from your screen. Create elevated seating by using a wide bed frame and bracing it with plywood. Put some chairs, car seats or a loveseat on it and you’ve got an elevated row behind you, just like the real cinemas.
And if All Else Fails, Go To Piper’s
Cheap materials aren’t impossible to find in this city, what with Piper’s, Zeller’s and second-hand stores around. XS Cargo is another good bet for discount sheets, or you might even find a decent sound system up there.
Sure, you might be leery of budget-priced speakers, but you don’t need too go crazy and buy a state-of-the-art Bose sound system if you don’t have the money for it.
For 5.1 surround sound, you’ll want five speakers, an amplifier and an active subwoofer. Once you get your set, take the fibreoptic cable that came with your DVD player and hook it directly to the amp. DVD players have a decoder which sends the audio signal thru the optical cable output, while the amp’s fibreoptic output will decode the sound and send it to the different speakers.
Your sound is taken care of as easy as that.
Once assembled, you need to consider sound baffling. If you’re surrounded by pink insulating foam, you may be okay. Otherwise, you’ll need to muffle the sound. This, can be done by stapling bed sheets where sound could travel outside the room. The layers of bed sheets you’ll need will vary with how well-insulated the room is. Use dark material as baffling so the glow of the projector doesn’t bounce off the walls and ceiling.
So, it’s true. With a little time and effort, you can build your own state-of-the-art home theatre, ideal for watching videos, sporting events or even playing video games. (Most video players, consoles and computers can be hooked up to a projector with ease.)
Plus, you can build these things pretty easily if you coax friends to help you with the promise of having regular movie nights. With a few beers, the right equipment and the right friends, you could make this dream project happen almost overnight.
Thu, Aug 27, 2009
By Kerri Breen
Illustration by Tara Fleming
I write to you from Toronto, the city whose 24-hour public transportation is the Wi-Fi to the St. John’s Metrobus’ dial-up. As I’ve learned, the public transit grass is greener here, as in most metropolitan areas, but that doesn’t mean takin’ the bus in the city of legends is a total bust. In fact, with the right insider’s advice, you can make the most of our flawed public transportation service.
Here’s my guide to happy, efficient riding—especially useful for those new to town.
There’s no shortage of complaints about Metrobus, and rightfully so. Buses are infrequent, even by standards of similarly sized cities, and service to communities such as Shea Heights is very limited. But before you step on the bus, or even load up the Metrobus website, you have to understand with what difficulty these fine folks deliver the service.
There are many stumbling blocks in trying to create a cost effective public transportation system in any smaller city, but take a closer look at what we’re up against in particular:
1.) Service spanning two municipalities and three small communities
2.) Unforgiving geography.
3.) Roads that were established when city planning was a mere twinkle in someone’s eye.
4.) An overwhelmingly car-centric culture, which makes improving bus frequency less of a fiscal priority for our governments.
In 2006, the average weekday ridership was 14,815 people. If you think that’s low, that number is actually up from 2004’s 13,608. It’s kind of a chicken-and-egg situation: We avoid the bus because it sucks, and it sucks because we avoid it.
I don’t mean to imply that there aren’t ways Metrobus can be improved, but until a larger segment of the population opts to get on and be moved, it’s reasonable to assume not much can change. In the meantime, here’s how you can ride most efficiently with what we have.
The bus is especially good for trips to certain areas at certain times of the day, vague as that sounds. Most routes are generally on schedule in the morning if you need to get to work on time. But by suppertime, watch out, especially in the downtown area (where there’s perpetual construction as well) buses are frequently late.
Compared to a few years ago, access to box-store shopping areas such as Stavanger Drive and Kelsey Drive is a lot better. The Village Mall is the epicenter of Metrobus service because it’s the most logical connecting point for service to areas such as Mount Pearl, the Goulds and Kilbride, and Cowan Heights. The Avalon Mall, despite it being more hip with the kids, is not so special.
Access to institutes (MUN, CNA, etc) starts at 6:30 in the morning, but expect to wait an hour for many routes servicing the university (like Route 10) if you’re heading home after that night class. Most routes stop before or around midnight.
Unlike in many capital cities, Metrobuses are rarely crowded, so you might not even have to sit next to someone you don’t know, if that up-close-and-personal aspect of public transit bothers you.
This is the state of affairs we’re dealing with: Of 24 buses on the road at around 4pm on a Tuesday, ten were running between four and ten minutes late by Metrobus’ own record. Try to be patient. If you are frustrated with the service, call or send an e-mail. There’s a link to a feedback form at www.metrobus.com. Try to resist taking it out on the driver, for obvious reasons.
At the best of times, buses run no more frequently than once every twenty minutes or half an hour. Keep in mind that bus service at night—with about an hour between buses most of the time—is dicey no matter your destination. The more you know about Metrobus schedules, the better you can work around them.
The good part about there only being 23 routes is that it’s possible to commit some basic info to memory. Metrobus’ website does not have an online route planner yet, but Metrobus assured one customer on its website that one is in the works as part of its Google Transit project.
There are some handy features already in place on the website. Timetracker lets you know if your bus is off schedule, and you can chat live to someone from Metrobus about route information. You can also reload or purchase an M-card with rides through the site.
My last trick is to do your math and avoid getting duped into buying more bus rides than you need. Remember, for an adult, a $70 monthly pass is only a good deal if you plan to ride more than 31 times. A semester pass (good for four months) means you need to ride at least 27 times per month to have any advantage over paying the cash fare, aside from convenience.
Thu, Aug 13, 2009
By Simon Lono
Illustration by Tara Fleming
So you want run for city council?
Once you’ve decided to run, you have to have an idea. Every campaign starts with an idea—an answer to the question, “Why do you want to be on council?”
If you have no idea why you would want to be on city council, or what you want to do when you get there, then you have no business running.
Stop wondering if you’re qualified to sit on council. If you can read this sentence then you are as qualified or more qualified than the people already elected.
All kinds of people run, all kinds of people win, and all kinds of people do a good job. Democracy is a beautiful thing that way.
Make sure your family is behind your decision. You need a frank talk with your mate and family to gauge their support. Unless they give you unqualified support, you have no business running. Nothing dooms a campaign—and family—faster than a war on two fronts.
Pick the right seat
There are 11 seats on St. John’s city council: the mayor and deputy mayor are elected separately in citywide ballots; four at-large councillors are elected citywide, where everyone votes for up to four candidates; and five other councillors are elected by ward. There are about 16,000 voters, or 12,000 households, per ward.
At-large, deputy mayor and mayor campaigns cover about 50,000 or so households.
Unless you want to make a big splash right away and can’t wait to sit in the big chair, avoid running for mayor your first time out. The cheapest and easiest campaign to mount is in a ward.
Pick a campaign manager you trust and do what they tell you. There are a minimum of two jobs in any campaign—candidate and campaign manager. You can’t do both so pick one and stick to it.
Friends, effort and money
You need at least two of the above. All three are best, but you can get away with two out of three if you play your cards right.
Friends will help spread the word, assemble and erect signs, and deliver flyers.
The effort is yours. Be ready to walk the streets knocking on doors and attend every event you can. Introduce yourself and shake hands with everyone. Anywhere there are three or more voters in one place, make sure you’re there too. (Don’t forget the hand sanitizer.)
Money is always an issue. A ward race will cost around $7-10,000. Councillor at-large is more like $15-20,000—give or take. The two top spots might run up to $50,000 or more. Take up collections, run a bake sale, organise a BBQ, send out letters, ask your family and don’t be shy.
Time it right
Timing is everything with the St. John’s municipal race. Starting early is key. The city will send out the mail-in ballots around September 11, so the voting starts September 14 when ballots arrive in the mailbox. Half of all ballots are returned in the first week, with the rest trailing in until September 29—election day. Nobody pays any attention until Labour Day, so it’s a time-compressed campaign. You need to hit hard and hit at the right time because the system has a hard tilt in favour of incumbents.
Get your name out there
The main materials you need are flyers, buttons and signs. You need a flyer to pass around, to spread your name, face and idea. Keep it simple and colourful. Also, get a couple hundred buttons for you and your friends.
The most visible part of the municipal campaigns are signs. Usual sizes are 2×2 (for lawns and medians), 4×4 (for minor intersections) and 4×8 (for major intersections). Cost depends on how elaborate the design is, and like flyers, the more you order the less they cost per unit. One-colour signs are cheapest. More colours and photos drive up the price. The smallest, simplest signs might go for as little as $2.50 each, while elaborate 4x8s might be $75 to $100 a unit. Keep them simple and colourful, so they stand out. If you can’t read a sign travelling at 60kph then it’s just another part of the landscape.
Forget radio ads, TV ads and print ads. Unless you have lots of money to burn, signs are more cost-effective.
Media will mostly ignore you because they ignore almost every municipal candidate. Don’t expect long television interviews with David Cochrane earnestly asking about your garbage policy. Your best media hit will be calling talk radio—make sure you do it to the limit.
Plan a party for election night. Don’t drink until after the media comes calling for reaction. If they do, be sober and gracious in victory. In defeat, be even more gracious; the people are always right.
Win or lose, it’s time to celebrate your induction into the select group of human beings with the heart and dedication to put your name on a ballot. Congratulations!
Simon Lono is running for councillor at-large in the upcoming September St. John’s municipal election. His favourite curse words are “shagger” and “shmoe.”
Thu, Jul 30, 2009
By Lesley Marie Reade
Illustration by Tara Fleming
Everyone has been there. You know, the Regatta is supposed to go ahead tomorrow and your friends have you over for a celebratory beer because you just may have the day off. Suddenly it’s 2 a.m. and you’re singing Madonna songs at the top of your lungs. The fun continues until you wake up to the sound of torrential rain and you realize the Regatta was cancelled. You spun the wheel and lost!
Of course that’s never happened to me, but I’ve gathered a few helpful tips on what to do and what not to do if you end up having to go to work hung-over.
It’s amazing, and it isn’t just for girls. A little cover up makes everyone’s eyes look brighter. Looking at yourself in the mirror and seeing what looks like your normal, non-hung-over face boosts your confidence. It makes you feel like yourself for a moment, and that can go a long way, especially if you also remember to take water breaks. If you start to lose composure, go to the bathroom, look yourself over in the mirror, put some nice cold water on your hands, place them on your cheeks, and go back at it.
There was this one time, when a group of friends at the campus bar in Corner Brook won big at trivia. We drank a $50 bar tab in very little time and I had to be at the school for 8 a.m. to model for an art class. But not just any kind of modeling. It was nude modeling. I was standing on a stage leaning against the wall—a super easy pose—with a projection of elk or something shining on me. Everything was going fine and then it started. Saliva gathering in the mouth, followed by the churning feeling in my stomach. Finally I blurted out, “I have to take a break now!” I grabbed my robe and ran to the bathroom. (I honestly don’t even know if my robe was closed.)
Nothing humbles a person quite like being on the floor of a school bathroom, in your robe, spewing, and hearing an unseen person ask if you’re okay. Sigh.
What I took from this experience wasn’t necessarily to not drink before you have to work; it was to make sure you won’t get overheated. It’s bad. I suppose you could just wear layers but when you can’t go down past your final layer, it may be nice to have a portable fan with you. If anyone asks, just tell them you’re having sympathy hot flashes for your mother or someone in your life that could be going through menopause. It could happen.
One other thing to think about is your smell. Using a portable fan does wonders for keeping yourself cool but it also spreads your alcohol-from-last-night smell around to anyone near you. You know the smell. It comes from your pores even though you showered. Just remember to bring deodorant. Use it frequently. Also, chew minty gum. It helps your breath, keeps your coworkers happy and provides a pleasant taste. Winterfresh gum is the best. Trust me.
So, yeah, I have to admit that I’ve had the unpleasant experience of being hung-over at work, but only once has it been because of the Regatta. At least now I know how to handle it. Remember: water, gum, deodorant, makeup, a small fan.
You’ll be all right.