27 April 2012

Junk Drawer

I have this junk drawer in my kitchen. Okay, I have two junk drawers in my kitchen. One is beside the sink, and it holds things like elastic bands, bus schedules, kitchen scissors, odd screws and bottle caps, cellophane to seal jam jars with, a hand-held cherry pitter, a few candles and batteries, and, for some reason, a yo-yo (green, with a Kermit-like frog face on it).

The other is the one on the opposite corner of the kitchen, at the end of the counter. It started out its life as a stationery drawer, but somehow, other things migrate into it, to the point where it becomes hard to find a pen when you want one. What, I ask you, is that pair of safety goggles doing in there? And there's a tiny little clip-on radio, with earbud headphones. It believe I bought it at the dollar store a while back, when I was briefly convinced that having some music to listen to while I was walking would make me go walking more. It didn't, because I could never figure out how to actually find my favourite station on that radio; it sort of just randomly selects channels when you push the button. (Well, at least that's my excuse, and I'm sticking to it.) So now the radio is parked in the drawer, and my butt is parked in the chair next to it.

Then, there are three rolls of scotch tape in that drawer. Three! Whenever I actually want some, I can never find any, but now that present-wrapping season is over, there they all are, congregated in the drawer, mocking me with their adhesive presence; they, and that big roll of packing tape sitting right front and centre. But the masking tape I keep looking for in there, that's just simply not there any more. It'll probably resurface come Christmas time, when I want the scotch tape and am long done with using masking tape to label plastic containers of food to go into the freezer.

There is also a very small container of Playdoh, which came home in a bag of Halloween candy in the fall; it's probably dried up by now. Next to it is a silly eraser, some pretty stickers, a small calculator, ink cartridges for my fountain pen, and mechanical pencils with and without leads. I'm fairly certain somewhere in the recesses of the drawer there are some ballpoint pens, too; they're probably buried under those notebooks whose pages are all written on already so I can never find a piece of paper to scribble a note on when I need one.

Yes, you're right, of course, it's about time that drawer was cleaned out and reorganized. I usually do it about once a year or so; I think this time, it's been quite a bit longer than that. But part of the problem is that life changes - not just from Scotch Tape Season to Masking Tape Season and back again, but onwards from Playdoh Season to, perhaps, in the not-too-distant future, Reading Glasses Season (or whatever else one might need for middle-aged life). And I haven't quite figured out what this next season holds in junk drawer requirements.

Life, the Universe, and Junk Drawers. I'm sure I'll get to it eventually.

24 April 2012

Gummi Bears

Gummi bears. Bright-squishy sweetness exploding in your mouth, setting your senses tingling. (Or else, artificially-coloured sugariness sticking to your teeth, setting your cavities screaming, as it were. But that's beside the point, for now.) Okay, confession time: I have an addiction to gummi candies. If there are some in the house, I'll eat them, even to the point of making myself sick. Twelve-Step, anyone?

So I was looking it up online (I had to find out the correct spelling: gummibears, gummi bears, gummy bears?), and the wikipedia has this to say: "A gummi bear (also spelled as gummy bear) is a small, rubbery-textured confectionery, similar to a jelly baby in English-speaking countries." Rubbery-textured? Excuse me? That soft-squishy, melt-in-your-mouth consistency? That's not rubbery! Not when it's fresh, anyway. But then, actually, "Gummi" does mean "rubber", so I suppose Mr Hans Riegel of Bonn would concur, he who invented and named the first and still best variety of gummi bears (get it? HAns RIegel BOnn. Haribo.).

So then the other day, when I was supposed to be doing research for the term paper I was supposed to be writing (yes, there was a whole lot of supposing going on that day), I was eating those gummi bears you see in that picture here (alas, they are no more), and I started wondering how the gummi confectioners make the little darlin's so perfectly uniform and precisely detailed; you can even see their cute little eyes (just before you decapitate them with one vicious snap of your teeth). I looked it up (that's research, too, isn't it?) and found this perfectly fascinating episode of How It's Made. Turns out the gummies are moulded in cornstarch! Flat trays of cornstarch are printed with bear or worm or cola bottle moulds, then the syrupy gummi goo gets poured into those holes and left to firm up, then it's all dumped out, the cornstarch gets recycled, and the candies go into a tumbler where first the excess cornstarch is tumbled off and then they get coated in mineral oil (uh, yeah. My favourite candies have baby oil on them. Whatever...). So now you know.

Incidentally, if you're into a a bit of macabre gummi bear fun, you can do an amusing little mix-and-match game: you take two or three different colours of gummi bears, bite off the heads and feet, and then reattach them to the different-coloured bodies. VoilĂ , multi-coloured gummi bears. And then you eat them, of course. Whaddaya mean, on a need-to-know basis you didn't need to know about that? (Steve thinks I should stick to eating gummi worms; he finds the thought of my messing about with effigies of bears too disturbing.)

Life, the Universe, and Gummi Bears. Unfortunately, I don't think there's any left over from Easter.

23 April 2012


I was priming canvases yesterday. Some friends of ours were moving and had some old painted-on canvases they no longer wanted, so they wondered if I had use for them. Uh, free paint supports? Need you ask? So I came home from packing boxes and lugging furniture with a stack of pieces, anything from little 8x10's to a couple of big 30" hardboard squares. And yesterday, I primed them.

It felt a little strange, loading a great 4" brush full of white wall primer, and just shlopping it clear across someone else's painting. Sacrilegious, somehow. But, honestly, my friends didn't want the paintings any more; most of them were practise pieces, anyway. They didn't give them to me to hang on my wall, they gave them to me to do exactly what I was doing, paint over them. So I did. Three thick, goopy layers of white primer.

But one of the things about some of these paintings is that you can't obliterate them entirely. They're abstracts, painted very thickly in acrylics, and the bumps and ridges of the dried-on paint is still clearly visible under the white layer. So then I got to thinking: isn't that just like life? We might be able to slop whitewash over the original layers of our experience, but, depending on how prominent those layers were, they refuse to be hidden.

So then what do we do with them? Use them, that's what. Actually, I'm looking forward to putting my own ridgy thick sloppy abstracts on top of my friend's work. The bumps and ridges of her painting are going to make my own that much more interesting, and the finished piece will be something that, in a sense, we both created. Art with a history?

Life, the Universe, and Re-primed Canvases. It's all in the layers.

17 April 2012

Coffee Shop Poetry

So I was in the coffee shop this morning, waiting around for the opening of the bookstore that it shares the building with. And I committed a Random Act of Poetry. I blame it on April being Poetry Month. Here it is, for your edification, in its barely polished glory (identifying details have been obliterated to protect the nocent).


Paper sleeve
on paper cup
(where "paper" is a somewhat
metaphorical term).
Holding four dollars' worth
of hot milk, sugar and
Earl Grey.


Double it, and I could get
a gallon of milk, a whole
package of tea, and a kilo
of sugar.
But no paper cups,
and not a single


Life, the Universe, and Poetry. I'm sure there's a lesson in here somewhere.

02 April 2012

Medieval History

About a year ago, I was working on this paper for a history course I was taking, and half-way through, my brain shrivelled up. Ssshhhrrrrrrp. I just couldn't write another word of erudite eloquence. So I just started typing what came into my head, and I thought, maybe you'd like to read it. Who knows, you might learn somethin'. Or not.

"Medieval History, and the First Universities

"In 1066, William, the Bastard, marched into England, had a big fight with Harold at Hastings, and made his wife Maud start stitching the Bayeux tapestry. Maud must have been a little more literate than Billy himself, because there’s a bunch o’ writin’ along the edges of the tapestry. Which tells us what’s on it, because the pictures are so weird they’re a little hard to understand. But she still didn’t go to no school, being a girl. She went and had a bunch o’ kids, and the one of ‘em, William Rufus, he got to be king after his pa. And then he kicked off, and let his lil’ brother Henry at it; and that one stuck it out for quite a while. But he didn’t have no sons, only a daughter, another Maud (oh, I get it! Named after grandma), and even though he’d promised not to, her cousin Stephen just snabbled the crown, the snitch. So Maud and Stephen, they kept hacking at each other for a while, and that was the first Civil War. And then afterwards, when Stevie kicked off, they let Maud’s kid Henry (who’s named after his grandpa) be king, and he stuck it out for a long time too. He married Eleanor of Aquitane, and she was some broad. She didn’t take gaff from nobody, least of all her two boys, Richard and John. Richard never hung around England much and didn’t even know any English, just French. But they called him Lionheart anyway. He was gay as all get out, so he had no kids, and John got on the throne after him. But he was supposed to be this big loser, which is why the barons made him sign Magna Carta. Go figure. But that was after 1200. Before that, all along in the 12th century, there was this big thing called the 12th century Renaissance going on. What exactly they were renaiss-ing isn’t all that clear, but anyway, they started the first universities. Well, actually, the first-first one was in Italy, in Bologna, even earlier in the game- somewhere in the ten-hundreds. A bunch of students got together and formed a gild, which was sort of a club, or a mutual protection society, for studious types. They tried to keep themselves from being exploited by the city folk, by exploiting them themselves and making sure they weren’t being called to book for it. Worked for them, by the looks of it, because a bunch of other cities followed suit. Oxbridge was part of that suit, but Paris, of course, having always been a trendsetter in fashions, was first. Paris had had some other school-y type things first, like the Cathedral school of Chartres, where a bunch of kids learned to be rhetorical, or maybe it was logical, in Latin. And argued with the city folk, had big fights and all, and got the Pope or maybe the Archbishop of Someplace to say that they weren’t subject to city laws, so they could smash up the city and get away with it. Seems to me like that’d be a raw deal for the city, but there you have it. And that, you know, is where we get universities from. Student revolts are as old as the hills. When those guys in 1968 were acting all revolting and thought they were so progressive and modern, they obviously hadn’t studied the Middle Ages very well."

And then today, I saw this marvellous animation of the Bayeux Tapestry, which reminded me of this little blurb. So I thought I'd post it for you.

And there you have it. Life, the Univers-ities, and the Bayeux Tapestry. Don't take my word for it, it might not be good for your education.