January 8, 2021

A Wee Bit of New Year Good Wishes and Hope

Just when it looks like 2020 is not finished with us yet, here is a bit of relief:

Edinburgh’s Hogmanay — the Scottish celebration of the New Year — dispensed with the huge crowds and fireworks to create a virtual three-part celebration called “Fare Well,” an amazing blend of cinematography, music, poetry, and drone technology. Part 1 reflects on the past year of loss and mourning, Part 2 praises the compassion of the present day, and Part 3 looks to the future with hope – with the necessary subtitles.

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Coincidence? The Turner Movie Channel plays the full version of 2001: A Space Odyssey on the weekend, the 1968 classic film directed by Stanley Kubrick.

Then right on cue a strange, large metal monolith, remarkably similar to the one featured in the 52 year old film is discovered in public land desert in Utah,nestled into a canyon. Of course there were no footprints around the 12 foot (3.6 metre) monolith, but there it was, found by wildlife officials counting bighorn sheep from a helicopter in an undisclosed “remote south-eastern area” of Utah.

As the BBC reports, the helicopter crew landed to take a look at the upright plinth, and scrambled down to its location where it had been placed in a carefully cut rock. They did touch the monolith, and it did not set off any response to summon alien beings.

The Utah Department of Public Safety Aero Bureau tried to be in the fun  zone in their statement “It is illegal to install structures or art without authorisation on federally managed public lands, no matter what planet you’re from.”

Fearing that people would find the perfect covid pandemic activity of trying to trek into the location of the monolith, the department has made it a big secret.

It did not take long for sleuthers on Reddit to figure out where the monolith was located, and they even established it had been placed there in 2016.

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We’ll put this under ‘Walking and Dancing.’

The principle at Xi Guan Elementary School, Zhang Pengfei, introduced his students to shuffle dancing  as a way to both provide some outdoor exercise for his students and to amuse them with a distraction from phones and computers. Undoubtedly Chinese: the principle leads and barks orders, the students are perfectly synchronized, the dancing is both comical and disciplined – and when you look at the kids, it seems charming as well as fun and healthy. (Click on title for video.)


“The dance is called the Melbourne shuffle, or shuffle dance, that originated in Australia in the 1980s. With energetic steps, it is becoming a new form of “square dance” occupying China’s urban spaces from parks to plazas and a popular pound-losing exercise for many elderly and middle-age Chinese.

What a blending of cultures.  Very West Pacific.


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The Pandemic has brought a lot of things to the forefront, not the least of which is using technology to stay connected with the office and the rest of the world. Zoom has become the “go to” app for many to have virtual meetings. Technology has enabled us to look into the personal abodes of persons on zoom, and there’s even some clever twitter accounts such as @ratemyskyperoom that ranks those skype rooms on a ten out of ten system.

We have all enjoyed seeing Keith Baldrey,  the Legislative Bureau Chief of Global News skyrocket to a top rating by his clever use of a plant and a bookshelf that has an always changing array of books written about British Columbia.

And then there was Gordon Price’s early morning interview on Global Television about the City of Vancouver’s Climate Emergency Action Plan which included an impromptu cameo of his longtime husband Len ambling in the background. Gordon had forgotten that Zoom’s virtual background breaks up when movement is detected. Such as a husband ambling across the hall from his morning shower without his clothes.

Len is a sought after personal trainer~and there were brief glimpses of his remarkable backside which in Canada is pretty much verboten on Canadian content television. Kudos to Global Television’s Neetu Garcha who kept the conversation focussed on the upcoming Climate Emergency Plan, and not the well built body behind Gordon.

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In the “you just can’t make this stuff up” department, three railway workers at Grand Central Station in New York City converted an unused room below the station into a private room for themselves.

The remodelling of the subterranean room was only reported last year, and the workers have furnished it with all the modern conveniences~there was a wall-mounted TV with a streaming device, a sofa, beer fridge, air mattress and microwave.  There was even a pull out bed cleverly hidden in an adjoining work room.

As reported by MSN, Metropolitan Transportation Authority Inspector Carolyn Pokorny understood the fascination with it all:

Many a New Yorker has fantasized about kicking back with a cold beer in a prime piece of Manhattan real estate– especially one this close to good transportation. But few would have the chutzpah to commandeer a secret room beneath Grand Central Terminal & make it their very own man-cave sustained with MTA resources, and maintained at our riders’ expense.”

The three men who allegedly created and used the room have been suspended without pay and denied their involvement, despite addressed packaging  and half filled beer cans with finger prints on the exterior.

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In the 1950’s  North American advertising was highly competitive for kids’ attention. Cereal companies created colourful cereal boxes with great toys inside them, or the chance to redeem box tops for a special item that would be mailed to you.

But one of the most successful cereal campaigns actually offered child land moguls their first piece of real estate~ a square inch of land in The Yukon. A kid could actually get a certificate for their land stake in a box of Quaker Puffed Rice.

As documented in “the Klondike Big Inch” which sadly does not have the author’s name the Great Klondike Big Inch land Caper was  “one of the most successful sales promotions in North American business history.For long after all the rocket rings and plastic submarines arid other cereal-box prizes were lost, millions of those official-looking, legal-sounding, gold-embossed deeds to a square inch of Yukon land remained in drawers, albums, safe deposit boxes, scrapbooks, vaults and, more importantly, in the memory of a generation of men and women not so young anymore.”

It’s no surprise that a half century later many of these “former children” still have those deeds and assumed that the square inch would be worth something, and wrote the cereal company looking for current valuations.

Sadly the Klondike Big Inch Land Company which dealt with the land title is defunct, and the Federal Government repossessed the land in 1965 for $37.20 in back property taxes.

The 19 acre piece of land on the Yukon River is still there, and Yukon government workers regular receive letters (there are thousands) from  cereal box title owners inquiring on their property.

The whole idea of selling square inches of land came from Bruce Baker who pitched Quaker Oats cereal on issuing 19 MILLION “deeds” for square inches in the Yukon. Of course there was a radio program tie-in with advertising done during the radio show “Sergeant Preston of the Yukon”. The promotion was a tremendous success  with children jockeying parents to eat Quaker cereals for the land titles.


The company was set up to acquire 19 acres in the Yukon Territory which was purchased for  $1,000. This enabled Quaker Oats to issue 21 million official looking deeds through the company. Each deed entitled the holder to one square inch of land in the Yukon Gold Rush Country. In 1955, deeds were put into boxes of Quaker Puffed Rice and Puffed Wheat and were a promotion for the radio show “Sgt. Preston of the Yukon.”

Advertising campaign or not, it’s always important to read the fine print of a land title in a cereal box and there was the catch that would thwart a future generation of potential title holders.

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Shortly after the Notre-Dame de Paris fire in 2019, according to Architectural Digest, “Prime Minister Édouard Philippe announced a competition for fresh ideas for the cathedral, and designers rushed to create original renderings and post them to Instagram. They range from the tasteful and restrained, to the borderline inscrutable, to social experiments never intended to be built.”

But how can you tell the difference, especially when some unserious interventions are justified as intended to ‘start a conversation’?  (A justification used so much these days – as though the ‘conversation’ was the purpose, not the process.)

Here are four of the seven that AD found on Instagram, all from practicing architects:

After all the conversation, the decision, announced a few days ago, was this:

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