Archives for the month of: October, 2012

“How can you wear boots in this weather?”  I’m always asked on hot summer days.  It’s as if people think I’m not clever enough to choose appropriate footwear.  But I digress.  I wear leather boots year round.  You should too and here’s why.

Leather boots can keep you cool

A good pair of leather boots can keep your feet pretty cool.  In fact desert boots get their name because they were first popularized by their use by british soldiers in the North African desert campaigns of World War Two.  I have been hiking in the desert and I would wear nothing other than boots.  There’s all sorts of plants and animals that you would rather not have in contact with your skin and your feet will burn very quickly if exposed to the sun.  Boots may not be as breezy as sandals, but with the right moisture-wicking, lightweight socks, they are quite cool and have lots of other advantages.

Leather boots can keep you warm.

In the winter, good leather boots with a rubber sole and some nice thick socks will keep your feet warm.  If you have boots with a forgiving fit, you can wear two pairs of socks and even use thermal insoles.  Lining your insoles with tinfoil can even help you keep your feet warm.  There’s nothing better than boots to keep the blood circulating in your toes.

Leather boots are waterproof and breathable.

Rubber boots are totally waterproof but your sweat accumulates inside so you get wet anyways, Gore-tex boots are waterproof without any maintenance but have limited breathability.  Good leather boots treated with mink oil, dubbin, or snow-seal are extremely waterproof and remain highly breathable.  They do require regular maintenance, but in my experience, unlined leather boots that are well taken care of are the best waterproof, breathable footwear you can get.

Leather boots are good on almost any terrain.

I’ve worn my blundstones to some pretty remote places.  They’ve been trekking all over, from the forests of Ontario to the mountains of central Spain.  A good pair of boots will take you places that no shoes could go.  It’s no surprise that all the great explorers wore leather boots.  I suspect christopher columbus was wearing them when he discovered America.  

Leather boots can be worn with anything.

The wise old prophet who sold me my Blundstones said “They’ll take you from a wedding to a funeral.”  In other words, you’ll have them forever and you can wear them anywhere.  I have worn Blundstones with a suit.  I’ve also worn them mountain climbing.  I dare say that leather boots are the only piece of footwear that can cover the whole gamut of social situations.  If GQ says it’s cool to wear boots with your suit, it’s cool!

There you have it.  Leather boots, plain and simple, are the best choice of footwear for almost any occasion.  You might find something better for particular situations but nothing is more versatile, more practical, or more stylish.  There’s a reason people like Indiana Jones, Luke Skywalker, Chuck Norris, Hank Moody, the vikings, and the Terminator all wore leather boots all the time.  It’s because they are the best.

P.S. Although their usefulness in formal attire is questionable, I advocate the year-round-boot lifestyle to both men and women.  Apparently these girls agree with me.

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Someone was feeling festive when they apparently climbed to the top of this huge statue in Queens park just to place a pumpkin in the horseman’s loving arms.  When it comes to holiday gestures, I do admire both irony and commitment.

It’s often been said that the Canadian identity is defined by how we differ from Americans.  We Canadians are awfully proud of our universal health care.  I can’t count how many times I’ve had this conversation:

American: “So your health insurance is paid for?”

Me: “Yes.”

American: “So the government pays your hospital bills?”

Me: “Well there are no hospital bills.  I just go, the fix me, then I leave.”

American: “And who pays the hospitals?”

I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s had this conversation and it’s easy to feel like you’re superior to a person who can’t wrap their head around the idea that governments guarantee citizens the right to life (even though it’s in the American constitution, but I digress), or at the very least they pay the doctors who try.

But if all we can see is that our healthcare is better than that of the USA, we’ll miss the fact that that we didn’t invent healthcare, and we’re not the leaders in healthcare.  According to the most recent study from Harvard school of Public Health, we’re fourth in the world behind France, Germany, and Britain.  And we certainly didn’t invent it: Germany was passing universal health care bills in the late 1800s; Saskatchewan was the first Canadian province to try universal health care and they didn’t get it until 1946.  We’re not the first, we’re not the best, the only reason we have to be so proud of our health care is because we can rub it in Americans faces.

Canadians, and self-hating Americans, love to spout off stats about Canadians being healthier, less fat, making more money, living longer lives, being better educated, and it’s all true, but why are we comparing ourselves to America and not the rest of the world?  And why don’t we ever talk about what’s wrong with Canada and right in America?

America has a secular constitution that guarantees government non-interference in religious matters.  Canada’s constitution guarantees religious freedom for all but makes no prohibition against endorsing a single faith.  Maybe that’s because our head of state is also the leader of the Anglican Church.  In constitutional terms, I wish Canada could be more like our southern neighbours.

Do I think that American elections are a giant ridiculous pageant?  Yes!  But it makes me even more angry that the only thing Canadians seem to get upset about is the thought of exercising their democratic rights:

Canadian Citizen: “What?  The Prime Minister lied to the whole country again and has lost the confidence of the house?  But I just voted a year ago!  We’ll just let him stay.”

So my message to Canadians is as follows:

Get over yourselves.  It’s pitiful to pat yourself on the back just because you’re doing better than your nearest neighbour.  Look around.  This country is pretty messed up, but it’s also pretty incredibly.  We don’t need to look anywhere but our own backyard to find a lifetimes worth of pride and shame.

And while I’m here: my message to Americans:

If you spend all your time telling people that America is the greatest country on Earth, you’re going to miss the fact that it’s not.

If this video doesn’t bring a frozen tear to your canuck eye, I don’t know what will.

FOLLOW,LIKE, COMMENT.  That’s the magic trifecta that makes the whole blogosphere keep turning.

I hit 1000 views on the blog today!  That’s total, not today only.  After only two and a half weeks I’ve already learned so much about web publishing, networking, SEO, and there’s loads more to learn.  You may not know this but I get to see how many readers I have, what they read, how they found me, and what country they’re from.  Hello to my readers from the UK, australia. austria, italy, indonesia, india, okay there are too many countries to list all of their homelands.  Anyways, thanks for reading, follow on wordpress or by email if you like what I write, and share with your friends if you really like what I write.  And do not forget, I love to read your comments, especially if you don’t like or disagree with what I say.  Like most things in life, it’s more fun with friends.

For many of us, our most vivid nature experiences have been narrated by David Attenborough.  It often seems that our LCD screens show us a more beautiful and colourful view of nature than nature.  I remember the first time I dove with tropical fish thinking “they don’t look as bright and colourful as the underwater documentaries that I’ve seen.”  Well a couple days ago, nature showed what it was made of, hitting us with more colour than any documentary could capture, the kind of colour so intense and so pure that you think you’re looking at an oil painting.  As the fall turns to winter and the warmth and cheer drains from our stern northern faces, nature gives us one of the most spectacular sights on earth, the changing of the leaves.  David Attenborough certainly agrees with me.  It may be a cliché, but I say you’re crazy if you don’t get out and enjoy it.  After all, it’s going to be a long cold winter.

I, like many, got interested in photography because the pictures I took with little point and shoot cameras and zero photographic knowledge didn’t look like what I saw in the world and what I had in my head.  Between then and now I’ve learned a lot, and bought a lot of cameras, but I’ve always subscribed to the great B.B. King’s idea that if it looks good, it is good.  Okay, he said if it sounds good it is good, but it goes for anything.  In art, the only thing that really matters is if you like it.  That’s why I love photography tricks that you can do with almost no equipment that still looks awesome.  If you’re interested in how it works check out this video from Digital Rev TV.  You can click on each picture to see it full sized.Now I may not have chosen the most exciting or glamourous subjects, but I chose two of each shot so you can see how the composition really is made by where you move the flashlight.  You can choose what you want to stand out by shining more light on it.  Not bad for a first attempt eh?

 

I came across another example of my favourite Toronto architectural style today.  This one, however, isn’t executed particularly well.  The architect followed the style closely in use of materials but the general vision and the scale is all wrong.  Take a look.Just walking by, you might think that the buildings aren’t attached at all.  It looks rather like an architect obsessed with neo-modernism but who wasn’t able to buy up all the land for the project of his dreams.  But if you snoop around a little, you will discover the elegant solution to the problem of merging these to drastically different buildings, the portal between the 19th century and the 21st.Okay so maybe it’s not so elegant.  The architects elected to leave a foot-wide gap between the two buildings and put a tiny staircase in it.  There may be a practical reason for this tiny hallway but all I know is that it is rubbish design.  It seems like very little thought went into this.

It may not surprise you to know that the addition on this building belongs to the Rotman Business School.  The Capitalist-minded don’t tend to spend great sums of money on world-class architects.  Even still, they did get a few things right I thought.  The architect understood the value of juxtaposing the textures of masonry and glass, of contrasting traditional ornate detail with stark minimalism.I also thought the architect did a pretty good job with the new part, if you consider it on its own.  It is simple, easy to put lots of cubicles into, and pleasingly asymmetrical.  But they failed to achieve symbiosis.  Like a tailor making a pair of trousers, without a pair of legs, the architect copied a very cool architectural style without understanding that the old and the new components are of equal importance.

Now that winter is here, people are putting away their oxford and derby shoes and getting out their winter wool.  That means it’s time for another of my stylo-linguistic pet-peeves to rear its ugly head.  Today I’m going to complain about pea coats.

First thing’s first though: a word on language.  Some words are defined within parameters.  That is to say, if it has a certain characteristic, it always falls under a certain category.  Oxford and Derby shoes are an example of this sort of definition: they signal very specific construction methods and all shoes either are or are not oxford or derby shoes.  Most words however, are not so easy.  They refer to archetypal ideas, what Plato called forms.

According to wikipedia, the term “pea coat” comes from the Dutch word pijjekker.  The jacket was mentioned in American newspapers as early as 1720.  They were worn by European and North American Navy personnel because of their warmth and durability.  Pea coat is a platonic form.  The archetypal pea coat is pictured below.

There are a few features that define the pea coat:

Double breasted – that’s two rows of buttons, not one.  If it has one row of buttons it’s just a wool coat.

Wool – If you make jeans out of anything that’s not denim, they’re just pants.  Likewise, if you make a pea coat out of anything other than wool, it’s not a pea coat anymore.

Butt length – If a pea coat is thigh length, it’s called a bridge coat. If it has gold buttons it’s called a reefer.  Historically in the Navy, a person’s rank was determined by the coat they wore and pea coats go to your butt so the officers know who make walk the plank.

If a coat has all of these attributes, it’s definitely a pea-style coat, though probably not an authentic pea coat.  If it has two of these but not the third, it has nothing to do with a pea coat at all.  It’s just a coat.  To be an authentic pea coat it needs to have a few more things:

Vertical pockets – Classic pea coats have vertical slits to keep your hands warm in cold and wet conditions.

Navy colour – Classic pea coats are almost always navy because they were word by the navy.  It’s not just a random name.

Anchor buttons – Again, this tradition comes from the military history of the attire.

You may ask, “who are you to tell us what is the archetypal pea coat?”.  My answer to that is simple.  Pea coats have fascinating history spanning three centuries and the whole globe.  Through all that time, the garment has remained the same.  If you learn where words come from, you learn about history, language, culture, and geography.  If you use words wrongly, you erase all of these things.

 

I found, okay I looked for, another drawing from my artistic past.  I have an admission to make.  I believe that the highschool/university period in our lives is the most fruitful.  When all those hormones and angst are coursing through our veins, we come up with the most incredible ideas.  Testosterone is like opium for your brain and we all know all the greats love opium.  Then we get older and call pubescent teenagers naive, idealistic and other such filthy compliments.  When I was a teenager, every day I was inspired to make art and every thing that I frantically spewed onto a page was pure gold.  If I can hold onto an ounce of that energy as I transition into a life as an old fart then I’ll be happy.

Here’s the gem I found.  I can’t be sure what I was thinking when I did it but I’m sure it was deep.  Feel free to decode the symbolism of my teenaged brain.  The best my pathetic adult mind can come up with is: “If you read the news like a giant robot you’ll walk off a figurative cliff.”

“Stop talking about it!”

That’s Morgan Freeman’s reply.  It took a minute for the brilliance of that simple idea to sink in.  In a 60 Minutes interview with Mike Wallace, Freeman dropped this bombshell.  I’m not sure when it originally aired but the clip is available on youtube.  He puts it quite simply: “I’m going to stop calling you a white man and I’m going to ask you to stop calling me a black man.”

His comments made me think back to my days at Western University when I first learned that there was an Asian Students’ Association.  Being a contrarian, I of course had to ask: “What would people think if there was a White Students’ Association?” Of course that would never be allowed.  It would be written off as a racist group.  Because it’s inappropriate for a bunch of white people to get together and celebrate being white.

If you’re proud of your race, if you pat yourself on the back because of the circumstances of your birth, you’re part of the problem.  I have no right to be proud of being white and so you have no right to be proud to be any other race.  To ask for equal treatment of all ethnicities and recognition of what’s great about specific ethnicities is to have your cake and eat it to.  I believe, based on the best available evidence, that all the people of the world have the same potential to be smart, kind, influential, etc.

So how do we get rid of racism?  Stop celebrating your race.  Stop celebrating what divides us.  Be proud of what kind of person you are, how you treat the people around you, and what kind of difference you make in the world.

In other words, it’s wrong to hate someone for the way they were born because we know it says nothing about who they are.  It’s just as wrong celebrate your race.  It still means nothing.  For racism to be over, it means that all people have to stop making decisions about all other people based on their ethnic background.  Like Morgan Freeman says: “Black history is American History.”

Kudos Mr Freeman for being totally politically incorrect on national television.

If you think I’m totally wrong then please start a fight in the comments section.  I would love to hear what some people think.