EAR TO THE GROUND
Sometimes you have to be a tourist in your own city. My first place in Vancouver was across the street from Queen Elizabeth Park and I never once walked through the labyrinth of plants and animals that make up The Bloedel Conservatory. Not long ago, I had a photo shoot and ended up being two hours early. Since the studio was in the area I decided to spend some of my extra time taking in the horticulture at one of Vancouver's hidden gems. As soon as I walked in, the humidity hit me. I should have expected it; the varietals of plants and birds need the temperatures to hover in a particular range in order to thrive.
My walking map helped me to break down the mix of plant life that was sprouting and reaching everywhere. A keen eye is needed to spot some of the birds, as they don't exactly just sit there waiting for you to check off your list of species one by one. The exception: a crew of different parrots and macaws dotted in different areas of the conservatory. From the pale green feathers of Nelson, a Hahn's Dwarf Macaw, to the bright reds and turquoise blues of Carmen and Maria, the whole cast was visually apparent. Rosie, an African Grey Parrot, was looming in size against the others and her breed is ," …considered among the most intelligent of animals, ranking alongside dolphins and chimpanzees…". Then there was Ruby and Kiwi, a pair of Eclectus or King Parrots, who were perched up on a branch as I turned the corner for the exit, there loud caw thanking me for my patronage. A mix of purples and reds decorated one of the birds and it seemed an homage to the intricate patterns of nature.
It was great to see young families there and I saw excitement on the faces of some of the youngsters, particularly when they spotted a new bird fly by or spied one of the Koi fish swim by under foot, all the while the swaying of the small footbridge adding to the moment. It didn't take a long time for me to roll around the space, but I left with a greater appreciation of horticulture and ornithology. From outside, The Bloedel Conservatory appears to be from the future, a domed silo that holds a vast selection of our plant life for further study. On the inside, it is a world unto itself and its educational potential still has something to offer for everyone. With hundreds of plant varietals and an atmosphere that harbours three different climates including; tropical,sub-tropical and desert, it really makes one respect the workers there. As I walked back towards my photo session, I realized, that sometimes, exploring in your own backyard can give you a new outlook on where you live and how you interact with your surroundings. So, no matter where you live, get out there and see what else your city has to offer; you may find it grounding. I know I did.
WHAT The Vancouver Folk Music Festival:
WHEN: July 15 -17
WHERE: Jericho Beach Park
WHY: THe Vancouver Folk Fest needs no introduction. It is a little world of its own, and one of the best musica festivals this city has to offer. The musical lienup is always eclectic, opting for quality and variety over big names. This year is no different, with artists from Senegal, Estonia, and Venezuela will the share 5 stages with artists from North America and Europe. Highlights include the return of Bruce Cockburn, local legends The New Pornographers, and American indie favourites, M. Ward and Lord Huron. But the Folk Fest is also about more than music. There are food carts, an artisan market, a Little FOlk's Village and so much more to experience. Set against the backdrop of Jericho Beach and stunning sunsets, it is a must-visit Vancouver event. Visit www.thefestival.bc.ca for tickets and info.
WHAT: Indian Summer Festival
WHEN: July 7 – 16
WHERE: Various Vancouver locations
WHY: Truly one of our city's most eclectic and vibrant events, the Indian Summer Festival is a ten day celebration of art, culture, and ideas. The festival combines a variety of disciplines and a variety of artists, thinkers, filmmakers, musicians, and writers to produce events that are as entertaining as they are thought-provoking. A few of the artists appearing at this year's festival are local culinary legend, Vikram Vij; award-winning musical group, Rajasthan Josh; Oscar-nominated filmmaker, Leslee Udwin; and environmental activist, Vandana Shiva. The theme of this year's festival is "Where World's Meet," and it promises to be the most eye-opening Indian Summer yet. Click here for schedule and details.
WHAT: BHARTI KHER: Matter
WHEN: July 9 – Oct. 10
WHERE: Vancouver Art Gallery
WHY: The first major retrospective in North America of New Delhi based artist Bharti Kher, this exhibition brings together sculptures and paintings that represent the diversity of Kher’s practice and articulate the perceptions and realities of being female today. From the unique language of her bindi paintings and abstract sari sculptures to the provocative animal-human hybrid figures, this comprehensive selection of works speaks about domesticity, gender and body politics.
WHAT: South Granville ArtWalk
WHEN: June 18; 10am – 6pm
WHERE:Various South Granville Art Galleries
WHY: South Granville has long had the largest concentration of art galleries in Vancouver. In just a few blocks, there can be seen a huge variety of art local and international, conceptual and realist, modern and classic; canvas to sculpture to photography. On June 18, visitors have an opportunity to see it all 5th annual South Granville ArtWalk. With over 13 art exhibitions, wine and cheese tastings, and artist talks, it will be an exciting event for art lovers. And it's always fun to check out some culture in the heart of your own city.
It is the epitome of sophistication and class; feelings of regality and privilege. This is how I feel when I'm engrossed in the majesty that is Bordeaux. For me there is nothing better than "experiencing" a fine bottle of Bordeaux and that what it is, an experience. It'll change your life, trust me! Bordeaux is a wine making area steeped in history and tradition, synonymous with elegance, prestige and sophistication.
For me, this is Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot at its absolute best!
The grapes permitted for use in Bordeaux reds are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Malbec and Carmenere. Today Carmenere is rarely used and, in general, the first three make up the major part of the blend.
The vine was introduced to the Bordeaux region by the Romans, probably in the mid-1st century and wine production has been continuous in the region since.
I'd say the Bordelais know a thing or two about making wine!
In 1855 Emperor Napoleon III requested a classification system for France's best Bordeaux wines which were to be on display for visitors from around the world during the 1855 Exposition Universelle de Paris. Brokers from the wine industry ranked the wines according to a chateau's reputation and trading price, which at that time was directly related to quality. With a few exceptions, the classification remains unchanged today.
The wines were ranked in importance from first to fifth growths (crus). All of the red wines that made it on the list came from the Médoc region except for one: Château Haut-Brion from Graves.
The five first growths are arguably the most recognizable wines in the world and with good reason: Chateau Lafite Rothschild, Chateau Latour, Chateau Margaux, Chateau Haut-Brion and Chateau Mouton Rothschild. These usually fetch some of the highest prices when they are released.
I've had the privilege of tasting all the first growths and some from the best vintages on record. Recently I got to taste three 100 point wines along side one another. Margaux, Haut-Brion and Mouton Rothschild from the 1982 Vintage.
1982 is considered one of the best vintages in modern history, and it resulted in a night I'll never forget. As a wine geek, it really doesn't get any better than that. All were majestic in their own way and it was difficult to pick a winner but I'd have to give it to Margaux. It's surreal sometimes evaluating the quality of wine especially when those three bottles are priced at $4000 each! At that level of quality you're not just drinking an amazing bottle of wine, you are actually drinking a part of history!
If you haven't already, I implore you to discover Bordeaux for yourself. You won't regret it.
Now where to begin? If you prefer a bigger, bolder Cabernet-dominant style then explore the Médoc and Graves. Referred to as the left bank, wines from this region are big and powerful and have an amazing tannic structure. Look for flavors of cassis, blackberry, dark cherries, licorice, pencil lead and even oolong tea.
Within the Medoc there are sub-regions, each offering a unique and recognizable expression of this beguiling red nectar.
Pauillac for its richness, power and masculinity.
The enchantress that is Margaux. Feminine, elegant, graceful and poised.
Saint-Julien for a more rustic, funky, earthy quality.
Saint-Estephe known for its' fine acidity, structure and ripe fruit flavor.
Pessac-Leognan, unlike most Bordeaux Appelations, equally famous for reds and whites. The reds are earthy, mineral, smokey and ripe.
There are more regions; however, the best of the best can be found in these five!
Now if you prefer something a little softer, rich and velvety then you might want to check out the right bank. Generally Merlot dominates the blend here.
The wines from the right bank are generally more rich, softer on the palate and are a touch more fruit-forward. Lots or cassis, blackberries, chocolate, mocha and cedar.
Within in the right bank my two favorite areas are Saint-Emilion and Pomerol.
Saint-Emilion, wonderfully balanced, loads of minerality, sweet fruit and a lovely richness to the palate.
Pomerol, velvety and unctuous. Beautiful sweet plums, chocolate and peppermint are amoung the myriad of flavors that leap out of the glass. You'll also find truffles, roasted nuts and raisins.
One thing to be aware of when buying Bordeaux is to know your vintages. I don't want your first or next experience to be tainted by a poor vintage.
I'll go back as far as 1990, so…
Buy: 1990, 1995, 1996, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2003, 2005, 2009, 2010
Avoid: 1991,1992,1993, 1994, 2002, 2004, 2007, 2008.
The whole Bordeaux area is just mesmerizing. To forget the world and lose yourself in a fine bottle of Bordeaux is journey you'll never forget, like a dream you never want to wake from.
WHAT: Truck Stop Concert Series
WHEN: June 11, 4-10pm
WHERE: Red Truck Beer
WHY: Featuring the Canadian debut of the reformed Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears, the first stop in the Red Truck Stop Concert Series promises to be one massive musical party in the (hopefully) sun. Taking place at Red Truck Beer this Saturday, the six hour fest also features the soulful sounds of Dawn Pemberton and the hip-shaking sounds of the Ballentynes, plus much more. And, yes, there will be beer. Two more Concert series events are planned this summer: July 9 and August 6. So kick the summer off properly and get on down to Red Truck Beer this Saturday. Click here for tickets.
Written by Christopher Ryan
I was a vegetarian for a few years during the Reagan administration. Or was I?
It all comes down to whether you’re willing to overlook an occasional pepperoni pizza and a few slices of bacon every now and then. From my perspective, the pressure released by the occasional lapse into cured meats empowered my admittedly imperfect vegetarianism. When you’re going up against ravenous natural appetites that evolved over millions of years, compromise may be the only alternative to complete failure.
That’s why all the heated debate over monogamy reminds me of my vegetarian days: sexual monogamy is a lot like vegetarianism. Nobody’s denying that an all-veggie diet (like monogamy) can be an excellent approach to life for many reasons, ranging from ethical to environmental. But all the evidence (our teeth, jaw strength, digestive system, the diets of pre-agricultural hunter-gatherers, comparisons to closely-related primates, and so on) quite clearly indicates that our ancestors evolved as omnivores. That doesn’t mean living as an omnivore in today’s world is inherently any better than choosing to avoid meat. But keep this firmly in mind: Even fanatical vegetarianism will never make you an herbivore; it will only make you an omnivore who’s hell-bent on not eating meat.
That’s a different animal entirely—one likely to face constant cravings and frustrations. It would be foolish to commit to a lifetime of vegetarianism thinking it’s going to be easy, no matter how much you love animals. It won’t.
Similarly, it’s cruel and deceitful to teach people that our ancestors evolved as happy vegetarians, so any rumblings in your stomach as you walk by the barbecue are due to “original sin,” your weak character, poor cognitive development, emotional immaturity, or some other shame-generating nonsense. No, your stomach responds that way because it is the stomach of an animal that evolved eating meat whenever possible.
Simple as that.
Love for your spouse, no matter how profound and sincere, will probably not eliminate your innate yearning for erotic novelty. Just as our teeth and intestines indicate that our ancestors ate plenty of meat, the evolved design of our reproductive organs, our orgasmic capacities, and our species-wide penchant for frequent non-reproductive sex tell us that our ancestors were sexual omnivores with voracious appetites.
The German philosopher, Schopenhauer wrote, “People can do what they want but they cannot want what they want.” [“Der Mensch kanntun was er will; erkannabernichtwollen was er will.”] Given the realities of human sexual evolution, you can choose whether or not to live monogamously, but you cannot choose whether or not it will come naturally and easily. It probably won’t.
Vegetarians who understand why sizzling bacon makes their mouths water will be better at sticking to their chosen dietary regime than those who beat themselves up over what is just a natural response.
Maybe I was never really a vegetarian—just vegetarian-ish. I don’t know, but I’m pretty sure that without the flexibility to get a pepperoni pizza every once in a while, I’d have abandoned the tofu and sprouts long before I did.
Maybe that’s just me, but I really don’t think so.
(Adapted from a column that originally appeared in Psychology Today)
WHAT: Bard on the Beach
WHEN: Ongoing to September 24
WHY: Two words: Wiliam Shakespeare. As in the greatest writer…ever. That's right, Vancouver, it is time to get your Shakespeare on again at the Bard on the Beach Festival. Bard on the Beach has grown into a bona fide Vancouver cultural institution, and one of the top Shakespeare festivals in the world. This year's selection of plays is the usual mix of the famous and the relatively obscure: Romeo and Juliet, literature's greatest love story; Othello, Shakespeare's classic portrayal of jealousy and betryal, highlighted by Iago, one of literature's most evil charaacters; the Merry Wives of Windsor, a lesser known comedy, but full of oddball laughs; and Pericles, a historical drama which may or may not have been entirely written by the Bard. Taking place once again in beautiful Vanier Park, with the oean and the mountains as a natural backdrop, Bard on the Beach is the Summer's must-see event. Click here for tickets.
WHAT: Billy Elliot: The Musical
WHERE: Stanley Industrial Alliance Theatre (2750 Granville St.)
WHEN: To July 10
WHY: Based on a heart-warming British film, and featuring music by Sir Elton John, this one is a bit of a no-brainer. For those who are not familiar with the movie, Billy Elliot tells the story of an 11 year old kid from a rough British working class neighbourhood, who discovers a love and talent for ballet, taking him places he had never imagined. Yes, it a classic tale of the underdog, and it tugs at both the heartstrings and the funnybone. But it works. And it is a story tailor-made for a musical. From the story to the music to the choreography, Billy Elliot promises to be the musical hit of the Summer. Click here for tickets.