New Recruits

The Department of National Defence is looking to hire, but don’t pack your bags just yet. They’re not interested in you.

The military has a specific type of trooper in mind…

Canadian Forces Base Cold Lake, a training centre for the air force in North-Eastern Alberta, has hired a new battalion—of goats.

The four-legged recruits chomp on weeds and keep the airfields clear. More efficient and more effective than humans at working steep and swampy terrain, the animals seek and destroy…and eat.

The herd of 250 animals spend their days chewing and their nights in a paddock. “The name of the game at an airfield like Cold Lake,” says Captain Mathew Strong, “is to keep the vegetation low and prevent other animals from taking up residence.”

No weed-whackers, no uniforms required.

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Going It Alone

I own a sweatshirt that says…

While it’s true that life is full of rough spots you have to traverse with care, the closest I’ve come to portaging is wheeling my luggage through an airport. Actually hiking through forests hoisting a canoe over my head? That would be a NO.

Zev Heuer has no problem with portages. The fifteen-year-old took his canoe, and his dog, and paddled his way across Alberta and Saskatchewan to his summer job at Churchill River Canoe Outfitters.

Karsten Heuer

It took him two months. Two months of paddling during the day, finding shelter, and setting up camp at night—by himself.

Two months.

According to Zev, “One of the things that’s pretty amazing about Canada is how everything’s connected by water.”

Karsten Heuer

And when it’s not, there is always portage…

Karsten Heuer

Zev is way more Canadian than I will ever be. Our Coureur de Bois ancestors would be proud.

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Latte Art

Not all art stands the test of time; some art isn’t meant to. Ice sculptures, sand castles, and chocolate rabbits come to mind. Why invest creativity and talent into an art form that is ephemeral?

Butterflies only live for a month. Does that make them any less beautiful?

More fleeting than a sidewalk chalk design, Latte Art only exists until that first sip.

nespresso.com

Despite its frighteningly short lifespan, Latte Art attracts some true artists. Brian Leonard, a Toronto barista originally from Fredericton, New Brunswick has carved a career out of food colouring and steamed milk.

farandwide.much.com

Latte Art is a tricky business, imagine speed painting on a surface that melts. For Brian, “It’s all about creating that one moment of almost near perfection.”

Unfortunately, you won’t find Brian at Starbucks, but he can be tracked down at baristabrian.com.

To the small pleasures in life—L’Chaim!

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Now You See It, Now You Don’t.

At noon and 9 p.m. daily, a giant chandelier descends from under the Granville Bridge in Vancouver. It lights up, spins for two minutes, and tucks itself back into the underbelly of the bridge again.

Why?

Does art need a reason?

Designed by B.C. artist, Rodney Graham, the public art piece is almost eight metres high, and is made of stainless steel, LED lamps, and six hundred faux crystals.

The hefty price tag for the piece is raising some eyebrows—$4.8 million.

Does a city with dealing with skyrocketing real estate prices and the resultant housing crisis need a gigantic chandelier?

Does any city?

Yes. Any city. Every city.

We all need more in our lives than food and board. We need life in our life, fun in our day, and something spectacular just around the corner.

To the naysayers, might I point out that the city did not pay for this Phantom of the Opera installation. Obligated by a city bylaw to provide a public art piece as part of their Vancouver House project, Westbank, the property developer, commissioned and covered the cost of the chandelier.

Yes, the installment has stirred up controversy.

It has also become so popular, that another spin cycle has been added. The chandelier now whirls three times a day, at noon, at 4 p.m., and at 9 p.m.

Next time I’m in Vancouver, I’m taking a peek under the bridge 🙂

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A Birthday to Remember

French or English, if you grew up in Quebec, you probably know Roch Carrier’s classic, The Hockey Sweater. Published in 1979, it’s the story of a boy forced to wear a Toronto Maple Leafs jersey in a small Quebec town that worships Les Canadiens. Anguish and horror ensue.

Fast forward to the tail end of 2019 and another gravely disappointed little boy. Jacob Bertrand refused to eat his birthday cake because instead of this:

A cake with his team’s logo on it.

He got this:

A cake with the logo of Maple Leaf Foods, a Canadian company that makes cold cuts.

Not the same thing at all. Not to Jacob, who in a family of Les Canadiens supporters, is a die-hard Maple Leaf fan.

While Roch’s story ends with the boy praying that moths would eat his jersey so he wouldn’t have to wear it anymore, Jacob’s story finishes on a much happier note.

Through social media, the Maple Leaf Foods company found out about the cake fiasco, and decided to do something about it. They sent Jacob and his family to a Maple Leafs game in Toronto.

Did Maple Leaf Foods get a lot of free press out of this? Yes.

They also gave Jacob a birthday to remember.

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Parfum de Bear?

That new car scent, it makes you smile just sliding into your seat. Unfortunately, it’s a temporary pleasure.

For Lisa Watts, and her new brand-new 2019 Santa Fe, that new car scent was over almost before it began.

Her sons came home to find three doors on their mother’s car hanging open. Inside the car, paw prints, and a god-awful stench.

The culprit?

A black bear.

Caught on surveillance tape, the bear can be seen opening the car door with his mouth.

Looking for food, the bear broke into a number of cars, leaving a rather ripe calling card behind him.

Lisa mourns the loss of her car smell, but she’s not hating on the bear. “He’s the sweetest little bear. It’s pretty hard to stay mad at him when he looks so cute.”

I think I’d be mad 🙂

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Down and Dirty

Sorry, not that. I’m talking blacksmithing. You know that hammer and metal thing you thought no one did anymore?

Some people are still doing it. In fact, the craft is enjoying a resurgence in Saskatchewan, as people look for something that doesn’t come from Walmart. Something not digital, something they can hold in their hands. Something they can make themselves.

Dustin Small and the Saskatchewan Blacksmith Guild host a hammer-in every month. Artisans, farriers, and crafters come together to share their knowledge, pound the iron, and pass the skill down to the younger generation.

Fourteen-year-old Jesse Porter prefers to do more with his hands than hold an iPad. Jesse, who has ADHD, attends hammer-ins and finds that working with metal helps him to concentrate.

For M. Craig Campbell, a blacksmith and sculptor, metal is just fun. “With the heat and fire, it’s a phenomenal material, a bit of a chameleon. At 2500 degrees Fahrenheit, it’s buttery soft, almost a liquid.”

What are you doing next Saturday?

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Blackbird

As a species we’ve done our best to wipe each other out, wrecked whole continents of people because they weren’t like us. Didn’t look the same, didn’t think the same, didn’t speak our language.

And yet, despite our millennia of ignorance and arrogance and greed, we haven’t managed to destroy everything…not quite everything. Not yet.

Thanks to people like Katani Julian, a Mi’kmaq language teacher from Nova Scotia, indigenous languages live on.

In celebration of the UN’s International Year of Indigenous Languages, Julian took on the task of translating Paul McCartney’s Blackbird into Mi’kmaq feeling that lyrics like Take these broken wings, and learn to fly resonate with the indigenous experience in Canada. “It’s the type of gentle advice we get from our elders when we feel defeated, when we feel down.”

In the hope that we can learn to not break any more wings, here is Emma Stevens of Eskasoni, Nova Scotia singing Blackbird…

Hearts and Flowers?

Personally, I’m not into the whole Valentine’s Day hoopla. That heart-shaped box was a big deal back in high school, the year I was actually dating someone when February 14th rolled around, but I’m over it now 🙂

I don’t know what the day means to any of you, but I’m betting no one does Valentine’s Day like Paul Lewis. No hackneyed card, or mediocre chocolates for our boy, Paul.

The Victoria, B.C. man, finding a creative use for all the white stuff lying around his backyard, built his girlfriend an igloo.

igloo

The home-made snow house, featuring solar-powered lights, a fire pit, and a bed kept  Paul and Julie warm as they toasted each other over a glass of wine.

And, in case you’re wondering…

Yes, they spent the night outside, inside their bubble of snow 🙂

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