Space-Time: A Reason to Rhyme

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First-hand observation of the ill-fated astronaut Inflatey [not actual name]
Saturday, June 4th, was (Summer) International Lolita Day, and the Vancouver community visited the H.R. MacMillan Space Centre before afternoon tea.

I was disappointed the planetarium show turned out to be Black Holes: The Other Side of Infinity, the one we saw when it premiered last November, minus the presentation by the UBC astronomer. H.R. MacMillan has already been advertising the dark matter show for months, so I didn’t expect the black hole one to still be on.

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Shots of Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield in the back

The mini show in the Ground Station Canada Theatre (big name for a small room) was fun, at least; Space: A Dangerous Place, like the Colour of Fire mini show preceding it, involves a lot of burning. The host talks about things like the hazards of space travel while demonstrating the insulating effects of water… and the incendiary properties of torches and fuel, I guess.

Even physicist B-cat learnt something!

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B-cat and me (from group shot)

In retrospect, I should’ve stayed for the 4 pm mini show instead of rushing onto the next venue. Our group was early for our seating at Rose House Vancouver, but still waited two hours for food — no explanation/apology from the restaurant, either. It’s amazing how bad customer service can get when a business and its servers are expecting the automatic group tip.

Grumbling aside, I had a good time at the space centre and hope to catch The Dark Matter Mystery eventually. H.R. MacMillan has shows every day — here’s the show schedule if you’re better at planning than I am.

No, Really, the Policemen’s Ball doesn’t Revolve around Cheese

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Reception entrance

I attended the Vancouver Police Department holiday reception and the local Winter International Lolita Day tea a few days ago. Nothing artsy, just nice outings after two weeks of cake and fiction.

B-cat and I have birthdays just a day apart. Although we’re not the type to throw ourselves birthday parties, there were still several dinners to go to and candles to blow out. I personally received three full birthday cake — two black forest and one red velvet, if you like minutiae — and the sugar and my advanced age combined to remind me of how little fiction I’ve written since high school…

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Artichoke and granite-like mystery cheese

…So that kept me busy until I took B-cat to, as he puts it, the big policemen’s ball (look up “Simpsons garbage man can song”). Held at the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club with its beautifully decorated entrance — especially past the lawn — the event is the first I’ve attended since the foundation started sending me invitations.

B-cat was held up teaching undergrads, so he was 1.5 hours late to the two-hour event. Instead of going in alone, I sat in the club lobby and wondered why all the serving staff were Asian. I also watched the police officers presenting that night interact with the public and police dogs.

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Justice, a canine officer

The police dog in the shot is wearing a vest with a mounted camera, equipment courtesy of some grant or the other. With him are his handler, a higher-up, and two members of the emergency response team (the Canadian equivalent of SWAT) with their gear. They later went in to speak of these and things they hoped to raise funds for, like shallow-water rafts.

It was only then that I remembered VPD was in charge only of Vancouver proper. I rushed home with a guilty conscience to look up the Burnaby RCMP, the people I bug about noisy neighbours and lost passports… but they don’t appear to be soliciting donations.

Anyway, the VPD has many community programs to support. And knows good cheese!

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Seriously, though: Can you identify this cheese? It’s delicious.

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As for the ILD afternoon tea… the tea shop was dimly lit and overpriced, and the Chinese owner kept taking pictures of us without asking. Still, we had good company.

On a vain note: Unlike most Asian women, my face is long and droopy rather than wide or round, so ordinary hairstyles that hide the sides of the face are amazingly unflattering on me. But I hardly ever wear anything gothic, and B-cat never dresses like a man from centuries past, so let me leave this here:

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Words, Words: UBC Alice 150 Tea Party and Vancouver Writers Fest

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Happy 150th birthday, Alice in Wonderland!

I attended two literary (but mainly amusing) events recently.

The main week of Vancouver Writers Fest has just ended, and I’ve heard a dozen authors for free just by volunteering for two days (despite spending half of that time in the bookstore — never again).

Pretty sweet deal, eh?

New self-help book
New self-help book

TJ Dawe was my favourite at the spoken word event. His joint book with Chris Gibbs, The Power of Ignorance, is a mock self help manual by an oblivious but largely well-meaning idiot. It isn’t as funny as his own work and person seem to be, but it is surprisingly clever… and bittersweet.

After hearing readings by a few horror authors, all of whom were a little bad at presenting themselves, I picked up Samuel Archibald‘s new collection of short stories. Arvida is also a surprise; though I’m only halfway through (I tend to read several books at once), there is nothing all that Gothic or fantastical in it. Promo hype aside, it’s perfectly respectable literary fiction of the type belonging to, say, Alice Munro or Carol Shields. There is something decidedly feminine about the style.

“A Mirror in the Mirror” is the closest Archibald gets to horror, though.

Arvida by Samuel Archibald
The streetlight made Arvida and my Compass Card holder mauve/pink

Having won a seat at the sold-out Sunday brunch in the volunteers’ raffle, I finished the festival with strong tea, mimosas, two giant slabs of pate, and some of the best readings of the week.

Steven Hayward, my favourite there, read from a short story in which he pokes fun at himself and the short story genre. Hilarious. Of course I’d left my credit card and everything else at home during a bag switch, so I’ll have to track down To Dance the Beginning of the World some other time.

Sunday brunch at VWF
Sunday brunch at VWF

The week before VWF, my friend S, a current English major, invited me to an Alice-themed tea party at University of British Columbia.

Hosted by UBC’s department of language & literacy education, the Golden Afternoon event began with a buffet-style afternoon tea with smoked salmon and watercress sandwiches, featured a number of poetry readings by professors, and ended with a rare books tour and croquet “match” in another building.

Proceeds went towards libraries.

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Vermin in my teapot!

As you may know, 2015 marks the 150th anniversary of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Not at all good at math beyond high school algebra and formal logic in philosophy, I find the two Alice novels almost tedious in the amount of footnotes necessary.

Yes, I’m a dumb-dumb.

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Macarons from the sweets buffet

As a children’s story, though, and along with everything arising from the originals (except the awful Tim Burton film), Alice is delightful. I particularly like the Christopher Wheeldon ballet performed by the Royal Ballet, which B-cat gave me in DVD form last Christmas.

It’s rare that a ballet trumps (haha) the literary source material.

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My first plate of sandwiches and tarts

The readings were the highlight of the event. Dr. Carl Leggo and Dr. Kedrick James were passionate and amusing; I don’t think I’ve heard such energy in recitations since high school, when the best teachers read that way and told us that was how poetry should be read and heard.

There isn’t much Alice material on display — the children’s books in the rare books room are more interesting — and the croquet thing didn’t go anywhere, but it was otherwise a fulfilling afternoon.

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E and me

The Illustrated Alice exhibition ends on Hallowe’en (Oct. 31, 2015).

P.S. It takes me two hours to bus there. If you live nearer to UBC or can drive, you may as well go.

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Poetry readings by the Mad Hatter and March Hare