Monthly Archives: December 2010

Oh Canada!

One advantage to living in western NY, other than the overbearing winters that drive all the tourists away, is the privilege of living in close proximity to some prominent national landmarks.  One of the most notable is Niagara Falls.  I got a call from a good friend who wanted to make a trip to the falls to see the light display and the frozen falls.  (Spoiler alert: we were disappointed on both counts)

Not frozen

This is where the tourist live

I told him he would be on the internet

I have been friends with this guy for a long time, we went to summer camp together, we were at each others weddings, and we mountain bike together a few times a week during the summer months, but he is a self-proclaimed “big picture person.”  Details are not his strong suit.  So this trip was themed around his favorite phrase, “we’ll play it by ear.”

The trip was fine, the road were clear, the falls were beautiful, the lights were mediocre, but we got to spend some time with some good friends so it was a good trip.  We left right after work on Friday, drove straight out, (only 1.5 hr drive) crossed the border for about four and a half hours and made the return trip the same night.  The only money spent was for tolls, parking, and dinner, which was (by decree of my wife) at the Hard Rock Cafe on the Canadian side.

Hard Rock Cafe

The cause for the decree

The cause for the decree

One observation our group of foreigners made about a certain Canadian Outlet mall we stopped at was the blatant lack of people.  This was supposed to be a discount retail establishment, with several notable brands.  At 8:30 pm the weekend before Christmas, the only patrons we saw was a group of high school-aged kids loitering around the Burger King.  We were further perplex to learn that the entire plaza shut down at 9:00 pm, many were locked tight at ten of.

As we climbed in the vehicle and headed back towards the neon lights we couldn’t help but formulate international comparisons to the American equivalent.  We were conservatively speculating that our local Outlet mall had about 10 open parking spaces at 8:30 that evening, with about 35 vehicles searching for them, and that they would remain open and profitable for a minimum of another 3 hours.  I am sure there are a number of symbolic cultural differences that can be expressed using these Outlets as a metaphor, but in truth, I just don’t understand Canadian culture enough to postulate.

I would, on the other hand, like to hear some other opinions.  So if any of you have any ideas or reasons for this great disparity then let us know if the comments.

The single most impressive light display

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Filed under Travel

Tom Clancy’s Dead or Alive

Well, I don’t know how I missed it, but I did.  The first new addition to the Ryanverse series since 2003, and me in the midst of catching up with the first 12 novels, and I completely missed any sort of advanced announcement or advertising for this release.

Although I was surprised by the announcement, it did cause me to self-reflect a bit on the story and writing of Tom Clancy.  For those not familiar, here is a quick update:

The Hunt for Red October (1984) Without Remorse
Patriot Games (1987) Patriot Games
The Cardinal of the Kremlin (1988) The Red Rabbit
Clear and Present Danger (1989) The Hunt for Red October
The Sum of All Fears (1991) The Cardinal of the Kremlin
Without Remorse (1993) Clear and Present Danger
Debt of Honor (1994) The Sum of All Fears
Executive Orders (1996) Debt of Honor
Rainbow Six (1998) Executive Orders
The Bear and the Dragon (2000) Rainbow Six
The Red Rabbit (2002) The Bear and the Dragon
The Teeth of the Tiger (2003) The Teeth of the Tiger

My introduction to Clancy occurred through the novel Rainbow Six, which I picked up for $1 at the local library book sale, and only then because I had heard they made a video game inspired by the plot.  I was hooked and during the course of the next year I acquired the remainder of the series through similar means.  After jumping around a bit in the series, reading in the order I acquired them, I was able to finally to commit myself to reading through the series following the storyline order.  This change was a vast improvement in following the characters and plot themes from book to book, much the same was it is easier to follow a serialized television show when viewed from the beginning of the season throughout.

It is a unique experience to follow an author so closely and over such a large span of time to have the ability to evaluate their writing style and monitor the evolution of the author over the course of his career.  To put it in perspective, Tom Clancy released his most popular novel, and the first in the Ryanverse series, The Hunt for Red October the year before I was even born.

One of the aspects of Clancy’s writing that most impressed me, regardless of which decade he was published, was his ability to allude to past of future events in books he hadn’t even written yet.  Often, two characters will reconnect in a story and will reminisce for a bit, discussing events that occurred in a previous novel, but when I check the published order vs. the storyline order I discover the events the characters are fantasizing about weren’t even written yet.  It is that sort of foresight that, I believe, makes this series so successful for Clancy.  Perhaps many times more successful than if each novel was a standalone plot line.

Clancy’s most recent addition to modern literature is called Dead or Alive and although it departs greatly from his previous pattern of releasing a book every year or two since the mid 80′s, many are hopeful that he hasn’t lost his touch.  Personally, I tend to agree with the majority of his fans assessment in that Clancy’s writing style seems to have become more commercialized of late.  The early books were written during a different political environment, which I won’t pretend to be an expert on, but I think that feeling comes through those novels.  There was a sense of subtlety and finesse that seems to be diminished in the books from this decade. Perhaps that is owed to the increased strain on a humans attention span and our desire for cheap action flicks. (and by the way, none of the movies do justice to the strength and nuance of the novels)

Dead or Alive seems, from the description, to be a culmination of sorts.  A teaming up of the superhero characters like Jack Ryan, John Clark, Domingo Chavez, and Jack Ryan Jr.  The synopsis reminds me of a Justice Leage-type story and I find myself hoping Clancy can avoid many of the clichéd themes often associated with the “team-up.”

And although I don’t know how much this will help, but I have never seen a book with its own trailer:

Dead or Alive hit shelves December 7th this year, so if you still are looking for that last-minute Christmas gift perhaps you just found it.

For me, I don’t think I will wait to find this one in the $1 book sale at the local library.

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Filed under Books

Warehouse Scramble

I spent the morning with this little guy and a bunch of his buddies.

A co-worker and I spent the first part of today rifling through storage boxes and unwrapping pieces of donated artwork in order to acquire accurate dimensions of individual pieces with the intent of finalizing a design for a custom-built glass display case to house them.  These pieces were collected by a local dentist throughout his life and were recently donated to a dental institute to be displayed in the main lobby.  There are many sculptures, artifacts, paintings, and glass works in the collection and we needed to sort through the lot to find a few select pieces.

I didn’t mind though.  The warehouse reminded me of on Indiana Jones film, and although this single storage building in Brockport, NY wasn’t quite on the scale of the government storage facility depicted at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark I was amazed by the amount of crates and the complex storage system.

The man who helped us un-crate the items was full of interesting stories as well.  He has spent his life in the moving and storage business and has discovered all sorts of unusual items.  He has been gifted several thousand dollar NFL memorabilia and discarded cook books which, unbeknown to the owner, contained antique paper money within its pages, and has been in the middle of messy divorce separations where he has literally been physically attacked and shot at.

Our crate was in the top row

It wasn’t until we were on our way out that I had actually noticed how many piles of crates were there.  We passed a small separation in the piles for a structural support, and this crevice revealed the true depth of the operation.

Now, 3 rows tall by 4 rows deep many columns?

Another sculpture, and Inuit "Hunter with Antler Teeth" from soapstone

This is an Inuit sculpture carved from whalebone.

I will post photos of the finished display cases when they are completed.  They feature floating glass shelves in an eight foot back lit resin panel, if the contractor follows the design requirements they should be quite spectacular.


Filed under Architecture, Art