Saturday, July 31, 2010

172 - "Fire Mountain"

I call this photo "Fire Mountain", but the effect is just an illusion.  There is no fire, just faraway storm clouds reflecting the lurid mandarin rays of a late sunset.  This is one of my favourites out of a series of photos I took of the evening sky. 

171 - Not An X-File At All

While I am on my UFO kick, I thought I'd share a photo of mine that I found that has an unidentfied flying object on it.  I noticed the anomaly when I was searching for pictures I have taken of the sky for yesterday's other-worldly entry (please click here to see it, and for good measure, you might as well click here to see the seminal entry on this topic). 

There is a dot that I at first thought was a leaf on a tree.  However the object is clearly in mid-air, not attached to anything.

Judging by its colour, its apparent motion, and the focal plane, I think the object is at least as close as the trees and very small, rather then being large, dark, and mysterious next to the mountain.  I feel it's lepidopteran: a moth, rather than a dyad scout vessel. 

Friday, July 30, 2010

170 - PoCo UFO Incident

One thing most people do not know about me is that I have had a life-long fascination with stories of UFO's (Unidentified Flying Objects).  Not so much with the objects themselves, rather I am attracted to the stories and reports.  When I was very young, I was interested in space flight and solar travel.  Back in the days of the Apollo Program (or Project Blue Book, if you prefer otherwordly travel), the best way I found to get my fix was to read dozens of cheap, pulpish library books that documented UFO sightings, landings, and even abductions.  This was years before the X-Files, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, or even Star Wars.  These were raw, rather disturbing stories told before the mass media standardized our cultural collective vision of alien vistors and their craft. 

What would bring somebody to relate in public the sighting of a UFO?  Whether you are a believer in extraterrestrial intelligence or a skeptic, the motive to come forward as a witness to a UFO can be powerful.  Either way, the I find the stories compelling.

Now that I have a lot of experience in photomanipulation, I think I can debunk many UFO images I have seen.  Still, the question remains equally pertinent between how the image was taken as well as to why it is being shown. 

Yesterday's etherial post gave me the inspiration to search the Internet to find out if there are any notable UFO sightings in my neighbourhood.  Remarkably, there was an encounter in summer of 1973 that was quite spectacular:  three young boys near the river watched a silver saucer land in the nearby forest.  While they remained briefly to see what might transpire, the object emitted a tremendous amount of energy, and the boys were too afraid to stay at the scene.  Afterwards, investigators found mysterious charred powder and pressure marks in the soil.  Apparently, lab work failed to identify any unusual substances. 

A local newspaper took up the story and locals speculated in depth as to what may have transpired.  Unfortunately, the paper is defunct (and thank you BlackPress so very much for stifling independant local newsgathering), so I am having trouble finding back issues. 

The Internet report is also a little sketchy, and contains geographical errors.  This makes pinpointing the reported landing site difficult, but if I were to guess, I think there may be a loop of a highway overpass cloverleaf that surrounds the site.  Nothing remarkable remains of the encounter, unless maybe government agents kept top-secret artefacts in a hermetically-sealed drawer at the bottom of an Iron Mountain subterranean storage facility, right next to the DNA sample from the Sasquatch. 

Keep watching the skies!

I created the image above by combining a free-usage picture of three boys with a no-UFO photo I took of the sky, and a photo of a silver metal bowl.  Using these images as references, I painted the rest using my stylus. 

As a note, people seem unlikely to take pictures of the back of their children's heads, and then post them on the Internet.  It took a long time for me to find a suitable reference. 

Thursday, July 29, 2010

169 - Look To The Skies

Here is a photograph I took recently.  I would consider it one of the strangest I've ever shot.  Rather than an otherworldy visitor, this is a distant photo of a special-effects gymnastics performer dangling over the Grandstand Show stage for this year's Calgary Stampede.

While the Stampede is stereotypical cowboy and cowgirl fun for the most part, the stage show veered far away from white stetson hats and saddle tack.  Parts of it exceeded the spectacle of the 2010 Winter Olympics, as you can see from above.  It was a breathtaking show.  Nonetheless, the gigantic Michael Jackson-themed song and dance finale had zero cowboy cred, and although energetically performed, seemed to suit the Stampede about as much as would an all-vegan rodeo concession stand. 

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

168 - Backyard Birdwatching

I drew another sketch of Chip the Junco, this time attempting more realism.  I find drawing birds to be quite challenging.

According to our bird books, Chip is a Dark-Eyed Junco, which is a very common species of sparrow for our region.  Chip is still unique, though. 

To see my earlier JSVB Chip post, please click here, and for a portrait of a similar sparrow in spring plumage, please click here.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

167 - Chip The Junco

In the recent heat, birds from the forest have taken over our back yard.  They like the water we've set out for drinking, and will take dust baths under the trees.  They also like sitting on the neighbour's fence and eating his newly-planted grass seed!

One little bird in particular seems to have claimed his territory.  He's a junco, a brown ball of feathers about the size of a ping-pong ball, but with the heart of an osprey.  We call him "Chip", on account of how that sound like his call.  He appears to have a mate ("Chipette"?) and a rival for her attentions, "Carlos".  If you know something about the blues, you won't need to look up Carlos del Junco on the Google...

I adapted the bird of prey image from a free-usage photo by Psylexic.  Chip probably thinks he's even bigger and more powerful than that, i.e., it could use a crown, maybe breathe fire, etc. 

Monday, July 26, 2010

Sunday, July 25, 2010

165 - "Saint Val Of Blessed Transport"

I would like to present another in what is becoming a series of "Stained Glass Saints."  These are people who have gone way beyond what we would expect in terms of helping us out.

Pictured here is Val, who deserves to be a saint on account of her uncommon generosity.  Recently, when we were contemplating renting a car for some extended travel, Val offered her own vehicle free of charge or complaint.  This kind and selfless act saved us several hundred dollars, which is money we can use to balance our budget for the year. 

Also, Val turned out to be a dab hand at hair henna, transforming my wife with a wave of her wooden spoon into the crimson-haired bombshell she is today (until the henna washes out, anyways).  Heck, I am almost even tempted to colour out my grey hairs, but that is a story for another day. 

We are most grateful to Val, who was very kind in helping us out at a time when we could use it. 

164 - Making A Red Haired Temptress

Today's JSVB post is all girly stuff, but it's relevant: pictures I took of Henna Application Day.  Please click here to see the "After" picture.  These are the "Before" shots.

Our friend Val applies the goo.  This henna product starts off as a brick that we shave into bits, much like chocolate.  Add hot water and keep the mixture warm in a double-boiler.  It smells faintly of coffee and looks almost exactly like its namesake, "caca".  Caca is this henna's store brand, and it's also the Spanish word for poop.

Friday, July 23, 2010

163 - Study of Satine

To create the Red-Haired Temptress image from yesterday's post (please click here to see her), I used the 2001 movie "Moulin Rouge!" as a reference.  I used the "Satine" character from the show and changed details to make her look more like my wife.

Above is the reference drawing I made of Satine.  Her pose is a bit guarded and pensive, perhaps because the character has completely sold herself to the production of her show, or perhaps because the actress is afraid of falling off of the swing.  Either way, in the final drawing, I opened up the pose and changed the look of the face.  I also played with changing the pose of the legs, but in the final drawing, I goofed up the proportions which to me look correct in this sketch.  I ended up blotting out the legs in the end. 

Thursday, July 22, 2010

162 - "The Red-Haired Temptress"

Recently, my wife decided to colour her hair with henna, which is an an all-natural dye used by many cultures since antiquity.  Henna can add a reddish cast to hair.  My wife was somewhat hesitant to have her results revealed on JSVB, so I opted to create an "artist's impression" of her new hair colour:

Please note that red-haired temptresses may not quite be exactly as shown.  But close!

This image was also inspired by Baz Luhrmann's spectacular and visionary chick-flick from 2001: "Moulin Rouge!"

Saturday, July 10, 2010

161 - On The Grid Again

I had to take some time away from the Internet, which is why I stopped posting for a while.  Today I am on the grid again (such as I am).  I'm back online, if the Internet will have me back, that is...

Today's image was inspired by the 1982 movie "Tron".  That's why my character is getting hammered by a glowing blue guy, if you are a kid born after that year and don't understand.  

Also, I've added some "sharing buttons" to JSVB.  I kind of hope they work.  If they do, please share nice.  I'd like to make money from my artwork, so pirating my stuff will really hurt. 

In the future, I will be making some more accessibility changes to JSVB, to fine-tune performance.  I apologize for missing Ungood Art Day (the 13th of every month).  To make up for the loss, I will add the old BraveHelperTCell post to the Ungood Art list.  I was very sick when I painted it, and the results show.  To see the BraveHelperTCell post, please click here.

160 - Eyemaster

Life in our western contemporary digital age means that nearly anybody who has been to a wedding in the last ten years ought to have a picture of themselves with those little battery-powered tealights screwed into their eyesockets.

I finally found this shot after searching the archives for a few weeks.  I like it because it was a difficult low-light long-exposure shot.  I also took it myself without being able to see anything.  Whoever invents battery-powered tealights that you can see through ought to be given a medal. 

This is a fairly accurate measure of how bored I can get when left by myself with little to do.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

159 - Ricci de Mare (Sea Urchin) Recipe

If you don't like seeing animals, Sea Urchins in this case, getting turned inside out then please do not scroll down.  This recipe involves harvesting fresh animal ingredients.  Some images may be intense!
(Scroll down to see the blog entry.)

In Italian, a riccio is a hedgehog.  Riccio de Mare, then, is a "sea hedgehog": a sea urchin.  I had my first taste of urchin in a distinctive uni sushi.  Uni is the reproductive organs of the female urchin.  They look like diarrhea, have the consistency of a raw egg, and taste... interesting.  The Italians and the Japanese in particular consider it a delicacy.

Urchin is an extremely time-sensitive product.  Leaving it to sit for even a few minutes can make it taste sour with a strong flavour of the ocean.  Absolutely fresh, urchin has a very sweet, light taste with many underlying complexities.  I have come to think that it tastes a little bit of everything all at once.  Yes, everything. 

 I finally got to taste fresh urchin at the Steveston Fish Market.  Please click here to see the market.

Please read this JSVB entry to find out more about uni sushi: click here.


For $10, I purchased three fresh red urchins from the market.  Each urchin produces 5 "roe", so that's 15 pieces altogether.  That's quite a bit for my purposes.  You can eat the roe raw or on sushi rice, although it tastes amazing on white toast with a squeeze of lemon juice. 

Since I had a lot of roe, I decided to make it into pasta sauce and eat it Italian-style.

"That's a nice pet you've got there, Bishop!" ("Aliens" movie quote)
A female red sea urchin.  You can keep them fresh for a while by covering them with a damp moist cloth.  The underside is considerably less spiny than the top.  We have to dig into the bottom to get at the stuff. 

I used a sharp kitchen knife to puncture a hole in the shell near the underside beak.  The shell is stiff, but it gives easily, so wield the knife carefully.  You don't want to damage the roe.  It's not difficult to cut a hole all the way around the beak.

I used tongs to remove the beak and discard it.  Inside, the urchin is filled with liquid.  Mostly it's semi-digested kelp.  The smell is strong of the ocean and of seaweed.  It's a good idea to pour out the liquid.  Also, you will find an amount of brown goo.  It looks a lot like chocolate pudding, and it helped me a lot to think of the stuff that way.  Didn't smell chocolatey, though. 
It's easy enough to break apart the shell, either by twisting the knife or using your hands.  The yellow masses are easy to spot as well. These are the roe.  You can scoop them out with a spoon.  Place them in a bowl with salted water.  Rinse all of the brown stuff away, as it is bitter. 
The roe can now be eaten raw, if you prefer.  I decided to make a simple sauce: melted butter, chopped garlic, a little tomato sauce, lemon, parsley, a pinch of saffron, and salt and pepper.  Heat all of the ingedients in a pan, then stir in the urchin, which I cooked very lightly.  I also started a pot of capellini, angel hair pasta. 

Here is the final presentation, with lemon and a summer salad.  Shaved parmigiano -reggiano cheese tops the dish.  Serve immediately!  It's my experience that the more time the urchin roe spends out in the open, the sooner it will lose its sweetness. 

The flavour of this dish is very Mediterranean.  The lemon and tomato pair with the fresh oceanic tones of the urchin to produce an extremely complex palette of flavours, most of them tasting either very sunny or aquatic.  Some bitterness comes through, giving each bite its own signature flavour.  I paired this dish with a very dry Sicilian white wine, served chilled.  

And that's it.  Do I expect anybody to follow this recipe?  There are already several local blogs where cooks prepare the sweet roe from Vancouver-area urchins.  Now, JSVB joins that rare membership.  It's an impressive recipe, but it's not one I want to make again for a while.


Wednesday, July 7, 2010

158 - "You've Been Warned"

Generally, I want JSVB to be approachable by everybody with an Internet connection.  However, I am finding there are times that I would like to explore visual themes that go beyond the price of a general admission ticket. 

I've decided to create some warning banners and a new JSVB Category: You've Been Warned!

The idea is that if I wish to post something that may be objectionable or should be kept from view of children or in-laws, then there will be a fair warning preceding that post.  Not that I ever to expect to show something truly disturbing, of course.

This doubles as a sketchbook exercise in making icons.  I respect the people that make great icons.  It's difficult to do well.  These pictures represent first-draft efforts at creating icons for the various warnings.  I may revise them as I go along, as rarely is a first draft any good as an icon.  These are more like little illustrations than proper icons, anyways.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

157 - Steveston Village

This long weekend, we were happy to have our cousin as a houseguest.  Among other things, we went to Steveston Village, which is a small fishing community just south of Richmond, BC, in Canada.  Historically, Steveston was known for its large fish cannery and public docks.  Now it is a major tourist destination, a place to shop, drink beer, and eat great fish and chips. 

Here, my wife and her cousin smile for the camera.  Looking great, girls!

As you can see, Steveston is a great place to go see fashion supermodels lounging around in the sun.

Lastly, a picture of the public wharf, where you can go down and buy fresh fish right off the boat.  Please note the sign for Live Sea Urchin, as this will be important in an upcoming entry to JSVB.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

156 - Happy Days

Happy Canada Day (July 1) and American Version Of Canada Day (July 4)!  Mostly together, our great nations celebrate another year of not being British.  Canada is 143 years old, and the US is a whopping 234.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

155 - Nat Bailey Nooner

Revel in the baseball nooner: the chance to exchange a mundane workday for nine innings of this most exquisite game.  Guys in suits transform into bleacher creatures.  Put away that damned blackberry already!   A shot like this tells why Nat Bailey Stadium in Vancouver consistently ranks among the top ten most appealing minor league ballparks in North America.  A hotdog, a beer, and some crackerjack complete the picture.  The home team even won, with the help of a most unusual 8-1-4 double play.