Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Landscapes of Northern California

i) Pacific Grove
ii) Sonoma Valley
iii) Golden Gate National Cemetery
iv) San Francisco Bay

*images have been captured by myself

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Foster City: Landfill of the Free!

I recently visited Foster City; a 'planned' city, member to California's Bay Area, and built atop the bounty of San Francisco's refuse. Foster City (pictured to the right) floats upon the mountainous excretions of the 21st century; otherwise known as a landfill. In all fairness, I do not know if Foster City's under belly was necessarily authored by the waste bins of soley (if at all) San Franciscans. But it may be safe to assume that folks from the Bay Area more generally (and most generously) contributed to the foundations of this ironically affluent town.

A Case Fit for Brokovich?
I stumbled upon this rather alarming sign while biking around Foster City's picturesque lagoon:
This Area Contains Chemicals Known To The State of California To Cause Cancer and Birth Defects Or Other Reproductive Harm.
More Information on Specific Exposures Has Been Provided To Tenants And Is Available At

I am not stating that Foster City's 'trashy' reputation is connected to nor disconnected from the chemicals known to cause cancer and birth defects. I am surely suspicious, however.

Expert Advice?
I spoke with an environmental consultant from the Bay Area about the sign and what kind of threat such chemicals realistically posed to residents of Foster City. He suggested that it is unlikely that Foster City presents any chemical threat greater than what is present in other cities: burn-off from fossil fuels, chemicals used for cleaning, and other harmful and possibly carcinogenic substances used to manage urban life. He also suggested that such signs are simply more common in a state that is as progressive as California, as compared with other parts of America.

Despite the consultant's reassuring demeanor, I still opted to drink bottled water while in Foster City. Would you suggest that I was behaving ridiculously? Was I on the money or at least smart in the short-run?

*images have been captured by myself

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Food Finds in San Francisco

San Francisco (SF) is a tasty town. The city’s geography by the Pacific Ocean encourages restaurants to serve up the best in both classic and modern Mediterranean cuisines. Mexican establishments are plenty abound, but I had trouble finding one I would consider recommending (although I am confident they surely exist).

David’s Deli (near Union Square) $

For the ultimate in Jewish Nosh from Bubby’s kitchen, reach David’s Deli at 474 Geary Street (near Union Square). Their homely cabbage soup, chicken salad sandwich, and potato salad hit the spot in the face of the city’s temperamental oceanic climate. The space is most uberly and authentically retro; untouched from the 1950s and complete with a linoleum countertop and vinyl leather swivel chairs.

Delissio Market & Bakery (near Golden Gate Park) $$
While Delissio will require you to drop several pretty pennies, it is well worth it. Sample the world’s best meats and cheeses from the gracious shopkeepers, nibble on a mouth-watering panini, and dare not miss out on one of their decadent desserts. I chose a poppy seed and raspberry filled cupcake topped with butter cream. Delissio is housed within the Faletti Foods grocery store at 308 Broderick Street (at Fell Street), which offers other gourmet delights at a gourmet price.
Philz Coffee (in The Mission District; two other locations in SOMA and Castro) $
A best friend of mine from LA visited SF while I was in and around the Bay Area and I can only credit her for introducing me to this marvellous coffee institution. I managed to devour 8 cups of Philz Coffee during my time in SF. The menu is short and yet plentiful, the staff are very welcoming, and the service is as much a treat as is the coffee. Coffee is ground to order (by the cup!) with blends for light, medium, and dark drinkers. I have my personal favourites, but I recommend you discover your own cup of decadence.

*images have been captured by myself

Monday, September 22, 2008

San Francisco’s Art Scene

San Francisco’s (SF) art scene is exciting and surprising, lives up to every promise, and raises the bar for 21st-century ‘creation’ cities. SF offers art lovers of every budget and nearly every taste and medium a delightful slice of imagination pie. What might I contend are some highlights?

San Francisco Art Institute

The SF Art Institute is my hidden gem. The Institute houses one of only four murals painted by Mexican artist Diego Rivera (1886-1957) in the SF Bay Area, features exciting new pieces by students who study at the Institute, houses an incredibly eclectic collection of art texts and magazines within a 70-year-old wood-panelled library, and offers breathtaking and unobstructed views of the financial district, the piers, and the entire Bay Area (pictured to the right). Admission: free!
de Young Museum
The de Young Museum, which resides amongst the gorgeous palm trees and botanical wonders of Golden Gate Park, is an architectural marvel. Constructed with beautifully treated, stamped, and patterned copper panels, the Museum offers unique spaces inside, outside, and in and around the facility, with magical organic alcoves that connect the building’s harsh materials to the soft and lush natural settings outside. The Museum seems to feature several travelling exhibitions. I visited de Young most specifically to view the glass works of Dale Chihuly (which I will speak about in another posting).
One most memorable installation was Cornelia Parker’s (b. 1956) Anti-Mass (2005), in which charcoal remains from a church that burned down in the South of the United States are suspended in air with wire. The artist’s equivocal use of the term Mass, referencing the material substance of charcoal and the congregation of Christian peoples in a Church, unite science and religion on this common basis of being connected to (or at least attempting to be connected to) the elemental universe. I am tempted to suggest that Parker’s Anti-Mass is as priceless as her materials are worthless.
Mission District Murals
The influence of Mexican and Spanish-American style murals in SF is felt most predominantly in the Latino neighbourhood of the Mission District. Local colour takes off with splashes of cobalt blue, saffron, and blistering shades of yellow. Price of admission: free. Opening hours: they never close! I cannot imagine an art-form that could be more democratic for both artist and audience.
Yerba Buena Centre for the Arts
The Yerba Buena Centre for the Arts is situated at the heart of the city and, most appropriately, was exhibiting works by artists who comprise the artistic heart of the surrounding Bay Area, entitled Bay Area Now 5. Three favourite pieces:
i) Joshua Churchill’s untitled sound and light installation transports visitors to (what I might presume to be) a fortunately hard-to-reach space of conflict, insecurity, and possibly warfare. Spectators are invited to step into a poorly-lit square room with dark corners and flashes of light that whisper through the beams that construct the floor. The walls are terrorized with post-conflict spatterings and for a most brief moment, one might actually imagine the near-daily traumas of persons living in the war-torn regions of, for example, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Georgia;
ii) Installed by an artist whose name I cannot recall, a second piece pokes fun at sexual taboos. Three parts of the male and female forms (including a pair of breasts and a penis) formed out of seemingly-rubber moulds protrude out from a white wall. As spectators approach the wall, the three body parts are automated to gyrate to the tackiest of disco tunes audible from an equally tacky boom box. The installation attempts to reclaim negative stereotypes that conventionally ostracize sexual minorities by owning and showcasing them with little apology.
iii) Painted by an artist whose name I cannot recall, a series of watercolours portray Northern California’s breathtaking mountainous landscapes opposite their less-than perfect reflections as they appear in water. The non-identical reflections suggest a city that is not necessarily flourishing as many might assume would be the case for one of America’s most progressive regions. Economic and political minorities continue to slip between the cracks of an increasingly gentrified and subsequently divided city. The rising costs of living soar past the average income-earner as the Bay Area rapidly transforms to pleasure the refined tastes of an affluent class; or, at least, the distorted reflections of Northern California’s majestic mountains suggest such a narrative.
*image of Cornelia Parker's Anti-Mass courtesy of
*image of buttocks, penis, and breasts courtesy of

*images have been captured by myself

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Images of the United Kingdom

Top row (left to right)
Tate Modern Museum, London; single day of winter, Oxford; Albert Einstein, Oxford Union

Second row
Brompton Cemetery, London

Third row
Windsor, England

Bottom row
Edinburgh, Scotland

*images have been captured by myself

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Health, labour are linked

In response to a Toronto Star article, entitled 'Linking health and low incomes' http://www.thestar.com/article/487975, I had the following response published in the Editorial section of the Toronto Star's September 1st issue:Canada's relatively poor performance on health equity, as documented by the World Health Organization's blue-ribbon panel, is mirrored in our country's employment and labour situation.
For my Master's program in Comparative Social Policy at Oxford University, I compared 15 indicators on employment and labour from supranational organizations, such as the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the International Labour Organization and the United Nations Development Programme, in 24 of the world's most developed and democratic market economies (the OECD group), including Canada.
Overall, the Nordic and Continental European countries achieved top scores, the Anglo-Saxon nations of Australia, Canada, Ireland, the U.K. and the U.S., as well as the Mediterranean nations of Greece, Portugal and Spain, ranked in the mid-range, while Central-Eastern European countries placed near the bottom end of the scale.
Canada ranked 18th due, most notably, to our lower rates of pension replacement, lower rates of household net savings, greater number of annual hours worked, less-than-generous unemployment benefits, higher childcare costs, lower rates of enrolment of children in childcare and weak employee protection legislation.
Our country's poorer outcomes on employment and labour and, as documented by the WHO, on health equity, suggest it is unlikely that these phenomena are mutually exclusive – both here in Canada and abroad.

Rahul Mediratta, Toronto

*image courtesy ofPEDRO MOLINA/NEWSART