Saturday, October 25, 2008

berliner bear

The night skyline of the new Berlin from the rooftop terrace of the Bundestag (German Parliament) on a chilly, October evening. (2008). The recognizable TV Tower stands proudly in the distance.

On a gorgeous Monday afternoon, I count seven of us seated on the six-person bike, peddling madly at low gear to move at a Sunday's pace down the Unter den Linden.

"Berlin's Champs-Élysées," smiles Pierre, the proud Frenchman who hails from no less than Versailles itself, to no one in particular.

Indeed, this is really something. Sight of sights, here we are, seven geography students from six different countries, making the two kilometre (1.2 mile) ride from the TV Tower in Alexanderplatz to the entrance of the Brandenburg Gate on a strange, cycling contraption. A mild commotion ensues: highly amused tourists wave and snap away with their cameras while annoyed, eye-rolling drivers stew stuck in their shiny VW's.

For a second, I think of the annals of life and history, the countless confluence of events that make this highly improbable occasion in the heart of the former East Berlin actually possible.


Yet, I'm not going to ruin this mood by over-thinking it ... reflection is for later. For now, I just enjoy my moment in the sun, knowing that there's nowhere else I would rather be.

More from Berlin to come.

Lit up to the blazes, the nighttime colours of the Brandenburg Gate, one of the most important landmarks in German and European history, make for a distinct memory. Berlin, Germany. (2008).

One of the last-remaining chunks of the Berlin Wall. (2008).

One American and five Swedes: Sean, Anna, Joachim, Vanna, Sarah, and Kajsa. Berlin, Germany. (2008). This great group of friends waited patiently in the cold with minimal complaints while I set up a multitude of night shots on the tripod throughout the evening. This particular photo was taken on the roof of the Bundestag. The Bundestag Dome, which overlooks the floor of the German Parliament, is in the background.

Bike and crew at journey's end, the Brandenburg Gate. Berlin, Germany. (2008).

The bike crew at the base of the 368-metre (1207-foot) TV Tower (or Fernsehturm, in German) in Alexanderplatz. Berlin, German. (2008). From left to right: Goya (Iran), Ralitsa (Bulgaria), Christophe (Germany), Iris (Hong Kong), Jan (Germany), and Pierre (France).

Saturday, October 18, 2008

king of prussia

Long gone are the days of lame school trips to the local museum, butcher shop, and cracker factory.

Berlin, Germany. Now that's a field trip. Yeah!

An outtake from summer, the reflection of the Universidad de Deusto and the Puente Pedro Arrupe on the Ría de Bilbao in Bilbao, Spain. (2008).

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

decision 2008: deep dish

What? Another election? No, we don't mean the upcoming US Presidential election that everyone's supposedly an expert on, but rather today's Canadian mudslingin' of a vote. Well, yee-haw! And giddy-up.

Sorry if we sound a little jaded, but quite frankly, we here at the fiercely independent headquarters of starfish and waffles grow tired of the fast-talking politicians and the mindless partisans who blindly follow. Isn't there anyone out there who can give the good bears and citizens of this fine nation what they deserve? Good government! Fiscal prudence! Enlightened problem solving! Inspired political vision!

Or, barring these things, you'd think at least we could get a tasty slice of pizza.

Peanut, the famous editor of felix's daily starfish and waffles and a future Governor-General of the Dominion of Canada, enjoys a morning slice of his very own Political Pundit Pan Pizza with a customary shot of (Swedish!) Absolut vodka.

Thankfully, disgruntled electorate, starfish and waffles is in tune with the issues nearest and dearest to your democratically inclined heart. Skeptical? Please, look at our track record. Back in 2006, we candidly spoke out on the controversial soda vs. pop debate. Then, a year later, we came up with a lasting, consensus-building solution.

And, we implore, this year will be no different as we present you with ... (drum roll please) ... Peanut's Political Pundit Pan Pizza, a pizza pie so perfectly palatable, anyone on the political spectrum oughta be able to agree on it! Don't believe us? Well, if not, then you - sir or madam - are, quite frankly, some kind of fascist-commie. Yes, that's right, you heard me: fascist-commie. Yeah, I went there!

Peanut's Political Pundit Pan Pizza
3-4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
2-1/4 cups of unbleached flour
1/2 teaspoon of salt
several dashes of dried oregano
several dashes of dried thyme
1 teaspoon of honey
4 grams of quick-rise dry yeast
3/4 cups of hot water
150 mL of pizza sauce or puréed tomatoes
250 grams of mozzarella, grated
1 tomato, sliced
4-5 crimini brown mushrooms, sliced
1/8 of a green bell pepper, diced
1/8 of an orange bell pepper, diced
12-15 slices of pepperoni
12-15 slices of smoked ham
crushed pineapple chunks

Start with the olive oil in a large mixing bowl. Next, dump in 2 cups of the unbleached flour; reserve the remaining 1/4 cup in a separate bowl in case you need this extra flour to dust your pizza dough later. Then, add the salt, thyme, and oregano to the flour mixture.

Separately, measure out the dry yeast in a large coffee mug. Spoon in the honey. Next, pour in the hot water; make sure it is scalding merely very hot. Stir vigorously together. Once you're satisfied that the yeast is blended in with the water and honey, pour the entire concoction in your mixing bowl with the flour mixture.

Now, to the nitty-gritty of working the pizza dough. Using your bare hands, mix and meld the mixing bowl ingredients until a nice, consistent blob of pizza dough has formed. It shouldn't be too sticky (dust it with some flour if it is), nor should it be too dry. The dough should feel warm, soft and a bit moist.

After several minutes of mixing and melding, cover the mixing bowl for about 5 minutes to let the dough rise. Then, slowly pound-out and spread your the dough evenly onto a 12" pizza sheet. The crust at the edges of the pan should be shaped somewhat higher.

Preheat your oven to 400F or 200C. Spoon the pizza sauce on the dough. Layer on top of the sauce the pepperoni and ham; toss on the crimini brown mushrooms where there are gaps. Add the sliced tomatoes, diced green and red bell peppers, and the crushed pineapple. Next, add the mozzarella - and now you're essentially done the prepping.

Once the oven is ready, place your pizza in the oven on the middle rack. Bake for approximately 15 to 20 minutes or until the cheese is a nice, melted goldie-brown colour.

Take your pizza out of the oven. Slice, eat, enjoy, and go vote!

For more original recipes from the dingobear kitchen, please refer to the corresponding links on the left sidebar of this page.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008


A reflection off the finely waxed floor of the sleek, Santiago Calatrava-designed Aeropuerto de Bilbao (Bilbao Airport). I turned my camera upside-down to get the reflection right-side up. Sondika, Spain. (2008).

Consider this your skill-testing question of the day.

Say, you live in a small, isolated town in the far, far north of Canada. You are in desperate need of a haircut. There are only two hairstylists in town. One has stunningly beautiful, gorgeous hair. The other has gag-inducing, hideous hair. Both have gonorrhea. Who do you choose to cut your hair, and why? (Assume you have stumps for hands due to an incident with a polar bear and, therefore, cannot cut your own hair).

Me and the editor await your reply.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

six ways from sunday: rainy adventures in lo-fi

Even in the midst of a torrential downpour, the wheels on the bus go round-and-round in Marsaxlokk, Malta. (2008).

In the opening lines of the hit film, High Fidelity, the main character who's played by John Cusack, asks himself in a spate of frustration:

"What came first, the music or the misery? People worry about kids playing with guns, or watching violent videos, that some sort of culture of violence will take them over. Nobody worries about kids listening to thousands, literally thousands of songs about heartbreak, rejection, pain, misery and loss. Did I listen to pop music because I was miserable? Or was I miserable because I listened to pop music?"

We, here at felix's daily starfish and waffles, don't have immediate answers, but these sonic dilemmas somehow seem appropriate to ponder on stormy Swedish Sundays like today. What can you do? We say: just slip on your headphones, press play, and drift away. When the music stops, you'll be as right as rain - we promise.

With that, here's a sampler six-pack of indie pop fodder for your rainy day, euphonic pleasure; active links below turn on the volume for full-length YouTube clips. Enjoy or, as the case may be, wallow with all your heart's content.

1. Elevator Love Letter :: Stars :: Heart (2003). The opposing male-female vocals of Torquil Campbell and Amy Millan front this clear-and-catchy number from the Montréal-based indie pop rockers. "Don't go / Say you'll stay / Spend a lazy Sunday in my arms / I won't take anything away."

2. Please Please Please :: Shout Out Louds :: Howl Howl Gaff Gaff (2005). Energetic arrangements, straight ahead rock-pop, and melodic hooks feature in this standout single from the Stockholm quintet. "But we're all happy 'cause the streets they're always there for us / And it's quite scary when you wake up in the same old clubs / It's getting darker and I know this time wasn't meant for us / So won't you please, please, please come back to me?"

3. Hand On Your Heart :: José González :: Stay in the Shade (2006). The Swedish singer-songwriter scores big in a stunning, acoustic rendition which sounds a world apart from the Kylie Minogue original. "You know it's one thing to say you love me / But another to mean it from the heart / And if you don't intend to see it through / Why did we ever start?"

4. Untouchable Face :: Ani DiFranco :: Dilate (1996). With 21 (and counting) albums released in the past 20 years, there isn't much that hasn't already been said about this prolific punk-folkie from Buffalo, New York. Delivering live performances like no other, Untouchable Face is vintage Ani. "You'll look like a photograph of yourself taken from far, far away / And I won't know what to do / And I won't know what to say / Except fuck you / And your untouchable face / And fuck you / For existing in the first place."

5. Long Lost Penpal :: Hello Saferide :: Introducing ... Hello Saferide (2005). Hailing from Östersund, Sweden, writer-singer-songwriter Annika Norlin is Hello Saferide, delivering quirky and ironic melodies wrapped in dry-humoured, Scandinavian style. Norlin blogs about some of her very own long lost penpals here. "Hello / Do you remember me / I am your long lost penpal / It must have been ten years ago we last wrote / I don't really know what happened / I guess life came in the way."

6. Pictures of You :: The Cure :: Disintegration (1989). Not so much indie rock as a throwback to 1980's post-punk pop revival, this obscure single from The Cure still sounds as good as the day it was first released. "I've been looking so long at these pictures of you / That I almost believe that they're real / I've been living so long with my pictures of you / That I almost believe, that the pictures are all I can feel."