Humorous sites

“Sign Language,” in the travel section of the The Telegraph in the UK, has been ongoing for years, and it’s “a selection of strange signs and bizarre translations from around the world.” Although the site doesn’t divide the signs into categories, I like to. Among them are “Unenticing translations into English,” such as the “Destroy Hair & Beauty Salon” in Ulan Bator, Mongolia, posted the week of 7 August 2012, “Good slag porridge,” unconsumed by English-speakers in Beijing, China, in July 2012, and “Shoes planted” and “Hell of shoe construction,” inviting the poorly-shod to the premises of a (Turkish-speaking) shoemaker in Kyrenia, Cyprus, the week of 14 August; “Incomprehensible translations,” such as “No occupying while stabling,” posted the week of 7 August and originating on a washroom door in North Korea; and “Businesses with unfortunate names,” such as “Crumblehome Builders,” beautifying the environs of Weymouth, England, and spotted the week of 14 August. Scatological humour abounds, and not every picture is funny (clichés, such as a “Cemetery Road” sign next to one that reads “Dead End,” being inevitable), but there is hilarity in every weekly batch. The captions added under every photograph by Telegraph staff are very good as well.

Refresh thyself with multitudinous yuks: Behold the winners of the 2012 Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, which is an international literary parody contest (“the Lyttoniad”) that seeks bad opening sentences to imaginary novels. Among the categories for submission are fantasy fiction, science fiction and vile puns. The deadline for each year’s contest is April 15.

Among other deathless tomes, Edward Bulwer-Lytton (1803–73), he whose name is immortalized by the bad-fiction contest, wrote an SF novel called The Coming Race (1870; reissued 2007 by Hesperus Press), about a superpowered vegetarian people, the Vril-ya, who live in deep caverns amid plans to emerge and destroy mankind. According to the Times Literary Supplement of June 29, 2007, the novel “helped to form a number of the stock tropes of popular culture; it also, by inventing a magic substance called vril, provided Bovril with a snappy name. The novel itself is dull, however; its unfortunate narrator hero spends the entire book nodding enthusiastically while his captors explain to him their superiority in all things.”

Bulwer-Lytton’s fame also lives on in the town of Lytton, the “rafting capital of British Columbia.” When B-L was the British Interior Secretary, he was responsible for building many roads in Western Canada and in Australia. (Who knew?)

Writers’ sites

  • Places for Writers; the link is to their “calls for submissions” page.
  • A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing, the blog of mystery/thriller writer J.A. Konrath (author of Whiskey SourBloody MaryDirty Martini, etc.).
  • The Critters Workshop, “an on-line workshop/critique group for serious writers of Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror.”
  • Online Writing Workshop for Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror.

Folk dancing

  • I mentioned this topic in About Me, and FAQs. I’ve been dancing for more than 35 years, and teaching for a great part of that. See the first topic on my Other Writing page for articles of folk dance/ethnology interest. I’m steadily adding to the supply.
  • International (as opposed to “ethnic”) folk dance: I belong to the Ontario Folk Dance Association (OFDA), have been on its executive numerous times over the years, and am currently (as of June 2012) the editor of its magazine, Folk Dancer. (I don’t write much for it now that I’m [again] the editor, naturally; it’s not a vanity publication. Thank goodness I have this site for self-expression.) I also belong to the Folk Dance Federation of California (North).


  • Art: I attended the Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition in Nathan Phillips Square (City Hall, downtown Toronto) for many years, and picked up some of my favourite art there, sold directly by the artists. This is where I met watercolour artist David McEown, a number of whose works I have. He teaches, too. He’s a member of the Canadian Society of Painters in Watercolour, and many other Society members attend the Outdoor Art event as well.
  • I have many small watercolours by Vermont artist Robert Sydorowich.
  • Among other artists whose work I collect are Brian Atyeo (linked to the gallery where I bought his work), Gisèle Comtois, Alain Lacaze (a painter/engraver, now living in Quebec City), Alan Ho, Nell LaMarsh (whom I first met folk dancing), Yaohua Yan and Charles Spratt. The watercolour of Charles Spratt that I own reminds me of the Eastern Ontario hamlet where my mother grew up (Easton’s Corners). Spratt painted the work in the Eastern Townships, Quebec.
  • Costumes: I own dozens of original ethnic costumes, mostly from Europe and Asia Minor, with some miscellaneous pieces from Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Japan. Some photos and descriptions can be found on the Blog.


  • Climate change: The David Suzuki Foundation
  • PollutionWatch
  • Toronto and Region Conservation Authority
  • Toronto Wildlife Centre, which has grown into Canada’s busiest wildlife centre since opening in 1993.
  • World Wildlife Fund-Canada, besides being a worthy organization doing essential work, is the beneficiary of the annual CN Tower fund-raising climb (used in a scene in Tanya Huff’s novel Blood Lines in the Fantastic Toronto survey).
  • Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (U.K.)
  • Photo gallery of The Cloud Appreciation Society.

Domesticated animals

  • I highly recommend Annex Cat Rescue of Toronto, a wonderful bunch of volunteers who make sure that all rescued cats are spayed or neutered before being adopted or replaced in feral colonies. Their website lists the cats or kittens available for adoption and provides photos and vital information on their age, sex, health and personalities, such as “very loving, affectionate cat,” “needs to be only cat,” “thinks he’s a dog,” so potential adopters can figure out ahead of time which cat will best fit into their home. (They then have to go see the cat and its foster mother.) I’ve adopted two cats from them—Georgie (pictured left, when he was a few months old) and Marcus—who were strangers when they met but are best buds now. This non-profit organization welcomes new volunteers and philanthropic donations—including Canadian Tire money!

Web design

  • Vincent Flanders’ Web Pages that Suck: Learn Good Web Design by Looking at Bad Web Design.
  • I designed this site from scratch using basic html and a program that edits it, plus Photoshop. Nothing flashy (in fact, I hate sites that flash at me), but it serves. A typical compliment I’ve gotten is, “Great, clean layout and beautiful photos.” It is meant as a site for readers, after all, and for people who’d rather their art sat still while they looked at it. And definitely for people without ADD.