Ooooooo & Ouch

22 September 2019 – I’m crossing Cambie St. on West Cordova, deep in Gastown territory, lots of gloss & touristy flash and noisy patios and whatnot, and then … wait a minute …

Oooooooo

A patio, not noisy, and okay definitely glossy, but the gloss is on the table-tops and it makes their designs dance for us, even on this dull day.

I lean over the railing for a closer look.

Well, that’s fun. Bold lines, local references (“Gastown” and the iconic East-Van cruciform image…) and even, on that far right corner, some words.

So I lean even closer.

And I am happy.  Amidst all the Gastown tourist come-on, some real humanity. Not generic design work on these tables, but specific art by a specific artist, Alberto, who this time around had some help from Katarina and chooses to offer her a very public thank-you.

Oooooo-worthy, on all levels.

?????

Hah, not the heading you expected, but accurate to what I’m thinking — if confusion amounts to thinking — as I head south on Homer from West Hastings.

What is that image, there on the south-east alley corner? Surely not a green & white python, swirling up from its street-level basket?

No, of course it’s not.

It’s a woman, albeit quite improbably swirly in form, with a flower. Green, white and, I now see, lavender. (Nicely picked up in the lavender shade of the graffiti on the lamp post…)

I am no longer ???? about the image, but still pretty darn ????? about why it’s there.

The sidewalk sign tells me this shop is called Coalition Skin and, once I get past the scowling feline and read the small print …

the Ouch sets in.

 

 

 

Door to Door

19 September 2019 – Two walking women meet one walking man.

Not any old walking man — this is Walking Man (Howard Street, Glasgow), by Alex Tedlie-Stursberg.

Thing is, we’re not in Glasgow. We’re in Eihu Lane, downtown Vancouver — specifically the two blocks of this commercial laneway, wedged between Alberni & Robson, that lie between Burrard & Bute.

It is a very busy commercial lane.

More than once, we have to summon our inner gazelle & leap to safety. (Not as gracefully as the gazelle, perhaps, but with the same sense of urgency.)

It’s worth it. We are walking the City’s new Canvas Corridor — 45 murals adorning back doors and vents, in a laneway project involving downtown business associations, the City of Vancouver and 27 artists (culled from hundreds of applicants via the Simon Fraser University School for Contemporary Arts and the Vancouver Mural Festival).

There are delicately haunting doorways (I Hate Rain, Nadia So) …

vibrating doorways (Holy Mountain/Man, Adam Rashid) …

two-fers …

and even four-fers.

There’s a city on the tip-tilt (City, Jag Nagra) …

and a sraight-up heart …

with, just like it says …

Enough Room For One More (Justine Crawford).

We laugh and point and compare/contrast and leap out of the way of trucks and leap back into mid-lane and, finally, realize it’s time to put on our skates (with Skatemail man, Graeme Kirk) …

and leave the alley.

So we follow that cement mixer as he pulls away …

and get one final treat.

Just look what he was obscuring

Hello Malayan Tiger, thank you Elaine Chen.

(And yes, this is the twice-promised post, about the rendezvous I was rushing to keep when that panel of VSE hand signals slowed me down.)

 

A Loop Beneath a Rain-Rich Sky

14 September 2019 – Rich more in promise than delivery, though, as I write this, rain is pelting down.

Earlier, the sky is merely lowering, luminous grey, the air heavy with its cargo of rain. But I am now a Vancouverite, am I not? I put on my jacket, tuck a mini-umbrella into my backpack, and off I go.

A loop, I tell myself: down to the eastern end of False Creek, west up its north side to the Cambie bridge, over the bridge, back east to Creek-end once more, and home.

I’m not the only Vancouverite. Waving-cat Maneki-nako stops waving, wraps his paw around an umbrella instead, and turns into rain-cat.

Luminous sky means darker darks & punched-up colour, this rain-filled trench in a construction site suddenly a turquoise pond.

Site equipment rears dark against the sky …

as do hydro poles in a nearby alley, their attendant crows somehow even blacker than  usual.

Down on False Creek, an inukshuk seems to huddle against the chill …

and tide height turns rock tips into dark islands in the glittering waters.

A woman stops beside me, also contemplating the rocks. We chat, her small dog with butterfly ears yips at a passing gull. “I named him Napoleon for good reason,” she sighs. “Small Frenchman with big attitude.”

Just before the south-side ramp up onto the Cambie bridge, I pause again. A kid & his skateboard take a breather beside the mural with its large “Stay in school” message. It’s Saturday. He’s legal.

Over the bridge, and, starting down the spiral staircase at the south end, I hear music.

I look over the edge.

Some passer-by has pushed  back the protective tarp, and started playing the public piano that lives here on Spyglass Dock every summer. The music swells; the pavement murals glow in the mist.

A little farther east, I watch crows fly in to join their fellows in a favourite staging tree. Come evening, they’ll take wing for their nightly migration to the next municipality over, Burnaby. Night after night, they swirl past my balcony, dozens at a time.

 

Mist has turned to drizzle; drizzle is thickening to rain. One more line of hydro poles, as I cut south-east toward home. No crows here, just one bright saw-tooth line of pink warning flags.

And now… rain! I scamper.

(You’re right: this is not the post I semi-promised you last time around. This one seemed more here-and-now. That one comes next. Yes! I promise.)

2 Km Along the Salish Sea

2 September 2019 – But let us be more precise.

(Deep breath.) The Powell River Sea Walk Trail runs for 2 km south from Westview Wharf along the intertidal areas of the adjacent Malaspina Strait, which lies between Texada Island and this mainland coast and is a subset of the Strait of Georgia, which (another deep breath) in turn and in combination with the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Puget Sound, comprise the Salish Sea.

One more bit of commentary and then, I promise you, I’ll get on with the walk. I never thought about intertidal zones or what truly constitutes a “beach” until I read Silver Donald Cameron‘s remarkable book, The Living Beach. First published in 1998, it’s still available (check the usual online sources) and if you’d like to know why you should try to seek it out, read this review in Quill & Quire. Whatever the date of the review (not given, tsk tsk), the analysis is not dated.

On with the walk!

I very slightly already know Westview Wharf. I stood here several evenings ago, transfixed like other strollers by the late-day sun as it began its descent to the ocean below.

But now it is today, and noon-ish, and the blazing sun is having a high old laugh at the weather forecast that promised clouds.

There has been habitat amelioration along the first part of this Trail, notably to enhance the eelgrass beds and the salt marshes. Shore grasses and wildflowers have that late-summer, exhausted look about them…

The Trail pamphlet urges me to watch for Harlequin ducks, Great Blue Heron and Harbour seals, but makes no mention of vigilant pussycats.

I do later see one GBH, but no seals and only generic (to my ignorant eyes) duck-ducks, no identifiable Harlequins. Mind you, I get to watch a black & white stand-off, gulls vs crows, much squawking and flapping as they argue some choice bit of carrion.

There’s another wharf mid-way south, a marina offering more private docking. I see, overhear & chat with some of the visiting mariners, some strolling the Trail and others briskly returning to their boats with provisions.

The beach becomes rockier, gradations from sand to boulders, no more marshland.

Many benches along the way, most strictly utilitarian (wood on metal frames, sturdy & comfortable), but with a few stand-outs, including a trio by First Nations carvers (Tla’amin or Shishálh, I don’t know which).

One is brightly coloured …

and the other two incised but unpainted, giving the design itself that much more impact.

I look north again across the trio, my eye shooting past the heart of town, right up to the mill at the far end, with its plume of smoke rising to join those cloud-puffs on the right. (And we know, don’t we, that The Hulks are up there as well, a necklace of protection for the mill and its activities.)

Rocky beaches always mean inukshuks.

No surprise there should be one right here, along with the driftwood “gate” …

at the end of the Trail.

 

 

 

 

PR Fauna (Visible & Invisible) and a Candle

1 September 2019 – This was not the plan. I meant to be up in Lund today, truly end of the road, soaking up sights & thoughts to share with you in a post to be so-cutely entitled, “197 Km from Home.”

Turns out Info-Centre Lady was wrong. She had assured me I was just in time: today would be the last run this summer of the seasonal Sunday bus service to Lund. No. My unrewarded vigil at the bus stop proved that when the Transit authority said it was a July-August service, they meant literally that. And today is September, isn’t it?

So (in my very best mature/philosophic traveller way) I thought to myself, Never mind… let’s just see what Powell River wants to offer me today instead.

It offered me fauna, visible & invisible, and a candle.

By “fauna” I do mostly mean animals, and I bet you’re waiting for at least a bear. Maybe no cougar, no elk, not here in town, but at least a bear.

I will show you an invisible bear.

You can’t see him, and neither did I.

But while I was taking this photo at the Log Dump the other day, a couple stopped their car long enough to tell that that I was standing exactly — exactly — where they had seen a bear just the day before. I thanked them politely, and later wondered whether they’d been hoping for a more excited reaction than that.

On to the invisible wasps.

A practically invisible warning, too, thanks to the day’s intermittent showers. Still, I appreciate the City’s efforts to prevent any collision between human skin and wasp stingers.

Enough invisibles, on to the visibles.

Polecrows! (If we can have Polecats, why not polecrows?)

Speaking of cats, a cat named Spot …

and a dog named No! …

and a … ummmm … an owlcat.

Beak of owl, ears of pussycat, all we lack is the pea-green boat. But, look, owlcat is pea-green. So Edward Lear would approve, after all.

On to the candle.

To my delight, the Powell River Forestry Museum is open today, down there on Willingdon Beach.  I go in, not just to see what they have, but also to tell them how much I enjoyed the trail through the forest (another project of the Powell River Forestry Heritage Society) and all that it taught me about the history of the industry and the equipment that has been part of it.

So here I am, walking around, and I meet a candle. The Swedish Candle, sometimes aka The Finnish Candle, or even, The Canadian Candle.

You will suspect me of showing you an invisible candle, out there somewhere with the bear and the wasps, but no … that log is the candle.

Lund would have been a whole different day. But this one was just fine.

 

 

170 Km from Home…

30 August 2019 – It’s the start of a holiday weekend, so I join the exodus from town.

I’m on a B.C. Ferry run from Horseshoe Bay to Langdale — first hop in a ferry/bus/ferry/bus trip that will take me those 170 km up the Sunshine Coast to Powell River.

Powell River was all about forestry, is imprinted by forestry, and still produces newsprint and other specialty papers. The Powell River Company began building a pulp and paper mill here in 1909, started production in 1912, and at one point was the largest pulp mill in the world. The mill was built on the unceded lands of Tla’amin First Nation, whose people were summarily relocated without compensation. Logging practices were equally cavalier, and equally accepted, in the spirit of the day.

The day has changed, old practices and arrangements have changed, are changing, but — here as elsewhere — aboriginal/logging/environmental cross-currents still swirl. I am aware of what I don’t know and choose to step aside from judgment, and simply see what I see.

First full day in town, down to Willingdon Beach Park, heading for the forest trail that will launch my walk to the Historic District. I’m clipping through the park at speed — I have places to go! — and I stop in my tracks. Just look what young Eli Hueston has done.

Clever-boots Eli, and clever the team that turned his design for an octopus bike rack into the real thing. (Well, no, not a real octopus…)

And onto the Trail — a nature trail since the 1920s, when the logging railway ties and rails were removed.

It’s a little over a kilometre in length, and I don’t expect it to take up much time, or occupy much mind-space. La-la, great tall trees and cedar path and glimpses through the trees over the gravelly beach to Malaspina Srait. A joy, all of it, but I’m moving right along.

Ah but, you see, there are signs all along the way and I am a sucker for signs. (Ask Phyllis or Frances, bless their patient souls.) So I am impressed to learn that the gravel mixed into the ground beneath my feet, up here at a higher level, is Pleistocene-era, originally deposited at sea level but stranded when the glaciers melted (some 10,000 years ago) and the land rebounded.

No sign for this uprooted giant tree, but I stop to gawk anyway. My attitude about this Trail has definitely shifted.

Mind, there are lots of signs about the trees and plant life: Western Redwood Cedar (B.C.’s official tree), Sitka Spruce, Douglas Fir, Western Hemlock, the Grand Fir, Sword Ferns (which always make me expect a dinosaur around the next bend), Salal, Oregon Grape…

I read all this, but what really stops me, again and again, are all the pieces of old logging machinery, now on open-air display here in the forest. (And where better?)

A boomboat, for example (used in the booming ground to sort logs into booms) …

and a 1940s Track Logging Arch (towed behind bulldozers to elevate one end of a turn of logs being skidded to a loading area or a dump).

Like huge mechanical children, playing hide-&-seek in the forest.

Here’s another — a 1941 steam shovel that had been converted to a log loader.

I move in close to this example of a Spliced Eye. Sounds gruesome, but we’re talking about logging cables …

their wires interwoven to shape and secure an eye.

And here, oh look, the wonderfully named Steam Donkey, creating the steam to power the winches to spool the cables.

I reach the other end of the Trail, marked by this High Frame Hammer. I don’t know what it did, when it was active, they don’t tell me, and I don’t care. I’m charmed because it looks like a puppy-dog, paws up and begging for a treat.

End of the Trail, and polite, law-abiding citizens are supposed to peel off to a designated road. Because, if you go straight ahead, you are on a private industrial road, in active use, and You. Are. Trespassing.

I trespass! Somewhere back there on the Trail, I met Bruce R.V. (as I dub him), Bruce-who-lives-in-an-R.V. and comes here a lot. He tells me how much more interesting it is to carry on down the private road — “Just watch for trucks” — and visit the Log Dump, and on from there, for a first glimpse of The Hulks, and eventually turn right and wiggle up into the Historic District.

So I do.

I reach the Log Dump, look out into the Strait where busy little boats take the dumped logs and shape them into booms. (Oh! They must be boomboats! A word I just learned minutes ago springs to life!)

While here I fall into conversation with Raven Lady — well, I muscle in on her conversation with friends, and they don’t object. She’s telling them about the raven duo that stay around her home, and how much she enjoys them. Suddenly she points into the water: “Baby seal!” Yes, she can tell that little head is a baby, not an adult — partly by comparative size (practice has given her that skill), and partly because babies only partially raise their heads, while adults lift them clear of the water.

Raven Lady suggests that, once I hit the Historic District, I head for Townsite Brewery. “And if you don’t care for beer, order a kombucha. They have that on tap as well.” I promise.

I carry on. Passing crows on this side …

and a whole wall of murals on the other side …

as I leave the Log Dump. Imagine that, I walk right past a whole wall of street art.

And I walk and I walk. And then I stop, because, ohhhh, it’s my first glimpse of The Hulks.

See? Floating concrete boats, forming a breakwater for the mill. (I don’t know it, but I’ll see them again, much later in my walk.)

Finally I hit the edge of the Historic District, and I am tired. I still plan to follow my self-guiding tour (pamphlet in hand) around the District, but… oh… I am so relieved to see the Veterans’ Memorial Park, with its welcome benches and fountain ringed by spitting lions.

I long for that kombucha.

I wonder where Townsite Brewery might be. It’s not on my little map. I spin 360-degrees at the next intersection — and there it is! I march in, plonk myself at the bar, order my drink, and am delighted to overhear the cheerful barmaid chatter with the couple next to me and their little girl. Barmaid: “And which beer do you want, miss?” Little girl, in fits of giggles: “I don’t drink beer! I want … mummy, what’s it called?” Mummy supplies the magic word, and little girl gets her very own kombucha.

Such a family-friendly bar, and surely this explains the door frame.

Yup. Children’s heights, one after another, each with the child’s name and date he/she grew that tall.

I do a really truncated self-guiding tour, because Self is getting tired. I keep the Patricia Theatre on my hit list — founded in 1913, it is now the province’s oldest continuously active theatre — but I stop to read this Garage Sale sign before I cross the street to visit it.

The sale has items you probably wouldn’t see in an urban setting, a cement mixer being one of them.

Almost out of the District, with a detour to look at St. David and St. Paul’s Anglican Church — but I’m stopped first by this bus-shelter bench in front of the church.

Shaped from mud adobe-style, as you can see, and with a wooden hatch door. I open it. It’s a Little Free Library.

Is this not wonderful? No signage, so I can’t give appropriate credit.

The church sponsors a community permaculture project called Sycamore Common, which also includes a labyrinth.

I am delighted that the sign for the labyrinth quotes the same Antonio Machado reference I use on my blog home page (“Paths are made by walking”).

Finally onto Marine Avenue — parallel to the waterfront, but above it — to start the walk back to my part of town. Pure highway at this point, and not that appealing, except that it’s leading me home, which begins to seem awfully attractive.

Then I am rewarded: a lookout point for The Hulks.

One last look …

And on down Marine Avenue I go, tromp-tromp.

I’m startled to discover that I’m not allowed to cross the street …

while deer are allowed to leap all over the place. (See that yellow sign with the black symbol, farther down?)

I have so had enough! Tromp-tromp.

Eventually, of course, I hit my stretch of Marine Avenue — where I fall into the first café in sight. Time for a reviving latte. Through the window I notice a wall mural opposite, featuring a very large blue crow.

Nicely re-caffeinated, I check out the wall before the final sprint home.

Very nice blue crow. But I like the cat even more.

(He’s there. Keep looking.)

 

The Street, The Beat

24 August 2019 – I’m hardly the first to muse about the way “the street” so often leads “the beat” — i.e., the way many big-name creative people, big-name brands, politicians etc. keep tuned to what’s happening out there on the street, and then adapt it for their own vocabulary and objectives.

But here I am, musing a-fresh, in the aftermath of the Vancouver Mural Festival which, as always, is centred around my neighbourhood, Mount Pleasant. It took shape here because some artists lived & worked around here already, and because enough local building owners resonated with the idea and offered up their walls.

So now street art is part of the image of the “new”(moving from sketchy to quirky/interesting/trending) Mount Pleasant.

References to the Festival hit vacant walls, and don’t need further explanation …

and already amazing murals have received their final knock-out element. Here, it’s the 3D hand to go with the face in this now-complete work by the Medianeras duo.

It’s not just the Festival, though.

Street art, playing with what’s on the street, is in the local vocabulary.

Right here on a pedestrian-walk button, for example.

That’s playful, modest, & definitely “street.” I begin noticing the influence on our local “beat” — how up-market merchants want the connection, want the street-art cred, though of course suitably translated into up-market terms.

A picture-framing gallery includes this shot of alley-art in its classy window display …

and a new luxury condo tower builds this imagery into its façade — part of a corporate strategy to attract with-it, design-conscious, urban/urbane residents.

Yes.

Well.

On the other hand.

The street does not like being co-opted. It has its own opinion about new luxury condo  towers, whatever their design may include.

It’s an old, old story, isn’t it? Artists move into broken-down neighbourhoods, since that’s what they can afford, and through their energy & creativity make those neighbourhoods newly vital & interesting — whereupon the Brand Name Boys take note, become interested, and move in themselves.

Whereupon, too often, the artists can no longer afford to live there, and have to move out. I hope it doesn’t happen here.

The street, the beat.

 

2HOT4U

15 August 2019 – No, no, indeed not. Never 2HOT4 you.

Allow me to broaden the claim: never 2HOT4 us.

That’s just Vancouver graphic artist Alex Joukov having his little joke …

tucked into his contribution to the 4th annual Vancouver Mural Festival.

We’ve just emerged from the 10-day event (1-10 August), which this year added another 25 or so street murals to the 97 created in previous years, all of it carried out through the not-for-profit Create Vancouver Society.

The epicentre is my own Mount Pleasant neighbourhood. I wandered into the festival by accident that very first year while doing an Airbnb stint in this part of town — talk about serendipity! — and I’ve loved it ever since. This year it’s a mix of local artists (of various backgrounds, including indigenous) plus ones from Australia, Japan, Argentina and the USA.

There’s a whole clutch of new works right around Manitoba and West 7th, including Alex’s car-on-fire, in a great range of styles.

Everything from William Liao’s haunting face down an alley …

to Pablo Zamudio’s dramatic play of colour & line, in a neighbouring alley.

We watch murals take form, from one day to the next.

One day, there’s the barest whisper of sketch marks on the wall …

and next day, bold colour owns the wall.

Artists work in all sorts of ways. Up on an accordian-pleat Skyjack, as you’ve just seen,

or …

on a vast multi-storey scaffolding grid,

or …

 

on a human-scale wooden ladder,

or …

up in a cherry picker.

Through whatever combination of mood, temperament, and work pressure, the artists either ignore the onlookers, briefly acknowledge their presence, or — as with the Argentinian artists who comprise Medianeras (above) — engage with us, rise to our interest.

The women field our questions, talk about what they’re creating, and point out the footprints they have helpfully painted into the pavement below, showing us exactly where to stand for the best possible view.

We comply.

And we see just how, as intended, the human being on the side of this entrance-way does indeed seem to be emerging from the building.

I double back to the Festival’s gallery on 7 1/2 Lane, between Ontario & Quebec streets and (as the Lane’s own name tells you) between 7th and 8th avenues. Several new works are in progress, joining several from other years, including this 2018 contribution by Linsey Levendall.

It’s moody, skillful work, given an unintended zap by the current placement of that dumpster, right under the subject’s nose.

But … that’s street art, isn’t it? Each piece lives with everything else in its environment. It’s a dance with changing circumstances, and we the viewers, through our reactions, keep the beat.

One final work I have to photograph, right there among the 7 1/2 Lane murals.

“That’s not part of the festival,” somebody helpfully tells me. Good grief, I know that.

But who can ignore Romulus and Remus?

That Archetypal Picket Fence

9 August 2019 – Growing up, we knew what it was, and what it stood for. The picket fence was white, and suburban, and it stood for all things predictable, bland, and safe.

But now that picket fence may be black.

And downtown (well, east-end off Commercial Drive).

And not predictable.

It may offer an unexpected little visual treat ..

or even two.

No signature, no flourishes, and à propos of nothing at all. Just … there it is. Enjoy.

Wandering

28 July 2019 – My feet are wandering, as they tend to do, but more obediently than usual. This time they are trotting along with others, all of us on a neighbourhood tour of “lower Mount Pleasant” (close-ish to the south-east end of False Creek).

The guide is pointing out evidence of the social, industrial and built heritage of the area: remnants of the vernacular residential architecture of the 1910s, for example (gables, wood cladding and off-set front doors) …

or …

remnants of mid-century shop signage. (Bike Woman is listening to our guide, who is out of frame to the left.)

I am also listening, I am, but while my feet are obedient wanderers, my eyes are rebellious wanderers, and they keep leading my mind a-stray.

Here we are being shown one of those early homes, still surviving and freshly painted.

Only my eyes bounce off the bright paint, weave through the tree branches, and fasten on that bit of street mural beyond.

Now we’re being told more about the history of this house, and the (woeful) state of heritage designation in the area. My eyes instead slide along the building’s side wall and hop over alley space to contemplate the shipwreck in turquoise waters, ‘way down there.

And so it goes.

Another intersection, more information, and, though my feet are behaving themselves, my eyes are still on the prowl.

Look! A whole exuberant dance across that white wall over there, nicely framed by modes of transport: a sturdy truck up close, a sleek auto-share vehicle across the street, and guy wheeling his bike through the doorway.

Next, a neat little square of mural, far end of that parking-lot grid, tucked behind the hydro pole …

and, later, a huge full-wall’s worth of faces, with the vacant lot offering an unobstructed view of every detail.

Nothing distant about this one! We’re on the pavement right in front.

Smack-dab under the dog’s whiskers, and still, the guide manages to ignore him.

She is just not a street-art kind of gal. (I shouldn’t beat up on her — we all edit what we’re going to notice and not notice, otherwise we couldn’t get through the day.)

She does mention the company, though: apparently Mount Pleasant Furniture does a roaring business renting props to movie shoots in town.

Their doorway window gives just the tiniest indication of how many props must be on offer.

Tour over, and my feet, eyes and mind are now free to wander in unison.

Feet stop while eyes and mind enjoy this real, live dog on Main Street, patiently waiting for his human to abandon the delights of the Cartems “donuterie” and take him home.

Feet stop again just across the intersection.

Eyes read, mind again enjoys this street ode that I have read before …

with summer tree-shade bringing the text to life.

I do pause, one further moment.

And then — feet, eyes, mind, and everything in between — I wander on home.

 

  • WALKING… & SEEING

    "Traveller, there is no path. Paths are made by walking" -- Antonio Machado (1875-1939)

    "The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes" -- Marcel Proust (1871-1922)

    "A city is a language, a repository of possibilities, and walking is the act of speaking that language, of selecting from those possibilities" -- Rebecca Solnit, "Wanderlust: A History of Walking"

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