Sunday, December 3, 2017

Crow and the Druids *


Late autumn being a changeable season here Crow and I spent a recent afternoon reviewing his archives while a drenching rain spattered the tall arched windows that overlook his terrace. Just as I was about to pour the tea he thrust an old picture between me and the Royal Albert saying, 'Aha! I've been meaning to show you a picture of Gaith, my old Druid friend, and here is one of both of us scratched upon this piece of bark. Amazing how well this stuff keeps, isn't it?'

I've long stopped being surprised at the immensity of Crow's historical social circle, but he'd never mentioned Druids before. I made myself comfortable in my favorite of his wing back chairs, took a sip of Oolong and sat back to listen:

'It probably won't surprise you to hear that even in the dim, dark past there were crazy, power hungry male persons who made a general nuisance of themselves by making up excuses to kill their neighbors and take their land. The first thing they always did was to demand that the young men in their kingdoms supply themselves with pointed sticks or whatever, swords being both rare and expensive, and join in the battles. Some young men who weren't pleased with this mad idea ran away to the forest.

'The forests of Europe and old England were very large indeed. Still, it wasn't easy to get by on your own and certainly there were no modern conveniences like waterproof shoes and tents - never mind nicely packaged emergency food supplies.

'On this particular fine morning, Gaith and I had been strolling along a path overhung by the branches of sacred oak trees when we came upon a weary looking but handsome youth sitting by a brook. After mutual greetings we sat and shared some food and listened to his reasons for preferring a life of peace. Rather than going to war he had run away to a place where he hoped to enjoy life and creation, learn its wonders and strive for answers to the big questions. My friend Gaith, being a Druid, one of those rumored to have strange powers, invited him to join his band as a junior member. 

'Whether they were called Yogis, Magi, Lamas, Monks or Druids, all of them strove to learn. They developed techniques and applications; they dreamed dreams and studied nature intensively. As it took a very long time to become a Master Druid, perhaps twenty years or more, they arranged their membership into sections (like colleges) that depended upon knowledge and individual attainments. They also developed a brilliant plan designed to lessen the violence of the crazy men. What was it? First, you have to understand they already had much to offer by their abilities with Astrology and calendars; they knew much about plants and the healing arts. They also knew how to manipulate materials and some, like my friend Gaith, were experts in speaking the Language of the Birds. That's how we first became friends (he told some excellent people jokes). What the Druids offered freely to the crazy men who ruled at that time were the members of their lowest college, the Bards.

'Our new young friend who was called Oisin would be trained as one of them, a singer of history. From what I heard later he did well and even stopped a war or two by singing Sagas of previous encounters between the combatants. Of course, the other king also had a Bard and the two likely collaborated to mold a peace. This was the foundation of Diplomacy vs mindless War.'


Rocking back on his perch, Crow snagged a piece of fruitcake, arched his brow and remarked, 'Aren't you glad to know there are still Druids in the world today?'

Yes, yes I am, but we could always use a few more. The rain having stopped by then, we went for a walk by the sea.

***

* Despite the fact this was originally posted several years ago it seemed worthy of another look. Besides, on a recent rainy afternoon Crow remembered the words of another of his old friends:

St. Thomas Aquinas raised the question of why there are so many diverse forms of life on Earth, and answered by saying, "It is because of the desire of goodness to share itself and so the Divine wished to reflect and share Himself in a created world. Because of the inadequacy of any one species to fulfil this role, the whole of creation participates in and represents the richness and splendour and majesty of God more than any single creature."

The response of some human beings to this has been to go to war against this diversity. Making war on creation you become the enemy of the Creator. There will never be peace between humans until you have peace with the Earth and the wider Earth community.


Wednesday, November 29, 2017

negatively positive



This is a pretty odd picture for me to have painted - no people, no animals, no creatures at all for that matter, and neither is there a landscape or a comfortably furnished space. It came about because I felt like painting something just to watch the colours develop in negative space. I didn't stop to save the in-between bits but the idea is to lay down some background colours then draw some shapes on top. Then paint around them using slightly deeper shades of the background hues. Then you draw more shapes under the first lot and continue doing so until you get bored. It took me four layers to get bored. I think next time I'll go back to drawing (and painting) more story-like pictures - like this one:



no woman no cry

You might enjoy watching the most bizarre musical performance I've seen recently. The song, released in 1974 by Bob Marley and the Wailers, addresses a poor woman growing up in the Jamaican slums, promising that things will be “alright” and asking her not to cry.

This version is Bahraini - not Saudi - nevertheless it's a country whose policies regarding women is very similar to other Gulf monarchies, ie, women there can vote and run for public office but very few have been allowed to exercise those rights.




What a world, eh? You have to laugh.

Then there's this one:



Monday, November 6, 2017

every picture tells a story

pic 1

pic 2

pic 3

pic 4

pic 5

pic 6

pic 7

 pic 8

pic 9



pic 10

The first three were drawn on a sketch pad.
Transferred to watercolour paper by number four.
Then ink.
Then base colour shading.
Adding colour washes.
What's outside the window?
Good enough.
Time to start another.

Even simple things aren't always easy, are they?



Saturday, October 28, 2017

life is short, fashion is eternal


When Hallowe'en comes around and we have time to think of such things most people agree that the belief in ghosts stems from the ancient concept that there is a person inside the person, some type of animating spirit. In other words we think of ghosts as being people without bodies. Now if this is the case it's not much of a jump to reverse the logic and say that people are just ghosts who do have physical bodies. Of course this leads us to imagine all sorts of fascinating possibilities about the essential nature of life, the universe, and everything. But that's a discussion best left for another time. What I'd like to do this time is to share the Victorian tale of Mrs. Butler.


It seems that in 1891 a certain Mrs. Butler, who lived in Ireland with her husband, dreamed of finding herself in a very beautiful house, furnished with all imaginable comforts. The dream made a deep impression on her mind, and the following night she again dreamed of the same house and of going over it. And so for many nights in succession, until in the family circle she and her house of dreams became the subject of gentle raillery. In 1892 the Butlers decided to leave Ireland and take up their residence in England. They went to London and procured from various agencies lists of country houses. Having heard of a house in Hampshire, they went out to see it. At the gate-keeper’s lodge Mrs. Butler exclaimed, “This is the gate-house of my dream!” And when they reached the house she affirmed the house to be that of her dreams. The woman in charge proceeded to show the premises, and Mrs. Butler said she recognized all the details, except a certain door, which it turned out had been added to the place within six months. The estate being for sale at a very low price, the Butlers decided to buy it.

When it was bought and paid for, the price had been so extraordinarily small, that they could not help a misgiving that there must be something wrong with the place. So they went to the agent of the people who had sold it and said, ‘Well, now the purchase is made and the deeds are signed, will you mind telling us why the price asked was so small?’ The agent had started violently when they came in, but recovered himself. Then he said to Mrs. Butler, ‘Yes, it is quite true the matter is quite settled, so there can be no harm in telling now. The fact is that the house has had a great reputation for being haunted; but you, madam, need be under no apprehensions, for you are yourself the ghost!’ On the nights when Mrs. Butler had dreamt she was at her house, she - her ‘astral body’ - had been seen there.

****

The pictures I've posted this time are two of a group of similar ones I painted in the mid-80s that were given as presents..


back in the days when the saying went:  Grrls just wanna have fun. :)

Speaking of which:





Tuesday, October 10, 2017

at home with Crow



When I brought Crow and his friend their afternoon tea I heard them discussing one of those irritations of modern life that drive me crazy too. Why is it that grocery stores announce with pride they have no plastic carry bags to hand out to customers but just about everything they sell is encased in layers of the stuff? Cosmetics, personal care items, toys, eggs, chocolates, produce, cookies, snack foods, tools and appliances are just a few items that create packaging discards we all deal with. A single purchase can mean bringing home more packaging than product.

Since 1960, the use and disposal of single-use plastic packaging has grown from 120,000 tons to over 12,720,000 tons per year today. It used to be the idea that packaging protected a product from damage but nowadays it's just another marketing tool to get us to buy things. Apparently the manufacturers think items packed in hard shelled, difficult (and possibly dangerous) to open plastic packages appear to be more attractive. Whatever happened to cellophane and cardboard? What makes plastic packaging worse is that it raises the cost of every item covered in the stuff by about 10% and then we have to find some way to recycle the stuff.

No wonder Crow prefers the comforts of the 19th century.



“If all mankind were to disappear, the world would regenerate back to the rich state of equilibrium that existed ten thousand years ago. If insects were to vanish, the environment would collapse into chaos”
– E.O. Wilson

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

our place in space


I'm pretty sure I've mentioned before that reading science fiction books has long been one of my pleasures. What I've never done, though, is to understand the alien planets described, the creatures who inhabit them, or the means for our getting to them as anything other than fantasy. It seems to me that to a great extent, planetary sci-fi represented the hope of extending the era of exploration and colonization to new planets after ours had already been explored, mapped and claimed. For a while we imagined the tantalizing possibility of moving to Mars where there were canals to navigate among strange crystalline forests; then there was Venus where cloud covered skies sheltered tropical forests and who knew what beasts. When the scientists developed better telescopes we realized things were very different from what we'd dreamed. That's when faster than light travel and warp speed was fabricated. We just needed to find compatible planets in other solar systems..

Still, science fiction doesn’t lose its value as a work of the imagination, after all, just because the future it imagined was never an option in the first place, and the worlds it envisioned never existed. Few people argue that The Wizard of Oz or The Lord of the Rings ought to be pulped just because Oz and Middle-earth don’t happen to be real locations. The same rule applies just as well to science fiction, once we get out from under the notion that these brilliant works of imaginative fiction are somehow supposed to pretend to be sober predictions of the future.

As a species, we haven’t come to grips with the most fundamental aspect of our existence. This planet doesn’t belong to us; we belong to it. The idea that we, who go nowhere even on this abundant earth without our stuff, can afford to relocate to a lifeless sphere where it costs us countless millions just to drop ship a Roomba, is unhinged. There isn’t time (or pockets) deep enough for that project. I suppose it’s another apocalypse fantasy designed to avoid cleaning up our mess.

I was feeling quite depressed about our prospects as a species and casting about the sky in hopes of finding a stray giant asteroid, when I happened instead upon a film about John D. Liu, an environmentalist and filmmaker, who documents large-scale ecosystem restoration projects in China, Africa, South America and the Middle East, highlighting the enormous benefits to people and planet of undertaking these efforts globally. Some of the successful projects I've seen were far larger than I could have guessed - including an enormous area in China that is quite breathtaking. Here's one of the documentaries you might enjoy next time you have a half hour or so. If only such projects were more widespread our world could be a so much better place for us and all the beings we share it with.



The stars are very far away. Perhaps beings on other planets might spend some of their ample free time reading stories written during their own species’ brief period of industrial exuberance, when they dreamed of traveling to the other worlds of their own solar system or beyond. Hopefully, and if we are very lucky, the same recreation will be available to our descendants as well.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

a decade of phantsies

As of sometime in the next few days it will be ten years since we began blogging here. Many things have changed, including the fact that a number of friends who had blogs of their own then no longer do. Some things haven't changed as much as we'd prefer as shown in this post by Crow in August of 2009 called 'big plans, no clue'.

 



Crow here. susan used to tell people she didn't like wearing glasses so had the windshield of her car ground to her current prescription. A few of them believed it too. It's funny what you can get folks to take seriously, isn't it? Imagine convincing a good part of the population that Medicare for everybody is a bad idea but it's a really good idea to have their tax money go directly to the richest 1% of the citizenry.





The picture above is an artist's rendering of one of the big geo-engineering ideas for cooling off our overheated planet. Just imagine what could happen if the big optometrist grinding that thing got the specs wrong and corrected for far sighted rather than near. Ooops. You think we've got global warming now?



Then there's this one - ships spraying sea water to create clouds that shield much of the Earth from sunlight and so would lower global temperatures. How about the fact Bill Gates has patented the idea to halt hurricanes by decreasing the surface temperature of the ocean? Does that make you a bit nervous? The patent calls for a large fleet of specially equipped ships which would mix warm water from the ocean surface with colder water down below which could then reduce the heat-driven condensation hurricanes feed upon. The scheme is reminiscent of something Mr. Burns might have concocted in 'The Simpsons' - if he hadn't already blown his master plan on blocking out the sun.

I don't know. It just seems to me people have to change their way of thinking but I've been around long enough to not be entirely hopeful for the intelligence of your species at large. Global warming has so many separate causes and accelerating factors that it's already beyond political control. Every piece of metal sticking out of the ground is a heat coil. The crisis needs an unconscious shift at the same level as the primordial production of oxygen by bacteria at the dawn of life. Long ago a sudden fluctuation triggered a burst of molecular intelligence and a world that began under a canopy of volcanic ash exhaled into a blue sky.

Lizards crawled. Crows flew. Eventually, people dreamed and maybe it's enough to dream of a better world. The Golden Rule has always been a good place to start. Now it's time for me to climb on my perch and put my head where it belongs - under my right wing. Good night and sweet dreams.
Here are a few of our favourite comments left that day:

Seraphine:

i think the idea of putting a giant glass lens between us and the sun is stupid. for one thing, if you think sun spots are bad now, wait until something gets on the giant lens. a piece of dust, a fingerprint, a smudge of grease- it could cause entire nations to go crazy. would there be a lens cloth big enough to clean it?
and two, why take the risk that, with the proper lens correction, the sun could be able to see us clearly? there are some things about human-kind that the sun is better off not knowing.

Lindsay:

I note to date there are no geo engineering projects of any scale ever tried and I doubt if their effect could ever be measured or known, particularly in relation to the complexity of climate systems – which is still not thoroughly understood. But recent studies over here indicate the possibility of an abundant renewable energy supply just below our feet, in the form of hot rocks.

You’re familiar, of course, with molten rock breaking through the earth’s crust to spew lava into the atmosphere but in such a state it is far too hot and difficult to harness as a viable energy source. However just below the earth’s surface in Australia lays an abundance of hot granite rocks with enough heat to drive steam turbines and generate electricity.

How does the idea work?

Water is injected into a borehole and circulated through a "heat exchanger" to hot cracked rocks several kilometers below the surface. The water is heated through contact with the rocks and is then returned to the surface through another borehole where it is used to generate electricity. The water is then re-injected into the first borehole to be reheated and used again. The heat used in this hot rock energy process is eventually replaced by the Earth; it can be classified as renewable energy. It could, potentially provide all of our energy needs in perpetuity.

Spartacus:

Crow.. I love that you're seeking new and inventive ways to save the Earth's environment from impending doom. But I have one question for you regarding Bill Gates's patent: Can it core an apple?

Randal Graves:

Since the dawn of time man has yearned to destroy the sun and get patents on everything helpful. This is why I'm glad a British dude invented HTML and not an American. We'd be paying coke money to surf for porn.

*Spadoman:

I've hovered around this post for a few days before commenting. Sort of hoping it would change so i wouldn't have to deal with my shame from my own wastefulness. Frankly, I'm embarrassed to respond to you Crow, I know I am part of the problem.

Sure, I've done some changes. We recycle and compost and try to buy everything we buy NOT wrapped in some sort of plastic, but I fail miserably at the "so much more I can do", we can do, to help slow down and end the global problems we, as dumb humans, are putting the physical earth through right now.

Wholesale changes must be made by all people all over the world to end the cycle, but it may already be too late. Maybe this generation or even the next won't live to see the Sacred Earth Mother die, but as we keep up our wasteful killing ways, it is inevitable that she will die. There are some dead spots already, like cancerous sores, on Mother Earth. We move on, and do what we did to make the sore, somewhere else.

I am ashamed of myself. Believe me Crow, I think of this every time I turn on a water faucet in my home. Yet I am not yet willing to get rid of the faucet and running water.
Thanks for reminding me that I am wasteful and motivate me to change even more.

Peace above all.

*Joe Spadoman died in December of 2013 and his wife not long after. Their memorial service was held one beautiful day in June on the shore of Lake Superior attended by their many friends. He was an amazing and very generous man who worked hard to make the world a better place.

Peace be upon him and us all. 

(^^)


Saturday, August 26, 2017

M. Corbeau à Paris


Crow here. It's a little known fact that a favorite hobby of the gargoyles at Notre Dame Cathedral is collecting jokes. There's nothing they enjoy more than a good laugh at the foibles of humanity. Why else do you think they allowed Quasimoto the leeway they did when he was running around the rooftops, ringing the bells, grabbing young women and generally causing a commotion? It's because he was a clown. A sad clown, yes, but he provided some amusement to their generally tedious task of spitting rain water past the gables.

I well remember when susan had decided to spend some time in Paris (unfortunately she'd chosen three months in winter but that's another story) and had flown off one afternoon to see the Eiffel Tower while I relaxed with my old friend Gregoire the Cracked Horn. He'd overheard a story that went like this:

There were five passengers on a flight - a politician, a rich man, an old priest, a hippy and the world's smartest man. After the plane had been in the air a little while they noticed the engines sputtering and wondered if there was trouble. Just then the pilot rushed into the cabin and said, 'I can't restart the engines and the plane is going to crash. I suggest you each grab a parachute and follow me.' He opened the door outside then went to a cupboard, grabbed a parachute and leaped out. The other passengers looked in the cupboard and found only four parachutes.

The politician took a parachute and said, 'I have constituents who need me to be in Congress for a very important vote so I must save myself.' He jumped out.

The rich man said, 'I have a very important business and my stockholders are counting on me to keep them rich.' He grabbed a parachute and jumped out.

The world's smartest man said, 'I'm the world's smartest man so it should be evident to all why I need this parachute.' He followed the others.

Now only the old priest and the hippy were left and the priest said, 'It's all right my son. I've lived a long and fruitful life and look forward to my reward. You take the last parachute.'

The hippy replied, 'Don't worry about it father. The world's smartest man just grabbed my back pack.'

^_^

* reprise from 2009 :)

Monday, August 14, 2017

two classics


Then the nightingale sang.

"That's it," said the little kitchen girl. "Listen, listen! And yonder he sits." She pointed to a little gray bird high up in the branches.

"Is it possible?" cried the Lord-in Waiting. "Well, I never would have thought he looked like that, so unassuming. But he has probably turned pale at seeing so many important people around him."

"Little nightingale," the kitchen girl called to him, "our gracious Emperor wants to hear you sing."

"With the greatest of pleasure," answered the nightingale, and burst into song.

"Very similar to the sound of glass bells," said the Lord-in-Waiting. "Just see his little throat, how busily it throbs. I'm astounded that we have never heard him before. I'm sure he'll be a great success at court."

"Shall I sing to the Emperor again?" asked the nightingale, for he thought that the Emperor was present.

"My good little nightingale," said the Lord-in-Waiting, "I have the honor to command your presence at a court function this evening, where you'll delight His Majesty the Emperor with your charming song."

"My song sounds best in the woods," said the nightingale, but he went with them willingly when he heard it was the Emperor's wish.

***

The story quoted here is from  The Nightingale by Hans Christian Andersen and the painting is my favorite of all the illustrations done by Edmund Dulac.