Tuesday, August 4, 2015

my own social media

Sir: I haven't got a computer, but I was told about Facebook and Twitter and am trying to make friends outside Facebook and Twitter while applying the same principles.

Every day, I walk down the street and tell passers-by what I have eaten, how I feel, what I have done the night before and what I will do for the rest of the day. I give them pictures of my wife, my daughter, my dog and me gardening and on holiday, spending time by the pool. I also listen to their conversations, tell them I 'like' them and give them my opinion on every subject that interests me.. whether it interests them or not.

And it works. I already have four people following me: two police officers, a social worker and a psychiatrist.

~ Peter White, Holbrook, Derbyshire


Friday, July 31, 2015

serpent of summer

A couple of days ago when walking along one of the more hidden paths in Point Pleasant Park we found a little guy who looked something like this. Actually, he looked a lot like this. Isn't he beautiful? Definitely a garter snake, but a smallish one, probably only very recently born, he was in a wooded area where  moss, granite outcrops, surface roots and pine needles were lit by dappled sunlight. As I walked between two closely spaced trees I could easily have stepped on him if it weren't that his surprised stare stopped me in my tracks. Yes, he was looking at me with what appeared to be a shocked expression but it may be they always look shocked - at least until they react. Neither of us had seen a snake in the park before so we knelt down and all three of us looked each other over. After a few minutes he gave a snakely shrug and slithered sedately over a root and into a hollow at the base of the tree. We watched him curl into the space and then continued our walk. Next up was the frog chorus among the lily pads of the old quarry pond. You'd never guess a simple walk could be so entertaining, would you?

While I hate snagging internet pictures the problem now is I seem to be in the midst of an unexpected, and entirely unplanned, drawing and painting hiatus this summer. Okay, I could have drawn a snake - it's not like that would be very complicated, is it? Anyhow, I felt like telling the story without going to my drawing table first. I hope you don't mind and I hope the anonymous snake photographer won't mind either. I'm sure the snake won't care.

Meanwhile, I did find a wonderful article called 'Web Design: The First 100 Years'. If you take a peek the mid-90s layout style is a design statement. This is a great talk, well worth reading, especially if you're curious about why the gazillionaires who run Silicon Valley are bonkers.

Quote of the week:
 “The real problem of humanity is the following: we have paleolithic emotions; medieval institutions; and god-like technology. And it is terrifically dangerous, and it is now approaching a point of crisis overall.”
~ E.O. Wilson

Monday, July 20, 2015

untethered *

Have you ever heard of Grooks?  They're quite new to me. A grook is a short, aphoristic poem, revealing in a minimum of words and with a minimum of lines some basic truth about the human condition. Grooks were created originally during the Nazi occupation of Denmark. They began life as a sort of underground language just out of reach of the understanding of the Germans. They have since become one of the most widely read forms of composition in the Scandinavian - and English - languages. Grooks are the product of one of the most ingenious minds of this or any other century. Piet Hein (1905-1996) was a philosopher, mathematician, designer, scientist, game inventor and author who asserted that the great cultural divide was not between the haves and the have-nots, but between the knows and the know-nots.

A Psychological Tip

Whenever you're called on to make up your mind,
and you're hampered by not having any,
the best way to solve the dilemma, you'll find,
is simply by spinning a penny.
No -- not so that chance shall decide the affair
while you're passively standing there moping;
but the moment the penny is up in the air,
you suddenly know what you're hoping.

Out of Time

My old clock used to tell the time
and subdivide diurnity;
but now it's lost both hands and chime
and only tells eternity.

The Miracle of Spring

We glibly talk
 of nature's laws
but do things have
 a natural cause?

Black earth turned into
 yellow crocus
is undiluted

The Egocentrics

People are self-centered
to a nauseous degree.
They will keep on about themselves
while I'm explaining me.

Thoughts on a Station Platform

It ought to be plain
how little you gain
by getting excited
and vexed.

You'll always be late
for the previous train,
and always in time
for the next

The Paradox of Life

A bit beyond perception's reach
I sometimes believe I see
that Life is two locked boxes, each
containing the other's key.

The Road to Wisdom

The road to wisdom?
-- Well, it's plain
and simple to express:
and err
and err again
but less
and less
and less.

* the painting, not Piet Hein

Monday, July 13, 2015

shipping news

That was fun. A few days ago on the way home from a decently long drive and a longer walk we decided to stop by the grocery store - the one that's separated from Pier 21 by some railroad tracks. Looming over the parking lot that day was the Queen Mary 2. As residents of a seaside city seeing ships and boats of all kinds is a fairly routine experience, one never really taken for granted, but you do get used to seeing sailboats, cruise ships and container ships (you wouldn't believe how many containers filled with 'I Halifax' t-shirts leave the port). The ships we always look forward to seeing are the Tall Ships - especially when they arrive in largish numbers. Square rigged wooden sailing ships are a marvel to behold even if they aren't nearly so numerous and magnificent as the ones that sailed the world in centuries past.

Still and all it was amazing to come across the largest cruise ship in the world right here in our own little harbour. Once again I didn't have a camera so the pictures here are from local news outlets.

The first one is of the ship arriving in early morning when it sailed past the container port docks. That's Point Pleasant Park in the distance.

The second is her arrival in Halifax Harbour as she passed the lighthouse on George's island.

The third shows her docked at Pier 21 (taking up at least two spaces). The grocery store is the large grey roofed building in the foreground.

The last one is interesting because it shows the relative size of the QM2 to the Titanic.

From a sailing cruise ship, everyone on board spots a long bearded old man a ways away who is yelling and wildly waving his arms like a crazy fool. “Who is that there?” one of the passengers asks the captain. The cruise ship captain replied, “Sorry, I never figured that out. For the past 10 years when we pass that tiny island, he seems to show off more and more.” 

Monday, July 6, 2015

Crow relates to Kurosawa's Dream

It's summer again here in the Northern Hemisphere and we're happy to report our cherry tomato plants are doing nicely. Not so well, perhaps, as the ones that grew in this earlier garden that Crow visited, but well enough for a large clay pot on a west facing balcony. While I'd rather have a garden, the good news is the pot doesn't require much in the way of weeding.

This afternoon Crow reminded me of one of Akira Kurosawa's movies - his last, in fact, called 'Dreams'. In the final section a young traveler from our age comes to a village where the only machines are wooden water wheels. Having walked and gazed in wonderment he stops to talk to an old man:

    T: There’s no electricity here?

    OM: Don’t need it. People get too used to convenience. They think convenience is better. They throw out what’s truly good.

    T: But what about lights?

    OM: We’ve got candles and linseed oil.

    T: But night’s so dark.

    OM: Yes. That’s what night’s supposed to be. Why should night be as bright as day? I wouldn’t like nights so bright you couldn’t see the stars.

    T: You have paddies. But no tractors to cultivate them?

    OM: Don’t need them. We’ve got cows and horses.

    T: What do you use for fuel?

    OM: Firewood mostly. We don’t feel right, chopping down trees, but enough fall down by themselves. We cut them up and use them as firewood. And if you make charcoal from the wood just a few trees can give you as much heat as a whole forest. Yes, and cow dung makes good fuel too.

After pausing to take in the sounds of nature, the traveler continues to listen to the old man:

    OM: We try to live the way man used to. That is the natural way of life. People today have forgotten they’re really just a part of nature. Yet, they destroy the nature on which our lives depend. They always think they can make something better. Especially, scientists. They may be smart, but most don’t understand the heart of nature. They only invent things that in the end make people unhappy. Yet they are so proud of their inventions. What’s worse, most people are too. They view them as if they were miracles. They worship them. They don’t know it but they’re losing nature. They don’t see that they’re going to perish. The most important things for human beings are clean air and clean water and the trees and grass that produce them. Everything is being dirtied, polluted forever. Dirty air, dirty water, dirtying the hearts of men.

A few days ago in escaping the news of droughts, wars, migrations and imminent financial collapse I spent some time reading some old Archdruid posts. I've slightly paraphrased a passage he wrote toward the end of this article as it fit so well with what Kurosawa's old man told the traveler:

A truly advanced civilization, here or elsewhere, might well have much in common with a community like this one: it might use very modest amounts of energy and resources with high efficiency, maximize sustainability, and build for the long term. Such a civilization would be very hard to detect across interstellar distances, and the limits to the energy resources available to it make it vanishingly unlikely that it would attempt to cross those distances; this would hardly make it a failure as a civilization, except in the eyes of those for whom the industrial-age fantasies of science fiction trump all other concerns.


Monday, June 29, 2015

Oh! Canada..

Imagine seeing a place like this

turned into this.

Stephen Harper has decided it's a good idea to build a 10 storey Colossus memorializing Canada's military history along the rugged, windswept coastline of the Cabot Trail, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. The statue will be part of a proposed "Never Forgotten National Memorial" inside the Cape Breton Highlands National Park.

The plans for the memorial, brilliantly conceived by food-packaging baron and "enthusiastic patriot" Tony Trigiani were described to the Globe and Mail:

Mr. Trigiani is planning to place a "We See Thee Rise Observation Deck" in front of the Mother Canada statue, and behind it "The Commemorative Ring of True Patriot Love," a low wall featuring metal plaques naming the international cemeteries where Canadian soldiers are buried. He's also planning a "With Glowing Hearts National Sanctuary," as well as a restaurant, souvenir shop and interpretive centre.

Siting any structure in a National Park sets a precedent that calls into question the very reason to even have National Parks. If a consortium of wealthy individuals can ride roughshod over the Parks' legal protections, then the Parks are no longer safe.

The names of the fallen will not be commemorated by this monument - only those of the sponsors will appear, carved in stone. That is, after all, the incentive for getting them to contribute in the first place - it is there, for all to see, on the official website. They are paying to have their name and/or brand immortalised on this so-called 'monument', while the names of those it is meant to honour will not be. That isn't patriotism, it's marketing, and to use the dead to sell stuff is an insult to their sacrifice. A monument should remember those who sacrificed their lives for their country, not those who sacrificed a small proportion of their disposable income for brand awareness.

 Finally - it's really, REALLY ugly.

Just in case you need to know more about this project there's more news here. Meanwhile, I'll leave you with just a few of the hundreds of comments made to the Guardian:

* Not to mention the I-Love-Me Harper Hall! Plus, what names! What grandiose, egocentric, egotistical megalomaniacal names! What typical of tyrannical regimes names! Amazing the approach is not being named the Avenue of Glorious Leader Harper!

* Sitting Bull and other Lakota described Queen Victoria as 'Grandmother England' and thought of Canada as a place of sanctuary - just stick a big statue of Victoria facing the US.

* They should build a statue of a giant oil sands truck and call it "mother of all fuck ups".

* Not so much "Mother Canada" as "The Mummy" Canada".....

* Perhaps instead a statue of Pierre Trudeau doing his pirouette? A monument to the last Canadian prime minister with any real character or brains.

* War already does a pretty good job of eradicating natural beauty, so yeah, let's commemorate that by eradicating some natural beauty.

* Interesting to compare the triumphantly open-armed Mother Canada with the bowed and grieving Canada Bereft Vimy memorial, which at least makes the point that war is a desperately sad business. An example of a new mood of sentimental jingoism, now that WW2 is more than half a century away.

* Meanwhile about 120 First Nations communities in Canada are on boil water advisories, some for as long as 20 years. Typically the Harper government would rather spend our tax dollars on self congratulatory projects like this than improving the third world conditions of Canadian First Nations living in one of the richest countries in the world.

* A final insult to the east coast before Harper goes. To sell out national parkland to a private enterprise for such a stupid idea is just plain wrong. You're not allowed to pick a single flower in these parks and he wants to pour concrete all over Green Cove. The gratitude we have to our fallen soldiers is felt by all, but to use our sentiments to sell this piece of tacky schlock is pathetic.

* The bigger-is-better approach to art is best left to Stalinist tyrants, theme park entrepreneurs and insecure municipalities.

* This is not the only oversized piece of controversial memorial "art" that Harper's Conservative government is working on. They are going to build a massive "Monument for the Victims of Communism" outside the Supreme Court building on Parliament Hill.
No indication where the "Monument for the Aboriginal Victims of Canada" is going to be located, thus proving that it is much easier to commemorate other people's victims.

* I think Cape Breton needs a 100' statue of the McKenzie brothers, hockey sticks draped over their shoulders, a beer in the other hand of course, and big smiles showing the requisite 3 or 4 missing teeth. Now that says everything about the Canadian psyche that needs to be said...eh?

Happy Canada Day on the 1st of July
Happy Independence Day on the 4th

We'll try to be back sooner next time :)

Thursday, June 11, 2015

on human flight

A walk in the park is never boring but usually we see things we expect to see - people, dogs, squirrels, crows, bluejays, chickadees, gulls, clamshells, crabshells, flowers, grass, trees, the sea etc. You get the idea. Sometimes we see the unexpected. One day last week we came across a scenario just unusual enough that I have to share it. Unfortunately, since I'm not in the habit of carrying a camera you'll have to settle for a more elementary image.

That day, after passing through a narrow section of the beachside path between some old wwII bunkers, we were surprised to see an older man standing on the shore holding the ropes of a very large parasail*. In actuality he was wearing a harness, knee pads and elbow pads as well as the helmet, plus there were a few more ropes. I hope you'll excuse me being a bit too lazy to draw all that. He did look a somewhat worried. I don't know if you're familiar with the sport of parasailing - I'm certainly not - but what I do know is that the general idea for getting up in the air is as follows:

You want to begin by standing high up on a reasonably steep grassy hillside with the sail spread out on the ground behind while a fairly brisk wind blows up the hill. The pilot then grabs the ropes in the prescribed manner, runs forward, throws his hands high over his head, and, if God is merciful, the glider inflates - floopf. A brief downhill run and the pilot feels the earth dropping away under him. He is flying. Unless, of course, he crashes. The flying and landing parts are beyond the scope of my story.

The man we saw wasn't doing any of that. Instead, he was holding tight to the ropes as the parasail (about 30 feet across and therefore much bigger than I've drawn) shuddered above him in the breeze. The fact the breeze was blowing out to sea might have been part of the reason he looked worried.

We'd barely had time to take in this unusual spectacle before a little boy out walking with his mother caught sight of the man and his apparatus. Transported by sheer delight the little guy ran laughing and shouting across the grass, 'Hey! Hey! Mister! What are you doing?'

It was great.

We kept walking and the little boy went back to his mother. I turned back to see the man spreading the parasail on the grass in preparation of folding it up. I wonder if he's found a suitable hillside?

Before man walked, he yearned to soar, as if on feathered wings. Ever he has sought, in supreme affirmation and ignoble pride, to float upon the wind, high above the mute and pitiless ground. Icarus lives in archetype: Children remain convinced a bright cape will let them fly like Superman.

* references to parasailing should probably say paragliding
(thanks, Lindsay)