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.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

avast Crow!


A group of Crow's unusual friends stopped by earlier today to carry him off on a cruise. Before he left he mentioned a few things about pirates it's not currently fashionable to know even though there's always been something romantic about the idea of piracy.

We've long been told by those who control information that pirates were thieves, yet the truth is far more complex. Sailors aboard Royal Naval ships and merchant marine vessels were some of the sorriest men alive, 'caught in a machine from which there was no escape, bar desertion, incapacitation, or death' as one writer of the day put it. Many of them were press ganged into service, many were debt slaves or had been criminalized after losing their farms when the English Commons were abolished.

As the great fleets discovered and annexed previously unknown lands many dispossessed people the world over became desperate. The merchant ships of the 17th and 18th Centuries were the engines of the emerging global capitalism but the seamen were totally excluded from the wealth they worked to generate. The decision to 'turn pirate' was a choice made to wrestle back some autonomy, and when they did, life on a ship changed dramatically. Officers were democratically elected. Food was shared equally among men of all ranks. When booty was collected the Captain only took two shares where the lowest took one - income differentials that would make a modern CEO faint. Loss of a limb aboard would be met with a payment of around $30k in today's money - an amazing form of early health insurance.

It could be said that far from being simple thieves, pirates were perhaps the original anti-capitalist protesters. The reason they were hunted down and suffered savage public executions was because the powers of the day were petrified of the consequences of the pirates' ethos. One hundred years before the French Revolution it was pirates who coined the phrase 'Liberty, Equality, Fraternity'.

Of course, piracy in those days was hardly all fun and games but they were hard times for most people everywhere. We're not often brutalized, beaten, or left unpaid, but our lives are no less reduced, narrowed, and restrained by powerful forces far beyond our control. Wouldn't it be nice to see the Jolly Roger raised again to restore to life some democracy, some fairness, and perhaps a little merriment too?

Avast Crow. I hope you enjoy the warm sea breeze off the shores of far Tortuga.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

tall ships halifax 2017


As you can tell it was a bit of a foggy overcast day here yesterday when we walked down to the harbour to see the forty or so tall ships that came to town on Friday. We'd spent an extra half hour on the park beach in hopes of seeing a few of them sail in that day but were disappointed.


Despite hundreds of people crowding the boardwalks who made my chances of getting decent photographs of the docked ships more difficult, I did my best - and came up with just four.


It appeared that just about everyone there was lined up at each and every ship to go aboard for a tour, an understandable urge when the ships we usually see are unromantic giant cruise liners or container ships.


Of course, none of these tall ships are very old and, for the most part, very few have wooden hulls - they simply bring to mind the sheer magnificence of the Age of Sail when the forests of Europe and then the New World were felled en masse to build the magnificent fleets of yesteryear. They leaked, yes, and those that didn't sink on the high seas in battles or storms were dismantled long ago.

Nevertheless, I look forward to seeing them under full sail on Tuesday when they leave our harbour in Parade. I'll try to get more and better pictures then. It's a rare and lovely sight.

****

A magician was working on a cruise ship.

Since the audience was different each week, the magician did the same tricks over and over again. There was only one problem: The captain's parrot saw the shows each week and began to understand how the Magician did every trick.

Once he understood, he started shouting in the middle of the show, "Look, it's not the same hat!" or, "Look, he's hiding the flowers under the table!" Or "Hey, why are all the cards the ace of spades?"

The magician was furious but couldn't do anything. It was, after all, the Captain's parrot.

Then one stormy night on the Pacific, the ship sank. Too bad but these things can happen.

Hours later the magician found himself on a piece of wood floating in the middle of the sea and, as fate would have it, sharing the board with the parrot.

They stared at each other with hatred, but neither of them uttered a word.

This went on for a day... And then 2 days. And then 3 days. Finally on the 4th day, the parrot could not hold back any longer and said...

"Okay, I give up. Where's the freaking ship??



Monday, July 24, 2017

life's little lessons


Some young neighbours of a retired couple asked them what they did to keep life interesting.

The elderly man answered, "Well, the other day my wife and I went into town and into a shop. We were only in there for about five minutes but  when we came out, there was a policeman writing out a parking ticket.

"We went up to him and my wife said, 'Come on sir, how about giving us pensioners a break?' He ignored us and continued writing the ticket.

"So I called him a fascist bastard. He glared at me and started writing another ticket for having worn tyres. Then my wife called him a total pillock. He finished the second ticket and put it on the windscreen with the first. Then he started writing a third ticket. We continued to call him names and he just kept writing those tickets.

"This went on for about 10 minutes, and then our bus arrived."



“I have a hobby. I have the world’s largest collection of sea shells. I keep it scattered on beaches all over the world. Maybe you’ve seen some of it.”

“I went to a restaurant that serves "breakfast at any time" so I ordered French toast during the Renaissance.”

“Everywhere is walking distance if you have the time.”

“I'd kill for a Nobel Peace Prize.” *
― Steven Wright

* (remind you of anyone?)

Monday, July 17, 2017

"Bohemian Rhapsody"



As 65,000 Green Day fans eagerly waited their appearance at London’s Hyde Park on July 1, the stadium blared out Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody on the speakers. The inevitable happened - all 65,000 fans passionately broke into song, matching Freddie Mercury’s voice note for note. The best part is, many of the audience even hummed out the guitar solo.

Someone commented, “Only Queen can rock an entire stadium without even being there.”

Here are the lyrics if you'd like to sing along and have forgotten some of the words:

Is this the real life?
Is this just fantasy?
Caught in a landslide,
No escape from reality.

Open your eyes,
Look up to the skies and see,
I'm just a poor boy, I need no sympathy,
Because I'm easy come, easy go,
Little high, little low,
Any way the wind blows doesn't really matter to me, to me.

Mama, just killed a man,
Put a gun against his head,
Pulled my trigger, now he's dead.
Mama, life had just begun,
But now I've gone and thrown it all away.

Mama, ooh,
Didn't mean to make you cry,
If I'm not back again this time tomorrow,
Carry on, carry on as if nothing really matters.

Too late, my time has come,
Sends shivers down my spine,
Body's aching all the time.
Goodbye, everybody, I've got to go,
Gotta leave you all behind and face the truth.

Mama, ooh (any way the wind blows),
I don't wanna die,
I sometimes wish I'd never been born at all.

I see a little silhouetto of a man,
Scaramouche, Scaramouche, will you do the Fandango?
Thunderbolt and lightning,
Very, very frightening me.
(Galileo) Galileo.
(Galileo) Galileo,
Galileo Figaro
Magnifico-o-o-o-o.

I'm just a poor boy, nobody loves me.
He's just a poor boy from a poor family,
Spare him his life from this monstrosity.

Easy come, easy go, will you let me go?
Bismillah! No, we will not let you go. (Let him go!)
Bismillah! We will not let you go. (Let him go!)
Bismillah! We will not let you go. (Let me go!)
Will not let you go. (Let me go!)
Never let you go (Never, never, never, never let me go)
Oh oh oh oh
No, no, no, no, no, no, no
Oh, mama mia, mama mia (Mama mia, let me go.)
Beelzebub has a devil put aside for me, for me, for me.

So you think you can stone me and spit in my eye?
So you think you can love me and leave me to die?
Oh, baby, can't do this to me, baby,
Just gotta get out, just gotta get right outta here.

(Ooooh, ooh yeah, ooh yeah)

Nothing really matters,
Anyone can see,
Nothing really matters,
Nothing really matters to me.

Any way the wind blows.


In 1988 Freddie Mercury and Montserrat Caballé sang Barcelona, a song he wrote for the opening of the Olympic Games in 1992. It's an amazing performance. Freddie Mercury died in 1991.



Thursday, July 13, 2017

beached boys


Two priests on their way to a beach resort vacation decided they wouldn't wear anything that would identify them as clergy. On arrival they found a shop that specialized in brightly colored shirts, shorts, and all the other bits they needed to help them forget their cold and damp northern church for a little while.

The next morning they went to the beach, dressed in their 'tourist' garb and were sitting on deck chairs, enjoying a drink, the sunshine and the scenery when a beautiful blonde woman wearing a tiny bikini came walking straight towards them. They couldn't help but stare and when she passed them, she smiled and said, "Good morning, Father" - "Good morning, Father," nodding and addressing each of them individually, then passed on by.

They were both stunned. How in the world did she recognize them as priests?

The next day they went back to the shop, bought even more outrageous outfits and again settled on the beach in their chairs to enjoy the sunshine, etc.

After a while, the same gorgeous blonde, wearing a string bikini this time, came walking toward them again.

Again, she approached them and greeted them individually: "Good morning, Father," "Good morning Father," and started to walk away.

One of the priests couldn't stand it and said. "Just a minute, young lady. Yes, we are priests, and proud of it, but I have to know, how in the world did you know?"

"Oh, Father, it's me Sister Angela!"