Saturday, December 26, 2009

not perfect but okay

Congratulations to all of us who've made it to this point and now it's that time for reviewing the year and decade just past and plan on what we have to look forward to for the coming one. Being as old as I am I'm not sure I have the courage to try to imagine the entire next decade. The very idea there are people who ten years hence will be looking at these as the good old days is kind of distressing.

One thing we should now all be perfectly sure of is that our government is not all about helping we the people. A year ago some of us may have experienced a few tremors of the Advertising Age award winning 'hope' campaign that swept the nation faster than a swine flu virus but even though we never expected all kinds of positive change to happen all at once, I don't think many of us imagined so much would get worse. Okay, the big banks, the military industrial complex and the health insurance industries are all happier but none of that has been to the general benefit of most of us. So let us begin the coming year with the understanding that empire and democracy don't mix. Never have and never will. If you ask where's the emperor all I can answer is that he isn't a person but a mind set that's entrenched at the highest levels of our power structure - he's the end result of social darwinism (a philosophy of 'I've got mine and the hell with everybody else').

Where does that leave the rest of us? Well, the good news is that it's always best to have the bad news out of the way. If I sat here long enough I'm sure I could come up with some good things to look forward to but it seems to me the best things always come as surprises and usually little ones at that. All we can do is to make an effort to be kind to one another, to see the best in people that they may respond in kind. It's a big world after all and there are many mysteries still hidden from view.

I hope my next painting is a better one but I give you this one for now with my wish that love rains down on you.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

magic and Magi

I mentioned I've been painting again and want to share Mr. Crane who appeared this weekend when I sat at my table for a few quiet hours.

Among my favorite Christmas stories is the one by O. Henry called 'The Gift of the Magi'. I've linked to the original for those few who aren't familiar with the story of the poor young couple on Christmas Eve each of whom gave up their only physical treasure in order to buy a present for the other. It's a sweet and wonderful tale whether you think the two of them were idiots or not. Grand gestures are sometimes what love is about but not always. Every gift, no matter how small, is a sacrifice of the heart for the hope and beauty of the future.

O. Henry goes on to say:

'The Magi, as you know, were wise men--wonderfully wise men--who brought gifts to the Babe in the manger. They invented the art of giving Christmas presents. Being wise, their gifts were no doubt wise ones, possibly bearing the privilege of exchange in case of duplication. And here I have lamely related to you the uneventful chronicle of two foolish children in a flat who most unwisely sacrificed for each other the greatest treasures of their house. But in a last word to the wise of these days let it be said that of all who give gifts these two were the wisest. O all who give and receive gifts, such as they are wisest. Everywhere they are wisest. They are the Magi.

Wishing you a very Happy Christmas.

Friday, December 18, 2009

opinions are optional

Every so often I consider making a web page so there'd be a single place to go if someone wants to look at my artwork. Most of it's already somewhere here on the blog but there's no way to see it other than scrolling through older and older posts and nobody has time for that. The problem is I have little enough time for posting anyway and every time I look at web design software I get a headache.

The only other quick solution is to add a new blog but there are already three. Three is enough. Phantsy has to stay because it's the main one. Adventure's Ink is kind of unique and I might just get into writing and drawing more stories because there are more lurking about in the back of my mind. That leaves Baby Days which has been up since October of '07 and is rarely looked at. I was so new at blogging when I posted the story that I did it in 18 separate posts because I didn't know how to arrange the pictures and text any other way. Perhaps there's a way of saving it in the background but it appears to me the only option in Blogger is to delete all of it.

I don't know. There aren't a lot of paintings I still have access to since the ones done longest ago were sold or given away long before I took an interest in keeping a photo record of them but there are probably twenty or so. Baby Days is old news and I am painting again so there will be additions as time goes on. Maybe I should just forget the whole thing. What do you think?

Monday, December 14, 2009

crow gets sentimental

Crow here and I have news for you. Dinosaurs never really left. They’re still here. I'm still here. In a new book by my old friend Scott D. Sampson called Dinosaur Odyssey: Fossil Threads in the Web of Life is a remarkable statement right near the beginning: “Today, most experts agree that birds are the direct descendants of dinosaurs and thus are, in a very real sense, dinosaurs themselves.” Oh no, you say, birds have feathers. Of course they do. And so did dinosaurs. It’s now been shown that the crow-sized Archaeopteryx wasn’t a bird at all, but a dinosaur. Now I'm talking about my ancestors here and this is a family oriented time of year so don't laugh. I told you I've been around a long, long, loooong time but you wouldn't believe me.

Well, I just thought I'd drop in to say hello before flying back to Copenhagen. I must have a word with the Canadian Government representatives about them continuing to allow the Tar Sands to be dug up. Do you have any idea what a mess that stuff makes of my feathers? I don't even want to talk about all the rest it's messing up. Which brings me back to dinosaurs. Everybody knows the dinosaurs (except for birds) finally became extinct 65 million years ago after the K-T event but before that they were around for 170 million years. What do you think of people's chances to last a fraction of that, Mr. H. Sapiens? Besides, my great great great great (ad infinitum) grandmother was a very beautiful and charming Archaeopteryx. Just look at this picture I found of her in an old album. No wonder my ggggggggggggggggggggggg (ad infinitum) grandfather fell in love.

Now I just have time for a quick snifter before take-off. I'll be back soon and in the meantime if you're going to party don't forget what gggggggggg GD used to say to ggggggggg GM - Bend over, let me see you shake a tail feather. Hey, it worked for them and it just might work for you too.

Friday, December 11, 2009

considering memory

Every so often I find a song stuck in my mind. It might be one I haven't heard for years but all at once the whole thing is there - music, phrasing, lyrics, everything. I know it's not an unusual experience, lots of people mention such things and if they tell you which song has been haunting them you'll find yourself singing it to yourself hours later. It can be annoying but if you think about it for a minute it's also very interesting.

For most of human existence on Earth people didn't have written languages. A large part in our pride of modern culture is the fact we are literate and there's hardly any worse insult than to call someone illiterate. Nevertheless, even up until fairly recently the larger part of humanity was illiterate since only the wealthy, the monastics or the very determined had access to any books at all. Yet it's inarguable that architecture and shipbuilding thrived as did every aspect of a growing civilized culture long before people were able to read a morning paper before they headed off to work on the building site of the local cathedral.

It's generally understood among archeologists that the first forms of written language were the hieroglyphs developed in Egypt around 2500BC. Socrates reported the ancient Egyptians said that writing had been invented by the mythical god-man Thoth who took his new system to Amon 'the god-King of all Egypt' and urged him to introduce it to the populace saying: 'Oh King, here is something that once learned, will make Egyptians wiser and will improve their memory'. It's said that Amon replied:

'Oh, most expert Thoth, one man can give birth to the elements of an art, but only another can judge how they can benefit or harm those who use them. And now since you are the father of writing, your affection for it has made you describe its effects as the opposite of what they really are. In fact it will introduce forgetfulness into the soul of those who learn it: they will not practice using their memory because they will put their trust in writing, which is external and depends on signs that belong to others, instead of trying to remember from the inside, completely on their own. You have not discovered a potion for remembering but for reminding; you provide your students with the appearance of wisdom, not its reality. Your invention will enable them to hear many things without being properly taught, and they will imagine that they have come to know much while for the most part they they will know nothing.'

From what I can understand there was an even more ancient tradition that was adamant that certain things not be written down. Even now archeologists have been unable to decipher the Indus Valley script in spite of having found thousands of small tablets, all of which appear to be in reference to trade goods. Lengthy works of Indus cuneiform might allow the texts to be deciphered but none have ever been discovered, a fact that might lead one to think they didn't trust the medium of writing for anything more important that the strictly mercantile.

The oldest elements of the ancient world's oral traditions are the Hindu Vedas, essentially hymns and very very long ones at that - the Rig Veda has 1028 hymns made up of more than 10,580 verses (and there are three other Vedas). The interesting thing is that they're in a very old form of the Sanskrit language and weren't written down until about 1200 years ago. Before that, for thousands of years they were memorized in their entirety. Really. It's hard to imagine, isn't it? But then I come back to those songs that stick in my head from time to time - the silly ones mostly - and I wonder if that penchant we all have might just be a little reminder of just how powerful our minds might be.

The Australian Aboriginals have a recognized 60,000 year history in Australia (although they say it's much longer). When groups met one another in the vast landscape they would sing the story of the path they'd travelled to each other, a memorized history known as the Song Lines. That story goes all the way back to their memory of walking the unfinished landscape with the gods singing the world we know into existence.

But obviously things are better now that we have the Google. I think I'll go find that song that keeps returning:

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

apple genius * SUCCESS!

Today is Thursday and last night I wrote about my worries that the new computer would have to be shipped back . It turned out the Mac Genius was able to fix her today by deleting all the information on the hard drive (!). Apparently some bizarre corruption had manifested and he didn't know why which is a bit worrisome too. Oh well, she's being updated now but still doesn't remember me. I guess I'll be spending a few days reminding her about all the fun we were having together and convincing her to be ready for more.

Thanks for all the good wishes :-)


My computer is still sitting on its corner shelf taking up space while I'm tapping away on numb's MacBook. He's been very generous about allowing me whatever time I want but you know how it is. I prefer my own.

Tomorrow we have a 15 minute appointment with an Apple Genius. I thought that name was a joke but it turned out to be true. Before we called them numb hauled out the troubleshooting manual and read that we should unplug the computer from its power source and remove the battery before pressing more keys all at once than the average person has fingers.

First, it turned out there's no little panel on the back where you'd normally access the battery so he got a small screwdriver and removed about a dozen tiny screws that were almost all different sizes. There turned out to be a big warning sign on the battery saying, 'Do Not Remove'. So he screwed the back on again. Then he went online to look for Apple Support where the instruction was to call the local store. The call was like something out of a Franz Kafka novel when the girl at the store insisted he had to make an appointment online.. even though she was obviously looking at the times available on her own screen. Okaaay..

We couldn't go there last weekend because they don't have Geniuses on hand during prime time sales hours. They're there to sell i-pods and other fancy bits and really don't want anyone showing up with a broken machine while they're trying to push the product. I guess I can understand that but it doesn't say much for customer service. So tomorrow we have a planned day off and a previously unplanned 10am appointment. What we'd like is if they would remove the hard drive and my custom screen and put them in a new MacBook Pro. I have a creepy feeling the Genius is going to take 15 minutes removing the back and telling us to make another appointment. Maybe not. They're more likely to instruct us to Fedex it back to Apple HQ. It's Christmas for heaven's sake. Wish me luck.

By the way, I did find another new drawing for a small painting I can share with you. It's called 'Float' and one I remembered I'd emailed to a friend. Hopefully, I'll be able to work on it this weekend. I'll be visiting and meanwhile Crow sends regards.

Friday, December 4, 2009

tits - I mean the birds..

Oh dear. I was going to post a picture of a new drawing but my almost brand new Power Mac has developed what seems to be a serious problem. It tries to light up but there's nobody home. The hard drive can't be accessed and that's where all my stuff is. Oh dear. Oh well. It's mostly pictures and they can be replaced.

At least numb's computer has a few of my favorite pictures by other people like this one by Rudi Herzlmeier. He's always been an excellent portraitist of Crow's dearest relatives.

The hint seems to be that I paint. I'll be back.

*note to self - It's a MacBook Pro. Seems I still have the reliable G4 Power Book on the brain.

Monday, November 30, 2009

survival of the kindest

Compassion, in Tibetan Buddhist terms, is a spontaneous feeling of connection with all living beings. It's not 'feeling sorry for' or even love in the usual way we understand the word. Instead, it implies a direct expansion of the heart and the deep understanding there is no difference between us.

I know we're programmed at a biological level to avoid threats to our survival and to grasp opportunities to enhance our well being. You don't have to subscribe to the daily papers or watch television to understand our history is one of violence to one another. But I don't believe that's all we are and it's equally apparent we may have an even stronger biological tendency toward kindness, compassion, love and nurture.

There were amazing stories throughout Europe during the Second World War of ordinary people risking their lives to shelter their Jewish friends and neighbors from the Holocaust. We often hear stories of people here doing extraordinary things in times of crisis - like the thousands who helped at the World Trade Center after 9/11 and the thousands who went to New Orleans and the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina - as examples of a general human tendency. There are smaller examples too, ones we've all experienced, whether the small acknowledgement of holding a door open, giving money to someone in need or even a shared smile between strangers.

Just the simple fact that we've been able to build societies and civilizations that at least concede the need to protect and care for the poor, the weak and the defenseless supports the idea that an ethical sense is part of our make-up as human beings. I think we're not as bad as we sometimes imagine we are as a species.


I've decided to put aside the silk painting for a time and go back to paper and watercolors. There's an immediacy with drawing and painting I truly enjoy which maybe you'll notice about the pencil sketch above that I did on the weekend. It will be a small painting (5x7") and will change during the process but that's what I seem to have the energy for right now. It's called 'Joy'. It's okay if you call me sentimental :-)

Friday, November 27, 2009

taking the long view

You're likely to think I've been hitting the holiday eggnog or Crow's Remy Martin stash a little too hard when you read this one but I don't mind because my interest in alternate history is one I'm not ashamed of. Although anything other than absolute mainstream science is considered a foolish waste of time by many, I happen to think there are writers and scientists whose work has been unfairly marginalized. This is a post about such a person and his research into a subject we're simply not accustomed to considering.

'During a period of glaciation, the average global temperature drops considerably and the volume of the ocean decreases greatly. The water that would otherwise be in the ocean is frozen as ice in continental glaciers, or as sea ice in the oceans making the world in general a much cooler place than the one we know. This map shows coastlines (solid lines are today's coasts) as they were about 20,000 years ago which you may easily imagine provided a very fertile original homeland for civilization when the major land masses we know today were desert like and cold.'

I decided to re-read Underworld, a book written by Graham Hancock in 2002, that I first read when it was published. At the time I wasn't the least bit interested in our computer or its connection to internet search engines but now that's changed and not only does the book deserve a fresh reading (at least by me) but also an examination of references that are searchable online. He explores a subject that should be fairly obvious, that when the ice age glaciers melted, sea levels rose, obliterating civilizations that lined the ocean shores. However, archaeologists have confined their research to mainland structures - not too surprising considering difficulty and funding. Nevertheless, there is still much to learn about unrecorded, ignored or misinterpreted human history.

We have a tendency to think the world we know has always been much the same but science has proven that the oceans were once 400 ft lower than they are now. What most of us don't understand is that the last Ice Age was at its maximum 20,000 years ago when human beings just like us had been inhabiting the planet for at least 200,000 years. Once the massive ice sheets that covered most of North America, Europe and the Southern Hemisphere to a depth measured in miles began to melt they didn't just gently drip away inch by inch. What happened instead were periods surface ice melting into huge lakes which on three separate occasions broke through massive ice dams in what are called glacial outburst floods. There have been smaller versions of these in recent years but nothing like the three that happened 14,000, 11,000 and 8,000 years ago. At one point the accumulated water from an ice sheet the size of a third of Canada poured into the North Atlantic over the period of a few weeks. Not to oversimplify, related catastrophic events occurred when so much ice melted in a relatively short time. Earthquakes and volcanoes struck with great ferocity when the ice shields were no longer pressing down on the earth's crust. It's almost impossible for us living in this quiescent age to imagine what it must have been like for people who were living comfortably in wide alluvial plains where edible plants grew without requiring much labor. It sounds like Eden, doesn't it?

Interestingly enough, archaeology dates the rise of modern civilization to approximately 8,000 years ago with the discoveries of the Indus Valley and the Sumerian cultures. What is so strange about both societies is that they appear in the historical record at a very high level of development that dissipates over time. In other words, the deeper the archaeologists dug the more sophisticated the architecture and objects they found. It's also true the oldest Egyptian pyramids are the ones still standing. There's growing evidence that suggests the Persian Gulf (only 100 meters deep) was a large valley with the Tigris and Euphrates running through it to the sea. It was only completely engulfed 8,000 years ago. Could it be a total coincidence the remains of Sumer are close by in southern Iraq?

I'm enjoying the book again and may post more about it if you're interested or you may want to read it yourself. It is a very long book (700+ pages) but it's a fascinating subject to explore that has vast implications of how different our history might actually be. Perhaps there was once a very large and relatively advanced culture that goes back much farther in the archaeological record than previously accepted. I'd certainly like to think so particularly because the archaeological record of the Indus Valley culture in particular provides no evidence of armies, kings, slaves, social conflict, prisons, and other negative traits that we associate with civilization.

Maybe that's why all of recorded history appears to us as an ongoing disaster - one from which our Earth hasn't yet recovered. Isn't it possible the disaster was simply the sudden and dramatic loss of its ice shield? Could real floods be the basis for the world wide myths about Great Floods?

Monday, November 23, 2009

accidents and intentions

This is one I finished last weekend and it still has me wondering where it came from. I called it Desert Sun because it required a name that suited its character. I turned an accidental splotch into a little oval with the Tibetan Om sign which was no mistake at all.

Real beauty is more than skin deep. Just about everybody gets to be young and pretty once, but all revert into what they actually are: a person. Superficial good looks can go ugly fast, just a glimpse into the future at age thirty or forty, the emerging truth at fifty or sixty. Ultimately we see who a man or woman really is.

People with real character and depth grow more beautiful over time, no matter whether they are conventionally attractive or not. Their natural beauty dawns as their nature shapes their looks from inside out. Eccentricity or plainness matures into glamour and charm that are as individual as they are wondrous.

At least I'd like to think so. Me? I'm just addicted to colour.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

mystery solved

Okay, it's no big secret or anything but the other day I ran out of room talking about the reasons we're feeling ready to leave Portland. After that come the reasons why we're ready to leave the US. Maybe it's enough to say I arrived in this country during the Carter administration thinking now that Nixon was gone everything would be okay. Fooled me, eh? We're not rich but we can afford the rent and food somewhere else. (You didn't guess I was that old, did you?) What we can't afford is paying for medical insurance. Hmmm. Where to go?

To tell the truth I was very interested in Chile - nice climate, beautiful scenery, ancient architecture and friendly people all sounded pretty good. Numb, on the other hand, was leaning more towards Tahiti or its tiny neighbor, Moorea (a heart shaped island surrounded by a heart shaped reef). It looks lovely but I'm averse to living in the South Pacific with the oceans rising. You can keep moving to higher ground for just so long on a little island and I'm not convinced the talks in Copenhagen are going to change things.

So we decided to move to Canada. Okay, country chosen but where there?

Toronto is a large and comfortable city much like a version of LA North but I grew up there - so no. Vancouver and Victoria are beautiful and very modern but they're also very expensive - so no. Cities in central Canada like Calgary, Regina (as well as everywhere in the Far North) are all too too cold in winter and often in summer too - so no. Montreal and Quebec are wonderful cities but totally French speaking and neither of us is quite ready for that - no again. Where else? Finally. the answer struck us - Nova Scotia!

We spent 16 years in New England but neither of us have ever lived in Nova Scotia so it will be a new adventure. I did visit the Maritime provinces long ago and visions of blue green waves exploding into white spray against rocky shores has remained a powerful memory. I see dunes and gorse in my dreams. Then too we're pretty much settled on continuing to be urban dwellers but like older cities - places with enough old buildings that nobody would dare pull down to build a shopping mall or insurance office. It sounds a lot like Halifax which isn't that far from Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Providence. I've promised our son not to make a nuisance of myself.

If all goes well that's where we'll be by the end of next summer. Why do I hedge that statement? It's simply because the documentation required by the Canadian government in regard to sponsoring someone is so complicated we decided to hire an attorney to help us through the process. No more, 'Hi, I just ran away from the US Army and I want to live here now' to which they used to say, 'Welcome, we feel the same way about your endless wars of aggression'.

There'll be more to tell you as time goes by and I'll even talk about many of the wonderful people I've known as well as the things I'll miss. For now I just wanted to clear a minor mystery.

At least I won't have to knit Crow a new umbrella for that winter. Besides, he loves dancing to Celtic music and knows Pema Chodren quite well :-)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

bursting our bubble

I find myself gradually saying good-bye to Portland. It's been fun and it's been interesting, though not necessarily both things at once. Perhaps it's the 16 year itch affecting us again or maybe it's just that another place is drawing us into its gravity well. Nevertheless, a year from now we'll be somewhere else and the time between promises to be one full of both expected and unexpected change. I'll tell you more about where later because in the meanwhile I'm busy reminiscing.

We got here in late summer of 1993 after a long drive in a tiny car across a very big country in a short amount of time. My original description of the trip in a letter to a friend was 45 pages long but the essence is contained in that sentence. We stayed in a hotel on a Friday night, bought a paper in the morning, found a suitable apartment close to downtown, emptied the car, went out and bought a futon, carried it home so we'd have a place to sleep and here we were. One of us went to work on Monday morning and I went out to explore the city. Several weeks later 10 tightly packed boxes of our essentials arrived from RI. As old friends announced their intentions to visit we added furniture.

I spent the following 6 months walking, painting, making jewelry, sometimes convincing galleries to show my stuff and sometimes not. One gallery owner told me my stuff wasn't Northwestern enough. Eventually I gave up trying to be a successful working artist and went out and got another job in medicine. Up here. On the hill. Known as Pill Hill back then but not so much now. Portland was funkier and more naive 16 years ago. My first job paid half of what I'd been making on the east coast but it was fun working with neurosurgery researchers. Most of them were quite crazy which suited me very well.

There were still lots of cool places in town - the Church of Elvis you entered by a long narrow staircase and on our first visit Elvis was screaming and chasing a poor tourist down the stairs. LaLuna was one of many neat clubs and the place where we saw Public Enemy one New Year's Eve. 'Weren't you afraid?' someone asked. Well no, we were still in Portland, duh. The was the Sci Fi Museum on Burnside where you could browse through a guy's life-long collection of bizarre treasures for free. Daisy World was a huge fabric store that had been in business for 75 years with a remarkable collection of wonderful stuff that mostly females would like. Along every block there were unique shops full of magazines, records, beads, 50's furniture and antique clothes. I had a favorite place to buy stuff but can't remember now if it was called Good Clothes For Bad Girls or Bad Clothes For Good Girls. You get the idea. Spartacus used to make their own little treasures with leather and lace but now it's all kinky plastic from China. We bought a lot of our cd's at Music Millennium and a lot more at Django's, another business left over from the 60's. There was even an old style department store, seven stories tall with fewer and fewer customers the higher you rode the increasingly narrow escalator and the older and older the staff. I wondered if they just put dust covers over them at night. Once there were many old theaters on Broadway but now it's just the name of a street.

Most all of those places are gone now - buildings torn down and new modern ones where they stood and the others unrecognizable. Mt. Hood is still there in the distance and on clear days you can still see the flat-topped Mt. St. Helen's. Roses still grow here in a profusion like few other places but I've never seen the Rose Parade - nor do I intend to. Powell's, no longer alone in a wasteland of old warehouses, is surrounded by green apartment buildings and the false fancy boutiques of big business.

It's still a nice city, if you can stand the idea of half the streets being turned into bicycle lanes only in a place where it rains and freezes half the year, but it's time for us to be going. More next time :-) and yes, Crow's going with us.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

do you believe in magic?

Crow hasn't made it back here yet but he's assured me he's having a wonderful time. His most recent letter and a little video trailer was delivered this morning by some Canada geese who were on their way south. I was a bit annoyed at them honking outside my bedroom window until I saw what they'd brought. The first thing that fell out of the package was this picture he'd sent because he knows, now that winter's on the way, I miss seeing the little girl musician in the trees.

It had this note: 'What happens when the Universe speaks, but no one listens? Do we even understand the language of the Universe? It has been said by the mystics that the language of the mysteries are found in symbols and not words. These symbols speak to the human spirit and convey concepts, feeling, emotions, and experiences which transcend words. While familiar in the East, the West has long had a problem with the interpretation of symbols. We have a difficult time with the concept of ideas that bypass our rational thought process. The irony is that it appears that the Universe seems to have chosen the West to deliver its message. Perhaps, it is we who need it the most.'

Find more videos like this on Bioneers Community

What is real? What is art? What is the nature of proof? What are the limitations of science? What is the place of humanity in the cosmos? What do you think?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

back in style

I finally finished the 'Lioness & Cub' painted silk bag on the weekend and thought you might like to see how it came out in as close to the real colors as I could manage. Now that we've had some rain and wind storms the girl with the horn is no longer visible in the trees outside my window and likely won't return in the same form next year. Never mind, she's safe here.

Crow's off visiting some old friends and making new ones. He sent me a telegram yesterday to say he'd be back soon but in the meanwhile he told me about the bioneers - an interesting group of social and scientific innovators who are working right here in the US on projects that mimic nature's ways of looking after herself. Crow sounded quite excited about the organization and promises more news once he gets home.

Now I have to go and find his fruitcake and a bottle of Remy Martin. Maybe I'd better polish his perch and his goblet too - but I'll remember to use a separate cloth this time :-)

Saturday, November 7, 2009


Once upon a time, there was an idea and its name was Hugo. Hugo was a small idea and of the type that come out of the blue.

And Hugo, like all ideas that come out of the blue, had but one purpose in its life - to find one person who just happened to be ready to take Hugo and change it from being an idea into being - a something!

For, just as caterpillars dream of becoming butterflies, so also do ideas from out of the blue dream of becoming - something!

and so Hugo began its search for that person.

The first person Hugo came to just happened to be considering other ideas, and though Hugo tried to fit in, there was just no room.

The second person Hugo came to just happened to be watching television, so Hugo didn't even bother.

The third person Hugo came to just happened to be meditating, and Hugo quietly slipped away.

The fourth person Hugo came to just happened to be making a decision, and Hugo knew it would just be in the way.

The fifth person Hugo came to just happened to be speaking to someone else, and Hugo didn't want to interrupt.

The sixth person Hugo came to just happened to be angry, and Hugo was quickly bumped away.

The seventh person Hugo came to just happened to be very happy, and Hugo was floated away like a balloon.

The eighth person Hugo came too just happened to be depressed, and though Hugo waited a while, it grew impatient and left.

The ninth person Hugo came to just happened to be remembering, and Hugo felt a bit out of place.

The tenth person Hugo came to just happened to be a bit too young, and Hugo, small as he was, was still a bit too large.

But - the eleventh person Hugo came to just happened to be waiting to take Hugo and change it from being an idea into being - a something!

And that is why this story is named Hugo- for you see - the eleventh person was me, and this story is the something that Hugo became.

The End


I met Jer (numb) in 1975 when my son and his best friend Zoe were both five. This is just one of the stories he wrote to entertain them... is it any wonder I fell in love? Some things, like good ideas, never get old.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

where's the palace guard?

Not long ago, one of my favorite artist bloggers, Marja-Leena Rathje, posted some beautiful photographs of small, frequently unnoticed details among the larger and more obvious charms of Paris. Her incredible eye for detail is one of the many reasons I like to visit her site often. One of those pictures reminded me of a little story of my own that I mentioned to her in a comment. She asked me to show her the result so this picture is first of all for her but I'll tell you the story too.

When I was still quite young back in 1958, my mother took me for a three month trip to England to visit the family. We stayed for a couple of weeks with an aunt and uncle who lived in London and while there it was of course necessary to go to Buckingham Palace to see the changing of the Guard. After one group of equal sized soldiers wearing bright red coats, black trousers and tall bear skin hats had replaced the last batch I left the grownups so I could get a closer look at the palace through the tall iron railings of the main gate. I was also hoping to get a glimpse of the golden Coronation Carriage I'd seen so often in pictures or perhaps the Queen would come out for a stroll with Prince Charles and they would recognize my royal qualities and invite us all in for tea. I was a very romantic and imaginative child.

What happened instead was that I noticed a gold plated lion's head about the size of an adult's fist that was part of the gate and reached up and touched it. I swear it was just a gentle touch with one finger but the next thing I knew it had fallen and I caught it. I was terrified one of those Guards would clamp his hand on my shoulder and lock me away in the Tower of London for the rest of my life. I turned in shock to look where my mother was standing with my aunt and uncle and never in my short life had I felt so far from safety. Then my uncle, a quick thinking man, ran over, grabbed the little lion's head and wrapped it in his raincoat before the nearest Guard had turned for his return trip marching up and down the square.

I brought it home nicely packed in my suitcase and I've had it ever since. If you look at the back it's easy to see it had been hanging on the gate by only one rusted out screw. I wonder if I mailed it back if the Queen might be so grateful she'd invite us for tea? It seems I'm still a romantic even after all this time.

But please don't mention this to anyone since I still worry about the Tower.

Friday, October 30, 2009

playing the game

However unlikely it may be that humanity in general has been wondering where I am and what I've been doing these past few days, I thought it only fair to let a couple of my best friends know. I don't co-pilot many of the video games my husband enjoys playing but there are some very special ones I'm just so grateful to be able to witness (and sometimes help puzzle solve). Among a few others like Zelda, Ico, Final Fantasy, Metal Gear Solid and Persona 3 we've been fans of Ratchet and Clank. The series began in 2002 shortly after the introduction of the Play Station 2 and the last major game called R&C Future: Tools of Destruction with its cliff hanger ending was released in 2007. Two years is a long time so you may understand we've been very eager for the latest and likely the last ever of the series that arrived in the mail a few days ago - R&C Future: A Crack in Time.

There seems to be a shortage of video games that are challenging, witty and beautifully designed and it's true to say that most of the ones that fit those qualifications aren't made in the United States. However, Insomniac Games, the group responsible for the design and production of Ratchet & Clank, is based in Burbank California and even though they're contracted to produce games for Sony they are American, if not necessarily the apple pie kind. Imagine the Marx Brothers as high tech gaming wizards and you might come close to understanding what these guys are up to even if you don't play or have access to a 16 year old's button pushing skills.. or one who's much older but keeps up the effort.

How could anybody not appreciate titles like: Going Commando, Size Matters, Secret Agent Clank or my favorite - Up Your Arsenal? So for the last few evenings I've been swept up in the sheer chaos and hilarity of outrageous battles against the destructive plans of evil overlords who want to destroy the universe. We've been rail riding, flying, solving puzzles and just plain enjoying the fun of using outrageous weapons (a giant burping monster gun or Mr. Zirkon, a flying robot weapon who talks, 'Mr Zirkon needs no nanotech to survive; Mr. Zirkon lives on fear') against hordes of monsters all in the effort of reuniting a pair of friends. That's a worthy enough goal in my opinion. Just in case you'd like to see a little bit of the action here it is. Happy Halloween.

and yes, I will be visiting.

Sunday, October 25, 2009


This is the principle character I drew a year or so ago for a painting that will never be done. You see no matter how I tried to fit her into some sort of logical context I simply couldn't decide what she was supposed to be looking at. I like drawing women and the women I draw always tend to be somewhat other-worldly. Their legs are always a little longer than is the norm and the breasts high and firm - something in real life that lasts just a few short years if at all. You're not to likely to see anyone who looks like this if you go for a walk around any block.

I drew her reaching out to something:

A parting in the sky looking toward a disastrous landscape was just too weird

Then there was a lotus but that was just too affected. I'm barely a Buddhist.

The tiny elephants marching in a line looked silly.

The lioness curled around her I'd done too many times before.

So she sits in one of my drawing books today still looking towards nothing in particular. She may wait forever for me to return and place in her in a watercolor that suits her strange aspect and that's okay. Long ago I got to the point with painting that the borders meant more to me than the central image and, having spent a few more days looking at the Red Book, I can clearly see that in reality it's the chaos at the border of our imagined selves that's the territory we most need to explore.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Red Book

Yesterday we came home to find an enormous box leaning against our door. What it contained is a book that's become legendary to people interested in the work and discoveries of Carl G. Jung - a perfect facsimile folio copy of the Red Book.

I'm no scholar and it's probably silly of me to want such a thing but I have been interested in why we are as we are for many years and a number of Jung's books have found a place in my smallish library. This one is something I never expected to see, never mind own. It's staggeringly beautiful with every page illuminated with his fabulous paintings of his personal journey to individuation. No, I don't read German but happily, the latter part of the book is a complete translation of the text.

Who are we as individuals according to Jung? We are the sum of the five archetypes that define our selves in this world. Briefly put:

The Persona is that which we present to the outside world.

The Ego is the centre of consciousness but not the totality of the psyche.

The Shadow is the box for all of that which we have disowned.

The Anima is the female soul image of a man, the Animus the male soul image of a woman. According to Jung a person's soul image is gender opposite.

The Self is simply the centre and the totality of the entire psyche. It is the archetype which contains all the other archetypes and around which they orbit. It's something of a paradox, and extremely difficult for the conscious ego to accept.

The years … when I pursued the inner images were the most important time of my life. Everything else is to be derived from this. It began at that time, and the later details hardly matter anymore. My entire life consisted in elaborating what had burst forth from the unconscious and flooded me like an enigmatic stream and threatened to break me. That was the stuff and material for more than only one life.

Everything later was merely the outer classification, the scientific elaboration, and the integration into life. But the numinous beginning, which contained everything, was then. C.G. Jung

I know the pictures above don't do the book much justice but they're the ones I took earlier today in dim light. You'll know where to find better ones. For me, opening the pages is like seeing the work of William Blake for the first time.

Now all I have to do is wait ten years for my husband to finish reading it.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

hot Crow

Okay, I borrowed cousin Fred's sailor suit and I'm heading off to make a few visits. Cuba is nice this time of year. Before I go I thought I should tell you about my friend Chris Hedges who has a few things of interest to say about the climate change crisis your government would prefer you not notice.

In case you don't have time to read the article (not long and well worth a few minutes) there's one paragraph to remember which I'll change just a little. He does a very enjoyable rant:

"You can cut our consumption of fossil fuels. You can use less water. You can banish plastic bags. You can install compact fluorescent light bulbs. You can compost in your backyard. But unless you dismantle the corporate state, all those actions will be just as ineffective as the Ghost Dance shirts donned by native American warriors to protect themselves from the bullets of white soldiers at Wounded Knee."

It's not your fault, people. I'm thinking there might be another world not too far from this one where human industry never went high tech. I'm off to the Bermuda Triangle to see if I can find it and if I do I'll be sure to come back and bring you the map.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

crow battens down

Crow here. I've been wondering if the human species has too much natural ability to dominate (both one another and the environment) without the wisdom to use such abilities for the promotion of life. It was John Maynard Keynes who pointed out that for most of human history - essentially up until the 18th century and the invention of the steam engine - very little changed about the way people lived on the planet. Before that people had learned about fire, language, music, cattle, the wheel, the plow, the sail and pottery. There were banks, governments, mathematics and religion.

When humans began digging up coal to fuel steam engines and metal ships the modern age came about. After coal came oil, then natural gas and all of a sudden things started going much much faster than they ever had in human history. Things became more efficient and, yes, life became much more comfortable for those born in western industrial states but the big question now is - at what cost? After WWII economic growth in the United States in particular became exponential. Growth became America's mantra, and then the world's. There were all kinds of technological advances to come: plastics, cheap cars, television, air-conditioning that opened whole regions of the country to masses of people. This was the richest country in the world, the most powerful.

That simple, cheap, concentrated power lies at the heart of our modern economies. Every action of a modern life burns fossil fuel; viewed in one way, modern Western human beings are flesh-colored devices for combusting coal and gas and oil. "Before coal," writes Jeffrey Sachs, "economic production was limited by energy inputs, almost all of which depended on the production of biomass: food for humans and farm animals, and fuel wood for heating and certain industrial processes." That is, energy depended on how much you could grow. But fossil energy depended on how much had grown eons before, on all those millions of years of ancient biology squashed by the weight of time till they'd turned into strata and pools and seams of hydrocarbons, waiting for people to discover them.

The down side of all this growth is that nobody nowadays can argue that putting massive amounts of carbon waste into our atmosphere for the past 100 years or more has effectively changed the climate. The amount of carbon dioxide that scientists have determined is a safe level for our atmosphere and continuation of the planetary climate to be safe for human beings and all creatures is 350 parts per million. It's been just two years since leading climatologists observed rapid ice melt in the Arctic and other frightening signs of climate change, they issued a series of studies showing that the planet faced both human and natural disaster if atmospheric concentrations of CO2 remained above 350 parts per million. Unfortunately, the level now is 390ppm and it's still rising.

Only the United States refused to sign the original Kyoto Climate Protocol because it doesn't require any action from the developing world, including China. Now the agreement is likely to be allowed to expire in 2012 and meetings are scheduled in Copenhagen later this year to see if a new policy can be agreed to by all. The common belief has been that we have until 2050 before insurmountable difficulties with climate change will be apparent to all. Armada storms are a good name for what we could experience in a man made planetary climate. Last Thursday the UN's top climate scientist, Rajendra Pachauri, urged a key conference on global warming to set tough mid-term goals and warned carbon emissions had to peak by 2015 to meet a widely-shared vision. One thing he said was essential is that the United States cuts its carbon waste by 100% in ten years. Forgive this Crow for smiling at the idea.

October 24th is scheduled to be an international day of action to put pressure on governments to change their stance on continuing the massive use of fossil fuels. Copenhagen in December of this year may well be the pivotal moment that determines whether or not we get the planet out of the climate crisis. To learn more check out In the meantime I'm going to see if I can find susan one of these handy little units designed by America's biggest corporations and advertised by my friends The Yes Men.

Friday, October 16, 2009

rewarding preoccupations

Today I opened my email and was delighted to find that my sweet friend Linda of the wonderful art blog Vulture Peak Muse had presented me with an award.. a friendship award. It was so pretty and such a surprise I had to go and have a look at the blog where the award originated.

Please visit Ces's blog to be see the beauty of her artwork and read her inspiring posts. She dedicated the first of these awards to her friend Deborah who is a poet and mother of a son posted in Afghanistan. Below is part of what she had to say.

“So today I am planting another tree. The Quercus shumardii or Shumard Oak. It is a handsome large tree with straight axis and broad, rounded open crown. It withstands strong hurricane winds, extreme heat, is tall and straight and just plain beautiful. I have more trees to plant but rest assured those who have virtual trees and acorns planted and distributed in their honor have one common virtue, they are loyal friends regardless of race, creed, political affiliations and geography. Here, I honor womanhood and friendship and there is nothing more wondrous a blessing for anyone than for a friend who came and never left your side.”

Friendship isn't about who you have known the longest, but who came and never left your side.

Three on Linda's list of sisterfriends are already longtime members of the phantsy blog roll and must be noted as dear friends of mine too:

Gina the Pagan Sphinx whose history of art posts, photographs and political opinions are always a delight to read.

Lisa of That's Why who writes absolutely side-splitting dialog and beautifully pointed descriptions of contemporary life.

Belette known as La Belette Rouge. She's an incredibly talented biographer able to describe her life in a way that models the experience of many different women.

I have other friends on my blog roll I'd like to present the award to as well. Some I've known for a long time and we still visit regularly. Others I've known a long time but we don't often manage to spend much time visiting. That's the way things go in this world of diamonds dancing where we flash facets at one another and move on through the gavotte. There are some new friends too. It's always good to see how others see the world we share and what it is they do to help make it a better place for everyone.

There's the Border Explorer who stands in the margins shoulder to shoulder with the marginated at our border with Mexico. She's a brave and strong lady.

Sera of Encore Seraphine is a graphic artist of extraordinary ability who shares subtle and wise insights of the complexity of modern life.

G-Fid, aka Granny Fiddler who lives in the far north of Canada, is a concert violinist and the proud powerhouse of a new Habitat For Humanity Re-Store. She's not that old either.

Freida Bee of Freida Bee, MD who may or may not be a doctor but who does write hilarious posts and hopefully, will one day get paid for writing.

Nunly of Bad Habit is a very good Catholic girl who calls 'Bullshit' when she finds it. Nunly makes me laugh and that's a good thing.

Jams O'Donnell of The Poor Mouth is Irish (as you likely guessed) and posts about politics, art, music and European culture.

CDP of CDP. She writes with discernment and humor about her life, family and working for the Man - as well as continued school. Yow.

Liberality of Liberality is a librarian, liberal, mother, feminist and Buddhist. What she writes is worth reading.

Kirie of Three Little Chickies is a poet, writer and mother. That last word says a lot.

Nancy, whose Life in the Second Half was named a Blog of Note last year is a woman of peripatetic interests. She likes to initiate discussions about philosophical topics that inspire people to think outside the box.

Marja-Leena has a blog named Marja-Leena Rathje is a well known print artist in Canada. You can link to the beautiful photographs of her work but her blog is much about her travels, friends and thoughts.

Suzi of Suzi Riot may be a lawyer by now and if she is she's out there raising a shit storm over our not very socially responsible government. You go Grrrl!

Martha is Sofie One Crow and should be a poet known to everyone. She writes beautifully about many subjects with deep meaning to all our hearts.

Utah has a blog called Utah Savage who lives in and writes about that great bastion of bizarre culture, Salt Lake City. She is also the author of a magnificently heart rending novel about growing up as the beautiful daughter of a jealous mother and other assorted traumas. She is still beautiful and brave too.

I offer this lovely award to all. Thank you.

ps - Boys can be sisters too if you want.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

tiger wise

Ah well, since I'm just plain bored with looking at an unfinished silk painting this morning I think I'll re-post a watercolor I did a few years ago. Partially done things are out of date, behind the times and irrelevant the very next time I pick up a brush. The Rolling Stones knew that decades ago when they sang 'Who needs yesterday's paper? Who needs yesterday's girl? Who needs yesterday's paper? Nobody in the world.' Come to think of it - remembering a little history might no go amiss.

Hope it's a good day where you are. Me? I have to go to work if I can avoid this hole in the floor :-)

Saturday, October 10, 2009

saturday phantsying

I spent the day painting what will be the next silk bag and then I took a picture that looked like this when it came out of i-photo. Then I decided to see what it would look like if I played with photo shop elements:

This is what it it looked like with normal diffuse

and this is how it looked as a poster.

I think this one is my favorite - just plain with all the color switched to sepia. Maybe I'll paint it in sepia next time and then play with colors. Makes you wonder what's real, doesn't it?

Ahh, this one is nice too - invert suggested by Marja-Leena:

Having too many options confuses me.