Thursday, December 30, 2010

dancing in my mind

Here at the almost end of another year I find myself in a strange place. Not Halifax. Yes, still here but the city is anything but strange. In fact it's about as normal as any small city in Canada could be - cold, quiet, and somewhat sleepy now that winter's here. So far there's only a little snow but there are still a few months of potential weather excitement ahead.

What I mean by strange place is the one I find myself in on the inside and the fact I haven't posted much lately because I've been drawing a fair amount but don't seem to be quite in the mood for painting. I'm feeling a bit color shy if the truth be told, tired of painting fantasies yet too tied into the images. Any mythology I envision is strictly personal but always returns to a sense of sacredness I feel about our human experience of the world. Reverence for a spectacular view rises up in us unbidden but there's also a sacred aspect to whatever is in front of us right now and that's what I'm trying to capture in my own limited fashion.

Do you have plans for New Year's? If I could go anywhere for a party I think I'd like to visit Yokohama the night La Machine's 'La Princesse' and a sister arachnid showed up for a stroll around town. I, for one, welcome our new spider overlords.

Imagine how things could be if more people could see all the possibilities and wonders in this life. Oh well, c'est la guerre. Meanwhile, Happy New Year :-)

Saturday, December 25, 2010

time to relax

Wherever we wander may a warm light always welcome us home.
Peace of the day to all

susan, numb and Crow
♡ ♡ ♡

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Thursday, December 16, 2010

needing more light

Speaking of magical lights (as I did a few days ago) a Norwegian photographer has made a timelapse video of the Aurora Borealis. This beautiful dance of light that happens only in the northernmost reaches would be wonderful to see, but since few of us are likely to go to Malmo, I decided to post the film. It's too beautiful not to share.

I hope you are keeping well in the long dark.
Brighter days are coming by and by.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

street life lights

One of the cool things about this time of the year is the sparkling lights on Christmas trees. It's always a shame when the holidays end and we're left with long dark nights and streets lit by ugly phosphorous street lights that make you eager to get back inside. Street lights are, of course, important for lighting our way home and for keeping the streets safe but as well as shining in a somewhat poisonous spectrum, they're also very costly to operate.

A group of scientists in Taiwan recently discovered that placing gold nanoparticles inside the leaves of trees causes them to give off a luminous reddish glow after dark. They were looking for a way to create high efficiency lighting at low cost without using toxic chemicals. Essentially, the gold treated leaves act like little solar panels storing up UV light throughout the day and glow softly through the night.

There was no discussion in the article I read about what happens in high latitude cities where the leaves actually drop in the autumn but it would give us all another good reason to look forward to spring. Considering the current price of gold it's also certainly true that there'd be lots of people eager to rake once the leaves began to fall. A world lit by bioluminescence would be pretty neat but it all sounds pretty complicated and I'm a bit nervous about nano-anything.

What I know would be nice is being able to see the moon and stars again.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

moonscape to landscape

What looks like an ordinary field of grass, flowers and baby trees is actually quite remarkable because, just five years ago, it looked like this:

A group of scientists at the Technical University of Munich wondered how to best restore a natural ecosystem to an open coal pit not far from the city. Rather than haul in tons of soil and carefully place vegetation, what they did was cover the pit in a layer of clay and let an artificial water basin form. Then they left it alone - other than taking samples to check soil enhancement.

They noticed the first cloudburst created furrows where water ran off and washed away the clay. The next rain made the furrows wider and deeper determining the future course of the water flow and where the plants would grow. The first trees weren't expected for at least 20 years but black locust trees germinated and their root's nitrogen fixing bacteria make them an excellent early colonizer of the disturbed area.

Five years later the scientists who have been been able to capture a lot of information about the natural development of a new ecosystem have been astounded by nature's resilience. It certainly goes to show that Mother Nature really is a brilliant designer and doesn't need human interference in her affairs.

After having read Alan Weisman's 'The World Without Us' a few years ago, I'm confident Earth will do okay but it would be nice if we could be here to witness the healing.

♡ - a little good news is always welcome.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

late night pussycat

I never post pictures of cats because I don't have one anymore but I loved this photograph the minute I saw it. Nice, hmmm?

Have you ever considered this?

When a cat is dropped, it always lands on its feet, and when toast is dropped, it always lands buttered side down. Therefore, if a slice of toast is strapped to a cat's back, buttered side up, and the animal is then dropped, the two opposing forces will cause it to hover, spinning inches above the ground. If enough toast-laden felines were used, they could form the basis of a high-speed monorail system.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

energy levels

Spaceship or cloud? What looks like the apocalypse is a supercell thunderstorm that was photographed near Glasgow, Montana last summer. If you look closely you'll see a little smudge on the lower right.. a tree. We did run into some high winds and a couple of storms as we crossed the country, including Montana, in August but I'm very glad we didn't see one of these along the road. The picture's even more amazing if you enlarge it.

I'm not usually a storm of activity anyway but December is always an especially low month for me. I think I'll go easy with personal expectations for a while and simply post things that interest me, what I usually do, but with much less commentary. Has anybody else been having problems with personal energy levels lately?

Thursday, December 2, 2010

neptunia and her beachball

It occurred to me if scientific thought and education based on cooperation rather than competition was encouraged, we'd have a much better chance of not simply surviving but flourishing. If the world was run on evidence-based science we'd be investing in major projects to develop and deploy clean renewable technologies. We'd work toward ending the spate of curable diseases and the hunger that kill eleven million children every year. Instead, we're seeing huge amounts of money being funneled into the hands of the super-rich who have no long range plan in mind at all other than increasing their own wealth in a world that's at the brink of disaster.

In the last 50 years, we've moved away from collective thinking - all over the world people are educated in the western style to compete. Higher education in much of the west is now so expensive that students have to plan on a high paying career that will allow them to pay off their loans rather than look forward to using their knowledge and skills for positive ends. We have impoverished graduates who can't find jobs in their chosen fields and a large segment of the general population that hates science. That's not only sad but also dangerous.

I like to read and there are so many fascinating discoveries and developments that sometimes I can get lost exploring for whole sections of days. The world is an intriguing, magnificent place where, if we were to admit it, we've caused many of our own problems. I've made it a habit of stopping reading the minute somebody says, 'We should all do so and so to fix this, that or the other thing' because that will never happen. I've heard it said that not everyone brushes their teeth and what could be more basic than that?

I guess what we can do is remain open to the possibilities of a better future for everyone and learn as much as we can on our own. That includes sharing what we learn with each other until we have a society that recognizes that large things matter.

Meanwhile, I give you Neptunia, one of those paintings that didn't work out as planned.


Friday, November 26, 2010

sublime or ridiculous?

I was wondering what it might be that the uber-rich like to spend their ill-gotten gains purchasing. I know about yachts, mansions, fancy cars, fabulous jewels, antiques, famous paintings, and other trinkets but the strangest thing I found was this - the world's most expensive house.

I was so unnerved by it I had to post this extra picture so you could see it against the skyline. It's a recently completed building in Mumbai, India and is home to India's richest man, Mukesh Ambani. The house, which cost more than $1billion, is 27 stories tall but at 568 ft would be a 60 storey building if it had normal ceilings. It has 398,000 sq ft of living space that requires a staff of more than 600 people to care for him, his wife, and three children. Mukesh Ambani wasn't from Dharavi but his father, who made the original fortune, came from very modest means. It's sad to see such a bizarre example of conspicuous consumption in a country that's one of the poorest on the planet.

Speaking of spending money wisely for housing, I came across an article from last autumn's NY Times about a Wisconsin forester-architect who uses small, whole trees to build houses, greenhouses and larger buildings. The economic slowdown has put several contracts he'd anticipated from non-profit companies on hold but not so strangely, a lot of people have been asking him for small houses. At $100 per square foot, imagine how many nice little houses Mr Ambani could have built for the price of his personal skyscraper? I'm sure there would have been enough for homes for his 600 staff members who likely do live in Dharavi.

Yes, wealthy people do what they like with their money but the fact is that they mistake the true wealth of the world in their calculations. In today's culture of profit, we don't produce goods based on human need. We don't build houses based on population needs. We don't grow food to feed people. Instead, we're decimating our renewable natural resources to rip non-renewables out of the ground.

 There are many clever and talented people in the world like the forester-architect and lots of room for other ways of doing things. I don't know what will happen in the future but it makes me feel better about today knowing he and others like him are here.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

happy Thanksgiving

This painting isn't quite done and the colors of the photograph are off but it's what I've been working on the past week or more. So why am I posting it now? Simply because it's the only new and potentially lovely thing I have available as a gift to my friends on the eve of my favorite American holiday.

Walk and touch peace every moment.
Walk and touch happiness every moment.
Each step brings a fresh breeze.
Each step makes a flower bloom.
Kiss the Earth with your feet.
Bring the Earth your love and happiness.
The Earth will be safe
when we feel safe in ourselves.

- Thich Nhat Hanh

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

hold on, it's coming

With Thanksgiving upon us and Christmas coming sooner than we like, I thought I'd share an amusing Catalonian tradition I just learned about. Since the 17th century during Christmas, a large model of the city of Bethlehem is created along with the usual nativity scene. Tucked away in a corner of the model there has always been a little figure of a defecating Catalan peasant, called the Caganer.

It's considered to be a good omen and a sign of the earth being fertilized. In recent years, instead of a peasant wearing a red hat squatting in a corner, modern Caganers are caricatures of famous people.

It could be said Caganers represent the equality of all people and I rather like that definition. Then again, it could mean other things too which I'll leave for you to decide.

Monday, November 22, 2010

hats off to the winner

It's not even December yet and already the weather here in Halifax is colder than I'm used to at this time of year. I guess that's no surprise, except to me who thought they were just kidding about winter woolies and boots heavy enough to hold your feet to the ground when the wind blows a gale. Guess what? They weren't kidding.

Anyway, for the sake of a little prettiness to go along with protection from the elements, I made myself a hat. It's not the best hat, or the most fashionable hat, or even the warmest hat, but it's not bad for a first attempt at making a hat. I may even make another, quilted and lined with patchworks of painted silk.

Before Crow left for his annual flight around the Andes with his condor friends he pulled the name of the birthday card winner out of the hat and asked that I let that person know. Since he's the wisest being of my acquaintance, I'm always delighted to follow his wishes.

The lucky winner of a small Crow portrait is Marja-Leena, a very fine artist and collector of treasures new, old, and natural.

Thanks to all of you who left birthday greetings. I told Crow not to give away the date but now I'm very glad he did. Warm wishes are the best body and soul warmer I know of. I wish I could send a birthday card to all of you. Given enough time, I may do just that.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

birthday card

Crow here. It will soon be midnight in the land of fog and squalls but before I finish my perchtime brandy, I wanted to let you know tomorrow is susan's birthday. In recognition of her friendship and good company over the course of many years I offer this seaside portrait she painted one early autumn afternoon. Since there is only one, and not a dozen or two, it will be awarded at random to one of you. Perhaps you could just mention you've stopped by.

Quite frankly, considering her quirks and odd concepts, it's always a relief to find her at home waiting when I return from my own travels. I can attest she's growing older but her sense of humor remains intact, a trait that helps sustain us all in difficult times.

May all your journeys be flights of phantsy.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

floating islands

One aspect of the current worldwide economic disaster that continually aggravates me is the fact that so much in the way of human ingenuity keeps getting pushed further to the back of the shelf. As an example, wetlands the world over are losing ground to overdevelopment and pollution. With this loss comes drastically reduced water quality, increased flooding of surrounding areas and the looming specter of the extinction of many species - including eventually, ourselves.

Last summer everyone's attention was focused on the BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, a situation that's continued to be a catastrophe because of the massive quantities of oil still in the water and because of the dangerous chemicals used as dispersants. So far it's the worst example to come to the attention of the general public but nobody's going to stop drilling for oil in the oceans because we don't like it.

Anyway, the multiple levels of pollution have been bothering me enough that I went rooting around on the internet to see if anyone had any better ideas. Would you be surprised to find out there's a solution people have been playing around with for thousands of years? The fix for the pollution of wetlands appears to involve nothing more complicated than building floating islands which already have a long history of success. The people of Lake Titicaca, build their villages upon what are in effect huge rafts of bundled reeds. The chinampas of Mexico were artificial garden islands created by the Aztecs as early as 1150AD and used continually until they were destroyed by the invading Spanish.

More recently several companies have been constructing archipelagos of boat-size to basketball-court size islands out of recycled plastic and foam, plant habitat-specific vegetation, and set the islands afloat wherever natural wetlands once thrived. Along with rainforests and coral reefs, wetlands are the most active and diverse ecosystems on the planet, serving as a home or breeding ground to one third of all bird species, 190 amphibians and more than 200 types of fish. Wetlands filter out excess nutrients and pollutants by trapping them in roots and soil where plants and bacteria break them down into less harmful substances. Called BioHavens, there are now more than 3000 of these ready-made ecosystems floating at trouble spots around the globe. The link will take you to Floating Island International where you'll find some very cool pictures of finished projects and those in process.

It made me feel a little better knowing there are active bio-remediation projects going on in the US and around the world. The Leviathan, with 2500 ft of top surface and shown here without the plants, is capable of processing of up to 8,000 gallons of 'dead zone' water per minute in either fresh or sea water. It can pull from any depth and provides the complete 'wetland effect' of nutrient conversion. It operates at low power and, since it's modular, can be extended. The motto for the project was 'It will take a monster to eat a dead zone'. Although it was offered to the US government, and the Coast Guard in particular, as a way of ameliorating the recent damage to the Gulf, I haven't been able to discover if it was used - although I suspect not. I'm sure many people living in the Gulf states would be delighted to work on new green tech projects but things like this cost money and so long as huge polluters aren't subject to environmental laws it won't happen on a large enough scale to make a difference.

Meanwhile, I found a guy who went to Mexico and built his own island. I hope you enjoy watching it as much as I did.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

considering Crow

Crow here. If you're feeling frustrated and angry about things you're unable to change no matter how you vote the good news is you're not alone. Since the Atlantic Ocean is just down the street from my new roost I be-winged myself and took a quick trip to Europe and I'm here to report that similar frustrations are being acted on elsewhere. Government austerity measures that are going into effect across the continent have brought people into the streets by the thousands in Greece, France, Germany, Ireland and England.

Although these protests can't be described as having achieved success the important thing is that they haven't gone unnoticed. All of them were originally caused by the huge fraud that was perpetrated on the world by the banking system. The fight we are up against in the world today is the psychopathic misconception that profit and control are the supreme goals of all powerful nations.

The homogenized vision propagated by much of the world's financial/political leadership is actually contra-survival. Health for mankind and those of us who share the planet with you has always been better when there are many culturally varied, independently sustainable and ecologically sound economies. I don't advise long distance travel for a protest on Wall St. but non-cooperation isn't a bad idea and it's one that can be undertaken by many at once if planned on the internet. For example 'Buy Nothing Day' is the Friday after Thanksgiving. If you haven't celebrated it in other years maybe now is a good time to start. It would be good practice for the only kind of protest the uber-rich do understand and if all you've got is chicken feed, why not share it with the birds?

Spend your time being kind to one another as if you live in the early days of a better world. That's what the rest of us do every day.


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

make your own movies

Not only is this hilarious, ingenious, and very true but the extra cool thing is that it's fairly easy to make 3D movies yourself. Unfortunately, I can't because the program from only works in Windows and we don't have a PC. All you have to do is type but I think it helps if you have something to say. The next one is even better but there isn't enough room on my blogger screen to show it. Check out Sparks Meets Bernanke and Alan Greenspan You didn't think the Quantitative Easing program announced last week has anything to do with stimulating your economy, did you?

Since I can't download the program I've continued to work on the drawing for the next painting. I wanted to show you a hint of where it's going but it's already too big to fit on the bed of my scanner - plus it's stretched so the original couldn't sit on the screen. The next picture you see will be taken by my camera and may well be a finished painting by then. Bet you can hardly wait :-)


Saturday, November 6, 2010

politics of adjustment

I think we all have intense internal relationships with the wild world that signify our need for a counterbalance to the mindless destruction our technology has wrought on the planet.

The manipulation of money supply through the ages to finance war and thus technological supremacy is coming up against the wall of resource scarcity. The oceans are dying, bio-diversity is being stamped out, and anthropological diversity is being decimated. It's really unfortunate that money doesn't grow on trees. If it did, we'd have better control over it for we would have to nurture it and cultivate it and then distribute only what was harvested. Just imagine what Wall St. would look like.

Politicians exist to preserve existing systems, not change them. The political system itself is both cumbersome and anachronistic in a period of history when decisions could be made on important issues simply by entering objective data into computers. Unfortunately, the majority of people respond to simplistic concerns which only tend to repeat the cycle. The idea that you could sit and talk to individuals in order to alter their opinions is pretty hopeless when the first thing they'll do when faced with difficult circumstances is to find someone to blame.

I've been feeling bad this past week not to have been able to discuss the current political situation directly with my friends and former co-workers in the US. Even though I don't believe I can change anyone's mind, I still believe I can help to change hearts at little.

Anyhow, I've been working to block out the design for a new painting. Here's the not quite finished line drawing of the main character. Tell me what you think.

Friday, November 5, 2010

friday night movie

Anybody remember Bulworth?

Monday, November 1, 2010

only november?

Here's yet another from the collection in case you've never seen it. It's under glass so I didn't get the best image but I'm sure you'll get the idea.

It keeps on getting colder here though we have balcony rails now so it's not a straight seven floor drop over the edge. The grinding has been a constant for two months but those boys look cold too and some days, when the wind catches the scaffolds, I'd swear they were rehearsing for the circus. Maybe they're trapeze artists once building season ends. It couldn't be that they stay home and drink huge amounts of beer, could it?

The good news is our car is now a genuine Canadian with her Nova Scotia plates, a safety sticker and a $200 addition to her electronics that turns her lights on when she starts. Apparently it's a law here that must have been lobbied into being by the automobile lightbulb association. When we went to the provincial version of the DMV to get everything taken care of we were prepared to spend the day - sandwiches, drinks, books, and games all in hand - yet were amazed that our licenses and the registration was all done in less than an hour.

Another weird thing has been the complete absence of Halloween and Christmas decorations, advertisements, store, and mall displays. Both holidays are celebrated here but it appears the total commercialization I've grown immured to never happened. It's quite refreshing.

Just for a little entertainment, maybe you'd like to see something neat that came as a surprise to me, although I'm sure my Canadian friends know all about this projection production that's been a regular event in Quebec City since 2008. 'The Image Mill' was created as part of the celebration of the city's 400 year history and the screen is an old grain mill on the harbor. 2000 feet long and 100 feet tall, the historical images and films projected on the huge old cylinders look pretty cool. I've only been there once but I remember Quebec as one of the most beautiful cities I've ever seen. Now I have another reason to go back for a visit.. unless they decide to do one in Halifax.

Bande annonce - Le Moulin à images from Samuel Matteau on Vimeo.

I'm always up for a little projection..
but thank heavens for radiant


Friday, October 29, 2010

autumn diversion

Memories of morning on a planet far, far away where people and lizards know to treasure the wisdom of elderly tigers.

In honor of the upcoming US elections I thought I'd post a real radio transcript of a conversation that took place between a US naval ship and Canadian authorities off the coast of Newfoundland a few years ago:

Canadians: Please divert your course 15 degrees to the south to avoid a collision.
Americans: Recommend you divert your course 15 degrees to the north.
Canadians: Negative. You will have to divert your course 15 degrees to the south to avoid a collision.
Americans: This is the captain of a US navy ship. I say again, divert YOUR course.
Canadians: No. I say again, divert YOUR course.
Americans: This is the aircraft carrier USS Lincoln, the second biggest ship in the United States Atlantic fleet. We are accompanied by three destroyers, three cruisers and numerous support vessels. I demand that you change YOUR course 15 degrees north. That's one five degrees north, or counter measures will be taken to ensure the safety of this ship.
Canadians: We are a lighthouse. Your call.

Sometimes all you can do is laugh.

Monday, October 25, 2010

foraging ground

The entirety of this painting has been up here before but not for a while. I like it well enough to post it again and may do so with a few more in order to keep up my blog presence while I work on some new images that I hope will please me.. and you eventually.

In Portland I once had an idea about painting pictures of little creatures I called Oregnomes. Instead of being the rather gnarly bark colored beings of old European folk tales, mine would be voluptuous, although still tiny, beings who'd spend their time being unnecessarily helpful. This is one of them - in fact, it might be the only one since I got bored with the plan almost immediately and went on to other things.

So here I am starting over again in a new place and feeling like I need to spend some time working on yet another slightly different way of interpreting the situation. Since that will take some time, I'll post some older work when I feel the need to mutter about something else totally beside the point. For me that's what blogging is about.

Thank goodness there are still so many of you with much more interesting things to say. That's why I keep returning.

Crow, in the meanwhile, has been off visiting warmer climes while excusing himself by telling me he had to make sure the swallows made it to Capistrano. He's likely to return soon so I'm keeping his perch warm while I try not to finish off his brandy supply. Have I mentioned it's getting cold here?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

natural magic

Sometimes I may miss posting because I have no picture and sometimes I have a picture and can't think of anything to say. This may be one of those.

Am I whimsical? I don't see myself as such but I do believe it's important to pay attention to what's going on in the world and, as a counterbalance, spend at least an equal amount of time contemplating an opposing view. So I paint another picture.

Then I ask myself just how disturbing do I find concrete reality?

'Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile,
but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.'
~ Thich Nhat Hhan

Sunday, October 17, 2010

drift jumping

We had our first taste of maritime winter weather this weekend when a nor'easter spent the day blowing through. Happily, this time it wasn't cold but the winds were strong enough that the fountain across the way was spraying 30 feet sideways.

Speaking of winter, and I'd rather not but the fact must be faced, an interesting thing about Halifax is that all the apartments are provided with heat and hot water as part of the rent. Some, like this one, have electricity included too. What's fascinated me about this place is that there are no hot air vents, radiators or little heating units in the walls but we do have thermostats in every room. Some weeks ago I stepped inside the bedroom closet to get something from a shelf and noticed the floor was warm and realized then that all the floors would do the same. I never ran across anything like it before before so I looked it up:

'A radiant floor heating system simply radiates heat upward from the floor to provide optimum comfort and many other benefits. Here is an overview to how it works: A special heating wire is embedded in the slab, ultimately turning the floor into an efficient, low temperature radiator.
The number one benefit of a radiant floor heating system is comfort. Whereas a forced air system delivers heat which quickly rises to the ceiling – a radiant floor heating system "radiates" heat from the floor and delivers the heat evenly throughout the rooms.'

Now that's cool.. I mean warm. Plus, I unpacked my two winter coats, boots, gloves, scarves, and pogo stick. The man at the store told me everyone in Nova Scotia uses a pogo stick to hop over the snow drifts. I may go outside right now to get a little practice in while it's dark enough to hide my incompetence from the neighbors.


ps: The painting is called 'lemon moon' and you're right if you think you've seen a similar one before. I'm still practicing with colors so decided to try a different palette. Here's the other if you'd like to compare:

Thursday, October 14, 2010


Some things have turned out to be unexpected about our move to another country. Of course it's not that much other compared to the place we left but in some ways it's distinctly odd - or maybe it's me. Some things are better but not all.

For one thing banks are old fashioned and conservative enough to have a teller at every station. If you go to a branch bank in the US you're more likely to see a plastic plant with a sign in front that says 'next window please' but there is no other window.

Even if you haven't been officially accepted as a resident 'settler' yet (yes, still waiting for Immigration) the provincial government is still ready to provide free medical coverage. In the US without a good job you're left to pray you never get sick or trip on a broken sidewalk.

Books are very expensive and everything you can't eat is taxed at 13% in the Maritimes but the library lets you borrow 60 items at once. Maybe that's why there were hardly any books to be seen but there were lots of computer stations, magazines, cd's and dvd's and staff.

It takes a month to get a new credit card even if you have an excellent history. In the US people's infant children and dogs were still getting credit cards without asking.

It's much harder to order things online for delivery here and if you do get anything from the US, the import duties are high. In the US you can order pretty much anything at low prices with multiple delivery options.

Not that I'm planning to enroll but studying in Canada is affordable. Rates at American  public universities were almost one third higher than fees for Bachelor’s degrees in Canada, while US private university fees were more than double. Some Canadian degree programs are still just three years.

A KitKat candy bar costs $1.70 but today I bought a pashima scarf for $17.00.

The way I see it, if life insists on being a puzzle we may as well draw our own pictures. I'm still struggling with the art projects but I'm drawing and painting daily and hope to see some improvement soon. Practice might not make perfect but it can make better.


Sunday, October 10, 2010

seaside Crow

It's taking a little while to settle down to drawing and painting again but I'm getting there. You may remember this drawing from a couple of months ago. I rather like it in color and Crow is looking quite nostalgic.. or maybe he's wondering if I've remembered to replenish his Remy Martin. Of course I have and I found an antique fruitcake for him and his friend to share. Who said I wasn't considerate?

I hope you're having a good weekend.


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

not too distant views

A few days ago after an especially nasty period of grinding, the workers actually spray washed our windows on their way back down the front of the building. In a very happy convergence, that evening showed us one of the prettiest sunsets we've ever seen anywhere. Nice, eh?

Don't worry. This giddiness about being in a new place will soon end and I'll get back to the grim business of paying attention to American politics and general evilness once again. In many ways I feel more like an ex-pat USarian than a returned home Canadian, a fact which is only natural in view of having lived on that side of the border most of my adult life.

I've been keeping track of the news these past weeks and it doesn't appear that my having left has improved things at all. (It had been a faint hope.) There was another huge rally of progressives in Washington last weekend that was either ignored by or ridiculed by the media so everybody went home again frustrated about the same things they'd been aggravated about previously - and now short the amount of money they'd spent getting there. I've never written about politics much around here but that doesn't mean I haven't been paying attention. It's just that so many others of you do it so much better and it's the one thing that makes me lose my sense of humor. Today I read March to Nowhere by Chris Hedges and to say he's irritated would be an understatement.

Maybe I should just stick to taking pictures of our weird neighborhood where holiday cruise liners can be found parked next to our grocery store. It's amazing the lengths some people will go to buy a nice 2 kilo bag of Canadian potatoes.


Monday, October 4, 2010

canadian sugar

Sometimes I need a little sweetness to overcome the more bitter aspects of reality. The result of our recent change of planetary address and circumstance has generally been very good but, contrary to any impressions of transitional ease I may have fostered, there have been a couple of stumbling blocks along the way. One of these days I'll get around to writing and drawing some new Adventures about a couple of incidents, admitting outright the details of just how dumb and naive a reasonably intelligent woman can be. It turns out I can on occasion be hilariously idiotic when stressed but, happily,  not fatally so. In fact, the mistakes likely saved us from potentially much worse results had they not been made.

While undergoing emotional changes, it became necessary to check on how much of the candy I remembered from my youth was still available in Canada and this little store was a good place to begin the investigation:

Mackintosh Toffee - This is a unique Canadian treat that starts out hard and becomes creamy soft as you chew. My having enjoyed a lot of it pre-fluoride may well have contributed to the long hours spent in dental office chairs later in life.

Bassetts Licorice Allsorts - The original Allsorts Licorice is an assortment of black licorice cuts, straws, sandwiches and buttons which turn my teeth temporarily black and are an excellent cure for constipation.

Coffee Crisp - Canadians typically will consume this chocolate coffee treat in layers, eating each layer separately, enjoying a unique taste with each layer. Yes, Canadians are weird too.

Smarties - Similar to M&M's but not quite. The words for the Canadian advertising jingle were:
"When you eat your Smarties, do you eat the red ones last?
Do you suck them very slowly, or crunch them very fast?
Eat those candy-coated chocolates, but tell me when I ask,
When you eat your Smarties, do you eat the red ones last?"
I used to like using the red ones as lipstick in the days before girls were given make-up kits at the age of 7.

Skor Toffee Crunch - Buttery toffee crunch wrapped in milk chocolate. I actually preferred sucking the chocolate off these and throwing away the toffee.

Ste Julie Cream Fudge - Cream fudge maple syrup candy. This was a delicacy I learned to appreciate as a grown-up along with the amazing maple sugar pie that apparently you can only buy in Quebec.

McCormick's Marshmallow Bananas or Strawberries - Dried out marshmallows not suitable for roasting. I may have seen something similar in the US but I wouldn't buy them there either.

Purity Candies - Purity is the famous candy company in Newfoundland whose specialty is Peppermint Nobs and Candy Kisses. Newfoundland is still on my list of places to go when the weather warms again and I may buy my first Nob when I get there. Considering ferry costs a Nob may be all I can afford.. or a beer.

Chris and Larry's Clodhoppers - Fudge covered graham wafer clusters that come in two mouth-watering flavours -  "Vanilla Fudge" or the original "Chocolate Fudge". I've never eaten either but I like the name.

Wine Gums - In unique and strange flavors wine gums (or winegums) are chewy, firm sweets similar to gumdrops, except they aren't sugar-coated. I once ate a pound of them on a childhood plane ride to England and threw up the whole lot when we hit air turbulence.

As with so many other things, many of the candies I remembered have been discontinued as the companies that made them were subjected to the type of corporate takeovers that have been the ruin of small businesses everywhere these past few decades. Black Magic Chocolates were my very favorite for years but Rowntree was bought by Cadbury who now produce fancy chocolates that taste of chemical additives and nobody likes that.

I wonder if there are sweet shops and candies you remember that can no longer be found?

Thursday, September 30, 2010

true hosers

Yes, still here and trying not to be too impatient about getting everything back to normal again, although I'm really not sure what normal means anymore. Now the daily grind involves listening to the workmen right outside our 7th floor windows as they scour cement with power tools from 8 to 5 including Saturdays. It adds an element of distraction to the creative process but I'll try not to complain while I sharpen a few pencils in hopes they find the sound annoying and go home early today.

Meanwhile here are a couple of pictures I've taken of nearby pubs of which there are many in this town. It's interesting to see they have a tendency to spread furniture and flowers over the sidewalk from whatever building houses them with extra walkways built out onto the streets for pedestrians. Some extend up staircases to the roofs and most have heating lamps to keep the patrons warm on chilly evenings until the effect of the liquor kicks in.

I may have to take up drinking again to get the full benefit of their ambience.. and to get away from the construction at my house.

Speaking of drinking, everybody knows Canadian beer is more potent than the American variety but did you know Canadian tea is strong enough to strip paint off houses? I may have to suggest that to the construction workers who are now hosing the premises with a combination of sand and water. What next?

Do you get the feeling the renovations are driving me mad? The management here says it will all be done in another 6 weeks - just in time for winter.

❉ ❊ ☃ :-)

Saturday, September 25, 2010

composing myself

Our stuff finally arrived late yesterday - very late - so with very few lights available, we counted the boxes and checked off all the furniture and extra bits. Now we're looking for places for everything so in the fullness of time everything will be in its place.. never mind shopping for all the grocery items I had to toss or give away.

What I'd really like to do is go for a walk and take more pictures but today I've been stuck inside.

See you soon.

☆ ★ ☆

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

new city ramble

Halifax is a very walkable city and we've been having a good time doing just that. I'd love to have you join me for a stroll, but pictures are the best I can do for now so I'll just have to hope you enjoy them. This one is a photo taken of the restaurant we first noticed from our hotel window which quickly became our favorite so far - the Wooden Monkey. It was still closed when we went past this morning so I wasn't able to go inside to take pictures of the big carved monkeys and all the other neat things inside but you get the idea.

Although I mentioned all the little shops in another post I figured that was a bit too vague so here are the first pictures that describe what I meant. The Black Market was a very cool surprise both outside and even more so inside. There was an amazing collection of silk saris, beaded and mirrored cushion covers, clothes, lampshades, jewelry, carved figures.. oh what the heck, I'll just put up some more pictures.

(btw: You can look at any of these pics full-size by clicking on them. I've never had so many images to post before and I'm having a hard time deciding how to size them.)

We walked past this place again on our way home and saw some kids had snagged part of the street across from the Market by laying out grass rolls for a parking space picnic. They were having fun with chalk writing 'Free This Space' and 'No Car Zone' on the road. Nobody appeared bothered because nobody who needed a parking space came by while we sat.

 We saw a policeman stroll by who paused to smile at the group before he kept going. Have I mentioned before that cops walk a beat around here? We thought we were hallucinating the first time we noticed them.

Speaking of hallucinating, this is the entrance to the first 'head shop' I've seen in about 20 years. (Randal, take note.) Yes, they do stock pipes and bongs and whatever peripherals might be required for your enjoyment of a product that's been decriminalized but not sold openly. That's okay, we're not quite that relaxed yet..

but we may get there :-)

Sunday, September 19, 2010

jobby an' whiskers

I usually put a picture at the top of every post and sometimes another at the bottom, depending on what I'm currently nattering on about, but I don't have the hang of posting lots of pictures of a place that's entirely new and very different to me after living for 17 years on the west coast. Portland really is one of the best American cities but when we first moved there I wasn't in the habit of walking around with a camera, so now I'm unable to show you how it changed between '93 and this year when we expatriated ourselves.
this one has pictures of old time movie stars
There were a lot of reasons for doing that, not being rich and needing guaranteed health coverage was definitely one, yet another was the callousness we witnessed when not just older buildings but entire city blocks were torn down to be replaced with 'modern' glass, steel, and poured concrete monstrosities. The attitude was nothing much was old enough to be considered historic anyway so why not bulldoze? It's not strictly an American habit but one that certainly defines all west coast cities to one extent or another.

What I've been doing while writing this is sticking in a few pictures of some buildings we passed in downtown Halifax, NS yesterday. They do renovate here and there are a number of modern buildings too, but mostly the architecture is considered too historically valuable to be demolished and replaced. That makes for a very esthetically pleasing walking environment as well as a guaranteed tourist magnet.. for those who know. Who would ever have guessed Halifax is the Riviera to the Scots?

'Och, lassie, fa at haem woods imagine hoo warm it is haur?' 
'Hey girl, who at home would guess how warm it is here?'

Yesterday we walked downtown (doontoon) to get a couple of things and later took our little Tracker (Fuschia) for her promised portrait on Citadel Hill. She was the heroine of our trip and deserves some appreciation.

Then I heard something about 'Teabuggers' having been sighted a few hundred miles south of here. I wanted to let you know we're getting ready if any dare show the whites of their myopic eyes in this neighborhood. I have the Clans to back me up and I do mean the ones whose names start with Mac.