Tuesday, August 30, 2011

no man is an island

“Let’s blow this fascist popsicle stand!  Purchase a small island somewhere, and start our own country.” 
– Montgomery Burns

Getting away from it all by starting a country is an interesting idea but it appears there are no spare uninhabited islands that don't already belong to some larger country that frowns on claim jumpers. Remember the entire British Navy setting sail for the Falklands? Since it's difficult, bordering on impossible, to find places that don't fall under some national jurisdiction there are those who have become enthusiastic about turning abandoned oil rigs into their own separate countries.

These ideas always seem to be presented by people who have better skills making architectural photo-shop models than they do in the real world where things tend to get messy. In fact, things already are pretty messy. Did you know there are 27,000 wells in the Gulf of Mexico, many of which are already abandoned? Since I thought I'd limit this post to old oil drilling platforms as potential living spaces there's not much reason to mention that according to The American Petroleum Institute there are approximately 2.5 million abandoned oil wells in the continental US. I had to mention it because we can't solve problems we don't know about. It seems that ever since the first well was drilled in the US in 1859 the practice has been to walk away shortly thereafter. It's far from being a strictly American problem as experts in the subject have estimated there are likely to be 20-30 million of them globally. Many were wildcatted long before there were any capping techniques or regulations and far too many have never been identified. Capping has usually involved nothing more than pouring some cement down the hole and, as we know from looking at highways and bridges that haven't been continually repaired, things can go badly wrong.

Anyway, back to our abandoned oil platform home sweet home. Although I believe the concept to be fairly chimeric - how many of you would enjoy sitting on a palm tree planted oil platform during hurricane season in the Gulf? - there might be some advantages insofar as people having a reason to monitor further oil and gas leaks. The BP Deepwater Horizon disaster came as a profound shock and wake-up call last year when many of us first learned about the dangerous practice of deep water drilling. The oil industry, inarguably the wealthiest enterprise in the history of humanity, has opted to spend a small portion of its profits by influencing governments to deregulate or not enforce laws on the books. Oil and gas leaks continue to cause massive damage to the environment as a whole and to the ocean in particular.

There are so many problems in the world right now and this is a very small blog but I have to point out the old saying that ignorance of the law is no excuse under the law. It's quite obvious that the same rule should apply equally to environmental crimes. The fact is that there are no islands left where we can start again. As Bill McKibben said:

"We've built a new Earth.
It's not as nice as the old one;
It's the greatest mistake humans have ever made,
One that we will pay for literally forever.
We live on a new planet.
What happens next is up to us."

Sayonara from Eric Bates on Vimeo.

The oil companies have money enough to pay for superfund clean-ups of the areas already defiled. Perhaps the day will come when the uber rich will realize there are no islands for them to run to either.

We live in hope.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

everything whirls

Derviche Tourneur from RĂ©no Violo on Vimeo.

The Mevlevi Order of Sufis of Turkey, the ones we know as the Whirling Dervishes, are monastics whose prayerful dances are rarely seen. When they do appear in public nobody applauds because the audience understands they are witnessing a ritual trance that unites them with God. The Order was founded in the 13th century and named after Mevlana Jalal al-din Rumi who ended one of his poems with the line: 'dazed by the marvels of love, our whirling endures'.

The Dervishes make very precise movements with their hands while turning and every gesture is symbolic. The right hand is turned upward to receive Allah's grace and the left hand is turned down to convey that grace to earth. The left foot is kept as still as possible.

I found a video of a tanoura dance based on dervish technique which is often used to entertain tourists and parties in Turkey and Egypt. I'd never seen it before and thought you might enjoy it too. The dancer may not be a Dervish but you can see just how mesmerizing it is to witness the whirl taken to a whole different level.

A Dervish turns from right to left embracing all creation as he chants the name of God within the heart for the enrichment of this earth and the well-being of all.

Maybe we should all dance for that even though whirling would make most of us fall over.

Monday, August 22, 2011

another story

There's a new Adventure next door just a few weeks after the last. I wonder if I'm getting back into the habit of writing them? I wonder why the drawing is easier than the writing? I wonder if I'll ever put them in chronological order or if that's even necessary?

Anyway, I hope you enjoy it. There was certainly a lesson in it for me.

ps: Did you ever have a perm?

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Saturday, August 13, 2011

playing for change

Every year around this time there's a Busker's Festival held at the Halifax harbor boardwalk. These days I prefer avoiding crowds whenever possible - at least crowds of holiday makers whose main interest seems to be lining up at food vending stands. Call me cranky and I won't argue.

Anyway, yesterday we had some business to attend to a few blocks over at a place that's on the direct route to the busy summer waterfront. As we walked across the bridge to the ferry terminal we heard a few young guys attempting to play a Crosby, Stills and Nash song. Strangely, we'd passed the disabled man whose usual summer spot that is driving his wheelchair along Barrington St. a few minutes previously. He busks in the city year round playing Acadian music on a battered old accordion but it appeared he hadn't been invited to the event.

A few minutes later as we made our way through the people thronging the first batch of food stalls we heard something amazing. It was Andean music and the musicians were very, very good. They were set up under a small awning just to one side of the main walk where there was little space for an audience to stand, and certainly no place to sit. We stood in the bright sun for close to half an hour while people walked directly past them, sometimes even kicking the guitar case placed for donations. The four musicians didn't seem to mind as they continued to play their magnificent haunting music. Besides how wonderful it sounded what was really amazing was to see them switch the traditional instruments during the course of playing individual pieces. It's very rare to see such virtuosos in performance and we felt very blessed to be there in person. Eventually they stopped for a short break and we walked on.

As we continued on our way we saw several other acts playing at much better stages. A couple of hip-hop artists were entertaining an audience sitting on bleachers and benches near their space. Further along a large number of people were enjoying a karaoke contest at another well set up performance area. The last act we saw before we left the harbor was a young guy at a prime site who was balancing a power lawn mower on his chin while a couple of audience members threw heads of lettuce at the rotating blades. Now I don't have anything against hip-hop, karaoke, or bizarre balancing acts but I thought it was rude to make the musicians from Ecuador play in the midst of what was essentially a sidewalk.

So in honor of their magical concert I have drawn a picture. I hope it's one that lets you almost hear the music they played.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

tiny adventure

I mentioned a couple of days ago that sometimes all we can manage are tiny steps when the big ones are just too much. Afterwards I found myself thinking about some of my earliest memories and wrote a little Adventure you can find next door. It's not much of a story but does seem to indicate certain tendencies that would develop later. If I'm going to add to the memoirs I figured I may as well start over near the beginning.

If you have a minute I hope you'll enjoy it.

Friday, August 5, 2011

what next?

Just so you know I'm still here and not completely a ghost of the internets I thought I'd show you a new drawing. At the moment I'm not sure if he'll become a character in a painting whose form hasn't become clear to me or if this is just another of those images that come and go. The good thing about having a blog is that I can leave him here to graze in a place where someone may see him and wish they could pat his soft nose. I love horses. Just the sight of one reminds me of a simpler way of living that's been lost to most of us - at least for the time being.

I've been thinking about writing and drawing a story but just seeing shadows and glimpses instead of an entirety makes it difficult. I prefer being positive. I don't like conflict but struggle seems to be a major part of the reason we're here. If nothing bad ever happened we'd have little reason to talk to each other and certainly no cause for compassion.

Perhaps I should simply continue writing and drawing the Adventures and see what develops. Tiny steps when we're not strong enough for leaps and bounds will have to do.

In the meantime I made some more bracelets.

Now I've put the beads away for at least another ten years.
Sustained acts of compulsive behavior can make a person very tired.
They can also drive you crazy.
I think I may have figured out what's wrong with our culture.
There may be a story in it.