Thursday, May 30, 2013

magical ancient ajanta

Since the work crew is here most days smashing bricks as part of the new window project, I'm not getting much drawing done lately. Instead, I've been going out a lot, beading bits, reading and cruising the internet. The best part of having access to the internet, and the www in particular, has been that I can visit places and learn things it's likely I never would have heard of in times past. One of those places I'd love to see, and likely won't,  are the Ajanta caves of Maharashta, a sparsely populated part of southwestern India.

The caves aren't the classic variety of natural depressions you might find in a mountainous landscape, but instead, are the product of human labor and ingenuity.  As you can see from this picture the caves are part of a horseshoe shaped gorge overlooking a heavily forested river valley. Twenty-two hundred years ago work began on an extensive series of Buddhist cave monuments and over a period of hundreds of years, thirty one of them were carved piece by piece from the rock face. Then, sometime around around the year 1000AD, they fell in to disuse, dense jungle grew around, hiding the caves away from human eyes.

For hundreds of years the Ajanta caves lay undisturbed until 1819, during the time of the British Raj, an officer out on a tiger hunt (yes, they really did) rediscovered one of the doorways. The first thing he did was to carve his name and the date in one of the walls, but the second thing was that he reported his discovery. Archeologists have determined the first of these ancient temple monuments were hewn from bare rock around 230BC. Then a second period of building took place around 460AD. It was this second period that saw the creation of twenty temples that were used as monasteries.

There are paintings everywhere – literally.  Every surface apart from the floor is festooned with narrative paintings.  Time has taken a serious toll on these marvelous works with many parts simply just fragments of what they were when first created.  The stories are almost wholly devoted to Jātakas – tales of the Buddha’s previous lives.  They were created using an ancient method.  The surface was chiseled so it was rough and could hold plaster which was then spread across the surface.  Then the master painter would, while the plaster was still wet, start his work. The colors soaked into the plaster and became a part of the surface.  I'm guessing the artists never imagined their work lasting for over two thousand years. I wonder if my portraits of Crow will last so long? Come to think of it, they just might as he likes to stash them in his personal collection.

But no one knows when and why those caves were abandoned. There are a lot more pictures to be found on the web by googling but not much in the way of video. I did find this one on a World Heritage site if you'd like to have a better look:

It seems to me that human beings usually do their best work when it's done in service to a larger vision. It's guaranteed our new windows, or the building itself, won't last a twentieth as long. That's probably a good thing.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

oh cadnana, when will it be spring?

As far as doing anything is concerned it appears I've spent almost the entire month of May making small beaded objects. I have no idea how this happened  but when you're either fogged or rained in for long periods, well beyond the time that spring was supposed to have arrived and settled in, things can get a little crazy. Just to show you how silly I've become this past month I'll share with you a list of the benefits of living in the Canadian provinces sent to me by a friend who left Canada and moved to Arizona.


1. Vancouver has 2 million people and two bridges. You do the math.
2. Your $500,000 Vancouver home is just 5 hours from downtown.
3. There's always some sort of deforestation protest going on.
4. "Weed".


1. There are big rocks between you and B.C.
2. Tax is 5% instead of the approximately 200% as it is for the rest of the country.
3. You can exploit almost any natural resource you can think of.
4. You live in the only province that could actually afford to be its own country.
5. The Americans below you are all in anti-government militia groups.


1. You never run out of wheat.
2. Your province is really easy to draw.
3. You can watch the dog run away from home for hours.
4. People will assume you live on a farm.
5. Daylight savings time? Who the hell needs that!

1. You wake up one morning to find that you suddenly have a beachfront property..
2. Hundreds of huge, horribly frigid lakes.
3. Nothing compares to a wicked Winnipeg winter.
4. You can be an Easterner or a Westerner depending on your mood.
5. You can pass the time watching trucks and barns float by.


1. You live in the centre of the universe.
2. Your $500,000 Toronto home is actually a dump.
3. You and you alone decide who will win the federal election.
4. The only province with hard-core American-style crime.


This is a tough one.
1. You can take bets with your friends on which English neighbour will move out next.
2. Other provinces basically bribe you to stay in Canada
3. You can blame all your problems on the "Anglo A*#!%!" ?


1. One way or another, the government gets 98% of your income.
2. No one ever blames anything on New Brunswick ...
3. Everybody has a grandfather who runs a lighthouse.


1. Everyone can play the fiddle.. The ones who can't, think they can.
2. You can pretend to have Scottish heritage as an excuse to get drunk and wear a kilt.
3. You are the only reason Anne Murray ever made money.


1. Even though more people live on Vancouver Island , you still have the big new bridge.
2. You can walk across the province in half an hour.
3. You can drive across the province in two minutes.
4. It's where all those tiny, red potatoes come from..
6. You can confuse ships by turning your porch lights on and off at night.


1. If Quebec separates, you will float off to sea.
2. The workday is about two hours long.
3. It is socially acceptable to wear hip waders to your wedding.

All this followed by a film about the real Canada:

Now that I seemed to have developed a case of carpal elbow syndrome I'm packing up the beads and will return to normal drawing activity in the very near future.

Happy Memorial Day to my American friends and good wishes to all for better weather.

ps: I've also been working on a website gallery page since it's in the nature of blogs that everything disappears faster than I'd prefer. Hmm, reminds me of life.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

crafting complaints

A couple of Sundays ago I finally got around to visiting a local crafts show that takes place around here twice a year. I'm not what I would consider to be a real craftsperson by any stretch of the imagination but anyone who's looked at phantysythat these past few years will be well aware I do occasionally fall into the habit of putting things together that weren't there before. This is one of those things. I went to the craft show, didn't see any little silk beaded boxes, and thought I'd make another. Naturally, the first thing I did was to forget totally how long it took me to make the first one. I think it was a week. The new one took four days so I guess that's an improvement.

It turns out that just about any time I decide to work on something there will always be an element that must be purchased before I can get on with the project. This time I needed some embroidery thread and had to look online for a local place that sells this now quaint item. What struck me then (as it has before) when I looked through the listings is just how many people use Yelp to complain about businesses. Most of us will either not notice or not be bothered by a salesperson who isn't completely attuned to our needs during a transaction. Some people, though, will take umbrage at anything they consider a slight or an insult to their self image. These people will rush home to their computers or smart devices and immediately sign in to Yelp to write a furious complaint. Years later that record of temporary grievance remains even after most everyone involved is long gone. I'm reminded of those people who give one star reviews of books they've purchased from Amazon because a page was bent. Cretins.

All this reminded me of a television program made for the BBC by Adam Curtis in 2002 called The Century of the Self. Sigmund Freud may have invented the Self, full of unspoken dreams and desires, in 1900, but it was his American nephew, Edward Bernays, who packaged it and put it on to the market. Suddenly, everyone wanted one. And, of course, no one wanted one that was quite the same as anyone else's. Bernays's great genius was to first sell Uncle Siggy's ideas of the unruly subconscious to the American public and to American business. You no longer had to offer people what they needed; by linking your brand with their deeper hopes and fears, you could persuade them to buy what they dreamt of. Equipped with our subconscious wish-lists, we could go shopping for the life we had seen portrayed in the advertisements.

In Bernays's future, you didn't buy a new car because the old one had burnt out; you bought a more modern one to increase your Self-esteem, or a more low slung one to enhance your sense of your sex-appeal. You didn't choose a pair of running shoes for comfort or practicality; you did so because somewhere deep inside you, you felt they might liberate you to 'Just Do It'. And you didn't vote for a political party out of duty, or because you believed it had the best policies to advance the common good; you did so because of a secret feeling that it offered you the most likely opportunity to promote and express your Self. 'Our people,' said Herbert Hoover, 'have been transformed into constantly moving happiness machines.' Century of the Self is a truly great series that happily is available to watch free online if you've never seen it.

In case you don't have time right now to watch a four part, four hour documentary, I'll attach a short film that pretty much gets the point across:

Shave it from 3DAR on Vimeo.

By the way, I had to order the embroidery thread online. Thank goodness for the benefits of the internet. 

Monday, May 13, 2013

space Canuck

Since I don't watch television or use social media, it's entirely possible I'm alone in not having heard much about Space Commander Hadfield until today when I read he'll be returning to Earth this evening after a five month stint in command of the International Space Station. Apparently he's been very active in sharing fabulous photographs as well as video presentations of experiments suggested by children. He's also become a star on twitter, facebook and a few others mostly due to the earthbound technical expertise of his two mid-20s sons. He's great - kind of like a strange cross between Ned Flanders, David Attenborough and Leonard Cohen - but in space. Of course, he's also pretty funny so perhaps I should add Rick Mercer's name to the list.

One of the best traits of Canada (currently in great danger under the leadership of Stephen Harper) has been the 'oneness' with which it sees the world. I was thrilled to see this video of him playing and singing David Bowie's iconic 'Space Oddity'. You've probably already seen it but just in case here it is again:

the picture above is of the Mississippi Delta


Friday, May 10, 2013

other people's work part 33

There are many artists whose work I admire but a few days ago I came across some images painted by a young, self taught, Dutch painter named Thijme Termaat that quite blew me away. Not only are they exquisitely crafted but what's so striking to me is their inherently positive vision of life. You can read an interview with the artist as well as see larger versions of paintings shown in the video by going here. He's a pretty fascinating young man.

Thijme made this video over the course of three years (yes, one year per minute) using simple, stop-motion and time-lapse techniques and no digital effects. What he did do was to always wear the same shirt in order to not distract the viewer from the paintings but if you look closely, you'll notice his steadily growing hair is suddenly tied in a knot. Watching it full screen is even more of a treat.

Hmmm. He also seems able to paint using both hands.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Crow in space

"Apologies for the late arrival but the last time we dropped by this sector, perhaps a thousand years ago, things seemed to be going along swimmingly with your development and it would appear we put your planet a little further down the list for follow-up than would now appear to have been wise. Oh dear, you have dug quite a lot of holes down there, haven't you, and what's all that smoke and nasty colored stuff in the water? Didn't there used to be quite a lot of trees just over to the left and where are the tops that I'm sure were on those mountains last time?"

This, dear susan, was how the conversation began when I renewed my acquaintance with Bijou Son Dopazine Al'ka Quil (you can call me Dope) on his/her/its most recent visit to Earth. Dope, a freelance pan-galactic cryptozoologist by profession, has returned to Earth to see how you people are getting along and to invite any interested members of the planet's intelligent species to join his/her/its cosmic venture. This invitation isn't being offered to humans, by the way - at least not quite yet. Crows, whales and many more, however,  are busy packing their picnic baskets and breathing great sighs of relief.

I first met him/her/it centuries ago when I was on a grand tour of the the outer spiral arm. Dope doesn't actually come from a planet. His/her/its people gave up planetary living so long ago that none of them even remember  which part of the galaxy was once called home. Instead, they live on giant ships, by that I mean ships that could house the Death Star half a dozen times with room left over for several oceans and many forests. They find living on planets to be far too much of a constraint to their natural curiosity. 

Not to worry, I won't be going on this trip. Once our friends have been comfortably accommodated on the mother ship 'Seen Enough Yet?' (currently orbiting at L1 and safely outside missile range - haha, fireworks!), I'll be returning home. In the meantime Dope offered a suggestion for humanity that he/she/it hopes will be acted upon before their next visit in 500 years or so:

"Be nice to each other and look after this place. After all, even you should be able to see it's the only planet you've got since all the other decent ones are too far away for you to get to. Besides, they all have their own people anyway.

If you do that and don't accidentally kill yourselves we may be able to provide you with some assistance when we return. Most important is to stop digging all those holes!"

I'll be flying in tomorrow evening, my friend. Don't forget to warm up the Remy and chill the fruitcake.

I'm dedicating this post to another good friend I've never met, Iain M. Banks, whose books about the Culture describe life in a star-spanning "empire" organized along socialist/libertarian/anarchist principles, achieved through post-scarcity technology. The seven or eight humanoid species that founded the Culture along with the others which joined later live without want, and without the need to work; practically anything they can ask for, they can receive. This is largely because the organic Culturniks are under the benevolent de-facto dictatorship... ahem, guidance of the A.I. Minds that control the starships and space habitats the entire Culture lives on.

Could the future be like that for us? As Iain Banks once answered "Only if we're lucky". He is far more clever than me and the books are a treat. I'm hoping we get lucky.