Sunday, December 24, 2017
In 1879, eight-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon wrote a letter to the editor of New York’s Sun, and the quick response was printed as an unsigned editorial*.
I am 8 years old.
Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus.
Papa says, ‘If you see it in THE SUN it’s so.’
Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?
115 W. 95th St. NY
“Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible to their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours, man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.
Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus? It would be as dreary as if there were no VIRGINIAS. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.
Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.
You may tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.
No Santa Claus! Thank God he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.”
Merry Christmas, and may this new year bring you joy, laughter, and prosperity.
*The work of veteran newsman Francis Pharcellus Church.
Sunday, December 3, 2017
Late autumn being a changeable season here Crow and I spent a recent afternoon reviewing his archives while a drenching rain spattered the tall arched windows that overlook his terrace. Just as I was about to pour the tea he thrust an old picture between me and the Royal Albert saying, 'Aha! I've been meaning to show you a picture of Gaith, my old Druid friend, and here is one of both of us scratched upon this piece of bark. Amazing how well this stuff keeps, isn't it?'
I've long stopped being surprised at the immensity of Crow's historical social circle, but he'd never mentioned Druids before. I made myself comfortable in my favorite of his wing back chairs, took a sip of Oolong and sat back to listen:
'It probably won't surprise you to hear that even in the dim, dark past there were crazy, power hungry male persons who made a general nuisance of themselves by making up excuses to kill their neighbors and take their land. The first thing they always did was to demand that the young men in their kingdoms supply themselves with pointed sticks or whatever, swords being both rare and expensive, and join in the battles. Some young men who weren't pleased with this mad idea ran away to the forest.
'The forests of Europe and old England were very large indeed. Still, it wasn't easy to get by on your own and certainly there were no modern conveniences like waterproof shoes and tents - never mind nicely packaged emergency food supplies.
'On this particular fine morning, Gaith and I had been strolling along a path overhung by the branches of sacred oak trees when we came upon a weary looking but handsome youth sitting by a brook. After mutual greetings we sat and shared some food and listened to his reasons for preferring a life of peace. Rather than going to war he had run away to a place where he hoped to enjoy life and creation, learn its wonders and strive for answers to the big questions. My friend Gaith, being a Druid, one of those rumored to have strange powers, invited him to join his band as a junior member.
'Whether they were called Yogis, Magi, Lamas, Monks or Druids, all of them strove to learn. They developed techniques and applications; they dreamed dreams and studied nature intensively. As it took a very long time to become a Master Druid, perhaps twenty years or more, they arranged their membership into sections (like colleges) that depended upon knowledge and individual attainments. They also developed a brilliant plan designed to lessen the violence of the crazy men. What was it? First, you have to understand they already had much to offer by their abilities with Astrology and calendars; they knew much about plants and the healing arts. They also knew how to manipulate materials and some, like my friend Gaith, were experts in speaking the Language of the Birds. That's how we first became friends (he told some excellent people jokes). What the Druids offered freely to the crazy men who ruled at that time were the members of their lowest college, the Bards.
'Our new young friend who was called Oisin would be trained as one of them, a singer of history. From what I heard later he did well and even stopped a war or two by singing Sagas of previous encounters between the combatants. Of course, the other king also had a Bard and the two likely collaborated to mold a peace. This was the foundation of Diplomacy vs mindless War.'
Rocking back on his perch, Crow snagged a piece of fruitcake, arched his brow and remarked, 'Aren't you glad to know there are still Druids in the world today?'
Yes, yes I am, but we could always use a few more. The rain having stopped by then, we went for a walk by the sea.
* Despite the fact this was originally posted several years ago it seemed worthy of another look. Besides, on a recent rainy afternoon Crow remembered the words of another of his old friends:
St. Thomas Aquinas raised the question of why there are so many diverse forms of life on Earth, and answered by saying, "It is because of the desire of goodness to share itself and so the Divine wished to reflect and share Himself in a created world. Because of the inadequacy of any one species to fulfil this role, the whole of creation participates in and represents the richness and splendour and majesty of God more than any single creature."
The response of some human beings to this has been to go to war against this diversity. Making war on creation you become the enemy of the Creator. There will never be peace between humans until you have peace with the Earth and the wider Earth community.
Wednesday, November 29, 2017
This is a pretty odd picture for me to have painted - no people, no animals, no creatures at all for that matter, and neither is there a landscape or a comfortably furnished space. It came about because I felt like painting something just to watch the colours develop in negative space. I didn't stop to save the in-between bits but the idea is to lay down some background colours then draw some shapes on top. Then paint around them using slightly deeper shades of the background hues. Then you draw more shapes under the first lot and continue doing so until you get bored. It took me four layers to get bored. I think next time I'll go back to drawing (and painting) more story-like pictures - like this one:
You might enjoy watching the most bizarre musical performance I've seen recently. The song, released in 1974 by Bob Marley and the Wailers, addresses a poor woman growing up in the Jamaican slums, promising that things will be “alright” and asking her not to cry.
This version is Bahraini - not Saudi - nevertheless it's a country whose policies regarding women is very similar to other Gulf monarchies, ie, women there can vote and run for public office but very few have been allowed to exercise those rights.
What a world, eh? You have to laugh.
Then there's this one:
This version is Bahraini - not Saudi - nevertheless it's a country whose policies regarding women is very similar to other Gulf monarchies, ie, women there can vote and run for public office but very few have been allowed to exercise those rights.
What a world, eh? You have to laugh.
Then there's this one:
Monday, November 6, 2017
The first three were drawn on a sketch pad.
Transferred to watercolour paper by number four.
Then base colour shading.
Adding colour washes.
What's outside the window?
Time to start another.
Even simple things aren't always easy, are they?
Saturday, October 28, 2017
When Hallowe'en comes around and we have time to think of such things most people agree that the belief in ghosts stems from the ancient concept that there is a person inside the person, some type of animating spirit. In other words we think of ghosts as being people without bodies. Now if this is the case it's not much of a jump to reverse the logic and say that people are just ghosts who do have physical bodies. Of course this leads us to imagine all sorts of fascinating possibilities about the essential nature of life, the universe, and everything. But that's a discussion best left for another time. What I'd like to do this time is to share the Victorian tale of Mrs. Butler.
It seems that in 1891 a certain Mrs. Butler, who lived in Ireland with her husband, dreamed of finding herself in a very beautiful house, furnished with all imaginable comforts. The dream made a deep impression on her mind, and the following night she again dreamed of the same house and of going over it. And so for many nights in succession, until in the family circle she and her house of dreams became the subject of gentle raillery. In 1892 the Butlers decided to leave Ireland and take up their residence in England. They went to London and procured from various agencies lists of country houses. Having heard of a house in Hampshire, they went out to see it. At the gate-keeper’s lodge Mrs. Butler exclaimed, “This is the gate-house of my dream!” And when they reached the house she affirmed the house to be that of her dreams. The woman in charge proceeded to show the premises, and Mrs. Butler said she recognized all the details, except a certain door, which it turned out had been added to the place within six months. The estate being for sale at a very low price, the Butlers decided to buy it.
When it was bought and paid for, the price had been so extraordinarily small, that they could not help a misgiving that there must be something wrong with the place. So they went to the agent of the people who had sold it and said, ‘Well, now the purchase is made and the deeds are signed, will you mind telling us why the price asked was so small?’ The agent had started violently when they came in, but recovered himself. Then he said to Mrs. Butler, ‘Yes, it is quite true the matter is quite settled, so there can be no harm in telling now. The fact is that the house has had a great reputation for being haunted; but you, madam, need be under no apprehensions, for you are yourself the ghost!’ On the nights when Mrs. Butler had dreamt she was at her house, she - her ‘astral body’ - had been seen there.
The pictures I've posted this time are two of a group of similar ones I painted in the mid-80s that were given as presents..
back in the days when the saying went: Grrls just wanna have fun. :)
Speaking of which:
Tuesday, October 10, 2017
When I brought Crow and his friend their afternoon tea I heard them discussing one of those irritations of modern life that drive me crazy too. Why is it that grocery stores announce with pride they have no plastic carry bags to hand out to customers but just about everything they sell is encased in layers of the stuff? Cosmetics, personal care items, toys, eggs, chocolates, produce, cookies, snack foods, tools and appliances are just a few items that create packaging discards we all deal with. A single purchase can mean bringing home more packaging than product.
Since 1960, the use and disposal of single-use plastic packaging has grown from 120,000 tons to over 12,720,000 tons per year today. It used to be the idea that packaging protected a product from damage but nowadays it's just another marketing tool to get us to buy things. Apparently the manufacturers think items packed in hard shelled, difficult (and possibly dangerous) to open plastic packages appear to be more attractive. Whatever happened to cellophane and cardboard? What makes plastic packaging worse is that it raises the cost of every item covered in the stuff by about 10% and then we have to find some way to recycle the stuff.
No wonder Crow prefers the comforts of the 19th century.
“If all mankind were to disappear, the world would regenerate back to the rich state of equilibrium that existed ten thousand years ago. If insects were to vanish, the environment would collapse into chaos”
– E.O. Wilson
Tuesday, September 26, 2017
I'm pretty sure I've mentioned before that reading science fiction books has long been one of my pleasures. What I've never done, though, is to understand the alien planets described, the creatures who inhabit them, or the means for our getting to them as anything other than fantasy. It seems to me that to a great extent, planetary sci-fi represented the hope of extending the era of exploration and colonization to new planets after ours had already been explored, mapped and claimed. For a while we imagined the tantalizing possibility of moving to Mars where there were canals to navigate among strange crystalline forests; then there was Venus where cloud covered skies sheltered tropical forests and who knew what beasts. When the scientists developed better telescopes we realized things were very different from what we'd dreamed. That's when faster than light travel and warp speed was fabricated. We just needed to find compatible planets in other solar systems..
Still, science fiction doesn’t lose its value as a work of the imagination, after all, just because the future it imagined was never an option in the first place, and the worlds it envisioned never existed. Few people argue that The Wizard of Oz or The Lord of the Rings ought to be pulped just because Oz and Middle-earth don’t happen to be real locations. The same rule applies just as well to science fiction, once we get out from under the notion that these brilliant works of imaginative fiction are somehow supposed to pretend to be sober predictions of the future.
As a species, we haven’t come to grips with the most fundamental aspect of our existence. This planet doesn’t belong to us; we belong to it. The idea that we, who go nowhere even on this abundant earth without our stuff, can afford to relocate to a lifeless sphere where it costs us countless millions just to drop ship a Roomba, is unhinged. There isn’t time (or pockets) deep enough for that project. I suppose it’s another apocalypse fantasy designed to avoid cleaning up our mess.
I was feeling quite depressed about our prospects as a species and casting about the sky in hopes of finding a stray giant asteroid, when I happened instead upon a film about John D. Liu, an environmentalist and filmmaker, who documents large-scale ecosystem restoration projects in China, Africa, South America and the Middle East, highlighting the enormous benefits to people and planet of undertaking these efforts globally. Some of the successful projects I've seen were far larger than I could have guessed - including an enormous area in China that is quite breathtaking. Here's one of the documentaries you might enjoy next time you have a half hour or so. If only such projects were more widespread our world could be a so much better place for us and all the beings we share it with.
The stars are very far away. Perhaps beings on other planets might spend some of their ample free time reading stories written during their own species’ brief period of industrial exuberance, when they dreamed of traveling to the other worlds of their own solar system or beyond. Hopefully, and if we are very lucky, the same recreation will be available to our descendants as well.
Thursday, August 31, 2017
As of sometime in the next few days it will be ten years since we began blogging here. Many things have changed, including the fact that a number of friends who had blogs of their own then no longer do. Some things haven't changed as much as we'd prefer as shown in this post by Crow in August of 2009 called 'big plans, no clue'.
Crow here. susan used to tell people she didn't like wearing glasses so had the windshield of her car ground to her current prescription. A few of them believed it too. It's funny what you can get folks to take seriously, isn't it? Imagine convincing a good part of the population that Medicare for everybody is a bad idea but it's a really good idea to have their tax money go directly to the richest 1% of the citizenry.
The picture above is an artist's rendering of one of the big geo-engineering ideas for cooling off our overheated planet. Just imagine what could happen if the big optometrist grinding that thing got the specs wrong and corrected for far sighted rather than near. Ooops. You think we've got global warming now?
Then there's this one - ships spraying sea water to create clouds that shield much of the Earth from sunlight and so would lower global temperatures. How about the fact Bill Gates has patented the idea to halt hurricanes by decreasing the surface temperature of the ocean? Does that make you a bit nervous? The patent calls for a large fleet of specially equipped ships which would mix warm water from the ocean surface with colder water down below which could then reduce the heat-driven condensation hurricanes feed upon. The scheme is reminiscent of something Mr. Burns might have concocted in 'The Simpsons' - if he hadn't already blown his master plan on blocking out the sun.
I don't know. It just seems to me people have to change their way of thinking but I've been around long enough to not be entirely hopeful for the intelligence of your species at large. Global warming has so many separate causes and accelerating factors that it's already beyond political control. Every piece of metal sticking out of the ground is a heat coil. The crisis needs an unconscious shift at the same level as the primordial production of oxygen by bacteria at the dawn of life. Long ago a sudden fluctuation triggered a burst of molecular intelligence and a world that began under a canopy of volcanic ash exhaled into a blue sky.
Lizards crawled. Crows flew. Eventually, people dreamed and maybe it's enough to dream of a better world. The Golden Rule has always been a good place to start. Now it's time for me to climb on my perch and put my head where it belongs - under my right wing. Good night and sweet dreams.
***Here are a few of our favourite comments left that day:
i think the idea of putting a giant glass lens between us and the sun is stupid. for one thing, if you think sun spots are bad now, wait until something gets on the giant lens. a piece of dust, a fingerprint, a smudge of grease- it could cause entire nations to go crazy. would there be a lens cloth big enough to clean it?
and two, why take the risk that, with the proper lens correction, the sun could be able to see us clearly? there are some things about human-kind that the sun is better off not knowing.
I note to date there are no geo engineering projects of any scale ever tried and I doubt if their effect could ever be measured or known, particularly in relation to the complexity of climate systems – which is still not thoroughly understood. But recent studies over here indicate the possibility of an abundant renewable energy supply just below our feet, in the form of hot rocks.
You’re familiar, of course, with molten rock breaking through the earth’s crust to spew lava into the atmosphere but in such a state it is far too hot and difficult to harness as a viable energy source. However just below the earth’s surface in Australia lays an abundance of hot granite rocks with enough heat to drive steam turbines and generate electricity.
How does the idea work?
Water is injected into a borehole and circulated through a "heat exchanger" to hot cracked rocks several kilometers below the surface. The water is heated through contact with the rocks and is then returned to the surface through another borehole where it is used to generate electricity. The water is then re-injected into the first borehole to be reheated and used again. The heat used in this hot rock energy process is eventually replaced by the Earth; it can be classified as renewable energy. It could, potentially provide all of our energy needs in perpetuity.
Crow.. I love that you're seeking new and inventive ways to save the Earth's environment from impending doom. But I have one question for you regarding Bill Gates's patent: Can it core an apple?
Since the dawn of time man has yearned to destroy the sun and get patents on everything helpful. This is why I'm glad a British dude invented HTML and not an American. We'd be paying coke money to surf for porn.
I've hovered around this post for a few days before commenting. Sort of hoping it would change so i wouldn't have to deal with my shame from my own wastefulness. Frankly, I'm embarrassed to respond to you Crow, I know I am part of the problem.
Sure, I've done some changes. We recycle and compost and try to buy everything we buy NOT wrapped in some sort of plastic, but I fail miserably at the "so much more I can do", we can do, to help slow down and end the global problems we, as dumb humans, are putting the physical earth through right now.
Wholesale changes must be made by all people all over the world to end the cycle, but it may already be too late. Maybe this generation or even the next won't live to see the Sacred Earth Mother die, but as we keep up our wasteful killing ways, it is inevitable that she will die. There are some dead spots already, like cancerous sores, on Mother Earth. We move on, and do what we did to make the sore, somewhere else.
I am ashamed of myself. Believe me Crow, I think of this every time I turn on a water faucet in my home. Yet I am not yet willing to get rid of the faucet and running water.
Thanks for reminding me that I am wasteful and motivate me to change even more.
Peace above all.
*Joe Spadoman died in December of 2013 and his wife not long after. Their memorial service was held one beautiful day in June on the shore of Lake Superior attended by their many friends. He was an amazing and very generous man who worked hard to make the world a better place.
Peace be upon him and us all.
Saturday, August 26, 2017
Crow here. It's a little known fact that a favorite hobby of the gargoyles at Notre Dame Cathedral is collecting jokes. There's nothing they enjoy more than a good laugh at the foibles of humanity. Why else do you think they allowed Quasimoto the leeway they did when he was running around the rooftops, ringing the bells, grabbing young women and generally causing a commotion? It's because he was a clown. A sad clown, yes, but he provided some amusement to their generally tedious task of spitting rain water past the gables.
I well remember when susan had decided to spend some time in Paris (unfortunately she'd chosen three months in winter but that's another story) and had flown off one afternoon to see the Eiffel Tower while I relaxed with my old friend Gregoire the Cracked Horn. He'd overheard a story that went like this:
There were five passengers on a flight - a politician, a rich man, an old priest, a hippy and the world's smartest man. After the plane had been in the air a little while they noticed the engines sputtering and wondered if there was trouble. Just then the pilot rushed into the cabin and said, 'I can't restart the engines and the plane is going to crash. I suggest you each grab a parachute and follow me.' He opened the door outside then went to a cupboard, grabbed a parachute and leaped out. The other passengers looked in the cupboard and found only four parachutes.
The politician took a parachute and said, 'I have constituents who need me to be in Congress for a very important vote so I must save myself.' He jumped out.
The rich man said, 'I have a very important business and my stockholders are counting on me to keep them rich.' He grabbed a parachute and jumped out.
The world's smartest man said, 'I'm the world's smartest man so it should be evident to all why I need this parachute.' He followed the others.
Now only the old priest and the hippy were left and the priest said, 'It's all right my son. I've lived a long and fruitful life and look forward to my reward. You take the last parachute.'
The hippy replied, 'Don't worry about it father. The world's smartest man just grabbed my back pack.'
* reprise from 2009 :)
Monday, August 14, 2017
Then the nightingale sang.
"That's it," said the little kitchen girl. "Listen, listen! And yonder he sits." She pointed to a little gray bird high up in the branches.
"Is it possible?" cried the Lord-in Waiting. "Well, I never would have thought he looked like that, so unassuming. But he has probably turned pale at seeing so many important people around him."
"Little nightingale," the kitchen girl called to him, "our gracious Emperor wants to hear you sing."
"With the greatest of pleasure," answered the nightingale, and burst into song.
"Very similar to the sound of glass bells," said the Lord-in-Waiting. "Just see his little throat, how busily it throbs. I'm astounded that we have never heard him before. I'm sure he'll be a great success at court."
"Shall I sing to the Emperor again?" asked the nightingale, for he thought that the Emperor was present.
"My good little nightingale," said the Lord-in-Waiting, "I have the honor to command your presence at a court function this evening, where you'll delight His Majesty the Emperor with your charming song."
"My song sounds best in the woods," said the nightingale, but he went with them willingly when he heard it was the Emperor's wish.
The story quoted here is from The Nightingale by Hans Christian Andersen and the painting is my favorite of all the illustrations done by Edmund Dulac.
Saturday, August 5, 2017
A group of Crow's unusual friends stopped by earlier today to carry him off on a cruise. Before he left he mentioned a few things about pirates it's not currently fashionable to know even though there's always been something romantic about the idea of piracy.
We've long been told by those who control information that pirates were thieves, yet the truth is far more complex. Sailors aboard Royal Naval ships and merchant marine vessels were some of the sorriest men alive, 'caught in a machine from which there was no escape, bar desertion, incapacitation, or death' as one writer of the day put it. Many of them were press ganged into service, many were debt slaves or had been criminalized after losing their farms when the English Commons were abolished.
As the great fleets discovered and annexed previously unknown lands many dispossessed people the world over became desperate. The merchant ships of the 17th and 18th Centuries were the engines of the emerging global capitalism but the seamen were totally excluded from the wealth they worked to generate. The decision to 'turn pirate' was a choice made to wrestle back some autonomy, and when they did, life on a ship changed dramatically. Officers were democratically elected. Food was shared equally among men of all ranks. When booty was collected the Captain only took two shares where the lowest took one - income differentials that would make a modern CEO faint. Loss of a limb aboard would be met with a payment of around $30k in today's money - an amazing form of early health insurance.
It could be said that far from being simple thieves, pirates were perhaps the original anti-capitalist protesters. The reason they were hunted down and suffered savage public executions was because the powers of the day were petrified of the consequences of the pirates' ethos. One hundred years before the French Revolution it was pirates who coined the phrase 'Liberty, Equality, Fraternity'.
Of course, piracy in those days was hardly all fun and games but they were hard times for most people everywhere. We're not often brutalized, beaten, or left unpaid, but our lives are no less reduced, narrowed, and restrained by powerful forces far beyond our control. Wouldn't it be nice to see the Jolly Roger raised again to restore to life some democracy, some fairness, and perhaps a little merriment too?
Avast Crow. I hope you enjoy the warm sea breeze off the shores of far Tortuga.
Sunday, July 30, 2017
As you can tell it was a bit of a foggy overcast day here yesterday when we walked down to the harbour to see the forty or so tall ships that came to town on Friday. We'd spent an extra half hour on the park beach in hopes of seeing a few of them sail in that day but were disappointed.
Despite hundreds of people crowding the boardwalks who made my chances of getting decent photographs of the docked ships more difficult, I did my best - and came up with just four.
It appeared that just about everyone there was lined up at each and every ship to go aboard for a tour, an understandable urge when the ships we usually see are unromantic giant cruise liners or container ships.
Of course, none of these tall ships are very old and, for the most part, very few have wooden hulls - they simply bring to mind the sheer magnificence of the Age of Sail when the forests of Europe and then the New World were felled en masse to build the magnificent fleets of yesteryear. They leaked, yes, and those that didn't sink on the high seas in battles or storms were dismantled long ago.
Nevertheless, I look forward to seeing them under full sail on Tuesday when they leave our harbour in Parade. I'll try to get more and better pictures then. It's a rare and lovely sight.
A magician was working on a cruise ship.
Since the audience was different each week, the magician did the same tricks over and over again. There was only one problem: The captain's parrot saw the shows each week and began to understand how the Magician did every trick.
Once he understood, he started shouting in the middle of the show, "Look, it's not the same hat!" or, "Look, he's hiding the flowers under the table!" Or "Hey, why are all the cards the ace of spades?"
The magician was furious but couldn't do anything. It was, after all, the Captain's parrot.
Then one stormy night on the Pacific, the ship sank. Too bad but these things can happen.
Hours later the magician found himself on a piece of wood floating in the middle of the sea and, as fate would have it, sharing the board with the parrot.
They stared at each other with hatred, but neither of them uttered a word.
This went on for a day... And then 2 days. And then 3 days. Finally on the 4th day, the parrot could not hold back any longer and said...
"Okay, I give up. Where's the freaking ship??
Monday, July 24, 2017
Some young neighbours of a retired couple asked them what they did to keep life interesting.
The elderly man answered, "Well, the other day my wife and I went into town and into a shop. We were only in there for about five minutes but when we came out, there was a policeman writing out a parking ticket.
"We went up to him and my wife said, 'Come on sir, how about giving us pensioners a break?' He ignored us and continued writing the ticket.
"So I called him a fascist bastard. He glared at me and started writing another ticket for having worn tyres. Then my wife called him a total pillock. He finished the second ticket and put it on the windscreen with the first. Then he started writing a third ticket. We continued to call him names and he just kept writing those tickets.
"This went on for about 10 minutes, and then our bus arrived."
“I have a hobby. I have the world’s largest collection of sea shells. I keep it scattered on beaches all over the world. Maybe you’ve seen some of it.”
“I went to a restaurant that serves "breakfast at any time" so I ordered French toast during the Renaissance.”
“Everywhere is walking distance if you have the time.”
“I'd kill for a Nobel Peace Prize.” *
― Steven Wright
* (remind you of anyone?)
Monday, July 17, 2017
As 65,000 Green Day fans eagerly waited their appearance at London’s Hyde Park on July 1, the stadium blared out Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody on the speakers. The inevitable happened - all 65,000 fans passionately broke into song, matching Freddie Mercury’s voice note for note. The best part is, many of the audience even hummed out the guitar solo.
Someone commented, “Only Queen can rock an entire stadium without even being there.”
Here are the lyrics if you'd like to sing along and have forgotten some of the words:
Is this the real life?
Is this just fantasy?
Caught in a landslide,
No escape from reality.
Open your eyes,
Look up to the skies and see,
I'm just a poor boy, I need no sympathy,
Because I'm easy come, easy go,
Little high, little low,
Any way the wind blows doesn't really matter to me, to me.
Mama, just killed a man,
Put a gun against his head,
Pulled my trigger, now he's dead.
Mama, life had just begun,
But now I've gone and thrown it all away.
Didn't mean to make you cry,
If I'm not back again this time tomorrow,
Carry on, carry on as if nothing really matters.
Too late, my time has come,
Sends shivers down my spine,
Body's aching all the time.
Goodbye, everybody, I've got to go,
Gotta leave you all behind and face the truth.
Mama, ooh (any way the wind blows),
I don't wanna die,
I sometimes wish I'd never been born at all.
I see a little silhouetto of a man,
Scaramouche, Scaramouche, will you do the Fandango?
Thunderbolt and lightning,
Very, very frightening me.
I'm just a poor boy, nobody loves me.
He's just a poor boy from a poor family,
Spare him his life from this monstrosity.
Easy come, easy go, will you let me go?
Bismillah! No, we will not let you go. (Let him go!)
Bismillah! We will not let you go. (Let him go!)
Bismillah! We will not let you go. (Let me go!)
Will not let you go. (Let me go!)
Never let you go (Never, never, never, never let me go)
Oh oh oh oh
No, no, no, no, no, no, no
Oh, mama mia, mama mia (Mama mia, let me go.)
Beelzebub has a devil put aside for me, for me, for me.
So you think you can stone me and spit in my eye?
So you think you can love me and leave me to die?
Oh, baby, can't do this to me, baby,
Just gotta get out, just gotta get right outta here.
(Ooooh, ooh yeah, ooh yeah)
Nothing really matters,
Anyone can see,
Nothing really matters,
Nothing really matters to me.
Any way the wind blows.
In 1988 Freddie Mercury and Montserrat Caballé sang Barcelona, a song he wrote for the opening of the Olympic Games in 1992. It's an amazing performance. Freddie Mercury died in 1991.
Thursday, July 13, 2017
Two priests on their way to a beach resort vacation decided they wouldn't wear anything that would identify them as clergy. On arrival they found a shop that specialized in brightly colored shirts, shorts, and all the other bits they needed to help them forget their cold and damp northern church for a little while.
The next morning they went to the beach, dressed in their 'tourist' garb and were sitting on deck chairs, enjoying a drink, the sunshine and the scenery when a beautiful blonde woman wearing a tiny bikini came walking straight towards them. They couldn't help but stare and when she passed them, she smiled and said, "Good morning, Father" - "Good morning, Father," nodding and addressing each of them individually, then passed on by.
They were both stunned. How in the world did she recognize them as priests?
The next day they went back to the shop, bought even more outrageous outfits and again settled on the beach in their chairs to enjoy the sunshine, etc.
After a while, the same gorgeous blonde, wearing a string bikini this time, came walking toward them again.
Again, she approached them and greeted them individually: "Good morning, Father," "Good morning Father," and started to walk away.
One of the priests couldn't stand it and said. "Just a minute, young lady. Yes, we are priests, and proud of it, but I have to know, how in the world did you know?"
"Oh, Father, it's me Sister Angela!"
Wednesday, July 5, 2017
What with the First of July and the Fourth of July summer has officially arrived in North America and with it the season of fairs and community celebrations. As you can see Crow wore some of his finest regalia as enjoyed Canada Day with some friends. While he was out dancing the Highland fandango I had time to remember a summertime story that I thought to share with you:
Every year Walter and his wife Ethel went to the state fair, and every time he would say to her, "Ethel, you know that I'd love to go for a ride in that helicopter." But Ethel would always reply, "I know that Walter, but that helicopter ride is 50 dollars and 50 dollars is 50 dollars."
Finally, they went to the fair, and Walter said to Ethel, "Ethel, you know I'm 87 years old now. If I don't ride that helicopter this year, I may never get another chance." Once again Ethel replied, "Walter, you know that helicopter ride is 50 dollars and 50 dollars is 50 dollars."
This time the helicopter pilot overheard the couple's conversation and said, "Listen folks, I'll make a deal with you. I'll take both of you for a ride; if you can both stay quiet for the entire ride and not say a word I won't charge you! But if you say just one word, it's 50 dollars."
Walter and Ethel agreed and up they went in the helicopter. The pilot performed all kinds of fancy moves and tricks, but not a word was said by either Walter or Ethel. The pilot did his death-defying tricks over and over again, but still there wasn't so much as one word said. When they finally landed, the pilot turned to Walter and said, "Wow! I've got to hand it to you. I did everything I could to get you to scream or shout out, but you didn't. I'm really impressed!"
Walter replied, "Well to be honest I almost said something when Ethel fell out but, you know, 50 dollars is 50 dollars!"
Happy Summer :)
Sunday, June 25, 2017
A lawyer attempting to call his clients had the following conversation with their little boy who answered the phone:
The phone rang and the little boy, in a whisper, says, "Hello."
Lawyer: "Is your mommy there?"
Boy: (whisper) "Yes."
Lawyer: "Can I speak with her?"
Boy: (whisper) "She's busy."
Lawyer: "Is your daddy there?"
Boy: (whisper) "Yes."
Lawyer: "Can I speak with him?"
Boy: (whisper) "He's busy."
Lawyer: "Is there anyone else there?"
Boy: (whisper) "The fire department."
Lawyer: "Can I talk to one of them?"
Boy: (whisper) "They're busy."
Lawyer: "Is there anybody ELSE there?"
Boy: (whisper) "The police department."
Lawyer: "Well, can I talk to one of THEM?"
Boy: (whisper) "They're busy."
Lawyer: "Let me get this straight, your mother,
father, the fire department AND the police department
are ALL in your house, and they're ALL busy. WHAT
are they doing?"
Boy: (whisper) "They're looking for me."
In between times of no painting a story can still suggest a picture - as this one did.
“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will
make me go in a corner and cry by myself for hours”
~ Eric Idle
Monday, June 19, 2017
John Bradford, an Irish university student, was on the side of the road hitchhiking on a very dark night and in the midst of a torrential storm.
The night was rolling on and no car went by. The rain and wind were so overwhelming he could barely see. At long last he observed a car that slowly came towards him and stopped just a few feet away.
John, desperate for shelter and without thinking about it, got into the car and closed the door... Only then did he realize there was nobody behind the wheel and the engine wasn’t running. The car started moving slowly. John looked at the road ahead and saw a curve approaching. Scared, he started to pray, begging for his life. Then, just before the car hit the curve, a hand appeared out of nowhere through the window, and turned the wheel. John, paralyzed with terror, watched as the hand came through the window, but never touched or harmed him.
Shortly thereafter, John saw the lights of a pub appear down the road, so, gathering all his courage, he jumped out of the car and ran to that comforting beacon of normality. Wet and out of breath, he rushed inside and started telling everybody about the horrible experience he had just had.
A silence enveloped the pub when everybody realized he was crying... and that he wasn’t drunk.
Suddenly, the door opened, and two other people walked in from the dark and stormy night. They, like John, were also soaked and out of breath. Looking around, and seeing John Bradford sobbing at the bar, one said to the other...
Look, Paddy... there’s that idiot that got in the car while we were pushing it!
I imagine you may have heard this one before, but just in case you haven't..
Sunday, June 11, 2017
Recently Crow attended the nuptials of his cousin Cornelius and his lovely bride Hortensia. Aren't they a sweet couple?* and, yes, it was a lovely wedding.
When he returned he told me the guests at the reception had been quite disturbed about the news that humans are planning to annoy and irritate the flocks (more than they already are) by attempting to transport themselves to and from their various destinations by flying car. According to reports these vehicles are designed to fly 10 metres off the ground at a maximum speed of 100kph. Hmmm..
Anyway, here are some of Crow's thoughts on the matter:
I can understand a great deal of excitement has been generated among humans about being able to fly to the shop for a bottle of milk, but humans have certain handicaps in this regard that aren't shared by those of us born with wings. Ahem.
1. Birds, not having hands with opposable thumbs, do not text - ever.
2. When a bird decides to land most of us are small enough to find safety on a branch or on a roof. People in flying cars will not have this option.
3. Birds can glide. If anything goes wrong with your flying car it will become a flying brick.
4. The number of new things a flying car could crash into are too numerous to list.
5. There aren’t too many scenarios where a crash could be trivial. At 10 metres high and 100kph you'll be ensured of serious injuries - and not necessarily just to yourself.
6. There aren’t even the beginnings of any sort of 'road rules' for flying cars.
7. We teach our young to fly. Who will teach yours?
8. What about traffic lights?
9. Unlike birds having the occasional 'accident' as we fly over your grounded cars, or selves, what happens to those below when you notoriously messy humans throw things out of your flying cars?
10. We can fly anywhere we like, but what of flying cars? Where will they fly? and will they sing and make happy chirping sounds outside your window?
I fear there will be no peace anywhere.
After we talked about these unconsidered scenarios Crow and I watched a movie I remembered enjoying years ago. Called 'The Fifth Element', it does feature some flying cars:
Is this a modern development you're looking forward to enjoying?
* Family Wedding by Rudi Hurzlmeier
Article of the week: False flags
Sunday, June 4, 2017
Anthony Howe lives with his wife on an island off the coast of Washington surrounded by little more than trees, wind, and other natural elements that inspire his incredible kinetic sculptures. He works primarily with stainless steel which he welds to create carefully engineered objects powered by the slightest breeze. His wind-powered, carefully designed kinetic contraptions are so well thought out it’s hard to believe they’re sturdy, welded metal constructions. When a gentle breeze begins to blow, the sculpture’s wind-catching spoons and paddles begin to turn, and the entire piece begins to undulate in fascinating patterns.
But better you see for yourself:
They are mesmerizing.
I have no backyard.
Even if I did...
Sunday, May 28, 2017
Some years ago a science fiction novel I read described two different groups of humans as part of the overall story. The first group, ur-humans, were descendants of people who had been brought from Earth long ago who had been mentored by a civilization of inter-galactic beings. The second group, r-humans were more like us. They had struggled their way to a technologic society that had eventually bootstrapped its way into space. I no longer remember the name of the book, and that aspect was just a small part of a larger overall tale, but I rather liked the idea that there were humans who felt they were an organic part of a greater civilization.
Science fiction done well allows us to see our behaviour in perspective. I found a blog whose author wrote 365 very short science fiction stories over the course of 365 days. Here's one of them:
The priest’s words echoed through St. Peter’s soaring arches, resounding off acres of inlaid marble and porphyry. The murmur of tourists gawking and taking pictures stopped. Heads turned.
The priest stood before Michelangelo’s Pièta, hair the colour of clouds, cassock dark as a storm. A trio of Shivers had just entered the basilica and stood, clicking, their many limbs shifting nervously.
This was in the early days, when seeing an alien walking around was still rare. One of them inclined its glossy head. “We have come to admire the treasures of this place,” it said.
The priest’s eyes flashed with a dark light. “The house of God is not open to demons,” he said. “This place is for the baptized.”
The aliens clicked animatedly to each other. At length they turned to the priest together and bowed, forelegs splaying across the marble floor. “Then baptize us, father,” said the leader.
The priest blinked. “You … You wish to be baptized?” he said.
The lead Shiver nodded.
The priest’s gaze wandered over the aliens: many-legged, restlessly moving under their glossy black carapaces. He remembered the vast ships they had shown on TV, cloud-streaked, shadowing cities.
He breathed out, slowly.
“So you wish to be baptized,” he said. “His Holiness will want to hear of this … Follow me, children.”
The Shivers scurried after him. “Praise be to Allah!” they shouted.
The priest spun on them. “What!?” he said.
“Sorry,” said the lead Shiver. “Is there a difference?”
Article of the week: Manchester, or Innocence Long Lost
by Raul Ilargi Meijer
Sunday, May 21, 2017
Now if the river was brandy
And I was out diving with Crow
Now if the river was Remy
And I was out diving with Crow
I would dive in that bottle
And I'd never let go.
If the world treats you badly
You could go diving with us
If you got only hard times
We'll take you diving with us
Just grab your suit and flippers
There is nothing to discuss.
The river flows to the ocean
As you can surely see
Those oil guys were brazen
With their lies and treachery
Why these rich folk are so greedy
Is a mystery to me
Now they tell us Fukushima
Is just as calm as the sea
There is nothing left to see there
Things are good as they can be
But we know that they are lying
Though there's no news on tv
It's just money that matters
And they know they won't get caught
Cause they paid the politicians
Who said they never could be bought
There's no truth in what they tell you
Is what my dear mother taught
If the river was brandy
We wouldn't need a cup
If the river was Remy
We'd have a fine roundup
We can swim to the bottom
And we'll drink our way up.
So if the world treats you badly
You could go diving with us
If you got only hard times
We'll take you diving with us
Just grab your suit and flippers
There is nothing to discuss.
^ With apologies to Sleepy John Estes
* reprise from 2011 because it's all still true
Sunday, May 14, 2017
Okay, I give up. It's a Sunday in the middle of May and we're still experiencing decent spring weather only once in every other week. The news I read keeps getting worse and Crow has locked himself in his library where he's working on a book he's titled 'Apathetic Agnostic: We Don't Know and We Don't Care'. So in the absence of anything else to do I've found a few church signs and bulletins that made me laugh. Sometimes that's all we can do.
Irving Benson and Jessie Carter were married on October 24 in the church. So ends a friendship that began in their school days.
The beautiful flowers on the altar this morning are to celebrate the birth of David Alan Belzer, the sin of Rev. and Mrs. Julius Belzer.
At the Ladies Liturgy Society this Thursday, Mrs. Smith will sing “Put Me In My Little Bed” accompanied by the pastor.
At the evening service tonight, the sermon topic will be “What is Hell?” Come early and listen to our bell choir practice.
The ladies of the church have cast off clothing of every kind. They maybe seen in the basement on Friday afternoon.
The Low Self Esteem Support Group will meet Thursday at 7 P.M. Please use the back door.
On Sunday a special collection will be taken to defray the expense of a new carpet. All those wishing to do something on the new carpet will please come forward to get a piece of paper.
There is a sign-up sheet for anyone wishing to be baptized on the table in the foyer.
Janet Smith has volunteered to strip and refinish the communion table in the sanctuary.
The Pastor would appreciate it if the ladies of the congregation would lend him their electric girdles for the pancake breakfast next Sunday morning.
The preacher will preach his farewell message, after which the choir will sing, "Break Forth With Joy".
The concert held in Fellowship Hall was a great success. Special thanks are due to the minister's daughter, who labored the whole evening at the piano, which as usual fell upon her.
The Associate Minister unveiled the church's new tithing campaign slogan last Sunday: "I upped My Pledge----Up Yours."
Visiting Missionary: Bertha Belch.
Announcement: "Come tonight and hear Bertha Belch all the way from Africa".
Thursday at 5:00PM there will be a meeting of the Little Mothers Club. All wishing to become Little Mothers, please see the minister in his study.
This evening at 7 PM there will be a group practice in the park across from the Church. Bring a blanket and come prepared to sin.
Twenty-two members were present at the church meeting held at the home of Mrs. Marsha Crutchfield last evening. Mrs. Crutchfield and Mrs. Rankin sang a duet, The Lord Knows Why.
The eighth-graders will be presenting Shakespeare's Hamlet in the church basement on Friday at 7 p.m. The congregation is invited to attend this tragedy.
The Sunday Night Men's Glee Club will meet on Saturday at the park, unless it rains. In that case they will meet at their regular Tuesday evening time.
The class on prophecy has been cancelled due to unforeseen circumstances.
The outreach committee has enlisted 25 visitors to make calls on people who are not afflicted with any church.
This afternoon there will be a meeting in the South and North ends of the Church. Children will be Baptized at both ends.
The 'Over 60s Choir' will be disbanded for the summer with the thanks of the entire church.
Over the massive front doors of a church, these words were inscribed: "The Gates of Heaven". Below that was a small cardboard sign which read: "Please use other entrance."
and my favorite recent video is this one.. not linked because I found out youtube doesn't pay creators for movies shown on other sites. This man (and his friends) could probably use a little money.
Sunday, May 7, 2017
The phrase, "I'm going to Yemen," doesn't come up very often in my experience - less so nowadays. It's a place I first read about a few years ago that looked like one of those amazing landscapes we'd only encounter in a science fiction novel - Ray Bradbury's 'Mars' perhaps. Hidden away in the heart of the Indian Ocean, Socotra is a small collection of four islands that are part of Yemen in the Middle East. The largest among them is known as Socotra. While officially a part of Yemen, the island is 340 km (210 miles) away from Yemen while it is a mere 240 km (150 miles) away from Somalia. On all sides, the island is surrounded by a vast expanse of water.
Some 250 million years or more ago, when all the planet’s major landmasses were joined and most major life-forms roamed freely from one region to another, Socotra already stood as an island apart. Ever since Socotra has been a breeding ground of birds, plants and animals. The isolation from other land masses meant whatever evolutionary process the flora and fauna underwent never spread to the mainland.
While small in size, measuring 132 km (82 miles) long and 49.7 km (31 miles) wide this little, isolated island is a treasure trove of unusual things. Completely isolated, separated from land for millions of years, the flora and fauna have remained largely untouched by man and are found nowhere else in the world. The island's harsh environment includes wide sandy beaches, limestone caves and towering mountains, but is for the most part very hot and dry leading to the distinctive appearance of its plants.
If you want to read more and see more pictures you can find them here, but please don't mention the place to the Saudis or Elon Musk. We'll just let them think these really are pictures of Mars and they really should get out there right away.
* Lindsay found this beautiful video of the Socotran landscape.
Saturday, April 29, 2017
“Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read.” ― Groucho Marx
I have no idea where this picture came from, just that it showed up on my screen one day and I couldn't help but save it for my own viewing pleasure. How on earth did the photographer get 23 (your count may be different) dogs to all pose in such a cheerful group? Although most dogs get along with one another quite well it's exceedingly odd to see them arranged in neat rows like a football team or an old fashioned school class. Looking at it makes me happy.
“Man is the Reasoning Animal. Such is the claim. I think it is open to dispute. Indeed, my experiments have proven to me that he is the Unreasoning Animal... In truth, man is incurably foolish. Simple things which other animals easily learn, he is incapable of learning. Among my experiments was this. In an hour I taught a cat and a dog to be friends. I put them in a cage. In another hour I taught them to be friends with a rabbit. In the course of two days I was able to add a fox, a goose, a squirrel and some doves. Finally a monkey. They lived together in peace; even affectionately.
Next, in another cage I confined an Irish Catholic from Tipperary, and as soon as he seemed tame I added a Scotch Presbyterian from Aberdeen. Next a Turk from Constantinople; a Greek Christian from Crete; an Armenian; a Methodist from the wilds of Arkansas; a Buddhist from China; a Brahman from Benares. Finally, a Salvation Army Colonel from Wapping. Then I stayed away for two whole days. When I came back to note results, the cage of Higher Animals was all right, but in the other there was but a chaos of gory odds and ends of turbans and fezzes and plaids and bones and flesh--not a specimen left alive. These Reasoning Animals had disagreed on a theological detail and carried the matter to a Higher Court.”
― Mark Twain, Letters from the Earth: Uncensored Writings
If there's a saving grace for humanity it's that our dogs love us.
Saturday, April 22, 2017
It's pretty much common knowledge that many of London's children were sent away to the safety of the English countryside during the WWII Blitz. What's less commonly known is that a number of those children who went to charity institutions never returned to their families but instead were sent overseas to the Commonwealth countries in a child migrant program that relocated thousands of them. Most were told their parents were dead. In general, that wasn't true but the parents who went looking for them later were told they'd been adopted by loving families who were taking good care of the children. That turned out not to be true in many cases either.
In all, approximately 130,000 British children between the ages of three and fourteen were deported to Australia, Canada, Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), and New Zealand between the 1920s and the 1970s. Rather than finding new homes and loving families, never mind the oranges, sunshine, and ponies they'd been promised, many of them suffered servitude, hard labour and abuse in remote orphanages and farms. You can read more about it here if you're unfamiliar with the story. I'd write more about it myself but having spent several days reading about the tragedies that befell so many youngsters it's easier for me to direct you to some of the sources I found. Many of the individual stories are shocking and very disturbing.
Even more distressing, if anything more were needed, was learning that the British government began the policy of sending away it's 'surplus children' as far back as the 17th century when 150 'waifs' were shipped to Virginia to work on farms. Between 1869 and 1935, it's estimated 100,000 unaccompanied children were sent as indentured workers to countries that needed the laborers and also to enlarge their population of white people.
It was not until the early 1980s that Nottingham social worker Margaret Humphreys found out that there were former migrants in Australia who were just realizing they might have living relatives in the UK. One day an Australian woman contacted her, to say she was trying to find her mother. The woman said she had been taken from a children's home in Nottingham and sent to Australia by boat, aged four, during the 1950s. Could Humphreys help? Her plea lead to a quest that would take Humphreys across the world and uncover a scandalous policy used to forcibly ship thousands of British children away from their homes.
While a number of those now grown children were able to be reunited with their families (and apologies made by the governments of Britain, Australia and New Zealand - but not Canada), it's not possible to undo the damage or to take back the years. I wept while I watched the video of the 65 year old woman meeting her 86 year old mother for the first time in more than six decades.
I understand childhood was always hard for the poor but I imagine there were compensations in being poor among your own. Thank goodness Margaret Humphreys was there to help before it was too late for any reunions.
Sunday, April 16, 2017
In the past couple of years I've preferred not going anywhere near Halifax's downtown for the simple reason it's undergoing what appears to be an unrestrained building boom. In a fairly small city such as this one erecting huge buildings that cover the entirety of square blocks, buildings made of concrete and steel with glass curtain walls, has a brutalizing effect both physically on the local environment and psychologically on the populace. That Halifax is a major destination for tourists wanting a glimpse of the historic maritimes lifestyle is another factor making these projects appear counterintuitive.
Since we couldn't find a spot downtown not covered by construction equipment we decided instead Crow would pose in Anton Furst's conception of Batman's Gotham City. It seemed appropriate.
"Modernism is damaging to all cultures, yet those that are wealthy can and do periodically escape its suffocating effects. They possess other sources of emotional nourishment. But it is the economically impoverished cultures dependent upon the industrialized West, and those that are subjected to “soft oppression” by the dominance of the global media, that suffer most deeply. They have no way out. Their own elites are forcing the modernist dogma down their throats."
~ Nikos Salingaros
“The type of work which modern technology is most successful in reducing or even eliminating is skilful, productive work of human hands, in touch with real materials of one kind or another. In an advanced industrial society, such work has become exceedingly rare, and to make a decent living by doing such work has become virtually impossible. A great part of modern neurosis may be due to this very fact; for the human being, defined by Thomas Aquinas as a being with brains and hands, enjoys nothing more than to be creatively, usefully, productively engaged with both his hands and his brains.”
~ E.F. Schumacher
So you want us all to go back to the Stone Age?
The word “back” is a trick. It implies a magical absolute direction of change. Suppose you go to your job, and when you get ready to leave, your boss says, “So you want to go back to your house? Don’t you know you can never go back? You can only go forward, to working for me even more, ha ha ha!” Really, all motion is forward, and forward motion can go in any direction we choose, including to places we’ve been before.
~ Ran Prieur
Long before it was an area of study, dictators took advantage of the impact architecture can have on the mind. By creating architecture at a monumental scale, rather than a human one, they inspired fear and awe in their citizens. By destroying the individual scale of a city, the tyrant believed he could usher in a new age. While fascism went out of fashion after World War II, the style of architecture did not, and now you can see that type of monumental building in cities around the world.
If the human scale of any given environment is defined by its community, then the outcome will be a human scale city.
Saturday, April 8, 2017
One afternoon last week I went looking for a copy of a picture by Ronald Searle that I'd once sent an old friend. I didn't find what I was looking for but instead found that despite the fact I'd always loved his drawings I didn't know anything about him at all. Over the course of his long life Ronald Searle drew thousands of pictures, most of them satirical - albeit, gently so.
You never got the feeling of outright cruelty in his images - except, perhaps, for the St. Trinian's girls and their penchant for torture, assault, and the carrying of deadly weapons.
The first, and major, thing I hadn't been aware of was the fact that as a young enlistee in the Royal Engineers who had just arrived in Singapore when it fell to the Japanese in 1942, 22 year old Ronald Searle became a prisoner of war * and would remain one until 1945. His collection of 300 eyewitness drawings of life in Changi Prison in Singapore and the work camps of the notorious Thai-Burma railway is an amazing achievement. He secretly documented his experiences and, with the help of friends, hid the drawings from the guards by placing them under the mattresses of soldiers who were dying from cholera. Luckily for him, Searle never contracted cholera, but he did suffer from dengue fever, beri beri, malaria, multiple skin diseases and starvation. Most of his friends and co-prisoners died.
The brutality and disregard for human life which he experienced first hand led him to ask himself the question - "could this happen to people in my home country, or is this something peculiar to the Japanese people and their culture?" His answer seems to be that it is a universal phenomenon.
The second thing I learned about Ronald Searle is how he reacted when his wife, Monica, was diagnosed with terminal breast cancer in the late 1960s - shortly after they'd purchased an old home in Provence they were looking forward to renovating. Feeling helpless in the face of Monica's medical disaster, the only thing he could think of to do for them both while she was undergoing chemotherapy and experimental radiation was to draw.
The delightful images of a Mrs Mole pottering about a dream house in a Provencal village were full of optimism meant to help them both through the long, painful process they could only hope would be successful. Monica had 47 treatments and after each session he gave her another drawing.
I drew them originally for no one’s eyes except Mo’s, so she would look at them propped up against her bedside lamp and think: “When I’m better, everything will be beautiful.”
The treatments did work and her cancer went into a remission that lasted forty years. Most of those years were spent in their Provencal home: four interconnected houses, the oldest one medieval, threaded by staircases and stuffed with accumulated treasures. A courtyard is shaded by a vast, ancient fig tree, and from the tiny roof terrace unfurls a glorious 100-mile view over mountains to the sparkling Mediterranean Sea. It's a wonderful sight to imagine.
Early in 2011, shortly before she died, Monica shared her treasured drawings in a book titled Les Tres Riches Heures de Mrs Mole (‘The Richest Hours of Mrs Mole’) to coincide with Breast Cancer Awareness Month. She died that July and six months later Ronald Searle followed her - he was 91.
It's certainly not true that artists don't have much to say; what is true is that the best really can convey stories of a thousand words in an image. Ronald Searle was one of them.
* a link you might be particularly interested in, Lindsay.