Friday, June 14, 2013
For anyone who's wondered recently if I'm still drawing and painting, the answer is yes. Essentially, I'm still working on the story I mentioned a few months ago but doing multiple sequential pictures isn't a simple process for me. I don't want to be making excuses but it's also not that easy to focus with a loud work crew often only a few feet away.
Anyway, just for the fun of it this afternoon I decided to paint a drawing you may remember having seen a while back. It's a story that pretty much tells itself but in case you'd like hearing my take:
A little boy who's been out in the woods has met a new friend. Both of them are wondering if they'll they'll be able to slip home safely without being noticed by any suspicious adults.
Sunday, June 9, 2013
One fine morning a few days ago I remembered to take my camera with me when we went for one of our regular walks through the park. Although Point Pleasant isn't the biggest city park I've ever known well, it's certainly big enough, and wild enough, to give the impression you have much of it to yourself. In fact, that's often pretty close to true. Even though every path will eventually take you to the shore, it's quite possible to wander for hours and never see the sea. Anyway, the ones above are a few of the pictures I took as we walked along a meandering uphill path between granite outcrops and a watery marsh where the frogs were making rude noises.
When you're far away from city sounds it's easy to imagine other places and different times. Of course, it goes without saying that most of us would be hard pressed to get by in the world as it was a century or more ago; we've become very used to our conveniences even when they aren't as convenient as we might prefer. Still, there are a few out of the way places where people continue to live in much the way they did long ago. One of those places is also in India, in the northeast where a rainfall that can often be measured in yards rather than inches, requires sturdy bridges.
In a place like Cherrapunji, India, living bridges are made from the roots of the Ficus elastica tree. Long ago the people who lived there saw the possibility of growing bridges across the valley's many rivers by guiding the fast growing roots in the right direction through hollowed out betel nut trunks. Once a root reached the opposite side it was allowed to establish itself in the ground. The root bridges, some of which are more than 100 ft long, take 10 to 15 years to be fully functional, but they're very strong - strong enough to support the weight of 50 or more people. Better still, because they grow stronger as the years go by many of these bridges are more than 500 years old.
I'd love to walk across one of these but since getting there would provide serious difficulties, I'll just have to content myself with imagining one next time I'm on a very narrow path on a sunny day. There are more excellent pictures by Timothy Allen and a story about his journey there on Human Planet.
Wednesday, June 5, 2013
While I don't spend that much time being overly paranoid, there are a few technological developments that deserve a little scrutiny. For instance, the upcoming version of the XBox (which, like all current game machines, will be an internet-connected device) soon to be released to the public comes with a mandatory accessory called the Kinect. The general idea is that you can walk into the room where it's installed and just say 'XBox on' in order to play a game or watch television. Yes, a big part of its appeal is that you can use it to give your television commands just in case you're bored with old fashioned remote control devices; it will also be Skype enabled since MS bought them 2 years ago. Of course if all you have to do is talk to the Kinect then it can never really be off. And, while you can opt to turn it off (which, of course, would defeat its whole purpose), if it's unplugged, or removed, the XBox itself won't work at all.
The Kinect device designed for the Xbox One can monitor users’ movements with a camera that sees in the dark, picks up conversations as well as voice commands with a microphone, and can also read your heart rate using infrared cameras that track blood flow underneath the skin. What makes this worrisome is that Microsoft has filed a patent that suggests it is interested in using Kinect to count the number of people in a room in order to charge each person for providing pay-per-user content. Imagine sitting down to watch a streaming movie that you've paid your rental fee for only to have the Kinect count how many people are in the room and turn the movie off until you've paid for everyone watching it: 'I'm sorry Dave, you can't do that'.
Officials in Germany and Australia have alerted their respective governments about the possibility of the XBox Ones being being used as surveillance devices and have advised against them. Goodness knows there are already more than enough privacy issues with CCTVs, cell phone photographers/videographers and what have you out in public without having another sitting in the corner of the room watching you or your children without you being aware that it's doing just that.
Now while I run off to find a piece of tape to cover the pinhole camera in my laptop, you can check out this sweet little movie about an old man who was afraid of falling:
The Man Who Was Afraid of Falling from Joseph Wallace on Vimeo.
Thursday, May 30, 2013
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
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.
TOP REASONS TO LIVE IN BRITISH COLUMBIA
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.
TOP REASONS TO LIVE IN ALBERTA
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.
TOP REASONS TO LIVE IN SASKATCHEWAN
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!
TOP REASONS TO LIVE IN MANITOBA
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.
TOP REASONS TO LIVE IN ONTARIO
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.
TOP REASONS TO LIVE IN QUEBEC
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*#!%!" ?
TOP REASONS TO LIVE IN NEW BRUNSWICK
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.
TOP REASONS TO LIVE IN NOVA SCOTIA
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.
TOP REASONS TO LIVE IN PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND
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.
TOP REASONS TO LIVE IN NEWFOUNDLAND
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
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
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