Thursday, December 10, 2009

Feeling Nautical

 Idon't know exactly why I haven't been as busy with my blog lately. The most reasonable explanation is that I'm  not reading as much because of working more, and also I've  been working on a few projects of a different nature. My new Swaeter which I call,  "Nautical" was the motivation to figure out why my sewing machine wasn't working. The small un-switched hole in the upper left sleeve seam claims that I still haven't figured it out completely.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Cycle

Monday, November 30, 2009


picked up this book because I had done a bit of research into student resiliency during the course of my ed. degree and I thought it might compliment that knowledge. What I found was quite a personal story of Elizabeth Edwards, wife of former democratic vice president nominee John Edwards. Though she is apparently a 'most beloved' American political figure, I didn't know anything of her life before reading this book. What she relates is telling of how tragedy and hardship are present in even a most picture perfect life. What I found most useful in her story was her description of her struggle reconfiguring idealized images of who she thought she was after  tragedy. The point being that her own assumptions about the future were often the most difficult things to let go of in her effort to move forward.

One other part of her story, which she only barely touches on but fits with the overall message, was her husband's  marital indiscretions. I don't know if it's just coincidental timing but this part of her story really reminds me of The Good Wife, which Elizabeth Edwards certainly seems to be.  I don't know where she's at at this point in her journey but certainly hope the Hollywood Gossip is as trust worthy as its ever been because she seems like a nice lady and would probably like to have some closure -by that  I meant she might like her life out of the spot light.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Brooklyn. Brooklyn Take Me In

S omething new that I really like. Check out some of the related videos, I think you'll really like The Avett Brothers too.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Lines that Complicate

L ine is one of the fundamental components of art. Using pen and ink, I've recently been experimenting with a variety of line drawing, some of which are attached. Its easy to see the connection these type of drawings have to developing graphic arts ideas. In my effort to think of ways to become familiar and comfortable with the use of line, (to practice using line)  I'm trying come up with or collect as many friendly projects that are simple in their execution but open the possibility of of further experimentation. These are still ideas in progress so if you see a way to build on them or connect with some other content area, I'd be super excited to hear about it. Enjoy!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Mad Scientist Music

Monday, November 16, 2009

A Personal Definition of Success

 A bit of a ramble but well worth it. I think this is kinda how I always felt about success in athletics, wished that I felt about success in school and now, about success in life.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Swine Flu Musical Propaganda by the CBC

S omething fun for the flu season... Fingers crossed I stay healthy!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

My Mandalas

T hese are a few of my favorite mandalas created last year while I was waiting to find out about my job. Since then my interest in the project has waned but I'm still interested in general and really enjoyed preparing these to be posted. What colours would you use to fill them in? I'd love to see what combo's you come up with! (You can click on the image to get a printable screen)

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Patriotism is not enough...

"Standing as I do in view of God and eternity, I realize that patriotism is not enough. I must have no hatred or bitterness for anyone."

just finished reading about this excellent woman. Anyone interested in World War I or the extraordinary choices ordinary civilians are asked to make in times of war should check out her story in Silent in an Evil Time; The Brave War of Edith Cavell.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Different Red Flowers. Same Respect and Remembrance

The Legend of Deadman's Island
Coal Harbour and Deadman's Island from the bridge by Lost Lagoon
                It is dusk on the Lost Lagoon,
                And we two dreaming the dusk away,
                Beneath the drift of a twilight grey -
                Beneath the drowse of an ending day

             And the curve of a golden moon.
                It is dark in the Lost Lagoon,
                And gone are the depths of haunting blue,
                The grouping gulls, and the old canoe,
                The singing firs, and the dusk and - you,
                And gone is the golden moon.

                0! lure of the Lost Lagoon -
                I dream to-night that my paddle blurs
                The purple shade where the seaweed stirs -
                I hear the call of the singing firs
                In the hush of the golden moon.

  The following story and poem are both taken from E. Pauline Johnson's, Legends of Vancouver. First published 1911.            

 For many minutes we stood silently, leaning on the western rail of the bridge as we watched the sunset across that beautiful little basin of water known as Coal Harbour. I have always resented that jarring, unattractive name, for years ago, when I first plied paddle across the gunwale of a light little canoe, and idled about its margin, I named the sheltered little cove the Lost Lagoon.
This was just to please my own fancy, for, as that perfect summer month drifted on, the ever- restless tides left the harbour devoid of water at my favorite canoeing hour, and my pet idling-place was lost for many days-hence my fancy to call it the Lost Lagoon. But the chief, Indian-like, immediately adopted the name, at least when he spoke of the place to me, and, as we watched the sun slip behind the rim of firs, he expressed the wish that his dug- out were here instead of lying beached at the farther side of the park.

"If canoe was here, you and I we paddle close to shores all 'round your Lost Lagoon: we make track just like half-moon. Then we paddle under this bridge, and go channel between Deadman's Island and park. Then 'round where cannon speak time at nine o'clock. Then 'cross Inlet to Indian side of Narrows." 

I turned to look eastward, following in fancy the course he had sketched. The waters were still as the footsteps of the oncoming twilight, and floating in a pool of soft purple, Deadman's Island rested like a large circle of candle-moss. 

"Have you ever been on it?" he asked as he caught my gaze centering on the irregular outline of the island pines. 

"I have prowled the length and depth of it," I told him, "climbed every rock on its shores, crept under every tangled growth of its interior, explored its overgrown trails, and more than once nearly got lost in its very heart." 

"Yes", he half laughed, "it pretty wild; not much good for anything." 

"People seem to think it valuable," I said. "There is a lot of litigation - of fighting going on now about it." 

"Oh! that the way always," he said, as though speaking of a long accepted fact. "Always fight over that place. Hundreds of years ago they fight about it; Indian people; they say hundreds of years to come everybody will still fight - never be settled what that place is, who it belong to, who has right to it. No, never settle. Deadman's Island always mean fight for some one." 

"So the Indians fought amongst themselves about it?" I remarked, seemingly without guile, although my ears tingled for the legend I knew was coming. 

"Fought like lynx at close quarters," he answered. "Fought, killed each other, until the island ran with blood redder than that sunset, and the sea-water about it was stained flame colour - it was then, my people say, that the scarlet fire-flower(fireweed) was first seen growing, along this coast." 

"It is a beautiful colour - the fire-flower," I said. "It should be fine colour, for it was born and grew from the hearts of fine tribes-people - very fine people," he emphasized. We crossed to the eastern rail of the bridge, and stood watching the deep shadows that gathered slowly and silently about the island; I have seldom looked upon anything more peaceful.

The chief sighed. "We have no such men now, no fighters like those men, no hearts, no courage like theirs. But I tell you the story; you understand it then. Now all peace; tonight all good tillicums; even dead man's spirit does not fight now, but long time after it happen those spirits fought."

"And the legend?" I ventured. 

"Oh! yes," he replied, as if suddenly returning to the present from out a a far country in the realm of time. "Indian people, they call it the 'Legend of the Island of Dead Men'"

"There was war everywhere. Fierce tribes from the northern coast, savage tribes from the south, all met here and battled and raided, burned and captured, tortured and killed their enemies. The forest smoked with camp-fires, the Narrows were choked with war-canoes, and the Sagalie Tyee - He who is a man of peace - turned his face away from His Indian children. About this island there was dispute and contention. The medicine-men from the North claimed it as their chanting-ground. The medicine-men from the South laid equal claim to it. Each wanted it as the stronghold of their witch-craft, their magic.

"Great bands of these medicine-men met on the small space, using every sorcery in their power to drive their opponents away. The witch-doctors of the North made their camp on the northern rim of the island; those from the South settled along the southern edge, looking towards what is now the great city of Vancouver. Both factions danced, chanted, burned their magic powders, built their magic fires, beat their magic rattles, but neither would give way, yet neither conquered. About them, on the waters, on the mainlands, raged the warfare of their respective tribes - the Sagalie Tyee had forgotten his Indian children.

"After many months, the warriors on both sides weakened. They said the incantations of the rival medicine-men were bewitching them, were making their hearts like children's, and their arms as nerveless as women's. So friend and foe arose as one man and drove the medicine-men from the island, hounded them down the Inlet, herded them through the Narrows, and banished them out to sea, where they took refuge on one of the outer islands of the gulf. Then the tribes once more fell upon each other in battle.

"The warrior blood of the North will always conquer. They are stronger, bolder, more alert, more keen. The snow and the ice of their country make swifter pulse than the sleepy suns of the South can awake in a man; their muscles are of sterner stuff, their endurance greater. Yes, the northern tribes will always be victors. But the craft and the strategy of the southern tribes are hard things to battle against.

"While those of the North followed the medicine-men farther out to sea to make sure of their banishment, those from the South returned under cover of night and seized the women and children and the old, enfeebled men in their enemy's camp, transported them all to the Island of Dead Men, and there held them as captives. Their war-canoes circled the island like a fortification, through which drifted the sobs of the imprisoned women, the mutterings of the aged men, the wail of little children.

"Again and again the men of the North assailed that circle of canoes, and again and again were repulsed. The air was thick with poisoned arrows, the water stained with blood. But day by day the circle of southern canoes grew thinner and thinner; the northern arrows were telling, and truer of aim. Canoes drifted everywhere, empty, or, worse still, manned only by dead men.
"The pick of the southern warriors had already fallen, when their greatest Tyee mounted a large rock on the eastern shore. Brave and unmindful of a thousand weapons aimed at his heart, he lifted his hand, palm outward - the sign for conference. Instantly every northern arrow was lowered, and every northern ear listened for his words.

"'Oh! men of the upper coast,' he said, 'you are more numerous than we are; your tribe is larger, your endurance greater. We are growing hungry, we are growing less in numbers. Our captives - your women and children and old men - have lessened, too, our stores of food. If you refuse our terms we will yet fight to the finish. Tomorrow we will kill all our captives before your eyes, for we can feed them no longer, or you can have your wives, your mothers, your fathers, your children by giving us for each and every one of them one of your best and bravest young warriors, who will consent to suffer death in their stead. Speak! You have your choice.'

"In the northern canoes scores and scores of young warriors leapt to their feet. The air was filled with glad cries, with exultant shouts. The whole world seemed to ring with the voices of those young men who called loudly, with glorious courage:

"'Take me, but give me back my old father.'

"'Take me, but spare to my tribe my little sister.'

"'Take me, but release my wife and boy-baby.'

"So the compact was made. Two hundred heroic, magnificent young men paddled up to the island, broke through the fortifying circle of canoes, and stepped ashore. They flaunted their eagle plumes with the spirit and boldness ofyoung gods. Their shoulders were erect, their step was firm, their hearts strong. Into their canoes they crowded the two hundred captives.

"Once more their women sobbed, their old men muttered, their children wailed, but those young copper-coloured gods never flinched, never faltered. Their weak and their feeble were saved. What mattered to them such a little thing as death?

"The released captives were quickly surrounded by their own people, but the flower of their splendid nation was in the hands of their enemies, those valorous young men who thought so little of life that they willingly, gladly laid it down to serve and to save those they loved and cared for. Amongst them were war-tried warriors who had fought fifty battles, and boys not yet full grown, who were drawing a bow-string for the first time; but their hearts, their courage, their self-sacrifice was as one.

"Out before a long file of southern warriors they stood. Their chins uplifted, their eyes defiant, their breasts bared. Each leaned forward and laid his weapons at his feet, then stood erect, with empty hands, and laughed forth his challenge to death. A thousand arrows ripped the air, two hundred gallant northern throats flung forth a death-cry exultant, triumphant as conquering kings - then two hundred fearless northern hearts ceased to beat.

"But in the morning the southern tribes found the spot where they fell peopled with flaming fire-flowers. Dread terror seized upon them. They abandoned the island, and when night again shrouded them they manned their canoes and noiselessly slipped through the Narrows, turned their bows southward, and this coast-line knew them no more.

"What glorious men!" I half whispered as the chief concluded the strange legend.

"Yes, men!" he echoed. "The white people call it Deadman's Island. That is their way; but we of the Squamish call it Island of Dead Men."

The clustering pines and the outlines of the island's margin were now dusky and indistinct. Peace, peace lay over the waters, and the purple of the summer twilight had turned to grey, but I knew that in the depths of the undergrowth on Deadman's Island there blossomed a flower of flaming beauty; its colours were veiled in the coming nightfall, but somewhere down in the sanctuary of its petals pulsed the heart's blood of many and valient men.
E. Pauline Johnson-Tekahionwake, 1911
Pauline's signature

Ironically, the 'Isle of Dead Men' today is a naval base for the Canadian military.   It's history forgotten or unknown, it's very existance is the ultimate in irony, unrealized and unappreciated by the thousands who walk, cycle, or drive past it every day without a glance...
The fireflower (fireweed), whose first appearance caused such terror in the hearts of men, is now seen world-wide, but is no longer seen in its legendary place of origin...

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Victorian Histories in Western Canada

I guess its because I'm finding my place here but recently I've become more and more interested in the histories of Vancouver and surrounding area. Funny thing is that I lived in Calgary a full 24 years and never developed such an interest.

Sources I've recently been reading include Legends of Vancouver, Vancouver A visual History,  online sources like "Past Tense" ( which I wish would publish more) and a great historic documentary of the Japanese-Canadians' love of baseball.

 I also read The Maquinna Line by Norma Macmillan this winter which was an interesting historical (mostly) fiction  book in the same vein.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Dan Mangan.

 Check out Dan Mangan's latest album on CBC Radio 3 or find out more about him, his projects and his tour dates on his website. I'm loving it.

The Fabric of the Future

I haven't really been reading any one book lately because I've had this interesting anthology on my night table. It's not really the type of thing to read through in order but rather I've been opening it up to different ideas every night. My first knowledge of Iktumi's Invitations actually came from one of the essays in this book.

The thing about this kind of reading is that it can last a long time (because there are contributors), and not everything hits the right note at the particular moment it is read so I've been thinking about the various essays over time.  What I have liked is that many of the writers are talking about something beyond patriarchal slagging feminism, - namely what is highlighted is the important contribution that women and traditionally feminism ethics will and must make into the future.  Because the contributors come from many different walks of live the ideas are broadly informed. The writers don't form one consistent thesis but rather diverge and converge around where the world may possibly be headed. They each seem to be deeply passionate/ hopeful/thoughtful in their respective areas of expertise and to me this is very hopeful for the world.

Check it out on the Google book site.... its pretty amazing too!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Teaching Art to Children

I recently attended a Provincial Intermediate Teachers Association (PITA) conference where one of the members recommended this book as an excellent resource for teaching the fundamentals of art education. It's still too soon for me to have tried it out but I have browsed through it and know that it highlights many important points in a nice, straightforward way. In addition to being excited about finding this resource, I was also really excited when I searched for more information about it and found Using Drawing with Children, which is a chronicle of one parent's experience with the book.

While this site was great to reference, it also had links to other art with children web sites like Art & Learning to Think, -which is a bit more on the philosophical side but sound educational thinking for any subject, Homeschool Printables by Donna Young, -which has Blackline masters for many subjects including art, and Art Projects for Kids, which is wonderfully broken down into age appropriate levels and clear and simple instructions. All these great finds on the web have me wondering if I really need the book after all ... but then again there is something unique about being able to flip through actual pages.

A great source for primary art project ideas is Deep Space Sparkle. Can't wait to try some of these ideas out.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Iktumi's Invitations to Self Deception

1. If only I were rich,   then I would be happy.
2.If only I were famous, then I would be happy. 
3. If only I could find the right person to marry,   then I would be happy.
4. If only I had more friends, then I would be happy.
5. If only I were more attractive, then I would be happy.
6. If only I weren't physically handicapped in any way, then I would be happy. 
7. If only someone close to me hadn't died, then I could be happy.
8. If only the world were a better place, then I would be happy

These 'invitations' come from Iktumi, the trickster or liar figure of the Lakota tradition. (Mills, Billy. Wokini.) As I was looking into this character I came  across other writing on the web that brought up Pandora and the Adam and Eve Apple myth as a way to explain unhappiness (evil) in the the world, -what were the sources of unhappiness and what is to blame for its appearance at large. Reflections aside, I like the way these 'invitations' are super straight forward and echo the way that deceptive thoughts sometimes cross my mind... now just to remember to refuse these tricky little ditties.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Daily Physical Activity (DPA) Notes from the 60's

How are we supposed to believe exercises are worth 
it if the teachers don't seem to be interested?
-Richard Milington

 Its amazing that the health of youth in school was being addressed as long ago as 1963 and it is still such a problem. This little letter goes a long way in explaining why. It is written by a school boy, Richard Millington, to president Kennedy and complains of the fact that so often teacher leading physical activity initiatives are clearly not parting in any of their own. You'll have to visit over at Letters of Note to read it in full. Simply, spot on.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Way of Water

The supreme good is like water,
which nourishes all things without trying to.
It is content with the low places that people disdain.

Nothing in the world 
is as soft and yielding as water. 
Yet for dissolving the hard and inflexible, 
nothing can surpass it.

The gentlest thing in the world
overcomes the hardest thing in the world.
That which has no substance
enters where there is no space.
This shows the value of non-action.

All streams flow to the sea 
because it is lower than they are. 
Humility gives it its power.

- Tao Te Ching                                         


Something about the above painting always reminds me of the Toa Te Ching so today I decided to go through and see if I could figure out why. Certainly the carved walls of Johnston Canyon speak to the powerful forces of water over time; nevertheless I can't help remembering the roar of water that didn't seem to have anything to do with softness or humility. Maybe the fact that the painting is very serene despite its lively subject, is what makes it interesting.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Island of the Seven Cities

This book got inside of my head because it was convincing enough to make me question some of the history that I've previously taken for granted. I just didn't know what to make of it. Certainly, I found the history of Cape Breton that is explored in the first part of the book very interesting because I was never really aware of how important the island was for the first Europeans on the continent.  The later sections of the book were more problematic. In the latter parts, information about the architectural 'ruins' of the site Chiasson has found,  and cultural knowledge and textile patterns that seem to be unique to the Mi'qmak are sited as evidence of Chinese settlement on the island before Europeans (sometime around 1421).

While it seemed to me like some of the similarities are striking (particularly the clothing patterns as compared to traditional Chinese dress) there isn't any of the evidence one might expect to find of human settlement.  I tried looking on the internet for more evidence of Chinese settlement on the coast of Cape Breton but there was not much more then book reviews on the Seven Cities. That in itself raises questions about why archeologists haven't investigated further. Perhaps they know something that the author of the book is overlooking. It is also possible that the wheels of science turn slowly and there is lag time on exploring new ideas that run counter to what is commonly held knowledge.  However, it seems like this would be an exciting avenue for further research if it was legitimated by artifacts of daily and industrial life as Chiasson is suggesting. It would also mean all but a few sparse accounts of the 'ruins' have been successfully covered up or 'forgotten' in both European and Chinese history, which doesn't seem likely.

In any case, it was interesting to wrap my mind around this possibility.  I did think the similarities of dress and other cultural knowledge type evidence was compelling. It suggests that there was some kind of contact that little is known about but I doubt the scale of the settlement Chiasson claims.  Now that it is on my radar, though sceptically, I will certainly keep my ears open to new information on the topic.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Speaking on the Problems of a Single Story

What a great reminder. It makes me contemplate how I include other people in my own personal narrative. Definitely something to set on the back burner and think about.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Darwin Conspiracy

Ever contentious it seems, - I got more then I bargained for when I searched for a cover image of this book I recently read. The ever-present controversy over evolutionary theory is, I guess, part of what keeps Darwin in the public memory and part of why I was interested in the book in the first place.  Turns out that what the web had to offer on Darwin Conspiracy was also pretty interesting reading.

A far as historical fiction is concerned there seems to be two types. One sets fictitious characters in the past and tells a story that accurately reflects the atmosphere of the time and place. Something like the story of Aminata Diallo in The Book of Negros would be a good example of this kind. The second kind uses real historical characters of interest and adds fictitious artifacts/events to add to the history.  The Darwin Conspiracy by John Darnton clearly was the second type and the trouble I encountered within it was that this kind of historical fiction can sometimes blur where the history ends and the fiction begins. In this case, so much so that I was distracted from the fiction and distrusting of the history. While the historical details are apparently well researched, I felt like I couldn't trust any insight into the time because so many details seemed to have been invented for the story's sake. It was very much a la Da Vinci Code and while it was an original idea on the telling of Darwin's story, its own telling wasn't as inspired.

I echo the feelings of a fellow web bookreporter, Kathy Weissman, "If you're looking for a nice, light entertainment with a sprinkling of natural science and history, plus a bit of a mystery, try it. But if you want a genuinely good book, go elsewhere...1"

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

CBC Rocks!

 A playlist from a friend, my brother actually, turned me on to CBC radio on the computer. Really its seems like something I should have guessed at given the CBC's awesome internet archives for television but somehow never did. CBC radio 3  just launched a new site and lets us tune into new and emerging Canadian artists from cross the country and make our own playlists for others to enjoy. The great thing about the new launch is that because the site is all new, the instructions to help user get set up are front and center.  I'm already working on my own  playlist (it's super easy!) and would love to hear from your own playlists if you build one...  What a great way to foster the Canadian music scene and remind myself that I love the CBC. Thanks for the connection brother.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Je ne sais quoi! Adrien Deggan

These lovely images from Adrien Deggan caught my attention partly because of the beautiful colours he's used and also because of the glimpse of BC coast I see in the first one. I can almost imagine that I know that tree down by the shore. The other thing I really like is the french quotes under each image. The idea of creating imagery for some of my favorite quotes seems like something I might like to do someday and being in french seems to add a little to them as well. Thank you Adrien!

You can also check out other work by Adrien on his Stamps blog!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Unlikely Utopia; The Surprising Truimp of Canadian Pluralism

 "Canada is the only place on Earth that has...a national minority group, an Aboriginal population and a substantial immigrant population" p.9

" In Canada Multiculturalism has always been geared toward helping minority groups participate more fully  in Canadian society" p. 10

 "First, resources permitting, the government will seek to assist all Canadian cultural groups that have demonstrated a desire and effort to continue to develop a capacity to grow and contribute to Canada and a clear need for assistance, the small and weak groups no less than the strong and higly organized.
Second, the government will assist members of all cultural groups to overcome cultural barriers to full participation in Canadian society. 
Third, the government will promote creative encounters and interchange among Canadian cultura groups in the interest of national unity.
Fourth, the government will continue to assist immigrant to acquire at least one of Canada's official language in order to become full participants in Canadian society" 
-Trudeau, "Announcement of Implementation of

Policy of Multiculturalism within Bilingual Framework,"
House f Commons, Ottawa, 8 October 1971.

"Canadians talk a great deal about multiculturalism but spend very little on it. Of a total annual budget of $189 billion, about $27 million is earmarked for multiculturalism... less than 0.02%  of federal spending." p 12

" For although there are two official language, there is no official culture, nor does any ethnic group take precedence over any other. No citizen or group of citizens is other than Canadian, and all should be treated fairly."
-Trudeau, "The Cultural Contributions of 
Other Groups," Vol. IV, Royal Commission
on Biligualism and Biculturalism, 1971

" Not only do Canadians feel that multiculturalism is a central part of their country's identity, its also increasingly a source of pride." p. 20

" Canada has the highest proportion of foreign-born legislators in the world. This is true in two ways. First, we have the worlds largest proportion of seats in our lower legislative chamber (the house of commons) occupied by people who weren't born here. Second, our proportion of foreign-born legislators comes the closest in the world to matching the proportion of foreign-born people in the country's population overall." p 69

When I was in Uni. and required to take a methods course on statistical analysis I thought that reading data was about as dry as a 6 day old muffin in an Alberta winter. Who can forget pulling an all-nighter to study election survey results from 1996? Never one to tie down, I was a little surprised as I read through the evidence Micheal Adams cites as he writes about the burgeoning  success of 'the multicultural experiment' with a fair bit of interest. The fact that I could reflect on the author's topic based on my own lived experiences made all the difference. Plus, it was interesting to have some of the history of multiculturalism (from before my time) highlighted so as to better understand how we got to where we are today.  I think I am definitely one of those 18-26 who now take multicultural aspirations for granted as part of the Canadian ideal but I also confront some of the concerns Adams raises about "ethnic enclaves" on a daily basis.  In the end, this book was like a little pat on the back that said, "You're doing well but keep that nose to the grindstone or it might all go for not." Funny, that attitude strikes me as kind of Canadian too !

Saturday, October 3, 2009

A Complicated Kindness

The title reminded me of a book called The God of Small Things (TGOST) by Arundhati Roy that I read years ago. I don't know why but I was half expecting it to be like a continuation...and in many ways it was, albeit in a very different setting.  TGOST was about twins separated in India and had the kind of subtle observations of situations that burrowed deep into your memory so that you forget that they are part of the story until they come up again and reconnect with the themes the author is building.  Despite the difference in the settings (this book is in a Mennonite community somewhere in Canada), Miriam Toews' writing in A Complicated Kindness (ACK) ended up doing a similar thing. As I remember TGOST, it deals with the expression of genuine human emotions within a system that subverts some such natural feelings. This was also a theme developed in ACK. In this is novel the voice of the young person trying to make sense of what is at the surface and what is underneath, is very clear, unique, and, -at times, painfully awkward.  What I really liked was that through all the confusion and tension, there was always a really clear, gentle, and endearing love that bonds the family.  I wouldn't say that it was easy reading but I laughed out loud at parts and thoroughly enjoyed it despite the teenage angst.

Friday, September 25, 2009

The Book of Negros

 I picked up this pretty acclaimed book (it has a Canada Reads award) on the recommendation of my lovely mother. Loved it for its historical fiction and for the questions it raises. The issue of how difficult it is to deem events good or bad, because of the unforeseen opportunities and tragedies they open, is explored along with what it feels like to work really hard to come back to a dream and find it different than remembered. The other  theme that I liked having the opportunity to think about as I read this novel was the community of black people imported to North America and how they worked to cope/survive within the system of abuse.  This was a window into a world I could never access in such a personal way. Aminata Diallo was a very real person as I read, -abated an exceptional one.

As I meandered on the topic of this book I found an archival site on the history of Black Loyalists in Canada where you  can actually read The Book of Negro as it was recorded in 1783. There's also tons of related information on these sites. Pretty cool way to bring the details of history to life!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Andy Goldsworthy's Creativity on the Backburner

Many thanks to my wonderful friend who connected the dots for me this week by sending me a link to Andy Goldsworthy's Art.  I had seen some of his books previous and admired his beautifully inspired natural installations but never paused long enough to investigate. Believe it or not, I'm pretty sure one of his books nudged the idea for my large scale sand mandala's into reality. I just love the idea of creating something with what nature provides. Its free (!) and remains out there for the world to enjoy if they come across it.

 As part of my investigation, I came across a video clip of Andy describing how working on his projects helps him reconnect with himself and awakens a sense of amazement.

Listening to the birds in this clip reminds me why I love spending time in the woods and how important and creative thoughts are able to simmer on the backburner while a person is engaged in this manner. Remembering those feelings leads me to conclude that part of why I'm fascinated by Andy's art has got to somehow be connected with what Richard Louv is witnessing is his book, Last Child in the Woods.

I'd love to hear from any, and everyone of you as to your own experiences of nature and your thoughts on its connection with creativity and connectivity. Cheers!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

3.0 Deviations from the Mean

We had a great time hiking "The Black Tusk". Luckily, the fact that we hadn't brought a lunch for day two motivated us to get up early and get an early start. This meant that we were hiking before the heat of the day (and it was a very beautiful day!) and before the crowds. We literally passed hundreds of people on our way down, all of them sweating it out so that they could wait in the crowd to ascend or descend the one passable chute on the most difficult section. Don't get me wrong, I'm happy that so many people were out to enjoy the mountain but I'm also incredibly glad we avoided them with our early start!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Indoctrination in School

" can’t let your failures define you – you have to let them teach you. You have to let them show you what to do differently next time. If you get in trouble, that doesn’t mean you’re a troublemaker, it means you need to try harder to behave. If you get a bad grade, that doesn’t mean you’re stupid, it just means you need to spend more time studying.

No one’s born being good at things, you become good at things through hard work. You’re not a varsity athlete the first time you play a new sport. You don’t hit every note the first time you sing a song. You’ve got to practice. It’s the same with your schoolwork. You might have to do a math problem a few times before you get it right, or read something a few times before you understand it, or do a few drafts of a paper before it’s good enough to hand in. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. I do that every day. Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength. It shows you have the courage to admit when you don’t know something, and to learn something new.
- Barack O'Bama on Education

The first week of school has come and gone. As I expected I wasn't working much (at all) but it was kind of nice because it afforded me some time to listen to what people were saying about going back to school. One source was O'bama's Back to School Speech,  which was surprisingly controversial. I thought it was interesting that the President would address the youth of his nation and acknowledge that they play a role in the future, -how they want their world to develop. To be perfectly honest it never crossed my mind that this speech, which I read before reading about the controversy, could be construed as political indoctrination.  What's above is what I thought to be right on the money. 

  Back to the controversial part, whats ironic is that just before reading about it I was reminded of the idea that "What we learn in school isn’t nearly as important as how we learn, because how to learn is the lesson of school,” - basically stating that, messages from the president aside, there is political indoctrination happening by way of the structure and system of wide spread education. Over the weekend I acknowledged to my neighbour that by as early as fourth grade kids in school normally have a pretty good read of the what schools/teachers expect of them and have either decide to power through it or are beginning to disengage.  It seems to come back to question the reasons we are educating... whether it is to train people to obey, listen and produce or to think, problem solve and learn.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Don't Drink and Draw

This isn't a post about drawing under the influence. Actually I just wanted to show my progress in a little experimental project I've recently undertaken. It started out as a pen and ink study of how light reflects off of glass, -it was just a coincidence that the most interesting glass shapes were mostly in the form of liquor bottles. Funny that they were all the mini ones!
Then I discovered that I could colour...well, of course I could colour but the really cool thing I discovered was that I could really easily copy on my printer and thus have a image to colour while keeping the original b+w in case of terrible mistakes.
Using the same copy technology and a little old school cut and paste I created a little repetition  and then finally as I was digitizing my images I had a little fun with computer technology helping me see things in different ways. As it turned out it was all pretty easy and encouraging for the creative experimenter in me. 

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Someone I would like to meet

Alain de Botton is the author of a book I very much appreciated, How Proust can Change your Life. Here he is speaking about a kinder, gentler kind of success and how people are so often judged by what they do, how they fail and how societal ideas about these things have changed in the modern world.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Real Ideas Link

Really the idea of connecting with ideas would not be complete without a link to the Ted; Ideas Worth Spreading series. I love just listening to a random sampling. There's even one about the future/potential of blogging!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


Wouldn't Wonderland be so fun to visit for a day? Just think of how it would stretch our thinking in ways we can't even imagine!

I just came across this trailer and want to remember to check out Pheobe in Wonderland. It follows a little girl as she participates in the making of an Alice play. Gets at the idea of over coming challenges and self concept doubts that kids face as they reach adolescents and enter into the "world" where illusions of clique and cool start to seem real. On that note I might want to remember to check out the original book by Lewis Carroll as well to see where/how these themes originate. He seems to be an interesting persona who lived half his life as a well bred gentleman and the other half with a childish sense of wonder....not that there's anything wrong with that.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

In Bloom

It's not mine, I just really like it! 

The Magic of the Right Angle

Do not say a little in many words
but a great deal in a few.

Daily Exercise in Endless Patience

"Coaching is hard because it’s a daily exercise in achieving endless patience. Teaching is something altogether different; it involves gathering knowledge that you then give to students like a present, and wait until they return it to you. Teaching involves written judgments handed our in red marks on papers or letters etched across report cards every six weeks. Teaching says, “I gave you the information and you got it, or didn’t get it.” End of story.

Coaching isn’t teaching. There is no way a coach can do the job without getting his own hands on the ball and demonstrating, pass after pass. Coaching actually requires that students begin imperfectly, and then pass after awkward pass, fumble after fumble, the student learns the feel of the ball, the arc of the run, the timing of the turn to complete the pass. Coaching allows the student proficience that appears to come out of themselves, because that is the ultimate goal of coaching – to hand over the delight of something successfully learned and see the student bloom in their own knowledge. The judging will always come from the students’ own hit or miss experience and is forever changeable because there is always one more game, one more opportunity to get it right. The glorious thing about coaching is letting go of the student, watching them become more than themselves and many times more than the coach. There is poetry in that moment when the student surpasses themselves and you. A true coach never feels less because he understood the whole time that surpassing was the point to begin with, that watching your students find inner and outer greatness is the entire reward."

-No Telling

This is taken from a blog that I'm following and I love the sentiment that it expresses. Something to think about for all us coaches and teachers out there.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Its All Relative

Yes, we have to divide up our time like that, between our politics and our equations. But to me our equations are far more important, for politics are only a matter of present concern. A mathematical equation stands forever.
As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain; and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality.
Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.
Everything that is really great and inspiring is created by the individual who can labor in freedom.
It is the duty of every citizen according to his best capacities to give validity to his convictions in political affairs.
Common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by age eighteen.
Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not one bit simpler.
If the facts don't fit the theory, change the facts.
Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.
Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.
The hardest thing in the world to understand is the income tax.
The significant problems we have cannot be solved at the same level of thinking with which we created them.
Whoever undertakes to set himself up as a judge of Truth and Knowledge is shipwrecked by the laughter of the Gods.
You cannot simultaneously prevent and prepare for war.
At any rate, I am convinced that He [God] does not play dice.
If A is success in life, then A equals x plus y plus z. Work is x; y is play; and z is keeping your mouth shut.
Great spirits have always found violent opposition from mediocrities. The latter cannot understand it when a man does not thoughtlessly submit to hereditary prejudices, but honestly and courageously uses his intelligence and fulfills the duty to express the results of his thought in clear form.
The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything save our modes of thinking and we thus drift toward unparalleled catastrophe.
When you look at yourself from a universal standpoint, something inside always reminds or informs you that there are bigger and better things to worry about.
You see, wire telegraph is a kind of a very, very long cat. You pull his tail in New York and his head is meowing in Los Angeles. Do you understand this? And radio operates exactly the same way: you send signals here, they receive them there. The only difference is that there is no cat.
Before God we are all equally wise - and equally foolish.
Do not worry about your difficulties in Mathematics. I can assure you mine are still greater.
Ethical axioms are found and tested not very differently from the axioms of science. Truth is what stands the test of experience.
Every day I remind myself that my inner and outer life are based on the labors of other men, living and dead, and that I must exert myself in order to give in the same measure as I have received and am still receiving.
Few people are capable of expressing with equanimity opinions which differ from the prejudices of their social environment. Most people are even incapable of forming such opinions.
Gravitation cannot be held responsible for people falling in love. How on earth can you explain in terms of chemistry and physics so important a biological phenomenon as first love? Put your hand on a stove for a minute and it seems like an hour. Sit with that special girl for an hour and it seems like a minute. That's relativity.
I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.
I never teach my pupils. I only attempt to provide the conditions in which they can learn.
I never think of the future - it comes soon enough.
If I had only known, I would have been a locksmith.
If you are out to describe the truth, leave elegance to the tailor.
Imagination is more important than knowledge...
It is a miracle that curiosity survives formal education.
Laws alone can not secure freedom of expression; in order that every man present his views without penalty there must be spirit of tolerance in the entire population.
My religion consists of a humble admiration of the illimitable superior spirit who reveals himself in the slight details we are able to perceive with our frail and feeble mind.
Nothing will benefit human health and increase the chances for survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.
Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former.
Reading, after a certain age, diverts the mind too much from its creative pursuits. Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking.
The ideals which have lighted my way, and time after time have given me new courage to face life cheerfully, have been Kindness, Beauty, and Truth. The trite subjects of human efforts, possessions, outward success, luxury have always seemed to me contemptible.
The important thing is not to stop questioning.
The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery every day. Never lose a holy curiosity.
The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious.
The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science.
The most incomprehensible thing about the world is that it is at all comprehensible.
The release of atomic energy has not created a new problem. It has merely made more urgent the necessity of solving an existing one.
The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources.
To punish me for my contempt for authority, fate made me an authority myself.
Too many of us look upon Americans as dollar chasers. This is a cruel libel, even if it is reiterated thoughtlessly by the Americans themselves.
Truth is what stands the test of experience.

Try not to become a man of success but rather to become a man of value.

-Albert Einstein

I just love so many of the ideas Albert presents. Theres a certain tao-ishness about them and every time I come across another one that I love I think, "I need to remember to live with this sentiment present in my action," -so now maybe I will!