Friday, November 26, 2010

sublime or ridiculous?

I was wondering what it might be that the uber-rich like to spend their ill-gotten gains purchasing. I know about yachts, mansions, fancy cars, fabulous jewels, antiques, famous paintings, and other trinkets but the strangest thing I found was this - the world's most expensive house.

I was so unnerved by it I had to post this extra picture so you could see it against the skyline. It's a recently completed building in Mumbai, India and is home to India's richest man, Mukesh Ambani. The house, which cost more than $1billion, is 27 stories tall but at 568 ft would be a 60 storey building if it had normal ceilings. It has 398,000 sq ft of living space that requires a staff of more than 600 people to care for him, his wife, and three children. Mukesh Ambani wasn't from Dharavi but his father, who made the original fortune, came from very modest means. It's sad to see such a bizarre example of conspicuous consumption in a country that's one of the poorest on the planet.

Speaking of spending money wisely for housing, I came across an article from last autumn's NY Times about a Wisconsin forester-architect who uses small, whole trees to build houses, greenhouses and larger buildings. The economic slowdown has put several contracts he'd anticipated from non-profit companies on hold but not so strangely, a lot of people have been asking him for small houses. At $100 per square foot, imagine how many nice little houses Mr Ambani could have built for the price of his personal skyscraper? I'm sure there would have been enough for homes for his 600 staff members who likely do live in Dharavi.

Yes, wealthy people do what they like with their money but the fact is that they mistake the true wealth of the world in their calculations. In today's culture of profit, we don't produce goods based on human need. We don't build houses based on population needs. We don't grow food to feed people. Instead, we're decimating our renewable natural resources to rip non-renewables out of the ground.

 There are many clever and talented people in the world like the forester-architect and lots of room for other ways of doing things. I don't know what will happen in the future but it makes me feel better about today knowing he and others like him are here.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

happy Thanksgiving

This painting isn't quite done and the colors of the photograph are off but it's what I've been working on the past week or more. So why am I posting it now? Simply because it's the only new and potentially lovely thing I have available as a gift to my friends on the eve of my favorite American holiday.

Walk and touch peace every moment.
Walk and touch happiness every moment.
Each step brings a fresh breeze.
Each step makes a flower bloom.
Kiss the Earth with your feet.
Bring the Earth your love and happiness.
The Earth will be safe
when we feel safe in ourselves.

- Thich Nhat Hanh

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

hold on, it's coming

With Thanksgiving upon us and Christmas coming sooner than we like, I thought I'd share an amusing Catalonian tradition I just learned about. Since the 17th century during Christmas, a large model of the city of Bethlehem is created along with the usual nativity scene. Tucked away in a corner of the model there has always been a little figure of a defecating Catalan peasant, called the Caganer.

It's considered to be a good omen and a sign of the earth being fertilized. In recent years, instead of a peasant wearing a red hat squatting in a corner, modern Caganers are caricatures of famous people.

It could be said Caganers represent the equality of all people and I rather like that definition. Then again, it could mean other things too which I'll leave for you to decide.

Monday, November 22, 2010

hats off to the winner

It's not even December yet and already the weather here in Halifax is colder than I'm used to at this time of year. I guess that's no surprise, except to me who thought they were just kidding about winter woolies and boots heavy enough to hold your feet to the ground when the wind blows a gale. Guess what? They weren't kidding.

Anyway, for the sake of a little prettiness to go along with protection from the elements, I made myself a hat. It's not the best hat, or the most fashionable hat, or even the warmest hat, but it's not bad for a first attempt at making a hat. I may even make another, quilted and lined with patchworks of painted silk.

Before Crow left for his annual flight around the Andes with his condor friends he pulled the name of the birthday card winner out of the hat and asked that I let that person know. Since he's the wisest being of my acquaintance, I'm always delighted to follow his wishes.

The lucky winner of a small Crow portrait is Marja-Leena, a very fine artist and collector of treasures new, old, and natural.

Thanks to all of you who left birthday greetings. I told Crow not to give away the date but now I'm very glad he did. Warm wishes are the best body and soul warmer I know of. I wish I could send a birthday card to all of you. Given enough time, I may do just that.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

birthday card

Crow here. It will soon be midnight in the land of fog and squalls but before I finish my perchtime brandy, I wanted to let you know tomorrow is susan's birthday. In recognition of her friendship and good company over the course of many years I offer this seaside portrait she painted one early autumn afternoon. Since there is only one, and not a dozen or two, it will be awarded at random to one of you. Perhaps you could just mention you've stopped by.

Quite frankly, considering her quirks and odd concepts, it's always a relief to find her at home waiting when I return from my own travels. I can attest she's growing older but her sense of humor remains intact, a trait that helps sustain us all in difficult times.

May all your journeys be flights of phantsy.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

floating islands

One aspect of the current worldwide economic disaster that continually aggravates me is the fact that so much in the way of human ingenuity keeps getting pushed further to the back of the shelf. As an example, wetlands the world over are losing ground to overdevelopment and pollution. With this loss comes drastically reduced water quality, increased flooding of surrounding areas and the looming specter of the extinction of many species - including eventually, ourselves.

Last summer everyone's attention was focused on the BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, a situation that's continued to be a catastrophe because of the massive quantities of oil still in the water and because of the dangerous chemicals used as dispersants. So far it's the worst example to come to the attention of the general public but nobody's going to stop drilling for oil in the oceans because we don't like it.

Anyway, the multiple levels of pollution have been bothering me enough that I went rooting around on the internet to see if anyone had any better ideas. Would you be surprised to find out there's a solution people have been playing around with for thousands of years? The fix for the pollution of wetlands appears to involve nothing more complicated than building floating islands which already have a long history of success. The people of Lake Titicaca, build their villages upon what are in effect huge rafts of bundled reeds. The chinampas of Mexico were artificial garden islands created by the Aztecs as early as 1150AD and used continually until they were destroyed by the invading Spanish.

More recently several companies have been constructing archipelagos of boat-size to basketball-court size islands out of recycled plastic and foam, plant habitat-specific vegetation, and set the islands afloat wherever natural wetlands once thrived. Along with rainforests and coral reefs, wetlands are the most active and diverse ecosystems on the planet, serving as a home or breeding ground to one third of all bird species, 190 amphibians and more than 200 types of fish. Wetlands filter out excess nutrients and pollutants by trapping them in roots and soil where plants and bacteria break them down into less harmful substances. Called BioHavens, there are now more than 3000 of these ready-made ecosystems floating at trouble spots around the globe. The link will take you to Floating Island International where you'll find some very cool pictures of finished projects and those in process.

It made me feel a little better knowing there are active bio-remediation projects going on in the US and around the world. The Leviathan, with 2500 ft of top surface and shown here without the plants, is capable of processing of up to 8,000 gallons of 'dead zone' water per minute in either fresh or sea water. It can pull from any depth and provides the complete 'wetland effect' of nutrient conversion. It operates at low power and, since it's modular, can be extended. The motto for the project was 'It will take a monster to eat a dead zone'. Although it was offered to the US government, and the Coast Guard in particular, as a way of ameliorating the recent damage to the Gulf, I haven't been able to discover if it was used - although I suspect not. I'm sure many people living in the Gulf states would be delighted to work on new green tech projects but things like this cost money and so long as huge polluters aren't subject to environmental laws it won't happen on a large enough scale to make a difference.

Meanwhile, I found a guy who went to Mexico and built his own island. I hope you enjoy watching it as much as I did.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

considering Crow

Crow here. If you're feeling frustrated and angry about things you're unable to change no matter how you vote the good news is you're not alone. Since the Atlantic Ocean is just down the street from my new roost I be-winged myself and took a quick trip to Europe and I'm here to report that similar frustrations are being acted on elsewhere. Government austerity measures that are going into effect across the continent have brought people into the streets by the thousands in Greece, France, Germany, Ireland and England.

Although these protests can't be described as having achieved success the important thing is that they haven't gone unnoticed. All of them were originally caused by the huge fraud that was perpetrated on the world by the banking system. The fight we are up against in the world today is the psychopathic misconception that profit and control are the supreme goals of all powerful nations.

The homogenized vision propagated by much of the world's financial/political leadership is actually contra-survival. Health for mankind and those of us who share the planet with you has always been better when there are many culturally varied, independently sustainable and ecologically sound economies. I don't advise long distance travel for a protest on Wall St. but non-cooperation isn't a bad idea and it's one that can be undertaken by many at once if planned on the internet. For example 'Buy Nothing Day' is the Friday after Thanksgiving. If you haven't celebrated it in other years maybe now is a good time to start. It would be good practice for the only kind of protest the uber-rich do understand and if all you've got is chicken feed, why not share it with the birds?

Spend your time being kind to one another as if you live in the early days of a better world. That's what the rest of us do every day.


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

make your own movies

Not only is this hilarious, ingenious, and very true but the extra cool thing is that it's fairly easy to make 3D movies yourself. Unfortunately, I can't because the program from only works in Windows and we don't have a PC. All you have to do is type but I think it helps if you have something to say. The next one is even better but there isn't enough room on my blogger screen to show it. Check out Sparks Meets Bernanke and Alan Greenspan You didn't think the Quantitative Easing program announced last week has anything to do with stimulating your economy, did you?

Since I can't download the program I've continued to work on the drawing for the next painting. I wanted to show you a hint of where it's going but it's already too big to fit on the bed of my scanner - plus it's stretched so the original couldn't sit on the screen. The next picture you see will be taken by my camera and may well be a finished painting by then. Bet you can hardly wait :-)


Saturday, November 6, 2010

politics of adjustment

I think we all have intense internal relationships with the wild world that signify our need for a counterbalance to the mindless destruction our technology has wrought on the planet.

The manipulation of money supply through the ages to finance war and thus technological supremacy is coming up against the wall of resource scarcity. The oceans are dying, bio-diversity is being stamped out, and anthropological diversity is being decimated. It's really unfortunate that money doesn't grow on trees. If it did, we'd have better control over it for we would have to nurture it and cultivate it and then distribute only what was harvested. Just imagine what Wall St. would look like.

Politicians exist to preserve existing systems, not change them. The political system itself is both cumbersome and anachronistic in a period of history when decisions could be made on important issues simply by entering objective data into computers. Unfortunately, the majority of people respond to simplistic concerns which only tend to repeat the cycle. The idea that you could sit and talk to individuals in order to alter their opinions is pretty hopeless when the first thing they'll do when faced with difficult circumstances is to find someone to blame.

I've been feeling bad this past week not to have been able to discuss the current political situation directly with my friends and former co-workers in the US. Even though I don't believe I can change anyone's mind, I still believe I can help to change hearts at little.

Anyhow, I've been working to block out the design for a new painting. Here's the not quite finished line drawing of the main character. Tell me what you think.

Friday, November 5, 2010

friday night movie

Anybody remember Bulworth?

Monday, November 1, 2010

only november?

Here's yet another from the collection in case you've never seen it. It's under glass so I didn't get the best image but I'm sure you'll get the idea.

It keeps on getting colder here though we have balcony rails now so it's not a straight seven floor drop over the edge. The grinding has been a constant for two months but those boys look cold too and some days, when the wind catches the scaffolds, I'd swear they were rehearsing for the circus. Maybe they're trapeze artists once building season ends. It couldn't be that they stay home and drink huge amounts of beer, could it?

The good news is our car is now a genuine Canadian with her Nova Scotia plates, a safety sticker and a $200 addition to her electronics that turns her lights on when she starts. Apparently it's a law here that must have been lobbied into being by the automobile lightbulb association. When we went to the provincial version of the DMV to get everything taken care of we were prepared to spend the day - sandwiches, drinks, books, and games all in hand - yet were amazed that our licenses and the registration was all done in less than an hour.

Another weird thing has been the complete absence of Halloween and Christmas decorations, advertisements, store, and mall displays. Both holidays are celebrated here but it appears the total commercialization I've grown immured to never happened. It's quite refreshing.

Just for a little entertainment, maybe you'd like to see something neat that came as a surprise to me, although I'm sure my Canadian friends know all about this projection production that's been a regular event in Quebec City since 2008. 'The Image Mill' was created as part of the celebration of the city's 400 year history and the screen is an old grain mill on the harbor. 2000 feet long and 100 feet tall, the historical images and films projected on the huge old cylinders look pretty cool. I've only been there once but I remember Quebec as one of the most beautiful cities I've ever seen. Now I have another reason to go back for a visit.. unless they decide to do one in Halifax.

Bande annonce - Le Moulin à images from Samuel Matteau on Vimeo.

I'm always up for a little projection..
but thank heavens for radiant