Monday, December 31, 2007

the story of stuff

the home planet.

my children belong to a culture that nominally should have inherited the ethics of a society so aware of its strengths and failings that they would make much better choices than i did, and certainly much better choices than my parents did. where two generations ago, the planet was treated with utter disregard, there is an awareness now of the consequences of those choices and behaviours that offers some sense of hope, if you accept the possibility that awareness is the first step on the journey to anything involving change.

i would say that in terms of their personal makeup, the degree of empowerment they enjoy (and sometimes use rightly!) my children are better and fuller people than i was at the same age. in terms of the larger picture of their place in the grand allness of this world though they are as lacking, if not more so, than they should be. and so what to do?

as a person who has lived much of his life internally and has intellectualized so much that should have been lived out loud, i have modelled an approach to life that maximizes my awareness and minimizes my responsibility. i accept the blame for my part in not devoting myself to a greater degree than i have in sensitizing them to the realities of the impact they have on the natural world. for not directing them to see and act on the possibilities that exist for them to effect change on a small scale through being true to their intuitive senses. for not really hammering home my knowledge that the way this world is organized makes no sense, and especially for having allowed my need to see them happy at all costs - particularly through my underscoring of the "need it, must have it, use it, get rid of it" cycle that i wasn't able to enjoy as fully as they are - to override my own knowledge that what we are doing is very wrong and disrespectful of our planet as a whole organism.

but the game is not over yet. i know that missing in these acknowledgments is a deeper understanding that my children are aware of which is simply that there is more, much more to this world than meets the eye and that it is central to living in rightness that that awareness be translated into a way of being. i have also endeavoured to give them the tools to manage the incongruities and disconnects that naturally accrue to their being social creatures in a world peopled with creatures disconnected from themselves. it's my hope that they will take these tools and use them to bring greater good into this world.

on the subject of greater good, and deeper understandings . . . for your further edification today comes this video from peterborough brenda (nope not the one i live with). the video is entitled "the story of stuff" and while very obviously american, carries a clear and well-articulated message asking for us to embrace a deeper understanding of our place and purpose on this planet.

the story of stuff

and to close, a coleman barks interpretation of a poem by the great sufi poet rumi . . .

whoever brought me here, will have to take me home.

all day I think about it, then at night I say it.
where did I come from, and what am I supposed to be doing?
i have no idea.
my soul is from elsewhere, i'm sure of that,
and i intend to end up there.

this drunkenness began in some other tavern.
when i get back around to that place,
i'll be completely sober. meanwhile,
i'm like a bird from another continent, sitting in this aviary.
the day is coming when i fly off,
but who is it now in my ear who hears my voice?
who says words with my mouth?

who looks out with my eyes? what is the soul?
i cannot stop asking.
if I could taste one sip of an answer,
i could break out of this prison for drunks.
i didn't come here of my own accord, and i can't leave that way.
whoever brought me here, will have to take me home.

this poetry. I never know what i'm going to say.
i don't plan it.
when im outside the saying of it,
i get very quiet and rarely speak at all.

jelalladin rumi (1207 - 1273) trans. coleman barks.

orpheus dreaming

orpheus playing his lyre surrounded by a variety of admiring animals . . . . .

orpheus dreaming mournful dreams . . . . .

orpheus was the son of calliope and apollo. he was the great musician and poet of greek myth, whose songs were so amazing that they could charm wild beasts and coax even rocks and trees into movement. orpheus is also well-known as one of the argonauts, and when the argonauts had to pass the island of the sirens, it was his music that prevented the crew from being lured to destruction. not a bad resume when you think about it!

one of the lovelier songs sung by a man with a very lovely voice, here is david sylvian singing “orpheus” . . .

and here are the words . . . .


standing firm on this stony ground
the wind blows hard
pulls these clothes around
i harbour all the same worries as most
the temptations to leave or to give up the ghost
i wrestle with an outlook on life
that shifts between darkness and shadowy light
i struggle with words for fear that they'll hear
but orpheus sleeps on his back still dead to the world
sunlight falls, my wings open wide
there's a beauty here I cannot deny
and bottles that tumble and crash on the stairs
are just so many people I knew never cared
down below on the wreck of the ship
are a stronghold of pleasures I couldn't regret
but the baggage is swallowed up by the tide
as orpheus keeps to his promise and stays by my side
tell me, I've still a lot to learn
understand, these fires never stop
believe me, when this joke is tired of laughing
i will hear the promise of my orpheus sing
sleepers sleep as we row the boat
just you the weather and I gave up hope
but all of the hurdles that fell in our laps
were fuel for the fire and straw for our backs
still the voices have stories to tell
of the power struggles in heaven and hell
but we feel secure against such mighty dreams
as orpheus sings of the promise tomorrow may bring
tell me, I've still a lot to learn
understand, these fires never stop
please believe, when this joke is tired of laughing
i will hear the promise of my orpheus sing.

david sylvian

Sunday, December 30, 2007

ice and snow


ice on the deck one;

ice on the deck two;

The Snow Man

One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;

And have been cold a long time
To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
The spruces rough in the distant glitter

Of the January sun; and not to think
Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
In the sound of a few leaves,

Which is the sound of the land
Full of the same wind
That is blowing in the same bare place

For the listener, who listens in the snow,
and, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.

wallace stevens

missed it by that much

missed it . . . . .

by that much..........

born about five years too late to really fully enjoy the sixties, i settled for the lovely otherness that came from the “let’s change the world from the inside out” experience that swelled across the western world and still echoes today - recognizably as a way of knowing and then also as an understanding of what is possible and sometimes even necessary in our lives. my evenings were spent reading the last whole earth catalogue, an amazing compendium of knowledge (edited by stewart brand) widely held now as a precursor to the internet with its far reaching and encyclopaedic stratification of popular culture, support systems, cutting edge thinking, and then also for spawning "the Well".

as a time of change, the sixties was extraordinary and if you step away from the glib characterization of it summed up in the term "hippy" which is now as much a derisive observation of a person as it is a misused term, you will see radical change in the lives of women and minorities, the deeper and more purposeful arrival of spirituality in the mainstream, massive cultural change, and i'll throw in the contentious one - a change in the consciousness of mankind as a whole.

the music of that time carries a charmed innocence in which the earliest touch of world music makes itself felt through the sitar, the percussion, and the arrangements of some of the more adventurous groups. blues also moved very close to the centre as its expressive, streetwise accessibility made it a powerful handmaiden to the folk and rock juggernauts building up steam at the same time.

while all this was unfolding, i was lodged in free jazz, rock jazz, and delta blues. the pop centre was always there for me as well, but rock - mainstream rock - didn’t actually speak to me for a few years. there were a few songs that made their way into my ears and which have managed that kind of lasting power i attribute to a particular connection with a space and time. for example, here are canned heat - one of my favourite groups from the period - singing “up the country”.

here are the boys at woodstock - the 1969 version . . . .

and my fave tune by canned heat “on the road again” . . . .

Saturday, December 29, 2007

liz hickok - building on the transitory nature of jell-o®

over the years . . . .

to the present . . . .

jell-o®. an amazing food loved by kids everywhere - for its taste, for its jiggliness, for its gishiness (ask any kid), and for the fact that you can pick it up, squish it, shove it in your mouth and it tastes just as good if not better for all the handling! so here's someone who has gone where mums and dads everywhere have gone - at least once - molding jello® into a recognizable form. the difference is that this woman has created art.

stunning, lovely, edible, clever art.

liz hickok is a san francisco artist working in jell-o®. she has an international reputation and predictably and refreshingly, the food networks have picked up on her giving her work the broader attention it deserves.

here's the artist statement that accompanies her work:

"My current series, San Francisco in Jell-O®, consists of photographs and videos depicting San Francisco landscapes that I’ve cast in Jell-O. To produce the landscapes, I start by fabricating scale models of the architectural elements—like the Transamerica Pyramid or the Palace of Fine Arts—out of balsa wood or foam core. I then make molds from those models, which I use to cast the buildings. My process resembles constructing a movie set, or building a sculptural installation: I add hand-painted backdrops and elements like mountains and model trees, or even dry ice to simulate fog. Finally, I light the scenes dramatically from below. Each area of the city is a different Jell-O sculpture. I make some of the neighborhoods into videos, such as Telegraph Hill shaking in an earthquake, or the Marina District washing away in a Jell-O tidal wave.

The series grew out of an earlier project, photographing architectural scale models of cities. Using photography made it possible for me to play with the viewer’s sense of scale, blurring the differences between the real city and the constructed one. While I began to build my own scale models in order to make the work more personal and to have more control over the creative process, I found that the jiggly, iconic childhood dessert is perishable and not easily kept under my control. Each time I take a picture a building may start to droop, or collapse, taking on its own personality.

When lit properly, the molded shapes that make up the city blur into a jewel-like a mosaic of luminous colour, volume, and light. However, I’ve discovered that the gelatinous material also evokes uncanny parallels with the geological qualities of the real San Francisco. While the translucent beauty of these compositions is what first attracts the viewer, their fragility quickly becomes a metaphor for the transitory nature of human artifacts."

here's her homepage.

here's a feature on liz . . .

i like her take on art as something fragile and transient. i especially like that she has pulled something so iconic and central to childhood, and located it squarely with all its vulnerabilities in the cultural critical eye of the adult world, re-presenting as it does, the adult world with all its own myriad fragilities.

steampunk magazine

the golden fish blog is now four months old. over three hundred people have spent time here with over two hundred of those same people visiting for another look see on a more or less regular basis. when i set out to create this blog, i had (and still have) no goals other than to unpack my past and then also to acknowledge the future becoming present. especially the future i wish my children to see, create, be a part of, or perhaps even to change. so on this uncharacteristically rainy night late in december, i extend my welcome to those who visit - perchance to find a stretch of time to step out of the rain and to revive their spirits.

so as a warmup to month five, here's a steampunk laptop courtesy of the wickedgood crackpot running datamancer

who can be found here at datamancer's very own website.

as a special treat at this early morning time i would like to share with you an extraordinary, amazing, and not-to-be-missed-at-any-costs link to some super talented writing inside a magazine named steampunk magazine. many of the writers are big-name people and so will need little introduction but some of the lesser lights have equally sterling credentials in the writing department so head here and read this amazing magazine. it operates on an honour system so be kind. pay as you wish or simply read it on-screen. the download page can be found right here.

Friday, December 28, 2007

roadside lights

here are some pictures i took on my way home to peterborough from cobourg on the evening of december twenty-sixth.






winter shadows

as you race through the cold days and nights of a canadian winter, it is easy to become dismissive of your connection with nature and to characterize it as lifeless and unpleasant. i'll be honest, winter is not my favourite time of year. it reminds me of school as a child - a necessary irritant between recesses.

by the same token, winter offers us an opportunity to examine its apparent emptiness and coldness and find beauty in it, however small and transient. here are some images i have taken over the last two winters in the woods nearby. i've picked out some poetry to offer counterpoint.

The Winter Stars

Across the iron-bound silence of the night
A keen wind fitfully creeps, and far away
The northern ridges glimmer faintly bright,
Like hills on some dead planet hard and gray.
Divinely from the icy sky look down
The deathless stars that sparkle overhead,
The Wain, the Herdsman, and the Northern
And yonder, westward, large and balefully red,
Arcturus, brooding over fierce resolves:
Like mystic dancers in the Arctic air
The troops of the Aurora shift and spin:
The Dragon strews his bale-fires, and within
His trailing and prodigious loop involves
The lonely Pole Star and the Lesser Bear.

Lampman, Archibald (1861-1899)

Winter Night

It snowed and snowed ,the whole world over,
Snow swept the world from end to end.
A candle burned on the table;
A candle burned.

As during summer midges swarm
To beat their wings against a flame
Out in the yard the snowflakes swarmed
To beat against the window pane

The blizzard sculptured on the glass
Designs of arrows and of whorls.
A candle burned on the table;
A candle burned.

Distorted shadows fell
Upon the lighted ceiling:
Shadows of crossed arms,of crossed legs-
Of crossed destiny.

Two tiny shoes fell to the floor
And thudded.
A candle on a nightstand shed wax tears
Upon a dress.

All things vanished within
The snowy murk-white,hoary.
A candle burned on the table;
A candle burned.

A corner draft fluttered the flame
And the white fever of temptation
Upswept its angel wings that cast
A cruciform shadow

It snowed hard throughout the month
Of February, and almost constantly
A candle burned on the table;
A candle burned.

Boris Pasternak

Now Winter Nights Enlarge

Now winter nights enlarge
The number of their hours,
And clouds their storms discharge
Upon the airy towers.
Let now the chimneys blaze,
And cups o'erflow with wine;
Let well-tuned words amaze
With harmony divine.
Now yellow waxen lights
Shall wait on honey love,
While youthful revels, masques, and courtly sights
Sleep's leaden spells remove.

This time doth well dispense
With lovers' long discourse;
Much speech hath some defence,
Though beauty no remorse.
All do not all things well;
Some measures comely tread,
Some knotted riddles tell,
Some poems smoothly read.
The summer hath his joys
And winter his delights;
Though love and all his pleasures are but toys,
They shorten tedious nights.

Thomas Campion

Winter Night

The stars are setting in the frostily sky,
Numerous as pebbles on a broad sea coast;
While o'er the vault the cloud-like galaxy
Has marshalled its innumerable host.
Alive all heaven seems: with wondrous glow,
Tenfold refulgent every star appears;
As if some wide, celestial gale did blow,
And thrice illume the ever-kindled spheres.

Orbs, with glad orbs rejoicing, burning, beam
Ray-crowned, with lambent lustre in their zones;
Till o'er the blue, bespangled spaces seem
Angels and great archangels on their thrones;--
A host divine, whose eyes are sparkling gems,
And forms more bright than diamond diadems.

Charles Heavysege

The Winter Scene


The rutted roads are all like iron; skies
Are keen and brilliant; only the oak-leaves cling
In the bare woods, or the hardy bitter-sweet;
Drivers have put their sheepskin jackets on;
And all the ponds are sealed with sheeted ice
That rings with stroke of skate and hockey-stick,
Or in the twilight cracks with running whoop.
Bring in the logs of oak and hickory,
And make an ample blaze on the wide hearth.
Now is the time, with winter o'er the world,
For books and friends and yellow candle-light,
And timeless lingering by the setting fire.
While all the shuddering stars are keen with cold.


Out from the silent portal of the hours,
When frosts are come and all the hosts put on.
Their burnished gear to march across the night
And o'er a darkened earth in splendor shine,
Slowly above the world Orion wheels
His glittering square, while on the shadowy hill
And throbbing like a sea-light through the dusk,
Great Sirius rises in his flashing blue.
Lord of the winter night, august and pure,
Returning year on year untouched by time,
To hearten faith with thine unfaltering fire,
There are no hurts that beauty cannot ease,
No ills that love cannot at last repair
In the victorious progress of the soul.


Russet and white and gray is the oak wood
In the great snow. Still from the North it comes,
Whispering, settling, sifting through the trees,
O'erloading branch and twig. The road is lost.
Clearing and meadow, stream and ice-bound pond
Are made once more a trackless wilderness
In the white hush where not a creature stirs;
And the pale sun is blotted from the sky.
In that strange twilight the lone traveller halts
To listen to the stealthy snowflakes fall.
And then far off toward the Stamford shore,
Where through the storm the coastwise liners go,
Faint and recurrent on the muffled air,
A foghorn booming through the Smother--hark!


When the day changed and the mad wind died down,
The powdery drifts that all day long had blown
Across the meadows and the open fields,
Or whirled like diamond dust in the bright sun,
Settled to rest, and for a tranquil hour
The lengthening bluish shadows on the snow
Stole down the orchard slope, and a rose light
Flooded the earth with beauty and with peace.
Then in the west behind the cedars black
The sinking sun stained red the winter dusk
With sullen flare upon the snowy ridge,--
As in a masterpiece by Hokusai,
Where on a background gray, with flaming breath
A scarlet dragon dies in dusky gold.

Bliss Carman (1861-1929)

Thursday, December 27, 2007

music for eighteen musicians revisited

i’ve just finished listening to a stunning rendition of one of my favourite pieces of what some of my acquaintances term “difficult music”. the “difficult” being a descriptor of the fact that it’s not easy to categorize, sometimes it’s not easy to listen to, and then sometimes it’s not fun, pretty, nice, or memorable. fair enough. this morning’s listening is “music for eighteen musicians” written by minimalist composer steve reich.

the piece combines winds (clarinets/bass clarinets), percussion (marimbas, xylophones, vibraphone, maracas, pianos), four women’s voices and two strings (violin and cello). like most twentieth and twenty-first century minimalist music there are strands of repeating cycles that overlap and trade places creating a shimmering effect. i find that as i listen to works by reich, i move around inside the piece finding whole strands and riding them until i feel the urge to move to another strand, and then sometimes allowing the whole to cascade through me.

the unfortunate feature of this music (if there is one) is that it - like organ music - is best experienced live for its physicality. however, this particular recording translates well into headphones. what's truly amazing about this recording is that the group performing this has an astonishing background being comprised of amateur musicians who devoted an entire year of their lives to learning this piece.

here is the homepage of the new music ensemble.

a trailer of their cd and project can be viewed and listened to (right here)

if you’d like to know more about steve reich then go to his homepage.

food races

yesterday i spent time with my family down in cobourg. the food was spectacular and amazingly there was something that appealed to everyone there!! this is no small feat if you know how finicky or particular or covetous or whatever each of us choose to be around christmas food. i can eat almost anything - except the disgusting brussel sprout which many have attempted to convince me can be presented and enjoyed through the application of obscure cookery techniques, sauces, or even simply drinking enough to not notice........ i am not going near them. ever again!

anyhow, this is totally unconnected but i have a 5k run coming up in a few days and i'm thinking about it today. thinking about running makes me think about races and then especially how there've not been many races to talk about here for a while. so today i'll share some very cool, different, maybe even strange races that are available to those for whom competition of any sort is the essence! strange races that necessarily involve something normally considered food. special races that have the idea of fun and food embedded in them . . .

we’ll begin here at the yorkshire pudding boat race.

what you will find is an annual event in which people paddle yorkshire pudding boats - made out of giant yorkshire puddings sealed with marine varnish - each is made with 50 eggs, four bags of flour, 25 pints of milk, beaten and baked, lined with industrial foam-filler, and made water-resistant with layers of yacht varnish. intuitively i feel like i would keep a distance from this race. firstly because i am not a strong swimmer and i feel ninety nine per cent certain that at some point swimming would be a feature of this one. second, and perhaps most importantly, i love yorkshire puddings. if it was a yorkshire pudding eating race then i might entertain it but then i'm told it's a very bad idea to eat your mode of transportation, particularly if it involves anything on water or in the air!

then, let’s go here to a pumpkin race.

much closer to home, a day and a half's drive east of here in nova scotia, we have the home of the pumpkin racing regatta. what a neat idea! find a giant pumpkin, scoop out hundreds of pounds yep, people race hollowed out pumpkins across the local lake. can’t visualize it? then look here at some pumpkin race pictures.

bigger and better - and more famous! the olney pancake race. here we have a group of women who, reenacting a famous event from long ago, carry frying pans in which are pancakes being flipped as they run 415 yards to the local church where they will then be shrived . . . a la shrove tuesday. here they are!.

now let's have a look at cheese wheel racing. the idea here is good - stand at the top of a really steep hill. you know, the kind that when you take a step down it, you immediately fall head-over-heels. next, together a group of people who have an interest in cheese. release a wheel of cheese which descends at 70 miles per hour to the bottom of the hill. send that same pile of people chasing after it, and declare the one who reaches it first the winner and (and this is really the best part) the winner keeps the wheel of cheese. hmmmmm.
for this wonderful race and especially for the connected images and stories, start here and follow the links. for those raised on physical humour you will appreciate these depictions of the sometimes painful results!.

now let’s say that you have barely been sated in your quest to know more about the world of strange and obscure race, then
here's more!.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

bill and ben, andy pandy, ragtag and bobtail

television. well in the course of my lifetime i've gone from three black and white channels (england) to twelve black and white channels (canada 1967) to twelve colour channels to sixty colour channels. the result has been improved picture quality, wider variety, and generally much lower quality of programing. much lower! there is very very little that extends beyond mere entertainment and as i mentioned in an earlier blog, the commercials are often more creative, more thought provoking, and more memorable than the television program they accompany.

on that note, i'd like to share some children's programming from my childhood. all from england (but don't take that for the potentially jingoistic inference that might suggest because there was sterling stuff in canada back then as well), these are programs that reflected the creator's imaginations as well as stimulating those of the viewers. they are also quintessentially english and so they will almost certainly appear odd to you.

the first is titled "bill and ben the flowerpot men". bill and ben the flowerpot men was a show of dubious design and even more dubious intent. i watched it as an impressionable child and even now as i watch these clips i feel myself getting drawn into the nefarious machinations of the two little claypot people who undoubtedly have designs on my not-to-be-normal-ever-again mind. i wonder how many other children ended up damaged by these strange little people?

bill and ben’s dance

bill and ben

andy pandy. yep that’s right andy pandy. wanna make something of it?

and while you’re here . . . rag tag and bobtail go out dousing for water. seriously, dousing for water - this is what makes english kids and grownups so much more interesting than their north american counterparts. can you imagine a canadian or american children's program that would even broach the subject?

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

happy christmas!

christmas day finds this house filled with family and guests - vancouver ali and her main squeeze david (my brother), my brendawife's family, and of course the two surviving goldfish, cammy the rabbit and snaily the giant african landsnail.

hovering in and around all of us is more emotion and craziness and silliness and gift wrapping paper than you can shake a stick at. earlier today, i was looking at family albums in which people from a very long time ago stare back at me - i wonder what they would make of me and my family? i wonder what they would think of this life?

i know in my heart that i am a very lucky man!

here's a picture i took last night of the entrance to our home.

"heart fountain".

and here's a picture of our real tree emitting musical notes!

Monday, December 24, 2007

merry christmas mr bean

traditions come and go but while they're alive they are the backbone to our deeper experiencing of events. mr bean's christmas entered my world several years ago and has been a feature of christmas ever since. with its very english humour founded well inside the very french visual humour of jacques tatis' creation, monsieur hulot, mr bean (aka rowan atkinson) nails many of the iconic christmas experiences and turns them in on themselves, all the while poking fun at himself, us, and the world at large for being so serious about itself.

here in three grainy renditions is the sum total of mr bean's christmas!

merry christmas mr bean part one

merry christmas mr bean part two

merry christmas mr bean part three

the large and the small

first up - “the small”. willard wigan makes creations that are so impossibly small you’re left wondering how could he possibly work at that scale. sculptures that sit inside clothes pins, or atop a pinhead. how is it done? well some proof and a few answers can be found at his site which also sells prints of his work. the proof is here . thanks to vancouver ali for the link!

at the other end of the scale are the macro-engineering projects currently underway in dubai and soon to be underway in holland.

firstly dubai. dubai is an oil rich country that has rapidly expanded - so rapidly in fact that i wonder how the inhabitants can keep up with the changes - both visually and practically. perhaps the most potent evidence of change in dubai comes in the form of the “palm” developments which are so massive as to be visible from space.

here’s where they were at around this time last year.

this link takes you to the main site for the palms development and allows you to learn about future plans as well as to tour the current development. the palm

meanwhile around the corner in holland:

environmental concerns have been raised around all mega construction projects for very obvious reasons. realigning coastlines and the corollary action of redirecting ocean currents, and redefining ecosystems, has many experts concerned about the long term effects of such projects. one wonders also at the aesthetic considerations - palms for dubai, tulips for holland, perhaps a beaver for canada, or a a newspaper wrap of fish and chips for england. how about a pint of guinness for ireland?

two or three wheels

i like the motorcycle world - it’s so close to the bicycling world, but with a motor attached -that i feel a sort of kinship with the riders. i have pulled up to many stoplights and had great conversations with motorcyclists who perhaps recognize the technological roots of their own means of transportation in my own humble velocipede. or perhaps they’re wondering why a fifty year old man would risk life and limb on the weather beaten, potholed, roads of peterpatch.

the motorcycle carries the same flies in your teeth, throw caution to the wind, the “car is the common enemy” kind of panache as a bike, but it does things a lot quicker, and in some ways a lot more safely and practically. but like the bicycle it shares a common "enemy" well several really, but the one that comes to mind after cars is the weather. i have seen enclosed bicycles and they look, well not quite right. so how about enclosing the motorcycle?

there’s something about the motorcycle and enclosing it that takes it another step along the evolutionary path and of course there are people out there doing just that. in my searching for someone who takes care of this idea in an aesthetically and practically pleasing manner, this company looks to have the most refined product.

and here’s my favourite product of all, the monotracer .

but let’s say that two wheels aren’t enough for you. then the bombardier b.r.p. may be the machine for you.

how cool is that!! i

Sunday, December 23, 2007

a beery twenty third

on the night before the night before, i like to enjoy a couple of dark beers. my beer of choice hails from hockley valley brewery whose dark product passes my lips as often as is reasonable!!

here 'tis . . .

writing about beer brings to mind many stories and anecdotes but i like to keep this blog reasonably intelligent and not dig into some of the more sordid and questionable antics of my life and so i'll merely share this one story with you.

a few years ago i worked with a guy who for years had a weekend job as a tourguide at a brewery in toronto. at the end of every shift he was given a certificate for a free two-four plus his pay. nice. he told me that he and his two room mates who i guess bought their beer, didn't actually own any furniture and used the empty cases as a base for chairs, couches, and beds and built room dividers out of stacked cases for "privacy". as a concession to comfort they bought foam pads and some material to cover the cases with but otherwise, that was their design plan.

when they decided to move out it took three beer trucks to take away the empties.

so on that very topic, here's a wonderful use for a heap of stubbies with a christmasy tinge to it:

in the early morning rain

in the early morning rain . . . . a rain event is washing across southern ontario today. the snowbanks have dropped by a couple of feet, the driveways are starting to look black again, and the streets are like little rivers. here are some pics by my daughter with her five year old digital camera . . . .

and as it's going

early sunday morning. no sun yet. my own son is getting ready for a seven a.m. hockey practice.

a quiet beginning to the day is in order.

sunset rail - a moment where the setting sun caught snow on the railing of my deck.

and as it's going
and as it's going often at love's breaking,
the ghost of first days came again to us,
the silver willow through window then stretched in,
the silver beauty of her gentle branches.
the bird began to sing the song of light and pleasure
to us, who fears to lift looks from the earth,
who are so lofty, bitter and intense,
about days when we were saved together.
Anna Akhamatova (1889 – 1966)

Translated by Yevgeny Bonver December, 2000
Edited by Dmitry Karshtedt February, 2001
a similar picture on another day in another location of my deck.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

nobel peace prize follow-up

diligent readers may recall an item here a while ago on climatologist jim bruce - canadian co-recipient of the nobel peace prize for 2007 along with al gore and a handful of other climatologists whose work over the last thirty or so years has managed to bring climate change, and more importantly its causes and corollary effects, to the forefront of popular awareness.

well, here's an article that's worth reading: accolades for jim bruce.

and here's another: more accolades for jim bruce.

now i should tell you that i have not come across anything in the form of an official acknowledgement by the canadian government of this extraordinary achievement that places bruce squarely amidst the company of such luminaries as:

Robert Mundell, Economics, 1999
Myron Scholes*, Economics, 1997
William Vickrey*, Economic Sciences, 1996
Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs, Peace, 1995
Bertram N. Brockhouse, Physics, 1994
Rudolph Marcus*, Chemistry, 1992
Richard E. Taylor, Physics, 1990
Sidney Altman, Chemistry, 1989
John C. Polanyi*, Chemistry, 1986
David H. Hubel*, Physiology or Medicine, 1981
Saul Bellow*, Literature, 1976
Charles B. Huggins*, Physiology or Medicine, 1966
Lester B. Pearson, Peace, 1957
William Giauque*, Chemistry, 1949
Frederick G. Banting, Physiology or Medicine, 1923

it is entirely possible that this was managed with such discretion that the average canadian could justifiably admit that they are blissfully unaware of the award and its recipient. or it could also be that the canadian government has reason to play this one down as it points to something extraordinary. you see jim and his colleagues were telling the world what was coming some time ago and i have to wonder - well, what would the environment be like now if we had started to act then? hmmmmmm...........

if anyone has a link to an official release from the canadian government or any government acknowledging the awarding of the peace prize to the ipcc then write me here and i'll post it!!

worthy mix number two

the second of the worthy mix series i am sharing is a thing of real beauty.

music for stargazing has a lovely history. first of all, full credit to the hydrogen cafe blog for assembling this lovely mix, and then i'll share the story the blogster provides as background to the creation of this assemblage.

"The idea for this mix was generated several years ago actually. My friend Dave and I take an annual trip to a lake cottage in northern Wisconsin. It’s far out in the country, away from the wash of city lights. At night, the sky is filled with an amazing blanket of stars. At this lake cottage we got in the habit of sitting out at night to look at stars and enjoy a cold brew. Besides stars we could also often see satellites track across the sky and any number of shooting stars. Years ago I decided to put together a CD mix made specifically for sitting out and looking at stars. I went for tracks that, in my mind, gave the listener a very slow, drifting, expansive and somewhat awe-inspiring feel. Some of the artists that were the biggest inspirations for this mix include Steve Roach, Brian Eno and Jeff Pearce. This is a more straightforward mix than some of my others and utilizes fewer, longer tracks."

the end result is stunning as you'll hear.
here's an accompanying image from n.a.s.a.

"On January 25th, light from a first quarter Moon illuminated this dreamlike landscape looking across the rugged, snow-covered peaks of the Alborz Mountain Range in northern Iran. The stunning sky is filled with stars, including the yellow-tinged Betelgeuse at the shoulder of Orion. Sirius, alpha star of Canis Major and the brightest star in planet Earth's night, stands above and left of picture center. The eerie glow along the Haraz valley in the foreground is light from cars traveling a highway leading from Tehran to the Caspian Sea."
music for stargazing

Friday, December 21, 2007

winter solstice

saturday, december. 22, 2007, 1:08 A.M. est, marks the solstice—the beginning of winter in the northern hemisphere and summer in the southern hemisphere.

this image is from a site that gives a really nice overview of the winter solstice and its historical referents.

water under the bridge

every working day for seventeen years i have crossed the otonabee river twice - going and returning. a tamed river, the otonabee is a formerly wild river created by the glacier's passage through here tens of thousands of years ago during the last ice age. "The Otonabee River . . . flows through a valley, which was formed when the ice retreated from the Peterborough area about 10 000 years ago and water from glacial Lake Algonquin carved several glacial spillways as it drained south through Rice Lake into glacial Lake Iroquois (present day Lake Ontario). Once much larger, the Otonabee spillway may have carried more water than the St. Lawrence does today. One can see the spillway’s original banks at greater elevations than the present river banks in several areas." (text courtesy of

now, the otonabee is a beautiful waterway, used by thousands through the summer months as a means of getting from one part of southern ontario to another, as a place to swim, boat, play, fish and to just sit beside. i have had the pleasure of cruises along portions of its length and have met people who have travelled from its beginnings in katchewanooka lake north of lakefield, through to rice lake south of peterborough. here is more about the otonabee river. depictions of the river in its early and wild state can be found in the writings of susannah moodie.

i have often thought about taking pictures of the river throughout the year as i walk, or bicycle across it so often. but it wasn't until this evening that i actually stopped and took some pictures of the river - it was about 4:30 - late december so the light was low and the effect of the images is like that you have when looking at pictures of the shrinking ice cap up in canada's arctic.

winter river one.

winter river two.

winter river three.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

a commercial break

hello everyone - it's thursday evening here in peterpatch and i am so very looking forward to the start of my holidays tomorrow evening!! my children can hardly wait and excitement fills the air, the ground, the eyes, the television . . . . . the television? yes that strange box in the corner of my family room that i hardly have anything to do with actually has some clever stuff on it every so often. but you know what's strange. well yes you do - you're a golden fish blog reader and so of course you do. but what's strange about television is that the best stuff on it is the commercials. the commercials are sometimes incredible - high art - clever - witty - beautiful.

here's one for example from jc penney. now i get no money from these people thankyou very much, but this is one cool commercial:

beltin' big choons

man i miss my bike these days. i miss the freedom, the feeling of achievement when i finish riding to or from school - no more than 10k each way but still, i survived the road, the weather, and especially the hills. these days i ride in a big ol’ car with a colleague to school, and walk or hitch a ride home. the walk is an hour and a half and i like it except for the fact that it’s so slippy and walking through soft snow is tough going.

i think a lot as i walk and if i think about bikes i usually think about gear. i was thinking tonight about music. music on a bike? why not? i've often wondered if i could bring myself to have music along for the ride because - all poetic licence and flies in the teeth romanticism aside - i love the sound of the wind in my ears and the sounds of everything around me, be it a car, a truck, a wind rushing through a woods, or even the angry bellowing of some sorry ass pickup truck driver alerting me to the fact that i'm on the road! oh and of course it's HIS road!!

but then when i really think about it, i'm not sure that i would want music along for the ride because i probably would want to stop and listen to the tunes. or lose what little focus i can muster and end up attached to the bumper of some vehicle heading the wrong way.

but you know, sitting here in peterborough - in the suburbs of peterborough - it seems like there's a whole heap of bike culture that's out there waiting to be joined, refined, and definitely emulated. here’s one small part of it:

check this out - big choons on a bike .

here's one of da boys wit his system!!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

miro cummings and neruda - beautiful birds

one of the greatest losses i experience in winter is the absence of birdsong. the birds have mostly made wise choices by now and followed the warmth south. and i don't blame them. frankly i'd like to follow them for a bit. but with them goes the many little joys i experience in their presence. i love to watch swallows fly. i love the great v's of geese. i love trees filled with hundreds and thousands of sparrows. i love watching the social skills of birds go out the window around a feeder.

today's writing and viewing celebrates birds and then all that lies beneath, inside and around the idea of birds.


It was passed from one bird to another,
the whole gift of the day.
The day went from flute to flute,
went dressed in vegetation,
in flights which opened a tunnel
through the wind would pass
to where birds were breaking open
the dense blue air -
and there, night came in.

When I returned from so many journeys,
I stayed suspended and green
between sun and geography -
I saw how wings worked,
how perfumes are transmitted
by feathery telegraph,
and from above I saw the path,
the springs and the roof tiles,
the fishermen at their trades,
the trousers of the foam;
I saw it all from my green sky.
I had no more alphabet
than the swallows in their courses,
the tiny, shining water
of the small bird on fire
which dances out of the pollen.

-- Pablo Neruda

miro - the beautiful bird

I'd rather learn from one bird how to sing than to teach ten thousand stars how not to dance. e. e. cummings

the nightingale's song at midnight and the morning rain

may my heart always be open

may my heart always be open to little
birds who are the secrets of living
whatever they sing is better than to know
and if men should not hear them men are old
may my mind stroll about hungry
and fearless and thirsty and supple
and even if it's sunday may i be wrong
for whenever men are right they are not young
and may myself do nothing usefully
and love yourself so more than truly
there's never been quite such a fool who could fail
pulling all the sky over him with one smile ee cummings

woman and birds

woman encircled by the flight of birds

my favourite bird.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

three tales of the riverbank

most children, when they dig a little into their childhood will find a powerful story, film, or television program that anthropomorphized animals. i can think of several examples from my own childhood, but one stands out from the rest that hails from the glory days of black and white television. i’m talking about “tales of the riverbank”.

here are three episodes of “tales of the riverbank”.

"a ride in guinea's jeep"



Monday, December 17, 2007

when you know why you're happy

mary margaret o’hara - sister of actress catherine o’hara - ducked under the radar of everyone but the music critics who have long described her cd “miss america” - one of only two she has released in her musical career - brilliant, a classic, and other terms acknowledging her unique talent as a singer songwriter.

there are several songs from this disc that i would choose to share here but this is the only one i have found that has been recorded live and if you can forgive the poor person introducing her, then you are in for a treat.

“when you know why you’re happy”

Sunday, December 16, 2007

putting my hand on my heart

my dear friend cathy and i had lunch a couple of weeks ago and here's a pic that she took of steven with her mac's built in camera. she has some sort of frizzling device onboard that warholizes' it and here's the result. i call it "putting my hand on my heart".

by coincidence i am also including here the lyrics and the song to a shriekback tune of the same name that had heavy rotation on my turntable some twenty four years ago.

And you can say well
And you can pray yeah

What about those days we break up the alphabet
Some itch and ripple bones beneath the flesh
No hesitation keeping the theory in trim
What about that stuff that keeps on pouring in
I wouldn't cry no pleasure in doing it but
There are those days the luxury ain't too much
I wouldn't bother if it was all in the mind
It's in the body; the body still knows best

And you can say well there goes a lucky guy
Amd you can say well there goes the neighbourhood
And you can say well there goes a bob or two
And you can pray that it would or wouldn't happen to you
And all of this is not imagination
It's just me putting my hand on my heart
And all of this is not in explanation
It's just me putting my hand on my heart
It's just me putting my hand on my heart

What about those days we make up a secret pact
To splash and paddle into the dark and back
No hesitation never a shadow of doubt
What about that stuff you keep on shouting out
Oh I could try to weigh it up and measure it but
Most of the time the effort is just too much
I wouldn't bother if it was all in the mind
It's in the body; the body still knows best

And you can say well there goes a lucky guy
Amd you can say well there goes the neighbourhood
And you can say well there goes a bob or two
And you can pray that it would or wouldn't happen to you
And all of this is not imagination
It's just me putting my hand on my heart
And all of this is not in explanation
It's just me putting my hand on my heart
It's just me putting my hand on my heart

And you can say well there goes a lucky guy
Amd you can say well there goes the neighbourhood
And you can say well there goes a bob or two
And you can pray that it might just happen to you...
And all of this is not imagination
It's just me putting my hand on my heart
And all of this is not in explanation
It's just me putting my hand on my heart
It's just me putting my hand on my heart

And all of this is not imagination
It's just me putting my hand on my heart
And all of this is not in explanation
It's just me putting my hand on my heart
It's just me putting my hand on my heart

shriekback . 1983

john wesley and carbon offsets

hey it's sunday morning, there's a major winter storm blasting away outside so i'll have to bundle up, get out the shovel and start the first of what i think will be a few digs today. a few days back i came across this tidied up version of a john wesley quote. it carries some presence through its theological association with my grandfather who was an english methodist minister.

“Do all the good you can,
By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can,
In all the places you can,
At all the times you can,
To all the people you can,
As long as ever you can.”

--- John Wesley (1703-1791)

carbon offsets are a great way to say thanks to someone for giving you a ride every day. i just thanked my buddy dave who drives me to school every day when it's too unsafe to bike. the process is simple and relatively cheap - for example - dave drives a 2000 ford taurus wagon. he needs it to transport his family and their equipment ..... skiing hockey or whatever. for twenty dollars i bought carbon offsets for his car for a year based on what i know of his driving habits and the specific model of car he has. i asked that this money go into reforestation.
here's the site that i chose to handle this for me: carbon fund .

here's where i live as seen from space.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

little friends

it's saturday morning, cold as a cat's curse but i'm inside nice and warm and able to stretch out a bit and think about the upcoming holidays, clean this place up a bit, and catch up on the multitude of little chores i've let go by.

as winters go in ontario, this has been a more wintery winter than most in the past few years. more snow, often followed by very cold days has provided a pretty good base that has layers of frozen snow mixed with softer fluffier snow. for the animals this has been a bit of a challenge as it is early for their usual food sources to get covered up.
my own litmus test for the speed with which this winter has set in is how early i have to bail off the bike and seek alternate means of transportation which so far have included friends, taxis, buses and walking the nine kilometres between where i am sitting at this moment and my classroom. i remember that in my first year of teaching i was able to bike until december 12th before the road conditions were too unsafe to guarantee me and my fellow travellers, safe passage. last year i was able to ride until the end of february! this year it all ended in late november.

a couple of weeks back i noticed a lot of bunny prints in my backyard and realized that one of our little furry friends had become effectively "trapped" in the backyard as the fenceline is entirely frozen in and so the poor little guy can't leave. to help him out i've been leaving vegetable and fruit bits out which he has been dutifully digging up from the snow and snaffling down. here's a picture of him enjoying a seven a.m. breakfast . . . .

i loaded up the bird feeder out back to help out the little feathered ones that winter over but there's been very little activity. i wonder if they left for the south regardless of their normal choice because the weather's been so rough for them?

Friday, December 14, 2007

pushpa chandra

running has blossomed as a sport - a fact that is driven home every time i leave my house and see another nicely-outfitted runner bashing their way around the block. businesses like the running room have provided the technical expertise, the social context, and the equipment to pursue health and achieve lofty goals ranging from walking five kilometres to running a marathon.

through taking up running again after a thirty two year hiatus, i have learned that at the age of fifty i can run 10 000 metres in 48 minutes. in the back of my mind is the possibility of a half marathon - with the thinking that one day i might even complete a marathon. there was a time when a 10k was a remote possibility. a half marathon feels the same right about now. the way i think, that means that one day i could run a marathon.

i have also learned that through my running i can bring greater goodness into the world through fundraising and through setting an example for friends, family, neighbours, and students.

speaking of marathons . . . the everest marathon was completed last week, an event i hadn’t been aware of until i happened to catch a brief documentary on a woman who has been training in british columbia for this event. this amazing woman - (and you have to listen to her speak to redefine for yourself the true meaning of the terms driven, joyful, and passionate) - can be found here .

if you would like to know more about her charitable work then go here . pushpa supports a charity that sends nepalese girls to school:
""Seventy per cent of girls in Nepal don't have access to any education. Thirty-five per cent of children die before they turn five," says Chandra. "It all comes back to education. If you haven't been taught, how can you protect your child from dying from an unclean water supply?". the golden fish supports this charity.

if the idea of running or participating in sports at altitude appeals to you then the organization that coordinates and maintains standards for the sport of sky running, and also sky biking, and sky raiding can be found here .

by the way, dr. chandra completed the everest marathon in 9.40.05! an extraordinary achievement!! way to go pushpa!!!

stephen and wenceslas

saint stephen. my namesake saint stephen was known by his greek name in the time he lived - his name properly being stephanos. stephanos means laurel wreath or crown in greek. stephen was one of seven men whose work in the early days of the christian church was to attend to the distribution of aid to widows within the community. stephen was tried for blasphemy against moses and god and was eventually stoned to death for expressing his ideas which were based on the ideas of jesus.

stephen’s saint day is on december 26th, the feast of stephen mentioned in the christmas song “good king wenceslas”. i always loved that song for its many iconic christmas images. for reasons i'll explain in another entry, it is always associated with my last christmas in england, part of which i spent with my family at saltburn-by-the-sea.

“Good King Wenceslas looked out on the feast of Stephen,
When the snow lay round about, deep and crisp and even;
Brightly shone the moon that night, tho' the frost was cruel,
When a poor man came in sight gath'ring winter fuel.
"Hither, page, and stand by me, if thou know'st it, telling,
Yonder peasant, who is he? Where and what his dwelling?"
"Sire, he lives a good league hence, underneath the mountain;
Right against the forest fence, by Saint Agnes' fountain."
"Bring me flesh, and bring me wine, bring me pine logs hither:
Thou and I will see him dine, when we bear them thither."
Page and monarch, forth they went, forth they went together;
Through the rude wind's wild lament and the bitter weather.
"Sire, the night is darker now, and the wind blows stronger;
Fails my heart, I know not how, I can go no longer."
"Mark my footsteps, my good page. Tread thou in them boldly:
Thou shalt find the winter's rage freeze thy blood less coldly."
In his master's steps he trod, where the snow lay dinted;
Heat was in the very sod which the saint had printed.
Therefore, Christian men, be sure, wealth or rank possessing,
Ye who now will bless the poor, shall yourselves find blessing.”

the tune for this song was written in the thirteenth century and was entitled “tempus adest floridum” which translates as “it is time for flowering”, a spring carol. the words to “good king wenceslas” were written in the mid eighteen hundreds.

wenceslas, the king immortalized in this story was a real man named wenceslaus the first, duke of bohemia where he lived from 907 a.d until his death on september 28, 935. he lived 28 years. he was fourteen when he was made duke, a position he kept until his death. i am unable to find any connection between the events described in the song and those in wenceslaus’ life.

here’s a lovely version of the carol: