Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Rule Of Three

Bedroom in Arles
Vincent van Gogh

The other day I did something I have always wanted to do, and I enrolled in an oil painting class.  Mostly, I wanted to learn about composition because I am not very good at it, and I learned more in one lesson than I knew was possible.  I love drawing and painting, but I'm not very adept at composing a picture.  My objects always end up sort of crooked.  I was chatting with the art teacher about this, and he showed me several examples of artists who were wonderful painters, but were not really skilled at drawing.  In this painting by Van Gogh, several of the objects are crooked -- look at the pictures on the walls.  Van Gogh actually did three versions of this painting. This one is in the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, another is in the Musée d'Orsay in Paris, and the third is in the Art Institute in Chicago. In each painting, the composition is identical, but the colors are different. But the overall painting is wonderful.  The red blanket in the centre of the painting draws your eye in, and then you start to look around the room.  It doesn't matter that the floorboards are not parallel, the pictures are hung at an impossible angle, or that the chair by the door seems to be resting on a sloping floor. In Van Gogh's own words in a letter to his brother, he had this to say about this painting, Well, I have thought that on watching the composition we stop thinking and imagining.  My art teacher explained to me that some of the most perfect paintings are also the most boring, completely lacking in energy. 

The Starry Night
Vincent van Gogh

Of course, I will never be a painter like Van Gogh -- goodness -- but I am learning a few tricks that he employed to make up a good composition -- such as the rule of three, which is dividing a canvas into three sections. You can see that in this painting here.  There are also three things a painter should have in order to create a work of art: tecnique, talent and creativity. Of the three, creativity is the one thing that separates a painter from an artist. I'm not sure I have it, but I guess I will find out soon enough.  Next week we begin to compose and paint an actual painting.

Watch this space...

Sunday, September 26, 2010

World Rivers Day -- The Somass River

When I was a child, some of my first and happiest memories were of my father teaching me to swim in the Somass River in Port Alberni. I loved the river, the smell of the river and the way the branches of the trees dangled in the water like lazy fingers.  My father first taught me to dog paddle, and then to do what was called the Australian Crawl.  But my favorite thing was just to drift on an inner tube and listen to the sound of the water.

Our favourite spot on the river was a place called River Road Park, where my father and I used to go on Sunday afternoons in the summer. My mother would pack a picnic lunch of lettuce and tomato sandwiches, potato and egg salad, and fruit, and my father and I would get orange crush and ice cream from the store across the road from the park.  After we ate our lunch we would sit on the grass on the banks of the river, and spend long, lazy afternoons discussing all the deep, philosophical things a four year-old can discuss only with her father -- like, why do men have whiskers and ladies don't...

I particularly love rivers, and there is a rivers' conservationist here in British Columbia, Mark Angelo,  who started BC Rivers Day in 1980 as a way to bring awareness to the fragility of rivers.  The event has grown, and now the last Sunday of every September is World Rivers Day, which has been endorsed by the United Nations.

Established in 2005, World Rivers Day is part of the United Nations Water For Life Decade and the the International Network on Water, Environment, and Health.

These are all pictures of the beautiful Somass River in Port Alberni.  When I go home to Port Alberni, the first place I go is to the river.  For me, it's a living thing, an entity that is an important part of my life.  Each river has its own spirit.  Rivers and lakes are what nourish us and keep us alive.  We owe it to them to keep them alive as well, not just on World Rivers Day, but every day.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Mind Your Manners...!

When I was a little girl, my parents spent a good deal of their time teaching my brothers and me how to behave in an acceptable manner in public, and specifically to have good manners towards other people. There were certain rules and regulations that one followed in polite society. Expelling of bodily fluids and noises was to be done in private, "please" and "thank you" were de rigueur, as were good table manners.  High on the list of etiquette was never to interrupt a private conversation.  E-v-e-r.

Yesterday at the end of the day, a colleague and I were having a conversation about our weekend plans. Both my friend and I like to draw and paint, and we were discussing which media we like to use best, how relaxing it is to utilize the creative part of our brains ~~ just the usual chit-chat and blah-blah-blah. Suddenly a third person barged into the conversation, elbowed me out of the way, and changed the topic completely. Both my friend and I were a bit taken aback by the abruptness of the "buttinski", but I withdrew, and my friend politely engaged in conversation with the intruder. The conversation lasted for quite a while. Afterwards my friend said to me, "That was strange, but I have noticed that happens quite a lot around here. People just barge into conversations and take over..." And it's true, I have noticed it happens more often than not. Have these folks forgotten their manners, or were they never taught?

We have all experienced the awkwardness of being at a party, and trying to include ourselves into groups of conversations.  Do we hold back and look like a wall-flower?  Or do we walk right up to a group, smile, and start chatting?  That first step can be nerve-wracking, and for some folks there is no easy way to do it.  But barging into a conversation between two people, elbowing one person out of the way and taking over the conversation with an entirely new subject is just boorish.  My mother and father would definitely have a chat with her.  "Mind your manners...!"

Friday, September 24, 2010

Space Junk ... Alien Beings Not Welcome...!

When we see the iconic photograph of our beautiful planet earth, this is not the view we imagine, is it?  These pictures are images of space junk that is currently being tracked orbiting earth.

According to Nasa, approximately 95% of the objects in these pictures illustrate orbital debris, not functional satellites.

The dots represent the current location of each item.  Can you count them?

These images provide a good visualization of where the greatest orbital debris areas exist.

Even if alien beings from other planets wished to visit us, would they really want to risk flying through the space junk?  They would take one look at our planet and head for home.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

To Veg Or Not To Veg ... That Is The Question

Still Life with Mediterranean Fruit
Pierre-Auguste Renoir

Lately I have been toying with the idea of becoming a vegetarian.  Well, let me rephrase that.  I have been thinking of making vegetables the main focus of my meals, and continuing to eat some chicken and fish as well, but in small portions.  And as much as I love a well-cooked steak or roast of lamb ... sorry ... I have not eaten red meat for a while.  I'm not opposed to eating meat, and I'm not a member of PETA, I just find when I eat red meat it seems to slow me down somewhat.  When I eat vegetables I feel energized.  Maybe that's the deal with the Energizer Bunny -- he eats his carrots.

There is some evidence to support the fact that people who eat a lot of vegetables feel better, they sleep better, they have more energy and they have lower blood cholesterol levels and lower blood pressure.  Well, that can't be all bad, can it?  My favorite TV snack is brussel sprouts.  When I was a little girl, every year I looked forward to Christmas -- not just for the tree, or the Christmas presents, or all the other wonderful things at Christmas, but specifically because we would have brussel sprouts with our turkey dinner.  That, to me, was the highlight of Christmas.  I had no idea folks could eat brussel sprouts at any other time of the year.  That delicious little cabbage could be mine, any time I wanted.  Who knew...!  You can keep your popcorn or potato chips, thank you.  I'll have my brussel sprouts.

So -- if there are any vegetarians out there who have some good recipes for veggies as main dishes, I would love to read them.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Happy Birthday, Russell...!

I love celebrating people's birthdays. It's one of my favorite things to do. Each person has one special day a year, and today it's my friend Russell's birthday. Here is something I read about people born on September 22nd. Virgos born on September 22 have a powerful personality. Although they may be drawn to scholarly pursuits, they almost always find themselves in demand to fulfill more worldly aims. They are brainy and can deflate the pomposity of others. They have a stylish, even elegant, appearance. September 22 people are often drawn to social or political activism. They are unfailingly attracted to a crisis atmosphere and may seek out careers that put them in dangerous circumstances. They like to live on the edge.

Perhaps they also like birthday cake.

I know Bailey likes birthday cake.

Happy Birthday, Russell...!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Word Verification ... Arrrggghhh...!

Word verification is absolutely the bane of my existence.  I'm sure a lot of people wonder why I don't post comments on their blogs, when in fact I have posted comments, only to find out days later that the comment did not post. If your blog has one of those comment boxes where folks have to scroll down to comment, and then they are required to type in a word verification ... the comment box flips back up to the top.  So, if people don't scroll back down -- yet again -- to see if they typed the word verification correctly, they often won't see that their brilliant, witty, sophisticated comment did not post.


Having a blog is very much like inviting people to visit your home. I think the purpose is to make it as inviting as possible. In my humble opinion -- and I could be wrong, as I often am -- having word verification is like having a welcome mat that says "Stay away..." And don't even get me started on comment moderation. Even CNN, New York Times, Huffington Post, etc., don't have comment moderation anymore.  If someone posts a comment you don't like, just hit "delete".  You can even hit "delete forever".  Fortunately, here on my boring-little-blog I haven't had to do that.  But often if I post a comment on a blog that has comment moderation, I don't remember to check back to see my comment was actually posted.

I don't always have time to respond to comments on my blog, but I love reading all of them, and I will often go back and read them more than once.  You guys are a hoot...!  However, I do like to reciprocate by visiting your blogs and posting a comment there.  If you absolutely don't need to use word @#%^*#! verification -- please turn it off.

Hantk Uyo  :-)

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Skellig The Angel

This is not normally the image that comes to mind when one thinks of angels, is it? But in my opinion this is probably closer to what angels really look like than what we imagine. If angels were to walk amongst us, they would have to be visible and yet indiscernible all at the same time. I have had encounters with angels, and they are not creatures with radiant bodies and shimmering wings. They are more like rough-hewn diamonds and their beauty and strength is from within.  I once had an angel tap me on the shoulder when a woman next to me was dying, and I was able to save the woman's life.  Angels don't fool around.

Recently I watched a movie called Skellig the Owl Man, taken from the children's book Skellig, by David Almond, and I think it is one of the most wonderful movies I have ever seen. Skellig is definitely not a conventional angel. At first he is mistaken as a homeless man.  He craves Chinese food, beer and aspirin.  He is crotchety, unkempt, arthritic, and he just wants to be left alone to live in the garden shed. But as the eyes are the windows of the soul, Skellig's power, kindness and love becomes evident through his eyes.

The movie is not a religious movie, but rather a spiritual one.  There are references to evolution in a spiritual context, and also references to the poet William Blake, who had unconventional ideas about spirituality.  Personally, I have never been a fan of organized religion, because often the proponents of organized religion are also judgmental, and I have been on the receiving end of that judgment.  Organized religion and real spirituality seem to be moving farther apart all the time, but I believe spirituality is all around us if we open our eyes to see it.  Skellig the Owl Man is a perfect movie for kids, to teach them to look for spirituality everywhere and in everyone -- even in themselves.

Friday, September 17, 2010

In Praise Of Women Of All Ages...

Woman with a mirror (Femme qui se mire)
Frederick Carl Frieseke

A few years ago Andy Rooney did a piece on 60 Minutes regarding women over 50.  I just recently discovered it, and I thought I would share it with you.  I chuckled when I read it.  Here in Andy Rooney's own words...


As I grow in age, I value women who are over 50 most of all. Here are just a few reasons why:

* A woman over 50 will not lie next to you in bed and ask, "What are you thinking?" She doesn't care what you think.

* If a woman over 50 doesn't want to watch the game, she doesn't sit around whining about it. She does something she wants to do. And, it's usually something more interesting.

* A woman over 50 knows herself well enough to be assured in who she is, what she is, what she wants and from whom. Few women past the age of 50 give a damn what you might think about her or what she's doing.

* Women over 50 are dignified. They seldom have a screaming match with you at the opera or in the middle of an expensive restaurant. Of course, if you deserve it, they won't hesitate to shoot you, if they think they can get away with it.

* Older women are generous with praise, often undeserved. They know what it's like to be unappreciated.

* A woman over 50 has the self-assurance to introduce you to her women friends. A younger woman with a man will often ignore even her best friend because she doesn't trust the guy with other women.

* Women over 50 could care less if you're attracted to her friends because she knows her friends won't betray her.

* Women get psychic as they age. You never have to confess your sins to a woman over 50. They always know.

* A woman over 50 looks good wearing bright red lipstick. This is not true of younger women or drag queens. Once you get past a wrinkle or two, a woman over 50 is far sexier than her younger counterpart.

* Older women are forthright and honest. They'll tell you right off if you are a jerk if you are acting like one! You don't ever have to wonder where you stand with her.

* Yes, we praise women over 50 for a multitude of reasons. Unfortunately, it's not reciprocal. For every stunning, smart, well-coiffed hot woman of 50+, there is a bald, paunchy relic in yellow pants making a fool of himself with some 18-year-old waitress.

* Ladies, I apologize. For all those men who say, "Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free." Here's an update for you. Nowadays 80% of women are against marriage, why? Because women realize it's not worth buying an entire pig, just to get a little sausage......

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Happy Birthday, Mac...!

Today is Mac's birthday, and this is her in one of my mother's many Halloween costumes.  In this picture Mac looks as if she's saying "What is this getup you've gotten me into?  Do I have to wear it?  It's scratchy..."  My mother used to love making Halloween costumes, and Mac has inherited that talent as well, along with many of my mother's talents, including her intelligence.  Some people are born with a big personality, and both Mac and my mother have that in common, along with their sense of humour.  When Mac was about 15, she had a friend who also had a larger-than-life personality.  One night I was out for a few hours, and as I was coming home from my evening out, I could hear Mac and her friend laughing from two blocks away.  Laughter like that is a gift, and fortunately both Mac's children have that gift of laughter too.

Mac is one of those unique people who does not realize she is unique, but my mother recognized that she was, and so did our Shaughnessy matron friend Janey.  And a few people, including Mac's cousin and a couple of her friends, have told me that they were inspired by Mac to go back to school to get their university degrees because they admired her success.  Of course, Mac would never believe that if you told her. Oh, and come to think of it, I think there may be one other person she has inspired to go back to school too.

When Mac was about nine months old, my friends used to come over to visit, but it wasn't me they were visiting, it was Mac.  At that age Mac was already walking, and she used to have long, animated, philosophical conversations with the walls.  She had learned to imitate perfectly the vocal expressions and gestures of adults.  She would ask the wall a question, and wait patiently, listening thoughtfully while it answered, and then she would come back with a lengthy retort, complete with head and hand gestures.  It was hysterical, and I could have charged admission to all my friends who came over to watch.  My friend Andrea still laughs about it whenever she and I get together.

Always keep laughing and having fun...  Life is not meant to be taken too seriously, but to be enjoyed.

Happy Birthday, Mac...!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A String Of Pearls...

The Girl with the Pearl Earring
Johannes Vermeer

Ever since I was a little girl, I have always loved pearls. My first purchase when I had my first job was a pearl ring from Birks. Unfortunately I took it off one day when I was working, and someome "permanently borrowed" it. I have never owned a lot of expensive jewelry. I inherited a few things from my mother, but again, someone broke into my house and "permanently borrowed" all my jewelry. Thank goodness they didn't find a pair of diamond earrings my daughter had given me for my birthday. They were right there in the drawer -- in their Birks box -- and the jewel thieves missed them. Since then I have bought some gold earrings, and a couple of years ago the doctors at work bought me some gold earrings for a Christmas gift.  I have also managed to collect a few items of silver.  But as far as my jewlery collection is concerned, well, let's just say it will never rival Elizabeth Taylor's.

However, today I was in the right place at the right time.  My favorite jewelry store was having a closing-out sale, so I bought myself a string of pearls.  Well, they're cultured pearls -- not the real deal from the South Pacific -- but they're pearls nonetheless.  And they're mine, at a price I could afford.  This photograph doesn't really do them justice.  They have a wonderful luminescence that you can't see here.  And they're mine.  Did I mention they're mine?  At a price I could afford?  There is just something so ~ Grace Kelly, Jacqueline Kennedy, Deborah Kerr, Betty Draper ~ about pearls, isn't there?

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Is It Live, Or Is It Memorex...?

The City of West Vancouver has come up with a new way to keep drivers alert while driving past École Pauline Johnson Elementary School. Instead of speed bumps on the road, there are elongated drawings of a child chasing after a ball. As the driver approaches the drawing from about 100 feet, the figure rises up from the ground, appearing to be a real child, and the driver is forced to slow down or stop. Police will be monitoring the illusion's effects for the next couple of weeks.

The recommended speed limit through school areas is 30 kilometers per hour, but too many people exceed that limit. So the BCAA Traffic Safety Foundation is using this method to create a public awareness of how quickly children can dart in front of a car. According to David Duane of the BCAA, “It’s a static image. If a driver can’t respond to this appropriately, that person shouldn’t be driving….”

I think it's a fabulous idea. Every year 2,600 people are injured in pedestrian/motor vehicle accidents in B.C. The fault is not always with the driver, though. I have seen pedestrians do some really stupid things, including walking across an unmarked intersection in the dark, talking on the phone or texting. The other day I saw a woman run across four lanes of traffic, in the middle of the road, to try to catch a bus. She caused a fender-bender, but as she hopped on her bus and rode away she was completely oblivious to what she had done. Children are a whole other matter, though, and no matter how much they are taught, "Stop, look and listen..." they still make mistakes. So, please, slow down through school zones.

Friday, September 10, 2010


My goodness, what is there left to say when it has all been said, and much better than I could say it? When we were in New York, my daughter and I visited the World Trade Centers, and it's difficult to describe how gigantic they were. They were massive. And the streets all around that area are so narrow -- barely wider than the ox trails they were originally when Manhattan was first a Dutch colony.  So, all I could think when the towers fell was , "Where on earth is all that material going to go?"  There was nowhere for it to go except out.  Everything ~~ everything ~~ was pulverized into powder that floated everywhere.  Of a total of 2,976 people who died, only 300 bodies were recovered.  That leaves 2,676 people who were part of the debris scattered literally for miles.  Even though it has been nine years, I still feel shock and horror when I think about it.  For 2,676 people, Lower Manhattan is their final resting place, and yet there is no memorial to them, not even a slab of cement with their names on it.  They were just regular folks who had breakfast one morning, said goodbye to their families, and went to work...

"May flights of angels sing thee to thy rest."

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Odilon Redon

Portrait of Violette Heymann
Odilon Redon

My favorite artist unequivocally is the French painter Odilon Redon (April 20, 1840 – July 6, 1916).  This summer I was fortunate enough to see some of his original works of art, and I felt as though I were in the presence of greatness.  Well, I suppose I was. He inspires me so much, I renewed my membership to the Vancouver Art Gallery, just so I could visit his little drawings as often as possible.   I have also enrolled in an oil painting course this fall at Continuing Education.


No other artist uses color the way Redon does.  His vases of flowers are vibrant and full of energy and look as if they leapt out of Redon's psychedelic dreams and onto his canvas.  But he also drew strange, dark charcoals that seemed to be images from nightmares. He is quoted as saying, "I have often, as an exercise and as a sustenance, painted before an object down to the smallest accidents of its visual appearance; but the day left me sad and with an unsatiated thirst. The next day I let the other source run, that of imagination, through the recollection of the forms and I was then reassured and appeased." I think some folks are blessed with the gift of genius, and Odilon Redon was one of those fortunate people. Here are a few more of his wonderful drawings and paintings.

The Crying Spider

Bouquet of Flowers

Vase of Flowers

La coquille (The Seashell)

Muse auf Pegasus

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Two Wrongs Don't Make A Right...

I read today that a pastor by the name of Pastor Terry Jones in Gainsville, Florida, wants to burn copies of the Koran on September 11th. What the Sam Hill...? Is he insane?  This is a good example of why I am suspicious of all religions.  Well, perhaps suspicious is not the right word.  Perhaps the word is wary, or maybe mistrustful.  Have you ever seen any organizations who are more at war with each other -- constantly -- than religious organizations?  At best they have a cautious and uncertain truce with each other, and at worst they are in outright warring hostilities.  And the histories of their hostilities go back to the beginning of their religious beliefs.

"My belief is the right one."

"No, mine is."

"You're an infidel."

"You're a heathen and a sinner."

They're like a bunch of kids in kindergarten. Good God, give it up already.  Religious belief is a matter of faith, and I believe it should be personal.   Nothing stirs the emotions quite the way religion or politics seem to do.  Folks' religions are sacred and sacrosanct to them, in more ways than just the obvious.  Take a look at the symbols in the wheel in this picture.  We can each pick out the symbol that is sacred to us.  The rest are just drawings with no emotional attachment to them whatsoever.  But to most of us, at least one of those symbols is holy. However, for anyone to violate any one of these symbols is unholy -- in every sense of the word.

People cannot promote peace by committing acts of aggression or provocation.  Haven't we seen enough of that already?  It's time to put the brakes on -- on all sides -- and that includes the construction of buildings that are considered by a great many people to be provocative. I don't wish to offend religious folks by stating that I personally don't care for organized religion, but I don't.  Spirituality is a whole other matter, however, and often religion and spirituality are at opposite ends of the spectrum.  It is my belief that people can be spiritual without belonging to an organized religion, because often when you get groups of people together, you get an "us" or "them" mentality.  Human beings are, by nature, extremely competitive.

I read the following today:  "The threatened burning of copies of the Holy Koran this Saturday is a particularly egregious offense that demands the strongest possible condemnation by all who value civility in public life and seek to honor the sacred memory of those who lost their lives on Sept. 11," said a statement by religious leaders organized by the Islamic Society of North America.

Burning the Koran is not going to do anything except hurt and provoke the folks who consider it a Holy book, and rightly so.  So then what happens next?  Where does it stop?  Pastor Terry Jones needs to pay attention, because all he is really doing is adding flames to the fire ... so to speak.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Best of Luck, Phinnaeus and Marigold...!

Tomorrow Marigold and Phinnaeus head back to school, after their summer break. For Phinnaeus it will be a new adventure in a new school.  We all remember high school, and the way we picked our way through the land mines for the first few weeks, until we found our footing.  It can be a frightening experience.  High school is where we learn what people can really be like -- good and bad. George Clooney gave a speech in Up in the Air where he said. “Make no mistake, your relationships are the heaviest components in your life. All those negotiations and arguments and secrets, the compromises. The slower we move the faster we die. Make no mistake, moving is living. Some animals were meant to carry each other to live symbiotically over a lifetime. Star-crossed lovers, monogamous swans. We are not swans. We are sharks.” That is a good point to remember in the workplace too. I work with some fabulous people, but swimming in amongst them is a Great White shark, whose charming smile hides razor-sharp teeth. But, I think Phinnaeus will be fine wherever he goes. He's a lovely young man with a great sense of humour and a kind soul.  He's very intelligent, and lately he has taken up the hobby of gourmet cooking, and has been cooking his way through Julia Child's cookbook, much to everyone's delight.  Phinnaeus is a good kid, and he is what folks would call a decent person.

Both Phinnaeus and Marigold have a good centre.  They're well brought up kids, and very easy to be around.  Marigold is a hoot, and she reminds me so much of my mother.  Marigold is extremely pretty, quick-witted and intelligent.  She has an innate sense of elegance and grace.  One day she and I were riding on the bus, and she was sitting just so, with her ankles crossed -- very ladylike.  I noticed all the other little girls on the bus watching Marigold, and one by one they all sat up straight, and crossed their ankles just the way Marigold did.  She was completely oblivious to it all, and I chuckled.  Marigold definitely has a sense of wit.  The last time she visited me, she had a bit of a tummy ache, so I bought her some ginger ale, thinking it might help.  A while later I asked her how she was feeling, and she looked at me with a twinkle in her eye and said, "Oh, I'm much better now.  I had a good f*rt, and the tummy ache is gone."  I nearly fell off my chair.  It was not something I would have expected her to say, and for just an instant I had a flash of my mother.

Each new chapter of life can be a bit scary, but exciting at the same time.  So many new adventures await...  Have lots of fun, Phinnaeus and Marigold...!

Love, Oma

Sunday, September 5, 2010

O Sole Mio ... Liquid Gold

At the Opera
Paul Albert Besnard
1849 – 1934

When I was growing up on Vancouver Island, my parents used to listen to opera recordings. Opera was never one of my favorites, but every once in a while there was a singer who hit it out of the ball park -- literally -- such as Enrico Caruso or Franco Corelli. And of course there was the incredible Luciano Pavarotti and Placido Domingo. Their voices were astonishing, and even I loved to listen to them.  I can't sing, and I couldn't carry a tune in a bucket, but for some reason I am able to hear perfect pitch.  There is a certain popular singer [who shall remain nameless] who may be a moderately good singer, but in my opinion he is not a great singer.  The name "tenor" comes from the Latin word "tenere", which means "to hold".  If you really listen to his singing, you will hear that he is not only unable to hold many of the notes, he is unable to even hit them.  Many of the notes he does hit sound tinny and flat.  He does not appear to sing with the ease of the great tenors, and in fact one music critic from the New York Times said, "It is the critic’s duty to report that [name deleted] is not a very good singer." Up until that point, I thought I was the only person in the world who had that opinion of his singing. He does sound wonderful paired in a duet with someone else, but...  The reason I use [name deleted] as an example, is not to sound mean-spirited, and I apologize if I do, but to demonstrate that there is a world of difference -- a universe -- between a good singer and a great singer.

Today one of my readers sent me the most incredible video of three young Italian men, who are all well on their way to becoming truly great, in every sense of the word. Two of the boys are 14 and one is 15, and already their voices are like liquid gold. In 10 years can you just imagine the wonderful voices these young men will have?  Even if you don't care for opera, these young fellows will knock your socks off.

Saturday, September 4, 2010


One of my co-workers returned from a trip to India, and while she was there she took this photograph. I think it is one of the most beautiful photographs I have ever seen, and I thought I would share it with you. If I had even half the talent, I would do a watercolour painting of it. I just might attempt it, in any case.

This cold still has a stranglehold on me, so I may be absent from blogging for a day or two, but I will be over to visit you very soon. Have a wonderful Labour Day Weekend. I love you all.



Friday, September 3, 2010

Tongue Twists...

Two Sunflowers
Vincent van Gogh

The English language is one of the most difficult languages to learn. I work with people from all sorts of foreign countries, and they are always asking me to translate something for them. "What does this mean...? Is it correct to say something this way or that way...?" In return, I have learned something of their languages as well. The other day I learned the writing symbol in Traditional Chinese for the word book -- well, at least one of the symbols.  It was really beautiful, and as I looked at it, it looked exactly like what it was meant to represent.

The most difficult thing about the English language is that it is filled with contronyms -- that is one word that can have exactly opposite meanings, i.e., the word "sanction".  Or, take the word "dust".

1.  Dust: to remove material from  "Three times a week they dust the floor."
2.  Dust: to spread material on:  "Three times each season they dust the crops."

The English language can be confusing, but no more so than in the written word. So much of our communication these days is by e-mail, instant messaging, social networks, texting ... and sometimes something that is meant one way can be misinterpreted as the opposite.

About a year ago I wrote an e-mail to a friend, and I realized a couple of weeks later, after re-reading it, that it could very easily have been misinterpreted by the receiver. I had meant it as tongue-in-cheek, which I am never very good at at the best of times, as I have a rather strong personality and I can come across as sounding angry when I an not, but I could see how it would have sounded ... well ... puzzling, to say the least. Can a phrase be a contronym? I suppose it can. In any case, it's too late. "The moving finger writes, and having writ, moves on..." Since then, I have learned never to say anything in the written word that can better be said verbally.

My friend has been going through a rather tough time for a while; well actually a sort of combination of bitter and sweet. I would like to say how happy I am for her, and to wish her well, and all the very best. Last night I had the strangest dream that she and I had dinner together. It was very formal and uncomfortable at first, but then we started laughing about some ridiculous thing, and the ice was broken. I woke up feeling rather sad that it was only a dream.

How many of you had wished you could rephrase something, after you had hit "send". You have to be very careful with the written word to be sure what you say is what you actually meant to say.  Or, as my good friend Russell often says, "You can't unring a bell..."

Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Oval Office ... What Were They Thinking...?

With all the choices that could have been made, why would anyone decorate in beige? How did beige become the new ... colour? I have been shopping for new furniture lately, and I have been to every furniture store in the Lower Mainland looking for something -- anything -- with a splash of color, to no avail. The only choices offered are brown, beige, tan, or as an alternative, beige, tan, brown. So I wasn't surprised to see the redecoration of the Oval Office revealed the other day -- I'm sure the folks there didn't have much to choose from either.   The chesterfields (sofas) look like two-for-one specials from The Brick.

"Buy one, get the other half-off and we'll throw in a 52 inch HDTV..."

Here is a challenge to the furniture designers of the world.  Start making furniture that is actually attractive and has some colour.  You remember colour, don't you?

As for that coffee table, well ... the less said, the better ...

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

September Morning

The Mulberry Tree
Vincent van Gogh

September always feels like the beginning of the new year to me. All the frivolity of summer is over, and the real business begins. The children head back to school with their fresh bouquets of newly sharpened pencils, and everyone goes shopping for a new wardrobe -- or at least a new pair of shoes. What is fall without a new pair of fall shoes?  As soon as I'm feeling better, I'm off to buy a new pair of shoes too.  My shoes are increasingly becoming more utilitarian, and less decorative.  But first, I'm going back to bed to get rid of this miserable cold.  Have a wonderful day, everyone.