Archive for March, 2009

March 31, 2009



March 31, 2009

Rudolf Nureyev was mentioned in a dance article I read this week.  It reminded me of something I had read about him long ago.    

When Nureyev was young, his father hated his interest in ballet and used to beat him to make him give up dance.  Nureyev’s passion for dancing was too strong and he attended classes despite the risk of his father’s violence.

Nureyev’s comment on this was,  “Some men are born stronger than their fathers.”

The French Revolution 2009
March 26, 2009

Laid-off French workers have taken yet another senior manager hostage over severance pay.  There was a huge general strike by workers and now, a new Anti-Capitalist Party has been formed in France and is gaining ground.  Looks like the French are leading the revolution, whatever it may consist of.

What will be the future of capitalism? 

I thought Marx had said, “Give Capitalism enough rope and it will hang itself.”  Looking on the internet, I found Lenin’s more ominous “Capitalists will sell us the rope with which we will hang them.” 

Anti-capitalist party or not, I can’t see the French in those drab Soviet collective farm outfits.  The French Revolution seems to be a better metaphor.

The financial elite are looking like the haughty, hapless French court.  They have gone past “L’etat, c’est moi.” and “Let them eat cake.”  to “Apres moi, le deluge” and finally, the “Just one more moment. One little moment.”  begged by Madame du Barry before the blade fell.

There is an excellent film called “The Lady and the Duke”, directed by French director, Eric Rohmer.  It is based on the real account of Grace Elliot, a Scottish courtesan who was the mistress of the Duc d’Orleans.  She witnessed and wrote about the fall of the French aristocracy and the Reign of Terror during the revolution.   The film is unique in that many of the scenes used painted backdrops which create a kind of dream-like effect at times.  The director has a strong vision and it’s a fascinating, unusual film.

About Pears
March 22, 2009


Pears are one of my favorite subjects to draw and paint.  Here are some lines from two poems with different points of view on pears.   I like them both.


Some say

It was a pear Eve ate.

Why else the shape

Of the womb,

Or of the cello

Whose single song is grief

For the parent tree?


(Pears – by Linda Pastan)



Pears are not viols,

Nudes or bottles.

They resemble nothing else


They are yellow forms

Composed of curves

Bulging towards the base


They are not flat surfaces

Having curved outlines

They are round

Tapering towards the top


The pears are not seen

As the observer wills.


(Study of Two Pears – by Wallace Stevens)

Fairy Tales
March 18, 2009

Vanity Fair magazine has just published an interesting article on Iceland’s financial debacle.  Iceland seems a very peculiar country if the reporter can be believed.   And not just because everyone is listed by their first name in the phonebook.

One of the larger industries there is aluminium smelting.  When the aluminium giant, Alcoa, first set up its giant smelting plant in 2004, the company was forced to check the site extensively for ‘hidden people’ (elves) and certify there were none occupying the area.

Too bad there were no elves or little people, who are notoriously interfering forces, to run checks on the financial dealings of the Icelandic banks.  

In the fields of Ireland, there are still ‘raths’ – old mounds or rings of stone and sod which date back to ancient times.  These survived because farmers thought they were fairy ‘forts’ and the fairies would kill anyone who removed a stone.  The belief in fairies may still endure in pockets in rural Ireland, if my experience is anything to go by.

When I lived in Galway in Ireland  in the 80’s, a friend and I were hitchhiking on a road outside the town.   A tradesman in a truck picked us up and drove us into Galway.  We passed an interesting old house that seemed deserted.  I had seen it several times and wondered about it.

“Nobody seems to live in that house.” I said to the driver, thinking he might know something about it.

“Someone lives there, all right.”  he said seriously. “Fairies do.”

“Really?” I said, a bit startled.  I wasn’t  sure I had heard him correctly.  “So no people want to live there?

 “Oh, people want to live there.  Fairies won’t let ’em.”

My friend, who was Irish, later assured me the man was serious and that some of the country people were still believers.

Stanley Park
March 10, 2009



I went to Stanley Park this week to see some eco-art.   Eco-art is made of natural things and left to decompose in a natural setting.   The best one was in the old zoo area.  Some small sawdust-stuffed sacks, bent into the shapes of bears, were positioned around the empty Polar Bear pen.  The empty pen is  overgrown with flora and filled with leaves.   Crowds used to come to watch the bears there – now the area was almost deserted.  The bear-shaped sacks looked strangely appropriate – like an weird infestation.

The other art was underwhelming.  Local plants seeded in a nurse log stump.  Root system of a tree painted with red ochre.  A string of horsehair under a bridge.

Stanley Park doesn’t need human art – in my opinion.  It’s enough just to walk through the dark, deep, breathing rainforest.  I especially love the little streams that run out from the paths after a heavy rain.  The strangeness of the tree shapes.  And to stand still and listen to the forest sounds.

 B. loved Stanley Park and said it had saved him many times.  He was a funny, friendly man about my mother’s age.  B. was even from Duluth, her home town – although he didn’t know her and didn’t want to talk about his childhood.

 B. fought in WWII and came home traumatized.  He loved jazz and found work in a record store.  One day at closing, B. simply refused to leave the store and went on working.  He was having a breakdown.  The authorities were called and B. was institutionalized.   There was a fairly happy ending though.  He met his wife,  they trained in the same profession, came to Vancouver and had a long successful marriage.   Apparently,  there were still difficult times when B. had to come to the Stanley Park forest for healing.  

One day I was walking through the park, amazed by the birds, the beauty of the forest and the cycle of life there.  I said to myself, “B. was right about the power of the park.”   A few days later, I met his wife in the West End.  She told me B. had passed away that week.

These lines from the poem – Lost, by David Wagoner – remind me of  B., and the restorative powers of Stanley Park.

Stand still/The trees ahead and the bushes beside you are not lost…/The forest knows where you are/You must let it find you.

The Future is Inconvenient
March 6, 2009

A household budgeting expert was recently advising how to cut costs.  She suggested people remember:

“The most expensive thing you can buy is convenience.”

It’s true.  That’s why convenience stores are so pricey.   But what a radical idea – convenience as a bad thing – an unnecessary expense.   Looks like the start of a new world order.

Frugality is a subject constantly in the news now and the Great Depression is also getting mentioned frequently.

Many of the generation that went throught the 1929 Depression and WWII counted pennies, feared debt and didn’t throw out anything that could be mended or fixed.   They seemed hopelessly out of date when I was young.   Now their fiscal and material conservatism is worth a second look.   And we today are now (as in the famous last line of  The Great Gatsby) like boats, beating  “…against the current, being borne… back into the past.”

With the return of frugality come those colourful and inventive phrases to describe the frugal.  Here’s my favourite: 

“(S)he can make a penny squeal.”

The Forest Lake
March 2, 2009